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“ Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
THE SAINT BARTHOLOMEW EJECTMENT.
CHAP. VII.—“THE FUNERAL SERMONS." In the early days of August, 1662, the new authorised version of the Prayer Book issued from the press. On the 24th of August, every clergyman had to give his public unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything it contained, or to resign his living. Three weeks, therefore, was the utmost time accorded for consideration, even to those whose proximity to London enabled them to obtain early copies. The country ministers fared worse. Books travelled very slowly then. Even at Peterborough the Cathedral dignitaries did not receive their copy till August 17th, just one week before they had to announce their decision. Many, in the more remote towns and villages could not possibly have seen the book they were commanded to subscribe. Still the general tone and sense of the alterations effected in the Book were widely known. The Act of Uniformity received the royal assent on the 19th of May; and on the 25th, with a wise forethought as to the effect of his example, Baxter preached his farewell discourse, so intimating the decision at which he had arrived. The Puritans, therefore, would expect to find much in the new Prayer Book which would be offensive to a rigid conscience, though, with the unconscious casuistry of men fronting an unwelcome decision, they would try to persuade themselves that, when the Book arrived, some loophole of escape would be found through which Conscience would not forbid them to creep. The suspense of the ten or twelve weeks which intervened between the passing of the Act and the appearance of the Book it bade them subscribe, must have sorely strained their hearts. Early in this interval, three country rectors rode to York, the capital city of their county, eager to obtain a sight of the fatal Act. They rode, we are told," with their cloakbags full of distinctions, hoping they might get over it, and keep their places ; but having read the Act, although they were men of catholic temper no less than prudence and learning, they returned with a resolution to quit all rather than comply.” With this Act before them, and while eagerly looking for the arrival of the revised Prayer Book, the Puritan clergy passed anxious weeks. It was not easy to decide on giving up their homes, and livelihoods, and the work of winning souls ; not easy even to resolve that, if the Prayer Book turned out what their fears foreboded, that decision should be made. They took counsel together, and took counsel of the All-wise Father and Lord. The noble temper of the men came out in this time of trial. “Satisfy God and your conscience," said Mrs. Keeling to her husband, “ though you expose me to bread and water :" and he, and many with him, took her at her word. Baxter's verses expressed the thought which animated their hearts :
“ Must I be driven from my books?
From house, and goods, and dearest friends ?
My Lord hath taught me how to want
"To beg, or lack, my daily bread.” " Said one, “ God feeds the young ravens, and he will feed my children.” Another, alluding to his wife and ten children, said, “I have eleven arguments for conformity ; but Christ has said, "Whoso loveth wife or children more than me, is not worthy of me.'” “Darius used to say his, poor soldiers were his best soldiers," wrote Samuel Shaw. “My Lord and Master,” cried Birch, “I am at thy footstool. I may not do evil that good may come. I may not do this great sin against my God, and the dictates of my conscience. I therefore surrender myself, my soul, my ministry, my people, my place, my wife, my children, and whatsoever else is herein concerned, into thy hand, from whom I received them. Lord, have mercy on me, and assist me for ever to keep faith and a good conscience.” There is no little pathos in these, and similar simple sentences, if we once remember that they are the utterances of men such as we are, reduced to a great strait. Necessity was laid upon them to preach the Gospel; necessity also to break the law. They must either subscribe a lie or hold their peace. It was a hard choice, and much depended on it. Let us thank God that we have not to make it. Let us also thank him that to those who had to make it he gave the grace they needed, enabling them to give up all for him.
