1902 Encyclopedia > Independents


INDEPENDENTS, a religious denomination whose distinctive ecclesiastical principle is that the individual congregation or church is a society strictly voluntary and autonomous, standing directly under the authority of Jesus Christ, living in immediate dependence on Him, and

responsible to Him alone for its beliefs and acts as a Christian society. Its ideal stands distinguished, on the one hand, from Episcopacy by having no gradations of ministerial or clerical orders, or persons above the indi-vidual congregation invested with administrative or judicial authority, and, on the other hand, from Presbytery by having no gradation of courts or representative bodies possessed of legislative and judicial functions. These distinctions imply others. Episcopacy and Presbytery are essentially organized and incorporative systems, build-ing all the societies they comprehend into a political unity, but Independency is essentially voluntary and individual-izing, satisfied with a spiritual unity, refusing to permit its various societies to be built into a political organism, lest it should do violence to the rights of conscience, or prevent or even supersede the duty of the exercise by the individual of his own judgment in matters of religion. Episcopacy and Presbytery regard the collective organiza-tion as the church, but Independency the individual congregation, investing it with the attributes and pre-rogatives the other systems reserve for the organized whole. Its members possess equal rights, and are bound by equal obligations. They constitute a state whose citizens are all enfranchised, and are so because citizenship is limited to the qualified, who, having sought it voluntarily, voluntarily retain it. Independency may be said to affirm its ecclesiastical in order that it may realize its religious principle, that religion is purely a matter of the conscience, not to be created, extended, or reformed by any political mechanism or agencies, but by moral means, through men who seek to have it believed and embodied by men for reasons that commend themselves to the conscience, free and unconstrained. It thus holds that the best service the state can render to religion is to leave it free to live and act according to its own nature, in obedience to its own laws, prompted by its own impulses, guided by its own spirit and judgment.
Independency rose in the reign of Elizabeth, and may be said to have been born of the despair of seeing religion reformed and vivified on any one of the then followed lines. The peculiar condition of the Anglican Church at this period is well enough known. There were men in it who wished it to be independent of Pome, but to remain as far as possible Catholic while Anglican, and there were men who wished it to be conformed in doctrine and polity to those churches of the Continent that were by pre-eminence the Reformed. These latter were the Puritans, and their endeavour was to reform the church through the state, to persuade or compel the constitutive and sovereign will to make it such as they could conscientiously approve. But it was inevitable in a time of strong religious feeling that some more daring spirits should endeavour to break through the anomalies of the Puritan position. If their consciences demanded, and the civil authority refused, reform, was it either right or dutiful to submit to the civil authority as against the conscience? Was there no other way of reformation than by its consent % Was the Chris-tian man relieved from all responsibility and obligation to obey conscience when the magistrate forbade him to do so 1 In so forbidding, was not the magistrate stepping out of his own province 1 Was the church he could so rule as to prevent the realization of the Scriptural ideal a rightly conceived and constituted church 1 Was it the apostolical way so to work as to plant, to purge, to organize churches only as Caesar gave consent? And could any but the apostolical way be right ?
These were the questions that created Independency. In the writings of the first Independent, Robert Browne (see BROWN, ROBERT), lies the first crude attempt at an answer. He is possessed with the idea that reformation is necessary, and is to be accomplished, not by the state, but by the action and cooperation of men who are them-selves reformed and renewed. The Puritans have committed two great mistakes : they have imagined that reformation is a thing of polity only, to be carried out by changes in the organism, as it were, or structure of the church, leaving many, perhaps the immense majority, of the individuals who constitute it unreformed; and they have waited and are waiting to have the work done through and by the magistrate. Browne sets himself absolutely against both positions. " The kingdom of God," he says, " was not to be begun by whole parishes, but rather of the worthiest, be they ever so few." This means that a church cannot be created by any political act out of such material as it finds in a parish, but only of the godly, men who are consciously and sincerely Christian. So he defines a church as " a companie or number of Christians or believers, who, by a willing covenant made with their God, are under the government of God and Christ, and kepe his lawes in one holie communion." This idea of a church was as unlike as possible to the Church of England ideal, and made it as it actually existed so offensive to Browne that he held communion with it to be a cardinal sin. But it also made him particularly impatient with what he called the " wickednesse of those preachers which will not reforme themselves and their charge, because they will tarie till the magistrate commaunde and compell them." This led him to discuss principles and state positions that curiously anticipate some of the most modern views as to the relation of the civil authority to religion and the church, But the times were not ripe for either the criticism or the realization of Browne's ideas. They were extravagances to his own day; failure attended him everywhere—due partly, perhaps, to the angularities of the man, and partly to the prematurity of the system; his name was covered with ridicule ; and Brownist became the epithet the early Independents most disliked and resented.
But the problems that had exercised Browne were too vital to religion to be his alone. They occupied many minds, and of these not a few looked in a similar direction for a solution. Geneva was at once the strength and the weakness of the Puritans;—their strength, because it gave them their ideal realized ; their weakness, because it made them think that the only method of realization was in and through the State. The Puritan leaders were mainly scientific theologians, like Cartwright and Travers, Perkins and Rainolds, men who strenuously adhered alike in doctrine and polity to the principles and methods of their school. But the earliest Independents were men of simpler minds, educated indeed as well as the English universities could educate them, but of less specific and elaborate training. They studied their own times and interpreted their own duties in the light of the New Testament, and

