Page images
PDF
EPUB

declare that I will conform to the liturgy of the Church of England, as it is now by law established,” and obtained a licence to teach from the archbishop or bishop. No licence was to be granted unless the applicant produced a certificate that he had received the Sacrament according to the usage of the Church of England, at some parish church within the previous twelve months. To teach without these qualifications was to incur a penalty of three months' imprisonment. If, after obtaining his licence, the tutor or schoolmaster was present at any other religious worship than that of the Church of England, he was to be imprisoned for three months, and be for ever incapable of resuming the employment of teaching.

It was further provided, “ that if any person, licensed as aforesaid, shall teach any other catechism than the catechism set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, the licence of such person shall from thenceforth be void, and such person shall be liable to the penalties of this Act.” This crime, however, was not beyond the reach of mercy. If the licence was lost for teaching an unauthorised catechism, the offender might become capable of recovering it, on making oath in a court of justice that for twelve months he had not been present at any Dissenting service, and that during the same twelve months he had received the Sacrament three times according to the usage of the Church of England.

This atrocious Bill was aimed not at the Academies merely. It was intended to prevent Dissenters from having their children taught by Dissenters either in private schools or in their own houses. They petitioned the House of Lords to be allowed to be heard by counsel against the measure, but their petition was refused.15 It was moved by Lord Halifax that they should be allowed to have schools for their own children, from which the children of parents who were not Dissenters should be excluded; but the motion was lost.

16

15 The petition was rejected by 72 to 66. Petitions against the Bill were also submitted by foreign Protestants living in England, who pleaded their immunity for the past 160 years ; by many schoolmasters and schoolmistresses ; and by others who taught navigation, surveying, gauging, and mensuration. The committee to which the Bill was referred were instructed to receive a clause in favour of the foreign Protestants. L. J. (June 4, 7, 9, 1714), xix. 704, 709, 710-711.

16 Lost by 62 votes to 48. For Halifax's speech, see Cobbett, Parliamentary History, vi. 1354-1355.

Three amendments were carried : (1) The bishop's licence was to be dispensed with in the case of any tutor "employed by any nobleman or noblewoman to teach his or her own children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren only in his or her family”; but though the licence was to be dispensed with, the other qualifications defined by the Act were declared to be necessary. It is probable that under the shelter of this clause Dissenting tutors in noble families might have remained undisturbed. Where the bishop's licence was necessary and had not been obtained, it would be easy to obtain a conviction ; in other cases conviction would be more difficult.

(2) The Act was not to extend to “any person who as a tutor or schoolmaster shall instruct youth in reading, writing, arithmetic, or any part of mathematical learning only, so far as such mathematical learning relates to navigation or any mechanical Art only,” and provided that the teaching was only in English. (3) The infliction of the penalties was taken out of the hands of the ordinary magistrates and committed to the superior courts. The Act was to extend to Ireland, and was to take effect from Sunday, August 1, 1714.

But on that Sunday morning Thomas Bradbury, the pastor of the Independent Church in Fetter Lane, and the great

political dissenter” of that time, was walking across Smithfield and met Bishop Burnet, who was driving westwards. The bishop observed that Bradbury was looking very grave, and asked him the reason. “I am thinking,” he replied, “whether I shall have the constancy and resolution of that noble company of martyrs whose ashes are deposited in this place; for I most assuredly expect to see similar times of violence and persecution, and that I shall be called to suffer in a like cause. The bishop then told him that he was on his way to the palace, and that the Queen was dying ; and he promised to send a messenger to Fetter Lane if the Queen died that morning. While Bradbury was preaching, the messenger came in, and gave the signal which had been arranged with the bishop; the man leant over the front of the gallery and dropped a handkerchief, and Bradbury knew that

17

17 C. J. (May 12, 27 ; June 1, 23, 1714), xvii. 631, 644, 660, 697-698. L. J., vid. note 15 (and June 11, 14, 15, 1714), xix. 713-714, 715, 716 ; and for Protest, ibid., 716–717. Rogers, Protests, i. 218–221. Cobbett, Parliamentary History, vi. 1349-1358.

the Queen was dead. He finished his sermon, and said nothing of the great event which had just happened ; but in his closing prayer he invoked the blessing of God on George, King of Great Britain and Ireland.” The congregation then sang the 89th Psalm. It was not unfitting that the first public announcement of the accession of the House of Hanover should be in a Nonconformist meeting-house.18

