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record made upon oath under the hand and seal of a justice of peace, or pay a sum not exceeding five pounds; for the second offence six months' imprisonment, or ten pounds; and for the third offence the offender to be banished to some of the American plantations for seven years, excepting New-England and Virginia, or pay one hundred pounds; and in case they return, or make their escape, such persons are to be adjudged felons, and suffer death without benefit of clergy. Sheriffs, or justices of peace, or others commissioned by them, are empowered to dissolve, dissipate, and break up, all unlawful conventicles, and to take into custody such of their number as they think fit. They who suffer such conventicles in their houses or barns are liable to the same forfeitures as other offenders. The prosecution is to be within three months. Married women taken at conventicles are to be imprisoned for twelve months, unless their husbands pay forty shillings for their redemption. This act to continue in force for three years after the next session of parliament."
This was a terrible scourge over the laity, put into the hands of a single justice of peace, without the verdict of a jury, the oath of the informer being sufficient. The design of the parliament (says Rapin) was to drive them to despair, and to force them into real crimes against the government. By virtue of this act the jails in the several counties were quickly filled with dissenting Protestants, while the Papists had the good fortune to be covered under the wing of the prerogative. Some of the ministers who went to church in sermon-time, were disturbed for preaching to a few of their parishioners after the public service was over; their houses were broke open, and their hearers taken into custody; warrants were issued out for levying 207. on the minister, 201. upon the house, and 5s. upon each hearer. If the money was not immediately paid, there was a seizure of their effects, the goods and wares were taken out of the shops; and in the country, cattle were driven away and sold for half their value. If the seizure did not answer the fine, the minister and people were hurried to prison, and held under close confinement for three or six months. The trade of an informer began to be very gainful, by the encouragement of the spiritual courts. At every quarter-sessions several were fined for not coming to church, and others excommunicated: nay, some have been sentenced to abjure the realm, and fined in a sum much larger than all they were worth in the world.
Before the conventicle-act took place the laity were courageous*, and exhorted their ministers to preach till they went to prison; but when it came home to themselves, and they had been once in jail, they began to be more cautious, and consulted among themselves, how to avoid the edge of the law in the best manner they could; for this purpose their assemblies were frequently held at midnight, and in the most private places; and yet, notwith
*Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 436.
standing all their caution, they were frequently disturbed; but it is remarkable, that under all their hardships they never made the least resistance, but went quietly along with the soldiers or officers, when they could not fly from them. The distress of so many families made some confine themselves within their own houses, some remove to the plantations, and others have recourse to occasional conformity, to avoid the penalty for not coming to church; but the Independents, Anabaptists, and Quakers, declined the practice, for they said, If persecution was the mark of a false church, it must be absolutely unlawful to join with one that was so notoriously guilty.
Indeed the Quakers gloried in their sufferings, and were so resolute as to assemble openly at the Bull-and-Mouth near Aldersgate, from whence the soldiers and other officers dragged them to prison, till Newgate was filled, and multitudes died by close confinement in the several jails. The account published about this time says, there were six hundred of them in prison, merely for religion's sake, of whom several were banished to the plantations. Sometimes the Quakers met and continued silent, upon which it was questioned, whether such an assembly was a conventicle for religious exercise; and when some were tried for it in order to banishment, they were acquitted of the banishment, and came off with a fine, which they seldom paid, and were therefore continued in prison.† In short the Quakers about London gave such full employment to the informers, that they had less leisure to attend the meetings of other dissenters.
So great was the severity of these times, and the arbitrary proceedings of the justices, that many were afraid to pray in their families, if above four of their acquaintance who came only to visit them were present. Some families scrupled asking a blessing on their meat, if five strangers were at table. In London, where the houses join, it was thought the law might be evaded if the people met in several houses, and heard the minister through a window or hole in the wall; but it seems this was overruled, the determination being (as has been observed) in the breast of a single mercenary justice of the peace. And while conscientious people were thus oppressed, the common people gave themselves up to drunkenness, profane swearing, gaming, lewdness, and all kinds of debauchery, which brought down the judgments of Heaven upon the nation.
The first general calamity that befel the kingdom, was a war with the Dutch, which the king entered into this winter by the instigation of the young French monarch Lewis XIV., who, being grown rich by a long peace, sought for an opportunity to make new conquests in the Spanish Flanders; for this purpose he engaged the maritime powers in a war, that by weakening each other's hands they might not be at leisure to assist the
Sewel, p. 445.
Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 436.
Spaniards whom he intended to attack. The English made complaints of the encroachments of the Dutch upon their trade, and indignities offered to his majesty's subjects in India, Africa, and elsewhere; the French promoted these misunderstandings, and promised to supply the king with what sums of money he wanted; till at length war was proclaimed February 22, 1664—5, in the course of which sundry bloody engagements happened at sea; the two nations were drained of their blood and their treasure, and the Protestant interest almost ruined, while the French were little more than spectators. The war continued about two years and a half, and then ended with no manner of advantage to either nation.
[In the year 1663 there was obtained, by the interest of Mr. Baxter and Mr. Ashurst with the lord-chancellor Hyde, a charter for the incorporating "A society or company for propagation of the gospel in New-England, and the parts adjacent in America." Such a society had been formed under the sanction of an act of parliament in 1646: and, by a collection made in all the parishes in England, there had been raised a sum sufficient to purchase an estate in land of between 500 and 600l. a year, Upon the restoration of king Charles II. the charter became void, and colonel Beddingfield, a Roman-Catholic officer in the army, of whom a considerable part of the land was bought, seized it for his own use; pretending he had sold it under the value, in hopes of recovering it upon the king's return. The society, being re-established, at great trouble and expense, were again put in possession of the estate by a decree of chancery, which the honourable Mr. Boyle was very instrumental in obtaining. He was appointed the first governor of the company*.
