An uninformed know-all seeks to suppress the truth concerning Augustus Toplady.
This letter was written to an enemy of the Church of England Reformers who wished to censor and suppress the publication of my Augustus Toplady biography. He maintained that my work was that of a Roman Catholic and an enemy and that I had defended ‘malignants’ and ‘drunkards’. Mention is made of two books in the letter but the biography and anthology were eventually printed together in one large volume. The criticisms of my correspondent were based on secondary and tertiary literature without my critic being aware of the original documents needed in forming an opinion. Sadly, most of theological discussion nowadays has become a rabies theologica based on opinions and personal preferences rather than historical and Biblical facts.
Dear Brother and Fellow-Worker in Christ’s Vineyard,
When composing my works on Toplady over the past years, I sought out every book possible which might be useful in revealing more of the man and Christian Augustus Montague Toplady. I have thus studied carefully in preparation for these works over four hundred books and essays and consulted many others. I have provided a Bibliography of my main reading, a copy of which is enclosed. This does not include the volumes which I have merely opened to find a date, anecdote, or brief biographical descriptions of secondary figures featured in my Toplady works. Those familiar with my other works, including my academic theses etc, will know that this Bibliography reflects but a fraction of the works I have studied over the past forty-three years.
From the use you make of your secondary and tertiary ‘proof’ texts, it would appear that you have not had the advantage of this reading. Not that I have ignored such arguments as you produce in my works, but I have balanced them off with other sources, including many primary sources, to obtain an overall view. The study of history, as you will readily admit, is very much the study of historical interpretation. A good historian must be familiar with the largest spectrum possible of such interpretations. I thus believe that your own admittedly, rather anti-Anglican, view of 17th –18th ecclesiastical, political and social history cannot be used as a yardstick to judge the life and background of Augustus Toplady. Nor can I share your views concerning your portrayal of the deadness of the Reformed Church of England before 1640 as this clashes with the testimony of such as Davenant, Hall, Ward, Usher and Featley – all of whom were around during Laud’s time – and also you present a narrow view of Dissent which I cannot share. Most Dissenters I have read present a much wider and deeper analysis of the situation than the one you depict. Furthermore, I must keep the clear and easily justifiable views of my subject, Toplady, in mind, i.e. that the Revolution brought with it “the wildest extravagancies of fanaticism”. (See section IIId in Toplady’s essay on the State of Calvinism in the Universities in his Historic Proof.). I have kept to Toplady’s analysis as near as possible, albeit in a somewhat milder form, in describing these wild times.
My original plan was to present the Anthology without an introductory essay as my entire biography served this end and Brother Maurice Hanford’s Foreword would also serve the same purpose. However the trustees, via the GM editor, requested me to write an introductory essay so that readers would be in a position to understand Toplady’s teaching all the better and as a more specific introduction to his works. One of Toplady’s main callings in life was to show how, historically and doctrinally, the Church of England was built soundly and surely on New Birth in Christ and a profession of the doctrines of grace. Thus, any Introduction to Toplady is also an introduction to the Church of England and her problems and must include the 1640-1662 period which you would, for reasons not adequately expressed, have me suppress. Your request for me to drop the mention of Presbyterians and persecuted Anglicans is thus, to Toplady’s way of thinking and to mine, a plea to ignore the rise and, what might be considered the fall, of the Church of England and the rise and fall of a State Presbyterian church in England. I fully agree with Toplady that “the Sectarists did but finish what Laud had begun.” My Introduction illustrates this fact.
As you appear to know, I am a German citizen, a Dissenter and a Republican. Perhaps moved by these facts, you believed that your animadversions against Toplady’s Established Anglican Church would find a ready ear at my address. I understand your zeal perfectly but in this case, I must put my personal views concerning Dissent somewhat aside as Toplady is my subject, not Dissent or Republicanism, and an author must be true to his subject. Furthermore, Toplady’s view of history and the pre-Revolution Church of England, is exactly my own and I had come to Toplady’s conclusions years before I knew anything about Toplady. I, too, believe this church, was the nearest to a true Biblical Church that England, indeed Europe, has perhaps ever seen. I also agreed fully with Toplady, before knowing his views, that the Restored Church of England was a mere pale reflection of what she had been – but her Articles, homilies and historical creeds and catechisms were still second to none. We must also see that the Church of England during the Revolution as also during the colonisation of North America, was often a dissenting church and treated just as often as a leper. We as Dissenters can thus often find sympathy for the Dissenting Anglican church.
You present the Church of England before her dis-establishment, and before laws were passed to outlaw her worship, in a most negative, though novel manner. She, or at least her ministers, are described as time-servers, malignants, delinquents, scandalous, ignorant, ungodly, absentees, drunkards, mere trimmers, etc.. Of course, you are talking about the men who gave Britain the Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Cranmer, Great, Geneva, Bishops and King James Bibles. You are also talking about the men who, according to Samuel Miller of Princeton gave the world the finest declaration of the Reformed Faith ever written. If those men were drunken delinquents, may we, by God’s grace, never be sober! (See Pentecost!) Leaving aside the fact that you appear to be back-projecting the worst of the C of E in the late Restoration period and early 18th century onto the Elizabethan and early Stuart Church, who would deny that there were such? However, you are not over-generous in giving us particular examples. Daniel Neal gives three 1640 examples but balances them off with three examples of righteous Anglicans who were persecuted. I miss such a balance in your remarks. Obviously, to describe the entire church of Parker, Jewel, Grindal, Whitaker, Whitgift, Abbott, Davenant, Ward, Carleton, Hall, Featley, Usher, Perkins, etc. as drunkards and delinquents is to depart from history and to insult the memory of a church which, on the whole, was a glorious testimony to the grace of God. Happily, such a stalwart Dissenter of Dissenters as Peter Bayne of the United Saint Bartholomew Committee, whose great work I have used in writing my Toplady books, is fully of my opinion, or rather, I am fully of his. I am sure that you did not intend such an injustice but your remarks did come over rather sharply.
