תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

ological opinions of the court and clergy, was certainly owing to a variety of reasons, as will appear evident to those who have any acquaintance with the spirit and transactions of these times. The principal one, if we are not deceived, must be sought in the plans of a further reformation of the church of England, that were proposed by several eminent ecclesiastics, whose intention was to bring it to as near a resemblance as was possible of the primitive church. And every one knows, that the peculiar doctrines, to which the victory was assigned by the synod of Dort, were absolutely unknown in the first ages of the Christian church. Be that as it may, this change was fatal to the interests of the puritans; for, the king being indisposed to the opinions and institutions of Calvinism, the pu

though many of the proceedings of this injudicious prince deserve justly the sharpest censure, yet it is both rash and unjust to accuse him of a design to introduce Popery into England. It is not to be believed, that a prince, who aspired after arbitrary power and uncontrolled dominion, could ever have entertained a thought of submitting to the yoke of the Roman pontiff.* The truth of the matter seems to be this, that toward the latter end of his reign, James began to have less aversion to the doctrines and rites of the Romish church, and permitted certain religious observances, that were conformable to the spirit of that church, to be used in England. This conduct was founded upon a manner of reasoning, which he had learned from several bishops of his time, viz. that the primitive church is the model wbich all Christian churches, ought to imitate in doctrine and worship ; that, in proportion as any church approaches to this primitive standard of truth and purity, it must become proportionably pure and perfect, and that the Romish church retained more of the spirit and manner of the primitive church than the Puritan or Calvinist churches. is of these three propositions, the two first are undoubtedly true, and the last is as evidently and demonstrably false. Beside, this makes nothing to the argument ; for as James had a manifest aversion to the Puritans, it could, in his eyes, be no very great recommendation of the . Romish church, that it surpassed that of the Puritans in doctrine and discipline.

Rp i Dr. Mosheim has annexed the following note to this passage; “Perbaps the king entered into these ecclesiastical proceedings with the more readiness, when he reflected on the civil commotions and tumults that an attachment to the Presbyterian religion had occasioned in Scotland. There are also some circumstances that intimate plainly enough, that James, before his accession to the crown of England, was very far from having an aversion to Popery." Thus far the note of our author, and whoever looks into the Historical View of the Negotiations between the Courts of England, France, and Brussels, from the year 1592, to 1617, extracted from the MS. State Papers, of Sir Thomas Edmondes and Anthony Bacon, Esq. and published in the year 1749, by the learned and judicious Dr, Birch, will be persuaded that, toward the year 1595, this fickle and unsteady prince had really formed a design to embrace the faith of Rome. See, in the curious collection now mentioned, the postscript of a letter from Sir Thomas Edmondes to the lord high treasurer, dated the 20th of December, 1595. We learn also, from the Memoirs of Sir Ralph Winwood, that, in the year. 1596, James sent Mr. Ogilby, a Scots baron, into Spain, to assure his Catholic majesty, that he was then ready and resolved to embrace Popery, and to propose an alliance with that king and the pope against the queen of England. See Staie Tracts, vol. i. p. 1. See also an extract from a letter from Tobie Matthew, D.D. dean of Durham, to the lord treasurer, Burleigh, containing an information of Scotch affairs, in Strype's Annals, vol. iv. p. 201. Above all, see Harris's Historical and Critical Account of the Life and Writings of James I. p. 29, note (N.) This last writer may be added to Larrey and Rapin, who have exposed the pliability and inconsistency of this self-sufficient monarch.

* This remark is confuted by fact, observation, and the perpetual contradictions that are observable in the conduct of men ; beside, see the 'note i.

the church of England un

ritans were left without defence, and exposed anew to the animosity and hatred of their adversaries, which had been, for some time, suspended; but now broke out with redoubled vehemence, and at length kindled a religious war, whose consequences were deplorable beyond expression. In the year 1625, died James 1. the bitterest enemy of the doctrine and discipline of the puritans, to which he had been in his youth most warmly attached; the most inflexible and ardent patron of the Arminians, in whose ruin and condemnation in Holland · he had been singularly instrumental; and the most zeali ous defender of episcopal government, against which he

had more than once expressed himself in the strongest terms. He left the constitution of England, both ecclesiastical and civil, in a very unsettled and fluctuating state, languishing under intestine disorders of various kinds.

