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THE RITUAL COMMISSION.- No. II.
Liturgical Revision in 1662. THE settlement of the Church of England at the restoration of Charles II. (1660_2) deserves a very careful study at the present day. Those who hold extreme Church views often express a high value for that settlement, as having cast out Puritanism from the Church, and as having given our Liturgical services a more catholic tone than the early Reformers had adopted. Men of more moderate Church views too readily admit these representations, and do not hesitate to censure the vindictive spirit which animated the Episcopal party in the hour of their political triumph, when they scornfully rejected every petition of the Presbyterians, and advisedly drew the terms of uniformity so narrow as to exclude, in one day, 2000 of the godly ministers of the Church from its pale.
That St. Bartholomew's day, 1662, was a day of deep disgrace and of far-spreading calamity to the Church and State of England, must be conceded. But we must beware lest we unfairly apportion the blame which rests upon the several parties concerned in bringing about that catastrophe ; and, above all, we must not lose sight of the signal providence of God in preserving our Liturgy and the other formularies of our Church, in those trying times, in their Protestant integrity, under which the Church flourished during the reign of Elizabeth, and in which they have since, through the signal mercy of God, descended unimpaired to our days.*
* If any one wishes to investigate an epitome is given in Bishop Ken, this subject from original authorities, net's history of Charles II. Bishop he will find the fullest journal of events Kennet was born in 1660. He was of in Bishop Kennet's Register, of which the High Church School. Baxter's Vol. 68.-No. 374.
The parties chiefly concerned in the Settlement of 1662 were the King, the House of Commons, the Presbyterians, and the Episcopalians. The Independents, during the latter years of the Commonwealth, had broken up into so many factions that they represented no power in the State. The Romanists, though full of activity, and flushed with hope on the restoration of a king whom they claimed as a convert, were too politic to take an independent position, but supported the plea for toleration of all classes who declined conforming with the Church of England,-biding their time.
Behaviour of the King. The King had kept up the Services of the Church of England during the whole time of his exclusion from the throne, whether in Scotland or on the Continent; and he determined, upon his restoration, that the Liturgy should be re-established in his royal chapels. The firmness of the King, in this respect, was the first providential link in the preservation of our Book of Common Prayer. Lord Clarendon reports that commissioners were sent from the Parliament to the King, before he left Holland, to invite his immediate return;—that these were accompanied by eight of the leading Presbyterian ministers, Reynolds, Calamy, Case, Manton, and others, who had several private audiences of the King, and endeavoured to persuade him to forego, upon his arrival, the use of the Common Prayer, or at least, to allow a mixture of other good prayers which his chaplains might use; they urged also the putting aside the surplice as likely to prejudice the people against his cause. But the King was firm; and while he promised liberty of conscience and worship to all his subjects, he claimed for himself the same liberty in his private chapels.
It was another signal instance of Divine Providence in favour of the restoration of our Liturgy, that, during the Commonwealth, no Church organization had been rigidly enforced by law, or any forms of worship. If Cromwell had directed his powerful mind and administrative powers to this end, he might have established a form of religion in England which could not have been easily displaced. But all ecclesiastical affairs were left in utter confusion; and an almost universal desire had sprung up for the order and regularity of the old Church. Upon the restoration, the Church re-assumed its supremacy with the same facility with which the King re-assumed his throne, crown, and sceptre. The Prayer-book was used in churches; the ejected incumbents who were still living, took possession acconnt of the Savoy Conference is the book took place, we have only frag: only full report of that meeting, and mentary notices in several works to its fidelity has been universally al which reference will be made in thi lowed. Of the proceedings in Convoca article. tion, when the revision of the Prayer.
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of their former churches ; and within five months after the King's return, he began to fill up the vacant bishoprics.
The King had promised to the Presbyterians, both at Breda and since his arrival, that measures should be adopted, subject to the supreme control of Parliament, for satisfying their scruples, and insuring to them a liberty of dispensing with such ceremonies as they could not conscientiously adopt. These objects it was hoped might be accomplished by a national synod, as soon as party animosities had so far subsided as to allow of calm discussion. In the mean time, the Presbyterians were requested by the King to present him with a statement of such changes in the Constitution, Liturgy, and Ceremonies of the Church as they deemed essential to its peace and prosperity. Such a statement was presented to the King, August 1660. It was submitted to the heads of the Church, who returned a paper of severe strictures upon the Presbyterian proposals, but referring the alterations to the wisdom of the King.
The King then determined to prepare a scheme on his own responsibility, as head of the Church, for the satisfaction of the Presbyterians. This was issued October 25, 1660, as a Royal Declaration. It set forth the King's determination to fulfil his promises, and gave a scheme of a moderated Episcopacy, and of various Church reforms, and proposed that the ceremonies objected against should be left optional. The document is very ably drawn up, and embraces most of the points then in controversy between the different parties in the Church. Bishop Kennet states—"Hyde's head and hand were most in it.” Baxter expressed to Lord Clarendon
the sat 1660, aon
cellor pressed him, as also Reynolds and Calamy, to accept bishoprics. Baxter, Reynolds, and Calamy consulted together. Reynolds accepted a bishopric; Baxter hesitated till the principles of the Declaration should be made law ; Calamy would have taken the same course, but his congregation and his City friends protested so vehemently against his accepting an office which he had all his former life so bitterly denounced, that he altogether declined a bishopric. It must remain a curious but uncertain speculation what benefits Baxter might have conferred upon the Church had he at that time accepted the bishopric of Hereford.