inferred that as the apostles had proceeded they ought to proceed, that the methods proper to the apostolic age were also the methods proper to their own. These methods were individual, not national; churches were founded, religion created and reformed, not by civil authorities or agencies, but by preachers who persuaded men to believe, gathered the believers into communities or brotherhoods, each standing in a fraternal relation to all the rest, none occupying a position of political superiority or dependence. The early Independents believed that in this way only was it possible to reform religion in England, and they acted on their belief, separating themselves from the Anglican Church, forming themselves into communities on what they regarded as the Scriptural model, and working in what was conceived to be the apostolic method. But separation from the church was a capital crime, equal to a denial of the royal supremacy; and so every inveterate separatist became liable to death. And early Independency was not without its martyrs. In the summer of 1583 two men, Thacker and Coppin, were executed at Bury St. Edmunds for refusing to conform to the church, and " dispersinge of Brownes bookes and Harrisons bookes." They justified their refusal on the ground that " her Majestie was chieffe ruler civilie, but no further." Two much more remarkable men, who met with a similar fate, were John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe. Both were graduates of Cambridge; Greenwood had been ordained a priest; Barrowe was a barrister, a member of ¡ Gray's Inn. " He made," as we know on the authority of Lord Bacon, " a leap from a vain and libertine youth to a preciseness in the highest degree, the strangeness of which alteration made him very much spoken of." Both became j separatists, and were very active in the numerous conven-ticles that were then being held in and about London. | Their principles were not so extreme as Browne's, their position being, as it were, intermediate between his and the Puritan. In his notion of the church as a society of the godly or the converted, politically independent alike as regards other churches and the state, they agree with him ; in his notion of its rigidly democratic constitution, they differ, inclining more to leave its government in the hands of certain specially chosen men. Their ideal is a sort of Presbyterial Independency. They think of the church as "A companie of Faithfull people; separated from the vnbelievers and heathen of the land : gathered in the name of Christ, whome they truelie worship, and redily obey as their only King, Priest, and Prophet: ioyned together as members of one bodie : ordered and gouerned by such officers and lawes as Christ in His last will and Testament hath thereunto ordeyned," (fee.
Of course, this conception placed them in direct anta-gonism to both the Genevan and Anglican ideals and methods. They condemn " Mr Calvine" because " he made no scruple to receave all the whole state, even all the profane ignorant people, into the bozome of the church, to administer the sacramentes vnto them." They condemn
1 " Observations on a Libel" ; Letters and Life, by Spedding, vol. i. p. 165.
2 A Collection of certaine Letters and Conferences, lately passed be-twixt certaine Preachers and Two Prisoners in the Fleet (1590), p. 67. These letters were addressed to the Puritan leaders, and state the radical point of divergence of the two systems. This was the church idea; Greenwood and Barrowe, in all their prison Conferences, which were many, fallback on this idea:—"Christ's church always eonsisteth of a holy free people, separate from the world, rightly called and gathered unto Christ, walking forth in faith and obedience.''
3 Barrowe, A Brief Discouerie of the False Church (1590), p. 33. This is Barrowe's principal work, but he and Greenwood were both prolific and vigorous writers. They had a lengthy controversy with Mr George Gifford, a " Conformable Puritan," who charged them with being the " Donatists of England." They and the Puritans were curiously most deeply at feud. Yet it was only natural. The Puri-tans were anxious to show that they had no kinship with the Brownists, the Brownists were anxious to drive the Puritans to the the Church of England because it comprehends " all the profane and wicked of the land," and maintain that " Christ is onely head of His church, and His lawes may-no man alter" ; that the prince is no more than a mere member of it; that, if he sin, not to excommunicate him is to neglect " God's judgmentes, their dutie and the prince's salvation." The Anglican Church was thus conceived as founded on a wrong principle, worked in a wrong method, and hindered rather than helped by its dependence on the state. Whitgift asked Barrowe whether, if the prince delayed or refused to reform abuses, the church should proceed without him; and his answer was, " it might and ought, though all the princes of the world should prohibit the same upon pain of death." Ideas like these logically involved separation as a duty; the ideas they contradicted as logically made it a crime. The age was not without the courage of its convictions; and Barrowe and Greenwood died for theirs, April 6, 1593. Shortly afterwards (May 29) John Penry or Ap Henry, a friend and associate, expiated the same sin in the same way.
In spite of the severely repressive measures of the Government, the Independents continued to multiply. In the last decade of the 16th century numerous separatist communities were formed, especially in London and the eastern and north-eastern counties. Their conventicles were often surprised, and in 1596 it was reckoned that as many as twenty-four had died in prison, representing of course but a small proportion of those actually confined. Plainly England had as yet no room for Independency, and the Independents who wished to keep a good conscience were forced to think of seeking a home elsewhere. Cer-tain of their leaders had, indeed, in 1592 organized a church in London, with Francis Johnson as its pastor, and Greenwood as its teacher; but they were so watched and hunted and harassed—fifty-six of its members having been seized at one time and imprisoned—that they resolved, con-vinced by the fate of Barrowe, Greenwood, and Penry that a peaceable life in England was impossible, to emigrate in a body. Holland was then the common refuge of the distressed for conscience' sake, the place where the outcasts alike of France and Spain and England found a free and even generous home. The Independents, after trying Campen and Naarden, settled finally at Amsterdam. There they completed their church organization, appointing Francis Johnson pastor and Henry Ainsworth teacher. Johnson was a native of Eichmond in Yorkshire, had been a fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, had been expelled the university for publicly teaching the Presbyterian polity, and had become pastor of the English merchants' church at Middleburg. There he had been zealous against the Inde-pendents, had helped to seize and destroy an edition of one of Barrowe's works, but, preserving a copy, had read it aru been persuaded to adopt its views. He returned to Eng-land, associated himself with the author, and became, as we have seen, the pastor of the first Independent church in England. He was a pragmatic man, self-willed, empha-sizing his separatism, easily drifting into controversies and consequent divisions on minute questions alike of conduct and opinion. Ainsworth (see AINSWORTH, HENRY) was an

