Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Hetherington on the Great Ejection

In Hetherington's History of the Westminster Assembly he says
Upon the death of Cromwell, he was succeeded by his son Richard, a man of an amiable character, but utterly unfit to conduct the government of the country in such a time of storm and peril. A plot was formed against him by a part of the army, headed by Fleetwood and Desborough, to whom the leading Independent divines, especially Mr Nye and his party, lent their ready assistance. Richard was persuaded to dissolve the Parliament; Fleetwood and Desborough, and their party, immediately summoned the Rump of the Long Parliament to reassemble, and Richard seeing it impossible to maintain his power without another civil war, and being destitute of military talents, resolved to abdicate his authority, and retire to private life. A new series of dark intrigues followed, in which General Monk acted a prominent part, the issue of which was, the restoration of Charles II on the 29th of May 1660. In consequence of the mutual jealousies of the various parties, the king was restored without conditions of any kind; and thus the liberties, both civil and religious, of the kingdom, in defence of which so much blood had been shed, and so many miseries endured, were laid at his feet. The Prelatic hierarchy were immediately restored to the possession of all their rank, wealth, and power, and speedily proved that the persecuting spirit of Prelacy had sustained no abatement.
For a short time the king affected to treat the Presbyterian ministers with respect and kindness; and they were encouraged to hope, that although Prelacy was restored to its former supremacy, yet some modification of it might be made to which it might be possible to conform. After some consultation among themselves, they presented to his majesty a petition expressing their desires for such alterations as might lead to an accommodation and agreement in an amended and modified Episcopacy. This petition was communicated to the Prelates, who returned such an answer as greatly to obscure all prospect of any accommodation. But as matters were not yet ripe for what was intended, the king issued a declaration concerning ecclesiastical affairs, containing so many plausible statements, that the hopes of the Presbyterians were somewhat revived. At length it was arranged that a conference should be held at the Savoy, between twelve bishops and nine assistants on the part of the Episcopalian Church, and an equal number of ministers on the part of the Presbyterians. The first meeting of this conference took place on the 15th of April 1661, and it was continued, with intermissions, till the 25th of July, when it expired without producing the slightest approximation towards an agreement, the bishops refusing to make any alterations in the Book of Common Prayer, to which their discussions were limited, or to make any concession to the conscientious scruples, or more grave and solid arguments, of the Presbyterian ministers.
A convocation was held soon after the termination of the conference, in which a few alterations were made in the Prayer-Book, not all for the better; and the proceedings of the convocation were ratified by both Houses of Parliament. It now remained to enforce the Prelatic system by the strong hand of legislative power. This was done by the Act of Uniformity, which, after passing both Houses, by small majorities, received the royal assent on the 19th of May 1662, and was to take effect from the 24th of August following. The terms of conformity specified by this act were:
1. Re-ordination, if they had not been episcopally ordained.
2. A declaration of unfeigned assent and consent to all and every thing prescribed and contained in the Book of Common Prayer, and administration of sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, together with the psalter, and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons.
3. To take the oath of canonical obedience.
4. To abjure the Solemn League and Covenant.
5. To abjure the lawfulness of taking arms against the king, or any commissioned by him, on any pretence whatsoever.
Such were the terms of the infamous and tyrannical Act of Uniformity, which was to come into force on what is termed the Feast of St. Bartholomew; and the penalty for any one who should refuse, was deprivation of all his spiritual promotions. The result was, that when the fatal St. Bartholomew’s day arrived, about two thousand Presbyterians relinquished all their ecclesiastical preferments, abandoned all their worldly means of subsistence, left their homes, and more painful than all, their churches and their weeping and heart-stricken flocks, and became literally strangers and pilgrims in their native country, like their Divine Master, not having where to lay their heads. In their day of power, when ejecting Episcopalian ministers convicted of scandalous offenses or of ignorance, they had allowed to these men a fifth part of their former livings; but no similar mercy or charity was shown to them. They were at once driven and abandoned to utter poverty and homelessness; and to grievous wrong was added not less grievous insult, in the cruel and contumelious treatment which they received from their proud and pitiless oppressors. Yet in one respect the day of St. Bartholomew was a glorious day. It testified to a wondering world the strength and the integrity of Presbyterian principles, in their triumph over every earthly influence; or rather, let us say, it proved that the essential spirit of the Presbyterian Church is the spirit of Christianity itself, and therefore it received divine strength in the day of sore trial, that it might finish its testimony in behalf of the sole sovereignty of Christ over his own spiritual kingdom, to the laws and institutions of which man has no right to add, and which he cannot without sin diminish. Yes, for the Presbyterian Church, and even for the Westminster Assembly, by which that Church had been introduced into England, it was a glorious day. But what was it for Prelacy? A day of everlasting infamy, stamping upon its character indelibly the charge, proved by so many repeated facts, of being essentially A PERSECUTING SYSTEM.
But it is equally unnecessary and ungracious to dwell on the detailed results of this tyrannical and persecuting act; and therefore, with a few incidental remarks of some general importance, we shall pass from the painful subject. It must have been observed, that the religious body once known by the name of Puritans, became Presbyterians both in principles and practice, partly before, and thoroughly during the time of the Westminster Assembly. Against them, accordingly, as Presbyterians, was the force of persecution directed, although the demands and the penalties of the Act of Uniformity were equally applicable to the Independents and all other sects of Dissenters; and of the whole two thousand who were ejected by that act, above nine-tenths were Presbyterians. The Independents did not, at that time, number more than an hundred churches in their communion; the Baptists were still fewer; and of the other sects, the greater part had only those lay preachers who had sprung up during the enthusiastic times of the civil war. Of the divines who had constituted the Westminster Assembly, not more than six, or, in strict propriety, only four, conformed. About thirty of them were dead before the act came into operation, some of them very close upon the time, and one or two almost immediately after preaching what would have proved by persecution, as they did by death, their farewell sermons. The names of the six who are stated to have conformed were, Drs Conant, Wallis, Reynolds, and Lightfoot, and Messrs Heyrick and Hodges. But of these Dr Conant at first refused to conform, was ejected, and continued so for a period of eight years, when the persuasion of relatives prevailed on him to comply, and he was appointed to a ministerial charge in Northampton, and subsequently obtained other preferments; and Dr Wallis, who had been one of the scribes to the Westminster Assembly, was made Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, in the year 1649 – an office which in a great measure excluded him from ecclesiastical affairs, and rendered the act of conformity to him little different from a university qualification. It thus appears, that almost the entire surviving members of the Westminster Assembly gave to the principles which they had then declared and advocated the strong and clear testimony of suffering in their defence.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Nottage in South Wales

