Page images

liament under pretence of tenderness of conscience; and one of their chief engines of success was to blacken and defame the characters of the clergy, to make “ a pique” betwixt them and the laity, and to accuse them of a leaning to popery. Their opposition to government occasioned harsh measures to be resorted to, and severe acts of parliament to be passed, in order to suppress their tendency to sedition, and their habit of exciting a spirit of discontent among the people. At first they only complained of the ordinance requiring an uniformity in the use of clerical habits, when they asserted that they “should be killed in their souls for this pollution;" and Neal says, gravely, that to refuse “the wearing of popish garments was one of the grand principles of non-conformity !.” And, again, he completely condemns the puritans by their own words, contained in their own" supplicatory letter” to archbishop Parker, “ in which they protest before God, what a bitter grief it was to them that there should be such dissensions about a cap and surplice among persons of the same faith 2." The church did not make the wearing a surplice a “grand principle;” she only prescribed it for decency and reverence, as God himself prescribed “ holy garments for Aaron-for glory and for beauty;" that they might be “ upon Aaron and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity and die. It shall be a statute for ever unto him, and his seed after him 3.” Now the calling of Aaron is the pattern for the vocation of the christian priesthood, which has succeeded to Aaron and his sons; and as garments were appointed for them for glory and for beauty by a statute for ever, and the same “holiness unto the Lord” being incumbent on their successors, so also is a proper sacerdotal dress necessary, not as a “grand principle of religion, but for the glory and the beauty of those that are called as was Aaron, to serve, as he did, at God's altar. It is therefore exceedingly strange to see the puritans making an uniform dress a fundamental principle of religion, and denouncing that which has the express prescription of God as dregs of popery, and rags of the

-, and, in Neal's words,“to take away the very bread of life for the sake of a few trifling ceremonies 4.” But most of these men were secret papists; and though they objected to the habits as being rags of popery, yet they clung to an extra popish“ door of entrance in the ministry,” which had been left open for them


| History of the Puritans, i. 127. 3 Exod. ch. xxviii. passim.

Ibid. i. 137. + Ilist. of Puritans, i. 149.

by pope Alexander VI., who gave the university of Cambridge the privilege of licensing "twelve ministers yearly, to preach any where throughout England without obtaining licenses from any of the bishops.” And thus these violent ultra antipapists took shelter under the pope's wing, and leagued with real papists and jesuits to create schisms and dissensions, for the purpose of destroying a church that has bitherto been an impregnable barrier to the encroachments of popery.

By order of the queen the dissentient puritans were suspended, and warned that unless they complied within three months they should be deprived. At this time the puritans had not separated from the church; and, Neal says, “ they were at a loss how to behave, being unwilling to separate from a church where the word and sacraments were truly administered, though defiled as they alleged] with some popish superstitions. But,” he continues," at length, after waiting about eight weeks to see if the queen would have compassion, several of the deprived [puritans ministers held a solemn conference with their friends, in which, after prayer, and a serious debate about the lawfulness and necessity of separating from the established church, they came to the conclusion, that since they could not have the word of God preached, nor the sacraments administered, without idolatrous gear [the clerical habits), and since there had been a separate congregation in London, and another in Geneva, in queen Mary's time, which used a book, order of preaching, and administration of sacraments, of which the great Mr. Calvin approved, and which (thoy said] was free from the superstitions of the English service, that therefore it was their duty, in their present circumstances, to break off from the public churches, and to assemble as they had opportunity in private houses, or elsewhere, to worship God in a manner that might not offend against the light of their consciences ?.” It is sinful terms of communion only that can justify separation from a true church; and in the commencement of their schism the puritans acknowledged the church of England to be a true church : and will any sober christian maintain that the wearing of a surplice is a sinful term of communion ? But the puritan ministers being chiefly concealed popish priests, were determined to introduce it schism into this “true church," and which should be, as a popish emissary said, a“ stumbling-block to that church while it is a church,” and they made the wearing of clerical habits the immediate cause. Neal says, “it was the compelling

Neal's History of the Puritans, i. 152, 153.

these things by law that made them separate." After their forinal separation, a contention raged as fiercely among them. selves about the use of a liturgy, as they had before maintained against the church about the wearing a surplice. At last they agreed to adopt Calvin's service-book; but which was again laid aside for extemporary worship.

The habits-namely, the surplice and black gown, hood and square cap-occasioned the most bitter dissensions in the church of England, and the puritans had excited as violent a hatred to them as the covenanters afterwards exhibited in Scotland. Having discovered that the pope was not infallible, men were disposed to look upon him as the antichrist, and the clerical vestments were considered by the puritans as remnants of popery, and rags of the Midianitish woman of Babylon. On the 20th of October, 1572, a number of the separated puritan divines assembled at Wandsworth, and constituted themselves a presbytery, and which is the first court of that sort on record in Britain ; and they chose eight lay-elders to compose a system of government. Neal says, that "they were not enemies to either the name or the function of a bishop, provided he was no more than a stated president of the college of presbyters in his diocese, and managed its affairs with their assistance. They did not object to set forms of prayer, provided a latitude was allowed to the ministers to alter or vary some expressions, and to use a form of their own conception before and after sermon; neither did they object to such decent and distinct habits for the clergy as were not derived from popery. But, upon the whole, they were the most resolved protestants in the nation, zealous Calvinists, warm and affectionate preachers, and determined enemies to popery, and to every thing that had a tendency that way." Assuming Neal's character of the puritans to be true, it appears very extraordinary that they should have broken into schism for the matter of the clerical habits, and have established a new eldership, with a government different from that to which they said they had no objections, and to a national church, reformed on catholic principles, wherein they also declared that "the word and sacraments were truly administered.”

