Part One: How things began

 

The gospel of transforming grace versus the gospel of unchanging law

              There is much confusion concerning the alleged ‘puritanism’ of the 16th century non-Roman Catholic opposition to the Reformed Church of England and the Puritan Movement of the post-1640s and much has been written in recent years which has totally redefined, modified and radicalised what Puritanism is. Instead of describing those who campaigned for the Biblical doctrine of free grace, the term is now used of those who would curb true Puritanism and replace it by denominational legalism and external orders and disciplines set up as equally saving doctrines. Indeed, the term was widely used in the 17 century to mean the opposite of Puritanism and, as Whitgift said, introduced Rome under a new name.

              The 17th century use of the name of ‘Puritan’ cannot be stretched to embrace those extremists and radicals of the 16th century who sought to bring the newly Reformed Church to its knees but there are many such as modern contender for an Amyraldianism of a kind only peculiar to himself, Dr Alan Clifford who wish to redefine Puritanism in his own Cliffordian terms. Such writers in the 17th century wished to prevent the national spread of the reforms such as Edward VI, Lever, Foxe, Grindal, Jewel, Sandys, Coverdale and Whitehead were implementing in an England newly freed from Roman Catholic tyranny. Our Reformers saw this danger and thus originally used the term ‘ultra puritan’ or ‘precisian’ for their opponents who campaigned for a rigorous discipline of ‘thou shallt nots’ rather than purity of doctrine. These ‘puritans’ challenged the very roots of the Reformation and especially the doctrines of justification, righteousness and sanctification. Church historians such as early 18th century Strype have long warned Christians against confusing doctrinal Puritanism with law-bound ‘puritanism’ which strove to destroy the Church from outside. Today, those who wish to discredit real doctrinal Puritans are again associating themselves with 16th and 17th century Counter Reformation teaching. So we find modern historical revisionists lifting one of the fiercest Counter-Reformation contenders out of oblivion and writing about Thomas Cartwright: Father of Presbyterianism or even Thomas Cartwright: Father of Puritanism though Cartwright had little to do with mainstream Presbyterianism and nothing to do with later mainstream Puritanism.

              Most of these modern Cartwright followers are adamant with Clifford that ‘The Reformation was not carried through according to scriptural principles” 1. Their reasons for arguing in this way are organisational rather than doctrinal. Most, like Allan Clifford’s work on Cartwright which confuses man-made church order and discipline with Biblical doctrines, base their arguments on the supposition that the Reformed Church of Geneva had one unique, codified pattern of Presbyterian government which was taken over by Knox, Calvin and Beza and became an unchangeable saving standard ever after. This standard paved the way for an outward reformation of the Church which eclipsed and bettered the doctrinal Reformation of the 16th century. It was an effort to design a a new form of ecclesiological strait-jacket based on those of legal Jewery and popery. The truth is that Knox never departed from a seven-tier view of the ministry, Geneva was under Reformed Bernese non-Presbyterian control throughout Calvin’s entire ministry and the Frenchman who styled himself ‘Monsieur le Président’ experimented with many different orders, not all of which were ‘Reformed’ nor were they accepted by Bern and Zürich. Bern thus only allowed Geneva to join the Swiss Confederacy only after Calvin’s death in 1564 and Zürich only accepted Geneva into the Reformed cantons in the 1580s. When Beza became ‘Moderator’, more changes in the Genevan church structure followed but when Beza was asked to define Geneva’s faith, before the Scottish Assembly, he did this in Bullinger’s words, not Calvin’s. After Beza, Geneva rapidly lost its Reformed status and opened its doors to Jean-Alphonse Turrittini’s version of Amyraldianism, mistaking the one he strove to imitate as much as our modern Alan Clifford. Indeed, Geneva with the allied Vaudois never became as free from Rome as Elizabethan England. Knox called Geneva the perfect Christian state because he had inherited Roman Catholic John Major’s and Humanist George Buchanan’s Philosophy of Revolution which triumphed it Cromwell’s Commonwealth. This is why Knox describes a Geneva in ruin believing that a thoroughly Reformed state must be first destroyed before it can be rebuilt on Edenic soil and Geneva was on its way to this perfection.

