elder attended from each colloque. Every congregation was visited by ministers appointed by the provincial synod. In 1795, of course, everything was upset, and it was not until after the restoration of the Netherland States that a new organization was formed in 1816. Its main features were strictly Presbyterian, but the minister was greatly superior to the elder, and the state had wide powers especially in the nomination of higher officers. In 1851 the system now in force was adopted. The congregation chooses all the officers, and these form a church council.
Presbyterian principles and ideas were entertained by many of the leading ecclesiastics in England during the reign of Edward VI. Even the archbishop of Canterbury favoured a modification of episcopacy, and an approach to Presbyterian polity and discipline; but attention was mainly directed to the settlement of doctrine and worship. Cranmer wrote that bishops and priests were not different but the same in the beginning of Christ's religion. Thirteen bishops subscribed this proposition: that in the New Testament there is no mention made of any distinctions or degrees in orders but only deacons and priests or bishops. Cranmer held that the consecration of a bishop was an unnecessary rite, and not required by Scripture; that election and appointment to office were sufficient. The bishop of St Davids was of the same opinion. Latimer and Hooper maintained that Bishops and presbyters were identical; and Pilkington, bishop of Durham, and Bishop Jewel were of the same mind. The latter, about the time of Elizabeth's succession, expressed his hope that the bishops would become pastors, labourers and watchmen; and that the great riches of bishoprics would be diminished and reduced to mediocrity; that, being delivered from courtly and regal pomp, the bishops might take care of the flock of Christ. During the reign of Edward, the title of superintendent was often adopted instead of bishop, and it will be recollected that John Knox was an honoured worker in England with the title of superintendent during this reign. As an indication of sympathy with Presbyterianism, it may be noted that Cranmer favoured a proposal for the formation of a council of presbyters in each diocese, and for provincial synods.
During 1567 and 1568 the persecutions in France and Holland drove thousands of Protestants, mostly Presbyterians, to England. In 1570 Presbyterian views found a distinguished exponent in Dr Thomas Cartwright at Cambridge; and the temper of parliament was shown by the act of 1571, for the reform of disorders in the Church, in which, while all mention of doctrine is omitted, the doctrinal articles alone being sanctioned, ordination without a bishop is implicitly recognized. In 1572 a formal manifesto was published, entitled an Admonition to Parliament, the leading ideas in which were: parity of ministers, appointment of elders and deacons; election of ministers by the congregation; objection to prescribed prayer and antiphonal chanting; preaching, the chief duty of a minister; and the power of the magistrates to root out superstition and idolatry. On Presbytery of Wandsworth. the 20th of November 1572 the authors of the “Admonition” set up at Wandsworth what has been called the first presbytery in England. They adopted a purely Presbyterian system which was published as the Orders of Wandsworth. Similar associations or presbyteries were formed in London and in the midland and eastern counties; but the privy council was hostile. Only in Jersey and Guernsey, whither large numbers of Huguenots had fled after the St Bartholomew massacre, was Presbyterianism fully permitted. Cartwright and Edmund Snape were ministers there; and from 1576 to 1625 a completely appointed Presbyterian Church existed, under the rule of synods, and authorized by the governor. The action of the Commons in 1584, stimulated by the opposition of the Lords, showed that the principles of Presbyterianism were strongly held. Bills were introduced to reduce the position of a bishop to well-nigh that of primus inter pares; to place the power of veto in the congregation; to abolish the canon law and to establish a presbytery in every parish. These proposals were rendered abortive by the unflinching use of the queen's prerogative.
In 1640 Henderson, Baillie, Blair and Gillespie came to London
as commissioners from the General Assembly in Scotland, in
response to a request from ministers in London who desired to
see the Church of England more closely modelled after the
Reformed type. They were able men, whose preaching drew
great crowds, and increased the desire for the establishment of
Presbyterianism. In 1642 the Long Parliament abolished Episcopacy
Assembly. (the act to come into force on the 5th of November 1643); and summoned an assembly of divines to meet at Westminster in June 1643 to advise parliament as to the new form of Church government. The Westminster Assembly, through its Confession, Directory and Catechisms, has become so associated with the Presbyterian Church that it is difficult to realize that it was not a church court at all, much less a creation of Presbyterianism.
