Saturday, November 23, 2013

Section I. Historical Proof of the Doctinal Calvinism of the Church of England



Free-willers the first Separatists from the Church of England. — Character and Vindication of King Edward VI.

TIME has been, when Arianism was more generally predominant throughout the Christian Church, than even Arminianism is at present, The whole world, says history, wondered, to see itself become Arian. It was Athanasius against all the world, and all the world against Athanasius.

Hardly were the clouds of Arianism dispersed when the Pelagian darkness overspread a considerable part of the ecclesiastical horizon; and its influence has continued, more or less, to obscure the glory of the Christian faith, from that period to this. Yet is the eclipse far from total. We have a multitude of names, even in our present Sardis, who defile not either their doctrinal or their moral garments; and there is very good reason to believe, that their number, in this kingdom, both among clergy and laity is continually increasing.

It is no novelty for the doctrines of grace to meet with opposition; and, indeed, few doctrines have been so much opposed as they. Swarms of fanatical sectarists were almost coeval with the Reformation itself. Such is the imperfect state of things below, that the most important advantages are connected with some inconveniences. The shining of truth like the shining of the sun, wakens insects into life, which, otherwise, would have no sensitive existence. Yet, better for a few insects to quicken, than for the sun not to shine.

I shall not here review the tares which (sprang up with the Protestant corn in Germany); but content myself with just observing, that there was one congregation of Free-willers in London, during the reign even of the pious king Edward VI. and notwithstanding the vigilance of our first Protestant bishops — I say, there was one congregation of Free-willers or, as they were then most usually called, Free-will-men: and it should seem, that there was then, in the metropolis, no more than one conventicle of this kind, held by such as made profession of Protestantism. For that valuable letter of recantation, preserved by the impartial Mr. Strype, and of which so large a part has been quoted in our Introduction, was inscribed (as before observed) with the following remarkable title: “A Letter to the Congregation of Free-willers.”

London, however, was not the only place in England where Pelagianism began to nestle, while good king Edward was on the throne. Some of the fraternity appeared likewise in two of the adjoining counties: viz. in Kent and Essex. Observe, I call the Free-willers of that age Pelagians; because the new name of Arminians was not then known. The appearance of Free-will-men in Kent and Essex is assigned by Strype to the year 1550, which was ten years before Arminius himself was born.
“Sectarists,” says the historian, “appeared now (viz. A.D. 1550), in Essex and Kent, sheltering themselves under the profession of the gospel. Of whom complaint was made to the Council, These (i. e. these Free-willers) were the first that made separation from the Church of England; having gathered congregations of their own;”  viz. one in London, one at Feversham in Kent, and another at Booking in Essex. Besides which, they used to hold some petty bye-meetings, when a few of them could assemble with secrecy and safety.

Before we proceed, let me interpose a short remark. — So far is the Church of England from asserting the spiritual powers of free-will, and from denying predestination, that the deniers of predestination, and the assertors of free-will, were the very first persons who separated from her communion, and made a rent in her garments, by “gathering” three schismatical “congregations of their own.” Thus, the Free-willers were the original, and are to this day some of the most real and essential dissenters from the evangelical establishment.

I now return to the historian, who thus goes on: “The congregation in Essex was mentioned to be at Bocking; that in Kent was at Feversham, as I learn from an old register.

[[@Page:60]] From whence (i. e. from which same old register) I collect, that they held the opinions so far as free-will and predestination are concerned) of the Anabaptists and Pelagians.” 

These Free-willers were, it seems, looked upon in so dangerous a view by the Church of England, that they were complained of to the Privy Council; and, for the more peaceful security of the reformed establishment, their names and tenets were authentically registered and enrolled.

