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flag in the narrow seas to the king's yacht, passing by the Dutch fleet. The cabal managed these complaints like men who were afraid of receiving satisfaction, or of giving the adversary any umbrage to prepare for the storm. The Dutch therefore, relying on the faith of treaties, pursued their traffic without fear; but when their rich Smyrna fleet, of merchantmen, consisting of seventytwo sail under convoy of six men-of-war, passed by the Isle of Wight, the English feet fell upon them and took several of their ships, without any previous declaration of war; a breach of faith (says Burnet) which Mahometans and pirates would have been ashamed of.*
Two days after the attempt upon the Sinyrna fleet, the cabal made the third advance towards Popery and absolute power, by advising the king to suspend the penal laws against all sorts of Nonconformists. It was now resolved to set the dissenters against the church, and to offer them the protection of the crown to make way for a general toleration. Lord Shaftesbury first proposed it in council, which the majority readily complied with, provided the Roman Catholics might be included; but when the declaration was prepared, the lord-keeper Bridgman refused to put the seal to it, as judging it contrary to law, for which he was dismissed, and the seals given to the Earl of Shaftesbury, who maintained, that the indulgence was for the service of the church of England. "As for the church (says his lordship), I conceive the declaration is extremely for their interest; for the narrow bottom they have placed themselves upon, and the measures they have proceeded by, so contrary to the properties and liberties of the nation, must needs in a short time prove fatal to them; whereas this leads them into another way, to live peaceably with the dissenting and different Protestants, both at home and abroad;" which was true if both had not been undermined by the Papists. Archbishop Sheldon, Morley, and the rest of their party, exclaimed loudly against the indulgence, and alarmed the whole nation, insomuch that many sober and good men, who had long feared the growth of Popery, began to think their eyes were open, and that they were in good earnest; but it appeared afterward that their chief concern was for the spiritual power; for though they murmured against the dispensing power, they fell in with all their other proceedings; which, if Providence had not miraculously interposed, must have been fatal to the Protestant religion and the liberties of Europe.
At length the declaration having been communicated to the French king, and received his approbation, was published, bearing date March 15, 1671-2, to the following effect§:
Vol. 2. p. 16. 12mo.
+ History of the Stuarts, p. 566.
Des Maiz. Col. p. 677, &c.
§ The bishops took the alarm at this declaration : and charged their clergy to preach against Popery. The pulpits were full of a new strain: it was every where preached against, and the authority of the laws was magnified. The king complained
"Our care and endeavours for the preservation of the rights. and interests of the church, have been sufficiently manifested to the world, by the whole course of our government since our happy restoration, and by the many and frequent ways of coercion that we have used for reducing all erring or dissenting persons, and for composing the unhappy differences in matters of religion, which we found among our subjects upon our return; but it being evident by the sad experience of twelve years, that there is very little fruit of all these forcible courses, we think ourselves obliged to make use of that supreme power in ecclesiastical matters, which is not only inherent in us, but hath been declared and recognised to be so, by several statues and acts of parliament; and therefore we do now accordingly issue this our declaration, as well for the quieting of our good subjects in these points, as for inviting strangers in this conjuncture to come and live under us; and for the better encouragement of all to a cheerful following of their trades and callings, from whence we hope, by the blessing of God, to have many good and happy advantages to our government; as also for preventing for the future the danger that might otherwise arise from private meetings and seditious conventicles.
"And in the first place, we declare our express resolution, meaning, and intention, to be, that the church of England be preserved, and remain entire in its doctrine, discipline, and government, as now it stands established by law; and that this be taken to be, as it is, the basis, rule, and standard, of the general and public worship of God, and that the orthodox conformable clergy do receive and enjoy the revenues belonging thereunto, and that no person, though of a different opinion and persuasion, shall be exempt from paying his tithes, or other dues whatsoever. And farther we declare, that no person shall be capable of holding any benefice, living, or ecclesiastical dignity or preferment of any kind, in this our kingdom of England, who is not exactly conformable.
"We do in the next place declare our will and pleasure to be, that the execution of all, and all manner of penal laws in matters ecclesiastical, against whatsoever sort of Nonconformists or recusants, be immediately suspended, and they are hereby suspended; and all judges, judges of assize, and jail-delivery, sheriffs, justices of peace, mayors, bailiffs, and other officers whatsoever, whether ecclesiastical or civil, are to take notice of it, and pay due obedience thereto.
