JAMES II. AND THE SEVEN BISHOPS.
The reign of James II. is a period of English history which has left a greater mark on this country than any period since the Reformation. It is a period to which we owe our civil and religious liberties, and the maintenance of our Protestantism, and as such it deserves the attention of every true-hearted Englishman. I propose in this paper to give a general sketch of the leading events in the reign of James II., and a more particular account of the famous trial of the Seven Bishops. If the whole subject does not throw broad, clear light on our position and duties in the present day, I am greatly mistaken.
The reign of James II. was a singularly short one. It began in February, 1685, and ended in December, 1688. Short as his reign was, it is no exaggeration to say that it contains a more disgraceful list of cruel, stupid, unjust, and tyrannical actions, for which the Sovereign alone can be held responsible, than the reign of any constitutional monarch of this land, with the single exception of Bloody Mary. It is a reign, in fact, in our English annals without one redeeming feature. Not one grand victory stirs our patriotic feelings; not one first-class statesman or general, and hardly a bishop beside Ken and Pearson, rouses our admiration; and the majestic name of Sir
Isaac Newton among men of science stands almost alone. There were few giants in the land. It was an era of mediocrity; it was an age not of gold, or silver, or brass, or iron, but of lead. We turn away from the picture with shame and disgust, and it abides in our memories as a picture in which there is no light and all shade.
The chief explanation of this singularly disgraceful reign is to be found in the fact that James II. was a narrow-minded, obstinate, zealous, thorough-going member of the Church of Rome. As soon as he ascended the throne he surrounded himself with priests and Popish advisers, and placed confidence in none but Papists. Within a month of his accession, says Evelyn in his diary, "the Romanists were swarming at Court with greater confidence than had ever been seen in England since the Reformation." * At his coronation he refused to receive the Sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England. He set up a Popish chapel at his Court, and attended Mass. He strained every nerve throughout his reign to encourage the spread of Popery and discourage Protestantism. He procured the visit of a Popish nuncio, and demeaned himself before him as no English sovereign ever did since the days of King John. He told Barillon, the French Ambassador, that his first object was to obtain for the Romanists the free exercise of their religion, and then at last to give them absolute supremacy.^ All this was done in a country which, little more than a century before, had been freed from Popery by the martyred Reformers, and blessed with organized
« Knight, "History of England," iv. 383.
+ If any one doubts this, I refer him to the Histories of England, Hallam iii. 73; Banke iv. 210, 218, 219; Stoughton ii. 108.
Protestantism by the reign of Elizabeth. Can any one wonder that the God of Providence was displeased, and refused to show the light of His countenance on the land? James II.'s reign was an unhappy and discreditable time in the annals of England, because the King was a thorough-going Papist.
The second explanation of the disgraceful character of James II.'s times is to be found in the low moral condition of the whole nation when he came to the throne. The misgovernment of James I. and Charles I., the semiPopish proceedings of Archbishop Laud, the fierce civil war of the Commonwealth, the iron rule of Oliver Cromwell, the rebound into unbridled licentiousness which attended the Restoration and reign of Charles II., the miserably unwise and unjust Act of Uniformity, the unceasing persecution of true religion, under the pretence of doing God service, and making men of one mind—all these things had borne their natural fruit. The England of James II.'s time was morally vile and rotten to the core. The Court seems to have thrown aside common decency, and to have regarded adultery and fornication as no sin at all. Evelyn's description of what he saw at Whitehall the very week that Charles II. died is sad and disgusting. On Sunday evening, the 1st of February, 1685, Evelyn, it seems, was at Whitehall. A week after he recorded his impressions of the scene which he then witnessed: "I can never forget the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, and, as it were, total forgetfulness of Jod, it being Sunday evening. The King sitting and toying with his concubines, Portsmouth, Cleveland, Mazarin, etc.: a French boy singing love songs in that glorious gallery; whilst above twenty of the great courtiers and other
dissolute persons were at Basset around a large table, a bank of at least two thousand in gold before them." On Monday morning, the 2nd of February, the King was struck with apoplexy.
Charles Knight (History of England) truly says:— "The high public spirit, the true sense of honour, which had characterized the nobles and gentry of England during the Civil War, was lost in the selfishness, the meanness, the profligacy, of the twenty-eight years that succeeded the Restoration. Traitors were hatched in the sunshine of corruption. The basest expediency had been the governing principle of statesmen and lawyers; the most abject servility had been the leading creed of divines. Loyalty always wore the livery of the menial. Patriotism was ever flaunting the badges of faction. The bulk of the people were unmoved by any proud resentments or eager hopes. They went on in their course of industrious occupation, without much caring whether they were under an absolute or a constitutional government, as long as they could eat, drink, and be merry. They had got rid of the Puritan severity; and if decency was outraged in the Court and laughed at on the stage, there was greater license for popular indulgences."
The leading statesmen were too often utterly untruthful, and ready to take bribes. The judges were, as a rule, mean, corrupt, ignorant creatures of the Court. The Church of England, which ought to have been a bulwark against wickedness, had never recovered the suicidal loss of its life-blood caused by the Act of Uniformity in 1662, and was a weak, timid, servile body. The bishops and clergy, with a few brilliant exceptions, were very unlike the Reformers, and always unwilling to find fault with any great man, or to dispute the .Divine right of kings to do as they pleased. The Dissenters were crushed to the earth by petty intolerant restrictions; and, between fines, imprisonments and persecutions, were little able to do anything to mend the times, and could barely keep theii heads above water.
Last, but not least, we must not forget that for at least a hundred years England had been incessantly exposed to the untiring machinations of the Jesuits. Ever since the accession of Elizabeth, those mischievous agents of Popery had been compassing sea and land to undo the work ot the Reformation, and to bring back our country to the thraldom of the Church of Rome. Disguised in every possible way, and professing anything by the Pope's permission and dispensation, in order to accomplish their end, these Jesuits throughout the days of the Stuarts were incessantly at work. To set Churchmen against Dissenters, Calvinists against Arminians, sect against sectparty against party, and so to weaken the Protestant cause, was their one constant employment. How much ot the bitter divisions between Churchmen and Nonconformists, how much of the religious strife which defilea the early part of the seventeenth century is owing to the Jesuits, I believe the last day alone will declare. Those only who read "Panzani's Memoirs," or Dean Goode's "Rome's Tactics," can have any idea of the mischief ther did. In short, if there ever was an era in modern history when a Popish King of England could promote Popen. and do deeds of astounding cruelty and injustice without let or hindrance, that era was the reign of James II. What might have been the final result, with such a king and sucli a field of action, if he had not gone too fast and overshot his mark, is impossible to say. God in His infinite goodness had mercy on England, and delivered us from his wicked designs. But the things that he did, while he reigned,* and the singular manner in which he at last over-reached himself by the trial of the Seven Bishops, and lost his throne, ought never to be forgotten by any Englishman who is a true Protestant and loves his country.
There are five leading events, or salient points, in this reign, which are specially worth remembering. They follow each other in regular order, from the accession of James to his abdication. One common aim and object underlaid them all; that aim was to pull down Protestantism and to plant Popery on its ruins.
(1) The first disgraceful page in the history of James II.'s reign is his savage and brutal treatment of the Nonconformists and Dissenters. Our great historian, Macaulay, says: "He hated the Puritan sect with a manifold hatred, theological and political, hereditary and personal. He regarded them as the foes of heaven as well as the foes of all legitimate authority in Church and State." f The plain truth is, that James, with all his natural dulness of character, had sense enough to know that for many years the most decided and zealous advocates of Protestantism had been the Nonconformists, and that when Churchmen under Archbishop Laud's mischievous influence had become lukewarm, Nonconformists had been the most inveterate enemies of Popery. Knowing this, he began his reign by attempting to crush the Nonconformists entirely. If his predecessors had chastised them with rods, he tried to chastise them with scorpions. If he could not convert them, he would silence them by prosecutions, fines, and imprisonments, and, like Pharaoh, "make their lives grievous" by hard measures. He argued, no doubt, that, if he could only stop the mouths of the Nonconformists, he would soon make short work of the Church of England, and he cunningly began with the weaker party. In both cases, happily, he reckoned without his host.
