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TO TRAVEL UPWARDS OF FIVE MILES for that purpose. By the NEW CONSTRUCTION put upon the Toleration Act, only particular persons could insist upon taking the oaths; by this act, any PROTESTANT may REQUIRE a justice to administer the oaths, and grant a certificate, The Toleration Act did not provide for the punishment of riotoys persons who did not come within the place of worship, by which many congregations were greatly disturbed by noises made on the OUTSIDE ; but by this act, any person who shall wilfully and maliciously disturb a congregation, whether within or without the place, shall incur a penalty of FORTY POUNDS, which penalty is double to that imposed by the former act.'
In December, 1817, at a meeting of the editors of the Baptist Magazine, a proposal emanated for celebrating the third centenary of the Reformation-an object promoted chiefly by Mr. F. A. Cox, now Dr. "Cox. An extract from his address, published in the Baptist Magazine, will evince the truly PROTESTANT SENTIMENTS therein expressed :
“ The year eighteen hundred and seventeen happily has not yet passed away ;-happily, I say, because it is even yet within our power to save ourselves from an eternal disgrace, as a people, which all posterity will not fail to affix to our era of existence, should we allow the Third Centenary of the Reformation to go unnoticed by public recognition. will not state how much this mighty subject has of late occupied my own thoughts, and filled me with the most restless anxieties. I will not detail the resolutions I have formed, or the letters I have written, and as often abandoned, in despair of dissipating that indifference and apathy which seemed to have involved our countrymen at this moment, as in the deep slumbers of the sepulchre. I will not say how often I had hoped and waited for some man of distinguished influence to start forth and lead the way to a glorious commemoration of one of the most important triumphs that was ever achieved by man over the domination of tyranny, the misrule of error, and the demon of religious intolerance. I will not even advert to a thousand other spirit-stirring considerations, which cannot fail of rushing into the mind at the first mention of that magic word—THE REFORMATION; but will simply and briefly appeal to the gratitude and the piety of my fellow-countrymen.
"Methinks I hear the great chief of that holy confederacy that so nobly fought the battles of the Lord Almighty, exclaiming, in the name of the rest, Britons ! have you, of all the nations of the world, forgotten the sharp encounter we once sustained to secure no less
* Brooks's History of Religious Liberty, vol. 2, pp:-394, 395.
your emancipation from the slavery of error, and the dominion of Papal Rome, than that of Germany and of the world ? Have not the joyful celebrations which have echoed of late through the forests of Thuringia reached your ears, or have they operated only to lull you into deeper repose ?
“Do you send your Bibles to the ends of the earth, and cannot you consecrate one day to the memory of those who wrote, fought, bled, and burned in your cause? And will ye not adopt some commemorative measure, to exhibit your sentiments to the universe, and to awaken the zeal of your, at present, slumbering millions ?' "*
At a preliminary meeting, amongst other resolutions, the following were adopted :1. That the Reformation, which commenced three centuries ago, in the year
1517, deserves to be held in everlasting remembrance, as an event which introduced the circulation of the Holy Scriptures in the vulgate languages of all nations, and emancipated millions of the human race from superstition and tyranny-as an event favourable to the diffusion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ;
and as an event which, by assisting civil and religious liberty, bis promoted the intellectual and moral improvement of mankind. 2. That at this period, and in the present situation of the world, it is highly
desirable that all those of every political party, and of every religious deno.. mination who cherish the principles of the Refura,ation, and who, partaking its benefits, desire their diffusion, to express publicly the judgment they have formed, and the sentiments they feel; and that it is especially expe.. dient that such public expression should occur during this year, wbich is the
tri-centenary of this most memorable and important event. 3. That a public meeting will afford an appropriate opportunity for such
expression of their sentiments; and that Wednesday, December 30, being the death of Wickliffe, our British Roformer, justly celebrated as the Mo ing Star of the Reformation, be the day on which such meeting shall
assemble. The energetic address of Mr. Cox led to the suggested celebration. A most enthasiastic meeting was held on the 30th December. His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex presided on the occasion. The speeches delivered gave the liveliest demonstration of delight. This reference is made to shew that the Baptists at that time were amongst tbe most ardent in their attachment to the great principles of the Reformation.
