Imágenes de páginas

greatest part did, whereby all degrees of persons through the land were miferably involved in the breach of covenant, and defe&tions of the time. Nay, the wickedness of this period came to such a pitch, that our national covenant, and the solemn league, were ordered by public authority to be most ignominiously burnt at several market crosses, to the fearful dishonouring of the great tremenduous God, with whon these covenants were made.

After some time's Glence, the ejected ministers began to be convinced it was their duty to preach the gospel, at the earnest desire of their people, who declined to hear the curates who were thrust in upon them, though forely harrafled for it, and that they ought to preach, notwithstanding the prohibitions of the magistrate, ef. pecially when they saw what sort of men were thrust in upon the people. At first they had worship only in private houses in the most peaceable and harmleso inan. ner; but the cruel prelates and rulers would not bear with any such meetings ; so that at length, by their severities, they were driven from houses to the fields for more safety. But still feverer laws were made against all such meetings, whether in the houses or fields. Nay, they came even to that height to enact, Charl. II. Parl. 2. Seff. 2. 1670, “ That if any man fhall preach or pray in the fields, or in any house, where there shall be more hearers than the house cont ins, so as some of them be without doors, he shall be punished with death and confiscation of goods.” So that, by this terrible law, two or three hearkening at honest men's doors or windows in time of family-worthip, though posted there out of malice or mere curiosity, did expose the worshippers of God to a cruel death. These and such like laws tended to baniih family worship out of the land, and were too successful that way. Likewise fevere: punihments were enacted against the hearers of ejected ministers, and these who did not hear the parih miniIters, or employed others to baprise their children. And they proceeded to incredible barbarities against non conformnists, both ministers and people. Yet, in these cruel persecuting times, the Lord gave tellimony


to the word of his grace, and blessed his ordinances (though prohibited by ren) with very remarkable fuccess; and the more pains the persecuting Prelates and their instruments were at to suppress these ailemblies, the more numerous they grew, and the parish churches were the more deserted.

When methods of force and cruelty could not prevail to stop these assemblies, they fell upon more crafty ways, by granting indulgence to some of the ejected ministers to preach in vacant churches, under certain limitations : such as, Their being confined within their parishes, and not encouraging those of other congregations to resort to them; their forbearing to lecture before fermon ; their not preaching in church yards; their not admitting minifters who were not indulged to a lift them, &c. This indulgence, and prescribing rules to ministers, lieing ordered by the king and his counsel, by virtue of lis ecclefiaftic supremacy, now establithed by law; was on the magiftrates part a firful encroachpient urou Ctriit's head fhip over his church. And though poor haratied miciiters might be glad of any little breathirg time for the exercise of their ministry in the midit of teary suferirgs, yes, if any of them did accept of the magiitrate's ineuigence upon the con. ditions and restrictions prescribed, they cannot be juftined therein; but for thoie worthy miniiters who left all jer Christ and iheir conscience, and futtered greatly for not complying with Pielacy, and o:her defections of their time, and who always reruied that they accrired the indulgence cp n the terms of the king and counci (though they preached in the churches they asfigned) neither did obterre there terms while they en. jored the benefit, and were afterwards turned out again upon that account; it were hard to charge them with arproving of the king's usurped fupremicy: Though, at the time time, we with they had given a more full and expicit tettigony agaidit che Eratian encroachrents of the negatirate, thin we can learn they did. YE, Gotwithstinuing bercof, God was picaied to go. nity his forerza grace ia ginag remarkable success to the lazours and mind ry c hce indulged in