I read that Nottage, near Newton and Porthcawl in South Wales was one of the earliest centres of Nonconformist activities in Wales. John Myles (1621-1683) a trier under Cromwell and the founder of Wales's first Baptist Church in Ilston, 1649, who went on to found Swansea, Massachusetts, preached in Nottage in 1657. After the Declaration of Indulgence, 1662, two licences were issued in 1672 by Charles II allowing Walter Cradock (1606-1659) the founder with William Wroth (1576-1642) of Wales's first Independent Church in Llanfaches, 1638, and a supporter of Cromwell and Howell Thomas (in William Andrews' house), a Baptist, to preach.
(Howell Harris (1714-1773) in 1743 formed a Methodist 'Society' in Nottage. Baptists leased a cottage on the site of the present chapel and were received into the Association by 1789. Differences over doctrine divided the Baptists, and the church became Unitarian.)

Book on The Great Ejectment of 1662

Somehow I seem to have missed giving notice of the book The Great Ejectment of 1662: Its Antecedents, Aftermath, and Ecumenical Significance.
Amazon gives this synopsis:
By Bartholomew's Day, 24 August, 1662, all ministers and schoolmasters in England and Wales were required by the Act of Uniformity to have given their "unfeigned assent and consent" to the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. On theological grounds nearly two thousand ministers - approximately one fifth of the clergy of the Church of England - refused to comply and thereby forfeited their livings.
This book has been written to commemorate the 350th Anniversary of the Great Ejectment.
In Part One three early modern historians provide accounts of the antecedents and aftermath of the ejectment in England and Wales, while in Part Two the case is advanced that the negative responses of the ejected ministers to the legal requirements of the Act of Uniformity were rooted in positive doctrinal convictions that are of continuing ecumenical significance.
"Notwithstanding the need to revise judgment on many events in the seventeenth century, the Great Ejectment of 1662 remains a significant dividing of the ways in the history of British Christianity, deserving the penetrating analysis that Alan Sell and his colleagues provide, for what was designed to secure an Anglican monopoly in national life, in the event confirmed a large part of the nation in its Nonconformity, thereby giving birth to Britain's unique form of Christian pluralism."
- John H. Y. Briggs Professor Emeritus, University of Birmingham Director Emeritus of the Baptist History and Heritage Centre, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford Author of The English Baptists of the Nineteenth Century (1994)
"Broad and deep, like the Dissenting tradition it surveys, this book is a valuable compendium of information and a clear-sighted, generous account of the historical significance of 'Black Bartholomew' for the history of English and Welsh Protestantism over three hundred and fifty years."
- John Spurr Professor and Head of the College of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University Author of The Post-Reformation: Religion, Society, Politics and Britain, 1603-1714 (2006)
Editor Biography:
Alan P. F. Sell, a philosopher-theologian and ecumenist, is employed in research, writing, and lecturing in the United Kingdom and abroad. He has held academic posts in England, Canada, and Wales, and ecclesiastical posts in England and Geneva. He is the author or editor of over thirty books, of which the most recent are Convinced, Concise and Christian: The Thought of Huw Parri Owen (Pickwick, 2012) and Christ and Controversy: The Person of Christ in Nonconformist Thought and Ecclesial Experience (Pickwick, 2012).

