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From the notes in the following pages, the reader will be able to form a judgment whether the encomium bestowed on Dr. Grey's work proceeded from a careful investigation of his remarks, and a comparison of them with Mr. Neal's History and vouchers, or from bias to a cause. In the Editor's apprehensions, the value of Mr. Neal's History and its authorities is, so far as he has proceeded, heightened by the comparison.
In his advertisement to the first volume, he made a great mistake in ascribing the quarto edition of " The History of the Puritans” to the author himself; who died about twelve years before its appearance. It was given to the public by his worthy son, Mr. Nathaniel Neal, of the Million Bank, and is generally esteemed very correct.
There has been pointed out to the Editor a slight error of Mr. Neal, vol. 1. p. 224; who says, that bishop Jewel was educated in Christ's College, Oxford; whereas, according to Fuller and Wood, he was of Corpus Christi.
The Editor has been asked,* on what authority, in the biographical account of Mr. Tomkins, subjoined to p. 17 of the “Memoirs of Mr. Neal,” he charged Mr. Asty,t on making an exchange with Mr. Tomkins, one Lord's day, with “alarming the people with the danger of pernicious errors and damnable heresies creeping in among the dissenters, and particularly referring to errors concerning the doctrine of Christ's divinity.”
On examining the matter, he finds that he has used the very words, as well as written on the authority, of Mr. Tomkins, who spoke on the information he had received concerning the tenor and strain of Mr. Asty's sermon; and adds, that Mr. Asty himself after. ward acknowledged to him, " that the information in general was true, viz. that he spake of damnable heresies, and applied those texts, 2 Pet. ii. 1, Jude verse 4, or at least one to the new doctrines about the Deity of Christ, that were now, as he apprehended, secretly spreading." Mr. Tomkins was also told, that Mr. Asty was very warm upon these points, but he subjoins, “ I must do Mr. Asty this justice, to acquaint others, that he assured me he had no particular view to me or suspicion of me, when he brought down this sermon among others to Newington. As he had an apprehension of the danger of those errors, and of the spreading of them at that time,
By the Rev. Thomas Towle, a dissenting minister of eminence among the Independents, in an interview, at which the editor was very politely received, and which took place at Mr. Towle's desire, in consequence of a letter written to bim by a friend on the subject of the above charge.
† Mr. Asty was grandson of Mr. Robert Asty, who was ejected from Stratford in Suffolk. He had good natural parts, and by spiritual gifts, and considerable attainments in literature, was richly furnished for his ministerial province. He was perceived to have drunk very much into the sentiments and spirit of Dr. Owen, who was his favourite author. The amiable traits of bis character were, a sweetness of temper, an affectionate sympathy in the aflictions and prosperity of others, a familiarity and condescension of deportment, and a disposition to cast a manlle over the failings of others, and to ask pardon for his own. He died Jan. 20, 1729-30, aged 57.-Dr. Guyse's funeral sermon for him.
he thought it might be seasonable to preach such a sermon any where.” When another gentleman, however, put the matter more closely to bim, he could not deny that he had some intimation of a suspicion of Mr. Tomkins. But from the assurance Mr. Asty gave Mr. Tomkins, candour will be ready to conclude, that he did not greatly credit the intimation.
Mr. Towle, who was a successor to Mr. Asty in the pastoral office, could scarcely suppose, that he could be guilty of a conduct so remote from the amiable and pacific character he always bore, and from the delineation of it in the funeral sermon for him by Dr. Guyse; who, I find, says of him, “I have with pleasure observed a remarkable tenderness in his spirit, as judging the state of those that differed from him, even in points which he took to be of very great importance.”
It will be right to add Mr. Tomkins's declaration with respect to Mr. Asty's views : "I never had a thought that be preached his sermon out of any particular personal prejudice against me; but really believed that he did it from a zeal for what he apprehended to be truth necessary to salvation. Though I am persuaded in my own mind, that this zeal of his in this matter is a mistaken zeal, I do nevertheless respect him as a Christian and a minister.”
In the memoirs of Mr. Neal, we mentioned his letter to the Rev. Dr. Francis Hare, dean of Worcester. The Editor has lately met with this piece; it does the author credit, for it is written with ability and temper. He is inclined to give a passage from it, as a specimen of the force of argument it shews, and as going to the foundation of our ecclesiastical establishment.
The dean contended for submission to the authority of the rightful governors of the church; whom he defined to be “.
an ecclesi. astical consistory of presbyters with their bishop at their head.” Mr. Neal, to shew that this definition does not apply to the church of England, replies: “Now, taking all this for granted, what an argument have you put into the mouths of the dissenters to justify their separation from the present establishment."
“ For is there any thing like this to be found there? Is the church of England governed by a bishop and his presbyters ? Is not the king the fountain of all ecclesiastical authority? And has he not power to make ordinances which shall bind the clergy without their consent, under the penalty of a premunire ? Does not his majesty nominate the bishops, summon convocations, and prorogue them at pleasure? When the convocations of Canterbury and York are assembled, can they debate upon any subject without the king's licence? Or make any canons that can bind the people without an act of parliament? The bishops in their several courts can determine nothing in a judicial manner about the faith, there lying an appeal from them to the king, who decides it by his commissioners in the court of delegates.
