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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 VII. The two Universities, Oxford and Cambridge--Errors in the conduct of some of the governors and ministers of the Church--The usurpation, by the Faction, of University appointments, and the expulsion of legitimate possessors

THE unrelenting persecution which was now levelled against the Church of England and her clergy, and the privations which they had in consequence to endure, were by no means confined to the episcopal order, or to Cathedral institutions, or to parochial incumbents and their Churches. The two venerable Universities, Oxford and Cam bridge, had to contend against similar encroachments and visitations. From these two celebrated seats of learning emanated certain pure streams of political loyalty, theological orthodoxy, and church affections. So long as these fountains were to be left unrestrained and unmodified, so long the work of ecclesiastical demolition would have very formidable obstacles to contend with.

[153] In the plenitude, therefore, of its power, the Parliament did not omit to aim many a rude and crashing blow at the two Universities. Unfortunately for Cambridge, that city had already in the very beginning of the rebellion fallen into their grasp. Certain parliamentary troops kept it in subjugation; which, of course, gave the Puritanical Faction the greater facility for carrying on their ruinous projects against the regulations and laws of the University itself. Religious teachers and ministers, self-elected and self-approved, were to be found pretty plentifully dispersed in both the army and the Parliament, insomuch that each class began to fancy twhem selves equally competent to direct measures for reformation, whether in the Universities or in the Church. From such reformers, so puffed up with vain-glory and self-confidence, it is not reasonable to expect that their operations would be qualified by either wisdom, justice, or charity. The army, therefore, being now masters of the town of Cam bridge, had taken in hand to reform the University by their own power, and upon their own independant suggestions and this too was undertaken in the very teeth of an ordinance of Parliament which, at the beginning of the rebellion, but [153/154] probably under a mere pretence of regard for the University, had ordered that "no person or persons should commit any outrage on any of the Colleges, schools, libraries, or public bodies of the University of Cambridge." But the loyalty towards the persecuted King, which that University had openly and stedfastly displayed, was too bitter a pill for the army of the Parliament to swallow without malicious and vindictive requital. Cromwell too himself was at this time member for Cambridge, and having been placed in command over a certain portion of the army, was despatched to the town to enforce certain heavy restrictions upon the Colleges, students, and public functionaries there. Too willingly was this order obeyed--too licentiously was the now unbridled power of the army exercised on this momentous occasion. Cromwell and his colleagues seem to have indulged a wanton and savage revenge on the University for their unvarying adherence to both the King and the Church in these days of their calamity. "In fulfilment of these wicked purposes," (says Walker,) "he surrounds several of the Colleges, while they were at their devotions in their several chapels," lays violent hands on the Doctors, Professors, and Heads of Houses, "and without scruple [154/155] dispatches them as prisoners to London. The Colleges themselves are then turned into fortifications, or pretended to be so used--the students and officers are detained as in prison there, and for near two years together the profanations, violence, and outrage done to their chapels, colleges, and persons, by the uncontrouled fury of rude Puritanical soldiers, were matter of unspeakable grief to any one that considered it." Men so elate with power, however ill-acquired, as the Parliament army now were, and with minds so inflamed and bewildered by the infatuations of fanaticism, could not well be expected to pursue a course inconsistent with the furious spirit they had imbibed. A right Christian principle was not to be looked for. The contest therefore on the present occasion, as was the case indeed throughout the whole bitter persecution against the Anglican Church, was a contest between furious and arrogant bigotry on the one side, and legitimate rights, established order, and Catholic verities on the other.

