Imágenes de páginas

nearly 40 refused to subscribe to the Regulations of the Convo. cation ; and chose rather to starve than to wound their consciences. At length, about a fourth part of the ministers were suspended as Puritans, when their services were essential to the welfare of the church; for, at that time, many of the officiating clergy were men of notorious character; and Bishop Sandys says, That “ many people could not hear a sermon for seven years; and while they perished for lack of knowledge, their blood would lie at somebody's door"

During this reign the Puritans were treated with great severity, An act was passed, which subjected all who did not conform, to banishment ! and in case of refusal or return, to death! Í'he High Commission Court, which may be called The English Inquisition, was established ; and the court of the Star Chamber constantly sat, and was extremely severe and cruel in its censures and punishments *.

Elizabeth was succeeded by James, who had been educated in the Presbyterian church of Scotland, and professed a strong rea gard to it; but he no sooner began to reign than he discovered his hypocrisy. A petition for a further reformation was presented to him, signed by a thousand ministers; but, instead of listening to their desires, the terms of conformity were rendered stricter than ever by the book of Canons. A proclamation, drawn up by Bishop Morley, recommending Sunday Sports, such as dancing, archery, leaping, &c. was ordered to be read in all the churches, and many conscientious ministers were punished for not reading it. When Bancroft was exalted to the see of Canterbury, he persecuted the Puritans with such fury, that, in one year, 300 ministers were suspended, deprived, excommunicated, imprisoned, or obliged to leave the country. Many of them fled to Holland, and afterwards to America, where their sentiments and manner of worship bave continued ever since.

When Charles I. succeeded to the throne, he married a bigotted Papist; - whose entrance into the kingdom,' says Bishop Kennet, was more fatal than the plague. Unhappily too, Laud, who was much attached (o Popish ceremonies, was created Archbishop of Canterbury. Profaneness was now 'encouraged, by the suppression of afternoon sermons, and the republication of the Book of Sports. Many worthy men were cruelly treated : Dr. Leighton, particularly, whose ears were cat off, bis nosc slit, his face branded with burniog irons, and then imprisoned for IL years, till he could neither hear, nor see, nor walk! In 12 years of Laud's administration, 4000 emigrants became planters in America; and Neale affirms, That 77 Divines, ordained in the Church of England, became pastors of 'emigraat churches ią

* For these facts, see Neale's History of the Puritans, Warner's History, Palmer's Protestant Dissenters' Catechism, and the History of Dissentersi fately published by Bogue and Bennet.

America before the year 1640. Multitudes more were about to emigrate (among whom were Hampden and Cromwell) but were forbidden.

During the Interregnum Presbyterianism was established, and the penal laws against the Dissepters were abolished; but it must be admitted, that the Presbyterians were too eager to establish their own system, and too severe on the Episcopal clergy *. The rights of conscience were not yet fully understood; but the intolerance of those times is not now defended by any class of Dissenters. The Commonwealth lasted but little more than four years; and when Cromwell assumed the government, be declared for a general toleration, saying, That all men should be left to the liberty of their own consciences; and that the magistrate could not interfere without ensnaring himself in the guilt of persecution.'

In the year 1660, Charles II. commenced his reign, and, though he made fair promises to the Presbyterians, and publisheel a liberal declaration concerning religion, he took care that it should not pass into a law. To get rid of them with a good grace, a conference was appointed ; but it was purposely so managed, as only to place the two parties at a greater distance than ever. The Corporation Act was introduced, which incapa. citaied all persons from bearing office who had not received the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of Ingland, within a year before their election; but the most remarkable measure was the passing the Act of Uniformity, in 1662. This was intended for the purpose of sweeping out of the church her most pious ministers ; for when the Earl of Manchester, speaking of This act to the king, said, “The terms are so hard, I am afraid the Presbyterians will not conform,' Bishop Sheldon, who was present, said, “I am afraid they will; but now we know their minds, we will make them all knaves if they do." . On the 24th of August, 1662, two thousand ministers, among whom were many of the most learned and able divines the world ever knew, resigned their livings, and exposed themselves to the loss of all things; for no portion of their former livings was reserved for their use. Perhaps no history can furnish an equal ex*mple of disinterested piety; for whether they be judged right or wrong in their views of Nonconformity, it must be admitted that ihey made a great sacrifice to principle and conscience, and afforded-a: striking proof to the world, as a liberal Conformist oi. server, that some men are sincere in their religious professions.It was sequired ty this act, That every minister shonld publicly

