The Anglican and Puritan positions--The Apparel controversy--Attack on the constitution of the Church--The two Admonitions to Parliament--Whitgift and Cartwright--The Mar-prelate Tracts--Bilson's Perpetual Government of the Church--Hooker--Calvinism in the Church of England--Whitaker and Baron--The decay of Calvinism--Broughton and Bilson on the Descent into Hell--Davenant.
THE Church of England, so far as regards its constitution, organization, and external framework, came out of the great struggle of the reigns of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. substantially unchanged, save only in one particular,--the repudiation of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. The historical continuity of the Church was untouched and inviolate. Its form of government, its maintenance of the historical episcopate, its conciliar assemblies were maintained. It presented indeed a unique figure among the reformed churches of Europe.
When England began to adjust herself after the struggle there immediately were manifested among English churchmen two well-marked and divergent tendencies; and as time went on the distinction and divergence became more noticeable. These tendencies we may, for convenience, designate the Anglican and the Puritan tendencies. The first of these showed itself in a general disposition conservative of existing order, doctrine, and usage, except where they manifestly appeared to be abuses of the apostolic teaching and primitive practice. The second showed itself in a desire for an entire reconstruction from the very foundation of the Church's faith, order, and discipline. The typical Puritan took up the Bible as if, like the image that fell down from Jupiter, it had suddenly dropped from the sky; and as if he were called upon, then and there, to construct from it a new religion and a new scheme of life. He set himself, as if he were the firstborn on the earth and none had lived before him, to discover in its pages a body of doctrine, a system of Church government, a rule of divine worship, a rule of conduct. The typical Anglican believed that Christ had founded a living Church, guided by His Spirit, and that that Church, however much enfeebled by error and corruption, had lived through the ages. The garden enclosed, which was committed to his care, had indeed been overgrown by noxious weeds that choked the good seeds of God's planting. But the necessary weeding he sought to accomplish with care and discrimination. ["I make no doubt," wrote Bramhall (Works, i. 113, A. C. L.), "that the Church of England before the Reformation and the Church of England after the Reformation are as much the same Church, as a garden before it is weeded and after it is weeded is the same garden."] The Puritan uprooted his whole inheritance, passed the ploughshare through it, and sought to begin afresh. It seemed a plan at once simple and thorough. A hundred difficulties on the other hand beset the Anglican reformers; and it may be acknowledged that the work was accomplished with results not wholly satisfactory. Who will venture to say that some wholesome plants that in after-time might have borne good fruit were not over-hastily dragged up; and who will venture to say that at the time no obscure evil weeds escaped notice, which have since gone to seed and spread? But, estimated as a whole, the results of the conservative, as opposed to the revolutionary methods of ecclesiastical reform have justified themselves. The growth of the Anglican Communion; its inherent and strong vitality, and its remarkable power of adaptation to a varied habitat and varied surroundings; its constant touch with what is practical; its large measure of intellectual freedom; its moderation and broad sanity of judgment; its manifold appeals to all sorts and conditions of men, gentle and simple, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, cultured and homely; these are facts which cannot be set aside, and which now justify the actual solution of the problem so perplexing even to wise men in the middle of the sixteenth century.
In order of time it was on a matter in itself of comparative unimportance--the Church's regulations as to clerical apparel--that there first appeared the essential difference between the two parties. But trivial as was the occasion of the controversy, it involved a grave question of principle. Did a national Church possess the right to determine rites, ceremonies, costume, and the externals of divine worship--things acknowledged to be in themselves indifferent? The wisdom of enforcing the use of the corner-cap, the surplice, or the sign of the cross in baptism does not here concern us. But the individual member of the Church who rejects these because they are not enjoined in Holy Scripture has wholly failed to grasp the nature of the Church of Christ as a divinely appointed society.
