Eri B. (Eri Baker) Hulbert.

The English reformation and Puritanism, with other lectures and addresses online

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Quaker, or Baptist pattern, must appear in person before
the civil court and have his name registered. He must take
the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; and he must swear
assent to thirty-six and one-half of the Thirty-nine Articles
of Religion. From the articles which taught Episcopacy all
were excused ; from the article which taught infant baptism
the Baptists were excused; and the Quakers were only re-
quired to declare their faith in the Trinity and the inspira-
tion of the Scriptures. Complying with these regulations
the Dissenter is no longer required to resort to the parish
church, nor to use the Book of Common Prayer.

Now if a number of these registered Non-conformists
wished to form a congregation or assembly, and to meet
together for public worship, their case must be submitted
to the bishop of the diocese or to the civil court, and their
place of worship must be licensed and duly registered or
recorded, it being further provided that the doors of this
worship-place must never be locked, barred, or bolted. Com-
plying with these conditions Non-conformists could law-
fully assemble, listen to their own preachers, administer
the ordinances, and conduct worship according to their

It is to be noted that the Act of Toleration did not dis-
establish the Church of England, nor repeal a single existing
statute. The various acts of Uniformity and Conformity,
passed in the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts, were still
in full force, as were also the Test and Corporation, the Con-
venticle and Five-Mile acts. Men who had not registered
to worship with Dissenters must still attend the Anglican
service. Dissenters not registered, if caught in a conven-

Toleration Not Religious Liberty 325

tide, were still subject to fines and imprisonment; as were
also unregistered parsons caught within five miles of a
previous place of preaching. Persons caught worshiping
in a place not registered and certified were treated as crimi-
nals, as they were, also, if caught in a registered place with
doors barred or bolted. No dissenting layman could hold
the most petty civil office unless he received communion in
the Church of England; and every Dissenter must share
with the Anglicans in the support of that church. Non-
conformists paying all the expenses of their own churches
and also helping to pay the expenses of the parish churches.
Tithes and rates and parochial duties were levied as before,
and refusal to pay brought legal prosecution. Nevertheless,
the Act of Toleration was a momentous victory in the
struggle for religious liberty. It left the Church of England
intact, and repealed no law by which her position had been
intrenched and buttressed. It simply accorded to certain
Englishmen, under partial and unjust restrictions, the legal
right to sever their connection with the Established Church
and to maintain their own places and modes of worship.
Henceforth all English subjects were not by necessity bound
together in a single ecclesiastico-political communion. The
national church was no longer national in the sense that all
Englishmen are, "as by sovereign right, worshipers within
its pale." That was the beginning of that series of victories
which has marked the progress of freedom for the last two
hundred years.

SINCE 1689

The Toleration Act, passed in 1689, was the first recog-
nition in English history of the Englishman's right to
worship God apart from the National Establishment. In
view of this significant fact and of its immediate and remote

326 Established Church and Non-Conformiiy

consequences, its enactment must be looked upon as an event
of the first magnitude. In itself the act was so outrageously
unjust as to be nothing less than odious. Nevertheless, the
hour in which it received the king's signature marks a bril-
liant epoch in the struggle for religious liberty. In that
hour was sounded the call for a fresh contest with the
Established Church for emancipation from its proscriptions.
Against non-churchmen the English statute books were
plastered over with iniquitous enactments which violated
every principle of justice and equity. It was the task of
two hundred years to undo this execrable legislation, to
remove those disabilities, and to secure exact equality before
the law for all English subjects, regardless of their religious
professions. The Non-conformists came to feel that "abso-
lute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty
was the thing they stood in need of;" and to the attainment
of this end they bent their energies. In the face of the most
relentless opposition, toward this end for two centuries they
have been steadily progressing. The history of religious
freedom since 1689 is the history of the enlargement of the
toleration grudgingly granted in the celebrated act of that
date. Decade after decade, bit by bit, the Established
Church has been forced to yield its unrighteous claims, and
to concede to Non-conformists the rights which are justly
theirs. Complete equality before the law and absolute
religious liberty are not yet the portion of all men English
born, but the day hastens, and on their children will fall its
noonday light.


