WILLIAM MAXWELL HETHERINGTON,
D. D., LL. D.
THE ERASTIAN CONTROVERSY, 1645-46.
Erastians in the Assembly and in Parliament – Theories held by them – Beginning of the Controversy – Excommunication – Selden’s Argument – Answered by Gillespie – Discussion on the Doctrinal Part of the Directory for Ordination – Whitelocke’s Argument – Firmness and Triumph of the Assembly – Debate in Parliament on the subject of the Jus Divinum – Whitelocke – Suspending from the Sacrament – Debate in Parliament – Selden and Whitelocke – Remarks – Continued Struggle with the Parliament – Ordinance on Suspending from Communion, and Erastian element in it – Firm Conduct of the Assembly and the City Ministers – Ordinance for the Election of Ruling Elders and the Erection of Presbyteries, and Erastian element in it – Interposition of the Scottish Commissioners of Parliament – Haughty Conduct of the English Parliament – Boldness of the Assembly – Questions respecting the Jus Divinum – Main Proposition of the Assembly’s Answer Destructive of the Erastian Principle – General Answer – Change in the Temper of Parliament, and One Point Yielded to the Assembly – Bearing of Political Events on the Parliament’s Conduct – The King Surrendered – Vindication of Scotland’s Conduct – First Meeting of the Synod of London – And of Lancashire – Last Votes of Parliament on the subject of Presbyterian Church Government – Discussion concerning the Confession of Faith – Vindication of it from the Charge of being Tainted with Erastianism – Ratified, with some Exceptions – The Literature of the Erastian Controversy.
T HERE were in the Westminster Assembly, as has been already stated, three parties, the Presbyterians, the Independents, and the Erastians. In the preceding chapter our attention has been almost solely occupied with the Independent controversy; both because it actually occurred first in order of time, and because it seemed expedient to complete a general view of it before entering upon the consideration of Erastianism, although some discussions on that subject were intermingled with what more strictly related to the prior matter of debate. And in order to obtain a full view of the Erastian controversy, we must revert a little to its beginnings, some of which occurred at an early stage of the Assembly’s deliberations, although the main struggle with the Erastians took place after that with the Independents had virtually terminated, so far at least as the Assembly was concerned.
It was somewhat ominous of evil, that the very calling of the Assembly was solely the deed of the civil power, and that their deliberations were limited to Such matters as should be proposed to them by the Parliament. Yet, in the universal confusion into which both Church and State had been cast, this was unavoidable, and might not have led to any evil consequences, had the civil government been satisfied with the due exercise of their own powers in calling forth and putting into operation the remedial energies of the Church in its own sacred province. Nor was it strange, that men who had so recently suffered so much from prelatic tyranny should regard with alarm all ecclesiastical power whatever, and by the strength of a violent revulsion and rebound, should spring to the opposite conclusion, that there ought to be no power or jurisdiction, except that of the civil magistrate. Such appears to have been the predominant state of mind and feeling among the members of the Long Parliament in general, together with the peculiar opinions held by individuals, and caused by their diversities of studies or professional pursuits. "Most of the lawyers," says Baillie, "are strong Erastians, and would have all the Church government depend absolutely upon the Parliament." And of Selden, he says, "This man is the head of the Erastians; his glory is most in the Jewish learning; he avows everywhere that the Jewish State and Church were all one, and that so in England it must be, that the Parliament is the Church." Lightfoot and 1 Coleman, the only Erastian divines in the Assembly, adopted the same line of thought and argument with Selden, and reasoned from the blended polity, as they affirmed it to be, which prevailed among the Jews, in order to maintain that a similar arrangement should exist in Christian States, in which the civil magistrate, being a Christian, ought to possess and wield all jurisdiction both civil and ecclesiastical. The mere lawyers, on the other hand, maintained the Erastian theory on the weaker and more easily refuted argument, that unless the civil magistrate possessed all jurisdiction there would arise the intolerable anomaly of an imperium in imperio, – one independent government within another; which in their opinion would be fatal to all good government, and produce inextricable confusion.
The easy connection between this theory and that which had long prevailed in the Church of England, will be readily perceived. The ecclesiastical supremacy of the English monarchs was held to be similar to that which had been held by the Jewish kings, and by the Christian emperors; and it was with some plausibility argued, that these formed authoritative precedents for a Christian sovereign’s possession and exercise of jurisdiction within the Church, in all matters of censure, although it gave no authority to interfere in the administration of ordinances, or in the ordination or deposition of ministers, which accordingly were left theoretically free, though practically they were subject to the most absolute control. For the same reason, no opposition was made by the Erastians to the great idea stated by the Westminster Assembly, that "Christ, who is prophet, priest, king, and head of the Church, hath fullness of power, and containeth all other offices by way of eminency in himself;" because they were prepared to hold, that in a Christian state, Christ had delegated the power of jurisdiction to the Christian civil magistrate, defending that opinion by the analogy of the Jewish state and kings. The kind of arguments brought forward by them in support of this theory, and the counter arguments by which these were met, we must now proceed to state; which we shall endeavor to do with all possible impartiality.
It will be evident to every intelligent reader, that the ground taken by the learned and able Erastians of that period, while it was one of very considerable plausibility, led them to assail directly that element of Church government which involves the exercise of discipline, or Church censure; because, since the only authority which a Church can possess is over the conscience, the only way in which it can have, and exercise jurisdiction, is by spiritual censures directly affecting the conscience of delinquents; so that if a Church cannot inflict censures, it cannot possibly have a distinct and independent government of its own. The Erastians of the Parliament were aware that it would be absurd for them to call themselves a Church, in the strict sense of that term, and consequently, that it would be absurd to pretend that they could themselves admit and ordain ministers, a matter which manifestly belongs to the function of Church officers; but they perceived that they might more plausibly and successfully assail the power of inflicting censures, and thereby overthrow Church government, on the ground that all jurisdiction belonged to the civil magistrate, even ecclesiastical jurisdiction, in Christian States, though they admitted that it might properly be held and exercised by the Church under a heathen government.
The first intimation of the controversy occurred on the 8th of January 1644, when the second committee gave in a report concerning the work of pastors, to the following effect: – "Pastors and teachers have power to inquire and judge who are fit to be admitted to the sacraments, or kept from them; and also who are to be excommunicated or absolved from that censure." This proposition the Erastians could not permit to pass unchallenged; and therefore Selden interposed, and "desired that the business of excommunication might first be looked upon, for that very much may be said to prove that there is no excommunication at all ; and for that, in this kingdom, ever since it was a kingdom, Christian excommunication hath ever been by a temporal power; as in the pope’s rule here, his own excommunication could not be brought in hither, but by permission of the secular power, otherwise it was death to him that brought it; and excepting the case of heresy and concubitus illicitus, the episcopacy never had power to excommunicate." This was sufficiently2 intelligible; but though the Assembly perceived clearly the import of Selden’s remarks, it was not judged expedient to enter upon the subject precipitately; and therefore it was remitted to the second committee to take the whole business of excommunication and censures into consideration.
