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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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xlvii,; Calamy's " Life," I. 79.
t "Life and Times," III. 109.
X Ibid., 156.


answers, strictures, rejoinders could not quench the
ardour of the man who combined in one, the quaHtics
of a theological disputant and an apostle of union,
qualities which had a tendency to neutralize each
other. He had faith in some of his Episcopalian
brethren, as disposed to meet him half way. Which-
cote, Stillingflect, Gifford, Tillotson, Cradock, Outram,
he speaks of with honour, declaring he made no doubt,
if the matter could be left in such hands, that differ-
ences would be "healed in a few weeks' time." * But
in Bishop Morley he had no faith.j The incon-
sistencies of Morley may perhaps be understood by
examining into what were probably the motives of his
conduct. His main policy was to protect the Estab-
lishment, on the basis of the Act of Uniformity, against
Papists on the one hand, and against Dissenters on the
other. He shared in the alarm which conversions to
Rome and the encroachments of that Church inspired
throughout England at the time ; and, partly from that
cause, he was induced to support the Bill just described,
thinking by the new oath which stereotyped the Church,
to prevent an invasion by the enemy. But now the
Bishop might conceive that it would be desirable to
consolidate English Protestantism. Strength was being
wasted by internecine warfare, at a moment when
Episcopalians and Presbyterians stood before a common
foe. Why not gather the forces of the Church and of
the sects, and concentrate them upon the great enemy
of this country's liberty and peace .'' Such impressions,
under the circumstances, were not unnatural in the
mind of a man like Morley. Thus influenced, he

* "Life and Times," no, 131.

t Ibid., 156. Further notice of Morley will be taken here-


would talk and act, as Baxter, with strong suspicions
of his sincerity, reports him to have done. Yet at the
time Morley might be perfectly sincere, although a
reaction of prejudice, after a time, proved too much for
his new-born zeal in behalf of union. The schemes of
1673 and 1675 met with the same fate as the schemes
of 1667 and 1668.

Parliament prorogued in June, reassembled the 13th
of October, when the Lord Keeper, in his opening
speech, called renewed attention to ecclesiastical affairs.
He said that His Majesty had so often recommended
the consideration of religion, and so very often ex-
pressed a desire for the assistance of the House in his
care and protection of it, that " the Defender of the
Faith," had become " the advocate of it too," and had
left those without excuse, who remained under any
kind of doubts or fears. " Would you," asked he, " raise
the due estimation and reverence of the Church of
England to its just height.-'" "All your petitions of
this kind will be grateful to the King." *

The persecution of Nonconformists continued to
depend very much upon the temper of neighbours and
the character of magistrates. In some cases their
meetings were broken up, and they were taken prisoners,
but, in other cases, they were allowed to assemble in
their places of Avorship without molestation, much to
the annoyance of impotent enemies. A Government
correspondent in the town of Lynn reported a private
meeting of about forty of " the Presbyterian gang,"
discovered by the Curate and officers of the parish
of St. Margaret. These Nonconformists made their
escape, but "enough were taken notice of to make
satisfaction of the rest," and they "were to be pre-

* "Pari. Hist.," IV. 741.


sented according to law." The Nonconformists at
Yarmouth continued their meetings publicly, and in
as great numbers as ever. This sufferance, it was
complained, filled with impudence people who, when
the laws were put in execution, were as tame as
lambs.* The same informant who states this, reports
that the " Bishop of Norwich had sent to know how
many persons received the communion at Church, and
what was the number of recusants and Nonconformists ;
and that the ministers and churchwardens feared if
they should make the Dissenting party so great as
they are, it might put some fear in His Majesty, and
discourage him in attempting to reform them, they
judging their number has been the only cause they
have been so favourably dealt with hitherto." " Of the
same opinion," he observes, " they are in other parts
as well as here, so that there is likely to be an imi-
perfect account." Not above 500, it is affirmed, Avould
be found to be in communion with the Church of
England. As to Dissenters, says this writer, " how
many of them were in Church fellowship, as they term
it, or break bread together, I am certain here is not
one hundred men besides the women." He adds,
" The greater number of people there, as elsewhere,
were the profane and unstable, who were on the
increase, tending to an unsettlement either in Church
or State." f

