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entangled in no lawsuits. Thirdly, that she would expect none of my time which my ministerial work should require."*
The Act of Uniformity had hardly taken effect when the idea was thrown out by the court that some indulgence mnight yet be granted to nonconformists, by the exertion of the royal prerogative. The king hoped in this way to secure some favor for his catholic friends. He knew that it would be impossible to set up a toleration of the Romish worship in the existing state of public feeling; and there can be no reasonable doubt that he and many about the court, boped that the oppression of the protestant nonconformists would create a necessity for a general toleration, under which he might show what favor he pleased to the catholics.
Accordingly “on the 26th of December, 1662, the king sent forth a declaration expressing his purpose to grant some indulgence or liberty in religion not excluding the Papists, many of whom had deserved so well of him.” But the great body of nonconformists, unwilling to be even indirectly instrumental in promoting such a design, stood aloof from the court. It was intimated to some of them, that it would be acceptable if they would own this declara tion by returning thanks for the offered indulgence. The design was, that they should be the means of securing this advantage for the Papists; and that they should stand between the king and the odium of such a measure. The Presbyterians, persuaded of the unlawfulness of tolerating any “intolerable" error, like the errors of popery, could not give thanks for an indulgence on such terms. The Independents, however, having clearer views of the great doctrine of religious liberty, were hindered by no conscientious scruples; and were always ready to accept and to ask for a toleration on the broadest basis. But the king's declaration, like every measure of his which looked towards the toleration of popery, was strongly resisted by the parliament.
It was soon discovered that the laws on the subject of religious uniformity, with all their pains and penalties, were by no means to be a dead letter. Mr. Calamy - happening to be preseut at the
* Breviate of the life of Mrs. Margaret Baxter, quoted by Orme.
church where he had formerly been pastor, on an occasion when the preacher sailed, and the congregation was about to disperse, was persuaded to preach under the impression that there was no provision of the law applicable to such a case ; but was the next week sent to Newgate prison. After a few days imprisonment, he
as released; but his release displeased the Commons who were beginning to watch against any exercise of that dispensing power, which they knew the king was disposed to set up for the benefit of his catholic friends. The imprisonment of ministers for preaching either publicly or privately, was a common thing. "As we were forbidden to preach,” says Baxter, “so we were vigilantly watched in private, that we might not exhort one another, or pray together; and, as I foretold them oft, how they would use us when they had silenced us, every meeting for prayer was called a dangerous meeting for sedition, or a conventicle at least. I will now give but one instance of their kindness to myself. One Mr. Beale, in Hatton Garden, having a son, bis only child, and very towardly and hopeful, long sick of a dangerous fever, who had been brought so low that the physicians thought he would die, desired a few friends, of whom I was one, to meet at his house to pray for him. And because it pleased God to hear our prayers, and that very night to restore him; his mother shortly after falling sick of a fever, we were desired to meet to pray for her recovery, the last day when she was near to death. Among those who were to be there, it fell out that Dr. Bates and I did fail them, and could not come; but it was known at Westminster, that we were appointed to be there, whereupon two justices of the peace were procured from the distant parts of the town, one from Westminster and one from Clerkenwell, to come with the parliament's serjeant at arms to apprehend us. They came in the evening, when part of the company were gone.
There were then only a few of their kindred, beside two or three ministers to pray. They came upon them into the room where the gentlewoman lay ready to die, drew the curtains, and took some of their names; but, missing of their prey, returned disappointed. What a joy would it have been to them that reproached us as Presbyterian, seditious schismatics, to have found but such an occasion as praying with a dying woman, to bare laid us up in prison !"*
In the beginning of the following year, the talk of liberty to the silenced ministers began to be revived; and it was much debated among them and their friends whether toleration as dissenters, or comprehension as a part of the establishment, were the more desirable scheme. But “ instead of indulgence and comprehension,” says Baxter, “on the last day of June, 1663, the bill against private meetings for religious exercises passed the House of Commons, and shortly after was made a law. The sum of it was, that every person above sixteen years old, who is present at any meeting under color or pretence of any exercise of religion, in other manner than is allowed by the liturgy or practice of the church of England, where there are five persons more than that household, shall, for the first offense, by a justice of peace be recorded, and sent to jail three months, till he pay five pounds; and, for the second offense, six months, till be pay ten pounds; and the third time, being convicted by a jury, shall be banished to some of the American plantations, excepting New-England or Virginia.' The calamity of the act, beside the main matter, was, 1. That it was made so ambiguous, that no man that ever I met with could tell wbat was a violation of it, and what not; not knowing what was allowed by the liturgy or practice in the church of England in families, because the liturgy meddleth not with families; and among the diversity of family practice, no man knoweth what to call the practice of the church. 2. Because so much power was given to the justices of the peace to record a man an offender without a jury, and if he did it causelessly, we were without any remedy, seing he was made a judge."
