Page images
PDF
EPUB

their neighbors, only for worshipping God peaceably at a separate meeting, when they themselves hardly worshipped God at all; made some apprehend there was nothing at all in religion, and others resolve to take their lot with a more sober people.

Finally, To the spirit and principles of toryism, which began to appear ruinous to the nation. The old English constitution was in a manner lost, while the church and prerogative had been trampling on the dissenters, who bad stood firm to it for twenty years, in the midst of reproaches and sufferings. This was the consequence of tory measures ; and popery being now coming in at the gap they had made, the most resolved protestants saw their error, entertained a favorable opinion of the dissenters, and many of them joined their congregations.

To relurn to the history. The dissenters being now easy, it was resolved to turn the artillery of the prerogué tive against the church, and make them feel a little of the smart they had given others; the king and his priests were thoroughly enraged with their opposition to the court, and therefore appointed commissioners throughout England to enquire what money had been raised? or what goods had been seized by distress on dissenters, on prosecutions for recusuney, and not brought to account in the Exchequer? In the Gazette of March 5, 1637, it is advertised, tbat the commissioners appointed to examine into the losses of the dissenters and recusants, within the several counties of Gloucester, Worcester, and Monmouth, were to hold their sessions for the said counties, at the places therein mentioned. Others were appointed for the counties of Mid. dlesex, Essex, &c. to enquire what money or goods had been taken or received for any matters relating to religion since Sept. 29, 1677, in any of the counties for which they were named. They were to return the names of all persons who had seized goods, or received money. The par. ties themselves, if alive, were obliged to appear, and give an account; and if dead, their representatives were to appear before the commissioners for them. This struck terror into the whole tribe of informers, the confiding justices, and others who expected now to be ruined; but (says Dr. Calamy) the protestant dissenters generously refused to

[ocr errors]

appear agaiost their enemies, upon assurances given by leading persons, both clergy and laity, that no such meth. ods should be used for the future. Had this enquiry proceeded, and the dissenters universally come into it, a black and fraudulent scene would have been opened, which now will be concealed. Bishop Burnet says, “ The king ordered them to enquire into all vexatious suits into which the dissenters had been brought in the spiritual courts, and into all the compositions they had been forced to make to redeem themselves from further trouble, which, as was said, woulil have brought to light a scandalous discovery of all the ill practices of those courts; for the use that many wlio belong to those courts had made of the laws with relation to dissenters, was, to draw presents from such as could make them, threatening them with a process in case they failed to do that, and upon doing it, leaving them at full liberty to neglect the laws as much as they pleased. The commission subsisted till the revolution, and it was hoped (says his lordship) that this would have animated the disšenters to turn upon the clergy with some of that fierceness with which they themselves had been lately treated.”* But they took no advantage of the disposition of the court, por of the opportunity that was put into their bands of making reprisals on their adversaries; which shews the truly generous and christian spirit of those confessors for religion ; and deserved a more grateful acknowledgement.

To humble the clergy yet further, bis majesty, by the advice of Jefferies, erected a new ecclesiastical commission, though the act which took away the high commission in 1641 had provided, that no court of that nature should be erected for the future ; but the king, though a papist, assumed the supremacy, and directed a commission to the archbishop of Canterbury, Jefferies the chancellor, the bishops of Durham and Rochester; to the earl of Sunderland president of the council; Herbert and Wright, lord chief jus. tices, and Jenner recorder of London, or any three of them, provided the chancellor was one, “ To exercise all manner of jarisdiction and pre-eminence, touching any spiritual or ecclesiastical jurisdictions, to visit, reform, redress, and amend all abuses, offences, contempts and enormities,

Burnet, vol. iii. p. 140, 41, Edinb. edit.

which by the spiritual or ecclesiastical laws might be corrected. They were also to enquire into all misdemeanors and contempts which might be punished by the censures of the church, and to call before them all ecclesiastical persons of wbat degree and dignity soever, and punish the ofsenders by excommunications, suspensions, deprivations, or other ecclesiastical censures, &c."* This was a terrible rod held out to the clergy, and if the commissioners had had time to proceed in their enquiries, according to the mandates sent to the chancellors and archdeacons of the several dioceses, they would have felt more of the effects of that arbitrary power wbich their indiscreet conduct bad brought on the nation; but Providence was kinder to them than they bad been to their brethren.t The commission was granted the beginning of April, but was not opened till the beginning of August; the archbishop of Canterbury was afraid to act in it :f Durham was so lifted up.(says Burnet) that he said his name would now be recorded in history; and Sprat, bishop of Rochester, in hopes of further preferment, swam with the stream. Some Roman • Burnet, p. 82.

+ Welwood, p. 198. It is said, that he took exception at the lawfulness of the commission itself. But then on its being opened, he did not appear and declare against it, as judging it to be against law: contenting himself with not going to it: and it was not at first apprehended that he made a matter of conscience of it. He was of a timorous nature, and cautious of doing any thing that might eventually be prejudicial to his great objeet, which was to enrich his nephew. Burnet, vol. iii. p. 82, 3. Grey's Examination, vol. iii. p. 405. Ed.