* Those who wish to make themselves acquainted with the reign of James II., would do well to study Burnet, Hallam, Macaulay, Charles Knight, Ranke, and Stoughton's "History of the Church of the Restoration."
t Macaulay, i. 494
To describe how the unhappy Nonconformists at that period were summoned, fined, silenced, driven from their homes, and allowed no rest for the sole of their foot, would be an endless task. Two pictures will suffice to give an idea of the treatment to which they were subjected. One picture shall be taken from England, and the other from Scotland. Each picture shows things which happened with the King's sanction within three months after he came to the throne.
The English picture is the so-called trial of Baxter, the famous author of "The Saint's Rest," a book which is deservedly held in honour down to this day. Baxter was tried at Westminster Hall before James' detestable tool, Chief Justice Jeffreys, in May, 1685. He was charged with having published seditious matter reflecting on the bishops, in his " Paraphrase on the New Testament." A more absurd and unfounded accusation could not have been made. The book is still extant, and any one will see at a glance that there was no ground for the charge. From the very opening of the trial it was clear which way the verdict was intended to go. The Lord Chief Justice of
England behaved as if he were counsel for the prosecution
and not judge. He used abusive language towards the
defendant, such as was more suited to Billingsgate than a
court of law; while the counsel for the defence were
brow-beaten, silenced, and put down, or else interrupted
by violent invectives against their client. At one stage
the Lord Chief Justice exclaimed: "This is an old rogue
who hath poisoned the world with his Kidderminster
doctrines. He encouraged all the women and maids to
bring their bodkins and thimbles to carry on war against
the King of ever blessed memory. An old schismatical
knave! A hypocritical villain!" By and by he called
Baxter "an old blockhead, an unthankful villain, a
conceited, stubborn, fanatical dog." "Hang him!" he
said, "this one old fellow hath cast more reproaches on
the constitution and discipline of our Church than will be
wiped off for a hundred years. But I'll handle him for
it; for he deserves to be whipped through the city."
Shortly afterwards, when Baxter began to say a few words
on his own behalf, Jeffreys stopped him, crying out:
"Richard, Richard, dost thou think we'll hear thee poison
the court? Richard, thou art an old fellow, and an old
knave; thou hast written books enough to load a cart,
every one as full of sedition, I might say of treason, as an
egg is full of meat. Hadst thou been whipped out of thy
writing trade forty years ago, it had been happy." It is
needless to say in such a court as this Baxter was at once
found guilty. He was fined five hundred marks, which it
was known he could not pay; condemned to lie in prison
till he paid it, and bound over to good behaviour for seven
years. And the issue of the matter was that the holy
author of " The Saint's Rest," a poor, old, diseased, childless widower, lay for two years in Southwark gaol.
The Scotch picture of the Nonconformists' sufferings under James II. is even blacker than the English one. I shall take it substantially from Wodrow's and Macaulay's history. In the very same month that Baxter was tried, two women named Margaret Maclachlan and Margaret Wilson, the former an aged widow, the latter a girl of eighteen, suffered death for their religion in Wigtonshire, at the hands of James II.'s myrmidons. They were both godly women, innocent of any crime but Nonconformity. They were offered their lives if they would abjure the cause of the insurgent covenanters, and attend the Episcopal worship. They both refused; and they were sentenced to be drowned. They were carried to a spot on the shore of the Solway Firth, which the tide overflowed twice a day, and were fastened to stakes fixed in the sand between high and low water-mark. The elder woman was placed nearest to the advancing water, in the hopes that her last agonies might terrify the younger one into submission. The sight was dreadful. But the courage of the young survivor did not fail. She saw her fellowsufferer drowned, and saw the sea draw nearer and nearer to herself, but gave no signs of alarm. She prayed and sang verses of Psalms, till the waves choked her voice. When she had tasted the bitterness of death, she was, by cruel mercy, unbound and restored to life. When she came to herself, pitying friends and neighbours implored her to yield. "Dear Margaret," they cried," only say, God save the King." The poor girl, true to her theology, gasped out, "May God save him if it be God's will." Her friends crowded round the presiding officer, crying, "She has said it, indeed, sir, she has said it." "Will she take the abjuration?" he sternly demanded. "Never," she exclaimed. "I am Christ's; let me go." And once more bound to the stake, the waters of the Solway closed over her for the last time. Her epitaph may be seen to this day in Wigton churchyard.
Such were the dealings of James with Protestant Nonconformists at the beginning of his reign. I make no comment on them. These two examples speak for themselves; and they do not stand alone. The story of the murder of John Brown, of Priesthill, by Claverhouse, is as sad as that of Margaret Wilson. No wonder that a deep dislike to Episcopacy is rooted down in the hearts of Scotch people to this very day! They never forget such stories as Margaret Wilson's. Even in England I wish I could add that vile prosecutions like that of Baxter had called forth any expression of disapproval from English Churchmen. But, alas! for a season, James persecuted and prospered, and no man opposed him.
(2) The second black page in the history of James II.'s reign is the detestable cruelty with which he punished those English counties which had taken any part in Monmouth's rebellion, in the autumn of 1685. Concerning that miserable rebellion there can, of course, be but one opinion among sensible men. It is vain to deny that the brief insurrection, which ended with the battle of Sedgemoor, was an enormous folly as well as a crime. We all know how Monmouth, its unhappy leader, paid for it by dying on the scaffold. But it is equally vain to deny that the bloodthirsty ferocity with which James avenged himself on all who had favoured Monmouth's cause, or taken arms in his support, is unparalleled in the annals of English History.
The proceedings of that military monster, Colonel Kirke, immediately after the defeat and dispersion of the rebel army, surpassed anything that we heard of in the Indian Mutiny. At Taunton he is said to have hanged at least a hundred so-called rebels within a week after the battle of Sedgemoor, and many without even the form of a trialNot a few of his wretched victims were quartered, and their heads and limbs sent to be hanged in chains in the neighbouring villages. "So many dead bodies were quartered," says Macaulay (i. 629), " that the executioner under the gallows stood ankle deep in blood."
But even the diabolical cruelties of Colonel Kirke were surpassed by the execrable sentences of Judge Jeffreys, when he went on Circuit to the Assizes in Hampshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire, two months after the battle of Sedgemoor. In Dorsetshire he hanged about seventy, in Somersetshire no less than two hundred and thirty-three. The number of those transported for life was 841. The greater part of these were poor ignorant rustics, many of them men of blameless private character, who had taken arms under the idea that Protestantism was at stake; and they died for no other offence than that of simply following Monmouth, a political adventurer, for a few short weeks. The Assize was long known as the bloody Assize. "In Somersetshire," says Macaulay, "on the green of every large village which had furnished Monmouth with soldiers, ironed corpses clattering in the wind, or human heads and quarters stuck on poles poisoned the air, and made the traveller sick with horrot In many parishes the peasantry could not even assemblo in God's house without seeing the ghastly face of some neighbour's skull grinning at them on the porch." In Hampshire, Jeffreys actually sentenced to death a venerable oki lady named Lady Lisle, aged above seventy, for no other crime than that of affording temporary shelter to an insurgent; and nothing but the indignant remonstrance of the Winchester clergy prevented her being burned alive. Lord Feversham, the conqueror of Sedgemoor, and Lord Clarendon, the King's brother-in-law, in vain interceded for her. Jeffreys was allowed to work his will, and she was actually beheaded in Winchester market-place.
