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burlesque strain, and with so peculiar and entertaining an address, that from the king down to the tradesman, his books were read with the highest pleasure. He had all the men of wit on his side, and not only humbled Parker more than the serious and grave writings of Dr. Owen, but silenced the whole party; one of whom concludes his letter to Mr. Marvel with these words: “If thou darest to print or publish any lie or libel against Dr. Parker, by the eternal God I will cut thy throat." Subscribed J. G.
All sober men were of opinion, that it was ungenerous and cruel to treat a number of peaceable men, whom the laws had put almost out of their protection, in so ludicrous a manner*." Religion itself suffered by it. I remember, says lord-chief-justice Hales, that when Ben Jonson, in his play of the Alchymist, introduced Anartus in derision of the Puritans, with many of their phrases taken out of Scripture, in order to render that people ridiculous, the play was detested and abhorred, because it seemed to reproach religion itself; but now, when the Presbyterians were brought upon the stage in their peculiar habits, and with their distinguishing phrases of Scripture, exposed to the laughter of spectators, it met with approbation and applause.
But such was the complexion of the court, that they bid defiance to virtue, and even to decency, giving countenance to all manner of licentiousness. The play-houses were become nests of prostitution, says Burnett, and the stage was defiled beyond example; the king, queen, and courtiers, went about in masks, and came into citizens' houses unknown, where they danced with a great deal of wild frolic, and committed indecencies not to be mentioned. They were carried about in hackney-chairs, and none could distinguish them except those who were in the secret. Once the queen's chairman, not knowing who she was, left her to come home in a hackney-coach, some say in a cart. Buckingham, who gloried in his debaucheries, and Wilmot earl of Rochester, the greatest wit and libertine of his age, were the principal favourites. To support these extravagances the house of commons supplied the king with what money he wanted, and were themselves so mercenary, that the purchase of every man's vote was known; for as a man rose in credit in the house, he advanced his price and expected to be treated accordingly.
The university was no less corrupt; there was a general licentiousness of manners among the students: the sermons of the younger divines were filled with encomiums upon the church, and satires against the nonconformists; the evangelical doctrines of repentance, faith, charity, and practical religion were unfashionable. The speeches and panegyrics pronounced by the orators and terræ filii, on public occasions, were scurrilous, and little less than blasphemous; as appears by the letter in the mar
*Rapin, p. 406.
↑ Burnet, p. 267. 386. Rapin, p. 652.
gin from Mr. Wallis, to the honourable Robert Boyle, Esq.*, of the proceedings at the opening of archbishop Sheldon's theatre, which is copied verbatim from the original under his own hand.
About this time died the reverend Mr. Matthew Newcomen, M.A., the ejected minister of Dedham, in Essex; he was educated in St. John's college, Cambridge, and succeeded the famous Mr. John Rogers. He was a most accomplished scholar and Christian, a member of the assembly of divines, and, together
* A Letter from Mr. John Wallis to the Honourable Robert Boyle, Esq. dated from Oxford, July 17, 1669.
After my humble thanks for the honour of yours of July 3, I thought it not unfit to give you some account of our late proceedings here. Friday, July 9, was the dedication of our new theatre. In the morning was held a convocation in it, for entering upon the possession of it; wherein was read, first the archbishop's instrument of donation (sealed with his archiepiscopal seal) of the theatre, with all its furniture, to the end that St. Mary's-church may not be farther profaned by holding the act in it. Next a letter of his, declaring his intention to lay out 2,000l. for a purchase to endow it. Then a letter of thanks to be sent from the university to him, wherein he is acknowledged to be both our creator and redeemer, for having not only built a theatre for the act, but, which is more, delivered the Blessed Virgin from being so profaned for the future: he doth, as the words of the letter are, "non tantum condere, hoc est creare, sed etiam redimere." These words, I confess, stopped my mouth from giving a placet to that letter when it was put to the vote. I have since desired Mr. Vice-chancellor to consider, whether they were not liable to a just exception. He did at first excuse it; but, upon farther thoughts, I suppose he will think fit to alter them, before the letter be sent and registered. After the voting of this letter, Dr. South, as university-orator, made a long oration; the first part of which consisted of satirical invectives against Cromwell, fanatics, the Royal Society, and new philosophy. The next, of encomiastics; in praise of the archbishop, the theatre, the vice-chancellor, the architect, and the painter. The last, of execrations; against fanatics, conventicles, comprehension, and new philosophy; damning them, ad inferos ad gehennam. The