"When nations are to perish in their sins,
'Tis in the Church the leprosy begins;
Then truth is hushed that heresy may preach,
And all is trash that reason cannot reach;
Then ceremony leads her bigots forth,
Prepared to fight for shadows of no worth;
While truths on which eternal things depend
Find not, or hardly find, a single friend."
T HE only Reformed Church that adopted Prelacy as its form of government was that of England. The cause of this is found in the manner in which its Reformation was brought about — the King, his court and bishops taking the lead, and choosing to retain what had been long established. This was not because the English Reformers found Prelatic Episcopacy in the Scriptures. Instead of holding the divine right of Prelacy, the greatest and best of these men maintained the essentials of Presbyterian government. The supremacy of the Pope was abolished in 1534-35. For fifty years thereafter Prelacy was in operation merely as a human expedient, necessary in the estimation of the reformers of England. Its advocacy ( jure divino ) by divine right, in 1588, was held to be a novelty, and denounced even by prelates themselves. They intended to retain the expedient only till a more thorough reformation was effected. But the expedient was at length exalted into the most essential of all principles — so essential that nothing short of it could be tolerated in the land. And yet the plan devised and established by Christ and His apostles was at first recognised.
It is well known how God overruled the dispute between Henry VIII and the Pope for the release of England from Popish thraldom. Whatever the motives of the King — whether real doubts of the validity of his marriage with Catherine, or affection for Anne Boleyn — almost unanimously his Popish bishops and the Popish universities of Europe declared it unlawful, although the Pope withheld his decision. It followed that the former dispensation of the Pope, allowing Henry to marry Catherine of Arragon, must have been contrary to the Word of God, and that his judgment was not infallible. That was the first step. Next, the bishops and clergy in petition styled the King 'the protector and supreme head of the Church and clergy of England.' That title was converted into a reality. Parliament enacted that the Papal supremacy was abolished, and that the monarch was the supreme head of the Church. Thus in 1534-35 the monarch and the Pope changed places, in so far as the Church of England was concerned. Cranmer, till then unknown, and whose advice had been acted on, became Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry, however, raved equally against Lutherans and Romanists, and full reformation was retarded rather than promoted by his instrumentality. That title and position as supreme head of the Church has not only been ever united with the other titles of the Crown, it is exercised to the present day, and constitutes a prominent feature in the Prelacy of England. Still, by God's good hand, the work of reformation went on — the monasteries were swept away as a gigantic moral evil, the Bible was translated into the vulgar tongue, articles of religion were also agreed upon in Convocation, the standards of faith decided on being the Bible, creeds of the early ages and decrees of general councils. Unhappily many corruptions were retained. The despotism of the royal supremacy was soon apparent. His Majesty enforced six articles to put an end to controversy in religion, on pain of fine, imprisonment, or death. These were 'the real presence, communion in one kind, celibacy in the priesthood, observance of vows, private masses, and confession to a priest.' Well was it for England that now she had in her hands the pure Word of God. Cranmer and many others were the victims of this royal supremacy.
In all the books put forth by public authority under their superintendence, it was declared that the New Testament makes explicit mention only of two orders of church officers — presbyters and deacons. And this was before the Protestant system was well understood. Their testimony was clear and full in all essentials. They held that in the apostolic age there was no prelacy; that the government of the Church was by teaching and ruling elders; that individual congregations were not independent communities, but parts of the whole, and governed for their benefit by representative assemblies. They did not differ from other reformers, who maintained that there is no diversity of rank amongst ministers of the gospel. Cranmer, in 'The Institution of a Christian Man,' in 1537, declared: 'That in the New Testament there is no mention made of any other degree and distinction in orders, but only of deacons or ministers, and of presbyters or bishops.' This declaration, that there are 'but two orders of clergy, and that no one bishop hath authority over another, according to the Word of God,' received the subscription as well as recommendation of two archbishops, nineteen bishops, and the whole of the Lower House of Convocation. This testimony emphatically proclaims that the founders of the Church of England were essentially Presbyterian in their views. Lambert, who was martyred in 1538, contended for ministerial parity, and Cranmer proposed to constitute courts equivalent to sessions and presbyteries, had he been allowed. Tyndal, one of the first translators of the Bible, held the same views as to the perfect equality of rank and power amongst the ministers of the Word. Besides, the reformers invited the aid of leading men in other lands, as Bucer and Peter Martyr, recognising their ordination, though by presbyters. Bishop Grindal, in 1582, appointed Morrison, who was ordained by the Church of Scotland, to pastoral duty in the diocese of Canterbury. According to the testimony of Bishop Burnet, that recognition of Presbyterial ordination continued for a long period. �'Lasco affirmed that Edward VI intended to remodel the Church according to apostolic purity, which, in the estimation of �'Lasco, was Presbyterianism.
When Popery regained ascendancy, an 'Act about religion' was framed, rendering the King's supremacy most arbitrary and complete. It empowered him to 'confirm, rescind, or change any Act or provision that treated of religion.' During the brief reign of the pious Edward, England was divided into six circuits, the Word powerfully preached, and abuses much corrected; but when the 'Book of Ordinances' was ratified, Prelacy was confirmed rigidly in the Church.
