THE convention parliament, having voted the restoration of Charles II, sent for him from Holland, and as soon as he had received their message, he left the Hague, landed at Dover, May 2, 1666, entered London May 29th, was received with general acclamations, and crowned with great pomp, April 13, 1661. As to Religion, his majesty was a compound of Deism and Popery, which made him very expert in deceiving his people. When he was upon the continent, previous to his restoration, he sent the following declaration from Breda. “We do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for any difference in opinion in matters of religion.” But this fair promise vanished from before his rising dignity, like dew from before the rising sun. Old Episcopacy, with its various appendages, was soon restored, the King made High Priest of the country, and his people required to do him homage by worshipping at the national altar. But many of his best subjects had learned, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, had put all things under his feet, and given HIM to be head over all things to the church; and therefore could not obey the king's summons. In consequence of which, his majesty's chief priests and Pharisees conspired against them, construed
their good conduct into sedition, reported church and state to be in danger, and instigated the Legislature to make unjust and cruel laws to defend them.
The first that was passed, was called The Act of Uniformity. This law required the clergy, upon pain of losing their places and emoluments, to subscribe, that the church of England is in all respects a scriptural church, and that they would obey all her commands! But two thousand ministers conscientiously refused to subscribe, and therefore quitted their livings and became dissenters. In a short time, many of their people followed them from their churches, and united with them in nonconformity, so that the act of unity became an act of separation.
Therefore, in order to bring back the straying sheep into the national fold again, and prevent others from leaving it, another law was made, called The Conventicle Act. This act directs, “that every person above 16 years of age, present at any meeting, under pretence of any exercise of religion, in any other manner than is the practice of the church of England, where there are more than five persons more than the household, shall for the first offence, by a justice of the peace be recorded, and sent to goal 3 months, till he pay five pounds; and for the second offence six months, till he pay ten pounds; and the third time, being convicted by a jury, shall be banished to America!” This law became an instrument of horrible persecution. The worst of men set up for reformers, the worst of magistrates encouraged them, and the worst of priests, under the patronage of one of the most debauched Monarchs, commended and rewarded their diabolical deeds' The faithful of the Land were their prey, and they were unto them as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places, they rushed upon them without mercy, pulled them in pieces, and made them desolate without cause.
But the Lord helped them, strengthened them with strength in their souls, made them joyful in tribulation, and poured forth his vengeance upon the persons and habitations of some of their haughty oppressors. London was visited with two dreadful calamities. In 1665 a plague swept away near 160,000 lives, within the bills of mortality, and the year following, the city was almost reduced to ashes by a conflagration, which in four days destroyed every building upon a surface of 436 acres! But notwithstanding these awful chastisements, persecutors hardened themselves in their wickedness, and persisted in their barbarous work. When the plague broke out, the conforming clergy left their flocks, and fled for their lives; and the fire destroyed many of their forsaken churches. Therefore nonconforming ministers, pitying the afflicted and destitute state of the people, to the great hazard of their lives, went, forth and boldly preached the glad tidings of salvation to them,
amidst the shocking devastations of the pestilence and the smoaking ruins of the fallen city! Their success was great, their good report spread abroad, their enemies envied their prosperity, and to put a stop to it, prevailed with the Parliament which sat at Oxford, to pass a law called The five mile act.' This law imposed upon nonconforming ministers the the following oath “I, A. B. do swear, that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever to take arms against the king, and that I do abhor the traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his person or against those that are commissioned by him, in pursuance of such commissions, and that I will not at any time, endeavour any alteration of the government either in church or state.” And in ease of refusing to take the oath, they must not come, (except upon the road) within five miles ofany city, or corporation, any place that sends burgesses to parliament, any place' where they had been ministers, or had preached after the act of oblivion!” Many worthy ministers, who were ready to give the government any reasonable assurance of a peaceable subjection, did not chuse [choose] to be bound by such a boundless affidavit, and consequently the sufferings of dissenters, both ministers and people, became the more severe. –
The king at seasons seemed disposed to moderate their sorrows, and granted them some indulgences; but it was suspected he did it more with a view of forwarding the introduction of popery, than * of shewing favor to true protestants." However, if he had any real intention of giving relief to protestant nonconformists, his churlish statesmen and ecclesiastics diverted him from it, prevailed with him to recall his indulgences, and revive the rigorous execution of the penal laws. The clergy especially were so urgent in the business," that when certain of them waited upon his majesty about it, their great importunity overcame his patience, so that he angrily exclaimed “If you did your duty, it would be an easy thing to run down the nonconformists, but you think of nothing but to get good benefices and keep a good table. You will do nothing, but would have me do every thing / I had a chaplain, a very honest man, but a very great . blockhead, to whom I gave a living in Suffolk, and he went about from house to house, and though I cannot imagine what he could say to them, I believe his nonsense suited their nonsense, for he brought them all to church, and in reward for his diligence, I have given him " a bishopric in Ireland!"* But notwithstanding this odd effusion of displeasure, he used no means to reform the conduct of his . priests, or to screen the nonconformists from their malicious rage. On the contrary, they were put under several additional restrictions, their sorrowful oppressions increased, and waters of a full cup were wrung out to them. o
* Burnet's History of his Own Time, Volume 1, p. 258. .