It is curious to notice the changing fortunes of Dis-
senters, how, after a lull of peace, they were overtaken
again by a storm of trouble. The copious correspond-
ence of the Yarmouth informer traces the history in
that town time after time. The bailiff was stimulated

* " State Papers," November 8th.

t "State Papers," 1676. Bowen to Williamson. February 21st.


to interfere, and he issued his warrant to the constables
to assist in dispersing the illegal worshippers ; but it
seems to have been difficult to get these officers to act
in the business, since there were three of their number
who "daily frequented " the reprobated place of worship.
It being reported that the Anabaptists were meeting
to the number of 80 or 90, the constables were sent to
disperse them, and they took five of the chief people into
custody. The correspondent exultingly adds, " Several
of the Nonconformist grandees came yesterday to our
Church, and of the common sort, so many as filled our
Church fuller than ever I saw it since the year 1665."
In the autumn of the same year Dissenting affairs at
Yarmouth took another favourable turn. Their ap-
proved friends having recovered the helm of municipal
affairs. Nonconformists were regarded as more dangerous
than ever, for their meetings were held at break of
day within closed doors. For two Sundays the angry
correspondent was awakened out of his sleep, the
schismatics kept up such a trampling as they walked
under his window, that he rose out of bed to see what
could be the matter.*

It is sometimes forgotten, but it is worth remark,
that other meetings, besides Conventicles, were at this
period proscribed. Coffee-houses were then such in-
stitutions as clubs are now, and Dryden a little later
might be seen at "Wills," in Covent Garden, surrounded
by the wits, seated in " his armed chair, which in the
winter had a settled and prescriptive place by the fire."
Some houses of a lower character are described as ex-
changes " where haberdashers of political small-wares
meet, and mutually abuse each other and the public with
bottomless stories." Conversation ranged over all kinds

* " State Papers," October 9th.


of topics, scandalous, literary, political, and ecclesiastical ;
and questions touching Papists and Nonconformists were
earnestly discussed within those quaint old parlours,
over cups of coffee and chocolate, sherbet, and tea.
These discussions were reported to the men in power
as being often of a treasonable nature, even as Non-
conformist sermons, only with much less reason, were
so represented. Consequently a proclamation appeared
in the month of December, 1675, recalling licenses for
the sale of coffee, and ordering all coffee-houses to be
shut up ; " because in such houses, and by the meeting
of disaffected persons in them, divers false, malicious,
and scandalous reports were devised and spread abroad,
to the defamation of His Majesty's Government and
the disturbance of the quiet and peace of the realm."
But public opinion was stronger in reference to coffee-
houses than it was in reference to Conventicles, and
whilst the latter remained beneath a legal ban, the
former were speedily re-opened, " under a severe
admonition to the keepers, that they should stop the
reading of all scandalous books and papers, and hinder
every scandalous report against the Government." *

Comprehension and toleration continued to be dis-
cussed from the press. I have noticed publications in
the year 1667 bearing upon such subjects. Between
that date and the period to which we are now brought,
a controversy had been going on respecting the funda-
mental principles of religious liberty ; notorious on the
one side for the baseness of the attack, memorable on
the other for the chivalry of the defence. Samuel
Parker had been brought up amongst the Puritans, had
distinguished himself at Oxford during the Common-

* "Harl. Misc.," VIII. 7. "Lives of the Norths," I. 316, et
seq., see Notes. Knight's " Popular Hist.," IV. 326.


