BARROW AND GREENWOOD
I.PRISONERS OF JESUS CHRIST
THE story of the martyrs of Separatism must be read in the light of that rigid and narrow conformity which now became the persistent and resolute policy of the Church of England. Elizabeth was determined to rule both in Church and State, and in her intense dislike of any deviation from appointed forms) she had a ready, relentless, and convinced agent in Arch-bishop Whitgift. The severity of his administration can scarcely be extenuated by the fact that it was a time of theological bitterness and bigotry its which no party was prepared to extend toleration to any other. It might well have been remembered by Whitgift that his immediate predecessor, Grindal, had been compelled to fly to the Continent to escape the Marian fires, and that he himself had only dared to take orders when the danger had passed away. But the issue of this policy was to drive the bark of the Church straight upon the rocks and to involve the State in revolution. Could any other result have come about? The time was one of extraordinary richness, strength, and complexity. Never in the history of England did men so feel the breath of liberty, the impulse to new thought and action, or so claim the free play of the confident, unfettered mind. The material and intellectual prosperity of the country reached their meridian during the reign of Elizabeth. The daring spirit of exploration was illustrated in Willoughby, who perished on the coast of Lapland; in Frobisher, who made three voyages to find the North-West Passage; and in Drake, who put a girdle round the globe. English prose took a statelier and grander form in the writings of Sidney, Bacon, and pre-eminently of Hooker. In poetry, the great names of Spenser and Shakespeare stand out from all the rest. In this larger air, it was a fatal act of folly to seek to force the life of the Church into narrow moulds, to fine and banish the Puritan and to fling the Separatist into a filthy dungeon. Even Rome had been more flexible than Canterbury, for it had permitted the Use of Sarum, Hereford, or York. The immediate effect was that multitudes of Englishmen began to ask themselves whether it was for this that they had thrown off the yoke of Rome, and, with the memories of St. Bartholomews Day urning in their hearts, whether it was not better to make a clean sweep of Papistry in the worship of the Church. Indeed. Burghley thought that the procedure of Whitgift was too much savouring of the Romish Inquisition. Puritanism rapidly widened its demands and instead of mild protests against the sign of the Cross in baptism and the ring in marriage, attacked the whole Constitution of the Church, while the Separatist from his prison cell sent forth his rough, biting, fiery words throughout the land. Hookers method of grave and dignified reasoning might have averted the danger had it come earlier, but when he wrote, already it seemed to him that Anglicanism might pass away as in a dream. The folly of persecution has never been more clearly shown. Whitgift sowed the wind and the next generation reaped the whirlwind.
Whitgift is so conspicuous a figure in the ecclesiastical struggles of the time that it is almost unnecessary to ask what he was and what he did. Macaulay describes him in his essay on Francis Bacon as a narrow-minded, mean, and tyrannical priest, who gained power by servility and adulation. It is strangely true, however, that, in spite of these qualities, he was devoted to the good of the Church as he conceived it, and, when unopposed, could be affable, gentle, and patient. He had not the simplicity or learning of Grindal, who scrupled to suppress prophesyings or to command the clergy to wear surplices, and whose firm reminder to Elizabeth that even princes were accountable to God so exasperated her that she sequestered him from his office. Whitgift moved in pride and state through the world of his day, rich by private fortune and also through the sinecurcs and pluralities which he held. His pedantic intellect was fully convinced that Episcopacy was essential to the order and peace of the land. His courage and resolution were almost boundless. He flinched once before Elizabeth and grovelled before James I., but he defied Leicester and even the great Cecil He was no match in eloquence or learning for his chief protagonist, Cartwright, but he expelled him from the university, and later put him in prisQn for not taking the ex-officio oath. Step by step he advanced the rigour of Conformity and the ecclesiastical powers of the High Commission. He would make no truce with Puritanism. Theologically, he was a Calvinist, but Elizabeth compelled him to waive unity of doctrine and to insist only on matters of discipline. He secured the enforcement of the famous Three Articles in which every minister was required to subscribe to the royal supremacy in things spiritual as well as temporal, and to pledge himself to an unqualified assent to the Thirty-nine Articles and to the sole use of the Book of Common Prayer. In addition, he drew up, in I 584, twenty-four questions which every minister must answer upon the oath called ex-officio. So close was his watch of the clergy in his province, that, in the same year, he was able to record that there were 786 who had subscribed as against 49 who had not. Under his influence the High Commission passed the Star Chamber Decree for the licensing of printing by the Archbishop of Canterbury or by the Bishop of London. And he so exercised these powers that the prisons were filled with the victims of his despotism. His Primacy was stained with the blood of the martyrs. Was it the expression of his life purpose, or was it, as the shades of those whom he had done to death passed before him in that last hour, that to God and man he was offering defence in the words which fell again and again from his half-paralysed lips, Pro ecclesia Dei?
