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limited number of the Presbyterian or Unitarian congregations, will surely have sufficient Christian sympathy to make up more than an equivalent, upon the Voluntary principle.
An important Association was formed in January, 1735-6, denominated the DISSENTING DEPUTIES. These comprise laymen, chosen from the congregations of Baptists, Independents, and Presbyterians, in and within twelve miles of London. Their object is “the protection of the civil rights of the Protestant Dissenters." The deputies endeavour to promote the object of their formation by addresses to the Crown-petitions to parliament-memorials to government-the publication of resolutions and addresses, by affording legal advice, and by obtaining the judgments of the courts of law, concerning the civil rights of Protestant Dissenters. This influential Association was primary formed for the purpose of obtaining the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts; and their influence and exertions were zealously brought into action, more particularly at the periods of 1787, 1789, 1790, 1823, and 1828, which latter date witnessed the crowning success of their labours on that subject. The necessity for the continuance of this Association,” it is observed, “is still painfully evident by many paltry persecutions inflicted on poor Dissenters throughout the kingdom, and by the meddling spirit of modern legislation, which demands the constant vigilance of an organized, intelligent, and recognized body."*
The Dissenting Deputies comprise two members, elected from each congregation triennially. These deputies appoint a committee, consisting of 24 members, wḥo are more particularly the acting body of this Association.
The reign of George II. furnishes a distinguished example of the loyalty and patriotism of Protestant dissenters. The whole country was in a state of ferment, in conseqnence of the advance of Charles Stuart, in 1745. The Baptists were THEN “found in their places,” ready to defend THEIR RELIGION AND THEIR COUNTRY against an abjured and Popish Pretender. The strong patriotic feeling which was felt is declared in a discourse by Mr. Stennett, of which the following are extracts :
“Let us be humble under the mighty hand of God; and while we ARE GIRDING ON OUR ARMS, and LEARNING MILITARY SKILL,f in order to defend ourselves against INSURRECTIONS AT HOME, AND INVASIONS FROM ABROAD, let us attend strictly to the Christian discipline, and PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD ; let us labour continually, and with the greatest zeal and vigilance, to suppress and mortify our own corruptions, and resist all invasions made by the enemies of our souls on our spiritual concerns. And in the strength of the Lord LET US SET UP OUR BANNERS AGAINST THE ENEMIES OF THE PEACE OF THESE KINGDOMS. Our cause is good; it is the cause of God, of righteousness, of truth, and of liberty. Many of our ancestors have bravely fought and bravely bled in this quarrel. Long experience has taught us that POPERY AND TRUE LIBERTY ARE INCOMPATIBLE ; and when our religious and civil freedom is gone, what is there left for a CarISTIAN or an ENGLISHMAN ?
* Congregational Year Book, p. 232. † It is stated that some Baptists at this time, in their zeal to qualify them. selves for the more efficient use of arms in defence of the Throne and the Protestant religion, practised military exercise in the meeting-house, in Little Wild Street, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, London.
“Let none of us be ensnared by THE FAIR PROMISES OF PAPISTS, whose religion not only ALLOWS OF LYING AND EQUIVOCATION, but obliges its votaries to it, when the service of the bloody prostitute their mother requires it,-a church, one of whose fundamental maxims is, TO BREAK ALL FAITH WITH HERETICS ; a maxim which has not only been practised by foreign princes, but, in the most flagrant manner, by the two last professed Papists, who for the sins of this nation for a season possessed the throne of it.