When this despotic prince was raised to the throne from which his father fell, the Baptists were very much upon the increase, were true friends to the genuine constitution of their country, had many among them of considerable property, and several of their ministers were eminent for learning and piety. But their prosperity and exemplary conduct fretted the envy of their enemies, and they were slandered and defamed in the most flagrant manner. Ignorant laymen represented their chiefs as Jesuits, and profane, clergymen, even in their pulpits, called both their ministers and people heretics and d-m-d fanatics, and many books were published to defame them. These misrepresentations and defamations. obliged them to write in their own defence. Many confessions of faith and addresses to king, parliament, and people, were published, in which our brethren pleaded their cause with great ability, but neither reason, truth, nor righteousness, were permitted to prevail in their favour. The king, in a few instances, graciously received and answered their applications, but in general left the petitioners to their persecutors, and his agents, secular and religious, were bitter enemies to Christian liberty, and resolved to annihilate it. Our brethren were therefore, in common with other non-conformists, but especially considered as Baptists, put under the saws, harrows, and axes of the penal laws, and in various instances grievously abused contrary to all law.
To enumerate all their troubles is now impossible, since history furnishes us only with a small remnant of them, and to relate all that is recorded would far exceed our plan. We propose to give only a miniature sketch of their sufferings. In and about London, many of unblemished reputation were taken out of their beds, at midnight, by soldiers, with their swords drawn, and others seized, as they walked along the streets about their lawful business, and, carried without any warrant before magistrates and committed to nasty unhealthy prisons among pick-pockets and felons.*
May 25, 1662, at a meeting house in Shakespear's Walk, Wapping, where some Baptists were peaceably met, there came soldiers with swords and muskets, dragged the minister from his pulpit and threatened to shoot him. They pulled the people with such violence, that the noise so affrighted a child in the house that it fell sick and died in three days after.+
June 1, 1662, Soldiers came to a meeting-house in Bricklane, armed as before mentioned, forced the minister from his pulpit, broke it in pieces, and carried 18 people, before a justice, who committed them to prison. On the 15th of the same month, they came to a meeting house in Beechlane, and violently set upon the people with drawn swords, turned them out of their meeting house, beat down the pulpit with such fury, that they broke their muskets
* Crosby's History English Baptists, volume 2, p. 143.
+ Ibid, p. 172.
in doing it: struck several people to the great detiment of their health, and took 8 men before a justice, and afterwards to Newgate.*
On the same day, soldiers came in a great rage, with their swords drawn, to the meeting house in Petty France, inhumanly wounded a boy, almost to death, and took away the minister and carried him to Newgate, without having him before any magistrate.
On the 39th of June they came again to the same meeting, in like manner, broke down the gallery, wounded some of the people, and took others before a justice who committed them to goal.
On the 6th of July, the soldiers came again, like beasts of prey, to Bricklane, shut the doors, kept in all that were there, broke the forms, before their faces, hurled the legs against the windows and pulled about the people, not regarding sex, childhood, nor old age; - and took 6 men before a justice, who committed them to Bridewell.
The 27th of the same month they came again to the same meeting, with a lewd constable, and a large company of debauched fellows, who after they had beaten and pulled about the people in a very inhuman manner themselves, set the great gates wide open: then the constable and one of his company called in a multitude of base villains and marched down before them saying, Do your work boys! Immediately they broke the forms, windows, and door, cruelly beat the women, young and old, married and single, not sparing those that were big with child, striking them such blows with their fists as made them reel. A young woman had her bible snatched from her, and endeavouring to get it again, received a dreadful blow over one of her eyes, of which she did not recover for a long time. The soldiers took 6 men and a woman before a magistrate, who sent them to Newgate,+
August 3, 1662, When the Baptists that were prisoners in Newgate for religion, were in their chamber, engaged in prayer and Christian conversation; the thieves, house breakers, pick pockets, and highwaymen, came into their room and endeavored to stab them with their knives, but they took courage to defend themselves, and 'so escaped their bloody hands. ** It is therefore evident that our brethren in London and its vicinity, were not suffered to be at rest either in their own houses, in the public streets, in their meeting houses, nor even in Prison! Let us call to remembrance these former days, in which our brethren endured such a great fight of 'afflictions, and be thankful to God, that the lines are fallen unto us in more pleasant places, and that we have a goodly heritage.
* Crosby's History English Baptists, volume 2, p. 175.
+ Ibid. p. 177.
** Ibid. p. 179.
[From The Baptist Magazine, July, 1810, Volume II, pp. 365-369. From Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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