It is interesting to note that Separatism found its ablest and most uncompromising leaders in East Anglia, and that the majority of them were Cambridge men. Henry Barrow was born at Shipdam, in Norfolk, of gentle and well-connected parentage. Lie was distantly related to Lord Bacon, and perhaps to Aylmer, Bishop of London. A link can also be traced with Lord Burghley. The date of his birth is uncertain, but it must have been about the year 1550. He matriculated at Clare Hall in 1566, and graduated in 156970. In 1576, he entered Grays Inn, attended the courts, and acquired that familiarity with legal procedure which afterwards stood him in good stead. These early years were spent in drunken riot and debauch, until one day, passing a London church and hearing the preacher very loud in his discourse, the dissolute young lawyer, out of curiosity, passed within and was arrested by the truth. The change in his mode of life was so marked as to be much spoken of. Apparently he sought, by a preciseness in the highest degree, to make reparation for a wasted youth. I Ienceforth, he gave himself to the study of Scripture and to the reading of good books.
John Greenwood went to Cambridge about ten years later than Barrow, matriculating at Corpus Christi in 1577, and taking his Bachelors Degree in 15801. He must have been deeply impressed with the theological controversies which were just then at their height in the university. Cartwright, though expelled, was not silenced. Puritanism held the convictions of a band of students influential in their numbers, learning, and piety. Thea memory of Robert Browne still lingered at Corpus Christi, and he himself had returned to teach and preach in Cambridge. Greenwood, while taking orders as a deacon and then as a priest, became chaplain to a Puritan nobleman, Lord Robert Rich, at Rochford, Essex, until the latter was imprisoned in the Marshalsea. It is impossible to doubt that Greenwood was influenced by the teachings of Browne. About this time, Barrow and Greenwood meta meeting fraught with great consequences to the Church of God and to themselves. No doubt, Barrow was the stronger and more fiery spirit. In the judgment of Bancroft, Greenwood was but a simple fellow, Barrow was the man. But they clung to their convictions with equal tenacity and courage, and stood side by side in suffering and imprisonment, until at length they sealed their witness with their blood, and death gave to them a merciful release.
In 1586, the year of Brownes recantation, we find Barrow and Greenwood in fellowship with the London Congregation, a secret assembly of Separatists, which met in private houses on the river bank, in the woods of Deptford and Ratcliffe, or in the gravel pits of Islington. Probably, the fact that Greenwood had held the office of chaplain in a Puritan household after his ordination marked him out for prominence, but Barrow, whom he had introduced, soon came to be recognised as a leader through his natural force of character. The Congregation was not yet organised into a Churchan event which occurred in 1592but at this time we learn from depositions that it consisted of about one hundred persons. The Separatists always met by appointment early on the Sabbath and continued all day in prayer and exposition. Any brother could expound or offer prayer. They rejected liturgical forms of worship, the sacraments of Baptism and Communion in the Church of England, and secular interference with the Church other than Gods Word allowed. At every meeting a collection was taken for expenses, the balance being sent to the relief of any members of the congregation who might be imprisoned at the time.
