The Parish Churches of England experienced a second revolution in their worship at the beginning of the Long Parliament: but of a very different nature from that which ensued upon the accession of Queen Mary.
The bitter hostility to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church which had been gathering for many years culminated in 1645 A.D., when a vote of the House established the Directory |for the public worship of GOD in the three kingdoms,| and proscribed by fine and imprisonment the use of the Prayer-book, not only in Divine Service in Churches, but even in private dwellings.
Men's feelings during the proscription of the Prayer-book.
Henceforward the attachment of devout Churchmen to the forbidden Liturgy became greatly strengthened, and was regarded |with a degree of veneration such as is felt for a saint who has suffered martyrdom.| Men were courageous enough to brave the consequences for the sake of that they loved, and in secret chambers met from time to time to worship GOD according to the old ceremonies and the prayers of their fathers.
We know of hardly anything sadder than the few scattered notices in Evelyn's Diary. These are examples.
Advent Sunday: -- |There being no Office at the Church, but extemporary prayers after the Presbyterian way, for now all forms were prohibited and most of the preachers were usurpers, I seldom went to Church upon solemn feasts, but either went to London, where some of the orthodox sequestered Divines did privately use the Common Prayer; . . . or else I procured one to officiate in my house . . . on the 10th, Dr. Richard Owen, the sequestered minister of Eltham, preached to my family in my Library, and gave us the Holy Communion.|
Again he writes, |People had no principles, and grew very ignorant of even the common points of Christianity: all devotion being now placed in hearing sermons and discourses of speculative and notional things.|
And in one of his entries for Christmas Day, several of which strike the same note of sadness, he tells how with some devout worshippers, he was surprised in Exeter Chapel in the Strand by a troop of soldiers, who held their muskets against them as if they would have shot them at the altar, and kept them in confinement. And there is one more notice in the same journal which bears melancholy evidence to the condition of the Parish Churches: they |were filled with sectaries of all sorts, blasphemous and ignorant mechanics usurping the pulpits everywhere.|
And he sums up all in one pregnant line : |The Church now in dens and caves of the earth.|
The expected destruction of the Church.
And in corroboration of all this we might point to the lamentation of Chancellor Hyde, where he bemoans the fact that Papists awl Puritans were both computing in how few years the enfeebled Church of England would expire. But the Providence of God defeated their expectations. The death of the Protector and the deposition of his weak and irresolute son revived the hopes of the oppressed. The re-establishment of the Church was inseparable from the restoration of the Monarchy; but it was for some time a matter of anxious doubt whether her worship should be brought back in its integrity, or only when shorn of most of its ancient glory.
Loyal deputation to the King in Holland.
The Lords and Commons and the City of London sent a deputation to the King, who had taken up his abode in Holland, during his exile, to convey to his Majesty expressions of loyalty. Eight Presbyterian Divines seized the opportunity for enlisting his sympathy, and succeeded in drawing from him the famous Breda Declaration,His manifesto. to which they clung so pertinaciously but so hopelessly through all their after troubles. He assured them that in consequence of the passion and uncharitableness of the times having produced diversity in religious opinions, by which men had become engaged in parties and animosities against each other, he would grant |liberty to tender consciences.| There was some reserve in his promise which they did not examine very closely, viz., provided such differences did not interfere with the peace of the kingdom, and that Parliament were ready to sanction the indulgence.
There is no doubt however that his manner was conciliatory, perhaps more so than he intended, for emboldened by their reception, they pushed on at a later interview to extract a promise that neither the old Liturgy nor the abhorred surplice should be reintroduced even in his own chapel for fear of giving offence to their brethren. The replied with no little indignation, |that Since he gave them their liberty, he should by no means resign his own; that he had always used that form of service, which he considered to be the best in the world, and ho would have no other,| and touching the minister's habit while officiating, he told them that it had been retained by him under more difficult circumstances and would certainly not be discountenanced now.
The return of the King.
On the 26th of May 1660 A.D., Charles reached the English shores, and the following day the joyful sounds of the disused Liturgy echoed once more through the aisles of the metropolitan Cathedral at Canterbury.
Under the date of July 8th, there is a brief entry in Evelyn's Diary, almost as full of hope as the last which we quoted from it was of sadness: |From henceforth was the Liturgy publicly used in our Churches, whence it had been for so many years banished.|
In the autumn of the same year, the King issued a second Declaration upon Ecclesiastical affairs.A second manifesto. It Was a repetition in the main of the less formal promise given at Breda, and conceived in the same conciliatory spirit towards Nonconformity. It contained much which would have curtailed very seriously the independent authority of the Episcopate; but this we pass by, as our present object is to deal with that part only which concerns the Worship of the Church.
Pending a revision of the Prayer-book full liberty was granted to discontinue the use of it, as well as |the ancient ceremony| of bowing at the Name of Jesus, and the wearing the surplice, provided only that such liberty did not extend to those who ministered in Cathedrals and Collegiate Churches.
Probably the King felt confident of the ultimate result, when the projected Council of Divines should have held their debates, and so was anxious to make temporary concessions, to avoid being charged with a breach of faith, and to save himself from alienating a large portion of his subjects at the outset of his reign.
The unreasonableness of the Presbyterians.
Each fresh concession, instead of satisfying the Presbyterians, made them wax bolder in their demands, till at last they completely overreached themselves, and, as we shall see, in the end lost everything by their grasping.
It is often asserted that they received hard measure at the hands of their opponents; if it be true, it must be attributed in a great measure to their own disregard of the feelings and interests of others.