It need hardly be said that many of the abler men among the anti-vesturists did not attempt to justify their action on grounds so futile. They based their refusal to comply with the ordinances promulgated by authority on the moral 'obligation that attaches to what is expedient. They were so strongly convinced of the evil that would grow out of the retention of apparel associated in the popular mind with Romish superstition that they declined to obey. These private persons, some of them good and able men, set their judgment against that of those in authority. They were examples of a spirit that is impatient of the restraint of authority and would fain be a law unto itself. Illustrations of a similar temper in a quarter commonly placed at the very opposite pole to Puritanism have not been unknown among the English clergy in our own day. [The sagacious Archbishop Parker, writing to the Lord Treasurer, probably represents the view of the wiser of the Anglicans: "Does your Lordship think that I care either for cap, tippet, surplice, or wafer-bread, or any such? But for the laws so established I esteem them." Strype's Parker, iii. 332.]
The controversy as to clerical apparel was followed by a daring attack upon the episcopal constitution of the Church. Many of the Marian exiles had been fascinated by the simplicity and supposed scripturalness of the Genevan model of Church government. That the bishops, though often against their inclinations, were the instruments for enforcing the laws as to ritual conformity, helped to accentuate the growing dislike to the hierarchy. In 1572 there issued from the press the first important manifesto of the Puritan party. It was the outcome of private conferences among the leaders, held in London, where nonconformity was rife; and its drift is expressed in its full title, which runs as follows:--An admonition to the Parliament. A view of popish abuses yet remaining in the English Church, for the which godly ministers have refused to subscribe. The immediate cause of its publication was the Act, passed in the Parliament of the preceding year, enforcing subscription to the Articles of Religion. The writers declared that hitherto they had borne with that in the Book of Common Prayer which they could not amend, and had used it "so far forth as they might"; but now they were called upon to declare that it was "not against the word of God in any point." This they could not do, for they believed that "some and many of the contents therein be such as are against the word of God." It was a book, they said, "culled and picked out of the popish dunghill, the portuise and mass-book full of all abominations." The "pontifical," or ordinal, they treat in a similar style. "As safely may we, by the warrant of God's word, subscribe to allow the dominion of the Pope universally to rule over the word of God, as of an archbishop over a whole province, or of a lord bishop over a diocese which containeth many shires and parishes." The government of the English hierarchy is briefly described as "anti-christian and devilish, and contrary to the Scriptures." They make comparatively light of the question of apparel (though they maintain that "there is neither order, nor comeliness, nor obedience in using it"), and declare that the "great matters" are concerning "the regiment and government of the Church according to the word." This was shortly after followed up by "A Second Admonition" in which the bishops are described as "no other than a remnant of Antichrist's brood." [The Second Admonition is generally regarded as Cartwright's work.] The first Admonition rapidly passed through four editions. John Whitgift (1530-1604), then Dean of Lincoln, who had held various high offices in the colleges and in the University of Cambridge, was called on to reply to it; and there soon (1572) appeared An answer to a certain libel, intitled an Admonition to the Parliament. [Master of Pembroke, Master of Trinity, Lady Margaret Professor, Regius Professor of Divinity, Vice-Chancellor.]
Thomas Cartwright (? 1535-1603) was by far the ablest exponent of the Puritan principles. He had been a Fellow of St. John's, and Lady Margaret Professor, at Cambridge. He was a man of learning as well as of zeal; and his admirable English style was well fitted to add to the favour with which his writings were received. He issued a Reply (1573) to Whitgift, who rejoined in a Defence of the Answer (1574). The controversy brought out distinctly the absolute irreconcilableness of Puritanism with Anglican principles.
The overshadowing greatness of Hooker, dealing with the same subject, has in later times obscured the considerable merits of Whitgift. He deals with his opponent in the old and elaborate method of taking up paragraph by paragraph. In the discussion of the detailed objections to the Book of Common Prayer he is often happy, and is particularly effective when he refutes Cartwright out of the writings of Calvin, Zwingle, Beza, Bucer, and Peter Martyr. But what seems now of most interest to observe is that in the principles which guide his comment Whitgift is quite at one with Hooker. He asserts "the authority of the Church in things indifferent," and, like Hooker, he is content, as regards Episcopacy, to deny that Scripture "doth set down any certain form and kind of government of the Church to be perpetual for all times and places without alteration." [Works (P. S.), i. 191.] "In matter of order, ceremonies, and government it is sufficient if they be not repugnant to Scripture." [Ibid. 239.] Indeed, we know that Hooker availed himself of the judgment of Whitgift before the publication of his great work. [See Keble's Preface to Hooker's Works.] And he acknowledges that the errors with which he dealt had "received their first wound" from the hand of Whitgift. [E. P., dedication of Book V.] But between these two vindications of Anglicanism there is the difference that separates a work of industry and good sense, written for a special occasion, from an outcome of genius and philosophic insight, wide in its reach and general in its application. As Archbishop of Canterbury, Whitgift came afterwards to play an important part in the Church's history; but as a contributor to the theological literature of England he cannot be assigned a high place.