xx. His son and successor Charles I. who had imbibed his political and religious principles, had nothing the ste so much at heart as to bring to perfection what there his father had left unfinished. All the exertions der Chari of his zeal, and the whole tenor of his administration, were directed toward the three following objects; “ The extending the royal prerogative and raising the power of the crown above the authority of the law; the reduction of all the churches in Great Britain and Ireland under the jurisdiction of bishops, whose government he looked upon as of divine institution, and also as the most adapted to guard the privileges and majesty of the throne; and lastly, the suppression of the opinions and institutions that were peculiar to Calvinism, and the modelling of the doctrine, discipline, ceremonies, and polity of the church of England, after the spirit and constitution of the primitive church." The person whom the king chiefly intrusted with the execution of this arduous plan, was William Laud, bishop of London, who was afterward raised, in the year 1633, to the see of Canterbury, and exhibited, in these high stations, a mixed character, composed of great qualities and great defects. The voice of justice must celebrate his erudition, his fortitude, his ingenuity, his zeal for the sciences, and his munificence and liberality to men of letters; and at the same time, even charity must acknowledge with regret, his inexcusable imprudence, his excessive superstition, his rigid attachment to the sentiments, rites, and institutions

of the ancient church, which made him behold the puritans and Calvinists with horror ;k and that violent spirit of animosity and persecution, that discovered itself in the whole course of his ecclesiastical administration. This haughty prelate executed the plans of his royal master, and fulfilled the views of his own ambition, without using those mild and moderate methods, that prudence, employs to make unpopular schemes go down. He carried things with a high hand; when he found the laws opposing his views, he treated them with contempt, and violated them without hesitation; he loaded the puritans with injuries and vexations, and aimed at nothing less than their total extinction; he rejected the Calvinistical doctrine of predestination publicly in the year 1625; and, notwithstanding the opposition and remonstrances of Abbot; substituted the Arminian system in its place ;m he revived many

k See Ant. Wood. Athena Oxoniens. tom. ii. p. 55. Heylin's Cyprianus, or the His. tory of the Life and Death of William Laud, published at London in 1668. Clarendon's History, vol. i.

I “Sincere he undoubtedly was,” says Mr. Hume, “and however misguided, actuated by religious principles in all his pursuits ; and it is to be regretted, that a man of such spirit, who conducted his enterprises with such warmth and industry, had not entertained more enlarged views, and embraced principles more favourable to the general happiness of human society.”

m See Mich. le Vassor, Hist. de Louis XIII. tom. v. p. 262.

Do This expression may lead the uninformed reader into a mistake, and make him imagine that Laud had caused the Calvinistical doctrine of the xxxix Articles to be abrogated, and the tenets of Arminius to be substituted in their place. It may therefore be proper to set this matter in a clearer light. In the year 1625, Laud wrote a small treatise to prove the orthodoxy of the Arminian doctrines; and, by his credit with the duke of Buckingham, bad Arminian and Antipuritanical chaplains placed about the king. This step increased the debates between the Calvinistical and Arminian doctors, and produced the warmest animosities and dissensions. To calm these, the king issued out a proclamation, dated the 14th of January, 1626, the literal tenor of which was, in truth, more favourable to the Calvinists than to the Arminians, though, by the manner in which it was interpreted and executed by Laud, it was turned to the advantage of the latter. In this proclamation it was said expressly “that his majesty would admit of no innovations in the doctrine, discipline, or government of the church ;" (N.B. The doctrine of the church, previously to this, was Calvinistical,) " and therefore charges all his subjects, and especially the clergy, not to publish or inaintain in preaching or writing, any new inventions or opinions, contrary to the said doctrine and discipline established by law," &c. It was certainly a very singular instance of Laud's indecent partiality, that this proclamation was employed to suppress the books that were expressly written in the defence of the xxxix Articles, while the writings of the Arminians, who certainly opposed these articles, were publicly licensed. I do not here enter into the merits of the cause; I only speak of the tenor of the proclamation, and the manner of its execution.

