Project Canterbury

Lachrymae Ecclesiae

The Anglican Reformed Church and Her Clergy in the Days of Their Destitution and Suffering during the Great Rebellion in the Seventeenth Century.

By George Wyatt

London: W. J. Cleaver, 1844.

Chapter V. Puritanical hatred to ecclesiastical edifices--Liturgy openly scandalized--Liturgy suppressed--The Directory substituted for it--Its character

THE order which the House of Commons had issued for the abolition of all church ceremonies and appendages, was carried much farther than merely to the destruction of crosses, as alluded to in the foregoing chapter. Bowing at the name of Jesus [See Appendix B.] (a solemn observance retained by the Church from the earlier ages, and sanctioned by Phil. ii. 10)--the use of the sign of the cross in baptism--turning to the east when repeating the creed--raising the communion table a few steps above the church floor--painted windows, or other emblematical and appropriate representations of sacred subjects--these, and such as these, were all included in the work of demolition, [102/103] determined upon by the sectarian Parliament. Much struggling, however, between the friends of the Church yet remaining (who were still numerous and unflinching as far as they had the power), and the friends of the Faction, occurred before these malicious measures could be effectually carried through. The House of Lords, beginning to feel the dangerous usurpations of power now attempted by the Commons, made no small resistance to this destructive ordinance, by which every semblance of church solemnity, order, and discipline, would be abolished. Many ardent and pious clergy too, and even on some occasions accompanied by their churchwardens, firmly refused compliance. But their voices, whether in the shape of petition or remonstrance, were never listened to. One single sectary, who might have a word to utter against the Church, was received with all courtesy and attention; whilst a whole body of pious and learned clergymen, or a deputation of churchwardens, or other lay adherents of the establishment, were turned aside with indifference and insult. The consequences of this unrighteous resolution of the Parliament in regard to the usages and ceremonies of the Church, are given to us by Dr. Heylin in the following [103/104] language. "Hereupon" (he says) "followed such an alteration in all churches and chapels, that the churchwardens pulled down more in a week, than all the bishops and clergy had been able to raise in two weeks of years; such irreverences too, in God's public service, and discontinuance of it in many places, that his Majesty was compelled to give new life to it by proclamation--an event which only shewed the King's good meaning with his want of power." Melancholy trophies indeed, did those sacred and picturesque fabrics now present to the eye of the nation--trophies, alas! of the victory of sacrilege and church-hatred over apostolic piety, order, and affections. Little now remained to be done in order to efface every vestige of church associations from the people. All ostensible usages and arrangements were suppressed. The churches were open, but their internal character and economy were either wholly swept away, or ignominiously perverted to incongenial and profane uses. Now also began the tyranny of pews and pulpits, and many other Puritanical innovations. * The "tyranny" of pews was shown, not in making fit and equitable provision for family-sittings, against which, under certain circumstances and limitations, there can be no serious objection, but it was shown, in depriving the poorer classes of their ancient and common right of church room, and thus in the spirit of Puritanical pride, appropriating their accommodation to the exclusive possession of richer neighbours. The hideous and really desecrating disfigurement which has since arisen in a vast majority of our parish churches from this pew-pride, exhibiting the most disorderly and heterogeneous forms, colours, and arrangements, is now beginning to be felt as well as seen in its proper light. A better system and principle is going on. The "tyranny" of pulpits was also shown, not by the mere elevation of the pulpit itself--which it seems unbecoming to raise so high above the prayer desk--but by the intemperately exuberant, yet morbid passion, which then prevailed over every other religious exercise, for preaching and lecturing. People, who could so scandalize the "Book of Common Prayer" as to call it a "mess of porridge," or so defame and depreciate such men as Hall, Laud, Juxon, Walton, Hammond, &c., &c., as to class them with "malignants," "scandalous," and "delinquents," and could arrogate to themselves alone, with irreverent vanity, the character of" godly and painful ministers,"--such people would soon become "tyrants" in preaching, and renegados in worship.] And in order that [104/105] there should be nothing left to awaken any Church feelings or recollections, the next step, after demolishing or changing or desecrating visible and tangible things, was to put down those which were invisible "so familiar was it" (as Walker writes) [105/106] "with the men of those times to commit sacrilege, notwithstanding they pretended so much to abhor idols."