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Compton Census of 1676

The Compton Census was an ecclesiatical census taken in 1676 and named after Henry Compton, the Bishop of London. The incumbents of the parish were recorded as either Conformists, Papists or Nonconformists. In many cases the number of Conformists may have been the total population of the parish over 16. What it could not account for is Nonconformists who also conformed! (ie went to the parish church as well as to conventicles). It covered about 70% of the country. Brown says it suggested that 5% were Dissenters and 1% Romanists (p 31). Being an ecclesiatical census it collected by ecclesiastical parishes which aggregated into arch-deaconeries and dioceses rather than the civil hundreds and ancient counties.

The Acts of Indulgence

There two Acts of Indulgence that brought some limited relief to the persecuted Nonconformists between 1662 and 1689. These were
1. 1672 under Charles II
This Royal Declaration of Indulgence was Charles II's attempt to extend religious liberty to Protestant nonconformists and Roman Catholics by suspending the execution of the penal laws that punished recusants from the Church of England. The Declaration was issued March 15, 1672. It required Nonconformists to register their places of worship and ministers. The Cavalier Parliament in 1673, however, compelled him to withdraw this declaration and implement, in its place, the first of the Test Acts (1673), which required anyone entering public service in England to deny the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and take Anglican communion. The act only lasted 11 months.
2. 1687 under James II
This Declaration of Indulgence or Declaration for Liberty of Conscience was a pair of proclamations made by James II (VII of Scotland), first issued for Scotland on February 12, 1687, then for England on April 4, 1687. It was a first stab at establishing freedom of religion in the British Isles. The Declaration granted broad religious freedom in England by suspending penal laws enforcing conformity to the Church of England and allowing persons to worship in their homes or chapels as they saw fit, and it ended the requirement of affirming religious oaths before gaining employment in government office. By use of the royal suspending power the king lifted the religious penal laws and granted toleration to the various Christian denominations, Catholic and Protestant, within his kingdoms. It was supported by William Penn, widely perceived to be its instigator. It was greatly opposed by Anglicans in England on religious and constitutional grounds. Some Anglicans objected to the fact that the Declaration had no specified limits and thus, at least in theory, licensed the practice of any religion, including Islam, Judaism or paganism. Many also objected to the fact that the king, by issuing the Declaration, had implicitly claimed a power to suspend laws passed by Parliament.
The Scots version had to be re-issued after strong opposition. The English version was welcomed by most non-conformists but as in Scotland the Presbyterians were more reluctant to wholeheartedly accept it. There was concern that the toleration rested only on the King's arbitrary will. The Anglican Church was greatly disturbed by it.
The English Indulgence was reissued on April 27, 1688, leading to open resistance from Anglicans. Few clergy read out the indulgence in Church. The Scottish Declaration was reaffirmed in a second proclamation in May, 1688. Some Scottish Episcopalians refused to recognise the Indulgence. William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and six other Bishops presented a petition to the King declaring the Indulgence illegal. James regarded this as rebellion and sedition and promptly had the bishops put in the Tower (where leading Nonconformists visited them!) and tried; however, the bishops were acquitted. Many Presbyterians were sceptical of the king's intentions in proclaiming the Declaration, while other dissenters, including the Quakers and the Baptists, gave thanks to the king for the Indulgence. The Indulgences were voided when James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution. The Bill of Rights abolished the suspending power.

