OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Progress of the Nation page 4


Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

It was, moreover, proposed to lay aside chanting in cathedrals; to administer the sacrament to such as objected to kneel in receiving it, in their pews; to abolish all high titles to the king, queen, &c., in the prayers, retaining merely the word sovereign, as more accordant with the simplicity of Christian worship; to omit the prayer beginning, "O God, whose nature and properties," as full of strange and impertinent expressions, and, moreover, as not being in the original, but foisted in by another hand; to allow such as desired to omit godfathers and godmothers for their children, and the children merely presented in their own name for baptism.

In order to sanction these changes, a convocation was summoned, and then the storm broke loose. The Jacobites and the discontented cried out they were going to pull the church down; the high churchmen declared it was a scheme to hand over the church to the presbyterians; the universities cried that all the men engaged in the plan were traitors to the true faith, and the king himself was not spared. The bigots who were included in the commission fled out of it amain, and the convocation threw out the whole reform as an abomination. Here were those reforms which the fathers of the English church, Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Tindale, Coverdale, Hooper, &c., had declared were absolutely necessary to its perfect reformation, and for endeavouring to carry which out they had suffered in property and life, now, under the direct sanction of the royal head of the church, prepared by such a constellation of its own divines as, for learning, eloquence, wisdom, piety, and prudence, the church had scarcely seen at one time, and could not, at any one time, hope to see again. Here were those reforms which would give to the ritual of their church an eminent character for liberality and Christian wisdom, and to its offices, in the words of one of its own members, "such eloquence and brightness of expression, such a heat and flame of devotion, that nothing more could affect and excite the hearts of the hearers, and raise up their minds towards God." Here were the means, offered by its own bishops and dignitaries, which would annihilate that dissent of which it expressed such jealousy and alarm, by absorbing it into its own substance, and thus strengthening its own constitution, and expanding its own borders beyond all reach of envy or enmity, and the whole rejected with an infatuation incalculable in its consequences. Convocation having given this blow to all hopes of ecclesiastical reform, was prorogued to the 24th of January, 1690, and on the 6th of February was dissolved with the parliament, nor was it suffered to meet again for business till the last year of the reign of king Wilham.

The fierce spirit of resistance to all reform shown by the bigots of the church was equalled by the spirit of cruel intolerance shown to the catholics and anti-trinitarians. The unitarians were excluded from all benefit of the act, and the catholics were subject even to fresh rigours. It would have been much worse had not king William, to whom all persecution was abhorrent, assured his subjects- that outrages on the catholics would create another catholic league on the continent. Yet, in 1699, an act was passed, offering one hundred pounds to every person who should apprehend any catholic priest, bishop, or Jesuit, and prosecute him to conviction for saying mass, or performing any other sacerdotal function. Any catholic keeping a school was to be imprisoned for life - yea, even for interfering in any degree with education; and any priest taken was to suffer the same penalty. Any person sending a child abroad to be educated by catholics was liable to one hundred pounds penalty, all of which was to go to the informer. Every person who, within six months after reaching the age of eighteen, did not renounce his or her religion by signing a declaration against transubstantiation, invocation of saints, and the sacrifice of the mass, could not inherit any property, but it must go to the next protestant heir. No catholic was to be allowed to purchase any landed or household property, either in his own name or the name of another; and all catholics who did not assign a fitting maintenance to their children, so that they might receive a protestant education, were to be subjected to an order of the lord chancellor for the purpose. At the commencement of the reign of Anne, a similar act was passed for Ireland, where the population was chiefly catholic; and that the protestant dissenters of that country might not escape, the sacramental test was tacked to the act. These monstrous acts - passed simultaneously with or after the Toleration Act - say very little for the real toleration of that age. They were in fact, however, too brutal to be reduced to very extensive practice. In the last year of the reign of Anne, an act was passed to strengthen the old act against papist patrons presenting to church livings; and after the rebellion of 1715, compelling all papists of the age of twenty-one to register their names and estates, with their yearly rental, in books kept by the clerk of the peace in each county.

Two years after the act compelling catholics to have their children educated in protestantism, a similar act was passed relating to the Jews; which law, it is said, has never been repealed. In 1753 an act was passed permitting any Jew who had resided three years in England and Ireland to be naturalised, without taking the sacrament; but this raised such a clamour, that it was repealed the very next session. Yet all the time there was an act of 1740 in force, which allowed the naturalisation of any Jew who had lived seven years in any of our colonies, without being more than two months absent at any one time, and that without taking the sacrament, or repeating demands " upon the true faith of a Christian." All other foreigners were entitled to be naturalised by a similar residence in our colonies. In 1729 Quakers were admitted to make an affirmation instead of an oath in all cases; but were not to serve on juries in criminal cases, or to give evidence in such cases, or to hold any place; of honour or profit under government. In 1728 the Indemnity Act was passed, which allowed persons who had accepted any office, for which they had not qualified themselves by taking the Test and. Corporation Act, still to qualify themselves, and gave so much time as brought them within the next passing of such an act, which was passed every year, so that it amounted to a perfect neutralisation of the act, till the abolition of the Test and Corporation Acts altogether, a century later. In 1711 passed the celebrated act against occasional conformity; and in 1714 one for preventing the growth of schism; but these were deprived of their force by another act in 1718.

