Project Canterbury

Herbert Thorndike, 1598-1672
by T.A. Lacey

London: SPCK, 1929.

Chapter IV. Religious Assemblies

THORNDIKE'S second treatise was in purpose not less controversial than his first, and in manner equally constructive. He was still answering, with great economy of reference, "Smectymnuus" and the crowd of writers who had been for two generations attacking the established order of the Church in England. But, to use a convenient distinction, he was in the former replying to Calvinists, in this to Puritans. Not all Puritans were Calvinists. Some were not ill-affected to episcopacy. Baxter, as I have said, was no Presbyterian, constantly emphasized his own ordination by a bishop, and often spoke tartly of the Calvinist system of lay-elders, presbyteries, and classes. But he shared their objection to some forms and ceremonies ordered in the Prayer-book, and a conscientious inability to make the requisite declaration of assent, conceived after his ordination as deacon, hindered his advancement to the priesthood. His was no uncommon case, and this kind of Puritanism reinforced the Presbyterian attack on the established order in the Long Parliament. To this Thorndike now addressed himself.

Much that appears to us strange and inconsequent in his argument is accounted for by these circumstances. With a great display of rabbinical learning--taken at its face value, it must be confessed, very uncritically--he explores the religious practice of the Old Testament. This was in the nature of an argumentum ad hominem, for those whom he was refuting laid great store by that practice; but he escaped the danger of dishonesty inherent in such reasoning, because he was himself convinced of its value. As he had previously grasped the idea, in our day once more become a commonplace, of the Christian Church as the true continuation of the People of God constituted under the Old Covenant, so he was firmly convinced that its detailed ordering was in great measure carried over from current Jewish practice. Here, again, recent scholarship has returned after some divagations to the neighbourhood of his standpoint. Having this much in common with his opponents, he had good reason for pressing it against them; and, if he did so to wearisomeness, he was there also in their own case.

The performance of public worship is for him "the most eminent work that men are able to tender to the honour of God." So he begins, but soon discovers in it a particular importance. Here, as everywhere, the nature of the Church is the dominant subject of his thought, and the visibility of the Church is one of his chief concerns. So here: "Be the profession what it will be that differenceth a true visible Church from a false, it must be the public service of God that must make that profession visible." And where shall the canon of truth be found? "Were all particulars of it ordered in Scripture--as the ceremonies of that figurative service under Moses are--there were no more to do, but to make all things according to the pattern shewed in the mountain." But there is very little on the subject in the text of the New Testament. His method of enquiry will therefore be this: "My discourse proceedeth from that which I can find expressed in Scripture, to that which remaineth questionable according to it. For my part, I do not find so much delivered concerning the service of God at the assemblies of Christians, anywhere in Scripture, as in the first epistle to the Corinthians, where the Apostle discourseth the use of spiritual graces of that time in those assemblies." So here is the starting-point. But it is no more than a starting-point, and in making it such he parts company at once with the Puritans, who professed to find the worship of the New Testament set out in Scripture with much less complexity indeed than that of the Old, but with equal completeness and precision.

The second stroke of controversy is subtle. He reverts to the Law of Moses, showing what inadequate provision is made for preaching; then at great length he traces the supply of this want by prophets and ultimately by the institution of synagogues; all this apart from the Law of Worship, and without any Scriptural authority in detail.

Let us not gird at a critical remark on "the credit of historical truth that the Scripture was signed in Ezra's time," that is to say, the canon was then settled; his scholarship was at the higher level of his own time. Incidentally there was no Scriptural authority, but only a tradition of men, for preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath: a shrewd knock at Smectymnuus. This tradition is examined in detail. The elders of the synagogue, it appears, were not all "rabbies," that is to say, doctors or preachers, the rest being rather judges or administrators, and the doctors were not appointed by imposition of hands, as the others were, but by verbal commission from one of the same quality; moreover, not all even of the doctors preached, "but those alone that had the talent of it." The Old Testament thus gives no support to the contention of the Puritans that preaching is the chief concern of the ministry, and that the norm of public worship is the preaching of a sermon twice on the Lord's day.