In most quarrels, especially when they ran high, the general aphorism is, that there are faults on both sides. And so it may have been perhaps in the quarrel which, in these tempestuous times, so embittered the peace and the rights of the [155/156] Church of England. The perverse and undiscriminating zealot accused her of still retaining certain features and associations of Popery, whilst she, on her part, as honestly and utterly repudiated every disposition towards that corrupt and idolatrous system. The sound doctrine and Catholic usages of the primitive and apostolical Church, unmixed with any of the subsequent innovations of Popery, formed the basis upon which she rested her claims to the nation's confidence and affection. It is true that upon some occasions the Church of England had, in the times we are now speaking of, too much reason to lament the licentious and inconsistent conduct of some of her own people and ministers--some, who might greatly misuse their power, or pervert and neglect their sacred functions. The open encouragement, for instance, which certain ardent, but intemperate and injudicious friends of the Church had given to that most unseemly and mischievous publication called the "Book of Sports," sanctioning the grossest profanations of the Lord's-Day, was surely a legitimate ground of complaint and dissatisfaction with many serious thinking persons. The Church herself, of course, never contemplated such profanations, and therefore the obliquy of proposing and sanctioning [156/157] such misdoings should rather have fallen on the misguided and ungracious authors of them, than upon the Church. Her real intrinsic purity was in no way lessened by it. She was still, in spirit, principle, and constitution, the same Catholic Reformed and Protestant Church. Still was she, as her Liturgy, Articles, and Homilies clearly show, purged of all Popish and superstitious tendencies. Still she spoke only the language of sound doctrine and Catholic truth. Still she breathed the spirit of Christian charity and forbearance. So that, in fact, the faults on the side of the Church, were faults rather of certain of her injudicious, unfaithful, and unrestrained members, than of her real self; and when compared with her manifold excellences and usefulness, her very faults, if she had any, were as mere hairs in the balance. The rabid persecution, therefore, which the Faction now waged against her would appear to be utterly without excuse, there being on their side immeasurably greater blame in spirit and in operation than could, in any fairness, be alleged against the Church.

If faults, then, really did exist on both sides, how light and venial will those of the Church appear, in comparison with those of her [157/158] rancourous and schismatical antagonist. So that we are not to be surprised that a Faction, moved by so sour and invidious a spirit, should unscrupulously break through all statutes, usages and rights of the Universities, in order to forward their mad career, and fulfil their own unconscionable projects. It is recorded (for instance) of the Margaret Professor, that he was, at the instigation of some of Cromwell's soldiers, most insultingly mobbed in the market place, as he was proceeding, according to the statutes, to preach ad clerum at St. Mary s. He pleaded that "it was an University exercise to be, by statute, performed in Latin." But this plea tended only to increase the insolent fury of the soldiers. They would have no Latin orations. They threatened to tear away the hoods and gowns of the graduates; and in the very presence of Cromwell himself, they tore the Book of Common Prayer in pieces. So little were these revolting and popular violences repressed or even checked by those who held the reins of power, and called themselves "godly reformers."

There was published also at this time a book, called "Querela Cantabrigiensis," written by some of the real sufferers under these atrocious rulers. The picture there exhibited of the state of things [158/159] is perhaps painted in deeper colours than the reality might warrant; and may moreover abound in that virulent coarseness of language, which it was too much the fashion in those times for one party to handy towards the other. Some allowances, therefore, must be made for the indignant and excited feelings of those whose rights, privileges, and characters had been so savagely tram pled upon and outraged. But even with all due allowances of that kind, there yet remains quite enough to convey to us no inadequate idea of the enormities committed in this University by these furious and despotic reformers. No opportunity was lost, where wanton mischief could be done. Walks, orchards, woods, groves, the classic ornaments and associations of many colleges, were unsparingly demolished, partly for malice, and partly for plunder's sake. The occupiers and owners of St. John's College were driven from their abodes, and denied any possession of them for many months afterwards; and the fine old court of that venerable fabric was converted into a prison for many of the king's loyal subjects. Even the monuments for the dead, and the consecrated chapels of Colleges, became alike indiscriminately subject to the demolishing and [159/160] barbarous hands of Cromwell's reforming soldiers. William Dowsing, the notorious Iconoclast, made sad havoc at Cambridge. With savage eagerness would he have laid his merciless hands on the fine painted windows of King's College Chapel, and have carried on the same work in other Colleges, where any sacred symbols or embellishments might have been preserved--but in these barbarities, though in many others he had more success, he was fortunately interrupted.