As its pathetic story is unfolded, we shall see that perhaps no single community ever endured so great a measure of suffering in proportion to its numbers, or fell upon such evil days since Nero persecuted the Church of the Catacombs. Whitgift had not suppressed the Puritan Classes, to be now defied by the Separatist Conventicle, which was within his easy reach. For a very brief, halcyon period, the brethren met in secret and found fellowship in the Gospel. Looking back upon it from his prison, Barrow said, So sweet is the harmony of Gods graces unto me in the congregation and the conversation of the saints at all times, as I think myself a sparrow on the house-top when I am exiled from them. But the Archbishops spies were everywhere. On a Sunday in the autumn of 1586 (to be exact, October 7th), Greenwood was reading the Scripture at the house of a friend in St. Pauls Churchyard when the Bishop of Londons pursuivant burst in upon him and carried him off to the Clink. It was the low muttering of the storm, and a less resolute and loyal friend than Barrow would have sought a hiding-place. But at once he went up from the country to London to visit Greenwood. As he rode upon the way, he discussed the New Testament bishop with a Norwich man, who promptly warned the authorities of his approach. On the I9th, he reached the Clink, and discovered that it was one thing to get in, but quite another to get out. The keeper, Mr. Shepherd, had his instructions, and having locked him up, hurried to Lambeth to report so notable a capture. The Archbishops pursuivants quickly fetched him to the Palace into the presence-chamber of the Archbishop. Barrow knew enough law to see that all the parties cQncerrled had acted illegally, and stoutly protested at his detention without warrant. The first examination of the long and painful series began. In all there were five examinations, and repeated conferences before the final trial. As we shall see, Barrow did not bear himself wisely or temperately in them. We must regret his violent speech, his obstinate contention for trifles, while we are amazed at the skill with which he pleaded before the most powerful and subtle intellects of his day. But it should not be forgotten that he held his convictions with sufficient strength to endure death rather than abandon them, and that he and his companion, after months of suffering and imprisonment, broken in body though not in mind, overwrought in nerve and heart, were taken before the very men who, claiming to be Gods ministers, had separated husbands from wives, parents from children, flung into gloomy prisons holy and blameless saints, and who were determined to crush beneath their heel the infant Church. If any one would condemn the bitterness which Barrow sometimes displayed before his judges, let him first hear that pitiful cry of tortured helplessness in the Supplication of 1592 to the Lord Treasurer, These enemies of God detain in their hands within the prisons about London (not to speak of other gaols throughout the land), about three score and twelve persons, men, women, young and old, lying in cold, in hunger, in dungeons and in irons.
The story of the Examination was written as near as my memory could carry" by Barrow himself. At the first Barrow gave a hint of the ability with which he could conduct his case.
Archbishop. Barrow, is your name Barrow?
Archbishop. It is told me that you refuse to
receive or obey our letter.
Barrow. I refused to receive or obey that letter at that time.
Archbishop. Why so?
Barrow. Because I was under arrest and imprisoned without warrant and against law; and, therefore, now it is too late to bring the letter.
Archbishop. Why, may not a councillor commit to
prison by his bare commandment?
Barrow. That is not the question,what a councillor may dobut whether this man may do it without warrant by the law of the land? (Pointing to the keeper of the Clink.)
Archbishop. Know you the law of the land?
Barrow. Very little; yet was I of Grays Inn some years. (Then his two doctors and he derided mine unskilfulness.) (An unsuccessful attempt was then made to induce him to swear upon the Bible, and to enter into a vow to attend church, He quoted a passage from St. Paul.)
Barrow. Even now you said, it was a thing indifferent; if it be so, there is no power can bring me in bondage to my liberty.
Archbishop. Where find you that?
Barrow. In St. Paul, r Cor. (The Archbishop, Archdeacon, Dr. Cosin, all denied it; he affirmed it. A little Testament in Greek and Latin was brought him, and a Bible. He looked for the place, but could not find it: Great fault was in his memory; for he looked in the tenth chapter, neither, indeed, could he bethink him where to find it, they so interrupted him.)
Archbishop. Your divinity is like your law.
Barrow. The Word of God is not the worse for my ill memory.
speak not as you think, for you are proud.
