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vasion of his throne, this schismatical intrusion of new terms of the Christian ministry, and communion into his church. The conditions of exercising the Christian ministry, which the Act of Uniformity imposed upon our fathers, were such as no power upon earth had a right to impose upon them; they were such as, if complied with, opened a wide way by which innumerable corruptions, superstitions, and persecutions, might enter and lay waste the church. Their subscription was required to new articles of faith, which Christ had never made, and their unfeigned assent and consent to new rites and forms of worship which neither Christ nor his apostles had ever appointed or enjoined; yea, it obliged them schismatically to confine Christian communion to those only, who would submit to these inventions of men in the worship of God, and to deny baptism and the Lord's supper to those, who by the constitution and the laws of Christ's kingdom, were duly qualified for these ordinances, and who had therefore an absolute right to receive them.
Among others, there are two ever memorable circumstances from which the flagrant oppression and tyranny of those proceedings most strongly appear; 1. That the time fixed for the minister's subscribing and assenting to the alterations in the Common Prayer was so short, that not one in a hundred of those who lived remote from London, saw, or could be supposed to see them, before their assent and consent were, under so severe a penalty, to be solemnly given. It is a known and certain truth, says one, * that the liturgy with its alterations, to which they were unfeignedly to assent, came not out of the press till Bartholomew eve; and the following day was
Tong of Schism, page 150.
the ultimate time fixed by the act for the minis. ters' subscription; so that all those, throughout the kingdom, who conformed, except a few in London, subscribed to they knew not what. “The “ matter was driven on (says bishop Burnet) with « so much precipitation, that it seemed expected “the clergy should subscribe implicitly to a book " they had never seen. This was done by too “ many, as the bishops themselves informed « me."*_Could any thing be more unrighteous or tyrannical than this? Yes: for,
2. The unhappy ministers were obliged likewise to declare solemnly, and even to subscribe a most notorious and dangerous untruth, viz. “ That it is not lawful, upon any pretence what
soever, to take arms against the king, or any ".commissioned by him:" a position absolutely subversive of the British constitution, and which the nation was soon after (in God's righteous and wise providence) brought openly to acknowledge to be traiterous, detestable, scandalous, and false; La position, which if admitted, the glorious revolution, and our present happy government, had never taken place, but tyranny and popery, with all their dire corses, had been bound eternally upon our necks. But be astonished, O O heavens; this false, this base, this scandalous declaration, the ministers were, by the Act of Uniformity, obliged solemnly to make upon pain of losing their livings. OUR FATHERS nobly abhorred such an ignominious surrender of the natural rights of man. they scorned to betray the liberties of their country, and to be tools of arbitrary power.f For this heroic refusal they
History of his own Time, vol. 1. page 212, 8vo. + Whilst every enlarged and liberal mind rejoices in the consideration, that the cause of civil and religious liberty is, in this age, better understood and more generally patronised than in the times of which I am writing, the Protestant Dissenters are peculiarly entitled to triumph in the recollection that these two
were craelly cast from their churches, and delivered up, with their starving families, to extreme sufferings and distress.*
This Sir, was the shameful, the tyrannical yoke which the Act of Uniformity would have put upon the necks of our illustrious predecessors, and to which, as Christians and as Protestants, they bravely scorned to 'subunit. Noble was the stand which they made in defence of Christian liberty and truth. Glorious will their names ever shine in the British annals, whilst virtue and integrity are sacred amongst us. Peace and everlasting honour be upon the memory of these Christian heroes! Future generations will rise up and call them blessed!
most invaluable blessings have been preserved, and handed down to their fellow subjects in consequence of the firm adherence of their forefathers to the cause of liberty and truth, both civil and religious. There is an observation in Mr. Hume's History of England, which is the more important in proof of this assertion, as it is made by an historian who cannot be suspected of entertaining any prejudices in their favour. He observes, (when speaking of the arbitrary conduct of Elizabeth,) “ Šo absolute was the authority of the crown, that the “ precious spark of liberty had been kindled, and was pre« served by the Puritans alone; and it was to this sect, whose “ principles appear so frivolous, and habits so ridiculous, that " the English owe the whole freedom of their constitution.” Hume's History of England, Vol. V. page 189, 8vo. edit. 1763.