As they regarded the University of Cambridge, however, those enormities were only the beginning, or but a small portion, of troubles. The spoliation of buildings, the subversion of statutes, and the personal privation of the College members, were far from enough to satisfy the graspings of the Faction. The revenues of the University were yet to be seized, and turned to the account of these mad spoilers. Measures were at length taken for this purpose.

There was an Earl of Manchester (Edward Montague, 2nd Earl) who had joined himself to the interest of the Parliament, and became a conspicuous promoter of all their designs. He was the person appointed to superintend the receiving and dispensing of the revenues of the Cambridge [160/161] Colleges; being also invested with an equally invidious power, viz.: that of removing, at his pleasure, any "scandalous minister" in the seven associated counties, of which Cambridge was one. The reasons alleged for adopting this course is another among the manifold evidences of the thoroughly blind and perverted spirit which governed both Parliament and army at this period. It set forth, that "the service of the Parliament was greatly retarded, the enemy strengthened, the people's souls starved, and their minds diverted from God's cause, by the idle, ill-affected, and scandalous clergy of the University of Cambridge;"--that all who can give evidence against such scandalous ministers, whether they be Provosts, Masters, or Fellows of Colleges, or other members of that University, shall proceed to the Committee of the Earl of Manchester, who is empowered to eject such as he shall see fit, to sequester their estates, means, and revenues, and to place other persons in their stead, and "to administer the covenant to all such as are ready to take it."

There was probably no equivocation in this ordinance, which is the best we can say of it. The demolishing, "radical" spirit (to use the slang of the nineteenth century) which it displays [161/162] is too undisguised to be disputed; and few will now refuse to assent to the observation which the "Querela Cantabrigiensis" makes on this explosion, viz.: that "it was an attempt at least to propagate, if not to invent, a new religion;" and "because they could not make the University of Cambridge rebel, they determined to make a rebellious University at Cambridge." It is quite clear that the Earl of Manchester was invested by the Parliament and the Committee of Religion with almost unlimited powers on this occasion; and it seems equally true that he exercised them with any thing but moderation or charity. In some cases he appears to have acted greatly beyond his orders, but in a spirit so congenial with the views and wishes of the Faction, that no fault was found with his disobedience or his excesses. By his own personal warrant or ordinance he requires certain members and heads of Colleges to appear before him to answer certain enquiries into their statutes, laws, regulations, possessions, revenues, &c. But finding these loyal and honourable persons not quite so complying as he expected, he, at once, ejects sixty-five fellows from their respective Colleges and fellowships, orders their names to be erased from the butteries, and sets apart [162/163] their revenues to be reserved for their more complying and Puritanical successors. Nor was it in all cases for disobeying the Earl's personal war rant that many members of Colleges were expelled. Various allegations, most unfounded, most frivolous and wicked, were invented and laid against them, just enough to give colour to some order for their expulsion.

Dr. Cosins of Peter House, was charged with "opposing the proceedings of Parliament, and with other scandalous acts in the University." It is almost needless to explain what these expressions really meant. "Opposing the proceedings of the Parliament," was "only another way of saying, that Cosins was a devoted and loyal subject to his sovereign, and no supporter of illegal and usurped authority. Whilst to be charged with "scandalous acts in the University," meant only, that he was an unflinching friend to all her legitimate rights and privileges; giving at the same time a determined opposition to those who would lawlessly and rudely invade them. Upon this ground however--quite sufficient to suit the purpose of the Earl of Manchester--Cosins, who as we have already seen in a former chapter, occupied an eminent position for piety, learning, [163/164] and moral excellence of all kinds, was finally and peremptorily dismissed from his offices. Other charges, differing chiefly in terms, not in spirit, were brought forward against the heads of houses, tutors, and fellows, and especially that of their refusing to take the solemn league and covenant. This last, it may be easily believed, was a most fruitful source of gain to the Faction, as well as of loss and suffering to the clergy, whether parochial or collegiate. It was a test at which a vast portion of the clergy revolted, and which consequently created many a vacancy in their legitimate possessions, leaving such possessions open to the accession of many an unfit and ill-conditioned successor.

