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BY THE REV. E. W. ANDREWS,
PASTOR OF THE BROADWAY TABERNACLE, NEW YORK.
The origin of the Congregationalists, with the Protestant party, did not escape as a modern sect, is commonly ascribed censure for the indulgence he showed to to Robert Browne, who organized a church Popish superstitions. It was evident in in England, in 1583. But it appears pro- this reign, that a portion of the Protes. bable that there were churches formed tants in England were far in advance of upon congregational principles in the the standard set up by the king and the reigns of Edward VI. and Queen Mary, prelates ; and that the distance between although it is impossible to speak with any them was daily widening. But the divi. . certainty respecting them. It is well ding line between the supporters of the known that Cranmer, the chief promoter hierarchy and the non-conformists was of the Reformation in England, admitted not distinctly drawn, until the Acts of the right of the churches to choose their Supremacy and Uniformity passed, in own pastors, and the equality of the clergy; the early part of Elizabeth's reign. From and it is worthy of note that, in the Bible this period there was little hope of permapublished by him, the word ecclesia is ncnt reconciliation between the two parties, always rendered congregation. Some of although it was not until about the year the bishops went further, and advanced 1565, that separate assemblies were held. opinions which would now be regarded as It is from this time that the Puritans are amongst the distinctive principles of the to be regarded as a distinct party. The Congregationalists. But the right of any first open attempt to suppress these assemindividual to judge for himself what the blies seems to have been made two years scriptures taught in matters of religion after, when a congregation was arrested was not recognized. The government in- at Plumbers' Hall, and thirty of them sisted upon an entire conformity to the confined in Bridewell, for more than a established church, both in doctrines, and year. in rites and ceremonies. The Reforma. Without enumerating all the points of tion advanced slowly; for its progress was difference between the prelates and the controlled by subtle statesmen, who sought Puritans, it may perhaps be doubted the reasons of any innovation, not in the whether an abrogation of all the rites and word of God, but in the calculations of ceremonies complained of as superstitious, state policy. Many of the leading early would not have allayed the storm that was reformers were greatly dissatisfied at the rising against the Establishment, and preslow progress of the Reformation, and vented, for many years at least, the sepa. would gladly have introduced a more sim. ration that afterwards took place. How. ple and scriptural form of worship. Even ever this might have been, the attempt to Edward VI., popular as he deservedly was enforce these ceremonies led the Puritans to examine more closely, than they had itself to admit and exclude members; to hitherto done, the ground of that authority choose and ordain officers; and when the so arbitrarily exercised over them. The good of the society required it, to depose dogmatic Cartwright assailed Episcopacy them, without being accountable to classis, with great boldness, and asserted the convocations, synods, councils, or any Presbyterian to be the only scriptural jurisdiction whatever.” He denied the form of church government. The cruelty supremacy of the queen ; and the claim and intolerance of the bishops had pro- of the Establishment to be a scriptural duced a directly opposite effect from what church. He declared the scriptures to be they had intended. Instead of coercing the only guide in all matters of faith and the non-conformists into submission, a discipline. The labors of a pastor were spirit of resistance was aroused; and, as to be confined to a single church, and be. is well said by Hallam, “ the battle was yond its bounds he possessed no authority no longer to be fought for a tippet and a to administer the ordinances. One church surplice, but for the whole ecclesiastical | could exercise no jurisdiction over another, hierarchy, interwoven as it was with the except so far as to advise or reprove it, or temporal constitution of England." to withdraw, its fellowship from such as
The first church formed upon Congre. walked disorderly. Five orders, or offices, gational principles, of whose existence we were recognised in the church : those of have any accurate knowledge, was that pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, and widow; established by Robert Browne ; but it was but he did not allow the priesthood to be soon broken up, and Browne, with many a distinct order from the laity. How far of his congregation, fled to Holland. He these views have been since modified, will subsequently returned to England, and is appear hereafter. said by some historians to have renounced Such are the outlines of a system prothe principles he had so earnestly main. mulgated by Browne, in tracts published tained. In the latter part of his life, he by him in 1680, and in 1682. The sepa. seems to have been openly immoral and rating line, between the conforming and dissolute. The church planted by him in the non-conforming Puritans, now became Holland, after his departure, fell into dis- broad and distinct. The former, recog. sensions, and soon perished. The char. nising the Church