Modern Anglicanism and Dissent no criteria for judging the immediate Post-Reformation period

     In the following essays, I will continue to look at the radical views of the proto-Presbyterians in general and Cartwright’s and Travers’ view of church discipline in particular, especially regarding the episcopacy, and compare them with those of Jewel and Hooker and other English Reformers who were true to the official Confessions of the Church of England at that time. Sadly, most of those critics who use Cartwright and certain contemporaries nowadays to bring the Church of England in Reformed times into disrepute cite what he allegedly said during his day and compare that with the sad state of the Church of England today. This is an unfair comparison when one realizes how the views of our Reformers then, which Cartwright strenuously attacked, were radically different from the run-of the mill Anglicanism or Dissent of today. If Dissent has anything to say concerning the Church of England today, it is to confess that it largely shares her departure from Orthodoxy. Modern un-Orthodox Radicals such as Dr Alan Clifford are now arguing that the Reformation never really took place. For one unknowledgeable about history, this might seem the case. The fact is, rather, that our modern so-called Reformed Establishment, whether in the Church of England or in the so-called Free-Churches where Dr Clifford has pitched his tabernacle, quite ignores the Reformation. This was rubbed into my understanding some years ago in a Banner of Truth attack on William Huntington which quite denied the doctrines of grace emphasized by our Reformers.1 For such modern so-called ‘Reformed’ believers, the Reformation may as well never have happened. Dissent has certainly to be blamed as much as any down-grading attempts by the Church of England who still carry the resemblance of Reformation in their official Confessions. Those who appeal to the High-Church Savoy Declaration or the mixed-bag of the unfinished rationalistic Westminster Confession lose out in any comparison.

What did the 16th century C of E and Dissent really teach?

     A further difficulty is provided by the confused state of research into exactly what was written and said both by the Church of England of the day and Dissent. Indeed, it is no impossibility in airing thoughts out of context from both Hooker and, say, Cartwright, to give the impression that both repeatedly contradict themselves besides each other. Two such cases are where Hooker appears to defend the light of reason in evaluating Scripture yet condemns it as being without authority in judging Scripture as Scripture is its own judge. Similarly, Cartwright apparently fought in true Tridentine terms to forbid the public reading of Scripture without priestly interpretation but argued (according to Grindal) based on Ephesians IV that as a teacher in Deacon’s orders and a Reader, he was counted Scripturally as a doctor and thus could publically read Scripture but should not preach on it.2

Cartwright was in no position to challenge the doctrines and orders of the Reformation

     The latter point regarding Cartwright’s lack of authority in the Church of England is what gave him a very bad start in public debate. One could say that he began to introduce his views for reforming the organization of the Church of England much too early in his career for them to be taken notice of by the Establishment. As a raw junior university lecturer in Deacon’s orders, he did not wait until he had any authority of the Church behind him or even well-tried experience and practice to discuss these matters on a level where they could be either appreciated or weighed and found wanting. Indeed, through evasive statements about his own status, he managed to have himself made professor of Divinity without being in priest’s orders. When this was discovered, Cartwright was dismissed. Nowadays, of course, one can be a Professor of Divinity without being an ordained man but it is still not looked upon as ideal and it was not the case in Cartwright’s time. Similarly, Cartwright was not allowed to study further for his D.D. when it was found out that he had not the necessary prior qualifications being only a non-ordained bachelor. It would be equally difficult for a junior lecturer today to use his university as a platform to promote reforms which were totally outside of his sphere of service and the regular teaching duties for which he was paid. Nowadays, too, a doctoral candidate would not be allowed to enter such studies with only a BA, as at least an MA is required. According to Whitgift, then Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, as he told Archbishop Parker, Cartwright was plainly and simply guilty of perjury in pretending to hold qualifications he did not have. This author has sat on academic examination boards long enough to know that even the most pious candidates can be most deceitful about their qualifications. Whitgift had been given his position of watchman in the university in order to clean up the dubious practices that had begun to bring the university into disfavor. Much of the trouble was due to patrons pushing through those whom they thought they could influence and use. To be fair to Whitgift, before taking procedures against Cartwright, he offered to give him opportunity to defend himself and explain his proposals in open debate. This Cartwright refused to do. Both Whitgift and later King James made sure that Cartwright received academic posts but this patronage was not always welcome to Cartwright who, it appeared, liked to foster the idea that he represented a persecuted minority.

The Pan-European Reformed stance against Cartwright’s ideas

     Bishop Sandys, who had had enough of religious persecution himself and was to suffer further under the criminal energies of the disciplinarians, wrote to Gualter in August, 1574 expressing great concern regarding the extraordinary new love of severe discipline on the Continent which was uniting the Hyper- Lutherans and Hyper-Genevans where doctrine and Christian fellowship had seemingly failed. This was being exported to England through such as Cartwright who had picked up the new discipline at Heidelberg rather than from the less-extreme English Dissenters. Sandys continues, confident that the new discipline bubble would soon burst:

     “Our innovators, who have been striving to strike out for us a new form of a church, are not doing us much harm; nor is the new fabric of theirs making much progress as they expected. Our nobility are at last sensible of the object to which this novel fabrication is tending. The author of these novelties, and after Beza3 the first inventor, is a young Englishman, by name Thomas Cartwright, who, they say, is now sojourning at Heidelberg. He has lately written from thence a treatise in Latin, in defence of this new discipline which he wishes to obtrude upon us. I have not seen the book, but I hear that it is printed, and has been brought over to us. As soon as it shall come into my hands, I will take care it shall be sent to you.”4