. * It was, however, to the lionour of this pariy, that some provision 188 made for the displaced ministers. The money raiscd by the sale of rathedral lards was vested in the hands of trunecs, and a part of it appropriat«d to the support of those bishops, deans, and ollier clergymren ralio had been deprived." Their example was not imitated after the Act of \'niluimity, by the Episcopal party,

declare bis assent and consent to every thing contained in a new edition of the book of Common Prayer, -- which many of them could have no opportunity of seeing within the time! The Church of England received a blow by this act, from which it has never recovered to this day*; we rejoice, however, most sincerely, that the number of evangelical clergymen has been increasing for many years past, and that there are many hundreds who can conscientiously conform, - who preach the gospel faithfully, and with great usefulness. - May they increase in number contipually!

The Nonconformists (as they were then called) petitioned for a toleration; but in vain. A new scourge was prepared for them. By the Oxford, or Five Mile Act, passed during the horrors of the plague in 1665, all ministers who would not take a most unreasonable oath, were prophibited, under the penalty of £. 40 from coming within five miles of any corporate towo, borough, or place, where they had exercised their ministry. The Corventicle Act was also revived, with additional severity; which empowered constables to break open any place suspected of being a conventicle. This act denied to Dissenters the rights of Englishmen, a trial by jury, - exposing them to conviction on the oath of a single informer!

About this time the Test Act was passed. This act requires all persons taking any pflice under government, to receive the Lord's Supper, according to usage of the Church of England, within three months after their appointment. The design of the Commons in bringing in this bill, was to exclude the Papists from places of trust and profit; but it was so expressed, as to exclude Protestant Dissenters also. The court endeavoured to prevent this bill from passing; but the Dissenters added their weight to the scale in its favour, thongh to their own exclusion;

choosing rather,' as Alderman Love said in the house, to lie under the severity of the laws for a time, than clog a more necessary work. This dreadful prostitution of a holy ordinance, continues to be the disgrace of a Protestant country to this day!!!

During this reign (notwithstanding some years of indulgence granted by the king, in order to favour the Papists) the sufferings of the Nonconformists were unspeakably great. Their pecuniary losses were computed at two millions; and cight thousand pera sons are said to have perished in prisons ; but the cause of Nonconformity was advanced by the patience of the sufferers, and the infamous characters of the persecutors.

Charles II. died a Pap'st; and his brother, James II. immediately on ascending the ihrone, avowed his partiality for Popery. The penal laws against the Dissenters wire enforced with the uimost rigour; and many forsook this persecuting country for the American colonies. Multitudes of Dissenters were treatci

[ocr errors]

as Bartholoniew-Day was folal to our church a:'d religion, iri throwing out a very great number of worihy, lourned, pious, and orthodox divinos. **.


at all evenresa toleratiophich they

with unexampled cruelty, especially by Judge Jefferies; for which the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion furnished a plausible pretext. ,

But this bigotted prince suddenly changed his measures. Being resolved, at all events, to establish Popery, he hoped ta make way for it by universal toleration ; but, while the Diss senters gladly accepted the liberty to which they were entitled, they refused to concur in any active measures which were inę tended to introduce Popery and arbitrary power. The nation was now alarmed; and James, intimidated at the approach of the Prince of Orange (afterwards William III.) abdicated the thronc, and found a sanctuary in France · Thus terminated, in our country, we trust for ever, the long series of hardships endured for conscience sake. From the time of the restoration of Charles to the abdication of James, sixty thousand persons, it is said, suffered for Nonconformity. " But who can calculate the total loss of lives and of substance which the Dissenters sustained, from the first rise of the Puritans to the tri, umph of toleration, under King William * !”