“And now came in the people's trial, as well as the ministers'. While the danger and sufferings lay on the ministers alone, the people were very courageous, and exhorted them to stand it out and preach till they went to prison. But when it came to be their own case, they were as venturous till they were once surprised and imprisoned; but then their judgments were much altered, and they that censured ministers before as cowardly, because they preached not publicly, whatever followed, did now think that it was better to preach often in secret to a few, than but once or twice in public to many; and that secrecy was no sin, when it tended to the furtherance of the work of the Gospel, and to the church's good. Especially the rich were as cautious as the ministers. But yet their meetings were so ordinary, and so well known, that it greatly tended to the jailers' commodity.
* Narrative, Part II. pp. 431, 432.
“ It was a great strait that the people were in, especially who dwelt near any busy officer, or malicious enemy. Many durst not pray in their families, if above four persons came in to dine with them.” “Some thought they might venture if they withdrew into another room, and left the strangers by themselves : but others said, it is all one if they be in the same house, though out of hearing, when it cometh to the judgment of the justices. In London, where the houses are contiguous, some thought if they were in several houses and heard one another through the wall or a window, it would avoid the law: but others said, it is all in vain whilst the justice is judge whether it was a meeting or no. Great lawyers said, If you come on a visit or business, though you be present at prayer or sermon, it is no breach of the law, because you met not on pretence of a religious exercise : but those that tried them said, such words are but wind, when the justices come to judge you.
“ And here the Quakers did greatly relieve the sober people for a time; for they were so resolute, and so gloried in their constancy and sufferings, that they assembled openly at the Bull and Mouth, near Aldersgate, and were dragged away daily to the common jail ; and yet desisted not, but the rest came the next day, nevertheless : so that the jail at Newgate was filled with them. Abundance of them died in prison, and yet they continued their assemblies still. They would sometimes meet only to sit still in silence, when, as they said, the Spirit did not speak : and it was a great question, whether this silence was a religious exercise not allowed by the liturgy, &c."*
* Narrative, Part II. pp. 435, 436.
Notwithstanding all this persecution, many of the non conformists, including such men as Baxter and Bates and Calamy, insisted on the propriety of occasional communion with the church of England by attending on the public worship at the parish churches, and by receiving the Lord's supper at the hands of the more serious and exemplary among the established clergy. This occasioned an unhappy division among those who at such a time needed to act in concert; and it limited the influence of these men with their sufsering exasperated brethren.
The opportunity of doing good by public preaching being at an end, Baxter looked about for some retirement where he might pursue his studies, and especially his writings, with better health and more tranquility than he could hope to enjoy in the city. He removed to Acton, six miles from London, July 14, 1663 ;“ where,” he says, “I followed my studies privately, in quietness, and went every Lord's-day to the public assembly, when there was any preaching or catechising, and spent the rest of the day with my family, and a few poor neighbors that came in ; spending now and then a day in London. The next year, 1664, I had the company of divers godly, faithful friends that tabled with me in summer, with whom I solaced myself with much content.”
“ March 26, 1665, being the Lord's-day, as I was preaching in a private house, where we received the Lord's supper, a bullet came in at the window among us, passed by me, and narrowly escaped the head of a sister-in-law of mine that was there, but hurt none of us. We could never discover whence it came.”
Having followed him to this retirement, we may here continue the enumeration of his publications to the close of the year 1665, with which date he concludes the second part of the Narrative of his life. Thirty-eight separate works of his, it will be recollected, were published before the restoration.*
39. “ A Sermon of Repentance, preached before the Honorable House of Commons, &c. at their late solemn fast for the settlement of these nations.”—4to. published in 1660.
40. “ Right Rejoicing, &c. A Sermon preached at St. Paul's