SOME REFLECTIONS ON A MODEL NOW IN Projection BY THE Presbyterian Dissenters.


LONDON: Printed for E. Whitlock near Stationers-Hall, MDCXCVIII.

The Circulary Letter.

For Mr. S. Minister of the Gospel in Oxford.
Reverend Sir,

I Had a Letter last Week by the Direction of the Com­mittee of Ministers and Gentlemen, appointed at London for setling a Correspondence of the Protestant Dissenting Ministers and Congregations throughout this Kingdom; for the Advancement of the Interest of Reli­gion, and Reformation of Manners; with the Articles there agreed upon in order thereunto; and I desire you, Commu­nicate them speedily to the Brethren in these Parts: And if possible, a General Meeting must be had this Summer in London.

Pursuant thereunto, it is desired that you would not fail to come your self, and bring with you one Prudent Person of your Congregation, Chosen for that End, accord­ing to the Method resolved on at London, to meet seve­ral of the Brethren, and the Members of their respective Congregations here at Newbery,on Wednesday the 22 Instant, to consider of the said Proposals; which shall be laid before you, and the proper Method to Attain so de­sirable an End.

You are desired to be here on Tuesday in the Evening that we may enter on our Work on Wednesday Morning, Resolving God willing, to spend some time in Prayer be­fore we begin. I am

Your Affectionate Brother and Servant in the Lord, W. T.

ON the Receipt of yours, I laboured to get the fullest Account of that Project; which in a Circular Letter, directed to another of your Name, fell by Chance into your Hands: But by all the In­terest I can make with that sort of Men, I find it impossible for me to penetrate into the Bottom of the Contrivance; or inform my self from what Spring it had its Rise; and therefore must be Con­tent with the Light your Paper gives me of it; only I must confess, that whatever may be hereafter Attempted, I am of Opinion, that at present it is but in Proposition and Design.

But, tho' necessitated to this Brevity about your Enquiry, I will be more large in shewing the Illega­lity of their Model: And to this End, I will, as a Foundation of what I have to say, set down the Project; and give my Reasons why I judge it to be Illegal, and Unsafe for them to Ripen it into Act.

The Project, if I take you right, is as follows: 1. There are to be Lesser Meetings of their Mini­sters; and one or two Lay-Elders of every Congre­gation within a certain District every Three Months: That is (as I understand it, and I think with good Reason) there must be Classical Assemblies every three Months.

[Page 6] 2. These Lesser Assemblies, or Classes, are to choose one Minister, and two other Discreet Persons or Lay-Elders of their Number, to manage a Cor­respondence either with the Larger Meetings in the Country, or the General Assembly in London.

3. That there be an Union of several Districts or Classes in one Larger Meeting once every Six Months, where the Ministers and Lay-Elders of the said Classes shall meet, either in Person, or by their Representa­tives, called by 'em Delegates.

4. That this Assembly do Appoint One Person to manage the Correspondence, (i. e.) as I conceive, a Praeses; who in Vacancy of this Provincial Council, is in Conjunction with other Presidents; and the General Committee in London, to maintain the Corre­spondence for the better Government of their Church.

5. The Larger or Provincial Assemblies shall send one Minister, and one Lay-Elder as their Delegates, to a General Meeting to be held once a Year in Lon­don, or oftner if Occasion (not the King) requireth it.

6. That these Delegates bring with them Testi­monials of their Delegations.

7. That the Ministers do carefully observe, and faithfully relate to the Provincial, and National Assem­blies the State of their Congregations respectively.

8. That the whole be digested into a Method, and Recorded in a Register.

This is I think, a true and impartial Account of their New-Model, which is no more nor less than a National Church-form, wanting nothing that is Es­sential thereunto: For 1. The Design is the settlement of Matters Ecclesiastical, according to their own Methods and Rules. 2. They have Ordained that there be Ecclesiastical, Provincial, and National Assemblies, answerable to the Diocesan, Provincial, and National Convocations. 3. Their Power is stretched unto the ut­most Parts of the Kingdom, taking in every one that will submit unto them; which is the most our Church can do during the Suspension of Penal Laws. 4. They have appointed stated Assemblies, Provincial, and National, to be held without the King's Writ of Summons, who are to agree on Rules for Church Go­vernment without a Commission from the King, and send them forth tho' not confirmed by the King's Letters Patents, which our Church cannot do, without in­curring Grievous Penalties; They assume to them­selves an unlimited Power, and want only the For­mality of a Law to give to their General Meetings the Names of Magna servorum Dei Frequentia, and Church-Gemote, as also that of Convocation, or Synodical Con­vention.