     There is thus nothing that has been misused and perverted by modern so-called ‘puritans’ as the term ‘Calvinism’. The reason for Geneva’s subsequent fall was its inner controversies, plots and rebellions and a trust in discipline rather than doctrine as a solution for peace and, of course, an acceptance of Amyraldianism, now so fanatically defended in his altered form by Cartwrightian Allan Clifford. However, Clifford has not stopped to realise that Cartwright and his friend Travers disagreed strongly with Clifford’s present views of justification, predestination and church government. The term ‘Calvinism’ therefore does not adequately sum up the doctrines of grace which were believed and preached long before Geneva and Calvin appeared on the theological field.

     We need also to reconsider if ‘Puritan’ is the correct historical term for those 17th cent. stalwarts such as Perkins, Goodwin, Charnock, Manton, Owen and Love who carried on the doctrines of the Reformation. Continentals, following English Reformers such as Jewel, Grindal, Foxe and Lever, do not speak of the ‘Puritans’ but of the ‘Continuing Reformation’. Jewel and his fellow pioneers maintained that Reformation should never stop; that it was a living, dynamic force not a set of rules; and that the contemporary organisational state of the Church was utilitarian but not un-Biblical and that the ‘succession’ they had from the Apostles was one of preaching, pastoral care, doctrine and teaching. They also believed that the Church should be organised by the Church and not be subject to Parliament’s political whims. The Church was thus not a ‘closed shop’ and indeed their new ordination (thanks to Martin Bucer of Strasburg) authorised them as missionaries and not, like the Roman ordination, as institutional sacrificing priests. The ‘puritan’ opposition placed doctrine second to their case-law order and discipline which they imagined was essential for church government as a divine right. Thus we find the Westminster Divines arguing that the divine right of the Presbytery was of true hierarchical Apostolic Succession and was first instituted by Christ in Matt. 18:20, (‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’). If modern Presbyterians should ever consult Byfield’s WA minutes, they will find that this passage of Scripture meant to their founding fathers not the Church but their priesthood cum Presbytery.

England’s future preserved in Germany

     The trouble started in the dark reign of Mary I when she and her Inquisitors, Gardiner and Bonner, strove to rid England of the lasting blessings of Edward’s brief rule. Thousands of once free Englishmen and foreigners were driven into exile. Most of these refugees fled to Duisburg, Wesel, Emden and Frankfurt in present day Germany and others found asylum in Aarau and Zürich in Switzerland and later in the city state of Geneva. They believed that young Mary would live for many years to come, so Edwyn Sandys, Edmund Grindal, John Ponet (Poynet) and others learnt the local languages and became citizens of their adopted countries and some even, like Miles Coverdale, took over Continental churches. They began to set up a theological college in Germany on Bullinger’s pattern. Most of these refugees in their new freedom from Rome’s chains, scorned external legalism, wishing to worship in the simplicity of true Christian fellowship, rightly interpreting Christ’s words in Matt. 18:20 as opposed to their later Presbyterian brethren.

