« ZurückWeiter »
ecclesiastical or temporal, so as no foreign power had, or ought to have, authority over them.” The Protestants were willing to die in order to maintain her sovereignty thus far; but they did not believe that the government of the Church was monarchical, nor that any single person, layman or ecclesiastic, ought to assume the title of supreme head of the Church on earth. In the obvious sense of these acts of Parliament, and in pressing this idea they soon found that the Queen did not stand by her own explication, and that she did claim to be supreme head of the Church to the extent of the papal idea; and by the act of uniformity which she soon caused to be passed, and the rigor with which that act was carried out under her superintendence and direction, she made them feel her supremacy. They soon found that she claimed to be supreme in matters of faith, and to have the power to say what was agreeable to the word of God, or repugnant to it; to hold the keys of discipline; to be the ultimate judge in matters spiritual; to have power to ordain such ceremonies or rites as she might deem best; to nominate bishops and control their election, and suspend them from office at her pleasure; that no ecclesiastical court or synod could assemble but by a writ from her, and when assembled, do any business but such as she might lay before it, and that its acts could be of no force without her sanction. And she did, with a resolute will, exercise all these powers ; resist all attempts of Parliament to restrain her in them, and exerted her whole strength in keeping the Reformation within such limits as were strictly consistent with these high claims. And during her reign the Reformation could not be carried beyond what was in keeping with them. She published fifty-three articles specifying wherein, and to what extent, the Reformation should go, and commanding her subjects to reform their religion so far and no farther; and her commands were carried out by her com. missions of visitation and high courts of commission to the letter. She fixed by law the order of lessons to be read in divine service throughout the year, and allowed no discretion to ministers and people as to what portion of God's word would be most for edification at particular times. She went to the full length of her asserted prerogative in specifying minutely how ministers of the Gospel should be dressed while officiating, and in appointing and regulating rites and ceremonies; and the Parliament even “ empowered her to ordain and publish such farther ceremonies and rites as may be for the advancement of God's glory, and edifying his Church and the reverence of Christ's holy mysteries and sacraments.” But she exercised her prerogative in all these things much to the grievance of the consciences of the stricter Protestants, and much in favor of her papal subjects. She caused King Edward's Liturgy to be reviewed, and all passages offensive to the Pope to be stricken out, and made such changes in it as tended to conciliate the Papists, restoring the practice of kneeling at the sacrament in adoration of the corporeal presence--restoring the Romish festivals and the Popish habits. When her real mind was understood, it was ascertained that she thought her brother had carried the Reformation too far, and she was unwilling to go to the same length to which he had gone. In King Edward's Liturgy all the Popish garments had been laid aside except the surplice; but she ordered the full Popish habit to be used, and being thus changed, the Liturgy was by Parliament given the force of law, and acts were passed requiring all the people to conform their worship to it (June 24, 1559).
At this time the Protestants were all of one faith. They agreed in doctrines, but differed widely as to church government, discipline, and ceremonies. Some heartily conceded to the Queen all the authority in the Church which she claimed, and the acts of Parliament gave her. These were styled the Court Reformers. But the stricter Protestants, who began now to be styled in derision of their conscience and evangelical views of divine things, Puritans, did not believe that the crown ought to have such powers in the Church, and held that such powers were not agreeable to the Scriptures, nor to the natural rights of mankind. And we can not follow them in all the conflicts in which they engaged for the purpose of maintaining the honor and purity of Christ's laws and worship, and mark the spirit that inspired them, and feel the power of their arguments against the views of their adversaries and in support of their own, without feeling that the spirit of glory and of God did rest upon them, and that the Holy Ghost did, in a certain sense, speak in them. “There were many things which caused them to be dissatisfied with the hierarchy, and which they labored throughout the reign of Elizabeth to have removed.” We need notice but a few of these. And first of all was the asserted prerogative of the crown in matters spiritual. They contended that “the powers of the civil magistrate relate chiefly to the civil welfare of his subjects, and the protection of them in the enjoyment of their civil and religious rights; and that there is no passage in the New Testament which gives him a commission to be lord over the consciences of his subjects, or to have dominion over their faith. Also, that such power is not agreeable to reason, because religion ought to be the effect of a free and deliberate choice. They asked: Why must we believe as the King believes, any more than as the Pope believes ? Also, that it was unreasonable that the religion of a whole nation should be at the disposal of a single lay person; and that if the civil magistrate be the sole lawgiver of the Church, he may ordain at pleasure, dispense with scriptural laws, and enjoin such as are unscriptural, and lawfully do what Mary did when she restored the papacy, and bind the consciences of her subjects to be good Papists, or errorists of any class; and to the last, and without fear of the certainty of great sufferings as the consequence, they insisted and maintained that the spiritual authority of the Church is invested in her spiritual officers. And surely Presbyterians in the United States ought to be the last of men to think slightingly of them for holding such views on this point.
