« PreviousContinue »
RESTORATION OF EPISCOPACY.
pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches, and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating bishops, priests and deacons.) Charles likewise decreed, that the ordination of all Presbyterians, should be null and void; and that they should obtain episcopal orders, before taking the above oath. Two thousand Puritan ministers, some of them the ablest and best which ever adorned the Church of Christ, were thus at once ejected from their pulpits, and not only deprived of their ordinary support, but of the past year's remuneration, which became due shortly after.
They were, moreover, required to promise on oath, that they would not take arms against the king, or endeavour to effect
any alteration in the church or state. If they refused, they were for ever forbid coming within five miles of any city or borough where they had preached. An act called the conventicle act, was also passed, forbidding any dissenters above five in number, assembling for any other exercise of religion, than that prescribed in the liturgy of the church of England, on penalty of fine, imprisonment or banishment.
Several denominations were at this time existing in the kingdom. Sixteen are mentioned by cotemporary writers. The Baptists and Quakers, were most numerous next to the Presbyterians and independents. All these were classed together under the general name of Noncomformists, and the pame of Puritan was dropped. All felt the arm of oppression. The business of informers was made very lucrative. The prisons were quickly filled. The Nonconformists were afraid to pray in their families, or ask a blessing on their meals, if five strangers were present. Their hardships were greater than those of the papisis at the reformation, or the loyalists in the time of the civil wars.
Such as could, fled to America. About 3000 died in prison. And not less than 60,000, found in various ways, an untimely grave. Property was wrung from them to the amount of two millions sterling. In 1665, the English nation which was daily exhibiting scenes of profligacy and oppression, was visited with the most tremendous judgments. A distressing drought, caused a murrain among the cattle. Infection was communicated to the city of London, and 100,000 people were swept off by the plague. Soon after, a large part of the city was burned io the ground. During the pestilence, the wealthy and independent inhabitants fled; the pulpits were deserted. Many, however, of the ejected ministers, occupied them, and visited and comforted the distressed, and were permitted to exercise their ministry without opposition. In 1672, the king granted a general declaration of indulgence, suspending the penal laws against dissenters; but the Presbyterians and lodependents, would have preferred further suffering, to having the Papists so greatly favoured. About the same time, also was passed the test act, making the Episcopal sacrament a qualification for civil offices and employments. That remains to this day.
The churches were, at the restoration, filled with their former incumbents. But the high church party were not popular with Charles, and men filled the high stations, who did not look upon episcopacy as a divine institution, and absolutely essential, though they praised it as the best form of government and worship, and who viewed the points of controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, as of an indifferent nature, which, with certain explanations, might be held, or be entirely cast away, without any spiritual detriment.
With a voluptuous monarch on the throne, and a latitudinarian clergy in the desk, vital piety rapidly declined. All who had before been unwillingly restrained by the powerful preaching of the Nonconformists, now ran to the excess of wickedness, and delighted in nothing so much as reviling what they called the canting hypocrisy and fanaticism of the commonwealth. The nobles of England exchanged their sober, serious character, for one of frivolity and sin. A host of infidels, led by Hobbs, Toland, and the lords Herbert, Rochester and Shaftesbury, made a bold attack, by ridicule and sophistry, upon Christianity. But the great luminaries of the age, Newton, Locke, Boyle, Tillotson and Cudworth, threw all their influence into the opposite scale, and made them appear weak and contemptible, in the eyes of all discerning men. The excellent Robert Boyle, instituted an annual course of lectures, in which the Gospel was, for a long time, most ably defended from the base and insidious attacks of these subtle enemies,
Religion continued in a state of astonishing fluctuation, and the nation soon found itself on the very point of subjection to the Roman See. Charles had beer:, from his exile, at heart, a papist, and would have betrayed the protestant cause, had he dared to do it. He terminated his disolute life, by receiving the sacrament from the hands of a popish priest, in 1684, and was succeeded by his brother, James II., a bigoted Catholic.
The Catholics had been closely watched in England, from the discovery of the powder plot, but they were very numerous and powerful. In Ireland they formed the great bulk of the population. With a monarch of their own on the throne, they now felt their former dominion secured. James was not wanting in efforts to advance the cause. He filled vacant places
JAMES II. FREE TOLERATION.
with Papists and others on whom he could rely for support. He new modelled the high commission court, made the infamous Jeffries one of its judges, and gave it unlimited power for searching out and punishing ecclesiastial offences. The Dissenters suffered severely. The quarters of several hundred persons were seen hung up over the country. Finding opposition arise in the church, James hoped to gain the assistance of the Dissenters, and courted them, and that they might be pleased, and the Papists favoured, he published a declaration suspending all penal laws on religion, abolishing all tests, and declaring all his subjects equally capable of employment in his service. This he required all the clergy to read from their pulpits. The Episcopalians retused. A general meeting of bishops and clergy was held in London, and a petition was framed beseeching the King not to insist upon it. It was signed by seven bishops who were soon committed to the Tower. After a long trial at Westminster for rebellion, they were acquitted. Only four in London read the declaration, and but about 200 in the kingdom. All the Protestants, now once more united, combined together, boldly dethroned their monarch, and forever excluded the Papists from the crown. William, prince of Orange, son-in-law to James, was invited to take the throne. Jaines saw his dan. ger, and endeavoured to quiet his disaffected subjects, but it was too late. William was received with open arms, and James fled to France,
This great event which happened A. D. one thousand six hundred and eighty-eight, is called in English History THE REVOLUTION. It firmly secured the liberty of the Protestants. The Catholics were by a bill in parliament, forever excluded from holding any office in the nation. Episcopacy was established as the religion of the state. Free toleration was granted to all protestant dissenters from the church of England, excepting Socinians. This is hailed by English Protestants as the most glorious epoch in their history.
