Page images
PDF
EPUB

already taken ; he was a facetious man, says Burnet*, but of no great religion. When the earl of Manchester told the king, he was afraid the terms of conformity were so hard that many ministers would not comply; the bishop replied he was afraid they would, but now we know their minds, says he, we will make them all knaves if they conform. And when Dr. Allen said, “ It is pity the door is so strait;" he answered, “ It is no pity at all; if we had thought so many of them would have conformed, we would have made it straitert." And Mr. Baxter adds, that as far as lie could perceive, it was by some designed it should be so.

Next to bishop Sheldon was bishop Morley, a pious man, says Burnet, but extremely passionate and very obstinate. Morley was thought the honester man, but Sheldon the abler statesman. To these may be added, Dr. Gunning bishop of Ely: Henchman of London ; Dolbert of Rochester; Stern of York; Dr. Pierce, Sparrow, and Barwick, all creatures of the court, and tools of the prerogative.

But neither the courtiers nor bishops could have accomplished their designs without tampering with the parliament. Care was therefore taken of the best speakers, and men of influence among the commons. The parliament was undoubtedly actuated by a spirit of revenge, says Rapint, and being of principles directly opposite to the Presbyterians, who were for reducing the royal power within certain limits, they resolved to put it out of their power for ever to restrain the prerogative, or alter the government of the church; and the king, being in continual want of money, was content to sacrifice the Presbyterians for a large supply of the nation's money, especially when he knew he was serving the cause of Popery at the same time, by making way for a general toleration.

The Presbyterian ministers had only three months to consider what to do with themselves, and their families. There were several consultations both in city and country to know each other's sentiments; and it happened here, as it did afterward, about taking the oaths to king William and queen Mary; some, who persuaded their brethren to dissent, complied themselves and got the others' livings. It is not to be supposed they had all the same scruples.—Bishop Kennet says*, that renouncing the covenant was the greatest obstacle of conformity to the Presbyterians. But his Lordship is mistaken; for if abjuring the covenant had been omitted, they could not have taken the corporation-oath. Some could not in conscience comply with the very form of the hierarchy. Great numbers scrupled the business of re-ordination, which implied a renouncing the validity of their former ministrations. But that which the dissenters of all denominations refused, was giving their assent and consent to all and every thing contained in the Book of Common Prayer. This they apprehended to be more than was due to any human composure.

* Page 257.

+ It reflects some honour on the name of bishop Saunderson that he spoke of this act in a milder strain. To a worthy clergyman, who was with him the evening after the king passed it, he said, " that more was imposed on ministers than be wished had been." On passing the act he sent to Mr. Matthew Sylvester, whose living was in his diocess, and treating him with great civility, earnestly pressed him not to quit his living, and patiently heard him state his difficulties : and when he found, that he could not obviate them to his satisfaction, he lamented it, and at last signified a concern, that some things were carried so high in the ecclesiastical settlement; which, he said, should not have been if he could have prevented it. Calamy's History of his own Life, vol. 2. p. 111. MS.; and Church and Dissenters Compared, p. 81.-Ep.

Page 632, &c.

Mr Echard represents them as under great difficulties; “ Soine (says he) were positive against any compliance, but great numbers were doubtful and uncertain, and had great struggles between the attractions of conscience and honour, interest and humour. The act was strictly penned, and pressed hard upon late principles and practices. A continual intercourse of letters passed between those in the city, and the rest in the countries, how to proceed in this nice affair. Sometimes the chief of them were for compliance, as I have been assured (says he) by the best hands, and then upon farther consideration they changed their minds. They were under considerable temptations on both sides; on one side their livings and preferments were no small inducement towards their compliance; on the other side, besides their consciences, they were much encouraged by the greatness of their numbers, and were made to believe, that if they unanimously stood out, the church must come to them, since the people would never bear so shocking a change. Besides, they had great expectations from several friends at court, and particularly the Popish party, who gave them great encouragement, not only by a promise of pensions to some, but also by a toleration, and a suspension of the act itself, which not long after was partly made good. No doubt but the noncompliance of several proceeded purely from a tender conscience, and in that case ought not only to be pitied, but rather applauded than condemned.” Bishop Burnet adds, that the leaders of the Presbyterian party took great pains to have them all stick together: they said, that if great numbers stood out, it was more likely to produce new laws in their favour ;' so it was thought, says his lordship, that many went out in the crowd to keep their friends company.

