« PreviousContinue »
House in March 1640-1, when a Committee for religion was appointed, consisting of ten spiritual, but of twenty temporal Lords, with power to call to their assistance such Divines as they approved. Having debated on the subject of the five Points, and condemned the Arminian exposition, the Committee proceeded to a reformation of the Liturgy: but after various debates, which continued nearly two months, the Committee broke up without coming to a decision.' A measure, adopted about the same time by the House of Commons, was more effectual, because it went on so broad a basis, that the object in contemplation was not iminediately perceived. The puritanical party in that house, under the pretence of removing the anxiety of the episcopal party, who saw dangers to the church arising from every quarter, proposed the following oath, which was called the Protestation. “1. A. B. do in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest, to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully I may, with my life, power, and estate, the true reformed Protestant religion, expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery, and Popish innovation within this realm, contrary to the said doctrine ; and according to the duty of mine allegiance, I will maintain, and defend his Majesty's royal person, honor, and estate.” The episcopal party, not aware of the generalising system of the Puritans, and supposing that the words “ Protestant Religion expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England," meant the Protestant Religion expressed in the Liturgy, that is, according to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, as by law established, very readily concurred in this oath of Protestation. But they soon discovered, that the secret object of the Protestation, was to abolish, instead of supporting the Liturgy, which the Puritans now called the Service Book. For on the 13th day of the same month, when petitions were presented to the House of Commons by the two Universities in favor of the Church Establishment, and
i Collier's Ecclesiastical History, Vol. ii. p. 799.
? The whole of the Protestation, which contains also other matter, may be seen in Rushworth's Historical Collections, P. iii. p. 241. It was proposed and taken on May 9, 1641.
the episcopal party appealed to the late Protestation in support of those petitions, the majority of the House, which consisted of Puritans, came immediately to the resolution, that the words in question, “are not to be extended to the maintaining of any forin of worship, discipline, or government, nor of rites and ceremonies.”
Within a few months after this resolution a bill passed both Houses to exclude Bishops from a seat in Parliament : 2 and the King was at length compelled to give his assent. The Liturgy, having fallen into discredit, began now to be laid aside, though the use of it was continued by the Episcopalians as the only means of prolonging the existence of the still established church. Nor were the Puritans themselves less aware of its importance. They determined therefore to take the earliest opportunity of preventing the use of it altogether. When the civil war had broken out, and the power of the Convocation was at an end, the Parliament resolved to appoint in its stead an Assembly of Divines composed of members better suited to its purpose. This new Assembly of Divines was not composed entirely of spiritual persons, for some of the most zealous members, both of the upper and lower house, are placed at the head of the list; and scattered among the names of its inferior members are those of three Prelates, the Primate of Ireland, with the Bishops of Exeter and Bristol. The Assembly soon adopted a set of Resolutions (presented to parliament in the form of a petition) of which the eighth was, that “the whole body and practice of Popery, may be totally abolished.”4 Now by the expression “ body and practice of Popery,” they could only mean the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, which was still established by law, and was alone therefore “the body and
· The whole Resolution is given in Rushworth’s Historical Collections, Part iii. p. 273.
2 This Bill is given at length in Scobel's Collection of Acts, p. 21.
3 The ordinance for this Assembly is given in Scobel's Collection, p. 42–44. It is dated June 12, 1643. The names of the persons appointed are all enumerated in this ordinance,
+ Rushworth's Collection, Part IIT. Vol. ii. p. 345.
practice” which could be abolished. Indeed tlie terms Liturgy and Popery were anjong the Puritans synonymous: and at the very time they were destroying the Church of England, they invariably pretended, that their measures were directed against the Church of Rome. • At length on the 26th of August, 1645, the Lords and Commons assembled in parliament, repealed, at the suggestion of this Assembly, the Acts which had been passed in the reigns of Edward and Elizabeth, in support of the Liturgy, and enacted, that it be no longer used in any place of public worship.' The reasons alleged by the Assembly of Divines, are given in the Preface to the Directory, which they substituted for the Book of Common Prayer. They allege that “the Liturgy used in the Church of England, notwithstanding all the pains and religious intentions of the compilers of it, hath proved an offence not ouly to many of the Godly at home, but also to the reformed churches abroad :that the Prelates and their fuction have labored to raise the estimation of it to such a height, &c.—that the Papists made their advantage this way, boasted that the Common Prayer came up to a compliance with a great part of their service, &c.” Thereupon they declare that they have agreed to set aside the Common Prayer, “not from any love to novelty, or intention to disparage our first Reformers,—but that we may in some measure answer the gracious providence of God, which at this time calleth upon us for further Reformation.” But the Liturgy, though the use of it was prohibited in public, continued to be used in private houses by the friends of the established church, whose numbers were still considerable. The Puritans therefore, who now governed in
"See Scobel's Collection, p. 75, 76.