For all this abominable cruelty, James II. must always be held responsible. The vile agents who shed this blood were his tools, and he had only to speak the word and the work of death would have ceased. Hallam, the historian, expressly says (iii. 93) that the King was the author of all this bloodshed, and that Jeffreys afterward declared "he had not been bloody enough for his employer." But the real secret of the King's savage and detestable conduct was a determination to put down Protestantism by a reign of terror, and deter men from any future movement in its favour. And, after all, the truth must be spoken. James was a bigoted member of a Church which for ages has been too often "drunken with the blood of saints and the martyrs of Jesus." He only walked in the steps of the Duke of Alva in the Netherlands; in the steps of Charles IX. at the massacre of St. Bartholomew; in the steps of the Duke of Savoy in Piedmont, until Cromwell interfered and obliged him to cease; and in the steps of the hateful Spanish Inquisition. One thing is very certain: there never was a petty insurrection so ruthlessly quenched in blood as Monmouth's rebellion was quenched by James the Papist. Blood makes a great stain. He found to his cost one day that the blood shed by Kirke and Jeffreys with his sanction had cried to heaven, and was not forgotten. When the Prince of Orange landed at Torbay, the western counties joined him to a man, and forsook James.
(3) The third black page in the history of James II.'s reign was his daring attempt to gag the pulpit, and stop the mouths of all who preached against Popery.
Preaching in every age of the Church has always been God's chief instrument for setting forward religious truth, and checking error. Preaching was one principal agency by which the great work of the Reformation was effected in England. The Church of Rome knows that full well, and, wherever she dares, she has always endeavoured to exalt ceremonials and to depreciate the pulpit. To use old Latimer's quaint words," Whenever the devil gets into a church, his plan is to cry,' Up with candles and down with preaching.'" Next to an open and free Bible, the greatest obstacle to the progress of Popery is a free pulpit, and the public exposition of God's Word. That James II., like all thorough-going Papists, knew all this, we cannot doubt for a moment. We need not, therefore, wonder that in 1686 he commenced an attack on the English pulpit. If he could once silence that mighty organ, he hoped to pave the way for the advance of Popery. "He took on himself," says Macaulay (ii. 91)—
"To charge the clergy of the Established Church to abstain from touching on controverted points of doctrine in their discourses. Thus, while sermons in defence of the Roman Catholic religion were preached every Sunday and holiday in the Royal Chapel, the Church of the State, the Church of the great majority of the nation, was forbidden to explain and vindicate her own principles."
William Sherlock, Master of the Temple, was the first to feel the royal displeasure. His pension was stopped, and he was severely reprimanded. John Sharpe, Dean of Norwich, and Rector of St. Giles', gave even greater offence. In reply to an appeal from a parishioner, he delivered an animated discourse against the pretensions of the Church of Rome. Compton, the Bishop of London, was immediately ordered to suspend him, and on his objecting to do so, he was himself suspended from all spiritual functions, and the charge of his diocese was committed to two time-serving prelates named Spratt and Crewe. Compton was already famous for his dislike to Popery. When James came to the throne he had boldly declared in the House of Lords that "the Constitution was in danger." We can well understand that James was anxious to suppress him. (Ranke, iv. 277.)
Singularly enough, this high-handed proceeding worked round for good. For the first time since his accession to the throne, James received a distinct check. The attacks on Sherlock, Sharpe, and Bishop Compton, roused the spirit of the whole body of the English clergy. To preach against the errors of Popery was now regarded as a point of honour and duty. The London clergy set an example which was bravely followed all over the country. The King's prohibition to handle controversial subjects was everywhere disregarded. It was impossible to punish an offence which was committed every Sunday by thousands of divines from the Isle of Wight to Berwick-upon-Tweed, and from the Land's End to the North Foreland. Moreover, the spirit of the congregations was thoroughly roused. There were old men living in London whose grandfathers had heard Latimer preach, and had seen John Rogers burnt at Smithfield. There were others whose parents had seen Laud beheaded for trying to Romanize the Church, and prosecuting Protestant Churchmen. Such men as these were thoroughly stirred and disgusted by James's movement; and if the clergy had been silent about Popery, they would have resented their silence as unfaithfulness and sin.
The printing-presses, besides, both at London, Oxford, and Cambridge, poured forth a constant stream of antiPopish literature, and supplied all who could read with ample information about every error of the Church of Rome. Tillotson, Stillingfleet, Sherlock, Patrick, Tenison, Wake, Fowler, Clagett, and many others wrote numerous treatises of all kinds to expose Popery, which exist to this day, and which at the time produced an immense effect. Many of these are to be found in the three huge folios' called "Gibson's Preservative," and Macaulay estimates that as many as 20,000 pages of them are to be found in the British Museum.
The whole affair is a striking instance of God's power to bring good out of evil. The very step by which this unhappy Popish monarch thought to silence his strongest foe proved the first step towards his own ruin. Up to this date he seemed to carry everything before him. From this date he began to fall. From the moment he put forth his hand to touch the ark, to interfere with the Word of God, to silence its preachers, he never prospered, and every succeeding step in his reign was in the downward direction. Like Haman, he had dared to meddle with God's peculiar servants, and like Haman he fell, never to rise again.
(4) The fourth black page in the history of James II.'s reign is his tyrannical invasion of the rights of the two great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 1687.
The influence of these two venerable bodies in England has always been very great, and I trust they will always be so governed that it will never become less. But it is no exaggeration to say that it never was so great as towards the end of the seventeenth century. Beside them there were no universities or colleges. King's College, London; University College, Durham; St. Aidan's; Highbury; St. Bees, and Cuddesdon did not exist. Oxford and Cambridge stood alone. They were the fountains of all the learning of the day, and the training school of all the ablest divines and lawyers, poets and orators of the land. Even among the Puritans it would be hard to find any man of ability who had not begun his career and picked up his first knowledge at some college in Oxford or Cambridge. In short, the two Universities were the intellectual heart of England, and every pulsation of that heart was felt throughout the kingdom.
All this, we need not doubt, even the dull mind of James II. clearly perceived. He saw that he had little chance of Romanizing England until he could get hold of the two Universities, and this he resolved to try. He was encouraged, probably, to make the attempt by the notorious loyalty to the House of Stuart which Oxford and Cambridge had always exhibited. Both the Universities had suffered heavily for their attachment to the King's side during the unhappy Commonwealth wars. Many a Head of a College had been displaced and his position filled by one of Cromwell's Puritans. Owen had ruled at Christ Church and Goodwin at Magdalen. Many a College plate-chest was sadly empty compared to its state in olden times, having given up its silver to be melted down in aid of Charles I., and to buy arms and ammunition. Ever since the Reformation, the two Universities had exhibited the most obsequious subserviency to the Crown, had stoutly maintained the divine right of kings, and had often approached the throne in addresses full of fulsome adulation. I believe that James flattered himself that they would go on yielding everything to his will, and fondly dreamed that in a few years they would be completely under the Pope's command, and the education of young England would be in the hands of the Church of Rome. It was a grand and intoxicating prospect. But he reckoned without his host. He little knew the spirit that was yet left by the Isis and the Cam.
James opened his campaign and crossed the Rubicon by attacking the University of Cambridge. The law was clear and distinct, that no person should be admitted to any degree without taking the "Oath of Supremacy," and another oath called the "Oath of Obedience." Nevertheless, in February, 1687, a royal letter was sent to Cambridge directing that a Benedictine monk, named Alban Francis, should be admitted as Master of Arts. Between reverence for the King and reverence for their own statutes, the academical officers were naturally placed in a most perplexing position. To their infinite credit they took the right course, and steadily refused to admit the King's nomiuee unless he took the oaths. The result was that the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge was summoned to appear before the New Court of High Commission, presided over by Jeffreys, together with deputies appointed by the Senate. When the day arrived, Dr. Pechell, the Vice-Chancellor, a man of no particular vigour or ability, accompanied by eight distinguished men, of whom the famous Isaac Newton was one, appeared before this formidable tribunal. Their case was as clear as daylight. They offered to prove that they had done nothing contrary to law and practice, and had only carried out the plain meaning of their statutes. But Jeffreys would hear nothing. He treated the whole party with as much vulgar insolence as if they were felons being tried before him at the Old Bailey, and they were thrust out of court without a hearing. They were soon called in and informed that the Commission had determined to deprive Pechell of the Vice-Chancellorship, and to suspend him from all the emoluments to which he was entitled as Master of a College. "As for you," said Jeffreys to Isaac Newton and his seven companions, with disgusting levity, "I send you home with a text of Scripture, 'Go your way and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.'"