Obviously, you will have read passages in Toplady, and in very many other writers who describe the rebellious Dissenters in the same negative terms as you do Anglicans. Who will deny that such there were, too? Notice that though Toplady, for instance, acknowledges the best of the rebel theologians and ministers, he points out how, in the main, the ministers who took over from the ejected Anglicans were of a much inferior capacity in all respects being “in the thickest dregs of ignorance, bigotry and fanaticism”. Indeed, he compares their policy of putting men of no abilities into such posts with the policy of John Wesley and the Turks! Toplady also points out how Arminianism became rampant during the Revolution and men such as John Goodwin and Thomas Venner became the new pulpiteers. I trust that you will accept Toplady’s testimony as being just and true here. Furthermore, even if we take the Church of England after the Restoration as our example, though you appear to find no goodness in them, we shall fill pages with the names of great Anglican evangelists and pastors such as Whitefield, Toplady, Hawker, Newton, Romaine, Hervey, Middleton, Conyers, Scott, etc. etc. and note that so-called Dissenters were hardly anywhere to be seen at the time. As the Gospel Magazine taught over the years, this was not surprising as many so-called Dissenters had become Arian and worse. By the way, you will note that Dissenting writers both ancient and modern deplore the fact that during the Rebellion, Rome sent scores, if not hundreds (Urwick gives 100), of papists trained on the Continent to infiltrate the Dissenters so that fine men of God such as John Howe always feared that they were talking to papist spies in Dissenting garb. (See the Nelson and Religious Tract Society volumes concerning Howe’s relationships with Anglicans) Perhaps this is why, when in his beloved Ireland after the Restoration, and with the Archbishop’s full encouragement, he ministered in the Episcopalian Church though not having their ordination.
Furthermore, you speak of Laud as if you are accusing me of supporting his policies, unaware of my totally scathing criticism (and Toplady’s) of this papal henchman in my Toplady works. However, if you would compare Laud’s policies with those of the Presbyterians (to a far lesser extent the Independents), you would find them in agreement on many counts. This is why a number of Presbyterians plotted with Laud and Rome to change the Church of England. Furthermore, if you would kindly take the trouble to compare Laud’s theology with that of Baxter and Calamy, you would find them closer to one another than to the Thirty-Nine Articles. However, Laud had at least the advantage of being consistent and did not change his views like the wind as did Calamy and Baxter. See Jim Packer’s comments on Baxter and Warfield’s comments on Calamy. Indeed, I believe you could be worse employed than to make a careful study of the way a number of Westminster Assembly men had Laud to thank for their ecclesiastical promotion – think of Herbert Palmer! In suggesting that there were only Laudian bishops around in Charles reign, you have innocently overlooked the abundant testimony of history.
I do not agree with the way you link Calamy with Owen. They were poles apart. Furthermore, I have not said anything concerning Smectymnuus Calamy which cannot be proved from his works and those of others. Are you suggesting, for instance, that Calamy did not preach the lawfulness of taking up arms against the King? Even Reid tells us that such as Calamy, Burgess, Marshall etc. encouraged taking up arms as ‘defence and security’ and for ‘religious freedom’ etc.. However, where does one draw the line here? Freedom for one via weapons is certainly not freedom for the overpowered. I speak as a pacifist. Personally, I would take Bishop Hall’s peaceful, Biblical and historical side against Calamy any time. No one will deny that Calamy produced godly work. He also produced astonishingly un-Reformed work, too. I can show you wonderful, stirring, Christian testimonies which will make you clap your hands in spiritual joy. These, however, were written by Laud, whom we all detest! I do not denounce Calamy as I do Laud but I do not totally denounce either as both gave many signs that, in spite of themselves, they were used of God. I trust that this can also be said of both your testimony and of mine.
Sadly, for the cause of balanced judgement, each side has a different version and it is very difficult to be balanced in matters appertaining to the Rebellion. For instance, writing on behalf of the Baptists, Hugh Martin quotes Gwatkin as saying that Taylor was left unmolested in the persecutions. Heaton, we may add, in his great trilogy on the history of the Bible echoes this. Actually, Taylor was imprisoned at least three times, possibly four, was arrested and harassed several times more and fined on numerous occasions and hounded from pillar to post, receiving many threats of murder from the usurping clergy. Martin also says that Bishop Morton was left unmolested but Neal says that he was persecuted. Neal, a non-Anglican of note, I find, is correct.
Your denunciation of pluralism within the Church of England receives my full agreement. However, you will also have read what brave attempts were made by the Anglican bishops and Archbishops to suppress this. You will realise that after the Reformation, there were hundreds of churches without pastors but Archbishops such as Grindal did a great work supplying these churches with good men. However, the emphasis you make was more a problem of the Restoration church. You mention my Hervey biography in this connection but you will have also read there that even then pluralism was often a good thing, as in the case of William Unwin who took over an extra church which had no pastor but which he treated as his other flock. There are many records of Anglican ministers preaching at as many as four churches in a day because of lack of ministers. However, if you turn to the sources, you will find that pluralism was as big a temptation during the Rebellion as before and a number succumbed to it negatively. Look also at some of the salaries pastors of the Revolution received in comparison to their Anglican predecessors. Not all were like Burgess who, when challenged, gave up one of his livings, though he still earned over four times as much per year as many an Anglican had lived on. Notice that Burgess tried to enrich himself by selling confiscated property, too. The Mafia-like trafficking of confiscated Anglican goods amongst ‘respectable’ Dissenters is a subject which does not belong here but one which you may consider looking into. This is why I prefer the Anglican Puritans to the late Presbyterian and Independent Puritans as such as Jewel, Grindal and Davenant kept their waistcoats clean whereas many of the later Puritans had either blood on their hands, dabbled in politics and stolen property or spent much of their time arguing about externals. Even Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones can really only find two later Puritans who reach his full standard, i.e. Owen and Goodwin. He also severely criticises the Presbyterians for hob-nobbing with Henrietta Maria!
