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faggots were built up in the market-place, and men, women, and children, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, were burnt for their Protestant faith, while Popish bishops in their Popish vestments looked on. About two hundred and eighty martyrs perished by fire, besides those who suffered cruel wrongs and intolerable tortures in prison but were not burnt. When the service was held in Plumbers' Hall, it was not nine years since the flames had been extinguished. Some of those who met for worship had probably seen many of the victims of Romish cruelty burning at the stake. Some of them may have been the husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters of the martyrs. Some of them, perhaps, had been imprisoned themselves, and had narrowly escaped burning. In 1563-only four years before—the first English edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs had been published : it was already the most popular book in England ; it was read everywhere, and everywhere it deepened the horror with which Protestants regarded the Church of Rome, and made more angry and vehement their indignation against the priests. To compel the ministers of the purer faith to wear the livery of the men who had put the saints of God on the rack and sent them to the flames, was horrible. To be present at any worship where that livery was worn, seemed like condoning the crimes from which the martyrs had suffered. Nor was this all. What Rome had touched-so thought the more earnest Protestants of those days-had pollution in it. Prayers and sacraments were defiled, if the ministers wore the vestments of Antichrist.
And by these hated garments they were separated from their brethren in Scotland, Germany, Holland, and France, who were struggling for the faith of the Gospel. Protestant Christendom, notwithstanding the division between the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches, was vividly conscious of its essential unity. The Protestants of every country in Europe had common interests and common perils. They must stand or fall together. Spain and the Pope were their common foes. All who had renounced the superstitions of Rome, and defied its tyranny, were comrades in a struggle on which the liberties of nations and the eternal salvation of mankind depended. If English Protestants wore the Popish vestments, they adopted the uniform of the enemy;
and in such a fight as was then going on-a veritable battle of Armageddon—this was treachery to the good cause.
Jewel and Grindal and Sandys and Parkhurst, who shared the scruples of the Puritans, but who, in obedience to the Queen and for the sake of order, submitted to wear copes and surplices and, what was worse, took part in imposing them on others, were good and able men; their submission may be defended on strong grounds. It has been already conceded that the policy of the Queen to which they submitted may have saved the nation from those religious wars which inflicted permanent and immeasurable evils on Germany and France.28 They doubtless believed that in submitting to it they were rendering what in the long-run would be the truest service to the cause of Protestantism, and were averting immediate political troubles.
To them a calm and impartial historical criticism may concede the honours of practical wisdom. To the extreme Puritans must be conceded honours of another kind. To them must be attributed an immovable resolution to be loyal to conscience and to Christ at all hazards ; a deeply rooted faith that no compromise with error can be necessary to secure the ultimate victory of truth ; a vehement abhorrence of superstition and idolatry ; a relentless hatred of priestly pretensions and priestly tyranny,—and these are virtues which are more necessary to the life of nations and of Churches than the profoundest sagacity; and they are more acceptable to God.
28 See ante, p. 79.
ATTEMPTS AT REFORMATION WITHIN
PURITAN EXPERIMENT AT NORTHAMPTON-INSTRUCTION, DISCIPLINE,
PROPHESYINGS "-ATTEMPTS AT SUPPRESSION_CONFLICT BETWEEN QUEEN
EN AND PARLIAMENT OVER CHURCH LEGISLATIONCAUSES OF THE WEAKNESS OF THE ANGLICAN PARTY IN PARLIAMENT—“The ADMONITION TO THE PARLIAMENT": DEMAND FOR A PRESBYTERIAN ESTABLISHMENT_CONTROVERSY BETWEEN CARTWRIGHT AND WHITGIFT-LIMITATIONS OF THE POWER OF THE CHURCH TO VARY ITS ORGANISATION AND RITUAL MEETING AT WANDSWORTH TO SET UP A SCHEME OF DISCIPLINE-GRINDAL, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY-ATTEMPT TO ORGANISE A PRESBYTERIAN SYSTEM WITHIN CHURCH_GRINDAL INCURS THE QUEEN'S DISPLEASURE AND IS SUSPENDED-MORAL AND SPIRITUAL SHORTCOMINGS OF THE CLERGY: CONTEMPORARY EVIDENCEPURITAN REVOLT A STRUGGLE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
N the year 1571--the same year in which the members
of the Congregational Church in London declared their faith and polity and appealed to their countrymen to return to “the purity and truth of the apostolic Church ”--the more moderate Puritans were making a singular experiment in the town of Northampton. They were resolved to remain in the national Church till they were driven out of it; but they were rapidly constructing a theory of church order very different from that which had been set up by the Crown and Parliament, and were trying how much of it could be carried into practice within the restraints imposed by the law.
