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

The Life of John Hutchinson: 1639–41

Mr. Hutchinson, after about fourteen months’ various exercise of his mind, in the pursuit of his love, being now at rest in the enjoyment of his wife, his next design was to draw her into his own country; but he would not set upon it too roughly, and therefore let her rest a while, when he had drawn her ten miles nearer it, out of the city where she had her birth and education, and where all her relations were most conversant, and which she could not suddenly resolve to quit altogether, to betake herself to the north, which was a formidable name among the London ladies. While she was weaning from the friends and places she had so long conversed in, Mr. Hutchinson employed his time in making an entrance upon the study of school divinity, wherein his father was the most eminent scholar of any gentleman in England, and had a most choice library, valued at a thousand pounds; which Mr. Hutchinson, mistakingly expecting to be part of his inheritance, thought it would be very inglorious for him not to understand how to make use of his father’s books. Having therefore gotten into the house with him an excellent scholar in that kind of learning, he for two years made it the whole employment of his time. The gentleman that assisted him he converted to a right belief in that great point of predestination, he having been before of the Arminian judgment, till, upon the serious examination of both principles, and comparing them with the Scriptures, Mr. Hutchinson convinced him of the truth, and he grew so well instructed in this principle, that he was able to maintain it against any man. At that time, this great doctrine grew much out of fashion with the prelates, but was generally embraced by all religious and holy persons in the land. Mr. Hutchinson being desirous to inform himself thoroughly of it, when he was able to manage the question, offered it to his father; but Sir Thomas would not declare himself on the point to him, nor indeed in any other, as we conceived, lest a father’s authority should sway against his children’s light, who he thought ought to discern things with their own eyes, and not with his. Mr. Hutchinson, taking delight in the study of divinity, presently left off all foolish nice points, that tended to nothing but vain brangling, and employed his whole study in laying a foundation of sound and necessary principles, among which he gave the first place to this of God’s absolute decrees. This was so far from producing a carelessness of life in him, a thing generally objected against this faith, that, on the other side, it excited him to a more strict and holy walking in thankfulness to God, who had been pleased to choose him out of the corrupted mass of lost mankind, to fix his love upon him, and give him the knowledge of himself by his ever-blessed Son. This principle of love and life in God, which had been given him when he discerned not what it was in himself, had from a child preserved him from wallowing in the mire of sin and wickedness, wherein most of the gentry of those times were miserably plunged, except a few, that were therefore the scorn of mankind; and there were but few of those few, that had not natural and superstitious follies, that were in some kind justly ridiculous and contemptible. It was a remarkable providence of God in his life, that must not be passed over without special notice, that he gave him these two years’ leisure, and a heart so to employ it, before the noise of war and tumult came in upon him. Yet about the year 1639, the thunder was heard afar off rattling in the troubled air, and even the most obscured woods were penetrated with some flashes, the forerunners of the dreadful storm which the next year was more apparent; but Mr. Hutchinson was not yet awakened till it pleased God to deliver him from a danger into which he had run himself, had not mercy prevented him. His wife having already two sons, and being again with child, considered that it would be necessary to seek an augmentation of revenue, or retire into a cheaper country; and more inclining to the first, than to leave at once her mother, and all the rest of her dear relations, she had propounded to him to buy an office, which he was not of himself very inclinable to; but, to give her and her mother satisfaction, he hearkened to a motion that was made him in that kind. Sir William Pennyman, who had married his cousin-german, a very worthy gentleman, who had great respect both for and from his father, had purchased the chief office in the Star-chamber, the gentleman who held the next to him was careless and debauched, and thereby a great hindrance of Sir William’s profits, who apprehended that if he could get an honest man into that place, they might mutually much advantage each other; whereupon he persuaded Mr. Hutchinson to buy the place, and offered him any terms, to go any share with him, or any way he could desire. Mr. Hutchinson treated with the gentleman, came to a conclusion, went down into the country, provided the money, and came up again, thinking presently to enter into the office; but the gentleman that should have sold it, being of an uncertain humour, thought to make the benefit of another term before he sold his place; and it pleased God, in the mean time, that arbitrary court was, by the parliament then sitting, taken away. Mr. Hutchinson was very sensible of a peculiar providence to him herein, and resolved to adventure no more such hazards; but to retire to that place whither God seemed to have called him by giving him so good an interest there, and to study how he was to improve that talent. His wife, convinced by this kind check which God had given to her desires, that she ought to follow her husband where the Lord seemed to call him, went along with him, and about October 1641, they came to their house at Owthorpe. Here Mr. George Hutchinson (Sir Thomas being then chosen knight for Nottinghamshire, and sitting in the parliament at London) came and gave a glad entertainment of his brother and sister into the country, by his good company; and they were for a few months peaceful and happy in their own house, till the kingdom began to blaze out with the long-conceived flame of civil war. But here I must make a short digression from our particular actions, to sum up the state of the kingdom at that time, which though I cannot do exactly, yet I can truly relate what I was then able to take notice of; and if any one have a desire of more particular information, there were so many books then written, as will sufficiently give it them. And although those of our enemies are all fraught with abominable lies, yet if all ours were suppressed, even their own writings, impartially considered, would be a sufficient chronicle of their injustice and oppression; but I shall only mention what is necessary to be remembered, for the better carrying on of my purpose.

