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CH A P. LXIV.
CHARLES THE SECOND.
COMMENCEMENT OF HIS REIGN.-DECLARATION
AT BREDA.-PERSECUTION OF THE PROTEST
THU "HE events which led to the restoration of
Charles, or the means, by which it was accomplished, are foreign to the subject of these pages : it is sufficient to observe, that the nation was divided, at that time, into three religious parties, the roman-catholics, the members of the established church, and the dissenters: the last comprised the presbyterians, the independents, and the anabaptists. In the progress of this history, we shall have
occasion to show, that the three last came by degrees to differ from each other, in little more than in name; but, at the time of which we are now speaking, the differences, which we have noticed both in their doctrine and discipline, were real and substantial *. All parties were reconciled to the king, and vied in demonstrations of affection towards him: but no party was reconciled to any other.
His majesty's declaration at Breda, was just, wise, and conciliating. The promise, which it contained, of oblivion of past offences, would, perhaps, have been more judicious, if it had been without any qualification. It is obvious, that no qualification, however carefully expressed, would hinder the application of it from being arbitrary in many instances, or prevent the unavoidable generality of its terms from occasioning alarm in a multitude of persons, whom it was not intended to affect, and from thus keeping alive, for a length of time, those jealousies, which it was so much the interest and wish of government to compose. Still the declaration was free from substantial objection : the religious toleration, which it held out, was complete, and the terms, in which it was expressed, were unequivocal.
“We do declare,” said his majesty , “a liberty “ to tender consciences; and that no man shall be
disquieted, or called in question for differences
* The Rights of Protestant Dissenters to a complete Toleration, asserted, 8vo. 1787, p. 1.
# 25 October 1660.
“of opinion in matters of religion, which do not “ disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we “shall be ready to consent to such an act of parlia
ment, as, upon mature deliberation, shall be « offered to us, for the full granting that indulgence.” Such was the promise:-unfortunately, both for the monarch and his subjects, it was completely violated, in respect both to the protestant dissenters and the roman-catholics :- In this chapter we shall succinctly state its violation in respect to the former.
During the fifteen years, that immediately preceded the time, of which we are now speaking, the hierarchy of the church of England was broken, its liturgy set aside, a new form of worship established, and the constituted authorities, and almost every individual of influence, either in church or state, was presbyterian or independent. This was reversed by the Restoration; still, as several persons of distinction, and a large proportion of the people, yet adhered to the dissenters, their interest was considerable, and required management; it was the more difficult to disregard it, as it was impossible to deny, that the presbyterians had been eminently useful in bringing about the restoration of the monarch, or that his promises to them of toleration were both ample and explicit.
At first, great attention was shown to them: some even of the dissenting ministers were retained among the royal chaplains, and preached before his majesty. A deputation from them was introduced to him by the duke of Manchester*. They suggested, in firm but respectful language, the utility of a general religious union; and that it could only be effected, by confining the terms of communion to points, which were deemed essential, each party conceding the rest. The king desired to see their concessions; these, they consented to deliver in writing to his majesty, but requested that the bishops might do the same.
* June - 1660.
The dissenters accordingly communicated their proposal; they began by four preliminary requests,
- that serious godliness might be countenanced; that a learned and pious minister, in each parish, should be encouraged; that a personal public owning of the baptismal covenant should precede the admission to the Lord's table; and that the Lord's day should be strictly sanctified. They then intimated that archbishop Usher's system of episcopal government should be the ground-work of the accommodation. It provided, that the concerns of the church should be transacted by four graduated synods, and a national council. 1. The rector or pastor and churchwarden or sideman, were to form a parochial synod, that should meet weekly, and take notice of those who lived scandalously, and admonish them; and, if they were not reclaimed, report them to the monthly synod: 2. Every rural deanery of the established church was to have a superintendent called a suffragan: he and the rectors or pastors within the circuit were to form the suffragan synod; it was to meet monthly, to receive the report of the parochial synod; to notice, and if necessary, censure all new opinions, heresies, and schisms within the district: 3. A certain number of the deaneries or suffragancies was to constitute a diocese, under the government of a bishop or superintendent. Once or twice in every year he was to hold an assembly of the suffragans, and rectors or pastors, within his diocese. This was to constitute a diocesan synod; here, matters of particular moment were to be discussed; and appeals from the synod of suffragans and rectors were to be received, and all questions in it were to be determined by a plurality of the voices of the suffragans: 4. All the bishops or superintendents within each of the two provinces of Canterbury and York, and the rectors or suffragans of their dioceses, and of a certain number of the clergy, to be elected out of the diocese to which they belonged, were to form a provincial synod, that should be held in every third year. The primate of each province was to preside over this assembly, as moderator. It was to receive appeals from the diocesan synod : 5. But the assemblies of each province might unite, and form a national council. Here, appeals from all inferior synods might be received, all their proceedings examined, and such ecclesiastical constitutions, as concerned the state and church of the whole nation, might be established.