Imatges de pàgina

came to pass)" Evils, which were then more easy for them to prevent, than for their posterity to remedy." Let me only add as a matter of truth, without meaning to give offence, that there were some great faults on both sides; first, because they quarrelled about indifferent things: and next, because in their heat neither party were properly disposed to yield in any respect or to comply with the other. If the churchmen enforced the legal discipline with the arm of power, some of the puritans pushed their favourite platform in the spirit of perverseness, and were as wanting in moderation of language, as the others possibly could be in mildness and forbearance. Both parties urged every thing to the extreme, instead of seeking, what wise and good men above all others should seek, some happy medium in which they might join. Whatever unreasonable was desired on one side, or unreasonably retained on the other, cool men might have debated with decency, and gracious men have concluded with harmony. They would have rendered in such an event, the opposition of mere opposers quite inexcusable. It is always easy indeed to find matters of separation; but it requires more than natural skill (though it be natural interest and happiness) to discover the point of union, and a very great measure of Christian patience and selfdenial to concur therein, when it is found.

3. When parties were thus unhappily formed, the warm censures on both sides soon widened the breach, and gave birth to distinguishing names. Those who adhered to the foreign discipline were called Precisians and Puritans, which, in a good sense, are titles of honour to the children of GoD, but, in the evil one, were sounds of opposition to an ecclesiastical constitution. After a season, many moderate churchmen who valued the essentials of religion above all forms, and who therefore could not join in the common vehemence, and much less in the departure from the great common principles which afterwards followed, were also dignified by these denominations. At this time, however, there was a general agreement in all the great principles of the gospel. The dispute (it may be said) was not about the food, but about the dish which should hold it. At length, towards the end of the reign of King James the First, other principles began to creep in. Their vigour, if not their rise in our church, are generally and justly imputed to Dr. Laud. This prelate, the son of a clothier at Reading, had raised himself by the patronage of the famous Duke of Buckingham, to the direction

direction of church affairs; and being himself an Arminian and full of his order, he took care to introduce such men and measures, as might promote his designs of disseminating his principles, and of exalting the splendour of the hierarchy. This ambitious and haughty spirit did infinite mischief, and farther enlarged the breaches, which were but too wide already. He was the first who indulged the humour of setting the church above her own articles, and of bringing her nearer to the suspicious neighbourhood of Rome: And he was assisted in this by a Romish renegado, the Archbishop of Spalato, who first gave the name of doctrinal Puritans to those truest sons of the church, who abhorred Arminianism. His inventions and ceremonies might have been pitied for their nonsense, if they had not deserved hatred from the rigour with which he enforced, them. But, though rigid in the idle adjustments of bowing to the altar and at the name of Jesus, and in turning the people's faces to the east while the creed was repeating, with such like insipid trifles, he was lax enough in more important things. The Book of Sports, and the prohibition of afternoon sermons on the Lord's Days, are a striking specimen of the Arminian morality. I would not mean to say, that Laud himself was an immoral man, in the common use of the term; but he certainly had neither the spirit of an humble Christian, nor the temper of a true father in the church of GOD: Nor indeed had he the learning and other abilities of a great divine. His political aim (for it surely cannot be called religious) was to form a reunion or coalition with Rome; and to accomplish this design it was necessary to remove that capital barrier, the xxxix Articles, so long and so firmly established by law. If that proud church could have submitted in some points, he seemed to endeavour after such concessions in ours, as might draw her as near to the other as the times might allow. It would have been a more gracious pursuit to have studied the concord of the protestant churches, than to have formed such worldly combinations of ecclesiastical pride. Church union, as well as all other, is indisputably good; but not upon the demolition of essential truths, nor upon such gross corruptions, as put to hazard the very vitals of Christianity.

4. During all these innovations and distractions, a great majority of excellent men were found in and adhered to the establishment and its form of sound doctrines; but as such were removed by death, their places were care


fully filled by persons who were otherwise minded. Among the former, Usher, Davenant, Hall, Bedell, Ward, ' Willet, and several others, are names to be remembered, with the most venerating affection, for whatever can be found gracious or valuable among men. Laud and his associates, to their lasting infamy, not only opposed churchmen of their complexion, but seemed fond to have them stigmatized with the names of Puritans and Calvi nists, and set them up as marks of odium and contempt. Where people cannot reason, they are often able to rail. On the other hand, the parties, who had divided from the church in discipline, warmly espoused her principal articles, and increased their friends and abettors even among the moderate churchmen, who looked upon Laud and his friends as persons who wese subverting the church itself, or who certainly were introducing principles which could only end in the subversion of those already established. Many of these Puritans were men of great parts and indisputable piety. If they wanted moderation, the whole age wanted it too: It was a day of heat and contention, which the inflammatory spirit of Laud was very ill calculated to cool. Hildersham, Dod, Charnock, Sibbes, Reynolds, Manton, Poole, with many others, are names, which would do honour to any church or country.