The Martin Mar-prelate tracts are curiosities in an obscure by-path of literature; but their low and scurrilous buffoonery makes no claim upon one here. The ablest of the Puritan leaders avowed, no doubt with perfect truth, their "mislike and sorrow" at such vile productions. But, nevertheless, there can be no question that among the unthinking crowd, which in every age heartily enjoys abusive assaults upon the constituted authorities', these ribald libels fostered prejudices and inflamed passions that were not easily allayed. Serious writers could not deal effectively with such productions; [The attempt was made by T. C. (Thomas Cooper, Bishop of Winchester) in his Admonition to the People of England (1589), which may be found in Mr. Arber's Reprints.] but a wit superior in caustic raillery to any of the Mar-prelate scribblers appeared in the person of Thomas Nash, who replied in like kind. At length the scandal of the embittered strife grew to such a height that it was found advisable to close the controversy by an order of the authorities for the seizure and suppression of the pamphlets on both sides. [Much valuable bibliographical information will be found in Mr. Arber's Introductory sketch to the Martin Mar-prelate Controversy. See also the earlier work of Mr. Maskell, History of the Martin Mar-prelate Controversy, 1843.]
Thomas Bilson has already come under our notice in connection with the Roman controversy. The controversy with Puritanism drew from him a contribution to our theological literature of the highest value, the work entitled The perpetual government of Christ's Church (1593). [It appeared again in 1610, and a Latin translation was published in 1611. The latter contained some additions, which have been reproduced by Rev. Robert Eden in his edition of 1842, Oxford.] In this treatise the claims to scriptural and patristic authority for the institution of "ruling," as distinguished from "teaching," elders (a central and essential element of the "Genevan platform") are completely pulverized. The whole figment of the Presbyterian theory of Church government is mercilessly exposed, and the apostolic origin of episcopacy in the sense of a permanent pre-eminence of a single ruler over a body of presbyters is established on historical grounds. This work is well fitted to raise in the mind of the careful student not only a conviction of the apostolic origin of episcopacy as a historical fact, but also a strong presumption against the lawfulness of the competing system. The analogies drawn from "the fatherly superiority" of the patriarchal system, and the gradations of the ministry in the Mosaic law are dwelt upon; but, of course, the main stress of Bilson's argument proceeds on the grounds of the New Testament history and the unanimous testimony of the ancient Church. Mr. Keble certainly does Bilson's treatise no more than justice, when he describes it as "full of good learning and sound argument, regularly arranged and clearly expressed." [Hooker's Works: Preface, p. lxix.] It is indeed on the subject discussed a recognized authority, not less valuable to-day than when it was penned. [Eden's excellent edition has one grave defect--it lacks an index.]
The commanding eminence of Hooker (1554-1600), and his place as an acknowledged classic of the first rank in English theology, have made an acquaintance with his works sufficiently wide-spread to spare us the task of attempting here a detailed account of his writings. He is known beyond the circle of students of theology. His English style has given him a high place in general literature. The stately dignity of its movement, the depth and richness of its musical diapason, its variety and flexibility, its rhythmical grace, and its occasional flights of lofty eloquence have secured him a place of permanent honour among the greatest masters of the English tongue. [See a discriminating judgment on Hooker's style in Dean Church's introduction to Book I. of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, edited for the Clarendon Press.] And style, let us remember, is the outcome of the man. It is no artificial bedizenment of thought. It is thought making for itself a body fitted to its needs. It is a vital and intimate union of the immaterial and the material. And apart from the apt conveyance of thought and emotion, it is precious because it reveals to us the thinker himself. Who can rise from the study of Hooker without a sense of a greatness that lies beyond and above such qualities as acuteness of perception, or intellectual force, or imaginative fertility, or learning, or argumentative power? All these are there; but there is something more. We are conscious of a moral majesty that humbles us. We feel the quickened beat of the writer's heart as he treats of the revelation of the wisdom and goodness of the Eternal Giver of life and law. We are sensible of the wide, capacious, all-encircling atmosphere of awe and wonder in which the great thinker lives and moves; and our admiration passes into reverence.
