صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

than that he had in civils, and had been exercised without exception in this very case by his father, grandfather, and queen Elizabeth, under the great seal to foreign protestants, become subjects of England; not to instance in the suspending the execution of the two acts of navigation and trade, during both this and the last Dutch war, in the same words, and upon the same necessity, and as yet without clamour, that ever we heard; but to pass by all that, this was certain, a government could not be supposed, whether monarchical or of any other sort, without a standing supreme, executive power, fully enabled to mitigate, or wholly to suspend, the execution of any penal law, in the intervals of the legislative power; which when assembled, there was no doubt but, wherever there lies a negative in passing of a law, there the address or sense known of either of them to the contrary (as for instance of either of our two houses of parliament in England) ought to determine that indulgence, and restore the law to its full execution. For without this the laws were to no purpose made, if the prince could annul them at pleasure ; and so on the other hand, without a power always in being, of dispensing upon occasion, was to suppose a constitution extremely imperfect and impracticable; and to cure those with a legislative power always in being, is, when considered, no other than a perfect tyranny.

“ As to the church, he conceived the declaration was extremely their interest ; for the narrow bottom they had placed themselves upon, and the measures they had proceeded by, so contrary to the properties and liberties of the nation, must needs, in a short time, prove fatal to them ; whereas this led them into another way, to live peaceably with the dissenting and differing protestants, both at home and abroad, and so by necessary and unavoidable consequences, to become the head of them all. For that place is due to the church of England, being in favour and of nearest approach to the most powerful prince of that religion, and so always had it in their hands to the intercessors and procurers of the greatest good and protection that

[ocr errors]

party, throughout all Christendom, can receive. And thus the archbishop of Canterbury might become, not only alterius orbis,' but alterius regionis papa ;' and all this addition of honour and power attained without the least loss or dimunition of the church ; it not being intended that one living, dignity, or preferment, should be given to any but those that were strictly conformable.

“ As to the protestant religion, he told me plainly, it was for the preserving of that, and that only, that he heartily joined in the declaration ; for, besides that, he thought it his duty to have care, in his place and station, of those he was convinced were the people of God, and feared him, though of different persuasions. He also knew nothing else but liberty and indulgence that could possibly (as our case stood) secure the protestant religion in England; and he begged me to consider, if the church of England should attain to a rigid, blind, and undisputed conformity, and that power of our church should come into the hands of a popish prince ; which was not a thing so impossible or remote as not to be apprehended; whether in such a case, would not all the arms and artillery of the government of the church be turned against the present religion of it ? And should not all good protestants tremble to think what bishops such a prince was like to make, and whom those bishops would condemn for heretics, and that prince might burn. Whereas if this, which is now but a declaration, might ever, by the experience of it, gain the advantage of becoming an established law; the true protestant religion would still be kept up amongst the cities, towns, and trading places, and the worthiest and soberest (if not the greatest) part of the nobility, and gentry, and people.

As for the toleration of popery, he said, “ It was a pleasant objection, since he could confidently say, that the papists had no advantage in the least, by this declaration, that they did not as fully enjoy, and with less noise, by the favour of all the bishops. It was the vanity of the lord-keeper, that they were named at all; for the whole advantage was to the dissenting protestants, which were the only men disturbed before. And yet he confessed to me, that it was his opinion, and always had been, that the papists ought to have no other pressures laid upon them, but to be made incapable of office, court, or arms, and to pay so much as might bring them at least to a balance with the protestants, for those chargeable offices they are liable unto.”