It is clear from your highly polemic criticism of the Church of England that you are not aware of the meaning of a number of terms in the Book of Common Prayer. Each Christian fellowship develops its own language of Zion in time. I confess that I find the language of your Added Articles confusing and apparently saying the opposite to what they really mean. To one who does not know your history, they read as a statement of highly Liberal theology. Your claim, for instance, that the majority of Anglicans believe in your interpretation of baptismal regeneration (See especially Curteis, Griffith Thomas, Bicknell, Gibson, Harwick, Toplady etc.) apart from being a grave theological exaggeration and linguistically incorrect, has nothing to do with the subject matter of my books. Indeed, the books you quote from refute you soundly on this extreme view as does Miles’ chapter on Baptismal Regeneration in his The Voice of the Glorious Revolution. Besides, one is just as prone to meet baptismal regeneration amongst Presbyterians, Baptists and Campbellites today as ever one was to meet up with them within Anglicanism. I remember a well-known, popular, Strict Baptist minister in London in the early sixties who prefixed his baptismal ceremonies with a description of the candidate standing in his sins and suffixed the scene with a declaration that the candidate was now washed clean from sin and shared in Christ’s resurrection body. Indeed, most of the myriad of Baptist denominations seem to have split up over the sacramental and ritual meaning of baptismal initiation as a re-birth, door to the church, entrance into the community of saints, initiation into the Bride of Christ, transfer into the Kingdom of God, become part of the true vine etc., etc., etc.. I agree totally with Curteis that it is the intensified and strengthened ‘ritual machinery’ that distinguishes traditional Baptists from orthodox Anglicanism. Instead of the pulpit or the Lord’s Table, we have the font placed centrally. Indeed, in my own church, the baptistery is placed on a platform high above the pulpit and is highlighted by footlights and spotlights. In other churches (happily not mine) baptism is called an entrance into the walled garden of the church, an initiation rite, the door of the Church State and other almost blasphemous sacerdotal terms. Coupled with this is an emphasis on priestly authority and ministerial succession such as the Church of England, as other Reformed churches, have always denied. I mention this only to show that, human nature being what it is, any side can play the same polemic game and that your dialectics can easily be turned against you. Remember Featley’s teasing the Baptists who spoke on church authority by asking them by what church authority they had left their Mother church if authority is a thing handed down from church to church as so many doctrines of grace Baptists believe. Note Richardson, one of the signatories of the 1644 Baptist Confession calling the martyr Featley blasphemous because he believed in the eternal generation of the Son which you and I would accept as orthodox doctrine. Note also that when Kiffin and Co told Featley that they could not recognise the Church of England because they had worldly bishops, Featley could show them at once that one of their major, so-called ‘pure’ bishops was a man clothed in moral scandal.
Yet I note how you describe your Dissenters. It appears that you believe them all to have been godly men. One does not gain this impression from the political and religious terror many spread in the period of the two Republican revolutions, though there were obviously saints among them. Neither Fifth Monarchy Men nor the Levellers strike me as being ‘pure churchmen’. Indeed, the way they dug up the British Reformers’ bones and threw them on the dunghill, is hardly a promising sign of spiritual freedom to come. Read the Presbyterian/Independent records and accounts of even the Westminster Assembly Erastians and see how they encouraged persecution. I have had the privilege of studying many a Dissenting church book from the Restoration and early 18th century period, particularly those of the churches which I hold dear, i.e. the Particular Baptists. I can assure you that strong drink was also a real Baptist problem and cases of over-drinking, adultery etc. were no rarities. You will remember the White Street controversy as one example of a drunken pastor being dismissed by the board though the church wished to keep him. Look at the Olney scandal featuring a certain highly immoral married Baptist preacher! If you read Gill’s church book, you will find a member disciplined for Highway Robbery! Read through the Baptist church books to find solid evidence of all you claim were Anglican sins. Some of the Welsh church books will cause your hair to stand on end! Am I to throw out my Gill, Martin, Booth, Ryland Sen., Gadsby and Spurgeon with such dirty water? This would be shocking, unwarranted behaviour indeed. Obviously, the same balance is called for when viewing the pre-Rebellion Church of England, and any other, for that matter.
