John Stoughton.

History of religion in England from the opening of the Long Parliament to the end of the eighteenth century (Volume 3) online

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new translations ; by appointing some other lessons out
of the canonical Scriptures instead of those taken out
of the Apocrypha; by not enjoining godfathers and
godmothers, when either of the parents was ready to
answer for the child ; by omitting " every clause in the
services connecting regeneration with baptism ; " by
omitting in the Collect after imposition of hands in
Confirmation this clause, "After the example of Thy
holy apostles, and to certify them by this sign of Thy
favour and gracious goodness towards them ; " and this
also in the ofiice of matrimony, " With my body I thee
worship ; " by allowing ministers some liberty in the
visitation of the sick, to use such other prayers as they
might judge expedient ; by so altering the Burial
Service, as to imply nothing respecting the safety of
the deceased person ; by several changes in the services
with a view to abbreviation, omitting all " responsal
prayers," and all repetitions, and throwing separate
petitions altogether in one continuous prayer ; by not
reading the Communion Service at such times as are
not communion days, but only repeating the Ten
Commandments ; and by altering the catechism at
the question, " How many sacraments hath Christ


ordained ? " so that the answer may be, " Two only.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper."

II. The modifications proposed by the Presbyterians
were : — i. That all ministers ordained by Presbyters
should, when admitted by the Bishop to minister in
the Church, " have leave," if they " desired " it, to "give
in their profession, that they renounce not their ordina-
tion nor take it for a nullity, and that they take this as
the magistrate's licence and confirmation." 2. That in
the form of subscription they should assent to the truth
of all the Holy Scriptures, to the articles of Creed, and
to the doctrine of the Church of England contained in
the Thirty-six Articles ; or to the doctrinal part of the
Thirty-nine Articles, excepting only the three articles
touching ceremonies and prelacy. 3. That an appeal
be allowed for a suspended minister from the Bishop
to the King's Courts of Justice ; and lastly, that certain
rules be enacted for the due enforcement of discipline,
respecting admission to holy communion, and also
respecting meetings for worship. A few additional
suggestions were proposed, relating to alterations in
the Liturgy, of which these were the most remarkable :
" the Lord's Prayer should be used entirely with the
Doxologies ; " the word " Sabbath " should replace
" seventh-day " in the fourth commandment ; holydays
should be "left indifferent, save only that all persons be
restrained from open labour, and contempt of them ; "
and " no minister " should " be forced " to " baptize the
child of proved atheists and infidels." The addition of
the surplice to the other ceremonies was to be left
indifferent ; the expression " sacramentally " was to be
subjoined to the word " regenerate " in the baptismal
service ; the catechism was to be altered as regards
the doctrine of the sacraments ; and the Absolution


in the Visitation of the Sick was to be made con-

After considerable debate, principally upon the sub-
ject of re-ordination, a Bill of Comprehension was
drawn up by Sir Matthew Hale. The points comprised
were, first, the insertion of the word "legal " before the
word "authority" instead of the demanded liberty to
declare the validity of the previous Presbyterian ordina-
tion ; and secondly, the omission of the clause pro-
posed by Baxter and his friends relating to appeals.
Two forms of subscription, framed so as to exclude
Romanists, were likewise adopted respectively for esta-
blished ministers and for tolerated persons.

The Episcopalian scheme, endorsed and revised
by Barlow, included the indulgence of such orthodox
Protestants as could not be comprehended within the
Establishment. These, upon registering their names,
were to have liberty to worship in public, and to erect
edifices for that purpose. Although disabled from
holding public offices, they were to be fined for not
fulfilling them, and also obliged, " according to their
respective qualities," to pay annually for indulgence, a
sum not above forty shillings, nor under ten, for any
master of a family ; not above eight, nor under two, for
any other individual, the tribute to form a fund for
church building. Upon producing a certificate, Non-
conformists were to be exempted from legal penalties
for non-attendance at parish worship ; but they were to
pay church rates, and it was suggested by Barlow that
they should be forbidden to preach against the Esta-
blishment. This arrangement was to be limited to three
years, and to be confined to such Protestants as are
described in Cromwell's Act of Settlement.