Although the Assembly did not wish to provoke an early discussion with the Erastians, and especially were desirous to have as many points ratified as might be possible, before a final struggle on the essential elements of disagreement, still it was not practicable to avoid coming into collision whenever the controverted topics occurred in the course of debate. Thus the question respecting excommunication again arose when the Assembly were debating this proposition, – "Scripture holdeth forth that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government;" for the Independents opposed that proposition on the ground, that it would destroy the rights and powers of particular congregations in the important point of maintaining their own purity by excommunicating guilty members, since the Scripture rule, as they argued, is "In the presence of the people," which cannot take place if a presbytery excommunicate, and must therefore be done by a single congregation. During the greater part of the discussion which followed on this point, the Erastians continued silent, and allowed the Independents to bring forward every argument which they could devise, being quite willing that the Presbyterian system should be defeated if possible by the Dissenting Brethren, whose own plan they would themselves take care to nullify. But when the Independent arguments had been all heard and answered at great length, Selden interposed, and brought forward his own view in the following manner, as given by Lightfoot, who concurred with him, and whose report may be depended on as stating the argument in its most favorable aspect.
The passage of Scripture under discussion was 1 Corinthians 5: 4:
"In the name of our Lord Jesus, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"Mr. Selden," says Lightfoot, "questioned whether this place have any thing to do with excommunication; and that , must be joined together to this sense, ‘seeing that you and my spirit are together; ’ or, it may bear this, ‘when my spirit and you shall come together; ’ or, ‘howsoever you have not been humbled as you ought, yet my spirit and you agreeing now at last. ’ And so, Nehemiah 4: 8, is meant, and is of the same sense with convenire, either in loco or animo. And he cited Faber. Stapulensis, that takes the word from , ‘to mourn or grieve. ’ Ergo, there being so many interpretations, it is not fit to build upon. This epistle is written to the Church and to the saints; where the Church signifieth the governing body of the Church.
1. The Jews had two kinds of sanhedrims, the great and the less; and, Numbers 35, the congregation must judge the heedless murderer, which the Jews generally understood of , and Leviticus 4: 13, ‘If the whole congregation have sinned, ’ – the Jews constantly understand this of the great sanhedrim. And so might the presbytery here, though had been the phrase. About Jerusalem it was still called the Church, not only under Judaism, but also under Christianity.
2. Ancient times, indeed, have called excommunication ‘giving up to Satan, and our own kingdom hath called the excommunicated person ‘the devil’s person; ’ but for the first three hundred years most [none?] of the Fathers take this place for excommunication; and he also showed that P. Molinos proves that it meaneth no such thing. He queried whether this were the incestuous, he that is mentioned to be excommunicated hereafter, who is called ‘the evil person to be taken away, ’ in the last verse, where many copies have , and not ." 3
This argument produced little effect upon the Assembly, and after Mr. Vines had answered it, the discussion with the Independents was resumed.
Having failed on this point, Selden prepared to put forth all the strength of his rabbinical lore in the discussion concerning the meaning of Matthew 18: 15-18, which was brought forward to prove ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and also the subordination of Church courts, and successive appeals ending in excommunication. The Independents had admitted that the passage did prove jurisdiction and church censure, but labored to limit the whole procedure within one congregation, so as to deny appeals to presbyteries. Selden again came forward, and again we shall give his argument as reported by Lightfoot: –
"Mr. Selden confessed that he could not find any kind of jurisdiction in this chapter; and he told a story of a Jesuit, Xavier, that turns the place in Persic, ‘Dic principi ecclesiae. ’ Also, that all the Fathers in the first times do never apply this text to jurisdiction, before Rome Church grew high, namely, not in the first four centuries, unless it be in the forged book of Cyprian, De Abusionibus Saeculi. Then he offered these things: 1. To consider the time, place, and way of writing of this. Matthew’s Gospel was first written, viz., about eight years after Christ’s ascension; so it is in an old copy of Greek used by Beza, and an Arabic. 2. It is conceived it was written in Hebrew, for the Hebrews, and as the Syrian . Now, in the Hebrew text it is in these two editions we have, and be like in Matthew’s; now in chapter sixteen it is . Now, the Acts of the Apostles, which is the first place we find ecclesia in, was not written of fourteen years after this of Matthew. Now the course of admonition among the Jews was: They distinguished betwixt offenses betwixt man and man, and betwixt man and God. Now he that had been offended by man was to go single and desire satisfaction; and if he would not hearken, then take more company, and if , then . Now every one of the courts was called hd[. Excommunication among the Jews might be inflicted by any of twelve years old; and so, by consequence, every court might do it; but the synagogue did not use it, and was not utterly outlawed from the synagogue, but some part of ordinary free conversation denied him. Now, , ecclesia, etc., must be interpreted, according to the occasion, for a certain number, secundum subjectam materiam, as Deuteronomy 23, ‘An Ammonite may not enter : that is, of women; for the Jews understood it of marrying an Israelitish woman. He concluded that this place might very well mean a sanhedrim. Christ was in Capernaum now, when he spake this, where there was a sanhedrim. Now his speech is so Jewish, that it results to this, If an Israelite offend thee, tell the sanhedrim. To the objection, But what means, ‘Let him be unto thee an heathen? ’ he answered, This indeed may be excommunication by the court; or, by himself: ‘If thy brother offend, ’ etc., after such and such admonition, sue him at the court, or else inform of him there; if he will not obey the court, do thou excommunicate him." 4
Such was the boasted argument of the man emphatically styled "the learned Selden." Its object was, to explain away the force of the term ecclesia, or " church ," and to reduce the passage to a strictly Jewish application; then, by allusions to some indefinite Hebrew customs, to resolve the matter into a mere application to a civil court, in cases where a private and friendly arrangement could not be effected; reducing, at the same time, the meaning of the term " excommunication " into the act of one person merely declining to hold intercourse with another person from whom he had received offense. Yet the ostentatious display of minute rabbinical lore which he brought forward, seems to have somewhat staggered the Assembly, as appears from the inconclusive remarks of Herle and Marshall, as reported by Lightfoot. But Gillespie saw through the fallacious character of Selden’s argument; and in a speech of singular ability and power completely refuted his learned antagonist, proving that the passage could not be interpreted or explained away to mean a mere reference to a civil court. By seven distinct arguments he proved that the whole subject was of a spiritual nature, not within the cognizance of civil courts; and he proved also, that the Church of the Jews had and exercised the power of spiritual censures. The effect of Gillespie’s speech was so great as to astonish and confound Selden himself, who made no attempt to reply; and the result was, that the Assembly soon afterwards decided that the negative arguments of Selden and the Independents were not conclusive, and the proposition was affirmed. 5
Closely connected with this subject was the proposition which asserted "that authoritative suspension from the Lord’s table of a person not yet cast out of the Church, is agreeable to the Scripture;" and this point held the Assembly in debate from the 20th to the 24th of May 1644, when it was affirmed; the opposition being made chiefly by the Independents, while the Erastians reserved their strength for the Parliament, well knowing that their views would coincide with the notions of men of the world, and would not be subjected to such a narrow scrutiny there as in the Assembly. The subject will come before us again, when we come to treat of the Parliament’s proceedings.