     When such as Sandys, Horne and Grindal returned to England, they were surprised to find that Mary’s policies had given rise to a lack of spirituality amongst the Protestants whose protests were mainly centered on inessentials, discipline and ceremonies and outward display. There was a new interest in vestments as a number of those returning from the Continent had become used to foreign fashions. The gala upper-class robes of the Continentals with their long black gowns and white ruffs as worn by the Swiss (except by Bullinger who wore no vestments), took the fancy of the rebels who claimed that ‘old-fashioned’ Anglican vestments were either Jewish or popish. Clerical dress must be Continental to be up-to-date, they urged. Their opponents in England ridiculed them by claiming that long black robes were Turkish in origin, stemming from Islamic priests and Turkish merchants. An amusing conversation has been recorded between John Foxe and his son who were exiled in Germany for several years. On returning to England, Foxe’s son presented himself to his father in ‘a foreign and somewhat fantastical garb’. ‘Who are you?’ said Foxe. ‘Sir, I am your son Samuel,’ was the reply. Fox retorted, ‘O my son what enemy of thine hath taught thee so much vanity?’5

     Foxe became enraged when the radicals strove to raise up a Presbytery in place of the bishop’s office and for the fact that they sought to denounce such as himself, his son and Humphreys whom they claimed ought to support them. Collinson quotes Fox as saying, “If I were a man to rage with them against bishops and archbishops, they would never have sharpened their arrows against me. They hate me because I prefer to follow moderation and public tranquillity.”6 When the would-be Presbyterians started persecuting their brethren at Magdalen College, Fox exclaimed:

     “My private wrongs I can bear; it is the church’s danger that moves me. This kind of men, if they gather strength, will throw all into confusion. They are worse than the old monks, and would reduce all to Judaean servitude.”7

     When Fox found out that Samuel, his son, was being persecuted and his close friend Humphrey, now President of Magdalen, possibly in an effort to discredit Fox himself, the reforming Puritan, protesting at the puritanising of externals instead of sound Christian doctrinal and spiritual norms exclaimed:

     “I marvel the more what turbulent genius has so inspired these factius puritans, that violating the laws of gratitude, scorning my letters and prayer to them, despising the intercession of the president himself, they practice this monstrous tyranny against me and my son, without warning or reason given. I grant my son is not so pure and free of all blemish as are those thrice pure puritans; nevertheless in these blemishes of his I have not yet found any mote so great as the greater beams which one may perceive in their characters.”8

     It thus appears quite scandalous to this author to find that modern radicals such as Dr. Alan Clifford see in these persecutors of the saints the fathers of the puritans and think this to be a true, worthy and beneficial fact. This is to denounce the Puritans en bloc and to abolish history in favour of a pipe-dream which proved to be a nightmare.

The leader of the Swiss Reformers backs the Church of England

     Henry Bullinger had been such a help to the English Reformers during the Marian persecutions that they looked to him as one of the major Reformers of the Reformed Church of England under Elizabeth. Bullinger came to the Establish Church’s aid with his Epistola ad Episcopos et fraters in Anglia in which he declared that the Church of England was correct in her understanding of the vestments as ‘things indifferent’ which were a mere matter of usage. Many of these troublemakers, mistakenly believing that Calvin, who wore Continental-style vestments including hat and tippet, supported their legalistic and separatist enthusiasm, claimed that they were ‘Calvinists’ and therefore true supporters of the Swiss Reformation, though Geneva was not yet part of Switzerland. Bullinger, Gualter, Beza and Calvin all wrote to the rebels, appropriately named Precisians, telling them that they had not only misinterpreted the Swiss and Genevan Reformations, but they had also misinformed their Swiss and Genevan advisors as to the state of the English Church and were misusing their good name by insisting on forcing imagined Continental externals onto the English Church. Grindal gives a minute account of this more-Calvinist-than-Calvin movement in his letter to Bullinger of 11 June, 1568.9 It appears by this time that the Precisians in London had set up rival churches of some 200 members in all, ordained their own ministers, elders and deacons, celebrated the Lord’s Supper together and emphasised church discipline and order. They were so exact in their legal approach to religion that they soon began to excommunicate one another over the tiniest breach in fashion or mode of worship. Satan’s horrible tool ‘Denominationalism’ was now put into practice. He was always for ‘divide and rule’. Grindal points out that those ‘Puritans’ who were thought to be the most radical of Reformers such as Dean Lawrence Humphrey, Dean Thomas Sampson and Pastor Thomas Lever would have nothing to do with this rebel church-splitting group of sects.

