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MEMOIRS of the lives and characters of wise
and good men, especially such as have suffered for conscience sake, have been generally esteemed some of the most entertaining and useful publications. Perhaps there never was a body of men whose history better deserved to be handed down to posterity, than the ministers ejected from the church of England, soon after the Restoration of Charles II. particularly by the Act of Uniformity; the whole number of whom was upwards of Two THOUSAND*. “ I do not believe (says Mr. Peirce) that any where “ in history an equal number of clergymen, volun“ tarily leaving their all for a good conscience, can “ be produced. If they did not act from a princi.
* Their enemies have affected greatly to reduce the number. An anonymous writer, having counted the Names in Dr. Calamy's Index to his first edition, (in which he had inserted those only of whom he had given some account) reports with triumph that the 2000 sufferers, so much cried up, cannot be made more than 696, of whom a fourth part afterwards conformed. See the Dr.'s Answer, in his Pref. to vol. II. 2d edit. p. 19.--From the accurate MSS. catalogue, mentioned page 15 of this Preface, it appears that the writer found the numbers to be no fewer than 2257.- Mr. Cotton Mather, in his Hist. New Eng. B. iii. P. 4, says,
“ the number was well known to be near five-and-twenty. hundred. Probably there might be several, in obscure places, whose Dames Dr. Calamy could not recover. A few such have now been added to his list. So that, admitting what some have urged, that there are a few here introduced without strict propriety, not having been ejected from the church, those who really were so, are much above 2000. As they were all voluntary in resigning their livings, perhaps they are not properly said to be “ ejected.' It is, however, very evident that the new terms of conformity were purposely framed to get rid of them. Among other proofs of it, the following anecdote is worth recording. Mr. George Firmin relates, that a certain lady assured him that, on her expressing to a member of parliament, her dislike of the Act of Uniformity when it was about to pass, saying to him, “ I see you are lay“ ing a snare in the gate,” he replied, " Aye, if we can find any way " to catch the rogues we will have them."
ple of conscience, they were the weakest people " in the world, for they were active in their own “ ruin:” whereas, had they but declared their as sent and consent to the new terms of conformity, they might have continued in their livings, as others did, and avoided the poverty, disgrace, and persecution, which most of them suffered. Their integrity, their fortitude, and their faith, ought to be had in everlasting remembrance. “ To let the memory “ of such men die, (says Mr. Peirce) is injurious to “
posterity.” Especially as they not only in this instance shewed themselves to be men of principle, but appeared from their general deportment men of singular piety; peculiarly qualified for their office as ministers, and uncommonly successful in it.
The Protestant Dissenters, of all denominations, have ever revered their memories as the founders of their churches. Those who have differed the widest from them in doctrinal sentiment, have highly extolled their piety and zeal. The encomium of the late Dr. John Taylor is remarkable in this view, and deserves to accompany their memoirs. In remonstrating against the design of some Dissenters in Lancashire to introduce a Liturgy, he refers them to the example of their forefathers; of whom he gives the following character : “ The principles and worship of Dissenters are not formed upon such slight foundation as the unlearned and thoughtless may imagine': they were thoroughly considered, and judiciously reduced to the standard of Scripture, and the writings of antiquity, by a great number of men of learning and integrity : I mean the Bartholomew-divines, or the ministers ejected in the year 1662 : men prepared to lose all, and to suffer martyrdom itself, and who actually resigned their livings, (which with most of them were, under God, all that they and their families had to subsist upon) rather than sin against God, and desert the cause of civil and religious liberty' ; which, together with serious religion, would Iam per
suaded suaded have sunk to a very low ebb in the nation, had it not been for the bold and noble stand these worthies made against imposition upon conscience, profaneness and arbitrary power. They had the best education England could afford; most of them were excellent scholars, judicious divines, pious, faithful, and laborious ministers ; of great zeal for God and religion; undaunted and courageous in their master's work; keeping close to their people in the worst of times; diligent in their studies; solid, affectionate, powerful, lively, awakening preachers; aiming at the advancement of real vital religion in the hearts and lives of men, which, it cannot be denied, flourished greatly wherever they could influence. Particularly, they were men of great devotion and eminent abilities in prayer, uttered, as God enabled them, from the abundance of their hearts and affections; men of divine eloquence in pleading at the throne of grace; raising and melting the af
fections of their hearers, and being happily instru| mental in transfusing into their souls the same spirit
and heavenly gift. And this was the ground of all their other qualifications; they were excellent men, because excellent, instant and fervent in prayer Ş. Such were the fathers, the first formers of the Dissenting interest. And you here in Lancashire had a large share of these burning and shining lights. Those who knew them not might despise them, but your forefathers, wiser and less prejudiced, esteemed them highly in love for their work's sake. You were once happy in your Newcombs, your Jollies, your Heywoods, &c. who left all to follow Christ; but Providence cared for them, and they had great com. fort in their ministerial services. The
presence and $ This is doubtless a just account; but it ought to be recollected (as not at all inconsistent with it) that the generality of them had no conscientious objection to a LITURGY ; that most of them would have used that of the Church of England, if certain alterations, which they proposed, had been admitted ; and that Mr. BAXTER himself drew up a Reformed Liturgy for their use, with the approbation of many of his bretiren, of which Dr. Calamy has preserved a copy.
blessing of God appeared in their assemblies, and attended their labours. But now, alas! we are pursuing measures which have a manifest tendency to extinguish the light which they kindled, to damp the spirit which they enlivened, and to dissipate and dissolve the societies which they raised and formed !--Let my soul
for ever be with the souls of these men."- (Scripture Account of Prayer, p. 50.)
Their abilities and learning, as well as their integrity and piety, have been acknowledged by many eminent Conformists themselves. Not here to mention the honourable testimonies of several dignitaries in the church of England to individuals among them, (which will appear in the ensuing work) Bp. BurNET says,
Many of them were distinguished by “ their abilities and their zeal*.” And the great Mr. Locke, who was well acquainted with several of them, has left his testimony, not only to the characters and abilities of the men, but likewise to the goodness of their cause, and the injustice of the treatment they met with. The whole passage (of which a part is selected for our motto) deserves to be made more generally known, and is therefore here inserted t.-“ After this followeth The Act of Uniformity; by which all the clergy of England are obliged to subscribe and declare what the corporations, nobility and gentry had before sworn; but with this additional clause of the militia-act omitted. This the clergy readily complied with; for
you know that sort of men are taught rather to obey than understand, and to use the learning they have to justify, not to examine, what their superiors command. And yet, that BARTHOLOMEW-DAY was fatal to our church and religion, by throwing out a very great number of WORTHY, LEARNED, PIOUS, and ORTHODOX divines, who could not come up to this, and
* History of his own Time, vol. I. p. 315, 32mo edit.
+ Locke's PSS. Works, Des Maizeaux, Col. p. 62. Fol. 2d edit, p: 20. Letter from a person of quality,