Page images


no force or effect, having no ground in Scripture; and forasmuch as the bishops' Ordinal and the New Testament do nothing at all agree; neither do we see that the Holy Ghost doth give any good gift by any such signs or ceremonies, because that he, with all noble and good gifts, cannot consist and be in any person of deadly sin. It is, therefore, lamentable and dolorous mockery to wise men, to see the bishops mock and play with the Holy Ghost, in giving their orders: their character is the mark of antichrist, brought into holy church, to cloak and cover their idleness. That a king and a bishop both in one person, a prelate and a justice in temporal causes, a curate and an officer in worldly office, puts every kingdom out of good order, Therefore we, the procurators of God in this case, do sue unto the parliament, that it may be enacted, that all such as be of the clergy, as well of the highest degree as the lowest, should be fully excused, and occupy themselves with their own cure and charge, and not with others." In conclusion they add: "Wherefore we earnestly desire and beseech God for his goodness sake, that he will wholly reform our church, now altogether out of frame, unto the perfection of her first beginning and original." Vol. I. p. 99.

Scarcely less bold are the declarations of the Reformers of the reign of Henry VIII., as contained in the Bishop's Book,

It is out of all doubt, that there is no mention made in Scripture or in the writings of any authentic doctor of the church within the time of the apostles, that Christ did ever make or institute any distinction or difference in the pre-eminence of power, order, or jurisdiction among the apostles themselves, or among bishops them selves; but that they were all equal in power, order, authority, and jurisdiction. That there is now, and since the time of the apostles, any such diversity or difference among the bishops, it was devised by the ancient fathers, for the conservation of good order and unity of the catholic church; and by the consent and authority, or at least by the permission and sufferance of princes and civil powers.

"We think it convenient, that all bishops and preachers shall instruct and teach the people committed to their spiritual charge; that Christ did by express words prohibit his apostles and all their successors, under pretence of authority given them by Christ, from taking upon them the authority of the sword: that is to say, the authority of kings, or any civil power in this world. For the kingdom of Christ in his church is a spiritual, and not a carnal kingdom of the world. The very kingdom that Christ by himself, or by his apostles and disciples sought here in this world; was to bring all nations from the carnal kingdom of the prince of darkness, to the light of his spiritual kingdom; and so himself to reign in the hearts of the people, by grace, faith, hope, and charity. Therefore Christ did never seek nor exercise any worldly dominion in this world; but rather refusing and fleeing from it, did leave the said worldly government of kingdoms, realms, and nations to princes and potentates, and commanded also his apostles and disciples to do the same. What, soever priest or bishop will arrogate or presume to take upon him any such authority, and will pretend the authority of the Gospel fo

his defence, he crowneth Christ again with a crown of thorns, and traduceth and bringeth him forth, with his purple robe, to be mocked and scorned by the world."' Vol. I. pp. 135, 6.

The Bishop's Book was subscribed by the two archbishops, nineteen bishops, and a great number of other dignitaries. Although the above passage may be considered as a protestation against the assumption of civil power by the clergy, rather than an explicit disavowal of such power as illegitimate and antichristian even when derived from the Crown, yet, no one, we think, can imagine that such a union of king and bishop as was afterwards established, was then in their contemplation. Such language as this would not have been held by Queen Elizabeth's bishops, nor would it have comported with the spirit of the ecclesiastical proceedings in her reign. And whatever night have been the views of the Reformers themselves with respect to ecclesiastical power, they could never have put in force their claims to domination over the conscience, had they not been supported by the monarch in his new character of Defender of the Faith. The intolerance of both Papist and Protestant might have spent itself in logical contests and mutual anathemas, had not the State interfered, and put unhallowed weapons into the hands of the hostile parties. Then, the bishops, elated with supreme power, laying aside the sword of the Spirit for that of Mahomined, thought only of converting the nation by act of parliament, forgetting, as the trustees at once of legislative and executive power, their character as the ministers of Christ. The Papists were persecuted on precisely the same grounds as the Protestants in Queen Mary's reign. But the acts of Gardiner and Bonner were in unison with the maxims of the Romish Church, and with the claims of the Head of that Church to worldly dominion. The nation, which had long groaned under the oppression of the Romish clergy, though far from being generally averse to Popery itself, saw in the Reformation an innovation in religion, but no extension of liberty: it was equally opposed to their prejudices and their rights. Hence, the Reformation in King Edward's reign, appears never to have taken deep root among the people. For what difference could it make to them, whether the Pope or the King was the Head of that Church which they knew only in the character of an oppressor? The Act of Supremacy, which made religion a branch of the royal prerogative, necessarily rendered the Church intolerant, and armed that intolerance with power. The High Commission Court, and all the ecclesiastical tyranny of the succeeding reigns, are chargeable on this fatal error in laying the foundations of the Reformed Church.

