Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Coleman Anecdote 17b Baxter and Jeffreys

At the time of Baxter's trial and imprisonment, Matthew Henry was in London pursuing his studies .-at Gray's Inn. Whether he witnessed the public obloquy of his father's ancient and beloved friend does not appear; but he went to visit him in his prison, and in giving an account of this visit in a letter to his father, he says: "I found him in pretty comfortable circumstances, though a prisoner, in a private house near the prison, attended on by his own man and maid. He is in as good health as one can expect, and methinks looks better and speaks heartier than when I saw him last. The token you sent he would by no means be persuaded to accept of, and was almost angry when I pressed it from one outed (»'. e., cast out of the Church) as well as himself. He said he did not use to receive ; and I understand since his need is not great. We sat with him about an hour. . . . He gave us some good counsel to prepare for trials; and said the best preparation for them was a life of faith, and a constant course of self-denial. He thought it harder constantly to deny temptations to sensual lusts and pleasures, than to resist one single temptation to deny Christ for fear of suffering; the former requiring such constant watchfulness—however, after the former, the latter will be easier. He said, we who are young are apt to count upon great things, but we must not look for it; and much more to the same purpose. He said he thought dying by sickness usually much more painful and dreadful than dying a violent death: especially considering the extraordinary supports which those have who suffer for righteousness' sake." It is gratifying to find on record such a testimony to the comfort of the suffering saint in his confinement. I would now conduct our readers to another court, and lead them to behold another case, yet more affecting than that of Baxter, for here he will be called to see one of England's highly esteemed matrons, who had been connected with the Nonconformists, and who had now sheltered one of their ministers, called to stand before the same judge, and by him consigned to death.
Alice Lisle, Her Trial and Execution. In Hampshire, John Hickes, a Nonconformist divine, and Richard Nelthorpe, a lawyer, who had been outlawed for his share in the Eye House Plot, had sought refuge at the house of Alice, widow of John Lisle. John Lisle had sat in the Long Parliament, and in the High Court of Justice; had been a Commissioner of the Great Seal, in the days of the Commonwealth; and had been created a Lord by Cromwell. The titles given by the Protector had not been recognised by any Government which had ruled England since the downfall of his house; but they appear to have been often used in conversation, even by Royalists. John Lisle's widow was, therefore, commonly known as the Lady Alice. She was related to many respectable, and to some noble families; and she was generally esteemed, even by the other gentry of her county, for it was well known to them that she had deeply regretted some violent acts in which her husband had borne a part; that she had shed bitter tears for Charles I.; and that she protected and relieved many Cavaliers in their distress. The same womanly kindness which had led her to befriend the Royalists in their time of trouble, would not suffer her to refuse a meal and a hiding-place to the wretched men who now entreated her to protect them. She took them into her house; set meat and drink before them, and showed them where they might take rest. The next morning her dwelling was surrounded by soldiers. Strict search was made; Hickes was found concealed in a malt-house, and Nelthorpe in a chimney. If Lady Alice knew her guests to have been concerned in the insurrection in the west, she was undoubtedly guilty of what, in strictness, is a capital crime; "for the law of principal and accessory then was, |) and is to this day," remarks Macaulay, "in a state disgraceful to English jurisprudence." Odious as the law was, it was strained for the purpose of destroying Alice Lisle. She could not, according to the doctrine laid down by the highest authority, be convicted till after the conviction of the rebels whom she had harboured. She was, however, set to the bar before either Hickes or Nelthorpe had been tried. It was no easy matter in such a case to obtain a verdict for the Crown. The witnesses prevaricated. The jury, consisting of the principal gentlemen of Hampshire, shrank from the thought of sending a fellow-creature to the stake for conduct which seemed rather deserving of praise than of blame. Jeffreys was beside himself with fury. This was the first case of treason on the circuit, and there seemed to be a strong probability that his prey would escape him. He stormed, cursed, and swore, in language which no well-bred man would have used at a. race or a cock-fight. One witness, named Dunne, partly from concern for Lady Alice, and partly from fright at the threats and maledictions of the Chief Justice, entirely lost his head, and at last stood silent. "Oh how hard the truth is," said Jeffreys, "to come -out of a lying Presbyterian knave!" The witness, after a pause of some minutes, stammered a few unmeaning words.
