Page images

were turbulent, fanatic persons in his dominions, yet that those ministers and godly people wbose peace we humbly craved of him were no such persons; but such as longed after concord, and were truly loyal to him, and desired no more than to live under him a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. And whereas there were differences between them and their brethren, about some ceremonies or discipline of the church, we humbly craved his majesty's favor for the ending of those differences; it being easy for him to interpose, that so the people might not be deprived of their faithful pastors, nor ignorant, scandalous, unworthy ones obtruded on them.

“ I presumed to tell him, that the people we spoke for were such as were contented with an interest in heaven, and the liberty and advantages of the gospel to promote it; and that if these were taken from them, and they were deprived of their faithful pastors, and liberty of worshipping God, they would take themselves as undone in this world, whatever plenty else they should enjoy ; and the hearts of his most faithful subjects, who loped for his help, would even be broken ; and we doubted not but his majesty desired to govern a people made happy by him, and not a broken hearted people who took themselves to be undone by the loss of that which is dearer to them than all the riches of the world. sumed to tell him, that the late usupers that were over us so well understood their own interest, that to promote it, they had found the way of doing good to be the most effectual means; and had placed and encouraged many thousand faithful ministers in the church, even such as detested their usurpation; and so far had they attained their ends hereby, that it was the principal means of their interest in the people, and the good opinion that many had conceived of them; and those of them that had taken the contrary course had thereby broken themselves in pieces. Wherefore, I humbly craved his majesty, that as he was our lawful king, in whom all his people were prepared to centre, so he would be pleased to undertake this blessed work of promoting their holiness and concord; for it was not faction or disobedience which we desired him to indulge ; and that he would never suffer himself to be tempted to undo the good which Cromwell, or any other had done, because they were usur

I prepers that did it; or discountenance a faithful ministry, because his enemies had set them up; but that he would rather outgo them in doing good, and opposing and rejecting the ignorant and ungodly, of what opinion or party soever, for the people whose cause we recommended to him, had their eyes on him as the officer of God, to defend them in the possession of the helps of their salvation ; which if he were pleased to vouchsafe them, their estates and lives would be cheerfully offered to his service.

“ And I humbly besought him that he would never suffer his subjects to be tempted to have favorable thoughts of the late usurpers, by seeing the vice indulged which they suppressed, or the godly ministers of the gospel discountenanced whom they encouraged; for the common people are apt to judge of governors by the effects, even by the good or evil which they feel, and they will take him to be the best governor who doth them most good, and him to be the worst who doth them most hurt. And all his enemies could not teach him a more effectual way to restore the reputation and honor of the usurpers than to do worse than they, and destroy the good which they had done.” And, again, I humbly craved that no misrepresentations might cause him to believe, that because some fanatics have been factious and disloyal, therefore the religious people in his dominions, who are most careful of their souls, are such, though some of them may be dissatisfied about some forms and ceremonies in God's worship, which others use : and that none of them might go under so ill a character with him, by misreports behind their backs, till it were proved of them personally, or they had answered for themselves : for we, that better knew them than those likely to be their accusers, did confidently testify to his majesty on their behalf, that they are the resolved enemies of sedition, rebellion, disobedience, and divisions, which the world should see, and their adversaries be convinced of, if his majesty's wisdom and clemency did but remove those occasions of scruple in some points of discipline and worship of God, which give advantage to others to call all dissenters factious and disobedient, how loyal and peaceable soever.

“I, further, humbly craved, that the freedom and plaipness of these expressions to his majesty might be pardoned, as being ex

tracted by the present necessity, and encouraged by our revived hopes. I told him also, that it was not for presbyterians, or any party, as such, that we were speaking, but for the religious part of his subjects as such, than whom no prince on earth had better. I also told him how considerable a part of the kingdom he would find them to be; and of what great advantage their union would be to his majesty, to the people, and to the bishops themselves, and how easily it might be procured—by making only things necessary to be the terms of union-by the true exercise of church discipline against sin,--and by not casting out the faithful ministers that must exercise it, and obtruding unworthy men upon the people : and how easy it was to avoid the violating of men's solemn vows and covenants, without hurt to any others. And finally, I repuested that we might be heard to speak for ourselves, when any accusations were brought against us.