Barrow. I have small cause to be proud of my memory; you see the default of it, but the apostle saith it. (Again, they all denied it.) You, then, have no cause to condemn my memory, seeing you all have utterly forgotten this saying. As soon as he was out of the house, the persecuted man remembered where the passage was to be found. It is an unpleasant spectacle, the Archbishop, surrounded by his sycophants, panoplied in the might of the again and again. He had a rough and a realm, deriding and bullying this poor victim for conscience sake. On the other hand, Barrows contempt for Whitgift came out quick tongue.
Archbishop. Well, when were you at church?
Barrow. That is nothing to you. I will send you to prison, cried Whitgift, and so they took him to the Gatehouse.
Eight days later, he was brought for his second examination before the High Commission at Lambeth, where he found a goodly synod of bishops, deans, civilians, &c. Whitgift, with a grim and angry countenance, again required Barrow to swear on the Bible, but was again met with an obstinate refusal. The prisoner demanded to hear the charge, and, as a special favour, was informed that he was accused of teaching that the Church of England was no true Church, having an idolatrous worship and an anti-christian ministry, and, further, that all catechisms were idolatrous. He still declined to take the oath, urging, with some reason, that his accusers should be sworn, and not himself. Canterbury then completely lost his temper and cried, You shall not prattle here, away with him. Lock him up close: I will make him tell another tale ere I have done with him.
The third examination was after an interval of five months. On March 24, 1587, Barrow was again brought before the High Commissioners. The Court, however, included not only the Archbishop with Ay]mer and Cooper, the Bishops of London and Winchester, but also the two Lord Chief Justices, the Master of the Rolls, and the Lord Chief Baron. Whitgift yielded as to the oath. There was much questioning on the use of the Lords Prayer and the Book of Common Prayer, but Barrows central contention came out in his statement that these parish assemblies of the Church of England, in which no difference was made between the faithful and the unbelieving, were not true Churches of Christ, and also that no prince might make any laws for the Church other than Christ had already left in His Word. Aylmer specially interrupted him in slanders and evil speeches, but the Chief Justice of England said that Barrow had answered very directly and compendiously, and again later that he spake well. The civilians were evidently of calmer and juster temper than the ecclesiastics. Barrow was sent out in close custody while some Qf his brethren were examined. He was recalled and directly challenged by Whitgift whether he would take the oath of the Royal Supremacy, which be refused to do. Further, in answer to the Archbishops direct question, he boldly affirmed that the Church must reform at once without staying for the prince, if he refused to do so, and also might excommunicate any transgressor, even the Queen herself, without respect of persons. In his examination before the - same Commission, Greenwood, though more moderate, was equally resolute that Christ is only head of His Church, and His laws may no man alter. Six weeks later Barrow and Greenwood were tried at Newgate before the Bishop of London under the first law against Recusants of 1581, and committed to the Fleet till a surety of ?260 each should be found that they would attend church. The Recusancy Laws were passed when the fever against Papists was at its height, but it contained a clause which required that every person above sixteen years of age should repair to some Church, Chapel, or usual place of Common prayer, and this now became a weapon against the Separatists.
The fourth examination is the most deeply interesting, since it brought Barrow before the great Cecil himself. There was much in such a meeting which might kindle hope in the wretched victims who had now been confined to the Fleet for nearly ten months. Of all the ghastly torture chambers of London this was the worst. On March 13th, 1588, the prisoners contrived, to reach the ear of the Queen in a lamentable petition which related their sufferings. Some were in cold and noisome cells, others were bound hand and foot with bolts and fetters of iron, others had been cudgelled to death. Nicholas Crane, sixty-six years of age, had died of fever in the prison; John Chandler had been torn from his wife and eight children and had also died; two aged widows had succumbed to the poisoned breath of the Fleet. The offence of all was simply that they had listened to the Word preached by Greenwood. Doubtless, the Queen commissioned Burghley to inquire, and, on March isth, he sat with the Lord Chancellor, Whitgift, Aylmer, and others at Whitehall to hear the case. He was the boldest and wisest of the Queens counsellors. - A stranger to religious enthusiasm, averse from fanaticism and bigotry, he must have looked with cold disdain and perplexity upon these men who could endure so much for a mere opinion. Yet he disliked Whitgifts despotic methods and desired a closer alliance with the Continental Reformers. He knew that the Papists and not these men were the Queens enemies. It seems that at first he tried to understand Barrows position, but the overwrought, almost distracted, Separatist, who had come fresh from the horrors of the Fleet, missed his way entirely. He urged minor issues, that saints days were idolatrous, that we must not say Sunday, Monday, &c., since God had named them the first, the second day, &c. The interest of the Lord Treasurer had quite waned. Here was something he could not understand. He sat back in his chair and said carelessly, I perceive thou takest delight to be an author of this new religion. Presently he took another line in which he felt more at home.