The strange levity which mars by its incongruity some of the most solemn utterances of his great contemporary, Lancelot Andrewes, is unknown to the writings of Hooker. That he was not without a sense of humour is plain enough. To be without it is a serious defect in any man. He knows, too, and employs, as occasion demands, the weapon of a lofty irony; but its use is comparatively rare, and never untimely. Nothing jars us in his sarcasm. Rarely, if ever, does Hooker offend against the spirit of his own golden sentence--"There will come a time when three words uttered with charity and meekness shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit." This is the more remarkable in an age when in controversy not merely the courtesies, but even the common decencies of life were too often forgotten.
The Ecclesiastical Polity has been described as "a monument of real learning in profane as well as theological antiquity." [Hallam's Literature of Europe, ii. 42 (sixth edition).] And, we may add, it is learning which, in an age when there were many temptations to display, is without the slightest taint of pedantry. But abounding, as it is, in learning, it is not its learning that gives the Ecclesiastical Polity its pre-eminent distinction. It is to his masterly grasp of fundamental principles that Hooker owes his abiding influence. From the controversy forced upon him by Walter Travers, his able colleague and rival in the pulpit of the Temple Church, Hooker retired to investigate, and to sound to their lowest depths the great principles involved. The dispute in which he was engaged led him straight to the inquiry into the true basis of law, natural and supernatural, human and divine, its just extent and limitations, its relevancy in various cases, its sanctions. It is probable that the duties required by his office in London were felt to interfere with the quiet demanded for patient research. At any rate, he exchanged the Mastership of the Temple for the obscure country benefice of Boscombe, near Salisbury; and there after some four years he completed the first four of the eight Books which he had planned to form his great work. It would seem that not less than some six years altogether were devoted to the preparation of this first instalment (1593 or 1594) of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. After some four more years the Fifth Book appeared (1597). By the time of his death, at the comparatively early age of forty-seven, the three remaining Books were probably completed. [The literary questions as to the integrity of the three last Books are discussed in Keble's Preface. It is all but certain that the Sixth Book was seriously tampered with by ecclesiastical opponents into whose hands the manuscript had fallen.]
In Hooker we have a man of speculative and philosophic genius dealing with problems of thought that possess perennial interest for the human mind. The elaborately detailed defence of the constitution and liturgical forms of the English Church is based upon broad foundations laid with singular care and thoroughness. Notably the First Book, but also to a large extent the Second and the Third, are concerned with the fundamental principles that lie at the bases of all polities, whether civil or ecclesiastical. To those who have freshly emerged from the controversies of preceding writers the discussion of these elemental truths may seem remote from the business in hand. The controversialist who is eager to score points, and loves the rapid give and take of hand-to-hand encounter, will be very impatient of the deliberate movement by which Hooker secures his strategic position. But Hooker rightly divined that the establishment of first principles was essential to his purpose; and he laboured at his task with a largeness of knowledge and comprehensiveness of judgment that fill one with astonishment and admiration.
In the subsequent treatment of details we find, with rare exceptions, the same breadth of mind, conjoined with a candour and sense of equity, which makes Hooker a model to all controversialists. He would have been more than human if he were not now and then betrayed into what seems to us the faults of the partisan in attempting to defend real deficiencies and errors in then existing ordinances of the Church. [See S. T. Coleridge, Notes on English Divines, i. 21; and Bishop Barry's remarks in Masters in English Theology, p. 19.]
