Page images

those to whom they ministered, as well as from persons of moderation and virtue,

other things might be mentioned a." Degenerate times indeed! times to be lamented and mourned over! Our reformers, by this account, seem to have been much in the wrong, by depriving us of the means the pious catholics, in imitation of their forerunners the heathen priests, had instituted and appointed for our growth in piety and holiness. However, he who calls to mind what pure and undefiled religion is, and is careful to practise it, need not be much troubled in conscience, though he has neglected the service of the church, not only upon common days, but also upon saints' days; or even omitted the holy rite of confirmation, on which some very extraordinary persons have talked with great solemnity. For what are these in his eye

.. " That doth prefer,
Before all temples, th’ upright heart and pure ?”


· But, to put an end to this long, very long note; Non-resistance, by the act of uniformity, we see, was established ; and the covenant condemned, which had been taken by his majesty in Scotland, and contributed greatly to his restoration. -Colonel Birch, in this very house of commons, observed, “ after he had the honor to come into this house, some intentions were to renew the covenant. Cromwell, Ireton, and the rest, would not have it done. He said then, that these men would alter the government, and the house then would have sent them to the Tower. He never baw such mettle in this house. He had forty notes

* Charge to the Clergy, p. 14. 4to. Lond. 1751.

though of different persuasions : as this, I say, was the case, various laws were made",

sent bim: 'Stick to the covenant, and you shall die.' This was his greatest inducement to stick to it. Not one of these men could be brought to change the government. Love lost his life for it. The presbyterian party declared against the kings murder. To the restoration of the king all agreed. Had he not engaged for the king by the covenant, he had prevented himself twenty-one imprisonments he has suffered. When the king was restored, these were the men we only durst trusta."— A fine return this from a grateful monarch! to make men renounce what they had sworn to; and belie their consciences, for the preservation of which they had suffered so much, and by so doing had promoted his interest. - 12 Laws were made against the nonconformists and rigorously executed by the instigation of the prelates.] It is said, on good authority, that his late majesty, king George II. in the early part of his reign, did declare, “ that not an hair of the head of any one of his subjects should be hurt on account of religious opinion, so long as he wore the British crown b.” A declaration this worthy of so good a prince, and faithfully, if I remember right, adhered to by him. Not so the race of the Stuarts. Their choice it was, to fetter the free-born minds of men, and render them obedient to their galling yoke. The severe laws enacted by Elizabeth, inheritrix of her father's tyrannical spirit, on account of religion, were confirmed and enlarged by them, and many an honest and good man smarted


a Grey's Parliamentary Debates, rol. II. p. 46. p. 123. 8vo. Lond. 1762.

from time to time, against them and their

under them. The governors of the commonwealth, and Cromwell, indeed, saw the absurdity and iniquity on which they were founded ; and, therefore, made little or no use of them. But when Charles II. revisited his native land, and he had got a parliament after his own heart, they soon became again in vogue; and the people found, to their cost, that, like his fathers, he was a persecutor. The Act of Uniformity, we have just seen, deprived multitudes of their subsistence on account of their religious opinions; and the acts that followed were far from easing those who had suffered by it. I will give a short abstract of the penal laws made in this reign, that the reader may be convinced that persecution was not unjustly complained of under it. By one statute it was ordained, “ That any person, above sixteen years old, present at any meeting under pretence of exercise of religion, in other manner than is allowed by the Liturgy or practice of the Church of England, where there shall be present five persons, or more, above those of the household, upon proof thereof made, either by confession of the party, or oath of witness, or notorious evidence of the fact, the offence shall be recorded under the hands of two justices, or the chief magistrate of the place, which shall be a perfect conviction; who, thereupon, may send such person to jail, or the house of correction, for any time not exceeding three months; unless he or she pay down so much money, not exceeding five pounds, as the said justices or chief magistrate shall impose. For the second offence, imprisonment, not exceeding six months; unless money paid, not exa ceeding ten pounds. And persons so offending the zhird time, were to be sent to the goal, or house of

adhérents, which were executed with great

correction, there to remain until the next session, or assizes, and then to be indicted; and being thereupon found guilty, the court was to enter judgment of transportation against such offenders, to some of the foreign plantations (Virginia and New-England only excepted), there to remain seven years; and warrants were to issue to sequester the profits of their lands, or to distrain and sell their goods, to defray the charges of their transportation; and for want of such charges being paid, the sheriff had liberty to contract with any master of a ship, or merchant, to transport them.-Upon. paying down, however, one hundred pounds, the transportation was to be discharged. And if any, under such judgment of transportation, shall escape, or, being transported, return into any part of England, they were to suffer death as felons without benefit of clergya." www-All persons in holy orders, or pretended holy orders, who had not declared their assent and consent to the Book of Common Prayer, according to the Act of Uniformity; and did not take and subscribe the oath of Non-resistance therein contained; together with all such as should take upon them to preach in any conventicle or meeting, for exercise of religion contrary to law; were not (unless only in passing the road) to come, or be within five miles of any city, town corporate, or borough, that sends burgesses to parliament; nor within five miles of any place where they had officiated, or taken upon them to preach; upon pain of forfeiting forty pounds for such offence. Nor was any person so restrained, or who should not take the sạid oath, and frequent divine service, to teach any

Stat. 16 Car. II. e. 4.

rigour, by the instigation and encourage

school, or take any boarders or tablers that were taught by any other, on pain likewise of forfeiting forty pounds. And two justices, upon oath made of any offence against the act, were to commit the offender for six months, without bail or mainprizea.” “ One justice, or chief magistrate, on the oath of two witnesses was to make a record of a conventicle, where any five persons, above sixteen years of age (besides those of the same household), should be assembled, for the exercise of religion, in any other manner than according to the Liturgy and practice of the Church of England; which record, was to be a conviction, and thereupon a fine of five shillings was to be imposed upon every offender, which was to be certified to the next quarter sessions. And for the second, and every other offence, ten shillings each : and in case of poverty, it is allowed to be levied on any other persons goods, present at the same conventicle. The preacher was to forfeit for the first offence twenty pounds, and forty afterwards, which might be levied on any of the hearers. Those who suffered a meeting to be in their house, barn, or yard, were to forfeit twenty pounds; which might likewise be levied on the goods of any present: provided that no person pay above ten pounds for any one meeting, in regard of the poverty of any other person or persons. Forfeitures incurred by married women, were to be levied on their husbands goods b." These statutes need no comment. They were all except the last, the projection of lord Clarendon; and will reflect disgrace on his name and administration, as long as there is sense, virtue, or

Stat, 17 Car, II. c. 2.

Stat. 22 Car. Int. 1.

« PreviousContinue »