« PreviousContinue »
among the ministers of Germany by the Imperial Interim. But these all together fall short of the number ejected by the act of uniformity, which was not less than 2000. The succeeding hardships of the latter were also by far the greatest. They were not only silenced, but had no room left for any sort of usefulness, and were in a manner buried alive. Far greater tenderness was used towards the Popish clergy ejected at the Reformation. They were suffered to live qui. etly; but these were oppressed to the utmost, and that even by their brethren who professed the same faith themselves : not only excluded preferments, but turned out into the wide world without any visible way of subsistence. Not so much as a poor vicarage, not an obscure chapel, not a school was left them. Nay, though they offered as some of them did, to preach gratis, it must not be allowed them; [but many cruel laws were enacted against them which exposed them to dreadful fines and imprisonment for discharging any part of their ministerial function, or coming near the place where they formerly discharged it :) and this at a time when their help was greatly wanted, there being but few to supply their places, inany large congregations destitute of preaching, and many places over-run with ignorance and profaneness.: · And for what reason were they cast out? Only because they would not consent to what they could not believe, nor vow against what appeared to be their duty. Had they been enemies to all order and regularity, it had been much more tolerable : but there was no just ground for such an insinua. tion ; a regular discipline was what they pleaded for, and mo. derate episcopacy was what most of them would have freely submitted to. Whosoever have accused them as fond of anarchy and confusion, knew not the men or their communication. Some, it must be owned, were against the royal family, yet there were others who suffered for adhering to it. The Lancashire ministers were many of them ejected for refusing and writing against the Engagement, even when many of the episcopal party took it; and several ha. zarded their lives in order to bring back the king. Had they been loose in their morals, their treatment might have been justified; but they were as exemplary in their lives as any in the land. Had they been meanly qualified for the ministerial work, the church might much better have spared them : but instead of that, we may safely defy their greatest enemies to produce in any age or country,
two thousand men better qualified for public mivisterial work, or more diligent and laborious in it. And though it may be supposed, that in so great a number, some were of but mean endowments, there were others of considerable abilities and learning : yet they were cast off with disdain. And for what was all this, but to promote uniformity? A charming word! for the thing itself is yet to be sought for, even among themselves, who cast them out. But certainly, it is an odd sort of uniformity which divides the church into parties. The grand aim of all was to settle impositions, which in all ages have been greedily swallowed by men of looser principles, while they have proved snares to the most conscientious; who will carefully examine matters, and not wriggle themselves either in or out by distinctions and evasions, which yet they were as able to have framed as their neighbours; but would in all things act with simplicity and godly since. rity, without equivocations or reserves ; thereby endeavouring to maintain and promote a principle of honesty in the world.
It has been pleaded “ That the Puritanical party set the “ pattern, by bearing so hard on the sequestered ministers “ in the parliament-times.” But whatever that pattern was, we must go farther backward for the original. Yet I would not thence pretend to justify any rigorous methods, which christianity does neither require nor allow. But certainly they who so much exclaimed against them, should better have known the heart of a stranger, than to have imitated, much less out-done them, in ejecting a number so very far superior, without any allowance towards their support from the livings whence they were ejected; whereas the parliament allotted a fifth part to those who were sequestered, whatever were the cause; though it were insufficiency or scandal. Many things were done in the parliament-times, which the agents in them lived to see reason to wish undone. But yet, when matters were at the utmost height, many episcopal persons kept their places ; things, confessedly in their own nature indifferent, were not made grounds of silencing and driving men into corners; nor were the stiffest of the High Church party, (Gunning and others of his stamp) denied their liberty, provided they gave the public se. curity for their good behaviour.