A singular and marked characteristic of Hooker is his ready openness to truth from whatever quarter it might present itself. All through his writings we recognize the underlying conviction that God reveals Himself in many ways, and that it is only after weighing the whole mass of varied testimony we may take upon us to pronounce judgment. The natural intelligence and reason of man has its say, and conscience, and Holy Scripture, and human authority, whether expressing itself in the dicta of Greek philosophers, or of Fathers of the Church, or of mediaeval Schoolmen. He is ready to hear these many voices, to test, to judge every contribution of evidence. And he would give to every element its due weight and value. Human authority he respects, but he is not servile in his submission to its utterances. What a man says is of more interest to him than who says it. He never allows his judgment to be bullied by great names. After all has been said, he declares, "wise men are men, and the truth is truth." He is in the good sense of the phrase "a rational theologian." Human reason duly informed is the court of ultimate appeal. It is no infallible judge. It is oftentimes a judge perplexed and doubtful. But, after all, it is the best we can resort to.
It is from this steady resolve to assume nothing, to listen patiently to evidence of every kind and from every quarter, to test it, to weigh it and estimate its value, and, only after all this has been done, to sum it up and pronounce his decision, that the epithet "judicious," in its old English meaning of "judicial," is so aptly applied to Richard Hooker.
The Puritan thesis that Holy Scripture is the sole guide for man in the religious sphere was from the first an impracticable position; and it has long been tacitly abandoned. The ritual of Protestant nonconformists will not stand the test; at no time could it stand it; and practices formerly denounced as "unscriptural" are now being adopted with rapidity in every direction around us.
On another important question that occupied Hooker's attention, the question of Church government, there has also been a vast change of opinion and sentiment. As to the lay or ruling eldership of the Genevan "platform," there is to-day probably no competent scholar anywhere who will venture to assert that it is of apostolic origin, or jure divino, in the sense of being of direct divine institution. In truth nothing in history is more certain than that the "ruling eldership" is a mere figment devised for the first time in the sixteenth century. As Hooker himself truly observed, "a very strange thing sure it were that such a discipline as ye speak of should be taught by Christ and His apostles in the word of God, and no Church ever have found it out, nor received it till this present time." While on the other hand recent investigations into early Church history, conducted in a severely scientific spirit, have all gone directly to establish the truth of what we now know to be the strictly accurate historical statement of our Ordinal, "that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of ministers in Christ's Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons."
For the purpose he had in hand Hooker was content at first to maintain that in the matter of Church polity, as in the matter of ceremonial and ritual, the living Church possessed the right of determining its form. He was arguing against the jure divino claim of Presbyterianism; and it sufficiently served his end to maintain that even if the Presbyterian "platform" were of apostolic origin, it was not on that account necessarily immutable, or best suited to the Church in all places and at all times. And this position of Hooker's is the more remarkable when we find him declaring--"If we did seek to maintain that which most advantageth our own cause, the very best way for us, and the strongest against them [Presbyterians], were to hold even as they do, that in Scripture there must needs be found some particular form of Church polity, which God hath instituted, and which for that very cause belongeth to all Churches and to all times." "But," he adds, "with such partial eye to respect ourselves, and by cunning to make those things seem the truest which are the fittest to serve our purpose, is a thing which we neither like nor mean to follow." (E. P. III. x. 8.) But, as has been pointed out, Hooker's further investigations led him to speak more plainly, though in no way departing from his view of the theoretical mutability of the form of the Church's government. [See Bishop Barry in Masters of English Theology, p. 50.] "Let us not fear to be herein bold and peremptory, that if anything in the Church's government, surely the first institution of bishops was from heaven, was even of God, the Holy Ghost was the author of it." (E. P. VII. v. 10.)
Readers of Hooker are often taken with surprise and delight at the pregnant utterances, or the penetrating and illuminative declarations that are met with unexpectedly from time to time in the course of the main argument. Thus some will recall the wonderful passage on the relation of the divine prescience to the freedom of the human will. In the First Book we again and again meet anticipations of the ethics of Butler. No earlier English writer has so vividly exhibited sin as a violation of nature, or dwelt more effectively on the relation of conscience to human conduct. Theologians have constantly viewed with admiration those chapters of the Fifth Book which treat with singular dignity, and with such lucidity of thought as was possible on such a subject, the great central mystery of Christianity, the union of the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. Again, Hooker's teaching of the value and acceptable-ness of prayer considered as "a presentation of mere desires" will come as a help to some in our own day perplexed by the relation of prayer to the physical laws of nature. (E. P. V. xlviii.) And nowhere can be discovered a more beautiful and touching expression of the profoundest humility, united with sure confidence in God, than is to be found in the Sermon, Of the certainty and perpetuity of faith in the elect. It is seldom that argumentative treatises, where effect must be judged by its whole presentment of truth, abound so richly in brilliant gems of thought easily detachable.