It was mentioned in the preceding chapter, that when the Assembly had completed the Directory for Ordination, the result was laid before the Parliament to receive its ratification, that it might have the authority of law; and that the Parliament allowed it to lie past for some time, and then made considerable alterations upon it before returning it to the Assembly, which they did on the 15th of August 1644. These alterations were so many, and of such importance, striking out the doctrinal part of the Directory, that the Assembly refused to consent to them, and proceeded to debate afresh the topics so altered or struck out. Mr. Whitelocke, a leading member of the Commons, entered into the debate; and passing from the direct point in hand, made a long, and certainly not a peculiarly able speech on the question, whether Presbyterial Church government be jure divino, – of divine institution. He admitted that Church government, in the abstract, is of divine institution, but held it doubtful whether any peculiar form, Episcopacy, Presbytery, or Independency, can claim that high authority; nor did he think it of any importance to determine the point, because no decision could alter its nature; if of divine institution, it would remain so, whether men affirmed it or not; and if not so, the authority of man could not elevate it to that height. He advised the Assembly, therefore, to be content with stating to the Parliament, "that the government of the Church by presbyteries is most agreeable to the Word of God, and most fit to be settled in this kingdom." It is easy to see 6 the tact of the politician in Whitelocke’s suggestion, which, according to his own understanding of it, left it in the power of the civil government to establish any form of Church government of which they might approve, and to change it as they might think it expedient; while, if the strictest sense of the words were held, Presbyterians might very properly conclude that the Church government which is "most agreeable to the Word of God," must therefore be of divine institution.
But the Assembly were neither to be overawed nor deceived in this matter. Information of these alterations was communicated to the Scottish commissioners, before it was made known to the Assembly; the effect of which was, first a private remonstrance to certain of the Parliament, and then a preparation for a strenuous struggle in the Assembly itself. The 7 Scottish commissioners further addressed the Grand Committee on the evils resulting from such a prolonged delay, in the conclusion of which they expressly condemned the Parliament’s alterations, stating the reasons of their disapprobation. This bold course was seconded by a petition from the city ministers, on the 18th of September; and on the 2d of October the Parliament issued an ordinance, sanctioning the Assembly’s Directory of Ordination, and appointing a committee of divines to ordain ministers in London. The difference between the conduct of the Assembly in this point, and the manner in which they acted towards the Independents, must strike every attentive and candid reader. Although highly disapproving of the pertinacious obstinacy with which the Dissenting Brethren clung to their own views, and threw every possible obstacle in the way of an early and satisfactory settlement of Church government, yet the Assembly continued to treat them as brethren, bore with their lengthened speeches and subtle distinctions, admitted many modifications of their own opinions, and did their utmost to procure an amicable adjustment of all differences, so far as the conscientious views of both parties could be reconciled. But when the Parliament attempted to exercise an Erastian supremacy, and to strike out what they believed to have the authoritative sanction of the Word of God, they refused to yield; and in this instance their firmness and energy were crowned with success. It was, no doubt, in the power of the Parliament to refuse to sanction the Directory of Ordination; but it was also in the power of the Assembly and the city ministers to refuse to ordain on Erastian principles’ and the Parliament, aware that they could not, even plausibly, attempt to compel ministers to ordain, yielded the point, and reserved their Erastianism for the still undecided subject of Church censures.
The leading propositions respecting Church government having been nearly completed, several members of both Houses of Parliament attended the Assembly, 7th November 1644, and required them to hasten a report of what had been done "concerning the government of the Church; and the rather, because they" (Parliament)" had been solicited by the Committee of the State of Scotland for it." Dr. Burgess and a select committee were8 directed to prepare all that had been voted by the Assembly, that it might be laid before Parliament in proper form with all convenient speed. This was done, read over in the Assembly, compared with the papers in the hands of the scribes, and a committee named to lay the whole before the House of Commons on the 15th of November. The account of what took place in the House of Commons, upon the presenting of this paper, is both curious and instructive, as an exhibition of political management. "The Assembly of Divines, as soon as the House of Commons were sate, and before they were full, came to the House and presented them with the Assembly’s advice and opinion, for the Presbyterian government to be settled ; and an expression was in their advice, that the Presbyterian government was jure divino. Glyn and Whitelocke were then in the House, and few others but those who concurred in judgment with the Assembly, and had notice to be there early, thinking to pass this business before the House should be full. Glyn stood up and spoke an hour to the point of jus divinum and the Presbyterian government ; in which time the House filled apace: and then Whitelocke spoke to the same points, enlarging his discourse to a much longer time than ordinary, and purposely that the House might be full, – as it was before he had made an end. And then upon the question it was carried, to lay aside the point of jus divinum ; and herein Glyn and Whitelocke had thanks from divers, for preventing the surprisal of the House upon this great question." Such is the account
9 given by Whitelocke, in a tone of evident self-complacency, looking upon himself as having materially aided in the achievement of a meritorious exploit. How far we are to believe his suggestion respecting the crafty design of the Assembly, to procure a ratification of their opinion concerning the divine right of Presbyterian Church government in a thinly attended House, composed chiefly of their friends, may well be doubted, since the order for the Assembly’s committee to lay their propositions before Parliament "tomorrow morning" was publicly given, as Lightfoot states, – and of course in the hearing of Lightfoot himself, who could easily have notified the matter to his Erastian friends, so as to prepare them for the stratagem, had such a thing been intended. In truth, the publicity of the direction renders the idea of an intended stratagem on the part of the Assembly incredible; while Whitelocke’s account proves him to have been sufficiently on his guard, whatever may have been the case with others. And it will be observed, that the House did not at that time positively reject, but merely "lay aside," or postpone, the consideration of the claim of divine right. 10
From about the close of the year 1644 till about April 1645, the Assembly was chiefly engaged in the Independent controversy, receiving the written reasons of dissent, and returning written answers to these reasons. During that period the debates of the Assembly were of little importance, and the Erastian controversy also remained in comparative abeyance. Indeed the debates of the Assembly may be said to have almost terminated with the close of 1644; for their public deliberations after that time were chiefly occupied with the framing of the Catechisms and the Confession of Faith; and although the very solemn and important nature of these subjects required mature study and great precision of language, which formed necessarily a work of considerable time, yet there existed so much harmony of doctrinal principles among them, that their discussions very seldom assumed the distinctive character of debate. The chief cause, probably, why the Erastian controversy was allowed to slumber during that period, was, that the parliamentary politicians were engaged in the treaty of Uxbridge with the king, and were exceedingly anxious to conclude a peace with his majesty, if possible, being apprehensive that the self-denying ordinance would be carried by the intrigues of Cromwell, and the sword be thereby wrested from their grasp. That ordinance, after a struggle of nearly three months, was at last ratified by both Houses, on the 3d of April 1645, and from that time the army was virtually independent of the Parliament, and ere long became its master, or rather, the tyrant of both Parliament and kingdom.