Concerning your remarks re Bishop Ryle, I suggest that Ryle would disagree with you as much as you appear to disagree with me. Ryle shows a fine balance where you appear highly one-sided and you also appear to misunderstand him on several counts. However, Ryle is telling us here about other men’s stories, not Toplady’s and he is not differentiating between Baxter’s theology and history which even Jim Packer calls ‘disastrous’ and that of the far sounder Gurnall. Ryle is defending Baxter on the assumption that as he had an Episcopal ordination, and sworn an oath of allegiance in June, 1600, he ought not to have been ejected. It is possible that Ryle did not know that Baxter, like Calamy, was unsure of his position regarding the Episcopacy, monarch, Parliament and a national church and opted out voluntarily with Calamy despite his oath. However, inconsistently enough, he and Calamy persuaded others such as Reynolds to stay in. Ryle is of the mistaken view that Baxter was rejected, though claiming his Episcopalian ordination as legitimising him to remain in the Church of England. This is historically not the case. Baxter, like Calamy, withdrew his allegiance to the King although they had sworn to be true and faithful to him only two years previously. This was not the first time they had thus turned tail. These facts are to be found in Reliquiae Baxterianae, pp. 229-32 and in Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion (Note the title!). I believe a balanced critic would not think that I have described Calamy unfairly. However, when all is said and done, what has it all to do with my book? Ryle is pinpointing what happened after 1662 and not before and it is the period before that which I feel you neglect and thus, sadly misrepresent. Furthermore, Gurnall signed the Act of Uniformity and Baxter and Calamy did not. Thus to link up Ryle and Gurnall with the fate of the Dissenters is odd indeed. Ryle was certainly not in favour of, though he, as I, was in sympathy with, the 1,800-2,000 Dissenting ministers who refused to accept Parliamentary decrees concerning availability for the Anglican ministry. Ryle remained within that church. I, too, were I an Englishman and not a political rebel, would have had no objection to signing the document. I believe it to have been far less political and more Biblical than the Solemn League against which I would have protested and have been persecuted (as a minister) for my pains. I can sympathise with Burgess here. We must also note that Ryle was not in favour of the position Toplady took and criticises him strongly. My biography is, however, Toplady’s and not Ryle’s. When I, God willing, come to a biography of Ryle, I shall show his positive contribution to Church history, too. In all these matters, I feel you have picked up material here and there without understanding the background to it. You have also put more trust in the opinions of writers who do not profess to have made a study in depth of the Rebellion than you have in contemporary data and studies-in-depth.
Concerning the ejected and persecuted Anglicans, I have explained at length in my Toplady books that Anglicans tend to mention a maximum figure whereas Dissenters mention a minimum figure, though your figure is super minimum. However, if you are arguing that the number of displaced Dissenters is equal to the number of displaced Anglicans, then you have lost your argument because you are thus saying that the Anglicans re-obtained their rightful livings. Even, however, if we take a figure between yours and Walker’s, we must add their families, staff, servants and often their entire congregations so the figure is still in very many thousands. Indeed, the number you quote is a display of one-sidedness in itself. The number of 2,000 has two roots. First, it is a reflection of the 2,000 complaints against Anglican clergy for supposed ‘scandalous behaviour’ set up by the Long Parliament. One of the definitions of a scandalous clergyman was that he was faulty on doctrine (as there were Arminians and Baxterians amongst the accusers, one realises how dubious such accusations can be), another was that he announced the Book of Sports from the pulpit during notice time, yet another definition was that the clergyman must be reported as scandalous if he is dissatisfied with the Long Parliament! As you advise me not to call the rebels by their right name, it will interest you to note that Anglican Ministers were deemed ‘scandalous’ and thus ejected, if they called those opposed to the King and established law and order ‘rebels’! Toplady and I would both have been ejected thus as ‘scandalous ministers’! We must note here, however, that the figure 2,000 refers merely to those ‘disciplined’ as early as 1640, yet the persecutions went on another twenty years! Note too, that though, at first, only Anglicans were persecuted, Baptists were soon persecuted, too, and as the Independents gained power, Presbyterians were also persecuted. Indeed, if we are to follow the major Baptist historians there was little difference in persecutions against Baptists no matter what other churches were in power, whether in England or in the New World. Again, we must also realise that in the New World, Anglicans, alongside Baptists, were often a persecuted minority, too!
The figure 2,000 is also arbitrarily a minimising of John Walker’s initial list of 2,300 names in his Sufferings of the Clergy of the Church of England (1714). This list comprises names of ejected Anglican ministers which he compiled from his own research. Walker stresses that he could not possibly research all the cases and that his list was far from complete. Furthermore this list did not include all the university clergy who were ejected from their offices with their students by the Commonwealth Five Mile prohibition. We know that such deprived men were very numerous. If my memory is correct, (the book is on its way to me for confirmation), Walker produces final figures of between 7,500 and 10,000 sufferers. Walker is still readily available on the second hand market. Now that he is becoming well-known, the price has doubled! Actually, the lowest estimate possible appears to be 7,500. As I have already catered for your opinion in a footnote referring to the number of Anglicans persecuted, I cannot possibly agree to your dictates that I merely mention your low estimate and drop the word ‘persecutions’. This would be an inexcusable course to take and against my Christian conscience.
I think you would find reading Baptist Hugh Martin’s Whitely lecture on Baxter most profitable. He does not question Walker’s account and says there was no need for him to exaggerate here as this would have been further ammunition for the Dissenters who said that the ejected Anglicans were men of scandal. 10,000 scandalous men would have given them a far better warrant to act than 2,000! Notice that Martin also says that in spite of all the Puritan excuses (he means Dissenting Puritans) a hateful blot remains on their name because of their intolerance and persecution. He also realises that this could be a reason for the treatment of Dissenters after 1662. Martin, however, forgets this balance when he follows the lame tale (see Coleman) that one can excuse persecution in times of war but not in times of peace. It was the initial persecutions of the Long Parliament and the Parliament’s calling of the Westminster Assembly against Church and King that helped start the war. Here Martin regains his balance, showing how the war was as much a matter of religion and doctrine as anything else.