“ These, with some other such things, I then spake, when some of my brethren had spoken first. Mr. Simeon Ash also spake much to the same purpose, and of all our desires of his majesty's assistance in our desired union. The king gave us not only a free audience, but as gracious an answer as we could expect; professing his gladness to hear our inclinations to agreement, and his resolution to do his part to bring us together; and that it must not be by bringing one party over to the other, but by abating somewhat on both sides, and meeting in the midway; and that if it were not accomplished, it should be owing to ourselves and not to him. Nay, that he was resolved to see it brought to pass, and that he would draw us together himself, with some more to that purpose. Insomuch that old Mr. Ash burst out into tears of joy, and could not forbear expressing what gladness this promise of his majesty had put into his heart."*

About the same time the king required them to draw up, and bring to him their own proposals for an agreement with the episcopal party, on the subject of church government. They told him they were only a few individuals, and could not undertake to represent the opinions or the wishes of their brethren ; and therefore desired leave to consult with their brethren in the country. This was refused on the ground that it would take too much time, and would make too much noise. He assured them that his intention was only to consult with a few individuals of each party. On their particular request he promised them that when they offered their concessions, the brethren on the other side should bring in theirs, and should state the utmost that they could yield for the sake of concord.

* Narrative, Part II. pp. 230, 231.

Accordingly they held a few meetings at Sion College, the usual place of meeting for the London ministers. Their consultations were with open doors, and as many of their brethren as chose, came to assist them. They soon agreed on their proposals; and the extent of their concessions may be judged of by the fact that the papers which they finally presented to the king were drawn up mostly by Baxter, and by Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Worth, both of whom were afterwards dignitaries in the church of England. The amount of their requests was that episcopacy might be reduced to the form drawn up and proposed to Charles I. by Archbishop Usher in the year 1611 ; a scheme in which the prelate became lule more than a stated president in the synod of the presbyters, having the power of a negative voice on all their acts.

When they went to the king with these proposals, expecting of course to meet there some divines of the other party, with their proposals for accomodation and union, they found not one of them there. “Yet it was not fit for us,” says Baxter, "to expostulate or complain. But his majesty very graciously renewed his professions-I must not call them promises—that he would bring us together, and see that the bishops should come down and yield on

When he had heard our papers, he seemed well pleased with them, and told us he was glad we were for a liturgy and yielded to the essence of episcopacy, and therefore he doubted not of our agreement with much more ; which we thought meet to recite in our following addresses by way of gratitude, and for other reasons easy to be conjectured.”

After waiting a while for the promised proposals of the opposite party, they received, instead of what they expected, only a sharp and controversial reply to the papers which they had offered. The

their parts.

bishops had determined to make no proposal but that of entire conformity to the old episcopal establishment. Against this paper, Baxter, at the request of his brethren, drew up a defense of their proposals. But afterwards it was judged impolitic to provoke them by a reply such as he had prepared.

Not long afterwards they were informed that another course had been chosen ; and that the king would publish, in the form of a royal declaration, all his intentions on the subject of ecclesiastical affairs. This they were to see before it should be published, that they might inform the king of whatever might be in their view inconsistent with the desired concord. A draught of the proposed declaration was accordingly sent them by the Lord Chancellor Hyde (afterwards earl of Clarendon.) Having perused it, they saw that it would not serve the purpose professed. They drew up their objections in the form of a petition to the king, the paper being prepared by the ready pen of Baxter, and thoroughly revised and amended by his bretbren, who feared that the boldness and plainness which he had used would give offense. This petition being delivered to the - Jord chancellor, was still so ungrateful to his feelings that he never called them to present it to the king. Instead of that, he proposed to them to present the precise alterations in the royal declaration which they considered absolutely necessary. With this proposal they complied. And on an appointed day, they met the king at the lord chancellor's house, with several of the bishops and lords. “The business of the day,” says Baxter, was not to dispute ; but as the lord chancellor read over the declaration, each party was to speak to what they disliked, and the king to determine how it should be, as liked himself.” “The great matter which we stopped at was the word consent, where the bishop is to confirm by the consent of the pastor of that church ;' and the king would by no means pass the word "

consent either there or in the point of ordination or censures, because it gave the ministers a negative voice."

In connection with this interview, one anecdote recorded by Baxter deserves to be repeated, as it helps to illustrate the character of all the parties concerned. The king was already, as there is much reason to believe, a secret papist; at least he was determinVOL. I.


« PreviousContinue »