WILLIAM MAXWELL HETHERINGTON,
D. D., LL. D.
First Meeting of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster — List of Names — Regulations — Order of Procedure — A Fast — The Thirty-Nine Articles Revised — Commissioners sent to the Scottish Convention of Estates and General Assembly — Discussions concerning a Treaty between the Kingdoms — The S OLEMN L EAGUE AND C OVENANT prepared and assented to — Taken in England and in Scotland — Remarks — Parties composing the Westminster Assembly — Episcopalians — Puritans or English Presbyterians — Independents or Congregationalists — Characters of the Leaders of that Party — Erastians — The leading supporters of that Party — The Scottish Commissioners — Their Characters — Sectarians throughout the Country — Cause of so many Sects — Prelatic Tyranny and Neglect of Instruction — Connection and intercourse between the Sectarians and the Independents in the Assembly — The misapplication of the term Toleration — Remarks.
The ordinance of the Parliament calling the Assembly of Divines to meet at Westminster, on the 1st day of July 1643, was issued, as has been stated, on the 12th of June, in the same year. On the 22d of June, his majesty, by a proclamation, forbade their meeting for the purposes mentioned in the parliamentary ordinance; declared that no acts done by them ought to be received by his subjects; and threatened, that if they should meet, he would proceed against them with the utmost severity of the law. This was so far unpropitious, even to his own cause, as it tended to prevent the greater part of the Episcopalian divines who had been summoned, from attending. The Scottish Convention of Estates met in June, but came to no definite resolution; and public matters were postponed till it should be more clearly known what terms would be proposed by the King and the Parliament, the Covenanters being unwilling directly to interpose, if that could be avoided.
The following is the list of names contained in the ordinance by which the Assembly was called; amounting to one hundred and fifty-one in all, namely, ten Lords and twenty Commoners, as lay assessors, and one hundred and twenty-one Divines: —
Algernon, Earl of Northumberland.
William, Earl of Bedford.
Philip, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.
William, Earl of Salisbury.
Henry, Earl of Holland
Edward, Earl of Manchester.
William, Viscount Say and Sele.
Edward, Viscount Conway.
Philip, Lord Wharton.
Edward, Lord Howard of Escrick.
John Selden, Esq.
Francis Rouse, Esq.
Edmund Prideaux, Esq.
Sir Henry Vane, Senior.
John Glynn, Esq., Recorder of London.
John Whyte, Esq.
Bulstrode Whitelocke, Esq.
Humphry Salloway, Esq.
Mr. Serjeant Wild.
Oliver St. John, Esq., Solicitor.
Sir Benjamin Rudyard.
John Pym, Esq.
Sir John Clotworthy.
John Maynard, Esq.
Sir Henry Vane, Junior.
William Pierpoint, Esq.
William Wheeler, Esq.
Sir Thomas Barrington.
Sir John Evelyn.
Walter Young, Esq.
Herbert Palmer, B. D., of Ashwell.
Oliver Bowles, B. D., of Sutton.
Henry Wilkinson, B. D., of Maddesden.
Thomas Valentine, B. D., of Chalfent Giles.
William Twisse, D. D., of Newbury.
William Reyner, of Egham.
Hannibal Gammon, of Maugan.
Jasper Hicks, of Lawrick.
Joshua Hoyle, D. D., of Dublin.
William Bridge, of Yarmouth.
Thomas Wincop, D. D. of Elesworth.
Thomas Goodwin, D. D., of London.
John Ley, of Budworth.
Thomas Case, of London.
John Pyne, of Bereferrars.
Francis Whidden, of Moreton.
Richard Love, D. D., of Ekington.
William Gouge, D. D., of Blackfriars,
Ralph Brownrigg, D. D., Bishop of Exeter.
Samuel Ward, D. D., Master of Sydney College, Cambridge.
John White, of Dorchester.
Edward Peale, of Compton.
Stephen Marshall, B. D., of Finchingfield.
Lazarus Seaman, B. D., of London.
John Harris, D. D., Warden of Winchester College.
George Morley, D. D., of Minden Hall.
Edward Reynolds, D. D., of Brampton.
Thomas Hill, B. D., of Tickmarsh.
Robert Saunderson, D. D., of Boothby-Parnell.
John Foxcroft, of Gotham.
John Jackson, of Marsac.
William Carter, of London.
Thomas Thoroughgood, of Massingham.
John Arrowsmith, D. D., of Lynn.
Robert Harris, B. D., of Hanwell.
Robert Cross, B. D., of Lincoln College.
James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh.
Matthias Styles, D. D., of Eastcheap, London.
Samuel Gibson, of Burleigh.
Jeremiah Whittaker, of Stretton.
Edmund Staunton, D. D., of Kingston.
Daniel Featly, D. D., of Lambeth.
Francis Coke, of Yoxhall.
John Lightfoot, D. D., of Ashley.
Edward Corbet, of Merton College, Oxford.
Samuel Hildersham, of Fetton.
John Langley, of West-Tuderly, Gloucester.
Christopher Tisdale, of Uphurstbourne.
Thomas Young, of Stowmarket.
John Philips, of Wrentham.
Humphrey Chambers, B. D., of Claverton.
John Conant, B. D., of Lymington.
Henry Hall, B. D., of Norwich.
Henry Scudder, of Colingbourne.
Thomas Bayley, B. D., of Manningford-Bruce.
Benjamin Pickering, of East Hoatly.
Henry Nye, of Clapham.
Arthur Sallaway, of Severn Stoake.
Obadiah Sedgewick, B. D., of Coggeshall.
Thomas Carter, of Oxford.
Peter Clarke, of Carnaby or Kirby.
William Mew, B. D., of Essington.
Richard Capel, of Pitchcombe.
Theodore Backhurst, of Overton Wetsville.
Philip Nye, of Kimbolton.
Brocket Smith, D. D., of Barkway.
Cornelius Burgess, D. D., of Watford.
John Green, of Pencombe.
Stanley Gower, of Brampton.
Francis Taylor, of Yalding.
Thomas Wilson, of Otham.
Anthony Tuckney, D. D., of Boston.
Thomas Coleman, of Bliton.
Charles Herle, of Winwick.
Richard Herrick, of Manchester.
Richard Clayton, of Showell.
George Gipps, of Ayleston.
Calibute Downing, D. D., of Hackney.
Jeremiah Burroughs, of Stepney.
Edmund Calamy, B. D., of Aldermanbury.
George Walker, B. D., of London.
Joseph Caryl, of Lincoln’s Inn, London
Sidrach Simpson, of London,
Anthony Burgess, of Sutton-Coldfield.
Richard Vines, of Calcot.
William Greenhill, of Stepney.
William Moreton, of Newcastle.
Thomas Temple, B. D., of Battersey.
Josias Shute, B. D., Lombard Street.
William Nicholson, D. D., afterwards Bishop of Cloucester.
Thomas Gataker, B. D., of Rotherhithe.
James Welby, of Sylatten.
Christopher Pashly, D. D., of Hawarden.
Henry Tozer, B. D., of Oxford.
William Spurstow, D. D., of Hampden.
Francis Cheynel, D. D., of Petworth.
Edward Ellis, B. D., of Gilsfield.
John Hacket, D. D., of St. Andrew’s London.
Samuel de la Place, — French Congregations.
John de la March, — French Congregations.
Matthew Newcomen, of Dedham.
William Lyford, of Sherbourne.
William Carter, of Dynton.
William Lance, of Harrow.
Thomas Hodges, of Kensington.
Andrew Perne, of Wisby.
Thomas Westfield, D. D., Bishop of Bristol.
Henry Hammond, D. D., of Penshurst.
Nicholas Proffit, of Marlborough.
Peter Sterry, of London.
John Erle, of Bishopston.
John Gibbon of Waltham.
Henry Painter, B. D., of Exeter.
Thomas Micklethwait, of Cherryburton.
John Wincop, D. D., of St. Martin’s in the Fields.
William Price, of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden.
Henry Wilkinson, R. D., of St. Dunstan’s.
Richard Holdsworth, D. D., of Cambridge.
William Dunning, of Godalston.
Lay Assessors or Elders.
John, Lord Maitland.
Sir Archibald Johnston, of Warriston.
Alexander Henderson, of Edinburgh.
George Gillespie, of Edinburgh.
Samuel Rutherford, of St. Andrews.
Robert Baillie, of Glasgow.
SCRIBES OR CLERKS.
Of this list, about twenty-five never appeared at the Assembly, one or two having died about the time of the meeting of the Assembly, and others fearing the displeasure of the king, or having a preference for the prelatic system. In order to supply the deficiency thus caused, and also occasional diminution caused by death during the protracted sittings of the Assembly, the Parliament summoned about twenty-one additional members, who were termed the superadded divines. The following is a list of their names, as far as is known: —
Mr. John Bond.
Daniel Cawdrey, of Great Billing.
Thos. Dillingham, of Dean.
John Strickland, B. D. of New Sarum.
Mr. Strong, of Westminster.
William Rathband, of Highgate.
Simeon Ashe, of St. Bride’s.
There were thus in whole, thirty-two lay assessors, including those from Scotland; and one hundred and forty-two divines, including the four Scottish commissioners. But of these only sixty-nine were present the first day; and, generally, the attendance appears to have ranged between sixty and eighty. There are one hundred and two divines named in the common editions of the Confession of Faith; but several of those there named were not regular in their attendance. Not more than from a dozen to a score spoke frequently; many very learned and able men being contented to listen, to think, and to vote. The three scribes had no votes, being sufficiently employed in recording the propositions brought forward, the progress of the discussion, and the state of the vote when taken. Dr. Twisse, of Newbury, was appointed prolocutor; and after his death he was succeeded by Mr. Herle. Dr. Burgess of Watford, and Mr. White of Dorchester, were assessors to the prolocutor, to take the chair during his occasional absence.