These intentions were frustrated. Wilkins, Bishop


of Chester, mentioned the subject to Seth Ward, Bishop
of Salisbury, " hoping to have prevailed for his con-
currence in it ; " but the latter, availing himself of the
communication, did his utmost to defeat the scheme.
The Bishops generally were against it. The old
Clarendon party was against it.* Herbert Thorndike
wrote his " True Principle of Comprehension " in the
year 1667, just at the time when the question had been
taken up by Wilkins and Barlow.f He did not at all
mince the matter, but began by saying that Presby-
terians could not, any more than Papists, be good
subjects ; an assertion which, if true, would of course
render comprehension, in the common meaning of the
term, impossible, but it is not in that meaning that he
uses the term, and he proceeds to declare most dis-
tinctly, that " an Act comprehending Presbyterians, as
such, in the Church, would fail of its purpose, and not
give satisfaction or peace in matters of religion." The
only cure for disputes, he maintained, was to authorize
the faith and laws of the Catholic Church, i.e., within
the first six general Councils, " enacting the same with
competent penalties." This proposal really signified
that Nonconformists were to retract their opinions
altogether, or continue to be persecuted. What the
author called the true principle of comprehension was
the false principle of coercion. He would have men
think with him, and if possible force them into the
Church ; if they were incorrigible, he would shut them
out and punish them. Nor did he leave any doubt as

* It is stated by Burnet, " Hist.," I. 259, that Tillotson and Stil-
lingfleet took part in this business, but Baxter does not say so,
though he alkides to them as friendly to the scheme of 1675.
Perhaps Burnet confounded the two attempts.

t He did not pubhsh what he wrote, but it is inserted in the
Oxford Edition of his Works, V. 309-344.


to what he intended by the enactment of " competent
penalties ; " for he laid down the doctrine, that the
Church is justified in having recourse to the civil pozvcr,
to enforce union.

Parliament met on the 6th of February, and then
adjourned to the loth. When the Commons had
assembled, and before the King had arrived, reports
were made to the House respecting insolent language
said to have been used in Nonconformist Conventicles,
and it being known that in the Royal Speech some
notice would be taken of a measure of Comprehension,
about which there had been so much discussion out of
doors, the members did " mightily and generally inveigh
against it," and they voted that the King should strictly
put in force the Act of Uniformity. It was also moved^
" that if any people had a mind to bring any new laws
into the House, about religion, they might come, as a
proposer of new laws did in Athens, with ropes about
their necks." * His Majesty, however, in his speech
from the throne, recommended the Houses to adopt
some course for securing " a better union and composure
in the minds of my Protestant subjects in matters of
religion." f From this it appears that His Majesty felt
disposed to favour some measure pointing in the same
direction as did that which had been drawn up by
Barlow. I

Colonel Birch told Pepys on the 28th of February,
that the House the same morning had been in a state
of madness, in consequence of letters received respect-
ing fanatics who had come in great numbers to certain

* Pepys' " Diary," Feb. 10, 1668.

t " Pari. Hist.," IV. 404.

\ Birch, as we have seen, informed Pepys that the King was
for toleration, but the Bishops were against it. The great diffi-
culty was about tolerating Papists.


churches, turning people out, " and there preaching
themselves, and pulling the surplice over the parsons'
heads ; " this excited " the hectors and bravadoes of the
House," * The report was utterly false,t but influenced
by it, the Commons, on the 4th of March, resolved to
desire His Majesty to issue a Proclamation for en-
forcing the laws against Conventicles, and to provide
against all unlawful assemblies of Papists and Noncon-
formists4 When, upon the nth of March, the King's
Speech respecting the union of his Protestant subjects
came under consideration, all sorts of opinions were
expressed upon all sorts of ecclesiastical topics. One
declared that he never knew a toleration which did not
need an army to keep all quiet ; another expressed
himself in favour of the reform of Ecclesiastical Courts,
which had become very obnoxious. A third concurred
in this opinion, and also complained that the Bishops
had little power in the Church except authority to
ordain. A fourth wished to see the Act of Uniformity
revised, in order to temper its severe provisions,
especially in reference to the Covenant, and assent and
consent to the Common Prayer. A fifth compared the
King and clergy to a master having quarrelsome
servants, " One will not stay unless the other goes
away." A theological debater alluded to predestination
and free-will as at the foundation of all the religious
disputes in England, and lamented the growth of
Arminianism, affirming that so long as the Church was
true to herself, she need not be in fear of Noncon-
formity ; placing candles on the communion table
greatly displeased him. A Broad Church polemic

