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court or even treat with her enemies, when there is so little reason to apprehend that we should gain any considerable numbers thereby. But to this it was replied, that the prodigious increase of Popery and infidelity was a loud call of Providence, to attempt every thing that could be done without sin for healing our divisions. That though the Nonconformists could not legally meet together to bring in their concessions in the name of the body, it was well enough known what they scrupled, and what would bring most of them into the church. That a compliance in some lesser matters of indifference would be no reproach, but an honour to the church, how superior soever she might be in argument or power*.
The proposals were drawn up by bishop Wilkins and Dr. Burton, and communicated by the lord-keeper to Dr. Bates, Manton, and Baxter, and by them to their brethren, under the following particulars:
1. That such ministers who in the late times had been ordained only by presbyters, should have the imposition of the hands of a bishop, with this form of words: "Take thou authority to preach the word of God, and administer the sacraments in any congregation of the church of England, when thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto."
2. That instead of all former subscriptions, after the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, they subscribe the following declaration: I A. B. do hereby profess and declare, that I approve the doctrine, worship, and government, established in the church of England, as containing all things necessary to salvation; and that I will not endeavour by myself or any other, directly or indirectly, to bring in any doctrine contrary to that which is so established. And I do hereby promise, that I will continue in the communion of the church of England, and will not do any thing to disturb the peace thereof.
3. That the gesture of kneeling at the sacrament, the cross in baptism, and bowing at the name of Jesus, be left indifferent, or taken away.
4. That if the liturgy and canons be altered in favour of dissenters, then every preacher upon his institution shall declare his assent to the lawfulness of the use of it, and promise, that it shall be constantly used at the time and place accustomed.
The alterations proposed to be made in the liturgy, were these:
To read the psalms in the new translation.
To appoint lessons out of the canonical Scripture instead of the Apocrypha.
Not to enjoin godfathers and godmothers, when either of the parents are ready to answer for the child in baptism. To omit that expression in the prayer," By spiritual regeneration." To
* Baxter's Life, part 3. p. 25.
change the question, "Wilt thou be baptized?" into," Wilt thou have this child baptized?" To omit those words in the thanksgiving, "To regenerate this infant by the Holy Spirit, and to receive him for thy child by adoption." And the first rubric after baptism, "It is certain by God's word," &c. In the exhortation after baptism, instead of, "regenerate and grafted into the body," to say, "received into the church of Christ." No part of the office of baptism to be repeated in public when the child has been lawfully baptized in private.
To omit this passage in the office of confirmation: "After the example of thy holy apostles, and to certify them by this sign of thy favour and gracious goodness towards them." And instead of, "Vouchsafe to regenerate," read, "Vouchsafe to receive into thy church by baptism."
To omit the expressions in matrimony, "With my body I thee worship;" and that in the collect, "Thou hast consecrated," &c.
In the visitation of the sick, ministers to be allowed to make use of such prayers as they judge expedient.*
In the burial of the dead, instead of, "Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God, of his great mercy, to take unto himself," &c. read," Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take out of this world the soul," &c. Instead of," in sure and certain hope," to read, "in a full assurance of the resurrection by our Lord Jesus Christ." To omit the following words, “We give thee hearty thanks, for that it has pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world;" and these other, "As our hope is this our brother doth."
In the communion-service to change, "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, "into, "our sinful souls and bodies may be cleansed by his precious body and blood.”
The commination not to be enjoined.
The liturgy to be abbreviated, especially as to the morning service, by omitting all the responsal prayers, from, "O Lord, open thou," &c. to the litany; and the litany, and all the prayers, from, "Son of God, we beseech thee," &c. to, "We humbly beseech thee, O Father."
The Lord's prayer not to be enjoined more than once, viz. after the absolution, except after the minister's prayer before
The Gloria Patri to be used but once, after reading the Psalms.
The Venite exultemus to be omitted, unless it be thought fit to put any or all of the first seven among the sentences at the beginning.
The communion-service to be omitted when there are no communion-days, except the ten commandments, which may be read
Baxter's Life, p. 34.
after the creed; and enjoining the prayer, "Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep these laws," only once, at the end.
The collects, epistles, and gospels, to be omitted, except on particular holy days.
The prayers for the parliament to be inserted immediately after the prayer for the royal family, in this or the like form: That it may please thee to direct and prosper all the consultations of the high court of parliament, to the advantage of thy glory, the good of the church, the safety, honour, and welfare, of our sovereign and his kingdoms."
To omit the two hymns in the consecration of bishops, and ordination of priests.
In the catechism, after the first question, "What is thy name?" It may follow," When was this name given thee?" After that, "What was promised for you in baptism?" Answ. "Three things were promised for me." In the question before the commandments, it may be altered thus, "You said it was promised for you." To the fourteenth question, "How many sacraments hath Christ ordained?" the answer may be, "Two only, baptism and the Lord's supper."
Mr. Baxter proposed farther, that the subscription might be only to the doctrinal articles of the church. That the power of bishops, and their courts, to suspend and silence men, might be limited. That the baptismal covenant might be explicitly owned by all who come to the sacrament. But it was replied, that more than what was above mentioned would not pass with the parliament.
The proposals for a toleration were communicated by Mr. Baxter to the Presbyterians, to the Independents by Dr. Owen, and were to the following effect:
1. That such Protestants who could not accept of the proposals for a comprehension, might have liberty for the exercise of their religion in public, and to build or to procure places for their public worship at their own charges, either within or near towns, as shall be thought most expedient.