altogether nobler spirit, devout, simple-minded, erudite, one who " had not his better for the Hebrew tongue in the university (of Leyden) nor scarce in Europe," anxious only to be allowed to search out the meaning of Scripture and teach it to his people. The church under these two men had a somewhat troubled history, and divided at length, part going with Johnson, part with Ainsworth, the cause of the division being as to the office and power of the elder. The former held that the church had power to elect, but not to depose, the elders, who were its real gov-ernors, but the latter held that the elders were responsible to the church, which had the power, as to appoint, so also to depose and excommunicate them. Johnson was moving away from Independency, as it is now understood, but Ainsworth towards it. Their church is significant as an attempt to realize the ideal of Barrowe and Greenwood, a provisional or tentative Independency, but no more.
A much more successful attempt at realizing the Indepen-dent ideal was made at Leyden under the leadership of John Robinson (see ROBINSON, JOHN). He and his people came from Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire. Their head-quarters had been at first at Gainsborough-on-Trent. In 1606 one section of the church under John Smyth—who was to become the most extreme of separatists, discovering that baptism by a corrupt church was none, to rebaptize himself and become founder of the General Baptists— emigrated to Amsterdam; the other organized themselves under Robinson at Scrooby. But peace was impossible; flight became necessary. So in 1607 and 1608 they suc-ceeded in escaping in detachments to Holland, settling first in Amsterdam, ultimately in Leyden. There the fine qualities of Robinson found a congenial soil, and developed as they could not have done in the less generous air of England. Leyden helped to make English separatism into Independency. What is developed in antagonism is ill de-veloped, full of exaggerations, undue emphases, antitheses so sharply stated as to be almost, even when true, danger-ously near the false. A proscribed faith may be strong, but can never be sweet; and the strength that is bitter is not a purely religious strength. So Independency in Eng-land in the days of Whitgift and Bancroft was too much hated and hunted to be able to say the best word and do the best thing for itself. But Independency in Leyden,— breathing the free air of the Dutch republic, living in open fellowship with all its institutions, braced by its strong en-thusiasm for liberty, its robust religious faith, its brilliant and fruitful intellectual activity, then at its best and brightest in the young university of the city,—was Inde-pendency planted where it could do approximate justice to its own ideal. The influence of the changed conditions soon became manifest in its happier spirit. The church at Leyden lost the narrow and ungenerous spirit of sepa-ratism, pleaded for the duty of communion with the godly in the Church of England and the other reformed churches. On this point Robinson wrote with eloquence and acted with courage, his spirit growing the larger the longer he lived. While professing " a separation from the English national, provincial, diocesan, and parochial church, and churches, in the whole former state and order thereof," he yet confessed and declared that he had still " the same faith, hope, spirit, baptism, and Lord " as in the Church of England, that he enjoyed fellowship with her "many thousands " of godly sons, and that occasional " hearing of the word of God as there preached" was both lawful and necessary to him as a Christian man.1 This most generous spirit and conduct involved Robinson in a long and bitter controversy with Helwys and other extreme separatists, who held approval of anything or any one
J Robinson, Works, iii. 377-8.
connected with the Anglican Church to be altogether a sin; but it in no way modified the rigour of his Independency. His definition of a church is almost identical with Barrowe's : " A company, consisting though but of two or three, separated from the world, whether unchristian or anti-christian, and gathered into the name of Christ by a covenant made to walk in all the ways of God known unto them, is a church, and so hath the whole power of Christ."2 Its independence, its sufficiency as a church alike in what concerned idea and reality, he strenuously maintained. Thus " neither was Peter or Paul more one, whole, entire, and perfect man, consisting of their parts essential and integral, without relation unto other men, than is a parti-cular congregation, rightly instituted and ordered, a whole, entire, and perfect church immediately and independently, in respect of other churches, under Christ " Above a church so conceived there could be no authoritative person or court, ecclesiastical or civil; it was armed with all the powers necessary to do the will of its Head, and to interfere with it was an unlawful interference with rights it had received from Him. Office did not exalt a man above the brotherhood; the clergy were but Christians, and good only as Christians. To saintship, and not to office, was promised the forgiveness of sins. " The estate of a saint is most happy and blessed, though the person never so much as come near an office; but, on the contrary, an officer, if he be not also and first a saint, is a most wretched and accursed creature." Acts to be acts of the church must be collective, done, not by the clergy or the officers only, but by the brethren as well.6 The church was, indeed, an ecclesia, an assembly, called out and called together by the public preaching of the word, but forming in its collective and corporate character a body possessed of supreme authority, of all the attributes, rights, and prerogatives that belong to those who rule. It is evident that a conception of this kind was full of promise. It showed a firm trust in the capabilities of individual Christian men to exercise the rights of citizenship within the kingdom of God. It made it in the highest degree wrong for any ruler or body of rulers to enforce their own belief on the people. And it was as opposed to ecclesiastical as to civil tyranny, whether in its Episcopal or Presbyterial form. Robinson, indeed, was far from seeing or courageously deducing all the consequences implied in his Independency. He was even illogical enough to state, though in a hesitating way, principles radically incompatible with it. He concedes " that godly magistrates are by compulsion to repress public and notable idolatry," by some penalty " to provoke their subjects universally unto hearing for their instruction and conversion " ; but he denies that any king is at liberty to inflict death upon all that refuse to be drawn into covenant with God, or remain wicked and unrepentant.6 He knows well enough the utmost coercion can do. " By this course of compulsion many become atheists, hypocrites, and familists, and, being at first constrained to practise against conscience, lose all conscience afterwards." Liberty is too complex a notion to be easily and in all its bearings grasped: and liberty in religion too great a thing to be suddenly and all at once understood and realized.

