WILLIAM MAXWELL HETHERINGTON,
D. D., LL. D.
These questions display so clearly the captious character and petulant temper of the Erastians, even while pretending to be merely desiring satisfaction to their scruples of conscience, that we think it expedient to insert them here: –
"Questions propounded to the Assembly of Divines by the House of Commons, touching the point of Jus Divinum in the matter of Church government."
"Whereas it is resolved by both Houses, that all persons guilty of notorious and scandalous offenses shall be suspended from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the House of Commons desires to be satisfied by the Assembly of Divines in the questions following:
1. Whether the parochial and congregational elderships appointed by ordinance of Parliament, or any other congregational or presbyterial elderships, are jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ? And whether any particular Church government be jure divino? And what that government is?
2. Whether all the members of the said eldership, as members thereof, or which of them, are jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ?
3. Whether the superior assemblies or elderships, viz., the classical, provincial, and national, whether all or any of them, and which of them, are jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ?
4. Whether appeals from the congregational elderships to the classical, provincial, or national assemblies, or any of them, and to which of them, are jure divino? And are their powers upon such appeals jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ?
5. Whether ecumenical assemblies are jure divino? And whether there be appeals from any of the former assemblies to the said ecumenical, jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ?"
6. Whether by the Word of God the power of judging and declaring what are such notorious and scandalous offenses, for which persons guilty thereof are to be kept from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, – and of convening before them, trying, and actual suspending from the sacrament such offenders accordingly, – is either in the congregational eldership or presbytery, or in any other eldership, congregation, or persons? And whether such powers are in them only, or in any of them, and in which of them, jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ?
7. Whether there be any certain and particular rules expressed in the Word of God, to direct the elderships or presbyteries, congregations or persons, or any of them, in the exercise and execution of the powers aforesaid? And what are those rules?
8. Is there any thing contained in the Word of God, that the supreme magistracy in a Christian State may not judge and determine what are the aforesaid notorious and scandalous offenses, and the manner of suspension for the same? And in what particulars, concerning the premises, is the said supreme magistracy by the Word of God excluded?
9. Whether the provision of commissioners to judge of scandals not enumerated (as they are authorized by the ordinance of Parliament) be contrary to that way of government which Christ hath appointed in his Church? And wherein are they so contrary?
In answer to these particulars the House of Commons desires of the Assembly of Divines their proofs from Scripture, and to set down the several texts of Scripture in the express words of the same. And it is ordered, that every particular minister of the Assembly of Divines, that is or shall be present at the debate of any of these questions, do, upon every resolution which shall be presented to this House concerning the same, subscribe his respective name, either with the affirmative or negative, as he gives his vote. 28 And those that do dissent from the major part shall set down their positive opinions, with the express texts of Scripture upon which their opinions are grounded." 29
It is not difficult to perceive the bitter hostility against every kind and degree of spiritual jurisdiction which pervades these questions; nor yet is it difficult to detect the sophistical fallacy which forms the basis of the whole. In these Erastian questions there is a constant endeavor to keep a variety of details prominently before the mind, so as to obscure the main principle as far as possible; and even when the proper question of principle is stated, it is done in the same manner, – "Whether any particular Church government be jure divino ?" The very essence of the inquiry is, "Whether there be in the Word of God Church government?" and if that be affirmed, then the question arises, "What that government is?" With regard to all matters of detail, on which the parliamentary Erastians loved to dilate, these would naturally arise either from Scripture precept or Scripture practice, applied as enlightened reason might dictate and emergencies require. But the Assembly was composed of men well able to detect the sophistry of their opponents, and therefore they declined entering, in the first place, into a series of detailed and circumstantial answers. But as they had been previously led to investigate very fully the same subject, in the course of their own deliberations while framing the Confession of Faith, they proceeded to state their main proposition on the subject of Church censures, on which, as will be perceived, the whole Erastian controversy turned, with the intention of giving a clear and explicit expression of their judgment respecting the master-principle and essence of the question. This they did in the following simple yet comprehensive proposition: – "THE LORD JESUS, AS KING AND HEAD OF HIS CHURCH, HATH THEREIN APPOINTED A GOVERNMENT IN THE HAND OF CHURCH OFFICERS, DISTINCT FROM THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE."
The affirmation of this proposition was regarded both by the Assembly and by the Erastian party as containing a complete rejection of the Erastian principle; for, in their clear style of reasoning, they perceived, that if Church government were admitted to be "distinct from the civil magistrate," then the civil magistrate could exercise no jurisdiction in Church matters, as that would be to break down the distinction. Against this proposition, accordingly, the two Erastians in the Assembly, especially Coleman, directed their whole force of argument. Baillie says, "To oppose the Erastian heresy, we find it necessary to say, that Christ in the New Testament had institute a Church government distinct from the civil, to be exercised by the officers of the Church, without commission from the magistrate. None in the Assembly has any doubt of this truth, but one Mr. Coleman, a professed Erastian; a man reasonably learned, but stupid and inconsiderate, half a pleasant, and of small estimation. But the lawyers in the Parliament did blow up the poor man with much vanity; so he is become their champion, to bring out, the best way he can, Erastus’ arguments against the proposition. We give him a fair and free hearing, albeit we fear, when we have answered all he can bring, and have confirmed with undeniable proofs our proposition, the Houses, when it comes to them, shall scrape it out of the Confession; for this point is their idol. The most of them are incredibly zealous for it. The pope and the king were never more earnest for the headship of the Church than the plurality of this Parliament." 30
After the Assembly had debated this proposition for sometime, and were about to put it to the vote, Coleman was taken ill, and sent a request to the Assembly, that they would delay it for a few days, as he had still some arguments to bring forward. The Assembly complied; but after an illness of four or five days he expired, and the proposition was passed, with the single dissentient vote of Lightfoot. In the account of this event contained in "Neal’s History of the Puritans," the names of those who subscribed this proposition, according to the injunction of the Parliament, are given, amounting to fifty-two, and comprising all the men of chief eminence in the Assembly, exclusive of the Scottish divines, who spoke, but did not vote on any subject. Nell contradicts himself in his account, stating, that the Independents took "the opportunity to withdraw, refusing absolutely to be concerned in the affair;" 31 yet in the list which he gives there are the names of Goodwin, Nye, Greenhill, and Carter, all of them Independents, – the names of Burroughs, Bridge, and Simpson, only being wanting to complete the whole of that party who signed the Reasons of Dissent, of which mention has been already made. Indeed, the whole of Neal’s statement respecting the conduct of the Presbyterians is so warped and biased by prejudice, that it presents a very unfair view, not only of their characters, but even of the facts that occurred in which they bore a leading part.