of England as a true acter of Browne is thus drawn by Ban church, and unwilling to separate them. croft: “ The most noisy advocate of the selves from the Establishment, demanded new system was Browne; a man of rash- only that her discipline should be further ness, possessing neither true courage nor reformed, and her bishops ranked as the constancy; zealous, but fickle; dogmati- head of the presbyters. Neither by the cal, but shallow. He has acquired histo- supporters of the hierarchy, nor amongst rical notoriety, because his hot-headed this class of the Puritans, was the great indiscretion arged him to undertake the doctrine of liberty of conscience recog. desence of separation. ... The principles, nised. A different standard of uniformity of which the intrepid assertion had alone was indeed set up by each; but the pringiven him distinction, lay deeply rooted ciple of ecclesiastical tyranny was as in the public mind; and as they did not plainly to be seen in the implicit obedience draw life from his support, they did not required to the decrees of synods, as in suffer from his apostacy."
the oath of supremacy. The non-conThe opinions of Browne respecting forming Puritans would enter into no comchurch polity are the same in many re- promise with the Establishment. They spects as those now held by the Congre. desired its total overthrow, with all its gationalists of New England. He main-cumbrous and complex machinery, its tained,* “ that each church, or society of ceremonies and its forms; and to build Christians meeting in one place, was a upon its ruins churches after the simple, body corporate, having full power within pure model of the Apostolic days.
The first martyrs to these opinions were *1 abbreviate from Punchard's Hist. Cong. two clergymen, Thacker and Cokking,
who were executed in 1583; ostensibly
for denying the queen's supremacy, but in irritate and exasperate their non-conformfact for dispersing Browne's tracts. Ten ing brethren. James had been educated years afterward, Henry Barrow and John in the Presbyterian faith, and the Puritans Greenwood were put to death for non- fondly hoped that, upon his accession to conformity. Barrow was somewhat dis- the throne, free permission would be given tinguished by his publications in defence them to worship God as they pleased. of his sentiments; and from him his fol. But their hopes were bitterly disappointed. lowers were sometimes called Barrowists. Won by the fulsome flatteries of the bishPercy, an intimate friend of Barrow and ops, and made to believe that the demands Greenwood, was executed soon after. of the Puritans were alike inconsistent
In 1592 an act was passed, aimed at with the preservation of the hierarchy, the separatists, by which it was enacted and the undisturbed exercise of the royal that whoever, over the age of sixteen, prerogatives, James was even more opshould resuse to attend upon common pressive than his predecessor. At a conprayer in some church or chapel, for the vocation held in 1604, of which the bigoted space of one month, should be imprisoned, Bancroft was president, new canons were and if still refusing to conform, should be drawn up, by which conformity was banished the realm. This law, cruel and rigidly enforced. Excommunication, with oppressive as it was, was yet a relief to all its civil penalties and disabilities was the separatists, who had long languished pronounced against any one who should in prison, and who now, as banished dare to deny the divine authority of the exiles, might hope to find in other lands established church, the perfect conformity that religious freedom which was denied of all its rites and ceremonies to the scripthem in their own. How many left Eng. tures, or the lawfulness of its government ; land at this time is unknown, most of or who should separate from its commuthose thus banished went to Holland ; but nion, and assert that any other assembly even by the Dutch, who at that time or congregation was a true or lawful understood and practised, far better than church. To these canons, by a royal any other people, the principles of reli- proclamation, dated in July, 1604, all gious toleration, they were treated with were required to conform; the Puritan little favor. The cause of this ill-reception ministers before the last day of November, seems to have been the slanders spread “ or else to dispose of themselves and abroad respecting them by the English families some other way.” During this prelates, by which the Dutch were made year between three and four hundred Purto believe that they were factious, quarrel. itan ministers were silenced or exiled, and some, and enemies to all forms of governo for many years few summers passed by ment, A better acquaintance soon re in which numbers did not seek safety in moved these bad impressions, and churches Aight. were planted by the exiles in Amsterdam, It is at this period that we first meet Leyden, and several other cities, which the name of John Robinson, who has, not continued to flourish more than a hundred inappropriately, been called the father of years. In the discussion which took place modern Congregationalism. Of his early in Parliament on the passage of this act, life little is known. Probably he was at Sir Walter Raleigh estimated the number first a conforming Puritan. We first hear of Brownists in England at twenty thou- of him among the separatists, as the pas. sand, a number, probably, short of the tor of a church which had been formed in truth.
