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Greenhill, S. Clark, Flavel, Phil. Henry, and others of like character, "whom I have heard vilified, and represented according to the fancies, passions, or interests of men," says a learned conformist, but I dare not but be just to them, as to eminent professors of the Christian faith, and think that common Christianity has suffered much by their silencing and disparagement. A great part of the world is made to believe that the Nonconformists are not fit to be employed in the church, nor trusted by the state; but what they are God knows, and the world may know, if they please to consult their writings. They are not to them that know them, what they are reported by them that know them not. I know them sufficiently to make me bewail their condition, and the vast damage to thousands of souls by their exclusion, not only in the outskirts, but in the very heart of England, who are committed in many parts to them that neither can nor will promote their everlasting interests *." Upon the whole, though I do not pretend that all the ejected ministers were equally learned, pious †, and deserving, yet upon a calm and sedate view of things, I cannot help concluding, that in the main they were a body of as eminent confessors for truth and liberty as this or any other nation has produced.
Many complied with the terms of conformity, not because they approved them, but for the sake of their families, or because they were unwilling to be buried in silence, as bishop Reynolds, Wilkins, Hopkins, Fowler, &c. Several young students, who were designed for the pulpit, applied themselves to law or physic, or diverted to some secular employment. Bishop Kennet, in order to extenuate their calamities, has taken pains to point out the favours the ejected ministers received from private persons §. Some (says he) found friends among the nobility and gentry, who relieved their necessities; some were taken as chaplains into good families, or officiated in hospitals, prisons, or chapels of ease; some became tutors, or schoolmasters; some who went beyond sea were well received in foreign parts; some became eminent physicians and lawyers; some had good estates of their own, and others married great fortunes: but how does this extenuate the guilt of the church or legislature, who would have deprived them of these retreats if it had been in their power?
Conform. Plea. in pref. part 1.
To suppose that more than two thousand men could be equal in worth and piety, would be to admit an impossibility; but it deserves notice, that bishop Kennet is so candid as to limit the charge of scandalous lives and characters, or of a conduct which was at least no credit to the cause for which they suffered, to some few only. Grey's Examination, p. 332.-ED.
Kennet's Chron. p. 888, &c.
§ Dr. Grey has given this passage of bishop Kennet at length, which Mr. Neal has here noticed. But the amount of the bishop's statement, which runs out into thirty-one particulars, only shews, that some men were more equitable and kind than was the legislature; and that they who suffered under the operation of an iniquitous law, met with relief from the kind disposals of Divine Providence.— ED.
The bishop adds, "Therefore we do ill to charge the church with persecution, when the laws were made by the civil government with a view to the peace and safety of the state, rather than to any honour or interest of the church." It seems therefore the load of persecution must lie wholly upon the legislature: but had the bishops and clergy no hand in this affair? did they not push the civil government upon these extremities, and not only concur, but prosecute, the penal laws with unrelenting rigour throughout the greatest part of this reign? The church and state are said to be so incorporated as to make but one constitution, and the penal laws are shifted from one to the other till they are quite lost; the church cannot be charged with persecution, because it makes no laws; nor can the civil government be charged with it, because it makes them not against conscience, but.with a view to the safety of the state; with such idle sophisms are men to be amused, when it is to cover a reproach!
Dr. Bates says, "they (the ministers) fell a sacrifice to the wrath and revenge of the old clergy, and to the servile compliance of the young gentry with the court, and their distaste of serious religion. That this is no rash imputation upon the ruling clergy is evident (says the doctor), not only from their concurrence in passing these laws (for actions have a language as convincing as those of words), but from Dr. Sheldon, their great leader, who expressed his fears to the earl of Manchester, lest the Presbyterians should comply. The act was passed after the king had engaged his faith and honour in his declaration from Breda to preserve liberty of conscience inviolable; which promise opened the way for his restoration; and after the royalists had given public assurance, that all former animosities should be laid aside as rubbish, under the foundation of universal concord."