Mention has been already made of the disinclination of the Parliament to agree to the Assembly’s proposition respecting the power of ministers to keep back from the Lord’s table persons not yet cut off from the Church. This power the Erastians were reluctant to sanction; and the Assembly was equally urgent that it should be fully sanctioned, both because they believed it to be necessary, to prevent that sacred ordinance from being profaned, and because one point strongly urged by the Independents, in defense of their separation, was the want of sufficient reformation in congregations. The subject was laid before the Parliament on the 6th of March 1645, by the Assembly, and on the 10th of the same month by the city ministers.11 On the 21st the Parliament took the subject into consideration, and on the 25th some votes were passed respecting it, in some particular points. Again, on the 27th the Assembly gave to the House their advice concerning not admitting scandalous and ignorant persons to the sacrament. Thus urged to what they had no mind to grant, the Parliament, on the 1st of April, emitted an order, "That the Assembly set down in particular what measure of understanding persons ought to have of the Trinity, and other points debated, before they be admitted to the sacrament." 12 The object of this order was evidently to engage the Assembly in a discussion which might occupy their attention for a considerable time, and perhaps involve so much confusion and disagreement of opinion as should render a definite answer impracticable. But the desire of the Assembly was not to be so evaded; and they experienced less difficulty in answering the question of the Parliament than Erastian lawyers had expected. Some additional votes respecting Church government were about the same time passed by the Parliament, the purport of which is thus stated by Baillie: – "They have passed a vote in the House of Commons, for appeals from Sessions to Presbyteries, from these to Synods, from these to national Assemblies, and from these to the Parliament. We mind to be silent for some time on this, lest we mar the erection of the ecclesiastical courts; but when we find it seasonable, we mind to make much ado before it go so. We are hopeful to make them declare, that they mean no other thing, by their appeals from the national Assembly to a Parliament, than a complaint of an injurious proceeding; which we did never deny."13
Repeated debates took place in Parliament respecting the demands of the Assembly, during the months of May, June, and July, though without arriving at any conclusion. On the 30th of July Coleman preached a sermon before the House of Commons, of the most perfectly Erastian character, to which we shall have occasion hereafter more particularly to refer. On the second day after, viz., on the 1st of August, the Assembly sent a deputation to the House, desiring "that a speedy course might be taken about those who should be thought not fit to be admitted to the sacrament, namely, the ignorant, scandalous, and profane: it being a thing that, if effected exactly to the rule, would much tend to the glory of God and the good of this whole kingdom." The Speaker answered, "That the House was in debate of the same business long before their coming, and that they would expedite it with as much conveniency as could be." 14 Not dismayed by this short answer, the Assembly, on the 8th, presented a petition, in which they "declared plainly their claim, jure divino, of power to suspend from the sacrament all such as they should judge to be scandalous or ignorant;"15 and on the 11th a petition of a similar nature was presented to the House of Lords. Parliament was thus constrained to take the subject into full consideration, for the purpose of giving a clear and decided deliverance concerning it; and an elaborate discussion took place on the 3d of September, in which the Erastians declared their opinions fully.
"The House fell into debate," says Whitelocke, "of the great business of the Church, – the points of excommunication and suspension from the sacrament. Selden declared his opinion, ‘That for four thousand years there was no sign of any law to suspend persons from religious exercises. That under the Law every sinner was, eo nomine, to come to offer, as he was a sinner; and no priest, or other authority, had to do with him, unless it might be made appear to them, whether another did repent or not, – which was hard to be done. Strangers were kept away from the passover, but these were Pagans, and such as were not of the Jewish religion. The question is not now for keeping away Pagans in times of Christianity, but Protestants from Protestant worship. No divine can show that there is any such command as this to suspend from the sacrament. If, after Christ suffered, the Jews had become Christians, the same ground upon which they went as to their sacrifices would have been as to the sacrament; and certainly no way nor command to keep any one from partaking of it. No man is kept from the sacrament, eo nomine, because he is guilty of any sin, by the constitution of the Reformed Churches, or because he hath not made satisfaction. Every man is a sinner, the difference is only, the one is in private, and the other a sinner in public. The one is as much against God as the other. Dic Ecclesiae (‘ Tell it to the Church’), in St. Matthew, was to the courts of law which then sat in Jerusalem. No man can show any excommunication till the Popes Victor and Zephorinus, two hundred years after Christ, first began to use it upon private quarrels. Thereby (it appears) excommunication is but human invention; it was taken from the heathens.’" 16
Such was the argument of "the learned Selden;" and very probably the members of the House thought it very learned, and fraught with sound theology. If it had been delivered in the Assembly it would have been estimated by a different standard, and subjected to a more searching scrutiny, – as had been the case with arguments and assertions of a similar character in an instance already related.
