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the Nonconformists, and weaken the king's hands, by dissuading the dissenters from placing any confidence in their new friends: for this purpose a pamphlet, written by the marquis of Halifax, and published by advice of some of the most eminent dignitaries of the church, was dispersed, entitled " A Letter to a Dissenter upon occasion of his Majesty's late gracious Declaration of Indulgence." It begins with saying, "that churchmen are not surprised nor provoked at the dissenters accepting the offers of ease from the late hardships they lay under; but desired them to consider, 1. The cause they have to suspect their new friends. And, 2. Their duty in Christianity and prudence not to hazard the public safety by a desire of ease or revenge.
"With regard to the first, the church of Rome (says the author) does not only dislike your liberty, but, by its principles, cannot allow it: they are not able to make good their vows; nay, it would be a habit of sin that requires absolution; you are therefore hugged now, only that you may be the better squeezed another time. To come so quick from one extreme to another is such an unnatural motion, that you ought to be on your guard: the other day you were sons of Belial, now you are angels of light. Popery is now the only friend of liberty, and the known enemy of persecution. We have been under shameful mistakes if this can be either true or lasting."
The letter goes on to insinuate," that some ministers had been bribed into the measures of the court; that they were under engagements, and empowered to give rewards to others, where they could not persuade. Now if these or others should preach up anger and vengeance against the church of England, ought they not rather to be suspected of corruption, than to act according to judgment? If they who thank the king for his declaration should be engaged to justify it in point of law, I am persuaded it is more than the addressers are capable of doing. There is a great difference between enjoying quietly the advantage of an act irregularly done by others, and becoming advocates for it; but frailties are to be excused. Take warning by the mistake of the church of England, when after the Restoration they preserved so long the bitter taste of your rough usage to them, that it made them forget their interest, and sacrifice it to their revenge. If If you had now to do with rigid prelates, the argument might be fair on your side; but since the common danger has so laid open the mistake, that all former haughtiness towards the dissenters is for ever extinguished, and the spirit of persecution is turned into a spirit of peace, charity, and condescension, will you not be moved by such an example? If it be said, the church is only humble when it is out of power; the answer is, that is uncharitable, and an unseasonable triumph; besides, it is not so in fact, for if she would comply with the court, she could turn all the thunder upon yourselves, and blow you off the stage with
a breath; but she will not be rescued by such unjustifiable means. You have formerly very justly blamed the church of England for going too far in her compliance with the court; conclude, therefore, that you must break off your friendship, or set no bounds to it. The church is now convinced of its error, in being too severe to you; the next parliament will be gentle to you; the next heir is bred in a country famous for indulgence; there is a. general agreement of thinking men, that we must no more cut ourselves off from foreign Protestants, but enlarge our foundations; so that all things conspire to give you ease and satisfaction, if you do not too much anticipate it. To conclude, the short question is, whether or no you will join with those who must in the end run the same fate with you? If the Protestants of all sorts have been to blame in their behaviour to each other, they are upon equal terms, and for that very reason ought now to be reconciled." How just soever the reasoning of this letter may be, either the author did not know the spirit of the church-party (as they were called,) or he must blush when he compared it with the facts that followed the Revolution. Twenty thousand copies were dispersed about the city and country, and had the desired effect, the honest well-meaning dissenters making no advantage of the favourable juncture; they entered into no alliance with the Papists, nor complied with the court-measures, any farther than to accept their own liberty, which they had a natural right to, and of which they ought never to have been deprived.