Still led on by this unhappy and ignorant spirit, the Parliament now made an ordinance for abolishing the observance of all days of holy commemoration, or else for changing their character and purposes to an observance directly contrary to what the Church Catholic had uniformly maintained from almost the very days of the Apostles themselves. Christmas-day was to be held as a fast, a day of mourning and humiliation, and no longer as a festival--no longer to be regarded as a season of thankfulness and joy, of Christian benevolence, peace, and "goodwill towards men." The same distorted and perverse view of things was also applied to Easter-day, and Whit-Sunday, and other days of apostolic commemoration; days on which, from apostolic times, the Church has ever loved to dwell with holy remembrance and grateful joy. Yet this new Puritanical light pretended, with its wonted arrogance of spirit, to a much purer system of religious establishment than the primitive Church--much purer, indeed, than the Apostles themselves had devised. Days and seasons of joyful and grateful recollections, [106/107] however consecrated by apostolical and primitive usage, were now voted down as relics of superstition; as things after the new manner of men, and in no way after Christ. All this, if it did not strike at the very root of true piety and godliness, did at least inflict a sweeping blow upon the characteristics of the true Church, where the truest piety always resides. Refusing to allow "the Church of the living God" to be "the pillar and ground," as well as the legitimate interpreter and "witness of the truth,"--casting away into desuetude and contempt (as these Puritans were wont to do) all her outward notes and features, together with her rites and ceremonies, her ordinances, worship, discipline, and orders of ministry--all this would be but the same as to invite into admission those baser qualities which the great Apostle so earnestly deprecates: "hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, and heresies." Unfortunately this wholesome warning was wholly unheeded by the Puritanical Faction. The spirit of Christian peace and order did not belong to them. Apostolical unity and fellowship was in no way to their taste. A sectarian and licentious spirit [107/108] governed all their movements. The Reformed and Protestant Church--(Protestant she must be called, if only from the fact of her "protesting" so soundly and solemnly against the manifold errors of Popery)--but the Reformed and protestant Church, now pure in her doctrine and principles, had lost or was daily losing all her outward marks and properties in the nation, till at length her Liturgy--that which more than all, or as much as any thing, proclaimed her catholic truth and her apostolical piety, and gave her a supereminent claim to the affection and attachment of every faithful disciple of Christ--her Liturgy was, at the voice of the Parliament, now to be despised and abolished. That it should however at length come to this, is not to be a matter of much marvel, seeing the unmitigated rancour, which had now grown up against the Church, and the unsparing spirit of demolition with which every thing connected with it had been treated. We may consider, indeed, from the very first movement of the Faction in Parliament, that the suppression of the Liturgy was, with many of the most determined enemies, seriously though secretly contemplated, however slowly and warily they might afterwards proceed in the measures necessary for that object. [108/109] Walker tells us, that "the divines who met in the Jerusalem chamber in the year 1640, by authority of the Committee of the House of Lords, to consult upon several ecclesiastical matters, had under consideration, among other things, the regulation of the Common Prayer Book; and which was the first public act of reproach it then underwent, and was afterwards made special use of by the party." It is therefore not at all difficult to understand, that, with a party so predisposed as this committee was to listen to any suggestion which might tend to lower the character of the Church, there could be no serious objections entertained to those measures which might be calculated finally to set aside the Liturgy.