     Charles V gave the British, Dutch, Belgian and French refugees freedom of the city of Frankfurt providing they sought citizenship and paid taxes. All the British applied for citizenship but only the wealthy received it. However, Charles helped the refugees start up businesses and many did so well that they proved a lucrative addition to the impoverished city’s finances. Initially they worshipped together using a very open Strasburg order 2. Then Valerand Poullain, who had pastored exile churches in Strasburg and Glastonbury founded a French-speaking church; an English Church was founded by John Bale et al using a 1552 Prayer Book form adapted to certain Frankfurt conditions and a Dutch church was founded by the Polish Reformer John Lasco (Jan Laski) who, like Bucer, had worked on the Reformed Prayer Book of 1552. As the three churches worshipped initially consecutively in the same building with no strict divisions, they published multi-lingual orders. David Whitehead, who had refused an archbishopric under Edward, pastored the English church. Thomas Lever, recommended by Bullinger, and John Knox, recommended by Bale, were invited to become co-pastors. Neither responded immediately to the call. Then Knox suddenly arrived and demanded full authority over the church. It appears that Whitehead stood down to allow Knox preference but after Knox’s weeks of anarchy as a troublemaker, he was given back his office by a majority vote. The Scotsman rejected all the orders used, whatever the language, but complained especially about orders with ‘an English face’. He banned the flock from the Lord’s Table and refused to baptise. The Exiles had stood or kneeled at will at the Lord’s Table but Knox maintained that Christ and the Apostles stood. Any other method was popish, he argued. Cranmer and Ridley had told Knox in vain that the Apostles reclined so, should he wish to be a slave to the letter, he too, should lay down at communion. It was then, as now, the papists’ custom to stand or walk by as they received the wafer. To pacify Knox, the congregation even said they would stand to suit him but the angry Scotsman would not be pacified until he subdued all. Knox, to gain Calvin’s sympathy, wrote to him claiming that the English followed a popish mass and as ‘proof’ enclosed a Latin version he had forged. The church protested to Calvin that Knox was a disgrace to his country and his action was criminal. 3 Latin was not used in the English congregation and Knox should have sent Calvin a printed copy in French that the English had made available before Knox disturbed the fellowship. Knox railed against his colleagues whom, he said, ‘had been to mass”, though he had retained his popish ordination and still practiced a number of popish traditions (Latin orders, communion cloths etc.). When John Jewel, who had never sacrificed mass himself like Knox, repented of past popish follies in a sermon, Knox immediately condemned him from the same pulpit. Knox also denounced the church’s daily morning readings, congregational participation and a prayer thanking God for England’s delivery from Rome. Those who initially sided with Knox such as Bale and Whittingham now told Knox to be quiet or leave the church. Meanwhile Thomas Lever had arrived to take up his co-pastoral duties. A so-called Liturgy of Compromise was worked out and Knox signed it. Then, on its implementation, Knox protested vociferously against it. As Knox constantly quarrelled with the church and insulted his royal hosts, the Patricians of Frankfurt threatened him with prosecutions for breaking the peace of the city, a capital offence in Frankfurt. Knox, wishing to keep his head screwed on, took the hint and fled. John Foxe, whose suggestion to use the Genevan order was rejected by Knox, jokingly put Knox’s atrocious conduct down to ‘stomach troubles’. Knox reacted with the words. “My rude vehemencie and inconsidered affirmations, which may appear rather to procead from coler then of zeal and reason, I do not excuse.” 4 As soon as Knox was gone, the city council asked the English to use the order of the French (Poullain’s) church. Richard Cox, once the tutor of Edward VI, persuaded the congregation to agree. However, as peace now reigned, the English were soon allowed to use a modified Edwardian version. Actually, the ‘French Order’ was not originally French but was a variant of Martin Bucer’s Strasburg Order which Calvin took to Geneva after his exile there. It is thus to be distinguished from the orders of the underground French church with which it is often confused. Later Presbyterians have confused the Frankfurt, Straßburg and Geneva orders and even call these orders which Knox rejected in Frankfurt but was compelled to use in Geneva, ‘Knox’s Liturgy’ and equate them with the ‘French Orders’ of the underground French Protestants. Knox’s ‘vehemencie and inconsidered affirmations’ is mentioned here as early anti-Reformation rebels in England professed to follow Knox only to be condemned by the fiery Scotsman themselves for being Separatists.

     When Mary died, Grindal worked hard to persuade the contented exiles that they were needed in England and many, such as Sandys had to be almost dragged home. Bullinger canvassed internationally to provide the necessary expenses. Elizabeth rewarded the exiles by making them the pillars of her Reformed Settlement but also rewarded their Continental hosts. Calvin and Beza revised their negative opinions formed by Knox radically and Beza asked Bullinger, to whom he owed his conversion, to visit England on Geneva’s behalf to seek peace with Elizabeth and the English church. By this time, Bullinger had influenced the Church of England so far on the Reformation road that they called him ‘The one great pillar of the English Church.’