    Up to this time Sampson had been thought of by the Swiss as the extreme Nonconformist. Bullinger told Beza on 15 March, 1567:

    “I have always looked with suspicion upon the statements made by master Sampson. He is not amiss in other respects, but of an exceeding restless disposition. While he resided amongst us at Zürich, and after he returned to England, he never ceased to be troublesome to master Peter Martyr of blessed memory. He often used to complain to me, that Sampson never wrote a letter without filling it with grievances: the man is never satisfied; he has always some doubt or other to busy himself with. As often as he began, when he was here, to lay his plans before me, I used to get rid of him in a friendly way, as well knowing him to be a man of a captious and unquiet disposition. England has many characters of this sort, who cannot be at rest, who can never be satisfied, And who have always something or other to complain about. I have certainly a natural dislike to men of this stamp.”10

     Now Bullinger, Gualter and Beza, the latter having joined the English radicals for a time before pulling out professing they had duped him, realized that men like Cartwright were proving an even greater hindrance to true Reformation and even Sampson found them much too extreme. These Precisians or Ultra-Puritans had written to Bullinger and Gualter, complaining that ministers of the Reformed Church of England were officiating at the Lord’s Table in full popish regalia and Bullinger wrote condemning such a practice and wrote to Lawrence Humphrey, Thomas Sampson, Robert Horne, John Parkhurst and Edmund Grindal outlining his own moderate views. These were published under the title Epistles concerning the Apparell of Ministers and other indifferent things and prefixed to Bullinger’s best-selling Decades. On making enquiries, including correspondence with Swiss theological students in the English universities who gave very favourable reports on the Reformed principles of the Church, Bullinger, like Beza, found he had been misinformed as those ministers mentioned had worn the usual clerical hat as used in Switzerland, including Geneva, and a white surplice only. Bullinger now strongly criticized those who made vestments their religion but also those who made the destruction of order equally their religion. This became a popular position to hold in the Church of England. Bullinger became irritated with the rebels’ petty complaints and had little patience with their individual and changing moods and their holier-than-thou approach to Christian debate.

    Bullinger cannot be said to have been biased in any way concerning the English problem as he, unlike his Genevan counterparts, wore neither gown, nor tippet, nor a clergyman’s hat. Bullinger, however, neither quarreled with the Genevan view of clerical dress nor the vestments used in Bern or Basle nor with the Reformed Church of England’s custom, nor even with his fellow Zürich ministers over the gala gowns they sometimes wore. He argued that such secondary matters were merely restricted to utility and local traditions in clothing.11 In 1565, whilst the vestarian controversy was raging, and to testify to his own deep fellowship with the Church of England, Bullinger dedicated his collection of sermons on Daniel (Conciones in Danielem) to five of his closest friends who were bishops in that Church. These were Robert Horne, John Jewel, Edwin Sandys, John Parkhurst and James Pilkington.

A personal testimony

    As an aside, this author must point out how he has often been criticized by Presbyterian and Baptist ministers for writing positively about the 16th century Church of England because of the vestment issue. One even wrote to tell him that he was a Roman Catholic and an Enemy and that his critic would do all he could to stop the publication of his book on Toplady who extolled the Church of England after allegedly reading my manuscript. This author then read a report with photos of a Free Presbyterian conference which displayed one of his strongest critics who has called him an Antinomian and a Hyper-Calvinist for not being a legalist since the early eighties, wearing a long black robe which reached his shoe tops and other strange adornments. When attending a Baptist baptism service, he was rather amused to see the anti-vestment minister turn up in black robes weighted down at the hems with lead, and adorned with a decorative hood. As the minister climbed down into the baptistery, he was forced to lift up his skirts, showing his nobly knees so that he could descend the steps to every one’s amusement. This author also witnessed a Free Church graduation service where all the candidates were adorned in black robes and four-corned hats. The special eye-catcher were the lady liturgists who were all donned up like bishops, some carrying banners as in Roman Catholic processions. This would not have caused this author to raise his eye-brows but for the fact that these particular organisations profess to be strict anti-vestment enthusiasts. What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander!

Further correspondence between England and the Continent

    Back to the situation in Cartwright’s time, John Abel wrote from England in 1566 describing the English Church in warm tones to his pastor Bullinger telling him that several ministers, however, were retiring from the Church of England ministry because of vestments. Abel explains that there is no ruling that they should wear a surplice when preaching apart from at baptisms and the Lord’s Supper so he cannot understand why these men value nit-picking higher than their calling to preach. He adds that Bullinger, Gualter, Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer have all written to warn these men of such legalism. Indeed, it is obvious that when one reads the correspondence of these times, it was to counter Dissenting chaos in dress and mannerisms that the Church of England became more rigid in her dress code and discipline. Some order is better than chaos. At the time, early Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Independents, Anabaptists and Baptists were all adorning themselves with fancy ceremonial clothing. When I trained in theology in London from 1959-63, it was a common joke that one could always tell a Free-Church pastor from an Anglican as he had the broader dog-collar. These disciplinarians, however, refused to put themselves under any discipline, however mild, but their own, though, as we know from their lives, this discipline was expected of others but often not themselves. One is reminded of Baptist historian Thomas Crosby who was a sticker for outward discipline but was excommunicated from two Baptist churches for fiddling the books and other illicit practices. When asked what he did not like in the Church of England, his answer was that the Church was too strict in discipline! Yet he scolded John Gill and his wife for not adhering to his own most dubious kind of discipline.