What has been termed the Puritan element now arose, which from the first was decidedly Presbyterian. The controversy outwardly was as to the wearing of particular vestments, with other rites and ceremonies; but that was but the straw on the surface of the deep current, an intense longing for a fuller reformation. The refusal of Hooper to be ordained in the vestments, as a mere human invention, was the first indication of the running stream. But the Church had to pass through a baptism of blood ere the conflict arose within. Under the Bloody Mary, 1553-58, Popery was restored to place and power. The deeds of darkness then perpetrated arose out of that doctrine of the royal supremacy. At the will of the sovereign the professors of the old religion were honoured and the Reformation mangled. The battle about ceremonies was meanwhile begun at Frankfort amongst the refugees from England. If the explanation given by Queen Elizabeth could be accepted as the whole truth, the supremacy would not be regarded as dangerous — viz., that the sovereign only claimed what always appertained to the Crown; that the sovereignty extended over all manner of persons, so that no foreign power had authority over them; but that no authority is demanded for the ministering of divine service. Facts go to prove that the last demand is as truly made as the former. That the former claim should be fully exercised every loyal subject must rejoice. The latter endangers the religious liberty of all Christians, while it is dishonouring to the King of Zion. That Act of Supremacy was renewed in 1559, giving the monarch supreme power over all causes, civil and ecclesiastical. From that supremacy now arose 'the Court of High Commission.' The Queen was as fond of, as the Puritans were averse to, the pomp and show of the ceremonies. 'Some men,' said Bishop Jewel, 'are so set on matters of habits, as if the Christian religion consisted in garments.' He said that he was 'not called to the consultations concerning that scenical apparel: he set no value on such fopperies. Some were for crying up a golden mediocrity; he was afraid it would prove a leaden one' (Burnet's Hist., vol. iii. p. 424).
In 1562 several corruptions, as holidays, the sign of the cross, kneeling at communion, surplices, organs, &c., were voted away by those present at the Convocation; but by the mere majority of one proxy it was determined that the Reformation should, in the National Church, proceed no further, and that there should be no relief to any whose consciences were aggrieved by these practices. Little wonder that a book of discipline was not ratified. 'If any man,' said Bishop Cox of Ely, 'would go about to persuade our nobility to submit their necks to that yoke, he may as well venture to pull the hair out of a lion's beard.' The royal supremacy was put in force by proclamation, requiring the use of the habits on pain of deprivation. Summoned to Lambeth, the question was put to the London ministers, Would they consent by subscription on the spot? Sixty-one out of the hundred, by threats, were induced to comply; the remaining thirty-seven were suspended, and, after three months, deprived of their livings. These included Fox, the martyrologist, and other eminent men, as Coverdale, in his old age. There was no middle ground, but conform or suffer. They chose the better part.
Remonstrances poured in from other Churches in vain. Such was the determination to gratify the taste for idle pageantry, that many of the most godly were prohibited from preaching or publishing on the subject. Little wonder that, after deliberation, the Puritans resolved to separate from public worship in the Established Church, and to worship in private houses according to the dictates of conscience. This was in 1566. It was the last resort, there being no redress. Those in power were determined not to allow the reformation of the Church according to the Divine Word. That these men, Colman, Button, Hallingham, Benson, White, Rowland, Hawkins, and others, were the true successors of the founders of the Reformation Church, is evident from the principles which they held. They maintained — (1.) That the superiority of bishops over presbyters, claiming sole right of ordination and government, was not only unscriptural, but tended to secularisation and despotism. (2.) That cathedral officers, and worship with instrumental music, were destitute of authority, and merely amused the audience. Further (3.) They lamented the absence of discipline, and the pluralities and non-residence of the clergy. (4.) They disapproved of the reading of apocryphal books in worship, also of set forms of prayer, as being only necessary in a time of ignorance; and further still, of homilies as a regular practice, because no minister ought to be ordained unless he was able to preach. (5.) Holidays were condemned by them as a violation of the sacredness due to the Sabbath. (6.) Other rites and ceremonies, as the sign of the cross in baptism, sponsors other than parents, confession, kneeling at communion, and bowing at the name of Jesus, were also condemned. From these and other views, it is evident that the Church would then have been thoroughly reformed had freedom of action been allowed.
The first open meeting of the Presbyterian party was held in Plumbers' Hall, London, on the 19th June 1567, but their worship was interrupted. Officers of the civil court burst in and dragged some of them to prison. Twenty-four persons were kept in Bridewell for a year, because they had dared to forsake the Church of the bishops, and to set up a separate assembly for divine worship. And yet the validity of ordination without a bishop was recognised in the Thirty-nine Articles, which about this time were ratified by Parliament. Prophesying, or meetings for conversation on a portion of Scripture, after explanation by a minister, were now held in the diocese of Peterborough. These were also suppressed by authority, as nests of Puritanism. That the controversy was much the same as at present is seen in the positions maintained by Whitgift, in reply to an admonition presented by the Puritans to Parliament. The Bible, he maintained, is a rule of faith, that is, of doctrine, but not of government. The teachings and practices of the apostles were defective on this point, the Church not being fully developed. That of the fourth century was so, and therefore authoritative as an example.
Five miles from London, on the Surrey side of the Thames, lies the village of Wandsworth. There, in 1572; the first regular Presbytery was constituted. Fifteen ministers of London and eleven ruling elders were present. The offices of the Church were described in 'The Orders of Wandsworth.' This was the first fully constituted Church on Presbyterian principles in England. Now the Church possessed a vital principle embodied in a systematic organisation. If crushed out of sight for a time, this sprang to life anew. Archbishop Parker did all he could by imprisonment and banishment. The Queen seconded his efforts. Grindal was imprisoned and suspended for daring to appeal to her Majesty, and no book against Prelacy was allowed to issue from the press.
