The Anglican Reformed Church and Her Clergy in the Days of Their Destitution and Suffering during the Great Rebellion in the Seventeenth Century.
Chapter IV. Malicious conduct and mischievous influence of Lecturers--Church affection deeply rooted in many people--Stratagem by Pym, for completing the ejectment of Bishops from Parliament --Pious frauds--Character of Puritanism--Iconoclasticism
IN a former chapter, we have spoken of a new order of preachers, which the factious Parliament had now established in most of the parishes in the kingdom, and especially in and about London, and in large corporate towns. They were called Lecturers; and their main business was to aid the designs of the fanatical Parliament--to cry down monarchical government--to cry down the institution of the Church--to cry down the prelacy--to cry down the loyal and orthodox clergy--to cry down the liturgy--and, in short, to sow the seeds of anarchy, schism, and disaffection with an unsparing hand both towards the Church and State. Too well did they, for a time, succeed in [79/80] their labours, and too useful did the Parliament find them in promoting their work of devastation. These lecturers, indeed, are noted by Walker, as well as by Dugdale, Collier, Clarendon, &c. as altogether an engine of extreme power and importance in the hands of the sectarian Parliament. And it is equally true that these same lecturers found no small advantage themselves from the Parliament's patronage. In very many instances, the legitimate pastor of the parish, however estimable his character might be, yet, if he were found to be true to his Church, orthodox, steadfast, canonical, and obedient, was very unceremoniously ejected by parliamentary command from his benefice, to make room for some hireling and furious lecturer.
"Church quacks with passions under no command,
Who fill the world with doctrines contraband;
Discoverers of they know not what; confined
Within no bounds the blind that lead the blind." COWPER.
Gross enough, indeed, was the injustice of such conduct, yet there was one thing which still aggravated its iniquity. It was this; that these same lecturers were always ready enough to seize on the ecclesiastical revenues and possessions of [80/81] the legitimate minister, which revenues, so long as they continued in the rightful possession of the Church, they stigmatized as Antichristian, but which, when the lecturers themselves got pos session of them, were immediately emancipated from such a reproach, and were held up as a sort of sacred inheritance--the lecturers also them selves, being always proclaimed by the Parliament as "godly, learned, and painful ministers." Few occasions more aptly and practically illustrative than this of the fable of the Fox and the Grapes, have ever occurred to public observation. Such also was the sickly estimation in which these schismatical intruders were now held by the Parliament, and such the untoward influence which their very personal presence had, against the sound, orthodox parish priest, that it was considered as an offence punishable with sequestration, or some other vexatious infliction, to refuse their admittance into the pulpit of the Church. Any legitimate minister guilty of such refusal, or of even attempting to dissuade his flock from resorting to schismatical preaching, would but very rarely escape the oppressive hand of the Parliament, besides being branded as an enemy to the Gospel, and an opposer of godly preaching, and [81/82] of the Church itself. It was but to little purpose to resist so formidable an accumulation of conspiracies as this. Parochial incumbents were compelled into submission. Their voices might be raised against the measure; petitions to the Parliament in favour of the Church and her ministry, might follow hard upon each other; the reasoning displayed in them might be cogent; the statements might be weighty and unimpeachable; the petitioners also might reasonably hope to demand attention from their intelligence, their station, and their characters; but all fell as a blunt and useless weapon to the ground. The voice of remonstrance seemed to be no otherwise listened to, than to increase the fury of the seditious flame; and even the declaration of the King himself, bewailing as it did this turbulent faction, the countenance given to ignorant and violent preachers, and the persecutions carried on against all Church order, discipline, and truth--even the voice of the King in such a case--was contemptuously disregarded. It may be interesting, though painful, to recount once more some few instances of that meretricious piety and affected purity of doctrine and sentiment, which distinguished the preaching of these mischievous men. Dugdale, in his "Short View [82/83] of the late troubles in England," lets us into this secret in very plain terms.