Presbyterian oligarchy condemned

      On 16 March, 1574, Gualter told Cox that these More-Calvinist-than-Calvin rebels wished to ‘revive’ a Presbyterian system as the answer to the church’s needs, but he adds, “I wish they would think about reviving that simplicity of faith and purity of morals, which formerly flourished.” And continues, “I greatly fear there is lying concealed under the presbytery an affection of oligarchy, which may at length degenerate into monarchy, or even open tyranny. Nor do I fear this without reason. For I know (to give one instance out of many) a city of some importance, in which, after this form of discipline had been introduced, within the space of three years were exhibited such instances of tyranny, as would put the Romanists to shame.”12 Here Gualter is thinking of Heidelberg which had ‘progressed’ from a Reformed doctrine of church discipline to the new doctrine which caused a veritable reign of terror to proceed through the churches. Cartwright was instructed in radicalism in Heidelberg and sought to Heidelbergise England.

Cartwright’s development not dealt with chronologically

     It is most important that one studies how Cartwright developed, modified and altered his own ‘discipline’ and his various criticisms of the Church of England over many years until he appeared to be reconciled back to her. Most modern defenders of Cartwright load him with many views which he only held sporadically and also line him up against Church and Monarchy though both treated him with great patience and, in the case of James I, with friendship and a large measure of support. This must be said of Whitgift also. Though he acted strictly according to law whether ecclesiastical or secular with Cartwright, he nevertheless treated him with great patience and even friendship. This fact is made difficult for modern readers to understand by Cartwright’s would-be supporters like Benjamin Brook in his The Lives of the Puritans where Brook outlines most of Cartwright’s criticisms in one long list as if these points depicted Cartwright’s position from the very start of his student life and as if he held them all his life. Most of these points, however, developed through dialogues with others such as Whitgift over many years and were often spoken out in the heat of combat when one is most unwary about what one says or refrains from saying. So, too, much pressure was put on Cartwright to become an oft-times unwilling spokesman for radical measures. So, too, the Cartwright who spoke to one man was surprisingly different from the same Cartwright who spoke to another.

     Obviously when Cartwright, his fellow dissidents and his sympathetic biographers outline a criticism of Cartwright, for instance, his extraordinary superstitious idea of how the Lord’s Supper or baptism should be celebrated, they do not go into any detail concerning the obvious flaws in Cartwright’s arguments as Whitgift was compelled to do. On the other hand, Cartwright’s critics tend to jump on these and blow them up to monstrous proportions and use them to depict a Cartwright who though he was skilled in Latin and Greek and was a man of deep spiritual fervor, he failed to demonstrate this in his apologetics and left himself open to ridicule. One can be right in one’s criticism of error as Whitgift was surely right but one can be wrong in one’s handling of a difficult situation as Whitgift surely was. This goes for modern supporters of Cartwright such as Dr. Alan Clifford also who appears to have lost touch with history in his effort to clothe such as Cartwright, Amyraldianism and Calvinism in his own garments. Furthermore, Whitgift was warned by his brethren not to make a mountain of a mole-hill and that Cartwright was a mole-hill whose ideas would soon be levelled to the ground by the winds of time. Whitefield was, however, appointed to deal with bother-causers in the Church and carried out his duties with great zeal, often making dangerous crags and cliffs which lasted instead of allowing them to crumble when small piles of sand because of their own inconsistency with Scripture and Practical Theology.

Cartwright and the Admonitions

     Another difficulty is that, though Cartwright is called ‘the Father of the Puritans’ by contenders against Episcopalian rule, Cartwright was certainly not in the front row of the dissidents time-wise and entered the fray after the first major Dissenting action had been discussed nation-wide. He was more a gatherer of other people’s ideas rather than a pioneer of them. The main onslaught against the Establishment was apparently started through a work called An Admonition to Parliament. Despite its title, this was not an official call for reform presented to Parliament, although it should have been presented to the Church authorities as they were the chief targets of criticism, but it was spread abroad amongst those who wished for a new church system as a Streitschrift where there had been little need for such a quarrel. There were indeed many points in it which found agreement with people of the Establishment like Whitgift and Hooker but these used the regular and authorized channels in which to air their complaints. Whitgift expressed his concern about many matters within the establishment through the increasing opportunities he received and his interest and ideas brought him promotion. The critics made their own case questionable by wishing to reform the Church outside of its structures as if they had given up the Church. There was clearly rivalry between Whitgift and Cartwright. The latter’s approach was seen by the Establishment as a political attempt to destroy the ancient Church and not reform or renew it through Christian means. This can be compared to the Hampton Court Petition at the time of James I which came at a time when Convocation was peacefully going ahead with Reforms but the petitioners wanted a settlement by secular, government authority and not by the Church so they thus appealed to Caesar after already appealing to Parliament to have the Prayer Book banned and replaced by Travers’ Directory.