The substance of Mr. Whitelocke’s speech was as follows: –
"The Assembly of Divines have petitioned and advised the House of Commons, that in every presbytery, or Presbyterian congregation, the pastors and ruling elders may have the power of excommunication, and the power of suspending such as they shall judge ignorant or scandalous persons from the sacrament. By ‘pastors’ I suppose they mean themselves, and others who are, or may be, preachers in the several congregations, and would be , ‘bishops, ’ or overseers of these congregations. By ‘ruling elders’ I take their meaning to be, a select number of such as in every one of these congregations shall be chosen for the execution of the church government and discipline in them respectively. They may properly enough be called pastors, from our Savior’s charge to his disciples, ‘Feed my sheep; ’ so that a pastor is to feed those committed to his charge with spiritual food, as the shepherd feeds his flock with temporal. If so, how improper, then, will it be for those who are to feed the flock, to desire the power to excommunicate any, – to keep them from food, – to suspend any from the sacrament, – to drive them from feeding on the bread of life, – to forbid any to eat of that whereof Christ, the great Shepherd of our souls, hath said, ‘Take, eat, ’ – to forbid those to drink whom they shall judge unworthy, when our Savior himself said, ‘Drink ye all of this. ’ In the Old Testament, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, ’ etc., said the prophet; yet now his successors would be authorized to say to some persons, ‘You do not thirst, ’ though they themselves say they do, and to deny them milk and water, bread and wine, when they desire it. Surely it is not proper for pastors, for feeders of flocks, to deny food to any of their flock who shall desire it. But some have said, that it is the part of a good shepherd, if he see one of his sheep going astray into a ground where the grass will bring the rot, to chase him out of that pasture. And they apply it to spiritual pastors suspending those from the sacrament whom they fear, by the unworthy receiving of it, may eat and drink their own damnation. This may be a charitable simile, but will hardly be found a full answer; for it is not the receiving of the sacrament, but the unworthiness of the receiver, that brings destruction. And whether he be unworthy or not, it is not in the judgment of pastor, or of any other, but of the party only who is the sinner; for none can know his heart but himself, and a commission will scarce be produced for any other to be judge thereof. The person refused may say to the pastor in this case, ‘Who made thee judge? ’ Besides, the authority desired is not only of suspension, but of excommunication, – which is a total driving or thundering away of the party from all spiritual food whatsoever.
And if a shepherd shall chase away his sheep from all pastures, that indeed will bring the hunger-rot upon them. The more sinful persons are, the more they have need of instruction; and where can they have it better than from the lips of the learned and pious pastors, who ought to preserve knowledge."
"But it hath been said that the ruling elders are to join with them; let us inquire who they are. In some congregations in country villages, perhaps they may not be very learned themselves; yet the authority to be given them is sufficiently great. The word ‘elders, ’ among the Hebrews, signified the men of greatest power and dignity; the members of their great sanhedrim were styled elders; so were the princes of their tribes."
[Then, as if in rivalry of Selden, he enlarged upon the use of a similar title among the Grecians, the Phoenicians, the Tyrians, the Romans, the Spaniards, the Italians, the Saxons, – giving the etymology of Earl, Alderman, and Sir.]
"And so they may allow the title of elders to the chief and select men of every presbytery. Yet if this power (excommunication and suspension) be allowed them, they may well challenge the title of elders in the highest signification. The power of the keys is a great power; the Romish Church will acknowledge it, and the foundation of their supremacy to be built upon it. Whatsoever they bind or loose upon earth to be bound or loosed in heaven, is a power which may claim the highest title imaginable. Although I can never presume that the reverend and pious learned gentlemen who aim at this power, can have the least supposition of any such effect by it, yet if any petitioners should sue you to be made judges or justices, I believe you would judge their petition the less modest, and them the less fit for such offices; but to this I make no application, and I hope none shall make any use of it. Power is thought fit to be given to suspend from the sacrament two sorts of persons, – the ignorant and the scandalous. I am sure that I am a very ignorant person; we are all more ignorant than we ought to be of the truth of Christ; even amongst the pastors and eiders in some places, the most learned may in other places be adjudged ignorant. The more ignorant people are, the more some will blame their pastors, who ought to instruct them, and, by private conference, inform them, and rectify their understandings; and that is a good part of spiritual food. And to keep an ignorant person from the ordinances is no way to improve his knowledge. Scandalous persons are likewise to be suspended; and that is to be referred to the judgment of the pastor and ruling elders. Where a commission for them to execute this judicature is extant, will be hard to show. Both pastors, and elders, and people, are scandalous, in the general sense. We are all of us gross sinners, and our best performances are but scandalous, as to the true and sincere profession of the gospel of Christ. Those who are scandalous sinners ought to be admonished to forsake their evil ways, and to amend their lives; and where can they receive this admonition, and hope for more conviction of their consciences, than by hearing good sermons, and being admitted to be partakers of the holy ordinances; but to excommunicate them, deprives them wholly of the best means for their cure. The best excommunication is, for pastors, elders, and people, to excommunicate sin out of their own hearts and conversations, – to suspend themselves from all works of iniquity. This is a power which, put in execution, through the assistance of the Spirit of God, will prevent all disputes about excommunication and suspension from the sacrament. A man may be a good physician, though he never cut off a member from any of his patients; a body may be very sound, though no member of it was ever cut off; and surely a church may be a good church, though no member of it hath ever been cut off. I have heard here many complaints of the jurisdiction formerly exercised by the prelates, who were but a few; there will be, by the passing of this now desired, a great multiplication of spiritual men in government. Where the temporal sword (the magistracy) is sufficient for punishment of offenses, there will be little need for this new discipline; nor will it be so easily granted." – "After a long debate," adds Whitelocke, in the Narrative part of his work, "the House referred this matter to a further consideration by the Grand Committee, to whom it was formerly referred."17
From the circumstance of the preceding speech being given at full length by both Whitelocke and Rushworth, it is evident that it must have been regarded by the Erastians of the Parliament as exhibiting the ablest statement and advocacy of their opinions. One thing, indeed, it proves very clearly, namely, that when civilians attempt to reason upon theological questions, they are in great peril of forfeiting their reputation either for candor and intelligence, or for clearness of thought and power of reasoning. It will be observed that Whitelocke deals very much in vague generalities, about the character and duties of pastors and elders, and the effect of suspending from the sacrament and excommunicating; and that he insinuates the danger of allowing such powers to be exercised by the Church courts, but carefully avoids making any specific applications. This method of stating his opinions left him at full liberty to use all the artifices of sophistry which he could command; and, accordingly, his whole speech is a tissue of sophistical plausibilities. As, for example, "The duty of a pastor is to feed his flock; therefore he can have no right to refuse food to any." But he should have proved that the only duty of a pastor is to feed; otherwise his argument cannot prove that it may not be also a duty to refuse, for proper reasons. Again, "The unworthiness of the receiver alone brings destruction; but none can judge of this but the sinner himself: therefore the pastor ought not to have power to refuse." True, the unworthiness of the receiver brings destruction; but it is not true that none can be a judge of this but the sinner; for his conduct may be so glaringly sinful, and he may be so recklessly impenitent, that every one may be able to judge him by his fruits, and may be constrained to shun him as incorrigibly wicked and impious. Once more, "All are ignorant and scandalous in the widest sense of these terms; but the best way to remedy this is, to give them an opportunity of hearing good sermons, and to admit them to the holy ordinances." Certainly it may be a good way for instructing the ignorant, to bring such persons where they will hear good and sound instruction, and the Westminster divines never dreamed of preventing any from hearing sermons; but admission to ordinances, that is, to the Lord’s table, is a totally different matter, and instead of tending to instruct, might more probably tend to harden an impenitent sinner, and might lead him to regard himself as needing no further amendment.