As on all other occasions too, where the character and influence of the Church were likely to be affected, this Parliament, and the Committee which emanated from it, never failed to raise the popular cry in their own favour. The more turbulent, mischievous, and overbearing this "cry" became, the more did the countenance of Parliament shine upon the leaders of it. No restraint was ever attempted to be imposed upon any of the insults, whether practical or oral, which any one, or any set, of the rabble might [109/110] be disposed to offer to the Church; and in regard to the abolition of the Liturgy, it appears, as already related, that it was by no means uncommon for certain fanatical agitators of those days, with their followers, to break into churches whilst the ministers were engaged there in the service, make disturbances among the congregation in the very midst of their devotions, and profanely utter some indecent and malicious reproach upon the Liturgy. [The good King, in that "pourtraiture" of his own mind during his "solitudes and sufferings," recorded in the "Eikon Basilike," speaks thus in regard to the popular hatred which now broke out against the Liturgy. "One of the greatest faults some men found with the Common Prayer Book, I believe, was this, that it taught them to pray so oft for me; to which petitions they had not loyalty enough to say Amen, nor yet charity enough to forbear reproaches, and even cursings of me in their own formes, instead of praying for me."] Many instances of these disorders will appear in the following pages, wherein will be recorded some of the most remarkable personal sufferings of the regular and legitimate clergy of those unhappy times. Walker, however, in alluding to this circumstance, mentions one instance of this insulting conduct, which should not be overlooked on this occasion. It [110/111] occurred at St. Margaret's, Westminster, when the members of the House of Commons were assembled there. On the officiating clergyman beginning the second service at the holy table, some of the Puritans or Presbyterians began a psalm, and were therein followed by the rest in so loud a tone, that the clergyman was compelled thereby to desist from his duty. Much as this showed the contemptuous spirit of the Faction against the Church, yet it was by no means the most flagrant instance of the kind, which occurred in those times; but it nevertheless proclaims loudly the unscrupulous readiness with which the Parliament encouraged the perpetration of such indecent irregularities in the services of the Church this one, in particular, be it remembered, having taken place in the formal and solemn presence of the Commons themselves.

Touching these matters, and as by no means a circumstance unworthy of notice in regard to them, we find it recorded that the House of commons did formally issue an order commanding Dr. Duck, an eminent civilian, and chancellor of London, not to abstain from inducting any minister into a benefice, "although he may have scandalized the Liturgy," or "called the Book of [111/112] Common Prayer a great Idol." So that when we compare such transactions as these, with some of the first resolutions passed in the earlier stages of the Committee of Religion in regard to the Liturgy, we shall see, not only with what duplicity and affected uprightness that Committee then acted, but we shall also see, how "briskly and furiously" (as Clarendon expresses it) "the pace towards the reformation was carried on by the factious and schismatical party. They had a little before published a declaration that they intended a due and necessary reformation of the government and liturgy of the Church, and to take away nothing in the one or the other, but what should be evil and offensive," &c. But however honest might be the operations and intentions of some, who were concerned in this declaration, there were others of them, and those the most active and persevering, who saw a little farther than the men whose purposes were merely honest. The declaration, therefore, served two objects. On the one hand, it gave great encouragement to those who were impatient in the cause of demolition; to those who secretly relied on the leaders of the faction doing more than they were careful to reveal. And on the other hand, it completely deluded those who [112/113] had begun to be greatly alarmed at the unmixed favour and countenance, which the now usurped government had so repeatedly bestowed upon all who should revile and oppose the Church.

Changes in what is called the public mind, do not unfrequently occur with extraordinary suddenness of transition. We have seen it in our own times, and never more so than on a late occasion (in 1830-1), when, by a sudden movement, a furious spirit of what was called "Reform" arose, which, as we all remember, very soon grew up into a savage flame of discord and destruction. Bishops were openly insulted in the streets--their palaces burnt--their cathedrals spoiled. [The Bishop of Lichfield in Fleet Street. At Bristol.] Honest and wholesome reformation of abuses would not, during the raging of this fury, satisfy the excited multitude. All must be modelled afresh, whether in Church or State; and so we had an inundation of schemes of all grades and shades, both for "Church Reform" and "Parliamentary Reform." But this hurricane soon subsided; and the Church, by Divine protection, has weathered it, however foully she has been handled, and, in some of her powers and influence, shattered.


[114] Quite as sudden, but still more deplorable in its consequences, appears to have been the change in public feeling at the calamitous period of the Great Rebellion, in regard to the Liturgy. "But some twelve months ago," (as Walker writes,) "the Liturgy was held in singular reverence, insomuch that any proposal to remodel it would have given great umbrage and scandal." It is, however, with nations as with individuals--we know not what we are until we are tried. Peter, at one moment, would pour out his ardent feelings of attachment to his Divine Master--at another, the hour of trial, he swears he knows nothing of Him. And here in these times of the Great Rebellion, we have the tergiversation and caprice of a large portion of the nation at once. That which to-day they profess to revere and love, is to-morrow looked on with contempt and derision. It was a fine harvest for Abaddon, when things arrived at this pass! when the Church of the living God was so laid waste, her ordinances and ritual so scorned, her ministers and servants so despitefully used, and "left without any certain dwelling-place!" "Confusion and every evil work" would, [114/115] of course, follow hard upon this extremity; nor can history, in any of her relations, exhibit a more complete fulfilment of the Apostle's aphorism above alluded to, than in the picture she would give us of the condition, both political and religious, of England in these perilous and turbulent times.

