Edmund Littleton was a zealous puritan, who took an active part in promoting the associations. Though it does not appear at what place he exercised his public ministry, he was a man of considerable eminence, and always desirous to obtain a more pure reformation of the church. He united with his brethren in perfecting the " Book of Discipline;" and when it was finished, he joined with them in subscribing it.$ On account of his zeal and activity to promote the desired ecclesiastical discipline, he was apprehended, with many of his brethren, in the year 1590, and carried before the high commission. He and some others were of opinion, that it was their duty to take an oath in all cases, when required by their superiors. He, therefore, took the oath ex officio, and discovered many things relative to the associations ; for which he was most probably released.s
When he was apprehended, his papers were seized, and carried away, and produced as evidence against him and his brethren. Among these was the following declaration, subscribed by the persons whose names are subjoined.
" The brethren assembled together in the name of God, having heard and examined by the word of God, and according to their best abilities and judgment, a draught of discipline essential and necessary for all times, have thought good to testify concerning it as follows:—We acknowledge and confess the same to be agreeable to God's most holy word, so far as we are abfe to judge or discern of it, excepting some few points, which we have sent to our reverend brethren of this assembly, for their further resolution.
'' We affirm it to be the same which we desire to be established in this church, by daily prayer to God, which we promise (as God shall offer opportunity, and give us to discern it so expedient) by humble suit unto her majesty, her honourable council and the parliament, and by all
• Strype's Annals, vol. Hi. p. 593. + Fuller's Hilt, of Cam. p 149. } Neal'i Pnritani, vol. i. p. 4*3. t> Strype'i Whitgift, p. 331—333.
other lawful and convenient means, to further and advance, so far as the laws and peace of the present estate of our church will suffer it, and not enforce the contrary. We promise to guide ourselves and to be guided by it, and according to it.
" For a more special declaration of some points more important and necessary, we promise uniformly to follow such order, when we p each the word of God, as in the book is by us set down, in the chapters of the office of ministers of the word, of preaching, of sermons, of sacraments, of baptisms, and of the Lord's supper. • " Further, also, we follow the order set down in the chapters of the meetings, as far as it concerneth the ministers of the word. For which purpose, we promise to meet together every six weeks in classical conferences, with such of the brethren here assembled, as for their neighbourhood may fit us best, and such others as by their advice, we shall desire to be joined with us.
" The like we promise for provincial meetings every half year from our conferences to send unto them, being divided according to the order following. Also, that we will attend the general assembly every year, and at all parliaments, and as often as by order it shall be thought good to be assembled.
" John Oxenbridge, Thomas CartwRight,
Humphrey Fenn, Matthew Hulme,
Edward Gellibrand, Anthony Nutter,
Hercules Clevei.ey, Daniel Wight, .
LeonardFetherston, Edward Lord,
John Ashbye, Edmund Littleton."*
From the above curious declaration, we have a more clear and correct insight into the proceedings of the puritanical associations, and into the nature and design of their intended ecclesiastical discipline, than from all the raillery and misrepresentation of Dr. Bancroft and other bigolt d historians. The private assemblies of the puritans are stigmatized by these writers, as having been dangerous, seditious, and amounting almost to treason; but the above paper will sufficiently refute and expose the shameful slander.
• Baker's MS. Collec. vol. IV. p. 71.