The war between the king and the church being now declared, each party prepared for their defence; the points in debate were, a general toleration, and the dispensing power; the latter of which the high-church party had connived at during the late reign; but when the edge of it was turned against themselves (the king having used it to break down the fences of the church, by abrogating the penal laws and tests, and making an inroad upon the two universities,) they exclaimed against it as subversive of the whole constitution; and forgetting their late addresses, contested this branch of the prerogative. The king had secured the opinion of the judges in favour of it, but this not giving satisfaction, he determined to obtain a parliamentary sanction. For this purpose he published the following order in the Gazette, "that whereas his majesty was resolved to use his utmost endeavours, that his declaration of indulgence might pass into a law, he therefore thought fit to review the lists of deputy-lieutenants, and justices of peace in the several counties, that those may be continued who would be ready to contribute what in them lies towards the accomplishment of so good and necessary a work, and such others added to them, from whom his majesty may reasonably expect the like concurrence and assistance." Pursuant to this resolution the king's first parliament was dissolved, and agents were employed to dispose the people to the choice of such
new members as might facilitate the court-measures. The king himself went a progress round the country* to ingratiate himself with the people; and it can hardly be expressed, says Echard, with what joyful acclamations his majesty was received, and what loyal acknowledgments were paid him in all places; but in the affair of the tests, says Burnett, there was a visible coldness among the nobility and gentry, though the king behaved in a most obliging manner.
When the king returned from his progress, he began to change the magistracy in the several corporations in England, according to the powers reserved to the crown in the new charters; he turned out several of the aldermen of the city of London, and placed new ones in their room. He caused the lists of lordlieutenants and deputy-lieutenants to be reviewed, and such as would not promise to employ their interests in the repeal of the penal laws were discarded.' Many Protestant dissenters were put into commission on this occasion, in hopes that they would procure such members for the next parliament as should give them a legal right to what they now enjoyed only by the royal favour; but when the king pressed it upon the lord-mayor of London, and the new aldermen, who were chiefly dissenters, they made no reply.
The reason of the dissenters' backwardness in an affair that so nearly concerned them, and in which they have since expressed so strong a desire, was their concern for the Protestant religion, and their aversion to Popery. The king was not only a Roman Catholic, but a bigot; and it was evident, that the plucking up the fences at this time must have made a breach at which Popery would enter. If the king had been a Protestant, the case had been different, because Papists could not take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to a prince who stood excommunicated by the church of Rome; but now there would be no obstacle, or, if there was, the king would dispense with the law in their favour: the dissenters therefore were afraid, that if they should give in to his majesty's measures, though they might secure their liberty for
When he came to Chester (it being intimated that it would be expected, and the churchmen having led the way, and divers of the Lancashire ministers coming thither on purpose to attend the king), Mr. Matthew Henry, and Mr. Harvey, minister of another dissenting congregation in that city, with the heads of their societies, joined in an address of thanks to him, not for assuming a dispensing power, but for their ease, quiet, and liberty, under his protection. They presented it to him at the bishop's palace in the abbey court; and he told them he wished they had a magna charta for their liberty. They did not promise to assist in taking away the tests, but only to live quiet and peaceable lives. This, however, was severely censured by some of their brethren. But the expressions of thankfulness for their liberty were very different from the high flights and promises of sir Richard Lieving, the recorder of Chester at that time; who, in a speech to king James, on his entering into the city, told him, "that the corporation was his majesty's creature, and depended on the will of its creator; and that the sole intimation of his majesty's pleasure should have with them the force of a fundamental law." Mr. Thompson's MS. collections under the word "CHESTER."-ED.
↑ Page 143. VOL. III.
the present, it would stand on a precarious foundation; for if Popery came in triumphant, it would not only swallow up the church of England, but the whole Protestant interest. They chose therefore to trust their liberty to the mercy of their Protestant brethren, rather than receive a legal security for it under a Popish government.
According to this resolution bishop Burnet observes*, that sir John Shorter the new lord-mayor, and a Protestant dissenter, thought fit to qualify himself for this office, according to law, though the test was suspended, and the king had signified to the mayor that he was at liberty, and might use what form of worship he thought best in Guildhall, which was designed as an experiment to engage the Presbyterians to make the first change from the established worship, concluding, that if a Presbyterian mayor did this one year, it would be easy for a Popish mayor to do it the next; but his lordship referred the case to those clergymen who had the government of the diocess of London during the bishop's suspension, who assured his lordship it was contrary to law; so that though the lord-mayor went sometimes to the meetings of dissenters, he went frequently to church, and behaved with more decency, says his lordship, than could have been expected. This disobliged the king to a very high degree, insomuch that he said, the dissenters were an ill-natured sort of people that could not be gained.