But this would count for little unless the ordering of the Christian Church was based on that of the Synagogue. Thorndike had no occasion at present to argue that the Church of God is continuous from the Old Testament to the New, and that the Catholic Church of history is the true Israel of the promise, for the substance of that argument was common ground with him and his opponents. Taking this for granted, he had but to consider details. Having shown in the earlier treatise that the Apostolic Churches, whether at Jerusalem or elsewhere, are seen, from the little which is recorded, to have been of the pattern of the Synagogue, he now presses the importance of the "Archisynagogue," and describes the Christian assembly with the Apostle or his deputy sitting as chief among the presbyters, whether as a consistory of rulers or as conductors of divine worship, the two functions being inherently one. The detail of their sitting in a semicircle, the chief in the midst and the rest on either side, is laboriously proved, and the continuance of the practice is demonstrated down to the Apostolic Constitutions and the often-quoted Dream of Gregory Nazianzen, It is the "crown" mentioned by several authors. There is a touch of erudition which seems to be brought in for its own sake. "We are not to conceive that it must needs be a full round that is called a crown: that constellation of stars that is so called wanteth a great deal of a circle. I suppose, because we must allow room to tie it behind the head, to avoid Tertullian's objection, that the hinder parts of the head smell not." Thorndike was no more innocent of such irrelevant pedantries than other distinguished scholars of his time, or indeed of any time. More to the point is the citation of Tertullian's reference to "the very chairs of the Apostles" still subsisting in the Churches which they had founded, for the language is not merely figurative, but indicates a visible reality.

In his subsequent Review of this treatise, published eight years later, he supplies the reason why the order of the Synagogue was chosen, rather than the pattern of the Temple, for Christian use. It might be enough to say that the Temple, with its unique privileges, was still frequented by the first generation of Christians; but he prefers to base it on the immediate recognition of the universality of the new order, as contrasted with the strict locality of the Temple, and on its pure spirituality as contrasted with the "sovereign power of the world by which Israel according to the flesh maintained itself in freedom." In these respects the Christian Church was foreshadowed rather by the Dispersion and its Synagogues than by the priests and dwellers at Jerusalem worshipping in the Temple. It may be an afterthought, but it has some value.

Hence he passes to "the extent of the office common to the Bishop and presbyters," which is defined, "as for preaching and celebrating the Sacraments, so for the oversight and government of the Church in those spiritual matters wherein, as members of the Church, men communicate." Here comes a pregnant remark, which he is afterwards to develop at large. "True it is that the Church is of itself a mere spiritual commonwealth, not endued with any temporal power to enforce by way of constraint the effect of those ministries which they stand entrusted with. Before the temporal powers of the world were converted to the faith, they came to effect by the voluntary consent of Christians: the same good will that moved them to become such was enough to prevail with them to yield effect to those ministries which God had provided for the maintenance and propagation of it." At this point he turns aside from Smectymnuus and the Presbyterians, with one of his customary divagations, to glance at "the present separation," the growing threat of Independency, the point of which is that "ordinations and censures are to pass by voices of the congregation." This he dismisses briefly, on the ground of the obedience inculcated in the books of the New Testament, concluding with the pertinent question," Who shall be left to yield obedience according to this general charge if the particulars of it, ordinations and censures, belong as well to the people?" This done, resuming his argument, he confesses: "But since kingdoms and commonwealths are become Christian, the laws of those kingdoms and commonwealths, as they enforce the ministers of the Church to execute their office according to such rules as they enforce, so they constrain the people to yield outward effect to the same. The good order and peace of the Church cannot be preserved otherwise." That is not quite the doctrine of Hooker, but he shows himself still under the obsession of the commonwealth-church, and does not see to what it will soon be leading. He safeguards himself, however, by saying: "All this while the office of ministers continueth the same. No part of it accrueth to the secular powers." These do but "lend or refuse their assistance to the ministers of the Church in their office."