From Cambridge James turned to Oxford. Here, it must be avowed, he began his operations with great advantages. Popery had already effected a lodgment in the citadel, and got allies in the heart of the University. Already a Roman Catholic named Massey had been made Dean of Christ Church by the nomination of the Crown, and the House had submitted. Already University College was little better than a Romish seminary by the perversion of the Master, Obadiah Walker, to Popery. Mass was daily said in both Colleges. But this state of things had caused an immense amount of smouldering dissatisfaction throughout Oxford. The undergraduates hooted Walker's congregation, and chanted satirical ballads under his windows without the interference of Proctors. The burden of one of their songs has been preserved to this day, and you might have heard at night in High Street, near the fine old college, such words as these:—
"Here old Obadiah
Sings Ave Maria"
In short, any careful observer might have foreseen that Oxford feeling towards the King was undergoing a great change, and that it would take very little to create a blaze.
Just at this crisis the President of Magdalen College died, and it became the duty of the Fellows, according to their statutes, to elect a successor, either from their own society or from New College. With an astounding mixture of folly and audacity, the King actually recommended the Fellows to elect to the vacant place a man named Anthony Farmer, a person of infamous moral character, utterly destitute of any claim to govern a college; a drunkard, a Papist, and a person disqualified by the statutes of Waynflete, as he was neither Fellow of New College nor of Magdalen. To their infinite credit the Fellows of Magdalen, by an overwhelming majority, refused to elect the King's nominee, resolved to face his displeasure, and deliberately chose for their President a man named John Hough, a Fellow of eminent virtue and prudence. At once they were treated with the utmost violence, injustice, and indignity. The King insisted on their accepting mother President of his own selection, and commanded them to take a mean creature of the Court named Parker, Bishop of Oxford. The Fellows firmly refused, saying they had lawfully elected Hough, and they would have no other President. In vain they were threatened and insulted, first by the King himself, and then by a Special Commission sent down from London. They stood firm, and would not give way one inch. The Commission finally pronounced Hough an intruder, dismissed him from his presidency, and charged the Fellows no longer to recognise his authority, but to assist at the admission of the Bishop of Oxford. It was then that the gallant Hough publicly addressed the following remarkable words to the Commission: "My Lords, you have this day deprived me of my freehold. I hereby protest against all your proceedings as illegal, unjust, and null, and I appeal from you to our sovereign Lord the King in his Courts of Justice." But though thus driven from his office by force, Hough was backed by the general feeling of the whole University, and of almost every one connected with Magdalen. At the installation of his successor (Parker) only two Fellows out of forty attended the ceremony. The college porter, Robert Gardner, threw down his keys. The butler refused to scratch Hough's name out of the buttery books. No blacksmith in all the city of Oxford could be found to force the locks of the President's lodge, and the Commissioners were obliged to employ their own servants to break open the doors with iron bars.
But the matter did not end here. On the day that Hough was expelled from his Presidency and Parker installed, the Commissioners invited the Vice-Chancellor of 1687 to dine with them. The Vice-Chancellor that year was Gilbert Ironside, Warden of Wadham, and afterwards Bishop of Hereford. He refused. "My taste," he said, "differs from that of Colonel Kirke's. I cannot eat my meals with appetite under a gallows." The Scholars of Magdalen refused to pull off their caps to the new ruler of Magdalen. The Demies refused to perform their academical exercises and attend lectures, saying that they were deprived of their lawful governor, and would submit to no usurped authority. Attempts were made to bribe them by the offer of some of the lucrative fellowships declared vacant. But one undergraduate after another refused, and one who did accept was turned out of the Hall by the rest. The expulsion of the Fellows was followed by the expulsion of a crowd of Demies. A few weeks after this Parker died, some said of mortification and a broken heart. He was buried in the antechapel of Magdalen; but no stone marks his grave. Then the King's whole plan was carried into effect. The College was turned into a Popish seminary, and Bonaventura Giffard, a Roman Catholic Bishop, was made President. In one day twelve Papists were made Fellows. The Roman Catholic service was performed in the chapel, and the whole work of violence and spoliation was completed.
Such were the dealings of James II. with Oxford and Cambridge. Their gross injustice was only equalled by their gross impolicy. In his furious zeal for Popery, the King completely over-reached himself. He alienated the affections of the two most powerful educational institutions in the land, and filled the hearts of thousands of the ablest minds in England with a deep sense of wrong. And when the end came, as it did within eighteen months, he found that no places deserted his cause so readily as the two over which he had ridden roughshod, the two great English Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
(5) The fifth dark page in the history of James II.'s reign is his rash attempt to trample down the English nobility and gentry in the counties, and substitute for them servile creatures of his own who would help forward his designs.
In order to understand this move of the misguided King, it must be remembered that he wanted to get a new House of Commons, a House which would do his bidding and not oppose his Romanizing plans. He knew enough of England to be aware that ever since the days of Simon de Montfort every intelligent Englishman has attached great importance to an elected Parliament. He had not entirely forgotten the iron hand of the Long Parliament in his father's days. He rightly judged that he would never succeed in overthrowing Protestantism without the sanction of a House of Commons, and that sanction he resolved to try to obtain.
"Having determined to pack a Parliament," says Macaulay, "James set himself energetically and methodically to the work. A proclamation appeared in the Gazette" (at the end of 1687) "announcing that the King had determined to revise the Commissions of Peace and of Lieutenancy, and to retain in public employment only such gentlemen as would support his policy." At the same time a Committee of Seven Privy Councillors sat at Whitehall, including Father Petre, an ambitious Jesuit, for the purpose of "regulating," as it was called, all the municipal corporations in boroughs:—
"The persons on whom James principally relied for assistance [continues Macaulay], were the Lord Lieutenants. Every Lord Lieutenant receive 1 written orders directing him to go down immediately into his county. There he was to summon before him all his deputies, and all the Justices of the Peace, and to put to them a set of interrogatories framed for the purpose of finding out how they would act at a general election. He was to take down their answers in writing, and transmit them to the Government He was to furnish a list of such Romanists and Protestant Dissenters as were best qualified for commissions as magistrates, and for command in the militia. He was also to examine the state of all the boroughs in his county, and to make such reports as might be needful to guide the London board of regulators. And it was intimated to eacb Lord Lieutenant that he must perform these duties himself, and not delegate them to any other person."
The first effect of these audacious and unconstitutional orders might have opened the eyes of any king of common sense. The spirit of the old Barons who met at Runnymede proved to be not extinct. Even before this time the Duke of Norfolk had stopped at the door of the Popish chapel which James attended, and when James remonstrated and said, "Your Grace's father would have gone farther," had boldly replied, "Your Majesty's father would not have gone so far." But now it became clear that many other peers beside the Duke of Norfolk were Protestant to the backbone. Half the Lord Lieutenants in England flatly refused to do the King's dirty work, and to stoop to the odious service imposed on them. They were immediately dismissed, and inferior men, of more pliant and supple consciences, were pitchforked into their places.
The list of high-minded noblemen who resisted the King's will on this memorable occasion is even now most remarkable, and deserves to be had in remembrance. One great name follows another in grand succession in Macaulay's pages, until one's breath is almost taken away by the sight of the King's folly. In Essex, the Earl of Oxford; in Staffordshire, the Earl of Shrewsbury; in Sussex, the Earl of Dorset; in Yorkshire, the Duke of Somerset in the East Riding, and Lord Fauconberg in the North Riding; in Shropshire, Lord Newport; in Lancashire, the Earl of Derby; in Wiltshire, the Earl of Pembroke; in Leicestershire, the Earl of Rutland; in Buckinghamshire, the Earl of Bridgwater; in Cumberland, the Earl of Thanet; in Warwickshire, the Earl of Northampton; in Oxfordshire, the Earl of Abingdon; in Derbyshire, the Earl of Scarsdale; and in Hampshire, the Earl of Gainsborough —all were summarily sent to the rightabout; and for what? Simply, as every one knew, because they preferred a good conscience to Crown favour, principle to place, and Protestantism to Popery. The gallant words of the Earl of Oxford, who was turned out in Essex, when the King demanded an explanation of his refusal to obey, spoke the sentiments of all: "Sir, I will stand by your Majesty against all enemies to the last drop of blood; but this is a matter of conscience, and I cannot comply."