But the Assembly were not contented with thus cutting the heart out of the Erastian theory; they appointed a committee to prepare answers to the Parliament’s questions, following out the principle of their own fundamental proposition. "The work of the Assembly," says Baillie, "these bygone weeks has been to answer some very captious questions of the Parliament, about the clear scriptural warrant for all the punctilios of the government. It was thought it would be impossible for us to answer, and that in our answers there would be no unanimity; yet, by God’s grace, we shall deceive them who were waiting for our halting. The committee has prepared very solid and satisfactory answers already to almost all the questions, wherein there is like to be an unanimity absolute in all things material, even with the Independents. But because of the Assembly’s way, and the Independents’ miserable, unamendable design to keep all things from any conclusion, it’s like we shall not be able to perfect our answers for some time; therefore, I have put some of my good friends, leading men in the House of Commons, to move the Assembly to lay aside our questions for a time, and labor that which is most necessary, and all are crying for, – the perfecting of the Confession of Faith and Catechism."32 The House of Commons followed the suggestion here alluded to, which was made about the middle of July, and as the course of events rolled on, and matters of great importance occupied the attention of the Parliament, little more inquiry was made by the House respecting the Assembly’s answers to these questions.
Although the answers of the Assembly to these Erastian questions were not finally called for and printed by the Parliament, there is some reason to believe that their labor was not wholly lost to the public. For after the change of affairs which induced the Parliament to change its course, several months were allowed to pass away, lest the Commons might repeat their demand; but at length, on the 1st of December 1646, a book was published, entitled, " Jus Divi-num Regiminis Ecclesiastici ; or, The Divine Right of Church Government Asserted and Evidenced by the Holy Scriptures. By sundry Ministers of Christ within the City of London." This work is an express and direct answer to the Parliament’s questions respecting divine right, following these questions in their order, and giving to them a distinct reply point by point, confirming every argument by Scripture proofs, and by quotations from the writings of learned and able ecclesiastical authors. Judging from internal evidence, in matter, manner, and style, it appears almost certain that this work at least embodies the substance of the answer prepared by the Assembly, somewhat enlarged and modified by the city ministers, in whose name it was published. This idea is not set aside by the manner in which it is noticed by Baillie, who says: "The ministers of London have put out this day a very fine book, proving from Scripture the divine right of every part of the Presbyterial government."33 We do not mean to assert, that the work published by the city ministers was the identical production of the Assembly; but that so much of the one was transfused into the other as to render them to all practical intents one work, and to relieve us from any cause to regret that the Assembly’s answer was not published. On the seventh day after the appearance of this book, the House of Commons requested the Assembly to give in their answers to the jus divinum queries, as if to intimate their suspicion with regard to the authorship of the recent publication; but this demand was not again repeated, and no direct notice was taken of the book itself. But whether the work in question was to any considerable extent the production of the Assembly Divines or not, this at least is certain, that it is the most complete and able defense of Presbyterian Church government that has yet appeared, and places its divine right on a foundation which will not easily be shaken. 34
Allusion has been made to events of great public importance, which contributed not a little to change the tone of the Parliament. These may be briefly mentioned. The military affairs of the year 1645 terminated most disastrously for the king. All his armies were beaten out of the field, and he was constrained to retreat to Oxford with the wreck of his troops, and there to try what could be gained by intrigues and negotiations, since he could no longer maintain an open war. During the course of these negotiations there arose a degree of alienation between the English Parliament and the Scottish commissioners and Parliament, which threatened an open rupture. The English Parliament, influenced by Cromwell and his friends, were not desirous of peace; while the Scottish commissioners made every effort to procure such terms as the king might accept without absolute submission. It was while their temper was in this high and heated state, that the English Parliament treated the petitions of the city ministers, and of the Assembly itself, with that scant courtesy, if not rather overbearing haughtiness, which has been already related. Elated with success, they could not brook the firm and fearless attitude assumed by the Presbyterian divines, and resented the remonstrances of the Scottish commissioners and Parliament, as an improper interference with their imperial dignity. At this very juncture the king, despairing of obtaining from the English Parliament any terms to which he could accede, left Oxford in disguise, on the 27th of April, and after wandering about for a few days, arrived at the quarters of the Scottish army, which was besieging Newark, on the 5th of May 1646. This was totally unexpected by either the army or the commissioners of Scotland; for though his majesty had attempted to induce the Scottish general and Committee of Estates to espouse his cause against the Parliament, he had received such an answer from them as rendered it, in their opinion, impossible that he would put himself into their power. No sooner was this event known in London than the tone and temper of the Parliament was very sensibly changed. They perceived that it was no longer safe to treat the remonstrances of Scotland with disrespect; and as they were well aware how much the establishment of Presbyterian Church government in both kingdoms was longed for by the Scottish Church and people, they deemed it expedient to remove some of the obstacles by which this had been hitherto prevented.
Up till this time the ordinance of March 14, for the choice of ruling elders and the erection of presbyteries, had not received the full ratification of the House of Lords; and even if it had, it would have been inoperative, because the ministers were resolute not to become members of presbyteries, so long as they were subject to such Erastian interference, and so bereft of their due powers, as would have been the case under that ordinance. But on the 5th of June both Houses not only ratified the ordinance, and on the 9th issued an order that it should be immediately put into execution, 35 but also at the same time laid aside the clause respecting provincial Commissioners to judge of new cases of scandal, – thus removing the main obstacle to its reception by the ministers. This concession having been made, the Assembly Divines and the city ministers met at Sion College, on the 19th of June, and after some conference, agreed upon a declaration, expressing approbation of what had been done, specifying what was still defective, and declaring that they now conceive it to be their duty to put in practice the present settlement, as far as they conceive it correspondent with the Word of God. 36
The actual erection of Presbyteries did not immediately follow this ordinance of Parliament, and consent of the Assembly and the city ministers; for the attention of the whole community was strongly attracted to the negotiations between the king and the Parliaments of the two kingdoms, as also between the two Parliaments themselves. It scarcely falls within our province to relate even an outline of the political intrigues which distracted the kingdom for many months after his majesty’s retreat to the Scottish army; yet so much must be stated as is necessary to explain the bearing of these events upon the proceedings of the Assembly. There is every reason to believe that the determination of the king to seek a retreat in the Scottish army, was the result of a complication of circumstances and of intrigues, – circumstances which he could not control, and intrigues in which he and his adherents were mutually deceivers and deceived. The fortune of war had been decisively against him, so that he could no longer expect to recover his power by conquest; and the demands of the Parliament rose with their success, so that he was constrained to contemplate the necessity of submission, if he could not contrive to divide his victorious antagonists. For that purpose he carried on a series of intrigues with all parties that would listen to him, particularly with the Independents in both army and Parliament. The decided ground taken by the Scottish Parliament, Church, and nation, in behalf of their religious liberties, as stated in their Covenant, which he regarded with intense hostility, rendered him unwilling to hold intercourse with them, and at the same time made it more than doubtful whether any measure of success could be expected to follow such an attempt. But the disagreement which took place between the English Parliament and the Scottish commissioners seemed to give some reason to hope that, by skillful management, it might at last be possible to disunite the kingdoms, and through their disunion to recover his own ascendancy over both. A French agent was sent to the Scottish army to sound the Committee of Estates, who were with it; and upon receiving a half-favorable report from this agent, the king resolved to go in person to the Scottish army, – hoping, by such an apparent act of confidence in their honor and loyalty, to render it impossible for them to do otherwise than espouse his cause.
