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sions, several thousands of whom attended his funeral. Crosby's History of the Baptists, vol. 1. p. 307–321. Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, vol. 1. p. 108-113. The Life and Death of Mr. Jessey, 1671; where are the letters written to the Jews, remarks on our translation of the Bible, and rules for a new version.-ED.]
The next judgment which befel the nation was the most dreadful plague that had been known within the memory of man. This was preceded by an unusual drought; the meadows were parched and burnt up like the highways, insomuch that there was no food for the cattle, which occasioned first a murrain among them, and then a general contagion among the human species, which increased in the city and suburbs of London until eight or ten thousand died in a week. The richer inhabitants fled into the remoter counties; but the calamities of those who stayed behind, and of the poorer sort, are not to be expressed. Trade was at a full stand; all commerce between London and the country was entirely cut off, lest the infection should be pagated thereby. Nay, the country house-keepers and farmers durst not entertain their city friends or relations till they had performed quarantine in the fields or out-houses. If a stranger passed through the neighbourhood, they fled from him as an enemy. In London the shops and houses were quite shut up, and many of them marked with a red cross, and an inscription over the door, Lord, have mercy upon us! Grass grew in the streets; and every night the bellman went his rounds with a cart, crying, Bring out your dead. From London the plague spread into the neighbouring towns and villages, and continued near three quarters of a year, till it had swept away almost one hundred thousand of the inhabitants.
Some of the established clergy, with a commendable zeal, ventured to continue in their stations, and preach to their parishioners throughout the course of the plague, as Dr. Walker, Dr. Horton, Dr. Meriton, and a few others; but most of them fled, and deserted their parishes at a time when their assistance was most wanted; upon this some of the ejected ministers ventured to preach in the vacant pulpits, imagining that so extraordinary a case would justify their disregard to the laws. The ministers who embarked in this service were, the reverend Mr. Thomas
Dr. Grey has introduced here a full and affecting narrative of the progress of this calamity, and of the mortality it produced; drawn up by the pen of Mr. Vincent, one who charitably gave his assistance at that time, as copied by Dr. Calamy, in his Continuation, p. 33. It was usual for people, as they went about their business, to drop down in the street. A bagpiper, who, excessively overcome with liquor, had fallen down and lay asleep in the street, was taken up, and thrown into a cart, and betimes the next morning carried away with some dead bodies. At daybreak he awoke, and rising began to play a tune: which so surprised those who drove the cart, and could see nothing distinctly, that in a fright they betook them to their heels, and would have it they had taken up the devil in the disguise of a dead man. Sir John Reresby's Memoirs, p. 10, 11.-ED.
+ Baxter's Life, part 3. p. 2.
Vincent, Mr. Chester, Mr. Janeway, Mr. Turner, Grimes, Franklin, and others. The face of death, and the arrows that fled among the people in darkness at noon-day, awakened both preachers and hearers: many who were at church one day were thrown into their graves the next; the cry of great numbers "What shall we do to be saved?" A more awful time England had never seen.
But it will amaze all posterity, that in a time both of war and pestilence, and when the Nonconformist ministers were hazarding their lives in the service of the souls of the distressed and dying eitizens of London, that the prime-minister and his creatures*, instead of mourning for the nation's sins, and meditating a reformation of manners, should pour out all their vengeance upon the Nonconformists, in order to make their condition more insupportable. One would have thought such a judgment from Heaven, and such a generous compassion in the ejected ministers, should have softened the hearts of their most cruel enemies; but the Presbyterians must be crushed, in defiance of the rebukes of Providence. Bishop Kennet and Mr. Echard would excuse the ministry, by alleging, that some of the old Oliverian officers were enlisted in the Dutch servicet; which, if true, was nothing to the body of the Presbyterians, though lord Clarendon did what he could to incense the parliament, and make them believe they were in confederacy with the enemies of the government. In his harangue to the house, he says, "their countenances were more erect, and more insolent, since the beginning of the war than before; that they were ready, if any misfortune had befallen the king's fleet, to have brought the war into our fields and houses. The horrid murderers of our late royal master have been received into the most sacred councils in Holland; and other infamous persons of our nation are admitted to a share in the conduct of their affairs, with liberal pensions. Too many of his majesty's subjects have been enlisted in their service for a maintenance. Their friends at home made no doubt of doing the business themselves, if they could pitch upon a lucky day to begin the work. If you carefully provide for suppressing your enemies at home, you will find your enemies abroad more inclined to peace" Is it possible that such a speech could proceed from the lips of a wise and faithful counsellor, who was to ask for money to carry on the war? Could the chancellor think, that the way to conquer abroad was to divide and harass the king's subjects at home, in the midst of the distress of a terrible plague? He confessed afterward, that he was most averse to this war, and abhorred it from his very soul; and yet he makes a handle of it to rain down vengeance on the Presbyterians, who had no concern in it; but it happened to them as in Popish countries; when any general calamity befals the people, it is imputed
Baxter's Life, part 3. p. 3.
