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- The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 6/128 -

Antioch, Corinth, &c., as it could be gathered from various passages of Scripture: and great was the display of learning, Hebraic and Hellenistic, over these passages on both sides. Goodwin as the chief speaker for the Independents; but he was aided by Nye, Burroughs, Bridge, and Simpson; and Selden struck in, if not directly for Congregationalism, at least so as to perplex the Presbyterians. On the other side Marshall and the other Smectymnuans were conspicuous, with Vines, Seaman, Burges, Palmer, Herle, and Whitaker. Henderson looked on and assisted when required. But no one on this side was more energetic than Henderson's young colleague, Gillespie. His countryman Baillie was in raptures with him, and in writing to Scotland and to Holland could not praise him enough. "Of a truth" he says in one letter, "there is no man whose parts in a public debate I do so admire. He has studied so accurately all the points that ever yet came to our Assembly, he has got so ready, so assured, so solid a way of public debating, that, however there be in the Assembly divers very excellent men, yet, in my poor judgment, there is not one who speaks more rationally and to the point than that brave youth has done ever." On one occasion Gillespie, on a question of sheer learning, dared to grapple even with the great Selden, and with such effect, according to tradition (Scottish!), that even Selden reeled. And so on and on, from January 1643-4, through February, March, and April, the debate proceeded, and there seemed to be no likely end to it. For, though Congregationalism was maintained but by a small knot of men in the Assembly, they fought man fully, inch by inch, and there were various reasons why the majority, instead of overwhelming them by a conclusive vote or two, allowed them to struggle on. For one thing, though Baillie thought there was a "woful longsomeness" in the slow English forms of debating at such a time, it was felt by the English members that, in so important a business as the settling of a new constitution for the National Church, hurry would be unbecoming. But, besides this, the Assembly was not a body legislating in its own right. It had been called only to advise the Parliament; and, though its deliberations were with closed doors, was not all that it did from day to day pretty well known, not only in Parliament, but in London and throughout the country? Might not the little knot of Independents fighting within the Assembly represent an amount of opinion out of doors too large to be trifled with? [Footnote: In Lightfoot's Notes of the Assembly and Gillespie's similar Notes, the proceedings which I have endeavoured to summarize in this paragraph and the two preceding may be traced in detail--Lightfoot's Notes traversing, with great minuteness, the whole of the time under notice; and Gillespie's beginning at Feb. 2, 1643-4. Prefixed to Gillespie's Notes, as edited by Meek in 1846, there is, however, a very useful set of official minutes of the proceedings from Oct. 17, 1643, onwards, by the Scribes of the Assembly; which may be compared with Lightfoot's more extensive jottings. There are excellent and luminous notices of the Assembly's proceedings during most of the time indicated in Baillie, II. 106-174. Neal is very confused in his account of the Assembly, and does not seem to have studied its proceedings well. In Hetherington's _History of the Westminster Assembly_ there is a fairish popular account, compiled from Lightfoot and Gillespie, but charged with the author's strong personal Presbyterianism. The traditional part of the story of Gillespie's fight with Selden (which had come down, I believe, through the careful Scottish Church antiquary, Wodrow) is given by Mr. Hetherington in his History of the Assembly, but more fully and interestingly in his Memoir of Gillespie, prefixed to Meek's Edition of Gillespie's Notes.]

None knew this better than the little knot of Independents in the Assembly itself. They had already acted on the knowledge. Foreseeing that the determination of the great question in the Assembly would inevitably be against them, they had taken the precaution, before the question came on in its final form, to record an appeal from the Assembly to Parliament and public opinion. This they had done in a so-called _Apologetical Narration_, presented to Parliament, and published and put in circulation not later than the beginning of January 1643-4. [Footnote: I find it registered at Stationers' Hall, Dec. 30, 1643.] It is a tract of some thirty quarto pages, signed openly by the five writers--Thomas Goodwin, Sidrach Simpson, Philip Nye, Jeremiah Burroughs, and William Bridge. Having explained first that they had been in no haste to press their peculiar opinions, and would have preferred to disclose them gradually, but that recent experience had left them no option but to appeal to Parliament as "the supreme judicatory of this kingdom," and "the most sacred refuge and asylum for mistaken and misjudged innocence," they proceed to a historical sketch of their doings while they had been in Holland, and an exposition of their differences from their Presbyterian brethren. Three principles of practical conduct, they say, had taken firm hold of them--_first_, that their supreme rule in church-matters, out of themselves, should be the pattern of the primitive or apostolic churches; _secondly_, that they would not bind themselves by their present judgment in any matter against a possible future change of judgment; and, _thirdly_, that they would study accommodation, as far as they could, to the judgments of others. Acting on these principles, but foreseeing the condemnation of their Congregationalism by the Assembly, they hoped at least that the issue would be so regulated finally by Parliament that they might not be driven into exile again, but might be permitted "to continue in their native country, with the enjoyment of the ordinances of Christ, and an indulgence in some lesser differences," so long as they continued peaceable subjects. [Footnote: Neal, III. 131-133, _Narration_ itself, also Hanbury's _Historical Memorials relating to the Independents_, Vol. II. (1841), pp. 221- 230.]

