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"of opinion in matters of religion, which do not “ disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we “shall be ready to consent to such an act of parlia
ment, as, upon mature deliberation, shall be “ offered to us, for the full granting that indulgence.” Such was the promise :-unfortunately, both for the monarch and his subjects, it was completely violated, in respect both to the protestant dissenters and the roman-catholics :- In this chapter we shall succinctly state its violation in respect to the former.
During the fifteen years, that immediately preceded the time, of which we are now speaking, the hierarchy of the church of England was broken, its liturgy set aside, a new form of worship established, and the constituted authorities, and almost every individual of influence, either in church or state, was presbyterian or independent. This was reversed by the Restoration; still, as several per-. sons of distinction, and a large proportion of the people, yet adhered to the dissenters, their interest was considerable, and required management; it was the more difficult to disregard it, as it was impossible to deny, that the presbyterians had been eminently useful in bringing about the restoration of the monarch, or that his promises to them of toleration were both ample and explicit.
At first, great attention was shown to them : some even of the dissenting ministers were retained among the royal chaplains, and preached before his majesty. A deputation from them was introduced to him by the duke of Manchester*. They suggested, in firm but respectful language, the utility of a general religious union; and that it could only be effected, by confining the terms of communion to points, which were deemed essential, each party conceding the rest. The king desired to see their concessions; these, they consented to deliver in writing to his majesty, but requested that the bishops might do the same.
* June 166o.
The dissenters accordingly communicated their proposal; they began by four preliminary requests, - that serious godliness might be countenanced ; that a learned and pious minister, in each parish, should be encouraged; that a personal public owning of the baptismal covenant should precede the admission to the Lord's table; and that the Lord's day should be strictly sanctified. They then intimated that archbishop Usher's system of episcopal government should be the ground-work of the accommodation. It provided, that the concerns of the church should be transacted by four graduated synods, and a national council. 1. The rector or pastor and churchwarden or sideman, were to form a parochial synod, that should meet weekly, and take notice of those who lived scandalously, and admonish them; and, if they were not reclaimed, report them to the monthly synod : 2. Every rural deanery of the established church was to have a superintendent called a suffragan: he and the rectors or pastors within the circuit were to form the suffragan synod; it was to meet monthly, to receive the report of the parochial synod; to notice, and if necessary, censure all new opinions, heresies, and schisms within the district: 3. A certain number of the deaneries or suffragancies was to constitute a diocese, under the government of a bishop or superintendent. Once or twice in every year he was to hold an assembly of the suffragans, and rectors or pastors, within his diocese. This was to constitute a diocesan synod; here, matters of particular moment were to be discussed; and appeals from the synod of suffragans and rectors were to be received, and all questions in it were to be determined by a plurality of the voices of the suffragans: 4. All the bishops or superintendents within each of the two provinces of Canterbury and York, and the rectors or suffragans of their dioceses, and of a certain number of the clergy, to be elected out of the diocese to which they belonged, were to form a provincial synod, that should be held in every third year. The primate of each province was to preside over this assembly, as moderator. It was to receive appeals from the diocesan synod : 5. But the assemblies of each province might unite, and form a national council. Here, appeals from all inferior synods might be received, all their proceedings examined, and such ecclesiastical constitutions, as concerned the state and church of the whole nation, might be established.
It is evident, that both the form and spirit of this scheme of ecclesiastical economy, though some episcopalian words were introduced into it, were presbyterian: it was rendered still more so by certain proposals, with which it was accompanied : in these, the dissenting ministers acquiesced in a liturgy; but, without absolutely rejecting the surplice, the use of the cross in baptism, the bowing at the name of Jesus, and other ceremonies, they observed, that the church service was perfect without them; that they were rejected by most of the protestant churches abroad, and that they had been the cause of much disunion and disturbance in England. They requested that none of their ministers might be ejected from sequestered livings, the incumbents of which were dead; that no oaths, subscriptions, or renunciation of orders might be required of them, until there should be a general settlement of the religious concerns of the nation*
The king received these propositions with kindness, and communicated them to the bishops; some were for concessions to the dissenters; others, for an immediate and absolute rejection of their advances. Lord chancellor Clarendon, who had the sole direction, at this time, of the royal councils, sided with the latter. It was,” he always de clared, an unhappy policy, and always unhappily "applied, to imagine that dissenters could be re
covered or reconciled by partial concessions, or “ by granting less than they demanded. Their “ faction,” he said, “was their religiont.”
The answer of the bishops was expressed in guarded terms. They observed, that the law had sufficiently provided for many of the regulations solicited;--for those particularly, which were mentioned in the four preliminary requests; that the
• Collier's Hist. vol. ii, p. 871, 872, 873.
bishops were willing to allow liberty of conscience, but could not allow conventicles, as these were dan-' gerous to the state ; that the Common Prayer was altogether unexceptionable, and could not be too strictly enjoined; yet, that they were willing to revise it, if his majesty should think it proper: they were willing that extemporary prayer might be used both before and after the service;--but they were unwilling to part with any of the ceremonies.
The answer of the bishops being communicated to the king, his majesty caused a copy of it to be given to the dissenters, with an intimation, that he would commit to writing the particulars of the indulgence which he meant to show them; but that they should receive a copy of the instrument, and be at liberty to comment upon it before it was published. It was accordingly communicated to them : they returned a minute, which contained the heads of their objections. A meeting took place at the chancellor's; theking, accompanied by several of his principal nobility, attended ; the established church was represented by several prelates and some distinguished private divines; the dissenters, by Reinolds, Calamy, Baxter, and other ministers of eminence. The projected declaration of his majesty was read ; each party was allowed to state succinctly their objections; and the dissenters availed themselves of this liberty. When the perusal and discussion of the declarations were finished, the lord chancellor read a supplemental clause, in which his majesty signified a wish, “ that others also might be per"mitted to meet for religious worship, provided