“Now though this may be a wise and prudent institution, yet it can lay no claim to antiquity, because the civil magistrate was not Christian for three hundred years after our Saviour; and conse.
quently the dissenters, who are for reducing religion to the standard of the Bible, can be under no obligation to conform to it. We have a divine precept to oblige us to do whatsoever Christ and his aposties have commanded us; but I find no passage of Scripture that obliges us to be of the religion of the state we happen to be born in. If there be any such obligation on the English dissenters, it must arise only from the laws of their country, which can have no influence upon them at present, those laws having been long since suspended by the act of indulgence.
The favourable acceptance of the first volume of this work has encouraged me to publish a second, which carries the history forward to the beginning of the civil war, when the two houses of parliament wrested the spiritual sword out of the hands of the king and bishops, and assumed the supremacy to themselves.
There had been a cessation of controversy for some time before the death of queen Elizabeth; the Puritans being in hopes, upon the accession of a king that had been educated in their own principles, to obtain an easy redress of their grievances; and certainly no prince ever bad so much in his power to compromise the differences of the church, as king James I. at the conference of Hampton-court; but being an indolent and vain-glorious monarch, he became a willing captive to the bishops, who flattered his vanity, and put that maxim into his head, “ No bishop, no king.” The creatures of the court, in lieu of the vast sums of money they received out of the exchequer, gave him the flattering title of an absolute sovereign, and, to supply his extravagances, broke through the constitution, and laid the foundation of all the calamities of his son's reign; while himself, sunk into luxury and ease, became the con. tempt of all the powers of Europe. if king James had any principles of religion besides what he called kingcraft, or dissimulation, he changed them with the climate, for from a rigid Calvinist he became a favourer of Arminianism in the latter part of his reign; from a Protestant of the purest kirk upon earth, a doctrinal Papist; and from a disgusted Puritan, the most implacable enemy of that people, putting all the springs of the prerogative in motion, to drive them out of both kingdoms.
But instead of accomplisbing his designs, the number of Puritans increased prodigiously in his reign, which was owing to one or other of these causes.
First. To the standing firm by the constitution and laws of their country; which brought over to them all those gentlemen in the house of commons, and in the several counties of England, who found it necessary, for the preservation of their properties, to oppose the court, and to insist upon being governed according to law; these were called stale Puritans.
Secondly. To their steady adherence to the doctrines of Calvin, and the synod of Dort, in the points of predestination and grace, agaiust the modern interpretations of Arminius and his followers. The court divines fell in with the latter, and were thought not only to deviate from the principles of the first reformers, but to attempt a coalition with the church of Rome; while most of the country clergy, being stiff in their old opinions (though otherwise well enough affected to the discipline and ceremonies of the church), were in a manner shut out from all preferment, and branded with the name of Doctrinal Paritans.
Thirdly. To their pious and severe manner of life, which was at this time very extraordinary. If a man kept the sabbath and frequented sermons; if he maintained family religion, and would neither swear, por be drunk, nor comply with the fashionable vices of the times, he was called a Puritan : this by degrees procured them the compassion of the sober part of the nation, who began to think it very hard, that a number of sober, industrious, and conscientious people, should be harassed out of the land, for scrupling to comply with a few indifferent ceremonies, which had no relation to the favour of God, or the practice of virtue.
Fourthly. It has been thought by some, that their increase was owing to the mild and gentle government of archbishop Abbot. While Bancroft lived, the Puritans were used with the utmost rigour, but Abbot, having a greater concern for the doctrines of the church than for its ceremonies, relaxed the penal laws, and connived at their proselyting the people to Calvinism. Arminianism was at this time both a church and state faction; the divines of this
per• suasion, apprehending their sentiments not very consistent with the received sense of the thirty-nine articles, and being afraid of the censures of a parliament or a convocation, took shelter under the prerogative, and went into all the slavish measures of the court to gain the royal favour, and to secure to their friends the chief preferments in the church. They persuaded his majesty to stifle the predestinarian controversy, both in the pulpit and press, and would no doubt, in a few years, have got the balance of numbers on their side, if, by grasping at too much, they had not precipitated both church and state into confusion. It was no advantage to those di. vines that they were linked with the Roman Catholics, for these being sensible they could not be protected by law, cried up the prerogative, and joined the forces with the court divines, to
support the dispensing power; they declared for the unlimited authority of the sovereign on the one hand, and the absolute obedience of the subject on the other; so that though there is no real connexion between Arminianism and Popery, the two parties were unhappily combined at this time to destroy the Puritans, and to subvert the constitution and laws of their country.
But if Abbot was 100 reiniss, his successor Laud was as much too furious, for in the first year of his government he introduced as many changes as a wise and prudent statesman would have attempted in seven ;* he prevailed with his majesty to set up the Evg.
* Heylin's Life of Land, p. 506.