A viler piece of ingratitude than this move of James can hardly be conceived. Most of the noblemen whom he dismissed were the representatives of great families who, in the Commonwealth wars, made immense sacrifices in his father's cause. Some of them, like the Earl of Derby, could tell of fathers and grandfathers who had died for King Charles. Many of them could show swords and helmets hanging over their Elizabethan fireplaces which had been notched and dented in fighting against the Parliamentary forces at Edgehill, Marston Moor, and Naseby. Not a few of them could point to ruined castles and halls, to parks despoiled of their timber, plate-chests emptied of their contents, and properties sadly impoverished in the days when Cavaliers fought against Roundheads. And now, forsooth, the son of the martyred Charles, as they had fondly called him, turned round upon them, trampled on their feelings, and required them to lie down, and let him walk over their consciences. Can we wonder that they keenly resented the King's conduct! At one fell swoop he destroyed the affection of half the leading men in the English counties, and from being his friends they became his foes.
In fact, the ingratitude of the King was now only equalled by his folly and impolicy. No sooner was his new machinery for packing a subservient Parliament put in motion, than it broke down and utterly failed. From every corner of the realm there came the tidings of failure. The new Lord Lieutenants could do nothing. The Magistrates and candidates for Parliament evaded inquiries, and refused to pledge themselves to do the King's will. Arguments, promises, and threats were alike in vain. A deep-rooted suspicion had got into men's minds that James wanted to subvert Protestantism, and re-introduce Popery, and they would not give way. From Norfolk, the Duke of Norfolk reported that out of seventy leading gentlemen in the county only six held out any hopes of supporting the Court. In Hertfordshire the Squires told Lord Rochester that they would send no man to Parliament who would vote for taking awav the safeguards of the Protestant religion. The gentry of Bucks, Shropshire, and Wiltshire held the same language. The Magistrates and Deputy-Lieutenants of Cornwall and Devonshire told Lord Bath, without a dissenting voice, that they would sacrifice life and property for the Crown, but that the Protestant religion was dearer to them than either. "And, Sir," said Lord Bath to the King, " if your Majesty dismisses them, their successors would give the same answer." In Lancashire, a very Romish county, the new Lord Lieutenant reported that one-third of the Magistrates were opposed to the Court. In Hampshire the whole of the Magistrates, excepting five or six, declared they would take no part in the civil or military government of the county while the King was represented there by the Duke of Berwick, a Papist.
The sum of the whole matter is this. The attack of James on the independence of the county gentry and nobility was as completely a failure as his attack on the pulpit and the Universities. It was worse than this. It sowed the seeds of disaffection to his person from one end of England to the other, and alienated from him thousands of leading men, who, under other circumstances, would perhaps have stood by him to the last. And the result was, that when the Prince of Orange landed at Torbay a year afterwards, he found friends in half the counties in England. By the over-ruling providence of God and his own judicial blindness, James paved the way to his own ruin. "The Thanes fell from him." The nobility, one after another, forsook him, and he was left friendless and alone.
I come now to the closing scene in King James' disgraceful reign, the prosecution and trial of the Seven Bishop*. The importance of that event is so great, and the consequences which resulted from it were so immense, that I most enter somewhat fully into its details. I do so the more willingly because attempts are sometimes made now-a-days to misrepresent this trial, to place the motives of the bishops in a wrong light, and to obscure the real issues which were at stake Some men will do anything in these times to mystify the public mind, to pervert history, and to whitewash the Church of Borne But I have made it my business to search up every authority I can find about this era. I have no doubt whatever what is the true account of the whole affair. And I shall try to set before my readers the " thing as it is."
The origin of the trial of the Seven Bishops was a proclamation put forth by James IL, on the 27th of April, 16£8, called the "Declaration of Indulgence." It was a Declaration which differed little from one put forth in April, 1687. But it was followed by an "Order of Council" that it was to be read on two successive Sundays, in Divine Service, by all the officiating ministers in all the churches and chapels of the kingdom. In London the reading was to take place on the 20th and 27th of May, and in other parts of England on the 3rd and 10th of June. The bishops were directed to distribute copies of the Declaration throughout their respective dioceses. The substance of the Declaration was short and simple. It suspended all penal laws against Nonconformists. It authorized both Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters to perform their worship publicly. It forbade the King's subjects, on pain of his displeasure, to molest any assembly. It abrogated all those Acts of Parliament which imposed any religious test as a qualification for any civil or military office. To us who live in the nineteenth century, the Declaration may seem very reasonable and harmless. To the England of the seventeenth century it wore a very different aspect! Men knew the hand from which it came, and saw the latent intention. Under the specious plea of toleration and liberty, the object of the Declaration was to advance Popery and give license and free scope to the Church of Rome, and to all its schemes for reconquering England.
This famous Declaration, we can see at a glance, placed the bishops and clergy in a most awkward position. What were they to do? What was the path of duty? They were thoroughly pinned on the horns of a dilemma. If they refused compliance to the King's wishes they would seem intolerant, illiberal, and unkind to the Nonconformists, as well as disloyal, disrespectful, and disobedient to their sovereign. If they yielded to the King's wishes, and read the Declaration, they would be assisting the propagation of Popery. The liberty James wanted them to proclaim was neither more nor less than indulgence to the Jesuits and the whole Church of Rome. In short, they found themselves between Scylla and Charybdis, and could not possibly avoid giving offence. Refusing to sanction the Declaration, they would certainly displease the King and perhaps irritate the Dissenters. Consenting to it, they would infallibly help the Pope. Never, perhaps, were English bishops and clergy placed in such a difficult and perplexing position!
God's ways, however, are not as man's ways, and light often arises out of darkness in quarters where it was not expected. At this critical juncture the Nonconformists, to their eternal honour, came forward and cut the knot, and helped the bishops to a right decision. The shrewd sons of the good old Puritans saw clearly what James meant. They saw that under a specious pretence of liberty, he wanted a fulcrum for a lever which would turn England upside down, and destroy the work of the Reformation. Like the noble-minded Roman ambassador before Pyrrhus, who was shown first a bag of gold, and then an elephant, they refused to be bribed just as they had formerly refused to be intimidated. They would have none of the Royal indulgence, if it could only be purchased at the expense of the nation's Protestantism. Baxter, and Bates, and Howe, and the great bulk of the London Nonconformists, entreated the clergy to stand firm, and not to yield one inch to the King. Young Defoe said to his Nonconformist brethren, "I had rather the Church of England should pull our clothes off by fines and forfeitures, than the Papists should fall both upon the Church and the Dissenters, and pull our skins off by fire and faggot." *
Oliver Heywood, a famous Nonconformist of the day, says distinctly in his account of the times, "though the Dissenters had liberty promised, we knew it was not out of love to us, but for another purpose. We heard the King had said he was forced to grant liberty at present to those whom his soul abhorred." .(■
The immediate result was that a meeting of the London clergy was held, and after much debate, in which Tillotson, Sherlock, Patrick, and Stillingfleet took part, it was decided that the " Order in Council" should not be obeyed. No one contributed to this result more than Dr. Fowler, Vicar of St. Giles, Cripplegate, a well-known Broad Churchman. While the matter yet hung in the balance, and the final vote seemed doubtful, he rose and said: "I must be plain. The question to my mind is so simple, that argument can throw no new light on it, and can only beget heat. Let every man say Yes or No. But I cannot consent to be bound by the majority. I shall be sorry to cause a breach of unity. But this Declaration I cannot read." This bold speech turned the scale. A resolution by which all present pledged themselves not to read the Declaration was drawn up, and was ultimately signed by eighty-five incumbents in London.