S Though the bishop of Rochester might, from views to preferment, be induced to act in a commission to which he was, withoui his knowl. edge, named: yet he is stated to have acted with integrity in this mat. ter, through his ignorance of the laws, having no objection to the legality of it; with the purpose of doing as much good, and preventing as much evil, as the times would permit, In the execution of it he pleaded, that he had studied to moderate and restrain the violence of others, never giving bis consent to any irregular and arbitrary sentence, but declaring against every extravagant decree. His opinions, he said, were always so contrary to the bumors of the court, that he often thought himself to be really in as much hazard from the commission itself, by his non-compliance, as any of his brethren could be that were out of it. And, at last, rather than concur in the prosecution of such as refused to read the king's declaration, he solemnly took his leave and withdrew from the court. Grey's Examination, vol. iii. p. 405, 6, Ed.

!

catholics were in the commission, and consequently the enemies of the protestant religion were to be its judges.

But bis majesty, not being willing to rely altogether on the Oxford decree, nor on the fashionable doctrines of passive-obedience and non-resistance, which had been preached up for above twenty years as the unalterable doctrines of the church of England, in order to support his extraordinary proceedings, resolved to augment his standing forces to fiiteen thousand men. He was apprehensive of a snake in the grass or a secret reserve, that might break out when the church itself came to be pinched; he therefore ordered his army to encamp on Hounslow-beatb, under the command of the earl of Feversham, to awe the city, and be at hand upon any emergency; the officers and many of the soldiers were Irish papists, and they had a public chapel in which mass was said every day, so that it was believed the king might introduce what religion he pleased.* It was dangerous to speak or write against his majesty's proceedings; for when the reverend Mr. Johnson, a clergyman, ventured to publish a writing, directed to the protestant officers of the army, to dissuade them from being tools of the court to subvert the constitution and protestant religion ; diligent search was made for him, and being apprehended, he was sentenced to stand three times in the pillory, to be degraded of his orders, to be whipped from Newgate to Tyburn, and to be fined five hundred marks; all wbich was executed with great severity.t

Affairs in Scotland were in equal forwardness with those of England; the parliament which met at Edinburgh in May 1685, while the persecution continued, declared their abhorrence of all principles derogatory to the king's abso

* Gazette, No. 2192. † Mr. Johnson, previously to his sufferings, was degraded in the chapter-house of St. Paul's on the 22d of November, 1686. He bore the whipping on the 1st of Dec. following with great fortitude. The revolution restored him to his liberty; the degradation was annulled; the judgment given agaiut him was declared illegal and cruel; and a pension of 3001. a year for his own and son's life was granted to bi:n with 1000l. in money, and a place of 1001. a year for his son.

His temper, which was haughty, rough and turbulent, rendered his solicitations for a bishopric, and two addresses of the lords, recommending him to prefermeni, unsucoessful. He had been chaplain to lord Rus.

lute power, and offered their lives and fortunes to defend it against all opposers. They passed an act, making it death to resort to any conventicles in houses or fields ; and declared it high treason to give or take the national covenant, or to write in defence of it. They also obliged the subjects of Scotland to take an oath, when required, to maintain the king's absolute power, on pain of banishment. Popery made very considerable advances in that kingdom, and seve eral persons of character changed their religion with the times.* But the populace were in the other extreme; the earl of Perth having set up a private chapel for mass, the mob broke into it with such fury that they defaced and des." troyed the whole furniture, for which one of them was ap. prehended and hanged. When the English court changed measures, the Scots parliament agreed to a suspension of the penal laws during the king's life ; but his majesty in. sisting upon an entire repeal, which they declined, he dis. solved them. The episcopal clergy were obsequious to the court, and in many places so sunk into sloth and ignorance, that the lower people were grown quite indifferent in matters of religion ; but the presbyterians, though now freed from the severities they had smarted under for many years, expressed upon all occasions an unconquerable aversion to popery and by degrees roused the whole nation out of their lethargy.

In Ireland things had still a more favorable aspect for the court: the king had a greater dependence on the Irish catholicst than upon any other of his subjects. Colonel sel; and was a man of considerable learning and abilities, of great firmness and fortitude of mind. In 1683-4 he had incurred a heavy sentence in the king's bench, being fined 500 marks, and committed to the prison till it was paid, and sureties for his good behavior for a year were found. This penalty was incurred by the publication of a book entitled Julian the Apostate, in 1682, intended to expose the doctrines of passive-obedience and non-resistance; and to shew the great difference between the case of the primitive christians, who had the laws ao gainst them, and ours who have the laws on our side. Birch's Life of Archb. Tillotson, p. 216, &c. Ed.

* Burnet, vol. iii. p. 86, 90. + So hostile to the cause of liberty were the Irish catholics ; that, not content with oppressing it in their own kingdom, they encouraged the emigration of their own body with a view to check its spread beyond the Atlantie. For they suggested to King James to grant, in lieu of lands, money to such of their countrymen, as were willing to transport

« PreviousContinue »