* Pepys' "Diary," Feb. 28, 1668,
t " Life of Philip Henry," 1 12,
\ "Pari. Hist.," IV. 413.


held that the Articles Avere drawn up so that both
parties might subscribe, and that Convocation was a
mixed assembly of " both persuasions;" no canon, he
said, enjoined bowing at the altar, and Bishop Morton
left people to use their own liberty as to that practice ;
this gentleman was against Conventicles. A more
prudent debater wished to veil the infirmities of his
mother rather than proclaim them in Gath and
Askelon ; he advocated comprehension, and thought
an end would be put to Nonconformity by making two
or three Presbyterian Bishops. These brief notices of
the debate Avill afford an idea of the diversity of opinion
which was expressed.*

Instead of the Bill described by Barlow, or any
measure of a similar kind for comprehension and tole-
ration, a Bill for reviving the Conventicle Act was
submitted to the Commons. The Conventicle Act of
1664 had been limited in its operation to the end of the
next session of Parliament after the expiration of three
years, and therefore it remained no longer in force.
Leave was now given to bring in a Bill for the con-
tinuance of it. The High Church party, by a majority
of 176 against 70, negatived the proposal that His
Majesty be desired to send for such persons as he
might think fit, in order to the uniting of his Protestant
subjects : the first instance, as Hallam says, " of a
triumph obtained by the Church over the Crown in the
House of Commons." f Upon the 28th of April the
Bill for revising the Conventicle Act was carried by
144 against 78. The new Conventicle Bill, sent up to

* " Pari. Hist." IV., 414-422. These speakers were Colonel
Sandys, Sir John Earnly, Sir W. Hickman, Mr. RatclifFe, Sir
Walter Yonge, Sir J. Littleton, Sir John Birkenhead, and Mr.

t "Constitutional History," II. 70.


the Lords, was by them read a first time on the 29th
of April, but it does not appear to have reached a
second reading, as the House, on the 9th of May,
adjourned until August, then again to November, and
then again to the following March, 1669, when Parlia-
ment was prorogued. Consequently the Bill fell through,
and the law with regard to Conventicles underwent a
change, through the expiration of the Act of 1664.

The King was by no means disinclined to relieve
Dissenters from the oppression which they experienced,
provided he might extend relief on his own authority,
and at his own pleasure. In the autumn of i668_^he
granted an audience, at the Earl of Arlington's lodgings,
to a few Presbyterian clergymen. Of this interview,
Manton gave an account to his friend Richard Baxter.
With characteristic graciousness, which was the charm
of his reign, and which, in spite of his vices, won
many hearts, Charles was pleased once and again
to signify how acceptable was the address presented
by the Presbyterians, and how much he was persuaded
of their peaceable disposition ; adding that he had
known them to be so ever since his return, and then
he promised that he would do his utmost to get them
comprehended within the Establishment, and would
strive to remove all those bars which he could wish
had never existed. Something, however, he proceeded
to say, must be done for public peace, and they could
not be ignorant that what he desired was a work of
difficulty, and therefore they must wait until the busi-
ness was ripe. In the meanwhile he wished them to
use their liberty with moderation. He observed that
the meetings held were too numerous, and that (besides
their being contrary to law) they occasioned clamorous
people to complain, as if the Presbyterian design was to


undermine the Church. He instanced what he called
the folly of one who had preached in a play-house,
upon which the ministers informed him they disliked
such conduct, and that they had rebuked the individual
for affronting the Government. The King instanced
another case, but with a preface that he greatly re-
spected the person for his worth and learning, meaning
" Mr. Baxter, of Acton," who " drew^ in all the country
round." Manton replied that Baxter went to church,
and then preached himself during the interval between
morning and evening service. His first intention was
simply to benefit his own family, but it was hard to
exclude such as might be supposed to come for spiritual
edification. Manton further alleged the general need
of religious instruction, and the fact that Noncon-
formists were not all alike. If people of unsober prin-
ciples were permitted to preach, he urged the necessity
which lay upon others to take the same liberty. His
Majesty replied that " the rififie rafifie " were apt to run
after every new teacher, but people of quality might be
intreated not to assemble, or, at least, not in such mul-
titudes, lest the scandal thereby raised should obstruct
his generous intentions. Charles seemed pleased when
Manton suggested that his brethren's sobriety of doc-
trine, and remembrance of His Majesty in their prayers,
were calculated to preserve an esteem for his person
and government in the hearts of his people, and
Arlington plucked his master by the coat, desiring him
to note what was said. Manton remarked, in con-
clusion, that Baxter would have accompanied them to
the audience, had he not been prevented by illness.*