You complained to us of injustice; wherein have you wrong?
Barrow. My lord, in that we are thus imprisoned
without due trial.
Lord Treasurer. Why, you said just now you were condemned upon the statute.
Barrow. Unjustly, my lord; that statute was not
made for us.
Lord Treasurer. There must be straiter laws made for you.
Barrow. Oh, my lord, speak more comfortably, we have suffered enough.
Burghley took up a paper of evidence, compiled by Dr. Some after an interview with Barrow in prison, and read that the latter held it unlawful for a minister to live by tithes, and asked, in bewilderment, how, then, would the minister live? Tithes, said Barrow, were done away. What, cried Burghley jestingly, wouldst thou have him to have all my goods? It was here that the Bishop of London had a heavy fall. Burghley had said that ministers now were not to be called priests.
Barrow. If they receive tithes, they are
London. Why, what is the word presbyter, I pray you?
Barrow. An elder.
London. Presbyter is Latin for a priest.
Barrow. It is no Latin word, but derived, and signifleth the same which the Greek word doth, which is an elder.
But the excited, persecuted man had reached the limit of
self-control. He flung moderation to the winds.
Lord Chancellor. What is that man? (pointing to Canterbury).
Barrow. The Lord gave me the spirit of boldness, so that I answered: He is a monster, a miserable compound, I know not what to make of him; he is neither ecclesiastical nor civil, even that second beast spoken of in Revelation.
He was dragged away. He had wrecked his chance. Afterwards, in his prison a better spirit prevailed. The Lord pardon my unworthiness and unsanctified heart and mouth, which can bring no glory to the Lord or benefit to His Church, but rather reproach to the one and affliction to the other.
Almost throughout the ensuing period, from March, 1588, till his sufferings ended in April, 1593, Barrow was kept a close prisoner. The bitter cry comes from the Fleet in 1590, Two years and well-nigh a half. Again in 1592, Four years and three months kept by the prelates in most miserable and strict imprisonment. And yet again, the last cry in 1593 from Newgate, for the removal of our poor worn bodies out of this miserable gaol. He had angered Whitgift too deeply to receive any grace. The less fiery and dangerous Greenwood was granted some liberty in prison, and, in 1592, for a brief period, was set free.
But though the body was wasted and broken by the long agony and awful monotony of imprison ment, from which Robert Browne had drawn back frightened, the resolute spirit of Barrow rose triumphant. In the story of persecution, many have been sustained by a great purpose and a clear conviction. If the light of heaven had not shone for him in the darkness of that time, he might have sunk into insanity. But he had still a work to do. By some strange means which we shall presently examine, he sent forth to the outer world tracts, pamphlets, expositions, and refutations, tinged with a deeper fanaticism and bitterness, but profoundly interesting and illuminating to us.
