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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 VI Change from the tyranny of Popery to that of Fanaticism--The Assembly of Divines--Their attempt at Church government--Jealousies arise among them--The Covenant--Tithes--Persecution of Parochial Clergy--Character of persecution

BY the suppression of the Liturgy, and the substitution of the Directory in the place of it, we may now consider the public service, worship, ordinances, and offices of the Anglican Church as wholly brought to a period. A new order of things--new discipline (if discipline it may be called)--new ministry--new mode of public worship a new Church economy and government--now laid claim to the affections and countenance of the nation; nor were the Faction, being now in political power, at all backward to patronize and strengthen that claim. "Old things," therefore, were now fast "passing away--behold, all things were becoming new." The Apostle's words, as [129/130] far as words go, may serve to delineate the change which the condition of the people was now undergoing, however far from being fulfilled thereby was the spirit or virtue of his admonition. It was not old sins, or errors, or wrongs which "passed away" when the apostolic Liturgy was put down; and as little true was it, that new virtues or excellences of any kind arose when the Directory took its place. The Apostle's aphorism indeed was literally and practically reversed--the good being that which "passed away," whilst the bad was that which became "new."

From the specimen we have already seen of the peculiar spirit and temper of mind displayed by the leaders of the now dominant party, we may naturally expect that while such people were in possession of most of the parochial and other pulpits of the Church, as well as of the ministerial authority in the regulations of public worship, the religious instruction addressed to the congregations would not much tend to the elucidation of apostolical truth and doctrine; much less that it would abide by any of the spirit of Christian charity, or bring any "healing on its wings" to those persecuted and stigmatized clergy, whose legitimate rights and possessions had been so [130/131] unsparingly and sacrilegiously wrested from them. The unhappy consequence, of course, was, that whilst such furious preachers might denounce all the idolatries and superstitions of Popery, yet they wilfully shut their eyes to the restored purity and sound doctrine, together with the via-medial spirit of Christian charity which now distinguished the Anglican Reformed Church. So that, no sooner had the Church, at the period of the Great Reformation, thrown off, by her own energies, the tyranny as well as the corruptions of Popery on the one hand, and openly "protested" against them all, than she now, in these times of the Great Rebellion, had to contend against another imposition, not less Popish in spirit, not less uncatholic in practice, not less unsound in doctrine, not less deficient in charity, viz: a morose and persecuting fanaticism. Under this trial and despotism, there fore, the Anglican Reformed and Protestant Church seems now to have arrived at the days of her utmost destitution and suffering.

It may be, some such infliction as this was needed as a chastisement to those whose negligences and irregularities had given strength to the Church's enemies. It may be, that, in some cases, the Church's ministers and servants had been long [131/132] making too light of their sacred position and privileges, or had too loosely regarded their sacred duties, or had too plentifully imbibed a secular spirit. It may be, in fact, that the Church (as well perhaps as the state) in her practical workings, stood in some need of rebuke and reform. The visitation, therefore, which now came upon her, whilst it might awaken a sense of former errors and delinquences in those who ministered in her, yet was by no means any proof that God had forsaken her. God often stands nearest the door when affliction and suffering are entering in; and it is undeniable, as events have since proved, that this yoke of fanaticism has been made, by His providence, only the instrument of working out more efficient strength, and more enlightening glory to the Church.

