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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 XI. Conclusion

FOR a period not far short of twenty years, was our Anglo-Catholic Church doomed to suffer deeply from the hand of an unsparing and hitter persecution a persecution which worked under the mask of religious zeal and intense piety, for the ostensible object of reforming the Church, but for the real object of utterly destroying her. Severe was the trial she had to encounter, heavy was the load of injustice she had to hear; but the Hand which permitted the infliction was that of whole some and merciful chastisement; for her sins no doubt, or rather the sins of her children, but productive of good, through the infinite mercies of God, in the events which have since befallen her. One point has clearly been elicited from the trial. It is that, which Archbishop Whitgift so honestly [279/280] stated to Queen Elizabeth viz. that "when they that serve at God's altar shall he exposed to poverty, then religion itself will he exposed to scorn." [See Walton's Life of Hooker.] It is moreover remarkable, that whilst the Anglican Church had had, ever since the days of her emancipation from the thick darkness of Popery in the preceding century, to weather many storms and encounter sharp contentions from her enemies, yet it was only on the commencement of what is called the "Long Parliament" (in 1640) that the total suppression of the Church and her clergy altogether, and the bringing them both to an utter destitution, became the studied business of the national council. The "Long Parliament" indeed seems to have met for very little other purpose but to carry on rebellion against both Church and State; and the events which occurred during its almost twenty years session, showed with what skill and determination it worked out that iniquitous object.

That party in the State who combined together in this wicked measure, are usually known under the name of Puritans i. e. persons who, despising or perverting all the consecrated rites and [280/281] ceremonies, the ordinances and ministrations of the Church, affected both in life, doctrine, and worship, much higher purity and godliness than what the Church herself was supposed to be capable of inspiring in any of her devoted followers. It was from this peculiarity of character and pretension that they became classed under the general name of Puritans. So far indeed as it regarded their own pretensions, the word might be appropriate enough; but they who read the transactions of the Great Rebellion, as given to us by Clarendon, Dugdale, Collier, Walker, and especially by Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, in her memoir of Colonel Hutchinson, will soon discover, that the purity of the Puritans was of a very questionable nature, to say nothing of their piety, charity, and soundness of doctrine. They who, like the Puritans, would affect to decry the chaste and solemn ceremonies of worship, prescribed with true catholic spirit by the Anglican Church, surely go the way to deprive religion of much of its spiritual influence over the mind; for although it is no true movement of the spirit to dwell too fondly on external observances and impressive solemnities, it is on the other hand, as far removed from the spirit, to crush, and revile, and desecrate that chastened [281/282] order, pure scriptural worship, and apostolical discipline, which the Church hath ever maintained from the primitive days of Christianity. "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we," says the arrogant Romanist "Down with her, down with her, even to the ground," says the equally arrogant Puritan. The Anglican reformed and Protestant Church, steers between these two extremes; and so was she steering when the fanatical spirit of the Great Rebellion fell so maliciously upon her.

There was, however, no small variety of sects included under the name of Puritan; some being Presbyterians, some Independents, some Brownists, some Millenarians, some Fifth-Monarchy-men; [The Millenarians or Fifth-Monarchy-men, were a sect which, being infected with the frantic enthusiasm so prevalent in the days of the Commonwealth in England, imagined that Christ was suddenly to appear, and establish a new monarchy upon earth. This, in reference to the four great monarchies of old, viz. the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman, they called "The Fifth Monarchy." Hence the name of the sect.] and so on. Yet with all these subdivisions, so deep was the delusion of fanaticism, the Church of England was equally the object [282/283] of scorn and hatred. The causes of all this perversion of spirit were manifold and complicated. The popular cry of the day was, that the Church was not yet sufficiently purged from the idolatries and corruptions of Popery that the Church had not gone far enough in the work of piety and sanctification.

Now we should not quarrel with men, who may have an honest desire to emancipate the Church from whatever may he incompatible with gospel truth and apostolical purity; but when that desire is found to he used as a "cloak of maliciousness," and to he mixed up with a fanatical and disobedient spirit, as well as with political rancour, and when it is unaccompanied with any disposition to a sober and honest investigation into the truth, we have then too much reason to fear that the Church can never be fairly dealt with by falling into such hands; and we may be pretty sure that all endeavours to vindicate her character and her claims will, with such enemies, be no better than speaking to the winds. So it was with the leaders of this Puritanical movement the Prynnes and the Bastwicks, the Pyms and the Burtons, the Cromwells and the Cases, of these unhappy days. Vain was it to plead with such zealots the [283/284] Apostolical and Protestant principles of the Great Reformation--"principles," be it remembered, which "protested" equally against Puritanism as against Popery;--vain was it to remind them that our Reformers sought only for the Church as it was before Popery was known--or in other words to retain nothing either of doctrine, or of ritualism, or of ceremony, but what could be sanctioned by apostolical authority and the spirit of primitive usage; vain was it to demonstrate to them the entire harmony and identity which subsisted between the doctrines of the Reformed Church of England and the doctrines of the Gospel; or to press upon their attention the vast services done to the cause of apostolical truth, by the enlightened prelates and other friends of that Church, who by their lives and writings so abundantly exposed the fallacies and corruptions of Popery, and restored the Church to the integrity and rectitude of apostolical antiquity. All these arguments, forcibly and repeatedly as they were brought before the various grades of schismatics and revilers in these tempestuous days, were nevertheless unavailable to convince their minds or to mitigate their malice. The tide of Church destruction and rebellion rushed on with [284/285] rancorous impetuosity; and the adversary, assuming, by swelling and vociferous pretensions to godliness, the character of an angel of light, set at defiance all apostolical principles and usage, and turned the whole nation into a chaos of confusion, disorganizing the very elements of society, both religious and political.