When the dawn of the gospel began to break upon this isle, after the dark midnight of papacy, the morning was more cloudy here than in other places by reason of the state-interest, which was mixing and working itself into the interest of religion, and which in the end quite wrought it out. King Henry the Eighth, who by his royal authority cast out the pope, did not intend the people of the land should have any ease of oppression; but only changed their foreign yoke for home-bred fetters, dividing the pope’s spoils between himself and his bishops, who cared not for their father at Rome, so long as they enjoyed their patrimony and their honours here under another head: so that I cannot subscribe to those who entitle that king to the honour of the reformation. But even then there wanted not many who discerned the corruptions that were retained in the church, and eagerly applied their endeavours to obtain a purer reformation; against whom, those who saw no need of further reformation, either through excess of joy for that which was already brought forth, or else through a secret love of superstition rooted in their hearts, thought this too much,—were bitterly incensed, and, hating that light which reproved their darkness, everywhere stirred up spirits of envy and persecution against them. Upon the great revolution which took place at the accession of Queen Elizabeth to the crown, the nation became divided into three great factions, the Papist, the State-protestant, and the more religious zealots, who afterwards were branded with the name of Puritan. In vain it was for these to address the queen and parliament; for the bishops, under the specious pretences of uniformity and obedience, procured severe punishments to be inflicted on such as durst gainsay their determinations in all things concerning worship, whereupon some even in those godly days lost their lives.

The papists had a most inveterate hatred to all the protestants, but especially to those who were godly; and they again many of them suffered their zeal to run out into bitter personal hate. Between these two extremes, the common protestants were in the middle, though I cannot reckon them as a virtuous medium; for of them the more profane and ignorant only left popery because it grew out of fashion, but in their hearts inclined that way; those who were peaceable, conscientious, or moral persons, inclined to the Puritans, of whom there were many that unwillingly bore the burden of the ceremonies, for quietness’ sake, and through false doctrine of their unfaithful teachers, as well as some that discerned the base and carnal minds of those seducers, and would not be persuaded by them to defile their consciences. The former sort of these, in zeal to reduce the whole land from their idolatrous practices, procured laws and invented oaths to suppress popery, which they little thought, but we now sadly find, are the bitterest engines to batter down the pure worship and destroy the pure worshippers of God; which I have often looked upon as an evidence that God is not pleased with the conversions that are enforced by men’s laws. We have spiritual weapons given us for spiritual combats, and those who go about to conquer subjects for Christ with swords of steel, shall find the base metal break to shivers when it is used, and hurtfully fly in their own faces.

About the time of the reformation, there was a great change in the civil interest of all that part of the world which had long lain under the bondage of the Roman prelate and his tyrannical clergy. These had by degrees so encroached upon all the secular princes, that they were nothing but vassals and hangmen to the proud insolent priest. Obtaining his empire by fraud, false doctrine, lies, and hypocrisy, he maintained it by blood and rapine, till it pleased God to cause that light to break forth about Luther’s time, which hath ever since been increasing; and, notwithstanding all the attempts of Satan and his ministers, it will in the end grow up to a glorious flame and quite devour that bloody city. When the wrath of princes and priests was in vain at first blown up against the professors of the gospel, and their blood and ashes became fruitful seed in God’s field, then the old fox comes into the fold as a lamb, and seduces some of them that saw the approach of Christ’s kingdom, to set it up irregularly; and, indeed (though I know not whether they perceived their own delusion), to set up themselves in Christ’s throne, casting down the thrones of all other magistrates, and destroying the properties of men, and ruling by their own arbitrary lust, which they brought forth in the name of God’s law. This example was so threatening to all mankind, that the gospel itself, from the adversaries thereof, suffered much reproach upon this miscarriage; whereupon the Protestants, in all places, to clear themselves from the just aspersions which the Munster anabaptists and others had occasioned, fell into an error on the other hand, not much less hurtful in the consequence; for to flatter the princes of the world, whether popish or protestant, they invested them with God’s prerogative, and preached to them and the people such doctrines as only changed the idol, but left the idolatry still in practice.