He tells us of "one Mr. Case," [A graduate of Oxford, and an ordained clergyman of the Church of England.] (a name we have already alluded to,) who, to encourage his auditors to make a liberal contribution towards the support of the Parliament, addresses them thus, as they approached the sacramental table: "All ye who have contributed to the Parliament come, and take the sacrament to your comfort." Again, there was Dr. Layton, who brought a band of soldiers into Lambeth Church in the time of divine service; tore into pieces the Book of Common Prayer; pulled the surplice from the minister's back; and scoffed at the good people who were at their devotions, calling on them to "make an end of their pottage,"--a contemptuous term then given to the Liturgy. One Cross, a lecturer at St. Mildred s, in the city of London, told his hearers, "that if God did not finish the good work he had begun, he would show himself to be a God of confusion, and such an one as, by cunning strata gems, had contrived the destruction of his own children." Blasphemy, indecency, vulgar, coarse [83/84] profaneness, and every kind of practical, as well as oratorical insult and abuse, together with an unsparing and unmitigated persecution, seem to reign throughout all the preachings and transactions of these lecturers, and their patronizing friends and favourers.
It would be endless to recount the anecdotes which the history of these unhappy tunes would furnish to this purpose. One Evans, a violent preacher at St. Clements, Temple Bar, expostulated with God in these words, "Lord, when wilt thou take a chair and sit among the House of Peers? When, God, when, I say, wilt thou vote among the Honorable Commons--thine own Commons, who are so zealous for thine honour?" Mr. Coleman, when exhorting the army to take the covenant, tells them, that "the covenant was the Parliament's sword and buckler; for when the Cavaliers shall see you come armed with the covenant, they will run, run, run, from the presence of the Lord of Hosts." Another lay preacher, one of Lord Say's tenants in Oxfordshire, cries out in his prayer, "We know, O Lord, that Abraham made a covenant, and Moses and David made a covenant, and our Saviour made a covenant; but the Parliament's covenant is the greatest of all covenants." [84/85] We need not dwell on these revolting subjects, except to add one more picture, by no means an imperfect one, of that low fanatical spirit which dwelt, almost without exception, in the hearts of these boisterous lecturers. Dugdale tells us of one Isaac Massey, a lecturer at Uppingham, in Rutlandshire, who, after consecrating the wine after his own fashion, smote himself on the breast, and said to the people, "As I am a faithful sinner, neighbours, this is my morning's draught;" and then turning himself round to them, he said, "Here's to you all," and so drank off the whole contents. "Which celebration of the communion" (continues Dugdale) "in this manner, puts me in mind of Mr. Redman, minister of Castle Donnington, in Leicestershire, who to thwart the order therein prescribed by law, administered it to the people in the afternoon, and instead of wine made use of ale."
Such was the character of the ministrations of this very turbulent and ignorant class of persons, who were among the most active and efficient tools in the hands of the Parliament for the accomplishment of their iniquitous designs against the Church. Unhappily too, these profane lecturers, though their ascendancy in the nation was not of many [85/86] years' duration, have nevertheless left a generation behind them, which is far from being even yet extinct. Hostility to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, still prevails among us, not indeed to that sweeping and overwhelming extent which it had reached in the times of the Great Rebellion, but still with no less bitterness of spirit and obliquity of understanding.
We shall find also, besides labouring so perseveringly to bring odium and destitution on the Bishops and parochial Clergy, that these lecturers, joined as they were by some few of the apostate Clergy themselves, exerted no small influence over other measures resorted to by the Parliament for the downfall of the Church establishment. They rested not till all kinds of ecclesiastical law and jurisdiction were abolished, not being content with an honest reformation of occasional abuses, which in lapse of time might have found their way there, but in fact destroying everything in them which might be virtuously useful and legitimate. All the external power of the Church in her discipline and regulations, was to be unscrupulously abrogated. Unrestrained freedom from such government and authority was now to be granted to all; and the unhappy consequences of [86/87] such licentious doings too soon became notoriously visible in the nation, for instead of reformation, a door was opened to the most scandalous offences, leaving (as Walker expresses it) "adultery and incest as unpunishable as any act of good fellowship." Painful work, indeed, it was for the amiable and upright King to give his royal sanction to such measures as these. Long did he demur against such an extremity. But his condition was desperate. He saw how furiously the fire was burning against the Bishops; some of whom, in their turn, could not be altogether unmoved by the alarm; and being so, they besought the King, even for their own sakes, to accede to the views of the Parliament. Longer resistance, therefore, was now deemed not desirable, and probably hardly practicable; whilst the faction, in the mean time, revelled in all the unseemly indulgences of joy, to find what they called their "logic" to prevail. "Little did they doubt" (says Clarendon) "that, when they had taken away the jurisdiction of the Church, and the dignity of the Bishops in the State by removing them out of the House of Peers, they should find it no hard matter to abolish their names and titles out of the kingdom--and even to enjoy the [87/88] goodly lands and revenues, which could only make the reformation perfect and complete." We may, however, consider it as no mean proof of the affection which seems rooted in the minds of the English people generally for episcopacy and the Church, that the demolition of that primitive and apostolical system, notwithstanding the popular cry made in these rebellious times against it, should have required, as appears to have been the case, so much management, violence, and injustice in the measures taken for its accomplishment. It was certainly not found to be a very easy work. It was not the work of a day. Many years of successive exertion were applied to it; for how ever its advocates were incessantly going about like "roaring lions," seeking how to devour both Church and Bishops, yet the firmness, integrity, vigilance, and good feeling of a noble army of friends, very long kept these destructives at bay. [See Appendix A.] The Church and her friends had long been but too well acquainted with the malicious and unsparing severities exhibited against them. Many of these extremities we have already recounted; but as the picture has been but faintly [88/89] sketched, there seems yet room to mention one other measure taken by the Faction in this momentous affair.