Sad were the calamities of far the greater part of these unhappy sufferers, who with their families must have perished, if private collections in London, and divers places in the country, had not been made for their subsistence +. Bishop Burnet says, they cast themselves on the providence of God, and the charity of friends. The reverend and pious Mr. Thomas Gouge, late of St. Sepulchre's, was their advocate, who, with two or three of his brethren, made frequent application to several worthy citizens, of whom they received considerable sums of money for some years, till that charity was diverted into another channel; but nevertheless" many hundreds of them (according to Mr. Baxter‡) with their wives and children, had neither house nor bread §;)
Baxter, p. 101. + Kennet's Chron. p. 838. 192.
Life, part 2. p. 385.
§ The observation made, not long before he died, by the excellent Mr. Philip Henry, who survived these times, deserves to be mentioned here. It was, that "though many of the ejected ministers were brought very low, had many children, were greatly harassed by persecution, and their friends generally poor and unable to support them; yet in all his acquaintance he never knew nor could remember to have heard of any Nonconformist minister in prison for debt." P. Henry's Life, p. 71, second edition.-ED.
the people they left were not able to relieve them, nor durst they if they had been able, because it would have been called a maintenance of schism or faction. Many of the ministers, being afraid to lay down their ministry after they had been ordained to it, preached to such as would hear them, in fields and private houses, till they were apprehended and cast into jails, where many of them perished. The people were no less divided, some conformed, and others were driven to a greater distance from the church, and resolved to abide by their faithful pastors at all events: they murmured at the government, and called the bishops and conforming clergy cruel persecutors; for which, and for their frequenting the private assemblies of their ministers, they were fined and imprisoned, till many families left their native country, and settled in the plantations.'
The Presbyterian ministers, though men of gravity, and far advanced in years, were rallied in the pulpits under the opprobrious names of Schismatics and Fanatics; they were exposed in the playhouse, and insulted by the mob, insomuch that they were obliged to lay aside their habits, and walk in disguise. "Such magistrates were put into commission as executed the penal laws with severity. Informers were encouraged and rewarded. It is impossible (says the Conformist Plea for the Nonconformist*) to relate the number of the sufferings both of ministers and people; the great trials, with hardships upon their persons, estates, and families, by uncomfortable separations, dispersions, unsettlements, and removes; disgraces, reproaches, imprisonments, chargeable journeys, expenses in law, tedious sicknesses, and incurable diseases ending in death; great disquietments and frights to the wives and families, and their doleful effects upon them. Their congregations had enough to do, besides a small maintenance, to help them out of prisons, or maintain them there. Though they were as frugal as possible they could hardly live some lived on little more than brown bread and water; many had but 87. or 107. a year to maintain a family, so that a piece of flesh has not come to one of their tables in six weeks' time; their allowance could scarcely afford them bread and cheese. One went to plough six days and preached on the Lord's day. Another was forced to cut tobacco for a livelihood. The zealous justices of peace knew the calamities of the ministers, when they issued out warrants upon some of the hearers, because of the poverty of the preachers. Out of respect to the worth and modesty of some of them (says my author) I forbear their names." Upon these foundations, and with these triumphs, was the present constitution of the church of England restored. I shall make no farther remarks upon it, but leave it to the censure of the reader.
Among the Presbyterian divines who died this year, was Mr. John Ley, M.A., born at Warwick, February 4, 1583, and edu
* Part 4. p. 40.
+ Conformist Plea, part 4. p. 43.
cated in Christ-church, Oxford, where he took the degrees in arts, and was presented to the living of Great Budworth in Cheshire. He was afterward prebendary of Chester, and subdean, and clerk of the convocation once or twice. In the year 1641, he took part with the parliament, was one of the assembly of divines, chairman of the committee for examination of ministers, and president of Sion-college. In the year 1645, he succeeded Dr. Hyde in the rich parsonage of Brightwell, Berks. In 1653, he was one of the triers, and at length obtained the rectory of Solyhull in Warwickshire, but having broken a vein by overstraining himself in speaking, he resigned his living, and retired to Sutton-Colfield, where he died, May 16, 1662, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. He was a very learned person, well read in the fathers and councils, a popular preacher, a pious and devout Christian, and one of the main pillars (says Mr. Wood) of the Presbyterian cause.