From this event to the present time, the church of England has moved on with considerable uniformity, without any material alterations in her government and discipline.
Some trouble she early received from a few leading bishops, who were willing William should govern, but who refused to take the oath to him, because James was alive, and must remain until death, their rightful sovereign. These were called nonjurors. They retired from their sees into Scotland, and sunk into poverty and disgrace. Some also from James and his par. ty, who made a number of efforts to regain dominion.
William and Mary were invited to the throne by the most
religious part of the nation, and they made early and resolute efforts to reform the morals of the people. In these they were supported by Burnet, Bishop of Sarum, the famous author of the history of the reformation, and of an exposition of the thirty-nine articles. Numerous societies were formed throughout the kingdom for the suppression of vice of every description. Fifteen new bishops were constituted; Dr. Tillitson was made archbishop of Canterbury, and Dr. Sharp of York. Their learning was great, their conduct exemplary. They became preaching bishops; visited their dioceses with diligence; laboured much for the instruction and reformation of the people; and produced what has been called, “ the golden age of episcopacy."
The establishment became divided into two parties, the high church, and the low church. The former contended for the divine righ of episcopacy, and would raise it to an absolute independence of human power. These were disposed to treat Dissenters, as the Nonconformists were now called, with great severity. The latter, considered episcopacy as a mere human institution, excellent indeed, but not essential; viewed presbyterian ordination valid, and exercised a spirit of moderation and charity toward Dissenters These had the power in their hands in the days of William, and were branded by the high church as purilanical. Violent disputes between these parties, agitated the whole of the reign of Queen Anne, destroyed the religion, and poisoned the social intercourse of every village. A sermon preached by Hoadly, afterwards bishop of Bangor, asserting that it was lawful, yea, a duty, to resist lyrants, threw the high church party into great rage. They were patronized by the Queen, and their rage was blown into fury ly one Sacheverel, a loud frothy partisan. The low church were shamefully abused, and the Dissenters were treated as the offscouring of the earth. During the reign of George I., who came to the throne in 1714, an attempt was made by archbishop Wake, to unite the English and Gallican churches, but it soon came to nought. The church of England was also agitated with the Bangorian controversy, occasioned by Hoadly, then bishop of Bangor, who declared in a sermon before the king, that Christ's kingdom was not of this world, and inveighed against the temporal power of bishops, and the regal supremacy in ecclesiastical concerns. The convocation fell upon him with violence, but he was protected by the King; and the convocation have from that period to this, only been permitted to assemble and adjourn, without transacting any business. By George, the low church party were exalted to the highest places of power and trust. When his successor came to the throne, their rivals
endeavoured to gain ascendency, but were suppressed, by his e respect for religious liberty.
A new host of infidels led on by Bolinbroke, Collins, Tindal, Chubb, Wollaston, Home and others, threw at this time, poison into the waters of the nation, and multitudes, especially of the nobility, drank deep, and set themselves against the Lord, and against his anointed. But they were met by Butler, Chandler, and other able defenders of Christianity, in the establishment and among the Dissenters. In resisting, however, the arts of infidelity, and in delivering, as they did mere moral essays, instead of the doctrines of the cross, the common people in the
church of England were almost wholly neglected by her lead: ing divines, and were fast sinking into a state of practical athe
ism, when those wonderful men, Whitfield, and Wesley, arose, and by astonishing boldness and zeal, arrested the attention of thousands on thousands to divine things. Their efforts resulted in a great increase of vital piety throughout the nation, and a dismemberment of a vast body from the establishment. Their followers were chiefly among the common people. A noble lady, however, wife of the earl of Huntingdon, became their open adrocate, erected numerous chapels throughout the kingdom, for such as preached the truth with plainness and power,
and opened her palace in the park, for the great and noble to · hear them on Sabbath evenings.
The high church party, which had been out of favour many years from its attachment to the fallen house of Stuart, became popular upon the accession of George III., from expressing a warm attachment to the house of Hanover, and opposing the American revolution. In 1972, a large body of the established clergy petitioned parliament' to be released from subscription to the articles and liturgy of the church, but were unsuccess!al. The dissenters also, frequently petitioned for a repeal of the test acts, but in vain. The catholics were the subjects of severe persecution. A mob, under lord George Gordon, committed in 1780, shameful outrages upon them. The French revolution was not without its demoralizing effects upon the English nation. But it produced also a greater attachment to the church, and increased the popularity of the high church party, and all who opposed the extension of civil and religious liberty. Of late, the bishops have been invested with new authority over the inferior clergy, and the constitution of the church has been rendered more despotic.
The high church are patronised by the court, and gain the : important vacancies. With them arminiasm is the ruling prin