The reaction in favour of the old Church had become so strong, that it was not possible to obtain legislation in favour of the King's Declaration. And the days had gone by when the Royal prerogative could take the place of law. The Declaration, therefore, became a dead letter.
The Savoy Conference, In order to fulfil his promises to the Presbyterians, the
King issued a Royal Commission in March 1661, comprising twelve bishops and nine assistant divines, and the same number of Presbyterian divines and their assistants, nominated by their own body, to meet and consult together upon the state of the Church, and to propose such alterations as might be thought necessary for the relief of scrupulous consciences, and for the peace of the Church.
Had these parties met together in a calm, candid, and charitable spirit, just emerging as they were from the tremendous catastrophe into which the nation had been plunged, much good might have been expected in the way of healing measures and safeguards against future discontent. But the spirit which prevailed in the leading bishops was of a very different kind. Bishops Sheldon and Morley had been employed by the King, before his restoration, in his negotiations with different parties. They were practised politicians, rather than divines, “ with no deep sense of religion, if any at all.” (Burnet.) They were now bent upon restoring the old régime in its entirety, holding the maxim, that whatever concessions were made to the Presbyterian party would only lead to further demands and greater difficulties. The Commissioners met at the Savoy, which was then the residence of the Bishop of London. Sheldon, at their first meeting, proposed that the Presbyterians should state in writing all their exceptions to the Government, Liturgy, and Ceremonies of the Church, and what additions or alterations they would propose to introduce. Such a proposal was at variance with the principle of candid, friendly, and practical conference. The bishops well knew what were the usual exceptions taken against the Church, and the direction of the Commission was that both parties should consult together on the best way of meeting and removing them. But " Sheldon saw well enough what the effect would be of putting them to make all their demands at once. The number of them raised a mighty outcry against them, as people that could never be satisfied.” (Burnet.) The Presbyterians objected to Bishop Sheldon's proposal, but Baxter alone concurred in it; and he prevailed with his brethren to consent to it; chiefly on the ground, that without such written documents “our cause should never be well understood by our people, or foreigners, or posterity, but our conference and our cause would be misreported and published, as the conference at Hampton Court was, to our prejudice, and none durst contradict it.” (Baxter.) Thus Baxter led his brethren into the bishops' trap. The Presbyterians consulted together upon drawing up their papers. It was agreed that Baxter should prepare a reformed Liturgy, and the rest should draw up the exceptions. Baxter completed his work in a fortnight, but had to wait another fortnight before his brethren had agreed upon their exceptions. At length the papers were delivered to the bishops. After another month, the bishops returned their written answers, adopting a judicial tone, and condemning as unreasonable and inadmissible all the exceptions, except in a few very trivial points, and especially the scheme of a reformed Liturgy. It fell to Baxter to prepare & rejoinder to the bishops' reply, which he did at great length; evidently despairing of any good from the Commission, his appeal was made to the Church at large, and to posterity, for his vindication. No notice was taken of this rejoinder. The bishops simply declared that the Presbyterians had shown no necessity for any changes, and that therefore the work of the Commission was at an end. It was, indeed, nearly at · an end in a more peremptory sense, for the Commission was limited to four months, and the time occupied in the papers left only ten days remaining; yet the papers which caused the delay, as Baxter informs us, he had reason to believe were never read by the bishops generally, but only by the subcommittee appointed to answer them. Baxter now united with his brethren in imploring the bishops to spend the remaining days in arguing the points which had been raised, in the hope that they might come to some agreement as to the main alterations proposed. Nearly two days seem to have been spent in the urgent entreaties of the Presbyterians, and the obstinate refusal of the bishops; till, as Baxter reports, “I declared to them that we would do our part, and prove the impositions unlawful, whether they would do their part or no; but with an open declaration that we took them for deserters of their cause. At last Dr. Pearson alone undertook that he would dispute for their parts, when we had performed ours, and we accepted his undertaking,” The two last days were spent in arguing upon the lawfulness of imposing ceremonies which violate a tender conscience, by means of syllogisms written but given vivá voce, amidst all kinds of disorderly interruptions and irritating remarks. Here again the Presbyterians fell into a mistake. They thought that, having committed the disputation to three of their body, it was improper for them to attend. The room was therefore filled with the party of the bishops, spectators as well as commissioners; and the chairman chose a favourable opportunity to appeal to the audience, which declared the victory on the bishops' side.
So ended the Royal Commission on Ritual in 1661,-the historians generally assert, without any practical results, ex. cept of widening the breach, and giving to the Diocesan party the advantage of a supposed overthrow of their opponents in conference and argument. Those, however, who know the solid piety, learning, and sound sense of Baxter and his associates, will not believe that their powerful appeals to the principles of
of their caused for their partaking.". Then