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ness of a liturgy, or form of worship, provided it be for matter agreeable to the word of God, and suited to the nature of the several ordinances and necessities of the church, neither too tedious, nor composed of too short prayers or responsals, not dissonant from the liturgies of other reformed churches, nor too rigorously imposed, nor the minister confined thereunto, but that he may also make use of his gifts for prayer and exhortation.
2. "Forasmuch as the Book of Common Prayer is in some things justly offensive, and needs amendment, we most humbly pray, that some learned, godly, and moderate divines of both persuasions, may be employed to compile such a form as is before described, as much as may be in Scripture words; or at least to revise and reform the old: together with an addition of other various forms in Scripture phrase, to be used at the minister's choice.
Thirdly, "Concerning ceremonies.
"We hold ourselves obliged, in every part of divine worship, to do all things decently and in order, and to edification; and are willing to be determined by authority in such things as being merely circumstantial, or common to human actions and societies, are to be ordered by the light of nature, and human prudence.
"As to divers ceremonies formerly retained in the church of England, we do, in all humility, offer to your majesty, the following considerations :
"That the worship of God is in itself pure and perfect, and decent, without any such ceremonies. That it is then most pure and acceptable when it has least of human mixtures. That these ceremonies have been imposed and advanced by some, so as to draw near to the significancy and moral efficacy of sacraments. That they have been rejected by many of the reformed churches abroad, and have been ever the subject of contention and endless disputes in this church; and therefore being in their own nature indifferent, and mutable, they ought to be changed, lest in time they should be apprehended as necessary as the substantials of worship themselves.
May it therefore please your majesty graciously to grant, that kneeling at the Lord's supper, and such holydays as are but of human institution, may not be imposed on such as scruple them. That the use of the surplice and cross in baptism, and bowing at the name of Jesus, may be abolished. And forasmuch as erecting altars and bowing towards them, and such like (having no foundation in the law of the land), have been introduced and imposed, we humbly beseech your majesty, that such innovations may not be used or imposed for the future.'
When the Presbyterian divines came to court with these proposals, the king received them favourably, and promised to bring both parties together. His majesty expressed a satisfaction in hearing they were disposed to a liturgy, and forms of prayer, and that they were willing to yield to the essence of episcopacy, and
therefore doubted not of procuring an accommodation. ministers expected to have met the bishops with their papers of proposals, but none of them appeared, having been better instructed in a private conference with the lord-chancellor Hyde, who told them, it was not their business to offer proposals, because they were in possession of the laws of the land; that the hierarchy and service-book, being the only legal establishment, ought to be the standard of agreement; and therefore their only concern was to answer the exceptions of the ministers against it. Accordingly, instead of a conference, or paper of proposals, which the ministers expected, the bishops, having obtained a copy of the paper of the Presbyterians, drew up an answer in writing, which was communicated to their ministers, July 8.
In this answer, the bishops take notice of the ministers' concessions in their preamble, as that they agree with them in the substantials of doctrine and worship; and infer from thence, that their particular exceptions are of less importance, and ought not to be stiffly insisted on to the disturbance of the peace of the church.*
To the particulars they answer,
1. Concerning church-government, "That they never heard any just reasons for a dissent from the ecclesiastical hierarchy of this kingdom, which they believe in the main to be the true primitive episcopacy, which was more than a mere presidency of order. Nor do they find that it was balanced by an authoritative commixtion of presbyters, though it has been in all times exercised with the assistance and counsel of presbyters in subordination to bishops. They wonder that they should except against the government by one single person, which, if applied to the civil magistrate, is a most dangerous insinuation."+
As to the four particular instances of things amiss.
1. "We cannot grant the extent of any diocess is so great, but that a bishop may well perform his duty, which is not a personal inspection of every man's soul, but the pastoral charge, or taking care that the ministers, and other ecclesiastical officers within their diocess, do their duties; and if some diocesses should be too large, the law allows suffragans.
2. "Concerning lay-chancellors, &c. we confess the bishops did depute part of their ecclesiastical jurisdiction to chancellors, commissaries, officials, &c. as men better skilled in the civil and canon laws; but as for matters of mere spiritual concernment, as excommunication, absolution, and other censures of the church, we conceive they belong properly to the bishop himself, or his surrogate, wherein, if any thing has been done amiss, we are willing it should be reformed.
3. Whether bishops are a distinct order from presbyters, or not; or, whether they have the sole power of ordination, is not
* Kennet's Chron. p. 200. Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 242.
+ Baxter, p. 243.
now the question; but we affirm, that the bishops of this realm have constantly ordained with the assistance of presbyters, and the imposition of their hands together with the bishops, and for this purpose the colleges of deans and chapters are instituted.
4. "As to archbishop Usher's model of church-government, we decline it, as not consistent with his other learned discourses on the original of episcopacy, and of metropolitans; nor with the king's supremacy in causes ecclesiastical."
II. Concerning Liturgy.
"We esteem the liturgy of the church of England, contained in the Book of Common Prayer, and by law established, to be such an one as is by them desired, according to the qualifications which they mention; the disuse of which has been the cause of the sad divisions of the church, and the restoring it may be, by God's blessing, a special means of making up the breach. Nor can the imposition of it be called rigorous, as long as clergymen have the liberty of using their gifts before and after sermon. Nevertheless we are not against revising the liturgy by such discreet persons as his majesty shall think fit to employ therein.
