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those which were reckoned, by the Clergy, the most successful weapons against the Dissenters, should be the same that are used by the Papists against the Protestant Reformation.
Upon the whole; as for the above reasons they thought their separation from the church of England was not sinful, they endeavoured to manage it so peaceably and charitably, that it might not become schismatical. A main expedient, pitched upon by the most moderate for this purpose, was, communicating' occasionally with the established chureh. Hereby they thought they should shew their love and charity to those from whom they ordinarily separated ; and at the same time manifest their firm adherence to their fun. damental principles, of keeping the ordinances of Christ, as he had appointed them, without additional terms of communion; and of pursuing a farther reformation. But they had the common lot of those who in any case have been for keeping within a due inediocrity ; they have been eagerly assaulted by those addicted to extremes on both hands, and condemned as utterly inexcusable because of their moderation *.
SECT. VI. The Treatment of the Nonconformist Ministers after their
Ejection, till the Death of Charles II. THE ejected ministers continued for ten years in a state
1 of silence and obscurity. It was their aim and endea. your to be found in the way of their duty to God and the king; but they could not be suffered to live in peace. More plots were hatched, to keep up the spirit which Yarring- . ton's plot first stirred up against them. Such was the policy of the court, that they must either be crushed by their fellow Protestants, or if favoured with any connivance, they must have the Papists partners with them, that so the Protestant interest might be weakened. The Act of uniformity took place, August the 24th, 1662. On the 26th of December following, the king published a Declaration, expressing his purpose to grant some indulgence or liberty
* Whether their conduct herein was right or not, their motive was doubtless a most commendable one. Those who would see a defence of their occasional conformity, are referred to Dr. Calamy's original Work, vol. 1, p. 285, &c.
in religion. Some of the Nonconformists were hereupon much encouraged, and waiting privately on the king, had their hopes confirmed, and would have persuaded their brethren to have thanked him for his declaration; but they re. fused, lest they should make way for the toleration of the Papists, whom they understood the king intended to include in it, as he said, they had descrved well of him. This royal declaration pleased neither the parliament nor the people; and the Nonconformists, instead of being favoured, were exposed to greater severities. They who on the king's return were so much caressed, were now treated with the utmost contempt. The silenced ministers were not only forbidden to preach in public, but were so carefully watched in private, that they could not meet' to pray together, but it was deemed a seditious conventicle, Mr. Baxter and Dr. Bates were desired to meet at one Mr. Beale's in Hatton Garden, to pray for his wife, who was dangerously ill. Happily for them, some occurrence prevented their attendance, for if they had been there, they would have been apprehended; as two justices of peace came with a serjeant at arms to seize them, and searched the house, and even the sick chamber. Soon after this, many excellent ministers were laid in gaols in several counties for the heavy crime of preaching and praying.
. In June 1663, the old peaceable Archbishop of Canter. bury, Dr. Juxon, died, and Dr. Sheldon, Bishop of London suceeded him, About that time there was a fresh report of liberty for the silenced ininisters. They were blamed by many, for not petitioning the parliament; though they had reason enough against it. Many members encouraged the expectation of either an indulgence, or a comprehension; and it was warmly debated, which of the two would be most desirable. Some were for petitioning for a general indulgence; but others declared they would suffer any thing rather than promote Popery.
Mr. Baxter, when consulted by a person of distinction, declared for a comprehension. But instead of indulgence or comprehension, on the 30th of June, an act against private meetings, called the Conventicle Act, passed the House of Commons, and soon after was made a law, viz. “ That “ every person above sixteen years of age, present at any 6 meeting, under pretence of any exercise of religion, in “ other manner than is the practice of the church of " England, where there are five persons more than the
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“ houshold, shall for the first offence, by a justice of peace “ be recorded, and sent to gaol three months, till he pay « 51. and for the second offence, six months, till he pay *6 101. and the third time being convicted by a jury, shall “ be banished to some of the American plantations, ex“ cepting New England or Virginia.” It was a great hardship attending this act, that it gave power to the Justices to record a man an offender without a jury: and if they did it without a cause, there was no remedy, seeing every justice was made a judge. Before, the danger and sufferings lay on the ministers only, but now the people also were included.