There is, however, a debt of justice yet due to many of those who have nevertheless been associated with this infatuated class. Enmity to the Church, or sanguinary wishes of destruction and rebellion, can by no means be indiscriminately laid to the charge of every one who at first took part with the Puritans. Many there were among them, whose views and wishes were simply those of honest, virtuous, and peaceable reform in regard to certain irregularities and defects which had grown up in the Church; nor is it to be denied, that there might have been peculiar occasions in the practical working of the Church system, wherein certain modifications might, with great advantage, have been admitted, giving strength also and honour to her position and character; for as Bishop Sanderson wisely says, in his preface to the "Book of Common Prayer," "there never was any thing by the wit of man so well [285/286] devised, or so sure established, which, in continuance of time, hath not been corrupted."

From men of such reasonable minds and right feelings as these, the Church would have had nothing to fear; and little cause of difference or dissociation could there have been between them, and those more sanguine high-churchmen, whose right catholic affections and principles had led them to watch over the interests of the Reformed and Protestant Church of England. But the fanatics had now obtained the ascendant, and soon displayed so rebellious a spirit, that no man of sincere and apostolic piety could act with them. Those therefore who at first might have looked with some kind of favourable countenance on the movements of the Puritans, became alarmed at, and disgusted with, their sentiments, and soon returned with undiminished affection and duty to the bosom of the Church. So that the triumph of the Puritanical Faction was only a jumping from one extreme to another from the extreme of Popish tyranny and superstition, which the Church had just cast off, to that of another tyranny, only under another form. [Mr. Skinner, the grandfather of the present Primus of Scotland, somewhere remarks, that subter-stition is quite as bad as super-stition. The movement then was from the extreme of Popish tyranny and superstition, to that of Puritan tyranny and subter-stition.] The Puritans [286/287] saw not the vast beam in their own eyes, however furious they were in pulling out the mote from the eyes of others. In their hatred of Roman Popery they fell into Popery of another kind; i. e., into another kind of spiritual despotism. The Popery of the Romanist was, and still is, imperious and unconscionable over all who may belong to that Church. The Popery of the puritan being, in principle, the same, exercised the same spirit of rigour over its followers. Never was there a more persecuting, unsparing tyranny than the yoke of Puritanism.

Roman Popery, again, disfigured the simple, but solemn truths of the Gospel, as well as the constitution of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, by unqualified additions, superstitions, and idolatries. Puritanical Popery also distorted the Gospel by crude, unauthorized, uncatholic interpretations, thus falling short of the truth, as much as Roman Popery had exceeded it; whilst Puritanical Popery at the same time afflicted the Church by disorganizing her apostolical constitution, spoiling her ancient and [287/288] legitimate possessions, and suppressing her sacred ministrations.

It seems then undeniable, that catholic truth and genius were equally set at nought by both those aspiring but conflicting apostacies--and thus was England, and her now Reformed and purified Church, lacerated and distracted to the very heart's core by a rabid faction, assuming to itself the garb of "godliness," and laying waste without discrimination or charity every semblance of apostolical usage and truth.

We may however yet hope that her sufferings, especially such as visited her under the Great Rebellion, "have done somewhat of their sanctifying work" upon the Anglican Reformed Church. She still survives them all. The days of her vexation have at length been followed by those of brighter glory, and more expanding usefulness. The countenance of God now shines gloriously upon her--the "bright beams of His light are now cast upon her." [Collect for St. John's day.] And whilst we perceive that times of persecution and rebellion are often the chosen seasons, wherein the higher energies of human intellect and resolution are called out to [288/289] work and fight for God's truth, and wherein the arm of the Lord of Hosts is revealed in bringing out His own cause from the hands of destroyers and gainsayers, so shall we also perceive that that mighty consequence has been fully realized by the inflictions which the Puritanical Faction had so unsparingly heaped upon the Church.