It is possible some noblemen, and others who were in the interest of the Presbyterians, might advise them to adhere to each other; but it is hardly credible that men of abilities and good sense should throw up their livings, sacrifice their usefulness, and beggar their families, for the sake of good company.

Some of the Nonconformists quitted their stations in the church

[ocr errors]

* Page 471.

before the 24th of August, as Mr. Baxter and others, with an intent to let all the ministers in England know their resolution beforehand*. Others about London preached their farewell sermons the Sunday before Bartholomew-day; several of which were afterward collected into a volume, and printed with their effigies in the title-page; as the reverend Dr. Manton, Bates, Jacomb, Calamy, Matth. Mead, and others. The like was done in several counties of England : and such a passionate zeal for the welfare of their people ran through their sermons as dissolved their audiences into tears.

At length the fatal St. Bartholomew came, when about two thousand relinquished their preferments in the church, or refused to accept of any upon the terms of the act of uniformity; an example hardly to be paralleled in the Christian world! It raised a grievous cry over the nation, for here were many men much valued, says bishop Burnett, and distinguished by their abilities and zeal, now cast out ignominiously, reduced to great poverty, provoked by such spiteful usage, and cast upon those popular practices, which both their principles and their circumstances seemed to justify, of forming separate congregations, and of diverting men from the public worship. This begot esteem, and raised compassion, as having a fair appearance of suffering persecution for conscience. Mr. Locke calls them worthy, learned, pious, orthodox divines, who did not throw themselves out of service, but were forcibly ejected. Nor were they cast out because there was a supply of ministers to carry on the work of religion, for there was room for the employment of more hands, if they were to be found.

At the reformation from Popery by queen Elizabeth, there were not above two hundred deprived of their livings; besides, they were treated with great mildness, and had some allowances out of their livings; whereas these were treated with the utmost severity, and cast entirely upon Providence for a supply. They were driven from their houses, from the society of their friends; and, what was yet more affecting, from all their usefulness, though they had merited much from the king, and laboured indefatigably for his restoration. The former were men of another faith, and owned a foreign head of the church ; whereas these were of the same faith with the established church, and differed only about rites and ceremonies. It had been said, that greater numbers were ejected in the late times

upon the foot of the covenant #; but if this were true, it

• Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 384.

+ Page 270. 280. Dr. Grey asserts this: and there was a laboured attempt by Dr. Walker to prove, that the clergy, ejected or suffering in the civil wars, exceeded in numbers those whom the act of uniformity ejected or silenced ; and that the sufferings of the former surpassed in nature and severity those of the latter. The publication, which endeavoured to establish these points, was a folio, in small print, entitled, “ An attempt towards recovering an account of the numbers and sufferings of the clergy of the church of England, heads of colleges, fellows, scholars, &c. who were sequestered, harassed, &c. in the late times of the grand rebellion : occasioned by the

was in a time of war, when the civil and religious differences between the king and parliament were so intermixed that it was impossible to separate one from the other; the whole nation was in confusion, and those who suffered by the covenant, suffered more for their loyalty than their religion ; for when the war was ended, the covenant was relaxed, and such as would live peaceably returned to their vacant cures, or were admitted to others.

Besides, the ingratitude of the high-churchmen upon this occasion ought to be taken notice of. " Who can answer for the violence and injustice of actions in a civil war?” says a divine of the church of England. “Those sufferings were in a time of general calamity, but these were ejected not only in a time of peace, but a time of joy to all the land, and after an act of oblivion, when all pretended to be reconciled and made friends, and to whose common rejoicings these suffering ministers had contributed their earnest prayers and great endeavours*.” Another divine of the same church writes, “I must own, that in my judgment, however both sides have been excessively to blame, yet that the severities used by the church to the dissenters are less excusable than those used by the dissenters to the church. My reason is, that the former were used in times of peace and a settled government, whereas the latter were inflicted in a time of tumult and confusion; so that the plunderings and ravagings endured by the church-ministers were owing many of them at least) to the rudeness of the soldiers, and the chances of war; they were plundered, not because they were conformists, but cavaliers, and of the king's party. The allowing of the sequestered ininisters a fifth part of their livings was a Christian acit, and what, I confess, I should have been glad to have seen imitated at the Restoration. But no mercy was to be shown to these un