But his private agent deceived him, – he deceived himself, – and the Scottish generals and statesmen were not deceived.
At the very first interview which the king had with his Scottish subjects, they gave him distinctly to know, that they neither could nor would do any thing contrary to their engagement with England in the Solemn League and Covenant, or to the spirit of that sacred document. And in a letter to the Committee of both kingdoms, written immediately after his majesty’s arrival, they declared, "That they were astonished at the providence of the king’s coming to their army; and desired that it might be improved to the best advantage for promoting the work of uniformity, for settling of religion and righteousness, and attaining of peace, according to the Covenant and Treaty, by advice of the Parliaments of both kingdoms, or their commissioners: And they further declare, that there hath been no treaty betwixt his majesty and them; and in so deep a business they desire the advice of the Committee of both kingdoms." 37 The king soon perceived that he had both overrated his own personal influence and undervalued the power of religious principle, – that he had deceived himself, and had now to do with men who were too sagacious to be deluded, and too high-principled to be turned from the path of integrity and truth. Finding that he was not likely to gain the object which he had in view, the king wrote to the English Parliament, requesting permission "to come to London with safety, freedom, and honor;" declaring, that he was resolved "to comply with the Houses in what should be most for the good of his subjects." The Parliament itself had previously resolved to demand the king’s person, declaring, "That in England the disposal of him belonged to the Parliament of England, and that the Scots army were in pay of the Parliament of England; that the king ought to be near his Parliament; and that this was consonant to the Covenant." 38 And in order to get quit of the Scottish army as quickly as possible, they voted, a few days afterwards, "That this kingdom had no further need of the army of their brethren the Scots in this kingdom." So early was it apparent that the English Parliament was determined to obtain possession of their sovereign’s person, and that the Scottish nation could not otherwise protect him than by friendly negotiation, so as to secure a peace including his safety; or by declaring war against England in his behalf, contrary to their obligations in the Solemn League and Covenant, and contrary to their own determination to defend religious liberty, – of which the king was the known and determined enemy. This they saw clearly; and being at the same time aware of the republican inclinations of Cromwell and his strong party, they perceived that the only way in which they could interfere to preserve his majesty, without incurring the guilt of perjury, was to persuade him, if possible, to sign the Covenant, and consent to the establishment of Presbyterian Church government. But to this no force of argument, no urgency of persuasion, no tearful earnestness of entreaty, could induce him to consent; and after spending several months in fruitless negotiations, they were constrained to abandon the impracticable attempt, and to leave him to pursue the fatal course along which he was driven by his own willful and infatuated obstinacy, and by the pernicious advice of his narrow-minded and selfish prelatic counselors.
It may be necessary here to state, what it would not be difficult to prove beyond the power of dispute, did our limits and the nature of this work permit, that there was no connection whatever between the payment of the arrears due to the Scottish army, and the surrendering of the king to the English Parliament. A short statement of facts is all that can here be given; but that may be enough, at least to every mind not thickly encrusted with prejudice. From the time when the victories of the English armies rendered them able to cope with the king without the assistance of the Scottish forces, the Parliament was desirous to secure the entire glory and advantage of the triumph to themselves. For this purpose they did every thing in their power to irritate and disparage the Scottish army. They withheld the payment of the troops, constraining them to have recourse to the ungracious procedure of levying the means of subsistence from the inhabitants of the country; and they listened readily to the complaints which were made of these exactions. Thus hampered and discouraged, the Scottish army was unable to perform any signal exploit, while Fairfax and Cromwell received every aid and encouragement that Parliament could give. The Scottish army was naturally indignant at such treatment, and even entertained some apprehension, that if Fairfax should take Oxford, and obtain possession of the king’s person, he would direct his force against them, and compel them to fight, or to retire without any thing having been accomplished for which they had entered England. Their position at Newark, almost in the center of the kingdom, rendered this peculiarly hazardous; and therefore, as soon as the king came to the army, and Newark surrendered, they began their march northwards, and ceased not till they arrived at Newcastle, where they took up their quarters, waiting the course of negotiations to secure peace, if practicable, and occupying a favorable position for war, if peace could not be obtained, and the king should be persuaded to sign the Covenant.
Even before the negotiations for peace commenced on the 19th of May, the English Parliament voted that an hundred thousand pounds should be paid to the Scottish army, one half after they should have surrendered Newcastle, Carlisle, and the other English garrisons in their possession, and the other half after their advance into Scotland. 39 The Scottish commissioners, knowing that the Parliament had not the means of obtaining a large supply of money without the consent and support of the city of London, gladly availed themselves of the idea which this offer suggested, and demanded a much larger sum, with the strong conviction that the Parliament neither could nor would grant their demand, and that during the delay caused by this new element of negotiation, they might persuade the king to consent to the offered terms of peace. "It’s all our skill," says Baillie, "to gain a little time. Their first offer to us was of one hundred thousand pounds sterling, for the disbanding of our army. We, this day (August 18th), gave them in a paper, wherein we were peremptor for more than double that sum for the present, beside the huge sums which we crave to be paid afterward. They have appointed a committee to confer with us; we are in some hopes of agreement. The money must be borrowed in the city, and here will be the question; they are our loving friends; but before they will part with more money, they will press hard the disbanding of their own army as well as ours." 40 Again he says, "When the king’s unhappy answer to the commissioners came hither, it was our great care to divert this Parliament from all deliberation about the king, till he had yet some more time of advice. We cast in the debate of our army’s return, and rendering the garrisons." On the 1st of September the House of Commons held a long debate on the demand of the Scottish army’s payment; and on the 5th of the same month voted the sum of two hundred thousand pounds on their advance to Scotland, if it could be raised, and appointed a committee to manage the matter. 41 But so far from this being the price of the king’s surrender to the Parliament, the question respecting the disposal of his person continued to be keenly debated between the two kingdoms for above four months longer, before Scotland would consent to relinquish the desperate and hopeless task of endeavoring to save the infatuated and uncomplying king. During that period Charles wrote repeatedly to the English Parliament, expressing his desire to be near them, the more speedily and effectually to conclude the long-continued negotiations. Sadly and unwillingly at last the Scottish Committee of Estates relinquished the care of his majesty’s person to the commissioners of the English Parliament, on the 30th of January 1647, according to the terms of the agreement to that effect which had been concluded between the two kingdoms, and published in the form of a declaration by the Scottish Parliament on the 16th of January.
