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would pass a bill to exclude the duke of York. Whereupon, they were prorogued, January 14. but before they rose they came to these two resolutions : “ Resolved, nem. con. " That it is the opinion of this house, that the acts of par“ liament made in the reign of queen Elizabeth and king “ James against popish recusants, ought not to be extended “ against Protestant Dissenters; and that the prosecution of “ Protestant Dissenters upon the penal laws, is at this time
grievous to the subject, a weakening the protestant in“ terest, an encouragement to Popery, and dangerous to the
peace of the kingdom.”. After which they were first prorogued and then dissolved. Another parliament met at Oxford in March following, but had not time to do any business. There was a complaint then made of the unprecedented loss of the forementioned bill for the repealing the act of 35 Eliz. but without any satisfaction or redress.
Notwithstanding that the fears of Popery were then so general and so well grounded, Dr. Stillingfieet,- dean of St. Paul's, (prevailed upon, as was supposed, by some great personages) thought fit to represent all the Nonconformists as schismatics, in a sermon before the Lord mayor, May the 2d, 1680, intitled, “ The Mischief of Separation.” Answers to it were written by Dr. Owen, Mr. Baxter, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Howe, and Mr. Barret of Nottingham. * While the Doctor and his opponents were eagerly debating matters, the common enemy took advantage to proinote their intended ruin. The Dissenters were prosecuted afresh, in defiance of the votes of parliament, and several zealous protestants were tried by mercenary judges, with packed juries, upon Irish evidence. Orders were sent from the king and council-board to suppress all conventicles; which were followed carefully enough by the justices of Hicks's-Hall, the borough of Southwark, and some in the city also. This year (1682) the meetings of the Dissenters were often broken up, and the laws against them vigourously executed. Many ministers were imprisoned, and they and their hearers fined. Mr. Baxter was surprised in his own house; but Dr. Cox making oath, before five justices, that he was too ill to go to prison, the officers executed their warrants on the goods and books in the house, though he made it appear they were not his; and they sold even the bed which he then lay upon. Dr. Annesly, and several more, had their goods distrained for latent convictions; others were imprisoned upon the corporation-act, while many were worried in the
spiritual courts. Warrants were signed for distresses in Hackney to the value of 14001, and one of them for 5001. On January 9, 1683, Mr. Vincent was tried at the Surry sessions upon the 35th of Eliz. and cast. The same course was persisted in, the succeeding year, when two hundred warrants were issued out for distresses upon persons in Urbridge and the neighbourhood, for going to conventicles. Dr. Bates and several others were distrained upon; and the gentlemen of Doctor's Commons got money apace.
This year a new plot was trumped up, which cost the brave Russel and Sydney their lives. July the 24th a decrée passed in the university of Oxford against " certain pernicious books and damnable doctrines," v. g. “ That the “ sovereignty of England is in the three estates, king, “ lords, and commons, &c. that self-preservation is the “ fundamental law of nature," &c. Several persons, apprehended at meetings, were convicted as rioters, and fined job. each ; and some young people of both sexes were sent to Bridewell. About this time (A. D. 1684.) one Mr. Robert Mayot, of Oxford, a pious conformist, gave by his last will 6001. to be distributed by Mr. Barter to sixty poor ejected ministers. But the king's attorney, Sir R. Sawyer, sued for it in the chancery, and the Lord-keeper North gave it all to the king! It was paid into the chancery by order ; but as Providence ordered it, it was there kept safe till King William ascended the throne; when the coinmissioners of the
great seal restored it to the use for which it was intended, and Mr. Baxter disposed of it accordingly.
This year a inost cruel order was made by the justices of peace at the quarter sessions at Exeter against all Nonconforming ministers, offering a reward of forty shillings to any person who apprehended one of them; and the bishop required the order to be read by all the clergy, the next Sun. day after it should be tendered to them. Mr. Barter was this year again apprehended, and Mr. Rosewell imprisoned in the Gutehouse, by a warrant from Sir George Jefferys, for high treason. Mr. Jenkyn died in Newgate, as did also Mr. Bampfield, Mr. Ralphson, and several others, in other prisons *. And quickly after died King Charles himself, viz. February 1685. Though he continued the prosecution of the Dissenters, yet they held on their meetings, heartily praying for his peace and prosperity; and they were as much concerned at his death as any people in the kingdom.
* Of their sufferings see more io the account of their respective lives. VOL. I. NO. 2.
The Case of the Dissenters in the Reign of James 11.
to the Revolution.
going reign was owing to Popish counsels, they themselves never doubted; and though some were a long time before they would see, or at least own it, yet it was a great comfort to them after all their sufferings, to find such men as Bishop Stillingfleet at last openly acknowledging it. [See his charge to his clergy, in his primary visitation, p. 49.] They little expected better treatment in this reign, when bare-faced Popery lifted up its head among us.
