On Quarles THE NEW DISTEMPER, 1645



by LAWRENCE HELM


7-3-94

Francis Quarles pamphlet THE NEW DISTEMPER written in 1645, and representing the position of the Church of England (COE) addresses so many points of disagreement with those opposing it that one can at least get an idea of what "High Church" meant in 1645; although they probably didn't use that term until later:

1. The enemies of the COE object to certain forms carried over from Catholicism, but Quarles replies "Have not superstitious tongues and eyes, viewed and read the Scriptures in their very Originall and purity? Shall therefore the Scriptures be disallowed? Have not superstitious persons profaned our Churches with their Popish Doctrines, Sacraments and Ceremonies? and shall our Churches therefore be cryed downe, or shut against the Ordinances of God? because those Poets were Heathenish, was S. Paul afraid to use their sayings? Was the Spirit of God to blame, to endite them? Good things, abused, work evil effects upon the abusers; but lose not their goodness by the Abuse."

2. The enemies of the COE objected to using set forms. Quarles replied "As for their Exceptions against the Forme, being set, and not conceived, the Authority of the Scriptures I hope will answer. God the Father warrantes it; God the Son prescribes it; God the holy Ghost allows it.

"i. God the Father warrants it, in the Old Testament, at the time of the Law, by his command to Moses, Numb. 6. 21. where he gives him a set forme and words to bless the people. The Lord blesse thee and keep thee, the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.

"ii God the Sonne prescribes it in the New Testament, in the time of the Gospel: When S. John the Baptist had taught his Disciples to pray, the Disciples of Jesus Christ (whose house was called the house of Prayer) humbly requested the same boone from him, who prescribed them that Forme, which he had formerly used in the end of his Sermon, Mat 6:9 which he intended not as a Model, (as some would have it) but a very Prayer it selfe, to be used in those very words, as they were delivered Luke 11:2 not After this manner, but "when you pray, say." That he will'd the same words to be used is evident; For his Disciples would be taught, as John taught his: And how were they taught? S John taught them the words only; he could not give them the Spirit to make an extemporary descant upon them. So that being a direct Set Forme, it warranted Set Formes, which were used from the beginning of the Primitive Church; from whence, this part of our Discipline had her Originall.

"iii God the holy Spirit allows it: Who dare question that the holy Spirit inspired S. Paul in all his Epistles written to the Churches? In all which Epistles he concludes with this one Prayer, 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,' &c;

"iv As for their exceptions against the Composers of this Lyturgie, who were no lesse than holy Martyrs, (and by Fire-light saw more Revelations than these Objectors did by daylight) men of approved learning and true piety: though some have impudence and spirituall pride enough to think their owne abilities and inspirations to flye a higher pitch; and Ignorance enough, to acknowledge greater knowledge in themselves, yet the most humble, able, and truly sanctified minds, have alwaies had Martyrdom in so high reverence, that they conclude, that God that made their blood the seed of the Church, and gave them the courage and honour to dye in the maintenance of the Truth, would not permit the seed to bring forth such darnel of superstition; or them, to die guilty of those Errors, they so resolutely cryed down with their dying blood.

"v As for her government by Episcopacie (the extirpation whereof being a great addition to Distemper) It hath as much or more Ius Divinum to plead, then that, which endeavours to demolish and succeed it, Presbyterie; Both are but mentioned in the Scripture, at large; but no particular Rules for the executing the office of of either; which, being left wholly as arbitrary, it rests in the power of the Supreme Magistrate (whom God hath constituted his Vicegerent) to choose, and establish, which may best be found consistent with the Constitutions of the Kingdome, and stand to most advantage with the civil Government.

3. "But admit the Civil Government will stand with either? When the Balances stand evenly poised, the least Grain turns it. In things indifferent, the smallest circumstance casts it.

"This Island of Britaine (if we look back above 1400 yeares, being a long Prescription) when she first received the Faith, was then governed by King Lucius, whom God made a great Instrument for reducing of this Kingdome from Paganisme; who, sending to Rome, and accommodated from thence with two Christian and learned divines, by their labours, and God's assistance upon them, planted the Gospel: At the beginning of which plantation Arch- Flamins and Flamins were put downe, and their roome Archbishops and Bishops were introduced; which Government successively continued, and flourisht through the reigns of many wise Princes, confirmed by many Acts of Parliament, since the Reformation; exercised and approved by holy Martyrs; and allowed of, as most fitting until the year of our Lord 1641. At which time, multitudes of the lower sort of people, throughout this Kingdome, petitioned, and tumultuously troubled the Parliament, so that some of the Members, perchance according to their inclination, and others, for quietnesse sake, consented to the abolition and extirpation of Episcopacy, the unadviz'd Contents of their clamorous Petitions.