“Our laws are of our making, and they have a free course. We have a prince on the throne, given us by the apparent hand of heaven, the greatest and the best prince in the world, who has, during the whole course of his reign, made the laws and our welfare the rules of his
government; who has always been ready to hazard his precious life for our preservation; and who can have no enemy in the world but for his attachment to the Protestant cause, and his successful interposition in the defence of the liberties of Europe ; who never willingly injured one of his subjects ; and the greatest blemish of whose government has been, THE MERCY HE HAS EXTENDED TO SOME OF THOSE WRETCHES WHO ARE NOW SEEKING HIS CROWN AND HIS
“He has gloriously devoted himself and his family to the defence of his dear people. May his people, in grateful return, constantly and cheerfully maintain his just rights, and the succession in his illustrious house! May they readily part with their treasure, and, if called to it, their blood, in support of his throne; and for their own sakes, for the sake of religion, freedom, and their dear posterity, MOST READILY UNSHEATH THEIR SWORDS, IN THE STRENGTH OF HEAVEN, AND NEVER PUT THEM UP AGAIN TILL THESE UNNATURAL REBELS AT HOME ARE SUPPRESSED, AND THESE INVADERS FROM ABROAD ARE THOROUGHLY
MADE SENSIBLE OF THE FOLLY AND WICKEDNESS OF THEIR ATTEMPT ; and till, with the help of God, the ambitious French fermentor of this mischief is brought within due bounds ! May such success attend our prayers AND OUR SWORDS, as shall show to the whole world that the Lord himself is our God, and the great captain of our salvation !"*
“Had this addeess,” observes Ivimey, “on such a trying occasion been delivered at the head of an army by a general in military uniform, instead of being uttered in a proscribed CONVENTICLE by an ANABAPTIST teacher, it would have been ranked with, if not have been considered as far superior to, the most able military harangues (most of them composed for them by others after the battle was over) that are attributed to the famous generals of Carthage or Rome. What can be produced of Hannibal or Cæsar, which breathes more heroic ardour, more patriotic zeal, more determined devotedness to the welfare of their country, more cool and deliberate enthusiasm ? What can be produced more eloquent, or more chaste; more comprehensive, or more concise; that contains more of the thoughts that breathe, and the words that burn-than this piece of Christian heroism and constitutional loyalty ?"
George III. succeeded to the crown in 1760, and in his first speech from the throne, made this enlightened declaration upon the principles of religious freedom :
“The peculiar happiness of my life will ever consist in promoting the welfare of a people, whose loyalty and warm affection to me I consider as the greatest and most permanent supports of my throne; and I doubt not but their steadiness to those principles will equal the firmness of my invariable resolution to MAINTAIN THE TOLERATION INVIOLABLE. THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS RIGHTS OF MY LOVING SUBJECTS ARE EQUALLY DEAR TO ME AS THE MOST VALUABLE PREROGATIVE OF MY CROWN; and, as the surest foundation of the whole, and the best means to draw down the Divine favour on my reign, IT IS MY FIXED PURPOSE TO COUNTENANCE AND ENCOURAGE THE PRACTICE OF TRUE RELIGION AND VIRTUE.”+
This declaration of GEORGE III. WAS RELIGIOUSLY FULFILLED THROUGHOUT HIS PROTRACTED REIGN.
“We cannot,” remarks Brooks,“ help considering the illustrious House of Hanover as raised up by Divine Providence for the protection of our laws and our liberties. Nor must George III. be reckoned one of the least among them. Let the principles and conduct of his long reign be compared with those of the tyrannical and cruel Henry the Eighth, the bloody and insatiable Mary, the arbitrary and bigoted Elizabeth, the vain and contemptible James the First, the despotic and oppressive Charles the First, the hypocritical and profligate Charles the Second, the sanguinary and bigoted measures of James the Second, or the intriguing and persecuting measures of Anne,—and he will appear to great advantage. None of these odious qualities appeared in George the Third. We have, therefore, the strongest reason to adore the Providence of God for his long and eventful reign."*
* Ivimey, vol. 3, pp. 248, 249, 250, 251. † Brooks's Religious Liberty, vol. 2, p. 400.