"And that there may be no pretence for any of our subjects to
to Sheldon, that controversy was preached, as if on purpose to inflame the people, and alienate them from him and his government; and Sheldon, apprehensive that the king might again press him on this subject, convened some of the clergy, to consult with them what answer to make to his majesty. Dr. Tillotson suggested this reply: "That since the king himself professed the Protestant religion, it would be a thing without a precedent, that he should forbid his clergy to preach in defence of a religion which they believed, while he himself said he was of it." Burnet's History, vol. 2. p. 17. 12mo. ed. and Birch's Life of Tillotson, p. 41.—ED.
continue their illegal meetings and conventicles, we do declare, that we shall from time to time allow a sufficient number of places, as they shall be desired, in all parts of this our kingdom, for the use of such as do not conform to the church of England, to meet and assemble in order to their public worship and devotion, which places shall be open and free to all persons.
"But to prevent such disorders and inconveniences as may happen by this our indulgence, if not duly regulated; and that they may be the better protected by the civil magistrate; our express will and pleasure is, that none of our subjects do presume to meet in any place, until such places be allowed, and the teacher of that congregation be approved, by us.
"And lest any should apprehend that this restriction should make our said allowance and approbation difficult to be obtained, we do farther declare, that this our indulgence, as to the allowance of the public places of worship, and approbation of the preachers, shall extend to all sorts of Nonconformists and recusants except the recusants of the Roman-Catholic religion, to whom we shall in nowise allow public places of worship, but only indulge them their share in the common exemption from the penal laws, and the exercise of their worship in their private houses only.
"And if, after this our clemency and indulgence, any of our subjects shall pretend to abuse this liberty, and shall preach seditiously, or to the derogation of the doctrine, discipline, or government, of the established church, or shall meet in places not allowed by us, we do hereby give them warning, and declare we will proceed against them with all imaginable severity. And we will let them see we can be as severe to punish such offenders when so justly provoked, as we are indulgent to truly tender
"Given at our court at Whitehall, this 15th day of March, in the four-and-twentieth year of our reign."
The Protestant Nonconformists had no opinion of the dispensing power, and were not forward to accept of liberty in this way; they were sensible the indulgence was not granted out of love to them, nor would continue any longer than it would serve the interest of Popery. "The beginning of the Dutch war," says one of their writers, "made the court think it necessary to grant them an indulgence, that there might be peace at home while there was war abroad, though much to the dissatisfaction of those who had a hand in framing all the severe laws against them." Many pamphlets were written for and against the dissenters accepting it, because it was grafted on the dispensing power. Some maintained that it was setting up altar against altar, and that they should accept of nothing but a comprehension. Others endeavoured to prove, that it was the duty of the Presbyterians to make use of the liberty granted them by the
* Baxter, part 3. p. 99. Welwood's Mem. p. 190.
king, because it was their natural right, which no legislative power upon earth had a right to deprive them of, as long as they remained dutiful subjects; that meeting in separate congregations, distinct from the parochial assemblies, in the present circumstances was neither schismatical nor sinful. Accordingly most of the ministers, both in London and in the country, took out licences, a copy of which I have transcribed from under the king's own hand and seal in the margint. Great numbers of people attended the meetings, and a cautious and moderate address of thanks was presented to the king for their liberty, but all were afraid of the consequences.
It was reported farther, that the court encouraged the Nonconformists, by some small pensions of 50 and 1007. to the chief of their party; that Mr. Baxter returned the money, but that Mr. Pool acknowledged he had received 50l. for two years, and that the rest accepted it. This was reported to the disadvantage of the dissenters by Dr. Stillingfleet and others, with an insinuation that it was to bribe them to be silent, and join interest with the Papists; but Dr. Owen, in answer to this part of the charge, in his preface to a book entitled, An Inquiry, &c. against Dr. Stillingfleet, declares, that "it is such a frontless malicious lie as impudence itself would blush at; that, however the dissenters may be traduced, they are ready to give the highest security that can be of their stability in the Protestant cause; and for myself," says he, " never any person in authority, dignity, or power in the nation, nor any from them, Papist or Protestant, did ever speak or advise with me about any indulgence or toleration to be granted to Papists, and I challenge the whole world to prove the contrary. From this indulgence Dr. Stillingfleet dates the beginning of the Presbyterian separation.