It was in the year 1644 when the question of the abolition of the Liturgy was finally settled; and even then it was mainly by stratagem and duplicity that the Faction succeeded in their object. They agitated the question in thin Houses, when the more conservative party were absent, and when the destructives were sure of their own friends about them. At another time they insidiously threw out propositions, which pretended to regard the Liturgy with some degree of tenderness and respect, as if nothing was meant against it but occasional or incidental improvement. Again, for the better misleading those who were attached to the Liturgy as the great bulwark against Popery, they would affect to point out only here and there certain parts of it which still seemed to favour that formidable apostacy, however impossible it might be by fair reasoning and honest purpose to arrive at any [115/116] such conclusion. In this way the Adversary worked--in this way did he pervert the minds and blind the eyes of honest and well-disposed men against that "form of sound words" and doctrine embodied in the Liturgy, which, in full accordance with primitive and apostolical purity, did so faithfully illustrate "the truth as it is in Jesus." For a season, indeed, the Adversary did not work in vain. He gained his end by an ordinance being at length passed for the total abolition of the Liturgy; in room of which a new form of prayer and worship, concocted by certain leaders of the Puritanical party, and called "the Directory," was by the same ordinance established, and became the authorized organ of the national worship. No vigilance, no jealousy, was wanting in the now governing powers and their friends, to guard against any use or any recollection of the Liturgy--no countenance was wanting to encourage the adoption of the Directory. An additional ordinance indeed was passed to make the use of the latter binding upon the people; and however loudly the same party murmured against the "grievance," as they called it, of having the Liturgy, or any set form of worship, prescribed for them; and however they might revolt against [116/117] the penalty inflicted for non-conformity to it; yet now when "power" gets into their own hands, still more rigorous and uncompromising are they in exacting conformity to their own favourite system. We may judge of the unqualified spirit of enmity which they entertained against the Liturgy by the terms of the ordinance which was issued for the purpose of suppressing it. Every person who should "use, or cause to be used, the Book of Common Prayer in any church or chapel, or any other public place of worship, or in any private place or family, within the kingdom of England, should forfeit, for the first offence £5, for the second £10, and for the third should suffer one whole year's imprisonment without bail or main prize." [See Walker.] This was a sweeping measure; an interdict from which not even the virtuous retirement of domestic devotion was to be exempt. One might almost stand aghast at such barefaced inconsistency as this in people, who affected so much higher a degree of piety and purity than their brethren of the Church. The act of uniformity, whereby was sought to bring the whole Christian [117/118] community of the nation into an apostolical unanimity and acquiescence in the Book of Common Prayer, and the worship of the Reformed Church, was esteemed by these Puritans as an immense stumbling block; a grievance which lay so heavy on their consciences as to incite them to open warfare against the Church, and all her services and institutions. Nothing would seem to be more distasteful to this party than uniformity of worship; and one might suppose that nothing would induce them to wish to impose such an uniformity upon others. But when restless, agitating, and ambitious men attain power, few are found to exercise it with more unconscionable and over-pressing tyranny. These factious Puritans drove away the venerable and apostolical Liturgy from the people, and substituted the more modern, and yet untried, Directory in its place. Under these new circum stances their horror of uniformity quickly subsides, and they now enforce it, towards their new form of worship, with the bitterest severity and exactions against all gainsayers. So that while the Reformed Church would press her uniformity in the spirit of right reason, apostolical order, and Christian moderation, these new and more [118/119] energetic reformers, the "bellwethers of rebellion," as Southey calls them, would pursue that object, not in any similar spirit, but in that of sectarian animosity and dogmatical persecution. Alluding indeed to this intolerant and unreasonable party, Fuller, in his quaint way, speaks of them as "those, who desiring most ease and liberty for their own sides when bound with episcopacy, now gird their own garment the closest about the consciences of others."

