Зображення сторінки

behalf. Some persons who unworthily enjoyed his confidence betrayed him to Cromwell; and, fully expecting to be harshly treated, he determined to speak plainly and boldly to that singular man, and to remonstrate with him upon his unjust severities. Whether the opportunity was afforded to him is not quite clear, but the issue was, that he received no injury at the hands of Cromwell, and experienced the truth of a favourite saying of his, that "they who least considered hazard in doing their duties fared always the best." And he immediately proceeded, with his wonted diligence, to collect, as before, the contributions for his afflicted brethren.

Those who remained in England were but too happy if they had saved from the general spoliation a wreck of their private property; and the benevolence of the royalist nobility and gentry was eminently seen in the succour and refuge which they afforded to these maligned and plundered outcasts.

If any ventured to exercise the ministry entrusted to them, it was rarely, and in secret, and at much hazard; it was dangerous for them to assemble congregations to hear the word of God, or for the orderly administration of the sacraments; and it was perilous to pray to God in the language of the liturgy, even in private houses-* While the wildest fanatics were suffered to agitate the minds of the multitude without molestation, the episcopalians alone were excepted from this toleration, and ex

* An ordinance to that effect was passed January 3, 1645. On the 23rd of August following, another ordinance was passed, imposing a penalty upon all who should use the Prayer-book, or refuse to adopt the directory, or speak against it. It is not a little remarkable that this ordinance received its sanction on the eve of St. Bartholomew's day, just seventeen years before the impolitic and unjust, but not more severe, Act of Uniformity came into operation, as h so well known.

perienced the most severe and iniquitous treatment. "The usurper himself," says Bishop Heber,*" was indeed, as is well known, averse to such measures, and personally well inclined not only to many individuals of the episcopal clergy but even to their form of government. His inclinations were, however, obliged to give way to those of the zealots around him, and the whole history of the times evinces that wicked and unwise as was the retaliation which, a few years after, the episcopalians inflicted on their opponents, it was no more than retaliation after all, and what the opposite party therefore on their own principles had no right to complain of."

In order that there might be at least a semblance of humanity, the parliament, some years after the general ejectment of the clergy, pretended to allot to the families of their victims one-fifth of the revenues of their livings, ingeniously excluding the clergy themselves from any claim to the benefits of this measure. But often the ministers who had possession of their homes, their furniture, their income, their all, refused to contribute even this morsel of bread; the husband and father was probably eluding the vigilance of his enemies, lest the prison-ship should be his portion, and his wife could only seek redress by an expensive and tedious process, which often terminated in disappointment, insult, and beggary.

Shame and reproach were also among the afflictions of the clergy. No name was too contemptuous, or implied too degraded a character, to be affixed to them by their supplanters. They were pointed at as destitute of understanding, moral principle, and religion; as full of all subtlety and all mischief, children of the devil, enemies of all righteousness, perverters of the right ways of the Lord.

As long as the presbyterians held the reins of ecclesiastiLife of Jeremy Taylor.

cal affairs, they presented a strange sight to the world, by following the very footsteps of those whom they had denounced as frequenters of evil paths. Although they had decried the prayer-book, they enforced the use of the directory; although they had made such a stir about their scruples of conscience, they had no tenderness for those of others; their assembly of divines voted that the presbyterian form of church government was of divine right; and, much as they had decried pluralities, they took possession of all that they could grasp. By such conduct Milton was provoked to use his powerful and caustic lash. He pronounced that the assembly of divines was "neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge, above others left out; only as each member of parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected, one by one. The most part of them were such as had preached and cried down, with great show of zeal, the avarice and pluralities of bishops and prelates, and that one cure of souls was a full employment for one spiritual pastor, how able soever, if not a charge rather above human strength. Yet these conscientious men, (ere any part of the work done for which they came together, and that on public salary,) wanted not boldness, to the ignominy and scandal of their pastor-like profession, and especially of their boasted reformation, to seize into their hands, or not unwillingly to accept, (besides one, two, or more, of the best livings,) collegiate masterships in the universities, rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms; by which means these great rebukers of non-residence, among so many distant cures, were not ashamed to be seen so quickly pluralists and non-residents themselves, to a fearful condemnation doubtless by their own mouths." He then inveighs


against their tyrannical conduct, and declares that their disciples did "manifest themselves to be no better principled than their teachers;" seeking "gainful offices," which they discharged "unfaithfully, unjustly, unmercifully, and, where not corruptly, stupidly. So that between them, the teachers, and these, the disciples, there hath not been a more ignominious and mortal wound to faith, to piety, to the work of reformation, nor more cause of blaspheming given to the enemies of God's truth since the first preaching of reformation."

The presby terians often desired the interference of the civil power in matters so trivial as to expose them to ridicule. On one occasion a deputation of the London divines went to the protector, to complain that the episcopal clergy " got their congregations from them, and debauched the faithful from their ministers." "Have they so?" said Cromwell, "I will take an order with them," and moved as if he was going to say something to the captain of the guards; when turning short,—" But hold," he said, " after what manner do the cavaliers debauch your people?" "By preaching," replied the complainants; "Then preach them back again," said the protector, and left them to their own reflections. This anecdote certainly shows the temper of these people better than a much longer description. The preaching, which they accounted so great a grievance, was probably in private houses where congregations assembled every Sunday, as we learn from the frequent mention of them by Evelyn and other contemporary writers; but we also know that archbishop Usher was permitted to exercise his ministry publicly in the church till the time of his death, and it is possible that some other clergymen may have enjoyed the rare favour of a similar exemption from the general silence imposed upon their brethren.

When the power of the presbyterians began to be surpassed by that of the independents, the clergy experienced a change of masters but not of treatment; they were still insulted, persecuted, and afflicted.

Such was their condition till the Restoration; and who would have wondered if, on the occurrence of that joyful event, when the country was weary of the puritans, every living in the kingdom which they held had been at once declared void? At first, however, nothing more was done than to restore to their preferments those of the ejected clergy who survived, and negotiations were immediately entered into with a view to the settlement of the affairs of religion, so as to satisfy all parties. These however proved worse than fruitless; they appear to have been approached on both sides with very little disposition to conciliate or make concessions of any kind, and, terminating in a most unsatisfactory manner, were followed by the act of uniformity, some of the provisions of which were deplorably impolitic and unjust. Between the puritan ministers who were removed from preferments to give place to the clergy whom they had supplanted and those who were deprived for refusing to conform, about two thousand, consisting of incumbents of livings, fellows of colleges, lecturers, and curates, were ejected from the restored national church.

« НазадПродовжити »