Thursday, 29 November 2012

Tyerman on the Conformists

Tyerman (again in his life of Samuel Wesley) suggests that the ministers who conformed were largely of three classes.
1. Those who had been Presbyterians or Independents, or other sectaries, and who on former occasions had more or less opposed episcopacy and the Book of Common Prayer
2. Those who had already conformed to previous changes - passively submitting to their superiors for the time being, be they who they might
3. A class of consistent Episcopalians, including
1 Such as had been allowed to hold their livings, and to use the Prayer-book even during the Commonwealth
2 Such as had been ejected from their benefices, but had been reinstated since the Restoration
3 Such as had been recently ordained, and inducted into livings during the last 12 months.
He says that many of these Conformists — as Tillotson, Gurnall, Stillingfleet, Cudworth, and others — were men of high character; but many others were low, mean, grovelling spirits, who valued the priest's office only because it gave them a piece of bread. Some idea may be formed of the character of many of the clergy who conformed in 1662, he suggests, from the fact that three years after, daring the great plague in London, instead of firmly remaining at the post of duty when most needed, numbers of the London clergy, like craven spirits, rushed off into the country, leaving their pulpits to be occupied, and their afflicted and dying parishioners to be cared for, by the very ministers who had been ejected by the Act of Uniformity.

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