In 1772 a bill was brought into the House of Commons by SIR HENRY HOUGHTON, for the further “relief of Protestant dissenters." It was seconded by Sir GEORGE SAVILLE. The measure was approved by the administration, who gave it their support, and bore ample testimony to the loyalty and affection of the Dissenters, so that it passed the House of Commons. In the Upper House it was zealously supported by the Lords MANSFIELD, CAMDEN, CHATHAM, SHERBORNE, &c.; but, notwithstanding, was lost by a majority of 86 to 28. Besides the Lords above-mentioned there divided in favour of the Dissenters five dukes, one marquis, seven earls, two viscounts, five lords, and the Bishop of Lincoln. The editor of the Parliamentary Debates of that period says, “It is no reflection to say that the ability of the speakers and the force of argument were on the side of the bill.”+
The effort was renewed the next year, but strenuously opposed by the Bishops, and it was again rejected.
It was on this occasion the great LORD CHATHAM so nobly defended the Dissenting ministers. DR. DRUMMOND, Archbishop of York, had charged them with being men of close ambition, &c. To this Lord Chatham replied, “This is judging uncharitably, and whoever brings such a charge without evidence defames !" Here this enlightened statesman paused for a moment, and then proceeded : “ The dissenting ministers are represented as men of close ambition ; they are so, my lords; and their ambition is to keep close to the college of fishermen, not of cardinals; and to the doctrines of inspired apostles, not to the decrees of interested and aspiring Bishops. They contend for a scriptural and spiritual worship. WE HAVE A CALVINISTIC CREED, A POPISH LITURGY, AND ARMINIAN CLERGY. The Reformation has laid open the Scriptures to all; let not the Bishops shut them again. Laws in support of ecclesiastical power are pleaded, which it would shock humanity to execute. It is said religious sects have done great
* Brooks's Religious Liberty, vol. 2, pp. 400, 401.
# lvimey, vol. 4, p. 28.
mischief when they were not kept under restraints; BUT HISTORY AFFORDS NO PROOF THAT SECTS HAVE EVER BEEN MISCHIEVOUS WHEN THEY WERE NOT OPPRESSED AND PERSECUTED BY THE RULING CHURCH.”*
The Act of Toleration of 1688 had not been interfered with by the legislature since it had been altered in favour of Protestant dissenting ministers, in the year 1779. In 1809, however, an attempt was made by Lord SYDMOUTH to meddle with the provision of that act. In a speech delivered by him in the House of Lords, he said he had reason to believe many personis took out licenses as dissenting ministers under the Toleration Act, for no other purpose than that of obtaining an exemption from parish officers and the militia, and that some explanation of those statutes was become necessary, in order to preserve them from abuse. His lordship thereupon moved for an account of licenses, &c., granted in each year in the respective counties of England and Wales, at the quarter sessions in the bishops' registries, from the year 1780 to the end of the year 1808, under the acts of Ist William and Mary to the 29th of George III. The motion, however, was altered, that the return be from 1760 to 1808.
In 1811, LORD SYDMOUTH gave notice of a bill to explain and render more effectual the acts of William and Mary. The restrictive provisions of the proposed measure will appear from the following extract from his lordship's speech :-“Within the last thirty or forty years these acts had received a novel interpretation. At most of the quarter sessions, where the oaths were taken and the declaration made, it was now understood that any person whatever, however ignorant or proAigare, whether he descended from the chimney or the pillory, was at liberty to put in his claim before the justices, to make the declaration, and also to demand a certificate which authorized him to preach any doctrine he pleased, which exempted him besides from serving in the militia, and from many civil burdens to which his fellow-subjects were liable. There were counties in this kingdom,” his lordship said, " Devon and Buckinghamshire, where the magistrates permitted no persons to qualify, unless he shewed he was in holy orders, or pretended holy orders, and the preacher and teacher of a congregation. This bill would provide that, in order for any man to cbtain the qualification as a preacher, he should have the recommendation of at least six respectable housekeepers of the congregation to which he belonged, and that he should actually have a congregation that was willing to listen to his instructions. With regard to preachers who were not stationary, but itinerant, he proposed that they should bring
* Ivimey, vol. 4, pp. 28, 29.