In 1589, Barrow was examined a fifth time before the bishops, in a fashion which he regarded as the greatest wrong of all. It was followed by months of silence, but on February 25th, 158990, the Bishop of London issued an order on the instruction of Whitgift to forty-two selected Anglican preachers to hold conferences twice a week at least with these sectaries which do forsake our Church and be for the same committed prisoners. The list of the fifty-two prisoners in the Gatehouse, the Counter, Newgate, the Clink, and the Fleet, gives us a glimpse [nto the extent of Whitgifts relentless cruelty. Barrow and Greenwood are together now in the Fleet. Roger Rippon is in the Counter, Wood Street. He died in prison in 1592, and his coffin was borne openly from Newgate past the house of the justice who sentenced him, with the inscription, This is ye corps of Roger Rippon, a servant of Christ, who is the last of sixteen or seventeen whom that great enemy of God, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with his High Commissioners, have murdered in Newgate within these five years for the testimony of Jesus Christ. There were Daniel Studley, afterwards an elder of the London Church, and Christopher Bowman, afterwards a deacon, who both, later on, escaped to Holland. Others are found in one list, and disappear in another, probably through death. The preachers appointed to confer with them were chosen chiefly from those who were known to have a Puritan bias. Some were specially hateful to the prisoners as being renegade Reforrnists. There was no love lost between the Puritans and the Separatists. The charges are very familiar to us, the objection to forms of prayer, the denial of the Queens ecclesiastical supremacy and that the Church of England was a true Church. The interest of the conferences is centred in Barrow and Greenwood. Indeed, they alone were honoured with separate visits. The preachers had no taste for the unwholesome prison cells, and met the Separatists in the parlour. It is certain that the object of Whitgift was to collect evidence against them, but Barrow and Greenwood, eager to express themselves and to reach the listeners who crowded round the windows, urged their case with all boldness, not to say imprudence. Seven conferences in all were held, the first on March 9th, 1590, and the last on April 13th. They were largely a confused medley of irritating charges and retorts which convinced no one. There were interesting moments, as when Greenwood convicted Mr. Cooper of having subscribed to an article which he had denied, or when Mr. Sperin admitted that the call to the ministry by the Bishop was unlawful, and that he held the Bishop's office to be civil and not ecclesiastical. Bancroft, afterwards Archbishop, was there, but the preacher whom we are most surprised to meet in such a bad cause is Andrewes, Prebendary of St. Pauls and Master of Pembroke, later on Bishop successively of Chichester, Ely, and Winchester, whose book of devotion ranks with the Imitatio Christi. That this saint of the universal Church, who gave five hours of each day to prayer, should thus become a party to Whitgifts policy shows how difficult it is for even the best of men to live outside their own age. It is not pleasant to read the colloquy between Barrow and himself, and to reflect that on the one part was the wretched prisoner with worn out-body, and on the other the courtly cleric on the high road to preferment.
Andrewes. For close
imprisonment you are most happy. The solitary and contemplative life I hold the most
blessed life. It is the life I would choose.
Barrow. But could you be content also, Mr. Andrewes, to be kept from exercise so long together?
Andrewes. I say not
that I would want air. But who be those saints you spake of; where are they?
Barrow. They are even those poor Christians whom you so blaspheme and persecute, and now most unjustly hold in your prisons.
Andrewes. But where
is their congregation?
Barrow. Though I knew, I purpose not to tell you.
The conferences served no good purpose, and Andrewes, finding them little to his taste, withdrew from them entirely.
We now turn to the amazing literary work of Barrow and Greenwood during their imprisonmentamazing not only in its volume, but still more in the extent of its circulation. Their treatises were not penned in some cloistered retreat of learning, in the midst of books and friends, to be followed by the reward of place and power. Often in filthy and gloomy cells, through days of silent brooding broken only by the step of the gaoler, with such writing material as could be secretly introduced, on scraps of paper which were themselves a sentence of death to the writer if discoveredthis was the story of the Separatist prison literature. Doubtless, means were found to bribe their keepers. When the cells and even the persons of the writers were searched and rifled, by some means incriminating papers were hidden away. Agents were found in Robert Stokes and Robert Boyle, who flitted between London and Holland, obtaining the manuscript, getting it printed at Dort, and bringing copies over the water. There were other agents, Greenwoods wife, Cycely a maidservant, Studley the receiver, Forester the copyist. The smuggling of these contraband goods went on apace. Sometimes, especially in the case of the later and more important books, the whole or part of the edition was seized, only a copy or two remaining in the hands of a friend.
