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“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
THE SAINT BARTHOLOMEW EJECTMENT.
CHAP. VI.-THE ACT OF UNIFORMITY. THE Savoy Conference came to an end in the closing days of July, 1661. In November of that year-on the 21st of the month-Convocation met to "review the Book of Common Prayer, and to make such additions and amendments as (they thought) necessary;” in short, to do the very work which the Savoy Conference, through the unbending intolerance of the prelates, and the impolitic captiousness of the Presbyterians, had only talked of doing. When Convocation met, two facts became speedily apparent. The one, that considerable diversities of opinion prevailed among its members; the other, that the bishops had predetermined on their course, and that the number of those who cared to set them. selves in opposition to the bishops was altogether inconsiderable.“ Some were for simply adhering to the old Service-book without alterations of any kind; others were for making such alterations as might.“ silence scruples and satisfy claims;" but the more part were set on altering the Service in any way that would most effectually alienate the Puritans. Similar diversities of opinion had obtained among the bishops, who, five or six weeks before Convocation met, had assembled, in obedience to a royal mandate, to consult' on the revision which the Prayer Book was now to undergo. In the prelatical, as in the clerical, assem. bly, Sheldon and his abettors had it all their own way. Tolerant bishops fared no better than tolerant ministers. All their objections were overruled. The Anti-Puritan alterations decided on by the High Church leaders were carried. All things were ready; and within a week after Convocation met, the revised Prayer Book, down to the last leaf, was laid on the table of the Lower House. Six Hundred alterations were made. Among them were many of slight moment; a few were unquestionable improvements : but almost all of any weight were notoriously and designedly offensive to the Puritan conscience. On this point there should be no doubt; and there need be none. Men of all parties admit the animus of the revision. Baxter complains that Convocation • made things far harder and heavier than they were before ;” and added “new materials which keep out a thousand at least that would have yielded to the old conformity." "Alexander Knox affirms that " the formularies” were made " not more Puritanic, but more Catholic.” Even Dr. Cardwell confesses that " there was a distinct and settled design to exclude the Puritans from the Church." Garrulous Bishop Burnet frankly acknowledges, “ Care was taken that nothing should be altered so as it had been moved by the Presbyterians, for it was resolved to gratify them in nothing." And the Lord Shaftesbury of that day reproached the bishops with the fact, that, in the revised Prayer Book, 66 there is scarce one alteration which does not widen the breach.” Nay, Sheldon
himself avowed and gloried in the nefarious design. But what need we any witness ? The Prayer Book is its own witness on this head. The Puritans denied the regenerating virtue of baptism ; the absolving power of the priest; they objected to the administration of the Holy Communion to the impenitent and unfit; to the sign of the cross; to kneeling at the Sacrament; to the wearing of the surplice in the desk. All these were, therefore, retained ; some were made more prominent; others more binding. The Puritans had always objected to reading the Apochryphal Books; therefore, more Lessons were selected from the Apochrypha, and among them the silly stories of Susannah and the Elders, and Bel and the Dragon. The Puritans had scrupled at the observance of Saints' Days; therefore, a few more were placed in the Calendar, and notably the days for those unspeakable saints, King Charles “ the Martyr” and Liar, and his libertine son. The Puritans held that only parents should stand sponsors for their children ; therefore, a new rubric was inserted which demanded three sponsors in every case. The word “ priest” replaced the “ minister” of the old Service Book; and in several places“ church " supplanted “ congregation :” neither of which alterations were at all likely to conciliate Puritan prejudice. These examples might easily be multiplied; but surely these will suffice to prove in what sense the Prayer Book was now revised. On December 20th, just a month from the day on which Convocation met, the revised Book of Common Prayer was subscribed by the bishops and clergy of both Houses of Convocation. In that brief period both Houses had maturely weighed, at least had passed, six hundred alterations, some of which involved the most difficult questions ; questions which vex theology to this very day, and on which there is to this day a diversity of opinion as marked and notorious inside the pale of the Church as out of it!
The highest authorities of the Church, then, have pronounced their opinion, passed their edict. But before their edict become law, it must be submitted to Parliament, must win the approval of Commons, Lords, and King. That approval was by no means hard to win. The new House of Commons “gwarmed with bigoted Anglicans and furious Cavaliers. The peers mustered in large numbers. A besotted and vengeful loyalty was the reigning spirit, and animosities, which had rankled since the days of Marston Moor and Nageby, burst into conflagration.” Parliament met, after a short recess, on the 10th of January, 1662. "The Act of Uniformity, discussed by the Commons in the previous summer, was, now that Convocation had finished its work, and the book containing the rules to which all men were to conform was accessible, brought before the Lords, referred back with amendments to the Commons, conferred over by both Houses; and at last, on the 19th of May, having safely piloted their Bill through Commons and Lords, the bishops had the satisfaction of hearing the long-desired Le Roy le veult, which conveyed the royal assent.
