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Court party that the proceedings of the Convocation, and the acts of Parliament, injunctions, and proclamations, would speedily produce an entire conformity. In this expectation they were disappointed. The regular parochial clergy, both in town and country, not only disliked the vestments themselves, but perceived that, in general, the people bore towards these relics of a persecuting and oppressive system at least an equal aversion. Some, indeed, wore them occasionally, in obedience to the law, but more frequently officiated with them; and although the bishops, most of whom, though at first opposed, had become reconciled to the “scenic apparel,' cited them into their courts, and admonished them, yet this had little effect, as they had not yet proceeded to suspension and deprivation. At length information of these irregularities was given to the queen. Her majesty was highly displeased, especially on the ground that so little regard was paid to her laws, and gave strict command to the Archbishop of Canterbury, "to take effectual methods that an exact order and uniformity be maintained in all external rites and ceremonies, as by law and good usages are provided for."*
This severe and peremptory command immediately roused the bishops to activity, and in particular, stimulated Archbishop Parker to such a degree of fierce and unrelenting sternness, as seemed completely contrary to all his former life and character. He did his utmost to urge forward Grindal, bishop of London, to compel the ministers within his diocese to conform, though he well knew that the opinions of that pious prelate were not only averse from everything like oppression, but were opposed in particular to the sacerdotal vestments. Parker framed some articles to enforce the habits, and requested the queen to give them the authority of her sanction. But the pride of Elizabeth could not endure that a subject should frame articles to enforce her decrees, and instead of ratifying them, she issued a proclamation, requiring immediate uniformity in the habits, on pain of prohibition from preaching, and deprivation from office.
And now the storm burst forth in earnest. The whole ministers of London were summoned to Lambeth, and the
Strype's Life of Parker, p. 155.
question put to them, Whether they would conform to the apparel established by law, and subscribe their submission on the spot? Those who should refuse, were to be suspended immediately, and after three months, deprived of their livings. Threats, persuasions, and the dread of poverty, induced sixty-one out of one hundred to subscribe ; thirty-seven absolutely refused, and were immediately suspended, -and those thirty-seven, as their oppressor admitted, were the best and ablest preachers in the city.* Many churches were at once shut up, the ruling party disregarding the loss of religious privileges to the congregations, in their zeal to enforce conformity in matters which they themselves admitted to be in their own nature indifferent. After a short interval, many of the most pious and able men were ejected from the churches, and cast upon the world in a state of utter destitution, even forbid to preach to others that Gospel which had been to their own souls glad tidings of great joy. Surely. it had been a strange and portentous thing to see such men as Miles Coverdale, the translator of the Bible, in his feeble but most venerable age, and Fox the martyrologist, whose writings had done so much for the overthrow of Popery, and the support of the reformed faith, driven from their homes and weeping flocks, and exposed to reproach and poverty, because they would not consent to disfigure their persons with the gaudy vestments characteristic of Romish superstition. In vain did the oppressed Puritans--for we may now fairly use that distinctive appellation - apply to the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of Bedford, and such other noblemen as were known to be favorable to them, imploring these distinguished men to do their utmost to procure some mitigation of such oppressive measures. No mitigation could be obtained. To .conform or to suffer were the only alternatives, and they nobly chose the latter, rather than violate conscience.
These severe measures adopted by the Court party, and prosecuted with such unrelenting rigor against their better brethren, attracted the attention of the reformed churches in other countries. The continental divines wrote frequently to England on the subject, but without effect. The
• Strype's Life of Parker, p. 215,
Church of Scotland, which had been reformed and re-organized on a truly scriptural model by the blessing of God on the strenuous exertions of John Knox, aise addressed an earnest and affectionate remonstrance to the English prelates, imploring them to treat their faithful and suffering brethren with greater tenderness, disapproving, at the same time, of their preposterous attachment to the superstitious trappings of Rome.* But all was in vain: brotherly kindness and Christian charity must equally be sacrificed to gratify the queen's taste for idle pageantry, and to cover the mean and self-condemned compliance of her courtly prelates. The ejected Puritan ministers found extreme difficulty in obtaining opportunities for preaching; and some remained entirely silent. Many pamphlets were, however, written by them, which tended to keep alive and spread their opinions, and which were eagerly read by the people. This drew from the Star Chamber a degree, strictly prohibiting the publication of all such writings, under heavy penalties.
