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The Symbolic Books of the Presbyterians and
From what has been mentioned in a preceding part of this work, it appears, that in the reign of Henry the VIIlth, the church of England generally adopted the sentiments of Luther concerning the Eucharist, Ecclesiastical Government, and the Liturgy. During the reign of Edward the VIth, the church generally retained the same form of government and liturgy, but adopted much of the doctrine of Calvin. The change of religion, in the reign of Queen Mary, and the consequences of this change, drove many of the most zealous of the reformers into Switzerland. Some observed the form of worship of the English church; others preferred that of the Helvetic churches, on account of its greater simplicity. This distinction followed them, in their return to England, on the accession of Queen Elizabeth ; and the former received the denomination of Conformists, the latter those of Nonconformists and Puritans. By the legislative acts of her Parliaments, and the religious principles generally favoured during her reign, a larger portion of Lutheranism was introduced into the church of England. To these the German exiles and their adherents generally objected: some of them required, that the church of England should be modelled exactly after that of Geneva, and all other doctrines and rituals proscribed ; the rest desired no more than liberty of conscience, and liberty to celebrate the divine service in their own form. But the Queen systematically pursued her plan of religious coercion: new rules of discipline were established, and lhe Articles of Faith received some modification. At length, the Act of Uniformity, a fruitful source of discord, was passed, enjoining all to submit to the reformation of the church, as it was then seitled. To this, the Puritans could not reconcile their principles or their feelings : they objected to the Hierarchy and the doctrine of its divine institution; to the necessity of Episcopal ordination; to the vestments of the clergy; to the use of music in the church service; to the sign of the cross and to holy days. During the whole of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the contest between the established church and the Puritans, was on the increase; and many wholesome severities, to use the language of persecution, were inflicted on the Puritans. At first, the Puritáns seemed to be favoured by her successor; he expressed á laudable desire to accommodate matters between the contending churches. With this view, he appointed the conference at Hampton Court. It was attended by nine Bishops and as many dignitaries of the church on one side, and by four Puritans on the other. James himself took a great part at the conference, and had the satisfaction to hear from Whitgift, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that, “ undoubtedly his Majesty spoke by the special assistance of God's spirit;" and, from Bancroft, the Bishop of London, that “the slmighty, of his singular mercy, bad given such a King, as from Christ's time there had not been.” “Whereupon,” (says Strype, in the Life and Acts of Archbishop Whitgift, Book IV. cxxxi.) “ the Lords with one voice yielded a very affectionate acclamation.” His Majesty was bighly delighted with his own display of talent at this 'extraordinary exhibition. In a letter preserved by Strype, (N. xlvi.) the Royal Theologian writes to one of his friends, that, “ he had kept a revel with the Puritans for two days, the like of which was never seen; and that he had peppered them, as he (to whom he was writing,) had done the Papists: and that he was forced to say at last, that if any of them had been in a college, disputing with other scholars, and that any of their
disciples had answered them, in that sort, they themselves would have snatched him up, in place of a reply, with a rod."
From this time King Jaw es was a bitter enemy to the discipline and doctrine of the Puritans ; and his enmity to them descended to his son, and contributed not a liitle to bis misfortunes.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, an Ordinance was passed by both houses of Parliament, forining and convening an “ Assembly of learned and godly divines, and others, to be consulted with, by the Parliament, for settling the Government and Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the said church from false aspersions and interpretations." The Assembly consisted of 151 persons : ten Lords, twenty Commoners, and 121 Divines. The Lords and Commoners were called Lay-Assessors, and had an equal liberty of voting and debating with the divines. Among these were Sir Matthew Hale and Mr. Selden, men that would have done honor to any assembly. One Lay-Assessor and four divines attended from Scotland. The assembly was ordered to meet in Henry the Seventh's Chapel, at Westminster : from that circumstance it obtained the appellation of " the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.” It was opened on the 1st of the following July.