The next thing of which I'll give you a View, is the Reasons proving the Illegality of this National-Church-Form, and the Danger of putting it into Act, or Execution.

First then, it's well known to the Learned in our Laws, That none of his Majesty's Liege People of what denomination soever may Assemble to Entreat of Matters Ecclesiastical for the Reformation of Man­ners, as in the Case before us, unless called by the King's Writ; nor may they without the Royal Assent en­treat of, or make any Constitutions, Rules, or Cannons by what Name or Names soever they are called; nor can they Promulge, or Execute them when made, until confirm'd by Letters Pattents under the Great-Seal with­out incurring the Penalty of 25 H. 8. c. 19. whereby 'tis Enacted, That none shall promulge, or execute any Can­nons, Constitutions, or Ordinances Provincial by whatso­ever Name or Names they may be called in time Coming which shall be assembled by Authority of the King's Writ, unless the same Clergy may have the King's most Royal Assent to make, promuige, and execute such Cannons Pro­vincial, or Synodal, upon pain of every one doing contra­ry to this Act, and being thereof Canvict, to suffer Impri­sonment, and make Fine at the King's Will.

The Crime is manifest, and so is the Penalty; so that in case the Dissenting Ministers shall have their Assemblies, whether Classical, Provincial, or Natio­nal, and entreat of, make, promulge, or put in Exe­cution any Cannons, Constitutions, or Rules, by what Name or Names soever they are called: Or, if there hath been an Assembly, whether of Twenty Four of their Clergy alone, or part Clergy, part Lay-Elders, who have formed, promulged, and put in Execution [Page 9]divers Rules about Matters Ecclesiastical, in either of these Cases they fall within the Words of this Act, and are lyable to the Pains of Imprisonment, and of making Fine at the King's Will.

Secondly, If these Men shall at any time presume to make, or put in Execution any Cannons or Rules about Classical, Provincial, or National Assemblies, such Rules are not only against the King's Preroga­tive, but Contrariant, and Repugnant to the Laws and Statutes of this Realm, and the Pain no less than a Premunire.

In 25 H. 8. cap. 19. there is a Proviso against all such Constitutions, Cannons, or Rules. It is in these words: Provided always, that no Cannons, Constitu­tions, or Ordinances shall be made, or put in Execution within this Realm, by Authority of the Convocations of the Clergy, which shall be Contrariant, or Repugnant to the King's Prerogative Royal, or the Customs, Laws, or Statutes of this Realm, &c.

Now if a Convocation called by the King's Writ, and enabled by the Royal Licence to make Cannons, may not make, nor put in Execution such as are Repugnant to the King's Prerogative, &c. much less may any Assembly of the King's Liege People do so, who have neither the King's Writ, nor Royal Li­cence. And it's Remarkable, that 'twas the Opinion of the Learned in the Law, That had not the As­sembly of 1640. been a Convocation, the Cannons then made, would have been (according to the [Page 10] Vote of the ensuing Parliament) against the Funda­mental Laws of the Realm; and against the King's Prerogative; whereby they would have justly incur­red a Premunire.

The Laws of this Land are so Tender in this Point, that about Church-Matters they'll not admit of the least Usurpation, or Incroachment on the King's Prerogative: For instance, If the King by his Let­ters Patents should appoint one to be a Bishop, and limit the Dean and Chapter to Choose, and the Arch-Bishop to Consecrate him within Twenty Days, and they Act contrary to this Limitation, they do there­by run into the Dangers, Pains and Penalties of the Statute of Provisors, and Premunire made in 25 E. 3. cap. 1. and 16 R. 2. cap. 5. Ay, and their Aiders, Coun­sellers, and Abettors, incur the same Punishment by 25 H. 8. cap. 20.

