Monday, 21 April 2008

Stoughton's Heroes 01

The Chapter on Black Bartholomew in John Stoughton's 1850 book Spiritual Heroes or Sketches of the Puritans begins thus

CROMWELL was gone: his son, unable to bear the heavy load which his father had sustained, was soon oppressed with the difficulties of his position, and abdicated the Protectorship. By treachery and intrigue the Restoration was accomplished: and after years of war and suffering for the sake of liberty, the people were seen prostrate at the feet of Charles II; asking no guarantees against the revival of despotism, but rather craving forgiveness for the victories they had won. The Royalist party, recovering from their depression, knew no bounds to their joy, as they welcomed another sovereign of the Stuart line. In a state of perfect delirium they celebrated his accession to his father's throne. Bonfires blazed in many a market-place and on many a hill, - the streets at night shone with illuminations, - windows were decorated with tapestry and garlands, - the May-poles were set up in the cross ways, - rumps of beef were roasted for the populace, and loaves of bread were thrown from the tops of market-houses. The bells rang till the steeples rocked, and crowds shouted till the very earth shook. The Royalist, on his knees, drank to the health of his Prince; and the swaggering Cavalier once more boldly sang his favourite lay, "The King shall enjoy his own again."

"No Bishop, no King," was the motto of James; and his grandson, so far adopting the sentiment as to regard Episcopacy as a bulwark to the throne, early restored the prelates to their office and rank. Mr Pepys, in his curious and inquisitive rambles, went down to Westminster on the 4th October, 1660, to see how the crochet and lawn looked after long disuse, and on his return home wrote down in his Journal, "Saw the Bishops all in their habits in Henry VII's Chapel; but, at their going out, how people did most of them look upon them as strange creatures, and few with any kind of love or respect."

The altered state of things foreboded evil enough to all classes of Nonconformists; and however some might be buoyed up with hopes of "liberty to tender consciences," the worst fears of others were completely realised. The Presbyterians had been active in the restoration of the King. They had attended him with acclamations through the city towards Westminster; and good old Mr Arthur Jackson had presented the gay monarch with a richly-bound Bible, which Charles promised should be the rule of his actions. They had also received the royal assurance that respect should be paid to their conscientious scruples; and they soothed themselves with the hope of retaining their benefices by some compromise with their adversaries. They sought a revision of the Liturgy, and some other alterations in ecclesiastical matters; in consequence of which a conference on the subject was appointed by the King to take place at the Savoy Palace, between 21 Anglican divines and as many of the Presbyterian order. "It broke up," says Burnet, "without doing any good. It did rather hurt, and heightened the sharpness that was then on people's minds to such a degree that it needed no addition to raise it higher. The Presbyterians laid their complaints before the King. But little regard was had to them; and now all the concern that seemed to employ the Bishops' thoughts was, not only to make no alteration on their own account, but to make the terms of conformity much stricter than they had been before the war."

Before the Savoy Conference terminated, the two Houses of Convocation assembled. The ruling party, having resolved to disregard the conscientious scruples of their brethren, proceeded to take measures for the full enforcement of their own ecclesiastical system. They decided that Episcopal ordination was indispensably necessary, and that all who would not submit to that right should be compelled to relinquish their benefices. They revised the Book of Common Prayer, and introduced a number of alterations, some of which seemed to be intended only for the purpose of exasperating the Puritans. It was known that they objected to saints' days, - the Bishops increased the number. It was known that they disliked the Apocryphal lessons, - the Bishops therefore added another, containing the story of Bel and the Dragon. Parliament at length confirmed the work of the Convocation, and passed the memorable Act of Uniformity. This law enjoined on all clergymen to profess their unfeigned assent and consent to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer; to repudiate the Solemn League and Covenant, and acknowledge that the oath taken to maintain it involved no moral obligation; and further, to declare that it was unlawful under any pretence whatever to take up arms against the King.

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