William, who, previously to his coming to England, had pro. mised « to endeavour à good agreement between the Church of England and all Protestant Dissenters, and to secure all those who would live peaceably under the government, from all persecution on account of religion," proved, on his settlement, that he was earnestly desirous to fulfil his promise ; and, when the Dissenters addressed him on his arrival, he avowed the same sentiments, In a speech made to Parliament, he said, “ As I doubt not but you will sufficiently provide against Papists, so I hope you will leave room for the admission of all Protestants who are willing and able to serve ;'-but, however, the Test Act was still retained by a majority of the House of Lords; and the king's zeal for the Dissenters gave rise to the bitter enmity of the bigots against bim, which ceased not with his life. A proposal for a toleration was made Feb. 28, 1688: a bill for that purpose passed both houses without any serious opposition, and received the royal assent, May 24, 1689. As this may be considered the MAGNA CHAKTA of the Dissenters, we shall insert a full account of it.

ACT OF TOLERATION F. THE proper title of this Act is, : An Act for exempting their Majesties Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England, from the Penalties of certain Laws.”

The preamble states, “ That forasmuch as some case to scrupulous consciences, in the exercise of religion, may be an effectual means to

* Sce Bogne and Bennell's llistory, vol. 1. page 108.

+ Toleration. The act obtained this name ; but it is not the title of the met, nor is the word mentioned in it. It is in fact an ungracious word, for it seems to imply a power in one inan to permit another to worship God; whereas, as Bishop Burnet say$, . Liberty of Conscience is one of the rights sef human nature antecedent to society, which no man could give me herause it was not in his own power,' ; ... .



unite their Majesties Protestant Subjects in interest and affeation," it enacts as follows: viz. . · Sect. II. That neither the statute made in the 23d of Queen Eli. zabeth, intituled " An Act to retain the Queen's Majesty's Subjects in their due obedience * ; nor the statute made in the 29th year of the said Queen, "for the more speedy and due execution of certain branches of the former act + ; nor that clause of a statute made in the 1st year of the said Queen, intituled “ An Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer," &c.; whereby all persons are required to resort to their parish church or chapel, upon pain of punishment by the censures of the church; and also upon pain that every person so offending, shall forfeit for every such offence twelve-pence; nor the statute made in the 3d year of the late King James, intituled “An Act for the better discovering and repressing Popish Recusants ;” nor that other statute, intituled “An Act to prevent and avoid dangers which may grow by Popish Recusants ;” nor any other law or statute of this realm made against Papists or Popish Recusants, shall be construed to extend to any person or persons dissenting from the Church of England, that shall take the oaths (of allegance and supre. macy) and shall make and subscribe the declaration (against Popery); which oaths and declaration the Justices of Peace at the General Sessions of the Peace for the county, or place where such persons shall live, are hereby required to administer to such persons as shall offer themselves to make and subscribe the same, and thereof to keep a regis. ter: and, likewise, none of the persons aforesaid shall give or pay, as any fee or reward, to any officer belonging to the court, above the .sum of six-pence, for his entry of his taking the said oaths, &c. nor above the further sum of six-pence for any certificate of the samc.

Sect. IV. That every person that shall take the said oaths and make and subscribe the declaration aforesaid, shall not be liable to any pains, penalties, or forfeitures, mentioned in an act made in the 35th of the late Queen Elizabeth I, nor in an act made in the 22d of Charles the Second, intituled“ An Act to prevent and suppress Seditious Con. venticles || ;" nor shall any of the said persons be prosecuted in any Eco elesiastical Court for their nonconforming to the Church of England.

* 23 Eliz. Every person, above the age of 16, which shall not repair to some church, or usual place of common prayer, shall forfeit £.20 a month ; and, if he shall forbear the saine 19 inonths, he shall be bound with two sureties in £.200 at least, to his good behaviour, until be conform.

† 29 Eliz. Every offender convicted of not repairing to divine service. shall every month afterwards until he conform, pay at the rate of . 20 a inonth; and, iu default, the Queen may seize all his goods, and two parts of his land.

I 35 Eliz. Any person, above 16, who shall refuse to go to church, and shall forbear the same for a month, without lawful cause, or shall, boy printing, writing, or express words, endeavour to persuade any person to, impugn her Majesty's ecclesiastical authority, or persuade any person to abstain from coming to church, or, be present at any conventicle, shall be committed to prison till he conform to go to church; and, if submission be not made witbin three nonths after conviction, be shali abjure the realm of England; and, refusing to abjure, or returning without leave, shall be guilty of felony, without benefit of clergy.

22 Charles II. Any person, 16 or upwaris, present at any meeting under pretense of religion (except according to the Church of England

« AnteriorContinuar »