"Now if these Governments Hierarchicall and Presbyteriall be indifferent; these Circumstances, (First of the time, when Episcopall Government began; Secondly, of the unintermissive continuance, for so many Ages; Thirdly, the credit of the persons confirming and approving it) methinks, should call such a kind of necessity upon it, that the other (being an untry'd Government, and having no consent or approbation from the Supreme Magistrate; and being onley cryed in the Ignorant multitude, affected to novelties and change) should have no wise friend to plead for it.

4. " We reade in the Scriptures of Elders (which are members of a Presbyterie) as it is written, Titus 1:5. For this cause I left thee in Crete that thou shouldst set in order things that are wanting, and ordaine Elders in every City, as I had appointed thess. Also 2 Pet 5:1. The Elders which are among you, Exhort, who am also an Elder. By which it appears, that Titus had instructions to set up a Presbyterie.

"You take the Scriptures in snatches; Had you read in Titus the next verse following but one, you would have had Saint Paul's meaning with his words, viz., ver 7. For a Bishop must be blamelesse, as the steward of God, not selfe-willed, &c.; So that it plainely appears that Elders mentioned in the 5 verse, are expounded Bishops in the 7. Or had you compared Saint Peter's first verse (before mentioned) with his fift in the same Chapter, you would have found Elders no positive, but a relative word; no Office, but a degree of Age. Ver 5, Likewise the younger submitting themselves to the Elder Ministers should be toward God, and of the younger towards them. So that if either of them had set up a Presbyterie, it was suddenly pulled downe again; and Episcopacie (which you so much dislike) placed in the roome.

5. "We are so far from DISLIKING BISHOPS, that where there is one, we desire there were twenty; nay that every Church in England and Ireland had a several Bishop; Diocesan Bishops we dislike, Parochiall we allow.

6. The enemies of the COE objected to the Episcopal form of Church Govt on the basis of its having come from Rome. Quarles replies "Ignorance is the mother of all Error. Your Chronologie failes you: if you carefully search Antiquities, you will find your Objection against it, a Good Argument for it. I confesse Episcopacie had her originall party from Rome; but in those days, when we conformed according to the Church of Rome, the Church of Rome conformed according to the Word of God. Rome was, then, a part of the Primitive Church, not being above 187 years after Christ. The Bishops of Rome were then so far from being Antichrists, that most of them were Martyrs, and dyed for Christ."

7. The enemies of the COE objected that the Bishops lived in too much luxury. Quarles replies "Those Princely Benefactors (whose bountifull Pieties thought nothing too much for God's Ambassadours, and therefore enlarged their Revenues so much) well knew their places and callings requir'd it; whose gates were to be open to all commers; and bread to be given to all that wanted. Their Places owe reliefe to the fatherless; comfort to the widow; supplies to the needy; and succour to all that are afflicted; and hospitality to all strangers. No, their Revenues are greater Eye-sores and Inconveniences, if not abused.

"But these great Revenues might have been decimated, and the Tenth part might have sufficiently maintained a preaching Ministry, and the nine of the other parts might have been added to the King's Revenues, which would have made him the richest and most glorious King in Christendom, and taken away the necessity of Subsidies from the Subject.

"This robbing Peter to pay Paul; beggering the Keyes to inrich the Sword, and the next way to bring a curse upon the King, on all his people in generall, by a generall guilt of Sacrilege. The Shewbread must not be eaten but upon more necessity then (God be thanked) His Majesty was at that time put to. The Holy Oyle must not be put unto a Civil use; But His Majesties's pious and resolute refusall thereoff hath in one word, fully and fairely answered this Objection."

8. The enemies of the COE have objected that "Bishops have too absolute a power which gives them occasion and opportunity to be tyrannicall, and to exercise an arbitrary Jurisdiction over their Brethren." Quarles answers: "From the beginning, I confess, it was not so; neither stands it with wisdome or policy to suffer it to be so: For the Government of the Church must have proportion with the Government of the State: Government of severall natures in one Nation, breeds confusion; and that, ruine: We therefore being a mixt Monarchy, necessarily require a mixture likewise in the Hierarchy; which excludes all arbitrary power.