The Act of Toleration expressly excluded the Unitarians
from its benefits. Other laws were enacted which im-
prisoned and outlawed those caught writing, printing, pub-

Relief Acts for Unitarians and Catholics 327

lishing, or preaching against the doctrine of the Trinity.
Such could neither sue nor be sued, neither bequeath nor
receive property, neither offer bail nor find shelter in the
courts. To deny the Trinity was to be guilty of blasphemy,
and, if the guilty one were informed against, it brought him
under the liability of the most awful penalties short of
death. For a whole century and a quarter the holder of
this opinion was living under the dread of this doom, and
not until 181 3 did the Relief Act remove the ban of the law
and put the Unitarian in the same class with other Dis-


The Toleration Act likewise excluded the Roman
Catholics. For well-nigh two hundred years in England
and Ireland they traveled a thorny path. In 1700, Catholic
priests were banished the realm. If they returned they
were jailed for life. One hundred pounds rewarded the
informer who discovered a priest in the exercise of his
office. Suspected citizens were tendered the declaration
against transubstantiation and saint-worship, refusing which
they could neither purchase, inherit, nor hold any estate,
and their present holdings were transferred to the next of
kin who was a Protestant. They could neither educate their
children in the Catholic faith nor send them abroad for that
purpose. For eighty years they lived under this terrible
law, until an act for their relief (1779) annulled most of its
provisions. But the passing of that act led to riots, and the
howling mobs all over England protested against conces-
sions to "the followers of anti-Christ." A decade later
another act (1791) gave them still further relief. Certain
old statutes, dating from Elizabeth's reign, were expunged;
the oath against transubstantiation was no longer tendered.

328 Established Church and Non-Conformity

and the double land-tax was no longer imposed; Catholic
schools might be opened, but the teacher must register and
no Protestant child must be admitted ; Catholic worship was
allowed, but it must not be in open public meeting, and the
priest must wear no distinctive garb. The profession of the
law was thrown open, and Catholic peers could have access
to the person of the king, though not yet to their places in
Parliament. They must wait forty years longer before
they could gain entrance to the House of Lords (1829).

Through all this long period the Romanists in Ireland
were treated with the more flagrant injustice. In that island
a mere handful of Protestants held absolute sway. The
Catholic Irishman could neither vote nor hold office; could
neither plead nor sue in court; could neither teach nor be
taught by a Protestant, nor go abroad for an education; if a
Romanist married a Protestant the union was set aside and
the officiating priest was hanged; if a priest or monk was
found unregistered he was banished, and if he returned was
sent to the gallows. In Ireland the Church of England was
the established church, and the Catholic population was
forced to support a religion professed by only the merest
fraction. Step by step out of this state the Irish struggled up
until, in 1869, church disestablishment was won, and
all churches were put on a footing of perfect equality before
the law. Up to the present year, 1905, America and Ireland
are the only countries in Christendom in which full religious
liberty has been attained.

The Catholic emancipation in England in recent years,
and the encroachments of the Catholic church on the
English church itself, reveal the completeness of its
triumph over old-time adversaries. The Oxford Re-
formers precipitated a movement which has sent great
numbers of Anglicans of the highest social and intel-

The Jews and Quakers 329

lectual standing into the Roman fold. Newman and
Manning became cardinals in that communion, and their
tractarian and ritualistic teachings have transformed High-
Churchism into the most thinly disguised Romanism; and
the High-Church party has become dominant in the Church
of England. Most appropriately, therefore, under these
favoring conditions, could the Pope issue a bull, in 1850,
setting up again the papal hierarchy, which had been cast
out in the reign of Elizabeth — mapping England into dio-
ceses, over which were placed papal bishops, and over all
the archbishop of Westminster. Since the defection of
John Henry Newman, in 1845, how greatly has the Roman
power increased in England, and how thoroughly has
Romanism honeycombed the National Establishment!