There was a very ingenious statagem resorted to by the Parliament for the further accomplishing the complete and final ejectment of the Bishops from the House of Lords, and the total suppression of the Church itself. Pym, the great leader of the party, was the chief actor in this business. His object was to gain the assent (unanimously if possible) of the whole of the two Houses to a declaration, purporting to support "the Reformed and Protestant religion as taught by the Church of England, against all Popery, and Popish innovations within this realm." There was much in this declaration to catch the approbation of certain honest, but unwary well-wishers to the Church. Anything which would seem to serve the cause of the "Reformed and Protestant religion of the Church of England" could, in their unsuspecting eyes, have nothing in it but what was right and praise worthy; and Pym, in order the better to raise an unanimous assent in both Houses, affected to say, that such a declaration was now become the more important on account of the discovery which, as he pretended, had been recently made of some [89/90] secret plot, concocted by the Papists, to throw both Church and State into utter ruin and confusion. The stratagem succeeded; Pym himself having moved, that "to defeat the designs of these bloody contrivers, some protestation should be entered into by the members of both Houses." Not many days however elapsed before the mask was thrown off. The artful framers of the declaration took especial care that, in its peculiar tone and language, more than one meaning might be comprehended. That which the unsuspecting friends of the Church attached to it, was not altogether the same with that which the Faction intended, or was aiming at. The former party took it for granted, that "supporting the Reformed and Protestant religion, as taught by the Church of England," was at once supporting the Hierarchy in all its sacred character and integrity, and the friends out of doors of the Puritanical party went so far as to pretend to take fright at this notion. They, therefore, soon raised a public clamour against this declaration, to which the Parliament had so unanimously agreed; alleging, or pretending to allege, that it was a treacherous invention of the House to strengthen and defend the episcopal order. Enough was this to encourage the [90/91] Faction to show themselves more openly. The consequence instantly was, that this now dominant party passed another resolution, setting forth, that the true intent and meaning of the declaration had been wrongly or insufficiently understood by the people. "Supporting the Reformed and Protestant religion as taught by the Church of England" (said they) "against Popish innovations, does not mean, and was not intended to mean, supporting the peculiar form of worship, discipline, or government of that Church, but only such doctrine or doctrines professed in it as may be opposed to Popery." Now, such was the dark and ignorant fanaticism that reigned in the minds of the Puritans, that the very institution of episcopacy was accounted by them as nothing less than an invention of Popery. It therefore became one of their most anxious and determined objects to suppress the prelatical order altogether; and at this object they laboured with most persevering exertion.
The artful and subtle "protestation," which they had so ingeniously persuaded the whole House to engage in, worked with extraordinary success in favour of their unhallowed project; nor were the Faction content to confine this "protestation" to [91/92] the Parliament only. They went so far as to compel those out of doors also to join in it, and especially those of the City of London; and at the same time, and on the same occasion, they passed a resolution, that whoever should refuse the protestation should be incapable of holding any office, whether in Church or State. Honesty of purpose seldom consists with party spirit; and in this instance the inconsistency was flagrant. The party who bluster so violently against the corruptions of Popery, resort to the very same principles of tyranny and Jesuitry in order to carry on their own projects. By craft and subtlety they inveigle honest men to make engagements contrary to their consciences, and then entrap them into an oath, which the imposing party all along intends to be interpreted differently from what he knows the recipient to contemplate. That men who pretend to a higher grade of godliness, than they allow to exist in the pure apostolical Church of Christ, should resort to such frauds for the purpose of advancing their own wayward and fanatical projects is, at all events, not the way to prove the soundness of their godly pretensions. In these frauds, indeed, which some zealots call "pious," there is surely to be discovered the [92/93] very essence of Popery itself,--that very system which these Puritans affected so much to hate, and laboured so much to put down. "Pious frauds" employed for the express purpose of carrying forward some favourite object or pretension of the Romish Church, is well known to be one of their usual measures; and this system of cajolery and delusion which the Faction now resorted to, was altogether worthy of the cause which they affected to promote.