But it cannot be necessary to detect all the fallacies of this much boasted speech; that every sound and right-minded reader will do for himself. It has been inserted, however, for the purpose of giving a favorable specimen of the kind of arguments employed by the Parliamentary Erastians of that period; which are essentially the same as those used by many Erastians in the present day, with, perhaps, this exception, that few modern Erastians can reason even so well, or have skill enough to enter so deeply into the subject.
The language of Baillie, in a letter written at this juncture, shows the strong anxiety entertained by the Assembly regarding this important subject, and gives also another proof of the temperate spirit and calm prudence of the Scottish commissioners. After mentioning the difficulty which the Assembly felt in enumerating all kinds of scandalous offenses, on which account they required to have power to exclude all scandalous as well as some, he adds, "The general they would not grant, as including an arbitrary and unlimited power. Our advice (that of the Scottish commissioners) was, that they (the Assembly) would go on to set up their presbyteries and synods with so much power as they could get; and after they were once settled, then they might strive to obtain their full due power. But the Assembly was of another mind; and after divers fair papers, at last they framed a most zealous, clear, and peremptor one, wherein they held out plainly the Church’s divine right to keep from the sacrament all who are scandalous; and if they cannot obtain the free exercise of that power which Christ hath given them, they will lay down their charges, and rather choose all afflictions than to sin by profaning the holy table." 18 It was the presenting of this paper which gave occasion to the preceding speeches of Selden and Whitelocke. And although the Parliament were determined not to grant the full claim of the Assembly, yet they were not prepared at once to declare that determination, but still continued to keep the subject in a state of suspense, hoping, probably, that the divines would at last consent to accept some lower measure. While Parliament treated the Assembly with a considerable degree of guarded respect, they showed their temper more plainly to the city divines, a petition from whom, "for establishing Presbytery, as the discipline of Jesus Christ, they voted to be scandalous." 19 It might have puzzled those sage senators to have defined their own language, and showed in what respect such a petition was scandalous ; but it was easy for them to apply harsh and ungracious epithets to a request which they were determined to refuse.
It has been already mentioned that the Parliament had required the Assembly to state "what measure of understanding persons ought to have of the Trinity, and other points debated, before they be admitted to the sacrament;" and also, that they required an enumeration of such scandalous offenses as deserved the censure of suspension from ordinances. To the former point the Assembly readily prepared an answer; but they found the latter more difficult, both because the attempt to enumerate such offenses suggested additional ones, and because the inevitable tendency of such an attempt was to present their whole system in its most repulsive aspect, and even to prevent themselves from having a discretionary power to mitigate its apparent severity. At length, however, on the 14th of October the Assembly presented their advice on these points to the Parliament, at the same time clearly declaring their earnest desire that the general principle should be affirmed, and the details left to be regulated according to the peculiarities of each specific case. 20 But the Parliament resolved to turn this paper of advice into an ordinance of both Houses; and on the 15th voted, as a preliminary step, "that the presbytery should not suspend from the sacrament for any other offenses than those particularly mentioned in the ordinance;" which, adds Whitelocke, displeased some who were earnest to give an arbitrary power to the presbytery.21 Strange that this legislator could not perceive that Parliament was retaining a much more arbitrary power in its own possession, – a power which is absolute despotism, claiming to rule alike over person, property, and conscience.
On the 20th of October 1645, this important document passed both Houses, under the designation of "An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, about Suspension from the Lord’s Supper."22 The statement of the amount of religious knowledge which ought to be possessed by every person before being admitted to the Lord’s table, is very clear and explicit; and the enumeration of scandalous offenses is also very full. But in one clause towards the close of the ordinance, the Erastian principle is very strongly stated: "If any person suspended from the Lord’s Supper shall find himself grieved with the proceedings before the eldership of any congregation, he shall have liberty to appeal to the classical eldership (or Presbytery), and from them to the Provincial Assembly (or Synod), from thence to the National, and from thence to the Parliament. And it is further ordained, That the members of both Houses, that now are members of the Assembly of Divines, or any seven of them, be a standing committee of both Houses of Parliament to consider of causes of suspension from the Lord’s Supper not contained in this ordinance; unto which committee any eldership shall present such causes, to the end that the Parliament, if need require, may hear and determine the same." The undisguised Erastianism of this ordinance was exceedingly displeasing to the Assembly, and rendered them unwilling to put it into operation at all, even so far as it went, lest they should seem to consent to a principle which they so decidedly condemned. "This," says Baillie, "has been the only impediment why the Presbyteries and Synods have not been erected; for the ministers refuse to accept of Presbyteries without this power." Both parties, indeed, were equally resolute, – the Parliament not to grant, and the Assembly not to be satisfied without the recognition of what they regarded as of divine right, – a full liberty to keep from the holy table all scandalous persons. And although the divines were perfectly able to refute the sophistry of the Erastian lawyers in argument, they could not change their hearts, nor make them willing to submit to the purifying, though humbling precepts of the gospel; consequently these unhappy men continued tenaciously to retain a power which they could not hold and exercise, but to the injury of religion, and to the ruin of themselves and of the kingdom.
Not only was the Assembly dissatisfied with the conduct of Parliament in thus attempting to retain an Erastian power in ecclesiastical affairs, but all the Presbyterians, both ministers and people throughout the kingdom, and particularly those of the city of London itself, were both grieved and displeased with conduct so grasping and unwise. A petition was addressed to Parliament from the Common Council of London, praying that Church government might be speedily settled and observed, and that greater power might be given to the ministers and elders than was established by the Parliament, according to the warrant of the Word of God. The House answered, "That they had already taken much pains in debating of Church government; and they conceived the city and Common Council were informed falsely of the proceedings of the House, else they would not have precipitated the judgment of the Parliament; however, they take it as a good intention of the petitioners promoting this business." A similar petition from the city ministers received a still more uncourteous answer, – two of the members were sent to tell them, that "they need not attend any longer for an answer to their petition, but to go home, and look to the charges of their several congregations." 23 These ungracious answers gave rise to a feeling of alienation between the city and the Parliament, the completed effect of which was, that counterpoise, or rather paralysis of each other’s energies, which laid both prostrate beneath the power of the army, by whom the Parliament was at last trampled out of existence, – so swift and sure was the blow of retributive justice. Had Parliament abandoned its Erastian principles, and granted the petitions of the Assembly, the ministers, and the people, it would have been so deeply rooted in the grateful affection of the kingdom, and its power would have been so thoroughly consolidated, that not even Cromwell’s deep schemes and iron strength could have greatly shaken, much less utterly overthrown it. But it sinned obstinately against the "Prince of the kings of the earth;" and therefore He dashed it to pieces.