It may serve to show the wish of the Parliament to act with fairness and impartiality, to state, that they named men of all shades of opinion in matters of Church government, in order that the whole subject might be fully discussed. In the original ordinance, four bishops were named, one of whom actually attended on the first day, and another excused his absence on the ground of necessary duty; of the others called, five became bishops afterwards; and about twenty-five declined attending, partly because it was not a regular convocation called by the king, and partly because the Solemn League and Covenant was expressly condemned by his majesty.
At length the appointed day came; and on Saturday, the 1st of July, the members of the two Houses of Parliament named in the ordinance, and many of the divines therein mentioned, and a vast congregation, met in the Abbey Church, Westminster. Dr. Twisse, the appointed prolocutor of the Assembly, preached an elaborate sermon from the text, John 14:18: "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you." After sermon all the members present adjourned to Henry VII’s Chapel; and the roll of members being called, it appeared that there were sixty-nine clerical members present on that the first day of the Westminster Assembly. But as there had been no specific instructions given, nor any subject prepared for their immediate discussion, the Assembly adjourned till the following Thursday.
This very fact points out one peculiarity of the Westminster Assembly, to which allusion has been made. It was neither a Convocation, nor a Presbyterian Synod or General Assembly; and it could not be either the one or the other, for the prelatic form of Church government had been abolished, and there was no other yet in existence. The true theory of the Westminster Assembly comprises two main elements; — there was a Christian Church in England, but not organized; and the civil power, avowing Christianity, had called an Assembly of Divines, for the purpose of consulting together respecting those points of government and discipline which require the sanction of civil authority for their full efficiency. Such an Assembly could have been called only by a Christian civil magistrate; and only in a transition state of the Church, when disorganized, or not yet duly constituted. In such a state of matters, the problem to be solved was this: On what terms could a National Church be constituted, so as neither to encroach upon civil liberty, as the Papal and Prelatic Churches had done, nor to yield up those inherent spiritual rights, privileges, and liberties, which are essential to a Church of Christ? And, for that purpose. it was almost indifferent, whether the State should first mention the terms on which it would establish a National Church, or the Church specify the terms on which it would consent to be established; only, that the latter would have been the simpler and the purer method of making the arrangement. The former, however, was the plan adopted; and, for that reason, the statement of the propositions came from Parliament.
When the Assembly again met on the Thursday, the following instructions were laid before them, as general regulations, directed by the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled: —
1. That two assessors be joined to the prolocutor, to supply his place in case of absence or infirmity.
2. That scribes be appointed to set down all proceedings, and those to be divines, who are out of the Assembly, namely, Mr. Henry Roborough, and Mr. Adoniram Byfield.
3. Every member, at his first entry into the Assembly, shall make serious and solemn protestation, not to maintain any thing but what he believes to be truth and sincerity, when discovered to him.
4. No resolution to be given upon any question the same day wherein it is first propounded.
5. What any man undertakes to prove as necessary, he shall make good out of Scripture.
6. No man to proceed in any dispute after the prolocutor has enjoined him silence, unless the Assembly desire he may go on.
7. No man to be denied to enter his dissent from the Assembly, and his reasons for it, in any point, after it hath been first debated in the Assembly, and thence (if the dissenting party desire it) to be sent to the Houses of Parliament by the Assembly, not by any particular man or men, in a private way, when either House shall require.
8. All things agreed on, and prepared for the Parliament, to be openly read and allowed in the Assembly, and then offered as the judgment of the Assembly, if the major part assent; — provided that the opinion of any persons dissenting, and the reasons urged for it, be annexed thereunto, if the dissenters require it, together with the solutions, if any were given to the Assembly, to these reasons. 1
To these general regulations the Assembly added some for their own guidance: —
1. That every session begin and end with prayer.
2. That after the first prayer the names of the Assembly be called over, and those that are absent marked; but if any member comes in afterwards, he shall have liberty to give in his name to the scribes.
3. That the appointed hour of meeting be ten in the morning; the afternoon to be reserved for committees.
4. That three of the members of the Assembly be appointed weekly as chaplains, one to the House of Lords, another to the House of Commons, and a third to the Committee of both kingdoms.
It was also resolved, that every member of the Assembly, both Lords and Commons, as well as Divines, before his admission to sit and vote, should take the following vow or protestation: "I, -----, do seriously promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, that in this Assembly, whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what I shall conceive to conduce most to the glory of God, and the good and peace of his Church." This protestation was appointed to be read afresh every Monday morning, that its solemn influence might be constantly felt.
In order that business might proceed regularly and expeditiously, the whole Assembly was cast into three equal committees; the divines according to the order in which their names stood in the ordinance; and the Lords and Commons into three corresponding divisions, according to their order also. Each committee chose for itself a chairman: the first chose Dr. Cornelius Burgess; the second, Dr. Staunton; and the third, Mr. Gibbon. The account of the Assembly’s order of procedure given by Baillie is at once so graphic and so complete, that we cannot do better than extract the entire passage, merely modernizing any peculiarities in spelling or obsolete expressions: —
"The like of that Assembly I did never see; and as we hear say, the like was never in England, nor any where is shortly like to be. They did sit in Henry the VII’s Chapel, in the place of the Convocation; but since the weather grew cold, they did go to the Jerusalem Chamber, a fair room in the Abbey of Westminster, about the size of the College front-hall, but wider. At the one end, nearest the door, and along both sides, are stages of seats, as in the new Assembly House at Edinburgh, but not so high; for there will be room but for five or six score. At the uppermost end there is a chair set on a frame, a foot from the earth, for the Mr. Prolocutor, Dr. Twisse. Before it, on the ground, stand two chairs for the two Mr. Assessors, Dr. Burgess and Mr. White. Before these two chairs, through the length of the room, stands a table, at which sit the two scribes, Mr. Byfield and Mr. Roborough, The house is all well hung (with tapestry), and has a good fire, which is some dainties at London. Opposite the table, upon the prolocutor’s right hand, there are three or four ranks of benches. On the lowest we five do sit. Upon the other, at our backs, the members of Parliament deputed to the Assembly. On the benches opposite us, on the prolocutor’s left hand, going from the upper end of the house to the chimney, and at the other end of the house and back of the table, till it come about to our seats, are four or five stages of benches, upon which their divines sit as they please; albeit commonly they keep the same place. From the chimney to the door there are no seats, but a void space for passage. The Lords of the Parliament used to sit on chairs, in that void, about the fire. We meet every day of the week but Saturday. We sit commonly from nine till one or two afternoon. The prolocutor, at the beginning and end, has a short prayer. The man, as the world knows, is very learned in the questions he has studied, and very good, beloved of all, and highly esteemed; but merely bookish, not much, as it seems, acquainted with conceived prayer, and among the unfittest of all the company for any action; so after the prayer he sits mute. It was the canny conveyance (skillful management) of those who guide most matters for their own interest to plant such a man of purpose in the chair. The one assessor, our good friend Mr. White, has keeped in of the gout since our coming; the other, Dr. Burgess, a very active and sharp man, supplies, so far as is decent, the prolocutor’s place. Ordinarily there will be present above three score of their divines. These are divided into three committees, in one of which every man is a member. No man is excluded who pleases to come to any of the three. Every committee, as the Parliament gives order in writing to take any purpose to consideration, takes a portion, and in their afternoon meeting prepares matters for the Assembly, sets down their minds in distinct propositions, backing their propositions with texts of Scripture. After the prayer, Mr. Byfield, the scribe, reads the proposition and scriptures; whereupon the Assembly debates in a most grave and orderly way.
"No man is called up to speak; but whosoever stands up of his own accord, speaks so long as he will without interruption. If two or three stand up at once, then the divines confusedly call on his name whom they desire to hear first: on whom the loudest and maniest voices call, he speaks. No man speaks to any but to the prolocutor. They harangue long and very learnedlie. They study the questions well beforehand, and prepare their speeches; but withal the men are exceeding prompt and well spoken. I do marvel at the very accurate and ex-temporal replies that many of them usually make. When, upon every proposition by itself, and on every text of Scripture that is brought to confirm it, every man who will has said his whole mind, and the replies, duplies, and triplies are heard, then the most part call, ‘To the question. ’ Byfield, the scribe, rises from the table, and comes to the prolocutor’s chair, who, from the scribe’s book, reads the proposition, and says, ‘As many as are of opinion that the question is well stated in the proposition, let them say, Ay; ’ when ay is heard, he says, ‘As many as think otherwise, say, No. ’ If the difference of ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ be clear, as usually it is, then the question is ordered by the scribes, and they go on to debate the first scripture alleged for proof of the proposition. If the sound of Ay and No be near equal, then says the prolocutor, ‘As many as say Ay, stand up," while they stand, the scribe and others number them in their minds; when they sit down, the Noes are bidden stand, and they likewise are numbered. This way is clear enough, and saves a great deal of time, which we spend in reading our catalogue. When a question is once ordered, there is no more debate of that matter; but if a man will wander from the subject, he is quickly taken up by Mr. Assessor, or many others, confusedly crying, ‘Speak to order, to order. ’ No man contradicts another expressly by name, but most discreetly speaks to the prolocutor, and at most holds to general terms: ‘The reverend brother who lately, or last, spoke, on this hand, on that side, above, or below. ’ I thought meet once for all to give you a taste of the outward form of their Assembly. They follow the way of their Parliament. Much of their way is good, and worthy of our imitation; only their longsomeness is woeful at this time, when their Church and kingdom lie under a most lamentable anarchy and confusion. They see the hurt of their length, but cannot get it helped; for being to establish a new platform of worship and discipline to their nation for all time to come, they think they cannot be answerable, if solidly, and at leisure, they do not examine every point thereof." 2
Having made these preliminary arrangements, the Parliament sent the Assembly an order to revise the Thirty-nine Articles, for the purpose of simplifying, clearing, and vindicating the doctrines therein contained. The discharge of this task was begun in the committees, and reported from time to time in the Assembly. On the first of these meetings to receive and consider reports, July 12th, "A letter," says Lightfoot, "came from Dr. Brownrigge, Bishop of Exeter, to Dr. Featly, or, in his absence, to Dr. Gouge, which was openly read, wherein he excuseth his non-appearance in the Assembly, from the tie of the vice-chancellorship in the university that lay upon him." The tenor of his excuse shows that he at least did not 3 condemn the calling of the Assembly, nor thought his Episcopal function of divine institution. Indeed there were many Episcopalians who had not embraced the high theory of Bancroft and Laud, otherwise none could have appeared in the Assembly at all; and yet even Clarendon admits, that "about twenty of them were reverend and worthy persons, and Episcopal in their judgments;" and Fuller says, that "Dr. Westfield (bishop of 4 Bristol) and some few others seemed the only nonconformists among them for their conformity, whose gowns and canonical habits differed from all the rest." From this it appears that at least one bishop gave his presence 5 to the meeting of that Assembly, which so many of his prelatic brethren since have termed impious and rebellious.