The Jews have always suffered at the hands of Chris-
tians, and the English Christians have not been the least
intolerant. These people, too, have struggled upward
toward an emancipation from political and religious
tyranny. One hundred and fifty years ago (1753), an act
was passed which permitted them to naturalize, but so
infuriated were the people that a twelfth-month later the
act had to be repealed. Steadily, however, they have gained
their ground; and today they can sit in either house of
Parliament, and today their synagogue worship is protected
by law.


Being Trinitarians, the Quakers were included in the
Act of Toleration, but their scruples of conscience on two
points brought them long suffering. Their Testament
taught them that the taking of oaths and the voluntary pay-
ing of tithes were sinful. After a quarter of a century they

33© Established Church and Non-Conformity

obtained relief from the first by an act which substituted
a new form of affirmation in the place of an oath; but in
their struggle against tithes they were less successful. The
duties and rates to the state church they would not pay
except under due process of law. Their enemies made the
collecting of these small sums ruinously expensive. It
sometimes meant the forfeiture of all their goods, and
sometimes long terms of imprisonment. In 1736 the
records showed that great numbers of Quakers had been
prosecuted in the petty courts, and that in the higher courts
not less than 1,180 cases had been adjudicated. Three hun-
dred and more had been imprisoned, and some of these their
prison lot had killed. In 1736 a bill was introduced for
their relief. Its sole end was, not to abolish tithes, but "to
cheapen the process of recovery." This simple and humane
bill, looking solely to a less expensive and ruinous way of
collecting tithes and parochial dues, alarmed the Establish-
ment, and they raised all over England the cry the "church
in danger," and they flooded Parliament with adverse
petitions. The Commons passed the bill, but fifteen bishops
in the House of Lords succeeded in killing it. It was
reserved for Quakers and other Non-conformists to fight
the bishops and their church for one hundred and thirty-two
years longer before they could rid themselves of the en-
forced support of an ecclesiastical establishment which
they repudiated. Not until 1868 could Dissenters loosen
the Anglican clutch on their own purse-strings.


The Act of Toleration, designed to give "some ease to
scrupulous consciences in the exercise of religion," was
grudgingly granted to Presbyterians, Independents, Bap-
tists, and Quakers, because persecution had utterly failed to

Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists 331

accomplish its object. The absurdity and uselessness,
though not the impiety and injustice, of attempting to coerce
conscience had been demonstrated. To lash the entire people
into the use of one fixed form of creed and ritual was
seen to be impossible. Hence a slight concession was rung
from the dominant party, impelled by a necessity from
which there was no escape. The hostile laws, enacted
under Tudors and Stuarts, were still in force, however, and
not one of them should lose its restraining and compelling
power. There still remained a full armory of legal weapons
which could be used against the adherents of Non-
conformity. The history of the struggle for religious
liberty since 1689 is the history of the fight of Dissenters
against churchmen to gain two points : to break down every
legal disability, and to gain complete equality before the
law. Before the Act of Toleration it had been a struggle
for very existence; now it became a struggle for exact
equality and even and impartial justice. Into the details
of that conflict it is not possible to enter. It must suffice
to note a few of its salient features. It is to be remarked,
in general, that it was a contest quite unlike the present war
between Japan and Russia, in which from the very start on
land and sea the Japanese have won an uninterrupted
series of victories. Not so were the victories for freedom
won. Often the friends of liberty were less successful;
often disasters overwhelmed them, and they knew the bit-
terness of defeat. Often they laid siege to some Port
Arthur, and for long the fortress proved impregnable.
Whole generations of men died in the ditches, not making
an inch of headway. Often the assaults of a century left
some stronghold still untaken. Not seldom a hard-fought
battle ended with the forces routed and the enemy in pos-
session of the field.

332 Established Church and Non-Conjormity

That was an ugly setback when, in the reign of Queen
Anne, the Occasional Conformity Bill became law. It was
inspired by bitter and intense hostility to Dissenters. It
was aimed against men holding civil, military, or naval
offices, who were caught attending the meetings of Baptists,
Presbyterians, or Independents. Such culprits lost their
positions; and no new office could be theirs until they had
communed three times in the Church of England, and could
prove that they had not been inside a Non-conformist church
for a year.