ninth chapter (now the second volume) of Dr. Calamy's Abridgment of the Life of Mr. Baxter ; together with an examination of that chapter.” The public was at first amused with so large a work, but by degrees began to speak freely of it in conversation, where it had the fate of other performances. It received from the press two able replies : one by Mr. John Witbers, a judicious and worthy dis. senting minister in Exeter; the other by Dr. Calamy, in a tract entitled, ** The Church and Dissenters Compared as to Persecution.” On this subject we would refer the reader back to Mr. Neal, vol. 2. p. 262. -Ed.

* Conf. Plea for Nonconformity, p. 12, 13.

+ Dr. Grey quotes here, from Dr. Fuller, (Church Hist. book 11. p. 230.) a long detail of the evasions on which many of the sequestered clergy were refused their fifths. Dr. Walker has also complained, that scarcely one in ten ever had them without trouble, and to the full value. “This is a case in which (as Dr. Calamy observes) it is no easy thing to make calculation:" Supposing it to have been paid ever so indifferently, it was certainly a better provision than was made by the act of uniformity for those who were ejected and silenced. It afforded the sufferers, to a degree, a legal remedy for their calamities: and would doubtless, in many instances, be efficient. Dr. Fuller speaks of it as an instance of "the pitiful and pious intentions of parliament; which, no doubt, desired to be like the best of beings, who as closely applieth his lenitive as corrosive plasters, and . that his mercy may take as true effect as his justies." But this matter has been hefore stated by Mr. Neal, fol. 2. p. 266,-- En.

happy sufferers, though it was impossible on a sudden to fill up the gap

that was made by their removal.” Bishop Burnet says, the old clergy, now much enriched, were despised, but the young clergy who came from the university did good service. But, though all the striplings in both universities were employed, a great many poor livings in the country had no incumbents for a considerable time. The author of The Five Groans of the Church, a very strict conformist, complains with great warmth of above three thousand ministers admitted into the church, who were unfit to teach because of their youth ; of fifteen hundred debauched men ordained; of the ordination of many illiterate men; of one thousand three hundred forty-two factious ministers, a little before ordained; and that, of twelve thousand church livings, or thereabouts, three thousand or more being impropriate, and four thousand one hundred sixty-five sinecures, there was but a poor remainder left for a painful and honest ministry.

Such were the spoils of uniformity! and, though Mr. Echard says there was more sense and sound doctrine preached in one twelvemonth after the Presbyterian ministers were turned out, than in nigh twenty years before ; yet another church-writer, who knew them better, calls the young clergy "florid and genteel preachers, of a more romantic than true majestic and divine style, who tickled and captivated people at first, but did little service to the souls of men, and in process of time had fewer admirers and friends than at first.” He adds, that “in the late times they all spake the same things, and carried on the same work, which was the instruction, conversion, consolation, and edification of souls; not biting one another, nor grudging at one another. I never heard," says he, "in many hundreds of sermons, diversities of opinions either set up by some, or pulled down by others; we heard, indeed, that some were Independents, others Presbyterians, and others Episcopal, but we heard no such things from the pulpits. Some men think that the preaching of those days was mere fanaticism, blessing the usurpation, railing against bishops, or deifying Calvin with an infallibility; but Calvin was preached no farther than Christ spake in him ; Non Calvinum sed Christum prædicabant*.'

The truth of this observation will appear farther, by mentioning the names of some of those ministers, whose learning and piety were universally acknowledged, and who were capable of preaching and writing as good sense, and to as good purpose, as most of their successors ; as Dr. Gilpin, Bates, Manton, Jacomb, Owen, Goodwin, Collins, Conant, Grew, Burgess, and Annesly; Mr. Bowles, Baxter, Clarkson, Woodbridge, Newcomen, Calamy, Jackson, Pool, Caryl, Charnock, Gouge, Jenkins, Gale, Corbet, Cradock, Matth. Mead, Howe, Kentish, Alsop, Vincent,

Conformist Plea, part 1. in pref. and r. 53.

« PreviousContinue »