As to the numbers of the ejected clergy from the University of Cambridge, it is not pretended to be ascertained with accuracy. That it amounted to many hundreds, is quite beyond dispute, and that these ejectments were all accomplished in a sort of wholesale and uncompromising way by the Earl of Manchester, and with a dispatch as to time which admitted of no longer delay than a few weeks in many cases, we may easily understand, when we remember the peculiar subjugation, both in a military and political sense, [164/165] to which the whole town and population of Cambridge was now reduced. This Earl of Manchester, indeed, showed himself to be a most vigilant and determined agent of the Parliament on this occasion, and dealt out his demolishing measures towards the oppressed University of Cambridge with unsparing severity and tyranny.

There was, however, yet a further work to be done before their object could be finally accomplished. The vacancies occasioned by the manifold expulsions were yet to be supplied by men of a spirit more congenial with the Parliament's temper and wishes. In this work also the Earl of Manchester took a leading part; and it might be almost said, that he had it for a time all his own way. Many debates indeed occurred in both Houses of Parliament, and many Committees were formed on the question of Reform in the University of Cambridge. But all was done in the same spirit of hatred to every thing prelatical, ecclesiastical, and monarchical, which had directed the measures of demolition and expulsion already described. In the choice of University officers, Professors, Fellows, and Heads of Houses, fitness was not otherwise considered, than how far the party destined for the office might, or might not, [165/166] be friendly to the "blessed Parliament," and ready, or not ready, to succumb to the solemn league and covenant. Men therefore of low and vulgar habits, of mean capacities, and meaner learning, and especially of fanatical and irregular sentiments in religion, were unceremoniously obtruded into offices and positions of high and sacred responsibility. The important uses and objects of the Universities were, of course, greatly impaired by such unseemly doings, and many years elapsed before a better and more rightful order of things could be restored.

It had turned out that the sister University at Oxford had rather a shorter measure of suffering than that at Cambridge--a circumstance which was to be attributed, not to any fairer dealings, or more indulgent treatment she received at the hands of the Faction, but to the fortunate event (if it really were fortunate) of her being so long under the protection of the King's troops, and the loyal party who so nobly defended his cause. Thus protected and strengthened, the Parliament could, of course, have but small opportunity of exercising its baneful influence, or carrying on its ruinous operations in that University; and so long as that protection could be maintained, the privileges, [166/167] rights, statutes, and possessions of Oxford would continue uninvaded.

In 1647, however, the scales began to turn. Long had a rebellious portion of the citizens of Oxford harassed the University by their scurrilities and abuse. These persons, friends of the "blessed Parliament," were ever awake and active in their mischievous pursuits, and were frequently the instruments of annoyance and disturbance to the collegiate scholars and functionaries. At length the unhappy day arrived when the loyal protectors of the University were compelled to withdraw their forces, and although the very Colleges themselves maintained for many months a siege against the Parliament's army, yet the latter were at length triumphant and now, the doors of persecution and vengeance being flung wide open, the Parliament and its Committee of Religion soon began to exercise their tender mercies over their new victims. As at Cambridge, the same sort of game was also played here, the same Earl of Manchester was the chief directing agent, and the same transgressions as were alleged against that, were now alleged against this University, viz: stubborn, unqualified loyalty to the King, stedfast attachment to the Church, and undisguised hostility to the schismatical and factious Parliament!

[168] Oxford, therefore, now that the day of the enemy's uncontrolled power arrives, has at length to witness a consummation of indignities and oppression. As a first step to reduce her to a level with the views and principles of the now prevailing Faction, the Parliament send down seven "Divines" (as they were called), in the character of inquisitorial visitors, and with the intention of making a representation of such individuals belonging to the University, and exercising any official duty therein, as may be fit to be classed in the list of "scandalous ministers," and consequently in the list of opponents to, or dissentients from, the solemn league and covenant. Any one of these seven visitors had the privilege granted to him of, at any time, taking possession of the University pulpit at St. Mary s, from whence they were wont to deliver out their long rhapsodical prayers, followed by extemporary sermons or harangues, of which the ever prevailing subject was, the doings of the "blessed Parliament," and the abominations of the Church and the Universities. Language was, as it might seem, inexhaustible in praise of the one, as well as in abuse and reprobation of the other. Nor were these violent and mischievous declamations entirely fruitless of the objects they had in view. "Great numbers," (as Walker tells us,) [168/169] "especially of the meaner sort," being deluded by them into an acknowledgment of repentance for having taken up arms in defence of the King and the Church; and into a ready disposition to take the solemn league and covenant.