It was a council created by parliament to give advice in church matters at a great crisis in the nation's history; but its acts, though from the high character and great learning of its members worthy of deepest respect, did not per se bind parliament or indeed anyone. It was, in a very real sense, representative of the whole country, as two members were chosen by parliament from each county. The number summoned was 151, viz. ten lords, twenty members of the House of Commons, and one hundred and twenty-one ministers. The ministers were mostly Puritans; by their ordination, &c., Episcopalian; and for the most part strongly impressed with the desirability of nearer agreement with the Church of Scotland, and other branches of the Reformed Church on the Continent. About one-half of the members attended regularly. Those who were out-and-out Episcopalians did not attend at all. Apart from these, there were three well-defined parties: (1) those with Presbyterian ideas and sympathies, a great majority; (2) Erastians, ably represented and led by Selden, Lightfoot and Coleman; (3) Independents, ten or eleven in number, led by Philip Nye, and assured of Cromwell's support. Then there were the Scottish commissioners who, though without votes, took a leading part in the proceedings. Judged by the objects for which it was summoned the Westminster Assembly was a failure, a remarkable failure. Episcopacy, Erastianism and Independency, though of little account in the assembly, were to bulk largely in England's future; while the church polity which the assembly favoured and recommended was to be almost unknown. Judged in other ways, however, the influence of the assembly's labours has been very great. The Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms are recognized and venerated standards in all the lands where British Presbyterianism, with its sturdy characteristics, has taken root. And the Directory of Public Worship has shaped and coloured, perhaps too thoroughly, the ritual and atmosphere of every group of Protestant Anglo-Saxon worshippers throughout the world, except Episcopalians.
In June 1646 the ordinance establishing presbyteries was ratified
by both houses of parliament, and a few days afterwards it was
ordered to be put into execution. Twelve presbyteries were
erected in London; Shropshire and Lancashire were organized;
and Bolton was so vigorous in the cause as to gain the name of the
Geneva of Lancashire. But the system never took root. Not
only were there well-known adverse influences, but the soil seems
to have been uncongenial. As compared with Scotland, English
Presbyterianism had more of the lay element. In every classis
or presbytery there were two elders to each minister. The Synod
London. of London met half-yearly from 1647 till 1655. Synods also were held in the north. But during the Commonwealth Independency gained ground. Then with the Restoration came Episcopacy, and the persecution of all who were not Episcopalians; and the dream and vision of a truly Reformed English Church practically passed away.
After the Revolution and during the reign of William and Mary the hatred of the Church of England to the Presbyterians and Decadence. other dissenters had been obliged to lie dormant. With the accession of Anne, however, began an attempt apparently to make up for lost time. From the beginning of the 18th century the greater number of the Presbyterian congregations became practically independent in polity and Unitarian in doctrine. Indigenous Presbyterianism became almost unknown. The Presbyterianism now visible in England is of Scottish origin and Scottish type, and beyond the fact of embracing a few congregations which date from, or before, the Act of Uniformity and the Five Mile Act, has little in common with the Presbyterianism which was for a brief period by law established.
In 1876 the union of the Presbyterian Church in England with
the English congregations of the United Presbyterian Church of
1876. Scotland gathered all English Presbyterians (with some exceptions) into one church, “The Presbyterian Church of England.” “What kept these bodies apart was their separate historic origin and development, but especially the alienation caused by the ‘Voluntary Controversy’ which had its roots in the difficult problems of civil law in its relation to religion, and the stumbling-block of the civil magistrate's authority in relation to the Christian conscience.” Since the union the growth of the Church has been considerable. Presbyterianism is comparatively strong in three districts of England, namely Northumberland, Lancashire and London. Elsewhere it is either weak or nonexistent. Even where it is comparatively strong it is largely exotic. The membership is mainly Scottish, and the ministers
- Drysdale, History of the Presbyterians in England, p. 625.