During the Arminian regime of Archbishop Laud, the persecutor of the Puritans and the Covenanters, zealous Arminians were promoted to the best bishoprics.
A famous letter written by a Jesuit to the Rector of Brussels and endorsed by Laud himself was found in his study at Lambeth. A copy of this letter was found among the papers of a society of priests and Jesuits at Clerkenwell in 1627. The following is an extract:
Now we have planted the Sovereign Drug Arminianism which we hope will purge the Protestants from their heresy; and it flourisheth and beareth fruit in due season… I am at this time transported with joy to see how happily all instruments and means, as well as great or smaller, cooperate with our purposes. But to return to the main fabric: OUR FOUNDATION IS ARMINIANISM.' (S.G.U. Publication No. 173, p. 142).
In reference to the Calvinistic doctrines -- the doctrines of free and sovereign grace held by the Reformers in England, Toplady observes,
Queen Mary and her Spanish husband well knew that Calvinism is the very life and soul of the Reformation; and that Popery would never flourish till the Calvinistic doctrines were eradicated.
Her efforts to destroy by sword and fire those who upheld the Truth earned for her the unenviable appellation of 'Bloody Mary.' The charge on which many of them were burnt at the stake was that they held to the doctrine of predestination and rejected the Arminian and Popish doctrine of free-will.
In the following century the Caroline period (the reign of the Stuart kings including Charles I and Charles II) Arminianism grew to be the prevalent faith of the Church of England, according to Dr. G. P. Fisher in his 'History of the Christian Church' (p. 430).
In Scotland, too, Arminianism was making serious inroads. The saintly Samuel Rutherford who occupied a professor's chair at St. Andrew's University, made use of his scholarship to defend the faith by publishing a notable book against Arminianism. "It was this malicious 'spirit of Arminianism'," writes the editor of 'The Contender' (Nova Scotia) "that drove the episcopal leaders (in conjunction with the civil power of the king) to persecute the Covenanters to prison and to death."
As a direct result of his book against Arminianism, Rutherford was put through the form of a 'Trial' by a group of Arminian bishops who were led by Sydserff of Galloway, deprived of his pastoral charge at Anwoth and banished to the town of Aberdeen. In a letter Rutherford wrote to a minister in Ireland, Robert Cunningham, he says: "The cause that ripened their hatred was my book against the Arminians, whereof they accused me, on those three days I appeared before them," and in a letter from Aberdeen in 1637 to Mr. John Ferguson of Ochiltree, Rutherford refers to his trial, saying, "I was judicially accused for my book against the Arminians, and commanded by the Chancellor to acknowledge I had done a fault in writing against Dr. Jackson, a wicked Arminian."
In a footnote to this letter, the editor Dr. Bonar, says:
Dr. Thomas Jackson, Dean of Peterborough, first held Calvinistic sentiments but afterwards became an Arminian, a change which recommended him to the favour and patronage of Archbishop Laud.
The character of Laud may be seen in relation to his part in the trial, sentencing, imprisonment, and torturing of Dr. Alexander Leighton at London. (Dr. Leighton's views on Arminianism are quoted above). A sketch of Leighton's history is given in the preface to a letter which Rutherford wrote him while in prison. The sketch says that Leighton, because of his "zeal for Presbyterian principles and against the innovations of Laud," was arrested in 1629 and kept in an abominable cell sixteen weeks before his trial by the Star Chamber. Because of this "severe distress that had brought skin and hair almost wholly off his body," he could not attend his trial. The Star Chamber "condemned the afflicted and aged divine to be degraded as a minister, to have one of his ears cut off, and one side of his nose slit, to be branded on the face with a red-hot iron, to stand in the pillory, to be whipped at a post, to pay a fine of £1,000 and to suffer imprisonment until the fine was paid. When this inhuman sentence was pronounced, Laud took off his hat, and holding up his hands, gave thanks to God who had given the Church victory over her enemies! The sentence was executed without mercy, and Leighton lay in prison till upwards of ten years. When liberated he could hardly walk, see, or hear. He died in 1649.
In 1631, five years before he was condemned and banished to Aberdeen, Rutherford wrote to Marion McNaught from his parish at Anwoth concerning Dr. Henry Burton, whose footsteps he was later to follow. Says Rutherford in this letter, 'Know that I am in great heaviness for the pitiful case of our Lord's Kirk. I hear the cause why Dr. Burton is committed to prison is his writing and preaching against Arminians. I therefore entreat the aid of your prayers for myself, and the Lord's captives of hope, and for Zion. The Lord hath let and daily lets me see how deep furrows Arminianism and the followers of it draw upon the back of God's Israel -- but our Lord cut the cords of the wicked! Arminianism was not more rampant than it is now in England, Scotland, and our own North American continent. Let us not think that the malignant spirit of persecution that moved the Arminians -- led by Bishop Sydserff, Archbishop Laud, and others -- died at the end of the Covenanting struggles of long ago. The Arminians of today hold precisely the same false doctrines, and are just as relentlessly opposed to the absolute sovereignty of God and unconditional election as were the Arminians of old. (The Contender -- Nova Scotia, April, 1955.)