The Church too was then rising after a long and severe depression, and it was only natural that as she found herself secure of the recovery of her ancient prerogatives, some of her ministers should feel but little sympathy for the alleged grievances of those, by whom in the hour of their triumph they had been so ruthlessly treated. Still further, it must be remembered that the differences were religious and doctrinal, and it was not a time for orthodoxy to yield even an inch to the demands of men whose teaching the Apostolic Church distinctly repudiated.
The proposals for a Conference.
It was not till the spring of the following year that the King was able to carry out his intention of bringing matters to a final issue between the contending parties. Steps were then taken for submitting the vexed questions of Liturgical worship and ceremonial observance to the decision of a formally constituted assembly of Divines selected in equal numbers from either side. No pressure of any kind was exercised in the selection, but each party was left free to name its own Commissioners. Twelve Bishops and twelve Presbyterian ministers with nine coadjutors on either side formed the deliberative Council from which so much was expected, so little realised.
Twice before the disputant parties had been arranged on opposite benches, once at Hampton Court, once at Westminster. At all three meetings the subjects of debate were practically identical, but the circumstances under which they were debated, most widely different.
When King James, in reply to the Millenary Petition, summoned a conference in 1604 A.D. to consider the Presbyterian grievances, the Episcopalians were in undisturbed power; and they took their seats under the Presidency of the King, who, they were secretly convinced, was strongly averse to any concession, as Ecclesiastical Commissioners appointed to adjudicate rather than to debate on terms of equality. The aggrieved party moreover were placed at a manifest disadvantage in point of numbers, having no more than four to confront an array of nine Bishops, seven Deans, and three others.
And there was the same inequality at West- minster, 1643 A.D., but then the tables were reversed, the Presbyterians appearing in an overwhelming majority, out numbering the representatives of the Church in the proportion of twelve to one, or even more.
On the present occasion the champions of the two rival systems met face to face, equal in numbers, and not altogether unequal in intellectual power and learning; and as far as human judgment could foresee, there was every prospect of a fair trial of strength, and a full and unprejudiced consideration upon their merits of the questions to be debated.
That these anticipations were not fulfilled was due far more to the unwisdom and unyielding
Spirit of men like Baxter than to any other assignable cause.
The meeting in the Savoy.
The place of meeting by the Royal Proclamation was the Palace of the Savoy. It was a spot rich in historic memories, and worthy of the occasion. In the noble Hall of the Master's lodging, looking out on the Thames, the Conference met for the first time on April 15, 1661 A.D.
The representation of the Episopalians.
And now let us look at the portraits of the representative Divines of that eventful time, for such were those who formed that memorable Assembly. Inasmuch as, to all outward seeming, the gravest issues for the future of the Church were likely to flow from its deliberations, we should have expected to see the Primate of England occupying the Presidential Chair, but Juxon was bowed down with the weight of years, -- years of such anxiety that they would have made a young man prematurely old, -- and he pleaded the infirmity of age as an excuse, deputing Sheldon.Sheldon, the Bishop of London, and by a happy coincidence also Master of the Savoy, to fill his place. His character has been severely criticised by Nonconformist historians, but he was far from deserving the wholesale condemnation which they have dealt out to him. We may find it difficult to maintain that the Episcopate suffered no loss in its sacred dignity from his public conduct, or that his spirituality and piety in private life were such as beseems a Father in GOD, but it cannot be denied that he possessed many of the qualifications which fitted him for a post, in which he was called upon to control the discussions of men of such widely different opinions. He had mixed much with the world, and acquired in society a wonderful aptitude for discerning character: and with this shrewd discrimination and quickness of apprehension, he combined great courtesy in manner and gentleness of speech.
He had the good fortune to be supported by Bishops and Divines, fully competent to maintain the honour and rights of the Church, men whose names have become familiar as household words in the world of Ecclesiastical Literature and debate.
Foremost in importance, not perhaps from every point of view, but unquestionably in connection with the subjects to be discussed, was Cosin, Bishop of Durham. He was almost without a rival in any age for acquaintance with Liturgical lore, the decrees of Councils, and Patristic teaching. In his early days he had sat at the feet of Andrewes and Overall, and afterwards, when Chaplain to the Bishop of the See to which he succeeded, he drank in the opinions of Laud and other like-minded Divines, for Durham house in London was the centre of high Ecclesiastical society.
It was here that he gathered many of the |Notes,| which were destined to play such an important part in the final settlement of Anglican worship. From the first he was exposed to obloquy, and for his efforts to restore the decency of worship in the Cathedral of Durham after his appointment to a Canonry, he was publicly delated as |a young Apollo who sets out the Quire with strange Babylonish ornaments,| arid for his zeal in reviving a fitting ceremonial at the Coronation of Charles I., he was contemptuously designated |Popish Master John.| Unless it could be proved that he changed his views, his conduct during his exile at the Court of Queen Henrietta Maria is sufficient to acquit him of any tendency Romewards. When brought into contact with the Jesuits, he held frequent discussions with them upon doctrinal questions, and at last gathered up his arguments into a treatise in denunciation of their supreme dogma of transubstantiation. But whether the charges were wholly unfounded or not, we can hardly be surprised that he had made himself hateful to the Puritans, or that he should have been selected as the first Episcopalian to suffer vengeance by a vote of the Commons.
