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IV. They were also required by the Act of uniformity, to abjure the solemn League and Covenant, in these words: "I A. B. do declare, that I do hold there lies no “ obligation upon me, or any other person, from the oath “ commonly called, The Solemn League and Covenant, “ to endeavour any change or alteration of government, " either in church or state, and that the same was in itself
an unlawful oath, and imposed upon the subjects of this “ realm against the known laws and liberties of this king“ dom.”
Though many of the ministers who were ejected had not taken this Covenant, and more of thein were all along against the imposing it, their consciences would not allow them to yield to such a renunciation as this, for which a parallel can hardly be found in any age. Every man's endeavouring in his proper sphere to alter church-government, as far as he is convinced of its being faulty, appeared to them a matter of duty; and a thing to which that Covenant so far obliged all who took it, that all the princes and prelates in Christendom could not give them a dispensation. But for every one in holy orders to determnine for all in the three kingdoms, who had taken the Covenant, that they were no way bound by it, they esteemed an unprecedented assumption. They remembered that king Charles himself had taken it into Scotland, with all possible appearance of seriousness and solemnity. This indeed he had done no less than three times; and they durst not run the hazard of tempting the king himself, and thousands of his subjects, to incur the guilt of perjury, or of hardening them under that guilt.
V. Besides the oath of allegiance and supremacy, all in holy orders were, by the Act of uniformity, obliged to subscribe this political declaration : "14. B. do declare, that “ it is not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take
arms against the king; and that I do abhor that trait
erous position of taking arms by his authority against his * person, or against those that are commissionated by hiin.”
Though the silenced ministers were as free as any for the Oath of allegiance, and ready to give the government “ which is, the restoring a primitive discipline against scandalous persons, the establishing the government of the church in ecclesiastical hands, and taking out of lay-hands, who have so long profaned it, and have.
exposed the authority of the church, and the censures of it, chicfly ex, « communication, to the contempt of the nation; by which the reverence ." due to holy things is in so great a measure lost, and the dreadfullest of all
censures is now become the most scorned and despised." VOL. I. NO. 2.
any reasonable assurance of a peaceable subjection, ġet they were not for subscribing this declaration, for fear of contributing to betray the liberties of their country. For, being sensible that it is possible for the law and the king's commission to be contrary to each other, they thought it the duty of Englishmen as free people, to adhere rather to the former than to the latter. They esteemed self-defence a part of the law of nature, and thought that the body of a nation have, by that law, a self-defending power against their enemies; and it was their comfort under the severe censures cast upon them, to have the Greeks and Romans, philosophers, orators and historians, the ancient bishops of the church, the most celebrated modern historians, civilians, and canonists, together with such eminent persons even in the church of England, as Bishop Bilson, Bishop Jeremy Taylor, and Mr. Hooker, concurring in the same opinion with themselves. And notwithstanding all the clamours of their insulting brethren, they were satisfied that those who were most forward for this decla. ration, and most fierce in condemning such as scrupled it, would not adhere to it, if at any time they found things were come to extremity, as the event verified: for upon
the landing of the prince of Orange, when to secure religion, liberty, and property, all ranks and qualities, both of clergy and laity, finding room for a particular exception, where they would before allow of no case whatsoever, ventured to join with a foreign prince, whom they had called in to their assistance,' against the person of their sovereign King James, and those who were commissioned by him. As for the poor ejected ministers, who endured such hardships for refusing this declaration, They came off with this honourable testimony from impartial spectators, that by their refusal they helped, as much as in them lay, to pave the way for that glorious Revolution, to which we owe all our present happiness, and all our future hopes; while the proanoters of this declaration, and all that adhered to it, could contribute nothing in the case, without bidding defiance to their most darling principle: the principle which for twenty years together had made the pulpits ring and the press groan.
These two last points, “ of renouncing the covenant “ and subscribing against taking arms in any case whatso“ ever," have not for some time been insisted on, with such as enter the ministry in the established church. The former was fixed by the act, only till 1682, and then it
dropped of course. . The latter continued till the Revolu. tion, and then (as it was high time) was superseded.