These oppressions gave rise to the Congregational or Independent form of government. Those embracing it were termed Brownists, from Robert Brown of Norwich, who first in England devised the plan. With others, he questioned whether the Prelatic Church established was a true Church of Christ, and whether its pastors were true pastors. Of a hot and impetuous nature, he denounced the Church and fled to Holland, but recoiled to another extreme. On his return he consented to become Rector of Northampton. At length he ended his dishonoured days in the county jail. Brown went further than most of his followers, not only renouncing communion with the Church of England, but with all other Churches who refused to adopt his model. His plan was threefold — (1.) A Church was confined to a single congregation. (2.) Its government was democratic. (3.) Its officers and members were without distinction of order.
These Brownists were in no favour with the vast body of Puritans. The Puritans either retained connection with the Church in a sort of half-conformity, or associated themselves in Presbyterian Churches. Numbers were persecuted. There were hundreds suspended who could not sign Whitgift's articles, declaring the Queen supreme over the Church, and that the Book of Common Prayer contained nothing contrary to the Word of God. The Court of High Commission imposed an oath causing persons to criminate themselves — Prelacy thus calling in the aid of the Inquisition to enforce her claims. Still Presbytery progressed. Not fewer than five hundred ministers signed a book of discipline for their own guidance in 1586. This was drawn up by Travers, and published at Geneva. It is entitled, 'The Sacred Discipline of the Church described by the Word of God.' It suggests — (1.) The erection of sessions composed of ministers and elders, (2.) chosen by the people; (3.) Provincial and (4.) national synods; and further (5.) an œcumenical council, composed of representatives from every national synod.
It was at this period, when the minds of the ministers were matured as to the scriptural form of government, and when the people were favourable to embrace it, that Prelacy took higher ground than ever before. Dr. Bancroft, in 1588, proclaimed that 'bishops were a distinct order from priests or presbyters, jure divino.' Prelates must now at length be obeyed, seeing they have authority directly from God. The supporters of Prelacy were amazed at the novelty.
Dr. John Reynolds, regarded as the most learned man in England, and Professor at Oxford, gave forth no uncertain sound. Writing to Sir F. Knollys, he declared that the equality of the order of bishops and presbyters was 'the common judgment of the Reformed Churches,' and 'our own.' 'All,' says he, 'that have laboured in reforming the Church for five hundred years have taught that all pastors, be they entitled bishops or priests, have equal authority and power by God's Word.' 'Among others we have bishops, the Queen's professors of divinity in our universities, and other learned men, as Bradford, Lambert, Jewel, Pilkington, Humphreys, and Falke, who all agree in this matter, and so do all divines beyond sea that I ever read' ('Boyse on Episcopacy,' pp. 13-19).
Many charged Bancroft with heresy and an invasion of the Queen's prerogative; for if bishops have their orders direct from God, then the Queen has no direct authority over them as bishops. Whitgift himself declared that 'he rather wished than believed it were true.' These two doctrines the divine right of Prelacy, and its adjunct, royal supremacy over the Church — contain the essence of despotism. Their operation under Laud proclaimed their virulent effect. At that time their acceptance by the people of England was prevented by the satires of wit and ridicule which secretly but plentifully issued from the Puritan press. These were termed the 'Martin Mar-Prelatic Tracts.' Force instead of argument replied by 'The Suppression of Conventicles Act,' many being forced into exile, and others put to death. The two root principles of Popery, sacramental regeneration of the religion and apostolical succession of the hierarchy, were planted in the Liturgy and beliefs of the Church, and by the fostering hand of absolutism these brought forth much bitter fruit.
On the ascension of James I. in 1603, he was presented with a petition from the Presbyterians, which declared, 'That they, to the number of more than a thousand, groaned under the burden of human rites and ceremonies, and cast themselves at his Majestie's feet for relief.' This 'Millenary Petition' was in vain. The conference of Hampton Court was more for his own display than for their relief. The Puritans sought to have — (1.) Doctrinal purity; (2.) Faithful ministers; (3.) Scriptural government; and (4.) An improvement of the Book of Prayer. Instead of discussion, they were mocked, and told, 'No bishop, no king;' 'I will make you conform, or harry (banish) you out of the land, or do worse.' Severities were multiplied. Seventy two of the canons adopted by the Convocation were directed against the Puritans. None were to be ordained who would not heartily subscribe these. Imprisonment or banishment was in store for all who refused. Despotism, not satisfied, mounted higher still. The twelve judges who were in 1604 summoned to the Star Chamber, gave as their legal opinion, that the King having supreme ecclesiastical power, could exercise it without consulting Parliament. Thus, (1.) He might make orders and constitutions for the Church. Further, (2.) The Court of High Commission might enforce these ex officio, and without libel. Further still, (3.) That subjects might not frame petitions for relief without being guilty of an offence, fineable at discretion, and very near to treason and felony. This was a loud toll of the bell, giving intimation that liberty, civil and religious, was about to be banished from our shores.
Parliament now began to enter upon a long-protracted struggle. The issue is well known. The King ventured to dissolve it, and to govern alone. The spirit of the nation was at length aroused. Meanwhile, by the efforts of Henry Jacob, those embracing the opinions of Brown, without his intolerance, met, declared their faith, and pledged themselves in mutual covenant to each other and to their God. Mr. Jacob was chosen pastor, and deacons were elected, in the first Independent congregation, in 1616.