A new disaster having befallen the arms of the Parliament, in the defeat of Waller, the Assembly petitioned the Houses to appoint a fast throughout London, Westminster, and the suburbs; requesting that measures might be speedily adopted for promoting reformation, so that the divine wrath might be averted, and the wounds and miseries of the kingdom healed. This petition was granted; the 21st of July was set apart as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer. Mr. Hill, Mr. Spurstow, and Mr. Vines, were appointed to preach before the Houses, and the day was observed with great solemnity within the specified boundaries. From this time forward, it was customary to appoint similar fasts, and public sermons before the Houses of Parliament; which sermons were printed by order of Parliament, frequently with prefaces before, or postscripts appended to them by their authors; and having been preserved, they form an admirable mass of information regarding the actual sentiments and state of feelings predominant in both the Parliament and Assembly, characterized by all the freshness and trembling earnestness, and intensity of hopes and fears, called forth by the varying vicissitudes of those eventful and fluctuating times. The same circumstance proves, that on the part of the Parliament,6 the struggle in which they were engaged was by themselves regarded as to the full as much of a religious as of a political character; and that they were not ashamed to acknowledge that they looked to the favor and the protection of God for ultimate success in the perilous and important contest. It may be added, that however vehemently the king and his adherents asserted the divine source of the royal prerogative, we do not find that they attempted to hallow their cause, or to seek divine aid, by solemn religious acts; but, on the contrary, that in order to draw the utmost possible breadth of distinction between themselves and the Puritans, they delighted to indulge to excess in every kind of licentiousness and immorality; so that they frequently alienated those counties which were otherwise friendly to the royal cause, and drove the oppressed people into the ranks of the parliamentary armies, as the only way to rescue themselves and their families from the vicious brutalities of the proud and tyrannical cavaliers.
The Assembly continued to discuss the Thirty-nine Articles, and expended ten weeks in debating upon the first fifteen. But upon the arrival of the Scottish commissioners, or rather, soon after the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, a new direction was given to the whole course of discussion; so that it is unnecessary to trace that part of the proceedings which led to no practical result, and which, terminating abruptly and unfinished, cannot properly be said to form any part of the Assembly’s actual proceedings. Let us rather direct attention to the formation of the Solemn League and Covenant itself.
When the English Parliament determined upon the abolition of the Prelatic hierarchy, they at the same time suggested the calling of an Assembly of Divines to deliberate respecting the new form to be established; and they also applied to the Church of Scotland to send commissioners to the intended Assembly. The Scottish Church nominated some ministers and elders to be in readiness; but the English Assembly not having been called till nearly a year had elapsed, serious doubts began to be entertained in Scotland respecting their sincerity, especially when no authorized person appeared at the Convention of Estates held on the 22d June, and prolonged during a fortnight. At length a messenger arrived, stating that the Assembly had met, and renewing their application for the presence of Scottish commissioners. As the General Assembly was to meet on the 2d of 7 August, and the Convention of Estates at the same time, the matter was deferred till then, that it might be fully and authoritatively arranged.
After several days of anxious expectation by the Scottish General Assembly, the English commissioners arrived on the 7th of August, and were received by a deputation of the Assembly on the following day. The English commissioners were, from the Lords, the Earl of Rutland. and Lord Gray of Wark, the latter of whom declined the journey; from the Commons, Sir William Armyn, Sir Harry Vane the younger, Mr. Hatcher, and Mr. Darley; and from the Assembly of Divines, Mr. Marshall and Mr. Nye. They presented their commission, giving them ample powers to treat with the Scottish Convention and. Assembly, — a Declaration of both the English Houses, — a letter from the Westminster Assembly, and a letter subscribed by above seventy of their divines, supplicating aid in their desperate condition. "This letter," says Baillie, "was so lamentable that it drew tears from many." The leading statesmen and divines in Scotland 8 immediately took these matters into serious and most anxious deliberation. All were of opinion that it was necessary to assist the English; but how that assistance should be given they could not so readily determine. At one time the prevalent idea was, that Scotland should interpose as a mediating power, without altogether taking part with the Parliament; but a more careful and full deliberation convinced them that this was impracticable. They had learned by sad experience that the king’s most solemn treaties could not be depended on, when they had seen the treaty concluded at Dunse ordered to be burned by the hands of the hangman, and themselves denounced as rebels. And as the English Parliament had not hitherto exhibited any similar insincerity, there was no reason for equal distrust with regard to their declarations; while the Scottish statesmen and ministers could not but perceive, that if the king should succeed in subjugating his English Parliament, he would then be able to assail Scotland with an irresistible force.
Still there was one difficult point. The English commissioners sought to enter into a civil league with Scotland, for the defense of the civil liberties of both countries. But as the entire spirit of the contest in which Scotland had been engaged was of a religious character, in defense of religious liberty, and had been conducted to a prosperous issue by the strength of a religious covenant into which the nation had entered, the Convention and Assembly insisted upon a religious covenant between the two kingdoms. To this the English commissioners at length assented, on the suggestion of Sir Harry Vane, that the two ideas might very properly be combined; and hence the bond of union between the two countries was so framed as to embrace both subjects, and received the appropriate designation of THE SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT.
This important document was framed by the celebrated Alexander Henderson, moderator of the Assembly, and laid, before the English commissioners. At first they startled somewhat at its terms, some of them wishing for a greater latitude of expression, to leave room for the introduction of the Independent or Congregational system. In this, too, a slight compromise was made, no specific plan for the reformation of religion in England and Ireland being stated, except that it should be "according to the Word of God, and the example of the best reformed Churches." With this mode of expressing the general principle all were satisfied; and after receiving the approbation of the private committees, the Solemn League and Covenant was submitted to the General Assembly on the 17th of August 1643, passed unanimously, amidst the applause of 9 some, and the bursting tears of a deep, full, and sacred joy of others; and in the afternoon, with the same cordial unanimity, passed the Convention of Estates. "This," says Baillie, "seems to be a new period and crisis of the most great adair which these hundred years has exercised these dominions." He was not mistaken; it was indeed the commencement of a new period in the history of the Christian Church, though that period has not yet run its full round, nor reached its crisis, — a crisis which will shake and new-mold the world.
It is customary for a certain class of writers to say, that in the discussion respecting the Solemn League and Covenant, there was a contest of cunning between the English commissioners and the Scottish Covenanters, and that the superior subtlety of Sir Harry Vane enabled him to beguile the Scottish negotiators, who, in their blind attachment to their own Presbyterian system, could not conceive that any thing else was meant by the expression, "The best reformed Churches." This is but a weak invention of the enemy. In the beginning of the year 1641, the Scottish commissioners had both suggested the idea of a closer agreement between the Churches of England and Scotland, and disclaimed the presumption or urging their system upon the mightier kingdom. 10 And in the ordinance summoning the Assembly, one object is said to be, to obtain "a nearer agreement with the Church of Scotland, and other reformers Churches abroad." Further, the Church of Scotland had delayed the framing of a Directory, very much that she might be the more at liberty to accommodate her procedure to what might be resolved upon by the English Assembly, when it should have accomplished its task. It would appear, therefore, that there was no craft nor overreaching on either side; and that, so far as there was a compromise, it was one of candor and frankness, well understood by both parties, for the purpose of leaving matters open to a full and fair discussion.