the north of England the year previous to The separatists who remained in Eng. Elizabeth's death. Harassed by the bish. land were, in common with the great body ops, and seeing no prospect of peace at of the Puritans, much more kindly treated, home, he and his congregation determined and allowed greater liberty of conscience to leave their native land, and fly to Hol. during the last years of the queen's life. land. But it was not without hazard and The prelates, ignorant of the religious suffering that they were able to leave their opinions of James, her successor, were own country behind them and escape. unwilling, by fresh acts of severity, to | The first attempt was unsuccessful through
the treachery of the captain of their ves. | England, and it soon numbered three sel, who betrayed their plans to their ene hundred communicants. mies, and the whole company was im- During the ten years that succeeded, prisoned for a month. Upon the second Mr. Robinson published several contro. attempt a part of the church reached Am- versial works, mostly in explanation, or sterdam in safety. Mr. Robinson and the defence, of his peculiar views. He also remainder of the church, made another engaged in a public dispute with Episcounsuccessful attempt, in the spring of pius, the champion of the Arminians, at 1608, which is thus graphically described the request of the Calvinistic professors in by Bancroft: “An unfrequented heath in the University of Leyden. If we may Lincolnshire was the place of secret meet. rely upon Gov. Bradford, the Arminians ing. As if it had been a crime to escape had little reason to be proud of the result. from persecution, the embarkation was to The principles of the church at Leyden be made under the shelter of darkness. are thus summed up in Belknap's Life of After having encountered a night storm, Robinson, so far as regards church gojust as a boat was bearing a part of the vernment, and the sacraments. In their emigrants to their ship, a company of doctrinal creed they were strictly Calvin. horsemen appeared in pursuit, and seized istic. upon the helpless women and children, 1. That no church ought to consist of who had not yet ventured on the surf. more members than can conveniently Painful it was to see the heavy case of meet together for worship and discipline. these poor women in distress ; what weep- 2. That any church of Christ is to coning and crying on every side. But when sist only of such as appear to believe in, they were apprehended, it seemed impos. and obey him. sible to punish and imprison wives and 3. That any competent number of such children, for no other crime than that they have a right, when conscience obliges would go with their husbands and fathers. thern, to form themselves into a distinct They could not be sent home, for they had church. no home to go to ! so that, at last, the 4. That this incorporation is by some magistrates were glad to be rid of them contract or covenant, express or implied. on any terms, though in the mean time 5. That, being thus incorporated, they they, poor souls, endured misery enough.' have a right to choose their own officers. Such was the flight of Robinson and 6. That these officers are pastors or Brewster, and their followers, from the teaching elders, ruling elders, and dealand of their fathers."
