The Diary of Thomas Burton: 21 January 1657-8

Pages 330-336

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 2, April 1657 - February 1658. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Thursday, January 21, 1657–8.

There was a great debate about the clerk's oath, which, by the entry, appeared to be calculated for a Commonwealth, (viz. without a King or House of Lords).

It was referred to a Committee, to consider whether an oath should be administered, and what the oath should be. (fn. 1)

Mr. Speaker reported his Highness's speech, yesterday, in the Lords' House, and read it, as Mr. Scobell had taken it. For which, see the Book of Speeches, as also for Lord Fiennes's speech. (fn. 2)

Sir Thomas Wroth. I move, that till your Committee make a report, you would, in the mean time, call in your clerk.

Mr. Solicitor-General Ellis. It is improper to call in your clerk till he has taken an oath. It is a trust, and ought not to be allowed, till an oath is taken.

Colonel Chadwick. It is hard that the clerk should be excluded for want of an oath; unless you exclude the clerkassistant, who has not taken an oath.

Mr. Francis Bacon moved, to have it referred to a Committee, to consider of a way for maintenance of a minister at Ipswich.

Mr. Bond. That gentleman may bring in a Bill to that purpose; but it is not fit to appoint a Committee. I move, that there be a general reviving of all Committees.

Mr. Onslow moved, to revive the Committee of privileges, and that a day be appointed to bring in petitions.

Mr. Solicitor-General Ellis. I move for a general Bill for maintenance of ministers in all corporations, and to lay a tax, which cannot be without your leave.

Mr. Bacon. It is impossible to make, provisionally, a general Bill, because of the difference of abilities.

Mr. Speaker. It has been denied to bring in a general Bill.

Alderman Gibbes. I move, that if there be not an order against a general Bill, you would give leave for such a Bill. I would have a Committee appointed to consider of some such way, and leave it off if it prove unprofitable. It is time to begin to build the house of God.

Mr. Turner moved against a particular Bill, but would have a Bill to provide for all small livings.

Mr. Bacon. The trustees have no maintenance left to bestow upon the ministers.

Sir John Thorowgood. There is no maintenance left; for all that provision that the Long Parliament made. There have been five hundred parishes united, and all will not do neither. Above forty or fifty petitions are lying before us, recommended by his Highness and several members, but we cannot give relief. Nothing can help better in this case, than a general Bill. A clause in the Act of the Long Parliament says, where leases expire, there the places must be made 100l. per annum, which spoils all the rest.

Captain Baynes. You have an order upon your books for any member to bring in a Bill to that purpose; but to force it upon people by a general Bill, will not be for your service. To lay a tax upon the people without your leave, you have rejected that.

Mr. Speaker called for the order of November, 1656, in this case, which was read. (fn. 3)

Mr. Solicitor-General Ellis moved to add Alderman Gibbes to the Committee.

Colonel Birch. I move for the parts in Lancashire, which have had no benefit by your maintenance. We have large parishes, sixteen miles square, and two thousand communicants, protestants, in the parish, and as many papists. There is as much need of subdivision of parishes as of uniting.

Mr. Darby. Some of us serve for counties. There has been some care taken, I see, for corporations. I remember that it was moved for a particular Bill for Yorkshire, and it was obstructed by one that had no love for it, by moving for a general Bill. I would have the Committee for religion revived; which was the first thing done always in the Parliament of England, (fn. 4) for so I must call it, propter eminentiam.

Mr. Lister moved, that the great revenue for ministers might not be otherwise disposed of; but that it might be employed so as every one may have a share.

Mr. Bodurda moved, that all that come may have voices.

The Committee was revived accordingly, and new members added.

Mr. Speaker and Mr. Maidstone moved, and it was ordered, to revive all Committees for public business.

Mr. Solicitor-General Ellis moved, that the clerk set up all Committees at the door, that every one may take notice of it.

Mr. Onslow moved again, that more members be added to the Committee of Privileges; which was done accordingly.

Mr. Gewen. I move for a convocation, or assembly of divines, (fn. 5) which was in all former Parliaments. For matter of government we are at a great loss. Hedges and houses stand in need of reparation; then surely churches and chapels.

This motion stood a long time still. Major Beake and Mr. Highland stood up together, and Mr. Highland was called on.

Mr. Highland. I am glad to see such care of religion; but there is not that necessity at this time for an assembly. This is but calling them from feeding their flocks. Moral things are as necessary as religious. To feed and clothe the naked and oppressed. It is religion to pay your debts. Superstition is banished. Read the 1st of Isaiah. They were full of sacrifices, but did not relieve the oppressed. Our cries are as much; and this is as much a religious duty as any. I would have some speedy course taken to pay your debts.

Major Beake. The gentleman that spoke last said, that morality was as religious as divinity. If he mean that morality, in its kind, is as good, I shall agree: otherwise, it is somewhat heterodox. I cannot understand him.

The duties of the first table ought to have the preference. He says, you will call them from their flocks. Had he been as conversant with readings, 1 will not say with Scriptures, he would have found government a feeding as well as teaching.

There is an obligation upon you in this case, to have such a convocation. Consult your Petition and Advice, and you will find something for religion to be done by you, wherein you will not go singly by your own advice. You may reserve an authoritative judgment in yourselves. You may call from Scotland some, and from England some, to cement your differences. I therefore move that an assembly be called.

Mr. Darky. I cannot agree with that motion. There has been an assembly, who have settled the foundations, and something as to government; all in print. I have looked about, and find few fit persons in a county. Besides matter of charge; they will think much to bear it themselves. You thought fit to dissolve the last Assembly. (fn. 6) I will say no more.

Alderman Gibbes. I must challenge myself for being so forward to speak before my seat is warm; (fn. 7) but in this case I cannot sit still, but declare my opinion to third that motion.

I agree with what has been said. What the Assembly did is in print; but it is not in practice. There is an absolute necessity of government in every society; else, like the weeds amongst corn, it (fn. 8) will destroy all. I shall not bind that form upon you; but certainly, somewhat ought to be done of that kind.

1. Ordination of ministers: but there are such differences about it, that I doubt, in many places, it is altogether neglected. " How can he preach except he be sent ?" (fn. 9)

2. That there be some outward form, which would tend much to unity. It will be of great concernment. I do heartily wish that, by a council of divines, somewhat may be considered, so that, in order to the settlement of the Commonwealth, there may be a settlement of the Church.

Mr. —. (fn. 10) I move to agree with the first and last in that motion. We have strange opinions amongst us in print. Though the mists of popery be dispelled, yet a cloud of errors hangs over our heads. Nothing but a council of divines will help it.

Mr. Onslow moved, that the end of calling that assembly might be to advise the Parliament about settling matters of religion.

Major Burton. I am against that question. My reason for it is, our time will not be long enough unless we had a year's time. They sat a long time before. (fn. 11) The nation were at great charge. They did not agree about settling the church; but in fundamentals of faith, they have done as much as they can. (fn. 12) The charge was not ill spent. I have heard many of them that sat, say they would never sit there again.

Colonel Matthews. They were no charge to the nation; but that you may consider in the number.

Mr. Attorney-General. Consider how you will limit them, if you call them, and whether by Act of Parliament. Besides, they are not all able to maintain themselves.

Mr. St. Nicholas. I do much wonder upon what grounds these are offered to you. I am as much sensible of the growth of errors, and would as fain have an oneness of mind as any man. Yet it has been a great satisfaction to men's spirits that they have not been imposed upon. It will look ill abroad, that you are going again to impose a government upon men's consciences. I shall humbly move that the question be wholly laid aside.

It was moved to put it that the question be put.

Colonel Birch. I would have no negative upon your book; so would rather wave the question till after dinner.

Mr. Drake. I am in love with the question; but think it not well-timed now. You are settling the civil power, upon which the other government must be founded. I would have the civil power first settled.

Mr. Bodurda. Your order is to rise at twelve. I would have that be your question.

Mr. Speaker moved, not to rise and leave a debate at the midst.

Mr. Thistlethwaite. I move that no question be now put upon a matter of this consequence. It would look ill to have a negative.

So the question was waved for the present. It was this:— That an assembly of divines, from England, Scotland, and Ireland, be called together, to advise about matters of religion. The question, if the question shall be put, was put in the affirmative, but waved, ut supra,

And resolved upon the question to adjourn till to-morrow morning.


  • 1. "To search what oath hath formerly been taken by the clerk of this House." Journals.
  • 2. This long and very scriptural speech is preserved entire in the Journals, and in the Parl. Hist. In his exordium, the speaker reminds the " Lords and Gentlemen of both the most honourable Houses of Parliament," how " Jacob, speaking to his son Joseph, said, ' I had not thought to have seen thy face, and lo, God hath shown me thy seed also;' meaning his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh." Thus is introduced the profound remark, that, " some years since,'' (till his master betrayed the Republic) " we had not thought to have seen a ChiefMagistrate again among us; and lo, God hath shown us a Chief-Magistrate in his two Houses of Parliament." These he would have " like the form and figure of an heart, which, though triangular, is but one heart." The following is probably an attempt, vain enough, as the sequel proved, to conciliate the Republicans to Cromwell's usurpation: "Another difficulty ariseth to us, from the dissatisfaction of some of our ancient friends, who have been, and still might be useful to us in the work which we have now in hand. For those of our beloved friends who content themselves with their privacy and country retirements, in these great difficulties of the Commonwealth, 'For the divisions of Reuben there are great thoughts of heart,'" &c.: and then the learned lawyer rambles into the Canticles, where the reader will, probably, be willing enough to take leave of him. See Parl. Hist. xxi. 175,187,190.
  • 3. " November 4,1656. Ordered, that a Committee be appointed to prepare and bring in a Bill for raising maintenance for ministers in such cities, corporations, and market-towns, where maintenance is wanting." Journals.
  • 4. The Long Parliament.
  • 5. The Assembly, which first met at Westminster in 1643, formed the system of doctrine, worship, and discipline adopted by the English Presbyterians, and enforced to the extent of their power. It is still established in the church of Scotland. Their minutes are preserved in the Library, Red-cross Street.
  • 6. The designed Bill gave place to an Ordinance of the Lords and Commons, in Parliament, for the calling of an assembly of learned and godly divines and others, bearing date June 12,1643. They subsisted till February 22,1648–9; having sat five years, six months, and twenty-two days, in which time they had one thousand one hundred and sixty-three sessions." Neal's Hist, of Puritans, (1822,) iii. 43. 413. See the names of the nobility, gentry, and clergy, nominated by the Parliament to form this assembly, in Rushworth (1708,) v. 123.
  • 7. William Gibbes, one of the members for Suffolk, appears to have been among those excluded at the opening of this Parliament, but who had now taken their seats, according to one of the provisions of the Petition and Advice. See vol. i. p. 262, note ‡.
  • 8. Disorder, probably, understood.
  • 9. See Rom. x. 15.
  • 10. Blank in the MS.
  • 11. See supra, p. 334, note *.
  • 12. Referring to their catechisms and confession. See vol. i. p 376, note †.