Page images
PDF
EPUB

It was proposed farther, in a committee of the house of lords, to dispense with kneeling at the sacrament, but when the question was put, whether to agree with the committee in leaving out the clause, the votes were equal, and so according to the usage of the house it passed in the negative, * The like fate attended the motion about the cross in baptism, and explaining the words assent and consent in subscription. Thus the several attempts for alterations in the church service, at a time when the legislature was in a temper for accommodating lesser differences, were frustrated by a rising party of jacobites and tories, who threatened the new government with a revolt unless they were humored, and for fear of them, all promises of accommodation with the dissenters were of no avail.

Soon after a bill for tolerationt of protestant dissenters was brought into the house, and had an easy passage ; though some proposed, that the act should be only temporary, as a necessary restraint, that the dissenters might so demean themselves, as to merit the continuance of it, when the term of years first granted should expire; but this was rejected. Bishop Burnet|| says, that his zeal for this act lost bim his credit with the church party, by which it apo

Burnet, p. 15. † “ The act of toleration,” remarks a late writer," was another interference of the state to check the power of ecclesiasties, but without altering the constitution of the church. Laymen had before declared. what should be deemed heresy in the spiritual courts, they now exempted some descriptions of dissenters wholly from their jurisdiction, while all others, and oppugners of the trinity by name, were expressly reserved for the persecuting spirit of the church to operate upon.”': How truly then might Mr. Locke, writing to Limborch (Locke's Works, vol. iv. p. 406,) soon after the passing of this act say,

66 Tolerantiam apud nos jam tandem lege stabilitatam te ante hæc audiisse nihil dubito. Non ea forsan latitudine, qua tu et tui similes veri, et sine ambitione vel invidia, christiani optarent. Sed aliquid est prodire tenus. His initiis jacta, spero, sunt libertatis et pacis fundamenta, quibus stabilienda olim erit Christi ecclesia." High Church Politics, p. 66. In English thus, “ I doubt not before this you have heard, that toleration is at last established here by law. Not indeed with that late itude that you, and other christians like you, unambitious, and unprejudiced, and lovers of truth might wish. But it is a great point to proceed so far. In these beginnings, I hope, are laid those foundations of liberty and peace, on which the church of Christ will be finally es.. tablished.” Èd.

# History, p. 14.

pears they did not much like it. It is entitleil, an act for exempting their majesty's protestant subjects dissenting from the church of England, from the penalties of certain laws therein mentioned. But the corporation and test acts were not inserted in this act, and therefore remain in full force: there is an exception likewise of such as deny the doctrine of the trinity; and quakers are excused taking the oaths to the government, upon their making à solemn declaration therein mentioned. This act excuses all protes. taut dissenters from the penalties of the laws therein mentioned, for not coming to church, provided they take the oaths and subscribe the declaration therein mentioned. And dissenting ministers are tolerated on the like conditions, and on their subscribing the doctrinal articles of the church of England. But this being the basis and boundary of their present liberty, I have inserted the act in the Appendix, No. XIII.

While the bill for a toleration was depending, a motion was made in the house of lorils for a comprehension, which was received, and some progress made towards affecting it; but a proviso being offered, and pressed with great earnestness by some temporal lords, that in imitation of the acts passed in the reigns of King Henry VIII. and Edward VI. à number of persons, both of clergy and laity, might be empowered to prepare materials for such a reformation of the church as might be fit to offer the king and parliament, it was warmly debated,' and at length rejected by a small majority. Bishop Burnets was against the proviso, for fear of offending the clergy, who would look upon it as tak, ing the reformation out of their hands; but adds, "I was convinced soon after that I had taken wrong measures, and that the method proposed by the lords was the only one like to prove effectual.” Dr. Tillotson, being of the same mind with Burnet, advised the king to refer the affair to a synod of divines, whose determinations he apprehended would stop the mouths of papists, who reproached our reformation as built chiefly on parliamentary authority, and would be better received by the body of the clergy. I

Accordingly it was agreed in council, that a select number of learned divines, should be appointed by the royal

$ Burnet, vol. iv. p. 14. Birch's Life of Tillotson, p. 179. Vol. V.