That was an ugly setback when, in the same reign, the
Schism Bill became law. The Dissenters had established
numerous and flourishing schools — by far the best England
then had — which alarmed and enraged the High-Church
party. The Schism Act struck a death-blow at these
schools. Thenceforth no person was allowed to teach,
whether publicly or privately, without, first, signing a decla-
ration of conformity; and, secondly, obtaining a license
from the bishop, which license could not be issued unless the
applicant could give a certificate that he had taken the Lord's
Supper for a whole year in the Church of England.

Those were ugly setbacks when the state took money
from the public treasury to retrieve the fortunes of its wan-
ing Establishment. Because the Dissenters were outstrip-
ping the Anglicans in raising meeting-houses and paying
ministers, therefore the state sought to offset this enterprise
by building new Episcopal churches and increasing the in-
comes of its poorer clergy. So in 1810, £100,000 were
added to Queen Anne's Bounty, and in 18 12, £400,000 were
appropriated for the "augmentation of church livings,"
and the land-tax on church livings was reduced by £200,-
000; and in 1818 a bill went through appropriating
£1,000,000 for the erection of new churches. Lord Liver-

Hard Struggles for Religious Freedom t,t,t,

pool boasted that the object was to "remove dissent" by the
legislature, affording the Established Church the means of
balancing the efforts of Dissenters. Six years later, in 1824,
Parliament again came to the relief of its church and
£500,000 more were added to its building-fund. These are
specimens of some of the victories Anglicans won — which
victories Dissenters must retrieve at some later period.
These were open-field victories.

But there were sieges as well as battles, in which for
long the issues hung in doubt. The acts passed in the reign
of Charles II against Non-conformity were so many Port
Arthurs which the army of freedom must storm and cap-
ture. Again and again and again did Non-conformity hurl
its whole weight of assault against these fortresses of tyr-
anny. For a hundred and fifty years their heaviest siege
guns were pounding at the Five-Mile Act and the Conventicle
Act before their walls fell in ruins. It was only after a siege
of one hundred and forty-five years that a breach in the
Test Act was made, and it was one hundred and ninety-
eight years before the garrison surrendered. It took one
hundred and sixty-seven years to capture the outer works of
the Corporation Act, and two hundred and ten years to
destroy its inner citadel. Those were memorable sieges
and notable victories in the war of independence. Their
final dates are worthy of record. The Conventicle Act and
the Five-Mile Act did not fall until 1812; the outworks of
the Test and Corporation Act were not taken until 1828;
and the inner defenses did not capitulate until so late as

To achieve the ultimate end, there was needed the batter-
ing into ruins of these moss-grown strongholds of despot-
ism; but quite as essential were the numerous open-field
battles of which the final results were no less visible and

334 Established Church and Non-Conformity

decisive. This outline recital cannot properly end without
at least the naming of a few of these.


For example, that battle over subscription to the Thirty-
nine Articles is worthy of record. Why should Dissenters,
who have no part with Anglicans, be compelled to subscribe
their creed? Where is the justice in forcing a Baptist or a
Quaker to give his assent to thirty-six and one-half of the
Episcopal Articles of Religion? As early as 1779 the
iniquity and absurdity of this were so borne in upon Par-
liament that thenceforth creed subscription was no longer
a matter of compulsion.


For example, again, what is there in the religion of a
Roman Catholic or a non-conforming Protestant which
disqualifies him from serving as an officer in his country's
army and navy? Why is it that only Anglicans can hold
naval and military commissions? Is a Presbyterian good
enough to stand in the ranks, but not good enough to wear
epaulets? Must a man's church connection determine
whether he shall serve or command, the Congregationalist
always serving and the Episcopalian always commanding?
Is no man fit to be a lieutenant or captain or colonel except
a member of the Church of England? That unjust and
puerile discrimination was not removed until 18 17. Since
that date Episcopal exclusiveness has been relegated to its
merited oblivion.