* C. Knight. History, iv. 419. t Heywood's Works, i. 287.
In the meantime the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, showed himself not unequal to the emergency. He was naturally a cautious, quiet, and somewhat timid man, and the last person to be combative, and to quarrel with kings. Nevertheless he came out nobly and well, and rose to the occasion. As soon as the Order in Council appeared, he summoned to Lambeth Palace those few bishops, divines, and laymen who happened to be in London and took counsel with them. It was resolved to resist the King, and to refuse to read the Declaration. The Primate then wrote to all the bishops on the English bench, on whom he could depend, and urged them to come up to London at once, and join him in a formal protest and petition. But time was short. There were no railways in those days. Journeying was slow work. Eighteen bishops, says Burnet (" Own Times," iii. 266), agreed with Sancroft. But with the utmost exertion only six bishops could get to London in time to help the Primate. These six, with the Archbishop at their head, assembled at Lambeth on the 18th of May, only two days before the fatal Sunday, when the King's Declaration was to be read in London, and before night agreed on a petition or protest to which all affixed their names.
The names of the six bishops who signed this remarkable document, beside Sancroft, deserve to be known and remembered. They were as follows: Lloyd of St. Asaph, Turner of Ely, Lake of Chichester, Ken of Bath and Wells, White of Peterborough, and Sir Jonathan Trelawney of Bristol. It is a curious fact that, with the single exception of Ken, the author of "Morning and Evening Hymns," not one of the seven men who signed the petition could be called a remarkable man in any way. Not one, beside Ken, has made any mark in the theological world, or lives as a writer or preacher. Not one of the whole seven could be named in the same breath with Parker, or Whitgift, or Grindal, or Jewel, or Andrews, or Hall. They were probably respectable, worthy, quiet, old-fashioned High Churchmen; and that was all. But God loves to be glorified by using weak instruments. Whatever they were in other respects, they were of one mind in seeing the danger which threatened Protestantism, and in determination to stand by it to the death. It was not jealousy of Dissenters but dislike to Popery, be it remembered, which actuated their conduct and knit them together. (Ranke, iv. 346.) All honour be to them. They have supplied an unanswerable proof that the real, loyal, honest, old-fashioned High Churchmen disliked Popery as much as any school in the Church.
The famous petition which the Seven Bishops drew up and signed on this occasion is a curious document. It is short, and tame, and cautious, and somewhat clumsily composed. But the worthy composers, no doubt, were pressed for time, and had no leisure to polish their sentences. Moreover, we know that they acted under the best advice, and were careful not to say too much and give needless offence.
"In substance (says Macaulay) nothing could be more skilfully framed. All disloyalty, all intolerance, were reverently disclaimed. The King was assured that the Church was still, as ever, faithful to the throne. He was also assured that the bishops, in proper time and place, would, as Lords of Parliament and members of the Upper House of Convocation, show they were by no means wanting in tenderness for the conscientious scruples of Dissenters. The Parliament, both in the late and present reign, had pronounced that the Sovereign was not constitutionally competent to dispense with statutes in matters ecclesiastical. The Declaration was therefore illegal, and the Petitioners could not in prudence, honour, or conscience, be parties to the solemn publication of an illegal Declaration in the House of God, and during the time of Divine Service."
Pointless and tame as the Petition may seem to us, we must not allow ourselves to make any mistake as to the latent meaning of the document and the real object of the bishops in refusing to obey the King. We must do them justice. They were thoroughly convinced that the Declaration was intended to help Popery, and they were determined to make a stand and resist it. They had no ill-feeling towards Dissenters, and no desire to continue their disabilities. But they saw clearly that the whole cause of Protestantism was in jeopardy, and that, now or never, they must risk everything to defend it. Every historian of any worth acknowledges this, and it is vain to try to take any other view, unless we are prepared to write history anew. A cloud of witnesses agree here. There is an overwhelming mass of evidence to prove that the real reason why the Seven Bishops resolved to oppose the King, was their determination to maintain the principles of the Reformation and to oppose any further movement towards Rome. In one word, the cause for which they boldly nailed their colours to the mast was the good old cause of Protestantism versus Popery. Every one, Churchman or Dissenter, knew that in 1688, and it is a grievous shame that any one now should try to deny it. The denial can only be regarded as a symptom of ignorance or dishonesty. It was quite late on Friday evening, May 18, when this Petition was finished and signed, and on Sunday morning, the 20th of May, the Royal Declaration had to be read in all the churches in London. There was therefore no time to be lost. Armed with their paper, six of the Seven Bishops (Sancroft beiDg forbidden to come to Court) proceeded to Whitehall Palace, and had an interview with James II., at 10 o'clock at night. The King took the Petition, and read it with mingled anger and amazement. He was both deeply displeased and astonished, and showed it. He never thought that English bishops would oppose his will. "I did not expect this," he said; "this is a standard of rebellion." In vain Trelawney fell on his knees, saying, "No Trelawney can be a rebel. Remember that my family has fought for the Crown." In vain Turner said, "We rebel! We are ready to die at your Majesty's feet." In vain Ken said, "I hope you will grant us that liberty of conscience which you grant to all mankind." It was all to no purpose. The King was thoroughly angry. "You are trumpeters of sedition," he exclaimed. "Go to your dioceses and see that I am obeyed." "We have two duties to perform," said noble Ken, "our duty to God and our duty to your Majesty. We honour you: but we fear God." The interview ended, and the bishops retired from the royal presence, Ken's last words being "God's will be done."
Before the sun rose on Saturday morning, May 19, the Bishops' Petition was printed, as a broadsheet, and hawked through all the streets of London. By whom this was done is not known to this day: but the printer is said to have made a thousand pounds by it in a few hours. The excitement was immense throughout the metropolis, and when Sunday came, next day, the churches were thronged with expecting crowds, wondering what the clergy would do, and whether they would read the King's Declaration. They were not left long in doubt. Out of one hundred parish Churches in the city and liberties of London, there were only four in which the Order in Council was obeyed, and in each case, as soon as the first words of the Declaration were uttered, the congregation rose as one man and left the Church. At Westminster Abbey the scene was long remembered by the boys of Westminster school. As soon as Bishop Spratt, who was then Dean, a mean, servile prelate, began to read the Declaration, the murmurs and noise of the people crowding out completely drowned his voice. He trembled so that men saw the paper shake in his hand; and long before he had done the Abbey was deserted by all but the choristers and the school. Timothy Hall, an infamous clergyman, who read the Declaration at St. Matthew's, Friday Street, was rewarded by the King with the vacant Bishopric of Oxford. But he bought his mitre very dear. Not one Canon of Christ Church attended his installation, and not one graduate would come to him for ordination.
A fortnight passed away, and on the 3rd of June the example of the London clergy was nobly followed in all parts of England. The Bishops of Norwich, Gloucester, Salisbury, Winchester, and Exeter, who were unable to reach London in time for the Lambeth Conference, had signed copies of the Petition, and, of course, refused to order obedience to the Declaration. The Bishop of Worcester declined to distribute it. In the great diocese of Chester, including all Lancashire, only three clergymen read it. In the huge diocese of Norwich, the stronghold of Protestantism, it was read in only four parishes out of twelve hundred. In short, it became evident that a spirit was awakened throughout the land which the Court had never expected, and that though the bishops and clergy might be broken, they would not bend. Whether the King could break them remained yet to be proved. On the evening of the 8th of June, all the Seven Bishops, in obedience to a summons from the King, appeared before him in Council at Whitehall. They went provided with the best legal advice, and acted carefully upon it. They calmly refused to admit anything to criminate themselves, unless forced to do it by the King's express command. They were questioned and interrogated about the meaning of words in their Petition, but their answers were so guarded and judicious that the King gained nothing by the examination. They steadily held their ground, and would neither withdraw their Petition, nor confess they had done wrong, nor recede from their decision about the Declaration. At last they were informed that they would be prosecuted for libel in the Court of King's Bench, and refusing, by their lawyers' advice, to enter into recognizances for their appearance, they were formally committed to the Tower. A warrant was made out, and a boat was ordered to take them down the river.