Mr. Henry Jeanes, M.A., was born in Somersetshire about the year 1611, and educated in New-inn, and afterward in Hart-hall, Oxon, where he took the degrees in arts, and entered into holy orders. He was an admired preacher in the university, and was quickly preferred to the rectory of Beercrocomb, and the vicarage of Kingston in Somersetshire. In the year 1641, he closed with the parliament, and became rector of Chedsoy near Bridgwater. Here he took into his family several young persons, and instructed them in the liberal arts and sciences; he was a most excellent philosopher, a noted metaphysician, and well versed in polemical divinity. With all these qualifications (says Mr. Wood+) he was a contemner of the world, generous, free-hearted, jolly, witty, and facetious. He wrote many books, and died in the city of Wells a little before the fatal day of St. Bartholomew, and was buried in the cathedral church there, ætatis fifty-two.
Dr. Humphrey Chambers was born in Somersetshire, and educated in University college, Oxon. In the year 1623, he was made rector of Claverton in Somersetshire, but was afterward silenced by his diocesan, bishop Piers, for preaching up the morality of the sabbath, and imprisoned for two years. He was one of the assembly of divines. In the year 1648, he was created D.D., and had the rich rectory of Pewsey given him by the earl of Pembroke. After the king's restoration he kept his living till the very day the act of uniformity took place, when having preached his farewell sermon on Psal. cxxvi. 6, he went home, fell sick and died, and was buried in his church at Pewsey, September 8, without the service of the church, which had just then taken place‡.
Mr. Simeon Ash was educated in Emanuel-college, Cambridge. His first station in the church was in Staffordshire, where he contracted an acquaintance with the most eminent Puritans. He * Athen. Oxon. vol. 2, p. 190. ↑ Ibid. p. 195. Calamy, vol. 2. p. 754; or Palmer's Nonconf. Memorial, vol. 2. p. 509.
was displaced from his living for refusing to read the book of sports, and not conforming to the ceremonies. After some time he got liberty to preach in an exempt church at Wroxhall, under the protection of sir John Burgoign; and elsewhere, under the lord Brook, in Warwickshire. Upon the breaking out of the civil war he became chaplain to the earl of Manchester, and had a considerable part in the Cambridge visitation. After the king's death he vigorously opposed the new commonwealth, and declaimed publicly against the engagement. He was concerned in all the designs for bringing in the king, and went with other London divines to congratulate his majesty at Breda. He was a Christian of primitive simplicity, and a Nonconformist of the old stamp, being eminently sincere, charitable, holy, and of a cheerful spirit. He had a good paternal estate, and was very hospitable, his house being much frequented by his brethren, by whom he was highly esteemed. He died in an advanced age on the very evening before Bartholomew-day, in a cheerful and firm expectation of a future happiness.
Mr. Edward Bowles, M. A., born 1613, and educated in Katherine-ball, Cambridge, under Dr. Sibbes and Dr. Brownrigge. He was first chaplain to the earl of Manchester, and upon the reduction of York to the parliament settled in that city. He was a wise and prudent man, having a clear head and a warm heart; an excellent scholar, and a useful preacher. He attended lord Fairfax when general Monk passed through Yorkshire, and presented an address to the general for a free parliament. He was very zealous and active in promoting the king's restoration, and waited on his majesty with lord Fairfax at Breda. It is credibly reported that the deanery of York was offered to him, but not being satisfied with conformity, he was excluded the minster, though he continued preaching at Allhallows, and afterward at St. Martin's, as he had opportunity+. When the fatal Bartholomew-day approached he grew sick of the times, and died in the flower of his life, aged forty-nine, and was buried on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1662.
[In the preceding year there passed an act for regulating the press, enacting "that no private person or persons should print, or cause to be printed, any book or pamphlet whatsoever, unless the same was first lawfully licensed and authorised to be printed by certain persons appointed by the act to license the same; viz. law-books by the lord-chancellor, or one of the chief-justices, or by the chief baron: books of history, or concerning state-affairs, by one of the principal secretaries of state; on heraldry, by the earl-marshal; and all other books, i. e. to say all novels, romances, and fairy tales, and all books about philosophy, mathematics, physic, divinity, or love, by the lord-archbishop of Canterbury, or the bishop of London for the time being." "The framers of
*Calamy, vol. 2. p. 1; or, Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, vol. 1. p. + Ibid. vol. 2. p. 779-782; or, ibid. vol. 2. p. 580.