Boldly asserting this, not without some difficulty in the face of English practice, he resents the allegation of Smectymnuus that the authority of bishops in England was derived from the Crown. There was more difficulty here; for Joseph Hall, the Bishop of Norwich, had avowed as much in his reply to the Presbyterian argument. He therefore proceeds to examine the recognized distinction of order and jurisdiction inherent in the constitution of the Church, accurately distinguishing this last from that accessory jurisdiction "in charitable causes" which the episcopal courts in England exceptionally exercised by implicit delegation from the Crown. It is clear from later writings that he would not include matrimonial causes under this head.

The next step is to dispose of the institution of "ruling elders" not entrusted with the ministry of the Word. Here he puts aside the English Presbyterians, to meet the weightier metal of "Walo Messalinus," who was the great De Saumaise, paying tribute to his "excellent learning." The argument is drawn from analysis of the "charismata" mentioned by St. Paul in writing to the Corinthians. At a later point he acknowledges that De Saumaise, now under his own name, has produced some evidence of two sorts of presbyters; "but," he continues, "according to his admirable knowledge, he saw withal that they were all of one rank in the Church--all of the ecclesiastical order--all made by imposition of hands; and by consequence, none of those elders of the people which have been set up to manage the keys of the Church."

Follows an elaborate discussion of the Prophets in the Apostolic Churches. The undercurrent of the argument goes to show that if the Presbyterian divines relied on these to justify their exaltation of preaching, they must show among themselves a kind of inspiration very different from that which they modestly claimed. Thorndike seems unwilling to recognize the continuance of the gift of prophecy. Perhaps he here reflects accurately the temper prevailing in the Catholic Church after the Montanist excesses.

Hereupon it occurs to him, at the beginning of his sixth chapter, that he has made a wide detour from his expressed subject, but he justifies himself by the sound reflection that to understand the sparse details of Christian worship mentioned by the Apostle, we must--as we might now say--get into the right atmosphere. Thus the psalmody of the Church he traces back through the Synagogue to the Temple, with the significant difference that the Hebrew psalms now "belong to the person of Christ first, and then to his mystical body the Church," and are to be used in this reference. The prayers of Christian assemblies, on the other hand, rest on the promise, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." He curiously marks the superiority of the Church, in that the presence of ten was required for common prayer in the Synagogue, but quotes the authority of Maimonides for the opinion that common prayer is more effectual than individual petition. In his own judgment he finds it "a strange thing that men should so forget the communion of saints as to think of the public prayers of the Church no otherwise than of those which they know they can make at home," adding the conceit that the compound incense of the sanctuary does not make the same perfume as the component spices burnt separately. His modern editor suggests that he is here thinking of an objection urged against the service-book in Scotland: "It hinders the edification of God's people; they may as well stay at home, and be edified by reading the book themselves."

Follows the reading of Scripture, about which there appears to be no dispute. Preaching is properly based on this, being the exposition of what is read. He extols the gift of preaching as warmly as any Puritan, but with reserve in respect of its difficulty, which suggests that in the Church as in the Synagogue it must be left to those that have special qualifications. He allows that "preaching is the chief work which the ministers of the Church, from their office, are able to contribute towards the service of God," but observes, as against the Puritans in general, that "the other part of it may be ministered to the same purpose by men of common sense." Consequently "in the primitive Church most parts of the service were referred to inferior ministers. They had such as read the lessons, such as sung the psalms, and a great part of the prayers were done by deacons." He is arguing against those who would "have all ministers to be the mouth of the congregation in conceiving prayers at the instant," and reminds them that in this respect "the best they can contribute is the devotion of the heart which they pray with, wherein they are but one of the congregation: the meanest of it may bring as good as they are able to do." The obvious inference is that preaching is not to be expected on all occasions of public worship, and that "the prayers of the Church are not, in the main intent of them, to usher in the sermon, or to leave impression of it in men's minds afterwards." He then briefly intimates that the Eucharist is the chief part of public worship, arguing from the interpolated Ignatius that the united prayer of the bishop and the congregation "maketh the elements the Supper of the Lord."

