Letter to the English Churchman concerning criticism of the Reformed Church of England and praise of the Cromwellian chaos.


     The Letters to the Editor on the spiritual state of the pre-Rebellion Church of England swing from one extreme to the other. Ignoring historical facts, they back-project later dark sectarian interpretations onto more luminous times. The rejection of the Restitution by an alleged 2,000 (nearer 800) ministers in 1662 was a direct result of the ejection of the alleged 10,000 (nearer 7,000) Anglican ministers and scholars who were outlawed in 1643. One cannot understand a ‘tit’ without consulting the ‘tat’ which gave rise to it. The number of true Reformers and Puritans were equally balanced on both sides so doctrine had nothing to do with the Commonwealth Usurpation. The big surprise in 1662 was that so many who had eagerly joined Cromwell’s Puppet Church, set up by his Model Army and Model Parliament, were equally eager to join the Restoration Episcopal Church which sadly, and very much as a result of this, never regained its former purity. It was leading Independents under Cromwell such as John Tillotson who led the new Rump Church of England along an ever descending path.

     It is no use setting up the Aunt Sally of William Laud to justify the Rebellion against Orthodoxy. Hundreds of Rebellion and post-Rebellion ministers owed their rocket-like careers to him. The Presbyterians took over Laudianism hook, line and sinker but gave their views new legitimacy by blaming Laud for being an Episcopalian. Though the Presbyterians claimed to bring back original Protestantism, the Puritan Anglicans demonstrated that the Presbyterians were re-introducing Rome. Presbyterian ecclesiology, orders and sacraments were certainly more papist than those of the Church they outlawed. After persecuting the Anglicans, the politically empowered intolerant Presbyterians and Congregationalists quarrelled amongst themselves. The Baptists joined in and the Babel of Dissent began. Soon, Presbyterianism fared at Cromwell’s hands almost as badly as did the Episcopalian Church and those Presbyterians and Congregationalists who rejected the Restoration did so because they could not join a Church which tolerated both of them. Each confessed that they had more in common with the Anglicans than with each other. True religion suffered as a result. The Baptists were shunted out on a side line and it is significant that a Baptist led the 1656 delegation to Charles II declaring that: “We know not, whether we have juster matter of shame or sorrow administered to us, when we take a reflex view of our past actions, and consider into the commission of what crimes, impieties, wickednesses, and unheard of villainies we have been led, cheated, cozened, and betrayed by that grand impostor, that loathsome hypocrite, that detestable traitor, that prodigy of nature, that sink of sin, and that compendium of baseness, who now calls himself our protector.” Then, the rebel churches blamed Cromwell for their apostasy. Nowadays, they blame the Anglicans.