Mr. Strype, after giving us the names of fifteen of them, adds as follows: “Their teachers and divers of them were taken up, and found sureties for their appearance; and at length brought into the Ecclesiastical Court, where they were examined in forty-six articles, or more.”  Were (which God forbid) all Freewill-men to suffer equal molestation in the present age; were all Anti-predestinarians to be “taken up,” “registered,” “find sureties for their appearance,” and at length be “examined in the Ecclesiastical Court;” what work would it make for constables, stationers, notaries, and bishops’ officers!

But to resume the thread. “Many of those, before named, being disposed (i. e. put to their oath) upon the said articles, confessed these to be some sayings and tenets among them:

“That the doctrine of predestination was meeter for devils than for Christian men.

“That children were not born in original sin.” That no man was so chosen, but he might damn himself; neither any man so reprobate, but he might keep God’s commandments, and be saved.

“That St. Paul might have damned himself if he listed.

“That learned men were the cause of great errors.

“That God’s predestination was not certain, but upon condition.

“That to play at any manner of game for money is sin, and a work of the flesh.

“That lust after evil was not sin, if the act were not committed. That there were no reprobates. And,

“That the preaching of predestination is a damnable thing.” 

So much for these Free-willers, who were the first Separatists from the Church of England; and whose tenets Mr. Strype (though not a Calvinist himself) justly allows to be Anabaptistical and Pelagian. How exactly do the doctrines of Wesley and Sellon, on the points of election, reprobation, and free-agency, chime in with the hot and muddy ideas of their Pelagian forefathers! I cannot help indulging a very suitable speculation. What a delicious pastor would Mr. Sellon in particular have made to the Free-willers of Bucking, or Feversham, had the æra of his nativity commenced about 200 years sooner! He would have fed them, not, indeed, with knowledge and understanding, but, after their own hearts.
His lack of learning, his being “an exotic without academical education,” would have been no impediment to that piece of promotion: nay, the flock would have liked him the better for it; seeing in their estimation, “learned men are the cause of great errors.” The spirit of which maxim, aided by his blasphemies against predestination, would have made him (next to Free-will itself) the very idol of the sect. 

O tibi prae@terites referal si Jupiter annes!

Instead of being, as now, Mr. John Wesley’s pack-horse, you might have sat-up for yourself; and, as a reward for your meritorious denial of election, been elected Tub Orator to the Pelagians of Feversham, or Bocking.

From such samples, as history has recorded, of the vigour (not to say the rigour), with which Free-will men were proceeded against, in the days of Edward VI., under whom the reformation of the Church was accomplished, it necessarily and unanswerably follows, that the Church herself was reformed from Popery to Calvinism, and held those predestinarian doctrines, which she punished (or, more properly, persecuted) the Pelagians for denying.

The persons who bore the main sway in Church and State at the time last referred to, were the King, the duke of Somerset, and arch-bishop Cranmer. Over and above the matters of fact, in which that illustrious triumvirate were concerned, and which neither would nor could have been directed into such a channel, had not those personages been Doctrinal Calvinists; there are also incontestable written evidences, to prove that they were, conscientiously and upon inward principle, firm believers of the Calvinistic doctrines. This shall he proved of Cranmer, in its proper place, when I come to treat of the Reformers. The same will sufficiently appear, as to Somerset, under the Section which is to treat of the influence which Calvin had on the English Reformation. The epistolary intimacy, which subsisted between Calvin and Somerset; the high veneration in which that foreign reformer was held by the latter; and the readiness with which the first Liturgy was altered, in consequence of the same reformer’s application; plainly demonstrate that the duke of Somerset, no less than his royal nephew king Edward, and good archbishop Cranmer, had (happily for the Church) heartily adopted Calvin’s doctrine, though (no less happily) not proselyted to Calvin’s favourite form of ecclesiastical regimen. To these considerations let me add another, drawn from that most excellent prayer, written by himself, upon his being declared Protector of the Realm and governor of the King’s person during his majesty’s Minority It is entitled, “The Lord Protector’s Prayer for God’s Assistance in the high Office of protector and Governor, new committed to him.” 