"It is true absolute Monarchy, and an unlimited Hierarchy are apt to fall into the distemper of Tyrannie; and Democracie and a parity in Government is as apt to run into the disease of Tumult; but of the two evils, Tyrannie is the least, by how much it is the easier to be cured. A monster with one head is sooner overcome than a Hidra with many. If our Hierarchy hath slipt into this irregularity, it is great wisdome and reason for a Parliament to rectifie it.

9. It was objected that the Bishops "are Lords, and lord it over God's Inheritance; Whereas 1 Pet 5:3 forbids it, Be not Lords over God's inheritance: and Christ Luk 22:25 sayes, The Kings of the earth exercise Lordship, but it shall not be so with you." Quarles answers "Our Bishops were Lords, as they were Peeres of the Land, and as Peeres, they had Votes in Parliament; which being taken away, they are no more, now, then what the dignity of their Calling and their owne Merits make them. As for that place in S. Peter, thus it is meant: Ye shall not be Lords over Gods's inheritance, that is, Tyrants; Lords and Rulers being at that time none but Heathens and Persecutors, whose tyrannie made the very name of Lord terrible, and odious: So that, in that place, by Lordship is certainly meant Tyrannie. Neither can this imply a Parity in our Church; for without a Superiority and Inferiority, there can be no Government: A Parity cannot be considered in order of Government; but onely, in the work of the Ministry. In this, all are fellow labourers; In the other some command, and some obey: S. Paul and Timothy had an especiall command and charge over other Ministers. As for the place in S. Luke, which you alledge, the Disciples striving who should be greatest among them, our blessed Savior's answer was to this effect, Let Kings exercise power and authority over their vassals, (as indeed their tyrannie made them little better ) but it shall be otherwise with you: You are all fellow-servants to me, that am your chiefe Lord and Bishop of your soules; whilst I am here, all superiority lyes extinct; Christ was then the onely Governour, and the Root of Government was in him: But at his departure, he gave some to be Apostles, some to be Pastors, &c.; and yet all those degrees were equal in respect of the worke, not a parity in the government in respect of the workers."

10. It was objected "Bishops (whose office is to promote Religion, and to advance the Gospel, (as is pretended) and to encourage Preaching as the ordinary meanes conducing thereunto) are so far from so doing that instead thereof, they silence godly Ministers, and put downe weekly Lectures, which were set up at the proper charges and the piety of the people; and to the great establishment of true Religion." Quarles replies "Here lyes a Mysterie; being the most crafty advantage the devil ever took of popular piety.

"Admit the piety of the honest hearted People was the first motive to these weekly Lectures, how was that piety abused, by those weekly Lecturers? They were chose by the people; their maintenance (consisting most of Gratuities) came from the people, which ebbed or flowed according as their Lunatick doctrines wrought upon the people. Those Lecturers (whose whole subsistence thus proceeded from the people) must for their owne better livelyhoods plese the people: And what more pleasing to the people then the preaching of Liberty? and how should Liberty be enlarged, if not peeced with Prerogative? Then down goes Authority, and up goes Priveledge; Downe goes the Booke, and up goes the Spirit; Downe goes Learning, and up goes Revelation; who gaining credit in the weak opinions of the vulgar, grew the Seminaries of all Ignorance, and the nursing fathers of all Rebellion. These are those godly Lectures that Bishops put down, who never lost themselves so much, as in not setting up better and more orthodox in their roomes, which had taken away the ground of this Objection."

11. The critics of the COE have been accused of allowing all sorts of strange doctrine be preached in the name of Liberty. They have said that once "things are settled, and Justice done upon the Popish Faction, these Sectaries with their Sects will vanish like the Mist before the mid day Sun, and a true reformed Religion will be establisht to us and our Posterity." Quarles replies "You seeme by this Objection but a young State Physitian, and a mere novice in the curing of a disease of this nature. In some cases, where the undisturbed humors keep their bounds, distempers are quickly evaporated, and being scattered through the whole body, every part breathes our some, and Nature (being able to truckle with the disease) by her owne power, relieves her selfe; and in a short time rectifies the Body: But upon a continuall confluence, and gathering head of lawlesse humors, she is so weakened; that she hath no power to resist, and lesse heart to struggle with her enemy, but is forced to yeeld: But the time you prefixe for the subduing of these numerous Sects, is, first, when all things are settled, secondly when the Land is cleard of Papists.

