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It is in this, their notion of ecclesiastical government, that the difference between them and the presbyterians principally consists ; for their religious doctrines, except in some points of very little moment, are almost entirely the same with those that are adopted by the church of Geneva. The founder of this sect was John Robinson, a man who had much of the solemn piety of the times, and was master of a congregation of Brownists, that had settled at Leyden. This well-meaning man, perceiving the defects that reigned in the discipline of Brown, and in the spirit and temper of his followers, employed his zeal and diligence in correcting them, and in modelling anew the society, in such a manneras to render it less odious to his adversaries, and less liable to the just censure of those true Christians, who looked upon charity as the end of the commandment. The independents, accordingly, were much more commendable than the Brownists in two respects. They surpassed them both in the moderation of their sentiments, and the order of their discipline. They did not, like Brown, pour forth bitter and uncharitable invectives against the churches that were governed by rules entirely different from theirs, nor pronounce them, on that account, unworthy of the Christian name. On the contrary, though they considered their own form of ecclesiastical government as of divine institution, and as originally introduced by the authority of the apostles, nay, by the apostles themselves, yet they had candour and charity enough to acknowledge, that true religion and solid piety might flourish in those communities which were under the jurisdiction of bishops, or the
government of synods and presbyteries. They were
constitutions that were drawn up during that year, in the synods or visitations held by the archbishops of Canterbury, York, and other prelates, in which canons all the various sects that then subsisted in England are particularly mentioned. See Wilkins's Concilia Magna Britanniæ et Hiberniæ, vol. iv. cap. v. p. 548, where are the “constitutions and canons ecclesiastical, treated upon by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the rest of the bishops and clergy, in their several synods,” An. mdcxl. It is true, that not long after this period, and more particularly from the year 1642, we find this denomination very frequently in the English Annals. The English Independents were so far from being displeased with it, that they assumed it publicly in a piece they published in their own defence at London, in the year 1644, under the following title : Apologetical Narration of the Independents
. But when in process of time a great variety of sects, as bas been already observed, sheltered themselves under the cover of this extensive denomination, and even seditious subjects, that aimed at nothing less than the death of their sovereign and the destruction of the government, employed it as a mask to bide their deformity, then the true and genuine Independents
renounced this title, and substituted another less odious in its place, calling themselves Congregational brethren, and their religious assemblies Congregational churches.
also much more attentive than the Brownists in keeping on
, whose peculiar protection and patronage they
99 In the year 1616, Mr. Jacob, who had adopted the religious sentiments of Robinson, set up the first Independent or Congregational church in England.
r' Neal's History of the Purilans, vol. ii. p. 107, 293, vol. viii. p. 141, 145, 276, 303. 437, 549. See also a German work, entitled Englische Reformations Historie, by Anthony William Bohm, p. 794.
to enter into an association with the Presbyterians residing
in and about London, under certain heads of agreement ente
that tended to the maintenance of their respective instiLIONS
governher ment in Great Britain, all sects, even those that ittel dishonoured true religion in the most shocking the one con
manner, by their fanaticism or their ignorance, en- der Cromwell. joyed a full and unbounded liberty of professing publicly their respective doctrines. The Episcopalians alone were
The state of
8 From that time they were called lnited Brethren. The heads of agreement that formed and cemented this union are to be found in the second volume of Whiston's Memoirs of his Life and Writings, and they consist in nine articles. The first relates to churehes and chureh members, in which the united ininisters, Presbyterians, and Indepen. dents, declare, among other things, “That each particular church had a right to choose their own officers; and being furnished with such as are duly qualified and ordained according to the gospel rule, hath authority from Christ fur exercising government, and enjoying all the ordinances of worship within itself; that, in the administration of church power, it belongs to the pastors and other elders of every particular churcb, if such there be, to rule and govern; and to the brotherhood to consent, according to the rule of the gospel.” In this hoth Presbyterians and Independents depart from the principles of their respective institutions. Article ii. relates to the ministry, which they grant to have been instituted by Jesus Christ, For the gathering, guiding, cdifying, and governing of his church ; in this article it is further observed, that ministers ought to be endued with competent learning, sound judgment, and solid piety; that None are to be ordained to the work of the ministry, but such as are chosen and called thereunto by a par. ticular church ; that, in such a weighty matter, It is ordinarily requisite, that every sich church consult and advise with the pastors of neighbouring congregations : and that after such advice the person thus consulted about, being chosen by the brotherhood of that particular church, be duly ordained and set apart to his office over them. Article iii. relates to censures, and prescribes first, the admonishing, and, if this prove ineffectual, the excommunication of offending and scandalous members, to be performed by the pastors, with the consent of the brethren. Article iv. concerning the communion of churches, lays it down as a principle, that there is no subordination between particular churches ; that they are all equal, and consequently independent; that the pastors however of these churches ought to have frequent meetings together, that, by mutual advice, support, encouragement, and brotherly intercourse, they strengthen the hearts and hands of cach other in the ways of the Lord. In article v. which relates to deacons aud ruling elders, tho united brethren acknowledge, that the office of a deacon is of divine appointment, and that it belongs to their office to receive, lay out, and distribute, the stock of the church to its proper uses ; and as there are different sentiments about the office of ruling elders, who labour not in word and doctrine, they agree, that this difference makes no breach among them. In article vi. concerning occasional meetings of ministers, &c. the brethren agree, that it is needful, in weighty and difficult cases, that the ministers of several churches meet together, in order to be consulted and advised with about such matters; and that particular churches ought to have a reverential regard to their judgment so given, and not dissent therefrom without apparent grounds from the word of God. Article vii. which relates to the demeanour of the brethren toward the civil magistrate, prescribes, obedience to, and prayers for God's protection and blessing upon their rulers. In article viii
. which relates to a confession of faith, the brethren esteem it sufficient, that a charch acknowledge the Scriptures to be the word of God, the perfect and only rule of faith and practice, and own either the doctrinal part of the articles of the church of England, or the Westminster confession and catechisms, drawn up by the Presbyterians, or the confession of the congregational brethren, i. e the Independents, to be agreeable to the said rule. Article ix, which concerns the duty and deportment of the brethren toward those that are not in communion with them, inculcates charity and moderation. I appears from these articles, that the Independents were led, by a kind of necessity, to adopt, in many things, the sentiments of the Presbyterians, and to depart thus far from the original principles of their sect. VOL. IV.