29

Scot,

mandate, to meet and consult about the most proper methods of bealing the wounds of the church; that their determinations should be laid before the convocation, and from thence receive the sanction of parliament. Agreeably to this resolution the king issued out a commission to thirty divines, of which ten were bishops, whose names were, Dr. Lamplugh, abp. of York, Sir Jonath. Trelawney, bp, Compton, bp. London,

Exeter, Mew. bp. Winchester, Dr. Burnet, bp. Sarum, Lloyd, bp. St. Asaph, Humphreys,bp. Bangor, Sprat, bp. Rochester, Stratford, bp. Chester. Smith, bp. Carlisle,

To these were added the following divines, Dr. Stillingfteet,

Dr. Alston,

Dr. Beaumont, Tillotson,

Goodman, Skarp,

Grove,

Battely,
Aldridge,
Patrick,

Tennison,
Hall,

Maggot,

Fowler,
Montugue, Kidder,

Williams,
Beveridge,

Their commission was as follows: Whereas the particular forms of divine worship, and the rites and ceremonies appointed to be used therein, being things in their own nature indifferent and alterable, and so acknowledged, it is but reasonable that upon weightty and important considerations, according to the various exigencies of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein, as to those that are in place and authority should from time to time seem either necessary or expedient.

“And whereas the book of canons is fit to be reviewed, and made more suitable to the state of the church ; and whereas there are defects and abuses in the ecclesiastical courts and jurisdictions ; and particularly, there is not sufficient provision made for the removing of scandalous ministers, and for the reforming of manners, either in ministers or people. And whereas it is most fit that there should be a strict method prescribed for the examination of such

Jane,

persons as desire to be admitted into holy orders, botb as to their learning and manners ;

6i We therefore, out of our pious and princely care for the good order, edification, and unity of the church of Eng. land committed to our charge and care, and for the recon. ciling as much as is possible of all differences among sur good subjects, and to take away all occasion of the like for the future, bave thought fit to authorize you, &c. or any nine of you, whereof three to be bishops, to meet from time to time as often as shall be needful, and to prepare such alterations of the liturgy and canons, and such proposals for the reformation of the ecclesiastical courts; and to consider of such other matters as in your judgments may most conduce to the ends above-mentioned."*

The committee having assembled in the Jerusalem chamber, a dispute arose about the legality of their commission; Sprat bishop of Rochester, one of king James's ecclesiastical commissioners being of the number, they pretended to fear a præmunire, though there was not so much as a shadow for such a pretence, the king's supremacy, if it means any thing, empowering him to appoint proper per. sons to prepare matters for the legislature : however, upon this debate, Mew bishop of Winchester, Sprat of Roches. ter, with Dr. Jane and Dr. Aldridge, withdrew. Some of them deelared plainly, they were against all alterations whatsoever; they thought too much would be done for the dissenters, in granting them an act of toleration, and they would do nothing to make conformity easier. They said further, that altering the customs and constitutions of the church, to gratify a peevish and obstinate party, was like to have no other effect than to make them more insolent. But was it ever tried ? Did the convocation or parliament make a single abatement from the year 1662, to this time? If the experiment had been tried, and proved ineffectual, the blame might have been cast upon the dissenters ; but to call them peevish and obstinate, without offering them any, even the smallest concessions, deserves no better a name than unjust calumny. Was there no obstinacy and peevishness on the side of the church, in re* Life of Archbp. Tennison, p. 10, &c. Ş Burnet, vol. iv. p. 11.

treating from so many promises without a single offer? But it was said furtber, that the church, by proposing these alterations, seemed to confess that she had hitherto been in the wrong, and that the attempt would divide them among themselves, and lessen people's esteem for the liturgy, if it appeared that it wanted correction. Such were the reasonings of these high divines, if they deserve the pame, some of whom but a few months before bad made the warmest pretences to a spirit of moderation.

It was alleged on the other side, that if a few correetions or explanations were allowed, there was reason to hope it would bring over many of the people, if not the teachers themselves ; at least, if the prejudices of the present dissenters were too strong, it might have a good effect on the next generation ; por could it be any reproach to the church, since the offers were made only in regard to their weakness. Ritual matters were of an indifferent nature, and became necessary in virtue only of the author. ity that enjoined them, therefore it was an unreasonable stiffness to deny any abatements, in order to beal the church's divisions. Great changes had been made by the church of Rome in her rituals; and among ourselves since the reformation, in the reigus of king Edward VI. queen Elizabeth, king James, and king Charles II. and it seemed necessary at this time to make the terms of commupion as large as might be, that so a greater number might be brought over, since, by the act of toleration, they might dissent with safety.

But while these matters were debating, the jacobite party took hold of the occasion to inflame men's miuds against the goveroment. It was pretended the church was to be pulled down, and presbytery established: the uni. versities took fire, and declared against alterations, and against all who promoted them, as men wbo intended to undermine the bierarchy. Severe reflections were cast on the king bimself, as not being in the interest of the episcopacy, for the cry of the church's danger was raised by the enemies of the government, as that under which they thought they might safely shelter their evil designs. Great interest was made in the choice of convocation men, to whom the determinations of the committee were to be re

« PreviousContinue »