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Though the protestant religion stood in need of the united strength of all its professors against the advances of popery, and the parliament had moved for a toleration of protestant dissenters, yet the bishops continued to prosecute them in common with the papists. Archbishop Sheldon directed circular letters to the bishops of bis province, enjoining them to give directions to their archdeacons and commissaries, to procure particular information from the churchwardens of their several parishes on the following enquiries, and transmit them to him after the next visita tion : 1. What number of persons are there, by common estimation, inhabiting within each parish subject to your jurisdiction? 2. What oumber of popish recusants, or persons suspected of recusancy, are resident among the inhabitants aforesaid ? 3. What number of other dissent, ers are there in each parish of what seçt soever, which either obstinately refuse, or wholly absent themselves from the communion of the church of England, at such times as by law they are required ?-Some of the clergy were grieved at these proceedings, and Dr. Tillotson and Stilling. fleet met privately with Dr. Manton, Bates, Pool, and Baxter, to consider of terms of accommodation, which, when they had agreed upon and communicated to the bishops, they were disallowed; so that when Tillotson saw gious instruction of the Welch. A subscription was opened, and an association was formed, for the distribution of bibles, testaments, and praetical treatises, and for opening schools, in the prineipality of Wales At the head of this institution was Dr. Tillotson, then dean of Canterbury. The gentlemen who were the chief contributors to this design were Whichcott. Ford, Bates, Outram, Patrick, Darham, Stillingfleet, Meriton, Burton, Baxter, Gouge, Poole, Fowler, New man, Reading, Griffith, Short, Gape, and the beneficent Firmin. From Midsummer 1674 to Lady-day 1675, they had distributed thirtytwo Welsh bibles, which were all that could be procured in Wales or London; 240 new testaments, and 500 Whole Day of Man, in welch. In the preceding year 812 poor children had. by the charity of others, been put to school in 51 of the chief towns in Wales. The distribution of these books provoked others to that charitable work, so that the children placed at schools by these gentlemen, and others, from their own purse, amounted to 1850. It appears as if this undertaking gave birth to an edition of the bible and liturgy in the Welch tongue, in which; Mr. Gouge bad a principal concern, and to which Dr. Tillotson gave sol. The impression extended to 8000 copies. Life of Mr. James Owen, p. 10, 11, 12, and Life of Mr. Thomas Firmin, p. 50. Ed.
how things were going, he cautiously withdrew from the odium, and wrote the following letter to Mr. Baxter, April 11, 1675: “ That he was unwilling his name should be made public in the affair, since it was come to nothing: not but that I do beartily desire an accommodation, (says be) and shall always endeavor it; but I am sure it will be a prejudice to me, and signify nothing to the effecting the thing, which, as circumstances are, cannot pass in either house without the concurrence of a considerable part of the bishops, and the countenance of his majesty, which at present I see little reason to expect.”+
But the bishops' conduct made them unpopular, and drew on them many mortifications. People's compassion begau to move towards their dissenting brethren, whom they frequently saw carried in great numbers to prison, and spoiled of their goods, for no other crime but a tender conscience. The very name of an informer became as odious as their behavior was infamous. Tbe aldermen of London often went out of the way when they heard of their coming; and some denied them their warrants, though by the aet they forfeited one hundred pounds. Alderman Forth bound over an informer to his good behavior, for breaking into his chamber without leave.* When twelve or thirteen bishops came into the city to dine with Sir Nathaniel Herne one of the sheriffs of London, and exhorted bim to put the laws in execution against the non-conformists, he told them plainly, they could not trade with their fellow-citizens one day, and put them in prison the next.
The moderate churchmen shewing a disposition to unite with the non-conformists against popery, the court resolved to take in the old ranting cavaliers, to strengthen the opposition; for this purpose Morley and some other bishops were sent for to court, and told, it was a great misfortune that the church party and dissenters were so disposed to unite, and run into one; the court was therefore willing to make the church easy, and to secure to the king the alle. giance of all his subjects at the same time ; for this purpose a bill was brought into the house of lords, entitled, an act to prevent the dangers that may arise from persons disaffected to the government ; by which all such as enjoyed any
† Baster, part iii. p. 157, 58. * Compl. History, p. 338.
beneficial office or employment, ecclesiastical, civil, or mil. itary; all who voted in elections of parliament men; all privy counsellors, and members of parliament themselves, were under a penalty to take the following outlı, being the same as was required by the five-mile act; I A. B. do de. clare, that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up arms against the king: and that I do abhor that traiterous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or against those that are commissioned by him in pursuance of such commission. And I do swear, that I will not at any time endeavor the alteration of the government either in church or state. So help me God. "The design of the bill was to enable the ministry to prosecute their destructive schemes against the constitution and the protestant religion, without fear of opposition even from the parliament itself.* The chief speakers for the bill were, the lord treasurer and the lord keeper, lord Danby and Finch, with bishop Morley and Ward; but the earl of Shaftesbury, duke of Buckingham, lord Hollis, and Halifax, laid open the mischievous designs and consequences of it: it was considered as disinheriting men of their birthright, to shut them out from the right of election by an ensnaring oath, as well as destructive of the privilege of parliament, which was to vote freely in all cases without any previous obligation; that the peace of the nation would be best secured by making good laws; and that oaths and tests without these, would be no real security ; scrupulous men might be fettered by them, but that the bulk of man. kind would boldly take any test, and as easily break through it, as bad appeared in the late times. The bill was committed, and debated paragraph by paragraph, but the beats occasioned by it were so violent, that the king came unexpectedly to the house June 9, and prorogued the parliament ;£ so the bill was dropt; but the debates of the lords
* Baxter's Life, part iii. p. 167. Burnet, vol. ij. p. 130-34.
The immediate occasion of the king's breaking up the sessions, was a dispute concerning privilege between the two bouses, to which another question gave birth, while the bill for the new test was pending. or thuis bill it was justly said, “ No conveyancer could have drawn up a dissettlement of ihe whole birthright of England in more compendious terms." The debate on it lasted five several days, in the House of Lords, before the bill was committed to a committee of the whole
upon the intended oath being made public, were ordered to be burnt. Two proclamations were re-published on tbis occasion; one to prevent seditious discourses in coffee-houses, the other to put a stop to the publishing seditious libels.
The court bad reason to desire the passing this bill, because the oath had been already imposed upon the nonconformists; and the court clergy had been preaching in their churches, for several years, that passive obedience and non-resistance were the received doctrines of the church of England; the bishops bad possessed the king and his brother with the belief of it, and if it had now passed into a law, the whole nation had been bound in chains, and the court might have done as they pleased.-But the parliament saw through the design; and Dr. Burnet says,* he opened the reserve to the duke of York, by telling him," that there was no trusting to disputable opinions; that there were distinctions and reserves in those who had maintained these points ; and that when men saw a visible danger of being first undone, and then burnt, they would be inclined to the shortest way of arguing, and save themselves the best way they could ;, interest and self-preservation being powerful motives.” This might be wholesome advice to the duke, but implies such a secret reserve as may cover the most wicked designs, and is not fit for the lips of a protestant divine, nor even of an honest man.
The daring insolence of the papists, who had their regular clergy in every corner of the town, was so great, that they not only challenged the protestant divines to disputations, but threatened to assassinate such as preached openly against their tenets; which confirmed the lords and commons in their persuasion, of the absolute necessity of entering into more moderate and healing measures with protestant dissenters, notwithstanding the inflexible steadhouse, and eleven or twelve days afterwards : and the house sat many days till eight or nine at night, and sometimes till midnight. But, through the interruption given to it, by the matter just mentioned, the bill was never reported from the committee to the house; a most hapPy escape! Burnet's History, vol. ii. p. 133, and Dr. Calamy's Historieal Account of his own Life, MS. p. 63. Ed.
Burnet, p. 91.
iness of the bishops against it. Upon this occasion the duke of Buckingham, lately commenced patriot, made the following speech in the house of lords, which is in. serted in the commons journal. “ “ My Lords, there is a thing called liberty, which (whatsoever some men may think) is that the people of England are fundest of, it is that they will never part with, and is that his majesty in his speech has promised to take particular care of. This, my lords, in my opinion, can never be done without giving an indulgence to all protestant dissenters. It is certainly a very uneasy kind of life to any man, that has either christian charity, humanity, or good-nature, to see his fellow-subjects daily abused, divested of their liberty and birth-rights, and miserably thrown out of their possessions and freeholds, only because they cannot agree with others in some opinions and niceties of religion, which their consciences will not give them leave to consent to, and which, even by the confession of those who would impose them, are no ways necessary to salvation.
“ But, my lords, besides this, and all that may be said upon it, in order to the improvement of our trade and in- . crease of the wealth, strength, and greatness of this nation, (which, with your leave, I shall presume to discourse of some other time) there is, methinks, in this notion of persecution, a very gross mistake, both as to the point of government and the point of religion : there is so as to the point of government, because it makes every man's safety depend upon the wrong place, not upon the governors, or man's living well towards the civil government establish. ed by law, but upon his being transported with zeal for every opinion that is held by those that have power in the church that is in fashion ; and I conceive it is a mistake in religion, because it is positively against the express doctrine and example of Jesus Christ. Nay, my lords, as to our protestant religion, there is something in it yet worse, for we protestants maintain that none of those opinions which christians differ about are infallible, and therefore in us it is somewhat an inexcusable conception, that men ought to be deprived of their inheritance, and all the cer. tain conveniences and advantages of life, because they will · not agree with us in our uncertain opinions of religion.