Desecration kept pace with and sustained the regal despotism by the publication and enforcement of the Book of Sports, but the effort was ineffectual. Men were roused to think, and thoughtful men must be free. The storm, delayed by the death of James, soon broke out with redoubled fury when the absolutism of Charles I. was well understood. Perhaps no Parliament possessed men more renowned for sagacity and patriotism than that denominated 'the Long Parliament.' Life and liberty being at stake, only trusted men, such as Pym, Hampden, Cromwell, and Selden, were selected. Its committees for religious grievances, affairs in Scotland and Ireland, civil grievances, and Popish plots, show their determination. Laud and Strafford were committed to the Tower as instigators of tyranny. The press, set free, spoke out; and 15,000, by petition, proclaimed that they desired 'the Episcopal government, with all its dependent roots and branches, to be abolished.'
In these circumstances, and opposed by the royal prerogative, by which the King sought its dissolution, they passed an Act, declaring that the present Parliament shall not be abolished without their own consent. The following protestation was then adopted for securing their liberties and that of the Protestant religion:—
'I, A. B., do in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully I may, with my life, power, and estate, the true Reformed Protestant religion, expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish innovations within this realm, contrary to the said doctrine.
'And further, that I shall in all just and honourable ways endeavour to preserve the union and peace betwixt the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland; and neither for hope, fear, nor any other respects, shall relinquish this promise, vow, and protestation.'
The Court of High Commission and Star Chamber were now abolished. Soon after, horror and alarm were excited by the outburst of Popery termed the Irish Massacre. The 'Declaration of the Commons, &c, July 25, 1642,' proves that this plot was between the Queen and the Irish Papists, and that the King knew of it.
A remonstrance was carried in the Commons, and presented to the King, and dispersed throughout the nation. The bishops were tried as the authors of the nation's grievances. They were then removed from the House of Lords, in order that they might no longer 'be entangled with secular jurisdiction;' and on the 10th September 1642, there was passed 'An Act for the utter abolishing and taking away of all archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissaries,' &c., and ordaining that, after the 5th November 1643,' there shall be no archbishops,' &c.; declaring that every episcopal office 'shall cease, determine, and become absolutely void.'
Thus the hierarchy was overthrown by a Parliament composed of men favourably disposed to Episcopacy, while they had determined on no other form of Church government.
The sword was unsheathed, and battles followed each other in the dread civil conflict between the King and Parliament.
One of the articles in the grand remonstrance of December 1641 had expressed the desire of the Parliament that there might be 'a general synod of the most grave, pious, learned, and judicious divines of this island, assisted by some from foreign parts professing the same religion with us, who may consider of all things necessary for the peace and good government of the Church; and to represent the result of their consultations, to be allowed and confirmed, and to receive the stamp of authority.' The Parliament accordingly determined that an Assembly of Divines should be held to complete the necessary Reformation. As the King would make no concessions to liberty, the Parliament issued an ordinance calling the Assembly of date 12th June 1643.
Nine months had elapsed since the Bill had been passed abolishing Prelacy; and now a choice must be made either to restore that system, with all its intolerable tyranny, to adopt the Presbyterian form, or, further, to have no national Church, with the peril of national anarchy. The exigencies of the period prevented any such assembly, unless called as it was by the Parliament. Although this appeared to give to it an Erastian taint, the evil, if any, was unavoidable. The good produced, although not of the extent desired, was yet of incalculable value. The document calling the famous Westminster Assembly of 1643 is of great historical interest. It stated that, 'Whereas it hath been declared and resolved by the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, THAT THE PRESENT CHURCH GOVERNMENT BY ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS, their chancellors, commissaries, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical officers depending upon the hierarchy, IS EVIL, and justly offensive and burdensome to the kingdom, a great impediment to reformation and growth of religion, and very prejudicial to the state and government of this kingdom; AND THAT THEREFORE THEY ARE RESOLVED THAT THE SAME SHALL BE TAKEN AWAY, AND THAT SUCH A GOVERNMENT SHALL BE SETTLED IN THE CHURCH AS MAY BE MOST AGREEABLE TO GOD'S HOLY WORD, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home, and nearer agreement with the Church of Scotland and other reformed Churches abroad: And for the better effecting hereof, and for the vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the Church of England from all false calumnies and aspersions, it is thought fit and necessary to call an assembly of learned, godly, and judicious divines, to consult and advise of such matters and things touching the premises, as shall be proposed unto them'.
That Assembly was composed of 151 members. Of these 10 were lords, 20 were commoners, and 121 were divines. Only 6 of the 151 were Scotch. These 6 were Alexander Henderson and George Gillespie of Edinburgh; Samuel Rutherford of St. Andrews, and Robert Bailie of Glasgow; and two elders — John, Lord Maitland, and Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston. The attendance averaged from 60 to 80. These men were of all shades of opinion on the subjects to be discussed.
On the 1st of July the Assembly was opened in the Westminster Abbey, by a sermon from Dr. Twisse, the prolocutor, on the words, 'I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.' The business then proceeded in Henry VII.'s Chapel.
Clarendon declares that 'about twenty of them were reverend and worthy persons, and episcopal in their judgments' (Lightfoot, p. 5). Bishop Westfield, of Bristol, was present, and Bishop Brownrigge, of Exeter, by apology, showed that he did not condemn the calling of the Assembly.