wealth as one of the griicllcrs (an ascetic little company
of students, whose refection, when they met together,
was oatmeal and water), and was esteemed "one of the
preciousest young men in the University." * This
man proved recreant to his principles after Charles'
return, and, swinging round with immense momentum,
became as violent in his Episcopalian as he could ever
have been in his Presbyterian zeal. Having come up
to London, and made himself known as " a great droller
on the Puritans," he, in the year 1667, obtained a
chaplaincy at Lambeth, and thus found himself on
the high road to preferment. In 1669 he published a
book, the title of which, like so many in those days,
fully describes its contents, and expresses its spirit.
He calls it " A discourse of ecclesiastical polity, wherein
the authority of the civil magistrate over the con-
sciences of subjects in matters of external religion is
asserted, the mischief and inconveniences of toleration
are represented, and all pretences pleaded on behalf
of liberty of conscience are fully answered." The spirit
of this book may be seen from the preface, in which
the author justifies the violence of his attacks upon
Nonconformists. " Let any man that is acquainted
with the wisdom and sobriety of true religion," he
exclaims indignantly, " tell me how 'tis possible not
to be provoked to scorn and indignation against such
proud, ignorant, and supercilious hypocrites. To lash
these morose and churlish zealots with smart and
twinging satires is so far from being a criminal passion,
that 'tis a seal of meekness and charity." Thus he
strikes the key-note of what he continues from page to
page, disgusting every sensible reader ; yet it is curious
to find him maintaining unequivocally that the affairs

* Wood's "Ath. Ox.," IV. 226.


of religion, as they must be subject to the supreme
civil power, so they ought to be to none other, and
" that the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of jDrinces [is] not
derived from any grant of our Saviour, but from the
natural and antecedent rights of all sovereign power."
Dr. Owen in reply to this assault, wrote his " Truth
and Innocence vindicated ; " in which, after repelling
the accusations brought forward by Parker, he exposes
and confutes that author's principles.* Parker, in his
rejoinder, poured upon Owen the coarsest abuse, calling
him " the great bellwether of disturbance and sedition,
and the viper swelled with venom, which must spit or
burst." He also cast upon his old associates more
and more bitter invective, calling them " the most
villanous unsufferable sort of sanctified fools, knaves,
and unquiet rebels, that ever were in the world ; " f
and having in his first book attacked Dissenters in
general, in the second he assailed Independents in
particular, quoting against Owen several extracts
from his sermons. That Divine made no reply ; but
another formidable combatant appeared on his side
against the scurrilous accuser. As the High Church
party could boast of Samuel Parker who knew how
to lampoon the Puritans, so the Liberals of that period
gloried in Andrew Marvell, who could quite as cleverly
satirize High Churchmen. In his " Rehearsal Trans-
posed," he carried the day, and tormented beyond
endurance the champions of despotism. Everybody
who could read, from the King to the artizan, perused
with glee the pages of this book, so that the discom-
fiture of the Archbishop's Chaplain excited derision

* Owen writes very guardedly in reply to Parker's doctrine of
the magistrate's power. (" Works," XXI. 209, et seq.)
t " Life and Times," III. 42.


through a much wider circle than was ever reached by
his foolish writings. Parker, however, was not a man
easily to be silenced, nor was the cause he undertook
easily to be crushed, and therefore he and his friends
returned to the onslaught, and soon the printers were
busy with a number of pamphlets, presenting a
catalogue of most ridiculous titles. Marvell rejoined,
and it is confessed by Parker that, at the end of the
literary encounter, the odds and victory were against
him, and lay on Marvell's side : the style of warfare
adopted by the latter can scarcely be approved, but it
was in the fashion of the times, and had been provoked
by an unprincipled assailant, who, it may be hoped, as
it is intimated by one sometimes resembling Parker in
virulence, was all the better for the castigation he
received.* This remarkable controversy lasted from
1669 to 1673 ; and was in its first stage when the new
Conventicle Act appeared ; and reached its height
whilst the debates on the Indulgence, the Relief Bill,
and the Test Act agitated Parliament and the country.
High Churchmen read with sympathy the pages of the
assailant of Nonconformists, and they, on the other
hand, suffering from local persecution, or rejoicing in
Royal indulgence, pondered Owen's arguments, or
laughed at Marvell's wit.

In the year 1675, Croft, Bishop of Hereford, pub-
lished anonymously "The Naked Truth," in which
he maintained the sufficiency of the Apostles' Creed
as a standard of faith, and protested against the refine-
ments of Alexandrian and scholastic philosophy. At
the same time he declined submission to the authority

* Anthony Wood. There is plenty of satire in the two books
by Marvell ; the second is more cutting than the first, but it is
sometimes coarser, and on the whole wearisome to modern readers.