But whilst we hear of the indignities and persecutions which Puritanical tyranny so unrelentingly inflicted on the Church, holding up to public scorn all her honoured rites and ceremonies, suppressing her Liturgy and ordinances, and personally insulting and spoiling her legitimate ministers, it may be worth while to advert to some of those various devices and arrangements which the factious Parliament resorted to as instrumental in [132/133] their nefarious work. We have already spoken of a certain "Committee of Religion," appointed by Parliament for the express purpose of new modelling the affairs of the Church. This committee gave rise afterwards to what is more commonly known as the "Assembly of Divines." But this was an arrogant misnomer, inasmuch as that assembly consisted, not of Divines, but of a heterogeneous mixture of mere laymen, Lords even as well as Commons, many sell-ordained or self-appointed preachers, with a rare sprinkling of legitimate clergymen of the Established Church--in all about 120 members. This Assembly, however, was the great acting lever or engine, which worked so effectually in the persecution of the Hierarchy. They worked at the dictation of the Parliament, and being entirely organized and governed by that authority, could do nothing but by its sanction. And however some few of the regular clergy, both of higher and lower grades, were nominated to be of the "Assembly of Divines," yet they were too much scandalized by its unseemly and unconscionable doings ever to take any active part, or scarcely ever to appear among them. Even some of the Assembly's own anti-Church members, Selden, Pym, Whitelock, [133/134] &c., treated their proceedings with scorn and ridicule. The enemies therefore, who preponderated out of all proportion over the friends of the Church, had the business all their own way; and when we hear of this body of persons being called "an Assembly of Divines," we hear of nothing less than a disguised and fraudulent designation, to give a more authoritative character to its proceedings. Many indeed of the members were self-styled ministers, and doubtless would be but too willing (as still is the case with the same class of persons in these our own days) to be ranked among the "Divines of the Church." It is, how ever, not a little remarkable, and certainly bears witness to that arrogant and self-sufficient spirit which so distinguished the Puritanical Faction, that so motley a groupe, "who made everything worse which they went about to mend," [Laud's "Troubles."] so anomalous and discordant a convention as this Assembly of Divines," some Deists, some Latitudinarians, some Presbyterians, some Independants, and some, but very few, legitimate ministers of the Church, should undertake so solemn and momentous a work as the settling of the government and [134/135] discipline, as well as the doctrine, of the Church of Christ in this nation.

But, however momentous, the work was begun; and, however arrogant, the attempt was made. For a few years, and after a certain fashion (agreeable enough perhaps to the distorted judgments of the projectors), it was triumphant. In 1646 it was ordained by the sanction of Parliament, under the synodical management of the "Assembly," that "all parishes and places whatsoever in England and Wales, (except chapels or places in the houses of the King or his children, or in those of Peers of the realm,) be brought under the government of congregational, classical, provincial, and national assemblies." So that here was space enough for any kind of regulation or government which might suit the views of any dissenting or anti-Church party; and the consequence soon was, that scarcely any two churches, or parishes, or congregations, acted in unison or uniformity with each other. Church discipline and government however was, at all events, discountenanced, if not abolished, by this ordinance; and this, for a time, was of itself highly satisfactory to all the fanatical parties, however discordant they might otherwise be with each other. But there did, nevertheless, soon [135/136] happen to these sects what we generally see to happen when such parties "despise government," and are not afraid to "speak evil of dignities," viz. that they fell out among each other--jealousies, envyings, and strivings arose, which, by making each party more uneasy and fretful, made the whole nation also more than ever unacquainted with "unity, peace, and concord." The Presbyterian began to look with suspicion and jealousy on the Independant, and the Independant on the Presbyterian. The latter, being that which at first predominated in Parliament, sought eagerly for that very power which they were so ready to condemn in the Church. They pushed hard for an ordinance to establish "uniformity" in their own mode of worship. They laboured also to restrain the Independents, and even to impose considerable restrictions on toleration of other sects; whilst in their savage and despiteful usage of the now prostrate Church and her clergy, they would allow of no restrictions. Such is the crooked, groveling inconsistency of those, who hold them selves above the guidance of the wise, sound, pure, via-medial light of the Anglican Reformed Church; preferring rather to cling to either the extremes of Popery on the one hand, with her idolatries and [136/137] innovations, or to the extremes of Puritanism on the other, with her spurious pietism and her undisciplined vagaries.

Walker's account of the anomalous state of these parties is very amusing. "The Presbyterian Divines" (he says) "began now to make such loud outcries against toleration as rilled the whole kingdom. They left no stone unturned, or any thing which lay within the verge of their power unattempted, to obtain from the Houses an ordinance against the liberty then practised. The "Assembly" in a body remonstrated against it to the Parliament, and made all applications to them. For the same purpose, the members of it singly (and others of the Presbyterian divines) filled the pulpits with the loudest declamations against it; more especially when any of them preached before the Houses of Parliament. The press was employed in the same work. The ministers of several counties published their joint testimonies against it."

In the midst of these confusions and contradictions, the prostrate Church would, of course, meet with but little consideration or indulgence. That Christian mildness, benevolence, and uprightness, with which she would, when left to the exercise of [137/138] her own pure principles and spirit, deal with others dissenting from her, was wholly unknown to, and unfelt by, these now conflicting and envious parties; and the dissensions and uproar which they seem to have generated throughout the kingdom afford us too undeniable a proof of the wisdom and accuracy of Bishop Sanderson's observation in his admirable preface to the Book of Common Prayer, that "where a change hath been made of things advisedly established (no evident necessity so requiring), sundry inconveniences have thereupon ensued; and those many times more and greater, than the evils that were intended to be remedied by such change."