These Gentlemen then, should they promulge, or put in Execution any Rules contrariant to the King's Prerogative; the Incroachment hereby made upon it, is much greater than what is done in the Case aforesaid, and the Penalties not less: And it's certain, that all Rules made for the Calling of Pro­vincial or National Assemblies; without the King's Writ, is to the Disberison of the Crown. And they, their Aiders, Counsellors, and Abettors, cannot escape a Premunire.

Besides, the appointing Classical, Provincial, and National Assemblies about Church-Matters, is not only a Blow at the King's Prerogative, but at the Customs, Laws, and Statutes of this Realm: For whatever is against the Prerogative Royal, hath been always deem­ed to be contrariant to the Common Law of the Land, as what is contrary to Common Law is also against God's Law. Ley d'Angleter est found'n sur le Ley de Dieu. And Ley de Exe, & Ley de Dieu sont tout un. The Law of England is founded upon the Law of God. And, The Law of the Land, and the Law of God are all one: And consequently, Incroachments on the King's Preroga­tive, are not only to the prejudice and disherison of the King and of his Crown, but to the disherison of all his Subjects, and to the undoing, and destruction of the Common Law of this Realm; as may be seen in the Preamble of the Statute of 27 E. 3. cap. 1. Further­more,

Rules about Classical, Provincial, and National As­semblies as to Matters Ecclesiastical, are not only conse­quentially, but directly against the Laws of the Land, as they are contrary to the Rubricks and Cannons; and those Statutes which have confirm'd and establish'd them.

That Rules about Classical, Provincial, and Natio­nal Assemblies, are against the Cannons of 1603. is too obvious and plain to be denied: And my Lord Chief Justice Vaughan avers, That if Cannon Law be [Page 12]made part of the Law of this Land, then is it as much the Law of the Land, and as well, and by the same Au­thority as any other part of the Law of the Land. Edes & Walt. Bishop of Oxford's Case. And whatever is the Law of the Kingdom, is as much the Law as any thing else that is so; for what is Law doth not, suscipere magis aut minus, Hill & Good's.

And the Cannons of 1603. are Established by 25 H. 8. cap. 18. For the Convocation in which they were made, was called by the King's Writ, and ena­bled by the King's Commission to entreat, make, and promulge Cannons and Constitutions which were confirmed by Letters Patents under the Great Seal. Besides, Cannons for the setting up Assem­blies, &c. are directly contrariant, and repugnant unto the Act of Uniformity, by which the Government of our Church is Established: So that should these Gentlemen make any such Cannons or Rules, 'twill be impossible for them to Escape a Premunire. They must not think to come off by telling us, They de­sign not to intermeddle with the National Church-Form; nor to set up an Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, but only a Brotherly, and amicable Correspondence: That they use not the Terms Classical, Provincial, or Nati­onal: Nor do they impose any Cannons or Consti­tutions upon their Brethren: They do but send them their Proposals or Methods for Regulating their Correspondencies. To which 'tis answered:

[Page 13] 1. That this is but Protestatio, facto contrario, it be­ing evident they design the Regulating such matters as are of Ecclesiastical Conusance, as the advancing Religion, Unity, and Love, and the Reformation of Manners are.

2. The Project proposed is a National Church-form. For in it are Cannons appointing stated Times for their several Assemblies, and ordaining, that they shall be made up of Ministers and Lay-Elders; and that they shall be of three distinct sorts, as the Esta­blished Assemblies are; so that tho' they use not the Terms Classical, Provincial, and National, yet they secure the Thing.