Precisians and Puritans

      Not only the cream of the Reformation returned. Like the Israelites, some longed for the imaginary fleshpots of their exile and had difficulty settling down. Everything was too English and unexciting. They called themselves, much to Knox’s and Calvin’s later chagrin, ‘Knoxians’ and ‘Calvinists’. Some began to long for Continental fashions, culture and customs. Some, like Cartwright and Travers, had come into contact with the hyper-drilled Gnesio Lutherans and their Hyper-Calvinistic allies in Germany and the almost secret-society nature of the French underground church with her consistoire, colloque, synode provinciale and synode nationale. So, too, they had little interest in pastoral and parochial activities including church worship and placed their emphasis on lecturing outside of the Established Church’s parameter. They also held regular ‘fasts’ and ‘marriages’ at places like Plummers Hall which were legal covers for assembling to plot the downfall of the Reformed Church. For them, salvation was found in the externals of order, discipline and hierarchy and they scorned both Church and Convocation in favour of civil legislation. They became vigilantes who made Parliament their pope. They were also a very emotional setup and our Reformers tell how they would excommunicate members with the sole explanation that they ‘felt’ the brother was wrong. Though these Judaisers fought tooth and nail to remain in the Church of England in order to bring her to her knees for their own ends, their separatism was really inevitable. Knox was now in Scotland and greatly changed. Indeed, he used the very Edwardian church orders he had helped to write but later scoffed at. Rejecting the ‘puritans’’ folly, he denounced separatist trends. Soon protests came from the German-Swiss and Geneva (not yet part of Switzerland) complaining to the Reformed Church of England that these upstarts were giving themselves false origins. They also complained that the Precisians had lied about their beliefs to win Swiss and Genevan support. Rudolf Gwalter, Bullinger’s successor, echoing Jewel, Grindal and Whitgift in England, said these hyper-legalists were adopting the intrigues of Rome. Gwalter told Cox, the Frankfurt peacemaker:

“And when such dangers are talked about so generally, it is fitting that we should be roused by them, and with united energies take up the cause of Christ; and not give encouragement to these promoters of disorder whom ambitious emulation or even ignorance has beguiled, that they are unable to see what makes for the preservation of our common church. They wish to revive, as you tell me, that ancient presbytery which existed in the primitive church: but I wish they would think of reviving that simplicity of faith and purity of morals, which formerly flourished, and not attack the commonwealth, the ancient rights and constitution of which Christ does not change! . . . . I greatly fear that 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. 5

      The town mentioned was Heidelberg, the headquarters of the Gnesio-Lutherans and Hyper-Calvinists who thought Bullinger and Calvin were too wishy-washy. Sadly Olivanus, one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism joined this movement, though the other author, Ursinus, remained true to Reformed principles. In this once Reformed city the malcontents had set up a Precisian system of case-law, extreme discipline, commandments and externals. This fanatic team of disciplinarians was the training ground of Thomas Cartwright who strove to plant their teaching on English soil. They demanded the immediate excommunication of those who would not follow them blindly and that heretics should be put to death even if they repented. Thus a stricter Rome arose where once the blessed Heidelberg Catechism had been declared. Its apostles began to criticise all things English, especially the English church system of bishops, elders and deacons, driving a wedge through the Reformation movement.

Part Two: The Presbyterian Myth

 

The truth about Geneva

     The argument of ‘puritan’ rebels past and present stating that Calvin was a Presbyterian who supported only a Presbyterian form of church government is, of course, a myth as shown by Calvin’s correspondence with England throughout the early Elizabethan Settlement. Indeed, in 1560, he told Archbishop Parker how he rejoiced in the happiness of England where the Queen was an instrument in propagating the true faith of Jesus Christ. Picking up Cranmer’s initiative, he emphasised his willingness to enter into church union with England ‘and all the Protestant clergy’. Archbishop Parker and the Queen responded most positively and were naturally interested to hear what Calvin thought of the Episcopacy Britain had enjoyed long before Rome polluted her. Calvin wrote like a true Anglican and in various works, especially The Necessity of Reforming the Church, he declared his willingness to introduce bishops and said that those who would not treat the Episcopacy with all reverence and obedience, though he did not believe in anathematising them, had deserved such a punishment. 6 To be frank, Calvin was looking for allies at the time as French troops were gathered on Geneva’s French borders. Indeed, in 1560, Calvin claimed that in the past four years, Geneva’s independence had been threatened a hundred times. In 1561, Calvin discussed with his English brethren all the ceremonies and practices of the Reformed Church of England which had not been added to the Genevan Order, one by one, showing his full approval in every case and declaring that he would so like to move the Reformation in the way that the Reformed Church of England had succeeded but the weaker members of his own church made it impossible. Sadly, just as Archbishop Parker felt that there were now true grounds for cooperation with Calvin, the Frenchman died.