The Leyden church is the parent of Independency alike in England and America. In 1616 Henry Jacob, a native of Kent, a graduate of Oxford, one of Johnson's converts, pastor awhile of a church at Middleburg, then a resident with Robinson at Leyden, returned to England, and founded an Independent church at Southwark. In 1620 a little company led by Elder Brewster and Deacon Carver sailed from Delfthaven, landed in the.midst of a severe and stormy

winter on the North American coast, and there laid the foundations of the New England States, with all they were to be and to create. Jacob had been all through his exile anxiously looking towards England. In 1609 he had addressed to King James " An Humble Supplication for Toleration," in which he begs that " each particular church may be allowed to partake in the benefit of the said toleration, may have, enjoy, and put in execution and practice this her right and privilege," viz., " to elect, ordain, and deprive her own ministers, and to exercise all the other points of lawful ecclesiastical jurisdiction under Christ." This may be regarded as a clear and explicit statement of the early Independent position, its claim for toleration based on its conception of the Christian church, its plea for liberty of worship based on its principle of individualism and the rights of the individual conscience. With what was here asked it would at any time in the 17th century have been satisfied, but the Anglican policy of Elizabeth, and James, and Charles I. proceeded on this principle, that to allow diversity was to destroy unity, to permit the growth of elements that would prove fatal to the church, involve the denial of the royal authority and the break-up of the state. Yet the very severity of the Anglican policy strengthened Independency. It helped to identify the struggle for liberty of conscience with the struggle for English liberty.
Up to 1640 little formal progress was made. Churches did not multiply; Laud was too active, and the Star Chamber too vigorous. But the real progress was immense. Statesmen were persuaded that a system which required so harsh a policy could not be right. Religious men who could not conform went to live in lands and under laws where obedience to conscience was possible. There was a double emigration, to the Continent and to New England. In Arnheim, Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye ministered to a small congregation; in Rotterdam, Hugh Peters and William Ames, the most skilled, scholastic, and disputatious theologian of the early Independents, who came from his professorial chair at Franeker in 1682 to die at Rotterdam a year later. Here, too, when Ames was dead and Peters gone to New England, came Jeremiah Burroughs, William Bridge, and Sidrach Simpson, all of them names that were to be conspicuous and influential in days to come.
But the emigration to New England was much the more important alike as regards its influence on Independency and English history. It has been calculated that in the period 1620-1640 upwards of 22,000 Puritan emigrants (the figures have been placed as high as 50,000) sailed from English and Dutch ports. The reasons that compelled their departure determined their quality; they were all men of rigorous consciences, who loved their fatherland much, but religion more, not driven from home by mercan-tile necessities or ambitions, but solely by their determina-tion to be free to worship God. They were, as Milton
said, " faithful and freeborn Englishmen and good Christians constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends, and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean and the savage deserts of America could hide and shelter from the fury of the bishops." Men so moved so to act could hardly be commonplace; and so among them we find characters strong and marked, with equal ability to rule and to obey, as Bradford and Brewster, Winslow and Standish, Winthrop and Dr Samuel Fuller, and men so inflexible in their love of liberty and faith in man as Roger Williams and young Harry Vane. And as were the people so were their ministers. Of these it is enough to name John Cotton, able both as adivine and as a statesman, potent in England by his expositions and apologies of the " New England way," potent in America for his organizing and administrative power; Thomas Hooker, also famed as an exponent and apologist of the " New England way," whose book was commended to theologians at home by Thomas Goodwin, and whose early death was lamented by Cotton in lines which told how
" Zion's beauty did most clearly shine In Hooker's rule and doctrine, both divine ;" John Eliot, famous as the " apostle of the Indians," first of Protestant missionaries to the heathen; Richard Mather, whose influence and work were carried on by his distin guished son, and his still more distinguished grandson, Cotton Mather. The motives and circumstances of the emigrants determined their polity; they went out as churches and settled as church states. They were all Puritans, but not all Independents—indeed, at first only the men from Leyden were, and they were throughout more enlightened and tolerant than the men of the other settlements. Winthrop's company were nonconformists but not separat-ists, esteemed it " an honour to call the Church of England, from whence we rise, our dear mother," emigrated that they might be divided from her corruptions, not from herself. But the new conditions, backed by the special influence of the Plymouth settlement, were too much for them; they became Independent,—first, perhaps, of necessity, then of conviction and choice. Only so could they guard their ecclesiastical and their civil liberties. These, indeed, were at first formally as well as really identical. In 1631 the general court of the Massachusetts colony resolved, " that no man shall be admitted to the freedom of this body politic, but such as are members of some of the churches within the limits of the same." Church and state, citizenship in the one and membership in the other, thus became identical, and the foundation was laid for those troubles and consequent severities that vexed and shamed the early history of Independency in New England, natural enough when all their circumstances are fairly considered, indefensible when we regard their idea of the relation of the civil power to the conscience and religion, but explicable when their church idea alone is regarded. And this latter was their own standpoint; their acts were more acts of church discipline "than those of civil penalty.
5 " Of Reformation in England," bk. ii., Works, p. 14 (ed. 1834).
Meanwhile, the growth of the New England States and their Independency in religion exercised extraordinary influence in England. It encouraged the Puritans, opened to them a refuge from the Anglican tyranny, showed them an English state where the bishop had ceased to trouble and where their own principles were active and realized. Laud thoroughly comprehended the situation, saw that Independency in the colonies must be struck down if Anglican policy was to succeed at home. They were a