Every member, on admission to sit and vote, took the protestation:— ' I,_______ , do seriously promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, that in this Assembly, whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what I shall conceive to conduce most to the glory of God, and the good and peace of His Church.' Every Monday morning this solemn protestation was read anew, that its influence might pervade the Assembly.
On the 25th September, the Solemn League and Covenant received the sanction of the Assembly in the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster.
There were three parties in the Assembly.First, the Erastians, holding that the civil magistrate ought to inflict Church censures, he being the source and ruler of all power, civil and ecclesiastical. Secondly, the Independents, holding that every congregation has complete power of jurisdiction.Thirdly, the Presbyterians. The Erastians were chiefly lawyers, with a few ministers. There were some twelve able Independents. The majority were Presbyterian in sentiment, although ministers in the National Church. The deliberations of the Assembly on points of doctrine did not assume the form of controversy — a great degree of unanimity prevailing. The question of government was that which agitated the members most. This was discussed chiefly under two branches — Independency and Erastianism. In the former, George Gillespie so confuted the learned Selden, that he is said to have exclaimed, 'That young man, by his single speech, has swept away the labours of ten years of my life.' 'When that learned John Selden again laid before the Assembly all the arguments and all the authorities he could mass together in support of his Erastian views, old Robert Bailie of Kilwinning laid his hand on George Gillespie's shoulder, saying these emphatic words, "Up, George, and speak for your Master." Gillespie had been observed diligently writing while Selden spoke; and when his notes came to be afterwards seen, they were found to contain little but a repetition of the words, "Da lucem Domine, da lucem Domine" — 'Give light, O Lord!' Selden was confounded with the effect of Gillespie's speech, made no attempt to reply, and Erastianism was defeated. Not the slightest Erastian modification was admitted into the Confession of Faith. The fruit of these discussions was given to the public on the 1st December 1646, in the publication of 'Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici,' or, ' The Divine Right of Church Government, by sundry Ministers of Christ in London.' The works of Gillespie are also valuable in this respect: the former may be regarded as an unanswerable defence of Presbytery. The Assembly held 1163 sessions.
The result of their long and patient discussions was a declaration in favour of Presbytery. But the Erastians, defeated in the Assembly, were victorious in Parliament. Endeavours were in vain made to obtain its recognition by Parliament as of divine authority. The Independents were also able to subvert the labours of the Assembly. Notwithstanding, Presbyterian government was acknowledged as 'lawful and agreeable to the Word of God.' The Assembly maintained, in effect, that Presbytery is divine in all essentials — the Scripture holding out a Presbytery in a Church, which consisteth of ministers of the Word, and other public officers. While some in the Parliament admitted that Presbytery is divine in the abstract, they thought it of no importance to determine the point — as, if of Divine institution, it would remain so whether it were affirmed or not. They were content to state that it 'is most agreeable to the Word of God, and most fitted to be settled in this kingdom.' This, of course, left it in their power to settle or to change the government of the Church as they thought expedient. Still, what is so agreeable must be divine. At length, by order of Parliament, in March 1646, ruling elders were appointed to be chosen in every English congregation, and ecclesiastical judicatories were also allowed.
These orders were in 1647 carried out in London and Lancashire. In 1648, 'all parishes and places whatsoever were declared to be under Presbyterial government, except chapels for the King and peers.' London was divided into twelve Presbyteries. The first provincial Synod met in the Convocation House of St. Paul's in 1647; others were established throughout the country. Independency was but recent, and had then only a few scattered congregations. Thus Presbyterianism was the established religion of England for a brief space from 1646, but without imposing any penalty on nonconformity. It occupied a distinctive position. 'During the seventeen years Presbyterianism prevailed in England, the country enjoyed signal benefits. Dr. Owen was Vice-chancellor of Oxford, education flourished, scandalous ministers were ejected, public morals were purified, and national courage was high and unsullied. During its brief reign, Presbyterianism did more for England than has been achieved by Episcopacy during the two following centuries.' Warmly as Presbyterians advocated the cause of liberty, the overthrow of the constitution and the execution of the monarch met with their solemn protest.
On the ascension of Cromwell to supreme power, the strength of Presbyterianism began to decline. Its establishment anew in 1660 was but a brief respite. Other parties then dissented and departed from the Church of England. Presbyterians remained within her, and sought her thorough reformation. Only when expelled did they quit her communion. Some would even have been content with the platform proposed by Archbishop Usher, but they were thwarted by the republicans of the Long Parliament, and subverted by the royalists of the Restoration.
On the proclamation of the Act of Uniformity in 1662, requiring all who had not received episcopal ordination to be reordained by the bishops, and to assent to everything in the Prayer-Book, then the struggle commencing with the reign of Edward VI came to a head. Upwards of two thousand Presbyterian ministers refused to comply. They were in consequence expelled from their churches and homes, and driven into great distress. They could not in conscience acquiesce in those terms of communion prescribed by the unprincipled court of Charles II. That dark day, the 24th August, when, a century before, the Huguenots were slain, was the fatal day. 'It raised a grievous cry over the nation, for here were many men, much valued, and distinguished by their abilities and zeal, now cast out ignominiously, reduced to great poverty, and provoked by spiteful usage, (Bishop Burnet). Presbyterianism has since that great crime in the year 1662, formed a separate communion in England. Her roll of worthies embrace such men as Baxter, Howe, Manton, Bates, Seaman, Mead, Annesley, Jenkyn, the Calamys and Henrys, distinguished alike for piety and learning. From that suicidal expulsion the Established Church has never recovered.