NOTE A

The Congregational Fund Board This Board was founded in 1695, and was originally supported both by the Presbyterians and Independents,-the Presbyterians contributing £2,000 a year, and the Independents £1,700. The Board contributed towards the education of students in the private “Academies," and also towards the support of ministers who received an inadequate income from their congregations. But Thomas Goodwin, son of the famous President of Magdalen, was formally appointed as Tutor to the Board as early as 1696 or 1697, and was directed to “take none under his tuition but such as shall be approved by the Board." Chauncey was appointed by the Board from 1699, and succeeded Goodwin in the principal charge of the students supported by the Board in London. The present income of the Board exceeds “ £2,000 a year ; the greater part of which is distributed in the relief of poor ministers ; £120 per annum are given to the poor members of twelve contributing churches; and the remainder towards the support of students in Western, Brecon, and New Colleges." Under the will of a Mr. Trotman a considerable amount of property was vested in trustees, most of them ejected Independent ministers, to be used for Nonconformist purposes. The trustees granted small exhibitions to young men who were studying for the Dissenting ministry. Among the men who were so assisted were Stephen Lott, Benjamin Chandler, both of whom went to Oxford ; Samuel Wesley and Isaac Watts also received assistance from the Fund Board. See Calendar of the Congregational Colleges of England and Wales, 1885, 43-44 ; and Waddington, iii. (1700-1800), 261-263.

18 Wilson, Dissenting Churches, iii. 513-514.

CHAPTER V

ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALISM AT THE DEATH

OF QUEEN ANNE

DECLINE OF NONCONFORMITY DURING ANNE'S REIGN-NUMBER OF

CHAPELS LICENSED_TRUST DEEDS—COMPARATIVE STRENGTH OF
PRESBYTERIANS AND CONGREGATIONALISTS-SOCIAL POSITION-
WORSHIP_DOCTRINE_CHURCH GOVERNMENT-RELIGIOUS LIFE
-LEADING MINISTERS.

AT

T the death of Queen Anne in 1714, rather more than

fifty years had passed since the Nonconforming clergy were ejected from the English Church by the Act of Uniformity; and twenty-five since the passing of the Toleration Act. Nonconformity had not been crushed by persecution ; but at the end of a quarter of a century of comparative ease and freedom, it was showing a want of spiritual energy that filled its most devout leaders with the gravest anxiety.

I

In the ten or twelve years immediately following the Toleration Act, there had been universal and vigorous activity. Between 1688 and 1700, the Dissenters took out 2,418 licences for places of Dissenting worship. Many of the licensed buildings were very small; and as many were mere temporary premises, the same congregation must, in many instances, have taken out licences for several different buildings in the course of a few years, or even of a few months. The 2,418 licences do not, therefore, represent separate Dissenting congregations. It is estimated that during the reign of

1 Parliamentary Paper, 1853 (156); quoted by Skeats, Free Churches, 197

Cf. ibid., 157, for the figures of the two years, 1688– 1690.

William III. the Nonconformists erected about 1,000 or 1,200 permanent meeting-houses. As many of these were of considerable size, the first generation of “tolerated ” Nonconformists must have had a considerable amount of wealth and must have spent it generously. To facilitate the raising of the necessary funds, the pews in some cases were sold before the ·meeting-house was erected; but when this was done, it was sometimes provided that the property in a pew should be forfeited if for six successive months the pew was not occupied by the proprietor or some member of his family. In London several Nonconformist congregations rented or purchased the disused halls of some of the City Companies. 4

The trust deeds of Independent meeting-housas built within this period did not contain any provisions as to the doctrines to be preached in them; and even when in the next generation Trinitarians seceded from a congregation which had become Arian, they inserted no doctrinal clauses in the deeds of their new buildings. The buildings were vested " for the worship of God according to the customs of the people called Independents,” or for “the use of a congregation of Protestant Dissenters called Independents."

The Presbyterian trust deeds were drawn up in the same way. The meeting-house was vested for the use of a Presbyterian congregation ; but the doctrines to be taught by the minister were not defined. In some cases a congregation is described as “Presbyterian or Congregational."

Two or three years after the death of Queen Anne, Daniel Neal made out a list of 1,107 Dissenting congregations in England, besides 43 in Wales. Of the English 860 were either Presbyterian or Independent, and 247 were Baptist." The Presbyterian congregations were still much more numerous than the Independent, and also larger ; it is probable that of 860 congregations described as belonging to one or other of the two denominations, about 500 were Presbyterian, and

2 Some of the original meeting-houses were built of wood ; one of these, erected in Gravel Lane, Houndsditch, for the Presbyterian congregation of which Samuel Pomfret was pastor, is said to have held 1,500 persons. Wilson, Dissenting Churches, i. 397.

3 See Stoughton, Religion in England, v. 445.
4 Wilson, Dissenting Churches, ii. 1, 63, 447, 514, 525, 557, 560.

6 In Bogue and Bennett, History of Dissenters, ii. 97-99 ; Skeats, Free Churches, 280 ; Stoughton, Religion in England, v. 457.

« PreviousContinue »