And concluded with this, “ That he desired me seriously to weigh, whether liberty and property were likely to be maintained long, in a country like ours, where trade is so absolutely necessary to the very being, as well as prosperity of it, and in this age of the world ; if articles of faith, and matters of religion, should become the only accessible ways to our civil rights,”

Thus, sir, you have perhaps a better account of the declaration than you can receive from any other hand; and I could have wished it a longer continuance and better reception than it had; for the bishops took so great offence at it, that they gave the alarm of popery through the whole nation, and by their emissaries the clergy (who, by the contexture and subordination of their government, and their being posted in every parish, have the advantage of a quick dispersing their orders

, and a sudden and universal insinuation of whatever they pleased), raised such a cry, that those good and sober men, who had really long feared the increase and countenance popery had hitherto received, began to believe the bishops were in earnest; their eyes opened, though late, and therefore joined in heartily with them; so that, at the next meeting of parliament*, the protestants' interest was run so high, as an act came up from the commons to the house of lords in favour of the dis

February 4, 1672-3.

[ocr errors]

senting protestants, and had passed the lords, but for want of time. Besides, another excellent act passed the royal assent for the excluding all papists from office* in the opposition to which, the lord treasurer Clifford fell, and yet, to prevent his ruin, this session had the speedier end. Notwithstanding, the bishops attained their ends fully ; the declaration being cancelled, and the great seal being broken off from it; the parliament having passed no act in favour of the dissenters, and yet the sense of both houses sufficiently declared against all indulgence, but by act of parliament. Having got this point, they used it at first with seeming moderation. There were no general directions given for persecuting the non-conformists; but here and there some of the most confiding justices were made use of, to try how they could revive the old persecution. For as yet, the zeal raised against the papists was so great, that the worthiest, and soberest, of the episcopal party, thought it necessary to unite with the dissenting protestants, and not to divide their party, when all their

forces were little enough. In this posture the session of parliament, that began October 27, 1673, found matters; which being suddenly broken up, did nothing.

The next session, which began January 7, following t, the bishops continued their zeal against the papists, and seemed to carry on, in joining with the country lords, many excellent votes, in order to a bill, as in particular, that the princes of the blood-royal should all marry protestants, and many others; but their favour to dissenting protestants was gone, and they attempted a bargain with the country lords, with whom they then joined, not to promote any thing of

[ocr errors]

* By the “ Act for preventing Dangers, which may happen from Popish Recusants," passed March 29, 1673, all persons having any office, or place of trust, under his majesty, &c. were obliged to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, &c. and to receive the sacrament according to the usage of the church of England, &c. From that time no act was passed till the 13th of October, 1675.

† 1673-4. VOL. X.


that nature, except the bill for taking away assent and consent, and renouncing the covenant *.

This session was no sooner ended, without doing any thing, but the whole clergy were instructed to de clare, that there was now no more danger of the papists. The fanatic (for so they call the dissenting protestant) is again become the only dangerous enemy; and the bishops had found a Scotch lord, and two new mini. sters, or rather great officers of England, who were desperate and rash enough to put their master's business upon so narrow and weak a bottom; and the old covenanter, Lauderdalet, is become the patron of the church, and has his coach and table filled with bishops. The keeperf, and the treasurer, are of a just size to this affair ; for it is a certain rule with the churchmen, to endure (as seldom as they can) in business, men abler than themselves. But his grace of Scotland was least to be excused, of the three ; for having fallen from presbytery, protestant religion, and all principles of public good, and private friendship; and become the slave of Clifford, to carry on the ruin of all that he had professed to support ; does now also quit even Clifford's generous principles, and betake himself to a sort of men that never forgive any man the having once been in the right; and such men, who would do the worst of things by the worst of means, enslave their country, and betray them, under the mask of religion, which they have the public pay for, and the charge of; so seething the kid in the mother's milk. Our statesmen and bishops being now as well agreed, as in old Laud's time, on the same principles, with the same passion to attain their end ; they, in the first place, give orders to the judges, in all their circuits, to quicken the execution of the laws against dissenters ; a new declaration is pub

* See Dr. Calamy's Abridgment of Mr. Baxter's History of his Life and Times, &c. Vol. I. p. 340. of the 2d edit. London, 1713, in 8vo.

+ John Maitland, duke of Lauderdale. He was created baron of Petersham, and earl of Guilford, in England, in the year 1674.

# Sir Heneage Finch, afterwards earl of Nottingham.

« السابقةمتابعة »