Once again, the Non-conformists had it out with the
privileged clergy over the marriage laws, and wrested from
them their exclusive monopoly. Time was when no mar-

Marriage Laws and Church Rates 335

riage was recognized as legal unless performed by a regular
clergyman of the Church of England, in an Episcopal
church, after the Episcopal ceremony. From the pulpit of
the parish church the banns must be proclaimed for three
successive Sundays. To violate this law meant for the min-
ister seven years transportation, and for the wedded pair a
life of adultery, and for their children the stigma of
bastardy. Dissenting couples must leave their own minister,
and repair to the parish priest, and in the parish church by
the parish ritual be joined in holy matrimony. Perhaps this
very priest was a man of unsavory reputation, whose pious
zeal was chiefly shown in the mean annoyances and petty
tyrannies to which he subjected his dissenting neighbors;
but he alone could proclaim the banns, and tie the knot, and
receive the fee. Through long decades the Non-conformists
fought this monopoly of the favored clergy; and it was not
until 1836 that they were able to triumph over it. At last
they wrenched from Parliament a law which relegated the
parish priest to his proper place; and authorized the mar-
riage of Dissenters by their own dissenting ministers, in
their own dissenting chapels, by their own dissenting for-
mulae. No longer could priestly services and Prayer-Book
rituals be forced on unwilling and protesting parties.


That was a long and strenuous conflict in which Non-
conformity fought the paying of rates and parochial dues
to the support of the Established Church. In ancient times
each parish paid for the repair of its church and churchyard
by a special rate; but after the legalizing of non-Episcopal
worship what had the Dissenter to do with the repairing of
the parish church, whose threshold he never crossed?
Quite as consistently would the Anglican be compelled to

336 Established Church and Non-Conformity

sustain the dissenting chapel. Against church rates protests
never ceased, but the burdened ones always cried in vain.
So they protested and suffered on down to 1833 when they
were almost strong enough to break the bondage. Failing
this time, they renewed the contest for another thirty years,
when a tie vote in Parliament revealed their growing
strength, only the speaker's ballot losing them the day. A
few years later, however, they drove the enemy from the
field, and, in 1868, the Church Rate Abolition Act ended
forever this form of oppression.


That was a long and hotly contested battle which wrung
from the Established Church its monopoly of the national
universities. For one hundred and sixty-five years it was
impossible to break this proscription. Only Anglicans
could enjoy the benefits of Oxford and Cambridge. They
claimed that the universities were founded by churchmen
and for churchmen, and so only good churchmen could
enter their precincts — men who attended church services,
and subscribed church formularies, and pledged themselves
to church advancement. Its studies, its degrees, its fellow-
ships, its teaching, government, honors, and emoluments
were all for them and them alone. No Dissenter could
profane their halls. The struggle was long, and the defeats
were many, and the victory came only piecemeal. The walls
of Oxford were the first to be battered down. In 1854 the
University Reform Act made a wide-open breach through
which the Dissenters entered in. The church was shorn of
its power to shut against them its gates, its lecture-rooms,
or its degrees. Thenceforth Non-conformists could matricu-
late and graduate without having a single church formu-

University and Burial Laws Amended 337

lary thrust in their faces. Nearly twenty years later, in
1871, they added, in part, Cambridge and Durham to their
Oxford conquest. By the University Test Act it was
decreed that all these universities "shall be freely acces-
sible to the nation." By the act the Dissenter might take any
lay academic degree; might hold any lay academic office.
He might be a Baptist, a Unitarian, or an infidel, and the
state church could not shackle him. These privileges were
his without subscribing any religious test or formulary
whatsoever. Still he had not yet won complete equality
before the law. There remained some disability still. He
could not be the head of a college; could not be elected to a
professorship in divinity; could not receive the degree of
doctor of divinity. These were positions and honors still
reserved for churchmen. Ten years later, in 1882, the
friends of freedom won out still another point or two. By
the law of that year, neither heads of colleges nor fellows

Online LibraryEri B. (Eri Baker) HulbertThe English reformation and Puritanism, with other lectures and addresses → online text (page 23 of 33)