One very probable reason why the Parliament were at this time assuming a more haughty tone than formerly was, the depression of the king’s power, who had never been able to make head against the army to any considerable extent since the battle of Naseby, on the 14th of June. Yet even in this point of view, the conduct of the Parliament was marked by something little short of infatuation; for the power of the army had passed completely into the hands of Cromwell, though Fairfax still held, nominally, the chief command; and a very moderate degree of penetration might have enabled them to have perceived that they had no means of counterbalancing the power of the army except by the wealth and influence of the city of London, which was thoroughly Presbyterian. The Independents in both Parliament and Assembly were delighted with the delay caused by the Erastian obstinacy; and to these two parties, Independents and Erastians, there was added, as Baillie says, "a third party, of worldly, profane men, who were extremely affrighted to come under the yoke of ecclesiastic discipline." The very fact of such a combination against the Presbyterian system would go far to prove its truth and scriptural character; for that can scarcely be other than a good cause, which provokes the opposition of such conflicting elements, and some of them elements essentially evil.
Though hitherto disappointed, the Assembly and the city continued to exert themselves by plying the Parliament with petition upon petition; and to one of these, signed by the whole magistracy of London, addressed to both Houses, 15th January 1646, the Parliament felt it necessary to return a courteous and complimentary answer, thanking them for their care and zeal for God’s worship, and assuring them of their readiness to promote so good a work. 24 Adverting to this petition, Baillie says, "No doubt, if they be constant they will obtain all their desires; for all know that the Parliament here cannot subsist without London, so that whatsoever they desire in earnest and constantly, it must be granted." On the 20th of February it was "Resolved by the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, That there be forthwith a choice made of elders throughout the kingdom of England, according to such directions as have already passed both Houses, bearing date the 19th of August 1645." But on the 14th of March, a more complete ordinance passed both Houses, containing full regulations respecting the choice of elders and of every thing necessary for the organization of the Presbyterian form of Church government. Even in this ordinance the same Erastian element appeared. By one clause it was enacted, "That in every province persons shall be chosen by the Houses of Parliament, that shall be commissioners to judge of scandalous offenses, not enumerated in any ordinance of Parliament, to them presented;" and upon the decision of these commissioners it was to depend whether the eldership might suspend persons accused of such offenses from the sacrament. 25
Before this ordinance had passed the Lords, and as soon as its tenor was known from the deliberations of the Commons, both the Assembly and the city ministers prepared to give the most decided opposition to this Erastian clause. "I wish," says Baillie, writing to one of the city ministers, "by all means that unhappy court of commissioners in every shire may be exploded. If it must be so, let the new cases of scandal come to the Parliament by the letters of the eldership, or any other way, but not by a standing court of commissioners. This is a trick of the Independents’ invention, of purpose to enervate and disgrace all our government, in which they have been assisted by the lawyers and the Erastian party. This troubles us all exceedingly, – the whole Assembly and ministry over the kingdom; the body of the city is much grieved with it. but how to mend it we cannot well tell. In the meantime it mars us to set up any thing; the anarchy continues, and the vilest sects daily increase." Such, indeed, was the inevitable consequence of allowing the kingdom to continue without any regular form of Church government and discipline, the presence of which acts by a moral constraint on even those who do not admit its authority, as the experience of all ages and countries can amply testify.
Fully aware of the extreme importance of obtaining a right adjustment of this essential point, the Presbyterians of both Scotland and England made every possible exertion to secure it. And there seemed to be one favorable opportunity, by availing themselves of which it might yet be accomplished. The unhappy king, beaten from the field by successive and ruinous defeats, had retired to Oxford, where he found himself almost driven to distraction by the wretched cabals of his selfish and unprincipled adherents. In these circumstances he proposed a new negotiation for peace, and many letters were interchanged between him and the Parliament on this subject. But the Parliament were now not only secure of triumph, but also under the influence of Cromwell and his friends, who had no wish for a peace; and for these reasons they rose in their demands to such a degree, that all prospects of peace were greatly obscured. The Scottish Parliamentary commissioners, on the other hand, were desirous of peace on such terms as should not annihilate the regal dignity, and therefore they endeavored so far to modify the demands of the English Parliament, that they might be such as the king could honorably grant. But the English Parliament felt that they had no longer any urgent need of assistance from a Scottish army, and therefore were not inclined to listen to the more reasonable proposals of the Scottish commissioners. Still, they could not at once dishonorably violate their Solemn League and Covenant with Scotland, and therefore they continued to receive, with due respect, the communications of the Scottish Parliament through its commissioners. And as these commissioners were all Presbyterians, they felt deeply interested in the question of the right establishment of Presbyterian Church government in England, according to the principles of the Solemn League of both nations. For this reason they presented to the English Parliament several papers respecting the pending treaty of peace, and the various matters involved in it; one of which necessarily was, the form of religion to be established, to which the king was to be requested to give his concurrence. On the subject of religion these papers took up the points that had so much engaged the attention of the Assembly, and gave their opinion in the following manner: –
"Having perused the several ordinances, directions, and votes of the honorable Houses concerning Church government, delivered unto us, which we conceive will be the matter of the propositions of religion, and in this sense only we speak to them, we do agree to the direction for the present election of elders, to the subordination of congregational, classical, provincial, and national assemblies, and to the direction concerning the members of which they are constitute, and the times of their meeting. Only we desire, that no godly minister be excluded from being a member of the classical presbytery; nor any godly minister, having lawful commission, from being a member of the provincial and national Assemblies, there being the greater need of their presence and assistance in such Assemblies, that there are no ruling elders to join with and assist them. And we desire that a fixed time be appointed for the ordinary meeting of the national Assembly, with power to the Parliament to summon them when they please; and with liberty to the Church to meet oftener, if there shall be necessary cause the ordinary meeting thereof being most necessary for preserving truth and unity in the whole Church, against the errors that may arise and multiply in the Church, and against the divisions and differences that may distract the inferior Assemblies of the Church, and for receiving and determining appeals from provincial assemblies, which otherwise will be infinite, and lie over long without determination, and the exigence of religion sometimes being such that it will require an extraordinary meeting."