At the Revolution in 1688, Presbyterianism sprang afresh to do her work in the land. Within thirty years after the passing of the Act of Toleration (1689), her congregations in England numbered 800. There were 40 in London alone, and 59 in Yorkshire. Fully two-thirds of the dissenting interest claimed to be Presbyterian. In the earlier part of the eighteenth century, the Church was pervaded by doctrinal soundness. Watson, Ridgley, Flavell, Williams, Shower, Crusoe, and others, have left a classical store of evangelical literature.
The blight of Rationalism fell upon all the Churches of the Reformation more or less. This English Church did not escape the infectious disease. Two checks were not applied. (a) Subscription to the Westminster Standards was not enforced; and, (b) The Presbyterian system was not in all respects in operation. Hence the disastrous result. Rationalism, merging into Arianism, terminated in unblushing Unitarianism, or, as it should be termed, Socinianism. The churches were deserted, some of them extinguished. Although these churches had neither eldership nor presbytery, the name 'English Presbyterian' was retained, to enable the Unitarian to possess himself of the endowment left by pious ancestors. This declension from the faith of Christ is not peculiar to Presbytery. It is said that six of the pupils of the pious Doddridge embraced Arian principles. But on this account, unhappily, 'Presbyterian' has been regarded as equivalent to 'Unitarian.' Had the ancient discipline been preserved, the briar would speedily have been rooted out. But when men became Unitarian they ceased to be Presbyterian. Discipline and government being at an end, doctrinal errors were rampant. When a meeting was held in Salter's Hall, London, only 53 out of 110 voted in favour of the doctrine of the Trinity. Socinianism was, however, excluded from the Northumberland Presbytery. In 1850, there were 217 Unitarian congregations. These have no sessions, and no courts uniting the congregations under a common jurisdiction.
A resurrection of genuine Presbyterianism went on from 1812 to 1836. This has been recently and fully detailed ('Presbyterianism in England in 18th and 19th centuries,' by Rev. John Black). Presbyteries that were connected with the Church of Scotland became a separate organised synod in 1836. After severance, a portion in 1843 took independent jurisdiction in alliance with the Free Church of Scotland, and it became incorporated with those congregations in England that were connected with the United Presbyterian Church. Thus the Presbyterian Church of England was formed at Liverpool in 1876. The Moderators of the two Churches solemnly constituted the united body on the basis agreed on, and at the same time the Rev. Dr. Graham of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (which had recently been united with the Free Church) was received. A digest of the forty days' proceedings from the inception of the union until its completion has been preserved by Professor Leoni Levi, LLD. It is hoped that ere long the congregations still in connection with the CHURCH OF SCOTLAND may be assimilated. That synod has still 4 presbyteries and 18 charges and ministers in England, together with 16 chaplains to Her Majesty's Forces.
There are 10 preaching stations. Sum raised for 1886—�206,553, 16s.
is at once Methodist and Presbyterian. Its history is a remarkable instance as to what may yet be effected in other places, when the breath comes from the four winds and breathes upon the slain (Ezek. xxxvii.). Three young men, independent of and unknown to one another, were the instruments employed. Howell Harris, of Trevecca, in Brecknock, awakened and not cured of his "fanaticism" at Oxford, returned and began to exhort in 1736. Invited to Radnor, he became convinced of his duty to travel over the Principality. Amidst great hardships he persevered, and thousands were blessed by the message of life which he conveyed.
Then Daniel Rowlands, a curate in Cardigan, becoming the subject of saving grace (by means of the Rev. Griffith Jones), preached with similar results; and about the same time, Howell Davies, a curate in Pembroke, travelled and preached with power. These and other "exhorters," being formed into societies, in the midst of much persecution, were at length associated by the Rev. Thomas Charles, of Balle, and at first eight, and then thirteen brethren were ordained to the ministry. Led on thus from step to step, this community was formed into a modified Presbyterianism. Each church admitting or expelling by vote, it may be termed Congregational. But as appeals may be heard and cases tried in the Monthly Meetings or Presbyteries, and Quarterly Associations or Synods, and as a General Assembly was added, it became a thoroughly organised Presbyterian Church. A Confession of Faith, essentially in unison with that of Westminster, and the 39 Articles of the Church of England, was accepted in 1823. Its operations are only extended beyond Wales at the desire of Welsh people in England. It has 2 Theological Institutions, Benevolent Enterprises, Home and Foreign Missions; 2 Quarterly Associations (Synods) — (l.) North Wales, consisting of 14 Presbyteries; (2.) South Wales, 10 Presbyteries, 24 in all, having power to decide appeals. The annual General Assembly is composed of 2 ministers and elders from each Presbytery, along with offlcials. Itinerant preaching prevails, so that it is difficult to enumerate cases of settlement; but there are 1,098 churches, 522 ministers, 305 preachers, 3739 elders, 106,742 members, and 270,065 adherents. Its Foreign Missions are in Brittany and India.
in England are feeling the want of presbyterial organisation.
TheEnglish Independent (1870) specified among the objects for which it will persistently labour — the establishment of councils of advice; the affiliation and grouping of village churches; and the creation of a sustentation fund.