receptacle for schismatics, " from whence, as from the bowels of the Trojan horse, so many incendiaries might break out to inflame the nation ;" and so it would be necessary to send them a bishop " for their better government, and back him with some forces to compel, if he were not otherwise able to persuade, obedience.''1 But home politics alone were too much for Laud; and on his downfall and the outbreak of the civil war New England Independency became, on account of its influence on the ecclesiastico-political question, still more potent in English affairs. The Independent party in the Westminster Assembly—which had been called to advise parliament—-was small, but influential. Its ministerial members were Thomas Goodwin, a ponderous but learned and conscientious man; Philip Nye, a skilful debater and adroit man of business ; Jeremiah Burroughs, a man of sweet manners and gentle . isposition, but great prudence and firmness ; William Bridge, and Sidrach Simpson. These were all marked by conspicuous moderation of view, but the lay members, like Lord Saye and Sele and Sir Harry Vane, were more advanced, e°Decially on the cardinal question of toleration. The importance of the New England States was at once recognized by the parliamentary Independents, who made an effort to bring over their three most eminent ministers, John Cotton, John Davenport, and Thomas Hooker. The effort failed; but in place of the men books and pamphlets, expository and defensive of the " New England way," were discharged in quick succession upon the English public. What gave New England its importance was this—it was the first realization on a large scale of the principles of Independency. Here they had been tried under most difficult conditions, and had proved thoroughly successful, capable of maintaining order in the churches, religion in the state, purity of doctrine, and efficiency of discipline. What Geneva had been to the Puritans under Elizabeth New England was now to the Independents—it was their religious ideal realized, their polity commended by an illustrious example. They were no longer, as in the days of John Eobinson or Henry Jacob, the apologists of an unpopular and strange theory, hitherto unrealized save on a scale and under conditions that made it ridiculous, charged with all the evils that could be proved logically certain to follow from it. On the contrary, they had now behind them the church-state beyond the ocean, and they could proudly tell how men of English blood, who had fled from the Anglican oppression, had tried Independency and prevailed. So there was the amplest controversy on the points at issue, the Scotch divines being specially active on the one side, and American divines, pre-faced and introduced and explained by English, on the other. The controversy did something to lessen the distance between Presbyterians and Independents, and did much to strengthen the position of the latter in England. It showed that independence did not mean isolation, that churches that refused to be organized into a political unity still constituted a Christian brotherhood, that societies that were so jealous of their freedom and rights as to deny to every external authority judicial and legislative functions could yet seek and follow fraternal advice, and meet in common councils to advise and be advised. But the Westminister Assembly and the English Parliament did not approve the " New England way." and the Independents had to be con- i tented to plead for toleration. This, indeed, became their great demand—the point on which they and the Presby-terians differed radically. Here the Presbyterians were inflexible. Toleration was to them the very man of sin. But to the Independents it was the very condition of j continued existence. Without it England would be no i better for them under Presbytery than it had been under Episcopacy. As to the nature and degree of this toleration, 1 Heylyn, Life of Laud, p. 369.

