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- The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 70/128 -


taking part in a conversation in which dreadful things were said of the Speaker, his brother, and other public men. The information was immediately reduced to writing by King and Bastwick, and sent in to the Speaker, with this result: "_Resolved_, That Lieutenant-colonel Lilburne be taken into custody, and so kept till the House take further order." Questioned in custody by a committee of the House, Lilburne refused to answer, stood on his rights as a freeborn citizen, &c. He also caused to be printed _A Letter to a Friend_, stating his case in his own way; this Letter, as increasing his offence, was reported to the House, Aug. 9; and, on the 11th of August, having been again contumacious in private examination and committed to Newgate, he was ordered to remain there for trial at Quarter Sessions. He remained in Newgate till Oct. 14, when he was discharged, by order of the House, without trial. [Footnote: Godwin's Hist. of the Commonwealth, II. l5-21; Commons Journals of dates given; Wood's Ath. III. 860.]

Such prosecutions of individuals formed an avowed part of the method of the Presbyterians for suppressing the Toleration heresy. Cromwell, away with the Army, could only continue to hint his remonstrances to Parliament in letters; but this he did. The greatest success of the New Model after Naseby was the storming of Bristol, Sept. 10, 1645; and in the long letter which Cromwell wrote to the Speaker, giving an account of this success (Sept. 14), he recurred to his Toleration argument. "Presbyterians, Independents, all," he wrote, "have here the same spirit of faith and prayer, the same presence and answer; they agree here, have no names of difference: pity it is it should be otherwise anywhere! All that believe have the real unity, which is most glorious, because _in_ the Body and _to_ the Head. For being united in forms, commonly called Uniformity, every Christian will, for peace sake, study and do as far as conscience will permit. And for brethren, in things of the mind, we look for no compulsion but that of light and reason." By order of Parliament this Letter was read in all the churches of London on Sunday, Sept. 21, and also circulated in print. It does not seem, however, to have sunk very deep. [Footnote: Carlyle's Cromwell, I. 188.--As late as 1648 I find this passage of Cromwell's letter quoted and largely commented on by the Scottish Presbyterian Rutherford (_A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist._ 1648, p. 250 _et seq._) in proof of Cromwell's dangerousness, and his sympathy with Familism, Antinomianism, and other errors.]

