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RÉSUMÉ OF ECCLESIASTICAL MATTERS PRIOR TO THE
In the first volume of this work, Congregational sentiments have been traced through different ages, down to the commencement of the sixteenth century. Before we enter on that most interesting epoch, when the pillars of popery in England were fairly shaken down, and when, among the broken fragments, the fair proportions of a regularly organized Congregational church began to reappear, , it may be well to
be well to pause, review cursorily the ground over which we have passed, and consider more particularly how stood ecclesiastical matters in England at the commencement of the English Reformation.
The elementary principles of Congregationalism had then been struggling with the despotic powers of popery for more than twelve centuries. The contest, however, had been a most unequal
Men of humble position, and moderate influence in the world, had been compelled to wrestle " against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." And in the deadly struggle, multitudes had miserably perished by the hands of those who assumed to be “ The Church," the true church, the only true church and authorized interpreter of the will of Christ. Churchmen, armed with secular power, had labored hard to trample out and utterly extinguish all such “innovators " and 6 heretics as presumed to believe that the Scriptures were a sufficient guide to the essentials of church order as well as Christian faith, and that apostolical simplicity and freedom in the organization and government of the church were alone appropriate and becoming to a Christian people. And the rulers of the corrupt hierarchies of Greece and Rome had repeatedly flattered themselves that they had done their bloody work effectually; that the hated church-reformers were utterly silenced. But in this they wofully deceived themselves; for, though men and women were remorselessly killed, their principles survived. The truth could not be so easily destroyed. Wherever the Word of God was read, sooner or later men arose who insisted on comparing the pompous hierarchy, which was called “the Church," with the apostolic models of the New Testament; and always to the disparagement of the hierarchy. And
is by no means a violent presumption, that, from the rise of the Novatians, about A. D. 250, to the dawn of the English Reformation, about 1527– 1530, there were always, in some part of Christendom, witnesses against the hierarchal corruptions of the Greek and Romish churches ; men who protested to the death against the various antichristian rites, and ceremonies, and orders, which had been foisted upon the Church.
. The ecclesiastical opinions of these men, and the history of their sufferings for conscience' saké, have been given with as much fulness of detail as the scanty materials which have come down to us would allow, or the illustration of their character seemed to require. More especially has this been done for the Lollards, because the prevalence of their opinions, for nearly a century and a half immediately previous to the Reformation, greatly contributed to the success of that gigantic undertaking - the overthrow of the pope's church in England. Though this has been scarcely recognized at all by English historians generally, yet it can hardly be questioned by any one familiar with the ecclesiastical history of the period, that the powerful reformatory impulse given to the English mind by John Wickliffe and his "poor priests" continued to be felt when the first steps were taken by king and parliament towards the reformation of the church of England. Not only did this impulse continue, but there were actually then living in England multitudes of men and women who entertained substantially the same sentiments which Wickliffe and his poor priests proclaimed between the years 1356 and 1384. Indeed, it is by no means certain that there were not in England, in 1530, more intelli