they were divided into two sections, one moderate, the other more advanced. To the former belonged the ministerial members of the assembly, who wished only a limited toleration. They did not desire all views to be tolerated, but only the views of good men, men of pious, tender consciences, not those of infidels or blasphemers. But the more advanced section courageously advocated absolute toleration, denied that so long as a man was a peaceable citizen the magistrate had any right to interfere with his conscience or conscientious beliefs. To this section belonged Harry Vane, Henry Burton, John Goodwin of Coleman Street, ablest and most restless of controversial-ists in that controversial age; Roger Williams, now a Baptist, but still an Independent, home from America, bringing with him the MS. of a great book on this very subject; finally, above all, John Milton. These were the advanced guard, and theirs was the section that made Independency so immense a political power in the England of the Commonwealth.

This is not the place to inquire into the causes of the sudden and extraordinary ascendency of the Independents in the time of the Commonwealth. Enough to say, it was due to causes both political and religious—to what may be termed the transmutation of a great religious into a great political question. The men Independency formed and forced to the front were remarkable men, strong of will, clear of eye, mighty through faith in their principles. And their principles were precisely of the kind suited to the emergency, republican and revolutionary, but steeped in the commanding emotions and enthusiasms of religion. They were principles that ennobled man, that asserted the rights of the individual, that made it an easy matter to deal with the divine rights of kings, or kings too assertive of their rights and forgetful of their duties. So the Inde-pendents had the incalculable advantage of always seeing clearly before them, knowing their end and never being in any doubt about the way to it. Besides, their theory of the church fell in with the spirit of the Commonwealth. It made but small distinction between clergy and laity, and the man with the gift of speech could easily exercise it in preaching. So the army when new modelled, formed of men of spirit and conviction, became quite a nursery of Independents, and men like Richard Baxter found that in it there were quite as many ready to edify as wishful to be edified. Religion thus became, not a matter for the clergy, but the possession of the people, not simply the concern of the church, but the business of the whole nation. There was considerable diversity in theological opinion. The moderate men were Calvinists, but among the extreme men were Arminians, like John Goodwin, and men as yet of no recognized school, like John Milton. Independency, in short, meant the equal concern of every man in religion, alike in its deepest mysteries and most practical precepts; and so in a period of religious enthusiasm and ferment it naturally came to the front and took the lead. But the extent of its power under the Commonwealth was the measure of the disfavour that came to it after the Restora-tion. The Presbyterians had been mainly instrumental in the bringing back of Charles, and so it had been indecent had no attempt been made to comprehend them within the church. But in the case of the Independents there was not even an abortive attempt at comprehension. And they did not ask what they knew they would not receive. They only wished to be tolerated, to be allowed to live, and no more. At first they thought that this might be. Philip Nye had seen the king, and was hopeful. But their illusions were soon dispelled, In 1661 the Corporation Act was passed, which disqualified Nonconformists for municipal offices; in 1662 the Act of Uniformity, which drove upwards of two thousand ministers out of the church, and