Our brief and very imperfect estimate of Hooker may be fitly brought to a close in the eloquent words of a critic who was not himself a member of the Anglican communion. "If," says the late Principal Tulloch, "the Church of England had never produced any other writer of the same stamp, it might yet have boasted in Hooker one of the noblest and most rational intellects which ever enriched Christian literature, or adorned a great cause. In combination of speculative, literary, imaginative, and spiritual qualities the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity stands as a polemical treatise unrivalled. . . . Nowhere in the literature of philosophy has ethical and political speculation essayed a profounder and more comprehensive task, or sought to take a broader sweep; and never has the harmony of the moral universe, and the interdependence and unity of man's spiritual and civil life, in their multiplied relations, been more finely conceived or more impressively expounded." [See the whole passage in Rational Theology in England in the Seventeenth Century (2nd edit.), i. 52, sq.]
The influence of Calvin and the Swiss school was powerful in England not only in affecting speculation on the constitution of the Church but also, and even more noticeably in all but completely dominating theological belief on the character of God's election, and predestination, and the other allied subjects. By the middle of the seventeenth century the body of doctrines commonly known as "Calvinism" came to be associated almost exclusively with Presbyterian and other sectaries. But in the earlier period, more particularly towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, Calvinism was all but universal among the clergy of the Church of England. "It may be confidently affirmed," writes one of the most accurate of historical inquirers, "that during an interval of nearly thirty years the more extreme opinions of the school of Calvin, not excluding his theory of irrespective reprobation, were predominant in almost every town and parish." [Archdeacon Hardwick, in his History of the Articles (2nd edit.), p. 167.] Able men at the seats of learning gave their support to the high Calvinian views. Most notable among these was William Whitaker (1547-1595), who for a time held the office of Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. His reputation as a writer in the controversy with Rome had spread far beyond the bounds of England. Cardinal Bellarmine spoke of him as "the most learned heretic he had ever read," and thought fit to place his portrait in his library. Stapleton, Sanders, Campian, and the Seminarists knew him as a most formidable opponent. [His work, Ad rationes decem Edmundi Campiani . . . Responsio (1581), quickly ran through three editions, and appeared in an English version in 1606. Another important work of his is, Disputatio de Sacra Scriptura (directed chiefly against Bellarmine), 1588. See Parker Society's edition of Whitaker's Disputation.] The esteem in which his high character was held added to the influence he had acquired by his learning. Bishop Hall, of Norwich, writes with affectionate warmth of his memory--"What clearness of judgment, what sweetness of style, what gravity of person was in that man! Who ever saw him without reverence, or heard him without wonder?" [One of the most charming of Hall's poems is his "Elegy on Dr. Whitaker." See Works, xii. 323.]
It is not to be wondered at that under the influence of this eminent man Calvinism was rife in Cambridge. But it met a check at the hand of another member of the Cambridge faculty of theology, Peter Baron (Baro), the Margaret Professor. And it is interesting to observe that if France, through Calvin, had so largely affected English theology, it was France, in the person of Baron, which was here among the first to bring about the discredit of the Calvinistic system. And "exactly as a generation of students, moulded by his teaching, had been gradually replacing the admirers of Calvin and Bullinger, the Institutio, the Decades, and a host of similar text-books were exchanged for volumes of the Fathers and occasionally of the Schoolmen." The academic disputes and the troubles which followed do not come within our scope. But it may be noticed that it was, without doubt, largely due to the commanding influence of Whitaker that the Lambeth Articles were framed, and accepted by Archbishop Whit-gift and several of his episcopal brethren. Indeed some of the most vigorous opponents of the nonconformists in ritual were among the warmest supporters of the extremes of Calvinistic doctrine. These discredited Articles, we may observe in passing, now serve the useful purpose of showing us that our XXXIX. Articles, which have been often, because of their Augustinian colouring, spoken of as teaching Calvinistic doctrine, were regarded as altogether unsatisfactory and insufficient by those who had really adopted Calvin's opinions.
