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ances that were given them by leading persons, both of the clergy and laity, that no such rigorous methods should ever be used toward them for the time to come, but that they might depend upon great temper and moderation for the future.
The king, emboldened with the prospect of a Popish suc. cessor, on April 27, renewed his Declaration for liberty of conscience, with some additions, and a promise to get it es.. tablished by act of parliament. On May 4, an order was passed in council, that it should be read in all the churches ; and that all the bishops should take care to have the order obeyed. Those that should refuse to read it, were to be prosecuted by the ecclesiastical commissioners. The whole body of the clergy, with very few exceptions, refused; and seven of the bishops waited upon the king to give him their reasons; urging particularly, that the Declaration was founded upon such a dispensing power, as had often been declared in parliament illegal. Upon this they were imprisoned in the tower, indicted of a high misdemeanor, and tried at the king's bench, but they were acquitted with universal accla. mations.
While the bishops were under this prosecution, Abp. San. fröft sent certain articles to his clergy through his whole province; the eleventh of which was in these words : “ That " they also walk in wisdom toward them who are not of our “ communion ; more especially, that they have a very tender “ regard to our brethren, the Protestant Dissenters ;-that they "! take all opportunities of assuring them, that the bishops of “ this church are really and sincerely irreconcileable enemies " to the errors, superstitions, idolatries, and tyrannies of the "church of Rome :—and that they most affectionately ex“ hort them to join with us in daily fervent prayer to the God “ of peace, for a universal blessed union of all reformed “ churches, both at home and abroad, against our common “ enemies, &c.
The ecclesiastical commissioners, Aug. 16, sent forth their mandates to the chancellors, archdeacons, &c. of every diocese in England, to make inquiry, by whom the king's order for reading the Declaration, had or had not been obeyed; that so all who had neglected it might be severely punished. This would have made most woeful havock all over the kingdom, had not the approaching Revolution put an effectual stop to this business. But it was not long before a rumour began to spread, that the Prince of Orange was coming with F4
might take in the Nonconformists, and mentioned their des sign to many. At length Dr. Tillotson and Dr. Stillingfleet desired a meeting with Dr. Manton, Dr. Bates, Mr. Pool, and Mr. Baxter, in order to consider of an accom. modation, and said they had the encouragement of several Lords both spiritual and temporal. Mr. Baxter at first met the two doctors alone; and having considered various plans, they at length fixed on one in which they agreed. This being communicated to the Nonconformists, was satisfactory to them: but when they laid it before the bishops there was an end of the treaty.
The informers in the city went on, but met with many discouragements. The aldermen were not fond of them, and often got out of the way, when they knew of their coming; and some denied then their warrants. Strowd and Marshal became general informers; but were soon fallen upon by their creditors, and generally hated. The latter died in the compter. One that had sworn against Mr. Baxter, hearing three ministers pray and preach soon after at Rother. hithe, his heart was so melted that he professed repentance, and left his former companions. Another, meeting Mr. Baxter in the street, promised him that he would meddle no more.
Keting the informer, being in prison for debt, wrote to Mr. Baxter to interpose for his deliverance, telling him, he verily believed that God had sent this affliction, as a punishment for giving him so much trouble; and earnestly desired him to pray to God to forgive him. About this time (A. D. 1676,) twelve or thirteen of the bishops dining with Sir Nath. Hern, sheriff of London, discoursed with him about putting the laws against the Dissenters in execution; when he told them, “ That they could not trade with their neigh1“ bours one day, and send them to gaol the next.”—The following session of parliament, the duke of Buckingham made a notable speech against persecution, and desired the consent of the Lords to bring in a bill for the ease of his majesty's Protestant subjects in matters of religion; but while he was preparing it, the parliament was prorogued.
In 1678, the Popish plot broke out, which exceedingly alarmed the whole nation. The House of Commons, after many warm debates, came to this resolution; “ That there “ hath been, and is, an execrable and hellish design, con“ trived and carried on by Popish recusants, for assassinating " and murdering the king, for subverting the government,
" and for destroying the Protestant religion by law esta“ blished.” Most of their time was spent about this plot, for which many suffered.
At length, January 14, 1679, this parliament (which so long complied with the court in all their desires) being awakened by a sense of the common danger, was suddenly dissolved. This occasioned a ferment in all parts of the country. It was generally esteemed the common concern in the next election, to choose firm Protestants, who should heartily apply themselves to make provision for the common security. The new parliament first sat on the 6th of March following, and began where the last left off, but were soon prorogued to August 14; and before that time, were dissolved by proclamation, and another called to sit at Westminster in October following. When they assembleil, they were adjourned till January 26, by which time a new plot was discovered by Dangerfield, which the Papists had contrived to lay upon the Dissenters. They were afterwards adjourned several times till October 30, when they proceeded to business. Finding no other way to keep Popery out of the nation, than by excluding the duke of l'ork from the succession to the crown, they brought in a bill for this purpose. On November 11, it passed the House of Commons; on the 15th it was carried up to the House of Lords by the brave lord Russel, and on the second reading, it was thrown out, by a majority of thirty, of whom fourteen were bishops. This House of Commons had before them a bill* for a Comprehension, and another for an Indulgence: both of them were read twice, and were before the committee.