For a time, then, we may leave these anomalous sects to fight their own battles; while we pursue our narrative of the persecuted Church and her clergy in the track of their destitution and sufferings. The Parliament, and the "Assembly of Divines,"--the latter being the mere tools of the former, and used by them for doing all possible mischief to both Church and Monarchy--were not content with disarming the Church of her power, and lowering her position in the kingdom, and keeping her in a state of subjugation, but they took deliberate and solemn measures to engage, [138/139] if possible, every individual mind against her. With this view, they solemnly proposed what was called "the Covenant," to the people; whereby they intended to draw the whole nation into a solemn league and confederacy for the extirpation of the ecclesiastical government. It was not easy to evade this ordinance, or at least it was not safe to evade it. Certain of the regular clergy, who might in some degree have apostatized from the Church, and to a certain extent might have imbibed a Presbyterian spirit, took very serious exceptions against this "Covenant," and stoutly refused to comply with it. Dr. Featly, otherwise called Fairclough, was one of this set. Although himself elected a member of the "Assembly of Divines," and probably the only ordained and legitimate clergyman who ever took part in their transactions, yet when the Covenant was offered to him, he indignantly rejected it, and drew upon himself thereby the wrathful visitation of the Parliament, who being too ready to make him an example, deprived him of his preferments; the living of Acton, which was one of them, being given to the "infamous Independent, Philip Nye," and the living of Lambeth, which was another, being transferred to "John White of Dorchester, [139/140] an old instrument of sedition." [Wood's Athen. Vol. II. p. 77.] The Covenant, therefore, which was advocated with uncommon vehemence by the Faction in all their pulpits, became a sort of formidable Shiboleth among the people. All who submitted to it were accounted friends of "the blessed Parliament," and deter mined enemies of the Established Church; all who refused it, were looked upon as "spies and betrayers of the Parliament," and treated with all due reproach and severity. A more deadly blow at the Established Church, in both her temporal and spiritual character, was never dealt out by the Assembly, than by the concoction of this Covenant. The suppression of the Liturgy, and the substitution of the Directory in its place two measures which the "Assembly" was the main instrument in accomplishing was, as it were, removing so much burning and shining light from the Church, and leaving her in so much comparative dimness and obscurity. But the stringent and overbearing terms of the "Covenant" would forcibly bind men down, against conscience, reason, and uprightness, to an insatiable and malicious extirpation of the Church in all [140/141] her legitimate shapes, claims, rights, and character. So that the Assembly reached the very acme of its inveteracy when it invented the "Covenant;" and if its manifold and persevering operations against the Reformed Church be temperately and fairly considered, together with the malignant and rebellious spirit which reigned over all the gross irregularity, the unwarrantable and bold arrogance with which the Assembly itself was at first embodied--if we honestly and seriously consider all these things, we shall easily assent to the proposition which Walker himself here suggests,--viz. "that it may be hereafter reckoned among the greatest honours of the Church of England, that she had these men for her enemies."

It might now seem, that under all the distressing and overwhelming circumstances already detailed, there could want but little more to be done in order to obliterate the very memory of the Church from the public mind. The new usurpers of the ecclesiastical benefices took pretty good care that the temporal revenues and possessions of the Church should flow into their own coffers. The rightful owners were no longer to be recognised. The institution of tithes, which was stigmatized as a Jewish and anti-christian measure [141/142] when claimed by the legitimate clergy, was all perfectly consistent and unexceptionable when in possession of the new order of ministry erected by the "blessed Parliament." Loud as the clamour was, and repeated as were the remonstrances against tithes so long as the regular clergy were the owners, yet the Parliament resisted their suppression, not out of any sense or principle of justice to the clergy, but because they well foresaw how spare and scanty would be the provision for their own ministers, destined to be the clergy's successors, if the parochial benefices were deprived of their tithes; for, as Fuller, in his quaint way, expresses it, "It was not the Church's good, but the Church's goods that these Puritanical ministers so eagerly sought for."