oration being ended, some honorary degrees were conferred, and the convocation dissolved. The afternoon was spent in panegyric orations, and reciting of poems in several sorts of verse, composed in praise of the archbishop, the theatre, &c. and crying down fanatics. The whole action began and ended with a noise of trumpets; and twice was interposed variety of music, vocal and instrumental; purposely composed for this occasion. On Saturday and Monday, those exercises appertaining to the act and vespers, which were wont to be performed in St. Mary's church, were had in the theatre. In which, beside the number of proceeding doctors (nine in divinity, four in law, five in physic, and one in music), there was little extraordinary; but only that the terræ filii for both days were abominably scurrilous; and so suffered to proceed without the least check or interruption from vice-chancellor, pro-vicechancellors, proctors, curators, or any of those who were to govern the exercises; which gave so general offence to all honest spectators, that I believe the university hath thereby lost more reputation than they have gained by all the rest; all or most of the heads of houses, and eminent persons in the university, with their relations, being represented as a company of whoremasters, whores, and dunces. And, among the rest, the excellent lady, which your letter mentions, was, in the broadest language, represented as guilty of those crimes, of which (if there were occasion) you might not stick to be her compurgator; and (if it had been so) she might (yet) have been called whore in much more civil language. During this solemnity (and for some days before and since) have been constantly acted (by the vice-chancellor's allowance) two stage-plays in a day (by those of the duke of York's house) at a theatre erected for that purpose at the town-hall; which (for aught I hear) was much the more innocent theatre of the two. It hath been here a common fame for divers weeks (before, at, and since the act) that the vice-chancellor had given 3001. bond (some say 5007. bond) to the terræ filii, to save them harmless, whatever they should say, provided it were neither blasphemy nor treason. But this I take to be a slander. A less encouragement would serve the turn with such persons. Since
with Dr. Arrowsmith and Tuckney, drew up their catechism*. He was one of the commissioners of the Savoy, and had many offers of preferment in the late times, but would not desert his church at Dedham, till he was displaced by the act of uniformity; after which he retired to Holland, and became pastor of the English church at Leyden, where he died about this time, universally lamented by the professors, for his humble and pleasant conversation, as well as his universal learning and pietyf.
Mr. Joseph Allein, the ejected minister of Taunton, and author of the Call to the Unconverted, was born at Devizes, in Wiltshire, and educated in Lincoln-college, Oxon. He was public preacher in the church of Taunton about seven years, and was universally beloved for his great piety and devotion. After his ejectment, he preached as he had opportunity six or seven times a week. May 26, 1663, he was committed to Ilchester jail, for singing psalms in his own house, and preaching to his family, others being present: here he continued a year, but upon his enlargement he returned again to his work, which he followed. with unwearied diligence. July 10, 1665, he was committed a second time to jail, with several other ministers, and forty private persons; where he contracted such distempers and weaknesses as brought him to his grave before he was thirty-six years of age §. He was an awakening, lively preacher; zealous and successful in his Master's work, and withal of a peaceable and quiet spirit. He died in the year 1668 or 1669.
The tide in the house of commons still run very strong on the side of persecution, as appears by two extraordinary clauses added to the conventicle act, which, having expired some time since, was now revived by the parliament which met October 19. The court went into it with a view of reducing the Presbyterians to the necessity of petitioning for a general toleration. "If we would have opened the door to let in Popery (says M. Baxter||), that their toleration might have been charged upon us, as done for our sakes, and by our procurement, we might in all likelihood have had our part in it; but I never shall be one of them who, by any new pressures, shall consent to petition for the Papists' liberty; no craft of Jesuits or prelates shall make me believe that it is necessary for the non-conformists to take this odium upon
the act (to satisfy the common clamour) the vice-chancellor hath imprisoned both of them and it is said he means to expel them. I am, Sir,
Your honour's very humble and affectionate servant,
I have by me a copy of Mr. Neal's History, which was formerly the property of the Rev. John Waldron, a dissenting minister in Exeter, who has written in the margin, here, this note, "I have been assured by Mr. Edward Parr, an ejected minister, who lived with Dr. Gouge, that he drew up the catechism. J. W."ED.
+ Calamy, vol. 2. p. 594. To speak with accuracy, the minister of Taunton. Calamy, vol. 2. p. 574.
Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, vol. 1. p. 503.