Such being his history, such his character, we can well imagine the dismay which the Presbyterians must have felt when they saw him taking his place in the ranks of their opponents at the Savoy. From him at least they could expect no concession; and though it was by no means in a spirit of retaliation, for he was of a most generous temper and the strictest sense of rectitude and justice, he did not disappoint them, but stood firm and unbending to the principles for which be had suffered.
For the active part that be took in the proceedings, Morley, Bishop of Worcester, deserves to be noticed next. He had followed the fortunes of the King throughout the war, and had shared his banishment, and for his devotion to the Royal cause was selected as the fittest person to preach the Coronation sermon in Westminster Abbey.
He was a most brilliant speaker, quick in reply, and of ever ready wit, but unfortunately of such a hasty temper that he often spoke without weighing his words considerately. It is said too that he was so impulsive that he manifested the greatest impatience of a sustained argument, and frequently interrupted a speaker from whom he disagreed. These failings materially damaged his influence and weakened the force of those qualities which should have made him the most formidable member of the Conference. As it turned out, others were more feared by the Presbyterians, but no one was more obnoxious to them: indeed they disliked him more than all the rest of his party together.
Sanderson, Bishop of Lincoln, had qualifications, which placed him from time to time in the President's seat in the absence of Sheldon. He was a staunch upholder of the rights and prerogatives of the Church, When forbidden by the Commonwealth to read the Book of Common Prayer, he committed its pages to heart, and habitually repeated them from memory all through the times of the proscription. His reputation as a Casuist is such that his works on the Conscience are studied in the present generation.
As a writer of English, he was almost unapproachable for the purity of his language, as the most familiar though by no means the best example of which, we may read the Preface to the Prayer-book which came from his pen.
He was especially disliked by the Presbyterians for the scathing severity with which he criticised the Solemn League and Covenant.
The portrait gallery of the Churchmen would be grievously deficient, if Pearson and Gunning were wanting, though they only acted as Coadjutors.
The former, as the Theologian of the Conference, rises above all his fellows. The solidity of his learning and the cogency of his argumentative skill earned for him a reputation which the lapse of two centuries has hardly deteriorated.
In Catholic doctrine, it is true, he took lower ground than Cosin or Gunning, but the extraordinary abilities which he possessed commanded the respect of his opponents, though they contributed not a little to their discomfiture.
The latter, Gunning, deserves a fuller notice. He was a scholar of no mean attainments, and being possessed of an unusually retentive memory and readiness of speech, was able to enforce his arguments by telling illustrations drawn from history and a wide experience. Among the uneducated, however, this fertility of allusion made him obscure and difficult; and Charles II. is said to have ridiculed the Court ladies for their admiration of his preaching, which he explained on the principle |omne ignotum pro magnifico.|
His views on Ecclesiastical questions were tho- roughly Catholic; the Presbyterians stigmatised them as Roman, but they had been much irritated against him by his refusal to administer the Sacrament to Prynne, when he obstinately declined to kneel for its reception.
As a polemic he loved discussion, and was in many ways the counterpart of Morley, with the same ready wit and quick reply. He differed, however, in that he combined great courtesy and goodness, with the utmost gravity and dignified control over his temper.
It is recorded as an instance of his readiness that once he engaged in argument with an enthusiast whom he happened to hear declaiming on the immediate nearness of the Advent in the presence of a great crowd who were completely carried away with his words. Gunning, after trying in vain to turn them from their convictions by Scriptural arguments, seized upon an observation casually dropped to the effect that his opponent had lately invested in an estate, and offered him two years' purchase for the transfer. Taken off his guard, the man demanded twenty as its real value, and his converts left him.
As a writer, he has left his mark upon our Service-book in the beautiful prayer for |all conditions of men.|
We think no one can look at his monument in Ely Cathedral without being impressed with the majesty of his bearing, and the strength of character exhibited in his face, or stand upon the huge stone engraved with the pregnant title |Petrus Episcopus Eliensis,| without feeling a profound sense of gratitude to him, as he recalls his history as of one of the saviours of the Church in her most troublous time.
We turn now to those who represented the opposite party. By far the majority of them were men of distinction: a few stand out from the rest with names which would command the admiration of any generation in history: and at these we look more closely.
The first, however, that attracts our attention is Reynolds, whose position as a Bishop is not a little remarkable.
To sit as a Commissioner on the same bench with men who were ready to burn the Prayer-book, and to take his place in Convocation, which was almost sworn to defend it, is an anomaly almost without parallel. It makes us suspect his integrity, and is indicative of no little instability of mind and purpose. Though the Presbyterians were glad to avail themselves of his advocacy, he completely lost their confidence, when in later days he elected to retain his Bishopric and conform, while those in whose ranks he had stood, and who had looked to him for guidance, had the courage of their opinions, and were ejected. But whatever judgment we may pass upon him for his inconsistency, he has left a mark upon the Prayer-book, which the strongest Episcopalian can have no wish to efface, as the author of |the General Thanksgiving.|
The moving controlling spirit of their party was Richard Baxter. One act of his, to be considered hereafter, will enable us to form a correct estimate of his character better than the most lengthy description. But we may sum up his faults by saying that be was far too self-reliant, seeing only with his own eyes and wholly incapable of understanding the position of an opponent: and his good qualities, by pronouncing him absolutely without an equal in guilelessness and personal piety.