When the Solemn League and Covenant had thus received the assent of the Scottish Convention of Estates and General Assembly, a copy of it was sent to the English Parliament and the Westminster Divines, for their consideration. Commissioners were appointed to attend that Assembly, partly elders and. partly ministers. The elders were, the Earl of Cassilis, Lord Maitland, and Johnston of Warriston; the ministers were, Messrs Henderson, Baillie, Gillespie, Rutherford, and Douglas; but neither the Earl of Cassilis nor Mr. Robert Douglas ever attended, so that the Scottish commissioners were six in all. When the document reached Westminster, several days were spent by the English divines in considering its various propositions, and some slight verbal alterations were made, for the sake of explanation, — particularly the specific statement of what is meant by Prelacy; and at last it was agreed to by all except Dr. Burgess, who continued to resist it and to refuse his assent for several days, till he incurred the serious displeasure of both Assembly and Parliament, — which he at last averted by yielding.11
Immediately after the rising of their own General Assembly, three of the Scottish commissioners, Lord Maitland, Alexander Henderson, and George Gillespie, set off for London; the other three followed about a month afterwards. On the 15th of September the Scottish commissioners were received into the Westminster Assembly with great kindness and courtesy, and welcomed in three successive speeches, by the Prolocutor, by Dr. Hoyle, and by Mr. Case. Mr. Henderson replied, expressing the deep sympathy felt by the kingdom and Church of Scotland for the sufferings of England, and the readiness with which they would to the utmost assist the good work of religious reformation thus begun. The Solemn League and Covenant was then read over clause by clause, and explanations given where it seemed of doubtful import, till the whole received the sanction of the Assembly. It was then appointed by the Parliament, and assented to by the Assembly, that the Covenant should be publicly taken by these bodies on the 25th of September. On that day, accordingly, the House of Commons, with the Assembly of Divines and the Scottish commissioners, met in the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster; and the Rev. Mr. White of Dorchester, one of the assessors, commenced the solemnity with prayer. Mr. Nye then addressed the dignified and grave audience in a speech of an hour’s duration, pointing out the Scripture authority of such covenants, and the advantage of which they had been productive to the Church of God in all ages. Mr. Henderson followed in a speech considerably shorter, but of great dignity and power. Mr. Nye then read it from the pulpit, slowly aud aloud, pausing at the close of every article, while the whole audience of statesmen and divines arose, and, with their right hands held up to heaven, worshipped the great name of God, and gave their sacred pledge. 12 Then the members of the House of Commons subscribed the Covenant on one roll of parchment,13 and the Assembly on another; and when this was done, the solemn scene was closed by prayer and praise to that omniscient God to whom they had lifted up their hands and made their vows.
To complete in one view the account of this matter, the Covenant was taken by the House of Lords on the 15th of October, after sermon by Dr. Temple, and an exhortation by Mr. Coleman. It was taken also by the congregations in and around London on the following Lord’s day. On the 9th of October the king issued a proclamation from Oxford, denouncing this document as "in truth nothing else but a traitorous and seditious combination against us and the established religion of this kingdom;" straitly charging and commanding all his loving subjects, upon their allegiance, "that they presume not to take the said seditious and traitorous Covenant." 14 And at last an order was issued by the Parliament, in February 1644, commanding the Covenant to be taken throughout the kingdom of England by all persons above the age of eighteen years; which order was accompanied by an exhortation prepared by the Assembly of Divines. In Scotland, as soon as information was received of what had taken place in London, the Committee of Estates ordered the Covenant to be subscribed by all ranks and conditions of people, on penalty of the confiscation of property, or such other punishment as his Majesty and the Parliament might resolve to inflict. This harsh command was intended to bear against that faction of the nobility who were known to have entered into a secret confederacy with the king; and its effect was, to drive some into Right, and all into more desperate opposition. But this, it will be observed, was the act of the civil not the ecclesiastical, authorities in Scotland; and it proceeded mainly upon the principle, that the bond thus enforced was not only a religious covenant, but also a civil league. It was unfortunate that civil and religious matters should have been so blended, because whatever civil measures were adopted, or civil penalties were indicted, were sure to be unfairly charged against the religious element, instead of the civil, to which they truly owed their origin. But even this unpropitious circumstance was forced upon the Covenanters; partly by the fact that the proceedings of the king were equally hostile to civil and to religious liberty, and partly by their unavoidable union with the English Parliament, in which the struggle was even more directly for civil than for religious liberty.
The importance of the Solemn League and Covenant, thus agreed upon and subscribed by the ruling constitutional authorities, civil, and ecclesiastical, in both Scotland and England, renders it necessary that it should be presented to the reader in the body of the work, rather than in an appendix: —
"The Solemn League and Covenant, for reformation and defense of religion, the honor and happiness of the King, and the peace and safety of the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland; agreed upon by Commissioners from the Parliament and Assembly of Divines in England, with Commissioners of the Convention of Estates and General Assembly of the Church of Scotland;
approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and by both Houses of Parliament, and the Assembly of Divines in England, and taken and subscribed by them anno 1643; and thereafter, by the said authority, taken and subscribed by all ranks in Scotland and England, the same year; and ratified by act of the Parliament of Scotland anno 1644. (And again renewed in Scotland, with an acknowledgment of sins and engagement to duties, by all ranks, anno 1648, and by Parliament, 1649; and taken and subscribed by King Charles II, at Spey, June 23, 1650; and at Scoon, January 1, 1651.)
"We, noblemen, barons, knights, gentlemen, citizens, burgesses, ministers of the Gospel, and commons of all sorts, in the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, by the providence of GOD living under one king, and being of one reformed religion, having before our eyes the glory of GOD, and the advancement of the kingdom of our LORD and Savior JESUS CHRIST, the honor and happiness of the king’s majesty and his posterity, and the true public liberty, safety, and peace of the kingdom, wherein every one’s private condition is included: and calling to mind the treacherous and bloody plots, conspiracies, attempts, and practices of the enemies of GOD, against the true religion and professors thereof in all places, especially in these three kingdoms, ever since the reformation of religion; and how much their rage, power, and presumption, are of late, and at this time, increased and exercised, whereof the deplorable state of the Church and kingdom of Ireland, the distressed state of the Church and kingdom of England, and the dangerous state of the Church and kingdom of Scotland, are present and public testimonies: we have now at last (after other means of supplication, remonstrance, protestation, and sufferings), for the preservation of ourselves and our religion from utter ruin and destruction, according to the commendable practice of these kingdoms in former times, and the example of GOD’s people in other nations, after mature deliberation, resolved and determined to enter into a Mutual and Solemn League and Covenant, wherein we all subscribe, and each one of us for himself, with our hands lifted up to the Most High GOD, do swear,
"1. That we shall sincerely, really, and constantly, through the grace of GOD, endeavor, in our several places and callings, the preservation of the reformed religion in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, against our common enemies; the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the Word of GOD, and the example of the best reformed Churches; and shall endeavor to bring the Churches of GOD in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, Directory for Worship and Catechizing; that we, and our posterity after us, may, as brethren, live in faith and love, and the LORD may delight to dwell in the midst of us.
"2. That we shall, in like manner, without respect of persons, endeavor the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy (that is, Church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissaries, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy), superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine and the power of GOD liness; lest we partake in other men’s sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; and that the LORD may be one, and his name one, in the three kingdoms.
"3. We shall, with the same sincerity, reality, and constancy, in our several vocations, endeavor, with our estates and lives, mutually to preserve the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, and the liberties of the kingdoms; and to preserve and defend the king’s majesty’s person and authority, in the preservation and defense of the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms; that the world may bear witness with our consciences of our loyalty, and that we have no thoughts or intentions to diminish his majesty’s just power and greatness.
"4. We shall also, with all faithfulness, endeavor the discovery of all such as have been or shall be incendiaries, malignants, or evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion, dividing the king from his people, or one of the kingdoms from another, or making any faction or parties among the people, contrary to this League and Covenant; that they may be brought to public trial, and receive condign punishment, as the degree of their ounces shall require or deserve, or the supreme judicatories of both kingdoms respectively, or others having power from them for that effect, shall judge convenient.
"5. And whereas the happiness of a blessed peace between these kingdoms, denied in former times to our progenitors, is, by the good providence of GOD, granted unto us, and hath been lately concluded and settled by both Parliaments; we shall, each one of us, according to our place and interest, endeavor that they may remain conjoined in a firm peace and union to all posterity; and that justice may be done upon the willful opposers thereof, in manner expressed in the precedent article.
"6. We shall also, according to our places and callings, in this common cause of religion, liberty, and peace of the kingdoms, assist and defend all those that enter into this League and Covenant, in the maintaining and pursuing thereof; and shall not suffer ourselves, directly or indirectly, by whatsoever combination, persuasion, or terror, to be divided or withdrawn from this blessed union and conjunction, whether to make defection to the contrary part, or to give ourselves to a detestable indifferency or neutrality in this cause, which so much concerneth the glory of GOD, the good of the kingdom, and honor of the king; but shall, all the days of our lives, zealously and constantly continue therein against all opposition, and promote the same, according to our power against all lets and impediments whatsoever; and what we are not able ourselves to suppress or overcome, we shall reveal and make known, that it may be timely prevented or removed: All which we shall do as in the sight of GOD."
"And, because these kingdoms are guilty of many sins and provocations against GOD, and his Son JESUS CHRIST, as is too manifest by our present distresses and dangers, the fruits thereof; we profess and declare, before GOD and the world, our unfeigned desire to be humbled for our own sins, and for the sins of these kingdoms; especially that we have not, as we ought, valued the inestimable benefit of the Gospel; that we have not labored for the purity and power thereof; and that we have not endeavored to receive Christ in our hearts, nor to walk worthy of him in our lives; which are the causes of other sins and transgressions so much abounding amongst us: and our true and unfeigned purpose, desire, and endeavor, for ourselves, and all others under our power and charge, both in public and private, in all duties we owe to GOD and man, to amend our lives, and each one to go before another in the example of a real reformation; that the LORD may turn away his wrath and heavy indignation, and establish these Churches and kingdoms in truth and peace. And this Covenant we make in the presence of ALMIGHTY GOD, the Searcher of all hearts, with a true intention to perform the same, as we shall answer at that great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed; most humbly beseeching the LORD to strengthen us by his H OLY S PIRIT for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with such success, as may be deliverance and safety to his people, and encouragement to other Christian Churches, groaning under, or in danger of the yoke of antichristian tyranny, to join in the same or like association and covenant, to the glory of GOD, the enlargement of the kingdom of JESUS CHRIST, and the peace and tranquillity of Christian kingdoms and commonwealths."