This year died Dr. Edmund Staunton, the ejected minister of Kingston-upon-Thames, one of the assembly of divines, and some time president of Corpus-Christi-college in Oxford. He was son of sir Francis Staunton, born at Woburn, in Bedfordshire, 1601, and educated in Wadham-college, of which he was a fellow§.
Baxter, part 3. p. 99. Welwood's Mem. p. 102.¶
CHARLES, by the grace of God, king of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c. to all mayors, bailiffs, constables, and others our officers and ministers, civil and military, whom it may concern, greeting. In pursuance of our declaration of the 15th of March 1671-2, we do hereby permit and license G. S. of the Congregational persuasion, to be a teacher of the congregation allowed by us, in a room or rooms of his house in for the use of such as do not conform to the church of England, who are of that persuasion commonly called Congregational, with farther licence and permission to him the said G. S. to teach in any place licensed and allowed by us, according to our said declaration. Given at our court at Whitehall the second day of May, in the twenty-fourth year of our reign, 1672. By his majesty's command, ARLINGTON.
Burnet, vol. 2. p. 16, 17.
§ Dr. Staunton in 1615 became a commoner of Wadham-college; on the 4th of
The editor cannot meet with these passages in Welwood's Memoirs, 6th
Upon his taking orders, he became minister of Bushy, in Hertfordshire, but changed it afterward for Kingston-upon-Thames. In 1634, he took the degrees in divinity, and in 1648 was made president of Corpus-Christi-college, which he kept till he was silenced for nonconformity. He then retired to Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, and afterward to a village in that county called Bovingden, where he preached as often as he had opportunity. He was a learned, pious, and peaceable divine. In his last sickness he said he neither feared death nor desired life, but was willing to be at God's disposal. He died July 14, 1671, and was buried in the church belonging to the parish.
Mr. Vavasor Powell was born in Radnorshire, and educated in Jesus-college, Oxon. When he left the university, he preached up and down in Wales, till, being driven from thence for want of presbyterial ordination, which he scrupled, he came to London, and soon after settled at Dartford, in Kent. In the year 1646, he obtained a testimonial of his religious and blameless conversation, and of his abilities for the work of the ministry, signed by Mr. Herle and seventeen of the assembly of divines. Furnished with these testimonials, he returned to Wales, and became a most indefatigable and active instrument of propagating the gospel in those parts. There were few, if any, of the churches or chapels in Wales in which he did not preach; yea, very often he preached to the poor Welch in the mountains, at fairs, and in marketplaces; for which he had no more than a stipend of 1007. per annum, besides the advantage of some sequestered livings in North Wales (says my author), which, in those times of confusion, turned but to a very poor account. Mr. Powell was a bold man, and of republican principles, preaching against the protectorship of Cromwell, and wrote letters to him, for which he was imprisoned, to prevent his spreading disaffection in the state. At the dawn of the Restoration, being known to be a fifth-monarchy man, he was secured first at Shrewsbury, afterward in Wales, and at last in the Fleet. In the year 1662, he was shut up in South-sea-castle, near Portsmouth, where he continued five years. In 1667 he was released, but venturing to preach again in his own country, he was imprisoned at Cardiff, and in the year 1669 sent up to London, and confined a prisoner in the Fleet, where he died, and was buried in Bunhill-fields, in the presence of an innumerable crowd of dissenters, who attended him to his grave. He was of an unconquerable resolution, and of a mind unshaken under all his troubles. The inscription on his tomb calls him "a successful teacher of the past, a sincere witness of the present, and a useful example to the future age; who, in the defection of many, found mercy to be faithful, for which, being called to many
October, in the same year, was admitted scholar of Corpus-Christi-college and afterward fellow, and M. A. Wood's Athen. Oxon. vol. 2. p. 352; and Dr. Grey. -ED.
* Calamy's Abridg. vol. 2. p. 63. Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. 1. p. 173.