Thence he proceeds in sum to St. Paul's rule of "decency and order," emphasizing the Apostle's appeal on the one hand to common sense and the teaching of nature, on the other to the general practice of Christians: "We have no such custom, neither the Churches of God." He enforces the duty of conformity on two grounds. "As the Church universal is but one in regard of times, as well as of places and countries, those orders must needs appear most commendable which are derived from the universal practice of the ancient Church, especially next the Apostles: and as the Church is at this time incorporate into the state of kingdoms and commonwealths, it is the secular arm that establisheth it with a power that is able to constrain, but when that is done there must needs accrue a second obligation of obedience for conscience, which the Apostle requireth to be yielded to secular powers." The second ground he was soon to find embarrassing; the first he at once qualifies by observing "divers remarkable instances of matters allowed and appointed by the Apostles in Scripture which are come to disuse, upon appearance that the reason is ceased whereupon they were prescribed." Such are the Agape, the veiling of women, and the prohibition of eating things strangled. Much more may things of later institution vary with changing times. "This," he says, "is that which justifieth the reformation which we profess, wherein some observances in the Church--as ancient as there is remembrance in it of things used since the time of the Apostles--are perhaps abolished by law, or disused by custom; the remembrance of the dead at the celebration of the Eucharist for example." He was not always to be as complacent on this head.

Coming closer to detail, he enters on the vexed question of a prescript order of prayer. To impose it, said some of the Puritan adversaries, was to "quench the Spirit." He shows what St. Paul meant by these words, and challenges the adversaries to exercise the prophetic power which the Apostle had in mind. On a lower plane, but more effectively, he asks whether the spirits of the congregation are not "stinted" as much by the extemporaneous outpouring of a preacher, hard to follow, as by the utterance of familiar words from an appointed form. He prefers, however, to argue from the practice of the Church, and will trust his own reason the more cheerfully "when the reason of the Church and the guides of it go before."

So back we go to the Temple of the Old Testament, and with the help of much erudition find prescript forms there in constant use; thence forward to the Synagogue with the same result. This raises a presumption that the Apostolic Churches did likewise, but for lack of evidence he will not pretend to prove it. Attempts to prove the contrary are discussed, and Smectymnuus is tartly informed that in Justin Martyr's account of the Eucharist the presiding minister does not pray "according to his ability," but "with all his might." By the end of the second century he finds the required evidence emerging, and has to dispose of some rather futile attempts to weaken it, being himself at times too positive in his interpretation. But he observes that the prescript forms used in the Church have always been subject to change, so that he cannot "exhibit the copies of primitive liturgies" which Smectymnuus demanded. The daily morning and evening service, the appointment of festivals and fasts, are then briefly justified, and he passes to "the frequent celebration and communion of the Eucharist, which is indeed the crown of public service, and the most solemn and chief work of Christian assemblies." He turns sharply on Smectymnuus for saying that this is to "shoulder out preaching." Elsewhere in this very treatise he himself complains with equal unfairness that by "one of the abuses of the Mass," sermons had been "for the most part silenced."