Echard, p. 824.
to too great an indulgence to heretics, and the vengeance is returned upon their heads. Bishop Burnet is of opinion that the Oxford act was rather owing to the liberty the Nonconformists took in their sermons to complain of their own hardships, and to lament the vices of the court, as the causes of the present calamities. And supposing this to be true, their complaints were not without reason.
However, the load was to lie on the dissenting ministers, and therefore an act was brought into the house to banish them from their friends, which had the royal assent, October 31, 1665. was entitled, "An act to restrain Nonconformists from inhabiting corporations;" the preamble to which sets forth, "that divers parsons, and others in holy orders, not having subscribed the act of uniformity, have taken upon them to preach in unlawful assemblies, and to instil the poisonous principles of schism and rebellion into the hearts of his majesty's subjects, to the great danger of the church and kingdom. Be it therefore enacted, that all such Nonconformist ministers shall take the following oath: I, A. B., do swear, that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever, to take arms against the king; and that I do abhor that traitorous position of taking arms by his authority, against his person, or against those that are commissioned by him, in pursuance of such commissions; and that I will not at any time endeavour any alteration of government either in church or state. And all such Nonconformist ministers shall not after the 24th of March, 1665, unless in passing the road, come, or be within five miles of any city, town corporate, or borough, that sends burgesses to parliament; or within five miles of any parish, town, or place, wherein they have since the act of oblivion been parson, vicar, or lecturer, &c. or where they have preached in any conventicle on any pretence whatsoever, before they have taken and subscribed the aforesaid oath before the justices of peace at their quarter-sessions for the county, in open court; upon forfeiture for every such offence of the sum of forty pounds, one third to the king, another third to the poor, and a third to him that shall sue for it. And it is further enacted, that such as shall refuse the oath aforesaid shall be incapable of teaching any public or private schools, or of taking any boarders‡ or tablers to be taught or instructed, under pain of forty pounds, to be distributed as above. Any two justices of peace, upon oath made before them of any offence committed against this act, are
Echard, p. 846.
† A project was formed of imposing this clause on the whole nation, by requiring this oath of every subject. The point was so near carried, that the bill brought in for the purpose was rejected by three voices only. Secret History of the Reign of Charles II. vol. 2. p. 172, note.-ED.
"This act seemed (it is justly observed) to be the last step in the climax of intolerance; for to deprive men of the means of subsistence implies more deliberate cruelty, though it does not excite so much horror as fire and fagots." Secret History of the Reign of Charles II. vol. 2. p. 171, note.-ED.
empowered to commit the offender to prison for six months, without bail or mainprize."
The earl of Southampton, lord Wharton, Ashley, Dr. Earl, bishop of Salisbury, and others, vehemently opposed this bill, out of compassion to the Nonconformists, and as it enforced an unlawful and unjustifiable oath, which (as the earl of Southampton observed) no honest man could take; but the madness of the times prevailed against all reason and humanity. The promoters of the act were, lord chancellor Clarendon, archbishop Sheldon, Ward, the new bishop of Salisbury, and their creatures, with all that were secret favourers of Popery, says bishop Burnet. It was moved that the word legally might be inserted in the oath, before the word "commissioned;" and that before the words "endeavoured to change the government," might be inserted the word unlawfully; but all amendments were rejected +; however, Bridgman, chief-justice of the common-pleas, declaring that the oath must be so understood, Dr. Bates and about twenty others took it, to avoid the imputation of sedition; but they had such a lecture afterward from the bench for their scruples, that they repented of what they had done before they went out of court. Mr. Howe, and about twelve in Devonshire, and a few in Dorsetshire, took the oath, with a declaration in what sense and with what limitations they understood it ‡.'
