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hood. Their church officers for preaching the word, and taking care of the poor,were chosen from among themselves and separated to their several offices by fasting and prayer, and imposition of the hands of some of the brethren. They did not allow the priesthood to be a distinct order, or to give a man an indelible character ; but as the vote of the brotherbood made him an officer, and gave him authority to preach and administer the sacraments among them ; so the same power could discharge him from his office, and reduce him to the state of a private member.
When the number of communicants was larger than could meet in one place, the church divided, and chose new officers from among themselves as before, living together as sister churches, and giving each other the right hand of fellowship, or the privilege of communion with either. One church might not exercise jurisdiction or authority over an. other, but each might give the other counsel, advice, or ad. monition, if they walked disorderly, or abandoned the capital truths of religion ; and if the offending church did not receive the admonition, the others were to withdraw, and publicly disown them as a church of Christ. The powers of their church officers were confined within the narrow limits of their own society; the pastor of one church might not administer the sacrament of baptism or the Lord's supper to any but those of his own communion and their imme. diate children. They declared against all prescribed forms of prayer. Any lay-brother had the liberty of prophesy. ing, or giving a word of exhortation, in their church assemblies; and it was usual after sermon, for some of the members to ask questions, and confer with each other upon the doctrines that had been delivered ; but as for church censures, they were for an entire separation of the ecclesiastical and civil sword. In short, every church, or society of christians meeting in one place, was, according to the BROWNISTS, a body corporate, having full power within itself to admit and exclude members, to choose and ordain officers; and, when the good of the society required it, to depose them, without being accountable to classes, convo. cations, synods, councils, or any jurisdiction whatsoever.
Some of their reasons for withdrawing from the church are not easily answered : They alledged, that the laws of
the realm, and the Queen's injunctions, had made several unwarrantable additions to the institutions of Cbrist. That there were several gross errors in the church service. Tbat these additions and errors were imposed and made neces. sary to communion. That if persecution for conscience sake was the mark of a false church, they could not believe the church of England to be a true one. They apprehended further, that the constitution of the hierarchy was too bad to be mended; that the very pillars of it were rotten, and that the structure must be begun anew. Since therefore al Christians are obliged to preserve the ordinances of Christ pure and undefiled, they resolved to lay a new foundation, and keep as near as they could to the primitive pattern, though it were with the hazard of all that was dear to them in the world.
This scheme of the Brownists seems to be formed upon the practice of the apostolical churches, before the gifts of inspiration and prophecy were ceased, and is therefore hard. ly practicable in these latter ages, wherein the infirmities and passions of private persons too often take place of their gifts and graces. Accordingly they were involved in frequeut quarrels and divisions; but their chief crime was their uncharitableness, in unchurching the whole ehristian world, and breaking off all manner of communion in hearing the word, in public prayer, and in the administration of the sacraments, not only with the church of England, but with all foreign reformed churches, which, though less pure, ought certainly to be owned as churches of Christ,
The heads of the Brownists were, Mr. Brown himself and his companion Mr. Harrison, together with Mr. Tyler, Copping, Thacker, and others, who were now in prison for spreading his books; the two last being afterwards put to death for it. The bishop of Norwich used them cruelly, and was highly displeased with those that shewed them any countenance. When the prisoner above-mentioned, with Mr. Handson and some others, complained to the justices at their quarter sessions of their long and illegal imprisonment, their worships were pleased to move the bishops in their favor ; with which his lordship was so dissatisfied, that ke drew up twelve articles of impeachment against the justices themselves, and caused them to be summoned before the
Queen and council to answer for their misdemeanors. * In the articles they are charged with countenancing Copping, Tyler, and other disorderly clergymen. They are accused of contempt of his lordship’s jurisdiction, in refusing to admit divers ministers whom he had ordained, because they were ignorant, and could only read; and for removing one Wood from his living on the same account. Sir Robert Jer. min, and sir John Higham, knights, and Robert Ashfield and Thomas Badley, esquires, gentlemen of Suffolk and Norfolk, and of the number of the aforesaid justices, gave in their answer to the bishop's articles in the name of the rest ; in wbich, after asserting their own conformity to the rites and ceremonies of the church, they very justly tax his lordship with cruelty, in keeping men so many years in prison, without bringing them to a trial, according to law; and are ashamed that a bishop of the church of England should be a patron of ignorance, and an enemy to the preaching the word of God. Upon this the justices were dismissed. But though the lord Treasurer, lord North, sir Robert Jermin, and others wrote to the bishop, that Mr. Handson, who was a learned and useful preacher, might have a licence granted him, the angry prelate declared peremptorily, that he never should have one unless he would acknowledge his fault, and enter into bonds for his good behavior for the future.