At this point he is drawn by his habit of thought into a long digression upon the feasts and fasts of Jewish practice, which serves to introduce an equally exact study of the evidence for similar observances in the primitive Christian Church. Both contain much interesting erudition which has little relevance to his theme, but is in the style of his time; it was perhaps valuable as adding weight to his argument. The sum of it is that food should not normally be taken until divine worship is completed, and for that reason the hour of service was on fasting days postponed to the afternoon. This he urges should be in some measure continued: "And though we come not near the strictness of abstinence wherewith in the primitive Church they were wont to afflict themselves--and perhaps for very good reasons we come not near it--yet to assemble for the public service of God ... to abstain till these assemblies be over, setting aside the favour we lend our own ease, must needs appear most commendable." It is clear that he is describing a recognized practice of piety in the Church of England at that time, and he fortifies it by a quotation from Melanchthon: "We think that traditions may well be retained for these causes: that the people be at service sober," interpreting "sober" as "fasting." At the same time he does not doubt that in Apostolic times the Eucharist was celebrated at an evening meal, and finds traces in Tertullian, where all will not follow him, of the continuance of that custom; he assumes that all came fasting to this meal, but allows that "if any man pretended the necessities of nature," St. Paul gave him a special permission "to eat at home." He does not attempt to account for the transference of the observance to the early morning "ante lucem," and thinks that Pliny's letter to Trajan, in which that phrase occurs, indicates obscurely two complete assemblies, morning and evening, at both of which the Eucharist was celebrated. As I have elsewhere remarked, he refuses to believe that the word sacramentum, used by Pliny's informants, meant an oath binding the worshippers to a mode of life. "I have not yet found," he says, "that they were wont to make any such formal oath to themselves, and must think it strange that they should renew it at all solemn assemblies; and therefore do believe that his meaning concerneth the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which of its own nature, we know, is an obligation to such purpose." This long argument he abruptly closes with a reference to the rubric in the Prayer-book beginning, "Upon the holy-days, if there be no Communion," and to that of "the first edition of Edward VI" beginning, "In cathedral churches or other places where there is daily Communion," as showing that "our reformers affected the frequentation of this service, according to the primitive practice, so far as they thought it attainable." He could not say more in view of the actual practice, which compelled George Herbert to think six celebrations in the year the most that a country priest could achieve, nor does he venture on the unpleasant subject of another rubric the strict observance of which made that state of things inevitable.

In the rest of the treatise he is concerned with the defence of the prescript liturgy in detail, admitting the usual digressions to antiquity. There is an eloquent justification of rites and ceremonies, based on "an appeal to the common reason of all the world." They are "a kind of discipline and paedagogy, whereby men subject to sense are guided in the exercise of godliness." They are as "the apparel of religion at the heart; which some think like the sun, most beautiful when it is most naked." So it might be if men were minds alone without bodies, "but so long as our bodily senses are manageable to our soul's advantage, the heat within will starve without this apparel." The common sense of the world is supported by abundant evidence of ecclesiastical custom from the earliest age.

Differences of times, of places, of vesture, and of gestures are shown to be serviceable.

"It is an impression of nature that teacheth all people thus to actuate, thus to animate the service they tender to God: and experience shall tell them that observe it, that where it is passed over with indifference, these men behave themselves more as hearers than actors in it." This was to turn the table on those Puritans who avowedly reduced the congregation to the position of hearers. But all ceremonies should be appointed by public authority; "as for the voluntary observations of particular persons, they are by their nature subject to abuse, as is to be seen in the superstitions of the Church of Rome, which all reason sheweth had their beginning from the well-meant devotions of private persons." The favourite Puritan argument about offence to "weak consciences" is treated rather roughly. Those who advance it are told quite truly that if they use the phrase in St. Paul's sense they are avowing the lawfulness of the thing objected to, and so their business is to correct the weakness of ignorance about it; but in point of fact the objectors are "not the weak but the strong, not the doubtful but the erroneous--weak in reason but strong in will, or, as it was once well said, headstrong in refusing without reason what order prescribeth." This is rather scolding than argument, and is certainly not persuasive; Puritan complaints were, no doubt, trying to the temper, but Thorndike is usually more patient with them. The conclusion, however, is very sound: "He whom it concerneth to observe or exact public order must not give just offence to public order and all that go by it, by neglecting it for fear of giving unjust offence to private persons by observing or exacting it." The possibility of such salutary strictness was soon to pass away for a time, but the warning is applicable to all times.