During the first three weeks of this month of August, or rather during the first two weeks, the Act of Uniformity, and, where it could be had, the revised Prayer Book, were being studied in the parsonages of England; and in many of these quiet homes farewell discourses, the last words of counsel and exhorta. tion, were being penned. Of the Two Thousand who left the Church rather than put their hand to a lie, the great majority took leave of their flocks on Sunday, the 17th of August. Such a day was never known in England. “ Early in the morning crowds hastened to the churches; and porch, aisles, pulpit steps, and even the ledges of the open windows, were soon occupied by the overflowing throng. The deep, pathetic stillness was often broken by the sobs of the congregation. One of the preachers thus interrupted cried, What mean ye to weep, and break mine heart?' If, as a great statesman has said, the power of eloquence is in the audience rather than in the orator, never has 80 much of this power been thrilling in England at one time as on that day. But although it was such an exciting season, scarcely ever were sermons preached in a temper so calm, and with a spirit so catholic. There was no outburst of human passion; there was no invective against enemies; there seemed to be no aim but the edification of the people on this last opportunity of addressing them.” Nothing could be finer than the self-forgetfulness, the simple straightforward candour, of these valedictory addresses.
Let us gather up a few examples of these, and judge what the preaching throughout England was like on that Farewell Sunday.
Gossip Pepys, who dearly liked to hear and tell what was going on, went to St. Dunstan's Church in the morning and afternoon of that day. There he heard Dr. Bates, who “ made a very good sermon (in the morning), and very little reflections in it to anything of the times." But in the afternoon, at the close of his discourse, the “ silver-tongued ” Doctor referred to his ejectment in these concise and temperate words :-"I know that you expect that I should say something as to my nonconformity. I shall only say thus much: It is neither fancy, fashion, or humour, that makes me not to comply, but merely for fear of offending God. And if, after the best means used for my illumination, as prayer to God, discourse, or study, I am not able to be satisfied concerning the lawfulness of what is required, if it be my unhappiness to be in error, surely men will have no reason to be angry with me in this world, and I hope God will pardon me in the next.” Another of the ejected—Mr. Herring-read the Psalms on this occasion at St. Dunstan's Church. After reading the 5th chapter of the Acts, which concludes by narrating that the apostles, when beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus, “ departed from the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name, and daily in the temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ," he simply said, “ This is just the case of England at present. God bids us to preach, and men bid us not to preach; and if we do, we are to be imprisoned and further punished. All that I can say is, that I beg your prayers, and the prayers of all good Christians, for us.” “ This," says Pepys, “ was all the exposition he made of the chapter, in these very words and no more.” Dr. Jacomb, of St. Martin's, Ludgate, said: “Let me require this of you, to pass a charitable interpretation upon our laying down the exercise of our ministry. There is a greater Judge than you must judge us all at the great day; and to this Judge we can appeal before angels and men, that it is not this thing or that thing that puts us on this dissent, but it is conscience towards God, and fear of offending him. I censure none that differ from me, as though they displease God; but yet, as to myself, should I do thus and thus, I should certainly violate the peace of my own conscience and offend God, which I must not do; no, not to secure my ministry, though that either is, or ought to be, dearer to me than my own life, and how dear it is God knoweth. . : . If we be mistaken, I pray God to convince us; if others be mistaken, whether in a public or private capacity, I pray God in mercy convince them: but, however things go, God will make good this truth to us ; in this work he will not leave us, and our Father will not leave us alone ; for it is the unfeigned desire of our souls in all things to please God.” “I have exercised my ministry among you almost sixteen years,” said Dr. Watson, of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, and I rejoice and bless God that I cannot say, the more I loved you, the less I am loved. I have received many signal demonstrations of love from you; though other parishes haye exceeded you in number of houses, yet I think not for strength of affection. I have with much comfort observed your reverent attention to the word preached. You rejoiced in this light for a season; and to this day I have observed your zeal against error, and, as much as could be expected in a critical time, your unity and amity : this is your honour. I shall endeavour that I may still prove the sincerity of my love to you. I will not promise that I shall still preach among you, nor will I say that I shall not. I desire to be guided by the silver thread of God's word, and of God's providence. My heart is toward you." Said Mr. Lye, “I remember what poor Esau said: "Hast thou but one bless. ing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father!' O beloved, I have a few blessings for you, and, for God's sake, take them as if they dropped from my lips when dying. 