III. Of Ceremonies.
"Lawful authority has already determined the ceremonies in question to be decent and orderly, and for edification, and consequently to be agreeable to the general rules of the word. We allow the worship of God is in itself perfect in essentials, but still the church is at liberty to improve it with circumstantials for decency and order. Ceremonies were never esteemed to be sacraments, nor imposed as such; they are retained by most Protestant churches; and that they have been the subject of contention is owing to men's weakness, and their unwillingness to submit their private opinions to the public judgment of the church. We acknowledge, that these things are in their nature mutable, but we can by no means think it expedient to remove them. However, as we are no way against such a tender and religious compassion in things of this nature, as his majesty's piety and wisdom shall think fit to extend: so we cannot think that the satisfaction of some private persons is to be laid in the balance against the public peace and uniformity of the church.
As for kneeling at the Lord's supper, it is a gesture of the greatest reverence and devotion, and so most agreeable to that holy service.
"Holy-days of human institution having been observed by the people of God in the Old Testament, and by our blessed Saviour himself in the gospel, and by all the churches of Christ in the primitive and following times, as apt means to preserve the memorials of the chief mysteries of the Christian religion and such holy-days also being fit times for the honest recreation of the meaner sort of people; for these reasons we humbly desire they may be continued in the church.
"As for the three other ceremonies, the surplice, the cross after baptism, and bowing at the name of Jesus, though we see not any sufficient reason why they should be utterly abolished, nevertheless, how far forth, in regard of tender consciences, a liberty may be thought fit to be indulged to any, his majesty is best able to judge."
They conclude thus: "We are so far from believing that his majesty's condescending to the ministers' demands will take away not only our differences, but the roots and causes of them, that we are confident it will prove the seminary of new differences, both by giving dissatisfaction to those that are well pleased with what is already established, who are much the greatest part of his majesty's subjects and by encouraging unquiet spirits, when these things shall be granted, to make farther demands; there being no assurance by them given, what will content all dissenters, than which nothing is more necessary for settling a firm peace in the church."
About a week after, the Presbyterian divines sent the bishops a warm remonstrance, and defence of their proposals, drawn up chiefly by Mr. Baxter, to the following purpose:
Concerning the preamble.
"We are not insensible of the danger of the church, through the doctrinal errors of those with whom we differ about points of government and worship; but we choose to say nothing of the party that we are agreed with in doctrinals, because we both subscribe the same Holy Scriptures, articles of religion, and books of homilies; and the contradictions to their own confessions, which too many are guilty of, we did not think just to charge upon the whole."
"Had you read Gerson, Bucer, Parker, Baynes, Salmasius, Blondel, &c. you would have seen just reason given for our dissent from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, as stated in England."
Instances of things amiss.
"You would easily grant that diocesses are too great, if you had ever conscionably tried the task which Dr. Hammond describeth as the bishop's work; or had ever believed Ignatius, and other ancient descriptions of a bishop's church. You cannot be ignorant that our bishops have the sole government of pastors and people; that the whole power of the keys is in their hands, and that their presbyters are but cyphers."
"These divines argue for leaving them indifferent for the peace of the church, as being not essential to the perfection of
Kennet's Chron. p. 205. Baxter, part 2. p. 248.
Christian worship, especially when so many looked upon them as sinful."
They conclude thus: "We perceive your counsels against peace are not likely to be frustrated. Your desires concerning us are likely to be accomplished. You are like to be gratified with our silence and ejection; and yet we will believe, that Blessed are the peace-makers;' and though we are prevented by you in our pursuits of peace, and are never like thus publicly to seek it more, yet are we resolved, as much as possible, to live peaceably with all men."
The eyes of the Presbyterians were now opened, and they began to discern their weakness in expecting an agreement with the bishops, who appeared to be exasperated, and determined to tie them down to the old establishment. The former severities began already to be revived, and the laws were put in execution against some who did not make use of the old liturgy. Many were suspended and turned out of their livings on this account; upon which the leading Presbyterians applied to the king, and humbly requested,
1. That they might with all convenient speed, see his majesty's conclusions upon the proposals of mutual condescentions, before they pass into resolves.
2. "That his majesty would publicly declare his pleasure for the suspension of all proceedings upon the act of uniformity, against nonconformists to the liturgy and ceremonies, till they saw the issue of their hoped-for agreement.
3. "That until the said settlement, there may be no oath of canonical obedience, nor subscription to the liturgy and ceremonies required, nor renunciation of their ordination by mere presbyters, imposed as necessary to institution, induction, or confirmation.
4. "That his majesty would cause the broad seal to be revoked, where persons had been put into the possession of the livings of others not void by sequestration, but by the death of the former incumbents.
5. "That a remedy may be provided against the return of scandalous ministers, into the places from whence they had been ejected *.
His majesty gave them a civil audience, and told them he would put what he thought fit to grant them into the form of a declaration, which they should have the liberty of perusing before it was made public. A copy of this was accordingly delivered by the chancellor to Mr. Baxter, and other Presbyterian divines, September 4, with liberty to make exceptions, and give notice of what they disliked †. These divines petitioned for some farther amendments and alterations; upon which the king appointed a
* Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 241.
+ Kennet's Chron. p. 246. Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 275, 276.