Mr. Robinson and his congregation, 7. That elders being chosen, and orupon their arrival in Holland, first joined dained, have no power to rule the church, themselves to the church at Amsterdam ; but by consent of the brethren. but owing to the dissensions that had 8. That all elders, and all churches, broken out amongst its members, at the are equal in respect of powers and privi. end of a year, they removed to Leyden. leges. Amongst the companions of Mr. Robinson 9. With respect to ordinances, they were several, who afterwards played dis- hold that baptism is to be administered to tinguished parts in the settlement of New visible believers and their infant children ; England. Brewster and Bradford, Carver but they admitted only the children of and Winslow, are names which can never communicants to baptism. That the be obliterated from the page of our history, Lord's Supper is to be received sitting at or forgotten by their grateful descend the table. (Whilst they were in Holland ants.
they received it every Lord's day.) That Some of them were men of fortune and ecclesiastical censures were wholly spiritfamily; yet so poor were they at this time, ual, and not to be accompanied with tem. that Brewster became a printer, Bradford poral penalties. a silk-dyer, and many of the others learned 10. They admitted no holy days but mechanical trades. But the church ra- the Christian sabbath, though they had pidly increased by new immigrations from occasionally days of fasting and thanks
giving; and finally, they renounced all | carried themselves peaceably, was proright of hum in invention or imposition in mised by the archbishop, but an open religious matters.
toleration was refused. After much neMr. Robinson's opinions respecting the gotiation, a patent was at last obtained in Church of England seem aboul this time 1619; and by a contract with some mer. to have undergone some change. At the chants in London, sufficient pecuniary recommencement of his ministry among the sources were obtained to enable them to separatists, in common with Browne, he undertake the voyage. denounced that church as essentially anti. The vessels not being sufficiently large christian, and would neither regard her to carry the whole congregation, Mr. members as brethren, nor hear her minis. Robinson reinained with the majority at ters preach. How far his opinions were Leyden, and Elder Brewster accompanied modified is a matter of some doubt. Bay. the emigrants. At their departure Mr. lis says of him, " that he ruined the rigid Robinson preached a
sermon, which separatists, allowing the lawfulness of showed a spirit of mildness and tolerance communicating with the Church of Eng. truly wonderful in that age, and which land, in the word and prayers, though not many, who claim to be the ministers of in the sacraments and discipline; that he God, would do well to irnitate in this. was the principal overthrower of the “ Brethren, we are quickly to part from Brownists, and became the author of in. one another, and whether I may ever live dependency.” Gov. Winslow says, “ Mr. to see your faces on earth any more, the Robinson was always against a separation God of heaven only knows; but whether from any of the churches of Christ, hold the Lord hath appointed that or not, I ing communion with the reformed churches charge you, before God and his blessed both in Scotland, France, and the Nether. angels, that you follow me no further than lands; that the church at Leyden made you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus no schism or separation from the reformed Christ. If God reveal any thing to you churches, but, as occasion afforded, held by any other instrument of his, be as communion with them.” Yet it does not ready to receive it as ever you were to appear that Mr. Robinson was ever willing receive any truth by my ministry; for I to admit, that the Church of England, as am fully persuaded, I am very confident, a national establishment, was a Christian that the Lord has more truth yet to break church, although he communed with its forth out of his holy Word. For my individual members.
part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the conIn the year 1617, Mr. Robinson and dition of the reformed churches, who are his church began to think of a removal to come to a period in religion, and will go America. The reasons, that mainly in- at present no further than the instruments duced them to take this step, were the dis- of their reformation. The Lutherans can. soluteness of manners that prevailed in not be drawn to go beyond what Luther Holland, and the consequent danger of saw. Whatever part of his will our good contamination to which their children God has revealed to Calvin, they will were exposed. They hoped that, on the rather die than embrace it; and the Cal. wild shores of North America, they might vinists you see stick fast where they were be instrumental in the conversion of the left by that great man of God, who yet natives, and at the same time build up a saw not all things. state, where they might worship God with “ This is a misery much to be lamented, none to molest or make them afraid. for though they were burning and shining After some discussion as to the place lights in their times, yet they penetrated where they should settle, Vinginia was not into the whole counsel of God; but fixed upon. Two of their number were were they now living would be as ready accordingly sent to treat with the Virginia to embrace further light, as that which company. But the company, though de they first received. I beseech you to resirous that they should settle upon their member that it is an article of your church territory, could not assure them of liberty covenant, that you shall be ready to reof conscience. A connivance, if they Iceive whatever truth shall be made known