Cromwell's hints from the field in favour of Liberty of Conscience may be regarded as little "Accommodation Orders" in his own name, reminding Parliament and the Westminster Assembly of that formal "Accommodation Order" which he had moved in the House a year before, and which had then been passed (_antè,_ pp. 168-9). What had become of this Accommodation Order? The story may be given in brief:--The Grand Accommodation Committee had immediately appointed a small Sub-Committee, consisting of Dr. Temple and Messrs. Marshall, Herle, and Vines, for the Presbyterians, and Messrs. Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye for the Independents. The business of this Sub-Committee, called "The Sub-Committee of Agreements," was to reduce into the narrowest compass the differences between the Independents and the rest of the Assembly. The Sub-Committee did their best, and reported to the Grand Committee; but for various reasons the Grand Committee postponed the subject. Meanwhile these proceedings had obtained for the Independents a re-hearing in the Assembly itself. The five original Independents in the Assembly, Messrs. Goodwin, Nye, Bridge, Burroughs, and Simpson, with Mr. William Carter and Mr, William Greenhill now added to their number, presented in writing (Nov. 14, 1644) their Reasons of Dissent from the propositions of Presbytery most disagreeable to them; [Footnote: The increase of the number of avowed Independents in the Assembly at this point from Five to Seven is worth noting. From the very first, however, there must have been a few in sympathy to some variable extent with the leading Five. Thus Baillie, as early as Dec. 7, 1643 (Letters, II. 110), speaks of "the Independent men, whereof there are some _ten_ or _eleven_ in the Synod, many of them very able men," and mentions Carter, Caryl, Phillips, and Sterry, as of the number. (See our List of the Assembly, Vol. II. 516-524,) There had been efforts on the part of the Independents in Parliament to bring more representatives of Independency into the Assembly. Actually, on the 2nd of Nov. 1643, the very day on which the Lords agreed with the Commons in the nomination of John Durie to succeed the deceased Calibute Downing, the Lords on their own account nominated John Goodwin of Coleman Street to ho of the Assembly, and with him "Dr. Homes of Wood Street, and Mr. Horton, Divinity Lecturer at Gresham College" (Lords Journals of date). The Commons, whose concurrence was necessary, seem quietly to have withheld it, and thus the Assembly missed having John Goodwin in it as well as Thomas. "Homes" (Nathaniel Holmes: Wood's Ath. III. 1, 168) was also an Independent, and probably "Horton" leant that way (Thomas Horton: Wood's Fasti, II. 172).] and the Assembly produced (Dec. 17) an elaborate Answer. Copies of both documents were furnished to Parliament; but, without reference to the objections of the Independents, the essential parts of the Frame of Presbyterial Government had been ratified by Parliament in January 1644-5. [Footnote: The Reasons of Dissent by the Seven Independents and the Assembly's Answer were not published till 1648. They then appeared by order of Parliament; and they were republished in 1652 under the title of _The Grand Debate concerning Presbytery and Independency_.] Affairs then took a new turn in the Assembly. The Independents having often been taunted with being merely critical and never bringing fully to light their own views, one of them was led in a moment of heat to declare that they were quite willing to prepare their own complete Model of Congregationalism, to be contrasted with that of Presbytery. The Assembly eagerly caught at the imprudent offer, and the Seven Independents were appointed to be a committee for bringing in a Frame of Congregational Church Government, with reasons for the same. This was in March 1645; and from that time the Seven, supposed to be busy in Committee upon the work assigned them, had a dispensation from attendance at the general meetings. Spring passed, summer passed, September arrived; and still the Independents had not brought in their Model. The Assembly became impatient, and insisted on expedition. At length, on the 13th of October, the Seven presented to the Assembly-- what? Not the Model on which they were supposed to have been engaged for seven months, but a brief Paper of Reasons for not bringing in a Model at all! "Upon these considerations," they said in concluding the Paper, "we think that this Assembly hath no cause to require a Report from us; nor will that Report be of any use: seeing that Reports are for debates, and debates are for results to be sent up to the Honourable Houses; who have already voted another Form of Government than that which we shall present."--It was the astutest policy that the Independents could possibly have adopted; and the Presbyterians, feeling themselves outwitted, were furious. The machinery of the Accommodation Order had again to be put in motion by Parliament (Nov. 14). There were conferences of the Divines with members of the two Houses. What was the upshot? "The Independents in their last meeting of our Grand Committee of Accommodation," writes Baillie, Nov. 25, "have expressed their desires for toleration, not only to themselves, but to other sects." That was the upshot! Army Independency and Assembly Independency had coalesced, and their one flag now was Indefinite Toleration. [Footnote: Hetherington's Hist. of the Westminster Assembly (1843), pp. 220-236; Hanbury's Memorials, II. 548-559, and III. 1-32; Baillie, II. 270-326; Commons Journals, Nov. 14, 1645.]