" It is but like for like,” was a plea in the mouth of all forward persons. But was not the score paid before-hand by the sigor of King Charles I's reign? to look no further ..? D 2. '
back. It cannot be denied, but that all parties among us, when they have had the ascendant, have borne too hard upon those who lay at their mercy; and it is much to be lamented. But is such hereditary revenge as Hannibal's, who was sworn at the altar never to be reconciled, a thing agreeable to christian principles, or becoming ambassadors of the Prince of Peace? It hath been said by some, that " they were intolerably humoursome." But why should it be iinagined, that for humour-sake they should' sacrifice their all, and expose themselves and their families to want and beggary? Was not a confortable life as desirable to them as others ? Can it be supposed, they were so blind as not to see where their own interest lay, which is a charm few are able to resist? Were they not as capable of preferment as their neighbours ? Why then should they refuse it, and embrace poverty and disgrace, imprisonment and other hard. ships, which could not in themselves appear eligible to any man? Can any account be given of this, if conscience did not sway them ? Surely then they ought to have found different treatment !-How much good might they have done, if they had been kept in the establishment? [or tolerated out of it?] And to whom inust the country ascribe the loss of their valuable labours, but to the eager espousers of rites and ceremonies ? And in what did the heat of these zealots is. sue? Did they gain their point and fix uniformity? Did they not rather run things to such a length, that profaneness at length over-run us, and all that was dear to us was in danger, when bare-faced popery ascended the throne, tram. pling at once on our religion and liberties? Who can boast of their gain in the strife for uniforinity? Were the busy informers beloved and advanced ? Were they not generally infamous ? And did not many of them come to a tragical end? Will it be found that they who were fiercest, when in commission of the peace, in prosecuting the poor Dissenters, have prospered most in their families and estates ? Or is the memory of those statesmen who were most active in this service, most grateful to true-hearted Englishmen ?
Did God disown these worthies when they were thus cast off? Let any who are able observe and judge. They and their families were supplied by an invisible hand. Á noted person * among them, who himself had a good estate.
* This, it appears, was Mr. Tallents of Shrewsbury. Why Dr. Calimy omitted his name is unaccountable.
reckoned up as many who were ejected within a few miles round him, as with their families made up above a hundred, who were all turned out to the wide world, and lived upon Providence ; concerning whom he observed, that though they were often in straits, yet they were not forsaken. The same person (when he was old) observed, that though many of the ejected ministers were brought very low, had many children, were greatly harrassed by persecution, and their friends generally poor, and unable to support them, he never knew nor heard of any Nonconformist minister in prison for debt. Providence was instead of livings to those who left their livings for the sake of their consciences. They were driven first out of their 'freeholds, and afterwards from all corporations, on purpose that they might be separated from their kind neighbours. Cautions were entered against them, in all ways of livelihood they were capable of; and yet they lived comfortably, and maintained their families creditably; many of them bred up their sons to the ministry, in which they were useful; and they at last died in peace, and were laid in their graves with honour.
Did nonconformity die with them? Would to God it had, provided the causes of it had been removed ! Would to God it had, if there were nothing in it but humour and fancy, and prejudice, as some will have it. But as long as it is founded upon such stable principles, (as the following Section will represent) it must be expected that nonconformity will continue. And though we, who come after those who were ejected in the ministry, have our authority called into question by some ; if we can approve ourselves to God, we need not be uneasy. If we, who rise up in the room of those who in so noble a manner adhered to the old Puritanical principle (which was indeed that of the first Reformers) as to venture all that was dear to them rather than do violence to their consciences ; do but imitate their faith and patience, piety and purity; if we do but partake of the same divine spirit whereby they were actuated; and have but the same presence of God with us, to guide and assist us, to prosper and succeed us, to comfort and support us, which they had, we need not envy any their preferments, nor be afraid of the issue. We may rest satisfied with the goodness of our cause, and need not fear being able to approve ourselves to our governors, to the christian world, to all impartial judges, to our own consciences, and to our God.
TT is not to be supposed that two thousand men should be
I all of one mind. Among the excluded ministers there was a diversity of sentiments, so that the grounds of their nonconforinity were different. The following abstract contains the reasons of those who were inost moderate, and least fond of separation, and which, for the most part, were common to them all.
I. They were required by the act of uniformity to be reordained, if not episcopally ordained before. This was what they could not submit to, because it would, in their apprehension, be a nullifying their past ordination*, which seemed not to them a light matter, as the credit of the Reformed Churches abroad, and the peace of their people, were nearly concerned in it: nor would their consciences allow them to trifle with holy things, in pretending to be moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon them the office of a Deacon, when they knew themselves already fixed sufficiently in the higher office of Presbyters, and solemnly to pray for what they were assured they had already.
II. They were required to declare their unfeigned assent and consent to all, and every thing contained and prescribed in and by the book, entitled, The Book of Common Prayer, and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church ; together with the psalter or psalms of David, and the form or manner of making or ordaining and consecrating of bishops, priests and deacons. And they must also, ex animo, subscribe these words : “ That the book of common prayer, and of ordaining bishops, priests and deacons, containeth nothing in it contrary to the word of God; and that it may be lawfully used . and that they themselves would use the form in the said books prescribed in public prayer, and administration of the sacraments, and no other.” But they could not do this for the following reasons:
* In some cases, an express renunciation of their former ordination was required.