The simple statement of these facts and dates ought to be enough to set aside for ever the false and calumnious assertion that Scotland sold her king. The payment of the army’s arrears was voted by the English Parliament on the 5th of September; the negotiations respecting the king were not concluded till the 16th of January. It was impossible to preserve him, without a breach of the League with England, a violation of the National Covenant, and the forcible retention of their sovereign’s person, against his own will, even when engaging in a perilous war against a more powerful kingdom in his defense. His own incurable dissimulation and obstinacy urged him on his fate, which Scotland foresaw and deplored, but could not avert.
To return to the subject more immediately within our province. Although the Assembly Divines and the city ministers had expressed their opinion that they could at length consent to put into practical operation the Presbyterian Church government, as sanctioned by Parliament, they still complained of its defectiveness, and were in no haste to form themselves into Presbyteries. Repeated applications were made to Parliament for the removal of the obstacles that still remained; and on the 22d of April 1647, the Houses published resolutions, entitled, "Remedies for removing some obstructions to Church government;" in which they ordered letters to be sent to the several counties of England, requiring the ministers immediately to form themselves into distinct Presbyteries; and appointing the ministers and elders of the several Presbyteries of the province of London, to hold their Provincial Assembly in the Convocation. house of St. Paul’s, on the first Monday of May. According to this appointment, the first meeting of the Provincial Assembly or Synod of London was held on the 3d of May 1647. 42 At this Synod there were about one hundred and eight persons present, and Dr. Gouge was chosen prolocutor or moderator. The province of London was divided into twelve Presbyteries; and in the formation of the Synod each Presbytery chose two ministers and four elders, as their representatives or commissioners. The ministers of Lancashire were also formed into Presbyteries and a Synod; and in many other counties they associated themselves for the management of ecclesiastical affairs, though not in the regular form of Presbyteries and Synods.
There was now no positive obstruction to the regular and final organization of Presbyterian Church government, except the still pending treaties between the king and the Parliament. Knowing the king’s attachment to Prelacy and his strong dislike to Presbytery, the Parliament did not wish to make a final and permanent establishment of the latter form of Church government till they should have endeavored to persuade his majesty to consent, so that it might be engrossed in the treaty, and thereby obtain the conclusive ratification of the royal signature. But after the army had for a time overawed the Parliament, when the Houses again recovered something like the free exercise of their legislative functions, they voted, "That the king be desired to give his sanction to such acts as shall be presented to him, for settling the Presbyterian government for three years, with a provision that no person shall be liable to any question or penalty, only for nonconformity to the said government, or to the form of divine services appointed in the ordinances. And that such as shall not voluntarily conform to the said form of government and divine service, shall have liberty to meet for the service and worship of God, and for exercise of religious duties and ordinantes, in a fit and convenient place, so as nothing be done by them to the disturbance of the peace of the kingdom. And provided that this extend not to any toleration of the Popish religion, nor to any penalties imposed upon Popish recusants, nor to tolerate the practice of any thing contrary to the principles of Christian religion, contained in the Apostles’ Creed, as it is expounded in the Articles of the Church of England: nor to any thing contrary to the point of faith, for the ignorance whereof men are to be kept from the Lord’s supper; nor to excuse any from the penalties for not coming to hear the Word of God on the Lord’s day in any church or chapel, unless he can show a reasonable cause, or was hearing the Word of God preached or expounded elsewhere." These were the votes of the Lords; and to these the Commons added; "That the Presbyterian government be established till the end of the next session of Parliament, which was to be a year after that date. That the tenths and maintenance belonging to any church shall be only to such as can submit to the Presbyterian government, and to none other. That liberty of conscience granted shall extend to none that shall preach, print, or publish, any thing contrary to the first fifteen of the Thirty-nine Articles, except the eighth. That it extend not to Popish recusants, or taking away any penal laws against them. That the indulgence to tender consciences shall not extend to tolerate the Common Prayer." 43 These votes were passed on the 13th day of October 1647, and may be regarded as the final settlement of the Presbyterian Church government, so far as that was done by the Long Parliament, in accordance with the advice of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. For before the expiration of the period named by the Parliament, the Parliament itself had sunk beneath the power of Cromwell, whose policy was to establish no form of Church government, but to keep every thing dependent upon himself, though his chief favors were bestowed upon the Independents.
There is but one point more connected with the Erastian controversy which requires to be stated, namely, its effect upon the formation and ratification of the Confession of Faith. For a considerable time after the Assembly commenced its deliberations, the chief subjects which occupied its attention were, the Directories for public worship, and ordination, and the form of Church government, including the power of Church censure. Till some satisfactory conclusions had been reached on these points, the Assembly abstained from entering upon the less agitating, but not less important work of framing a Confession of Faith. But having completed their task, so far as depended upon themselves, they appointed a committee to prepare and arrange the main propositions which were to be discussed and digested into a system by the Assembly. The members of this committee were, Dr. Hoyle, Dr. Gouge, Messrs Herle, Gataker, Tuckney, Reynolds, and Vines, with the Scottish commissioners. These learned and able divines began their labors by arranging in the most systematic order the various great and sacred truths which God has revealed to man; and reduced these to thirty-two distinct heads or chapters, each having a title expressive of its subject. These were again subdivided into sections; and the committee formed themselves into several sub-committees, each of whom took a specific topic, for the sake of exact and concentrated deliberation. When these sub-committees had completed their respective tasks, the whole was laid before the entire committee, and any alterations suggested and debated till all were of one mind. And when any title or chapter had been thus fully prepared by the committee, it was reported to the Assembly, and again subjected to the most minute and careful investigation, in every paragraph, sentence, and word. It is exceedingly gratifying to be able to state, that throughout the deliberations of the Assembly, when composing the Confession of Faith, there prevailed almost an entire and perfect harmony. There appear, indeed, to have been only two subjects on which any difference of opinion existed among them. The one of these was the doctrine of election, concerning which, as Baillie says, they had long and tough debates; "Yet," he adds, "thanks to God, all is gone right according to our mind." 44 The other was that of which mention has been already made, namely, that "the Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his Church, has therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers distinct from the civil magistrate;" which appears as the fundamental proposition of the chapter entitled "Of Church censures." This proposition the Assembly manifestly intended and understood to contain a principle directly and necessarily opposed to the very essence of Erastianism; and it was regarded in the same light by the Erastians themselves, consequently it became the subject of long and earnest discussion, and was strenuously opposed by Lightfoot and Coleman, especially the latter. But Coleman falling ill and dying before the debate was concluded, it was carried, the sole dissentient voice being that of Lightfoot. It does not appear that the Erastian lay-assessors attempted to debate the point in the Assembly, but wisely, or at least cunningly, reserved their opposition for the House of Commons, being aware that their strength lay in power, not argument. The whole influence of the Erastians did not succeed in modifying, no, not by one word, the statement of the Assembly’s faith on this vital point; although some have had the hardihood to assert that they condescended to compromise the question. The conduct of the Assembly in the Erastian controversy contrasts strongly with their conduct in the Independent controversy.