[[@Page:61]] A man of the Duke’s extraordinary piety can never be thought to trifle with God, and to prevaricate on his knees. The prayer itself, therefore, proves him to have been a Calvinist. Part of it runs thus: “Lord God of hosts, in whose only hand is life and death, victory and confusion, rule and subjection; I am the price of thy Son’s death; for thy Son’s sake thou wilt not less (i. e. lose) me. I am a vessel for thy mercy; thy justice will not condemn me. I am recorded in the book of life; I am written with the very blood of Jesus; thy inestimable love will not then cancel my name: for this cause, Lord God, I am bold to speak to thy Majesty: thou, Lord, by thy providence, hast called me to rule; make me therefore able to follow thy calling: thou, Lord, by thine order, hast committed an anointed King to my governance; direct me therefore with thine hand, that I err not from thy good pleasure: finish in me, Lord, thy beginning; and begin in me that thou wilt finish.” When this illustrious peer fell, afterwards, a sacrifice to the machinations and state intrigues of Warwick (who, himself, within a short time, paid dearly for his insidiousness and ambition,) Somerset, during his imprisonment in the Tower, and a little before his death, “translated, out of French into English, an epistle wrote to him by John Calvin (on the subject), of Godly Conversation, which he received while under his confinement, and was printed at London.” 

As to the Calvinism of king Edward himself, every religious transaction of his reign sets it beyond a doubt. The reformation of the Church upon the principles she still professes, might suffice to comprehend all proofs in one: but this excellent prince was not content to establish the Church of England; he himself voluntarily and solemnly subscribed her Articles. “A book, containing these Articles, was signed by the. King’s own hand.”  And Edward was too sincere a Christian, to sign what he did not believe; a species of prevarication reserved for the more accomplished iniquity of after-times; and which bids fair to end in the utter extirpation of all religion from amongst us.

Neither would king Edward have honoured what is commonly called Ponet’s Catechism (of which, more hereafter) with his own prefixed letters of recommendation, had his Majesty not been a thorough Calvinist: nor would he, just before the agonies of death came upon him, have set his seal, as he did, to the doctrine of election, had not that doctrine been an essential and predominant article of his faith. “Lord God (said the royal saint, a little before he expired), deliver me out of this miserable and wretched life, and take me among thy chosen.” 

I unwillingly descend from one of the most wonderful and valuable princes that ever adorned a throne, to the meanest and most rancorous Arminian priest that ever disgraced a surplice. How extreme, how immense the transition, from king Edward VI., to Mr. Walter Sellon! But I must let the reader see, in what way this factor for Methodism pretends to account for the Calvinistic measures of king vessel for thy mercy; thy justice will not con- Edward’s administration. Even thus: “Some rigid Calvinists in power had imposed upon that good young King, and made use of his authority to impose their notions upon the Church (Sell. p. 53).” A certain sort of people stand in particular need of good memories. Mr. Sellon’s forsakes him in the very next page; where the “some rigid Calvinists” are dwindled into one. “Up starts rigid Ponet, and get a poor young king Edward, whom he had brought to his lure, to command all schoolmasters within his dominions to teach the youth this catechism (Ibid. p. 54).” What is this, but calling “poor young king Edward” a poor young fool? An insinuation as false and unjust to the real character of that extraordinary prince, as I should be guilty of, were I to insinuate that Mr. Sellon is a man of sense, learning, and good manners. But sup- posing we should, for a moment, admit (contrary to all fact and truth), that the “poor young King” was indeed a flexible piece of tape, which Ponet, bishop of Winchester, could easily twist round his finger at pleasure; yet, can it be imagined, that Ponet was an absolute monopoliser of the tape royal? Was he the only haberdasher who made property of the said tape? Could not a soul beside come in for a yard or two? Where (for instance) were Cranmer, and Ridley, and Hooper, and Latimer? Was it possible, that a transaction of such consequence to the Church of England, as the public sanction of Ponet’s Catechism, could take effect, without the participation and concurrence of the other English bishops, and of the Convocation, and of the King’s Council itself? Every reasonable man will say no: besides, however liable to imposition “poor young king” Edward may be represented, by the Arminians of the present age, yet, surely, his Majesty’s next successor but one (under whom that same Catechism was revived, and published with enlargements, by Dr. Nowell, dean of London) cannot be thought to have been very soft and pliable: but, I dare say, Mr. Sellon, by way of answer to this remark, will content himself with crying out, poor young queen Elizabeth!