Sheldon, writing a letter from Lambeth on the 8th
of June, 1669, addressed to the Commissary of the

* Baxter's " Life and Times," III. 37.


diocese of Canterbury, after quoting His Majesty's
denial of connivance at Conventicles, his displeasure at
the want of care in the matter manifested by the
Bishops, and his determination that they should have
the civil magistrates' assistance, proceeds to direct that
inquiries should be made as to unlawful religious as-
semblies, what were their numbers, of what sort of
people they consisted, and from whom they looked for
impunity. Conventicles were to be made known to
Justices, and if Justices neglected their duty, such
neglect was to be certified. The Primate asked whether
the same persons did not meet at several Conventicles
which might make them seem more numerous than
they were ; and whether the Commissary did not think
they might be easily suppressed by the assistance of
the civil magistrate ; the greatest part of them being,
as the Archbishop heard, women, children and incon-
siderable persons,*

Charles complied with the wishes of Sheldon so far
as to issue a Proclamation complaining of the increase,
and threatening the punishment of Nonconformists, but
he had no sympathy with the intolerance in which such
wishes originated.! He had said, if we may trust
Burnet's report, the clergy were chiefly to blame for
the popularity of Conventicles, for if they had lived as
they ought, and attended to their parish duties, the
nation might, by that time, have been reduced to eccle-
siastical order. " But they thought of nothing but to
get good benefices, and to keep a good table." %

* " Concilia," IV. 588. The returns are found among the
Tenison MSS., Lambeth, No. 639. There were returns from
some dioceses in 1665.

t Sheldon complained that he could not obtain the returns that
he wanted. (Lambeth MSS., August 16, 1669.)

X " Own Time/' L 258. I may olDserve here, that party


Nonconformists naturally availed themselves of the
circumstance that the Conventicle Act had expired ;
and Baxter now had more hearers at Acton than he
could find room to accommodate. "Almost all the
town and parish, besides abundance from Brentford
and the neighbour parishes, came." * But though the
Conventicle Act had expired, the Five Mile Act, as
Charles indicated in his Proclamation of July, 1669,
remained in force ; and therefore, means existed, not
only for silencing, but also for punishing the Presby-
terian Divine. Accordingly he was soon involved in
trouble. In a roundabout way, a warrant was procured
in which Baxter stood charged with keeping an un-
lawful Conventicle. The Oxford Oath being tendered
he refused to take it, and argued, with his usual keen-
ness, against its imposition. One of the magistrates
only laughed, and Baxter was sent to prison.

To the inquiries issued by Sheldon in June, returns
before the end of the year were made, and they supply
much valuable information respecting Nonconformity.
A long list is given of Conventicles in the Metropolis.
Manton's congregation at his own house, Covent
Garden, and Calamy's, next door to the " Seven Stars,"
Aldermanbury, are estimated at 100 ; Zachary Crofton's,

writers on both sides treat Burnet according to their prejudices ;
the one party believing implicitly everything he says to the dis-
advantage of the Church ; the other party rejecting his evidence
on this subject as utterly worthless. It appears to me that, —
remembering Burnet's gossiping habits, and that he was a strong
party man, and also noticing that he often tells his stories in a
loose way, and, like Clarendon, writes down his recollections long
after the time when the incidents he records had occurred, we
ought to read him with great care, and not place implicit reliance
upon his unsupported testimony. Yet, on the whole, Burnet
appears to have been an honest man. His life and ^character
will be noticed in a future volume.

* " Life and Times," III. 46.