"We agree to the rules and directions concerning suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in cases of ignorance and scandal. Only we desire that the congregational elderships may have power to judge in cases of scandal not enumerated, with liberty to the person grieved to appeal, as in other Reformed Churches. This we conceive to be a power no more arbitrary in this Church, than in them who are limited by the rules expressed in Scripture, and do exercise this their power with such moderation as is a comfort, help, and strengthening of civil authority. The appointing of provincial commissioners, such as are appointed in the ordinance, will minister occasion to such debates and disputes, in this and other Churches, as will be very unpleasant to Parliaments and civil powers, will make a great disconformity betwixt this and other Churches, and a present rent and division in this Church; is such a mixture in Church government as hath not been heard of in any Church before this time, and may prove a foundation of a new Episcopacy, or of a High Commission. And the work may be better done by the Assemblies of ministers and elders, who have this in their ecclesiastical charge, and will be no less tender of the honor of Parliament, by whose laws they live and are protected; and as able and willing to give satisfaction to the people, whose consciences and conversation are best known unto them, as any other persons whatsoever. Concerning the suspension of the ministers themselves, although scandal in them deserveth double censure, yet we conceive it to be most agreeable that they have their censure from the classical or other superior Assemblies of the Church, where there be ministers to judge them. We do also agree to the ordinance of ordination of ministers; only we desire it may be provided that it stand in force for all time to come."
"There be other matters contained in the ordinances; as, The manner of subordination of the Assemblies of the Church to the Parliament, so much liable to mistake; the seeming exemption of some sorts of persons from the just censures of the Church; the ministering the sacrament to some persons against the consciences of the ministry and eldership; concerning public repentance to be only before the elderships, and such like; which may be taken into consideration, and with small labor and alteration be determined to the great satisfaction of many. As for the remnant, concerning the perpetual officers of the Church, and their offices; the order and power of Church Assemblies; the order of public repentance, and of proceeding to excommunication and absolution; we desire they may be agreed upon according to the covenant, and the advice of the divines of both kingdoms, long since offered to both Houses:
which being done, they may be presently drawn in a method, and formed up in a model of Church government in three days, to the quieting the minds of all the godly, concerning the particular meaning of both kingdoms in the matter of religion, to the great content of the Reformed Churches, and which will both make us distinctly to know what we demand, and the king what he doth grant."26
Within a few days after these papers had been laid before the English Parliament, and before the two Houses had returned any answer, they were printed and published with a preface, as from a private person into whose hands they had fallen by accident, purporting to state the case between the Parliament and the Scottish commissioners. 27 Both Houses were exceedingly indignant that such liberty should be taken with their proceedings, and on the 14th of April concurred in a vote: "That the matter contained in these printed papers was false, and scandalous against the Parliament and kingdom of England; that they should be burned by the common hangman; that a declaration should be drawn up refuting their untruths, and showing the innocence and integrity of the Parliament; and that the author or publisher was an incendiary between the two kingdoms." And on the 21st of April the preface was burnt as had been ordered, but not the papers of the Scottish commissioners.
The Declaration published by the Parliament for their own vindication was characterized by equal intemperate heat and bitterness, and contained a very strong assertion of the Erastian theory; colored, however, by the pretext of their dread of the consequences which might ensue from " granting an arbitrary and unlimited power and jurisdiction to near ten thousand judicatories to be erected within this kingdom;" and asserting that they "had the more reason by no means to part with this power out of the hands of the civil magistrate, since the experience of all ages will manifest that the reformation and purity of religion, and the preservation and protection of the people of God in this kingdom, hath under God been by the Parliaments, and their exercise of this power." How easy it is to make bold and general assertions; but had the English Parliament been required to produce proofs and instances in maintenance of their self-complacent assertion, they would have found that they had undertaken no easy task. And it might have occurred to them, that such vehemence of conduct and language might be very fairly interpreted into a proof that they were aware that they had acted wrong, and that their anger arose from the painful and mortifying consciousness of being detected in the commission of what was manifestly culpable. But even yet an English Parliament can reason and act in a similar manner, untaught by the bitter experience of their ancestors, and unable to read the signs of the times, however close the resemblance which these bear to a former period.
Not even this manifestation of the Parliament’s stormy temper could appall the Assembly of Divines, although the city ministers had somewhat quailed. Mr. Marshall, by no means one of the most rash or impetuous of the brethren, arose in his place, and after referring to the recent ordinance, and stating that there were several things in it which pressed heavily upon his conscience, and upon the consciences of many others, he moved that a committee might be appointed to examine what points in the ordinance were contrary to their consciences, and to prepare a petition on the subject, to be presented to the two Houses. This was accordingly done, and presented by the whole Assembly, with Mr. Marshall at their head, on the 24th of March. The main topics of the petition were, an assertion of the divine right of Presbyterian Church government, and a complaint against that clause in the recent ordinance which appointed an appeal from the censures of the Church to a committee of the Parliament. The House appears to have been somewhat staggered by this decided course adopted by the Assembly, and appointed a committee to consider what answer should be given, and what notice should be taken of the manner in which the petition had been brought forward. The report of the committee was characterized by deep policy. First, they gave it as their opinion, that the Assembly of Divines had, in their recent petition, violated the privileges of Parliament, and incurred the penalties of a premunire ; and next, they proposed, that since the Assembly insisted on the jus divinum of the Presbyterian government, certain queries which they had prepared respecting that point might be sent to the Assembly, and the divines required to return answers to the satisfaction of the Parliament. The House approved of the committee’s report, and on the 30th of April sent Sir John Evelyn, Mr. Fiennes, and Mr. Brown, to state to the Assembly the sentiments of the House, and to require answers to the prepared list of interrogations.
[Chapter 4 contd. in next section]
1 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 266.
2 Lightfoot, p. 106.
3 Lightfoot, pp. 153, 154.
4 Lightfoot, pp. 165, 166.
5 See before, pp. 201, 202; also Appendix.
6 Whitelocke, p. 95.
7 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 198.
8 Lightfoot, p. 323.
9 Whitelocke, p. 106.
10 The account of this matter given by Neal is worse than inaccurate. He says, "When the question was put, it was carried in the negative;" whereas it was only "laid aside," not negatived. Neal thought it a victory over the Presbyterians, – hence his misrepresentation.
11 Whitelocke, pp. 130, 131.
12 Whitelocke, p. 134.
13 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 267.
14 Whitelocke, p. 158.
15 Ibid., p. 160.
16 Whitelocke, p. 163; Rushworth, vol. 6 p. 203.
17 Whitelocke, pp. 163, 164; Rushworth, vol. 6 pp. 203-205.
18 Baillie, vol. 3 p. 307.
19 Whitelocke, p. 159.
20 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 325.
21 Whitelocke, p. 162.
22 Rushworth, vol. 6 pp. 210-212. See Appendix.
23 Whitelocke, p. 187.
24 Whitelocke, p. 194.
25 Rushworth, vol. 6 pp. 224-228. See Appendix.
26 Rushworth, vol. 6 pp. 254, 255.
27 Baillie informs us that David Buchanan was the person by whom they were published. Vol. 2 p. 367.