2 The Directory, so called from its containing directions in regard to the forms of public worship, is printed in Scobel's Collection, p. 77-92.
3 Before the Liturgy was abolished, petitions liad been presented to Parliament from various counties in favor of the established church : and though the means of procuring signatures to petitions at that time are not to be compared with the present means of procuring them, the petitions in favor of the established church were signed by nearly fifty thousand. See Collier's Ecclesiastical History, Vol. ii. p. 822.
Parliament, well knowing that the use of the Liturgy, even in private, would keep alive that regard for the Church, which the wished to extirpate, obtained an Ordinance in the following month of August, by which the use of the Liturgy was prohibited “ in any private place or family,” under the penalty of five pounds for the first offence, ten for the second, and a year's imprisonment for the third.'
No sooner was the Liturgy thus finally abolished, than a dispute arose between the Presbyterians and the Independents, the latter of whom dissented from the newly established church, and were called, therefore, in their controversies with the former, the Dissenting Brethren. The Liturgy, which is a system both of doctrine and discipline, having been exchanged for the Directory, which relates more to the latter, the Independents, who would suffer no control, either in the one, or in the other, applied the same terms to the Directory, which the Presbyterians had applied to the Liturgy. The new churchmen in vain atteinpted to resist the new dissenters, by refusing that toleration, which men of every
religion may justly claim. “Beware, lest out of cowardice ye · tolerate what God would not have tolerated,” said one of their preachers in his Sermon before the Commons. “Take heed of Toleration,” said another in his Sermon before the Lord. “For God's sake, my Lords, let us not leave a Reformation, which may need a Toleration.". But the intolerance of the Presbyterians found a counterpoise in the power of the army, which was thrown into the scale of the Independents. In this manner was discipline set afloat, as doctrine had been before: and public worship in the churches of this kingdom was regulated by the discretion or caprice of the officiating minister. Hence the number of religious sects, which arose about that period, exceeded all that are recorded
* See Scobel's Collection, p. 97.
2 In 1648, a book was published in London, called, " Papers and Answers of the Dissenting Brethren, and the Committee of the Assembly of Divines."
3 These Sermons were preached, the one on March 25th, the other on April 29, 1646. More extracts of the same kind may be seen in c. v. of the work called, " A Century of Presbyterian Preachers."
in the catalogues of Irenæus, Epiphanius, and Augustine. One of the celebrated preachers of that time, said in a Sermon before the Parliament, “There is such a numerous increase of errors and heresies, that I blush to repeat what some have affirmed, namely, that there are no less than a hundred and four score several heresies, propagated and spread in the neighbouring city, and many of such a nature, that I may truly say in Calvin's language, the errors and innovations, under which they groaned of late years, were but tolerable trifles, children's play, compared with these damnable doctrines of devils.”. Bishop Beveridge in his Sermon on the Excellency and Usefulness of the Common Prayer, (a Sermon which should be read by every member of the Bible Society) says likewise iu reference to that age, and to the abolition of the Liturgy, “ People being deprived of that, whereby they should have been edified, were immediately tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, until at length many of them fell into the most pernicious and damnable heresies, that were ever heard of in the Church. Yea together with the Liturgy they laid aside all distinction between sacred and common things, by which means the whole nation was in danger of being spread with profaneness and irreligion.”—Yet the very men, who are described in these extracts, had the Bible in constant use: the sectaries of that age were ready with a text of scripture for every occurrence, whether
" See Mr. Case's Thanksgiving Sermon for the taking of Chester.--Also in the year 1646, (which was several years after the Liturgy began to be neglected, and one year after the total abolition of it) Mr. Edwards, a Calvinistic Clergyman, published a book containing many curious facts, under the title of " Gangrena, or a catalogue and discovery of many of the errors, heresies, blasphemies, and pernicious practices of the Sectaries of this time, vented and acted in England these four last years." I would particularly recommend a perusal of this book to those gentlemen who now contend for the distribution of the Bible alone. Even the Imprimatur of this Book is a curious document; it runs thus, “ Reader, that thou mayest discern the mischief of Ecclesiastical Anarchy, the monstrousnesse of the much affected Toleration, and be warned to be wise to sobriety, and fear and suspect the pretended New Lights, I approve that this Treatise disco. vering the Gangrene of so many strange Opinions, should be imprinted."
? I take this opportunity of reminding the advocates of the Bible Society, that by their own acknowledgment, the Bible is capable of perversion, or they would not be perpetually boasting, that they give it without note or comment.