'Tis very probable we shall never meet more until the day of judgment. Whatever others think, I am utterly against all irregular ways; I have (I bless the Lord) never had a hand in any change of government in all my life; I am for prayers, tears, quietness, submission, and meekness, and let God do his world, and that will be best when he doeth it.” “If,” said Mr. New. comen, “I might, after twenty-six years' labour here in the ministry, now at my parting obtain this much of you, that you, having been pleased to be constant hearers here, would lay a law on yourselves, that so much time as you formerly spent in coming here, sitting here, and in returning home, that you would spend that time either in praying, and reading, and understanding, in your closets, or else in praying in and with your families, and instructing of them,--if I might but obtain this of you at my parting, I should believe that the devil and his kingdom would be losers by this our parting.” Mr. Cradacot, of St. Stephen's, Southwark, said: “Our sequestering from our preaching work from you, will give us advantage to lay out more time to fetch sighs from our hearts in praying for you, and I trust the Lord will give us heart so to improve our time for you.” “I must minister with you, and for you, no more in these ordinances," exclaimed Mr. Bull, of Newington Green. “I am dying whilst I am preaching, but this is my comfort under these sad thoughts, that I can commit you to God, and to the word of his grace. .... They may keep your ministers out of the pulpit, yet they shall not take the Comforter out of your hearts. So that when I shall not preach any more to you, I shall pray the Father that he would send you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever."
Nor were the country pastors behind their London brethren, whether in the meekness with which they bowed to the afflictive dispensation, or in that passionate regard for their flock and their work which made meekness so difficult à virtue. Here are a few specimens of their valedictory addresses. George Newton, of Taunton, “a noted Gospeller," said : “As to the particular Divine Providence now ending our ministry among you, whatever happeneth on this account let it be your exercise to cry out for the Holy Spirit of Christ, and he will grant you a greater support than you may expect from any man whatever. .... If I cannot serve God one way, let me not be discouraged, but be more earnest in another. You may also think it is a time for you to exercise what you have learned. God is calling you to see if you have not lost all the advantages he hath allowed you. . 'Ye have been a long time learning. He is saying to you, 'Let me now see what you can do or endure.' .... He hath promised to give you pastors according to his own heart, that shall feed his flock with truth and with understanding. He can find one, or frame one, that shall fulfil his ministry better than this weak instrument. He is the Great Bishop of our souls, and is never non-resident, and hath always a care of his flock. Let not your hearts be troubled, but let us commend you, yea, each other, unto God, and evil let him do what is good in his eyes. Let us pray."
Said Mr. Richard Alleine, of Batcombe: “ The sun is setting upon not a few time of the prophets ; the shadows of evening are stretched forth upon us; our work seems to be at an end ; our pulpits and our places must know us no more. This song is the Lord's doing ; let all the earth keep silence before him. It is not a light is thing for me, brethren, to be laid aside from the work, and cast out from the vineyard of the Lord. . . . I know that some will add to the affliction of the afflicted by telling the world it is there own fault, and that they might prevent it if they would. Whether this be so or no, God knoweth; and let the Lord be the Judge. Blessed be God, whatever be laid to our charge, this is notthat we are secluded from insufficiency or scandal. You are not ignorant what things there are imposed upon us as the condition of continuing our ministra. tion; which, however lawful or expedient they may be in the judgment of many, yet have the most specious arguments in their favour left me utterly dissatisfied with them. I must profess before God, and angels, and men, that my non-submission is not from any disloyalty to authority, nor from pride, humour, nor factious disposition ; but because I dare not contradict my light, nor do anything concerning which my heart tells me the Lord says, 'Do it not.' After all my most impartial inquiries, after all my seeking counsel of the Lord, I find that I am plainly put to this choice-to part with my ministry or my conscience. I dare not lie before God and the world, nor tell you that I approve, I allow, I heartily consent to what I neither do nor can; but must choose rather that my ministry be sealed up by my sufferings than lengthened out by a lie. Through the grace of God, though men reproach me, my heart shall not reproach me while I live. . . . . . Since matters stand so that I must either lose my place or my peace, I cheerfully suffer myself to be thrust off the stage. And now, welcome the cross of Christ; welcome reproach; welcome poverty, scorn, and contempt, or whatever else may befal me on this account. This morning I had a flock, and you a pastor ; now, behold a pastor without a tock, a flock without a shepherd : this morning I had a house, but now I have
none; this morning I had a living, but now I have none. The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.'”