It is difficult to conceive how any calm, unprejudiced, thoughtful, and religious man can peruse the preceding very solemn document, without feeling upon his mind an overawing sense of its sublimity and sacredness. The most important of man’s interests for time and for eternity are included within its ample scope, and made the subjects of a Solemn League with each other, and a sacred Covenant with God. Religion, liberty, and peace, are the great elements of human welfare, to the preservation of which it bound the empire; and as those by whom it was framed knew well that there can be no safety for these in a land where the mind of the community is dark with ignorance, warped by superstition, misled by error, and degraded by tyranny, civil and ecclesiastical, they pledged themselves to seek the extirpation of these pernicious evils. Yet it was the evils themselves, and not the persons of those in whom those evils prevailed, that they sought to extirpate. Nor was there any inconsistency in declaring that they sought to promote the honor and happiness of the king, while thus uniting in a Covenant against that double despotism which he strove to exercise. For no intelligent person will deny, that it is immeasurably more glorious for a monarch to be the king of freemen, than a tyrant over slaves; and that whatsoever promotes the true mental, moral, and religious greatness of a kingdom, promotes also its civil welfare, and elevates the true dignity of its sovereign. This, the mind of Charles was not comprehensive enough to learn, nor wise enough to know, especially as he was misled by the prelatic faction, who, while seeking their own aggrandizement, led him to believe that they were zealous only for his glory, — a glory the very essence of which was the utter annihilation of all liberty, civil and religious. And as this desperate and fatal prelatic policy was well known to the patriotic framers of the Solemn League and Covenant, they attached no direct blame to the king himself, but sought to rescue him from the evil influence of those by whose pernicious counsels he was misled. Aware, also, how often the wisest and best schemes are perverted and destroyed by the base intrigues of selfish and designing men, the Covenanters solemnly pledged themselves to each other and to God, not to suffer themselves to be divided or withdrawn from the constant and persevering prosecution of their great and sacred cause, till its triumph should be secured, or their own lives terminate. In this strong resolution were involved, a lofty singleness of purpose, deliberate determination, and not only self-denial, but, if necessary, self-sacrifice, that to the world a great example might be given for better times to follow and to realize.
Such were the great principles of the Solemn League and Covenant; and, while it is easy, very easy, to frame captious objections against minor points and forms of expression, as is very often done, we do not hesitate to say, that in our opinion, no man who is able to understand its nature, and to feel and appreciate its spirit and its aim, will deny it to be the wisest, the sublimest, and the most sacred document ever framed by uninspired men. But, as afterwards appeared, it was premature; it far outwent the spirit of the time; it was understood and valued but by few; and it was regarded by all who could not understand it with the most intense and bitter hatred, mingled and increased by fear. Let not, however, this admission be taken in its most unlimited sense. If the Solemn League and Covenant was premature, that detracts not from its real value; it only proves that it was promulgated in ignorant and "evil times, with darkness and with dangers compassed round." And let these questions be asked and thoughtfully answered: — Has it perished amid the strife of tongues? Has it sunk into oblivion, and ceased to be a living element in the quick realms of thought? Are there none by whom it is still regarded with sacred veneration? Is it not true, that, at this very moment, there are many minds of great power and energy, earnestly engaged in reviving its mighty principles, and fearlessly holding them forth before the world’s startled gaze? And if such be the case, may it not be, that what two hundred years ago was premature, has now nearly reached the period of a full maturity, and is on the point of raising up its sacred and majestic head, "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might?"
Before proceeding to relate the discussions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, thus anally constituted and prepared. for its duties, it may be expedient to give a brief view of the parties, by the combination of which it was from the first composed, by whose jarring contentions its progress was retarded, and by whose divisions and mutual hostilities its labors were at length frustrated and prevented from obtaining their due result.
When the Parliament issued the ordinance for calling together an Assembly of Divines for consultation and advice, there was, it will be remembered, actually no legalized form of Church government in England, so far as depended on the Legislature. Even Charles himself had consented to the bill removing the prelates from the House of Lords; and though the bill abolishing the hierarchy had not obtained the royal sanction, yet the greater part of the kingdom regarded it as conclusive on that point. The chief object of the Parliament, therefore, was to determine what form of Church government was to be established by law, in the room of that which had been abolished. And as their desire was to secure a form which should both be generally acceptable, and should also bear, at least, a close resemblance to the form most, prevalent in other reformed Churches, they attempted to act impartially, and, in their ordinance, they selected some of each denomination, appointing Bishops, untitled Episcopalians, Puritans, and Independents. Several Episcopalians, and at least one Bishop, were present in the first meeting of the Assembly. But when the Solemn League and Covenant was proposed and taken, and when the king issued his condemnation of it, all the decided Episcopalians left, with the exception of Dr. Featly. He remained a member of the Assembly for some time; till, being detected corresponding with Archbishop Ussher, and revealing the proceedings of the Assembly, he was cut off from that venerable body, and committed to prison. 15 From that time forward there were no direct supporters of Prelacy in the Assembly, and the protracted controversial discussions which arose were on other subjects; on which account we have nothing to do with the Episcopalian controversy, beyond what has been already stated in our preliminary pages.
There can be no doubt that the close alliance which the English Parliament sought with Scotland, and the ground taken by the Scottish Convention of Estates and General Assembly, in requiring not only an international league, but also a religious covenant, tended greatly to direct the mind of the English statesmen and divines towards the Presbyterian form of Church government, and exercised a powerful influence in the deliberations of the Westminster Assembly. But let it be also remembered, that in every one of the reformed continental Churches, either the Presbyterian form, or one very closely resembling it, had been adopted; and that the Puritans had already formed themselves into presbyteries, held presbyterial meetings, and endeavored to exercise Presbyterian discipline, in the reception, suspension, and rejection of members. Both the example of other Churches, therefore, and their own already begun practice, had led them so far onward to the Presbyterian model, that they would almost inevitably have assumed it altogether apart from the influence of Scotland. In truth, that influence was exerted and felt almost solely in the way of instruction, from a Church already formed, to one in the process of formation; and none would have been more ready than the Scottish commissioners themselves to have repudiated the very idea of any other kind of influence. It may be said, therefore, with the most strict propriety, that the native aim and tendency of the Westminster Assembly was to establish the Presbyterian form of Church government in England, the great body of English Puritans having gradually become Presbyterians. There is reason to believe that both Pym and Hampden favored the Presbyterian system; but their early and lamented death deprived that cause of their powerful support, and the House of Commons of their able and steady guidance.
The chief promoters of Presbytery in the House of Commons were, Sir William Waller, Sir Philip Stapleton, Sir John Clotworthy, Sir Benjamin Rudyard, Colonel Massey, Colonel Harley, Sergeant Maynard, Denzil Hollis, John Glynn, and a few more of less influential character.
The Independents, or Congregationalists, formed another party, few in point of number, but men of considerable talent and learning, of undoubted piety, of great pertinacity in adhering to their own opinions, and, we are constrained to say, well skilled in the artifices of intriguing policy. The origin of the Independent system has been already stated briefly in our introductory remarks, and will require little further elucidation. It was, according to the statement of its adherents, a medium between the Brownist and the Presbyterian systems. They did not, with the Brownists, condemn every other Church as too corrupt and antichristian for intercommunion, — for they professed to agree in doctrine both with the Church of England in its Articles, and with the other reformed Churches; but they held the entire power of government to belong to each separate congregation; and they practically admitted no Church censure but admonition, — for that cannot properly be called excommunication which consisted not in expelling from their body an obstinate and impenitent offender, but in withdrawing themselves from him. With regard to their boast of being the first advocates of toleration and liberty of conscience, that will come to be examined hereafter: this only need be said at present, that toleration is naturally the plea of the weaker party; that the term was then, has been since, and still is, much misunderstood and misused; and that wherever the Independents possessed power, as in New England, they showed themselves to be as intolerant as any of their opponents.
The leading Independents in the Westminster Assembly were, Dr. Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Bridge, and Sidrach Simpson. These men had at first been silenced by the violent persecution of Laud and Wren, and had then retired to Holland, — where they continued exercising their ministry among their expatriated countrymen for several years. Goodwin and Nye resided at Arnheim, where they were highly esteemed for their piety and talents. Bridge went to Rotterdam, where he became pastor of an English congregation, previously formed by the notorious Hugh Peters. Burroughs went also to Rotterdam, and, became connected with the congregation then under the pastoral care of Bridge, in what was termed the different but coordinate office of teacher. Simpson subsequently joined himself to the two preceding brethren, having, according to their system, given an account of his faith. But though at first highly approving the order of the church under the care of Mr. Bridge, he subsequently proposed some alterations which would, as he thought, promote its welfare, — particularly the revival of the prophesyings used by the old Puritans. This Mr. Bridge opposed, and Mr. Simpson withdrew from communion with him, and formed a church for himself. 16 The quarrel, however, did not so terminate. Mr. Ward, another ejected Puritan, having about the same time retired to Holland, came to Rotterdam, and having joined Mr. Bridge’s church, was appointed his colleague in the pastoral office. He, too, wished for additional improvements; and as he did not retire, like Simpson, but continued the struggle, Bridge thought it necessary to depose him from the ministry, — which his superior influence in the congregation enabled him to accomplish. To prevent the evil consequences which might have resulted from these unhappy divisions, Goodwin and Nye came from Arnheim, instituted an investigation of the whole matter, and induced the two contending brethren and their adherents to acknowledge their mutual faults, and to be reconciled. 17 The reconciliation, however, appears to have been but superficial, and to have required the interposition of the magistracy ere it could be even plausibly effected. Such divisions might have caused these divines to entertain some suspicion that the model of Church government which they had adopted was not altogether so perfect as they wished it to be thought; but so far as their subsequent conduct, as members of the Westminster Assembly, is concerned, this does not seem to have been the case in even the slightest degree. When the contest between the King and the Parliament had become so extreme that the Parliament declared its own continuation as permanent as it might itself think necessary, and began to threaten the abolition of the whole prelatic hierarchy, the above-named five Independent divines returned to England, prepared to assist in the long-sought reformation of religion, and to avail themselves of every opportunity which might occur to promote their favorite system. And admitting them to be conscientiously convinced of its superior excellency, they deserve no censure for desiring to see it universally received. In every such case, all that can be wished is, that each party should prosecute its purpose honorably and openly, in the fair field of frank and manly argument, with Christian candor and integrity; and not by factious opposition, or with the dark and insidious craft too characteristic of worldly politicians.