Though his work in the Conference was in its spirit subversive of all that every loyal Churchman holds most dear, he has won our affections and healed many a wounded heart by the touch of his |Saints' Everlasting Rest.|
Calamy gained great renown as a preacher, and had a larger following of distinguished persons than any minister in the seventeenth century. He was profoundly learned and conversant with writings not usually studied by men of his views, having read through (as his Biographers assert, though it can only be by a figure of speech) all the works of St. Augustine no less than five times, and being equally at home in the disquisitions of the Schoolman Aquinas.
Lightfoot, the last to be noticed, was the first of English Divines to penetrate deeply into the mysteries of Hebrew Literature, and to lay bare for the Christian the secrets of Rabbinic and Talmudic Science. Though two hundred years have elapsed since he entered upon the then-untrodden field, few, if any, have extended their investigations further.
Such were the men who were called together at this crisis to debate and adjust the rival claims of the two systems of Church Government and Worship.
The object of the Conference.
The President of the Conference opened the proceedings by reciting the instrument under which they had been summoned. It enjoined them |to review the Book of Common Prayer, comparing the same with the most ancient Liturgies which have been used in the Church in the primitive and purest times: . . . to advise and consult upon the several objections which should be raised against the same, and (if occasion be), to make such reasonable and necessary alterations as should be agreed upon to be needful and expedient for the giving satisfaction to tender consciences . . . but avoiding (as much as may be) all unnecessary abbreviations of the forms and liturgy, wherewith the people are altogether acquainted and have so long received in the Church of England.|
The presiding Bishop ruled that the summons directed them to the consideration of exceptions and additions to the Prayer-book, and maintained that as the Episcopal party were well-satisfied with the Book as it stood, it was obviously the duty of those who were aggrieved to set forth their objections and to suggest such additional matter as they thought fit. He ordered also that, to insure full consideration, they should be laid before the Conference in writing. The Presbyterians, after many fruitless protests against a course which they foresaw would fetter the freedom of debate, yielded an unwilling assent, and agreed among themselves that the main body should undertake to draw up the exceptions, and leave to Baxter alone the compilation of the additions.
The former work was speedily accomplished. The grievances had been stereotyped for years, and only required to be placed in categorical order and expressed in the most trenchant terms.
The nature of the exceptions.
Those which related to Church Worship may be comprehended briefly under these heads: --
I. The mode of expressing both prayer and praise.
II. The ceremonies attendant upon the same.
III. The restriction of times for public service.
The first claim put forward was for the omission of responses, and tho alternative reading of Psalms, and for time consolidation of time divided petitions of the Litany into one continuous prayer.
This struck at the root of a very important principle, and though the objectors hardly realised it, it would have debarred the laity from the right which they possess in virtue of their priesthood of taking a recognised part in the public service.
Of a somewhat kindred nature was their exception to separate Collects, which, usually embodying only one brief petition, were unnecessarily encumbered, each with a preface naming the attributes of GOD, as well as a conclusion appealing to the merits of Christ's intercession. It would be less interruption, they said, to the general flow of prayer to combine the subjects of several in one of greater length.
Another claim under the first head was that the Liturgy should not be so strictly imposed as to exclude the exercise of |the gift of prayer,| and that liberty of curtailing the stated forms be granted in view of affording opportunity for extempore effusions at the minister's discretion.
Under the second head they desired the abolition of the ornaments of the ministers and ceremonial usages, singling out for especial animadversion the wearing of the surplice, the sign of the Cross, and kneeling at the Holy Communion.
Under the last, restricting public worship as far as possible to Sundays, they took exception to the observance of Saints' Days and Vigils, and pleaded for the discontinuance of the title of Holy Days by which they had been commonly designated.
The Bishops feel their strength and resist concession.
These objections were laid before the Assembly at their next sitting. Written replies were drawn up, followed by rejoinders on the Presbyterian side, and time passed on without any advance being made towards union or reconciliation. The Bishops became daily more and more encouraged by a variety of circumstances to make a bold stand for the absolute integrity of their worship; and they assumed a more peremptory tone towards their antagonists. They were provoked to the last degree by the conduct of Baxter. In defiance of the terms under which they had been called together, iii total disregard for antiquity, for the accumulated treasure of Liturgical forms, in many of which thirty generations had expressed their wants and done homage to the Creator, he was bold to substitute for the sanction of the Conference a Service-book of his own, whose claim for acceptance he based upon the fact that it contained nothing in common with the existing Liturgy, with a Book, that is, which his opponents next to the Bible held dearest in the world.
The story of its composition, though it fills us with wonder, cannot but touch us by the simplicity of character which it betokens. He tells in his own words how, when the idea of a Reformed Liturgy had been conceived, he laid everything aside and shut out the world till he had carried the work to completion.
|Hereupon,| he says, |I departed from them and came among them no more till I had finished my task, which was a fortnight's time.| While all the pomp and circumstance of Religious worship was breaking out with fresh vigour after long suppression, while every Rite and Ceremony which could enhance the splendour of the Coronation Service was being enacted in Westminster Abbey, a single divine in solitude and retirement, with no other help than his Bible and Paraphrase, was elaborating page by page a book which, in the infatuation of a beclouded judgment, he persuaded himself would be acceptable to the nation. And this, the result of fourteen brief days' labour, he did not scruple to propose as a substitute for one which had grown with the Church's growth, and rooted itself in the heart and affections of the people.
The laying on the table of the Committee-room of that Reformed Liturgy did almost more than anything to wreck the Presbyterian cause.
His work indorsed by his colleagues.