It does however appear that this "protestation," which the Parliament had been drawn into, became a great attraction with the people. They who really wished the destruction of the Church, gladly engaged in it. They, who thought to preserve the Church from Popish corruptions, also did the same--whilst they again, whose desire it was to strengthen the Hierarchy, and the general influence of the Reformed Church, with strict honesty of purpose and unsuspicious feeling, entered heartily into the same declaration. Hence it became at length a note of distinction to the Parliament, by which they might know their friends from their foes, whilst at the same time also it proclaimed the wide spreading power which the Commons had now acquired, setting [93/94] at defiance the legitimate and constitutional authority of the King and the Lords. The Church, of course, in regard to her temporal condition, could not expect to stand her ground against such persevering enmity as this. Nearly now laid prostrate, she had but little strength left, and (as Walker himself expresses it,) "it must needs he concluded that her final ruin was deferred for no other reason, but because the nation was not yet enough debauched to endure such an undertaking, and therefore that the chief projectors were still obliged to proceed by steps and degrees to the accomplishment of their designs."
The system of Puritanism has its own peculiar features; and unfortunately they are for the most part such as express a disrelish for the outward solemnities and ceremonies of public worship, especially those of ancient and Catholic usage. Order, discipline, and harmony, in their public administrations, were things not to their taste. Irregular, and a sort of rhapsodical, worship, together with wild, declamatory preaching, exciting the passions and temperament, more than enlightening or convincing the judgment, was what they affected to delight in. St. Paul's rule therefore, by which the "holy Church universal" [94/95] has ever abided, "Let all things be done decently and in order,"--this rule Puritanism cared but little for. So grotesque and visionary was that system, that all order and decency, all "unity, peace, and concord," especially if it partook of any kind of ritual solemnity, was looked upon with scorn. We have already related some of those extremes of reproach in such cases, to which the Puritans carried their feelings; so that it is no marvel that when they had unhappily the means and power in their hands, they should exercise it to the suppression of all church ceremonies and peculiarities, however primitive and apostolical, however impressive and appropriate.
"Men who have ceased to reverence, soon defy
Their forefathers--Lo! sects are formed and split
With morbid restlessness the ecstatic fit
Spreads wide." WORDSWORTH.
This step these wild reformers now took. Suppressing Church solemnities and rituals may be said, indeed, to be demolishing her outworks only--but they were such outworks as partook too much of her inward spirit and glory to be parted with without manifest injury to her usefulness. The external ceremonies of the Church, however [95/96] appropriate, solemn, and impressive they might now be, were nevertheless, by parliamentary authority, to be abolished. It was alleged that they savoured of superstition and idolatry--that they were inventions of Popery--that they beguiled the people to a mere fantastical, rather than encouraged them to an honest and genuine, worship. Wanton exaggeration of the truth was all this--a grievous perversion of the judgment, which, in these times, had affected the minds of many, both clergy and laity; and the consequences of which, in regard to the actual condition to which Churches were reduced, and the mode in which worship was conducted, were most painful to contemplate. Clarendon's account of this state of things is particularly worthy of observation. "The remissness," he says, "of Abbot, [Archbishop of Canterbury a great friend to Puritanism.] and other Bishops by his example, had introduced, or connived at, a negligence which gave great scandal to the Church, and offended very pious men. The people took so little care of the Churches, and the parsons as little of the chancels, that instead of beautifying and adorning them in any degree, they rarely provided against the falling of many of their [96/97] Churches, and suffered them to be kept so indecently and slovenly, that they would not have endured it in the ordinary offices of their own houses--the sacraments themselves also being administered just where the people had most mind to receive them; and the communion table itself being applied to all sorts of uses."