But wise is that Providence which governs the world, and which serves its own ends, even by those very things from which poor mortals have the least expectation. It is indeed enough to amaze any one, to observe the measures pursued in this reign, with the consequences of them, whereby all mankind were disappointed. The Church-party not only expected to have the Dissenters wholly under their feet, but depended so much upon their own merit in adhering to the Duke in his distress, and on his positive assurances that they were become very secure, and thought the day their own. But on a sudden they found themselves in such danger, that without adoping some new methods their religion and liberty were gone.
The Dissenters not only expected greater rigours and se verities than before, but concluded that they should, if possible, be wholly extirpated. Whereas, to their great astonishment, they found themselves eased of their former hardships, and even courted and caressed by those who, they well knew, would rejoice in their ruin, having left no method unattempted to accomplish it. The Papists thought, by raising those who had been so long depressed, to have inflamed them with revenge against their conforming brethren, and so to have widened the animosities among pro, testants, that they might thereby have rendered all parties
the more sure and speedy sacrifices to their own malice and cruelty. But instead of this they only drove the contending parties the nearer together, and made them the more vigorous in their united efforts to avert the common iinpend
In the reign of King James II. which began February 6;. 1685, the same methods were continued at first, as had been used in his brother's time. On February 28, Mr. Baxter was committed to the King's-Bench prison, by Lord chief justice Jefferies's warrant, for some exceptionable passages in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, as reflecting on the order of diocesan bishops, and asserting, in some possible cases, the lawfulness of resistance. He was brought to his trial May 30. But the chief justice would not suffer his counsel to plead for their clients and when he offered to speak for! himself, interrupted him, and treated hiin with the basest scurrility. The jury, being directed by the chief justice, immediately laid their heads together at the bar, and found him guilty. On the 29th of June following, he had judgment given against him, and was fined 500 marks, to lie in prison till it was paid, and be bound to his good behaviour for seven years *. The next year the Dissenters were prosecuted in the wonted manner; their meetings were frequently disturbed both in city and country, and heavy fines were levied upon them. The informers broke in upon Mr. Fleetwood, Sir John Hartop, and some others, at Stoke-Newington, to levy distresses for conventicles, to the amount of 6 or 70001. Many were excommunicated, and had capiasses issued out against them; but particular persons, on making application to those in power, were more favoured than had been usual. - Many controversial writings were at this time published by the divines of the church of England, against the errors of the church of Rome; and it must be owned that they sig. nalized themselves, and gained immortal honour by their performances. If the Dissenters did not appear so generally por so publicly upon this occasion, (for which their enemies have reproached them) it may without much difficulty be accounted for. It should be considered, that they had written against Popery very freely before, so that they had the less. reason to do it now; that they did not find their own people
* See a more particular account of this trial in the Narrative of Mr. Baxter's life, Vid. Kidderminster,
so much in danger, as many who were educated in the church of England; that both in city and country they at this very time preached with great freedom against Popery ; which shewed that if they wrote less against it than others, it did not arise from fear. Many of them also thought it not proper to attempt to take this work out of the hands of the Episcopal divines; who not only did it well, but who were in duty bound to do the more in opposition to the common danger, because they had done so much to occasion it; and who had so visibly improved in light, and in the largeness of their notions, by being necessitated to support some principles in these debates, which they had slighted before, and seemed willing to discard. Finally, it must be observed, that several of the Dissenters did at this time attempt to publish some tracts against Popery, but that they met with discouragement when they sent them to the press, because they were not of the church of England, whose clergy seemed desirous to ingross the management of this controversy wholly to themselves. When it was known that this was actually the case, as to some treatises then written by Nonconformists, it need not seem strange that this circumstance, should hinder others from making like attempts
The king's dispensing power was at length the subject of much conversation and debate; but at last eleven of the judges determined in favour of it.-Injunctions went out from several of the bishops, to all ministers in their dioceses, strictly enjoining all churchwardens to present those that did not come to church, or that received not the sacrament at Easter. And it seemed to be a prevailing opinion, that the Protestant Dissenters must be prosecuted, or Popery could not be suppressed. But the unseasonableness of such rigours, and the scandalous villainies and perjuries of many of the most noted informers, both in city and country, made sensible men soon weary. James, in order to carry on his designs the more successfully, granted an ecclesiastical commission, directed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord chancellor, the Bishops of Durham and Rochester, the earl of Rochester, &e. devolving the whole care of ecelesiastical affairs upon them, in the largest extent that ever had been known in England. They opened their commis. sion August 3, and soon convinced all the clergy in the
* A full answer to the aboveobjection against the Dissenters
be seca in Mr. Tong's Defence of Mr. Henry's Notion of Schism, p. 154. 155.