The scheme had the sanction and support of the bishop of the diocese, of the mayor and corporation, and of the magistrates of the town and country. It was both vigorous and comprehensive. The Puritans of Northampton could find no passage in the New Testament sanctioning the use
of organs in Christian worship; and in every church in the town the organ was 'silenced. They could find no passage sanctioning the employment of “ singing men and singing women ”; and in every church in the town the choirs were silenced. For the minister to conduct service in the chancel was a survival of sacerdotal superstition; and the service was therefore conducted in the nave. Contrary to the direction of the Prayer-Book, the communion table was placed in the nave at the upper end of the middle aisle, and kneeling was dispensed with.
There were some nobler elements in the scheme. It was resolved that the people should be taught the Scriptures, and in the principal church there was a service every Tuesday and Thursday for the reading and expounding of the Old Testament and the New. To give ample time to this exercise, the Book of Common Prayer was set aside ; the service began with the Confession, and ended with prayer and the recitation of a confession of faith.
It was also resolved that the people should have sufficient preaching. In the principal church there was a sermon every Sunday and holy-day. In the other churches it was ordered that morning service should be closed by nine o'clock, that the congregation might be able to hear the preacher ; the parish minister was to charge his people to go to hear him, unless he meant to preach himself.
For an hour at the end of evening prayer, every Sunday and holy-day, the young people were examined in Calvin's catechism, and the catechism was expounded by the minister. While this exercise went on the elder people were present.
During the time of sermon and catechising, the people were not to sit in the streets, or walk up and down, or “ otherwise occupy themselves vainly, upon such penalties as might be appointed.”
Before the communion, which was celebrated in every parish church once a quarter, the minister and the churchwardens went from house to house to take the names of communicants, and to examine into the state of their lives. If any of the parishioners had quarrelled with each other, they were to be brought before the mayor and aldermen, who, with the assistance of the minister and others, were to attempt to reconcile them. If the attempt to reconcile them failed,
the obstinate person was to be kept away from the communion ; hé might even be punished in other ways.
After the communion there was a second visitation of every house. Those who had been absent were brought before the mayor, the aldermen, and the minister, to explain their reasons for neglecting their duty, and to receive reproof and exhortation if the reasons were not regarded as satisfactory.
Every Thursday the mayor and other members of the corporation, with the clergy and certain gentlemen appointed by the bishop, held a meeting for the exercise of discipline. All persons guilty of drunkenness, profaneness, and other gross vices, all persons that railed against the preachers or against religion—“scolds, ribalds, or such like ”—were brought before them for reproof or punishment, or both. Seven men appointed for the purpose in each parish reported all such offences in writing, and the municipal and ecclesiastical authorities of the town, assisted by the magistrates, endeavoured to repress all flagrant irreligion and immorality.
Meetings for what were called “prophesyings held on Saturday morning-at first, once a fortnight ; afterwards every week—the ministers of the town and neighbourhood taking part in them. Every minister that wished to “prophesy ” was required to sign a confession of faith and an engagement to submit to the discipline and orders of his brethren. There was a president, who appears to have been elected from time to time by the ministers who took part in the exercises. The first speaker expounded a passage of Scripture which had been chosen at the previous meeting ; he refuted false interpretations, and then was permitted, in the quaint language of these times, " to give comfort to the audience as the place ministereth just occasion.” He was allowed three-quarters of an hour. The second and third speakers, whose duty it was to add anything that they thought had been omitted by the opener and to enforce his observations, were allowed a quarter of an hour each. The discussion was closed by one of the “ moderators," official persons chosen by the members of the association ; so that there were always four speakers besides those that offered prayer. The service lasted two hours; it was held in one of the churches, and every one that pleased was allowed to be present.