Fanaticism is always based on ignorance, and invariably accompanied by an obliquity of judgment, seldom unmixed also with a low vulgarity of taste and sentiment. These unenviable qualities were amply displayed on many of the occasions already alluded to. But Walker records one or two in particular, of which it is very painful to read. Among other usages and emblems peculiar to the ceremonies and decorations of the Church fabric, the cross was seldom omitted. Simply as a symbol or memorial of our faith, at once sacred, affecting, and beautiful, its presence in the Church cannot reasonably be objected to. The recollections awakened by, and associated with it, and which it is so competent to effect in the chastened and rightly instructed mind of the Christian believer, are such--especially the recollection of the atonement--as we cannot retain too closely and constantly in our hearts. But when we come to the [97/98] idolatry of the cross, or to that contemplation of it which, in the true spirit of Popery, induces idolatrous or superstitious movements, then we see what is, not the proper use, but the fanatical abuse, of sacred things. The Puritanical zealots, however, could not distinguish in such matters; and one blundering consequence was, that with many of them the very form and figure of a cross--nay, its very name even--was looked on as a sort of abomination, as a legitimate object of the coarsest abuse and execration. We are told, for instance, by Walker, that Sir Robert Harlowe, in his crusade against crosses, "took down by authority of Parliament, the cross in Cheapside, that at Charing Cross, and other like monuments impartially, although his commission reached only to those which were in churches." Among other like monuments mentioned here, was that celebrated pulpit, commonly known as Paul's Cross, standing in St. Paul's Church-yard. This fabric was a pulpit of wood formed like a cross; and because it had that offensive form, it was doomed by the new faction to be destroyed. Walker then relates, and probably with entire truth, that "from this renowned pulpit more learned, sound, and good divinity hath been delivered than perhaps from [98/99] any other since the first preaching of the gospel--from this venerable banner of the cross more learning against Popery and real idolatry hath been shown, than ever those new reformers, the Puritanical Faction, were masters of." Destructions, indeed, and desecrations, so unsparing and unmitigated as these, would of course when done under pretence of religious zeal, find no unwilling abettors among an ignorant and excited populace, always too ready to be deluded by the vehement plausibilities and pretensions of factious demagogues. That people so stirred up and misled should therefore feel themselves encouraged to treat with insolence and disdain their own regular clergy and legitimate ministers, even while engaged in officiating in the regular course of church service, is not to be matter of astonishment. Such was too often the case, as we shall see further on, when we come to relate the personal sufferings of some of the parochial and other clergy of those days.
But in adverting to the doings of these fierce Iconoclasts, and their Puritanical coadjutors and brethren, who, as Dr. Johnson very ingeniously remarks, "seem to have made it a part of their despicable philosophy to despise monuments of sacred antiquity," one is struck with the [99/100] congeniality of spirit which existed between their religious notions and usages, and their taste in Church architecture, with other kindred accomplishments. A rough, low, coarse vulgarity of feeling and sentiment distinguishes both--an absence of all sensibility to what is venerable, consistent, chaste, or beautiful. There is no sectarian, scarcely even the stiff, prosaic, homespun Quaker, who is so insensible to the sacred associations, the touching beauties, the elevating and celestial tone of ecclesiastical architecture, as your thorough-paced Puritan--such as these Iconoclasts were, and such as we sometimes find among the Dissenters, and even among certain Puritanical churchmen, of the present day. So great was their affectation of spiritual purity, so great their infatuation with the unchaste piety of the conventicle, and the rhapsodical out-pourings of the pulpit, that their sensibilities to all external appendages and appropriations in their places of worship, became rude and blunted. They cared nothing for the loveliness, solemnity, or beauty of the Lord's house. The more they could deface Church emblems, and banish Church recollections, the more they were satisfied. Any kind of ordinary patching that would keep out wind and weather would do for [100/101] that place where the idolatries of Popery had once been celebrated, however now devoted to a purer system. Ecclesiastical beauty and architecture, therefore, was a mere Popish bauble in the eye of the Puritan. And so it came to pass, that so many of our parish Churches, "types of the spiritual Church which God had reared," and once the exemplars of a glorious taste and masterly skill, became in a few years the objects, and now exhibit themselves as the victims, of barbarous and sacrilegious innovations. Such are the uncouth caprices and tendencies of a fanatical and dissenting spirit.
"The civil fury of the time
Made sport of sacrilegious crime;
And dark fanaticism rent
Altar, skreen, and ornament."