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of providing only for the civil government of the country, and, on that account, not to conflict with his majesty's declaration at Breda, it was really levelled at the presbyterians and the other dissenting sectaries, and intended to effect their ruin.
This was completed by the Act of Uniformity which was passed in the following year. It provided, that all ministers, who had not been episcopally ordained, should be re-ordained by a bishop of the established church; that every minister, , having an ecclesiastical benefice, should on the then next 22d day of August, (the feast of Saint Bartholomew),-read publicly and solemnly, in the church belonging to his benefice, the morning and evening service in the book of Common Prayer ; and express, in the words prescribed by the act, his unfeigned assent and consent to the use of all things contained in the book, under pain of instant depriyation of all his spiritual preferments: that he should take the oath of canonical obedience : and that deans, heads of colleges, professors, lecturers, schoolmasters, and generally all persons having ecclesiastical dignity or promotion, should, before the same day, sign a declaration prescribed by the act, by which they were to abjure the solemn league and covenant, and testify their belief, that it was not lawful to take arms against the king. Bishop
* 13 & 14 Car. II, C. 4. (1662.)-An act for the uniformity of public prayer and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies; and for establishing the form of making, ordaining, and consecrating bishops, priests, and deacons in the church of England.
says, that “ Saint Bartholomew's day was “ fixed on for the operation of the act, that, if the “ministers were then deprived, they should lose “ the profits of the whole year, since the tythes are “commonly due at Michaelmas. The presby“ terians,” he says, “ remembered what Saint Bar“ tholomew's day had been at Paris ninety years “ before, and did not stick to compare the one to
This celebrated act received the royal assent on the 19th of May 1662. It has been mentioned, that the book of Common Prayer had been committed by the king to the bishops for their revision; they altered it in some places, and added to it in others; but it was not printed until some time after the passing of the act of uniformity. If we believe Neale", not one divine in ten, that lived at any considerable distance from London, had it in his power to peruse it before Saint Bartholomew's day: “The matter,” says Burnet, “ was driven on “ with such precipitancy, that it seemed to be im
plied, that the clergy should subscribe to the “ book implicitly, without having seen it; this," he says,
“had been done by too many, as the bishops themselves confessed t."
The dissenters were divided on some of the objections made to a compliance with the act: all, however, protested that they could not conscientiously “ give their assent and consent to all and “ every thing contained in the book of Common
Hist. vol. ii, c. vi.
Prayer," and that no human power was authorized to require such a declaration from them.
At length Saint Bartholomew's day arrived, and two thousand ministers gave up their livings. This, to use the words of Burnet, raised a grievous cry over the nation. The ejected ministers, says Neale, were driven from their houses, from the society of their friends; and, what was yet more affecting, from all their usefulness.
Under these severities, by an inconsistency, which their sufferings excused, they resorted to the dispensing power of the king for relief against the operations of the act. Three days after it took place, Mr. Calamy, and some other of their leading divines, presented to his majesty a petition, to this effect. It was debated in council on the following day; his majesty was present, and declared that “he intended an indulgence, if it were at all “ feasible."-But Dr. Sheldon, who was then bishop of London, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, argued against it: he declared that the suspension of the law would be illegal, and that the repeal of it would expose those, who had passed it, to the sport and scorn of the presbyterian faction.
Thus,” says the historian Ralph*, “in this “ one event, we are furnished with two signal in“stances of the self-inconsistency of parties : the “ dissenters calling upon the king to exercise a
dispensing power; and a bishop disputing the
* Hist. p. 77
“ will of his sovereign, and contending for the
supremacy of the law.”
The intolerants prevailed, and the petition of the dissenters was rejected. His majesty, however, was pleased to exercise his dispensing power in favour of some protestant Walloons settled at Thorney, in the isle of Ely, by granting them, by his letters patent, leave to use their liturgy in their own language, and to regulate their other religious concerns, by their own discipline. About the same time, by a strong exercise of his spiritual supremacy, he addressed a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury, by which he directed what topics the established clergy should discuss, and what they should avoid in their sermons; and made other regulations respecting their discipline *.
The dissenters filled England with their complaints against the act. Perceiving that they made a considerable impression on the public mind, his majesty, about four months after his sanctioning it, issued a declaration of indulgencet. He mentions in it the promises of liberty of conscience contained in his declaration at Breda; he observes that he had been zealous to settle the uniformity of the church of England; promises to maintain it, and then," as to what concerned those, who, living
peaceably, did not conform themselves to it through scrupulous and misguided conscience," * Dated 14 October 1662. Ralph has inserted it at length in his History.
+ 26 December 1662.
he declares, that, in the approaching sessions, he * would endeavour to induce parliament to concur " with him in an act, which might enable him to
exercise, with a more universal satisfaction, that power of dispensing, which he conceived to be “ inherent in him."
Whatever hopes were raised by this declaration, they were of short duration : no alleviation of the act of uniformity took place; and two acts were passed for suppressing conventicles, the name usually given to the religious meetings of the dissenters*. By the first, persons preaching in them, were prohibited from coming within five miles of any town corporate or borough, under the penalty of 401. The operation of this act was limited to three years :-on its expiration, another was passed, which provided, that, whenever five persons, above those of the same household, should assemble in a religious congregation, each should be liable, for the first offence, to be imprisoned for three months, or to pay 5l.; for the second, to be imprisoned six months, or to pay 10l.; and for the third, to be transported seven years, or to pay 100 l.
In this manner,--to avail ourselves of the candid acknowledgments of Hume † “ all the king's kind “promises of toleration and indulgence to tender “ consciences, were eluded and broken.” Lord
* 16 Car. II, c. 1. (1664.) An act to prevent and suppress seditious conventicles. 22 Car. II, c. 1, (1670,) with the same title. The first of these acts expired at the end of