Your insistence that the Puritans would not sign their allegiance to the Church of England is not correct as many obviously did, including Gurnall, whom you mention as if he were a Dissenter. Indeed, most of the Presbyterians and Independents who were of middle age and older had signed an Oath of Allegiance of some sort to either Charles I or his son and even the Solemn League stressed allegiance to the Sovereign. Indeed, the bulk of Anglican Puritans, many of whom were bishops and archbishops, had been happy to remain in the Reformed Church of England. Heaton shows how even Cartwright was happy in the end! This is backed up by several studies-in-depth I have read. The Revolution brought with it the tail-end of the Puritans, most of whom, with obvious exceptions, were Dissenting Puritan in politics and church order rather than doctrine. Note how the Westminster Standards are less High in their Calvinism and more High Church in their discipline and order than the Anglican creeds. Note the Prayer Book edition and the High Calvinist declarations prefixed to the Geneva Bible in the dozens of Elizabethan editions from the Queen’s printers! Look at Davenant’s summing up of the Synod of Dort. Note, for instance, Anglican teaching on predestination and reprobation that is nowhere so clearly put in any major Dissenting document whether from Westminster or from the Particular Baptist Confessions.
I believe you have missed the point concerning Episcopal ordination. The Reformed Church of England had always recognised Presbyterian ordination, the only two voices ever against it being Bancroft and Laud1. Even Andrewes accepted Presbyterian’s ordination and their “Turkish Robes”! Episcopalian ordination was, however, not recognised by many Dissenters. This was the trouble. Obviously the restored Church of England wished to protect herself from recreating a structure that had made the Fifth Column of the Presbyterian rebellion easy. We might think that the Church of England ought to have been more generous than the Presbyterian and Independent churches but we can hardly blame them for thinking once bitten, twice shy. Furthermore the Anglican view of the bishopric, in general, (see Jewel, Hall, Grindal, Andrewes, Davenant, Usher, Ward etc.) was never as High Church and as sacramentally narrow as the Presbyterian view of their offices and ordinances. If you care to dip into the eight 1,000 paged volumes of Richmond’s Fathers of the English Church or the multi-volumed Parker Society records, as I do almost daily, you would gain some insight into the Anglican Church’s view of the ministry. Besides, the function of a bishop is Biblical and historical, whereas that of a Presbytery as a divine and historic institution is far more open to doubt. Remember, early Particular Baptists used the term ‘bishop’ in exactly the same way as Jewel, Grindal etc..
Furthermore, you apparently fail to see that in making Anglicans black and Dissenters white on this issue, you are ignoring the fact that in the so-called 1662 ejection, it was not so much the quarrel with the Church of England that caused the divisions but the quarrels between Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists. After Pride’s Purge, it seemed impossible for the Presbyterians and Independents to get on with each other – not even in a church as comprehensive as the Church of England. Both the Presbyterians and Independents had hoped that they would be favoured by changes and indeed, numerous alterations to the Prayer Book etc. were made to suit them, but as the Church of England could neither become Presbyterian nor Independent, and as none of the Dissidents could fully have it their own way, many left. Thus your reasons for demanding that I re-write line 8 of p. 6 of my MS, has no basis in fact. Indeed your one example where the Prayer Book was used, rather than indicate tolerance of Anglicans, shows that even Evelyn, a man very much in the know, had to look very hard to find a church where he could worship. You also fail to see that there was an underground Church of England, just as in the days of Mary the Bloody. Here, again, however, you would have me introduce red herrings into my work. Wherever I mention persecution of Anglicans during the Revolution, you deny this and mention persecutions of Dissenters after the Restoration. Obviously, to be balanced, you must see that one cannot possibly analyse post-Restoration persecutions without studying why they happened i.e. without studying the severe persecutions against the Anglicans during 1640-1660 and the events leading up to those persecutions. You appear to believe that the post-1662 persecutions just happened and that was that! Furthermore, the reasons why post-1662 Dissenters were persecuted were very much the same as why Anglicans were persecuted between 1643-1660. You, however, will only accept that Dissenters were persecuted and not Anglicans. This is standing history and the truth on its head!
Your use of Evelyn against me cannot be justified. I would recommend that you read Evelyn’s letters and diaries regarding, “that long, ungratefull, foolish, and fatal Parliament, the beginning of all our sorrows for twenty years after.” (Diary 3rd Nov. 1640). Anyway, Evelyn was out of the country very much during the Rebellion as he refused to sign the Solemn League and travelled abroad in fear of his life, writing of the ‘execrable wickedness’ of the new ‘Unkingship’ regime and the ‘madness’ of its new clergy. Note, too, that moderate Evelyn nevertheless called the ministers that had ousted the Anglicans “blasphemous and ignorant mechanics.” Evelyn deplored that such preachers did not press for the goals of the reformation but engaged in speculative, pseudo-philosophical reasoning that few could follow. Remember, too, that Evelyn wrote his Apology for the Royal party in 1659 and, when Charles returned, Evelyn wrote of his triumphant entry into London, “I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God . . . It was the Lord’s doing.”! In quoting Evelyn in your support, I fear you have mistakenly chosen one who knocks your arguments down flat.
You appear to object to my pointing out that James II fled without a formal abdication, thus many Anglicans still felt bound to their oath of allegiance. In spite of the well known tale about James’ crown,2 this does not, in any way whatsoever, detract from the truth as I have stated it. It was the Convention Parliament that declared James’ throne vacant after the King had fled. Indeed, Sancroft told William and Mary that they could not legally be titled King and Queen as long as James lived without abdicating. You might say, “Typical Anglican” but I may also remind you that this was very much the position of the Presbyterians with Charles II after Charles I’s murder. If you object to my speaking of ‘murder’, as I imagine you will, you will find that the bulk of the Presbyterians and the Anglicans of the 18th century Awakening were of this opinion, not only myself. Think, for instance, of Thomas Case. This is a delicate subject for Baptists as it was a prominent Baptist who illegally sentenced Charles to death. They tell me also that the King’s executioner was also a Baptist, but I have not checked this out as yet.