One of the first objects of deliberation was to prepare a Con fession of Faith. This took much time: it was not finished till their sitting on the 22d of July, 1646. The English divines would have been satisfied with a revision and explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles; but the Scottish divines insisted on a distinet Formulary. On the 11th of December 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, The House of Commons voted thanks for it to the assembly, and desired them to insert in it, proofs of the doctrine which it expressed, and to print 600 copies of it, with the proofs. The proofs were accordingly added in the margin. On the 11th of May, in the following year, the Confession, with the scriptural proofs in its margin,
was sent to the press; and when it was finished, copies of it were delivered to all the members. The Commons then took it into consideration; and, unless prevented by more urgent business, discussed one chapter of it on every Wednesday. They made in it some alterations, and at a conference with the House of Lords, on the 22d of March, 1647-8, presented it to them. The Houses of Parliament agreed with the Assembly on the doctrinal part of the Confession, and in the following July, ordered it to be printed for the satisfaction of the Foreign Churches, under the title of “ Articles of Religion approved and passed by both Houses of Parliament, after advice had with an assembly of divines, called together by them for that purpose.” But there being a difference of opinion on some articles of discipline, they withdrew their assent from these. On that account these were not printed, by order of the House ; but they stand in the Assembly's Catechism. Among them was the whole thirtieth chapter of Church Censures and the Power of the Keys: the thirty-first chapter, of Synods and Councils : a great part of the twenty-fourth chapter of Marriage and Divorce: and the fourth paragraph of the twentieth chapter, which determines, what opinions and parties disturb the peace of the church, and how such disturbers ought to be proceeded against, by the censures of the church, and punished by the civil magistrate. These propositions, on which, (to use Mr. Neal's expression in his excellent History of the Puritans), “ the very life of Presbytery consists, never were approved of by the English Parliaments, nor had the force of a law in this country. But the whole Confession, as it came from the assembly, being sent into Scotland, was immediately approved of by the general assembly and Parliament of that kingdom, and thus became a law of the Church and State.”
While the assembly was engaged in preparing the Confession, they reduced it into the form of Catechisms; one longer, the other shorter. Both Catechisms were presented by the assembly to the House of Commons, approved by them, and printed by their authority.
The English Puritans divaricated into many divisions ; the
principal of these are the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Independents. The Baptists have been mentioved. The Independents sprung from the Brownists, the most distinguished of the denominations, into which the Puritans divided. Mr. Brown, its founder, was a man of talents ; his object was to model his party into the form of the Christian church, in its infant state. Being dissatisfied with the treatment which he received in England, he retired to the Continent, and founded churches at Middleburgh, Amsterdam, . and Leyden. Thus abandoned by him, his English followers mitigated the extreme simplicity of his plan: and thus gave rise to the Independents, or Congregational Brethren. It is observable, that a part of the Brownist congregation established at Leyden, emigrated to America, and founded the colony of New England.
The Independents have two Confessions of Faith : the former was drawn up by Mr. John Robinson, a disciple of Brown, and was published at Leyden in quarto, in the year 1619, under the title, Apologia pro exulibus Anglis, qui Brownista vulgo appellantur. The latter appeared in London, for the first time, in the year 1658, with the title, “ A Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practised by the Congregational Churches of England, agreed upon and consented unto by their elders and messengers in their meeting at the Savoy, October the twelfth, 1658.”
“ During those times, when the enthusiastic spirit met with such honor and encouragement, and was the immediate means of distinction and preferment, it was impossible, (says Mr. Hume,') to set bounds to these holy fervors, or' confine within any natural limits, what was directed towards an infinite and a supernatural object. Every man, as prompted by the warmth of his temper, excited by emulation, or supported by his habits of hypocrisy, endeavoured to distinguish himself. beyond his fellow's, and to arrive at a higher pitch of saintship and perfection. In proportion to its degree of fanaticism, each sect became dangerous and destructive ; and as the Independents
' History, c. 47.