     Calvin’s association with Knox needs further research. The Frenchman told Lord Cecil that he had had no idea of Knox’s radicalism and political theories until Knox left Geneva but Knox claimed that Calvin had supported him from the start. Knox told the truth. Of course, Knox, too, was anything but a Presbyterian as his ministerial reforms show. However, after Calvin’s death, Beza definitely banned Knox’s and Christopher Goodman’s works from Geneva and made many overtures to the Elizabethan Church, thankful for the strong financial support Geneva was gaining via Grindal, Whitgift and Court backing. At the same time, the ‘puritans’ were praising imagined Genevan strictures and objecting to the Church of England, oblivious to the fact that the English Church was keeping the Genevan church going whereas they were bringing dishonour to that city-state. In 1567, Beza ordered these ‘Genevans’ to conform to the Church of England and wear vestments, though many English ministers still preached without robes at this time. Beza wrote that the fact that these would-be Genevans refused to obey the English princes and bishops caused him to tremble and informed Bishop Grindal repeatedly that such were none of Geneva’s making. He praised the English bishops’ and archbishops’ ‘glorious heritage’ in being ‘singularly blessed of God’, adding, ‘which I pray God, may be perpetual unto it.’ Beza complimented Grindal on his patience with those un-ordained rebels who were usurping the ministry and wrote a year later:

 “Those things which they cannot change, let them bear, rather than for this cause forsaking the churches, by greater and more dangerous evils, they yield an occasion to Satan, that seeks nothing else.” 7

     Now, the Reformed churches on the Continent were going through far harder times than England as formalism and legalism took over. Gnesio-Lutheranism and extreme Calvinism were playing havoc with the churches. At this time the great works of John Jewel, co-witnessing with those of Bullinger, preserved not only Britain from the rationalism of false Luthero-Calvinism but also many a Continental church, too. In 1562, when Jewel’s magnum opus against Rome Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae reached Peter Martyr, now Professor of Hebrew at Zürich, he told his close friend how well it had been received by the Continental Reformers and explained that the Reformation had received a setback on the Continent, ‘But now you have, by this your most elegant and learned Apology, raised such an hope in the minds of all good and learned men, that they generally promise themselves, that whilst you live, the Reformed religion shall never want an advocate against its enemies.’ 8  Many were the pleas Elizabeth received to send troops to the Continent or to Scotland to rescue their dying Reformation. Elizabeth could not help pointing out that their Reformations had never been as stable as England’s in the first place.

England leads Europe in Reform

     All this shows how wrong Dr. Allan Clifford is in claiming that the Reformed Church of England was left stranded by the Continental Reformations. 9 Clifford is advised to do more research into Scandinavian, Dutch, French, German, Swiss, English, Eastern European and Italian sources from the 16th and 17th centuries. In the middle sixties the Continental Reformed churches began to lose ground, never regained. This resulted in a great exodus from the Continent to England, especially amongst the French, Dutch and Italians, because of the Reformed freedom there. Many of these foreigners refused to be integrated and worshipped in their own language using various orders which they claimed were ‘Genevan’ or ‘French’. They were always quarrelling about moral and political problems including whether they could take up arms against the English magistrates should they not accept their organisational structure. Indeed, whether godmothers were as good as godfathers seemed to interest them more than the doctrines of the Reformation which they were rapidly losing. Their ignorance of Geneva’s and the French Protestant position was enormous but catching. They demanded, for instance, plain bread for the Lord’s Supper ‘like Geneva’, not realising, as Grindal pointed out, that Geneva used wafer-cakes. Grindal read Bullinger to them and asked them if they accepted his (and thus Grindal’s) views. The rebels said they could accept them. Because these churches claimed affinity with supposed ‘Presbyterian’ Geneva, Grindal told them to write to Beza for advice. Beza assured the ‘Genevans’ that none could solve their problems better than the Reformed Church of England whose bishops they ought to obey and that the English Church was perfectly one with Geneva in doctrine. Beza asked Grindal to act on behalf of Geneva in establishing correct orders and discipline in the refugee churches. Grindal drew up an order and discipline which was accepted by all sides. Indeed, when Grindal’s plans were published abroad, a number of Continental churches, including that of the Palatine to which Heidelberg then belonged, Strasburg, Bern, Lausanne and Zürich wrote joining Beza in praising Grindal’s wisdom. 10 Modern critics of the English Reformation such as Clifford might be surprised to learn that in the years immediately following, not only the Swedish led churches throughout her vast empire, including Finland, Poland and Germany (bar Saxony), some churches in Denmark, a good number in Holland, all the Swiss-German and a number of French churches strove for unity with the Church of England.