Thirdly, had the Reformation been left to be effected by the

preaching of the Reformers and the extension of religious liberty, especially in respect of printing and reading the English Scriptures, while the internal reform and government of the Church were left to the bishops, without suffering them to make men either fry a faggot or hop headless for nonconformity,'-we can, for our own parts, entertain no doubt that pure and undefiled religion would have spread more rapidly, and that England would have become, in a far higher sense of the word, Protestant ;-that her Church would have had to boast of more saints and fewer martyrs.

All that the Reformers stood in need of was, protection. All that the interests of religion demanded of the Civil Ruler, was, that the obstacles to its progress should be removed by a repeal of the bloody statutes of the preceding reigns, and a permission to embrace and to propagate the Reformed faith with impunity. Nothing could have stopped the diffusion of scriptural light and the triumph of Christianity at this period, but the enslavement and secularization of the Church by royal pa, tronage. But for this, the disputes about vestments and ceremonies would soon have subsided: the Papists would have had too much on their hands to wrangle about square caps, and the Reformers would have been better occupied. Finally, had this opportunity been taken to affix constitutional limits to ecclesiastical power, instead of annexing the popedom of the empire to the Crown, all the blood that was subsequently shed in the struggle to maintain unimpaired this precious branch of the prerogative, might have been spared. James would have had no inducement to abjure Presbyterianism, and Charles would not have lost either his head or his crown.

We have dwelt so long on this interesting era in our history, that we must be brief in our notice of the remaining contents of these volumes. But a correct view of the ecclesiastical transactions of the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, is necessary in order to appreciate the merits of the ensuing contest between the king and the parliament. James did not carry his notions of prerogative higher than did Elizabeth; but they became him less as a Kirk-bred Scotchman, and there was nothing in his character to support his absurd pretensions. If he did not carry matters with quite so high a hand as the Virgin Defender of the Faith, he talked more about his prerogative than she did, and' made that ridiculous by his pedantry, which his predecessor had made terrible by her despotism. Personal vanity was the ruling passion of the British Solomon, and by flattering this weakness, the bishops, who did not scruple to employ the language of blasphemous adulation, easily contrived to get the power into their own hands. James had, at one time, termed the liturgy ' an evil said mass in English,' and had said, that the order of


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

bishops' smelled vilely of Popish pride; that they were a principal branch of the Pope, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh.' But he told his first parliament, that he acknowledged 'the Roman Church to be our Mother Church, although defiled ' with some infirmities and novelties:' and that he would be, for his part, content to meet the Catholics in the mid-way, so that 'all novelties might be renounced on either side.' To the parliament of Scotland, he held the most galling and despotic language, laying claim to a power innate a special prerogative which we that are Christian kings have, to order and dispose of external things in the policy of the Church, as we by advice of our bishops shall find most fitting.' As a counterpart to this Divine right of kings, was now brought up the Divine right of Episcopacy; the king and his bishops vying with each other, and abetting each other, in their absurd and profane pretensions. James touched upon the climax of vainglorious presumption, when he asserted in a long speech made in the star-chamber, that that which concerns the mystery of 'the king's power, is not lawful to be disputed; for that is to wade into the weakness of princes, and to take away the mys 'tical reverence that belongs to those who sit in the throne of God.' In the mean time,