King Edward was by no means that ductile, undiscerning prince, for which Mr. Sellon’s cause requires him to pass. As this defamer, under the impulse of his inspirer, Mr. Wesley, has thought proper to fasten this obliquity on that King’s memory, I shall give a short summary of his character, drawn by the best authorities; and the rather, as Edward’s [[@Page:62]] reputation is very closely interwoven with the credit of the Church of England, which chiefly owes her present purity and excellence to the pious and paternal authority of that young, but most respectable Josiah.

Bishop Latimer had the honour to know him well; and no man was ever less prone to flatter, than that honest, unpolished prelate. “Blessed (said he) is the land, where there is a noble king; where kings be no banqueters, no players, and where they spend not their time in hunting and hawking. And when had the King’s majesty a Council, that took more pains, both night and day, for the setting forth of God’s word, and profit of the common-wealth? And yet there be some wicked people that will say (and there are still some wicked Pelagians who continue to say), Tush, this gear will not tarry; it is but my Lord Protector’s and my Lord of Canterbury’s doing: the King is a child, and he knoweth not of it. Jesu, have mercy! how like are we Englishmen to the Jews, ever stubborn, stiff-necked, and walking in by-ways! Have not we a noble King? Was there ever king so noble, so godly brought up, with so noble Counsellors, so excellent and well-learned schoolmasters? I will tell you this, and speak it even as I think; his Majesty hath more godly wit and understanding, more learning and knowledge, at this age, than twenty of his progenitors, that I could name, had at any time of their life.” 

Bishop John Bale, the Antiquarian, could also speak of the King upon personal knowledge; and his testimony is this: “He is abundantly replenished with the most gracious gifts of God; especially, with all kinds of good learning, far above all his progenitors, kings of this imperial region. The childhood of youth is not in him to he reproved; for so might king Josiah have been reproved, who began his reign in the eighth year of his age.” The occasion of Bale thus vindicating king Edward, was the petulance of one whom he styles “a frantic Papist of Hampshire,” who had insolently termed his Majesty, “a poor child:” which was much the same with Mr Sellon’s contemptuous language of, “poor young king Edward.” Mr. Strype, to whom I am indebted for the above quotation from Bale, goes on: “Then he (i. e. Bale) comes closer to this papist, so blasphemously reporting the noble and worthy king Edward, then in the fifteenth year of his age, and the fifth of his reign.” Bale added, “His (Majesty’s) worthy education in liberal letters, and godly virtues, and his natural aptness in retaining of the same, plenteously declared him to be no poor child, but a manifest Solomon in princely wisdom.” 

Even bishop Burnet offers the following chaplet at Edward’s tomb: “Thus died king Edward VI. that incomparable young prince. He was then in the sixteenth year of his age, and was counted the wonder of that time, he was not only learned in the tongues, and other liberal sciences, but knew well the state of his kingdom. He kept a book, in which he writ the characters that were given him of all the chief men of the nation, all the judges, lord- lieutenants, and justices of the peace, over England; in it he had marked down their way of living, and their zeal for religion. He had studied the matter of the Mint, with the exchange and value of money, so that he understood it well, as appears by his journal. He also understood fortification, and designed well. He knew all the harbours and ports, both of his own dominions, and of France and Scotland; and how much water they had, and what was the way of coming into them. He had acquired great knowledge in foreign affairs, so that he talked with the ambassadors about them, in such a manner, that they (viz. the foreign ambassadors) filled all the world with the highest opinion of him that was possible; which appears in most of the histories of that age. He had great quickness and apprehension; and, being mistrustful of his memory, used to take notes of almost everything he heard. He writ these, first, in Greek characters, that those about him might not understand them: and, afterwards, writ them out in his journal. He had a copy brought him of everything that passed in Council: which he put in a chest, and kept the key of that always himself. In a word, the natural and acquired perfections of his mind were wonderful. But his virtues and true piety were yet more extraordinary.” 