The condition of dissenters, however, continued most unenviable through all this period, down to the reign of George III. William, though he achieved the toleration, never could, as we have seen, reform the state church. In fact, all history testifies to the great fact, that a state church never can re-model itself; a fact which is every day now rendering more and more of the members of an Anglican establishment desirous that their church should be freed from the trammels of the state. They begin to perceive that a state requires the church it patronises to support its own measures, right or wrong, rather than to support Christianity; and that, to flourish fully, a church must be free. They see that a state church, once organised, can never undergo any change, except that which time ploughs upon it, in bringing it to the earth. Like those tabernacles and towers which bear its own name, amid the everlasting freshness andvitality of nature, it grows grey, and crumbles piecemeal to the dust. Around it the elements of free mind, the winds of discussion, the dews of pure and heartfelt sentiment, the fructifying seas of knowledge, nay, the very thunder and blackness of opposition, keep the whole world beautiful in perpetual youth; whilst over its walls creep grey lichens of age, humid mosses of superstitious stagnation; the worm and the weather work faster than hands which dare not j renew, lest they endanger, and the whole huge fabric stands! a venerable ruin! In our own time, in consequence, how many of its best sons and daughters behold with consternation the rents, and schisms, and struggles, which are going on in its interior, whilst, bound by political chains, it knows not how to cast out its sorrows. William's intended reforms were a vain attempt to escape from this ancient law of establishments; the only consequence of which was to rouse the elements of antagonism against him. Anne was a Stuart and a tory, and, no sooner was she on the throne, than the whole brood of church absolutists raised their heads, and endeavoured to revoke the Act of Toleration. They sought to do this by the Occasional Conformity Act - an attempt to crush opinion instead of influencing understandings; to convict where they could not proselytise; to swell the nominal numbers of churchmen with slaves and hypocrites. Three times was this infamous bill introduced, in still fresh shapes, and three times, though passed by the commons, rejected by the lords, where still sate the liberal bishops, created by William. This defeat roused the old cry of "The church is in danger!" Bishop Burnet, who, whilst he never failed to stand firm for religious liberty, and to whom the people of England are, and ever will be, indebted for his liberal acts and counsels, and for his faithful record of the civil and ecclesiastical transactions of his time, was always, at the same time, watchful for the real wants of his own church. Seeing now the destitute condition of many of the small livings, he prayed the queen to bestow on these the tenths and first-fruits, which at the time amounted to sixteen thousand pounds a year. It was hoped that this would soothe the angry spirit of the high churchmen; "but," says Burnet, "the clergy took it, and scarcely showed themselves thankful for it." The benefit, in fact, did not fall to the rich pluralists who were making all the riot, but to the humble and quiet portion of the clergy.

Oxford fanned the flame of party conflict which raged for so many years in the convocation. " It aimed," says Burnet, " to fill the church with a race of the most hardened bigots, by corrupting the principles of those sent thither to be educated, so that few of them escaped the taint of it, and the generality of the clergy were not only ill-principled, but ill-tempered." Failing to gain their object through the convocation and parliament, the clergy determined to try what could be effected by raising the mob and intimidating government. We have heard the history of this in the famous Sacheverel affair.

This success attained, the bigots pushed on their cause. The queen, encouraged by the public current of opinion, seized the opportunity, dismissed the whig ministry, and chose a tory one after her own heart, the very first-fruits of whose existence was the passing of the oft - defeated Occasional Conformity Bill. Fifty new churches were ordered to be built in London and its suburbs, and, to extinguish the dissenters, they passed the famous Schism Bill. By this bill, dissenters, like the catholics, were forbidden to educate children, or to have any education for their own. No person was to be allowed to keep any public or private school, or to teach or instruct youth, as tutor or schoolmaster, unless he subscribed a declaration that he conformed to the church of England, and had a license from the archbishop, bishop, or ordinary of the place, under his seal of office. All offenders against this Nebuchadnezzar decree were to be imprisoned for three months; and if any person thus licensed did not teach the catechism set forth in the book of Common Prayer, his license became void, and he became liable to all the penalties of the act. This act, if Englishmen had been submissive enough to succumb to it, would have exterminated dissent. A dissenter must not have his children taught, or even teach them himself. All learning must be monopolised by the church, and dissent must go down in Gothic darkness.. This bill passed in 1714, having, however, two mitigatory clauses gained by the house of lords; one, that dissenters might have a schoolmistress to teach their children to read; the other, that they might teach reading, writing, or arithmetic. Everything like the education of a gentleman or a minister, and which might open the way to advancement in the state, or enable the dissenter to propagate truth from the pulpit, was carefully guarded against. Such was the fate prepared for the dissenters by the state clergy in 1.714; but Providence defeated this worse than murderous object. On the very day on which the act came into operation queen Anne died, and George I., a friend, though not always a firm one, to religious liberty, ascended the throne.