"i. For the first, it is all one as you had said, When the body is in good health, you will easily find a cure. A rare Physitian! In the meanwhile, you will connive at the continued confluence of humors, which makes it at length incurable.

"ii. As for the second, Take heed while ye goe about to cure a Fever, you run not the Body Politick into a Dropsie, with too much Phlebotomie. But you will first clear the Kingdome of Papists: And who be they? In your Accompt, all such as stand for Episcopall Government (a Government coetaneous with this our almost outdated Religion) All such as approve of the Book of Common Prayer, (a Forme establist by many Acts of Protestant Parliaments) All such as are passively obedient and loyall to his Majestie, (a duty commanded by God's own mouth) Of the Clergie, all such as will not preach for blood, (although Ministers of the Gospel of Peace.) All such as will not take the Covenant, to suppresse Bishops, (although they have formerly sworn canonicall obedience to their Ordinary) All such as will not encourage Subjects to resist the power of their natural Prince; (although having taken the Oath of Allegiance, and the late Protestation.) And to conclude, all that have not contributed willingly, bountifully, and continually to this Warre; and in a word, that have any considerable Estates to pick a hole in: If all Sects and Sectaries be not supprest till then, we are like to have a comfortable Reformation.

"But in case, you onely mean such Papists as owne, and acknowledge the doctrine of the Church of Rome; Tell me, what course would you take with them?

"Either you must banish them, or disinherit them, or take away their lives.

"i. If banish them; it must be done, wither with the King's consent or against it; If against it, you resist the power, and he that resisteth shall receive damnation, Rom 13. If wit it, you make the King guilty of perjury, who hathe sworne to protect all his Subjects in his Coronation Oath.

"ii. If disinherit them; It must be done, either according to the known Lawes of the Kingdome, or against them; According to the Lawes, ye cannot; for there is no Law for it. If against them, you transgresse what you pretend to maintaine in all your Declarations.

"iii. If take away their lives, it must be done, wither for a Cause or without a cause; If for a Cause, shew it, that the world may be satisfied: If without a Cause, you are guilty of murther.

"Which course so ever ye take, you have not Christ for your example, who quietly suffered the two Caesars, being Idolaters, not onely to possess that Kingdome, but to usurp it, because God permitted them, and permissively placed them there: When the Disciples askt our blessed Saviour, Didst not thou sow good wheat? Whence commeth it that there be tares? His answer was The evil one hath done it. His pleasure being demanded, whether they should weed them up? his Reply was, No, let them alone until the harvest, and then he would separate them.

"A good deed may be ill done, when either against command, or without warrant.

"Though God hath permitted the evill one to plant Papists among us, yet he hath not authorized us to root them up, nor yet to take the lives of any, until their actions come within the danger and compasse of the establisht Lawes of the Land."

12. The enemies of the COE objected "We have presidents for the rooting out of Idolaters in the Scriptures; which warrant us to doe the like." Quarles answers "You find it no where, but in the time of the Law, at which time God immediately commanded it; which kind of Warrants are now ceased.

"Again in the time of the Law some were accompted Strangers, and Strangers had not the priviledges that brethren have. Usury was lawful to be taken of strangers, not of brethren: Now, in the time of the Gospel Christ hath made us all Brethren, and called us by his own name, Christians: and what was lawfull, then, to be done to strangers, is unwarrantable, now, to be done to Christians. We are brethren."

There is more to the pamphlet, but what I have quoted is the bulk of it &, in my opinion the most pertinent.

If I were to wake one day with the spirit of Cervantes & resolve that I was going to engage in no act, think no thought, write no word that was not clearly the reflection of sound orthodox doctrine, I should, without doubt, find myself a failure before I was through my first cup of coffee.

We must act in the world, and as Christians we try to act out of Christian principles, but there is much that isn't clear.

The English Civil War is a case in point. There were committed Christians on both sides and we have been listening (by way of Quarles arguments) to one of the sides.

Certain of those who disagreed with the COE arguments, fled England rather than give up religious freedom. Some fled to the New World. But are we sure that they were right and Quarles wrong?