3. Tho' they do carefully lay aside the word Classical, lest by its use they should frighten us, before they have maturated what is now in design; yet have they selected other Terms, importing Jurisdiction in using the word Districts, into which they have distributed their several Congregations. For Distri­ctus est Tractus, in quo Dominus Vasallos, & Tenentes suos distringere potest: Justitiae exercendae in eo tractu facultas. Whence it is lib. 2. Teudor. Tit. 54. Qui allodium vendiderit districtum & Jurisdictionem Impe­ratoris vendere non praesumat. Besides, the Clergy have adopted it, and Pope Boniface in his Bull anno 1033. has Consecrated it, Maneantque sub Judicio, & Districtu vestro. Agreeably hereunto the lesser, and larger Districts are to send unto the General As­sembly [Page 14]in London their Delegates, to whom they give in their Testimonials, or Dedimus potestatem, or Com­mission. For Delegatus is dicitur, which for the most part in the understanding of the Common Law, is as much as Delegatio with the Civilians. For Dele­gatus is dicitur, cui Causa committitur terminanda, vel exequenda vices delegantis repraesentans, & in Jurisdicti­one nihil proprium habens: The reason is, because De­legatus Jurisdictionem non suo Jure, sed alieno beneficio habet. They have also their Committees, that is, Persons to whom the consideration, and ordering their Church Matters is committed, which is usual in Convocations as well as Parliaments: And their National Assembly they call General Committee, per­haps to tell us they'll imitate their Neighbours, and be as Parliamentary in their Proceedings as may be; and to this end, Resolve their Assembly into a Com­mittee of the whole House: In a word, they have also a Register, that is, Books, or Rolls, wherein are Recorded the Proceedings of their Spiritual Court.

4. Tho' they call not their Proposals by the Names of Constitutions, Cannons, or Ordinances, yet are they of the same Nature; and being designed for the re­gulating Matters of Ecclesiastical Conusance, they are within 25 H. 8. cap. 19. And it's well known, that when several Parish Ministers of the Puritan way, had in the Reign of the Queen, their Assem­blies at Wadsworth, London, Oxford, Northamptonshire, [Page 15]and other Places, tho' with a Protestation, 'twas only in Subordination, and not in Opposition to the Esta­blished Government; and tho' they acted with much greater Caution than these Gentlemen, (if they go on with their Project) do, yet could they not escape Imprisonment and Ruine: And it must be confessed, that the Methods taken by the Popes to get their Decrees received by the English Church, was by Cloathing 'em under soft Names, and modest Terms, such as Rogationes; which they intreated us for the promoting of Holiness to submit unto.

Once more, the Statutes of Provisors are so strictly penned against Offenders, that the laying aside the Common Terms in use amongst Ecclesiasticks, and taking up new ones, cannot Skreen them from the Pains and Dangers of a Praemunire. For they do ex­tend, not only to Usurpations and Incroachments made on the Royal Power by Papists, but to all Per­sons whatsoever (as my Lord Cook saith) of what Quality or Sex soever; The words be, If any.

2. To all Courts of what Jurisdiction soever, or whether holden by Right, or by Wrong; the word alibi, is of a large Extent, so large you see, as to take in these Gentlemens stated Assemblies for Re­formation of Abuses, &c.

3. To all Things whatsoever, Where any thing; which words are as general as can be, &c.

[Page 16] 3. There are some Circumstances affecting the Convocation of 1640. which may justly frighten these Gentlemen from having any hand in such a Project: For it's certain that this Convocation was called by the King's Writ; That as soon as they assembled, the Archbishop produced a Commission under the Great Seal, by Authority whereof they might, according to 25 H. 8. cap. 19. propose, entreat, consult, and agree on what Orders, Cannons, or Constitutions they should judge meet, keeping within the Limitations of the said Statute: And when they had Enacted their Cannons, and had the Royal Confirmation by Let­ters Patents under the Great Seal, yet were they Vo­ted by the House of Commons in the following Parliament, to be against the Fundamental Laws of the Realm, against the King's Prerogative, Property of the Subject, the Right of Parliament, and to tend to Faction and Sedition.

The Reasons of this Vote were many, some of which were: 1. That upon the Dissolution of the Parliament the Convocation was determined; and what Cannons or Rules soever are made in an Assem­bly not Called by the King's Writ, are against the Prerogative Royal, and such are the Classical, Pro­vincial, and National Meetings of these Dissenters.