"Was there ever," exclaimed the judge, with an oath, "was there ever such a villain on the face of the -earth r1 Dost thou believe there is a God? Dost thou believe in hell fire? Of all the witnesses I ever met with, I never saw thy fellow." Still the poor man, scared out of his senses, remained mute. And again Jeffreys burst forth :— "I hope, gentlemen of the jury, that you take notice of the horrible carriage of this fellow. How can one help abhorring these men and their religion? A Turk is a saint to such a fellow as this. A Pagan would be ashamed of such villainy. O blessed Jesus! what a generation of vipers do we live among." "I cannot tell what to say, my lord," faltered Dunne. The judge again broke forth into a volley of oaths. "Was there ever," he cried, "such an impudent rascal? Hold a candle to him, that we may see his brazen face. You, gentlemen, that are counsel for the Crown, see that an information for perjury be preferred against this fellow." After the witnesses had been thus handled, the Lady Alice was called on for her defence. She began by saying, "That though she knew Hickes to be in trouble when she took him in, she did not know or suspect that he had been concerned in the rebellion. He was a divine, a man of peace. It had, therefore, never occurred to her that he could have borne arms against the Government; and she had supposed that he wished to conceal himself because warrants were out against him for field preaching." The Chief Justice began to storm. "There is not one of these lying, snivelling, canting Presbyterians, but, one way or another, have a hand in rebellion. Presbytery has all manner of villainy in it. Nothing but Presbytery could have made Dunne such a rogue. Show me a Presbyterian, and I'll show you a lying knave." He summed up in the same style, declaiming during an hour against Whigs and Dissenters, and reminding the jury that the prisoner's husband had borne a part in the death of Charles I., a fact which was not proved by any testimony, and which, if it had been proved, would have been utterly irrelevant to the issue. The jury retired, and remained long in consultation. The judge grew impatient. He could not conceive how, in so plain a case, they should ever have left the box. He sent a messenger to tell them, that if they did not instantly return, he would adjourn the court and lock them up all night. Thus put to the torture, they came, but came to say "that they doubted whether the charge had been made out." Jeffreys expostulated with them vehemently, and after another consultation, they gave a reluctant verdict of guilty. Our historians give different statements in reference to the conduct of the jury. Rapin says, "They found her not guilty three times." Burnet says, "They brought her in the second time not guilty, but, overcome with fear, they brought her in the third time guilty;" while Macaulay only gives the one statement of not guilty, or, "That they doubted whether the charge had been made out." On the following morning sentence was pronounced. Jeffreys gave directions that Alice Lisle should be burned alive that afternoon! This excess of barbarity moved the pity and indignation of that class which was most devoted to the Crown. The clergy of Winchester Cathedral remonstrated with the Chief Justice, who, brutal as he was, was not mad enough to risk a quarrel on such a subject, with a body so much respected by the Tory party. He consented to put off the execution five days. During that time the friends of the prisoner besought James to show her mercy. Ladies of high rank interceded for her. Feversham, whose recent victory had increased his influence at Court, and who, it is said, had been bribed to take the compassionate side, spoke in her favour. Clarendon, the king's brother-in-law, pleaded her cause; but all was in vain. The utmost that could be obtained was, that her sentence should 'be commuted from burning to beheading. She was put to death on the scaffold in the market-place of Winchester, and she passed through it with serene courage. She was a woman of fine understanding, as well as exalted devotion and benevolence, and she behaved in the most heroic manner at the place of execution. The speech which, notwithstanding her advanced age, she delivered on the scaffold, is said to have commenced with a religious exordium, expressive of the patience and submission of her soul to the Divine will.