These seven "Divines," therefore, in their capacities both as appointed visitors to the University, and as authorised preachers also under the Parliament's sanction, made it their first and express business to prepare the way for measures still more arbitrary and destructive. A larger commission was formed, empowered to examine minutely into all the statutes, usages, and rights of the University, with a view to an entire remodelling the institution altogether, or in other words, expelling all the loyal and legitimate members and officers in it, and substituting those who would be more disposed to harass and demolish the Church, as well as the Monarchy. This new and enlarged commission, however, found their work not quite so surmountable as they had anticipated. The Heads of Houses, and other principal members of the University, were found to be of too upright and independant a spirit, to submit quietly to the busy and impertinent examination which these visitors and commissioners [169/170] thought proper to demand of them. They met in convocation to discuss the question--what answer, if any, should be returned to the inquisitors, respecting the league and covenant, and the Directory. The convocation was, with one exception only, unanimous, and the demands of the pseudo-visitors were rejected--so that there was to he found in the University of Oxford only one single person who, in the very midst of such imminent perils and insults as then surrounded them, could be persuaded to desert his duty and his allegiance. In many cases, however, the answer of a good and honest conscience was almost the only consolation left to him who had acted the nobler part; for the power of ejectment was now lodged so completely within the grasp of the Parliament, that no scruples were made in dismissing any head of a college, fellow, professor, or other functionary, who might stand in any way opposed to the Parliament's projects or views. Character, learning, piety, were of no weight in the eyes of that ill-conditioned tribunal, to preserve the possessor of those qualities in the legitimate enjoyment of his rights and privileges.

One of the first, if not the very first victim of the malicious power now exercised by this large [170/171] commission of visitors, was Mr. Wightwick, the Master of Pembroke College. He had given great offence to these rude and unceremonious intruders, by openly deriding the commission under which they acted. He denied its genuineness and authority, and wished to wait on his Majesty himself to ascertain the truth of the matter; because (as Mr. Wightwick said), if it had been issued contrary to the King's intentions, he would, by no means, submit to it, under pain of falsifying the oaths he had taken to his Majesty, the University, and his own College. There were some home thrusts in this answer of the Master of Pembroke, which the pretended visitors could not bear. The raillery was too much for their pride, and the consequence was the immediate expulsion of Mr. Wightwick from his Mastership. This, however, was a stretch of power and authority exercised by the Parliament and its agents, to which the University would not calmly submit. The Proctors, in the name of the Vice-Chancellor and other high functionaries, publicly protest against so flagrant an invasion of their rights and possessions. They openly and unscrupulously repudiate the Parliament's authority, or the authority of its domineering visitors; and they make public proclamation, [171/172] that they acknowledge no visitor but the King, nor will submit, except by compulsion, to any other visitation.