This manner of proceeding showed how difficult and arduous a thing it is to change systems of doctrine established by law, since neither Charles, who was by no means diffident of his authority, nor Laud, who was far from being timorous in the use and abuse of it, attempted to reform articles of faith, that stood in direct opposition to the Arminian doctrines, which they were now promoting by the warmest encouragements, and which were daily gaining ground under their protection. Instead of reforming the xxxix Articles, which step would have met with great opposition from the house of commons, and from a considerable part of the clergy and laity, who were still warmly attached to Calvinism, Laud advised the king to have these articles reprinted,

religious rites and ceremonies, which, though stamped with the sanction of antiquity, were nevertheless marked with the turpitude of superstition, and had been justly abrogated on that account; he forced bishops upon the Scots nation, which was zealously attached to the discipline and ecclesiastical polity of Geneva, and had shown, on all occasions, the greatest reluctance against an episcopal government, and lastly, he gave many and very plain intimations, that he looked upon the Romish church, with all its errors, as more pure, more holy, and preferable upon the whole, to those protestant churches that were not subject to the jurisdiction of bishops. By these his unpopu.

with an ambiguous declaration prefixed to them, which might tend to silence or discourage the reigning controversies between the Calvinists and Arminians, and thus secure to the fatter an unmolested state, in which they would daily find their power growing under the countenance and protection of the court. This declaration, which, in most editions of the Common Prayer, is still to be found at the head of the Articles, is a most curious piece of political theology: and had it not borne hard upon the right of private judg. ment, and been evidently designed to favour one party, though it carried the aspect of a perfect neutrality, it might have been looked upon as a wise and provident measure to secure the tranquillity of the church. For, in the tenor of this declaration, precision was sacrificed to prudence and ambiguity ; nay, even contradictions were preferred before consistent, clear, and positive decisions, that might have fomented dissensions and discord. The declaration seemed to favour the Calvinists, since it prohibited the affixing any new sense to any article ; it also favoured, in effect, the Arminians, as it ordered all curious search about the contested points to be laid aside, and these disputes to be shut up in God's promises, as they are generally set forth to us in the holy Scriptures, and the general meaning of the articles of the church of England according to them. But what was singularly preposterous in this declaration was, its being designed to favour the Arminians, and yet prohibiting expressly any person, either in their sermons or writings, to put his own sense or comment to be the meaning of the article, and ordering them, on the contrary, to take each article in its literal and grammatical sense, and to submit to it in the full and plain meaning thereof; for certainly if the seventeenth article has a plain, literal, and grammatical meaning, it is a meaning unfavourable to Arminianism; and bishop Burnet was obliged afterward to acknowledge, that without enlarging the sense of the articles, the Arminians could not subscribe them consistently with their opinions, nor without violating the demands of common ingenuity. See Burnet's Reinarks on the Examination of his Exposition, &c. p. 3. i

This renders it probable that the declaration now mentioned, in which we see no royal signature, no attestation of any officer of the crown, no date, in short, no mark to show where, when, or by what authority it was issued out, was not composed in the reign of king Charles. Bishop Burnet indeed was of opinion, that it was composed in that reign to support the Arminians, who, when they were charged with departing from the true sense of the articles, answered, “ that they took the articles in their literal and grammatical sense, and therefore did not prevaricate.” But this reasoning does not appear conclusive to the acute and learned author of the Confessional. He thinks it more probable, that the declaration was composed; and first published, in the latter part of king James's reign; for though, says he, there be no evidence that James ever turned Arminian in principle, yet that was the party that stuck to him in his measures, and which it became necessary for him on that account to humour, and to render respectable in the eyes of the people, by every expedient that might not bring any reflection on his own consistency. “ And whoever," continues this author, " considers the quibbling and equivocal terms in which this instrument is drawn, will, I am persuaded, observe the distress of a man divided between his principles and his interests, that is, of a man exactly in the situation of king James I. in the three last years of his reign.” It is likely then, that this declaration was only republished at the head of the articles which were reprinted by the order of Charles I.

VOL, IV.

13

[graphic]

n The origin of this sect has been already mentioned.

o Besides Clarendon and the other writers of English history already mentioned, see Neale's History of the Puritans, vol. ij. and iii.

« הקודםהמשך »