Coleman Anecdote 17a Baxter and Jeffreys

Baxter before Judge Jeffreys
The following remarkable scene—a scene which, in all its parts, tells most impressively to the honour of Baxter, and to the condemnation of Jeffreys—took place in the Court of King's Bench on May 30th, 1684. In a commentary on the New Testament, written by Baxter, he had complained with some bitterness of the persecutions which the Dissenters suffered; and the main charge was, that in some passages he had reflected on the prelates of the Church of England, and so was guilty of sedition. We will give our readers one of these passages, that they may judge of the nature of this charge. After explaining Matt. v. 19, he observes, "Are not those preachers and prelates, then, the least and basest that preach and tread down Christian love of all that dissent from any of their presumptions, and so preach down not the least but the great command?" "That men who, for not using the prayer-book," says Macaulay, "had been driven from their homes, stripped of their property, and locked up in dungeons, should' dare to utter a murmur, was then thought to be a high crime against the State and the Church." Roger Lestrange, the champion of the government and the oracle of the clergy, sounded the note of war in the "Observator." An information was filed; Baxter begged that he might be allowed some time to prepare for his defence. It was on the day on which Oates was pilloried in Palace Yard that the illustrious chief, the Puritan, oppressed by age and infirmity, came to Westminster Hall to make this request. Jeffreys burst into a storm of rage. "Not a minute," he cried, "to save his life. I can deal with saints as well as with sinners. There stands Oates on one side of the pillory, and if Baxter stood on the other, the two greatest rogues in the kingdom would stand together." "When the trial came on at Guildhall a crowd of those who loved and honoured Baxter filled the court. At his side stood Dr. William Bates, one of the most eminent Nonconformist divines. Two "Whig barristers of great note, Pollexfen and Wallop, appeared for the defence. Pollexfen had scarcely begun his address to the jury, when the Chief Justice broke forth, "Ah, Pollexfen! I know you well. I will set a mark upon you. You are a patron of the faction. This is an old rogue, a schismatical knave, a hypocritical villain. He hates the Liturgy. He would have nothing but long-winded cant without book." And then his lordship turned up his eyes, clasped his hands, and began to sing through his nose in imitation of what he supposed to be Baxter's style of praying, "Lord, we are thy people, thy peculiar people, thy dear people." Pollexfen gently reminded the court that his late Majesty had thought Baxter deserving of a bishopric. "And what ailed the old blockhead, then," cried Jeffreys, "that he did not take it?" His fury now rose almost to madness, he called Baxter a dog, and swore that it would be no more than justice to whip such a villain through the whole city.
Wallop interposed, but fared no better than his leader. "You are in all these dirty cases, Mr. Wallop," says the judge. "Gentlemen of the long robe ought to be ashamed to assist such factious knaves." The advocate made another attempt to obtain a hearing, but to no purpose. "If you do not know your duty," says Jeffreys, "I will teach you." Wallop sat down, and Baxter himself attempted to put in a word, but the Chief Justice drowned all expostulation in a burst of ribaldry and invective, mingled with scraps of Hudibras. "My lord," said the aged man, "I have been much blamed by Dissenters for speaking respectfully of bishops." "Baxter for bishops!" cried the judge, "that's a merry conceit indeed. I know what you mean by bishops—rascals like yourself; Kidderminster bishops, factious, snivelling Presbyterians." Again Baxter essayed to speak, and .again Jeffreys bellowed, "Richard, Richard, dost thou think we will let thee poison the court? Richard, thou art an old knave; thou hast written books enough to load a cart, and every book as full of sedition as an egg is full of meat. By the grace of God, I'll look after thee. I see a great many of your brotherhood waiting to see what will befall their mighty don." And then he continued, fixing his savage eye on Dr. Bates, "There's a doctor of the party at your elbow. But by the grace of God Almighty, I will crush you all."
Baxter held his peace, but one of the junior counsel for the defence made a last effort, and undertook to show that the words of which complaint was made would not bear the construction put on them by the information; with this view he began to read the context. In a moment he was roared down. "You shan't turn the court into a conventicle!" A noise of weeping was heard from some of those that surrounded Baxter. "Snivelling calves !" said the judge.
