By admin | December 23, 2008
From Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans, I:432 ff. (NB: The ‘Ex Officio’ oath required men to answer all questions directed toward them when under examination, forcing self-incrimination. To refuse the oath was illegal). The puritans universally objected to coercion of this type.
To remove these reproaches, and to inform the world of the real principles of the puritans of these times, the reverend Mr. Bradshaw published a small treatise, entitled English Puritanism, containing the main opinions of the rigidest sort of those that went by that name in the realm of England, which the learned Dr. Ames translated into Latin for the benefit of foreigners. The reader will learn by the following abstract of it, the true state of their case, as well as the near affinity between the principles of the ancient and modern non-conformists.
Concerning Religion in general.
The puritans hold and maintain the absolute perfection of the holy scriptures, both as to faith and worship ; and that whatsoever is enjoined as a part of divine service that cannot be warranted by the said scriptures, is unlawful.
2. “That all inventions of men, especially such as have been abused to idolatry, are to be excluded out of the exercises of religion.
3. “That all outward means instituted to express and set forth the inward worship of GOD, are parts of divine worship, and ought therefore evidently to be prescribed by the word of GOD.
4. “To institute and ordain any mystical rites or ceremonies of religion, and to mingle the same with the divine rites and ceremonies of GOD’S ordinance, is gross superstition.”
Concerning the Church.
1. “THEY hold and maintain, that every congregation or assembly of men, ordinarily joining together in the true worship of GOD, is a true visible church of Christ. ”
2. “That all such churches are in all ecclesiastical matters equal, and by the word of GOD ought to have the same officers, administrations, orders, and forms of worship.
3. “That Christ has not subjected any church or congregation to any other superior ecclesiastical jurisdiction than to that which is within itself, so that if a whole church or congregation should err in any matters of faith or worship, no other churches or spiritual officers, have power to censure or punish them, but are only to counsel and advise them.
4. “That every church ought to have her own spiritual officers and ministers resident with her; and those such as are enjoined by Christ in the New Testament, and no other.
5. “That every church ought to have liberty to choose their own spiritual officers.
6. “That if particular churches err in this choice, none but the civil magistrate has power to control them, and oblige them to make a better choice.
7. “That ecclesiastical officers or ministers in one church ought not to bear any ecclesiastical office in another; and they are not to forsake their calling without just cause, and such as may be approved by the congregation; but if the congregation will not hearken to reason, they are then to appeal to the civil magistrate, who is bound to procure them justice.
8. “That a church having chosen its spiritual governors, ought to live in all canonical obedience to them, agreeable to the word of GOD; and if any of them be suspended, or unjustly deprived, by other ecclesiastical officers, they are humbly to pray the magistrate to restore them; and if they cannot obtain it, they are to own them to be their spiritual guides to the death, though they are rigorously deprived of their ministry and service.
9. “That the laws and orders of the churches warranted by the word of GOD are not repugnant to civil government, whether monarchical, aristocratical, or democratical; and we renounce all jurisdiction that is repugnant or derogatory to any of these, especially to the monarchy of this kingdom.”
Concerning the Ministers of the Word.
1. “THEY hold that the pastors of particular congregations are the highest spiritual officers in the church, over whom there is no superior pastor by divine appointment but JESUS CHRIST.
2. “That there are not by divine institution, in the word, any ordinary national, provincial, or diocesan pastors, to whom the pastors of particular churches are to be subject.
3. “That no pastor ought to exercise, or accept of any civil jurisdiction or authority, but ought to be wholly employed in spiritual offices and duties to that congregation over which he is set.
4. “That the supreme office of the pastor is to preach the word publicly to the congregation; and that the people of God ought not to acknowledge any for their pastors that are not able by preaching to interpret and apply the word of God to them; and consequently all ignorant and mere reading priests, are to be rejected.
5. “That in public worship the pastor only is to be the mouth of the congregation to God in prayer; and that the people are only to testify their assent by the word Amen.
6. “That the church baa no power to impose upon her pastors or officers, any other ceremonies or injunctions than what Christ has appointed.
7. “That in every church there should also be a doctor to instruct and catechise the ignorant in the main principles of religion.
Concerning the Elders.
1. “THEY hold that by GOD’S ordinance the congregation should choose other officers as assistants to the ministers in the government of the church, who are jointly with the ministers to be overseers of the manners and conversation of all the congregation.
2. “That these are to be chosen out of the gravest, and most discreet members, who arc also of some note in the world, and able (if possible) to maintain themselves.”
Of Church Censures.
1. THEY hold that the spiritual keys of the church are committed to the aforesaid spiritual officers and governors, and to none others.
2. “That by Virtue of these keys they are not to examine and make inquisition into the hearts of men, nor molest them upon private suspicions, or uncertain fame, but to proceed, only upon open and notorious crimes. If the offender be convinced, they ought not to scorn, deride, taunt, and revile him with contumelious language, nor procure proctors to make personal invectives against him; nor make him give attendance from term to term, and from one court day to another, after the manner of our ecclesiastical courts ; but to use him brotherly, and if possible to move him to repentance : and if he repent they are not to proceed to censure, but to accept his hearty sorrow and contrition as a sufficient satisfaction to the church, without imposing any fines, or taking fees, or enjoining any outward mark of shame, as the white sheet, &c.
But if the offender be obstinate, and shew no signs of repentance, and if his crime be fully proved upon him, and be of such a high nature as to deserve a censure according to the word of God, then the ecclesiastical officers, with the free consent of the whole congregation, (and not otherwise) are first to suspend him from the sacrament, praying for him at the same time, that God would give him repentance to the acknowledgment of his fault; and if this docs not humble him, they are then to denounce him to be as yet no member of the kingdom of heaven, and of that congregation ; and so are to leave him to God and the king. And this is all the ecclesiastical jurisdiction that any spiritual officers are to use against any man for the greatest crime that can be committed.
If the party offending be a civil superior, they are to behave towards him with all that reverence and civil subjection that his honour or high office in the state may require. They are not to presume to convene him before them, but are themselves to go to him in all civil and humble manner, to stand bare-headed, to bow, to give him all his civil titles; and if it be a supreme governor or king, to kneel, and in most humble manner to acquaint him with his faults; and if such, or any other offenders will voluntarily withdraw from the communion, they have no farther concern with them.”
They hold the oath ex officio on the imposer’s part to be most damnable and tyrannous, against the very law of nature, devised by antichrist, through the inspiration of the devil, to tempt weak christians to perjure themselves, or be drawn in to reveal to the enemies of christianity those secret religious acts, which, though done for the advancement of the gospel, may bring on themselves and their dearest friends heavy sentences of condemnation from the court.
Concerning the Civil Magistrate.
1. “THEY hold that the civil magistrate ought to have supreme civil power over all the Churches within his dominions ; but that, as he is a Christian, he ought to be a member of some one of them ; which is not in the least derogatory to his civil supremacy.
2. “That all ecclesiastical officers are punishable by the civil magistrate, for the abuse of their ecclesiastical offices; and much more if they intrude upon the rights and prerogatives of the civil authority.
3. “They hold the pope to be Antichrist, because he usurps the supremacy over kings and princes; and therefore all that defend the popish faith, and that are for tolerating that religion, are secret enemies of the king’s supremacy.
4. “That all archbishops, bishops, deans, officials, &c. hold their offices and functions at the king’s will and pleasure, merely jure humano; and whosoever holdeth that the king may not remove them, and dispose of them at his pleasure, is an enemy to his supremacy.”
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