It may be said that Baxter was only one, but his colleagues fathered his proposal, and so made themselves responsible for his act. That the adoption of a course so ill-timed, so devoid of all common sense, so certain to carry destruction with it, should have been even possible, is almost past belief. It is evidence of no little forbearance in the party in power that they did not break up the Conference in disgust at the revolutionary spirit in which their opponents were prepared to sacrifice most hallowed traditions, and at the self-confidence which demanded every concession from others, but refused to make any in return.
A final attempt at agreement.
However, after much written matter had been interchanged between them, the Bishops consented to a debate on equal terms. Three were chosen on either side, Pearson, Gunning, and Sparrow on one, Baxter, Jacomb, and Bates on the other. It is needless to tell with what result. We know the respective characters of the chief disputants, Gunning and Baxter, and no annalist is required to record the issue of a debate between them.
Cosin makes a definite proposal.
Before, however, the expiration of the time to which the Session of the Conference was limited, Cosin made a final effort to gather up the threads of controversy, by calling upon the complainants to divide their objections to the Prayer-book, stating what they opposed as sinful, what as inexpedient. A subtle argument was carried on for some time, in which the Presbyterians attacked the Book as unscriptural, and therefore sinful, in eight particulars, but it was as hopeless as the discussions which preceded it, and the Conference terminated, Morley and Baxter having consented to report to the King that they were all agreed as to the ends, viz., the unity, peace, and welfare of the Church, but after all their debates were disagreed on the means.
During the sittings or shorly after, several events occurred which tended greatly to the re-establishment of the ancient Forms of worship in the Church.
Divers causes contributing to the restoration of Episcopacy.
I. The Coronation in Westminster Abbey.
II. The burning of the Solemn League and Covenant.
III. The passing by the house of Commons of an Act of Uniformity with the restored Prayer-book.
IV. The introduction of a Bill for the return of the Spiritual Lords to their seats in Parliament.
Let us look at them separately.
The Ceremonial of the Coronation.
I. As soon as the Coronation-day (April 22d) was fixed, the records of the past were ransacked to furnish precedents for all the details of the solemnity, that nothing in the way of Ecclesiastical pomp which had characterised similar occasions might be wanting. So strong in the minds of the King's counsellors was the reaction from the studied absence of Ceremonial which had marked the Commonwealth, that the Ritual exceeded in splendour and magnificence anything that even Westminster Abbey with all its tale of Ecclesiastical and Regal pageant had ever witnessed. The Presbyterians who were present must have heaved a deep sigh as they read the unmistakable evidence that Catholic worship was on the eve of full restoration, and that Episcopacy, which they had dethroned and trampled in the dust, would soon lift up its head on every side.
It was an Episcopal ceremony from beginning to end. The Archbishop poured the anointing oil. A Bishop preached the sermon: a second read the Gospel, a third the Epistle. Bishops were foremost in the procession, and foremost in the reception of: Royal favour, chosen to walk at the King's side under a Canopy borne by the Lords temporal, and permitted to kiss the King's cheek before any one not of royal blood.
No matter that Presbyterians had been placed on the list of His Majesty's Chaplains, they were rigidly excluded from taking any official part in the proceedings.
This was the first direct blow which their cause received.
II. It was followed by a second quickly after.
The Solemn League.
The Solemn League and Covenant pledged the Covenanters to uphold in this country the Reformed worship and discipline, which had been established in Scotland, and to extirpate Prelacy, which was said to be linked with superstition and heresy, and contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness.
It had been accepted by the Assembly of West- minster Divines, when with circumstances of an unusual significance they had met, Sept.25, 1643 A.D., in St. Margaret's Church under the shadow of the Abbey, and in the presence of the House of Commons, who adjourned to witness the solemnity, they lifted up their hands and swore to maintain its provisions.
It was not enough that it had been set aside informally at the King's restoration; the nation must wash its hands from the stain, and the renun- ciation be as publicly marked as the acceptance had been. The House of Commons resolved that the ill-starred document should be destroyed in such a manner as to leave no doubt of their utter abhorrence of it. A decree was accordingly passed that a copy of it should be burnt by the public hangman in Palace Yard at Westminster, and another in the most crowded parts of the city, that all might see.
And the journal of the period describes the execution of the sentence: |The hangman did his part perfectly well, for having kindled his fire he tore the document into many pieces and first burned the preface and then cast each part solemnly into the flames, lifting up his hands and eyes, and not leaving the least shred, but burnt it root and branch.| And the scene was reproduced in the provinces. At Southampton, amidst the, firing of cannon and public rejoicing, the hated scroll was plucked from a neighbouring Church, where it had been honoured with a stately setting in a conspicuous position, and thrown into the fire. At Bury St. Edmunds an effigy of a notorious criminal, who had been hanged, was paraded through the streets with a copy of the League fastened under his arm and the Directory in his hand, and after being subjected to every possible indignity was torn piecemeal and destroyed.
The Act of Uniformity.
III. The third step towards the re-establishment of the old worship was the introduction of a Bill into Parliament to bring back the Book of Common Prayer.
The very day after the King landed on the English shores, to the unspeakable joy of many who heard it, the proscribed Liturgy was read in Canterbury Cathedral, whither he turned aside on his journey to give thanks to GOD. Again, in the Houses of Parliament the old forms had been revived after the silence of well-nigh twenty years, and in many Churches where the incumbents sympathised with the Restoration the Directory was at once discarded, for though the law for its enforcement was not yet repealed, they had no misgivings that it might be broken with impunity. But the newly elected Parliament, Royalist and Episcopalian as they were in overwhelming numbers, were impatient to place everything connected with the worship of the Church in an unassailable position. So long as the Directory was sanctioned by the Statute-book, those who professed the Presbyterian Faith were free to use it without molestation. Such liberty must be curtailed without delay. On June 29th |A Bill for Uniformity of Public Worship and the administration of Sacraments| was introduced in the House of Commons.