At the commencement of the puritan schism the cap and surplice only were complained of, and, rather than wear ihem, they denied what they called “the very bread of life" to the people, that is, their own preaching; but the beginnings of schism are like the letting out of water, and presently they discovered many other grievances. They objected to episcopacy, to the jurisdiction of the bishops, to the want of a “godly discipline," to the liturgy, to the apocryphal books, to the fasts and festivals of the church, to chaunting the service in cathedrals; to certain rites and ceremonies, as the sign of the cross and sureties in baptism, confirmation, kneeling at the Lord's Supper, bowing at the name of Jesus, the ring in marriage, &c. : the design of which was to keep up agitation so as to work effectually for the advantage of Rome, which had originally set them oni, and to divide the church of England, and cause dissensions and “piques" among both the clergy and the people. The Scripture says that wars and fightings proceed from pride; and heresies and schisms may possibly claim the same origin. Popish emissaries were exceedingly busy in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, and the custom of extemporary prayer was introduced by one of them, named Faithful Cummin, a Dominican friar, who made the utmost pretences to zeal against popery, and bitterly inveighed against pope Pius V. He canted to perfection, and maintained that spiritual prayer was the chief testimony of a true protestant, and that the set form of prayer in England was but the mass translated.” His hypocrisy was discovered; and he was accused, on oath, by three respectable witnesses, of being a false impostor, and a sower of sedition among the queen's loyal subjects. He was arrested, and examined before the queen and privy council; when it was elicited from him, that he had been ordained by cardinal Pole; that he had never renounced popery, nor been licensed by any bishop in the church of England; that he never attended the prayers of the establshed church, but, when they were ended, he came forward and preached; that he had never received the sacrament in the church of England; that he used extempore prayer, and claimed “the wide world amongst the flock of Christ scattered over the whole earth as his parish.” He was liberated on bail; but, apprehensive of farther discoveries, he made his escape to the continent, and went direct to Rome, where he was introduced to the pope, and explained to his satisfaction the good service which he had done to popery by encouraging schism in England. “I preached,” said he,

against set forms of prayer, and I called the English prayers English mass, and have persuaded several to pray spiritually and extempore; and this hath so taken with the people, that the church of England is become as odious to that sort of people (the puritans) whom I instructed, as the mass is to the church of England; and this will be a stumbling-block to that church while it is a church." For this service the pope gave him great praise, and bestowed a handsome pecuniary reward on him. This man's success encouraged the pope and the VOL. II.


college de propaganda fide to maintain a succession of disguised emissaries and jesuits, to create new sects in England, and to cause diversities of doctrines; and their success has been commensurate with their industry and secresy. Some years afterwards, Thomas Heth, a jesuit, was discovered counterfeiting the character of a protestant; but he advanced a step farther than Cummin, who railed only against the liturgy, and opposed not only the service of the church of England, but its episcopacy, habits, rites, and ceremonies, as popish and superstitious, and pretended to labour for a refinement of religion, and for a purer and more thorough reformation. From constantly preaching about purity in the doctrines and discipline of the church, the dissenters from it acquired the name of Puritans.

After the death of Elizabeth, the puritans formed large expectations from king James, of immediate patronage, and ultimately of the establishment of their discipline. They met him at his accession on his progress to London with what has been called the Millennary petition, in which they sought relief to their tender consciences, and their scruples respecting conformity to the rubric of the prayer-book. This petition, which was eargerly circulated, embodied all their old grievances, with many new objections to the whole discipline and doctrine of the established church, and they demanded a reformation, which, if it had been granted, would have left the field entirely their own. In thus attempting to prejudice the opinions of the king against the church of England, they gave great offence to the two universities; which united in answering their petitionArchbishop Whitgift also exerted himself with the king and court to continue the church in that state in which it had been left at the demise of Elizabeth. With the view of composing some of the differences which then existed, and of obtaining information on some particular doctrines, the king issued a proclamation, “touching a meeting for the hearing and further determining things pretended to be amiss in the church.” This meeting or conference took place at Hampton Court, on the 14th, 16th, and 18th of January, 1604, and “the sum and substance” of what then took place was published by Dr. Barlow, one of the divines who was present at the conference. The archbishop of Canterbury, with several other bishops and deans, on the one side, met with Dr. Reynolds, Dr. Sparks, Mr. Newstubbs, and Mr. Chadderton, on the other, as plaintiffs for the puritans. The king shewed himself well acquainted with the subjects under discussion, and well disposed to be informed where he was ignorant. Some changes were made; and

« PreviousContinue »