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this curious act (observes lord Stanhope), no doubt, supposing that these right reverend prelates were, of all men in the kingdom, most conversant with all these subjects." This act commenced in June 1662, and passed only for two years. It was continued by an act of the 16th of Charles II., and by another act of the 17th of the same reign; and in a few months afterward it expired. We may form some idea of the private instructions given to the licenser, as well as of his excessive caution and ignorant zeal, when we are assured, that on his taking exception to the following lines in Milton's Paradise Lost, that admirable poem had like to have been suppressed.
Stanhope on the Rights of Juries, p. 64, &c. Secret History of the Court and Reign of Charles II. vol. 1. p. 441, note; and Dr. Harris's Life of Charles II. vol. 2. p. 263-274.-ED.]
FROM THE ACT OF UNIFORMITY TO THE BANISHMENT OF THE EARL OF CLARENDON IN THE YEAR 1667.
AT this time, says bishop Burnet, the name of Puritans was changed into that of Protestant Nonconformists, who were subdivided into Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, and Quakers; these being shut out of the establishment, had nothing now in view but a toleration, which the credulous Presbyterians said they had strong assurances of, before the act of uniformity passed into a law; but in this they were disappointed, as well as in every thing else; for which the Independents told them they might thank themselves, because their managers had protested against including the Papists; whereas the legislature and the bishops were concerned to prevent any mischief from that quarter, and to their care the Presbyterians should have left it*. Some observing how much the court and parliament were set against them, were for removing with their ministers to Holland; and others proposed New-England; but the Papists, at a meeting at the earl of Bristol's house, agreed to do whatever they could to keep the Nonconformists in England, and buoy them up with hopes of a toleration.
The king was a concealed Roman Catholic, and had swarms of that persuasion about his person and court, who had fought Burnet, vol. 1. p. 282.
for his father in the wars, or been civil to him in his exile; their design was to introduce a toleration of their religion, by the royal indulgence, in common with other dissenters from the establishment; and the king was so far in their measures, that he declared openly he would give liberty to all or none. The court was therefore content that the act of uniformity should pass in the severest terms, on purpose to make the number of dissenters more considerable; and when this was objected, it was replied, the more dissenters the better, because it will make a toleration more needful, in which the Papists will be included*. The Papists had two maxims from which they never departed; one was, to keep themselves united, and promote a general toleration, or a general prosecution. The other, to divide the Protestants as much as possible among themselves. For this reason the sword was put into the hands of such magistrates as would inflame the differences, and exasperate their spirits one against the other. Nor were there wanting some hot-headed young clergymen, who ran greedily into the snare, and became the tools of Popery and arbitrary power, till the Protestant religion was expiring, and must inevitably have been lost, had it not been revived almost by a miracle. With a like view the laws against profaneness and immorality were relaxed, men's morals were neglected, interludes, masquerades, promiscuous dancing, profane swearing, drunkenness, and a universal dissolution of manners, were connived at, and the very name of godliness became a reproach.
The parliament, being made up of a set of pensioners and mercenaries, went into all the court measures, and enacted more penal laws for religion, than it may be all the parliaments put together since the Reformation. They pressed the act of uniformity with inflexible rigour, and enforced it with so many other penal laws, that under their wing Popery grew to such a height, as to threaten the extirpation of the northern heresy. At length many of the members being dead, and others grown fat with the spoils of the public, they would have retrieved their errors, and distinguished between Protestant Nonconformists and Popish recusants, but it was too late; and the king having found ways and means to subsist without parliaments, resolved to adhere by his standing maxim, to give ease to all dissenters or to none.
It is impossible to excuse the clergy from their share in the troubles of this reign. If the convocation of 1662, in their review of the liturgy, had made any amendments for the satisfaction of the Presbyterians, they would undoubtedly have passed both houses of parliament, and healed in some measure the divisions of the church; but they were actuated by a spirit of revenge, and not only promoted such laws as might deprive the Presbyterians
* Burnet, vol. 1. p. 285.
of the power of hurting them for the future; but assisted in putting them in execution. None had a greater share in inflaming the minds of the people, and in sounding the trumpet to persecution. But here the reader must distinguish between those zealots, who, from resentment, bigotry, or sinister views, set themselves to encourage and promote all the methods of oppression and tyranny; and those, who, though they complied with the terms of conformity themselves, were disposed to an accommodation with the Protestant Nonconformists upon moderate
The bishops were generally of the former sort; they were old and exasperated, fond of their persecuting principles, and fearful of every thing that tended to relieve the Presbyterians. They went with zeal into all the slavish doctrines of the prerogative, and voted with the court in every thing they required. But even some of these bishops, who at first were very zealous to throw the Presbyterians out of the church, afterward grew more temperate. Dr. Laney, bishop of Peterborough, who made a great bustle in the Savoy conference, was willing at length to wipe his hands of the dirty work, and, to use his own expression, could look through his fingers and suffer a worthy Nonconformist to preach publicly near him for years together.-Bishop Saunderson had a roll of Nonconformist ministers under his angry eye, designed for discipline, but when he was near his end, he ordered the roll to be burnt, and said he would die in peace.-And most remarkable is the passage in the last will and testament of Dr. Cosins, bishop of Durham, a zealous enemy of the Presbyterians, and who had met with ill usage in the late times :-" I take it to be my duty (says he), and that of all the bishops and ministers of the church, to do our utmost endeavour, that at last an end may be put to the differences of religion, or at least that they may be lessened." Such was the different temper of this learned prelate in the vigour of life, and when he came to review things calmly on his dying bed. To these may be added bishop Gauden, Wilkins, Reynolds, and a few others, who were always moderate, and are said to carry the wounds of the church in their hearts to the grave; but the far greater majority of the bench, especially those who frequented the court, were of different principles.