Seasonable Counsel from Bunyan

In 1684 John Bunyan published a book of seasonable counsel to sufferers, the times still being very hard for Nonconformists. Raymond Brown (p 35) draws attention to this section as it gives the flavour of the times.
Direction 4. Wouldest thou not suffer as an evil-doer, addict not thyself to play with evil, to joke and jest, and mock at men in place and power. Gaal mocked at Abimelech, and said, Who is Abimelech that we should serve him? But he paid for his disdainful language at last (Judges 9). I have heard of an innkeeper here in England, whose sign was the crown, and he was a merry man. Now he had a boy, of whom he used to say, when he was jovial among his guests, This boy is heir to the crown, or this boy shall be heir to the crown; and if I mistake not the story, for these words he lost his life.
It is bad jesting with great things, with things that are God's ordinance, as kings and governors are. Yea, let them rather have that fear, that honour, that reverence, that worship, that is due to their place, their office, and dignity. How Paul gave honour and respect unto those that were but deputy-kings and heathen magistrates, will greatly appear, if you do but read his trials before them in the book called, The Acts of the Apostles. And what a charge both he and Peter have left behind them to the churches to do so too, may be found to conviction, if we read their epistles.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Joseph Besse on sufferings of the Quakers and others

In Joseph Besse's 1773 book we read (see Raymond Brown p 25)

By an Order of Sessions held at Shefford on the  8th of the Month called April this Year (1682?), Prosecutions were carried on afresh, especially in the Parish where Justice Reeling dwelt, whose Authority influenced inferior Officers to act beyond their Inclinations. From William Rogers, a Wheelwright, they took his working Tools, not for want of other Goods, but on purpose to disable him from working for his Livelihood. From a poor lame Maid, a Baptist, who earned her Bread by spinning and teaching Children, they took, by the Justice's Order, her spinning Wheel : He also forbad the Neighbours to send her their Children, saying, in his ignorant Zeal, She should not teach Children to be damned and when she had no Goods left to distrain, he threatened to send her to Bridewell. He not only caused the Goods of several poor People to be taken away, but threatened to punish their Neighbours for relieving them. The Priest of the Parish was of a like Disposition, for hearing of a Meeting in a distant Place, he by Threats constrained the Constable to go thither, and give Information to the Justice. And so intent was this Priest on a Part of the PFrey, that he went into the Yard of the aforesaid William Rogers, and cheapened some Wood, of which when the Owner told him the Price, he replied, "Let it alone till it be distrained and then I will have it for half the Value.

No Win Situation

It is said of Oliver Heywood that because for two or three Sundays he persisted in preaching after the Act of Uniformity he was excommunicated, the sentence of excommunication being publicly read in Halifax Church on November 2, 1662, in the parish church of Bolton, Lancashire, on January 4, 1663, and again at Halifax on December 3, 1663. For this reason attempts were made to exclude him from churches, even as a hearer. At the same time the churchwarden claimed fines from him for his non-attendance at Coley Chapel, under the statute of Elizabeth (four shillings for four sabbaths).
Heywood's diary says
"Stephen Ellis, our churchwarden, came to demand four shillings for my absence from church four sabbaths. My servant answered, that if I came, he would put me out of church. Yes, said he, and so I will too, for the law must be executed, both to keep him away, and punish his absence."

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Conventicle Acts and their devilish malice

The Conventicle Act of 1593 (or Religion Act 1592) stated that anyone over 16 who failed to attend the Parish Church or persuaded others to do the same should. It is the law that was used to put John Bunyan in prison in 1660.
A fresh Conventicle Act was passed in 1664 (part of the Clarendon Code as it was later called). This act forbade religious assemblies of more than five people outside the auspices of the State Church. In his diary the previous September Samuel Pepys quotes his cousin, a barrister and MP, speaking of "too devilish a severe act against conventicles; so beyond all moderation, that he is afeard it will ruin all".
In 1670 a second conventicles act, "An Act to prevent and suppress Seditious Conventicles" was passed legislating fines for attending or facilitating conventicles. This is the act that Andrew Marvell referred to as "the quintessence of arbitrary malice" (in a letter to William Popple).

Monday, 2 June 2014

The basic matter

In his book Raymond Brown (p 16) says that although divided among themselves, it was true of Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists and Quakers that
... the basic matter on which they all agreed was that they prized their own religious liberty and found it impossible to submit to the element of compulsion in such treasured realms as personal faith, doctrinal conviction and corporate worship.

