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).