With the Independents there were many instances of compromise and accommodation, or at least of attempts in that direction; with the Erastians none, no, not so much as one. They could not compel the Parliament to give its sanction to all that they proposed; but they could and did state freely and fearlessly what they believed to be the truth, earnestly and urgently petitioning that it might be ratified, then leaving the legislative powers to accept or reject on their own responsibility. To the Independents, on the other hand, they showed the utmost leniency; and while they could not abandon their own conscientious convictions, they were extremely reluctant to deal harshly with the conscientious scruples of men whom they regarded as brethren.
Some discussion took place on the thirty-first chapter in the Confession, respecting Synods and Councils; but that subject also was carried in the express language of the Assembly, and without any Erastian modification. The first half of the Confession was laid before the Parliament early in October 1646, and on the 26th of November the remainder was produced to the Assembly in its completed form, when the prolocutor returned thanks to the committees, in the name of the Assembly, for their great pains in perfecting the work committed to them. It was then carefully transcribed; and on the 3d of December 1646, it was presented to Parliament, by the whole Assembly in a body, under the title of "The Humble Advice of the Assembly of Divines and others, now by the authority of Parliament sitting at Westminster, concerning a Confession of Faith." On the 7th, Parliament ordered "five hundred copies of it to be printed for the members of both Houses; and that the Assembly do bring in their marginal notes, to prove every part of it by Scripture." 45 There is strong reason to believe that the House of Commons demanded the insertion of the Scripture texts, for the purpose of obtaining an additional period of delay, as indeed Baillie pretty plainly intimates.
The Assembly, accordingly, resumed their task, and after encountering a number of interposing obstacles, again produced the Confession of Faith, with full scriptural proofs annexed to all its propositions, and laid it before the Parliament on the 29th day of April 1647. The thanks of the House were given to the Assembly for their labors in this important matter; and "six hundred copies were ordered to be printed for the use of the Houses and the Assembly; and no more, and that none presume to reprint the same, till further orders."46 The appointed number of copies having been printed, they were delivered to the members of both Houses by Mr. Byfield, on the 19th of May, when it was resolved to consider the whole production, article by article, previous to its being published with the sanction of Parliament, as the Confession of Faith held by that Church on which they meant to confer the benefits of a national establishment. But the deliberations of the Parliament were interrupted by the insurrection of the army, and the numerous, protracted, and unsatisfactory negotiations in which they were engaged with the king; so that they had not completed their examination of the Confession till March 1648. On the 22d day of that month a conference was held between the two Houses, to compare their opinions respecting the Confession of Faith, the result of which is thus stated by Rushworth: "The Commons this day (March 22d), at a conference, presented the Lords with the Confession of Faith passed by them, with some alterations, viz., That they do agree with their Lordships, and so with the Assembly, in the doctrinal part, and desire the same may be made public, that this kingdom, and all the Reformed Churches of Christendom, may see the Parliament of England differ not in doctrine. In some particulars there were some phrases altered, as in that of tribute being due to the magistrate, they put dues : to the degree of marriage they refer to the law established: particulars in discipline are recommitted: and for the title, they make it not, ‘ A Confession of Faith, ’ because not so running, ‘ I confess, ’ at the beginning of every section; but, ‘ Articles of Faith agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament, ’ as most suitable to the former title of the Thirty-nine Articles." 47
Such was the last positive enactment made by the English Parliament respecting the Confession of Faith; for the subsequent mention made of it, and of other particulars in Presbyterian Church government, during the course of their negotiations with the king, were not enactments, but attempts at accommodation with his majesty, with the view of endeavoring to secure a satisfactory basis for a permanent peace to Church and State. And it will be observed, that the only material defect mentioned in this reported conference between the Houses is, that " particulars in discipline are recommitted." These "particulars" are said to have been the thirtieth chapter, "Of Church censures;" the thirty-first chapter, "Of Synods and Councils;" and the fourth section of the twentieth chapter, "Of Christian liberty, and liberty of conscience." The enumeration of these particulars rests on the authority of Neal, 48 which is by no means unimpeachable, but it is in itself probable, being quite consistent with the views of the Erastians, whose chief hostility was directed against the power of Church discipline, of which the chapters specified contain an explicit statement, according to the judgment of the Assembly. It is of some importance to remark, that these "particulars in discipline" were not rejected by the English Parliament, as is generally asserted, but merely recommitted, or referred to a committee to be more maturely considered. But as the Parliament itself not long afterwards fell under the power of the army, and was at length forcibly dissolved by Cromwell, the committee never returned a report, and consequently these particulars were never either formally rejected or ratified by the Parliament of England. The fact of their having been recommitted is of itself enough to prove that they were not, in the estimation of such men as Selden and Whitelocke, susceptible of an Erastian interpretation, although such an opinion has been hazarded by men certainly not a little their inferiors in learning, legal acumen, and intellectual power.
A full account of the literature of the Erastian controversy would be an extremely interesting and highly important production; but to attempt any thing more than a very brief outline of it here would lead to a digression far beyond our limits. We shall therefore mention almost solely those works which were either written by some of the Westminster Divines, or were closely connected with the proceedings of that venerable Assembly. A few preliminary sentences, however, may be of use to introduce the subject.