There was indeed some kind of ordinance made by the Parliament, for allowing a certain proportion of his sequestered living to the wife and children of every expelled incumbent for their maintenance; but this arrangement was little more than nominal, and in vast many instances the payment scarcely amounted to any thing like a reality or a fair proportion. Excuses without end, and without any shade of truth or justice, were perpetually made by the interlopers for evading this payment. They [142/143] rather took a delight and even a pride in shewing their ill-gotten power, and mortifying the feelings of their subjugated and destitute victims. The proportion which the parliamentary ordinance had allotted to the expelled or ejected clergyman for the support of his family was a fifth of his sequestered benefice. But it appears that the usurpers were seldom very ready to obey this order, but always ready at tricks and evasions to get rid of it; obliging, in many cases, the poor deprived clergy to expend that money in pleading their claims before harsh and partial judges, which should otherwise have been applied to their family's support and comfort--so that it was no less wittily than literally said by Fuller, that "these Fifths were usually paid, if paid at all, at sixes and sevens."

A few remarkable instances of the cruelties and injustice dealt out to the expelled and suffering clergy on these particular occasions will well illustrate the account above given, and afford ample testimony to the extreme sufferings of the clergy during this turbulent period.

It is recorded of --- Holway, Rector of Kislingbury in Northamptonshire, "an ancient grave divine, of good life and learning, a constant [143/144] preacher, and very hospitable to his neighbours," that he was roughly ejected from his benefice to make room for a low, ignorant, and vulgar man, named Rogers, one of the Parliament's proteg├ęs. And though Holway had a wife and ten children, yet no remuneration was ever allowed him for his privations and sufferings, much less any portion of his "Fifths" could he ever obtain from his ill-conditioned successor.

Another account tells us of Gooden, Rector of Lydiard St. Lawrence, Somersetshire. He was dragged out of his pulpit, and reduced to extreme want. His living was afterwards usurped by one Wakley, a Presbyterian; from whom however Mr. Gooden could never obtain one shilling of his "Fifths"; but when application was made for them by the wife of the ejected clergyman, the answer given personally to her was, "if her husband was in want he must take his flail and work."

A similar fate also awaited John Douch, Rector of Stalbridge in Dorsetshire. He himself and his wife and children were "roughly driven from their house by a troop of horse, who plundered them both within door and without, and scarce left them a bed to lie on." He afterwards, being in utter [144/145] necessity, applied to his usurping successor, one Fairclough, for his "Fifths," and received an answer similar to that which had been bestowed on Mr. Gooden before-mentioned, viz.: "that he must go and thrash for his living."

Thomas Jones, M.A., Rector of Offwell in Devonshire, was another sufferer of a like kind. He was a most loyal subject to his King, which fact was, of itself, enough to place him under the jealous eye and keen hatred of the Parliament. Stedfastly too did he in all his troubles adhere to the Liturgy, and resolutely did he remember the appointed holy-days of the Church, and overlook those required by the Parliament. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should suffer great and repeated persecutions in those factious times. More than once, or twice, or thrice, was his house plundered by parliamentary troops, and his family put to great suffering, and his property, goods, books, furniture, carried off or damaged. At length seeing no hope of peace, and scarcely of life, in England, he retired to Rotterdam, leaving his wife and children to procure what portion they could of his "Fifths." But on application to the new intruder on his old benefice of Offwell, she was told that her husband was one of the "Rotterdam [145/146] rogues," and probably not alive, and that there were no "Fifths," or any other portion for her. It is added by Walker, in his account of Jones, that "he was a man of good learning, a very good preacher, kept a large and hospitable house, was very charitable to the poor, mightily beloved by his neighbours, and greatly respected by the clergy and gentry, being also very zealous and industrious in the service of his majesty."

Of the many tricks and delusions which the interlopers into benefices resorted to, with the view of evading the payment of "Fifths" to the ejected incumbents, that which is recorded of one Elford, who had surreptitiously got possession of the living of West Monckton from the hands of Dr. William Locket, the legitimate rector, is very remarkable, and shows the canting, Jesuitical spirit which so much distinguished the Puritanical agitators of these times.

When Dr. Locket, after being reduced by the sequestration of his preferment to great poverty, applied to Elford for his "Fifths,"--"You are not alive," said Elford. "I am here in person," said Locket. "But you are dead," said Elford, "in trespasses and sins, and so I have nothing for you."