[1566.] Thus, commanded to conform even against the dictates of conscience, ejected from their churches and forbidden to preach anywhere else, and deprived of the liberty of the press, the Puritans were driven to that extreme point where endurance ceases and active resistance begins. Accordingly they met, and gravely and solemnly deliberated, Whether it were not now both lawful and necessary to separate from the Established Church. After much earnest consultation, they came to this solemn and important conclusion, That since they could not have the Word of God preached, nor the sacraments administered, without “idolatròus gear," as they termed the vestments and ceremonies, and since there had been a separate congregation in London, and another in Geneva, in Queen Mary's time, in which there was a book and order of preaching, administration of sacraments and discipline, free from the superstitions of the English service, it was their duty, in the present circumstances, to separate from the public churches, and to assemble, as they had opportunity, in private houses or elsewhere, to worship God in a manner that might not offend against the light of their
• M‘Crie's Life of Knox, p. 295.
consciences.* This most important event took place in the summer of the year 1566, and from that time onward the Puritan party may be regarded as forming a body distinct from the Church of England, although they were the true successors of the first and greatest reforming fathers of that Church.
It would be a great mistake to suppose, that the only subject in dispute between the Puritans and their antagonists was that respecting clerical vestments. That formed, indeed, a very prominent point in the controversy, because it was so apparent, and so easily brought under the terms of a royal proclamation. But there were many, and these still more important matters which they wished to have reformed. Of these, the most prominent were the following. They regarded the assumed superiority of bishops over presbyters as a higher order, and the claim on their part, of the sole right of ordination, discipline and government, as unscriptural in itself, and tending both to secularize them, and to produce an intolerable despotism. Along with this, they complained of the whole array of cathedral office-bearers as of the same character, and equally unwarranted. They lamented the want of discipline, in consequence of which, it was impossible to maintain the purity of the most sacred ordinances. Regarding set forms of prayer as properly intended to meet the necessities of a time of ignorance, they did not dispute their lawfulness, while they wished a greater liberty in prayer, where such help was not required; and they disapproved also of too many repetitions, of responses, and of several exceptionable expressions, particularly in the marriage and funeral services. They disapproved of the reading of the Apocryphal books in the church; and while they regarded the homilies as in themselves valuable, they held that no man should be ordained to the ministry, who was not himself able to preach and to expound the Scriptures. While they complained of pluralities, non-residence, and an unpreaching clergy, they viewed these as caused chiefly by patronage exercised by the queen, bishops, and lay-patrons, and held that it ought to be abolished, and ministers to be appointed by the election of the people. They condemned, on the one hand, the keeping of the church-festivals and saints' days; and on the other, the open and flagrant violation of the Lord's day, as equally contrary to Scripture. Cathedral worship, chanted prayers, and instrumental music, they also condemned, as tending rather to amuse than edify. And they declared their great reluctance to comply with certain rites and ceremonies which were strictly enjoined, and which they regarded as superstitious or unmeaning, such as- s—the sign of the cross in baptism, baptism by midwives, the exclusion of parents and the employment of godfathers and godmothers, the rite of confirmation, kneeling at the communion, as implying transubstantiation, bowing at the name of Jesus, the ring in marriage, and certain foolish words used in the ceremony, and the wearing of the surplice and other ceremonies used in divine service.
* Strype's Life of Parker, p 241.
When so many, and such important topics were all equally in dispute, and not the slightest redress could be obtained, but conformity in every particular was enforced with the most oppressive and unrelaxing rigor, it was not strange that the persecuted Puritans should determine to separate themselves from a Church which they regarded as but half reformed, and which sternly refused to advance to a more pure and perfect reformation, according, not to the will of princes, but to the word of God. And the time may come, when the Church of England will bitterly bewail the insane conduct of those, who, in that reforming period, took up and pursued a course which crushed the life-spring out of its heart, and swathed up the cold and paralyzed remains, to lie in state, a decent but a dead formality.
(1567.] The chief leaders of the separation, according to Fuller, were the Rev. Messrs. Colman, Button, Halingham, Benson, White, Rowland, and Hawkins, all of whom held benefices within the diocese of London. No sooner was the queen informed that the Puritans had begun to form separate assemblies for worship, than she commanded her commissioners to take effectual measures to keep the laity to their parish churches; and to let them know that if they frequented conventicles, or broke the ecclesiasticai laws, they should, for the first offence, be deprived of the freedom of the city, and then abide what further punish