Mountagu, bishop of Winchester, in his Preface to the works of king James I., makes very observable mention of Edward, considered even as a writer. “Edward the Sixth, though his dayes were so short, as he could not give full proofe of those singular parts that were in him; yet he wrote divers epistles and orations, both in Greek and Latin. He wrote a treatise de fide, to the duke of Somerset He wrote an history of his owne time. Which are all yet extant, under his owne hand, in the King’s library, as Mr. Patrick Young, his Majestie’s learned Bibliothecarius, hath shewed me. And, which is not to been forgotten, so diligent an hearer of sermons was that sweet prince, that the notes, of the most of the sermons he heard, are yet to be seene, under his own hand; with the preacher’s name, the time, and the place, and all other circumstances.” 

It were endless, to adduce the praises which have been deservedly accumulated on this most able and most amiable Monarch. But I must not overpass the character given of him by {63} Jerom Cardan, the famous Italian physician, who, the year preceding king Edward’s death, spent some months in England. That foreigner, amidst all his acknowledged oddities, was still a person of very extraordinary genius and learning; so that his ability, to judge of the King’s capacity and attainments, is indisputable. And the consideration of his being also a Papist, will not suffer us to suppose, that his encomiums have any mixture of party prejudice in this prince’s favour. Moreover, Cardan wrote and published his testimony in a country, and at a time, which rendered it  impossible for him to have any sinister interest in view. “All the Graces.” says he “were apparent in king Edward, and, for the tongues, he was not only exact in the English, French, and Latin; but understood the Greek, Italian, and Spanish. Nor was he ignorant of Logic, the principles of Natural Philosophy, or Music: being apt to learn everything. The sweetness of his temper was such as became a mortal; his gravity becoming the majesty of a King; and his disposition suitable to his high degree. In short, that child was so bred, had such parts, and was of such expectation, that he looked like a miracle of a man. These things are not spoken rhetorically, and beyond the truth; but are indeed short of it. He began to love the liberal arts, before he knew them; to know them, before he could use them. And in him there was such an effort of nature, that not only England, but the world, has reason to lament his being so early snatched away. How truly was it said, of such extraordinary persons, that their lives are short! He gave us an essay of virtue, though he did not live to give us a pattern of it. When the gravity of a king was needful, he carried himself like a man in years: and yet was always affable and gentle, as became his youth. In bounty he appear to have been bad; but there was no ground for suspecting any such thing in the son, whose mind was cultivated by the study of Philosophy.” 