* " By the Act of Uniformity, (says Mr. Locke) all the cler
gy of England are obliged to subscribe and declare, That it " is not lawful upon any pretence whatever to take arms against " the king. This they readily complied with. For, you must * know that sort of men are taught rather to obey than to un“ derstand. And yet, that Bartholomew day was fatal to our “ church and religion, by throwing out a very great number « of worthy, learned, pious, orthodox divines, who could not " come up to this oath, and other things in that Act.
great was the zeal in carrying on this church affair, and so « blind in the obedience required, that, if you compute the “ time of passing this act, with that allowed for the clergy to « subscribe the Book of Common Prayer thereby established,
you will find it could not be printed and distributed, so as « that one man in forty could have seen and read the book “ they did so perfectly assent and consent to." Maiz. col.
+ OUR TWO THOUSAND Worthy predecessors excepted.
To their ministers, thus unrighteously and cruelly ejected, it was the duty and the honour of the Christian laity to adhere. It was partly for their liberty, and that the gospel might be continued in its primitive simplicity and purity among them, that their ministers thus suffered. It would therefore have been inglorious, ungrateful, and in the highest degree unjust, had the laity forsaken their ejected pastors, and not borne their witness with them against the imposing spirit which then lifted itself up, and was fastening a disgraceful yoke upon the disciples of Christ. Through the favour of heaven, a noble spirit of Christian fortitude was awakened also in Jay-breasts, and, its mercy be praised, still lives, beats high, and, we hope, finally advances to the everlasting overthrow of bigotry, church-tyranny, and persecution from the earth. They saw and detested the dangerous and fatal schism, and the usurpation upon the rights of conscience, which a party of lordly men were setting up in the church of Christ: they firmly adhered to their injured ministers, and to the principles of Christian liberty: and God hath eminently blessed their churches for the promoting sincere piety, sobriety, and virtue, in all succeeding times.
This was the rise of that separation from the establishment which I am defending in these letters:
a separation, which, as it was founded upon Christian and just principles, so it has marvelously subsisted under great worldly discouragements, strengthened and upheld, we trust, by the mighty power of God: and, by the same mighty power, we hope, will still be upheld, till his mercy shall dispose the hearts of our brethren, who have cast us out, to receive us again.
As a layman, Sir, I consider the gospel, and christian liberty as a sacred deposit, committed to me by God, for which I am to be accountable at his tribunal hereafter. As to these, he hath expressly charged me, and every lay-christian, to watch to stand fust,
-to keep what is committed to me,- to fight the good fight of faith, &c.-If I see then the simplicity and liberty of the gospel corrupted and infringed by the inventions, traditions and commandments of men; the unity of the church broken by new terms of communion, and new articles of faith imposed upon the disciples :-if I see things ridiculous,* superstitious,t erroneous, I brought into the church, and made a part of christian worship,--things dangerous to 'men's souls, and which give them wrong notions of the terms of salvation and acceptance with God, and which manifestly tend to cherish a false and delusive peace, ş—in this case, though a layman, I am bound to enter my protest, and to declare openly my dissent, as I would not be condemned as a betrayer of my sacred trust, and would stand before my Judge with confidence at last.
Several gross M18 REPRESENTATIONS of the
Dissenters corrected. I
Proceed next to what you seem to glory in as the peculiar excellence of your letters, but which will soon appear, to your very self, their peculiar
Reading the spurious, romantic, apocryphal fables.
+ Bowing at the nanie of Jesus, and worshipping towards the East, &c.
Several of the articles, especially the XXth and the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian creed.
$ The Absolution of the Sick, thc Burial-office, and Confir. mation.