'At meetings of the Congregational Unions of both Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire there was an interesting discussion on the subject of courts of reference for Congregational churches. A paper was read explanatory of the design and operation of such councils in the United States, and of the modifications with which such institutions might be advantageously adopted by the Independent churches of this country, and that such councils should be summoned, not simply when instances of disagreement arose, but when subjects of unusual difficulty or events of special solemnity occurred in the history of a church.'
The following words ought to be earnestly weighed. If unions are necessary, and yet illogical — is the system right? 'The question raised by such institutions as unions and confederacies among Christian societies, respects not the desirableness of union among such societies, nor the importance of giving expression to mutual esteem and confidence in the ways specified by the preacher, but the legitimacy of forming such societies into one conjoint body for this purpose. In the case of Independent churches, this question is further complicated by the question, whether such union of churches be possible, saving the independency of the churches? — whether, in other words, to say that a society is independent and complete in itself, and yet is a part of another and larger society, be not a contradiction in terms?' (Dr. Alexander, 'Life of Wardlaw,' p. 172.)
A painful controversy in a congregation in regard to the minister is mentioned. After raging fiercely for a time, it was by mutual agreement referred to arbitrators. They award — 'That considering the exasperated and implacable state of feeling among the members of the church at , from which so many and such serious scandals have arisen, it is the opinion of this meeting that the only course likely to lead to a better state of things will be for the church to dissolve itself. That it appears desirable that the church, before its dissolution, should appoint some neutral party, to co-operate with the trustees, and to be consulted in all proceedings during the church's non-existence.'
This impressively exhibits the weakness of Congregationalism.
It is said that there are 180 religious denominations in Great Britain; and 9,734 Protestant Dissenters. Of these, CONGREGATIONALISTS have 2,603 chapels, 1,900 preaching places, and two millions of people. The revenue of the home mission amounts to �4,000. Ministers and missionaries, 2,980. The BAPTISTS have 2,243 chapels, 10 colleges, with 239 students, and a million of adherents. The serious condition of things amongst Nonconformists is seen in the fact that the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, on 26th October 1887, announced that he had resigned membership of the Baptist Union. This decision will be received by the Baptist Union with much surprise, for, though the tension has been great, it was confidently hoped that Mr. Spurgeon would not take this extreme course. The cause of his withdrawal is the unsatisfactory action which, he thinks, has been taken regarding his charges against ministers and churches of being on the "down grade," both theologically and spiritually. He argues that to pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus. He will keep His words; to tamper with them would be to act as traitors. "As a matter of fact," he proceeds, "believers in Christ's atonement are now in declared religious union with those who make light of it, those holding evangelical doctrine being in open alliance with those who call the Fall a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death, and a future restitution for the lost." He thinks we have before us the wretched spectacle of professedly orthodox Christians publicly avowing their union with those who deny the faith, and scarcely concealing their contempt for those who cannot be guilty of such gross disloyalty to Christ. This being so, he retires at once, urging that the Union is only a voluntary association. Replying to the question, "Why not start a new denomination?" he says it is a question for which he has not any liking. There are enough denominations, he declares, and if a new denomination were formed, the thieves and robbers who have entered the gardens, walled round, would climb into it also, and so nothing would be gained. Besides, the expedient is not needed among churches which are self governing and self-determining. Such churches can find their own affinities without difficulty, and keep their own coasts clear of invaders. Mr. Spurgeon, in concluding, hopes that the day will come when, in a larger communion than any sect offers, all who are one in Christ may be able to blend in manifest unity. This can only come by way of a growing spiritual life and a closer cleaving in all things to Christ. — Sword and Trowel.
was founded by John Wesley. It is now divided into four principal sections — the Wesleyan, the Primitive has 13,270 registered chapels, and New Connection, and the United Free Methodists, &c. The Wesleyan statistics show that great efforts are still put forth in the home and foreign fields. There are 1,500 ministers, with an army of local preachers, 6,500 chapels, and 347,000 members (showing a recent decrease of 1381). �149,769 have been subscribed for missions, sustaining 779 central stations, with upwards of 1,200 chapels, 1,029 missionaries, and 4,448 agents. �50,000 has, under conditions, been subscribed by one individual for new chapels in London; �5,000 for a like purpose by another, for Rome; and by a third �5,000, for Italy.
The governing body of the Wesleyans ought to be a modification of the Prelatic, the original intention being not to separate from the Church of England. It is centralised in a ministerial senate called the Legal Hundred, from which, and the Annual Conference of Management, all laymen are excluded. The constitution framed by Wesley is registered in the Court of Chancery, consequently Wesleyanism has a State connection.
Efforts are being made to effect a reform — (1.) As to local or lay preachers, whose education must be cared for; (2.) Class-meetings, which are discountenanced from a similar cause; and (3.) To substitute a representative assembly, with equal proportions of the lay and ministerial element, in place of the Conference. This must necessitate an application to Parliament for a suitable readjustment.
The Society of Friends has 17,000 members, 265 recorded ministers, and 327 chapels. The Moravians have 23 chapels, 55 ministers, and 5,550 members.
is in a critical condition. What is to be its future is an anxious question with its best friends. It is well known that Prelacy, Erastianism, Ritualism, and Rationalism have spread over it dark clouds, obscuring much of the Evangelical and Protestant light, which, notwithstanding, it has to a large extent vigorously imparted by many devoted and godly ministers.
In the Established Church there are 2 archbishops, and 33 bishops.