In examining Quarles arguments, I can see why war was not averted. Quarles was a man of strong convictions & was obviously not alone. Does anyone today have such strong convictions for any Christian cause?

I confess to being bored by "set formes" but my strongest action is the stifling of a yawn. Today we pray for and swear obedience to leaders probably more heretical, more morally corrupt than Charles I but give no thought to a beheading. No doubt there was a doctrinal lapse from James I to Charles I, but after the Restoration with Charles II, the lapse was worse & even worse with James II.

And if we could bring Cromwell back with all his army what would they think today of the corruption in England. What would Quarles think of the heir apparent's resolve to abolish state religion?

There is no desire today for abandoning it for an intense Puritan commitment but more likely an abandoning of religion altogether.

The taste & challenges change from generation to generation. Generals have been accused of preparing for the last war, but do not Christians do this as well. We announce that we would be willing to be burned or beheaded rather than renounce Jesus Christ but no one is being burned or beheaded any longer -- what about specifics? What issues are we willing to take a stand for that would threaten our economic well being (loss of job) or freedom (going to jail)?

"Good," you say "you've talked me into it. I'm going to join the pro-life movement & picket abortion clinics."

"Well abortion is a great evil, to be sure, but before you join, consider this: the concept of 'passive resistance' being used by the pro-life movement was originated by Henry David Thoreau, an atheist. This technique was used with great success by Gandhi (a Hindu) to free India from the British. It was successfully used by the Civil Rights movement and subsequently by Feminists and Gay & Lesbian rights.

There seems little doubt that the technique originated by the atheist Thoreau has been a great success. Surely this bit of Syncretism is justified -- or is it?

"Wait a minute" a pro-lifer says, "there's a lot of good Bible support for what we're doing -- protect the innocent -- that sort of thing."

But of course, that is the beauty of Philosophical Syncretism: you find something you like, something that works and then you find Scripture to support it.

"Well, we're the only ones doing anything. We're putting our freedom on the line. What are you guys doing. At least we're doing something!"

This argument has a certain emotional appeal -- it is better, the argument goes, to do something than to do nothing. And the pro- life people are the closest we have to martyrs today. Perhaps we should close our eyes to the syncretism. What is the harm?

"For crying out loud, our lives are one continuous stream of Syncretism -- we can't avoid it -- at least the Pro Life movement is doing some good."

This argument is vague but has a certain persuasiveness to it -- unless one asks for a precise definition of this continuous stream of Syncretism. And it remains to be seen how much good the Pro-Life movement will do.

Cromwell and the Puritans went to war to combat the views expressed by Quarles -- sort of -- and took over the country -- only to find they didn't precisely know what to do with it and gave it back 18 years later to one worse than they took it from. The Puritans could have said "At least the Puritans are doing something good." But for many today the Puritan is ridiculed, called misguided and their efforts considered a great failure.

Their theology is conservative out of the same tradition that produced the King James Version of the Bible and the Westminster Confession. What did they do that was so wrong other than take up material weapons. But is this not very like the Pro-Life technique? Not "passive" to be sure and not simply "resistance" because they won the Civil War. Fanatical Christians, the world learned, made very good soldiers. The less committed Royalists could not stand against them. Certainly it seemed that the Lord blessed their efforts, but would we say so today?

"OK," someone might say, "it's all well and good to pick holes in the plans of the Puritans and Pro-Lifers, but what do YOU think should be done?"

A fair question, but difficult to answer in the midst of tribulation. It is even difficult to go back to the 17th Century and suggest alternate courses of action, but, at the risk of seeming simplistic, consider that our Lord said 1) his kingdom was not of this world, 2) He had any number of angels at his beck and call should he choose to use them, and 3) the rapid spread of the church occurred in the first few centuries through neither active nor passive resistance but through a heroic adherence to the Word of God.

Is it because the Puritans' lives did not scream out, that they decided to take up physical weapons? Some of us have a high view of Puritan theology, but perhaps the few writing theology were not representative.

Is it because the lives of the Christians today do not scream out that we've resorted to picket signs, bumper stickers, and passive resistance?

Yes, yes, I know, advocating a lot of prayer and living stricter holier lives seem pretty boring stuff, but if I could think of anything more exciting you can be sure I'd be recommending it.

Lawrence


Back to Literature

Back to Theology on the Web