Here, then, their astute, intolerant policy found its reward, or, at least, a part of it. The subsequent calamities which befell their Church-for it was their Church, not the Church, for which they had laboured-as the direct logical results of their triumph were hidden from their eyes, as the ultimate results of men's actions so often, and so mercifully, are. All they could see as yet was that the cause which they had taken in hand had travelled an uninterrupted career of progress. In Convocation they had carried it far beyond the mark they had reached in the Savoy Conference ; and now, in Parliament, they had outdone their achievements in Convocation. Harsh, arbitrary, cruel as the Act of Uniformity originally was, they had succeeded in infusing into it a more cruel and despotic spirit. As ultimately placed on the statute-book, it displays all the malice of the priest superadded to all the tyranny of usurped and uncontrolled power. As originally drawn, the Act simply enjoined that every clergyman should publicly declare his “ unfeigned assent and consent to the use" of the
Prayer Book; as it passed, it enjoined an “unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed” in that Book : that is, words which pledged only to an outward observance were replaced by words which pledge an inward affiance, an unqualified approval of a whole brood of dogmas which mutually devour each other. As drawn, the Act did not require that every clergyman should be Episcopally ordained ; as it passed, it would be content with nothing less, compelling men who had been Presbyters for years to go to a bishop and declare that they were moved by the Holy Ghost to take on them the office of a deacon: and thus, “ for the first time," as Lord Macaulay observes, “ Episcopal ordination was made an indispensable qualification for Church preferment.” At first, the Act had said nothing of the Solemn League and Cove. nant taken by the ministers under the Commonwealth ; as amended and passed, it demanded that the subscriber should utterly repudiate the Solemn League and Covenant as an oath “ imposed against the known laws and liberties of this kingdom :” a demand which required thousands of loyal high-minded men to acknowledge, contrary to their convictions, that they had been guilty of treason, or to renounce their spiritual vocation. At first, the Act had extorted no confession as to the submission due from subjects to princes ; as amended and passed, it enforced the subscribers to denounce as “not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up arms against the King;” that is, every Englishman was henceforth to hold his liberties not as his own, but as the concessions of a, despot, who, as he had given, might also, and unresisted, take away. When introduced, the Act had left a loophole of escape for lecturers who held no livings; when it received the royal sanction, it enacted that “no person shall be, or shall be received, as a lecturer, or permitted, suffered, or allowed . . . to preach or read any sermon or lecture in any church, chapel, or other place of worship in this realm :" and thus the last chance of publicly teaching the truth of Christ was carefully closed against the conscientious Puritan. When introduced, the Act was applied only to the clergy; when it became law, it was extended to all tutors and schoolmasters, down to the lowest village pedagogue : and so the one clerical function, which might have brought the ejected ministers bread was forbidden them. In the Lords, a clause was introduced into the Bill, assigning to the ministers it ejected “the fifths” of their previous income-the very provision made by Elizabeth for her ejected priests, and by Cromwell for the base and turbulent clergy ejected by his Triers ; but this clause, opposed by the bishops, was rejected by the Commons: no provision was to be made for the contumacious men who gave greater heed to “ Bishop Conscience,” than to any prelate of them all, and feared the Word of God more than any canon or any law. To crown all, St. Bartholomew's Day was substituted for that of Michael the Angel, which was at first proposed, because at Michaelmas (September 29th), the tithes of the year fell due ; by the substitution of the Saint's Day (August 24th) for that of the Angel, the ejected ministers were robbed—there is no other word for it-of a year's fairly earned income, and driven forth upon the world penniless, if not in debt.
It was by this Act, thus amended-an Act which enforced subscription to the revised Prayer Book, with its 600 alterations, most of them of the anti-Puritanic sort—that the Established Church was made, what it has remained ever since, an ecclesiastical despotism tempered by casuistry, instead of epigrams. It was by this Act, enforcing subscription to a Prayer Book which many of them had never seen-for the new volume was only issued eighteen days before the fatal 24th, and there was then no book post to carry it over the land that the Puritans were expelled from the Church which had been hallowed and ennobled by their presence.
Let us strive, says an eloquent writer, to realize their situation. Let us endeavour, candidly, to estimate the sacrifice they were called upon to make for