Again, the Court Reformers held the Scriptures to be a perfect rule of faith, but not a perfect standard of church government and discipline; and that the Saviour and his apostles left it to the discretion of the civil magistrate to accommodate the government of the Church to the policy of the State. But the Puritans held the Scriptures to be a standard of government and discipline, as well as of doctrine, and that pothing should be imposed as necessary but what was expressly contained in, or derived from, them by necessary consequence; and that if things necessary for the government of the Church could not be deduced from the Scriptures, the discretionary power was not vested in the civil magistrate, but in the spiritual officers of the Church. The Court Reformers maintain that the practice of the primitive church, for the first four or five centuries, was a proper standard of church government and discipline, and, in some respects, better than that of the apostles, which was accommodated to the infant state of the church, whereas this was suited to the grandeur of a national establishment.
But the Puritans were for keeping close to the word of God, in the main principles of church government, and for admitting no church officer, nor ordinances, but such as are appointed therein. They held that the form of government ordained by the apostles was aristocratical, according to the constitution of the Jewish Sanhedrim, and was designed for a pattern to the churches, not to be departed from in any of its main principles; and, therefore, they paid no regard to the customs of early centuries, any further than they corresponded with the Scriptures.
Again the Court Reformers held that things indifferent, in their own nature-neither commanded nor forbidden in the Scriptures—as ceremonies, rites, habits, might be settled, determined, and made necessary by the command of the civil magistrate; and that, in such cases, it was the indispensable duty of subjects to observe them. They thought that ceremonies and habits might be used or not, in the Church ; and that if any, those of Rome were to be preferred, because the people were accustomed to them.
But the Puritans insisted that those things which Christ has left indifferent, ought not to be made necessary by human laws, but that we are to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; and that such rites, ceremonies, and habits as the Queen had ordained and required to be observed as necessary parts of worship were, in point of fact, not indifferent, but that there were many serious considerations which showed that they were unlawful and to be rejected by God's people. They insisted that these things—and particularly the habits-had been abused to idolatry and superstition, and manifestly tended to lead men back to Popery and superstition. The wearing of Popish garments was a great difficulty with the Puritans. They admitted that it was a very small thing whether a minister should dress himself in a particular habit; but they felt that it was not a small matter for the civil law to make it a great sin if he did not. But in this case, the peculiar and ancient uniform of Popery-the very livery of its servants-was required to be worn by Protestants. They could not see the wisdom of casting away the Pope, yet holding on to his garments as holy relics, and this when these were regarded by the masses of the people as the badges of the Popish faith; also as being consecrated, and, therefore, possessing a mysterious virtue-like holy water--which mystic virtue imparted a sacredness and validity to the acts of the priests who wore them, and that without them the priest could not be sure that the necessary virtue flowed from his acts to make them valid. Knowing that the people held these habits in this estimation, the Puritans believed that the use of them would be to symbolize with anti-Christ-to mislead the people, and give sanction to this false view of their mystic virtue; and therefore they could not deem their use a matter of indifference, and wished to cast them away, with everything pertaining to Pope and Popery. Also, they found no authority for their use in the Scriptures; also, they felt it was unbecoming in a minister of Christ to minister in his name rigged out in the uniform and badges of anti-Christ; and that such habits were inconsistent with the simplicity of the Christian religion; and the Queen, in requiring them to wear these habits, was virtually guilty of usurping the powers of Christ in the Church, who is its sole lawgiver, and has enjoined all things necessary to be observed to the end of the world; and yet has nowhere enjoined habits and particularly the habits of the man of sin but has indulged a liberty to his followers, which they are as much bound to maintain as to observe anything which he has commanded. If the Queen may make these things necessary in the service of God which the Scriptures do not make necessary, she may dress up religion as her caprice may suggest, and, acknowledging no limits to her discretion, instead of one ceremony, load it with a hundred. And in addition to the conclusiveness and cogency of their arguments in behalf of what their consciences were pleading for, the Puritans felt all the more deeply on this subject because they had evidence that the Queen was using her power over the Church mainly to gain carnal and wordly ends, and was doing what she did in the way of reformation more from a