Of the nature and character of the Directory, as the authorized formulary of the national worship, a few observations may here be offered. The Liturgy, as we all know, is, in its internal character, a mirror or epitome of gospel truth; whilst outwardly it is a prescribed ritual or form of public worship, of primitive and almost apostolical origin, by which all her ordinances, ceremonies, rites, and ministrations are economized. In this respect, the apostolic rule and principle is that on which the Liturgy is formed, viz.: that "all things may be done decently and in order," the worshippers throughout the length and breadth of the land "lifting up their voices" (as the [119/120] Apostles in their assembled worship did) "with one accord, and glorifying God with one mind and one mouth." [See Acts iv. 24; and Rom. xv. 6.] By this rule the Church has always desired to abide, nor has she from the very earliest ages ever been without her Liturgy. The Church has never esteemed it fit or becoming to leave her public services to the fanciful or extemporaneous inventions of each officiating minister. She there fore loves the Liturgy--she desires a reverential form, a sacred order, and uniformity on these occasions, whereby divisions and distractions in the Church may be the better avoided, and religious truth the more familiarized to the mind.

In all this there is surely right reason as well as Christian wisdom and charity. But the Puritans possessed no obedient or apostolical spirit of this kind. They would leave every minister, in his administration of public worship, mainly to the play--or perhaps the display--and the suggestions of his own fancy; and this disregard of order and economy became, therefore, a marked feature in the dispensations of the Directory; under which authority, "the minister" (as Collier expresses it) "was left to a great deal of discretionary latitude [120/121] in filling up the lines, and beating out the forms." It must however be acknowledged, that the Directory was by no means wholly deficient in whole some regulations and suggestions, or in fit and becoming piety; except that the want of order, discipline, and uniformity spoiled all. The reading of certain portions of Holy Scripture was required, but the choice of chapter or portion was left to the fancy or discretion of the minister. It was also left competent to any one preparing himself for the minister's office, to read these chapters--and while the work of expounding any chapter so read was encouraged or permitted as soon as the chapter was concluded, yet such expounding was to be permitted to the minister only. In regard to the office of the preacher, much too highly and overweeningly was it magnified, the more wholesome and edifying exercise of worship being greatly disparaged thereby. Sermons--or rather vociferous Puritanical harangues, or "exercises," as they were called--formed the great attraction of the Directory's congregation. These sermons too (so to speak) were ordered to be so concocted as that the memory of the auditors was not to be burthened with too many parts, nor their understandings perplexed [121/122] with logical language and terms of art; [See Collier.] a regulation which certainly carried some right good sense with it, and a very rational consideration for the feelings and the edification of the preacher's attendants. The office of Baptism partook of one salutary regulation which the Liturgy itself had very fitly prescribed, viz: that it should he administered in the face of the congregation; whilst in another arrangement, a most preposterous and factious spirit displayed itself, viz; that Baptism should not be performed at the Font, as in times of Popery! Previously to the administration of this ordinance also, it was suggested by the Directory that the minister was to use his own liberty in offering his instructions on the occasion, "as the ignorance or errors of the people might require." In the administration of the Lord's Supper directions were given for so placing the table as that the communicants might sit round it, whilst the posture of the minister, and the order of the words and sentiments in the service were again to be left to his own choice and ability. The observance of the Lord's Day was not over looked in the Directory, nor can there be much [122/123] exception taken against the suggestions and regulations for this object therein laid down; viz: "The intervals between public worship, and the time after evening worship, are to be spent in holy reading, meditations on sermon, catechizing in families, visiting the sick and relieving the poor." In the burial of the dead, there seems to be a most unseemly, if not an impious omission. No kind of religious service on such occasions was to be allowed. "When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial, and there immediately interred without any ceremony." Days of public fasting were not left unnoticed; but it was required that Fasts should comprise not only an abstinence from food, but from habits of festive indulgence also (and in which perhaps may consist the true spirit of fasting). Days of public thanksgiving were also made subject to many very wholesome and becoming rules; whilst festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, were utterly repudiated, as having no warrant in the word of God. But on all these occasions of fasting and thanksgiving, as well as on those of marriage, and the visitation of the sick, the usual characteristic of the Directory is to [123/124] be discovered, viz: that the forms, sentiments, and regulations of the service are left to the discretion of the minister.