During the earliest ages of Christianity the only relationship in which the civil magistrate and the Church stood towards each other, was that which exists between persecutors and the persecuted. When at length Constantine avowed himself a Christian, persecution ceased, and the more friendly relation of granting and receiving protection became that between the State and the Church. But Christianity had already become deeply tainted with the antichristian leaven; Prelacy had raised its haughty head, equally inclined to domineer over what it regarded as the inferior orders of the clergy, and over the people, and to arrogate to itself exemption from the control of the civil magistrate, even in civil matters. A protracted struggle ensued between the imperial and royal powers and the Bishop of Rome, the issue of which was, not merely an exemption of ecclesiastical matters, and even persons, from civil authority, but the establishment of a supremacy over civil rulers and civil matters wielded by the Romish hierarchy, and forming a complete spiritual and civil despotism. This fearful and degrading despotism was overthrown by the Reformation; and although the great and wise Christian divines and patriots by whose instrumentality the Reformation was effected, were unable entirely to perfect their work, yet they all, more or less clearly, indicated their judgment that the two jurisdictions, civil and ecclesiastical, ought to be, and to remain coordinate and distinct, mutually supporting and supported, but each abstaining from interference with the other’s intrinsic and inherent rights, privileges, and powers. In some countries this high and true theory was clearly developed, in others more obscurely, and in some not at all. In no part of Reformed Christendom was it so distinctly stated, and so fully realized, as in Scotland; and nowhere was it so thoroughly rejected as in England. In England, indeed, the exact counterpart of the Romish system was established, the king’s ecclesiastical supremacy rendering him equally judge of ecclesiastical as of civil matters. It was soon found that in this, as in all other things, extremes meet; the king, by a slight transfer of terms, became a civil pope, and the country was oppressed by a complete civil and spiritual despotism.
In the meantime, the great principle of truth and freedom, the principle of distinct and coordinate civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions, was assailed on the Continent by Erastus, and became a subject of speculative thought and controversial literature. Unfortunately for the cause of truth and freedom, the great men of the Reformation had nearly all departed from the scene of their labors and triumphs before the Erastian theory was fully brought forward, so that it was not at once met and overthrown as it would otherwise have been. And besides, it was too accordant with the views and feelings of men of secular minds not to obtain a ready credence and a hearty welcome from politicians, who can form no higher idea of a Church than an engine of State; from lawyers, who can conceive no higher rule than statutory enactments; and from irreligious and immoral men, who equally detest and fear the strict and pure severity of divinely authorized Christian discipline. In England, also, the despotism of the Prelatic hierarchy tended to produce, in the minds of all zealous assertors of freedom, an instinctive dread of ecclesiastical power, and rendered many men Erastians from terror and in self-defense, not because they had studied the theory, and been convinced of its truth. Such men were ready to oppose the establishment of Presbyterian Church government on the ground of divine right, not because they were convinced that no system of Church government can justly lay claim to an authority so high and sacred; but because they were apprehensive that it would produce a species of spiritual despotism as oppressive as that which they had just been striving to abolish. In vain did the Scottish statesmen and divines answer and refute their objections; their fears were not removed, and fear is a mental emotion that cannot be set aside by argument.
But Selden, Whitelocke, Lightfoot, and Coleman, took up the subject on other grounds, which, though difficult, were not equally unassailable by reason. Their chief argument was one of analogy, although, as they used it, the appearance which it bore was that of identity. They held that the Christian system ought to resemble, or rather to be identical with, the system of the Mosaic Dispensation; and they attempted to prove, that there were not two distinct and coordinate courts, one civil and the other ecclesiastical, among the Hebrews, but that there was a mixed jurisdiction, of which the king was the supreme and ultimate head and ruler; and that, consequently, the civil courts determined all matters, both civil and ecclesiastical, and inflicted all punishments, both such as affected person and property, and such as affected a man’s religious privileges, properly termed Church censures. From this they concluded, that the civil magistrate, in countries avowedly Christian, ought to possess an equal, or identical authority, and ought consequently to be the supreme and ultimate judge in all matters, both civil and ecclesiastical, inflicting or removing the penalties of Church censure equally with those affecting person and property. The arguments on which they most relied were drawn from rabbinical lore, rather than from the Bible itself, although they were very willing to obtain the appearance of its support, by ingenious versions, or perversions of peculiar passages of Scripture. Selden’s argument has been already stated, and need not be repeated. The value of Lightfoot’s authority may be estimated somewhat lower than is usually done, if we take into consideration, not merely the amount of his learning, but the soundness, or the reverse, of his judgment. As for instance, he strenuously maintained that the Jews are utterly and finally rejected, that those of them who embraced Christianity in the time of Christ and the apostles were the "remnant to be saved," and that there neither then was, nor ever shall be, any universal calling of them.49 He held also, that the expressions, "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," and "binding and loosing," had no reference to discipline, but merely to doctrine; in which opinion he differed from almost every person, both before and since his time. His opinion of the Septuagint was equally at variance with the views of the most eminently learned and judicious men. In short, whatever may be said of his extensive and minute rabbinical lore, it is impossible to regard his judgment as entitled to much deference; consequently his advocacy of Erastian principles will not avail much for their support.
Mention has already been made of Coleman’s sermon, preached before the House of Commons, on the 30th of July 1645. That sermon must be noticed as part of the Erastian literature, not so much on account of its own merits, as on account of other works to the composing of which it gave occasion. Towards the end of the sermon, various advices and directions are given, as calculated to promote the peace and welfare of the kingdom; and of these, one point on which Coleman dwelt strongly was, the unity of the Church, and the best way to procure that unity. For this he gives several directions, of which the following are the chief: –
1. Establish as few things jure divino as can well be. Hold out the practice, but not the ground.
2. Let all precepts held out as divine institutions have clear scriptures; an occasional practice, a phrase upon the by, a thing named, are too weak grounds to uphold such a building. I could never yet see how two coordinate governments, exempt from superiority and inferiority, can be in one State; and in Scripture no such thing is found, that I know of.
3. Lay no more burden of government upon the shoulders of ministers than Christ hath plainly laid upon them; let them have no more hand therein than the Holy Ghost clearly gives them. The ministers will have other work to do, and such as will take up the whole man. I ingenuously profess I have a heart that knows better how to be governed than to govern. I fear an ambitious ensnarement; and I have cause. I see what raised Prelacy and Papacy to such a height; and what their practices were, being so raised. Give us doctrine; take you the government. Give me leave to make this request, in the name of the ministry; give us two things, and we shall do well: – give us learning, and give us a competency.