In the tenth chapter of the treatise we come at last to the details of the prescript order. He begins with the distinction, then current, of first and second service, the second being the Eucharist; "howsoever it come to pass," he says apologetically, "that the Eucharist is not celebrated at the greatest part of solemn assemblies." The Confession at the beginning of Morning Prayer is grudgingly approved, not being found in antiquity, and is at all events free from the "scandalous terms" found in that prefixed to the Roman Mass and some offices of the Breviary. The scandal appears to lie in the address of the Confession to certain saints. Another criticism of the Roman services is more unfair. He treats the English Mattins, with the lessons included, as part of the "solemn assembly," answering to the ancient "missa catechumenorum," and makes the disparaging comment on the Latin Mass: "It is strange to see to what a small model they have reduced it." This is to ignore the corresponding lections of the Breviary. He appears, indeed, to have been seriously perturbed by the Puritan complaint that the offices of the Prayer-book were derived from those of the Roman Church, which was obviously true, and damaging in the temper of many Englishmen at that time, as perhaps even now. Consequently he was at pains to point out differences. He recognizes, for example, an oblation or sacrifice of the elements only, "not as consecrated, but as presented and offered--whether by the people, as the custom was, to him that ministered, or by him that ministered, to God," the consecration following. This he reckons conclusive against "the sacrifice of the Mass, which supposeth the body and blood of Christ present as the subject of it." Elsewhere he remarks that "the very term of offering and sacrifice," which stood in the first Prayer-book, "is not only removed out of the prayer for the whole state of Christ's Church, but the prayer itself removed, to stand afore the consecration, as we conjectured it did stand in the African Churches, and not after it, to give opinion that Christ, present by consecration, was sacrificed then for the quick and dead, as the Church of Rome imagineth." [This has been suggested, not very clearly, some pages earlier, He would have found a, better precedent in the Alexandrian liturgy.] This explanation is curiously muddled; for in the first Prayer-book the supplication for the whole state of Christ's Church stood immediately before the consecration, and in the book which he himself used there were, as now, phrases of sacrifice and offering after the consecration and communion. In the endeavour to point out differences he overbalanced himself. I do not suggest that he was arguing dishonestly. Bred in a period of violent revulsion from all that was Roman, he could hardly fail to share the prejudice of his contemporaries, and I think that he really wished the English liturgy to be cast on more ancient lines. In the present controversy he had to make out that it was less Roman than opponents averred it to be. In later years we shall find him more reasonable, saying roundly that to differ from Rome for the sake of differing is to act schismatically. Of his positive teaching about the effect of consecration, which is briefly stated here, I shall give an account elsewhere.

Some further details may be mentioned. He acknowledges the late introduction of the Creed in the character of a hymn, arguing the date of the supposed Dionysius the Areopagite from his mention of it, but strangely quotes as from St. Ambrose, in support of its recitation by the people, a passage which on an earlier page he had rightly referred to the unknown "Ambrosiaster," rejecting this interpretation of it. He describes the ancient dismissal of catechumens and penitents before the "second service," and gives the reason for its disappearance, but the contemporary withdrawal of persons who belonged to neither of those categories is passed over in discreet silence, no doubt of disapproval. He does but try to find, without discussion, a precedent in the Apostolic Constitutions by means of an interpretation that will hardly stand. If he thought the prayer for the Church wisely removed from its place in the first Prayer-book, he was of another opinion about the Confession. "Were it left to my choice," he says, "I confess I should think the most proper place for this confession of sins to be that which it holdeth in the first edition of Edward VI, after the consecration of the elements, and before receiving them, with that prayer which beginneth 'We do not presume . . .' after the same." This was bold, for the partial restoration of this arrangement in the Scottish Prayer-book was one of the things violently assailed, and set down, without any ground in fact, to the discredit of Laud. He assumes the change in the second "edition" to have been made for the purpose of removing an apparent support of the doctrine of transubstantiation; indeed he was probably acquainted with the contention of Gardiner on that head; but he strangely holds that any such offence is "utterly voided in the words added there, 'so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood in these holy mysteries." "He apparently thought the last four words, used in the book of 1549 and omitted in all subsequent revisions, to be a safeguard; but his ground for so thinking is hard to conjecture.