In 1820, an event took place in which the Baptist denomination felt a deep concern ; it was the sudden removal by death of a member of the Royal Family, who had uniformly proved himself the warm friend of Protestant dissenters; this was that liberal-minded prince, His Royal HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF KENT. Upon any and every
• Iviney, vol. 4, pp. 180, 18). Ibid., pp. 182, 183.
occasion that prince could be approached by the dissenting body, to receive from him his sanction and patronage to the leading objects of benevolence brought by them under his notice.
It will not be considered irrelevant to give at length the resolutions of the Protestant dissenters, passed at Dr. Williams's Library, recorded as under:
1. That this body, deeply affected by the irreparable logg which the cause of
truth and humanity has suffered in the recent death of his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, cannot deny themselves the melancholy satisfaction of thus publicly expressing their grief on an event which has taken from the Royal Family one of its brightest ornaments, and from the nation one of its best hopes.
2. That whilst the character of the illustrious deceased commanded the
esteem of men in all ranks, and of all religious persuasions, his Royal Highness was endeared in an especial manner to the Protestant dissenters by the enlarged opinions which he entertained and avowed on the subject of religious freedom, and by the cordial support which, in connection with his illustrious brother, the Duke of Sussex, he was ever ready to give to those charitable establishments in which dissenters were chiefly interested. That this body admired, above all, the ardour with which he espoused, and the diligence with which he promoted, that comprehensive plan for the education of the poor, which his royal father had sanctioned with his approbation, and which is not confined to classes or sects, but adapted to the general exigencies of human nature, and to the general improvement of rational and immortal beings.
3. That this body, partaking of the same catholic spirit, and anxious for its
wide diffusion, look back with a mingled sentiment of pleasure and regret to those public meetings at which it was so beautifully exhibited in the benevolent continuance, and so powerfully recommended by the appropriate and winning eloquence of a king's son. That under this impression they cannot but feelingly lament that a prince so greatly honoured, and so deservedly beloved by the wise and good, and who in thinking for himself had risen superior to all partial interests, and become the enlightened advocate of all liberal views and all useful institutions, has been withdrawn so soon by the inscrutable decres of Providence, from labours of love, as pleasing to himself as they were important to the best interests of mankind.
4. That painful as this dispensation is, the body of Protestant dissenting
ministers bow in acquiescence before Him who giveth and taketh away; and their resignation is rendered the more cheerful by the assurance that such an example as that which has been left by the Duke of Kent cannot be lost to the world ;--that it will continue to be remembered, admired, and imitated, especiaily among the great; and that not this age only, but a grateful posterity, will have reason to say of him, 'Though dead he yet speaketh.'
5. That in thus testifying our grief, the members of this body are desirous at
the same time of expressing their heartfelt sympathy and sincere condolence with the illustrious and amiable princess, 80 unexpectedly bereaved of s husband, who was as remarkable for tenderness and affection in his private relation as he was distinguished in his public capacity, for every princely quality and every social virtue; and it is THBIR PERVENT PRAYER TO ALMIGHTY GOD
THAT HE WILL PRESERVE TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THAT PLEDGE OF LOTZ WHICH HER HONOURED CONSORT HAS LEFT HER, and all those attentions of paternal kindness which are so needful and so precious to the widowed heart.* With emotions of peculiar interest was this reference made to the then infant PRINCESS VICTORIA, but now the beloved Sovereign of the British realms, whom a Gracions Providence has preserved, and who reigns in the warmest affections of a devotedly loyal people.