I shall omit the word ‘Presbyterian’, 9 lines up on p. 12 according to your suggestion as, of course, they were not alone in these persecutions. Most works tend to call the initial Dissenters ‘Presbyterian’ as the others only really crystallised out in the 1650s, I have followed this practice but I acknowledge that it is ambiguous.
I cannot agree with you that the revolutionary powers were not rebels and I refuse to call rebellion by a euphemism. You quote from my Hervey biography against me, why, I do not know, but as you have read my book, you will know that the Church of England, as historians in general, have always spoke of the Rebellion and called those ‘rebels’ who fought against King, Government and Church. Presbyterians also have always called the Purged Parliament a rebel Parliament. Your protest that this smacks of Roman Catholicism is too unbalanced to be taken seriously. You might also look at the long list of Dissenting histories that also correctly use the word ‘Rebellion’ to describe those turbulent times.
In your effort to suppress any reference to persecutions against Anglicans of all kinds, you would censure out the reference to the Bishop of Ely who was imprisoned so long without a trial by the rebels and without being granted bail. This is yet another instance, I fear, of your very strong personal bias which I cannot, as the author of these books, share. I have especially referred to different characters and used different works in my studies to present a balanced view of what was going on at the time. I believe this is most necessary. Besides, though the Long Parliament censured Wren for being a too strict disciplinarian, there were those who were not imprisoned, though they were reeds shaken by the wind and apparently without any discipline at all. Give me a brave Wren any day who sticks to his convictions than one who is a King’s boot-kisser one day and a Brutus the next.
My remarks in the main body of the text and in several footnotes concerning the different views of the Church between Anglicans and Dissenters are, I believe, essential for a balanced understanding of church history and Toplady’s very brotherly attitude to Dissent. Once again, however, your (see your comments on p. 14 ff.) severe bias urges me to erase this important information. It would appear that your reason is that you believe that I have said something about Dissent which could be interpreted in a negative way in comparison with the Church of England. I cannot do you this favour as I consider that your suggestion smacks of intolerance, censure and acute lack of objectivity.
Concerning your strictures against Overton, he may be High Church, but Highchurchmanship is not a sole Anglican commodity but very much prevalent in most denominations. I am in a Landmarker Baptist chat group on the Net. These men are great brethren but talk about Highchurchmanship! I do not know an Anglican writer to match them! I must also remind you that amongst Baptist churches, though we both admire the GS stand for the gospel, they are considered ‘Highchurch’ by many. Overton, however, is a very sound, solid and balanced historian and has spread much positive light on the Puritan and Great Awakening period which is to the great benefit and edification of the evangelical cause. I would be interested to know how widely you have read of Overton and whence come your reservations. Furthermore, you will notice that I have called Overton ‘highchurch’ in my works and am obviously very much aware of his position, so why tell me that I must remember Overton’s highchurchmanship? Incidentally, you will note that Overton is merely echoing what Toplady says. Regarding your clothing me with the false weeds and feathers of High Church, R.C., Roman, and Anglo-Catholic etc., I fear you would also put Toplady into these categories as I am reflecting his views. I believe that both Toplady and I represent the hempen homespun of Biblical simplicity. Yet, again, I must emphasise that this is Toplady’s story and background and my purpose is to present these features as faithfully as possible. As I agree with Toplady in almost all matters, this is no difficulty for me but I suggest that my task would present a sheer impossibility for yourself.
Concerning your claim that ejected Anglicans were allowed a fifth of their former stipend, as if this were an act of great mercy, I would first ask you for proof that this was paid, and secondly ask you how you would feel if your own income were reduced to a fifth. Even Heaton says in sympathy that the ejected ministers were merely kept from starving. I am sure that if you were a Baptist minister, ousted out of your church by an Anglican and then paid a fifth of your salary, you would certainly feel yourself persecuted. However, we have the testimony of men from both sides of the Revolution who say that such payments were sporadic if they ever occurred at all. Besides the fifth given was a fifth of the value of property plundered, according to the plunderer’s estimate! In order to humiliate the evicted clergy, the money was to be paid to the minister’s children or his wife. In this way they took away the minister’s independence and made him a debtor to his children or wife. However, you should consult Daniel Neal here who emphasises that these monies were seldom paid. You ought also to consult Neal on the large amount of Anglican clergy who lost their property. Reading this list, one wonders that any Anglicans were spared! Though Neal is obviously no friend of the Anglicans, he yet sympathises with the sufferings of their godly men, mentioning especially Hall, Morton and Usher. Neal also speaks of Anglican clergy imprisoned in London, Lambeth, Winchester and Ely. I am writing this as you have no need to read what you call High Church or Anglo-Catholic literature, which you disbelieve, anyway. You will find that your arguments are equally refuted by Dissenting writers. You also quote Baxter via Orme to back up your lack of sympathy with the persecuted Anglicans but, you ought to have gone directly to Baxter for the whole picture. If I am not very much mistaken, I have read Baxter saying that half the Anglican clergy suffered in the plunderings. I suggest that if you follow Baxter and Calamy closely, you will find that they go through different stages of attitudes in their regard to politics, doctrine, the Church of England and the King. It is very easy to make them contradict themselves so we must remain balanced in the use we make of them. Notice Calamy’s ‘Fullerism’ which, thanks be to God, did not come out in the Westminster Standards, though Calamy was very verbose in airing them at the Assembly. Rutherford, of course, kept a good eye on him. Calamy also knew when to keep quiet.