4. A Christian magistrate, as a Christian magistrate, is a governor in the Church. All magistrates, it is true, are not Christians; but that is their fault: all should be; and when they are, they are to manage their office under and for Christ. Christ hath placed governments in his Church. Of other governments besides magistracy I find no institution; of them I do. I find all government given to Christ, and to Christ as Mediator; and Christ, as head of these, given to the Church. To rob the kingdom of Christ of the magistrate and his governing power, I cannot excuse, no, not from a kind of sacrilege, if the magistrate be His." 50
Sentiments such as these could not but be agreeable to the Erastian members of Parliament; yet they seem to have thought that Coleman had spoken with more plainness than prudence, for while they ordered the sermon to be printed, as was customary, they did not give him the thanks of the House – an omission which was extremely unusual. But the principles stated in Coleman’s sermon were not allowed to remain long unassailed. On the 27th of August George Gillespie preached a sermon before the House of Lords; and when it was published, he appended to it a small pamphlet of nine leaves, entitled, "A Brotherly Examination of some Passages of Mr. Coleman’s late printed Sermon." In this short treatise, Gillespie not only answered and refuted Coleman, but also completely turned his arguments against himself; proving, first, that the proper rule for human conduct in all things, but especially in religious matters, was to obtain as much of divine guidance, or to establish as much by divine right, as possible. He then proceeds to examine in succession Coleman’s directions or rules in a very masterly manner, annihilating or reversing each with great strength and clearness of argument. It is proved, that Coleman’s principle, that in every divine institution Scripture must speak expressly, would involve a dangerous tampering with Scripture, and would sweep away several important Christian institutions which were never doubted;
and also, that whatever, by necessary consequence, is drawn from Scripture, is a divine truth, as well as what is expressly written therein. The argument of coordinate jurisdictions is next taken up, and thoroughly established both by argument and by illustration. And in answer to Coleman’s assertion, that he can find no institution of any government except magistracy, Gillespie proves from Scripture, that obedience is directly commanded to spiritual governors, who are "over us in the Lord," and who must have been distinct from the civil magistrate at a time when there was no Christian magistracy. In a short, but very clearly stated argument, Gillespie refutes Coleman’s dangerous assertion, "That all government is given to Christ as Mediator, and Christ, as head of these, given to the Church;" and states the distinction between Christ’s government as God and as Mediator, – by the right understanding of which important idea the whole Erastian controversy must be decided.
Coleman soon afterwards published a pamphlet, entitled; "A Brotherly Examination Re-examined;" which is distinguished chiefly by boldness of assertion and feebleness of argument. To this Gillespie replied in another, bearing the title, "Nihil Respondes," in which he somewhat sharply exposed the weakness of his antagonist’s reasoning. Irritated by the castigation he had received, Coleman published a bitter reply, to which he gave the not very intelligible title of "Male Dicis Maledicis," – meaning, doubtless, that Gillespie’s answer was rather of a railing character, or, to use a phrase of modern times, displayed a bad spirit. This Gillespie answered in an exceedingly vigorous pamphlet, entitled, "Male Audis," in which he swept rapidly over the whole Erastian controversy, so far as Coleman and some of his friends had brought it forward, convicted him and them of numerous self-contradictions, of unsoundness in theology, of violating the covenant which they had sworn, and of inculcating opinions fatal to both civil and religious liberty. To this Coleman did not attempt to reply, feeling, probably, that he was overmatched.
Several of these controversial pamphlets appeared in the course of the year 1646; and towards the close of the same year, Gillespie published his celebrated work, "Aaron’s Rod Blossoming; or, The Divine Ordinance of Church Government Vindicated." In this remarkably able and elaborate production, Gillespie took up the Erastian controversy as stated and defended by its ablest advocates, fairly encountering their strongest arguments, and assailing their most formidable positions, in the frank and fearless manner of a man thoroughly sincere, and thoroughly convinced of the truth and goodness of his cause. The work is divided into three books; the first treating "Of the Jewish Church Government;" the second, "Of the Christian Church Government;" and the third, "Of Excommunication from the Church, and of Suspension from the Lord’s Table." In the first book the five following propositions are demonstrated: –
1. That the Jewish Church was formerly distinct from the Jewish State.
2. That there was an ecclesiastical sanhedrim and government distinct from the civil.
3. That there was an ecclesiastical excommunication distinct from civil punishments.
4. That in the Jewish Church there was also a public exomologesis, or declaration of repentance, and thereupon a reception or admission again of the offender to fellowship with the Church in the holy things.
5. That there was a suspension of the profane from the temple and passover.
In this part of his work Gillespie boldly met and completely overthrew the united strength of Selden, Lightfoot, and Coleman, on their own chosen field of Hebrew learning.
In the second book or part of his work, "Of the Christian Church Government," the main element of the controversy which he had to encounter is of a nature so abstract, that it requires peculiar clearness of thought and accuracy of reasoning to keep the subject intelligible, and to draw the requisite distinctions. Coleman had in his sermon said, that "a Christian magistrate, as a Christian magistrate, is a governor in the Church;" and that "all government is given to Christ as Mediator, and Christ, as head of these, is given to the Church:" from this he drew, though not very distinctly, the inference, that the Christian magistrate is directly the vicegerent of Christ, and therefore rules in the Church; yet when pushed on this point he recoiled, and modified his inference so as to state it in the following terms, "that magistracy is given to Christ to be serviceable in his kingdom." But this modified statement would not have answered the purposes of the Erastians; and therefore their principle was more boldly and plainly expressed by Mr. Hussey, minister at Chesilhurst, in Kent. This thorough Erastian boldly maintained, both "that all government is given to Christ as Mediator, and that Christ, as Mediator, has placed the Christian magistrate under him, and as his vicegerent, and has given him commission to govern the Church." It will be at once perceived, that the very terms of this proposition involved an inquiry into the nature and extent of Christ’s mediatorial sovereignty. To this point, accordingly, Gillespie directed his attention, in his answer to Hussey’s argument. He draws the distinction between the power and sovereignty of Christ as the Eternal Son of God, and as God-man and Mediator. Considered as the Eternal Son of God, as the Word by whom the universe was called into being, he necessarily rules over all, and magistrates derive their power from him: considered as God-man and Mediator, his direct sovereignty is in and over the Church, which is his body; and all power has been given to him both in heaven and in earth, to be wielded by him for the safety and the extension of his spiritual kingdom. A further distinction is drawn by Gillespie betwixt power over and power in any kingdom; which are not necessarily identical, although the one may be employed for the purpose of promoting and securing the other. In this argument, some have thought that Gillespie has drawn his distinctions too fine, more so than was necessary for his argument, or than many would be able to follow or willing to admit. Beyond all question, he has overthrown the Erastian theory, "that the civil magistrate is Christ’s vicegerent, and appointed to govern the Church;" but some have been afraid that one aspect of his argument might seem to countenance the Voluntary theory, and to exempt civil government from the duty and responsibility of giving countenance and support to the Church. Certainly no such idea was ever in Gillespie’s mind, nor is it my opinion that his reasoning, rightly understood, gives it the least shadow of support. Besides, if there be any danger arising from the extreme fineness with which his distinctions are drawn in that branch of his argument: it is completely removed by the succeeding chapter, in which he treats "of the power and privilege of the magistrate in things and causes ecclesiastical, what it is, and what it is not." It would be well if magistrates would study carefully the passage alluded to, that they might acquire some information respecting the proper nature and boundaries of their duties and responsibilities circa sacra, about religious matters, as distinguished from what they have always been so eager to usurp, power in sacris, in religious matters, which forms no part of their peculiar duty, and is not within their province.