of the Fathers, or of Councils, although paying respect
to them as teachers and guides, and deprecated the
importance attached to ceremonies, pleading for such
liberty as St. Paul, "that great grandfather of the
Church, allowed his children." He would dispense
with using the surplice, bowing to the altar, and
kneeling at the Lord's Supper, and also with the cross
in baptism, and the ring in marriage. He advocated
a revision of the Prayer Book, contended *:hat all
ministers are of one order, and believed that confirma-
tion might be administered by priests as well as by
prelates. The tract concludes with a charitable ad-
monition to all Nonconformists, in which the author, —
after pleading his own desire for certain changes, yet
confessing he saw no hope of being successful, — most
inconsistently proceeds to exhort his Dissenting readers,
on the grounds of Christian humility, and the mischiefs
of separation, immediately to submit to the authority
of the Church.

It has often been the fate of moderate men to suffer
from condemnation by zealots in their own Church.
Even Popes of Rome, when taking the side of charity
and candour, have been dishonoured by advocates of
the Papacy, and Anastasius H., for his mild behaviour
towards the Eastern Church, has been represented by
Cardinal Baronius as the victim of a Divine judgment.
Dante, too, has assigned him to one of the circles of
the damned. In a similar spirit contemporaries assailed
the author of " Naked Truth." " Not only the Churches,
but the coffee-houses rung against it ; they itinerated,
like excise spies, from one house to another, and some
of the morning and evening chaplains burnt their lips
with perpetual discoursing it out of reputation, and
loading the author, whoever he were, with all con-


tempt, malice, and obloquy."* Gunning", Bishop of
Ely, attacked it in a sermon which he preached before
the King ; and to him has been ascribed a pamphlet
entitled " The Author of Naked Truth Stript Naked."
It also met with animadversions from Dr. Turner, Head
of St. John's, Cambridge. Still there were those of
another spirit who appreciated the calm reasoning and
the amiable temper of the Bishop ; and Pearse, who is
described by Wood as " a lukewarm Conformist," —
because he could not join in reviling his Nonconformist
brethren, — spoke of the book at a later date, in his
"Third Plea for the Nonconformists," as a Divine
manifestation of a primitive Christian spirit of love.
Marvell styled the writer "judicious, learned, con-
scientious, a sincere Protestant, and a true son, if not
a father of the Church of England." t

* " Mr. Smirke, or the Divine in Mode." By Andrew Marvell.

t Marvell's " Mr. Smirke," which was an answer to Turner's
animadversions. Three other books, bearing the title of " Naked
Truth," headed respectively the second, third, and fourth parts,
were published afterwards, but not by Bishop Croft.



The state of the Royal family, as it respects religion
in England, at the period which we have now reached,
constituted the principal foundation of Roman Catholic
hope, and the chief source of Protestant fear. The
Queen, who arrived here in 1662, retained the faith
of her childhood, and, very naturally, would have been
glad to see it restored in the land of her adoption.
The King, too careless and profligate to be affected by
any really pious considerations, probably preferred the
Romish to any other kind of worship ; and of such a
preference people suspected him at the moment he was
declaring the utmost zeal for Protestantism. Their
suspicions were too well founded. Certainly, as early
as the year 1669, he entertained the idea of uniting
himself to the Church of Rome, and in the following
year he signed a secret treaty with the King of France,
in which he pledged himself to avow his conversion,
whenever it should appear to him to be most con-
venient.* The existence and provisions of that com-
pact, in spite of the utmost endeavours to conceal it,
oozed out at the time ; f but now that history has
revealed it entirely, with many of its attendant private

* " Life of James II.," I. 441. Dalrymple's " Memoirs," I. 70 ;
III. 1,68.
t See letters in " Phenix," I. 566. Calamy's " Life," I. 119.


circumstances, we discover the extreme shamefulness
of the whole affair. For, by the terms of the treaty,
the King of England became a pensioner of France,
and promised to make war upon Holland, with which
State France had entered into friendship and alliance ;
the negotiator of this scandalous arrangement being
no other than Charles' sister, Henrietta, Duchess of
Orleans, whose reputation is deeply stained, through
her being involved in the licentious intrigues of Louis
XIV.'s court. After having visited her brother to
accomplish this dishonourable mission, she left behind,
as an agent for preserving French influence over his
volatile mind, one of the ladies of her train, named
Ouerouaille, who became mistress to the licentious
monarch, and is so notorious in the disgraceful history
of his reign as Duchess of Portsmouth.*