 

Creeping to the cross

      Some rebel ‘Genevans’ were of British stock so Grindal asked them what their problem was. They answered that there were ministers in London who were vestment-wearing papists so the English Church was corrupt. Grindal, who was busy ridding the churches of popish elements, asked why they condemned the many because of the few? There were sound Reformers such as Lawrence, Sampson and Lever in those districts who preached without vestments so why not fellowship with them rather than talk of separation? Other ‘Puritans’ told Grindal that they favoured the Scottish system so Grindal sent them to minister in a Scotland still struggling under French control. Very shortly afterwards, they were back in their old locality complaining again. Grindal, not at all pleased, asked why they had left Koxian country. They told him that they were at church in Dunbar on Good Friday and the congregation came in bare-footed and bare-legged creeping to the cross so they had had enough of Scotland. This was the kind of ‘puritans’ who confronted Bishop Grindal. They refused to seek true fellowship in Christ with saintly brethren of which there were many in England and Scotland but could only criticise wrong practises and find fellowship with others equally affected with a contagious ‘coler’. Grindal scolded the men as they deserved and told them that if they had a true call to the ministry, they would have stayed in Scotland to evangelise the country.

    It is symptomatic of this Protestant Counter-Reformation that those who were most persecuted were the stalwarts of Frankfurt who had preserved the Edwardian Reformation. Just as the remaining British Dortian delegates who gave us the Five Points of Calvinism were persecuted under the Presbyterian uprising two generations later.

Whitgift’s overkill

     When Whitgift was initially asked to refute Cartwright, only three years his junior, by the university, he was a man of no great position but universally respected as a scholar. Whitgift complained of Cartwright’s great exaggerations, false allegations concerning his fellow-scholars and their works, misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture, faulty logic and a general lack of knowledge concerning the matters with which he was concerned. He thus challenged Cartwright to several public debates which Cartwright refused to attend. Whitgift then asked Cartwright to write down his arguments to be dealt with point by point. Again Cartwright refused. However, his insults and complaints against his colleagues grew. When the notorious and anonymous Admonition to Parliament came out in 1572, later found to have been written by Thomas Wilcox and John Field, Whitgift began to smell a Cartwrightian plot. The authors, instead of turning to the churches in seeking for reforms, pleaded with Parliament to Reform the Church of England from the roots upwards starting with the banning of the Prayer Book and a new communion service. Both Whitgift and Cartwright entered the fray. At last, Whitgift had Cartwright laid out in print. Working most carefully and scholarly, Whitgift quoted sections of Cartwright’s work and then dealt with his arguments meticulously, quoting dozens of authorities both ancient and modern. Cartwright responded but ignored solid arguments, merely commenting evasively on a point here and there. Faced with Whitgift’s massive evidence against him, Cartwright, instead of taking up the gauntlet, merely brushed all aside, with a ‘So what?`, adding that those scholars who disagreed with him were biased. Whitgift wished to deal with twenty-one Reformed doctrines which he accused Cartwright of rejecting, but the ‘puritan’ chiefly stuck to his one main theme that church order and discipline, as he defined them, were part of the saving gospel and that was that. Cartwright granted the historicity of bishops but argued that they had become a law unto themselves and had founded one-man systems. Whitgift, too, deplored such misuse but realised that Cartwright, in criticising false bishops was criticising himself.

