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it was only on the plea of temporary accommodation to the prejudices of the times, and with the hope of obtaining a more apostolic and thorough reformation afterwards. This is so unequivocally testified by the laborious and impartial Episcopal historian, Strype, and by the candid Bishop Burnet, as well as other historians of undoubted reputation, that it can be doubted by no one who has taken the proper means to inform himself on the subject. With this fact accorded the whole of their treatment of the foreign reformed churches, all of whom were Presbyterian in their ordination. With those churches the original reformers of England maintained the most respectful and affectionate intercourse; recognized them as beloved sisters in Christ; took their ministers by the hand as validly invested with the sacred office; admitted them in various cases, without re-ordination, to preferment in their own church, and consulted them on the various measures of the day with the utmost deference. But if the English reformers had believed in the doctrine of modern high-churchmen, and had been, at the same time, honest, consistent men, could they possibly have maintained this fraternal intercourse with the foreign Protestants ? I do not ask whether we can consider such a course as probable, but whether we can conceive it as possible? The firm integrity, and ardent piety of those venerable reformers have been much celebrated. Their adherence to the dictates of conscience and of God, with the courage and constancy becoming martyrs of Christ, has long been the theme of admiration and praise. But if they had taken the same views of prelacy with many of their modern eulogists, and yet acted as they did with respect to nonEpiscopal Churches, we should be reduced to the necessity of branding them as men altogether regardless of principle. But they took no such views. The proof of this is complete. It was reserved for their successors, as they departed from the apostolic spirit of the reformers, to fall
into opinions, and prefer claims, as thoroughly popish in their character, as they are pernicious in their consequences. .
The foregoing statement, moreover, is fully confirmed by the principles and reasonings which the immediate successors of the original reformers advanced, when they began to contend for the several parts of the system which they thought proper to establish. It is well known that in the early part of the reign of queen Elizabeth, when the Puritans plead for still further reformation, and when the leading points of difference between them, and the court reformers, were disclosed, the following fundamental principles were avowed by the two parties respectively.
In the first place, it was agreed on all sides, that the Holy Scriptures were a perfect rule of faith; but the bishops and court reformers did not allow them to be a standard of discipline or church government; affirming that our Saviour and his apostles left it to the discretion of the civil magistrate, in those places in which Christianity should obtain, to accommodate the government of the church to the polity of the state. But the Puritans contended that the Holy Scriptures ought to be regarded as a standard of government and discipline as well as of doctrine ; at least that nothing should be imposed as necessary but what was expressly contained in them, or deduced from them by necessary consequence.
In the second place, the court reformers maintained, that the practice of the church for the first four centuries, was a proper standard of church government and discipline ; and in some respects a better standard than that of the apostles, which, according to them, was only accommodated to the infant state of the church, while it was under persecution; whereas the model of the third, and especially the fourth century, was better adapted, as they thought, to the grandeur of a national establishment. On the other hand, the Puritans were for keeping close to the Scriptures in all the main principles of church government, and for
admitting no church officers or ordinances but such as are evidently found in scripture. They maintained that the form of government ordained by the apostles was according to the model of the Jewish Synagogue, and was designed as a pattern for the church in after ages, not to be departed from in any of its main principles. And, therefore, they rejected all the customs of the Papacy, and the practice of • the first three or four centuries, excepting so far as they corresponded with the scriptures.
In the third place, the court reformers maintained, that the church of Rome was a true church, though corrupt as to some points of doctrine and government; that all her ministrations were valid; and that the Pope was a true bishop of Rome, though not of the universal church. They thought it necessary to maintain this, for the support of the authority of their bishops; who could not otherwise make out a line of succession from the apostles. But the Puritans affirmed, that the Pope was antichrist; that the church of Rome was not a true church ; and that all her ministrations were superstitious and idolatrous. They, therefore, renounced her communion, and utterly declined founding the validity of their ordinations and ordinances upon any such uninterrupted line, through them, as their opponents considered as indispensable.
Finally, the court reformers maintained, that things indifferent in their own nature, which are neither commanded nor forbidden in the scriptures, such as rites, ceremonies, &c., might be settled, determined, and made necessary by the command of the civil magistrate ; and that, when thus commanded, it was the indispensable duty of all good subjects to observe them. On the other hand, the Puritans contended, that those things which Christ had left indif. ferent, ought not to be made necessary by any human laws; but that it is the privilege of Christians to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; and, further, that such rites and ceremonies as had been abused to
idolatry, and manifestly tended to lead men back to popery and superstition, were no longer indifferent, but were to be rejected as unlawful.*
No discerning mind can possibly mistake either the scope of the foregoing principles, or the plain inferences which they warrant. It is manifest that the court reformers did not venture, did not even pretend, to make their primary appeal to scripture, in support of the form of church government, which they ultimately adopted ; nay, that they thought the state of the church in the fourth century, when supported by the imperial government, a more suitable model for a church established by law, than its state in the apostolic age, and as exhibited in the New Tetament. In other words, they virtually conceded, that the plan of church government which they thought proper to adopt, was not founded in the word of God, but in human prudence and the will of the civil magistrate. Conscious that they were governed in the course which they pursued more by the dictation of the Queen, than by the laws of Christ, they openly maintained the principle, that it was not necessary, or even proper, to take the scriptures as their guide in the government of the church. This was, evidently, placing the whole matter on a footing which would warrant Presbyterianism or Independency, just as well as Prelacy, if either should happen to be preferred by the monarch. It is hoped that, none who have the least respect for the memory of those venerable men, who adorned t'e early history of the Protestant church of England, and several of whom laid down their lives in maintaining what they deemed the truth, will ever think again of pleading their authority in favour of principles so earnestly contended for by modern high churchmen. They were either dishonest, time-serving men, or they were strangers to doctrines so entirely at war with their whole conduct.
* Neal's History of the Purilans, Vol. I. p. 96, 97. 4to, edition.
Those who are acquainted with their history, will not hesitate a moment in adopting the latter alternative.
IV. But further; the principles and conduct of the leading divines of the Church of England, wIO IMMEDIATELY SUCCEEDED THE ORIGINAL REFORMERS, will prove, on examination, equally instructive and decisive. A particular discussion of this point will be found in more than one of the following letters. But some further testimony on the same subject is at hand, and worthy of the most grave consideration.
When such divines as Bishop Hall, Archbishop Usher, &c., men of colossal weight and strength, as pillars, in their day, of the church to which they belonged, could declare, as the latter at least did, that he could, with all readiness and affection, receive the sacraments from the hands of Presbyterian ministers; and, of course, considered their ministrations as entirely valid; and when the former could consent to sit for several months as a member of the Presbyterian synod of Dort, and commune with that body in prayer, preaching, and the holy Eucharist; it is perfectly impossible that they should have maintained the opinion concerning Prelacy, which it is the object of this volume to oppose. But on this point I shall not dwell. It is well known that in the day of the great and good men whose names have been just mentioned, their monarch, Charles I., was involved in conflicts with the parliament which, in a few years afterwards terminated in his decapitation. In the course of these conflicts the king was urged to consent to a proposed act of the parliament for abolishing Episcopacy. This he utterly refused, alleging among other things, that Episcopacy was more friendly to monarchy than Presbytery was, and pleading “ conscience," against a consent to the proposed measure. Writing on this subject to his devoted Episcopal friends and counsellors, Lord Jermyn, Lord Culpepper, and Mr. Ashburnham, he expresses himself thus: