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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. 1906.

The Life of John Hutchinson: 1603–25

England was not an idle spectator of the great contest between the papist and protestant, in which all Christendom seemed to be engaged. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the protestant interest, being her peculiar interest, that princess became not only glorious in the defence of her own realm, but in the protection she gave to the whole protestant cause in all the neighbouring kingdoms; wherefore, as if it had been devolved upon her person, the Pope shot all his arrows at her head, and set on many desperate assassinations against her, which, by the good providence of God, were all frustrated, and she, not only miraculously delivered from those wretches, but renowned at home and abroad for successes against her rebellious subjects in England and Ireland, and for the assistance of her distressed neighbours; but, above all, for the mercy which it pleased God to afford her and this realm in the year 1588, when the invading Spaniard had devoured us in his proud hopes, and by the mighty hand of God was scattered as a mist before the morning beams. That which kept alive the hopes of the papist most part of her reign, was the expectation of the Queen of Scots, who, entering into confederacy with them, lost her head for the forfeit, wherein the Duke of Norfolk suffered also for her the loss of his. The Queen of England was very loath to execute this necessary justice; but the true-hearted protestants of her council, foreseeing the sad effects that might be expected if ever she arrived to the crown, urged it on; and after the death of Queen Elizabeth, the wiser of them much opposed the admission of her son. But he, dissembling the resentment of his mother’s death, by bribes and greater promises, managed a faction in the court of the declining queen, which prevailed on her dotage to destroy the Earl of Essex, the only person who would have had the courage to keep out him they thought it dangerous to let in. So subtlely brought they their purpose about, that wise counsel was in vain to a blinded and betrayed people. The anti-prelatical party hoping that, with a king bred up among the Calvinists, they should now be freed from the episcopal yoke, were greedy of entertaining him, but soon cured of their mistake; when, immediately after his entry into the kingdom, himself being moderator at a dispute between both parties, the nonconformists were cast out of doors, the offensive ceremonies, instead of being removed, were more strictly imposed, the penalties against papists relaxed, and many of them taken into favour, those families who suffered for his mother were graced and restored as far as the times would bear, and those who consented any way to the justice done upon her, disfavoured. A progress was made suitable to this beginning, the protestant interest abroad was deserted and betrayed, the prelates at home daily exalted in pride and pomp, and declining in virtue and godliness. Arminianism crept into the corruption of sound doctrine, till at length they had the impudence to forbid the preaching of those great and necessary truths concerning the decrees of God; secret treaties were entertained with the court of Rome; and, notwithstanding that hellish powder plot, the papists lost their credit at court, where they now wrought no longer by open and direct ways, but humouring the king and queen in their lusts and excesses, they found the most ready way to destroy the doctrine of the gospel was to debauch the professors. The court of this king was a nursery of lust and intemperance; he had brought in with him a company of poor Scots, who, coming into this plentiful kingdom, were surfeited with riot and debaucheries, and got all the riches of the land only to cast away. The honour, wealth, and glory of the nation, wherein Queen Elizabeth left it, were soon prodigally wasted by this thriftless heir; and the nobility of the land was utterly debased by setting honours to public sale, and conferring them on persons that had neither blood nor merit fit to wear, nor estates to bear up their titles, but were fain to invent projects to pill the people, and pick their purses for the maintenance of vice and lewdness. The generality of the gentry of the land soon learned the court fashion, and every great house in the country became a sty of uncleanness. To keep the people in their deplorable security, till vengeance overtook them, they were entertained with masks, stage plays, and sorts of ruder sports. Then began murder, incest, adultery, drunkenness, swearing, fornication, and all sort of ribaldry, to be no concealed but countenanced vices, because they held such conformity with the court example. Next to this, a great cause of these abominations was the mixed marriages of papist and protestant families, which, no question, was a design of the papist party to compass and procure; and so successful that I have observed that there was not one house in ten, where such a marriage was made, but the better party was corrupted, the children’s souls were sacrificed to devils, the worship of God was laid aside in that family, for fear of distasting the idolater; the kindred, tenants, and neighbours, either quite turned from it, or cooled in their zeal for religion. As the fire is most fervent in a frosty season, so the general apostacy from holiness, if I may so call it, and defection to lewdness, stirred up sorrow, indignation, and fear, in all that retained any love of God in the land, whether ministers or people; the ministers warned the people of the approaching judgments of God, which could not be expected but to follow such high provocations; God in his mercy sent his prophets into all corners of the land, to preach repentance, and cry out against the ingratitude of England, who thus requited so many rich mercies that no nation could ever boast of more; and by these a few were everywhere converted and established in faith and holiness; but at court they were hated, disgraced, and reviled, and in scorn had the name of Puritan fixed upon them. And now the ready way to preferment there, was to declare an opposition to the power of godliness, under that name; so that their pulpits might justly be called the scorner’s chair, those sermons only pleasing that flattered them in their vices, and told the poor king that he was Solomon, and that his sloth and cowardice, by which he betrayed the cause of God and honour of the nation, was gospel meekness and peaceableness; for which they raised him up above the heavens, while he lay wallowing like a swine in the mire of his lust. He had a little learning, and this they called the spirit of wisdom, and so magnified him, so falsely flattered him, that he could not endure the words of truth and soundness, but rewarded these base, wicked, unfaithful fawners with rich preferments, attended with pomps and titles, which heaved them up above a human height. With their pride, their envy swelled against the people of God, whom they began to project how they might root out of the land; and when they had once given them a name, whatever was odious or dreadful to the king, they fixed upon the Puritan, who, according to their character, was nothing but a factious hypocrite.