Search was made for the original manuscript of the Second Prayer-book of Edward VI. to be affixed to the Bill; but whether it could not be discovered, or whether it was discovered but proved distasteful to the promoters of the Bill, or from some other unknown cause, its intended place was taken by that of King James, as amended at Hampton Court. The Bill passed its third reading on July 9th, and was sent to the Upper House. They, however, deferred the consideration of it, both because they wished to await the result of the Savoy Conference, and also from a feeling that such a question could only be discussed at a disadvantage till after the readmission into their body of the spiritual Lords.
IV. And this brings us to the last measure, which paved the way so securely and effectively for the Caroline Settlement.
The Bishops restored to their seats in the Legislature.
In the first year of the Long Parliament a determined effort was made, and again and again renewed, to exclude the Bishops from their seats in the Legislature. Hatreds of them was stirred up and fostered by a variety of charges. On one occasion they were actually threatened with personal violence on their way to the House. They appealed for the protection of the law, and not satisfied with this, injudiciously went on to declare that any measure passed during their enforced absence would be null and void. They were at once impeached for high treason, condemned and sent to the Tower, and the Bill to deprive them of their privilege was hurried forward and passed its third reading within a few days, Feb.5, 1642 A.D.
This was the history of their exclusion. When Charles II. returned the Bishops' Bench had been vacant for eighteen years.
The House of Commons voted for the restitution of their ancient rights, but strangely enough, owing mainly to the hesitation of the King founded on some Papist misrepresentations, it was Nov.20th before they were able to take their seats. To commemorate the event the King went to the House in person, and the junior Bishop was desired to open the sitting with prayer.
The combination of forces was now complete, and the total discomfiture of the Presbyterian cause was only a matter of time.
The results of the Conference.
The result of the Savoy Conference was duly notified to the King. After waiting till October, he sent letters to the Primate to lay before Convocation, ordering them to proceed with the revision of the Prayer-book. They met on Nov.21, and without delay nominated a Committee of Bishops to carry out the work. Considering the action which the House of Commons had taken, they regarded the business of pressing urgency, and directed that they should meet daily except Sundays till the revision was completed. It has been asserted that the appointed Revisionists did not act separately, but that immediately after their appointment Convocation repented of having delegated its powers to a small body, and resolving themselves into a Committee of the whole House, proceeded at once with the work.
The uncertainty of the course adopted by Convocation.
There is unquestionably much uncertainty, but on the whole we are disposed to think that the appointment was not rescinded, but that the members of Convocation decided to sit simultaneously with the Revisionists, so as to consider without delay the recommendations of the Committee to be laid before them day by day. An incidental note in Sancroft's handwriting, in Cosin's |corrected copy,| in reference to proposed alterations in the Communion Office, stating that |my lords the bishops at Elie House ordered all in the old method,| seems inexplicable on the theory that the work had been taken out of their hands.
Let us look in now upon the Committee of Revision. The place of meeting was the house situated in the Hatton garden of historic memory in connection with Queen Elizabeth's threat to unfrock the |proud Prelate.|
The Committee appointed for the final revision.
They were eight in number, Cosin of Durham, Morley of Worcester, Warner of Rochester, Sanderson of Lincoln, Henchman of Salisbury, Nicholson of Gloucester, Skinner of Oxford, and Wren of Ely. Sancroft was appointed to act as Secretary. Of the Bishops the first four had been members of the Savoy Conference.Wren. Of the remaining three Wren alone was greatly distinguished. Memories of the most touching interest cluster round his name. Perhaps no one suffered more persecution at the hands of the Puritans, and in the estimation of his persecutors he deserved even more than he underwent. Prom his early years he was fiercely opposed to dissent, and for this reason was translated from Hereford to the turbulent See of Norwich, where schism was rifer than elsewhere. It is said that he ruled with such a high hand that its chief town was crippled in its manufacture and suffered great loss of wealth from the immense emigration of weavers who sought liberty of conscience on foreign shores.
From Norwich he was transferred to the important diocese and Palatinate of Ely, owing his promotion to his knowledge of law, both civil and ecclesiastical, which was requisite for the office.
His rigid enforcement of Church discipline, and his attachment to Catholic doctrine, raised bitter hostility against him during the Commonwealth, and after being subjected to a succession of calumnious slanders, be was impeached before the Commons for |high crimes and misdemeanours,| condemned, and thrown into the Tower. Here he remained for eighteen years, so cheerful throughout and resigned to the seventies of his confinement that, as the Historian says, |the Church beheld his sufferings and saw by him that nothing in Christianity was impossible, and the world did almost pardon his enemies for the pleasure and benefit of his example.|
It was round his table at Ely House in that memorable winter that the Commissioners sat to establish for many generations the Liturgical forms and ceremonies in which the worship of the English Church was to be offered up.
They carried out their work with such expedition that they laid themselves open to a charge of inconsiderate haste, but in reality the revision had long been anticipated and prepared for with the utmost care and judgment.
Revision made easy by Cosin' preceding labours.
There was a great mass of well-digested material ready to hand, which had been accumulating almost from the beginning of the century. Wren himself; in conjunction with Laud, had revised the Scotch Liturgy, and during his long imprisonment had weighed well the questions in dispute, particularly the deficiencies of the Anglican Ritual, always buoying himself up with the conviction that the time for a reaction was not far distant.