The archbishops, assisted by at least two other bishops, are in reality appointed by the Premier for the time being. There are 71 archdeacons, who are assistants to the bishops, and 610 rural deans. They have seats in the House of Peers, except the Bishop of Sodor and Man. His revenue is �2,000 per annum.
For the management of ecclesiastical affairs the provinces have each a council or convocation, consisting of the bishops, archdeacons, and deans in person, and a certain number of proctors, representing the inferior clergy, each chapter in both provinces sending one, and the parochial clergy two. These councils are summoned by the archbishop, in pursuance of the Queen's mandate, and must have her license before they can deliberate. The sanction of the Crown is also necessary before resolutions are binding on the clergy
There are 14,000 parishes, 14,573 churches and chapels in 1882, with 24,000 clergy of all kinds, and 18,000 stipendiary curates. 13,500,000 claimed membership with the Established Church, leaving 12,500,000 to other creeds.
The income arises from �4,054,000 Tithes, �776,000 Committee grants, and �973,000 from other sources — �5,803,000.
The Proprietors of Livings are — The Crown 967, Noblemen 5,357, Bishops 2,088, and various 4,476 -12,888 in all. In 40 years the Commissioners have expended 22.5 millions for new endowments of �746,000 annual value for 4,700 poor parishes, — averaging �160. �700,000 per an. is spent for new charges; and they have �8,200,000 in hand. Besides 19,000 ministers in England, there are 232 in Scotland, 820 in Ireland, and 2,700 in the Colonies and other countries — 22,752 in all.
THE REFORMED CHURCH OF ENGLAND is one outstanding instance. It exists as a protest against and a refuge from Ritualism and Romanism. Its first Bishop, Dr. Huband Gregg, late Vicar of East Harborne, and the Dean of Canterbury, were denounced because they partook of the Lord's Supper in a Presbyterian church, at a meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in 1873. It denies that (1) the Christian Church is only founded under one form of government; (2) its ministers are 'Priests;' (3) the Lord's table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered; (4) the presence of Christ is in the elements, and (5) that Regeneration is inseparably connected with baptism. It has accordingly issued a revised form of the Book of Common Prayer, altered in these and other respects, so as to extract the fangs of the cancer that has fastened on the vitals of the Church. The first church so organised was that presided over by Dr. Gregg at Southend, Essex, in 1877, since which time it has raised �12,900, combined with which is a Medical Mission to the sick poor, and an unpledged abstainers' union. There is a Sustentation Fund, for Missionary and General Church work in congregations in other parts of the United Kingdom, in Canada, and Newfoundland. 'Its principles are Protestant — Evangelical — Reformed,' but it is also 'Episcopal,' and is thus in a sense distinguished from 'the Free Church of England,' which elects one of its ministers as the Bishop. But these two may be eventually united. Official recognition was accorded to the Reformed Church at the Thanksgiving Jubilee service, Dr. Gregg being recognised as Bishop of Verulum, by the Lord Chancellor. — See Reformed Church Record, 61 Old Bailey, London, E.C.
'THE FREE CHURCH OF ENGLAND' is at once Congregational, Presbyterial, and Episcopal. The Bishop is chosen to oversee all the congregations of a district, by his fellow Presbyters. The governing body, in addition to its own ministers, takes in the Conference of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connection. The Deacons as Managers and Church-Wardens are appointed by Convocation. Its 'Poll Deed' was enrolled in 1863, when it entered zealously on several fields of labour; but strong attachment to the National Church seems to have stood greatly in the way of its success.
'THE NATIONAL CHURCH ASSOCIATION' has been formed within whilst the Free and Reformed Churches have been organised without the Church of England. It is intended 'to create a "National Church of England," by the Federal union of the several Christian bodies already organised,' and therein 'to confer self-government by its own members, lay and clerical, on the present Episcopal Church,' and 'to retain the Ecclesiastical Endowments for spiritual uses,' and thereby 'to remove, from bodies of Puritan descent or character, the long forfeiture of their share in the inheritance.' Further, to secure all this by a Bill in Parliament. The main features of the Bill desired are thus given — '(1.) The conferring of self-government of their own Communion on the bona-fide members of the present Church of England in place of statutory definition and control. (2 ) The co-ordination with it of other Christian denominations as confederate members of a National Church of England; and (3.) A reentry of the tolerated bodies on their sequestered participation in the older portion of the Church endowment, and the preservation of the whole for spiritual uses.'
While Christians generally cannot but feel gratified to find 'Canons' of the Established Church mourning over an 'exclusiveness that will not be perpetuated in heaven,' and that many eminent clergymen and laymen of the Established Church have felt impelled to combine together in order to secure advantages which they distinctly specify, the association does not appear to have considered how full Communion can be enjoyed with the ministers and members of other Churches without some relaxation of the rule for 'Episcopal' ordination. Another difficulty is evident if the following declaration is adhered to:— 'All the subsequent acquisitions, the whole of the parish and district churches with their glebes, all the residences, rectories, vicarages, decanal and episcopal houses, are assigned to the Episcopalians. There remain the cathedrals. Additional uses need not disturb the present daily services.' Still, every lover of the truth and of the Protestant Constitution, both of Church and State, must wish this movement God-speed. — See 'The National Church as a Federal Union,' by the Rev. Dr. Martineau, and other papers, to be had from the Hon. Sec., J. M. MacDonald, 15 Thurlow Road, Hampstead.