The new school of thought, represented by Overall and Andrewes at Cambridge, gradually extended its influence. And it is one of the curious phenomena in the history of doctrine that without any authoritative pronouncement on the subject, or the production of any really great controversial treatise, there was in course of time a general shifting of opinion, till Calvinism ceased to be a considerable power within the bounds of the Church of England, and so continued till, in a very much modified form, it was partially and temporarily resuscitated by the "Evangelical movement" in more recent times. In the later years of Elizabeth the battlemented stronghold of Calvinism towered aloft and dominated the Church. It was supported by those in highest station. It seemed to stand secure. The fire of no heavy theological artillery was directed against it. It was assaulted by no great leader of thought, and its position seemed to call for no active defence. Yet gradually, one knows not how, its strength was sapped; and in time it came to be like a great frowning fortress silently abandoned. Its compacted stones were loosened, as it were, by wind and weather, and before fifty years it had become, as a power in the theological thought of the Church of England, no better than a crumbling ruin.
In the reign of James, at the very time when the King's deputation of English divines to the Synod of Dort (1618) might have seemed to give countenance to the Calvinists, there were plain indications of the approaching change. The English deputies firmly asserted "the universality of Christ's redemption," differing here (as also in the "ministerial parity" theory) from the majority of the Synod. The succeeding "Quinquarticular controversy" in England was no more than a series of sharp skirmishes in no way decisive, and leaving behind it little or nothing of permanent value as the literary result.
Though we may be tempted now to smile at the restriction, there seems to have been much sagacity in the King's policy as manifested in his "Directions concerning preachers" (1622), in which it was enjoined "that no preacher . . . under the degree of a bishop, or dean at the least, do henceforth presume to preach in any popular auditory the deep points of predestination, election, reprobation, or the universality, efficacy, resistibility or irresistibility of God's grace." A relic of a later stage of the contention we still possess in "His Majesty's Declaration" (1628) prefixed to the XXXIX. Articles. When young men are protected from publicly committing themselves to some particular side in controversy they have time to think and examine; and this paternal tyranny of James and his son was in actual fact not unwholesome.
But though we must here be content to pass over the unimportant literature bearing on "the Five Points," it is worthy of record that at the close of the sixteenth century one particular Calvinistic thesis, which had figured largely not only in learned treatises, but in the current popular teaching, was successfully assailed and destroyed. This was the notion that our Lord had in His passion in the Garden and on Calvary suffered "the death of the soul," including all the agonies of rejection and malediction felt by damned souls in hell, and that this was the sense to be attached to the article of the Creed, "He descended into Hell." Hugh Broughton, who had been a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, and enjoyed a great reputation as a learned Hebraist and Rabbinical scholar, was among the earliest to perceive the baseless character of Calvin's assertion. In 1597 Bishop Bilson, whose name has already come before us in other connections, dealt with the question in two sermons preached at Paul's Cross. These caused much discussion, and were publicly replied to by another preacher before a similar auditory at the same place. Whereupon Bilson set himself to a thorough investigation of the matters in dispute. While engaged on his labours, Broughton's Explication of the Article concerning the descent into Hades (1599) appeared; and it was not till five years later (1604) that Bilson published his great folio, The survey of Christ's sufferings for man's redemption; and of His descent to Hades or Hell for our deliverance. The exegesis both of Scripture and patristic authorities seem to me in many cases incorrect, and still more frequently highly questionable. But nevertheless his main thesis in opposition to Calvin is sufficiently established, and the work remains a vast magazine of erudition on the mysterious questions connected with the state of the soul after its departure from this life.
The Calvinistic tradition on the predestinarian controversy is represented in the seventeenth century by the solid learning of John Davenant (1576-1641), Lady Margaret Professor, President of Queen's College, Cambridge, and afterwards Bishop of Salisbury. His Expositio Epistolæ D. Pauli ad Colossenses (1627) went through several editions; and his Disputatio de Justitia habituali et actuali (1631) is claimed by Bishop Bull, in support of his own teaching on the relation of good works to justification, as lucidly setting forth the sound and orthodox doctrine of the Church of England. [Harmonia Apostolica, Dissert. Posterior, xviii. 10.