After a few years duration, that desolating tyranny subsided by the restoration of both Church and Monarchy to their legitimate position. When Cromwell died, the ascendancy, though not the spirit, of Puritanism was at an end. The jealousies, envyings, and discordances among its various ranks and subdivisions, together with the many social and political distractions it had awakened in the nation, soon led the way to its fall. Many who had once joined the sectarian party, had long seen the fallacy, as well as the wickedness, of their measures, and were consequently glad when the opportunity came for declaring their repentance and returning to their allegiance both to Church and King. Others, (and this was rather a numerous class,) who had clung to the fortunes of the legitimate Monarch, and the established Church, yet with but questionable affection for religion as an inward and [289/290] serious principle, were eager to give public demonstration of their disgust at the excesses and hypocrisies of Puritanism. This party unhappily produced another reaction in the nation--a reaction from the gloomy austerities and frenzies which had for so many years prevailed, to an idle negligence and heartless formalism in the religious character of the people. Not that there was any falling off in the efficiency and character of the bishops and ministers of the Church--no age since the Reformation having ever produced more able, pious, enlightened Divines than that to which we are now alluding. "There were giants in the church in those days,"--witness Bull, Bramhall, Laud, Taylor, Hall, Hammond, Ussher, Chillingworth, and a host of others. Nevertheless there was a marked change in the religious character of the people; and although the moral evils arising from it were great, yet was it also unaccompanied with much good.

The Church was again unfettered, and free now to exercise her edifying and sacred ministrations over the nation. Her rightful position was restored--and the principle also of restoring to the clergy the various rights of which they had previously, and so sacrilegiously, been deprived, was, [290/291] at least, recognised by the State, although many instances did occur wherein that principle was scandalously overlooked and violated. So that, in fact, "the sufferings of the Anglican Reformed Church, and her Clergy," did not altogether cease when the reign of Puritanism ceased.

Secret plottings, zealous strivings, pertinacious contentions, were from time to time carried on on the part of that now prostrate faction, (Calamy, Baxter, and Reynolds being the chief agitators,) with a view to the introduction of some of their own peculiar principles and predilections into the Constitution and Liturgy of the Church. Still did they require, out of regard to their tender consciences, that certain alterations should be made in the frame of church-government, in the manner and spirit of God's worship and established ceremonies. But their suggestions were for the most part of so whimsical a nature, so at variance with apostolical and primitive usage and with catholic truth, and so little calculated to secure the Church from further innovations and discrepancies, that fortunately through the sound wisdom and Christian firmness of the Bishops now restored to their proper jurisdiction and influence--they were not, except in some few instances, suffered to prevail.

[292] The Church, however, was still harassed and perplexed by these restless schismatics. Some few had perhaps no other than honest wishes to make her according to their notions, more spiritually pure and efficient; whilst many others of the faction showed so rebellious and trouble some a temper against the now restored Church, that it became necessary to restrain them by a special Act of Parliament. This act ordained, that those irregular Presbyterian, or Puritanical, ministers who, during the late troubles, had usurped the benefices of the loyal and legitimate clergy, should submit to episcopal ordination, or relinquish their preferments: again, that no one should receive any preferment in the Church until he had first of all declared his assent and consent to every thing in the "Book of Common Prayer:"--again, that under no pretence whatever should it be lawful to take up arms against the King: and lastly, that the "Covenant," which had become the test of allegiance during the Commonwealth, imposed no obligation upon any of the King's subjects, and was, in fact, in itself altogether unlawful.

The reasonableness of these clauses and enactments it seems hardly possible for any one to [292/293] dispute, except such wayward and designing persons as love not to be controuled by legitimate authority. Greatly did that untoward spirit yet prevail among the Puritans, and especially with that portion of them who had assumed the office of the ministry--so that it became imperative in the Government to require that within the space of three months--i.e., up to St. Bartholomew's day--every Presbyterian minister in possession of an usurped benefice should solemnly conform to this new Act of Parliament, or immediately relinquish his preferment.

It will not be surprising, that out of the five or six thousands of these intruders, many would make it a matter of easy conscience to conform, sooner than quit their possessions, however unrighteously acquired. The act however was implicitly enforced; and the number of conscientious ministers who resigned their livings did not exceed two thousand. [This is Collier's account, Church History, Vol. II., p. 889 Edition 1714; and see also Rapin, History of England, Vol. II., p. 632. But there is reason to believe from some of the Puritan writers themselves, that the number did not exceed one thousand six hundred.]

It may now be asked, what became of those three or four thousand of ejected loyal and [293/294] legitimate clergy, whose benefices were now retained by the conforming usurpers? Were not the rightful owners restored to their rightful possessions? Justice, it must be owned, does not seem to have been fully done in this matter, wherever the blame may lie. Several of the conforming usurpers were allowed to remain undisturbed. And while many of the loyal, unoffending, and orthodox clergy were thus left to seek their refuge elsewhere than their own legitimate abodes, the faction was still clamouring and murmuring at the severe persecution, as they called it, which drove the two thousand non-conforming usurpers from their usurpations!