On the 4th of June this year died, aged eighty-one, Dr. William Juxon, archbishop of Canterbury, whose elevation to the post of lord-high-treasurer of England and other early preferments have been mentioned before, vol. 1. p. 588. He was born in Chichester, received his grammar-learning at Merchant Tailors'school, became, fellow of St. John's college Oxford in 1598, and bachelor of the civil law in 1603, being about that time a student in Grey's-inn. Soon after he entered into holy orders, and in 1609 was made vicar of St. Giles, Oxford. In 1626 he executed the office of vice-chancellor. After the death of Charles I. he retired to his paternal manor of Little-Compton in Gloucestershire, and devoted himself to liberal studies. On the Restoration, he was advanced, September 4, 1660, to the see of Canterbury. He was buried with great funeral pomp in St. John's college, Oxon. He is said to have acted, at a very critical time, with a prudence, moderation, and integrity, which enmity could not impeach in his arduous office as high-treasurer. He left many monuments of his munificence and liberality. "The mild
Neal's History of New-England, vol. 1. p. 262.
ness of his temper, the gentleness of his manners, and the integrity of his life (says Mr. Granger) gained him universal esteem; and even the haters of prelacy could never hate Juxon*."
Mr. Henry Jessey, an eminent divine among the Puritans, died also on the 4th of September this year. He was born on the 3d of September 1601, at West-Rowton, near Cleveland in Yorkshire, where his father was minister. At seventeen years of age he was sent to St. John's college in Cambridge; he continued six years at the university, where he commenced first bachelor, then master of arts. In 1623 died his father, who had hitherto supplied him according to his ability; which event left him in such strait circumstances, that he had not above threepence a day for his maintenance, yet he so economically managed this small pittance, as to spare some of it for hiring books. He pursued his studies with diligence, and, not contenting himself with the ipse dixit of authority, he investigated science freely. He left the university well versed in the Hebrew and the writings of the rabbies, with a knowledge of Syriac and Chaldee. During this period his mind imbibed a strong sense of religion, and he determined to devote himself to the ministry. He spent nine years, after leaving the university, as chaplain in the family of Mr. Brampton Gurdon, at Assington in Suffolk, improving his time, and, among other studies, giving his attention to physic. In 1627 he received episcopal ordination, but could not be prevailed upon to accept any promotion until 1633, when the living of Aughton, in Yorkshire, was given to him. But he was removed the very next year for not using the ceremonies, and for taking down a crucifix. On this he was received into the family of sir Matthew Bointon in the same county, and preached frequently at two parishes in the neighbourhood. In 1635, accompanying his patron to London, he was invited to be pastor of the congregation formed in 1616 by Mr. Henry Jacob; this his modesty led him to decline for some time, but, after many prayers and much consideration, he accepted the invitation, and continued in this post until his death. Soon after, the sentiments of the Baptists were embraced by many of this society. This put him upon studying the controversy; and the result was, that after great deliberation, many prayers, and frequent conferences with pious and learned friends, he altered his sentiments, first concerning the mode, and then the subjects, of baptism. But he maintained the same temper of friendship and charity towards other Christians, not only as to conversation, but church-communion. When he visited the churches in the north and west of England, he laboured to promote the spirit of love and union among them, and was a principal person in setting up and maintaining, for some time, a meeting of some eminent men of each denomination in London. He divided his labours according to
Granger's History of England, vol. 2. p. 109. 154. Wood's Athen. Oxon, vol. 2. p. 662, 663; and Richardson de Præsulibus, p. 162.
the liberality of his temper. In the afternoon of every Lord's day he was among his own people. In the morning he usually preached at St. George's church, Southwark, and once in the week at Ely-house, and at the Savoy to the maimed soldiers. The master study of his life was a new translation of the Bible; in this design he engaged the assistance of many persons of note. It was almost completed, when the great turn given to public affairs at the Restoration rendered it abortive. The benevolence of his exertions formed a most distinguishing trait in his character. He chose a single life, that he might be more at liberty for such labours. Besides his own alms, he was a constant solicitor and agent for the poor, and carried about with him a list and description of the most peculiar objects of charity which he knew. Thirty families had all their subsistence from him. But his charity was not limited to his own congregation: and where he thought it no charity to give, he would often lend without interest or security. One of the most remarkable instances of his charity which had scarcely a precedent, was what he shewed to the poor Jews at Jerusalem, who by a war between the Swedes and Poles, which cut off their subsistence from their rich brethren in other countries, were reduced to great extremities. Mr. Jessey collected for them 3007. and sent with it letters with a view to their conversion to Christianity. In the year 1650 he had written a treatise to remove their prejudices, and convince them of the Messiahship of Jesus, recommended by several of the assembly of divines, and afterward translated into Hebrew to be dispersed among the Jews of all nations. He was exposed to a great number of visitors; which occasioned him to have it written over his study-door
When he went long journeys, he laid down rules to regulate the conversation for his fellow-travellers, which were enforced by small pecuniary mulcts on the violation of them. He was meek and humble, and very plain in speech, dress, and demeanour. He was so great a scripturist, that if one began to rehearse any passage, he could go on with it, and name the book, chapter, and verse, where it might be found. The original languages of the Old and New Testament were as familiar to him as his mothertongue. He was several times apprehended at meetings for religious worship. Upon the Restoration he was ejected from his living at St. George's, silenced from his ministry, and committed to prison. About five or six months after his last release, he died full of peace and joy; lamented by persons of different persua