You censure me for speaking of persecutions when the persecutors were obeying the law or doing their duty. I wonder if you would apply this to your understanding of the Nazi Regime? Such arguments cause modern free Germany to react strongly to such utilitarian thinking because of the evil it has caused. Furthermore, you obviously do not mind Presbyterians and Independents doing their lawful duty against Anglicans but, woe betide the Anglican that does his lawful duty against Dissenters! Indeed, you have not a single argument which cannot be turned and used against you, showing how little objectivity there is in them. This most one-sided view moves you to call the Conventicle Acts ‘iniquitous’, obviously blaming the Anglican Church for the Parliament’s acts, Clarendon Code etc., yet you do not seem to realise that those self-same acts, such as the Five Mile Act, were merely new wordings of acts passed against Anglicans by the Commonwealth Parliament both before and after Prides’ Purge. It is difficult for me to understand this grave lack of balance. What is sauce for the goose, I suggest, ought to be also sauce for the gander.
You make much of your hypothesis that Charles II did not keep his Breda promises. Actually, he did with his various Declaration of Indulgences but this was reversed by Parliament against the King’s wish. The Church’s position was halfway between Charles and Parliament. But this, I have explained in my Toplady works! Most of the story is to be found in Baxter. The Lords voted in agreement with the King but the Commons threw it out. However, those Presbyterians that rushed to Holland and bowed their knees and heads to Playboy Charles and became Royal Chaplains, forgot their boot-licking promises and oaths very quickly! The King never forgot his but his hands were tied by that odd form of tyranny which sometimes goes under the name of parliamentary democracy! The entire scene is a farce. Parliament actually turned against King, Church and Dissent. It had learnt from the Presbyterians to have a united church under the jurisdiction of Parliament and kept to this principle. May I refer you to Hutton’s, A History of the English Church From the Accession of Charles I to the Death of Anne, for a balanced account of this affair and one which could hardly offend a Dissenter. Here Hutton shows that it was Parliament against the King that started persecuting, as in the days of the Revolution. The Monarchy had changed but not Parliament.
Your claim that the persecutions under Mary the Bloody were INNOCENT compared with those of Charles II and James II is astonishing. You must have read Fox and Calvin and the later major works on the subject. Are you saying that brave Sheldon, who did not fear to correct the King to his face, and peaceful Sancroft, who was void of politics and stood outside of party squabbles, were more evil than Gardiner and Bonner? True, Sheldon and Sancroft were not by far of the same gigantic calibre of Parker, Grindal, Whitgift and Abbot and Sandys, godly Archbishops of the pre-Rebellion Reformed Church of England. However, you do not accept the greater men for what they were, so will hardly respect the lesser, noble and honest as they were. Do you really believe that Charles II, playboy as he was, exercised a more evil reign than Mary the bloody? Do you really think that Charles goaded Sheldon and Sancroft on to become demons in human flesh as Mary used Gardiner and Bonner as her instruments of death and destruction? Methinks that you are not only standing history on its head but all sense of moral proportion! How many times have I read in solid, sound Dissenting works, echoing Calvin, I believe on Amos, to the extent that Mary was the Queen of Hades and that she exceeded in all her cruelties all the devils in hell. Certainly there were no such mass atrocities committed by either King or Church in Charles II’s days, though we must realise that Charles stood very near to Rome and James was as Roman as Mary, though not so bloody. We must also realise that Charles’ mother, Henrietta Maria, the Roman influence behind her son, had been made party to the Presbyterian plots and was considered by them as their ally. Besides, the main sufferers under James II as under Mary, were Anglicans but you will not allow me to speak of persecution against Anglicans. The truth is that the bishops sat in the Tower again under James II as in Commonwealth days.
Your thrice repeated accusations that my arguments, doctrines and historical findings smack of the Roman Catholic system and Anglo-Catholicism are as insulting as they are groundless. Also, I believe that free speech is one of the greatest achievements of evangelical and Dissenting Christianity and fully inconsistent with your censure. The way you tell me what I can and cannot put in my books (see your pen-ultimate paragraph) is a liberty which you take for yourself but which you do not allow me to share as you strife to bind me to your less-informed opinion.
Turning to the two-paged letter from Mr X, I find the spirit in which it is written admirable. However, most of what Mr. X writes is irrelevant to your problems. It is no wonder that Bicknell and Griffith Thomas only refer briefly to the Commonwealth period as their subject is an exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Even Hardwick and Gibson who provide deeper historical background to the Articles, merely skate over the 1643-1600 period as it is not their topic at all. Similarly, the other works Mr. Hill mentions can hardly be considered the last word on a subject which they hardly touch. It is a well-known fact that the 1643-1600 story of the Church of England has still to be written in full but Walker and Edward Carpenter, for instance, do not hesitate to call what happened to the Church of England clergy and general believers ‘persecution’. Should you regard this as mere Anglican bias, please consult such Baptist contemporaries as Vavasor Powel. If a modern Baptist opinion has more weight with you, please consult Hugh Martin who uses the word ‘persecution’ of the treatment given to Anglicans by the rebels liberally.