In 1586, Barrow was examined for the first time, and, as we have seen, he set down the story of this and later trials to the best of his memory. Probably, the first Separatist Manifesto, published in 1588, A Brief Summary of the Causes of our Separation, was the joint work of Barrow and Greenwood. In 1589, Barrow issued, in conjunction with Greenwood, a defence, entitled, A True Description of the Visible Congregation of the Saints; in 1590, A collection of Scandalous Articles given out by the Bishops with the answer of the Prisoners thereunto. Also the summary of certain conferences in the Fleet; later, in 1590, The Platforme, in which he urged that it was the Princes, duty to root out false ministries in the land; early in 1591, A Brief Discovery of the false Church, a volume of 391 pages, of which 3,000 copies were printed. The reply by Job Throekmorton to Dr. Somes Godly Treatise, which was entitled, Master Some laid open in his colours, has been wrongly attributed to Greenwood; but in 1590, he issued a reply to Mr. Giffords defence of read prayers, and, jointly with Barrow, a refutation of Mr. Giffords comparison between the Donatists and Separatists. These, together with Barrows Letter to an Honourable Lady and Countess of his Kindred, and also petitions to the House of Commons and to Lord Burghley, were their principal appeals to that outer world from which they were debarred. Some of these manuscripts were not printed for twenty years, but were circulated privately from hand to hand.
The days were becoming darker for Puritans and Separatists. Whitgift and Aylmer were exasperated by the biting satire and fiery invective of Martin Mar-Prelate. In spite of the intervention of James of Scotland and Sir Francis Knollys, Cartwright, the most distinguished of the Puritans, lay in the Fleet, while Udall was sentenced to death and actually died in prison at the end of 1592. The leniency which had permitted Greenwood to be out on bail, and even Barrow to leave his prison for a few hours, gave place to a fresh raid of persecution. The London congregation was now, in 1592, formed into a regular Congregational Church, afterwards known as the Ancient Church, with Francis Johnson as its pastor. Both he and Greenwood were arrested on December 5th, at the house of Edward Boyes, on Ludgate Hill. One after another the Separatists were seized and imprisoned. Barrow pleaded passionately for a public conference, but on March 11, 1593, he and Greenwood were charged before Judges Popham. and Anderson, under the statute of Elizabeth against the issue of seditious books. The authorship was easily established, and passages were cited to prove that the accused held both her Majesty and the Government to be anti-Christian. The Lord Treasurer was carefully watching the proceedings and reporting to Elizabeth. Execution was delayed, but, on March 23rd, Barrow and four others were condemned to death as felons. Early on the 24th, Barrow and Greenwood were brought out of the limbo and their irons struck off, but as they were about to be tied to the cart, the Queens messenger brought a reprieve. Doctors and deans came to exhort them, but they were sick of controversy. Our time was too short in the world. On March 31st, they were, very early and secretly, carried to the place of execution, but while they waited for death, with the rope round their necks, again there was a reprieve, and they were carried back to Newgate amid the joyful cries of the populace. Barrow made one last appeal for help, to a noble lady. Meanwhile, the bishops were seeking to pass a more stringent measure through the Lower House against Brownists and Barrowists. It was received with signs of impatient dislike, and almost thrown out, but on April 5th, was allowed to pass in a minced condition. Burghley was annoyed with Whitgift, and taxed him soundly against shedding the blood of men who held the faith (i.e., non-Romanist) professed in England. To spite the nether House, the bishops hastened the execution, and, with the utmost secrecy, on the morning of April 6, 1593, two aged widows carrying their winding sheets, Barrow and Greenwood were taken to Tyburn, and there hanged. Two stories of slightly doubtful authority are related by Governor Bradford, which at least reflect the uneasy consciences of some who were concerned in this judicial murder. The Queen demanded of the learned Dr. Reynolds what he thought of Barrow and Greenwood. Being compelled to speak, he replied that if they had lived, they would have been two as worthy instruments for the Church of God as have been raised up in this age. Her Majesty sighed and said no more. Again, riding in the Park, she asked the Earl of Cumberland what end they made. A very godly end, he replied, and prayed for your Majesty and the State. Excepting Penry, it was the last execution of Separatists, as Separatists, on English soil.