While the bishops were driving the puritans out of the pulpits, the nobility and gentry received them into their houses as chaplains and tutors to their children, not merely out of compassion, but from a sense of their real worth and usefulness; for they were men of undissembled piety and devotion ; mighty in the scriptures; zealous for the protestant religion ; of exemplary lives ; far remote from the liberties and fashionable vices of the times; and indefatigably diligent in instructing those committed to their care.
Here they were covered from their oppressors ; they preached in the family, and catechised the children ; which, without all question, had a considerable influence upon the next generation.
The papists were now very active all over the country ; swarms of jesuits came over from the seminaries abroad, in
Strype's Ann. vol. ïïï. p. 20.
defiance of the law ;* and spread their books of devotion and controversy among the common people ; they had their private conventicles almost in every market-town in England ; in the northern Counties they were more numerous than the protestants. This put the government upon enquiring after their priests; 'many of whom were apprehended, and three were executed, viz. Edmund Campion, a learned and subtle jesuit, educated in Cambridge, where he continued till the year 1569, when he travelled to Rome, and en. tered himself into the society of Jesus, 1573. Some years after he came into England, and travelled the countries to propagate the catholic faith. Being apprehended he was put on
the rack to discover the gentlemen who harbored him, and afterwards was hanged, drawn, and quartered, when be was but forty-one years of age. The other two that suffered with him, were Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Bryant. These were executed for an example, but the rest were spared, because the Queen's match with the duke of Anjou was still depending. However, the protestants in the Neth, erlands being in distress, the Queen assisted them with men and money, for which they delivered into her majesty's hands the most important fortresses of their country, which she garrisoned with English. She also sent relief to the French protestants, who were at war with their natural prince; and ordered a collection all over England, for the relief of the city of Geneva, beseiged by the duke of Savoy: measures which were hardly consistent with her own princi. ples of government; but, as Rapin observes,t Queen Elizabeth's zeal for the protestant religion was always subordi. nate to her private interest.
About this time  the Queen granted a commission of concealments, to some of her hungry courtiers, by which
* Bishop Warburton asks here, “ Were the jesuits more faulty in acte "ing in defiance of the laws, than the puritans” and replies, "I think “ not. They had both the same plea, Conscience, and both the same “provocation, Persecution.” This is candid and pertinent, as far as it applies to the religious principles of each ; but certainly the spirit and views of these parties were very different; the former was engaged, once and again, in plots against the life and government of the Queen ; the loyalty of the other was notwithstanding all their sufferings, unimpeaehed. ED.
4 Vol. viii. p. 475.
they were empowered to enquire into the titles of church lands and livings; all forfeitures, concealments, or lands for which the parish could not produce a legal title, were given to them: The articles of enquiry seem to be levelled against the puritans, but, through their sides, they must have made sad havoc with the patrimony of the church.† They were such as these, What right have you to your parsonage
? How came you into it? Who ordained you? And at what age were you ordained ? Have you a licence ? Were you married under the hands of two justices of the peaee? Do you read the whole service ? Do you use all the rites, ceremonies and ornaments appointed by the Queen's injunctions ? Have you publicly read the articles and subscribed them? The church-wardens of every parish had also twenty-four interrogatories administered to them upon oath, concerning their parson, and their church lands; all with a design to sequester them into the hands of the Queen's gentlemen pensioners. This awakened the bishops, who fell upon their knees before the Queen, and intreated her majesty, if she had any regard for the church, to supersede the commission; which she did, though, it is well enough known, the Queen had no scruple of conscience about plundering the church of its revenues.
To return to the puritans. The Rev. Mr. Robert Wright, domestic chaplain to the late lord Rich, of Rochford in Essex, fell into the hands of the bishop of London last year, * [1581;] he was a learned man, and had lived 14 years in the university of Cambridge ; but being dissatistied with episcopal ordination, went over to Antwerp, and was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery of that place. Upon his return home, lord Rich took him into his family, at Rochford in the hundreds of Essex, where he preached constantly in his lordship's chapel, and no where else, because he could obtain no licence from the bishop. He was an admired preacher, and universally beloved by the clergy of the county, for his great seriousness and piety. While his lordship was alive he protected him from danger, but his noble patron was no sooner dead, than the bishop of London laid hands on him, and confined him in
+ Strype's Aon. vol iii. p. 114.
* Ibid, p. 123.