Petrus van Mastricht on 16th & 17th Century Religion in Britain
From his Theoretical-Practical Theology
(From Book 8, The Dispensation of the Covenant of Grace)
Translations by Michael Spangler
Sum: This Dutch theologian gives powerful third-party testimony to the purity of Westminsterian Puritanism and Scottish Presbyterianism, over against the schismatic papal inclinations of the Anglican establishment.
1. On Queen Elizabeth:
“She expelled papism anew from all England, and restored the purity of the gospel, but this purity was contaminated by episcopal pride, and by very many absurd and ridiculous ceremonies, against the counsels of Beza and of all the continental Reformed, from which a foul stream of evils has flowed forth even to our times.” (TPT 1698, p. 1055)
2. On Scotland:
“The Scots under various turns of fate conjoin purity of doctrine with a discipline next to that of the apostles, if any other Reformed church does. For this reason they are also more immune than any other church to heresies, schisms, and public scandals.” (p. 1055)
3. On Martin Bucer:
“When Edward VI called, he taught theology at Cambridge University for two years, and died there A.D. 1552. He was too fond of ecclesiastical peace.” (p. 1058)
4. On the Westminster Confession:
“An outstanding confession of faith.” (p. 1068)
5. On the “Ecclestical Schism,” chiefly in England:
“In it occurred: (1) the Hierarchical or Episcopal party, which though the heads of faith were preserved in most things, acceded to the papacy in rites and in church government. It was (a) founded under the papacy; (b) chastised somewhat by Henry VIII, king of England, who abrogated from it the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, then put the same upon himself, with all the remaining parts of papism preserved; (c) conserved under Edward VI, though in other respects an excellent reformer, because in his time he was not able to do otherwise; (d) confirmed under Queen Elizabeth; (e) fixed under James I, because he judged that without it monarchical rule in the commonwealth could not be safe, and thus the phrase was frequently in his mouth, “No bishop, no king”; (f) increased under Charles I, and likewise under Charles II and James II, who in addition inclined toward the papacy; and especially under William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, who labored to force this party upon the Scots, willing or unwilling, from which arose many troubles and dire persecutions.”
“(2) The Puritan or Nonconformist party, of those who more sharply opposed both episcopal government and superstitious ceremonies….. [Goes on to divide them, first into Separatists, then Independents].
“The third Nonconformist party, then, is the Presbyterian party, which now by the grace of God most happily flourishes among the Scots, the Genevans, the federated Dutch,… and once also the churches of France, now alas extinct. This form of church government is drawn from the apostles themselves, as we showed in our chapter on church government.
“There remains at last a certain fourth part…namely that the Erastians…, adopted in England by a certain Coleman, a preacher in London, who when he observed Presbyterians and Independents dissenting, gave over the whole government of the church to the civil magistrate…, which the Scots forcefully opposed, and among them namely George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford.” (pp. 1071–72)
6. Anglican “crypto-papists”
This is not to mention his lengthy treatment of the “Persecutions of the Reformed, or rather, of the crypto-papists,” that is, of the Anglican establishment. In it he quotes a certain John Bastwick (1593-1654), who asked, “In which of all the kingdoms is there a more merciless dominion than that of the Bishops?” (p. 1085)