It was some time after the Restoration, before these Puritanical agitations could be subdued. Movements and jealousies still continued, and there was no room for the vigilance of either Church or State to relax. The Papists, as well as the Puritans, began to assume an air of hope that their faction also would again revive, which made it necessary that stringent measures and wholesome precautions should again be put into action for the proper preservation of things in their legitimate position. The non-conforming, but now ejected usurpers before-mentioned, were looked upon with much suspicion; and as they [294/295] had many frantic and fanatic coadjutors, it was feared they might be urged on to formidable measures. It became requisite, therefore, to deal very watchfully and even rigorously with them. An oath was consequently prepared for, and exacted from them, binding them to a loyal fidelity to the king, and to a strict abstinence from fomenting any disorganization or disruption of the government of the Church; and to show the suspicious light in which these fanatics were still held by the government, and the resoluteness with which it became necessary to deal with them, it was declared that no one of the non-conforming usurpers should come within five miles of any town, or of the church, which they had formerly been accustomed to serve, until they had solemnly taken this oath.

By all these proceedings, harsh as they may seem, but not superfluous, we may judge of the obstinate and pertinacious spirit which still clung to these factious enemies of the Church. If they felt aggrieved or rigorously treated, the blame lay at their own door.

. . . . "O Sir, to wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure,
Must be their schoolmasters." KING LEAR.

[296] Their own wild and unmitigated fanaticism brought on all their troubles; to say nothing of the deep and wide-spreading calamities which were generated by them throughout the whole nation. "Zealous superstition" (says the contemplative Charles, in his Eikon Basilike) [Chapters IX. and XVII.] "thinks it cannot do God and the Church a greater service, than utterly to destroy that primitive, apostolical, and anciently universal government of the Church by Bishops;" for "it is most sure, that the purest, primitive, and best churches flourished under episcopacy; and may so still, if ignorance, superstition, avarice, and other disorderly passions, had not so blown up some men's minds against it, that what they want of reasons or primitive patterns, they supply with violence and oppression."

The Martyr Monarch, whatever may have been the errors of his political, or the imperfections of his personal, conduct, was far from deficient in his views of the nature and importance of the Church. In this respect his theology was sound and apostolical: he knew that episcopacy, however it might be scorned by ignorant and intemperate [296/297] fanatics, was of divine origin, and being so, must be, if not the only true mode of sustaining the religion of the Gospel in a Christian nation, at least, the mode most pleasing in the sight of God, and most sure of His protection. Charles, unhappily, wanted not experience to tell him, how it had come to pass, that episcopacy had been so completely dislodged in his own kingdom--too bitter and lasting was the experience which had made him acquainted with that afflicting fact. Too much had he seen of that "ignorance, superstition, avarice, and other disorderly passions" among his people, which had "blown up their minds" against the legitimate constitution of the Church, and had led them to "supply violence and oppression" where they could not find sound "reasons or primitive patterns" to sanction their destructive and sacrilegious doings.

The history, however, of the Church, on her restoration with the monarchy in the time of Charles II., would show us a very different picture. But this would be beyond the purpose of the present work. Nothing further has been aimed at, but to give a general view of the sufferings and condition of the Anglican Church and her clergy, during the times of the Great Rebellion, [297/298] when religious anarchy and fierce fanaticism were in the ascendant and to give it as an admonitory lesson both to those, on the one hand, who would forget the via-medial, and in regard to certain Papistical errors, the Protestant spirit also, of the Anglo-Catholic Church, and to those on the other, who, are too much disposed to "listen with credulity to the whispers" of puritanism. Let such wayward and visionary minds study with serious attention the history of the Great Rebellion; and let them also remember, to what melancholy aberrations those persons expose themselves, who forsake the maternal teaching and guidance of the Reformed and protestant Church of England, and flatter themselves with the notion of attaining, by schism and dissent, to a purer state of holiness and worship, or a better state of Gospel knowledge, than what she, if duly obeyed and listened to, would impart to them.

Warnings, however, to some arrogant and ambitious spirits, are useless. Puritanism, in its manifold ramifications, still lingers amongst us; whilst the Church herself, the object of the daily jealousy and hatred of its votaries, is at length, through the working of the great and blessed [298/299] Reformation, fully purified from that Papistical alloy which, for so many previous centuries, had oppressed and disfigured her--the Church has, by God's blessing, at length regained her primitive and apostolical footing in the nation, and by the same blessing, is daily extending her mighty influence and interests into every quarter of the habitable globe.

"Blest country, where these heavenly glories shine!
Blest England, if this happiness be thine!" COWPER.

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