Obrazy na stronie


[ocr errors]

THE favorable 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 aceession of a king that had been educated in their own principles, to obtzia an easy redress for their grievances ; and certainly no prince ever had so much in his power to compromise the differences of the ehureh, as king James I. at the conference of Hampton-Court; but being an indolent aad 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 noney they received out of the exchequer, gave him the flattering title of an ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGN, and, to supply his extravaganeies, broke through the constitution, and laid the foundation of all the calamities of his son's reigo ; while himself sunk, into luxury and ease, became the eontempt of all the powers of Europe. If king James had axy principles of religion besides what he called KINGCRAFT, or dissimulation, he ehanged them with the climate, for from a rigid calvin. ist be became a favorer of arminianism in the latter part of his reign; fres a protestant of the purest kirk upon earth, a doctrinal papist ; and from a disguised puritan, the most implacable enemy of that people, petting all the springs of the prerogative in motion, to drive them out of both kingdoms.

Bat instead of accomplishing his designs, the number of puritans inereased prodigiously in his reign, which was owing to one or other of zbese 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 STATE PURITASS.

Secondly ; To their steady adherence to the doctrines of Calvin, and the synod of Dort, in the points of predestination and grace, against the modern interpretations of ARMINIUS and his followers. The court di. vines fell in with the laiter, and were thought not only to deviate from the prineiples 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 PURITANS.

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,

nor 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 favor of God, or the practice of virtue.

Fourthly; It lias been thought by some, that their iverease was owing to the wild and gentle government of archbishop Abbot. While BANCROFT lived, the puritans were used with the utmost rigor, but Abbot, having a greater concern for the doctrines of the church that 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 divives of this persuasion, apprehending their sentimenis not very consistent with the received sense of the thirty-nine articles, and being afraid of the censures of a parliament or convocation, took shelter under the prerogative, and went into all the slavish measures of the court to gain the royal favor, 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 p:ecipitated both church and state into confusion. It was no advantage to those divines 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 souereign 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 too remiss, his successor LAUD was as much too furious, for in the first year of his government he introduced as many changes as a wise aud prudent statesman would have attempted in seven ;' he prevailed with his majesty to set up the English service at Edinburgh, and laid the foundation of the Scots liturgy; he obtained the revival of the book of sports ; he turned the communion tables into altars; he sent out injunctions which broke up the French and Dutch churches; and procured the repeal of the Irish articles, and those of England to be received in their place. Such was his rigorous persecution of the puritans, that he would neither suffer them to live peaceably in the land, nor remove quietly out of it! His GRACE was also the chief mover in all those unbounded acts of power which were subversive of the rights and liberties of the people: And while he had the reins in his hands, drove so near the precipices of popery and tyranny, that the hearts of the most resolved protestants turned against him, and alnost all England became PURITAN,

I am sensible that no part of modern history has been examined with so much critical exactness, as that part of the reign of King CHARLES

Heylia's Life of Layd, p. 506.

1. which relates to the rise and progress of the civil war; here the writers on both sides have blown up their passions into a flame, and instead of history, have given us little else but panegyric or satire. I have endeavored to avoid extremes, and have represented things as they appeared to me, with modesty, and without any personal reflections. The character I have given of the religious principles of the LONG PARLIAMENT was designedly taken out of the earl of Clarendon's History of the GRAND REBELLION, that it might be without exception : and I am of opinion, that the want of a due acquaintance with the principles of the two houses with regard to church discipline, has mis. led our best historians, who have represented some of them as zealous prelatists, and others as cunning presbyterians, independents, sectaries, &c. whereas in truth they had ihese matters very little at heart. The king was hampered with uotions of the divine right of diocesan episeopaey, but the two houses (excepting the bishops] were almost to a man of the prineiples of ERASTUS, who maintained, that Christ and his apostles had prescribed no particular form of discipline for his church in after ages, but had left the keys in the hands of the civil magistrate, who had the sole power of punishing transgressors, and of appointing suek particular forms of church government from time to time, as were most subservient to the peace and welfare of the commonwealth. Indeed these were the sentiments of our church reformers, from archbishop Crazmer down to Bancroft. And though the puritans in the reign of Queen Elizabeth wrote with great eagerness for the divine right of their book of discipline, their posterity in the next reigns were more cool upon that bead, declaring their satisfaction, if the present episcopaey might be reduced to a more primitive standard. 'This was the sabstance of the ministers' petition in the year 1641, signed with seven hundred hands. And even those who were for root and BRANCH were willing to submit to a parliamentary reformation, till the Scots revived the notion of divine right in the assembly of divines. However, it is certain, the TWO HOUSES had no attachment to presbytery or independency, but would have compromised matters with the king upon the episcopal scheme. as long as his majesty was in the field; but when sietory bad declared on their side, they complied in some measure with their northern friends, who had assisted them in the war; but would never part with the power of the keys out of their own hands. If the reader will keep this in mind, he will easily account for the several revolutions of church government in these unsettled times.

