« PreviousContinue »
had rejected, it is true, many absurd' opinions,
and had hence a tendency more devoted to it. They were now no longer a separate body; their weight was thrown into the scale which they had ouce helped to counterbalance. But the favour shown by James and Charles I to catholics, re-exciting the terror of popery, had somewhat altered this tendency in James's reign, and in the beginning of that of Charles, and partially united even the church of England with dissenters against the encroachments of prerogative. Towards the latter part of Charles's reign, the apprehensions from the catholics gave place to still more serious apprehensions arising from the tyrannical measures of the crown; and the church of England clergy now entirely deserted the popular standard.
The puritans, or presbyterians, approved of a
permanent priesthood, to be appointed and paid by the public, and possessing a certain jurisdiction. But to guard against their undue influence, they were for abolishing all ecclesiastical dignities, and for reducing churchmen to parity and moderate livings; rejecting, at the same time, all the pomp of worship. They contended that bishops and presbyters, i, e, overseers and elders, were originally equal; till, at length, the term bishop became appropriated to the president of a synod; from which he was gradually lifted by usurpation above his copresbyters. The presbyter had no authority but what he derived from the duties of his office--an authority which he owed not to the patronage of men in power, but to a character and conduct which recommended bim to his flock. Hence his interests and feelings became necessarily interwoven with those of the people; he entered into all their views, national as well as private; was jealous with them of the encroachments of the crown; and being the organ of their sentiments, was at all times ready to sound the alarm of regal usurpation. Yet in their political system, the presbyterians were not repuba licans, but limited monarchy men.
The Independents went a step farther than the presbyterians, and rejected all ecclesiastical establishments. They maintained, that, before the institution of a regular presbytery, the congrega.
tions were independent and equal'; that, in the apostolical churches, the pastors were chosen by the free suffrages of its members ; and sometimes instructed even by lay-brethren.'. They rejected also the vestments, ceremonies, and the tythes of the Mosaic law; and their pastor was supported by voluntary contributions.
Both the presbyterians and independents believed that the scriptures contained the model of ecclesiastical go. vernment, and were scrupulous that their discipline should be adapted to it. In the establish ment of congregations they likewise agreed; but on the divine right of a classical presbytery, a schism was produced. The Independents were honourably distinguished by a spirit of toleration.. They permitted unrestrained secession, from numbers or dissentions. They punished obstinate error only by, simple exclusion from their church. Marriage they considered as a civil contract, and to be resigned to the magistrate. The presbytexians, once persecuted, became, as usual, persecutors in their turn; the independents were the only exception. It is remarkable: that their first converts were chiefly among persons of rank and eminence ; hence their numbers: were incon. siderable, till the danger of persecution from the presbyterians made it necessary for them to stoop, to the lower ranks. In the assembly of divines,, they were distinguished for their learning, and
for their moderation in debate; their subsequeno enthusiasm is to be ascribed to the accession of the lower classes, and to the democratical spirit of their church. discipline uniting with the republican principles which eventually predominated in the state. The Independents solicited, in the assembly at Westminster, 1645, an indulgent toleration, and which was earnestly recommended by the Commons; but the presbyterians. would have no schism in their church. This, spirit of persecution reduced the Independents' to despair; and they petitioned parliament for leave to retire undisturbed to their own houses. This the Scots clamoured against as foul murder, and the Independents expected a second exile. Their political leaders, however, were less disheartened; and from this period it was, that they began to updermine their adversaries by profound dissimulation. From the example of the Scots, their chief attention was paid to the army. The selfdenying ordinance, and the new model soon-followed; and the battle of Naseby shortly after decided the fate of Charles and the ascendency of the Independents. As these religionists held, that their clergy should be chosen by their employers, so, they would have all civil officers elected by the comnzunity. Hence, in politics, the independents were republicans. !
All these religious and civil plans of govern
ment were brought into play, in the course of the contest between the king and commons; and their connection is sufficiently obvious. The votes of the bishops in the house, and the clergy. throughout the nation, uniformly obstructed the efforts of parliament to restrain the prerogative. The Paritans, with equal zeal, espoused their cause'; and both the presbyterians and independents, who were numerous in the long parliament, were glad of any pretence to invade the hierarchy.
The same exaltation of the bierarchy was attempted in Scotland as: in England; but the Scots rose in arms, and formed their national covenant, in their own defence. The king, reduced to difficulties by the Scottish army, was obliged once more (April 1640) to call a parlia-> ment; which, like the preceding, insisting upon a redress of grievances before it would grant supplies, was also abruptly dissolved.
The pacification with the Scots was broken; at the very commencement of hostilities the king's army suffered a voluntary. defeat; and in November of the same year was assembled the long parliament. The indignation of the nation was more than a match for the court influence, and the elections returned a large majority of members resolute to restrain the king's arbitrary measures, and they were encouraged and supported by the general sentiments of the nation..