As the king was sunk in voluptuous indolence, his court became an open scene of riot and profaneness. Those who made any preten sions to personal religion and conscientious practice, were branded with the name of puritans; and as these continued to grow out of favour, papists and open profligates were publicly caressed. His majesty returning from his tour to Scotland, was grieved to see his English subjects so much addicted to the puritanic sin of keeping the Sabbath too strictly; therefore, to encourage and promote through the kingdom the religion of the court, his majesty published the "Book of Sports," to instruct the people with what amusements they might lawfully entertain themselves on the Lord's day, though he had before ratified the articles of the Church of Ireland, in which the morality of the Sabbath was asserted. In this affair, his majesty's conscience was under the direction of his prelates, by whose sage and Christian advice the measure was adopted. This royal declaration for Sunday sports was drawn up by bis hop Morton, and recommends dancing, archery, leaping, vaulting, may-games, whitsun ales, morris dances, setting up of may-poles, and "other sports therewith used." All ministers were commanded to sanction this stimulus to licentiousness, by reading it in their public congregations; and those who refused to comply with the profane mandate, were prosecuted in the high commission, suspended, and imprisoned. This impolitic encouragement of profaneness gave great offence to many pious and conscientious persons, and was one occasion of the dreadful calamities in the following reign. It was intended, says bishop Kennet, as a trap to catch men of tender consciences, whom they could not otherwise

[ocr errors]

ensnare; and as a means of promoting the ease, wealth, and magnificence of the bishops: but it made the very stones in the walls of their palaces cry aloud against them.' Vol. I. p. 401.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Such was the character of James I., the most learned and religious prince,' according to Archbishop Laud, that England ever knew.' He was, says Mosheim, the bitterest enemy to the doctrine and discipline of the Puritans, to which he had been warmly attached; the most inflexible and ardent patron of the Arminians, in whose ruin and condemnation he had been singularly instrumental; and the most zealous defender of Episcopal government, against which he had more than once declared his sentiments in the strongest language.'

James, it has been with some truth remarked, entailed upon his son all the miseries that befel him.' The notions which the father had taken up late in life from policy and king-craft, were, in Charles, the principles of his education; and when Dr. Manwaring told him in the sermon which obtained for the reverend culprit a bishopric, that his royal word and command in im'posing loans and taxes without consent of parliament, doth oblige the subject's conscience upon pain of eternal damnation,' it is possible that he believed it. And when be suspended Archbishop Abbot, for refusing to licence the scandalous sermon of Dr. Sibthorp, and when he republished his blessed father's 'declaration for sports on the Lord's day, out of the like pious care for the service of God,' setting a like godly example by giving balls, masquerades, and plays on the Lord's day evening, no question that he acted upon principle. He believed this to be the best way of upholding Church and State. He had the word of Bishop Laud for it, and his blessed father's example. And all his acts of tergiversation and tyranny were but exercises of his Divine prerogative as Head of that Church which claims him as her royal martyr. It must be so, for a writer of some eminence in the present day assures us, that his assenting to the death of his faithful Strafford, was the only crime with which Charles I. was chargeable. All the rest were merely errors in judgment. And Laud, though a little too furious in his zeal, was a very well-meaning old gentleman. His ingratitude, his ambition, and his cold-blooded cruelty, were but human infirmities. Not his bitterest enemies have dared charge him with being a Puritan.

And now, after this long halcyon reign of righteousness and peace, during which the bishops declared that 'religion flourished no where but in England,' we approach that awful period of heresy, schism, and rebellion, when, the Divine right of kings and bishops to govern without Parliaments, and to cut off people's ears and noses at their pleasure, being impiously called in question, the high commission court and the star-chamber were overthrown, and dragged down the Church along with

« PreviousContinue »