The Presbyterians behaved accordingly. There was an end to their endeavours to reason over the few Independents in the Assembly, or arrange a secret compromise with them; and there was a renewed onset on the Toleration principle by the whole Presbyterian force. As if on a signal given, there was a fresh burst of Anti-Toleration pamphlets from the press. Prynne published one; Baillie sent forth his _Dissuasive_ (_antè_, p. 142); and Edwards was printing his immortal _Gangræna_ (_antè_, p. 141). But appeals to the public mind through the press were not enough. The real anxiety was about the action of Parliament. The expectation of the Presbyterians, grounded on recent experience, as that Parliament, even if left to itself, would see its duty clearly, and repudiate Toleration once and for ever. Still it would only be prudent to bring to bear on Parliament all available external pressure. Through December 1645 and January 1645-6, accordingly, the Presbyterians were ceaseless in contriving and promoting demonstrations in their favour. And with signal success:--Only a certain selected number of the parish-clergy of London and the suburbs, it is to be remembered, were members of the Assembly: the mass of them remained outside that body. But this mass, being Presbyterian almost to a man, had organized itself in such a way as both to act upon the Assembly and to obey it. Since 1623 there had been in the city, in the street called London Wall, a building called SION COLLEGE, with a library and other conveniences, expressly for the use of the London clergy, and answering for them most of the purposes of a modern clubhouse. Here, as was natural, the London clergy had of late been in the habit of meeting to talk over the Church-question, so that at length a weekly conclave had been arranged, and Sion College had become a kind of discussion forum, apart from the Assembly, and yet in connexion with it. At Sion College the London Presbyterians could concoct what was to be brought forward in the Assembly, and a hint from the Assembly to Sion College in any moment of Presbyterian difficulty could summon all the London clergy to the rescue. At the moment at which we have arrived such a hint was given; and on the 18th of December, 1645, there was drawn up at Sion College a Letter to the Assembly by all the ministers of the City of London expressly against Toleration. "These are some of the many considerations," they say in the close of the Letter, "which make a deep impression upon our spirits against that Great Diana of Independents and all the Sectaries, so much cried up by them in these distracted times, namely, A Toleration--A Toleration. And, however none should have been more rejoiced than ourselves in the establishment of a brotherly, peaceable, and Christian _accommodation_, yet, this being utterly rejected by them, we cannot dissemble how, upon the fore- mentioned grounds, we detest and abhor the much-endeavoured _Toleration_. Our bowels, our bowels, are stirred within us, &c." The Letter was presented to the Assembly Jan. 1, 1645-6, and the Assembly took care that it should be published that same day.[Footnote: Cunningham's London, Art. _Sion College_; Hanbury's Memorials, III. 97-99; Stationers' Registers, Jan. 1, 1645-6.]--The Corporation of London was as staunchly Presbyterian as the clergy, and they too were stirred up. "We have gotten it, thanks to God, to this point," writes Baillie, Jan. 15, "that the Mayor, Aldermen, Common Council, and most of the considerable men, are grieved for the increase of sects and heresies and want of government. They have yesterday had a public Fast for it, and solemnly renewed their Covenant by oath and subscription, and this day have given in a strong Petition for settling Church-government, and suppressing all sects, without any toleration." The Petition was to the Commons; and it was particularly represented to that House, by Alderman Gibbs, as the spokesman for the Petitioners, that "new and strange doctrines and blasphemies" were being vented in the City by women-preachers. [Footnote: Baillie, II. 337; Hanbury, III. 99, 100; Commons Journals, January 15, 1645-6.]

Environed by such a sea of Presbyterian excitement, what could the Parliament do? They did what was expected. They shook off Toleration as if it had been a snake. Not only did they assure the Aldermen and Common Council that there would be due vigilance against the sects and heretics; but on the 29th of January, or within a fortnight after they had received the City Petition, they took occasion to prove that their assurance was sincere. The two Baptist preachers Cox and Richardson, it seems, had been standing at the door of the House of Commons, distributing to members printed copies of the Confession of Faith of the Seven Baptist Congregations in London (see _antè_, p. 148). It was as if they had said, "Be pleased to look for yourselves, gentlemen, at the real tenets of those poor Anabaptists who are described as such monsters." But the Commons were in a Presbyterian panic; Cox and Richardson were taken into custody; and orders were issued for seizing and suppressing all copies of the Baptist Confession that could be found. This alone would prove that as late as the end of January, 1645-6, the Presbyterians, in their character of Anti-Tolerationists, were still masters of the field. [Footnote: Commons Journals, Jan. 29, 1645-6.]


The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 70/128

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