TE and Pres
COME Sere of th
excepted from this toleration, and received the most severe and iniquitous treatment. The bishops were deprived of their dignities and revenues, and felt the heavy hand of oppression in a particular manner. But, though the toleration extended to all other sects and religious communities, yet the Presbyterians and Independents were treated with peculiar marks of distinction and favour, Cromwell, though attached to no one particular sect, gave the latter extraordinary proofs of his good will, and augmented their credit and authority, as this seemed the easiest and least exasperating method of setting bounds to the ambition of the Presbyterians, who aimed at a very ligh degree of ecclesiastical power.' It was during this period of religious anarchy, that the fifth monarchy men arose, a set of wrong-headed and turbulent enthusiasts, who expected Christ's sudden appearance upon earth to establish a new kingdom ; and, acting in consequence of this illusion, aimed at the subversion of all human government, and were for turning all things into the most deplorable confusion. It was at this time, also, that the Quakers, of whom we propose to give a more particular account," and the hot-headed Anabaptists, propagated, without restraint, their visionary doctrines. It must likewise be observed that the Deists, headed by Sidney, Neville, Martin, and Harrington, appeared with impunity, and promoted a kind of religion, which consisted in a few plain precepts, drawn from the dictates of natural reason."
IT t A little aster Cromwell's elevation, it was resolved by the parliament, at the conclusion of a debate concerning public worship and church government, that the Presbyterian government should be the established government. The Independents were not as yet agreed upon any standard of faith and discipline ; and it was only a little before Cromwell's death that they held a synod, by his permission, in order to publish to the world a uniform account of their doctrine and principles.
u See Burnet's History of his own Times, tom. i. p. 67. w See, in this volume, the History of the Quakers.
CxWe are not to imagine, by the term bot-headed, furiosi, that the Anabaptists resembled the furious fanatics of that name that formerly exeited such dreadful tumults in Gerinany, and more especially at Munster. This was by no means the case ; the English Anabaptists differed from their protestant brethren about the subject and mode of baptism alone ; confining the former to grown Christians, and the latter to immersion or dipping. They were divided into generals and particulars, from their different sentiments upon the Arminian controversy. The latter, who were so called from their belief of the doctrines of particular election, redemption, &c. were strict Calvinists, who separated from the Independent congregation at Leyden, in the year 1638. Their confession was composed with a remarkable spirit of modesty and charity. Their preachers were generally illiterate, and were eager in making proselytes of all that would submit to their immersion, without a dne regard to their religious principles or their moral characters. The writers of these times represent them as tinctured with a kind of enthusiastic fury against all that opposed them. There were nevertheless among them some pious and learned persons, who disapproved highly of all violent and uncharitable proceedings.
y Neal's Histury of the Puritas, vol. iv. p 57.
XXIII. Among the various religious factions that sprung up in England, during this period of confusion The English and anarchy, we may reckon a certain sect of Antinomians Presbyterians, who were called by their adversaries Antinomians, or enemies of the law, and still subsist even in our times. The Antinomians are a more rigid kind of Calvinists, who pervert Calvin's doctrine of absolute decrees to the worst' purposes, by drawing from it conclusions highly detrimental to the interests of true religion and virtue. Such is the judgment that the other Presbyterian communities form of this perverse and extravagant sect.” Several of the Antinomians, for they are not all precisely of the same mind, look upon it as unnecessary for Christian ministers to exhort their flock to a virtuous practice and a pious obedience to the divine law,“ since they whom God has elected to salvation by an eternal and immutable decree, will, by the irresistible impulse of divine grace, be led to the practice of piety and virtue ; while those who are doomed by a divine decree to eternal punishments, will never be engaged, by any exhortations or admonitions, how affecting soever they may be, to a virtuous course ; nor have they it in their power to obey the divine law, when the succours of divine grace are withheld from them.” From these principles they concluded, that the ministers of the gospel discharged sufficiently their pastoral functions, when they inculcated the necessity of
faith in Christ, and proclaimed the blessings of the new covenant to their people. Another, and a still more hideous form of antinomianism, is that which is exhibited in the opinions of other doctors of that sect," who maintain, “That as the elect cannot fall from grace, nor forfeit the divine favour, so it follows, that the wicked actions they commit, and the violations of the divine law with which they are chargeable, are not really sinful, nor are to be considered as instances of their departing from the law of God; and that, consequently, they have no occasion either to confess their sins, or to break them off by repentance. Thus adultery, for example, in one of the elect, though it appear sinful in the
z See Toland's Letter to Le Clerc, in the periodical work of the latter, entitled Bibliotheque Universelle el Historique, tom. xxiii. p. 505. As also Hornbeck, Summa Controversiarum, p. 800, 812.
io a This second antinomian hypothesis has certainly a still more odious aspect than the first; and it is therefore surprising that our author should use, in the original,
"Hi tantun statuunt, Electos," &e.