     The authors of the first of three Admonitions to Parliament spread abroad were said to be John Field and Thomas Wilcock. The affair is said to have first came to the knowledge of Bishop Parkhurst and (then) Bishop Grindal through Gualter from Zürich and Beza from Geneva sending them a copy. I would ask for caution here as we have a letter from Bishop Cox to Gualter discussing the matter with him but Cox writes as if the work was anonymous and he appears to be informing Gualter of English affairs concerning the Admonition of which he was apparently unaware. Furthermore, Grindal and Horne deny categorically that the popish rites and Latin prayers and the use of oil, spittle, clay and lighted tapers listed by the young rebels were part of the Reformed Church of England service and had been banned by Church and secular law. A number of men suspected of aiding and abetting these protests against their Church such as Wiburn denied having any part in the false criticisms. So, too, we have a letter from Archbishop Grindal informing Bullinger of the Admonition, mentioning no names but explaining that Nonconformists such as Humphrey and Sampson, friends of both Grindal and Bullinger, had nothing to do with the work of the ‘young men’ who authored the First Admonition and were openly opposed to such protests. Grindal sees those who are urging these youngsters on as being noblemen who are after church property. He was perhaps over-cautious because John Knox, one of his major critics and a pioneer of discontent had been given his ecclesiastical livings by rebel dukes both in England and Scotland in order to oppose Cranmer. Collinson points this out in his biography of Grindal, p. 63. It was the Estate Lords in Scotland who appointed Knox as leader of the Scottish Church though he was not even known to be ordained and if he were, it would have been a Roman Catholic ordination as a sacrificing priest. Hooker also saw much of the opposition within the Church of England as being caused by noblemen who supported anti-Episcopalian rebels so that they might take over bishops’ properties. We also know from Gualter’s and Beza’s letters that if they had anything to do with the policies of the Admonition, it would be to denounce them. Indeed both men had warned the English Church leaders against such bother-causers as had also Fox and Humphrey. So too, Lever’s name was much misused by young rebels in those days to give themselves credit but he also was quite against their projects. The misunderstanding as to authorship is probably derived from the fact that letters from Gualter and Beza were appended to published versions of the Admonition which led to their names been confused with those of the real authors. The edition of 1572 preserved in the Ann Arbor university library thus lists the names of Gualter and Beza with those of Field and Wilcox as authors. In the letters from the Vaudois and Switzerland the bishops are criticized for their harsh treatment of the rebels but the latter are nevertheless told to return to feeding their flocks and not waste time complaining about ‘caps and surplesse’. Various vestments were used by the Swiss and Genevan ministers who did not quarrel over their usage. Perhaps the only major Swiss theologian to discard vestments altogether was Bullinger but he urged their English critics not to make a major issue of things so unimportant. Indeed, the major criticism of the rebels was against the very practice that the Genevan Reformers, including Calvin, followed. Gualter, however, wrote to Cox on 9 June, 1572 confessing that Beza had been hoodwinked by the rebels and thus he himself through Beza. The Dissidents had sent two representatives from England to Geneva to persuade Beza to support their protest against popish practices in the Church of England. Percival Wilburn who was allegedly one of the delegates to Geneva, blames Beza for getting everything wrong. As Beza often bent over backwards to agree with his opponents as in his discussions with the Roman Catholic leaders on the Lord’s Supper, this may have been the case as the Roman Catholic version of the discussions was that ‘Beza believes exactly as we do’. Beza’s compromises with the Lutherans over the Augsburg Confession, especially Article 10 are well known. When Calvin was in Zürich agreeing to abolish popish interpretations of the Supper, Beza was in Geneva putting popish interpretations into his new catechism. Gualter put the protests down to a political faction who ‘abused the auchoritie of the Queenes’.13 That the matter of apparel was merely an excuse for wishing to be rid of the Church of England, as pointed out by Collinson, appears to be the case as those who kept their congregations within the Church but did not wear vestments were criticized by the rebels harshly.

     So it appears that the Admonition was compiled by a group of young rebels who hinted at support from ‘big names’ merely to give their arguments more weight and respect. These dissatisfied young men were urged on and supported by politically minded patrons who had their own careers and pockets in mind. One notices from the first lines of the first chapter of the first edition of the Admonition that the authors are out to exaggerate their complaints against the entire academic and ecclesiastical system from humble graduates to Archbishops, noblemen and senior public officers. They thus start their complaints by declaring:

     ‘For certaine men there are of great countenaunce, whiche will not lightly like of them, bicause they principally concerne theyr persons and vaiusre dealings: whose credite is greate, and whose freendes are manye, we meane the Lordly Lords, Archbishops, Bishops, Suffraganes Deanes, Vniuersitie Doctors, and Bachelers of Diuinitie, Archdeacons, Chaūcelors, and the rest of that proud generation, whose kingdome must down, hold they neuer so hard: bicause their tyrannous Lordship can not stande with Christes kingdome. And it is the speciall mischefe of our Englishe churche, and the cheefe cause of backewardnesse, and of all breache and dissention. For they whose authoritie is forbidden by Christ, will haue theyr stroke without their fellow seruaūts, yea, though vngratiously, cruelly and Pope-like they take vpon them to beat them, and that for theyr owne childishe Articles, being for the most part against the manifest truthe of God: First, by experience theyr rigoure hathe too plainely appeared euer since their wicked raign, and specially for the space of these fiue or six yeares last past together. Of the enomities, which with suche rigoure they maintaine these treatises doe in parte make mention, iustly crauing redresse therof. But the matters do require a larger discourse. Only ye authors of those, thought it their parts to admonish you at this time, of those inconveniences which men seme not to thinke vpon, and which without reformation, cannot but increase further dissention: the one parte being proude, pontifycall and tyrannous: and the woorde of God for the other parte expresse & manifest, as if it pleased the state to examine the matters, it would be euident.’

     So here these young complainers pride themselves on seeing faults in the entire English state and ecclesiastical system which they fear others have not seen. It is thus no wonder that those reading this first version of the Admonition believed that here were some hot-heads who wished to turn the whole world upside down in demanding changes, yet not specified, in a most quarrelsome, unbrotherly manner, having no respect of persons, status or spiritual capacities.