Witnesses to character were in attendance, and among them were several clergymen of the Established Church. But the Chief Justice would hear nothing. "Does your lordship think," said Baxter, "that any jury will convict a man on such a trial as this?" "I warrant you, Mr. Baxter," said Jeffreys; "don't trouble yourself about that." Jeffreys was right. The sheriffs were the tools of the Government; the juries were selected by the sheriffs from among the fiercest zealots of the Tory party, they conferred for a moment and returned a verdict of guilty.
"My lord," said Baxter, as he left the court, "there was once a Chief Justice who would have treated me very differently." He alluded to his learned and excellent friend Sir Matthew Hale. "There is not an honest man in England," answered Jeffreys, "but looks on thee as a knave."
The sentence was, for those times, it is observed, a lenient one. What passed in conference among the judges cannot be certainly known. It was believed among the Nonconformists, and is highly probable, that the Chief Justice was overruled by his three brethren. He proposed, it is said, that Baxter should be whipped through London at the cart's tail. The majority thought that an eminent divine, who a quarter of a century before had been offered a mitre, and was now in his seventieth year, would be sufficiently punished for a few sharp words with fine and imprisonment.
It is stated that Jeffreys thus summed up the matter to the jury: "'Tis notoriously known, that there has been a design to ruin the king and nation The old game has been renewed, and this has been the main incendiary. He's as modest now as can be, but the time was when no man was so ready at ' Bind your kings in chains, and your nobles in fetters of iron; and 'To your tents, O Israel.' Gentlemen, for God's sake, don't let us be gulled twice in an age."
He was sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred marks, and to lie in prison till it was paid, and bound to his good behaviour for seven years; and he continued in the court's prison in pain and languor for nearly two years; but at length the King changing his measures, he was pardoned. What a scene for a court of justice! and what a sentence after such a trial!

The American Connection

Somebody asked me recently whether any of the ejected men went to America. There are at least five leading men among the ejected with American connections.
1. Thomas Gilbert was the name of at least two ejected men. Thomas Gilbert 1609/10–1673 may have been of Scots origin. He was ejected in 1661 and emigrated to New England, where he died. (The other Gilbert may have been proposed as president of Harvard by Owen and others in 1664. This Gilbert felt that even if worthy of such a post he ought rather “at present to frame myself to suffer in Old, than to reign in New England”.)
2. Marmaduke Matthews c 1606–1683 was a Welshman and published author who emigrated to New England in the 1630s but returned home in 1654 to minister in Swansea. Ejected in 1662 he still “preached, by the connivance of the magistrates, in a little chapel at the end of the town” (Palmer). Licensed as an Independent in 1672, he was “a very pious and zealous man” who “went about to instruct the people from house to house” (Calamy). His three sons became nonconformist ministers but later conformed.
3. George Moxon 1602-1687, a Cambridge graduate, sailed to New England in 1637, where he became a minister and prospered. He returned to England, however, and worked alongside John Machin in 1652. Ejected in 1662, he preached at a remote farmhouse to evade the Five Mile Act. He was licensed in 1672. He seems to have become unorthodox later and his son was a Unitarian.
4. Urian Oakes c 1631–1681 was a Harvard educated New Englander who returned to England in 1654 where he ministered both before and after his ejection in 1662. In 1671 he recrossed the Atlantic, later becoming president of Harvard, then still small but full of potential.
5. Charles Morton 1627-1698 Cornish founder of an early dissenting academy, where Daniel Defoe studied. Later in life he was associated with Harvard College. Raised with strong Puritan influences in England, he attended Oxford (1649-1652). As a result of the English Revolution, he was arrested and excommunicated for promoting progressive education, forcing him to emigrate to relative safety in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1685-1686), although he was soon arrested for sedition (and then acquitted) in Boston. His system of vernacular teaching at Harvard was basically Aristotelian but with modern flavours of Wallis, Hooke, Boyle and even Descartes.
Also, there was a John Sams who was born in New England and educated there, minister of Coggeshall. Harvard educated John Bulkington at Fordham had a similar history. Also a Samuel Eaton of Duckenfield. A G Matthews says there were 12 graduates from Harvard altogether among the ejected. He also says that some 15 of the ejected crossed the Atlantic after their ejection.