The King's brother having, by means of Anglo-
Catholic instructors, been imbued with the ideas of
Church authority, of apostolical traditions, and of the
Real Presence, had, after this effective preparation,
taken a further and very natural step, and had been
reconciled to Rome ; yet notwithstanding this fact up
to Easter, 1671, he continued outwardly to commune
with the Established Church in this country.! His first
Duchess, Anne Hyde, daughter of Lord Clarendon,
had practised secret confession to Dr. Morley from her
youth, and, after her marriage, in order to retain or to
recover the fickle attachment of her husband, she had
entered into close communication with Popish priests,
and had expressed a disposition to renounce Protes-
tantism.J She, it is said, preferred an unmarried clergy,

* G. P. R. James' " Life of Louis XIV.," XL 171.

t Evelyn, IL 88.

\ Harris' " Charles IL," IL 81.


and excused the Roman Catholic superstitions, and it
would appear that, for some months before her death,
she ceased to partake of the Lord's Supper as ad-
ministered by the Anglican clergy. Members of her
family sought to re-establish her Protestant belief, but
in vain, and in her last illness she received the Eucharist
from the hands of a Franciscan friar.* James' second
Duchess, ]\Iary of Modena, was by descent and educa-
tion a decided Papist ; and his marriage with that lady
being extremely unpopular, provoked the opposition
of the English Parliament. Thus, at the time of
which I speak, the principal members of the Royal
house, next to the King, were Romanists, and he him-
self was known to sympathize with them in their
religious sentiments. Added to these circumstances
w^as the fact that several other persons in high estate
were sincerely attached to the same faith ; a love to it
also lingered amongst the lower ranks in some parts
of England, and, as a consequence, the Roman Catholics
were "bold and busy" in their endeavours to make
converts. What they did they had to do by stealth,
persecution met them everywhere, yet, with a heroism
which we cannot but respect, they steadily persevered.
One advocate and missionary in particular, — Abraham
Woodhead, who early commenced his work in England,
— is mentioned with honour even by the Oxford historian,
for he remarks, with regard to a later period, that the
"calm, temperate, and rational discussion of some of
the most weighty and momentous controversies under
debate between the Protestants and Romanists rendered
him an author much famed, and very considerable in
the esteem of both." f Hugh Paulin Cressey, one of

* Lingard, XI. 356.

t Wood's "Ath. Ox.," II. 614. The article on Woodhead is
copious and interesting.


the Queen's chaplains, was also active in the same
cause, and is praised for the candour, plainness, and
decency with which he managed controversy ; * and
John Gother, another zealous polemic on the side of
Rome, published in support of the doctrines of his
Church, seventeen controversial, and twelve spiritual
tracts.t That Church has ever acted most systemati-
cally, carrying out a ramified method of operation, and,
at the time of which I am now speaking, the priests
in England, whether secular or regular, were all under
effectual guidance and control. The former received
their direction from one whom they called " the head of
the clergy," who possessed a kind of Episcopal power,
both he and they being subordinated to the Papal nuncio
in France, and the internuncio in Flanders, to whom
were entrusted the oversight of the missions to England
and Ireland. Regular priests, of the order of St. Bene-
dict, of St. Augustine, of St. Dominic, of St. Francis, and
of the Society of Jesus, were subject to their superiors
respectively, and, in whatever they did, proceeded ob-
sequiously in obedience to command ; not, however,
without mutual jealousy and strife, after the manner of
the Middle Ages, when seculars and regulars, the two
main divisions of the army, kept up a constant rivalry
in the spiritual camp.^ Even in a lukewarm Protestant
country, the activity and increase of Romanism could
not be regarded without apprehension. But the Pro-
testants of England were not then lukewarm. The
antipathy cherished by an earlier generation had de-

* Chalmer's " Biographical Dictionary."

t Butler's " English Catholics," IV. 425.

X This account of the working of Roman Catholicism in Eng-
land is taken from the " MSS. Travels of Cosmo, the third Grand
Duke of Tuscany," (1669), printed in Appendix to Butler's
"Enghsh Cath.," III. 513.


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 33 of 38)