Mr. Guthrie’s character of him is far from being excessive. The outlines of Edward’s portrait, as drawn by the masterly hand of that able Historian, shall terminate our present review of this great prince. “Henry VIII. was the Romulus, and Edward VI. the Numa Pompilius, of English Reformation. The former laid its foundation in blood and rapine; the latter reared its fabric, by justice and moderation. Learning is the most trifling part of Edward’s character. The rod may make a scholar; but nature must form a genius. Edward had genius. His learning, indeed, was extraordinary; but in that he was equalled, if not excelled, by others of equal years, and of a different sex. Perhaps his sister Elizabeth, and his designed successor, the lady Jane Gray, at his age, knew the languages better than he did. But Edward discovered a genius for government, beyond what, perhaps, ever was known in so early a bloom of life. He soon fell in with those walks of knowledge which lead to the glory and happiness both of prince and people. He understood the principles of trade, and the true maxims which the English ought to pursue with foreign countries, too much greater perfection than any author who wrote at that time on those subjects. The papers which remain in his writing, concerning a mart, and the reformation of abuses, might be suspected not to be of his composition, did we know of any person in those days, who could write so clearly and intelligibly, and, by consequence, so elegantly. His Journal contains, so far as it goes, an account of all the important trans- actions falling within it; penned in such a manner, as amply proves its author to have known the bottom of every subject he touches. His perpetual attention to commerce gave him, towards the end of his reign, a true notion of that conduct, which England ought to pursue, in those disputes upon the Continent, which endanger the balance of power there. It helped him to form great schemes for the improvement of his maritime force, for the security of his coasts, for the protection of his ships; and, in his project of opening free marts in England, there is somewhat that points towards introducing a new and better system of mercantile affairs, than has yet, perhaps, been pursued. He acquired a taste for elegant magnificence; and, in this, he seems to have been single in his Court. His appearances, on public occasions, were sometimes, perhaps too Eastern: but he seems to have corrected this extravagance, by striking off a great deal of useless expanse. Had Providence been so well reconciled to England, as to have indulged Edward in a longer reign, he had private virtue sufficient to have brought private virtue once more into reputation: while his judgment was so strong, as, at once, to reanimate, and employ the public spirit of his people. The application of this royal youth laid the corner-stones on which the commerce of England is founded, and which alone gives her the rank of a Queen her religion from superstition; it was his good sense, getting the better of his prejudices, that [[@Page:64]] saved her possessions from ruin, and rescued her Clergy from contempt. It was his example, which fired the young nobility and gentry of his own years, with that generous emulation, which pushed them into every glorious pursuit, when their manly qualities, in a following reign (viz. in the reign of Elizabeth), raised their drooping country to glory and to empire. It is owing to Edward’s compassion, that, at this day, in England’s capital, the helpless orphan finds a father; that erring youth are provided with instruction; and that Heaven receives the sounds of praise and gratitude from the mouth of the infant. His wisdom prepared a check for the intemperate, and correction for the idle. His cares make grey hairs go down, without sorrow, to the grave. His bounty embellishes those places, which his charity endowed. And his own person was the habitation where love and learning, the graces and the virtues, delighted to dwell.” 

Let me just add, that whosoever has read king Edward’s Treatise against the Supremacy of the Bishops of Rome (published at London, in 1682), will cease to be surprised at that admiration, with which the English historians celebrate the parts and piety of the royal author. The merits of that performance, in particular, are so transcendent, that a most ingenious acquaintance of mine once doubted, whether it was possible for so young a prince to be the composer of so learned and masterly a work. But my friend (eminent for possessing one of the finest collections of natural and artificial curiosities that ever fell to the lot of a private person) has been so happy as to add to his treasures the original manuscript, in Edward’s own hand writing; which places the authenticity of the book above dispute.

Judge now, whether Edward, thus endued with the whole circle of princely qualifications. Could be that weak, supple, facile, waxen image of a king, which Mr. Wesley’s malice and Mr. Sellon’s ignorance combine to represent. In trying at which, they not only violate all historic truth, but labour also to blacken the Church of England; by defaming the Protestant Monarch who was, under God, its father and visible head: a monarch, who, like Alfred, was born for the good of mankind; and the lustre of whose crown was eclipsed by the virtues of him that wore it. King Edward’s being a Calvinist is the unpardonable crime for which Arminian Methodism seeks to lay his memory in the dust. Under him it was that the English Liturgy was compiled, reformed, and perfected; the Homilies composed; the Articles of Religion framed; and Ponet’s Catechism drawn up: which two latter, viz. the Articles and the said Catechism, “were in general received and subscribed to all over the kingdom.”  These were the crimes of Edward and his reforming bishops, for which, Peter Heylin, John Wesley, and Walter Sellon, labour to heap odium on the best of princes and the best of prelates.

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