But the body of the Nonconformist ministers refused the oath, choosing rather to forsake their habitations, their relations, and friends, and all visible support, than destroy the peace of their consciences. Those ministers who had some little estate or substance of their own, retired to some remote and obscure villages, or such little market-towns as were not corporations, and more than five miles from the places where they had preached; but in many counties it was difficult to find such places of retirement; for either there were no houses untenanted, or they were annexed to farms which the ministers were not capable of using; or the people were afraid to admit the ministers into their houses, lest they should be suspected as favourers of nonconformity§. Some took advantage of the ministers' necessities, and raised their rents beyond what they could afford to give. Great numbers were thus buried in obscurity, while others, who had neither money nor friends, went on preaching as they could, till they were sent to prison, thinking it more eligible to perish in a jail than to starve out of one; especially when by this means they had some occasional relief from their hearers, and hopes that their wives and children might be supported after their death ||. Many who lay concealed in distant places from their flocks in the daytime, rode thirty or forty miles to preach to them in the night, and retired again before day-light. These hardships tempted
⚫ Baxter, part 3. p. 3. Burnet, vol. 1. p. 329.
Howe's Life, p. 41.
some few to conform (says Mr. Baxter), contrary to their former judgments; but the body of dissenters remained steadfast to their principles, and the church gained neither reputation nor numbers. The informers were very diligent in hunting after their game; and the soldiers and officers behaved with great rudeness and violence. When they missed of the ministers, they went into the barns and out-houses, and sometimes thrust their swords up to the hilts in the hay and straw, where they supposed they might lie concealed; they made havoc of their goods, and terrified the women and children almost out of their lives. These methods of cruelty reduced many ministers, with their families, to the necessity of living upon brown rye-bread and water; but few were reduced to public beggary, says Mr. Baxter, the providence of God appearing wonderfully for their relief, in their greatest extremities.
And as if the judgments of Heaven upon this nation were not heavy enough, nor the legislature sufficiently severe, the bishops must throw their weight into the scale; for in the very midst of the plague, July 7, 1665, archbishop Sheldon sent orders to the several bishops of his province to return the names of all ejected Nonconformist ministers, with their places of abode, and manner of life; and the returns of the several bishops are still preserved in the Lambeth library+. The design of this inquiry was to gird the laws closer upon the dissenters, and to know by what means they earned their bread; and if this tender-hearted archbishop could have had his will, they must have starved, or sought a livelihood in foreign countries.
This year put an end to the life of Dr. Cornelius Burgess, a divine of the Puritan stamp‡, educated at Oxford, and chaplain
+ Comp. Hist. vol. 3. p. 279.
"If all the Puritans (says Dr. Grey) had been of his rebellious stamp, they had certainly been a wicked crew, but there was a great difference in Puritans, some very good, and some very bad, as is justly observed by Mr. Fuller." In his first volume also, p. 268, the doctor impeaches the character of this divine, in the words of Echard; who calls him "the seditious Dr. Burgess, and one of the greatest boutefeus of the whole party, being the perpetual trumpeter to the most violent proceedings, a great instrument in bringing on the miseries of the nation; who died in great want and poverty, tormented and eaten up by a cancer in his neck and cheek-a fearful instance of rebellion and sacrilege." To these and other invectives of the archdeacon Echard against Dr. Burgess, Dr. Calamy replied; but the reply goes chiefly to shew the archdeacon's partiality, by inveighing in this manner against Burgess, when the characters of some on the other side were open to similar charges. The fact, which seems to bear hard on the name of this divine, is that though he declared it “by no means lawful to alienate the bishops' lands from public and pious uses, or to convert them to any private person's property;" yet he gained so much as to grow rich by the purchase of them. After the Restoration he lost all. This, Dr. Calamy thinks, might be allowed a sufficient punishment without branding his memory. What inconsistency or faults soever might be chargeable on Dr. Burgess, the interpretation which the archdeacon puts on his death deserves severe censure, as “rash and presuming." This method gives a particular and invidious construction to events that arise from general laws, and equally befal the righteous and the wicked: and it shews, how they who use it would direct, if it were in their power, the evils and calamities of life. It indicates as much a want of candour and generosity as of sound judgment.-It appears from a MS. history drawn up by Dr. Henry Sampson, a noted physician, that Dr. Burgess was