Without adverting at length to the various efforts made in 1787, 1789, 1790, and 1823, for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, -Enactments which were imposed only worthy of the period which gave them birth, it may be observed that the Session of Parliament of 1828 was rendered memorable by their extinction.
LORD John RUSSELL, upon this question, appeared a strenuous advocate of civil and religious freedom; and on the 26th of February, moved in the House of Commons for a committee of the whole house to consider these acts. His lordship took a comprehensive view of the question, giving the history of the period when those acts were instituted, clearly showing that they bore no relation to the present time and circumstances. The dissenters might have been, or they might have appeared dangerous to the House of Stuart ; but they were certainly loyal subjects to the House of Hanover, and did not deserve to be excluded from civil office by the Corporation Act; and as 'to the Test Act, it was originally intended as a barrier to the church against the King, who was a converted Papist. The circumstances which led to the imposition of these acts were antiquated, as were also the restrictions ; and it was time, for the credit of English understandings, that they should be repealed.
It is somewhat remarkable that two names should appear as the opponents of the removal of Dissenters' disabilities in this matter. Mr. Peel and MR. HUSKISSON, on the part of the government, were unwilling to concede the abrogation of these restrictions. Mr. Peel argued "that the Dissenters did not really suffer, as they were incessantly relieved by indemnity bills;” and Mr. Huskisson “feared injury to the Catholic cause BY RELEASING THE DISSENTERS FROM A CONDITION ON DISABILITY, which kept them vigilant on the subject of the rights of conscience, and from the insults that it would be to the Catholics to relieve others from disabilities whilst theirs remained. The house, however, decided by a majority of 44 in favour of the committee, in a house of 430 members. Mr. Peel declared his belief “that the existence of the Church of England was not bound up with
* Ivimey, vol. 4, pp. 102 to 194.
these restrictions, so he would give up the contest and how to the will of Parliament.” Upon this decision the measure was brought into the House of Lords; upon which occasion
The DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in its favour, observing, "the only reason why the government had first opposed it in the Commons was, that the system had appeared to work well hitherto; but as it was clear that the Commons thought that the time was come for a change, and as the principle of the old exclusion or opprobrium was not in itself defensible, he now thought it the duty of the Peers to pass the bill, if they were satisfied, as he was, that the proposed declaration afforded sufficient security against injury to the Established Church.”
The ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, and the Bishops of LINCOLN, DURHAM, and CHESTER, (the present Archbishop of Canterbury,) were amongst the speakers in favour of the bill.
LORD Eldon was the stern and leading opponent of the measure, who, by the repealing of-such acts, believed “THAT ALL WAS OVER WITH THE TRUE PROTESTANT RELIGION OF OUR COUNTRY.” He was at issue with the spiritual peers wło supported the “ REVOLUTIONARY BILL," and declared that if he stood alone he would go below the bar and vote against it; and were he called that night to render his account before heaven, he would go with the consoling reflection that he had never advocated anything mischievous to his country.” The bill in its finished state was characterised by him AS BAD, AS MISCHIEVOUS, AND AS REVOLUTIONARY as the most captious Dissenter would desire.
LORD HOLLAND said "that in performing the pleasing duty of moving that this bill do pass, he could not but express his feelings in language both of gratitude and congratulation;—gratitude to the house for the manner in which it had discharged its duty to the country; and congratulation to the country upon the achievement of so glorious a result."
The government of the day yielded only when it could not resist ; and it passed the House of Lords WITHOUT A DIVISION.
Thus was effaced from the statute book acts passed during a reign of intolerance and persecution, and which were a continuous blot to the country for more than one hundred and fifty years.
Miss MARTINEAU, in commenting upon this debate, remarks, “that Lord Eldon's only idea of a Dissenter was, that he was A CAPTIOUS AND REVOLUTIONARY Man, always bent upon the destruction of the Church of England; and this being the image in his eye, we may pity him for the terror of his soul. A wiser man (LORD HOLLAND,) WHO KNEW SOMETHING OF DISSENTERS, and