Burnet describes the state of religion and intelligence in the nation at this period as most lamentable, the clergy as "dead and lifeless: the most remiss in their labours in private, and the least severe in their lives," of all that he had seen amongst all religions at home or abroad; the gentry the worst instructed and the least knowing of any of, their rank that he ever went amongst; and the common people beyond all conception ignorant in matters of religion. The Jacobite and torified clergy had brought the whole public mind to a pretty pass - a brute multitude ready to do any deed of vandalism to which they excited them. So, though the prince was liberal, the blatant beast still raged. Not being able to spread its intended boon of mental darkness over the dissenters, the church was again in danger. Oxford, the old hot-bed of bigotry, was again in tumult. As the liberal protestant prince would not serve its turn, it determined on getting back the papist one, and immediately began its plottings with the Pretender, who, however, was defeated. At Oxford the students, faithfully copying their teachers, came out in mobs, broke into the meeting-houses of the quakers, presbyterians, and baptists, gutted them, and made bonfires of the seats, doors, windows, &c., on the anniversary of the restoration of Charles II. Similar outrages were perpetrated in Birmingham, Norwich, Bristol, and other large towns. It was a bitter pill to this savage party to see the Schism and Occasional Conformity Bills repealed in 1719, in which the celebrated Dr. Hoadley took a decided part. To this noble- minded prelate, who ought to be held in everlasting honour by all lovers of freedom of conscience, it was also in a great measure owing that this convocation was prorogued, never to meet for business again.

The history of convocation during this period is a most painful history. After being restrained for many years from doing more than meeting, and being instantly prorogued, on account of its producing nothing but the bitterest dissensions, from the time that it was allowed to enter on discussion again in the last year of William III. to the year 1717, when it was prorogued, and not allowed to meet again for business, the whole of the time of the lower house, consisting of the deans, prebendaries, archdeacons, and clergy of the province of Canterbury, was spent in quarrelling with the upper house, in which sat the liberal bishops. Never did the odium theologicum flame out so fiercely as amongst these official ministers of peace and Christian love. They seemed to emulate the house of commons in a question of privilege. They declared their right to assemble and prorogue themselves without any interference of the upper house. When ordered to prorogue by the archbishop, they continued still sitting. In all these proceedings the litigious tory and Jacobite Atterbury took a very prominent part. He attacked the supremacy of the crown, both in speeches and pamphlets. They passed severe censures on the works of liberal bishops and divines; but at length their whole fury fell on Dr. Hoadley, bishop of Bangor, for a sermon he preached before George I., in 1717, and printed with the title " On the Nature and Kingdom of Christ." In this he openly asserted that Christ alone is head of his own church; that religion is entirely a spiritual matter, with which the civil magistrate has no right to interfere. A violent controversy, by denunciations in convocation, by polemic sermons and pamphlets, was soon on foot, called the Bangorian controversy, which convulsed the church, in which Dr. Snape, Nicholson, bishop of Carlisle, Dr. Kennet, Dr. Sherlock, and others figured, and which became so fierce, that the king suddenly prorogued the convocation; and it never was again allowed to enter on any business, having shown itself incapable of anything but mutual bickerings and rancour.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Pictures for Progress of the Nation page 4

Old House of Peers
Old House of Peers >>>>
Old East India House
Old East India House >>>>
Medal of the Seven Bishops
Medal of the Seven Bishops >>>>
William III
William III >>>>
Whitefield preaching
Whitefield preaching >>>>
Convocation house, St. Pauls
Convocation house, St. Pauls >>>>
Addisons walk at Oxford
Addisons walk at Oxford >>>>
The residence of Richardson
The residence of Richardson >>>>
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope >>>>
St. Pauls cathedral
St. Pauls cathedral >>>>
Harpsichord
Harpsichord >>>>
Tomb of Sir Christopher Wren
Tomb of Sir Christopher Wren >>>>
St. Pauls cathedral
St. Pauls cathedral >>>>
Greenwich hospital
Greenwich hospital >>>>
William Hogarth
William Hogarth >>>>
Coins
Coins >>>>
Costumes
Costumes >>>>
Ladies
Ladies >>>>
Gentlemens
Gentlemens >>>>
London street
London street >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About