But finding this would not go down, a bill was prepared purely for exempting his majesty's protestant subjects, dissenting from the church of England, from thie penalties imposed upon the Papists by the act of 35 Eliz. It passed the Commons, and was agreed to by the Lords; but when the king came to the house to pass the bills, this was taken from the table, and never heard of any more. Many leading men in the House of Commons spoke in favour of the Dissenters, but they had not time to bring things to maturity. The king was dissatisfied with their proceedings; his great want was money, and they were resolved to give none, unless he
: * The heads of the bill for uniting his majesty's Protestant subjects may be seen in Calamy's life of Baxter, p. 350-352.
would pass a bill to exclude the duke of York. Whereupon, they were prorogued, January 14. but before they rose they came to these two resolutions : “ Resolved, nem. con. “ That it is the opinion of this house, that the acts of par. " liament made in the reign of queen Elizabeth and king “ James against popish recusants, ought not to be extended « against Protestant Dissenters; and that the prosecution of “ Protestant Dissenters upon the penal laws, is at this time “ grievous to the subject, a weakening the protestant in" terest, an encouragement to Popery, and dangerous to the “ peace of the kingdom.” After which they were first prorogued and then dissolved. Another parliament met at Oxford in March following, but had not time to do any business. There was a complaint then made of the unprecedented loss of the forementioned bill for the repealing the act of 35 Eliz. but without any satisfaction or redress.
Notwithstanding that the fears of Popery were then so general and so well grounded, Dr. Stillingfieet, dean of St. Paul's, (prevailed upon, as was supposed, by some great personages) thought fit to represent all the Nonconformists as schismatics, in a sermon before the Lord mayor, May the 2d, 1680, intitled, “ The Mischief of Separation.” Answers to it were written by Dr. Owen, Mr. Baxter, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Howe, and Mr. Barret of Nottingham. While the Doctor and his opponents were eagerly debating matters, the common enemy took advantage to proinote their intended ruin. The Dissenters were prosecuted afresh, in defiance of the votes of parliament, and several zealous protestants were tried by mercenary judges, with packed juries, upon Irish evidence. Orders were sent from the king and council-board to suppress all conventicles; which were followed carefully enough by the justices of Hicks's-Hall, the borough of Southwark, and some in the city also. This year (1682) the ineetings of the Dissenters were often broken up, and the laws against them vigourously executed. Many ministers were imprisoned, and they and their hearers fined. Mr. Baxter was surprised in his own house; but Dr. Cox making oath, before five justices, that he was too ill to go to prison, the officers executed their warrants on the goods and books in the house, though he made it appear they were not his; and they sold even the bed which he then lay upon. Dr. Annesly, and several more, had their goods distrained for latent convictions; others were imprisoned upon the corporacion-act, while many were worried in the
spiritual courts. Warrants were signed for distresses in Hackney to the value of 14001, and one of them for 5001. On January 9, 1683, Mr. Vincent was tried at the Surry sessions upon the 35th of Eliz. and cast. The same course was persisted in, the succeeding year, when two hundred warrants were issued out for distresses upon persons in Urbridge and the neighbourhood, for going to conventicles. Dr. Bates and several others were distrained upon; and the gentlemen of Doctor's Commons got money apace.
This year a new plot was trumped up, which cost the brave Russel and Sydney their lives. July the 24th a decree passed in the university of Oxford against “ certain pernicious books and damnable doctrines,” v. g. “ That the 66 sovereignty of England is in the three estates, king, « lords, and cominons, &c. that self-preservation is the « fundamental law of nature," 8C. Several persons, apprehended at meetings, were convicted as rioters, and fined sol. each ; and some young people of both sexes were seot to Bridewell. About this time (A. D. 1684.) one Mr. Robert Mayot, of Oxford, a pious conformist, gave by his last will 600l. to be distributed by Mr. Barter to sixty poor ejected ministers. But the king's attorney, Sir R. Sawyer, sued for it in the chancery, and the Lord-keeper North gave it all to the king! It was paid into the chancery by order ; but as Providence ordered it, it was there kept safe till King William ascended the throne; when the commissioners of the great seal restored it to the use for which it was intended, and Mr. Baxter disposed of it accordingly.
This year a inost cruel order was made by the justices of peace at the quarter sessions at Exeter against all Nonconforming ministers, offering a reward of forty shillings to any person who apprehended one of them; and the bishop required the order to be read by all the clergy, the next Suri. day after it should be tendered to them. Mr. Baxter was this year again apprehended, and Mr. Rosewell imprisoned in the Gatehouse, by a warrant from Sir George Jefferys, for high treason. Mr. Jenkyn died in Newgate, as did also Mr. Bampfield, Mr. Ralphson, and several others, in other prisons *. And quickly after died King Charles himself, viz. February 1685. Though he continued the prosecution of the Dissenters, yet they held on their ineetings, heartily praying for his peace and prosperity; and they were as much concerned at his death as any people in the kingdom.
* Of their sufferings see more in the account of their respective lives. VOL. I. NO. 2.