Part 3. p. 36.
themselves." The court-bishops were for the bill, but the moderate clergy were against it. Bishop Wilkins spoke against it in the house; and, when the king desired him in private to be quiet, he replied, that he thought it an ill thing both in conscience and policy; therefore, as he was an Englishman, and a bishop, he was bound to oppose it: and, since by the laws and constitution of England, and by his majesty's favour, he had a right to debate and vote, he was neither afraid nor ashamed to own his opinion in that matter. However, the bill passed both houses, and received the royal assent April 11, 1670+. It was to the following effect: "That if any persons upwards of sixteen years shall be present at any assembly, conventicle, or meeting, under colour or pretence of any exercise of religion, in any other manner than according to the liturgy and practice of the church of England, where there are five persons or more present, besides those of the said household, in such cases the offender shall pay five shillings for the first offence, and ten shillings for the second. And the preachers or teachers in any such meetings shall forfeit twenty pounds for the first and forty for the second offence. And lastly, those who knowingly suffer any such conventicles in their houses, barns, yards, &c. shall forfeit twenty pounds. Any justice of peace, on the oath of two witnesses, or any other sufficient proof, may record the offence under his hand and seal, which record shall be taken in law for a full and perfect conviction, and shall be certified at the next quarter sessions. The fines above mentioned may be levied by distress and sale of the offender's goods and chattels; and, in case of the poverty of such offender, upon the goods and chattels of any other person or persons, that shall be convicted of having been present at the said conventicle, at the discretion of the justice of peace, so as the sum to be levied on any one person, in case of the poverty of others, do not amount to above ten pounds for any one meeting: the constables, headboroughs, &c. are to levy the same by warrant from the justice, and to be divided, one third for the use of the king, another third for the poor, and the other third to the informer or his assistants, regard being had to their diligence and industry in discovering, dispersing, and punishing the said conventicles. The fines upon ministers for preaching are to be levied also by distress; and, in case of poverty, upon the goods and chattels of any other present; and the like upon the house where the conventicle is held, and the money to be divided as above.
"And it is farther enacted, that the justice or justices of peace, constables, headboroughs, &c. may by warrant, with what aid, force, and assistance they shall think necessary, break open, and enter into, any house or place where they shall be informed of the conventicle, and take the persons into custody. And the lieutenants, or other commissioned officers of the militia, may get
* Burnet, vol. 1. p. 400.
+ Rapin, p. 655,
together such force and assistance as they think necessary, to dissolve, dissipate, and disperse such unlawful meetings, and take the persons into custody." Then follow two extraordinary clauses: "That if any justice of peace refuse to do his duty in the execution of this act, he shall forfeit five pounds.
"And be it farther enacted, that all clauses in this act shall be construed most largely and beneficially for the suppressing conventicles, and for the justification and encouragement of all persons to be employed in the execution thereof. No warrant or mittimus shall be made void, or reversed, for any default in the form; and if a person fly from one county or corporation to another, his goods and chattels shall be seizable wherever they are found. If the party offending be a wife cohabiting with her husband, the fine shall be levied on the goods and chattels of the husband, provided the prosecution be within three months."
The wit of man could hardly invent anything, short of capital punishment, more cruel and inhuman*. One would have thought a prince of so much clemency as Charles II., who had often declared against persecution, should not have consented to it, and that no Christian bishop should have concurred in the passing it. Men's houses are to be plundered, their persons imprisoned, their goods and chattels carried away, and sold to those who would bid for them. Encouragement is given to a vile set of informers, and others, to live upon the labour and industry of their conscientious neighbours +. Multitudes of these infamous wretches spent their profits in ill houses, and upon lewd women, and then went about the streets again to hunt for farther prey. The law is to be construed in their favour, and the power to be lodged in the hand of every individual justice of peace, who is to be fined 51. if he refuses his warrant. Upon this, many honest men, who would not be the instruments of such severities, quitted the bench. Mr. Echard, being ashamed to ascribe these cruelties to the influence of the bishop, says, "that this and all the penal laws made against the dissenters were the acts of parliament, and not of the church, and were made more on a civil and political, than upon a moral or religious account; and always upon some fresh provocation in reality or appearance.' This is the language by which the patrons of high-church cruelty endeavour to excuse themselves from the guilt of persecution; but it must fall somewhere; and that it may not fall too heavy
*This iniquitous law, by the power with which it invested a single justice, destroyed the bulwark of English liberty, the trial by jury. It punished the innocent for the guilty, by subjecting the husband to a penalty for the conduct of the wife, and the goods of any person present to fines, which other offenders were incompetent to discharge. The mode of conviction was clandestine. Its natural tendency was to influence magistrates to partiality in judgment, and to reverse the scriptural qualification for magistracy to the encouragement of evil-doers, and the punishment of those who do well; by the fines it imposed on justices and on officers, and by the sanction it gave to informers. Gough's History of the Quakers, vol. 2. p. 298, 299.-ED.
+ Burnet, p. 398.