The mention of such names as Hooker (d. 1600) and Whitgift (d. 1604) in connection with the Revolution period is an anachronism indeed. You can be proud of the fact that not only the Anglicans but the Baptists also showed courage in castigating the Cromwellian regime for their religious persecutions. Thus, after consulting Powel’s Word for God etc. you could do worse than peep into the standard Baptist histories who give 1640 as the start of persecutions. 1640 was the year the Long Parliament opened and quickly displayed its persecuting spirit by shutting the Anglican bishops in the Tower after robbing them of all their goods and property. We remember that some of these bishops were still in prison awaiting trial almost twenty years later when Charles II freed them. I have never understood why the Baptists joined the side of the persecutors as the Anglicans proved better allies than the Presbyterians and Independents. Nor can one erase the fact that Baptists strove to save their own skins by accusing Anglicans of being traitors to the Pro-Presbyterian government, thus becoming persecutors themselves. If you doubt this, then I can assure you that I have microfilm of the very documents from their pens which back up my statement to the hilt. How Baptists, traditional opposers of state church systems could have supplied two Triers, is beyond me! Cramp, the Baptist historian, honestly tells the tale of Baptist appropriation of ejected Anglicans’ livings, mentioning thirty such incidents known to him, yet you will hear nothing of such facts! There were saints and sinners in all the Reformed churches, whether Anglican, Presbyterian, Independent or Baptist. If one wishes to see the strength and weakness of the Cromwellian administration during the two revolutions between 1643 and 1660, there is no better work than Underdown’s Pride’s Purge. However, as you deny Presbyterian persecution of Anglicans, I presume that you will deny Independent persecution of Presbyterians. I have met people who even deny Pride’s Purge. Are we to believe that history is bunk after all? No wonder Huxley deifies Ford!
My bibliography furnishes a good list of authors who refer in brief or at length to the persecutions, including Presbyterian works that frankly and honestly compare some of the actions of the Presbyterians with those of the Spanish Inquisition. Not all non-Anglicans lack objectivity. Furthermore, one has only to read the lives of Hall, Featley, Usher, Ward, Balcanqual, Taylor and those numerous other Anglicans imprisoned, exiled and worse, to gain insight into the sufferings and persecutions which went on at this time.
Your last animadversion beats the whole band and grieves me deeply! With a sermon of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones which I heard in the late fifties or early sixties in my mind and after meeting the sentiment again in one of his books, I came to realise that the myriad of denominations that we have actually mars the gospel and Christian fellowship. Moreover, as Dr. Lloyd Jones so rightly says, this kind of division must be regarded as sinful. I cannot possibly think of anyone disagreeing with his sane and sensible words. Yet you make the astonishing and truly shocking criticism that such thinking, in keeping with Ephesians 4:3, is really “The language of Rome and Anglo-Catholicism and while superficially the case the reality is different.” If that is your creed, then I am happy to be a Dissenter from it! I hold that I am denominationally blind and that denominationalism is a sin. Here I stand and cannot budge from this position. I could not care less what brand name my church takes, providing that it is a community of saints. I will give your own England as an example. There was one Church in England after Mary the Bloody, whom you appear to call Mary the Innocent, and before the time of Laud and the Rebellion. It was the golden age of Christ’s work in Britain. Not only Heaton, Bayne and Cunningham but Toplady tells us that this church was composed of Puritans to a man! Now the Spirit blows elsewhere. Denominationalism has never raised its ugly head as much in Britain as at present and her churches seem to have become mere lodges, clubs and debating societies. Recently, I attended a number of English churches which were bursting at their seams in the fifties and now five or six figures sit freezing and half asleep in their formerly crowded buildings while the parson, from whatever denomination, saws away. Many other churches now feature a bit of music and a bit of drama and a bit of merry joking to liven them up but spiritually, they are just as dead. In the discussions over tea after the services, there is so much talking shop, i.e. about finance and organisational difficulties etc. that the difference to my Bee-Keeping Society and Scout Group is not apparent. Dear Brother Y, denominationalism is deadly, believe you me. We should study carefully the growth of denominationalism since the Rebellion. I believe that a balanced and unprejudiced reader will see that doctrine played a lesser role in the renting of Christ’s robe but an over-finical attachment to oddities. The idea that the Rebellion was a protest at Laudianism is a weak search for a weaker excuse. Laud was but a hiccup in the history of the Reformed Church of England and Laud was put to death before the Rebellion became really hideous. His views of the Church were taken over by the Presbyterians and his views on doctrine by the Fifth Monarchy men, the Arminians and the Baxterians. Actually, if you read the major works on Laud, you will find he was more Reformed in theology than some of the Dissenters you mention. Furthermore, note how many Laudians there were in the Presbyterian system both in their view of state-church relationships and doctrine. Sadly, many Laudians, instead of remaining in Presbyterianism and Separatism after the Revolution, changed over again to the Church of England and thus brought in Dissenting, non-Reformed ideas at the Restoration.
I was initially drawn to the Gospel Magazine by the caption stating that the trust deed is defined in terms of the 39 Articles. Though it was not necessary, Toplady always re-subscribed to these Articles when taking on a new church as they were, to him, the backbone of Anglican and Christian doctrinal testimony. As far as I may as a foreign citizen and one who has taken an oath of allegiance as a senior civil servant to the German Government, I subscribe fully to the Lambeth Articles, Irish Articles and 39 Articles and their doctrines are my doctrines. I have written in accordance with them about a man who subscribed to them as faithfully as I do. I must ask you, Brother X, if you can faithfully subscribe to those Articles as truthfully as Toplady and myself. If you can, then many of your remarks surprise, indeed, shock me. If you cannot, then you are not in a position to judge, and in places condemn, my work as you do. The current issue of the Gospel Magazine does not feature the statement of faith referring to the 1766-1999 history of the magazine. I hear with joy that this was a mere slip-up and will be rectified in the next issue.
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Yours sincerely in the Lord of history and our eternal inheritance with the saints,
George M. Ella
The last few paragraphs are omitted as they involve indiscretions of the correspondent regarding other people.
- I have since learnt from primary sources that Laud was ready to accept Presbyterian ordination because so many G. of E. parishes were without ministers. Laud also campaigned for a recognition of Continental clergy such as the Lutherans and the Reformed churches as equal to Anglican ministers. His accuser William Prynne at his trial, acknowledged this but said that Laud wanted to unite all Protestant churches to then present them to Rome! ↩
- Actually it was the Royal Seal. ↩