     Now Whitgift found himself attacked on both sides. Many ministers shocked by Cartwright’s views attacked Whitgift for being too gentlemanlike to his rude opponents. Others, entertained by Cartwright’s cat and mouse game with Whitgift, laughed at the latter for being made a public joke. The truth is that Whitgift’s voluminous writings against Cartwright were an intellectual overkill and a misuse of gospel pearls. Had he ignored Cartwright, the country would have been better off. Whitgift’s, Parker’s, Grindal’s, Lord Burghley’s and Elizabeth’s patience and will to compromise with Cartwright and his ‘puritans’ caused Parliament, in its lust to create new laws governing church practice, gradually to alter the Church of England, taking over Convocation’s tasks. By 1643, the Church was fully in the hands of Parliament. This was the true Great Rebellion rather than Cromwell’s military escapades.

     Knoxians and Cartwrightians still claim that John Foxe allied with the Cartwrightians and rejected bishops. Cartwright boasted he had read more of Foxe than Whitgift but could not defend this boast from Foxe’s works. Whitgift gave Cartwright chapter and page from Foxe demonstrating clearly that the English Reformer was an Episcopalian and no ‘puritan’. 11 Olsen comments that Cartwright’s ignorance does not “commend his knowledge of Foxe”. Concerning the radicals who wanted to abolish the Church of England, Foxe said, “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.” 12 Of Foxe, Loades says, “he never accepted Genevan ideas of church government, or abandoned the ‘national’ church position which is normally associated with the Prayer Book party of Cox.” 13  When the ‘puritans’ started persecuting their brethren at Magdalen College, Foxe 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.” 14

When Foxe found out that Samuel, his son, was being persecuted at college and also his close friend Humphrey, now President of Magdalen, this true Puritan, protested at the puritanising of externals instead of sound Christian doctrinal and spiritual norms and 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.” 15

Foxe warned against the church splitting which the would-be puritans were causing. One would have thought this church-destroying movement would have caused people to beware of Cartwrightism but the idea of governing the Church by secular administrative law caught on, though his following was almost entirely amongst young radical students. Indeed, Cambridge became a centre of student revolt similar to the Spartakus student protest movement of the nineteen-sixties. Allan Clifford, who with youthful, rebel enthusiasm still campaigns for a Cartwrightian rule, though admitting his instigator was ‘authoritative’ and ‘intolerant’, sums up his 2004 ET essays on TC by saying:

‘And so, this faithful, if fearful, champion of the Lord died on 27 December 1603. He lived to see an increasing acceptance of principles which he had striven so zealously to proclaim.

Sadly, by the time of the Westminster Assembly (1643-9), fragmentation and intolerance among the Puritans sowed the seeds of confusion and failure.’

 It is a pity that Clifford’s Cartwrightian logic refuses to add two and two together and conclude that his so-called Father of Puritanism was the father of confusion and failure.


Notes:

  1. Allan Clifford, Thomas Cartwright – The Father of Puritanism, Evangelical Times, Jan./Feb. 2004.
  2. Liturgia Sacra.
  3. See Letters to Calvin from Frankfurt, April 5, 1555 and Sept. 20, 155.
  4. Laing, The Works of John Knox, Vol. 5, p. 5.
  5. Zürich Letters, Second Series, Letter written March 16, 1574 to Cox, p. 249 ff. See also letter to Sandys, p. 238.
  6. See Strype’s Michael Parker, 1711, pages 69-70.
  7. The complete letter entitled Theodore Beza, To certain Brethren of the English Churches, upon some Controversies in the Ecclesiastical Polity, is found in Book I, Of Original Papers, p. 37 bound with the 1710 edition of Strype’s The Life and Acts of Archbishop Grindal.
  8. The full letter is printed in Biographia Evangelica, Vol. 2, p. 132.
  9.  Letter to the English Churchman, Issue 7753, 2008.
  10. See Strype, Chapters 11-14.
  11.  See a balanced discussion of this topic in V. Norskov Olsen’s John Foxe and the Elizabethan Church, Chapter IV. The Church and Its Ministry. See also the Parker Society collection of debates between Whitgift and Cartwright.
  12. Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 121.
  13. The Oxford Martyrs, pages 262-263.
  14. Taken from Norskov Olsen’s John Foxe and the Elizabethan Church, p. 158.
  15. Ibid, p. 158.