Tower Hill, and Captain Kiffin's, of Finsbury Court,
at 200 ; Vincent's of Hand Alley, and Caryl's, at Mr.
Knight's house, Leadenhall Street, at 500 ; and Dr.
Annesley's in Spitalfields, at a new house for that
purpose with pulpit and seats, at 800 ; Owen, in White's
Alley, Moorfields, is mentioned without any number of
hearers being returned. It is stated in the report that
besides those congregations which are specified, there
were many others at private houses, sometimes at one
house, sometimes at another. Several meetings of the
same persuasion were composed, for the most part, of
the same persons. They were much increased by
stragglers, who walked on Sunday for recreation, and
then went into the Conventicles out of curiosity. The
Avorshippers consisted of women and persons of mean
rank. The meetings had increased since the execution
of the Oxford Act had been relaxed. In the City of
Canterbury, Nonconformity took deep root. In the
parishes of St. Paul and St. Peter the Independents
amounted to 500 at least. They met in the morning
at St. Peter's, in the afternoon at St. Paul's. In St.
Dunstan's there were Presbyterians, but they were not
so many as the Independents. In St. Mary's, North-
gate, the Anabaptists were few and mean in quality.
The Quakers were numerous, but not considerable for
estate. In the diocese of Chichester, the little market
town of Petworth is mentioned as containing 50 or 60
Nonconformists, some of the middle sort, others in-
ferior ; Largesale as numbering about 40, yeomen and
labourers ; Stedham as having sometimes 200, includ-
ing some of the gentry. In the diocese of Ely, at a
place called Stetham, mention is made of about 30 or
40 who assembled by stealth and in the night, mean
and of evil fame, who had arms against the King. Of


Doddington, in the fen country of Cambridg-eshire, it
is remarked, that there were no Dissenters in the parish,
although there were divers of them in other places.
The promise of indulgence, the remissness of the magis-
trate, the rumour of comprehension, the King's con-
nivance, and the sanction of grandees at Court,
encouraged their hopes. But I must add, there is
manifested throughout these statistics a disposition, on
the part of the reporters, to exaggerate the extent to
which Nonconformity prevailed ; as, for example, it is
said of the houses of Mr. Bond and Mr. John Chapman,
of Chard — " The numbers uncertain but always very
great, sometimes 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, and often-
times 700," — a statement which inspires caution in
perusing the whole document.

But from such returns, after making abatements on
the score of exaggeration, it appears that Dissent had
by no means been crushed by the violence it had en-
dured. Consequently in the spring of 1670, a new
Bill against Conventicles was introduced : after being
amended and carried by the Commons, it was presented
by Sir John Brampston to the Lords, and it slowly
passed through Committee ; repeated debates occur-
ring with regard to its provisions. Seth Ward, Bishop
of Salisbury, supported, but Wilkins, Bishop of Chester,
opposed the measure, although the King, without
desiring to see it executed, wished to see it passed,
and used his influence with the last-named prelate to
prevent his taking any part in the business ; Wilkins,
nevertheless, courageously insisted upon his right as
a Peer, and declined to withhold either his vote or his
voice. The Bill did not pass without a protest being
entered on the Journals.* This Act, — so commonly

* " Lords' Journals," March 26th. Referring to a Royal journey


described as a revival of the Conventicle Act of 1664
that it is necessary to point out the fact of its being a
new piece of legislation — differed from the preceding in
important respects. It did not connect the penalty of
imprisonment with an attendance on Conventicles, nor
was the amount of fines fixed on so high a scale. It
specified for the first offence, instead of " a sum not
exceeding five pounds," the reduced fine of five shillings ;
instead of imprisonment, or ten pounds for the second
offence, it inflicted a penalty of only ten shillings ; and
it said nothing whatever of transportation, or of aug-
mented punishment for a third offence. Still it ad-
vanced beyond the earlier legislation in other respects ;
because preachers were to forfeit ^^20 for the first, and
£AfO for the second breach of the law. Also the Act
stimulated informers, by promising them one-third of
the fines levied through their diligence and industry; it
conferred power on officers to break open houses, except
the houses of Peers, where Conventicles were said to be

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonHistory of religion in England from the opening of the Long Parliament to the end of the eighteenth century (Volume 3) → online text (page 29 of 38)