Their committal to the Tower was the means of calling out an enthusiastic expression of feeling in London, such as, perhaps, has never been equalled in the history of the metropolis. It was known from an early hour that the bishops were before the Council, and an anxious crowd had long waited round Whitehall to see what the result would be. But when the Londoners saw the seven aged prelates walking out of the palace under a guard of soldiers, and learned that they were going to prison (practically) in defence of English Protestantism, a scene of excitement ensued which almost baffles description. Hundreds crowded round them as they proceeded to Whitehall stairs, cheering them and expressing their sympathy. Many rushed into the mud and water up to their waists, blessing and asking their blessing. Scores of boats on the river full of people accompanied them down to the Tower with loud demonstrations of feeling. Even the very soldiers on guard in the Tower caught the infection and became zealous admirers of their prisoners. And when Sir E. Hales, the Popish governor, tried to check them, he was told by his subordinates that it was of no use, for his men "were all drinking the health of the bishops."
The seven prelates were kept in the Tower for a week. Throughout that time the enthusiastic feeling of admiration for them flared higher and higher, and increased more and more every day. They were almost idolized, as martyrs who had refused to truckle to a Popish tyrant, like Latimer and Ridley in Mary's days. The Church of England at one bound rose cent, per cent, in public estimation. Episcopacy was never so popular as it was that week. Crowds of people, including many of the nobility, went to the Tower every day to pay their respects to the venerable prisoners. Among them a deputation of ten leading Nonconformist ministers went to express their sympathy, and when the King sent for four of them and upbraided them, they boldly replied that they "thought it a solemn duty to forget past quarrels and stand by the men who stood by the Protestant cause." Even the Scotch Presbyterians were warmed and stirred in favour of the bishops, and sent messages of sympathy and encouragement. From every part of England came daily words of kindness and approbation. As for the men of Cornwall, they were so moved at the idea of their countryman, Trelawney, being in any danger, that a ballad was composed to suit the occasion, and sung over the county, of which the burden is still preserved*
And shall Trelawney die? and shall Trelawney die?
Then twenty thousand Cornish boys shall know the reason why.
* The following is said to have been the ballad, but it is doubtful whether any part except the chorus is as old as 1688 :—
A good sword and a trusty hand,
A merry heart and true;
King James' men shall understand
What Cornish men can do!
And have they fixed the where and when,
And shall Trelawney die?
Then twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why.
And shall they scorn Tre, Pol, and Pen?
And shall Trelawney die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why.
Even the miners took up the song and sung it with a variation—
Then thirty thousand underground shall know the reason why.
A king of more common sense than James might well have been staggered by the astounding popularity of the seven episcopal prisoners, and would gladly have found some pretext for dropping further proceedings. But, unhappily for himself, he had not the wisdom to recede, and "drove on furiously," like Jehu, and drove to his own destruction. He decided to go on with the prosecution. On the 15th of June the Seven Bishops were brought from the Tower to the Court of King's Bench, and ordered to plead to the information laid against them. Of course they pleaded "not guilty." That day fortnight, the 29th of June, was fixed for their trial, and in the meantime they were allowed to be at liberty on their own recognizances. It was well for the Crown that they did not require bail. Twenty-one peers of the highest rank were ready to give security, three for each defendant, and one of the richest Dissenters in the City had begged, as a special favour, that he might have the honour of being bail for Bishop Ken.
On leaving the court, in order to go to their own lodgings, the bishops received almost as great an ovation as when they were sent to the Tower. The bells of many
Outspake their Captain, brave and bold—
A merry wight was he:
"If London Tower were Michael's Hold,
We'll set Trelawney free!
We'll cross the Tamar land to land,
The Severn is no stay,—
All side by side and hand to hand,
And who shall bid us nay?"
And shall they scorn, &c.
churches were set ringing, and many of the lower orders who knew nothing of the forms of law imagined that all was over, and the good cause had triumphed. But whether ignorantly or intelligently, such a crowd assembled round the prelates in Palace Yard, that they found it difficult to force their way through their friends and admirers. Nor could it be said for a moment that the people knew not wherefore they were come together. One common feeling actuated the whole mass, and that feeling was abhorrence of Popery and zeal for Protestantism. How deep that feeling was is evidenced by a simple anecdote supplied by Macaulay.
"Cartwright, Bishop of Chester, a timid sycophant of the Court, was silly and curious enough to mingle with the crowd as his noble-minded brethren came out of the Court. Some person who saw his episcopal dress supposed he was one of the.accused, and asked and received his blessing. A bystander cried out, 'Do you know who blessed you?' 'Surely,' said the man,'it was one of the seven.' 'No!' said the other, 'it was the Popish Bishop of Chester.' At once the enraged Londoner roared out, 'Popish dog, take your blessing back again.'"
At last, on the 29th of June, the ever-memorable trial of the Seven Bishops actually came off, and they were arraigned before a jury of their countrymen in the Court of King's Bench at Westminster. Such a crowd was probably never before or since seen in a court of law. Sixty peers according to Evelyn's diary,thirty-five according to Macaulay, sat near the four judges and testified their interest in the cause. Westminster Hall, Palace Yard, and all the streets adjoining, were filled with a multitude of people wound up to the highest pitch of anxious expectation. Into all the details of that well-fought day I cannot enter.
How from morning till sunset the legal battle went on—
how the Crown witnesses were cross-examined and worried
—how triumphantly Somers, the fourth counsel of the
bishops, showed that the alleged libel was neither false, nor
libellous, nor seditious—how even the four judges were
divided in opinion, and two of them went so far in their
charge to the jury as to admit there was no libel—how the
jury retired when it was dark to consider their verdict, and
were shut up all night with the servants of the defendants
sitting on the stairs to watch the doors and prevent roguery
—how at length all the twelve jurymen were for acquittal
except Arnold the King's brewer, and even he gave way
when the biggest of the twelve said, "Look at me, I will
stay here till I am no bigger than a tobacco pipe before I
find the bishops guilty "—how at six in the morning the
jury agreed, and at ten appeared in court, and by the
mouth of their foreman, Sir Roger Langley, pronounced the
bishops Not Guilty—how at the words coming out of his
lips Lord Halifax waved his hat, and at least ten thousand
persons outside the court raised such a shout that the roof
of old Westminster Hall seemed to crack—how the people
in the streets caught up the cheer and passed it on all over
London—how many seemed beside themselves witb joy,
and some laughed and some wept—how guns were fired
and bells rung, and horsemen galloped off in all directions
to tell the news of a victory over Popery—how the jury
could scarcely get out of the Hall, and were forced to shake
hands with hundreds crying out " God bless you, you have
saved us all to-day "—how when night came bonfires were
lighted and all London was illuminated and huge figures
of the Pope were burnt in effigy—all, all these things are
so described in the burning words of Lord Macaulay's pictorial History that I shall not attempt to depict them. To go over the field so graphically occupied by that mighty "master of sentences " would be as foolish as to gild refined gold or paint the lily. Suffice it to say that the great battle of Protestantism against Popery was fought at this trial, that a great victory was won, and that to the prosecution and acquittal of the Seven Bishops James II. owed the loss of his Crown.