But the man whose labours contributed most to the final result was Cosin, who had been named as President of the Commission.
So early as 1619 A.D., he had made a collection of |notes| in an interleaved Prayer-book, and three or four documents of a similar kind succeeded at intervals. The Revisers had little more to do than decide which of the proposed alterations should be accepted, and desire their Secretary to note down their decision for the approval of Convocation. A careful comparison of |the notes| with the Book as finally published shows that about ninety in every hundred alterations were in accordance with Cosin's suggestions.
There was a departure from the ordinary rules in respect to the Northern Convocation. In consequence of the difficulties and delay in transmitting messages between the North and South, the habit of discussing the questions separately was broken through, and deputies were sent from York, to sit and vote in the Houses of Canterbury.
The changes very numerous.
When the Revision was finished it was found that six hundred changes great and small had been made.
The doctrinal changes were by no means numerous, but, such as they were, they testified definitely to the Catholic spirit of the Revision.
The |priesthood| was more distinctly marked. At the Savoy Conference, the Presbyterians had pleaded for the substitution of |minister| throughout the rubrics in place of |priest.| The object of their request was fully understood, for it went to the very root of the dissensions between the Church and Nonconformity. |No Priest, no Church| was a maxim which had been handed down from St. Jerome's time, and the Bishops might have appealed to it with no little force, but they replied with calmness and simplicity that it was |unreasonable that the word minister should only be used in the Liturgy, since some parts might be performed by a deacon, others by none under the order of a priest, viz., absolution and consecration; it was fit therefore that some such word as priest should be used for these offices, and not minister, which signified at large every one that ministered in that holy office of whatsoever order he might be.| And now the Committee determined to place the meaning of the Bishop's reply beyond dispute.
They displaced |minister| and |pastor| and substituted |priest| in two important places. The Absolution was henceforward to be pronounced by a |priest,| and the suffrage in the Litany for |Bishops, pastors, and ministers,| was in future to be made for |Bishops, priests, and deacons.|
Again, the Presbyterians in their arguments for the identity of the office of Bishop and Priest had laid stress on the fact that no distinction of functions was recognised in the Ordinal.
The old form in the Consecration of a Bishop, |Take the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stirre up the grace of GOD which is in thee by imposition of hands,| was altered to the present form: |Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a bishop in the Church of GOD.|
A corresponding addition was made to the words used in the ordering of Priests: viz., |for the Office and Work of a Priest.|
In the Prayer for the Church Militant, though they were unable to recover all that had been lost by the omission of a prayer for the dead with which it closed in the First Prayer-book of Edward VI., they took an important step for vindicating a recognition of |the Communion of Saints| by inserting the beautiful thanksgiving for the life and example of those who had departed in the faith and fear of GOD.
The Presbyterians had conceived a dislike for the title of |Church,| and adopted |congregation| instead. No less than four changes were made in connection with this to avoid even the slightest suspicion, to which the adoption of the latter term might have given rise, in favour of the Presbyterian form of Church Government.
In the Communion Office, other changes were introduced. Provision was made for the |Lesser Oblation,| the presentation of the Elements on the Altar, by prefixing the rubric to the Prayer for the Church Militant, |and when there is a Communion, the Priest shall then place upon the Table as much Bread and Wine as he shall think sufficient,| and further by inserting the word |oblation,| to be used in the prayer itself, of the Elements after their dedication to GOD.
Again, greater reverence was shown for that portion of the Consecrated Bread and Wine which remained unconsumed, by a direction that the same should be covered |with a fair linen cloth;| and also by the introduction of the sixth of the final rubrics, ordering that |if any remain of that which was consecrated . the Priest and such other of the Communicants as he shall then call unto him, shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same.|
The Black Rubric reintroduced in an altered form.
It has often however been maintained that the reintroduction of the |Black Rubric,| or the |Declaration of Kneeling| may well be set over against all the alterations which were made in a Catholic direction; but such a theory will be found untenable when subjected to examination.
It was no doubt originally introduced into the Second. Prayer-book of Edward VI. as a concession to the Puritan party. There is therefore some prima facie force in the above argument, but it is entirely destroyed by the alteration of the wording which the Revisionists made before reinserting it. On its first appearance it ran thus: |We do declare that thereby (i.e. by kneeling) no adoration is intended . . . unto any real and essential presence there being of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood.| On its reintroduction by the Caroline Revisionists it was worded, |unto any Corporrl Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood.| The first traversed the Catholic doctrine of a Real Presence: the second simply denied Transubstantiation. This Declaration, which has been interpreted as a concession to the Presbyterians, who shrank from kneeling on doctrinal grounds, was really couched in such well-chosen language, that while it appeared conciliatory to them, it in no way discredited the highest Sacramental teaching of the Anglican Church.
Such were some of the chief changes resulting from the last revision. It has been thought a matter for wonder that with Cosin in the Chair, and Wren to sympathise with and support him, the Committee should not have carried restoration further on the lines of the First Prayer-book.
Cosin precluded from very extensive reform.