The career of an insatiable victor is seldom stopped by the mere remonstrances or sufferings of those, however backed by justice and charity, who may be brought under his subjugation. The proclamation, therefore, of these Proctors, although it might speak the voice of the whole University, and speak the language of sound right and equity, was respected no more than the wailings of an infant. The Parliament, as in the case of the sister University at Cambridge, still sanctioned the Earl of Manchester in his further work of destruction and expulsion. Dr. Fell, the Vice-Chancellor, was the next victim. He was compulsorily dismissed, and sent prisoner to London by order of the Parliament, and by the executive directions of the Earl of Manchester. The whole University protested against this proceeding, and for a considerable time held out in their resistance; the Master of Trinity having honestly and magnanimously come forward as the legitimate Pro-Vice-Chancellor. But the struggle was in vain. It was might, not right, which now settled all University matters. Repeatedly, and under [172/173] colour of legitimate authority, were the Heads of Houses, Fellows, and Proctors, summoned before the mock visitors, to answer certain questions touching their statutes, privileges, and rights. But with an honest intrepidity of spirit these summonses were uniformly rejected on the just and fair ground, that the powers who issued them were illegal, and possessed no rightful authority. At length, the University of Oxford obhtained leave to he heard before Parliament by their counsel, of whom the able, upright, and celebrated Mr. Chute (already alluded to in page 30) was one. Many a stout battle was now fought for the University, by the eloquence and exertions of these intelligent and indefatigable men; but nothing, for the present, could stand against the influence and tyranny of the Parliament. When the defence might be based, as it always really was, upon grounds and arguments wholly unanswerable and rightful, yet it was soon overpowered by that now paramount allegation that, whether intrinsically just or unjust, "it was derogatory to the dignity of the Parliament." By this weapon, the University, notwithstanding her magnanimous resistance to all rebellion and invasion, and notwithstanding the persevering exertions and the masterly [173/174] eloquence of her counsel, was always and ultimately beaten down.

Dr. Fell, already deposed from the Vice-Chancellor's chair, was now also dismissed from the Deanery of Christchurch--Dr. Oliver, from the Presidency of Magdalen College--Potter from Trinity--Bayly, from St. John's--Radclyfle, from Brazen Nose--with many others from their Fellowships and Canonries. A new Chancellor, also, was appointed by the Parliament, viz: the Earl of Pembroke, a violent and bitter enemy to both Church and State, and one who, having formerly been displaced by the University, bore a "tyrannous hatred" against it. Under such a premier, no indulgence could be looked for; and he soon began his work of "reform," i. e. his work of expulsion, oppression, and demolition, among the Colleges. Additional ejectments and suppressions followed in quick succession, till an almost entire change took place, in persons, places, usages, rights, and privileges. As to the individuals selected to succeed in their several offices the former legitimate and rightful possessors, it will be easily understood that their attachment to the principles and objects of the "blessed Parliament," together with their hatred of the monarchy [174/175] and the hierarchy, were the first recommendations--their otherwise fitness for their several tasks, as well as their honourable and legal titles to them, being accounted as matters of no moment. In the long list which Walker has given of the new preferments in the two Universities, especially in that of Oxford, there is a mixture of grades and callings in life, the most grotesque and incongruous one can imagine; and most inconsistent with the genius and tendencies of such academical bowers. There were Parliament-soldiers of all ranks, regicides, rebels, seditionmongers, trades men, manufacturers, shop-keepers of all grades, Presbyterians, Independants, Puritans, and schismatics of all denominations.

Such was the indiscriminate and heterogeneous character of the "reformed" and remodelled universities in the various professorships, fellowships, masterships, and dignities, which the new authorities had undertaken to fill up. Lord Clarendon, in his reflections on these preposterous associations, utters a sentiment of peculiar ingenuity and elegance. [History of Rebellion, Vol. III, p. 74, edition 1707.] He would fain imagine that the genius peculiar to places of such classical and intellectual [175/176] renown as Oxford and Cambridge, would be wholly stifled and dispelled by the introduction of such vulgar and incongenial rabble into their several possessions. His apprehension, however, appears to have been groundless. Instead of the men, ill-sorted and ill-favoured as they were, extirpating the genius, the genius meliorated the men. "It might easily be concluded" (says Clarendon), "that this wild and barbarous depopulation of the University would extirpate all that learning and loyalty which had so eminently flourished there .... but by God's wonderful blessing, the goodness and richness of that soil could not be made barren by all that stupidity and negligence. It choked the weeds, and would not suffer the poisonous seeds to spring up; but it yielded a harvest of good and sound knowledge; many who had been so wickedly introduced, applying them selves to the study of good learning and the practice of virtue .... a lively instance of God's mercy, so to provide for His Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

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