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was immediately followed by the act, which was passed for restoring the bishops to their seats in parliament, from which an act sanctioned by Charles the first, immediately before the commence ment of the civil war, had excluded them.
The corporation act*, passed in the same year, was the commencement of hostilities against the protestant dissenters. Powers were given by it to commissioners, to be appointed by the king, to expel from corporations any officers they should think proper, and to place other persons in their room: it was further provided by it, that, for the future, no person should be appointed to any office or place relating to the government of corporations, boroughs, or the cinque ports, who had not, within the preceding twelve months, taken the sacrament of the Lord's supper, according to the rites of the church of England.
Hume gives the following account of the object of this act:“During the violence and jealous govern
ment of the parliament and of the protector, all “ magistrates liable to suspicions had been expelled " the corporations, and none had been admitted, “ who gave not proofs of affection to the ruling
powers, or who refused to subscribe the covenant. “ To leave all authority in such hands, seemed
dangerous; and therefore the parliament 'empowered the king to appoint commissioners for regulating the corporations, and expel such magis
+ 13 Car. II. st. 2, c. 1. (1661.)-An act for the well governing and regulating of corporations.
“trates as either had obtruded themselves by vio
lence, or professed principles dangerous to the “ constitution, civil or ecclesiastical.” These expressions of Hume appear to justify an assertion of the protestant dissenters and the advocates of their cause, that, if the real object of the act was to be collected from a fair construction of the terms in which it is expressed, it was levelled against the civil, not against the religious, principles of those, in whose regard it was designed to operate ;against the evil spirits, mentioned in the preamble of the act to be still at work, and not against the presbyterians, whose actual loyalty was then admitted, and who were then acknowledged to have been particularly instrumental in placing his majesty on the throne.
It is also important to consider, that, at the time of the passing of this act, the negotiation for the comprehension was still in progress, and that great hopes of its success were still entertained. Hence the act only required the sacrament to be taken according to the rites, which should be established, when the terms of the comprehension, which it was expected would be agreeable to both parties, should be settled. It is certain that the corporation act was viewed by many dissenters in this light, and that several were reconciled to it by this circumstance: but events quickly followed, which demonstrated, that it really was aimed at the general body of dissenters, and that, though it was purposely expressed in such terms, as to give it an appearance
of providing only for the civil government of the country, and, on that account, not to conflict with his majesty's declaration at Breda, it was really levelled at the presbyterians and the other dissenting sectaries, and intended to effect their ruin.
This was completed by the Act of Uniformity which was passed in the following year. provided, that all ministers, who had not been episcopally ordained, should be re-ordained by a bishop of the established church; that every minister, having an ecclesiastical benefice, should on the then next 22d day of August, (the feast of Saint Bartholomew),-read publicly and solemnly, in the church belonging to his benefice, the morning and evening service in the book of Common Prayer ; and express, in the words prescribed by the act, his unfeigned assent and consent to the use of all things contained in the book, under pain of instant deprivation of all his spiritual preferments: that he should take the oath of canonical obedience and that deans, heads of colleges, professors, lecturers, schoolmasters, and generally all persons having ecclesiastical dignity or promotion, should, before the same day, sign a declaration prescribed by the act, by which they were to abjure the solemn league and covenant, and testify their belief, that it was not lawful to take arms against the king. Bishop
* 13 & 14 Car. II, C. 4. (1662.)-An act for the uniformity
public prayer and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies; and for establishing the form of making, ordaining, and consecrating bishops, priests, and deacons in the church of England.
Burnet says, that “ Saint Bartholomew's day was “ fixed on for the operation of the act, that, if the 15 ministers were then deprived, they should lose “ the profits of the whole year, since the tythes are “ commonly due at Michaelmas. The presby* teriąns," he says,
“ remembered what Saint Bar“tholomew's day had been at Paris ninety years “ before, and did not stick to compare the one to “the other."
This celebrated act received the royal assent on the 19th of May 1662. It has been mentioned, that the book of Common Prayer had been committed by the king to the bishops for their revision: they altered it in some places, and added to it in others; but it was not printed until some time after the passing of the act of uniformity. If we believe Neale*, not one divine in ten, that lived at any considerable distance from London, had it in his power to peruse it before Saint Bartholomew's day: “The matter,” says Burnet, was driven on “ with such precipitancy, that it seemed to be im،،
plied, that the clergy should subscribe to the “ book implicitly, without having seen it; this,” he says, “ had been done by too many, as the bishops themselves confessed t.”
The dissenters were divided on some of the objections made to a compliance with the act: all, however, protested that they could not conscientiously“ give their assent and consent to all and every thing contained in the book of Common
* Hist, vol.
“ Prayer,” and that no human power was authorized to require such a declaration from them.
At length Saint Bartholomew's day arrived, and two thousand ministers gave up their livings. This, to use the words of Burnet, raised a grievous cry over the nation. The ejected ministers, says Neale, were driven from their houses, from the society of their friends; and, what was yet more affecting, from all their usefulness.
Under these severities, by an inconsistency, which their sufferings excused, they resorted to the dispensing power of the king for relief against the operations of the act. Three days after it took place, Mr. Calamy, and some other of their leading divines, presented to his majesty a petition, to this effect. It was debated in council on the following day ; his majesty was present, and declared that “he intended an indulgence, if it were at all “ feasible.”—But Dr. Sheldon, who was then bishop of London, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, argued against it: he declared that the suspension of the law would be illegal, and that the repeal of it would expose those, who had passed it, to the sport and scorn of the presbyterian faction.
“ Thus,” says the historian Ralph *, - " in this one event, we are furnished with two signal in« stances of the self-inconsistency of parties: the “ dissenters calling upon the king to exercise a
dispensing power; and a bishop disputing the
* Hist. p. 77.