The third book, "Of Excommunication from the Church, and of Suspension from the Lord’s Table," has the appearance of being an answer to Prynne, who had written largely against the exercise of such power by Church officers. But it is evident that Gillespie had more in view than merely to answer Prynne. He makes no express reference to the Parliament’s jus divinum queries, but he meets them nevertheless, and gives to them very conclusive answers, while appearing to be merely replying to a less formidable antagonist. The very tenor of Prynne’s writings gave him this opportunity, for Prynne kept as closely to the line of the parliamentary queries as he with propriety could, so that Gillespie was both enabled and fairly entitled to answer both at once, so far as they were identical or similar. The work, in short, is a very complete refutation of the whole Erastian theory, taking up its leading points systematically, clearing away all obscurities of language, reducing every argument to its elementary principles, stating these in the form of simple propositions, and in terms strictly defined, so as to preclude sophistry or mere verbal subtleties, and proceeding to refute error and demonstrate truth, in a manner singularly clear and forcible, displaying, each in a very high degree, extensive learning, sound judgment, intellectual acuteness and strength, and the pure and lofty spirit of genuine Christianity.
Another very able and elaborate work on the Erastian controversy was written and published also in the year 1646, by Samuel Rutherford, entitled, "The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication." Although Rutherford manifests a thorough understanding of the subject, and treats very fully of all its main elements, exhibiting great learning and extreme minuteness in thought, argument, and illustration, his work is not, upon the whole, so successful as that of Gillespie. It is defective in point of arrangement, and especially for want of a statement of the systematic order which the author meant to follow, though it is perfectly plain that in his own mind there was a system by which he regulated his course of argument. But the very minuteness of his learning and his reasoning is felt to obscure, or rather to overlay the subject; and while tracing out every point of detail, the general impression is either weakened, or fails to be forcibly conveyed. This, however, is criticism according to modern taste; for the style of the times when Rutherford wrote, was to exhaust every subject under discussion, and to leave nothing unsaid upon it that could be said. In this respect, therefore, Rutherford merely followed the spirit of the age in which he lived; and whosoever will carefully peruse his very elaborate work, will obtain ample materials for the refutation of Erastianism.
There appeared another work at that time, not indeed written by one of the Assembly of Divines, but so intimately connected with the controversies which were agitated among them, that it deserves to be mentioned here. This was a treatise written by the celebrated Apollonius of Middleburg, entitled, "Consideratio Quarundam Controversiarum ad Regimen Ecclesisae Dei Spectantium, quae in Angliae Regno bodie Agitantur." When this treatise was published, a copy of it was sent to each member of the Westminster Assembly. "It was," says Baillie, "not only very well taken, but also, which is singular, and so far as I remember, absque exemplo, it was ordered, nemine contradicente, to write a letter of thanks to Apollonius." 51 The spirit of this work is thoroughly Presbyterian, encountering alike the theories of the Independents and the Erastians. It consists of seven chapters, each treating of a separate topic briefly, but with great clearness and force of reasoning. They are as follows: –
1. Concerning the qualification of Church members.
2. Concerning a Church covenant.
3. Concerning the Church visible and instituted.
4. Concerning power ecclesiastical.
5. Concerning ecclesiastical ministry and its exercise.
6. Concerning Classes (Presbyteries) and Synods, and their authority.
7. Concerning forms or directories of faith and worship.
It will at once be seen, that in the discussion of these topics the learned author must come into direct collision with both the Independents and the Erastians; yet his work has very little of a merely controversial character, being a calm and dispassionate, but very clear and able, disquisition concerning these important theological questions. There is another very valuable work by the same author, written a short time before the meeting of the Westminster Assembly, but treating very fully of the Erastian theory. Its title is, "Jus Majestatis Circa Sacra; sive, Tractatus Theologicus de jure Magistratus circa res Ecclesiasticas." A translation of this work, for the purpose of general circulation, would be a very valuable contribution to the cause of religious liberty, which is at present beset by so many and such formidable enemies.
But we must quit this digression, however alluring the subject, and return to what remains to be stated respecting the concluding labors of the Westminster Assembly. Enough, if the attention of the reader has been directed to some of the most important works relating to the great Erastian controversy, which he may peruse for himself. And we do not hesitate to say, that it is scarcely possible for any man, especially for any Christian, to engage in a study of deeper and more universal importance. For it directly involves the glory of the Mediator, as sole Head of his body the Church, and sole King in Zion, his spiritual kingdom, – the purity, peace, and freedom of the Church, in its administration and in the rights and privileges of its members, – the moral and religious welfare of the community, as involved in, and flowing from, the efficiency and the extension of true and living Christianity, the divinely appointed remedy for the miseries of fallen mankind, – and even the progress of civilization, the maintenance of peace, and the stability of kingdoms, as all depending upon the blessing and the favor and protection of Him who is "Prince of the kings of the earth." And it is so eminently the great controversy of the present day, that upon its right or wrong determination depends the continuance of peace throughout Christendom, or the speedy commencement of commotions and conflicts of the most portentous nature, shaking the foundations of society, and ending in wide-spread anarchy and desolation.
[End of Chapter 4]
28 This was evidently for the purpose of intimidation.
29 Rushworth, vol. 6 pp. 260, 261.
30 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 360.
31 Neal, vol. 2 p. 395.
32 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 378. – This is a sufficient refutation of Neal’s assertion, that the Assembly durst not present their answers to Parliament for fear of a premunire.
33 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 411.
34 A reprint of this work would be a very valuable contribution to the Presbyterian cause in the present day.
35 Whitelocke, p. 213.
36 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 377; Neal, vol. 2 p. 396. In this instance also the Account of Neal is unfair and inaccurate, to use no harsher terms.
37 Whitelocke, p. 210.
39 Whitelocke, p. 211.
40 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 391.
41 Whitelocke, pp. 225, 226.
42 Rushworth, vol. 6 p. 476.
43 Whitelocke, pp. 275, 276.
44 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 325.
45 Whitelocke, p. 233.
46 Rushworth, vol. 6 p. 473.
47 Rushworth, vol. 12 p. 1035.
48 Neal, vol. 2 p. 429.
49 Lightfoot, vol. 1 p. 165.
50 Coleman’s Sermon, pp. 24-28.
51 Baillie, vol. 2 p. 246.