Of these five leading Independents, often termed "The Five Dissenting Brethren," Goodwin appears to have been the deepest theologian, and perhaps altogether the ablest man; Nye, the most acute and subtle, and the best skilled in holding intercourse with worldly politicians; Burroughs, the most gentle and pacific in temper and character; Bridge is said to have been a man of considerable attainments, and a very laborious student; and Simpson bears also a respectable character as a preacher, though not peculiarly distinguished in public debate. To these Baillie adds, as Independents, Joseph Caryl, William Carter (of London), John Philips, and Peter Sterry, — naming nine, but saying that there were "some ten or eleven." 18 Neal adds Anthony Burgess and William Greenhill.19 Some of the views of the Independents were occasionally supported by Herle, Marshall, and Vines, and some few others; but none of these men are to be included in the number of the decided Independents.
The third party in the Assembly were the Erastians; so called from Erastus, a physician at Heidelberg, who wrote on the subject of Church government, especially in respect of excommunication, in the year 1568. His theory was, — That the pastoral once is only persuasive, like that of a professor over his students, without any direct power; that baptism, the Lord’s supper, and all other gospel ordinances, were free and open to all; and that the minister might state and explain what were the proper qualifications, and might dissuade the vicious and unqualified from the communion, but had no power to refuse it, or to indict any kind of censure. The punishment of all offenses, whether of a civil or a religious nature, belonged, according to this theory, exclusively to the civil magistrate. The tendency of this theory was, to destroy entirely all ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction, to deprive the Church of all power of government, and to make it completely the mere "creature of the State." The pretended advantage of this theory was, that it prevented the existence of an imperium in imperio, or one government within another, of a distinct and independent nature. But the real disadvantage, in the most mitigated view that can be taken, was, that it reproduced what may be termed a civil Popedom, by combining civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and giving both into the possession of one irresponsible power, — thereby destroying both civil and religious liberty, and subjecting men to an absolute and irremediable despotism. In another point of view, the Erastian theory assumes a still darker and more formidable aspect. It necessarily denies the mediatorial sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ over his Church, — takes the power of the keys from his once-bearers and gives them to the civil magistrate, — destroys liberty of conscience, by making spiritual matters subject to the same coercive power as temporal affairs naturally and properly are; and thus involves both State and Church in reciprocal and mutually destructive sin, — the State, in usurping a power which God has not given; and the Church, in yielding what she is not at liberty to yield — the sacred crown-rights of the divine Redeemer, her only Head and King.
But as the Erastian controversy will come fully before us in the debates of the Assembly, it is unnecessary to enter upon it here. There were only two divines in the assembly who advocated the Erastian theory; and of these, one alone was decidedly and thoroughly Erastian. The divine to whom this unenviable pre-eminence must be assigned, was Thomas Coleman, minister at Bliton in Lincolnshire. He was aided generally, but not always, by Lightfoot, in the various discussions that arose involving Erastian opinions. Both of these divines were eminently distinguished by their attainments in Oriental literature, particularly in rabbinical lore; and their attachment to the study of Hebrew literature and customs led them to the conclusion, that the Christian Church was to be in every respect constituted according to the model of the Jewish Church: and having formed the opinion that there was but one jurisdiction in Israel, combining both civil and ecclesiastical, and that this was held by the Hebrew monarchs, they concluded that the same blended government ought to prevail under the Christian dispensation. Of the lay assessors in the Assembly the chief Erastians were, the learned Selden, Mr. Whitelocke, and Mr. St. John; but though Selden was the only one of them whose arguments were influential in the Assembly itself, yet nearly all the Parliament held sentiments decidedly Erastian, and having seized the power of Church government, were not disposed to yield it up, be the opinion of the assembled divines what it might. Hence, though the Erastian divines were only two, yet their opinions, supported by the whole civil authority in the kingdom, were almost sure to triumph in the end. This, in one point of view, was not strange. The kingdom had suffered so much severe and protracted injury from the usurped authority and power of the prelates, that the assertors of civil liberty almost instinctively shrunk from even the shadow of any kind of power in the hands of ecclesiastics. A little less passion and fear, and a little more judgment and discrimination, might have rescued them from this groundless apprehension; and they might have perceived that freedom, both civil and ecclesiastical, would be best secured by the full and authoritative recognition of their respective jurisdictions, separate and independent. But indeed this is a truth which has yet to be learned by civil governments, — a truth unknown to ancient times, in which religion was either an engine of the State or the object of persecution, — a truth unknown during the period of papal ascendancy, in which the Romish priesthood usurped dominion over civil governments, and exercised its tyranny alike over the persons and the conscience of mankind, — a truth first brought to light in the great religious reformation of the sixteenth century, — but not then, nor even yet, fully developed, rightly understood, and permitted to exercise its free and sacred supremacy. That it will finally assume its due dominion over the minds and actions of all bodies of men, both civil and ecclesiastical, we cannot doubt; and then, but not till then, will the two dread counterpart elements of human degradation, tyranny and slavery, become alike impossible.
Into these three great parties, Presbyterian, Independent, and Erastian, was the Westminster Assembly of Divines divided, even when first it met; and it was inevitable that a contest would be waged among them for the ascendancy, ending most probably either in increased hostility and absolute disruption, or in some mutual compromise, to which all might assent, though perhaps with the cordial approbation of none. The strength of these parties was more evenly balanced at first than might have been expected. The Puritans, though all of them had received Episcopal ordination, and had been exercising their ministry in the Church of England, under the hierarchy, were nearly all Presbyterians, or at least quite willing to adopt that form of church government, though many of them would have consented to a modified Episcopacy on the Usserian model. Their influence in the city of London was paramount, and throughout the country was very considerable; and as they formed the most natural connecting link with Scotland, they occupied a position of very great importance. Although the Independents were but a small minority in the Assembly, yet various circumstances combined to render them by no means a weak or insignificant party. They were supported in the House of Peers by Lord Say and Sele, and frequently also by Lords Brooke and Kimbolton, — the latter of whom is better known by his subsequent title of Lord Manchester. Philip Nye, one of the leading Independents, had been appointed to Kimbolton by the influence of Lord Kimbolton, and continued to maintain a constant intercourse with him, both while he was acting as a legislator, and when leading the armies of the Parliament. It is even asserted by Palmer, in his "Nonconformist’s Memorial," that Nye’s advice was sought and followed in the nomination of the divines who were called to the Assembly.20 And when, further, it is borne in mind that Oliver Cromwell was an Independent, and acted as lieutenant-general under Lord Manchester, it will easily be perceived that Nye’s intercourse with the army was direct and influential, and that thus the Five Dissenting Brethren were able to employ a mighty political influence. Nor can the Erastian party be justly termed feeble, though formed by not more than two divines, and a few of the lay assessors, who were not always present; for both Coleman and Lightfoot were influential men, on account of their reputation for learning, in which they were scarcely inferior to Selden himself, in the department of Hebrew literature. So high was Selden’s fame, that any cause might be deemed strong which he supported; and Whitelocke and St. John possessed so much political influence in Parliament that they could not fail to exercise great power in every matter which they promoted. or opposed. But the main strength of the Erastian theory consisted in the combination of three potent elements; — the natural love of holding and. exercising power, which is common to all men and parties, tending to render the Parliament reluctant to relinquish that ecclesiastical supremacy which they had with such difficulty wrested from the sovereign; their want of acquaintance with the true nature of Presbyterian Church government, which led them to dread that if allowed free scope it might prove as oppressive as even the Prelatical, beneath whose weighty and galling yoke the nation was still downbent and bleeding; and the strong instinctive antipathy which fallen human nature feels against the spirituality and the power of vital godliness. It is easy to perceive, that the theory which was supported by these three elements in thorough and vigorous, union, was one which it would be no easy matter to encounter and defeat; or rather, was one over which nothing but divine power could possibly gain the victory.
The Scottish commissioners cannot with propriety be regarded as forming a party in the Westminster Assembly, as they and, the English Presbyterians were in all important matters completely identified. Still it may be expedient to give a very brief account of men who occupied a position so important, and exercised. for a time so great an influence on the affairs of both kingdoms. Their names have been already mentioned; and it has also been stated, that neither the Earl of Cassilis nor the Rev. Robert Douglas ever attended the Westminster assembly. Lord Maitland and Archibald Johnston of Warriston gave regular attendance, and took deep interest in the proceedings. At that time Lord Maitland appeared to be very zealous in the cause of religious reformation, and a thorough Presbyterian; but, as afterwards appeared, his zeal was more of a political than of a religious character. After the restoration of Charles II, he conformed to Prelacy, became the chief adviser of that monarch in Scottish affairs, received the title of Duke of Lauderdale, and is too well known in Scottish history as a ruthless and bloody persecutor. Johnston of Warriston was in heart and soul a Covenanter on religious, not political principles; from which he never swerved. One only stain appears in his life, if stain it can be called, — his consenting to receive once under the government of Cromwell, after that remarkable man had reduced the three kingdoms to his sway, and when there was every reason to expect that his dominion would be lasting. Such being the case, Warriston had but to choose to serve his country under Cromwell, or not to serve it at all. He chose the former alternative; and after the Restoration, was constrained to flee from Scotland to escape the mean vindictive hostility of the king. Having been at length seized by his pursuers, he was dragged back to his native country, that his enemies might satiate their malice by murdering the inch of life that existed in his aged and feeble form. He was a man of great strength and clearness of intellect, fervidly eloquent in speech, and of inflexible integrity.
