Congregationalism of New England and its repercussions in England and Scotland 1641-1662
Chatfield, Donald F.
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The intention of this thesis is an examination of the conflict and interaction between the Presbyterian and Congregational church polities, as seen in the polemic and apologetic material published concerning the "New England way" between 1641 and 1662. No attempt is made to describe the historical influence of one polity on the development of the other, except by the way; the aim is rather to present a systematic view of the arguments actually used by each side in attack and defence. In the works under survey, the attack was largely made by the Presbyterian divines, the defence by the New Englanders; as a result, the emphasis is on the Congregational system under Presbyterian criticism, rather than vice versa. The New England writers, alone among contemporary Independents, spoke from the experience of an established Congregationalism; this, the Presbyterians could not afford to ignore. It is this which makes a study of the controversy between them especially interesting. Scottish and English Presbyterians had not only to prove that the New England way was theoretically wrong, but also that practically it was a failure. This gave added urgency to the debate. These works reveal not only the differences between the two sides, but many of their common presuppositions as well; and a knowledge of each of these things is important for those who have followed in their steps. For the spiritual descendents of these men often use arguments in defending the polities they have inherited, which have little or no relation to the principles used by their forefathers in establishing them. We can only benefit from a greater understanding of some of the forgotten principles which lie behind our systems and their differences. Absolute scriptural literalism, double predestination, covenant theology, millennialism, and the idea of the Roman Catholic Church as "Great Mysterie Babylon," are more or less foreign to the thought of most modern churchmen; and Ramism, repugnance for democracy, the philosophy of Social Contract, and "the duties of the Magistrate in the first table of the Law," are, for almost all, as relics of an age long dead. Yet this is the native soil of New England Congregationalism, and of Westminster Presbyterianism as well. One may hope that an increased understanding of some of the reasons behind their quarrel may be some help to us in making it up.