     Perhaps this was one reason why Cartwright took over the authorship of the Second Admonition, limiting his strictures to the bishop’s office and the Church of England’s practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper and performing baptism. Benjamin Brook (1776-1848) who was a sticker for ministerial dress of the old Congregationalist kind is most unspecific in his details of Cartwright’s complaints, though most apologists for Cartwright’s alleged views obtain them from Brook And not Cartwright’s own works. Brook thus lists 12 ‘dangerous and seditious doctrines’ which Cartwright allegedly opposed. These are either not spelt out in specific Cartwrightian tones or concern items which were left to individual practice and were not under law. If this was all that Cartwright had to complain about, he would have found very many indeed in the Church of England who agreed with him but would have stressed that they did not practice what Cartwright argued they did. Brook’s list of Cartwrightian complaints are:

1. That in reforming the church, it is necessary to reduce all things to the apostolic institution.

2. That no man ought to be admitted into the ministry, who is not capable of preaching.

3. That popish ordinations are not valid. And only canonical scripture ought to be publicly read in the church.

4. That equal reverence is due to all canonical scripture, and to all the names of God ; there is, therefore, no reason why the people should stand at the reading of the gospel, or bow at the name of Jesus.

5. That it is as lawful to sit at the Lord’s table, as to kneel or stand.

6. That the Lord’s supper ought not to be administered in private; nor should baptism be administered by women or lay-persons.

7. That the sign of the cross in baptism, is superstitious.

8. That it is reasonable and proper, that the parent should offer his own child in baptism, without being obliged to say / will, I will not, I believe, &c.

9. That it is papistical to forbid marriages at certain times of the year; and to give licenses for them at those times, is intolerable.

10. That the observation of Lent, and fasting on Fridays and Saturdays, is superstitious.

11. That trading or keeping markets on the Lord’s day is unlawful.

12. That in ordaining ministers, the pronouncing of those words, Receive the Holy Ghost, is both ridiculous and wicked.

     Point 1 is very unclear. What has happened to ‘Christ’s institution’ or ‘Scriptural institution’? What ‘apostolic institution’ is supposed to mean is neither stated nor interpreted. After reading Cartwright, this author admits that his views of ‘apostolic institutions’ are unconventional and most vague, besides defining ‘apostolic’ in post-Reformation terms. So this is hardly worth putting up as a valid complaint. Furthermore, to argue that the episcopal office is not ‘apostolic’ is most unapostolic indeed. Naturally, misuse of the bishop’s office is not ‘apostolic’ but with reference to the hotheads who were anti-episcopal, their reforms of the bishopric as will be discussed later, were far from apostolic and far from the teaching of the Bible. Hooker showed a better way to reform.

     Point 2 was a big issue at the time and the Church of England was doing a far better job than those suggested by Cartwright and Co. Indeed, their motto was ‘Who God calls, He equips’ with no hint that equipping is heightened by training and experience. Whitgift sought to give would-be ministers a thorough-going Biblical training in doctrinal, homiletical and catechetical work using Bullinger’s lectures as his model. Grindal was sending out trained preachers throughout the country contrary to Elizabeth’s wishes who shared Cartwright’s naivety. James supported the Lancaster itinerant preachers and relieved them of wearing vestments. It was, however, such disciplined efforts to train preachers that received Cartwright’s complaints as he believed that candidates should not be humiliated by such training. His argument was that ministers would be equipped from on high and did not need catechizing and refused point blank to undergo such a training. One is reminded of Andrew Melville who, in the absence of a Moderator for an illicit General Assembly, asked who felt called to lead the brethren. His lay-manservant said he felt moved of the Spirit to lead the clergy so Melville, though he had also no authority himself, gave his batman the job. The Germans call this ‘Schwärmerei’ which the English dictionaries give as ‘Enthusiasm’, though the term really means ‘enthusiasm gone wrong’.

     Point 3 had been addressed by the Church of England with the aid of German and Swiss help and a new Protestant ordination had been used since Edward’s reign based mostly on Martin Bucer’s great reforming work which maintained that a minister was not a sacrificing priest but a missionary to and a pastor of souls. Happily, the Banner of Truth Trust, as a basically Presbyterian organization, is now witnessing to Bucer’s reforms which stand in stark contrast to those of traditional Presbyterianism. So, too, all that is Reformed in Calvin, was taken over from Bucer and Bullinger, though he did not follow them all the way. It was Bucer’s ordination order, adopted by the Church of England under which Cartwright refused to place himself.

     Point 4 was quite unfairly put as these measures were practiced by the Continental Reformed and Lutheran churches to which Cartwright paid lip-service. Nowadays, throughout the Continent one stands at the public reading of God’s Word as a sign of respect. Bowing the head was a common sign of respect before any person, so obviously this applied to Christ at whose Name every knee shall bow. Cartwright was a sticker for taking every word of Scripture literally and legally to the point of superstition so why did he stumble over this practice? However, the Church of his day merely practiced bowing the head as one did to one’s parents and not genuflecting and this was not seen as a wicked practice but as a respectful one. Up to the sixties, we raised our hats to ladies as some of us still do. We are now told this is silly – but is it wrong? Many ‘you’ God today, but is it right? When Queen Elizabeth visited the USA not too long ago, the Americans asked if they should bow before her. Their leaders told them that Americans only bow before God. Cartwright was obviously not an American.