The four Scottish divines were in every respect distinguished men, and would have been so regarded in any age or country. Alexander Henderson was, however, cheerfully admitted to be beyond comparison the most eminent. His learning was extensive rather than minute, corresponding to the character of his mind, of which the distinguishing elements were dignity and comprehensiveness. When called to quit the calm seclusion of the country parish where he had spent so many years, and to come to the rescue of the Church of Scotland in her hour of need, he at once proved himself able to conduct and control the complicated movements of an awakening empire. Statesmen sought his counsel; but with equal propriety and disinterestedness he refused to concern himself with anything beyond what belonged to the Church, — although the very reverse has often been asserted by his prelatic calumniators. Though long and incessantly engaged in the most stirring events of a remarkably momentous period, his actions, his writings, his speeches, are all characterized by calmness and ease, without the slightest appearance of heat or agitation; — resulting unquestionably from that aspect of character generally termed greatness of mind ; but which would in him be more properly characterized by describing it as a rare combination of intellectual power, moral dignity, and spiritual elevation. It was the condition of a mighty mind, enjoying the peace of God which passeth understanding, — a peace which the world had not given, and could not take away.
George Gillespie was one of that peculiar class of men who start like meteors into sudden splendor, shine with dazzling brilliancy, then suddenly set behind the tomb, leaving their compeers equally to admire and to deplore. When but in his twenty-fifth year, he published a book against what he termed, the "English Popish Ceremonies," which Charles and Laud were attempting to force upon the Church of Scotland. This work, though the production of a youth, displayed an amount and accuracy of learning which would have done honor to any man of the most mature years and scholarship. In the Assembly of Divines, though much the youngest member there, he proved himself one of the most able and ready debaters, encountering, not only on equal terms, but often with triumphant success, each with his own weapons, the most learned, subtle, and profound of his antagonists, He must have been no common man who was ready on any emergency to meet, and frequently to foil, by their own acknowledgment, such men as Selden, Lightfoot, and Coleman, in the Erastian controversy; and Goodwin and Nye in their argument for Independency. But the excessive activity of his ardent and energetic mind wore out his frame; and he returned from his labors in the Westminster Assembly, to see once more the church and the land of his fathers, and to die.
Samuel Rutherford gained, and still holds, an extensive reputation by his religious works; but he was not less eminent in his own day as an acute and able controversialist. The characteristics of his mind were, clearness of intellect, warmth and earnestness of affection, and loftiness and spirituality of devotional feeling. He could and did write vigorously against the Independent system, and at the same time, love and esteem the men who held it. In his celebrated work, "Lex Rex," he not only entered the regions of constitutional jurists, but even produced a treatise unrivaled yet as an exposition of the true principles of civil and religious liberty. His "Religious Letters" have been long admired by all who could understand and feel what true religion is; though groveling and impure minds have striven to blight their reputation by dwelling on occasional forms of expression, not necessarily unseemly in the homeliness of phrase used in familiar letters, and conveying nothing offensive according to the language of the times. His powers of debate were very considerable, being characterized by clearness of distinction in stating his opinions, and a close syllogistic style of reasoning; both the result of his remarkable precision of thought.
Robert Baillie, so well known by his "Letters and Journals," was a man of extensive and varied learning, both in languages and systematic theology. He rarely mingled in debate; but his sagacity was valuable in deliberation, and his great acquirements, studious habits, and ready use of his pen, rendered him an important member of such an Assembly. The singular ease and readiness of Baillie in composition, enabled him to maintain what seems like a universal correspondence; and at the same time to present in a vivid, picturesque, and exquisitely natural style, the very form and impress of the period in which he lived, and the great events in which he bore a part. And when it was necessary to refute errors by exhibiting them in their real aspect, the vast reading and retentive memory of Baillie enabled him to produce what was needed with marvelous rapidity and correctness. Scarcely ever was any man more qualified to "catch the manners living as they rise," and at the same time to point out with instinctive sagacity what in them was wrong and dangerous.
Such were the Scottish commissioners; and it may easily be believed that they acted a very important and influential part in the Westminster Assembly of Divines.
But there was another party in England, though not represented in the Westminster Assembly, which exercised a commanding influence in the affairs of that momentous period. Perhaps it is not strictly correct to call that a party which was rather a vast mass of heterogeneous elements, without any principle of mutual coherence, except that of united resistance and hostility to every thing that possessed a previous and authorized existence. But the effect on the country was even more powerful for evil than it could, have been had the numerous sects to whom we are referring been organized into a party; for in that case their strength could have been estimated, their demands brought forward in a definite form, what was right and reasonable granted, and what was manifestly wrong and unreasonable detected and exposed. Even before the meeting of the Long Parliament, there had sprung up a great number of sects, holding all various shades of opinion in religious matters, from such as were simply absurd, down to those that were licentiously wild and daringly blasphemous. It is almost impossible even to enumerate the Sectarians that rushed prominently into public manifestation when the overthrow of the prelatic hierarchy and government rendered it safe for them to appear; and it would be wrong to pollute our pages with a statement of their pernicious and horrible tenets. 21 These may be seen at large in Baillie’s "Dissuasive from the Errors of the Times," "Edwards’s Gangraena," "A Testimony to the Truth of Jesus Christ," by the London Ministers, and other similar works by Prynne, Bastwick, and others.
The question may be fairly and properly asked, How it happened that so many strange and dangerous sects appeared at that peculiar juncture? Prelatic writers have been in the habit of asserting that it was in consequence of the overthrow of the Prelatic Church government, when people were left to follow the vagaries of their own unguided imagination, by which they were led into all the errors of enthusiastic frenzy and fanatical darkness. But this solution does not touch the essence of the inquiry, How came men to be so prone to follow these insane and dangerous errors? In answer to this question there are at least two points to be carefully considered, — how had Prelacy governed, and how had Prelacy taught, the people of England? It has been already shown, that from the very commencement of the Reformation in England, the principle of the king’s supremacy in matters ecclesiastical — a principle essentially despotic, by its combination of civil and spiritual jurisdiction — had been the governing principle in the English Church. At first it showed its tyrannical tendency, by imposing ceremonies not warranted by the Word of God, and associated with Popery; and by enforcing these without the slightest regard to tenderness of feeling, or liberty of conscience. Advancing on its despotic career, it interfered with the forms and the language of worship, prescribing to man after what manner, and in what terms, he was to address his Creator, without regard to that Creator’s own commands. At length it reached its extreme limits, and presumed to exercise absolute control over the doctrines which Christ’s ambassadors were to teach; thus rashly interfering not merely with man’s approach to God, but also with God’s message to man. This extreme point of spiritual despotism was reached, when the king and his prelates authoritatively commanded the Lord’s day to be violated, and forbade any other but the Arminian system of doctrine to be preached. Hence it appears that Prelatic Church government had proved itself to be a complete and oppressive despotism, increasing in severity as it increased in power. And let it be observed, that during its progress it had silenced. or ejected great numbers of the ablest and best ministers throughout the kingdom, without scruple and without mercy. Such a course of tyranny could not fail to produce a strong reaction in a high-minded people like the English, causing them, in the violence of the revulsion and recoil, to regard every form of ecclesiastical government as inevitably tyrannical; just as the extreme of civil despotism tends to throw a nation at one bound into the extreme of republicanism. In this manner Prelatic tyranny was the very cause why so many sects sprung up, repudiating every kind of ecclesiastical government.
Again, with regard to how Prelacy had taught the people of England, there needs but little to be said; for it is a melancholy truth, that teaching the people seems never to have been regarded by the Church of England as necessarily any part of its duty. In a Church where a despotic monarch exercises the supremacy, this is not surprising; for it requires no great degree of penetration to perceive that an intelligent and truly religious people cannot be enslaved. This Elizabeth well knew, and therefore she disapproved of preaching ministers. For the same reason, what were termed "prophesyings," or meetings for mutual instruction, and also lecturings, were prohibited. And perhaps it would not be far from the truth were we to conjecture, that the reason why parochial schools were never instituted in England, is to be found in the same despotic principle which led the English kings and Church to wish the people to remain ignorant, that they might be the easier kept in a state of blind subjection. It will be remembered also, that whenever the Puritan ministers became what was thought troublesome, in their endeavors to teach their poor and ignorant countrymen, they were immediately silenced; and, as toleration was then unknown, they were compelled to desist from their hallowed labors, on pain of imprisonment, exile, or death. Taking this view, which is the true one, it is mere mockery to say that Prelacy had ever even attempted to teach the people of England at all, — unless, indeed, we were to say that it had striven earnestly to teach them, that external rites and ceremonies of man’s institution are more important than the Word of God, and that it was right to profane that day which God has commanded to be remembered and kept holy.