The popes of Rome had for many ages challenged and practised a power to disthrone princes, to give away their realms, to interdict whole kingdoms and provinces, and devote them to slaughter, to loose subjects from all bonds and oaths of allegiance to their sovereigns, and to stir up both princes and people to the mutual murder of each other; which abominable courses had been justly cast upon them as reproach, they pretending to do all these things for the propagation of the true worship and the advance of God’s glory. This reproach they retorted when some protestants, upon the same pretence, did maintain that idolatrous princes were to be removed, and such magistrates set up as feared God, who were guardians of both tables, and bound to compel all their people to the right religion. This confusion was there among the sons of darkness at the first appearance of gospel light.

About this time in the kingdom of Scotland there was a wicked queen, daughter of a mother that came out of the bloody house of Guise, and brought up in the popish religion, which she zealously persevered in, as most suitable to her bloody lustful temper, she being guilty of murders and adulteries, and hateful for them to the honestest of the people, was deposed, imprisoned, and forced to fly for her life; but her son was received into the throne, and educated after the strictest way of the protestant religion according to Calvin’s form. Those who were chiefly active and instrumental in the justice executed on this wicked queen, were the reformers of religion in Scotland, which made the neighbouring idolatrous princes to fear them of the same faith. About the same time likewise, the provinces of the Netherlands united themselves in a resistance against the king of Spain, and cast off that yoke wherewith he had most barbarously galled them. The king of France, persecuting his protestant subjects with much inhuman violence, forced them to defend themselves against his unsanctified League, and much blood was shed in those civil wars; till at length those who had had so much experience of God’s providence in delivering them from their cruel princes, were persuaded to make up an alliance with the enemies of God and religion, and by the treacherous foe drawn into his snares, where they were most wickedly and barbarously massacred. Now, although religion were the main ground of those bloody quarrels, yet there were, in all these countries, many disputes of civil right, which for the most part bore the face of the wars, whereat I have only hinted, in this survey of the condition of other states, and their interests in those days and since; which is something necessary to be known for the better understanding of our own, with which I shall now proceed.

The civil government of England, from the time called the Conquest, had been administered by a King, Lords, and Commons, in a way of Parliaments; the parliament entrusted with the legislative, and the king with the executive power; but several of the kings, not satisfied with their bounded monarchy, made attempts to convert it into an absolute sovereignty, attempts fatal both to themselves and their people, and ever unsuccessful. For the generous people of England, as they were the most free and obsequious subjects in the world to those princes that managed them with a kind and tender hand, commanding them as freemen, not as slaves, so were they the most untameable, invincible people, in defence of their freedoms against all those usurping lords that scorned to allow them liberty. The nobility of the realm having at first the great balance of the lands, and retaining some of that free honourable virtue, for which they were exalted above the vulgar, ever stood up in people’s defence and curbed the wild ambition of the tyrants, whom they sometimes reduced to moderation, and sometimes deposed for their misgovernments; till, at length the kings, eager to break this yoke, had insensibly worn out the interest of the nobility by drawing them to their courts, where luxuries melted away the great estates of some, others were destroyed by confiscations in divers civil wars, and others otherwise mouldered with time. While the kings were glad to see the abatement of that power, which had been such a check to their exorbitancies, they perceived not the growing of another more dangerous to them; and that when the nobility shrunk into empty names, the throne lost its supporters, and had no more but a little puff of wind to bear it up, when the full body of the people came rolling in upon it. The interest of the people, which had been many years growing, made an extraordinary progress in the days of King Henry the Eighth, who returning the vast revenues of the church into the body of the people, cast the balance clear on their side, and left them now only to expect an opportunity to resume their power into their own hands; and had not differences in religion divided them among themselves, and thereby prolonged the last gasps of expiring monarchy, they had long since exercised it in a free commonwealth.