wasong others, taken frith defensive all causes king's

Amoheriner herovenance constant to upon the peaths

churches, as well as those who preached in the fields, betwixt whom there continued much love and peace for many years ; until once some began to condemn the indulged so far, as to preach up separation from them ; upon which followed very sad and mournful divisions among the people of God, even while under violent perfecution, the fruits whereof. continue to this very day. . . · At this time, many conscience-debauching oaths, declarations, and bonds, were imposed upon the people of this land, for engaging them to own the king's supremacy over all persons, and in all causes; to renounce our covenants, with defensive arms, and all the former steps taken for carrying on reformation. Among others, that self-contradictory oath of the Test was imposed, and made a handle for persecuring many of all ranks and stations. They who refused these oaths, and did not conform to Prelacy as required, were exposed to the greatest cruelties, being put to wander about in desarts and mountains, and to lodge in dens and caves of the earth. Multitudes were banished their native country ; many suffered long imprisonment, and that in the most miserable and unhealthful places; others were fined and spoiled of their goods, and many pillaged and plundered by merciless soldiers and barbarous Highlanders let loose upon them; husbands were exhorbitantly fined, and entirely ruined, for their wives absenting from the parish churches, though it was not in their power to help it; preaching, praying, or even hearing, at meet. ings not authorised by law, was made death : Yea, refusing to witness against those guilty of the crimes of preaching, praying, or hearing, was also punishable with death. Simple conversing with persons forfeited or intercommuned, though our nearest relations, husbands, wives, parents, children, &c. or the giving them any supply when starving, or the not revealing the giving or demanding of it, was declared treason ; so that men were exposed to a cruel death for pure acts of charity. VOL. IV. ci ZZ


The privy council in thofe days affumed a parlamentary power, and made acts and laws even more bloody than those of the parliament : And though these were most cruel and barbarous in themselves, yet they were often more barbarously put in execution : fo that this poor land became a miserable field of blood, cruelty and defection. Many of all ranks, noblemen, gentlemen, ministers, citizens, and commons, had their blood thed on scaffolds, as if they had been the greatest malefactors, and their heads and members set up on pinnacles to the view of the world. Many were tortured with boots, thumbkins, fire matches, &c. 'to force them to discover their secret thoughts of state matters, accufe themselves or others, and anfwer such questions as judges pleased to ask at them. To such a height of cruelty and tyran.. ny were things carried, that full power was given to merciless soldiers both to be judges and executioners of innocent people ; fo that in time of peace, without any witnefles or form of law, they cut off many in the open fields and highways, and dragged severals out of their houses, and murdered them, if they did not take such oaths or answer such questions as they put to them ; and sometimes would not give them so much time, before killing them, as to pray to God for meroy. Thus was the land soaked with blood, for the planting and growth of the bitter foot of Prelacy therein. Ah ! have we not cause to fear that the Lord plead a controversy with us, as he did with Judah many years after, for the fins of Manasseh, and the innocent blood that he fhed, which it is said) “ the Lord would not pardon?” 2 Kings xxiv. 3,4. O that the land were purged from it!

After king Charles's death, iking James, a profeffed Papilt, fucceeded to him in the year 1685, when, not only our civil liberties, but the Protestant religion, was ready to be facrificed : for he was admitted to the government without taking the coronation oath, which binds the king to maintain it: And our parliament when they met, made an offer of duty to the king, wherein they openly declare for the king's absolute pow er and authority, and promise to give him entire obedience without reserve. This engagement surely was


blafphemous, being only proper to the fovereign maa jefty of God. Upon fuch encouragement, the king took upon him, by virtue of his abfolute power and prerogative.royal, to dispense with laws at his pleasure, and particularly to suspend all penal laws againft Papists, and to allow them the free exercise of their reli, gion. Sometime after, viz. 28th June. 1687, he by his proclamation suspended all penal and sanguinary laws made against other Nonconformits, viz. Presbyterians : and gave them leave to worship God in their own way in houfes, injoining them to take care that nothing be preached or taught among them that might any wife tend to alienate the hearts of his people from bim or his government; and to signify to the next magistrate what places they make use of, with the names of the preachers. Prefbyterian ministers did generally accept of this liberty, and thofe who were abroad returned home, and got meeting houses fitted up for them, and multitudes ftocked to attend their miniftry, and found it remarkably blessed to them. This toleration indeed proceeded from a vile fpring, viz. the king's absolute dispenhing power; yet Divine Providence, made use of it, contrary to the defign of the granter, as a mean to bring home the banished, and prepare the way for the happy revolution that soon followed upon it. There is in the proclamation an injunction upon minifters to preach nothing that tended to alienate the hearts of the subjects from the king and his government. If the meaning of that was, that in their sermons they should give no teftimony against Popery or the toleration of it, it was sinful in any minister to comply with it: But we ought in charity to believe that these faithful ministers, who had long given proof, by their sufferings, of their zeal for Christ and his cause, had no regard to the in. junction in that fenfe, but exonered their consciences in testifying against the errors and corruptions of the day, and for which fome were imprisoned at that time. No doubt those who had been long oppressed in their confciences, had their blood mingled with their facrifices, and wanted ordinances, would be glad of a breathing time to serve the Lord. But, alas, we have it to Z z 2


« AnteriorContinuar »