Such had been the governing, and such the teaching of Prelacy in England; and it was not strange that men, groaning under oppression, and kept in utter darkness, should wrench asunder their fetters furiously, and should be dazzled. when they rushed at once into unwonted light. It was not strange that they should, hastily conclude that whatever was remotest from such a system was best; and should therefore be eager to destroy that form of ecclesiastical government, and to resist the establishment of any other, lest it should prove equally despotic. Nor was it strange, that people strongly excited on the subject of religion, and uninstructed in its great leading truths and principles, should very readily adopt any and every theory which was boldly and plausibly promulgated. Thus it was easy for any man who possessed sufficient fluency of speech to impose upon an excited and ignorant people, to gain a number of adherents to his opinions, and to become the founder and leader of a sect. It has often been said by those who support Prelacy, not as of divine authority, but as a useful and suitable form of Church government, that it was devised for the purpose of producing and preserving uniformity in the Church. Unfortunate device! It never could have had a more full and authoritative sway than that which it enjoyed during the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles I; and it produced the most complete anarchy, and gave rise to Sectarianism to the greatest extent, and in the most repulsive forms, that ever shocked the Christian world. It at once kept men in ignorance, and drove them to madness; and ever since it has appealed to their frantic conduct as a proof of its own calm excellence.
The truth of this view may be shown by a parallel, but a strongly contrasted instance. After the restoration of Charles II, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was violently overthrown, and its adherents subjected to twenty-eight years of terrific and relentless persecution. Did the people of Scotland split into innumerable and extravagant sects, when thus deprived of their religious teachers, and oppressed with the most remorseless cruelty? They did not. One sect alone appeared, after the persecution had lasted twenty years, and in a parish where there had been a Prelatic incumbent all that time; it never mustered more than four men, and twenty-five or twenty-six women, and it perished within a few months. What caused this remarkable difference? One answer only can be given — The superiority of the Presbyterian system, which had so thoroughly instructed the people, that they could and did retain their calm and regulated consistency of doctrine and character in the midst of every maddening and delusive element; while, on the other hand, when the Prelatic government of England was broken up, its oppressed. and ignorant people rushed headlong into the most wild, extravagant, and pernicious errors. This we believe to be the true explanation of the matter, though we are well aware that it will not be readily admitted by the admirers of Prelacy. But the truth must be stated, be offended who may; and it will be well for Britain, and for Christendom, if, should a period of similar breaking up and reconstruction arrive, men will learn by the sad experience of the past, and never more presume, either to supersede God’s institutions with man’s inventions, or, in their violent recoil, refuse to submit themselves to what God has appointed, and has so often and so manifestly honored and sanctioned with His blessing.
The pernicious effect of these multitudinous sects upon the proceedings of the Westminster Assembly, we shall have occasion hereafter to show. It will be enough here to suggest what will then be proved. Although the Independent party in the Assembly did not openly avow, or rather disclaimed, connection with the Sectarians that swarmed throughout the kingdom, yet they so far held intercourse with them, and occasionally defended them, as to secure their support, and thereby to render themselves in some measure the representatives of a large portion of the English community. For this purpose they strove to retard the progress of the Assembly, while they were mustering their adherents and concentrating their strength, — evidently expecting that they would eventually secure the establishment of their own system. In the Assembly and Parliament both, they had the aid of Sir Harry Vane the younger, one of the most subtle politicians of the age, — a man whose mind was full of theoretic and impracticable speculations, and whose restless activity of temperament kept him perpetually scheming or executing something new, — whose very constitution of mind was sectarian, because it was constructed in sections, without continuity or harmony. And in the Parliament and army they had the far more important support of Oliver Cromwell, with whom they held constant intercourse, and by whom there is every reason to believe they were employed and overreached. It is not meant, that the Independent members of Assembly were completely identified with the political Independents of the army; but there was so much of a community of feeling and interest between them, that it was not difficult for such a man as Cromwell to employ both of these parties in the promotion of his own designs.
What we have termed the political Independents of the army, were composed of sectarians of every possible shade of opinion; and from them, rather than from the religious Independents in the Assembly, arose the idea of toleration, of which so much use was subsequently made. As used by those military sectarians, the meaning of the term was, that any man might freely utter the ravings of his own heated fancy, and endeavor to proselytize others, be his opinions what they might, — even though manifestly subversive of all morality, all government, and all revelation. Such a toleration, for instance, as would include alike Antinomians and Anabaptists, though teaching that they were set free from and above the rules of moral duty so completely, that to indulge in the grossest licentiousness was in them no sin; and Levelers and Fifth-Monarchy Men, whose tenets went directly to the subversion of every kind of constituted government, and all distinctions in rank and property. This was what they meant by toleration, — and this was what the Puritans and Presbyterians condemned and wrote against with startled vehemence. And it is neither to the credit of the Independent divines of that period, nor of their subsequent admirers and followers, that they seem to countenance such a toleration, the real meaning of which was, civil, moral, and religious anarchy. It is, however, true, that out of the discussions which this claim of unbounded and licentious toleration raised, there was at length evolved the idea of religious toleration, such as is demanded by man’s solemn and dread characteristic of personal responsibility, and consequent inalienable right to liberty of conscience. And let it be noted, that this great idea was fully admitted by those who reasoned and wrote most strongly against the "unbounded toleration" claimed by the Sectarians; although, in their opposition to that claim, they occasionally used language which might seem to condemn what in reality they both demanded for themselves and readily allowed to others. 22 It is usual for a certain class of writers to accuse the Presbyterians of wishing to seize and wield, a tyranny as severe as that of Prelacy, against which they raised such loud complaints. Without undertaking to defend all that they said and did, this may be safely affirmed, that both the principles and the constitution of a rightly formed Presbyterian Church render the usurpation of power and the exercise of tyranny on its part wholly impossible. A Presbyterian Church in the process of formation, still trembling from the savage grasp of Prelacy, and surrounded by wild and fearful forms of sectarianism, as was its condition at the time of the Westminster Assembly, might act with some rashness and severity; a corrupt Presbyterian Church, such as was that of Scotland during the domination of Moderatism, might act despotically; but in its own nature, with its subordination of courts, and an equal or preponderating admixture of elders in them all, it can neither usurp clerical domination nor sink into jarring anarchy. In its purest state and its fullest exercise, it gives and preserves both civil and religious liberty, — both doctrinal truth and disciplinary purity, — both national instruction and national peace. On the other hand, Prelacy, in its most powerful and active state, has ever tended to destroy both civil and religious liberty; has checked doctrinal truth, and disregarded disciplinary purity; has never attempted to instruct the nation, but left it a prey to ignorance and error; and has, both in Scotland and England, inflicted the most cruel persecution, and given rise to bloody civil wars. This is a startling contrast, but not more startling than true. There is yet another point of contrast. During the past century Prelacy sunk into dormancy, and became mild and inoffensive: Presbytery sunk into dormancy, and became cruel and oppressive, as if agitated by wild dreams under that fierce incubus, Moderatism. Prelacy has awoke, and begins to mutter words of fearful import, indicating the return of its oppressive spirit: Presbytery has awoke, and has begun her hallowed work of instructing her own people, while she offers her cordial fellowship to all who love her Divine and only Head. The inference is obvious, and may be thus stated: When the vital spirit of Prelacy is inert, it becomes comparatively harmless: when the vital spirit of Presbytery is inert, or repressed, it becomes oppressive. Again, when the vital spirit of Prelacy is active, it becomes despotic and persecuting, intolerant and illiberal: when the vital spirit of Presbytery is active, it becomes gracious and compassionate, tolerant of every thing but sin, and generous to all who believe the truth and love the Savior. Let the thoughtful reader say, which system is of human, and which of divine institution, — which shows a spirit of the earth, earthly, and which, of heavenly origin and character.
1 Lightfoot’s Works, vol. 13 pp. 3, 4.
2 Baillie, vol 2 pp. 108, 109.
3 Lightfont, p. 5.
5 Fuller, vol. 3 p. 448.
6 For the use of perhaps the most complete collection of these sermons extant, the author is indebted to the kindness and courtesy of the Rev. Mr. Craig of Rothsay.
7 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 80.
8 Ibid., vol. 2 p. 89. All the documents referred to, with their answers, may be seen in the Acts of Assembly 1643.
9 The Lord High Commissioner, Sir Thomas Hope, declined assenting to the Covenant in his official capacity, but personally he gave his cordial concurrence.
10 See Appendix.
11 The angry language of Dr. Lightfoot is positively ludicrous: — "A wretch that ought to be branded to all posterity, who seeks, for some devilish ends, either of his own or others, or both, to hinder so great a good of the two nations." — Lightfoot, vol. 13 p, 12.
12 Rushworth, vol. 5 p. 475.
13 This roll was subscribed by two hundred and twenty-eight members of the House of Commons, whose names may be seen in Rushworth, vol. 5 pp. 480, 481. On that roll appears the name of Oliver Cromwell.
14 Rushworth, vol. 5 p. 482.
15 Neal, vol. 2 pp. 284,235.
16 Brook’s Lives of the Puritans, vol. 3 p. 312.
17 Brook, vol. 2 p. 454; Edward’s Antapologia, pp. 115-117; Baillie’s Dissuasive, pp. 75-77.
18 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 110.
19 Neal, vol. 2 pp. 275, 360.
20 Palmer’s Nonconformist’s Memorial, vol. 1 p. 96.
21 "John Lillburn related it unto me, and that in the presence of others, that returning from the wars to London, he met forty new sects, many of them, dangerous ones, and some so pernicious, that howsoever, as he said, he was in his judgment for toleration of all religions, yet he professed he could scarce keep his hands off them, so blasphemous they were in their opinions." — Bastwick ’ s Second Part of Independency, postscript, p. 37. Lillburn was himself a Leveler.
22 We shall have occasion, in a subsequent part of this work, to prove that the true idea of toleration, in its right moral and religious sense, was first taught and first exemplified by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, next by the Puritans, and then adopted, but corrupted, by the Sectarians and Independents.