Philip Lamb, of St. John's, Beer Regis—a wealthy living—took his farewell in these words :-“For now I must tell you that, perhaps, you may not see my face or hear my voice any more in this place; yet not out of any peevish humour or disaffection to the present authority of the kingdom, I call God and man to witness this day; it being my practice and counsel to you all to fear God and honour the king: but rather a real dissatisfaction in some particulars imposed, to which, notwithstanding all endeavours to that purpose, my conscience cannot yet be espoused... I shall only add this, my friends, that, though my lips be sealed up, that I may not speak from God to you, yet I shall not cease to speak to God for you, as ever I have done. And though I cannot have you in my eye, yet I shall lodge you in my heart; and, asking nothing of you but your prayers, shall hope to meet you daily at the Throne of Grace, and that, at least, we may enjoy one another in heaven."
Mr. Robert Seddon, of Langley, Derbyshire, said : “My dear people, the time of my departure seemeth now at hand. Could I find the things which are shutting the mouths of many learned and conscientious ministers expressed in, or by good consequence drawn from, the Scriptures (which I am sure are sufficient to furnish the man of God thoroughly to every good work), I would not for a world divest myself of the liberty of my ministry, nor bereave myself, my wife, and little ones, of our livelihood..... Most gladly would I have continued preaching Christ Jesus the Lord, furthering your faith and joy; but sure I am my Lord needeth not my sinning to carry on his work amongst you; neither will I charge his word with deficiency, ... but will patiently commit myself to Him that judgeth righteously, endeavouring to follow His steps who became poor that we might be made rich. .... •He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth,' can, if he please, restore our liberties and pleasant things; if not, here am I; let him do what is good in his sight-the will of the Lord be done."
Mr. Atkins, of St. John's, Exeter, one of the most popular preachers in the west of England, said: “Let him never be accounted a sound Christian that doth not fear God and honour the king. I beg that you will not interpret our Nonconformity to be an act of unpeaceableness and disloyalty. We will do anything for his Majesty but sin. We will hazard anything for him but our souls. We hope we could die for him, only we dare not be damned for him. We make no question, however we may be accounted of here, we shall be found loyal and obedient subjects at our appearance before God's tribunal."
This was the spirit in which the Two Thousand resigned their connection with the Established Church, a church so secularised and depraved by her dependence on the State, that her most pious and learned sons and citizens, more loyal than those who daily quaffed healths to the king, were driven from her pale, compelled to place themselves in opposition to the law. As a body, these men were the best and ablest ministers the Church of England has known, the most loyal, the most devout. Let their farewell discourses – their "funeral sermons," as they were commonly called-bear witness at once to their loyalty and their piety. Wronged as these men were, it would have been natural had they denounced their oppressors and betrayers in words of burning indignation, or had they altogether revolted from the base king whom they had restored to the throne of his fathers. But no sign of irritation or disloyalty, nothing but a devout love for their country and their flocks, and an earnest desire to make the most of this · last opportunity of publishing the truth, is to be found in their valedictory addresses. Suadet loquentis vita non oratio. But, if there is a more persuasive eloquence in the preacher's life than in his words, what must have been the effects of words like these, which expressed the life of the precaher, the very