In the year 1665, the plague broke out, which carried off about an hundred thousand persons in the city of London. The ejected ministers had, till this time, preached very privately, and only to a few: but now, when the clergy in the city-churches fled, and left their flocks in the time of their extremity, several of the Nonconformists pitying the dying and distressed people, who had none to help
them to prepare for another world, nor to comfort them .. in their terrors, when about 10,000 died in a week; were
convinced that no obedience to the laws of man could justify their, neglecting inen's souls and bodies in such ex.
tremities. They therefore resolved to stay with them, to - enter the deserted pulpits, and give them what assistance
they were able, under such an awakening providence; to visit the sick, and procure what relief they could for the poor, especially such as were shut up. The persons that determined upon this good work were Mr. T. Vincent, Mr. Chester, Mr. Janeway, Mr. Turner, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Jack
son, Mr. Franklyn, and some others. The face of death so · awakened preachers and hearers, that the foriner exceeded
themselves in lively fervent preaching; and the latter heard with a peculiar ardour and attention. Through the blessing of God, many were converted, and religion took such hold on their hearts, that it could never afterwards be effaced.
While God was consuming the people by this judgment, and the Nonconformists were labouring to save their souls, the parliament, which sat at Oxford, was busy in making an act to render their case incomparably harder than it was before, by putting upon them a certain oath *, which if
** The oath was thir. "1, A. B. do swear, that it is not lawful; upon (6 any pretence whatsoever, to take arins against the king: and that I do
they refused, they must not come (unless upon the road) within five miles of any city or corporation, any place that sent burgesses to parliament, any place where they had been ministers, or had preached after the act of oblivion. The main promoters of this act among the clergy were, Archbishop Sheldon and Bishop Ward. - Though some vehemently opposed it, the Lord Chancellor Hyde and his party carried it. When this act came out, those ministers who had any maintenance of their own, found out some places of residence in obscure villages, or market-towns, that were not corporations. Some who had nothing, left their wives and children, and hid themselves, sometimes coming to them privately by night. But the majority, resolved to preach the more freely in cities and corporations, till they should be sent to prison. Their difficulties were truly great; for the country was so impoverished, that those who were willing to relieve them, had generally but little ability. And yet God mercifully provided for them; so . that scarcely any of them.perished for want, or were exposed to sordid beggary: but some few were tempted against their former judgments to conform
The Nonconformists being charged in this new act, with seditious doctrines and heinous crimes, many were so inuch hurt by it, as to endeavour to find out a sense in which the oath might be safely taken, to prevent their passing under that brand to posterity. Dr. Bates consulted the lord keeper Bridgeman about it; who promised to be at the next sessions, and on the bench to declare openly, that by endeavouring to change the church government, was meant only unlawful endeavour. Upon which declaration, he and about twenty other Nonconformists took the oath.--.. This year orders were sent from the Archbishop of Cantera bury to the several bishops of his province, that they should make a return of the names of all ejected Nonconformist ininisters, with their place of abode, and manner of life. In consequence of this, the number of ministers who were imprisoned, fined, or otherwise suffered for preaching the gospel, was very great.
The dreadful fire in London, which happened the next
« abhor the traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his “ person, or against those that are commissionated by him, in pursuance of " such commission: and that I will not at any time endeavour any alteration of so the government, either in church or state."
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year, made the way of the Nonconformists plainer to them: for the churches being burnt, and the parish ministers gone, for want of churches and maintenance, the peo· ple's necessity became unquestionable. Having now no
places in which to worship God, except a few churches that were left standing, which would hold but an inconsiderable part of them, the Nonconformists opened public Meeting houses, which were very full ; but still they agreed some. times to communicate with the established church.
In the year 1667, the Lord Chancellor Hyde was impeached and discarded : and it seemed a remarkable provi. dence of God, that he who had been the grand instrument of state in the foregoing transactions, and had dealt so severely with the Nonconformists, should at length be cast out by his own friends and banished. The Duke of Buckingham succeeded him as chief favourite; under whom the Nonconformists in London were connived at, and people went openly to their meetings without fear. This en. couraged the country ministers. to use the same liberty in most parts of England, and crowds of the most religious people were their auditors.
In January 1668, the lord-keeper Bridgeman sent for Mr. Barter and Dr. Manton, to treat with them about a comprehension and toleration. A few days after, he sent them his proposals in writing, and they met Dr. Wilkins and Mr. Burion to confer about them.
Mr. Baxter and his brethren moved for other things to be added, Dr. Wilkins professed his ready consent, but said that more would not pass with the parliament. After a long debate, a bill was drawn up by Judge Hale, to be presented to the parliament. But they no sooner sat, than the High-church party made such interest against it, that, upon putting it to the vote, it was carried, that no man should bring an act of this nature into the house."
In September, 1669, Sir John Baber informed Dr, Manton, that the king was inclined to favour the Noncon. formists, and that an address now would be accepted. An address was accordingly agreed on, and presented by Drs, Alanton, Bates, Jacomb, and Mr. Ennis. The King met them in Lord Arlington's lodgings, received them graciously, and promised to do his utmost to get them comprehended within the public establishment. But after all, the talk of liberty did but occasion the writing many bitter pain, phlets against toleration. This year Sir Wm. Turner ... 2