Westminster Form of Presbyterial Church Government and of Ordination of Ministers

Westminster Form of Presbyterial Church Government and of Ordination of Ministers The members of the synod were at first inclined, as a general thing, to content themselves with restoring apostolical or primitive simplicity in the Episcopal Church; but, after the arrival of the Scottish commissioners and the adoption of the Solemn League and Covenant, the synod became predominantly Presbyterian in its views. The Presbyterial constitution was recognized as originating with Christ and being the only scriptural form of Church organization. Toleration was opposed; and uniformity was strenuously insisted on. Liberty of conscience was stigmatized as the outgrowth of blameworthy indifference and betrayal of the truth. In these tenets the majority was zealously opposed, however, by the Independents led by Dr. Thomas Goodwin, who insisted upon the divine right of each congregation to govern itself under the Word of God; and by the Erastians, who wished to relegate the power to punish ecclesiastical as well as civil offences altogether to the secular authorities, and, in general, advocated the subordination of the Church to the State as the only trustworthy means for doing away with spiritual tyranny and also of obviating all conflict between Church and State. The leaders of the Erastian party were the celebrated Orientalists and antiquarians Lightfoot and Selden, etc. When the Presbyterian party prevailed, the Independents and Erastians withdrew from the synod; but Parliament adopted the Scotch-Presbyterian constitution with an Erastian proviso, and with the declaration that it should be set aside if, after trial, its provisions should be found impracticable. The event proved that England was not ripe for such a Church organization. Independency and other forms of dissent conquered the Westminster Assembly and made an end of all its endeavors towards conformity.

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