     Point 5 is not quite correct as Cartwright believed, like Knox, that Our Lord and His disciples sat at table and did not recline as was Roman and Eastern custom. Here Cartwright wanted a legal keeping of this tradition which was only in his mind and as Cranmer told Knox, was not the historical way Christ dined. It is interesting to read Whitgift’s just criticism of Cartwright’s whim which will be taken up in Part Four of this series. However, Cranmer had already given a more balanced rendering of the practice to Knox which was widely known and followed. At a recent conference this author attended, those taking communion of several denominations knelt around the Lord’s Table as prayer and worship were involved. One speaker, a Presbyterian, and his family and friends revolted and said they would not take communion in this worshipful position and insisted that the officiating ministers gave them separate communion, asking them to leave the Lord’s Table and bring the elements to where they were sitting in the pews, thus dividing Christ’s robe.

     Point 6 links two matters together which were separated by our Reformers and the English Church of Cartwright’s day. The original Lord’s Supper was a private apostolic celebration and communion is also for the two or three who are gathered in Christ’s name. There are house churches as well as Cathedrals. Likewise, a private giving of the Lord’s Supper to those ill or handicapped was always the practice of the Church as it still is in almost all denominations. Who would forbid the sick and the lame to commune with their Lord? Furthermore, it would be nigh impossible and most unnecessary to copy the original Lord’s Supper in our congregations and would divert from the essential teaching. Like the Lord’s parables which were so corrupted by Roman Catholic exegesis, they were never intended to be acted out in all their particulars but the essential teaching demonstrated is clear.

     Baptism by women was condemned widely in the Church in Cartwright’s day and forbidden by Convocation towards the end of his life. It was a point raised at the Hampton Court Conference and condemned by the Church of England authorities. Anyway, it was never a general rule or event but a measure reserved for exceptions only. Dissidents who officiated and still do officiate at the Lord’s Supper could be called lay-people so this seems an odd position to take if Cartwright indeed was so priestly that he was against such a practice. However, the question ‘When is a baptism not a baptism?’ will probably keep the theological pundits busy until Kingdom Come.

      Point 7 is also a rather odd position to hold as the Church of England kept up this practice in agreement with the Continental Reformed churches. When officiating at baptisms and the Lord’s Supper here in the German Reformed Church, my colleagues make the sign of the cross and I do not. I have never been ‘disciplined’ for this ‘lapse’. At one special Confirmation ceremony my colleague made the sign of the cross with a cup brim full of wine in his hand, so I neatly stood aside so as not to be involved in the rite drop-wise.

      Point 8 strikes this author as being rather over-pedantic besides being quite against New Testament practice where not only the faith of parents but also of friends and employers prevailed for others. Every time we pray for others, we are asking God to use our faith in their service. It is our faithful praying that God uses in His rule of the world. It is also surely Biblical practice for a father to say, ‘As for me and my house, we shall serve God’. All the household baptisms where faith is mentioned refer to the parent’s faith as being the reason for baptism and in the case of the Philippian jailor the text explicitly says that the father believed but was baptized with his whole family. This has been the practice also of the Church since apostolic times. It was also the practice of the early Baptists as we know from the early Swiss accounts.14 Much of Dissent has always been against it because of their high sacramental view of baptism as an individual act of obedience rather than a demonstration of Christ’s sacrificial death. This is one of the many reasons why Bunyan accused some Baptists of making a god out of their special rite. Baptism is encapsulated gospel giving Christ all the glory and not an individual merit or supererogatory patting of one’s own back.

     Just as the Presbyterians refrain from Church of England references to faith at baptism, their hardliners still ban professions of faith before becoming full church members and criticize the Church of England for her alleged ‘popish practice’ of confirmation after declaring the faith under the covenant promises of which they were placed by their gospel-caring parents as infants. They point out that Calvin did not confirm but we know that Calvin had confirmation on his reforming programme but was opposed by his less reformed church as he told his English correspondents. The Presbyterians even today soft pedal on the doctrine of the New Birth which is strongly emphasized in the Thirty-Nine Articles and tend to preach to all who have grown up within their institution as saved members.

     Concerning Point 9, though marriage is an ordinance of God’s, the radicals pronounced it secular and a mere civil contract and campaigned to have it banned from church services altogether as also burial services. So the much ado about strictures on marriage during fasting periods was froth and bubbles.

      However, the sexual restraint associated with fasting was always unpopular and Convocation was making repeated attempts at the time to regulate the matter. Few felt that banning marriage in the fasting period would help matters but by Cartwright’s time most parishes did not follow such a ruling or even knew that such a ruling existed. There were invariable alternative rules for urgent marriages.

     On realising how much more complicated rules against certain marriages were amongst Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians at this time, we might have more patience with the Church of England. Some Baptist churches limited marriage to members of one congregation, however tiny. Most would not allow non-Baptists to marry Baptists.15 Those married to a member of another denomination before joining a particular Dissenting body were compelled to abandon their husbands or wives or refused membership. Even today, many Dissenting Churches are closely akin to the Roman Catholic Church in their ideas of marriage restrictions. However, this matter was being dealt with at the time within the Church and the protesters were backwards in coming forwards with a sensible alternative as their own attitude to marriage was quite different to that of the Reformed Church of England.