silenced all who did not conform ; in 1663 the Conventicle Act, which prevented Nonconformist congregations meeting, not allowing in houses more than five persons beyond the family to be present at once. In 1665 the Five Mile Act forbade non-conforming ministers to come within 5 miles of any corporate borough; in 1670 the Conventicle Act was made more rigorous; and in 1673 the Test Act made Nonconformists ineligible for offices, civil, naval, or military, under the crown. Charles, indeed, in his weak way, tried to be more generous than his church or parliament, wished to tolerate the Nonconformists that he might the better tolerate the Roman Catholics. Out of this feeling came _ the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672,_—which was,inciden-tally, the means of proving the strength of dissent, three thousand applications being made for licences to use or erect places of worship; but parliament resisted, and Charles gave way.
In the dark days that had now come to them, the Inde-pendents, it may well be said, lived with patient courage, and learned through their sufferings. They had men among them that adorned their adversity, and made even their sudden obscurity illustrious. John Owen, late vice-chancellor of Oxford, massive, erudite, the ideal of the scholastic theologian, building up with patient skill his loved science and fencing it round with the sort of argu-ments his age understood; Thomas Goodwin, less varied but more subtle, not so broad but quite as analytic as Owen, dealing with rich delight in the dialectical subtleties that pleased his age; John Howe, with a soul above the narrowness and bitterness of his day, serene in the midst of his troubles, living in sublime contemplation on " the Living Temple," or the " Vision of God " ; Joseph Caryl and William Greenhill, quaint expositors, rich in the lore then used to explain the Old Testament; Theophilus Gale, the equal of Cudworth in his knowledge of the ancient world, full of the great and fruitful idea he has embodied in his Court of the Gentiles,—these were some of the ejected from church or university, and they may help to show the quality of the men who were now, because of their Inde-pendency, outcasts from the Church of England, and for it deprived of their common rights as citizens. Their conduct under James showed that they would not purchase their own privileges at the expense of the public safety, and under William their fidelity to the constitution and liberties of EnglandhaditsfirstrewardintheActof Toleration. This was but a small concession, and one that by the Occasional Conformity Act of Anne was almost as good as repealed. But what had been done could not be altogether undone. The coming in of the Hanoverian dynasty brought a more liberal spirit into politics, and history has ever since, with an occasional period of declension, been a progressive movement towards freedom'. As one by one its principles and claims have been admitted by the state, England has become a roomier and healthier place for spirits who feel that for religion to be religious it must be free.
In estimating the work done in England by the Indepen-dents, it is necessary to bear in mind the extent to which they have supplemented the deficiencies of the Anglican Church. But for them religion in many places would have almost, perhaps altogether, died out. They have helped to quicken and deepen the religious consciousness and life of the English people. Their preachers, too, have not been without influence, which is the more remarkable as from the time of the Act of Uniformity till a few years ago they were excluded from, the national universities. Soon after the passing of the Act of Toleration we find Independent preachers rising to eminence. The Foster who was celebrated in Pope's couplet—_
" Let modest Foster, if he will, excel Ten metropolitans in preaching well—
was an Independent, and as vigorous as a thinker as he was eloquent as a preacher, his answer to Tindal anticipating in its leading lines the celebrated argument of Butler in his Analogy. Isaac Watts is a name that must still be honoured, and Philip Doddridge a name that must be mentioned with respect. Edward Williams did much to revive the study of theology in the end of last century and early years of this, and Dr Pye Smith showed that within dissent scholarship and theological learning were still possible. The last generation had not a few men of distinc-tion. The names of Henry Rogers, Joseph Gilbert, J. Angelí James, Dr Winter Hamilton, Dr Ralph Wardlaw, Dr Robert Vaughan, his distinguished son Alfred Vaughan, Dr Halley, the historian of Nonconformity in Lancashire, and Thomas Binney of London are names representative of the kind of men that Independency can still produce.
But to complete this sketch of the Independents we must add one other element-—the work done by their academies and colleges. They have always believed in an educated ministry, and when cast out of the universities one of theii very first acts was to found academies. These they had great difficulty in maintaining, because of the operation of the oppressive acts passed in Charles II.'s reign ; but in spite of the difficulties they contrived to do so. Theophilus Gale had an academy; so had Samuel Cradock, Thomas Doolittle, Richard Frankland, and others of the ejected ministers. It was possible to keep these only by the most frequent changes of place, so as to elude the vigilance of the authorities. When toleration was granted, the academies were able in the greater quiet they now enjoyed to do better work. One of these may serve as a sample. At Gloucester and then at Tewkesbury was an academy conducted by the Rev. Samuel Jones. Here were educated Thomas Seeker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury; Joseph Butler, bishop of Durham, and author of the Analogy; Samuel Chandler, one of the finest scholars of his day, who remained in poverty the scholar and the Christian Nonconformist still; and Jeremiah Jones. We know, on the authority of an early letter of Seeker's, the method of education followed in Tewkesbury; and certainly, measured by the standard of the day, it was as thorough as the education was ample. Out of these academies the present Congregational colleges have grown.
It is unnecessary to attempt any exposition of the principles of Independency. These have been made ap-parent in the progress of this sketch. It may simply be said here that the Independents conceive their church order as the primitive and apostolic, and that out of their idea of the constitution and order of the primitive Christian churches their own system has grown. They believe that their conception of the church necessarily involves freedom of conscience, the interference with no man's belief, the concession of equal rights to all churches or religious societies by the state, and they may well remember with pride that John Locke based his plea for toleration on a conception of the church essentially akin to theirs. Their notion of the pastoral office is in no respect sacerdotal, but is based on the Old Testament idea of the prophet, on the New Testament idea of the preacher—the man who by help or inspiration of God speaks for God to men. And the call to his office comes through the people ; the divine choice is expressed through the men the divine word enlightens and the divine Spirit guides. Their theology has been predominantly Calvinistic, though of the more moderate type; but there has always been variety of theo-logical opinion, subscription and the uniformity it attempts to secure being alike impossible to Independency.