The king had upon his heart the dealings both of England and Scotland with his mother, and harboured a secret desire of revenge upon the godly in both nations, yet had not courage enough to assert his resentment like a prince, but employed a wicked cunning he was master of, and called kingcraft, to undermine what he durst not openly oppose,—the true religion; this was fenced with the liberty of the people, and so linked together, that it was impossible to make them slaves, till they were brought to be idolaters of royalty and glorious lust; and as impossible to make them adore these gods, while they continued loyal to the government of Jesus Christ. The payment of civil obedience to the king and the laws of the land satisfied not; if any durst dispute his impositions in the worship of God, he was presently reckoned among the seditious and disturbers of the public peace, and accordingly persecuted; if any were grieved at the dishonour of the kingdom, or the griping of the poor, or the unjust oppressions of the subject, by a thousand ways, invented to maintain the riots of the courtiers, and the swarms of needy Scots the king had brought in to devour like locusts the plenty of this land, he was a Puritan; if any, out of mere morality and civil honesty, discountenanced the abominations of those days, he was a Puritan, however he conformed to their superstitious worship; if any showed favour to any godly honest person, kept them company, relieved them in want, or protected them against violent or unjust oppression, he was a Puritan; if any gentleman in his country maintained the good laws of the land, or stood up for any public interest, for good order or government, he was a Puritan: in short, all that crossed the views of the needy courtiers, the proud encroaching priests, the thievish projectors, the lewd nobility and gentry—whoever was zealous for God’s glory or worship, could not endure blasphemous oaths, ribald conversation, profane scoffs, Sabbath-breaking, derision of the word of God, and the like—whoever could endure a sermon, modest habit or conversation, or anything good,—all these were Puritans; and if Puritans, then enemies to the king and his government, seditious, factious hypocrites, ambitious disturbers of the public peace, and finally, the pest of the kingdom. Such false logic did the children of darkness use to argue with against the hated children of light, whom they branded besides as an illiterate, morose, melancholy, discontented, crazed sort of men, not fit for human conversation; as such they made them not only the sport of the pulpit, which was become but a more solemn sort of stage, but every stage, and every table, and every puppet-play, belched forth profane scoffs upon them, the drunkards made them their songs, and all fiddlers and mimics learned to abuse them, as finding it the most gameful way of fooling. Thus the two factions in those days grew up to great heights and enmities one against the other; while the papist wanted not industry and subtlety to blow the coals between them, and was so successful that, unless the mercy of God confound them by their own imaginations, we may justly fear they will at last obtain their full wish.

But to deal impartially, we must, with sadness enough, confess, that the wolf came into the fold in a sheep’s clothing, and wrought more slaughter that way among the lambs than he could have done in his own skin; for it is true that many of wit and parts, discontented when they could not obtain the preferments their ambition gaped at, would declare themselves of the Puritan party. And such were either bought off, or, if the adversary would not give their price, seduced their devout hearers sometimes into indiscreet opposition to work out their own revenge; others, that had neither learning, nor friends, nor opportunities to arrive to any preferments, would put on a form of godliness, finding devout people that way so liberal to them, that they could not hope to enrich themselves so much in any other way. Some that had greater art and parts, finding there was no inconsiderable gain to be made of the simple devotion of men and women, applied their wits to it, and collected great sums for the advancement of the religious interest, of which they converted much to their own private uses. Such as these tempted the people of God to endeavour to shelter themselves in human policies, and found out ways, by bribes and other not less indirect courses, to procure patrons at court, and to set up against the prelates with countermines and other engines, which being of man’s framing, were all at last broken.

The Puritan party being weak and oppressed, had not faith enough to disown all that adhered to them for worldly interests, and indeed it required more than human wisdom to discern at the least all of them; wherefore they, in their low condition, gladly accepted any that would come over to them, or incline towards them; and their enemies, through envy at them, augmented much their party, while, with injuries and reproaches, they drove many, that never intended it, to take that party; which in the end got nothing but confusion by those additions. While these parties were thus counter-working, the treasure of the kingdom being wasted by court-caterpillars, and parliaments called to re-supply the royal coffers, therein there wanted not some, that retained so much of the English spirit as to represent the public grievances, and desires to call the corrupt ministers of state to an account. But the king, grudging that his people should dare to gainsay his pleasure, and correct his misgovernment in his favourites, broke up parliaments, violated their privileges, imprisoned their members for things spoken in the house, and grew disaffected to them, and entertained projects of supply by other grievances of the people. The prelates, in the meantime, finding they lost ground, meditated reunion with the popish faction, who began to be at a pretty agreement with them; and now there was no more endeavour in their public sermons to confute the errors of that church, but to reduce our doctrines and theirs to an accommodation. The king, to bring it about, was deluded into the treaty of a match for his son with the Infanta of Spain; and the prince, with the Duke of Buckingham, was privately sent into Spain, from whence he came back with difficulty, but to the great rejoicing of the whole people in general, who were much afflicted at his going thither. During this treaty the papists got many advantages of the king, to the prejudice of the protestant interest at home and abroad, and the hearts of all but the papists were very much saddened; and the people loath to lay the miscarriages of things at the king’s own door, began to entertain a universal hatred of the Duke of Buckingham, raised from a knight’s fourth son to that pitch of glory, and enjoying great possessions, acquired by the favour of the king, upon no merit but that of his beauty and his prostitution. The parliament had drawn up a charge against him, and though the king seemed to protect him, yet knowing the fearfulness of his nature, and doubting his constancy, it was believed he added some help to an ague that killed that king; however the king died, and the duke continued as high in the favour of the next succeeding as of the deceased prince; whereupon one, not unaptly, says of him, ‘he seemed as an unhappy exhalation, drawn up from the earth, not only to cloud the setting, but the rising sun’.