For we must never forget that the consequences of the trial were enormously great, and that results flowed from it of which myriads never dreamed when they shouted and cheered on the 29th of June.—Within twenty-four hours of the trial a letter left England for Holland, signed by seven leading Englishmen, inviting the Prince of Orange to come over with an army and overthrow the Stuart dynasty. The hour had come at last, and the man was wanted.—Within four weeks of the trial, Archbishop Sancroft, warmed and softened by the events of May and June, drew up a circular letter to all the bishops of the Church of England, which is one of the most remarkable letters ever penned by an Archbishop of Canterbury, and has never received the attention it deserves. In this letter he solemnly enjoined the bishops and clergy "to have a tender regard to our brethren the Protestant Dissenters, to visit them at their homes, to receive them kindly at their own, and to treat them fairly whenever they meet them." Above all, he charged them "to take all opportunities of assuring the Dissenters that the English bishops are really and sincerely irreconcilable enemies to the errors, superstitions, idolatries, and tyrannies of the Church of Rome." And, lastly, he urged them "to exhort Dissenters to join with us in fervent prayer to the God of peace for the universal blessed union of all reformed churches both at home and abroad." A wonderful pastoral that! Well would it have been for the Church of England if Lambeth had always held similar language, and not cooled down and forgotten the Tower. But it was one of the first results of the famous trial.—Last, but not least, within six months of the bishops' acquittal the Great Revolution took place, the Popish monarch lost his Crown and left England, and William and Mary were placed on the English throne. But before they were formally placed on the throne the famous "Declaration of Rights" was solemnly drawn up and signed by both Houses of Parliament. And what was the very first sentence of that Declaration? It is an assertion that " the late King James did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion—by assuming a power of dispensing with laws and by committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates." And what was the last sentence of the Declaration? It was the famous Oath of Supremacy, containing these words:—"I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath, or ought to have, jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God." Such were the immediate consequences of the trial of the Seven Bishops. They are of unspeakable importance. They stand out to my eyes in the landscape of English history, like Tabor in Palestine, and no Englishman ought ever to forget them. To the trial of the Seven Bishops we owe our second deliverance from Popery.
It remains for me to point out three practical lessons which appear to flow naturally out of the whole subject.
(a) First and foremost, the reign of James II. ought to teach a lesson about English rulers and statesmen, whether Whig or Tory. That lesson is the duty of never allowing the Government of this great country to be placed again in the hands of a Papist.
If this lesson does not stand out plainly on the face of history, like the handwriting at Belshazzar's feast, I am greatly mistaken. Unless we are men who having eyes see not, and having ears hear not, let us beware of Popish rulers. We know what they were in Queen Mary's days. We tried them a second time under James II. If we love our country, let us never try them again. They cannot possibly be honest, conscientious Papists if they do not labour incessantly to subvert English Protestantism, and turn everything upside down. I yield to no man in abhorrence of intolerance and religious persecution. I have not the slightest desire to put the clock back, and to revive such miserable disabilities as those of the Test and Corporation Acts. I am quite content with the Constitution as it is, and the laws which forbid the crown of England to be placed on the head of a Papist. But I hope we shall take care these laws are never repealed.
Some may think me an alarmist for saying such things. But I say plainly there is much in the outlook of the day to make a thinking man uncomfortable. I dislike the influence which certain well-known Roman Catholic divines are gradually getting among the upper classes. I dislike the growing disposition to make an idol of mere "earnestness," to forget history, and to suppose that Rome has changed, and earnest Papists are as good as any Protestant. I dislike the modern principle, unknown to the good old Puritans, that States have nothing to do with religion, and that it matters not whether the sovereign is Protestant or Papist, Jew, Turk, Infidel, or Heretic. I see these things floating in the air. I confess they make me uncomfortable. I am sure we have need to stand on our guard, and to resolve that, God helping us, we will never allow the Pope to rule England again. If he does, we may depend upon it we shall have no more blessing from God. The offended God of the Bible will turn away His face from us, and we shall bid a long farewell to peace at home, influence abroad, comfort in our families, and national prosperity. Once more then, I say, let us move heaven and earth before we sanction a Popish prime minister or a Popish king. On the 28th January, 1689, the House of Commons resolved unanimously "that it hath been found by experience inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a Popish prince." (Hallam, iii. 129.) I pray God that resolution may never be forgotten, and never be cancelled or expunged.
(b) In the second place, the reign of James II. ought to teach us a lesson about English Bishops and Clergy. That lesson is the duty of never forgetting that the true strenglh of the Established Church of England lies in loyal faithfulness to Protestant principles and bold unflinching opposition to the Church of Kome.
Never was the Church of England so unpopular as in the days of Laud, and never so popular as in the days of the Seven Bishops. Never was the Church so hated by Nonconformists as she was when Laud tampered with Rome, never so much beloved by them as when the Seven Bishops went to prison rather than help the Pope. Why
was it that when Laud was committed to the Tower few hands were held up in his favour, and few said, " God bless him "? There is only one answer, men did not trust him, and thought him half a Papist.—Why was it that, when Sancroft and his companions were taken to the Tower fifty years afterwards, the heart of London was stirred, and the whole Metropolis rose up to do them honour? The answer again is simple. Men loved them and admired them because they stuck to Protestantism and opposed Eome.
(c) In the last place, the reign of James II. ought to teach a lesson to all loyal Churchmen. That lesson is the duty of using every reasonable and lawful means to resist the re-introduction of Romanism into the Church of England by the means of extreme Ritualism.
It is useless to deny that the times demand this, and that there is an organized conspiracy among us for Romanizing the Established Church of this country. Bishops see it and lament it in their charges. Statesmen see it and make no secret of it in public speeches. Dissenters see it and point the finger of scorn. Romanists see it and rejoice. Foreign nations see it and lift up their hands in amazement. Whether this disgraceful apostasy is to prosper and succeed or not remains yet to be proved. But one thing, at any rate, is certain. This is no time to sit still, fold our arms, and go to sleep. The Church of England expects all her sons to do their duty, and much, under God, depends on the action of the laity.
It is false to say, as some of the advocates of extreme Ritualism constantly say, that those who oppose them want to narrow the limits of the Church of England, and to make it the exclusive Church of one party. I for one indignantly deny the charge. I have always allowed, and do allow, that our Church is largely comprehensive, and that there is room for honest High, honest Low, and honest Broad Churchmen within her pale. If any clergyman likes to preach in a surplice, or has the Lord's Supper weekly, or has Saints' day services, or daily matins and vespers, I have not the least wish to interfere with him, though I cannot see with his eyes. But I firmly maintain that the comprehensiveness of the Church has limits, and that those limits are the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Prayer-book.
Controversy and religious strife, no doubt, are odious things; but there are times when they are a positive necessity. Unity and peace are very delightful; but they are bought too dear if they are bought at the expense of truth. There is a vast amount of maundering,childish, weak talk now-a-days in some quarters about unity aud peace, which I cannot reconcile with the language of St. Paul. It is a pity, no doubt, that there should be so much controversy; but it is also a pity that human nature should be so bad as it is, and that the devil should be loose in the world. It was a pity that Arius taught error about Christ's person: but it would have been a greater pity if Athanasius had not opposed him. It was a pity Tetzel went about preaching up the Pope's indulgences: it would have been a far greater pity if Luther had not withstood him. Controversy, in fact, is one of the conditions under which truth in every age has to be defended and maintained, and it is nonsense to ignore it.
Of one thing I am very certain. Whether men will come forward or not to oppose the Romanizing movement of these days, if the Church of England once gives formal legal sanction to the revived Popish Mass and the revived detestable confessional, the people of this land will soon get rid of the Established Church of England. True to the mighty principles of the Reformation, our Church will stand and retain its hold on the affections of the country, and no weapon formed against us shall prosper. False to these principles, and re-admitting Popery, she will certainly fall, and no amount of histrionic, sensuous ceremonial will prevent her ruin. Like Ephesus, which left her first love,—like Thyatira, which suffered Jezebel to teach,—like Laodicea, which became lukewarm,—her candlestick will be taken away. The glory will depart from her. The pillar of cloud and fire will be removed. The best and most loyal of her children will forsake her in disgust, and, like an army whose soldiers have gone away, leaving nothing behind but officers and band, the Church will perish, and perish deservedly, for want of Churchmen.
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