The like may be observed of the inferior clergy, who were divided, a few years after, into those of the court and the country; the former were of an angry superstitious spirit, and far more strenuous for a few indifferent ceremonies, than for the peace of the church, or its more important articles; their sermons were filled with reverence due to their holy mother, with the sacred dignity of their own indelible characters, with the slavish doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance, and with the most bitter raillery and invectives against the routed Presbyterians; they encouraged the enacting severe laws, and carried them into execution as long as their superiors would permit, without any regard
to mercy or merit; but took comparatively little or no care, by their doctrine or example, of the morals of the people, which were shamefully neglected throughout the nation. The clergy of this character were by far the more numerous for twenty years after the Restoration; the tide of church-preferments running in this channel, and their doctrines being the most fashionable.
The country clergy were of a quite different spirit; they were determined Protestants and true churchmen, but more disposed to a coalition with Protestant dissenters than with Papists: among these were the Tillotsons, Stillingfleets, Whichcotes, Wilkins, Cudworths, &c. men of the first rank for learning, sobriety, and virtue; they were the most eminent preachers of the age, whose sermons and writings did honour to the church of England, and supported its character in the worst of times. They lamented the corruptions and vices of the people, and stood in the gap against an inundation of Popery and tyranny; but their numbers were small, because the road to preferment lay another way; and when the high-church clergy had betrayed the liberties of their country, and the cause of the Protestant religion, into the hands of the Papists, these appeared boldly in their defence, disarmed their adversaries, and saved the nation.
When therefore we speak of the furious proceedings of the bishops and clergy, it must not be understood of the whole body, but only of those who were tools of a corrupt court and ministry, and who, out of ignorance or other private and personal motives, went blindfold into all their destructive measures.
Bishop Burnet, in his book against the author of Parliamentum Pacificum, has the following remarkable passage: "It is well known, that those who were secretly Papists, and disguised their religion, as the king himself did, animated the chief men of the church to carry the points of uniformity as high as possible,that there might be many Nonconformists, and great occasion for a toleration, under which Popery might creep in; for if the king's declaration from Breda had taken place, of two thousand ministers that were turned out, about seventeen hundred had stayed in; but the practice of the Papists had too great an influence on the churchmen, whose spirits were too much soured by their ill usage during the war; nor were they without success on the dissenters, who were secretly encouraged to stand out, and were told, that the king's temper and principles, and the consideration of trade, would certainly procure them a toleration. Thus they tampered with both parties; liberty of conscience was their profession; but when a session of parliament came, and the king wanted money, then a new severe law against the dissenters was offered to the angry men of the church-party as the price of it; and this seldom failed to have its effect: so that they were like the jewels of the crown, pawned when the king needed money, but redeemed at the next prorogation."
The same prelate observes in another performance," that the first spirit of severity was heightened by the practices of the Papists. That many churchmen, who understood not the principles of human society, and the rules of the English government, wrote several extravagant treatises about the measures of submission; that the dissenters were put to great hardships in many parts of England." But concludes, that he must have the brow of a Jesuit that can cast this wholly upon the church of England, and free the court of it. Upon the whole matter (says his lordship) it is evident, that the passions and infirmities of some of the church of England being unhappily stirred up by the dissenters, they were fatally conducted by the Popish party to be the instruments of doing a great deal of mischief."
But to go on with the history: three days after the act of uniformity took place, the silenced ministers presented a petition to his majesty for a toleration, by the hands of Dr. Manton, Dr. Bates, and Mr. Calamy, to this effect; "that having had former experience of his majesty's clemency and indulgence, some of the London ministers, who are like to be deprived of all future usefulness by the late act of uniformity, humbly cast themselves at his majesty's feet, desiring him of his princely wisdom to take some effectual course, that they may be continued in their ministry, to teach his people obedience to God and his majesty; and they doubt not, but by their dutiful and peaceable behaviour, they shall render themselves not altogether unworthy of so great a favour."* The matter being debated next day in council, his majesty gave his opinion for an indulgence if it was feasible. Others were for conniving at the more eminent divines, and putting curates into their churches to read the service till they should die off:† this was the opinion of the Earl of Manchester, who urged it with a great deal of earnestness; but Lord Clarendon was for the strict execution of the law: "Surely (says he) there cannot be too intent a care in kings and princes to preserve and maintain all decent forms and ceremonies both in church and state, which keeps up the reverence due to religion, as well as the duty and dignity due to the government and the majesty of kingst.' Bishop Sheldon was of the same side, and declared that, if the act was suspended, he could not maintain his episcopal authority: that this would render the legislature ridiculous, and be the occasion of endless distractions §. England is accustomed to obey laws (says he), so that while we stand on that ground we are safe; and, to answer all objections, he undertook to fill the vacant pulpits more to the people's satisfaction. By such arguments, delivered with great earnestness and zeal, they prevailed with the council to let the law take place for the present.
Nevertheless, about four months after, his majesty published a declaration to all his loving subjects, by advice of his privy coun
Kennet's Chron. p. 753.
+ Ibid. p. 730. 742.
§ Burnet, vol. 1. p. 279.