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Bishops who had been cast out of their palaces and deprived of all episcopal functions, during the twenty years of the Puritan regime. Besides, the laity generally, from the Lord to the peasant and artisan, had become heartily sick of Puritan aceticism and rigour, and extinction of all rational sports and enjoyments, so that the masses of the people were not on the side of the Nonconformist parties. This may be illustrated by a few verses of “A country song, intituled the Restoration.”
Come, come away
To the temple and pray,
The schismatick's dead,
The liturgy's read,
The vicar is glad,
The clerk is not sad,
To leap and rejoyce,
And lift up their voyce,
The country doth bow
To old justices now,
The Bishop's restor'd,
God is rightly ador'd,
Fanatics be quiet,
And keep a good diet,
Throw off your disguise,
Go to church and be wise,
For the King bears not the sword in vain. It was on the 24th August, 1662, that the Act of Uniformity came into full force. It required among other provision :-" That those ministers should be re-ordained who had not been episcopally ordained ; that they should give their assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the book, entitled the Book of Common Prayer ; that they should subscribe ex animo that the Book of Common Prayer and of ordaining Bishops, priests, and deacons, containeth in it nothing contrary to the Word of
God ; that they themselves would use the form in the said books prescribed in public prayer and ministrations of the sacraments, and no other ; that they should abjure the Solemn League and Covenant."
"THE Two THOUSAND."
At least two thousand of the ministers felt they could not comply with these conditions without perjury to their souls before God. They loved the church; they were zealous for the salvation of their people; they were appreciative of the maintenance afforded to them and their dear families by the comfortable parsonages, and sure means of livelihood; but they could not conform to the conditions prescribed in the Act without violating their consciences. Never willingly would they separate themselves from the Church of Eng. land; but if they were driven out, as was the cruel determination of their enemies, they would go forth casting themselves on the kind providence of God. Very noble are the words of one of the ejected ministers, Oliver Heywood, “Our work is dear to us ; but God is dearer, and we must not do the least evil to obtain the greatest good. Should we forsake our Christian liberty, and put our necks under such a yoke as neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? The bargain will be too hard to provide a livelihood by making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.”
The Act of Uniformity came into force 24th August, 1662, and caused that day to be called “ Bartholomew's Day” by all the suffering Nonconformists. Though cast out from their beloved churches and robbed of their free pulpits, the ejected clergy were not to be silenced. They asked with their leader, Oliver Heywood,—“But shall we desist altogether? The word is as burning fire shut up in our bones, and though it cannot blaze in public, as a beacon on a hill, yet should be glowing in private to enlighten the houses of God's people and warm the hearts of those who are willing to entertain us or our message.”
The Clergy had offers of bishoprics, deaneries, &c., but few accepted the royal offer. Reynolds made himself conspicuous in accepting the Bishopric of Norwich. Mr. Bowles, who had done more than any other of the Presbyterian clergy to support General Monk's enterprise, was offered the Deanery of York, but declined to conform. He was utterly disappointed by the frivolity and deception of the King. Meeting one of the newly appointed clergy at York, he asked, “Well, brother H., how like you the Common Prayer ?" Replied Mr. H., " It's but dry stuff.” “I always thought so," rejoined Mr. Bowles, and suppose that may be the reason why our vicars-choral run to the ale-house as soon as they have done reading !"
CHAPTER I X.
THE YORKSHIRE NONCONFORMIST APOSTLE. FATHER OF THE FIRST NONCONFORMIST MINISTER OF
LIVER Heywood was born at Little Lever, part of
Bolton, in 1629, when Charles I. had sat upon the throne four years.
His mother devoted especial attention to her son's religious welfare, impressing upon him the pricelessness of the soul, the misery of man by nature, the importance of eternity, and other precious truths. In his eighteenth year, Oliver, after adequate preparation, entered the University of Cambridge as student of Trinity College. On an eventful day in his history, representatives from the parish of Coley, near Halifax, waited upon him with a view to his becoming their minister. At first he undertook the services for six months, and in the end settled down in the vicarage of Coley, being then about 22 years of age. As this was in the year 1651, and England had proclaimed a Commonwealth under Cromwell, in 1649, and the bench of Bishops had been for some years dissolved and dispensed with, the young preacher was simply appointed to the living by the parishioners themselves. After two years' ministry, accompanied by “an abundant harvest of souls,” Oliver desired to have his public ordination, according to the Presbyterian ordinance. Presbyterian Church government had been proclaimed for the kingdom, though it was principally in Lancashire and Cheshire that the full Presbyterian system of “ Classis ” was adopted. The ministers in black gowns and white banns met at Bury, in 1652, and solemnly examined the applicant for the sacred office.