For such reasons as these, the ministers who were ejected, durst not comply with the Act of uniformity, and fall in with the national establishment. Hereupon they have been generally aspersed and blackened with all imaginary freedom. But this must be acknowledged, after all, that if they erred in this matter, it was for fear of erring; and there's fore they deserved respect rather than reproach, because they acted like men of integrity, according to the light they had. If but one thing had been made necessary to their continuing in their places, which, upon due enquiry they thought sinful, they had been bound to have refused. But here were many things which they knew not how they could yield to, without sin; and because their consciences would not suffer them to do it, henceforward the churchdoors were shut against them with contempt, and others filled their pulpits. Hereupon they were much persuaded to lay down their ministry; but the generality of them could not be satisfied to do it on many accounts. They feared the guilt of perfidiously breaking their ordinationvow, by which they obliged themselves to the diligent performance of their ministry. Many of their people, having given up themselves to their conduct in divine things, claimed
the continuance of their relation and ministry, and begged they would not desert them; professing that they could not trust their souls to the care of many of those who were placed in their stead. They therefore feared incurring the charge of unfaithfulness and cruelty, and the guilt of ruining souls by being silent.- The magistrate's authority was indeed against them; but they found themselves under a solemn obligation to a higher authority to fulfill their ministry, as they were able, for neglecting which they knew the command of the magistrate could furnish them with no just excuse. The curse and doom of the unprofitable servant that hid his talent (Matt. xxv.) much affected them. : Besides, they found the necessities of the people in most parts of the nation great, notwithstanding the legal provision for them. Without being censorious, it was too evident to them, that inany of the new ministers were unqualified. And on the most favourable view of things, they found that populous cities, and the ignorant parts of the country, needed more help than the parish ministers did or could
afford them. In short, maturely weighing the whole matter, they apprehended it their indispensable duty, as men and ministers, to do their best in the exercise of all their talents, human, christian, and ministerial, to seek to save men's souls; and they endeavoured, as well they could, to arm themselves with patience to bear all the sufferings they might expect to meet with. Nor did they want hearers and adherents. Many arguments and insinuations indeed were used to divert the people from at all regarding them; but their esteem for them was too deeply rivetted, the grounds of their dissatisfaction too palpable, and the care taken to remove the grounds of their objections too su.. perficial, for them to be much moved with these assaults. Many of the people had found benefit by their former la. bours, and thereupon thought themselves obliged to adhere to them. Finding them cast off without having any crime justly alledged against them, they thought it inhuman and bar. barous to desert them. And being convinced of the justice of the cause in which they were engaged, viz. in pressing a farther reformation in matters of religion, they thought it their duty to espouse the same cause, and adhere to the same principle. They could not see how the presentation of a patron and the institution of a bishop, could make it the duty of all in a parish, presently to acquiesce in those ministers who were put in their places : nor" could they reconcile the supposition with the inviolable rights of human nature ; which leave a man as much at his liberty to choose a pastor for his soul, as a physician for his body, or a lawyer for his estate.
The people also had many of the same objections against conformity which the ministers themselves had, arising particularly from the want of discipline in the church; the imposition of the cross and of sponsors in baptism; kneeling at the Lord's supper, and other human inventions, and unscriptural terms of communion. Things being in this posture, what must they do? Must they sit still, without any ordinances at all? Or act against their consciences to enjoy them? Must they live like Pagans till they got rid of their scruples? It appeared to be their duty to take such opportunities as they had of worshipping God according to their consciences, being careful to maintain love and charity towards those froin whom they differed. This course they accordingly took; having sometimes the smiles, and sometimes the frowns of government.--Among other 1
charges brought against both ministers and people, on account of their separate assemblies, they were cried out against, both from the press and the pulpit, as dangerous Schismatics, and under that name subjected to popular odium. For, as a member of the church of England (the ingenious Mr. Hales of Eaton) said long ago, “ Heresy • and Schism are two theological scare-crows, used by “ those that seek to uphold a party in religion, to terrify “ their opponents.” However the Nonconformists weighed the matter, considered the grounds of their charge, found themselves innocent, and made their appeal to the unprejudiced, in a variety of publications.
They pleaded that their practice was not what the scripture calls schism. As it is there represented, schism consists not so much in variety of opinions, or different practices, modes or forms, as in a want of love and charity. For as heresy is opposed to faith, schism is opposed to love. He that is conversant with scripture may easily observe, that there may be schism, or a schismatical spirit working in a church, where there is no local separation; and that there may be a separation and yet no schism on the part of them that separate: nay, that there can be no schism in the scripture sense, where there is not an uncharitable alienation of the hearts of christians from each other. They farther pleaded, that their separation was not voluntary, but forced. They were cast out of the church by her impositions, and excommunicated by her canons: on which account many of the Laudensiun faction, even to this day, deny them christian burial. They were free to hold constant communion with the established church, upon those terms which Christ had made necessary; but were rejected with scorn, because of their non-compliance in things which, after the strictest enquiry, they could not find the word of God warranted. So that they did not throw themselves out, but were rejected. They farther pleaded, that if there were a a schism, it lay at their door who laid the foundation of it by their impositions, and who might remove it, and prevent the dismal consequences they so much complain of, by leaving the things that are so strictly enjoined, in their natural indifference. They were the more confirmed in their adherence to these principles, by finding the most eminent episcopal divines forced to adopt the very same, in their noble defence of the Reformation, against the Romanists. And indeed it seemed to them remarkable that