It is not to be expected, that the most disinterested writer of these affairs should escape the censures of different parties ; I thought I had already sufficiently expressed my intentions in publishing the Ilistory of the Puritars; but because it has been insinuated in a late pamphlet, that it looked like a plot against the ecclesiastical constitution,* I think it proper to assure the world once for all, that what I have written is with no ill spirit or design against the peace of the church or nation ; that I have no private or party views ; no patron; no associates ; nor other prospect of reward, than the pleasure of setting the English reformation in a true light, and of beating down some of the

* Expostulatory Letter, p. 29, 30. Vol. II.


fences and inclosures of conscience. Nor can there be any inconvenience in remeinbering the mistakes of our ancestors, when all the parties concerned are gone off the stage, and their families reconciled by intermarriages ; but it may be of some use and benefit to mankind, by enabling them to avoid those rocks on wbich their forefathers have split. When I am convinced of any mistakes, or unfair representations, I shall pot be ashamed to retract thein before the world; but Facts are stubborn things, and will not bend to the humors and inclinations of art. ful and angry men; if these have been disguised or misreported, let them be set right in a decent manner, without the mean surmises of plots and confederacies ; and whoever does it, shall have mine as well as the thanks of the public.

I have no controversy with the present church of England, which has abandoned, in a great measure, the persecuting principles of former times; for though I am not unacquainted with the nature and defects of religious establishments, yet neither my principles nor inclinations will allow me to give them the least disturbance, any further than they impose upon conscience, or intrench upon the rights of civil society if the presbyterians or independents have been guilty of such practices in their turns, I shall freely bear my testimony against them. and think I may do it with a good GRACE, since I have always declared against restraints upon conscience among all parties of christians ;* but if men will vindicate the justice and equity of oaths ex officio, and of exorbitant fines, imprisonment, and banishment, for things in their own nature indifferent ; if they will call a relation of the illegal severities of council-tables, star-chambers, and high-commissions. A SATIRE AGAINST THE PRESENT ESTABLISHMENT, they must use their liberty, as I shall mine, in appearing against ecclesiastical oppression, from what quarter soever it comes.

I have freely censured the mistakes of the puritans in queen ELIZABETH's reign, nor will I be their advocate any longer than they have scripture, reason, and some degree of good manners on their side. If it shall at any time appear, that the body of them lived in contempt of all lawful authority, or bid defiance to the laws of their country, except in such cases wherein their consciences told them. It was their duty to obey God rather than man ; if they were guilty of rebellion, sedition, or of abandoning the queen and the protestant religion, when it was in danger,

let them bear their own reproach; but as yet I must be of opinion, that they were the best friends of the constitution and liberties of their country, that they were neither unquiet nor restless, unless against tyranny in the state, and oppression upon the conscience; that they made use of no other weapons during a course of fourscore years,


prayers to God, and petitions to the legislature for redress of their grievances, it being an article of their belief, that absolute submission was due to the supreme magistrate in all things lawful, as will sufficiently appear by their protestations in the beginning of the reign of king James 1. I have admitted that the puritans might be too stiff and rigid in their behavior; that they were unacquainted with the rights of conscience ; and that their language to their superiors the bishops was rot always

* Expostulatory Lever p. 12,

deeent and mannerly: Oppression maketh wise men mad. But surely, the depriving. inprisoning, and putting men to death for these things, will not be vindicated in our times.

la the preface to the first volume of this history, I mentioned with pleasure ihe growing sentiments of religious liberty in the church of Bagland, but complained of the burthen of subscriptions upon the clergy; and of the corporation and test acts, as prejudicial to the cause of reli. gion, and virtue, among the laity; for which reasons the protestant dis. senters throughout England intended to petition for a repeal or amendment of these acts, the ensuing session of parliament, if they had met with any encouragement from their superiors, or had the least prospeet of suceess. The SACRAMENTAL test is, no doubt, a distinguishing mark of reproach which they have not deserved; and, I humbly conceive, no very great security to the church of England, unless it can be supposed, that one single act of occasional conformity can take off the edge of all their imagined aversion to the hierarchy, who worship all the rest of the year among non-conformists. Nor can the repeal of these aets be of any considerable advantage to the body of dissenters, because not one in five hundred can expect to reap any private benefit by it to himself or family ; their zeal therefore in ihis cause must arise principally from a regard to the liberties of their country, and a desire of rescuing one of the most sacred rites of christianity from the profanation to which it is exposed.

But it seems this will not be believed, till the dissenters propose some other pledge and security by which the end and intent of the sacramental test may be equally attained for (says a late writer*) the legislature never intended them any share of trust or power in the goverrment; and he kopes never will, fill they see better reasons for it than hath hitherto ap. peared. Must the dissenters then furnish ihe church with a law to exelude themselves from serving their king and country? Let the disagreeable work be undertaken by men that are better skilled in such unequal severities. I will not examine into the intent of the legislature in this place; but if protestant non-conformists are to have no share of trust or power in the government, why are they chosen into such offices, and subject to fines and penalties for declining them ? Is it for not serving ? this, it seems, is what the legislature never intended. Is it then for not qualifying? surely this is a penalty upon conscience. I would ask the warmest advocate for the sacramental test, whether the appointing protestant dissenters for sheriffs of counties, and obliging them to qualify against their consciences under the penalties of a premunire, without the liberty of serving by a deputy, or of commuting by a fine, is consistent with so FULL A TOLERATion, and exemption from penal laws, as this writert says they enjoy ?. It is true a good government may take no advantage of this power, but in a bad one men must qualify, or their liberties and estates be at the king's mercy; it seems Therefore but reasonable, (whatever the intent of the legislature may be) that protestant dissenters should be admitted to serve their country with a good conscience in offices of trust as well as of burthen, or be exempted from all pains and penalties for not doing it. • History of the Test, p. 16, 23, 25.

+ Ibid. p. 25. It should he nenhoned to the honor of Bishop Warburton, who was an advocate for a test,

« PoprzedniaDalej »