Attempts we know were made, but unhappily without success. Cosin had remodelled the Prayer of Consecration, introducing the Invocation of the Holy Ghost for the sanctification of the Elements, and had brought back the Prayer of Oblation to its proper place. The Revisionists, however, declined to accept his proposals. Their motive in doing so was not prompted by disapprobation, but by a desire to adhere as strictly as possible to their letters of instruction. And these were so unfortunately worded that they could hardly fail to be diversely interpreted. One party laid stress upon that portion which directed them |to compare the services with the most ancient Liturgies,| while the other attached paramount importance to another portion in which they were ordered |to avoid all unnecessary alterations.|
The Committee finished their work, and the Revised Book was subscribed on December 20th.
The Sealed Books.
Measures were taken to insure its integrity being preserved. Certain printed copies were carefully examined by a Committee appointed for the purpose, and each attested by the Great Seal of England. Each Cathedral was ordered to procure one of these, and after having its name legibly stamped on the cover, to lay it up among its archives as an ultimate standard of reference in case of dispute. A copy was also sent to the Tower, while four more were deposited in the several Courts at Westminster. It was an omen of sinister import for the part the Book was unhappily destined to play in legal proceedings, that it should be deemed necessary that each Court should be furnished with a copy of its own.
The copy which belonged to the King's Bench has come down to us in good preservation, and retains that which was their distinguishing feature, viz., the Great Seal perfect, still attached by the original cords; the rest of the Legal Copies are preserved, though in a far less perfect condition, in the Public Record Office. Of those acquired by Capitular bodies, three, which are in possession of St. Paul's, Christ Church, and Ely Cathedral respectively, have been collated.
The Act of Uniformity.
The Act of Uniformity received the Royal Assent, May 19, 1662 A.D. And it was enjoined by Statute that the use of the Revised Book of Common Prayer should be obligatory upon all ministers after the ensuing Feast of St. Bartholomew (Aug.24), before which date they were called upon to declare their |unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and preserved therein.| The King, felt scruples in signing the document, after the readiness he had so frequently expressed to grant |liberty to tender consciences,| but he was overruled by the wisdom of his Parliament and Convocation, and the principles and worship of the Church were preserved whole and entire.
The result is known to every one. |Black Bartholomew| witnessed the ejection of eighteen hundred Presbyterians who refused to conform.
The terms perhaps unduly stringent.
It can hardly be denied that there is some justice in the complaints of those who suffered, both as to the manner in which the operation of the Act was enforced, as well as to the stringency of the terms of conformity. The first proposal was that it should not come into force till Michaelmas, but the time was afterwards curtailed, and apparently not without malice prépense, in order that the nonconforming ministers might lose the tithes for the current year, the Feast of St. Michael being the day when they fell due.
Again, the hardship was aggravated by an unwarrantable delay in not publishing the Revised Book till the beginning of August, so that the Presbyterians were kept in suspense as to whether they would be able to conform to it or not; it was actually said that in some cases assent was demanded before the Book had even been seen.
Baxter sets an example of constancy.
One of the first to refuse was Richard Baxter. After the eagerness which he had shown at the Savoy Conference in attempting to supersede the Prayer-book entirely, compliance with it at this juncture would have exposed him to the reproach of every honest-minded man: and he lost no time in making his decision known, hoping that its publicity at this early stage would influence the conduct of others who looked to him for guidance.
Reynolds, on the other hand, subscribed and retained his preferment. He was not so deeply committed as his friend, but it was a bitter disappointment to many, who would have rejoiced in the deposition of a Bishop as affording the strongest evidence of the force of Puritan convictions.
The Presbyterian farewells.
The Sunday preceding the ill-fated Saint's Day was commonly agreed upon for the pastors who stood firm to take leave of their flocks. Nonconformist writers have excited compassion by the graphic pictures they have drawn of the scenes enacted on that mournful day. Happily we may compassionate men in affliction without admitting the justice of their grievance.
Calamy had gathered into his chapel, Sunday after Sunday, greater crowds than congregated anywhere else. Thomas Lye, Philip Henry, Oliver Heywood, Jacomb, Lamb, and many others were deservedly beloved, and their parting words drew tears of genuine sorrow from many eyes, but neither the faith which they professed, nor the commission which they bore as unepiscopally ordained, belonged to the Church whose offices and ministry they had unjustly usurped.
The impossibility of reconciliation without sacrifice of great principles.
It is idle to talk of opportunities of comprehension lost, and bewail that men who might have been friends were confirmed in hostility; any compromise which would have satisfied them would have ruined the Church. It was not merely that they advocated a system of worship alien to long-established usage, but they claimed for the Presbytery a right which all through the Church's history has been the sole prerogative of the Episcopate. However much then we may be touched with the sufferings of the ejected ministers, we cannot call them wrongs, nor see how they could have been averted without surrendering fundamental doctrines, and severing the Church of the Restoration from the Church of the Apostles.The last settlement at the bar of history. The Caroline Settlement has amply justified itself, and proved the soundness of the principles upon which it was made. Criticism is well-nigh disarmed when we point to the fact that it has maintained its ground for two centuries and a quarter. It survived the shock of the Nonjuring Secession, it survived the deadness and coldness of the Georgian period, which would have destroyed the vitality of a weaker constitution, and has become in this generation the root and source of a new outburst of Catholic faith and zeal almost unequalled in the Church's history.
We believe then that every loyal Churchman may look back to it with satisfaction.
The Church passed through a crisis of almost unparalleled gravity. Her enemies were never more formidable either in numbers, or influence, or intellectual power. Happily it befell at a time when she was able to confront them at every point, and it is a matter for most grateful acknowledgment that with many temptations to yield for the sake of peace, her defenders maintained the contest to the end without making a single concession calculated in any way to compromise her position as a true and rightful branch of the
ONE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH.