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ment of the prelates. In Scotland, mat
humanity, in the world. That these laws were: rigorously executed, oựr histories abandantly testify. That the prelates instigated the execution of them, will not be doubted by any one who reads what follows. Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury, in a letter to the bishops of his province, dated Lambeth-house, May 7, 1670, says, “ It hath pleased his majesty, and the two houses of parliament, out of their pious care for the welfare of this church and kingdom, by making and publishing the late act for preventing and suppressing conventicles, to lay a hopeful way for the peace and settlement of the church, and the uniformity of Gods service in the same; it becomes us, the bishops, as more particularly sensible of the good provis dence of God, to endeavour, as much as in us lies, the promoting so blessed a work : and therefore having well considered what will be fit for me to do in my particular diocese, I thought fit to recommend the. same council and method (which I intend, God willing, to pursue myself) to your lordship, and the rest of my brethren the bishops of my province, being thereunto encouraged by his majesty's approbation and express direction in this affair. Your lordship is desired to recommend to the ecclesiastical judges and officers, and the clergy of your diocese, the care of the people under their respective jurisdictions and charges, that in their several places they do their best to perswade and win all non-conformists and dissenters to obedience to his majesty's laws, and unity with the church; and such as shall be refractory, to endeavour to reduce by the censures of the church, or such other good means as shall be most conducing thereunto: to which end I advise, that all and every of the said ecclesiastical,
ters were still worse.
judges and officers, and every of the clergy of your diocese, and the churchwardens of every parish, by their respective ministers, be desired, in their respective stations and places, that they take notice of all nonconformists, holders, frequenters, maintainers, abettors of conventicles and unlawful assemblies, under pretence of religious worship, especially of the preachers and teachers in them, and of the places wherein the same are held, ever keeping a more watchful eye over the cities and greater towns, from whence the mischief is for the most part derived into the lesser villages and hamlets: and wheresoever they find such wilfuloffenders, that then, with a hearty affection to the worship of God, the honour of the king and his laws, and the peace of the church and kingdom, they do address themselves to the civil magistrate, justices, and others concerned, imploring their help and assistance, for prepenting and suppressing of the same, according to the late said act in that behalf made and set forth.”— The bishops and clergy, we may well think, were not wanting in their duty; especially as we find the archdeacon of Lincoln earnestly desiring the parishes, within his jurisdiction, to take especial regard to perform whatsoever was required in the above letter; and adding, “ how you shall discharge your duty therein, I shall expect an account at the next Visitation." --In the year 1683, the justices of peace for the county of Devon, “ agreed and resolved, in every division of the county, to require sufficient sureties for the good abearing and peaceable behaviour of all such as they might justly suspect, or receive any credible information against, that they have been at any conventicles and unlawful meetings, or any factious or seditious clubs; and its attendants, so abominable at that
or that have by any discourses discovered themselves to be disaffected to the present established government either in church or state ; or that have been the authors or publishers of any seditious libels; or that shall not, in all things, duly conform themselves to the present established government. And being fully satisfied, as well by the clear evidence of the late horrid plot [Lord Russell's] as by their own long and sad experience, that the non-conformist preachers are the authors and fomenters of this pestilent faction, and the implacable enemies of the established government, and to whom the late execrable treasons, which have had such dismal effects in this kingdom, are principally to be imputed ; and wbo, by their present obstinate refusing to take and subscribe an oath and declaration, that they do not hold it lawful to take up arms against the king, and that they will not endeavour any alteration of government in church or state; do necessarily enforce us to conclude, that they are still ready to engage themselves (if not actually engaged) in some rebellious conspiracy against the king, and to invade and subvert his government: Wherefore," say they, “we resolve in every parish, in this county, to leave strict warrants in the hands of all constables, for the seizing of such persons. And, as an encouragement to all officers and others that shall be instrumental in the apprehending of any of them, so as they may be brought to justice, we will give and allow forty shillings, as a reward for every non-conformist preacher that shall be so secured. And we resolve to prosecute them, and all other such dangerous enemies of the government, and common absenters from church, and frequenters of conventicles, according to the directions of a law made in the five
time, in the eyes of the majority of the peo
and-thirtieth year of the reign of queen Elizabeth, entitled, An Act for keeping her Majesties subjects in due obedience. "This order, which will appear a very cruel one to most readers, was happy enough, however, to meet with the approbation and applause of the right reverend diocesan ; who, as he tells the world, that the continued care of his majesties justices of the peace for the county of Devon, for the safety of his majesties sacred person, the preservation of the publick peace, and advancement of true religion, may be fuller known, and have a better effect, ordered and required all the clergy of his diocese, within the county of Devon, deliberately to publish this order the next Sunday after it should be tendered to them."- If any one is desirous of knowing the name of such a wretch, it was Lamplugh.- The Middlesex justices, at the general quarter sessions, Oct. 14, 1681, declared, " that all house-keepers, within the county, who kept ale-houses, and other publick-houses for entertainment, by virtue of any licence, and should not go to their parish-church, and receive the sacrament according to the practice of the Church of England, or should go to any conventicle, should have their licenses taken from them.”— They also farther declared, “ that if the churchwardens and overseers of the poor should dispose of any of the parish money by way of pension, or otherwise, to poor people who frequent conventicles, and do not come to their parish-church, and receive the sacrament there (except in case of sickness and necessity to be allowed by a justice of peace), the money
See the Dedication to Long's Sermon on the Original of War. 4to. Lond. 1684.
ple, were now again introduced ; conformity
paid to such people should not be allowed by the justices in the accounts of the churchwardens and overseers of the poor, because such persons who never come to the parish-church, ought not to be reckoned of the parish.”— This order was so acceptable to the king, that his majesty thanked the justices for ita.
Dr. Pope tells us, “that bishop Ward was for the act against conventicles, and laboured much to get it pass, not without the order and direction of the greatest authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, not out of enmity to the dissenters persons, as they unjustly suggested, but of love to the repose and welfare of the government: for he believed if the growth of them were not timely suppressed, it would either cause a necessity of a standing army to preserve the peace, or a general toleration; which would end in popery, whither all things then had an apparent tendency. That act had this effect: it shewed the dissenters were not so 'numerous and considerable as they gave themselves out to be, designing thereby to make the government believe it was impracticable to quell them; for where this act was duly executed, it put an end to their meetings, as it was evident in his diocese : for in Salisbury there was not one conventicle left; and but a few in the skirts of Wiltshire bordering upon Somerset, where, for want of a settled militia, by reason of the non-age of the duke of Somerset, the lord-lieutenant of that county, they sometimes met in woods ; but, upon complaint, their meetings were suppressed, and his majesty was pleased to own and accept this as good service to the publick, and to encourage the
. Gazette, No. 1660.