He rather shamefacedly defends "the service prescribed for Lord's days and festivals when the Eucharist is not celebrated," saying, "It is not strange if something be added above the ordinary course to make it more solemn, though it had been rather to be wished that the world were disposed for the true solemnity of it." That the true solemnity might be had without a general communion was so far foreign to his thought. He concludes on a hope that he has proved one thing, namely: "The form which we use deserves this commendation, that it is possible to alter it for the better, but easy to alter it for the worse."

So he wrote in face of the Parliament which was minded, not indeed to alter it for better or for worse, but to proscribe it, and to attempt the enforcement of the Presbyterian model. Another danger, however, was appearing, which was before long to overwhelm both presbytery and Parliament. To this he addressed a brief additional chapter, resuming the subject of his former treatise. His point is "the dependence of Churches, visibly derived from the appointment and ordinance of the Apostles." The wording evidently glances at the Independents. He recalls his proof that from the first "rural congregations received their ministers from the mother Churches in which their ordinations were made." He is pained to think that "vulgar and rude congregations, inflamed with the ignorance and malice and overweening of unable guides, should choose for themselves, not only in things necessary for their own souls' health, wherein all have their due interest, but in things concerning the general state of the Church, which they are neither bound nor able to understand." We might perhaps call this the donishness of a Fellow of Trinity. He recalls with trepidation his proof that in the time of the Apostles "the work of preaching seemeth to have gone rather by men's abilities than their offices." Moreover, Hugo Grotius has recently shown, and with him Ferrarius from the side of the Church of Rome, that "in the primitive times of the Church laymen were licensed to preach by the Bishops of Churches." He has himself previously quoted St. Ambrose to the effect that "in the beginning it was granted to all to preach the Gospel and to baptize, and to expound the Scriptures in the Church." These are dangerous precedents. How shall he treat them?

"What is all this," he cries, "to these mechanic persons that make themselves Churches, and the Churches them their ministers, without education, without calling, without acknowledgement of one Church of God? "It was a mistake, perhaps, to insist on education or the lack of it, for some of the Independents were men of no mean learning, and John Milton might have read this with a sardonic smile, "Inglese italianato" as he was. It was a mistake to sneer at mechanics, for they could retort that St. Paul mixed his preaching with tent-making. It was nearer the mark to say, as the Presbyterians would say with him, "For private persons, against public order and the unity of the Church, to call such assemblies, and to exercise those pretended abilities in such assemblies as public order forbiddeth, is neither more nor less than schism." They might plead, they did actually plead, that St. Paul had declared the inevitability of heresies or sects. "He that hath foretold that divisions shall come," he replies, "hath commanded that they shall not come: to me it seems a strange reason, because God hath foretold that heresies shall come in, for men therefore to set open the door, and for public order to take a course, by the independence of Churches, to allow as many religions as conventicles." It does not seem to have occurred to him that the "heresies" which the Apostle reluctantly tolerated were not the same as the "schisms" which he disallowed.

Thorndike winds up with a noble apostrophe: "Let the praises of God, the hearing of his Scriptures read and expounded, the common prayers of the Church, and the celebration of the Eucharist, be performed with that discretion for the order, with that choice for the substance, with that reverence for the outward visage and fashion of what is said and done respectively at each of these parts of God's public service, and let not me doubt that God the author, and men strangers to our profession, shall join in making good and acknowledging that of the Apostle, that God is among us of a truth."

Alas! but those mechanic persons, clad in cuirass and jack-boots, were soon to trample down bishop and presbyter alike, and to plunge the nation into a quagmire of formless religion.

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