This opposition to the king heightened his resentments, and pushed him on to rash and violent measures: if he had proceeded by slow degrees, and secured one conquest before he had attempted another, he might have succeeded, but he gave himself up to the fury of his priests, who advised him to make haste with what he intended. This was discovered by a letter from the Jesuits from Liege to those of Friburgh, which says, the king wished they could furnish him with more priests to assist him in the conversion of the nation, which his majesty was resolved to bring about, or die a martyr in the attempt. He said, he must make haste that he might accomplish it in his lifetime +; and when one of them was lamenting that his next heir was a heretic, he answered, God will provide an heir; which argued either a strong faith, or a formed design of imposing one on the nation. Father Petre was the king's chief minister, and one of his majesty's privy-council, a bold and forward man, who stuck at nothing to ruin the church. The king designed him for the archbishopric of York, now vacant, and for a cardinal's capt, if he could prevail with the pope; for this purpose the earl of Castlemain was sent ambassador to Rome; and a nuncio was sent from thence into England, to whom his majesty paid all possible respect, and gave an audience at Windsor, though it was contrary to law; all commerce with the court of Rome having been declared high-treason by the statute
Burnet, p. 145.
Ibid. p. 168.
↑ Ibid. p. 135.
of king Henry VIII.; but the king said he was above law; and because the duke of Somerset would not officiate in his place at the ceremony, he was dismissed from all his employ
It was strange infatuation in king James to put a slight on the ancient nobility, and turn most of his servants out of their places because they were Protestants; this weakened his interest, and threw a vast weight into the opposite scale. Indeed it was impossible to disguise his majesty's design of introducing Popery*, and therefore Parker, bishop of Oxford, was employed to justify it, who published a book, entitled, "Reasons for abrogating the test imposed on all members of parliament;" which must refer to the renouncing transubstantiation, and the idolatry of the church of Rome; because the members of parliament had no other qualification imposed upon them besides the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. The bishop said much to excuse the doctrine of transubstantiation, and to free the church of Rome from the charge of idolatry. His reasons were licensed by the earl of Sunderland, and the stationer was commanded not to print any answer to them; but Dr. Burnet, then in Holland, gave them a very smart and satirical reply, which quite ruined the bishop's reputa
But his majesty's chief dependence was upon the army, which he was casting into a Popish mould; Protestant officers were cashiered; Portsmouth and Hull, the two principal sea-ports of England, were in Popish hands; and the majority of the garrisons were of the same religion. Ireland was an inexhaustible seminary, from whence England was to be supplied with a Catholic army; an Irish Roman Catholic, says Welwood, was a most welcome guest at Whitehall; and they came over in shoals. Over and above complete regiments of Papists, there was scarce a troop or company in the army wherein some of that religion were not inserted, by express orders from court. Upon the whole, the affairs of the nation were drawing to a crisis; and it was believed, that what the king could not accomplish by the gentler methods of interest and persuasion, he would establish by his sovereign power. The army at Hounslow was to awe the city and parliament; and if they proved refractory, an Irish massacre, or some other desperate attempt, might possibly decide the fate of the
About this time died the Rev. David Clarkson, B. D. born at Bradford in Yorkshire, February 1621-22, and fellow of Clarehall, Cambridge, where he was tutor to Dr. Tillotson, afterward archbishop of Canterbury. Dr. Bates in his funeral sermon gives him the character of a man of sincere godliness and true holiness: humility and modesty were his distinctive characters; and his learning was superior to most of his time, as appears by his
* Burnet, p. 178.