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which displays itself in the lives of these quaint divines. Many of them could receive and approve of the greater part of the service-book enforced upon them; many remained as lay members and communicants, in the churches which they could no longer serve as pastors; many used voluntarily the Liturgy which caused their expulsion; and yet, with all worldly benefits and comforts weighing down the scale, the delicate conscience which, while it approved of much, could not “assent and consent" to all, asserted its superior importance, and triumphed. It is a singular history. We can understand—intensely distasteful as these observances of the Episcopal Church were to Scotland how the men who strongly resisted them all, should have been able to cast away every thing earthly, rather than submit to their imposition; but when we look upon these milder men--when we see Philip Henry leading his family to worship in the little church at Worthenbury, which so lately had been his own--and hear Wesley's gentle selfdefense before the not unfriendly Bishop, and observe the reluctance which they had to do any thing that looked like resistance it becomes a matter more difficult to understand. Yet they did it---peaceful, unobtrusive, gentle men, on whom the bitter nicknames of their adversary fall so strangely inappropriate.
The consequences of this English Bartholomew's Day were hard upon those ministers. Some forsook the high vocation, in which they could no longer have the simple maintenance they needed; some fell upon the usual resource of poor clergymen, and taught schools; while very many were received into the households of gentlemen who favored their views, or honored their piety, and a very comfortable number retired to the happier provision of their own private resources. But no attempt was made to organize a church, no resistance offered to the acknowledged law. The good men, prohibited from addressing a greater audience than five individuals in addition to their own households, preached three or four times in a day within their houses, to congregations of that scanty number, laboring with simple painstaking to make the frequent repetition of their teachings atone for the limited assembly to which each sermon was delivered. So straightforward in their obedience, so devout in their simplicity, so charitable in their diversities of opinion, one can not help but smile at the singular blindness which upbraids these gentle men with the name of
This state of matters continued until the great scourge, known as the Plague of London, had come and gone. As it is endeavored in the following chapters to sketch something of that singular calamity, we do not need to do more than mention it here. It has been often painted, but few have cared to look under the noisome vail of it for the heroisms of the time, though these were not wanting. The visitation passed away; the panic abated. The Nonconformists who had ventured forth in the heat of the day, to bear the burden which many of their successors feared to bear, were cast out from the city for which they had labored in the utmost peril; and a still more severe enactment sent the ejected ministers wandering over the face of the country in which there seemed no rest for them. The Five-Mile Act of Oxford made it penal for any of the silenced preachers to be found within five miles of any corporate town, or of any parish in which they had formerly officiated--a law most hard for the competent, most miserable for the poor.
And then there began to be resistances and imprisonments, the bolder spirits being roused to courage ; but still the many submitted. Quietly they left their homes; with touching gentleness refused to be persuaded into rebellion by the voice of their oppressor; and so in their meekness lived on, at war with no man, until indulgences were grudgingly granted to them, and until the Stuarts, with their hereditary aptitude for persecution, had in their turn succumbed.
Let those who are unacquainted with this by-way of history, glance over the somewhat monotonous pages of the Nonconformists' Memorial. They will find no hard words or denunciations there; the bitterness, so much as there is of it, slumbers innoxiously in the foot-notes of the dissenting editor; the first Dissenters breathed another atmosphere. The tones of the picture are subdued and mellow, the foreground full of quiet figures; smiles about the lips of some of them, tell of the old quaint jesting which, like themselves, is now dead and out of date. Some sit, with thought upon their faces, writing unweariedly, toiling to produce those great volumes which are piled up, like masses of mason-work, behind. Some are going happily, like the sower, about the fields, scattering their winged seed, or by the side of waters, casting forth the bread which many days hence shall return to them. Some with children clambering about their knees, speak to the little ones, with scarce less simplicity than their own, of the Gospel which maketh the simple wise. The sky above them is dim with soft clouds, yet there is sunshine on the picture -the quiet light of peace. .
It is pleasant to come into the atmosphere of this oldworld devoutness, humility, and quiet-to read how Lord Bishops reasoned with these non-conforming Presbyters, and yet remained no less their very good friends, that their kindly eloquence proved unavailing. How knights and noble gentlemen did honor to the good men in their poverty-how one, whose life was evil, acknowledged that he had no creditable point about him save the love he bore to one of these--and how the little provision they had, like the widow's cruse of old, seemed to multiply under the blessing of the Master to whom they looked up with so vivid faith. It is true that there was the clang and din of polemic arms abroad in the same England, but the broader, calmer atmosphere does only on that account deserve notice the more.
There were two thousand of them, the greater part being Presbyterians. Where are they now? In their own country there remains little trace of their footsteps: here and there an old scantily endowed chapel, long ago fallen into Socinian hands, marks where they once were ; but name and fame of them as a Church have long since departed. The Presbyterianism of England is now an exotic, scarcely yet taking kindly to the soil; and, save in the far away Border counties, there are no ecclesiastical descendants remaining to the Presbyterian Nonconformists of
For their very virtue and patience made these good men weak. Had they been bigots, as they are called-had they been more fanatical and warlike, more decided in their love, and more capable of hatred, the result we fancy must have been different. As it is, the fact is noticeable. Nearly two thousand devout and able ministers were ejected by ihe Act of Uniformity. Now, two hundred years later, there scarcely remains, out of the old Whig county of Northumberland, a single native-born Presbyterian preacher, in the whole extent of England.