     Point 10 was hardly a problem for the early Presbyterians who held to rival fast and feast days contrary to the practice of the Church of England. They merely wished for the Church of England fast days to be abolished in favour of their own. They were not against prescribed fast days. Indeed, it was under the pretence of their own special fast days that the budding Presbyterians organized their gathered opposition to the Church of England. John Knewstub (1544-1624), a Fellow of St. John’s, and close friend of Cartwright’s and the movement for reform at the Hampton Court Conference, followed the Ultra-Puritan love of ‘fastings’, and proclaimed general fasts on his own authority to discuss ‘reforms’. John Field relates that a ‘fast’ was held near Knewstub’s home ‘to confer of the Common Book what might be tolerated, and what necessarily to be refused in every point of it: apparel, matter, form, fastings, injunctions etc..’16 Though Cartwright’s close friend, Knewstub accepted the Thirty-Nine Articles and Book of Common Prayer, he wanted improvements. However, he remained an Episcopalian and preached against radicalism in the Church and sought to continually reform the Church from within where it was needed.

     Point 11 was also a matter being dealt with at the time and not a complaint merely coming from the rebelling section. Nor was this abuse of the Lord’s Day a phenomenon of the Church of England. Not too long ago, a leading Presbyterian minister and editor of a Reformed magazine, recommended book trading for his publishing firm on Sundays with churches masquerading as retail outlets also apparently without a license. I wrote to him to remind him that he had just written a scathing criticism of William Huntington calling him an Antinomian yet Huntington had turned down a good job because it involved Sunday trading. The gentleman wrote back saying that it was not the trading that was the issue on keeping the Sabbath holy but whether one honoured the Lord of the Sabbath or not. He implied that Huntington the Sabbath-keeper did not honour the Lord yet he, the Sabbath-breaker did. Sadly much of the legalism of the early rebels was of this nature.

     Point 12 was a matter that troubled this writer for many years, dating back to his Confirmation when the bishop said ‘Receive the Spirit’. However, he was only telling me what accompanies faith and, in the case of ordination, what accompanies going out with the gospel according to the Great Commission. One perhaps could put this into other words, though they would probably not be so concise. However, is there anything theologically wrong about being promised the Spirit under expressions of faith and calling? Are we not in Confirmation and Ordination to receive the Spirit? To claim this would be the greater error.

     The above 12 points outline the common conception held by most followers of Cartwright but, no matter how we might sympathise with them, they cannot be a basis for destroying a witnessing Church and setting a new, legalistic establishment in its place. The quarrels Cartwright and Travers had with Orthodoxy were far more fundamental and shook Christianity at its roots. In the next essays we shall look at the real Cartwright and what we can learn from his stance of rebellion and what part of it could be called true Reformation and what part Counter-Reformation. I wish also to show that Hooker’s view of the Church of England and the Reforms he suggested were far more Biblical, spiritual, practical and workable than most alterations suggested by the Counter-Reformation whether of the Dissenting kind or the Roman Catholic kind, seeing no essential difference between the two contenders against the Orthodoxy which Hooker represented and defended.

     Readers may think that I am harsh on these 16th and seventeenth century rebels but the Reformation was such a blessing to our Church after so much Roman Catholic mismanagement and false teaching that one must be severe against those who tried and sadly succeeded in nipping it in the bud and reinstated Roman tyranny, though under a pseudonym. The Reformation was meant to be a continuous process until the Lord comes again. May He rally His faithful together to continue according to His command and thus usher in the number of the elect without further let or hindrance.

George M. Ella


 

  1. See my essay ‘The Old Paths versus New Divinity’ and my various other articles on William Huntington published on this web-site.
  2. See Grindal to Sir Cecil, The remains of Archbishop Grindal, Parker Society, p.p. 323-324. See also p. 305 where Grindal finds Cartwright unsuitable as a Reader because of his novel ideas.
  3. Beza erred often in striving to become ‘all things to all men’ in an exaggerated manner. He quickly altered his opinion regarding Cartwright and Co. admitting that he had been deceived by them.
  4. Zürich Letters, First Series, pp. 312-313.
  5. Writings of John Foxe, RTS, p. xxv.
  6. The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 121.
  7. Taken from Norskov Olsen’s John Foxe and the Elizabethan Church, p. 158. Olsen depicts clearly Foxe’s dread of the church splitting which the self-styled Puritans’ were causing.
  8. Ibid, p. 158.
  9. Ibid, pp. 201-202. See also pp. 175-21.
  10. Zürich Letters, Second Series, p. 152.
  11. The long black gown of the Swiss-German churches and the white ruff was the usual gala dress of the upper class. As this went out of fashion, it was retained by the clergy. Bullinger did not condemn this but did not follow the usage, either.
  12. Zürich Letters, Second Series, p. 251.
  13. See my Henry Bullinger –Shepherd of the Churches, p. 422 ff. See Zürich Letters, Vol. 1, Second Series, p. 187-191 and 251 and index entries for the whole series relevant to the names listed above. See also Strype’s biographies of Parker and Whitgift and Collinson’s The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 81 ff..
  14. See my The Covenant of Grace and Christian Baptism.
  15. See Jackson Goadby’s Bye-Paths in Baptist History, Eliot Stock, 1871 for interesting details regarding Baptist marriage rules and ceremonies.
  16. Collinson’s The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 218-219.