5. In the midst of these ecclesiastical agitations, the providence of GOD, in justice to the sins of the nation (at the head of which I reckon the ungrateful abuse of the reformation, and our general unthankfulness for so great a mercy,) permitted the rise of those political animosities, which ended in a dreadful civil war, and in the overthrow of the whole constitution both in church and state. The popular leaders, who were generally averse to Laud and his measures, espousing the party which opposed the established discipline, and which was now grown strong by accessions of churchmen themselves, through the increase of stupid or dangerous innovations, mixed, and increased the evil by their adoption of these religious dissensions. On the other side, the court was at no pains to conciliate; or, at least, some of those who followed its views, used all imaginable means, whatever was their design, to aggravate the public distractions. Lord Falkland, Sir Edward Hyde (afterwards the great Earl of Clarendon), with a few others, were illustrious exceptions. To its misfortune or disgrace it must also be said, that most of the profligate and unprincipled people of the age became


of its party; and these endeavoured to honour their own licentiousness, by opposing it to the severe and exact deportment of those whom they seemed glad to condemn as their enemies. But (as Baxter, who was an eye-witness to these facts, justly observes) it was the ruin of the king and the church, that this immoral party was encouraged by the great leaders in the country against the others; as it might very naturally have been expected. "The debauched rabble through the land, (says he) emboldened by the gentry on the king's side, and seconded by the common soldiers of his army, took all that were called Puritans for their enemies: And though some of the king's gentry and superior officers were so civil, that they would do no such thing, yet that was no security to the country, while the multitude did what they list: So that if any one was noted for a strict and famous preacher, or for a man of a precise and pious life, he was either plundered or abused, and in danger of his life: So that if a man did but pray in his family, or were but heard to repeat a ser. mon or sing a psalm, they presently cried out, Rebels, Roundheads; and all their money and goods that were portable proved guilty, how innocent soever they were themselves. I suppose this was kept from the knowledge of the king, and perhaps of many sober Lords of his Council For few could come near them; (and it is the fate of such not to believe evil of those that they think are for them, nor good of those that they think are against them.) But, upon my certain knowledge, this was it that filled the armies and garrisons of the parliament with sober pious men."* The weight which these gave in the scale, was decisive: And a melancholy crisis ensued, contrary to the wishes of good and moderate people of all denominations. So dangerous a thing is it to put any cause to issue upon the sword, which is usually swayed by men, who feel their own consequence too much upon such occasions, and who have generally motives enough of their own to use it for themselves!

6. Under the usurpation, there was scarce the existence of a regular establishment either civil or ecclesiastical; and it was with some difficulty, that there was such a thing agreed upon as a stated ministry. Where all are allowed to act, and where the number is permitted to stand for the wisdom of heads, it is not to be expected, that any cordial or extensive agreement can ensue. However, the Arminian system was generally out of counte


Baxter's Life, B. i. p. 44.

nance; and the doctrines of grace, which had been long received by the best men both in and out of the late establishment, were commonly maintained under a variety of disciplines, and in all the confusion of parties. At length, through necessity, an orderly ministry was increasing in number and weight, though opposed by the wilder sectaries, who were averse to human obligations of all kinds. Religion was certainly kept up by the ruling powers, let their motives have been what they may; and, by the preaching of the doctrines of grace freely and widely, a vast company of people throughout the land lived and appeared in a manner that did honour to their profession.

7. When the restoration took place, the old establishment of the church revived with it. At this time, if moderation had possessed some great managers in affairs instead of revenge, and if the love of true religion had been more operative than the views of worldly interest and patronage, there was a most favourable opportunity of healing our former breaches, and of bringing into union a vast majority of good men throughout the nation. But the successors of Laud, some of whom inherited his temper and principles with his influence, were too high in their notions for these humilities; though the peace of church and state, and the salvation of souls, were deeply concerned in them. Archbishop Sheldon and Bishop Morley, with some others, have the disgrace of continuing distractions, which many, if not all, the most eminent men for true piety and learning, both in and out of the establishment, would most gladly have healed. Reproach, calumny, and persecution arose instead of concord; as though the land had not already been glutted with these disorders. It became too a fashion to revile the dissenters, without a wish to reclaim them; and, because they generally maintained the doctrines of grace, some inconsiderate churchmen, full of Arminianism and its spirit, abused these likewise; strangely forgetting their own oaths and subscriptions to the articles, which directly assert them. Nothing could exceed the virulent illiberality of some clergymen at this time. It is matter of grief to think of these things; and I do not regret, that I have so little room to recite them. Among the people at large, it is astonishing, how dreadfully ungodliness came in like a flood: The wickedness of the court was a spring, which supplied a very broad and strong current of immoralities throughout the land. To avoid the least appear


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