Ejection a death

From 1657 Philip Henry regularly kept a diary and would annually make an interesting note on the return of his birthday. He was born on St Bartholomew's Day, 1631. In 1663 he wrote of it as “being the day of the year on which I was born … and also the day of the year on which by law I died, as did also near two thousand faithful ministers of Jesus Christ”.
Raymond Brown (p 10) points out that phrases such as "as though the person ... so offending or neglecting were dead" occur five times in the Act of Uniformity. He quotes Henry and adds in a footnote that in farewell sermons Thomas Watson says that he and his colleagues would "be laid down shortly as if we were naturally dead" and speaks of leaving legacies. Daniel Bull spoke of "dying in this congregation".
Note also how Calamy summarises the moving sermon by Edward Hancock of Bristol on 2 Corinthians 13:11 beginning, " At this time I am called to a work, which possibly may be unpleasing to many, even as to myself; that is, to die a civil death, whilst I am naturally alive."
Devonian nonconformist and Huguenot biographer John Quick, who, until imprisoned, carried on preaching in Brixton after his ejection spoke of ‘that unrighteous Act, which slew in one day two thousand able and faithful ministers of the gospel’.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Spurgeon's Ejected Predecessors 02

Spurgeon's great grandfather's great grandfather Job Spurgeon was a Dedham Quaker who was thrown into prison in 1679 for refusing to conform to the Church of England. He spent 15 weeks laying on a straw pallet in extremely severe winter weather without any fire in Chelmsford.
C H Spurgeon's predecessor at the Tabernacle was Benjamin Keach whose sufferings for nonconformity are well known.

Spurgeon's Ejected Predecessors 01

The Puritan volumes that C H Spurgeon read as a boy in his grandfather's Congregational manse were from the library started by Stambourne's first nonconformists minister, Henry Havers, who was given his books by one Thomas Green. In a history of Stambourne a writer called Etinckamp says something like this on Havers. Havers was followed by his son and then his great nephew, all three sharing the same name.
The decisive time in Stambourne, Essex, as in many villages was 1660. The Restoration of the Monarchy did not lead there to a parallel restoration of Anglican religious supremacy; indeed it could be claimed that the village has a nonconformist majority to this day. Henry Havers, rector since 1651, was a presbyterian who had signed the Watchword but stopped short of taking the Engagement. He continued, even after 1662, both to preach to and to hold sway over his parishioners. As he had full legal tenure under the authority of the Great Seal, no action could be taken against him; despite the litigious times he did not offend against the laws then existing. This period of uneasy calm came to an end on St Bartholomew's day 1662 when, in common with two thousand or so others, he refused to swear the oath required by the Act of Uniformity passed by the Government of the newly restored King Charles II (reigned 1660-1685). He was now ejected and formally deprived of the living. He did not however leave the parish and the Hearth Tax records imply that he still occupied the Rectory at Michaelmas 1664. He had however founded a nonconformist group known as the Stambourne Meeting which survives as the Congregational Church to this day. Several persons were prosecuted for housing the conventicles. Havers moved his domicile only half a mile down the Rectory Lane where he had purchased, or more probably built, New House Farm, within a moat. It was for this address that he obtained his Presbyterian licence to preach in 1672. Though he was from now on often in the courts and did for some short times leave the village he continued preaching there until he died at the ripe old age of 84. The battle between him and the Church of England for the spiritual care of the parish continued all this time and he decidedly had the best of it. Thomas Brown says that in 1700 no one could be found to act as Churchwarden: in a census of 1676 Stambourne was the only Essex parish to show nonconformists outnumbering their Church counterparts (by 65 to 60); the numbers would not be greatly dissimilar today.
Havers is an ancient Essex family. Henry had money of his own, as well as by marriage. The records of Newhouse farm begin only in 1813 and it was pulled down during the last war. The chimney bore a date in diaper, possibly I.P. 1678. He seems to have disregarded the Five Mile Act of 1665 but did seek and obtain two licences to preach. There is a legend of his being sought by soldiers of the King in the village but escaped by hiding in a kiln which had cobwebs across the opening. The XVIIIth century antiquarian Bishop White Kennett, who in 1745 married Dorcas, the widow of Clopton Havers Henry's second son, notes that the Meetings were well attended while the parish church was in a state of neglect. Absenteeism of the Rector, Mark le Pla, may well account both for this and the absence of a warden. This Clopton Havers, a pioneering physician, became Stambourne's most famous son.