Study Day at the Evangelical Library

It was great today to be at the Evangelical Library with about fifty others for our study day on 1662 and nonconformity. People had come from a little distance in some cases, including even one man from Texas!
Dr Garry Williams kicked us off with an excellent paper on the historical background. After a short break it was my turn to put some flesh on the bones, which I tackled by focusing on Thomas Manton, Joseph Alleine and Philip Henry. After lunch Dr Robert Oliver helpfully took us on through 1689 and beyond. We closed the day with a question time and discussion chaired by Robert Strivens. It was a worthwhile day and it was good to be there. I am glad we were able to organise it. Big thanks to all who helped with drinks and registration. Dr Ian Densham kindly dealt with the recordings and these should be available in due time through the Evangelical Library.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Study Day is next week

Don't forget that the study day at the Evangelical Library is next Tuesday. There are still some place available.

Reformation Today Article

An article recently appeared in Reformation Today as follows:
The Great Ejection of 1662
Gary Brady
This year sees the 350th anniversary of what is known as the Great Ejection, when about two thousand ministers and others in the pay of the national church in England and Wales were silenced or ejected from their livings for failing to conform to what the Church of England required. Most of the names of the men who were ejected and their wives who suffered with them are unfamiliar to us, though names such as Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton, Thomas Watson and John Howe should mean something to you. Though some few good men did remain in the national church, Gerald Bray is right to say that almost all of the ejected “were Puritans, and so the Act may be said to represent the expulsion of Puritanism from the national Church.” It is right, therefore, that those who claim admire the Puritans should know something of this history. However, discovering good material on the subject is not easy and in an attempt to remedy this I have established an internet blog (www.greatejection.blogspot.com) and a short book that Evangelical Press hope to publish this year. We have also arranged a one day study conference at the Evangelical Library in London on March 27. Back in 1962, speaking at the Evangelical Library, Dr Lloyd-Jones said that practically all that is good in evangelicalism finds its roots in the Puritanism so fiercely persecuted then. He also declared that “the very greatness of the men themselves as men of God demands our attention”. That testimony ought to be heeded.
Joseph Alleine
Take as just one example of such men, Joseph Alleine 1634-1668, the author of the posthumous bestseller Alarm to the unconverted ejected from his living in 1662 and imprisoned in Ilchester the following year. His older brother Edward had been a minister but had died aged only 26, prompting him also to go into the ministry. He worked in Taunton alongside George Newton 1602-1681, “a plain, profitable and successful preacher, eminent for meekness and prudence”, also ejected in 1662. In 1655 Alleine married his cousin, Theodosia Alleine fl 1654-1677, whose father Richard Alleine 1610-1681, and uncle William Alleine 1613/14–1677, were also ejected. Theodosia subsequently wrote of her husband that
He would be much troubled if he heard smiths or shoemakers,or such tradesmen, at work at their trades, before he was in his duties with God: saying to me often, “O how this noise shames me! Doth not my Master deserve more than theirs?”
She also tells how they were at home one Saturday evening in 1663 when
my husband was seized on by an officer of our town, who would rather have been otherwise employed, as he hath often said, but that he was forced to a speedy execution of the warrant by a justice’s clerk, who was sent on purpose with it to see it executed, because he feared that none of the town would have done it.