It appears then that the Liturgy was accounted "a grievance" by the Puritanical faction for two reasons; first, on account of the sober strictness and formality of its regulations, in the administration of the public service; and secondly, on account of its apparent retention of certain superstitious practices and sentiments of Popery. Both these reasons evinced great ignorance and perverseness of judgment in those who propounded and admitted them. We must refer again to the great apostolic rule, by which the Church has ever abided in all her public administrations--a rule which at once sanctions and suggests uniformity of practice, of discipline, of worship, and of order, in those who minister, as well as in those who wait on the ministry--so that it evinces great ignorance and confusion of ideas to suppose, that a devout attention to sacred, apostolical forms in the worship of the Church must necessarily partake of the spirit of cold and empty formality the two things are by no means identical, nor even congenial. The question therefore needs hardly be asked, whether the spirit of this rule is [124/125] more likely to be attained by leaving ministers to their own inventions and fancies, in their several administrations of public worship, or by requiring their uniform obedience to certain solemn and wholesome regulations, by which they and their congregations may "all walk by the same rule and mind the same thing." [Phil. iii. 16.] It is certain, from the Apostle's own words (1 Cor. xiv. 33), that "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." And when we consider the almost unbridled licence which the Directory allows to the several ministers in the routine of their public functions; and consider again on the other hand, the godly discipline, the chastened order, and quiet but uncompromising regulations which the Liturgy imposes upon hers, we need not hesitate which of the two is best fitted to promote "confusion," and which, "peace in the churches of the saints."

But there are, moreover, in all ages, certain arrogant spirits, who will not submit to any but coercive controul, however legitimate and reasonable it may be spirits who will not be guided by any rules or regulations save those of [125/126] their own invention. Such were the people who, hating all Church discipline, rebelled against that Catholic truth and usage, which the Apostles themselves had handed down to Christian posterity--and which things the same kind of persons would still rebel against were the Apostles them selves present to defend and enforce them. The Directory was the concoction of such spirits as these, and of course it gave ample indulgence to their own peculiar humours and predilections.

As to the other reason alluded to--that the Liturgy partook still of the spirit of Popery in its sentiments and ceremonies--it was an allegation at once nefariously false and groundless. Sour and obstinate was the prejudice which could lead people to form such a notion. It is true, they had, or affected to have, an honest repugnance to superstitions and idolatries; but in maintaining this repugnance, they rushed precipitately into an opposite extreme, (by no means the way to steer clear of error,) and thought everything was idolatrous, which was chastely or sacredly emblematical, and everything corrupt or superstitious which was controuled by sober discipline and apostolical form and usage. So that it was not so much for points of doctrine, as for the [126/127] general economy of its ceremonies and forms, that all this bitterness and obloquy were levelled against the Liturgy. But, with only some very few additions to it, made by convocation after the restoration of Charles 2nd, and in no way altering its character or regulations, the Liturgy, as we still have it, is precisely the same as it was when thus proscribed and calumniated by the Puritans; and now that those heavy, dark thunder-clouds of fury and ignorance are happily dispersed, and a clearer sky is vouchsafed to us, we see this same blessed Liturgy rising up in all her celestial purity; bidding solemn and silent defiance to the scoffs of the infidel, or the animadversions and jealousies of the sectarian, and leaving behind her, as a "caput mortuum," the idolatrous exhibitions and associations of Popish worship.

Puritanism, however, has had her days of triumph, and so has Popery. And what has been, may be again. Struggles, at all events, will not be wanting to effect such alternatives. The High Church--i. e. the Anglo-Catholic Church, reformed, as she is, from Popish errors, and protesting against them--may again be made low, by being again reduced to a low estate of persecution [127/128] and suffering; whilst the Low Church--i. e. Puritanism, leading the way to Dissent, in all its shades and grades--may again become high, by being again elevated to an unfitting ascendancy. We know quite well by what has already happened what the Anglo-Catholic Church and her clergy may expect, should it ever again be permitted to either Papist or Puritan to exercise their tender mercies over them; and "it is but fit" (as Walker himself expresses it) "that these sufferings should be revived in the memory, that they may have the less chance of being repeated.

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