[147] The case of George Pierce, M.A., Rector of the Pit portion of Tiverton, should not be passed over in this sad catalogue. Mr. Pierce was ejected from his living on the sole and avowed ground of his disaffection to the Parliament. He was charged with no negligence or wrong whatever in his clerical or moral character. But he had made a witty and stinging observation of the general conduct of Parliament in regard to their pretended reformation of the Church, which, no doubt, brought upon him their vindictive proceedings. Pierce had said, that "the Parliament had deformed and not reformed religion," and that their destructive and outrageous conduct was only "like the clumsiness of an unskilful barber, who instead of taking off the loose hairs, let out the blood." Eidicule, when cleverly handled, is a very goading and poignant weapon. The Parliament could not well brook such an exposure. Pierce therefore became a marked man. Persecution unsparingly awaited him. Thrice was his house plundered, and his own person, with his wife and children, abused and outraged. They were for many years reduced to great necessity; and although one Chisul, the unconscionable usurper of his benefice, retained it for fourteen years, yet not one shilling [147/148] of the "Fifths" would he ever bestow upon the sequestered and destitute clergyman. This "godly minister," as Chisul was then called, was the son of a tailor in Kent, and had been the tapster or drawer at a public house in Kensington no in accurate picture this of the general character and position of those blind and self-sufficient fanatics, whose labours at this period were thought competent to reform the Anglican Church, and to erect the kingdom of Christ in the nation! Of Dr. Pierce we find this honourable account in Walker's book: "He was a person of singular diligence and industry in the ministry--a man of great temperance and sobriety--a great benefactor to the poor, leaving some of them an annual stipend for their lives."

So far, then, we see with what portion of honesty and good faith the orthodox; loyal, and legitimate clergy of these disordered times were treated. It is clear, that nothing could be more hollow and delusive than the prospects which the Parliament pretended to hold out to them in their necessities--nothing could be more Jesuitical than the Parliament's promises, nothing more loose and inefficient than their ordinances, when put forth under any pretence of friendly or [148/149] charitable feeling towards the ministers or friends of the Anglican Church. The ordinance about the "Fifths" was a mere piece of chicanery, "not one-fifth of the clergy" (as Walker says) "having ever received any at all; and consequently four times more going without them, than with them."

Now, we may ask, what heavier inflictions, both moral and personal, could have been imposed upon the clergy had they been guilty of flagrant crimes or atrocious iniquities? The virulent, teeth-gnashing spirit against the Church, exhibited in almost every sentiment of the Covenant, gave, no doubt, the most vigorous encouragement to those, who might be predisposed, from grovel ling interest, or from party malignity, or the love of mischief, to plunder or maltreat her. The Covenant blew the trumpet of slaughter and persecution, and to render it still more galling and insulting to the Establishment itself, an order was issued by the Parliament, that copies of the Covenant should be hung up in all parish churches; the ten commandments, creed, and Lord's prayer, having, in many places, been removed to make room for it. Committees also were appointed in every county and district for the express purpose of watching narrowly every [149/150] individual, especially among the clergy, who might refuse to take the Covenant. Their names were afterwards reported to Parliament. They of course thus became marked men, and whatever incumbent might be among them, ejectment from his living, or some other equally arbitrary and oppressive fate, was sure to await him. Dr. Heylin's account of these things is very striking, even after allowance be made (and great allowance should be made) for the deep-rooted repugnance in his mind to the Puritanical Faction. "The terror," he says, "of this Covenant, and the severe penalty imposed on those who refused it, compelled great numbers of the clergy to forsake their benefices, and to betake themselves to such towns and garrisons as were kept under the command of his Majesty's forces. Their vacant livings were in part supplied by such Presbyterians as formerly had lived as lecturers, or trencherchaplains, or else bestowed upon such zealots as flocked from Scotland or New England; but finding the deserted benefices not proportionable to so great a multitude, they compelled many of the clergy to forsake their houses, that so they might avoid imprisonment or some worse calamity."

[151] It does not appear then, from concurrent testimony derived from other and unquestionable sources, that Heylin, with all his church attachments and his bitterness against Puritanism, has here coloured his picture too highly; nor should we be even saying too much by adding, that the miseries of the Church and her clergy seem to be now consummated by the melancholy effects which arose in every corner of the kingdom from the operation of the Covenant.

Probably, indeed, it was not a misery without inward and sustaining consolation to those who had to bear it. The clergy might, in general, be suffering deeply, both in their livelihood and liberty, yet they had an honest, honourable, acquitting conscience left, telling them that they were suffering all these things, sooner than forsake, or subvert from her very foundation, as the fanatical agitators were now doing, that blessed Church which they well knew had been erected, in all its doctrines, rites, and government by the Apostles, Jesus Christ being Himself the chief corner-stone. To this righteous cause the legitimate clergy in these trying times, did, with but comparatively few exceptions, uprightly and nobly attach themselves.

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