The warrant required Alleine to appear at the house of a justice about two miles out of town. He asked if he could eat with his family first. This was initially denied but a prominent man in the town agreed to guarantee his speedy appearance after that. Theodosia continues “His supper being prepared, he sat down, eating very heartily, and was very cheerful, but full of holy and gracious expressions, suitable to his and our present state”. After supper, having prayed with the family, he went with the officer and some friends to the justice’s house, where he was accused of breaking the law by preaching, which he denied. He was accused of “being at a riotous assembly” though involved in nothing but preaching and prayer. Then he was much abused with many scorns and scoffs from the justices and their associates, and even the ladies as well as the gentlemen often called him rogue, and told him that he deserved to be hanged, ... with many such like scurrilous passages,which my husband receiving with patience, and his serene countenance showing that he did slight the threatenings, made them the more enraged. They then urged him much to accuse himself, but in vain. Despite a lack of evidence, after keeping him until twelve with their abuse and mocking, they made out an arrest warrant committing him to gaol the following Monday. It was about two in the morning by the time he was home so he lay on his bed still dressed to sleep for a few hours before rising to pray at about eight o’clock, by which time several friends had arrived. He was not allowed to preach but was free to speak with the various groups that flocked in from the town and nearby villages and to pray with them. Theodosia continues
 He was exceeding cheerful in his spirit, full of admiration of the mercies of God, and encouraging all that came to be bold, and venture all for the Gospel and their souls, notwithstanding what was come upon him for their sakes. For, as he told them, he was not at all moved at it, nor did not in the least repent of anything he had done, but accounted himself happy under that promise Christ makes ... that he should be doubly and trebly blessed now he was to suffer for his sake; and was very earnest with his brethren in the ministry that came to see him, that they would not in the least desist when he was gone, that there might not be one sermon the less in Taunton; and with the people, to attend the ministry with greater ardency, diligence, and courage than before; assuring them how sweet and comfortable it was to him to consider what he had done for God in the months past; and that he was going to prison full of joy, being confident that all these things would turn to the furtherance of the Gospel, and the glory of God.
Not wanting to leave his people without some final words, he met with them in the small hours of the following morning. Several hundred gathered to hear him preach and pray for about three hours. At about nine, again with friends accompanying him, he set out for Ilchester. The streets were lined with people on either side. Many followed him out of the town for several miles, earnestly lamenting their loss. Alleine was very moved by all this but did his best to look cheerful and say something to encouraging. He carried his arrest warrant himself, and had no officer with him. When he came to the prison the gaoler was not there so he took opportunity to preach one final time before entering, which he was later vilified for. When the gaoler came, he delivered his warrant and “was clapped up in the Bridewell chamber, which is over the common gaol”. On arriving, Alleine found there his friend John Norman 1622-1669 from Bridgwater, imprisoned a few days before. Norman's great fear was ending up as an indentured labourer on one of the plantations of the West Indies, a realistic fear for a nonconformist at that time. Alleine spent the next four months in this hole. At that time the gaol held 50 Quakers, 17 Baptists and about 12 others who, like Alleine, had been arrested for preaching and praying. Through the summer months, the heat inside the low ceilinged prison was quite unbearable. There was little privacy and nowhere to eat. Night and day they could hear the singing, the cursing and the clanking chains of the criminals in the cells below. The professed Quakers could be a nuisance too. Alleine and his companions took it in turns to preach and pray publicly once or twice a day. There were usually crowds from the villages around listening at the bars of the prison. The rest of the day was spent speaking to those who thronged to him for counsel and instruction. He would spend much of the night studying and in prayer. He was allowed to curtain off a corner of the room big enough for his bed, where he could pray in private. Theodosia bravely chose to share imprisonment with him. After some weeks he was allowed to walk in the countryside, if the gaoler was willing. Friends supplied him with food and money and he stayed healthy in body and mind. On 14 July he was taken to court in Taunton and indicted for preaching. Despite a lack of evidence he was returned to prison where he and his companions would soon have to face the cold of winter, every bit as trying as the heat of summer. It was a whole twelve months before he was released. He kept busy writing books including an exposition of the Shorter Catechism. There were also weekly letters to his people, a number of which were later collected and published. He also sent out catechisms for distribution among poor families. When the gaol chaplain fell ill, he dared to take his place, and, until prohibited, preached to the criminals in the gaol and helped them in other ways. He was much in prayer throughout his time in prison. Once free again Alleine set about his work with alacrity but some three years on he was re-arrested, along with his wife, her aged father, seven other ministers and 40 others. Alleine was not well when he entered prison this second time and it greatly weakened him so that after returning to Taunton in February, 1668, his health broke down completely. Nine months later, at the age of only 34, weary from hard work and suffering, he died. How such a story should stir us up to zeal for serving the Lord in our generation. This is only one example among hundreds of such faithfulness.
As Spurgeon once said, these were men who counted nothing their own. They were driven out from their benefices, because they could not conform to the Established Church, and they gave up all they had willingly to the Lord. They were hunted from place to place ... they wandered here and there to preach the gospel to a few poor sheep, being fully given up to their Lord. Those were foul times; but they promised they would walk the road fair or foul, and they did walk it knee-deep in mud; and they would have walked it if it had been knee-deep in blood too.
The events that lay behind all this
What led up to Alleine's ejection, imprisonment and eventual death was a series of far reaching events in the political sphere. Firstly, in May 1660, the monarchy was restored. Charles II, heir to Charles I, who had been executed in January 1649, was recalled. Although many good men were keen to see the monarchy re-established they did not realise what it would lead to. For a while things were moderately bearable for the Puritans but a series of acts were passed against them between 1661 and 1665, acts that since the 19th century have together been known as the Clarendon Code, after the Lord Chancellor, Edward Hyde, the first Lord Clarendon.
The Corporation Act
he first of the four acts was the Corporation Act of December 1661. It required three things from all municipal officials - mayors, aldermen, councillors, borough officials. These were an oath of allegiance to the throne, a formal rejection of the Solemn League and Covenant and the taking of communion in the parish church within a year of taking office. Its effect was to exclude nonconformists from public office and some conscientious dissenters lost important posts. Further, some unscrupulous corporations took advantage of the situation and voted such men into office then fined them when they declined to serve!
The Act of Uniformity
Obviously with the ascent of a new ruler a new Act of Conformity was expected. Once Charles's new Parliament was in place they brought in such a bill. The bill was so strict that it was almost impossible for even the least dogmatic of the Puritans to accept it with a clear conscience. The act received royal assent on 29 July, 1662. It gave all ministers of the Church of England, university fellows, school teachers and private tutors too, until 24 August, St Bartholomew’s Day, to conform to its demands or be ejected. Ministers were expected to affirm the supremacy of the monarch in all things ecclesiastical and spiritual and to signify ‘unfeigned assent’ to everything in the forthcoming Book of Common Prayer. Most were unable to see this book in time, as it was not out until 6 August. Those who had not been ordained by a bishop were also expected to be re-ordained. Further, there was again the need to repudiate the hated Solemn League and Covenant and to acknowledge that the oath taken to maintain it involved no moral obligation. A declaration was further required that it was unlawful under any pretence whatever to take up arms against the King.
The Great Ejection
Estimates vary but it seems that, including those ejected before 1662 and some who jumped rather than waiting to be pushed, two thousand were silenced or ejected. There will always be some vagueness about the figure as some changed their minds. A G Matthews says some 210 later conformed. Edmund Calamy's Nonconformist Memorial Calamy deals with some 2,465 people altogether. Matthews and Michael Watts say that the number unwilling to conform in 1662 was 2029. Some 200 of these were university lecturers. Matthews points out that a further 129 were deprived at an uncertain date between 1660 and 1663 and with the ejections of 1660 as well, he gives a total of 1760 ministers (about 20% of the clergy) thrust out of the Church of England, silenced from preaching or teaching because they could no longer conform by law and so deprived of a livelihood. Many preached farewell sermons the week before their ejection and some of these are still in print. Robert Adkins, ejected from St John's, Exeter, spoke for many when he said in his farewell sermon Let him never be accounted a sound christian that doth not fear God and honour the king. I beg that you would not suffer our nonconformity, for which we patiently bear the loss of our places, 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. Iain Murray has written of the day itself that the atmosphere “was electric and charged with emotion; the popular discontent was great and strong guards stood ready in London”. Of the sermons, however, he rightly says that they seem far removed from all that. There is a calmness, and unction and a lack of invective. Great though their sorrow was for their flocks and for their nation, they had a message to preach which was more than equal to the strain of the crisis. An eternal God, an Ever-Living Saviour and a glorious hope of heaven, carried them through this heaviest trial.
he years 1660 to 1689 saw great variation in the levels of persecution and understandably things varied from place to place. The persecution launched against the ejected also swept into its net others already outside the national church. John Bunyan is the most famous example. He was imprisoned in 1660 and remained there for the best part of the next 12 years. His congregation had previously been meeting in the parish church in Bedford but that all came to an end with the Restoration. Their conscientious stand for the truth and their great courage and wisdom in the face of persecution give an example that ought to be known and emulated. Conventicle Act
In 1664 a third act was passed banning religious gatherings of more than five people over the age of 16, apart from the family members, unless using Church of England rites. Penalties for breaking this law were very strict. A first offence merited three months in prison or a £5 fine. A second offence saw the penalty doubled, a third would meet with transportation to America for seven years or a fine of £100.
Five Mile Act
In 1665 a particularly cruel law was passed. Known as the five mile act, this act forbade the ejected from living within five miles of their former place of abode. The idea was to try and cut them off from their former congregations, who usually remained loyal. It is this act that now drove ministers into obscure and isolated places and that necessitated long, secret journeys in order to circumvent the law. This is when secret meetings began to take place and when tricks such as having the minister preach in one room while the congregation listened in another began to come in. The act expired on 1 March, 1669. Along with Clarendon's fall in 1667 this meant some relief for the dissenters. It was short lived, however, as in July 1669, prompted by Parliament, Charles made a proclamation urging magistrates to continue to use the outstanding laws against nonconformists.
The Second Conventicle Act
In 1670 a second conventicle act was passed. Famously described by Andrew Marvell as ‘the quintessence of arbitrary malice’, it reduced penalties for ordinary worshippers but fines for preachers and the owners of places where conventicles were found went up to £20 for a first offence, £40 for a second. The idea of distraint was also introduced, the seizure of a person’s property in order to obtain payment. If the minister could not pay, wealthier members of the congregation could lawfully be plundered.
Indulgences and waves of persecution
In 1672 and 1683 Charles then James decreed indulgences but, unsupported in Parliament by law, these did not last and the pattern of persecution continued in most places. The Broadmead Baptists wrote of some eight waves of persecution altogether and it is clear that, as is often the case to this day, persecution did come in waves. Typically again, it varied in form and intensity, from minor harassment to mass imprisonment. Various factors were involved such as one's willingness to adapt to the situation and the attitude of local magistrates. Matthews suggests that 12.4% of the ejected men, some 215 altogether, were imprisoned between 1662 and the death of Charles II in 1685. Most were in for short periods but others were in prison for lengthy terms. Some seven ministers actually died in prison.
There was a Bible taught confidence among dissenters that their sufferings were working for them “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. When Joseph Oddy was taunted by a Cambridge wit with the doggerel lines Good day, Mr Oddy, Pray how fares your body; Methinks you look damnably thin? He shot back with That sir's your mistake, 'Tis for righteousness' sake; Damnation's the fruit of your sin. Dissenters were not slow to see in various providences God's hand encouraging them and dealing with their persecutors. What else could one make of the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London and the war with the Dutch, too, for that matter? “Nonconformist writings abound” says Michael Watts “in stories of disasters which befell individual persecutors”. Positively, Philip Henry, father of Matthew, observed in old age that though many of the ejected were brought very low, had many mouths to feed, were greatly harassed by persecution and their friends were generally poor and unable to support them, yet, in all his acquaintance, he never knew, nor could remember to have heard of any nonconformist minister being in prison for debt. Toleration
Relief from direct persecution finally came for the nonconformists with the Toleration Act of 1689, when King William and Queen Mary came to the throne. In that year Particular Baptists finally felt free to publish their confession of faith, of course, the work having been completed back in 1677. Nonconformists continued to be treated as second class citizens, even then, being practically barred from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, for example, until as late as 1828. At least the worst of the persecution was over.
Lloyd-Jones says of the men we have been considering that above all, they have left us this noble, glorious, wonderful example of holy living, patient endurance in suffering, and loyalty to the Word of God and its message, even at the cost of being “fools for Christ's sake” and being regarded as “the offscourings of all things”. A consideration of these men and the stand that they took should, at the very least, stir us to holiness, patience when we suffer and a strong commitment to being ruled by God's Word. Their example calls upon us to examine ourselves and to see where we stand. What is the state of the church? What about my own part in it? How can we expect God to bless us if we are not willing to ask ourselves serious questions about such things?