2. The Cannons then enacted were against some Rubricks in the Service Book, and contrary unto some of the XXXIX Articles, which is as true of those [Page 17]Rules in the Dissenters Project: For contrary to the Established Government by Bishops, Archbishops, &c. They have set up a National Church Govern­ment by Ministers, and Lay-Elders in their various Meetings, ut supra.

This brief Account may shew them what appear­ance of Law this Convocation of 1640. and the Cannons then made, had: And yet for the Reasons aforesaid, the Clergy who acted therein, did then, as was Voted by that Parliament (we may call Whiggish) fall into the Pains and Dangers of a Prae­munire, as is to this Day the Opinion of our Learned and Reverend Judges, and other great Lawyers in Westminster-hall.

How much rather then may they be supposed to incur the same Penalties, who shall come to a Gene­ral Meeting that is not called by the King's Writ, agree on Rules about Church-matters without the Roy­al Licence; and tho' they have not Letters Patents un­der the Great Seal for their Confirmation, promulge, and execute them, some of which are against the Rubricks, Articles, and Cannons by Law Established.

4. This Project, altho' in its appearance, and truest Complection doth most resemble the late National Church-form amongst the French Hugonots, which was granted them by sundry Edicts, yet they were never so bold as to ordain, and appoint National Assemblies at any time, but when Lieensed by their Kings; and [Page 18]more than seventy years by-gone, 'twas ordained by Letters Patents, and verified in the Court of Parlia­ment, That in all Assemblies of the King's Subjects of the Reformed Religion, one of his Majesties Of­ficers, being of the same Religion, should assist in Person, and see that nothing should be propounded and handled amongst them, but such Matters as were permitted by his Edicts.

The French Kings were so very Jealous of their Clergy lest they should incroach upon the Regalia, that they would never suffer them of the Romish Faith to come together, but when called by Authority of the King; and when assembled divers Tituli or Capi­tula, containing Directions how to proceed, and what to enter upon, were sent to 'em; whereupon the Clergy when assembled, did in their Synodical Epistles, assure their Prince, that they acted Secun­dum voluntatis vestrae consultationem, & Titulos quos de­distis.

This was not a Practice only in the Gallican, but long before in the Catholick Church. For Dionysius Comes was sent by Constantine to the Council at Tyre, Ut Animadversor esset, & Custos Conservandae Aequabilitatis, & Ordinis. Candidianus was sent by Theodosius upon the same Score to the Ephesine Synod.

If then neither Protestant, nor Papist, nor the Modern, nor Ancient Clergy could hold a General Assembly, unless called by the King's Writ, nor en­ter [Page 19]upon any Business concerning the State of the Church, without the King's Licence, and certain Capitula, or an Animadversor of the Kings and Em­perors Appointment, How is it that these Dissent­ers, without either Summons or Licence, without an Animadversor or Capitula, dare appoint Stated, Provincial, and National Assemblies, and frame Rules and Cannons in prejudice to the King, and his Crown, and contrariant, and repugnant to the Customs, Laws, and Statutes of this Realm?

What I have thus briefly offer'd to prove the Illegality of this Project, and the Danger of putting what is yet but in Design, into Act, or Execution, may satisfie you, that the Uttermost the unquiet Party among the Dissenters can do, is to Alarm the True Sons of our Holy Mother the Church of England, to take heed, That whilst Liberty is given to the Consciencious amongst them, the Li­centious be not suffer'd to Undermine and Subvert the National Establishment, as this Project must needs do, if They meet not with a timely Check, by putting the said Laws in Execution against those Ill-designing, discontented Gentlemen, as soon as ever they shall be guilty of the first Breach, which their bare Assembling in order to the Ripening this Project will apparently be, and expose all con­cern'd [Page 20]to the Exemplary, and Merited Punishment inflicted on such Bold Undertakers, as can Con­temn the Laws, and Trample on Prerogative. Adieu.

I am Yours.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. Searching, reading, printing, or downloading EEBO-TCP texts is reserved for the authorized users of these project partner institutions. Permission must be granted for subsequent distribution, in print or electronically, of this EEBO-TCP Phase II text, in whole or in part.