For statistics of the denomination and the reasons which have induced it to assume the name Congregationalist, see CONGREGATIONALISM.
Authorities.—Fletcher, History of Independency, 4 vols. 1847-9 ;
Heywood and Wright, Cambridge University Transactions, 2 vols.,
1854; Vaughan, Memorials of the Stuart Dynasty, 2 vols., 1831; Roger
Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, ed. Underbill, 1848;
Hanbury, Historical Memorials relating to the Independents, 3 vols.,
1839-44; Carlyle, Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, 1845; Under-
bill, Tracts on Liberty of Conscience and Persecution, 1846; Masson,
Life of Milton, 6 vols., 1859-80; Vaughan, The Protectorate of
Cromwell, 2 vols , 1839; Stoughton, Church and State Two Hun-
dred Years Ago, 1862; Underhill, JBroadmead Records, 1847;
Gould, Documents relating to Act of Uniformity, 1862; Calamy,
Nonconformists' Memorial, 3 vols., 1802; Toulmin, Protestant
Dissenters in England, 1814 ; Stoughton, Religion in England under
Queen Anne and the Georges, 2 vols., 1878; Bennet, History of
Dissenters during the last Thirty Years, 1839; Barclay, Inner Life
of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, 1877; Vaughan,
English Nonconformity, 1862; Price, History of Protestant Noncon-
formity in England, 2 vols., 1836-38; Bogue and Bennet, History
of Dissenters, 4 vols., 1808-12; Wilson, History and Antiquities of
Dissenting Churches, &c, 4 vols., 1808-14; Stoughton, Ecclesias-
tical History of England, 5 vols., 1867-74; Dexter, The Congrega-
tionalism of the Last Three Hundred Years, 1880; Weal, History
of the Puritans, 5 vols.; Waddington, Congregational History, 5
vols., 1869-80. (A. M. F.)


A True and Short Declaration, Both of the Gathering and Joyn-ing together of certain Persons, and also of the Lamentable Breach and Diuision ici1* fell amongst them, p. 6. This is to a certain degree autobiographical, a story of Browne's struggles and failure to realize his ideal. But see Dexter's Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years, pp. 82, 92 ff.
See A Booke Sheweth the life and Manners of all true Christians, and howe mlike they are vnto Turkes and Papistes and Heathen Police, &c. (Middlebvrgh, 1582), definition 35.
So runs the sub-title of one of the tracts he published while at Middleburg—A Treatise of Preformation without Tarying for Anie (1582).
"Thus," he says, "they (the magistrates) may doe nothing con-cerning the Church, but onelie civilie, and as civile Magistrates ; that is, they -have not that authoritie ouer the church, as to be Prophetes or Priestes, or spirituall Kings, as they are Magistrates over the same ; but onelie to rule the common wealth in all outwarde Justice, to main-taine the right welfare and honor thereof with outwarde power, bodily punishment, and eivill forcing of men."—A Treatise of Reformation, p. 12.

" Observations on a Libel" ; Letters and Life, by Spedding, vol. i. p. 165.
A Collection of certaine Letters and Conferences, lately passed be-twixt certaine Preachers and Two Prisoners in the Fleet (1590), p. 67. These letters were addressed to the Puritan leaders, and state the radical point of divergence of the two systems. This was the church idea; Greenwood and Barrowe, in all their prison Conferences, which were many, fall back on this idea:—" Christ's church always consisteth of a holy free people, separate from the world, rightly called and gathered unto Christ, walking forth in faith and obedience."
Barrowe, A Brief Discouerie of the False Church (1590), p. 33. This is Barrowe's principal work, but he and Greenwood were both prolific and vigorous writers. They had a lengthy controversy with Mr George Gifford, a "Conformable Puritan," who charged them with being the " Donatists of England." They and the Puritans were curiously most deeply at feud. Yet it was only natural. The Puri-
tans were anxious to show that they had no kinship with the
Brownists, the Brownists were anxious to drive the Puritans to the

2 Robinson, Works, ii. 132. 3 Ibid., iii. 16?
Ibid., ii. 228. 6 Ibid., 449. r> Ibid., ii. 314, 315.

An Humble Supplication for Toleration, and Liberty to enjoy and observe the Ordinances of Jesus Christ in the Administration of his Churches in lieu of Human Constitutions (1609 ; no place or printer). In the following year Jacob published a work on The Divine Beginning and Institution of Christ's true Visible or Ministerial Church ; and in 1612 a sequel to the above, A Declaration and Plainer Opening of certain Points (published at Middleburg). This latter is remarkable as containing the earliest use, in the ecclesiastical sense, of the word "Independent." "Where each ordinary congregation giveth their free consent in their own government, there certainly each is an entire and independent body-politic, and endued with power immediately under and from Christ, as every proper Church is, and ought to be," p. 13. It is interesting to note that the above Supplication is the earliest plea for toleration in the English language, but a few years later appeared a much more thoroughgoing work, Religious Peace, or a Plea for Liberty of Conscience (1614). This was by Leonard Busier, a Baptist, and to this body belongs the honour of being the first to de-velop the liberty implied in Independency. See Busher's and other tracts on "Liberty of Conscience" in publications of HanserdKnollys Society.
" The Humble Request of His Majesties Loyall Subjects, the Gover-nour and the Company late gone for New England," 1630 ; referred to in Young's Chron. Massach., pp. 295-299 (1846).
" The Humble Request of His Majesties Loyall Subjects, the Gover-nour and the Company late gone for New England," 1630 ; referred to in Young's Chron. Massach., pp. 295-299 (1846).
Dexter, Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years, p. 420.

r Works, ii. 245 (ed. 1759).

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries