December 9: Westminster Debates Funerals

 

It is well also for another reason, that—if obliged to publish at present only a part of these records—Drs. Mitchell and Struthers should have selected the “Minutes,” beginning with November, 1644, for this first volume.  From “Lightfoot’s Journal of the Assembly of Divines,” extending from the opening of the Assembly, July 3d, 1648, to December 31st, 1644, and from George Gillespie’s “Notes of Proceeding of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster,” extending from February 2 to May 3, from September to December 31, 1644, we are enabled to form a much clearer conception of the course of discussion in the As­sembly, than could possibly be done from the imperfect memo­randa of these Minutes.  This will be very apparent on a com­parison of the jottings of these Minutes with the Notes of Lightfoot and Gillespie, covering, with several omissions, the brief period from November to December 31, 1644.  The three records of December 9th, 1644, are as follows:

  1. Lightfoot’s account is:

“We speedily fell upon the business about burial as soon as we were set ; and the matter was, whether to have anything spoken at the burial of the dead.

“Dr. Temple moved that something might be said at the very interment of the body ; but this was thought not fit to be given any rule for, but rather to pass it over in silence ; and so the minister left something to his liberty.  Dr. Temple moved again, whether a minister, at putting a body into the ground, may not say, ‘We commit this body to the ground,’ etc.  And it was conceived of the Assembly that he might ; and the words ‘without any ceremony more,’ do not tie him up from this.

“Then fell our great controversy about funeral sermons ; and here was our difficulty—how to keep funeral sermons is England for fear of danger by alteration, and yet to give content to Scotland that are averse from there.  It was the sense of the Assembly in general, that funeral sermons may be made, if a minister be called on for it; and the debate was now to find terms to fit and suit with both parties.  At last we fixed on this: ‘That the people should take up thoughts and conferences concerning death, mortality, etc.; and the minister, if he be present, shall put them in mind of that duty.’  Here I excepted at the last word, ‘duty,’ for that a little speech would put them in mind of medi­tating and conferring spiritually; therefore I moved an alteration, which was much backed by divers, and it was changed, ‘of their duty.’  The mind of the Assembly was that these words give liberty for funeral ser­mons.  And thus we had done the directory for burial.

“Then fell we upon the report of our votes concerning Church Gov­ernment, where we had left off the last day; and when we had done them, Mr. Burroughs entered his dissent against two or three propositions, viz. against the subordination of Assemblies one to another, and against the instance of the Church of Ephesus for a Presbytery ; and so did Mr. Nye, Mr. Carter, Mr. Sympson, and Mr. Bridges; and Mr. Sympson offered from Mr. Goodwin to enter his dissent ; but we would not admit of any proxies.”

  1. Gillespie’s account of the same debate, under date Decem­ber 9, 1644, is :

“The votes of Government were read and ordered to be transcribed, that they may be sent to the Parliament.

“Messrs. Burroughs, Nye, Bridges, Sympson, and Carter entered their dissent from three of the propositions :  1. That there is a subordination of congregational, classical, provincial, and national Assemblies for the government of the Church.  2. That the example of the Church of Ephesus proves the propositions concerning Presbyterial government.

  1. That no congregation which may associate ought to assume all and sole power of ordination. Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Greenhill were not present.”

It will be seen that he omits the debate on funerals altogether.

  1. Now, under the same date of December 9, 1644, the Minutes before us make the following record :

Sess. 337, Dec. 9, 1644, Monday Morning.

“ Protestation read.  Debate of the Directory for Burial…. Neverthe­less this doth not inhibit any minister at that time being present to give some seasonable word of exhortation.

Mr. Marshall offered a paper to express the affirmative part.

“ Debate about something to be added to the negative.

Dr. Temple made report of the alterations in the frame* of govern­ment.

“ Ordered, this draught of Government be transcribed, to be sent to both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Burroughs enters his dissent from the subordination of Assem­blies in that proposition, ‘it is lawful and agreeable ;’ and that ‘of par­ticular congregations assuming the power of ordination ;’ and that ‘of the Church of Ephesus,’ if you mean [that they were congregations, fixed.]

Mr. Nye enters his dissent to the same propositions.

Mr. Carter desires the same.  Mr. Sympson desires the same.  He also desired that Mr. Goodwyn’s dissent may be entered, he being not well.

Ordered, That he have leave against to-morrow.

“ Mr. Bridges desired the same.”

This comparative exhibition of what is said in the “Journal” of Lightfoot, and the “ Notes” of Gillespie, and in these Mi­nutes,” touching the debate of December 9, selected by us at random, will enable the reader to form some conception of the general nature and style of these recently discovered records.

  • “Draught” is written above “frame” in the manuscript, which, as will be seen from Lightfoot, quoted already, is more proper.

The words in these brackets are crossed over with a black line.

 

 

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