2. That the names of all such persons who are to have this liberty to be registered, together with the congregations to which they belong; and the names of their teachers.
3. That every one admitted to this liberty be disabled from bearing any public office, but shall fine for offices of burden.
4. Upon shewing a certificate of being listed among those that are indulged, they shall be freed from such legal penalties as are to be inflicted on those who do not frequent their parishchurches.
5. Such persons so indulged shall not for their meeting in conventicles be punished by confiscation of estates.
6. Provided they pay all public duties to the parish where they inhabit, under penalty of
7. This indulgence to continue three years."
According to these heads of agreement a bill was prepared for the parliament by lord-chief-justice Hales; but bishop Wilkins, an honest and opened-hearted man, having disclosed the affair to bishop Ward, in hopes of his assistance, alarmed the bishops, who, instead of promoting the design, concerted measures to defeat it; for as soon as the parliament met, notice was taken that there were rumours without doors of an act to be offered for comprehension and indulgence, upon which a vote was passed, that no man should bring such an act into the house. And, to crush the Nonconformists more effectually, archbishop Sheldon wrote a circular letter to the bishops of his province, dated June 8, to send him a particular account of the conventicles in their several diocesses, and of the numbers that frequented them; and whether they thought they might be easily suppressed by the civil magistratet. When he was provided with this information he went to the king, and obtained a proclamation to put the laws in execution against the Nonconformists, and particularly against the preachers, according to the statute of 17th king Charles II. which forbids their inhabiting corporations.
Thus the persecution was renewed; and the parliament still bent on severities, appointed a committee to inquire into the behaviour of the Nonconformists, who reported to the house that divers conventicles, and other seditious meetings, were held in their very neighbourhood, in defiance of the laws, and to the danger of the peace of the kingdom. General Monk, who was near his end, and sunk almost into contempt, was employed to disperse them, and received the thanks of the house for his zeal in that important service, wherein he was sure to meet with no opposition. They also returned his majesty thanks for his proclamation for suppressing conventicles, desiring him to take the same care for the future. By this means the private meetings of the dissenters, which had been held by connivance, were broken up again. Mr. Baxter was committed to Clerkenwell-prison, for preaching to his neighbours in his own house at Acton, and for refusing the Oxford oath ; but upon demanding an habeas corpus, his mittimus was declared invalid for want of naming the witnesses§. The justices would have mended their mittimus and sent him to Newgate, but Mr. Baxter, being released, wisely kept out of the way. Mr. Taverner of Uxbridge was sentenced to Newgate, for teaching a few children at Brentford. Mr. Button, late university-orator, was sent to prison for teaching two knight's sons in his own house; and multitudes in many counties had the like usage, suffering imprisonment for six months.
But this was contrary to the king's inclinations, who was only for playing the dissenters against the parliament for a sum of money; when the house therefore was up, his majesty ordered
Ibid. p. 139.
Baxter's Life, part 3. p. 25. § Baxter's Life, part 3. p. 49.
† Burnet, vol. 1. p. 382.
some of the Nonconformists to be told, that he was desirous to make them easy, and that if they would petition for relief they should be favourably heard. Sir J. Barber, secretary of state, acquainted Dr. Manton with the king's intention, upon which an address was drawn up and presented to his majesty at the earl of Arlington's lodgings by Dr. Jacomb, Manton, and Bates; the king received them jealously, and promised to do his utmost to get them comprehended within the establishment. He wished there had been no bars at all, but that he was forced to comply for peace' sake, and that he would endeavour to remove them, though it was a work of difficulty. He complained of the umbrage that their numerous assemblies gave to clamorous people, and advised them to use their liberty with more discretion hereafter. When the ministers promised obedience, and assured his majesty of their steady loyalty, and constant prayers for the prosperity of his person and government, he dismissed them with a smile, and told them, that he was against persecution, and hoped ere long to be able to stand upon his own legs. But his majesty's promises were always to be bought off by a sum of money to support his pleasures.
The controversy of the reasonableness of toleration was now warmly debated without doors; many ill-natured books were written to expose the doctrine of the Presbyterians, as leading to antinomianism and licentiousness of mannerst. Others exposed their characters and manner of preaching. Among these must be reckoned the Friendly Debate, which, though written by a good man, says bishop Burnett, had an ill effect in sharpening people's spirits too much against the dissenters: the author was Dr. Simon Patrick, afterward bishop of Ely, but now in the heat of his youth; who, by aggravating some weak and unguarded expressions, endeavoured to expose the whole body of Nonconformist ministers to contempt. But I must do this prelate so much justice as to inform the reader, that in his advanced age he expressed his dissatisfaction with this part of his conduct; and, in a debate in the house of lords about the occasional bill, declared, "he had been known to write against the dissenters with some warmth in his younger years, but that he had lived long enough to see reason to alter his opinion of that people, and that way of writing." A rare instance of ingenuity and candour! We shall have occasion to mention Sir Roger L'Estrange hereafter.
But one of the most virulent writers of his time, under the form of a clergyman, was Samuel Parker, afterward bishop of Oxford, a man of considerable learning and great smartness, but of no judgment, and as little virtue; and as to religion, says bishop Burnet §, rather impious than otherwise. At length Andrew Marvel, the liveliest wit of the age, attacked him in a
Baxter's Life, part 3. p. 37. 87.
+ Ibid. part 3. p. 39
§ Page 582.