It remains to inquire how far the Congregationahism of Barrow answered to that of Robert Browne. Essentially there was much in common. Both held the immediate duty of separation from a corrupt Church; that these parish assemblies, as they contemptuously styled them, were no true Church; that without discipline this holy power of Christ, to censure and redress faults and offenders, there can be no Church, no ministry, no communion; that the Scriptures, interpreted by the Spirit given to each believer, were the sole and complete guide in all faith and practice; that both as to the Old and New Testaments no man might alter or neglect the least iota thereof; and that the particular Church was a fellowship of faithful and holy people, gathered in the name of Christ Jesus, governed by His officers and laws. indeed, Barrows love for the Church flashes out in many a noble passage, undimmed by the sad experiences at Newgate and Middleberg. In the Confession of 1589, he wrote:
Most joyful, excellent, and glorious things are everywhere in the Scriptures spoken of this Church. It is called the city, house, temple, and mountain of the eternal God, the chosen generation, the holy nation, the peculiar people, the vineyard, the garden enclosed, the spring shut up, the sealed fountain, the orchard of pomegranates with sweet fruits, the heritage, the Kingdom of Christ, yea, His sister, His love, His spouse, His queen, and His body, the joy of the whole earth. To this society is the covenant and all the promises made of peace, of love, and of salvation and the presence of God, of His graces, of His power, and of His protection.
But the rigid logic and legal training of Barrow led him into a form of Congregationalism which was oligarchical and aristocratic. He pursued his theory with the relentless persistence of the most unbending High Churchman. Barrow was most distinctly not a Presbyterian. The officers of the Church are the same as in Brownes Book which Sheweth. With him, the ministry or eldership consists of the pastor to exhort, the teacher to expound (a recognition of the fact that there are teachers who cannot arouse or apply), and the ruling elder to conduct and oversee. Beyond these, are the relievers, or deacons, who gather and bestow, and the widows of not less than sixty years of age to pray and visit. But here the system becomes more elaborate. There is no equality in the Church. Honour and obedience are due to its officers, who, however, hold all they have at the disposal of the Church. Yet it is the business of the whole Church to exercise discipline, and each member has power to examine the administration of the Sacraments and the doctrine taught. I never thought that the practice of Christs government belonged only to those officers. The Church may not receive any form of government but this. Every true minister must not only be qualified with gifts, but lawfully called thereto by the Church and ordained with fasting and prayer. Inexorably, he argues that gifts and fruits of service do not make a minister apart from the election of the Church. The office of the deacon is to distribute and not to govern, and any other view is gross error and ignorance. Only the pastor may administer the Sacraments, and the London Church went for months without the Communion, while its pastor was in the Fleet. The ministry is to be maintained in food and raiment by the gifts of believers only. At least, essential elements of Congregationalism are here, a Church government based on the Word of God, and a particular Church governed by the people and for the people, exercising its own discipline. It is altogether extreme and misleading to say with Dr. Grosart, in the Dictionary of National Biography, that while separate meeting-houses of believers grew out of Barrow's teachings and example, he himself had no idea corresponding with present-day Congregationalism.
For a time, Whitgifts espionage and cruelty and the growing severity of the laws were effective. Sir Walter Raleigh was wildly inaccurate when, in 1593, he spoke of the Separatists as numbering 30,000. The estimate of Lord Bacon was nearer the fact, though he went to the other extreme, when he described them as nearly extinct. Their ablest leaders were hung. Their pastors and teachers and most devoted members were in prison, but as the torch fell from the hands of Barrow and Greenwood, it was passed on to faithful men. Being dead, the martyrs yet spake by the memory of their sufferings and constancy, and through the writings which enshrined their faith. A new scene, however, was about to open in the drama of Separatism.
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