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as soon as they came to that age; and, until they “ did it, the estate was to devolve to the next of
kin, that was a protestant; but was to return “ back to them, upon their taking the oaths. All
popish priests were also banished by the bill, and
were adjudged to perpetual imprisonment, if they “should again return to England; and the reward “ of 100l. was offered to every one, who should “ discover a popish priest, so as to convict him. “ Those, who brought this into the house of com
mons, hoped, that the court would have opposed it; but the court promoted the bill; so, when the
party saw their mistake, they seemed willing to “ let the bill fall; and when that could not be “ done, they clogged it with many severe, and some
unreasonable clauses, hoping that the lords would
not pass the act; and it was said, that if the lords “should make the least alteration in it, they, in the “ house of commons, who had set it on, were re“ solved to let it lie on the table, when it should be “ sent back to them. Many lords, who secretly “ favoured the papists on the jacobite account, did, “ for this reason, move for several alterations; some “ of these importing a greater severity ; but, the “ zeal against popery was such in that house, that “ the bill passed, without any amendment; and it “ had the royal assent.”-Such is bishop Burnet's account of this extraordinary bill.
CH A P. LXVIII.
To a reader of these pages, who has noticed the number and severity of the laws which were passed against the catholics in the reign of William, it may have appeared extraordinary, that the writer should assign this æra for the commencement of the religious toleration of the catholics : but he should carry back his reflections to the commencement of the reformation under Elizabeth; and then, if he contrast the sufferings of the catholics during the reigns of that princess and of the three succeeding monarchs, with their condition during the reign of William, he must be sensible that, throughout the whole of it, their situation was considerably ameliorated. If we except the reign of James the second, it was the first, after the reformation, in which no new sanguinary law was enacted against them, or in which no catholic suffered capitally for his religion; the government showed nothing like a willingness to carry into execution, either the former penal laws, or even their own milder, yet still severe enactments. The press teemed with publications against the catholics, but no fictitious plot was imputed to them, and no informer against them was encouraged. Some exceptions from this representation, (as the restoring of Oates to credit, and rewarding him with a pension), may be cited: but these are so few as not to detract, in any respect, from its general accuracy; and, speaking also generally, the laws against positive recusancy were allowed to fall insensibly into disuse. This system of toleration did the greater honour both to William and the nation, as the glaring pretension of the exiled family would have furnished a government less wise or less liberal with a plausible excuse for
persecution. The tolerating spirit of the times, was greatly owing to the eminent latitudinarian divines, who formed, at this time, a considerable proportion of the English church: I. Of these we shall attempt to give some account*: II. Then, show the
general state of the catholics under the princess, to whose reign we have now brought our history.
What is said on this subject we have principally taken from “ A brief Account of the new sect of Latitude Men, " together with some reflections upon the new philosophy,
by S. P. of Cambridge, in answer to a letter from his friend “ at Oxford; London, 1662 ;" Burnet's History of his own Times, vol. i. p. 188; Mosheim's History, cent. xvii. c. 2, sect. 27;. and “The Principles and Practices of certain “ moderate Divines of the Church of England, (greatly mis“understood), truly represented and defended, in a free “ discourse between two intimate friends, in three parts, 8vo. “ 1670,” by Dr. Fowler, afterwards bishop of Gloucester; and " The Design of Christianity, 8vo. 1671,” by the same author : both are written with learning, ability, and method.
The Latitudinarian Divines.
The intolerance of the first reformers has been mentioned; but it must be acknowledged, that though religious liberty was not their object, it was yet a consequence of the reformation. Always discountenanced, and generally persecuted by authority, the reformers appealed to the people, and submitted their arguments and their feelings to the understanding and sympathy of the public. At first, each party asserted truth to be exelusively and unquestionably 'on their side, and claimed the whole church establishment for their own partisans. In the course of time, this lofty claim was abandoned,' and the weaker party, professing to leave the established clergy in possession of the dignities and the wealth conferred on them by the state, sought no more than a reasonable toleration. They contended, that Christ sent his disciples to propagate his religion by instruction, not by the aid of the secular power :-and, as a subsidiary argument, observed, that, among the points in difference between them and their adversaries, those, which either party considered to be essential, were few; and that, wherever truth resided, the error was not of a nature to disturb the state or injure individuals. This strain of argument seems to have been used, if not for the first time, at least with the greatest ability and success, by the Arminians of Holland. The synod of Dort, as we have mentioned, decided against them, but public opinion decided in their favour,--and, by degrees, obtained the victory.
In the mean time, the latitudinarians of Cambridge arose : the description which Burnet gives of them is very interesting. Perceiving that the minds of men required to be more liberally enlightened, and their affections to be more powerfully engaged on the side of religion, than was formerly thought necessary, these set themselves, as the doctor expresses it, "to raise those, who conversed “ with them, to another sort of thoughts, and to “ consider the christian religion, as a doctrine sent « from God, both to elevate and to sweeten human “ pature. With this view, they laboured chiefly as to take men from being in parties, from narrow “ notions, and from fierceness about opinions. “ They also continued to keep up a good come“spondence with those who differed from them in “ opinion, and allowed a great freedom both in philosophy and in divinity.”
The founders of this school were the ever memorable John Hales of Eton, and the immortal Chillingworth: we describe them by the appellations, which they now universally receive from protestant writers. Of the former, sir David Dalrymple, in the fine edition of the works of that divine, says, that all, “ who are acquainted with the literary and “political history of England, will perceive that " the leading men of all parties, however different " and discordant, have, with a wonderful upani
mity, concurred in praise of the virtues and abilities of the ever memorable Mr. John Hales