This appeal to Csar by the five leading Independents had by no means pleased the rest of the Assembly. Though they acknowledged the great ability and even the moderation of the dissentients, they thought it an unfriendly stroke of policy on their part to have thus sheltered themselves by anticipation under the power outside. But, indeed, it was more than a stroke of personal policy. The five knew that they were speaking not for themselves only, but for all that might adhere to them. Their act reminded the Assembly of what was otherwise becoming apparent-- to wit, that the Assembly was after all but an imperfect representation of contemporary English opinion. It was an ark floating on a troubled sea, with its doors and windows well pitched, and perhaps with Noah on board, but not all Noah's family, and certainly not specimens of all the living creatures, even of non-episcopal kinds, that were to survive into the new order of things. What if, on the subsidence of the waters, the survivors in this ark should find themselves confronted with another population, which, having survived somehow on chance spars and rafts, must be included in the new community, and yet would insist that questions should be kept open in that community that had been settled by votes passed within the ark? That such was likely to be the case the Presbyterians already had proof.

What, then, were they to do? In the first place, as they believed Noah to be within _their_ ark, they were to trust to his power, and the veneration that would be accorded to him, when he should re-emerge. In other words, they were to press on the Presbyterian theory in the Assembly, allowing "the Five Dissenting Brethren," as they were now called, the most prolix liberty of speech and reasoning, but always beating them in the final vote so as to secure a thoroughly Presbyterian report to Parliament at the last. But, in the second place, as the Independents had appealed to public opinion against such a contingency, it was necessary not only to carry Presbyterianism within the Assembly, but also to argue for it out of doors. Hence, through the year 1644, among the shoals of pamphlets that came from the London press (including Fast-day Sermons, Sermons before the Lords and Commons, &c., by the most eminent members of Assembly) there were not a few pleas for Presbytery, intended to counteract the effects of the _Apologetical Narration_ and other pleas for Congregationalism. Rutherford's _Temperate Plea for Paul's Presbytery in Scotland, or Modest Dispute touching Independency of particular Congregations_, and the same author's _Peaceable Plea for the Government of the Church of Scotland_, had preceded the _Apologetical Narration_; but the express answers to the _Narration_ were numerous. One of the most celebrated of these was a pamphlet entitled _Some Observations and Annotations upon the Apologetical Narration,_ addressed to the Parliament and the Assembly by a writer who signs himself merely "A. S.," but is known to have been a certain Dr. Adam Steuart, a Scot residing in London, but who soon afterwards received a call to Leyden. To this pamphlet there were replies on the part of the Independents, especially one entitled _M. S. to A. S._ (a title changed in a second edition into "_A Reply of Two of the Brethren to A.S._"); again "A.S." responded; and so the controversy went on, pamphlets thickening on pamphlets. [Footnote: Lowndes's Bibl. Manual, by Bohn, Article "Steuart, Adam;" Baillie, II. 216; and Hanbury's _Hist. Memorials relating to the Independents_, II. 251 _et seq._, and 341 _et seq._, where there are full accounts of the pamphlets, with extracts.]


Meanwhile, notwithstanding this ominous difference in the Assembly on the great question of Church-government, all parties in the Assembly were co- operating harmoniously with each other and with Parliament in other important items of the general "Reformation" which was in progress. The chief of these items may be grouped under headings:--

_Simplification of Church Service, and Suppression of unpopular Rites and Symbols_.--This process, which had been going on naturally from the beginning of the Parliament, and more violently and riotously in some places since the beginning of the war, had been accelerated by recent Parliamentary enactments. Thus, in May 1643, just when Milton was preparing to leave London on his marriage holiday, there had been a tearing down, by authority, with the sound of trumpets and amid the huzzas of the citizens, of Cheapside Cross, Charing Cross, and other such street-monuments of too Popish make. At the same time the anti- Sabbatarian "Book of Sports" had been publicly burnt. Then followed (Aug. 27) an ordinance for removing out of churches all "superstitious images, crucifixes, altars," &c.; the effect of which for the next few months was a more or less rough visitation of pickaxing, chipping, and chiselling in all the parish-churches within the Parliament's bounds that had not already been Puritanized by private effort. Then, again, on the 20th of November, the House of Commons recommended to the consideration of the Assembly a new English Version of the Psalms, which had been recently executed, and put into print, by the much-respected member for Truro, Mr. Francis Rous. Ought not Sternhold and Hopkins's Version to be disused among other lumber; and, if so, might not Rous's Version be adopted instead, for use in churches? It would be a merited compliment and also a source of private profit to the veteran Puritan--whom the Parliament, at any rate, were about to appoint to the Provostship of Eton College (worth 800_l_ a year and more), instead of the Malignant, Dr. Stewart, then with his Majesty. The Assembly did actually take up Rous's Psalter, his friends pressing it on the old gentleman's account, but others not thinking it good enough; and we find Baillie regretting, Scot-like, when the subject was first brought up, that he had not with him a copy of another version of the Psalms then in MS., by his friend and countryman, Sir William Mure of Rowallan. This version he liked best of any he had seen, and thought decidedly better than Rous's; and; if he had had a copy, he might have been able to do his friend a good turn! [Footnote: Common Journals, Nov. 20, 1643; Baillie, II. 101 (and note), and 120-121. Baillie, at the very time he was privately wishing he had his friend Rowallan's Psalms to pit against Rous's, was becoming acquainted with Rous; to whom in a month or two he dedicated a sermon of his preached before the Commons. He there calls Rous his "much honoured friend." Rowallan's Psalms remain in MS. to this day; but specimens of them have been published. See Baillie's Letters, pp. 535-6 of Appendix, Vol. III.; where there is an interesting and curious history of English Versions of the Psalms, by the editor, Mr. David Laing.] The adoption of Rous's Psalter was not immediately voted by the Assembly, but lay over along with the general business of the new Directory for Worship. In this

The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 6/128

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