Nonconformity in the Anglican fold is almost coeval with the English Reformation. Nonconformists of England may be considered under three heads.
1. Such as absent themselves from divine worship in the Established Church through total irreligion, and attend the service of no other persuasion.
2. Such as absent themselves on the plea of conscience; as Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, etc.
3. Internal Nonconformists, or unprincipled clergymen, who applaud and propagate doctrines quite inconsistent with several of those articles which they promised on oath to defend.
Before the Reformation, and for some years after the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, there was no organized body of separatists from the Church of England. In many respects the Lollards closely resembled the Puritans of Elizabeth's time; and it is probable that, notwithstanding the check received from the sanguinary law of Henry IV, many held the principles of Wickliffe down to the time of Henry VIII. But Lollardism, though it had its conventicles and schools, did not secede and organize itself into a sect. The Christian Brethren (see Blunt, Hist. of the Reformation, p. 525) and the Cambridge party (ibid. p. 527), who, if not Lollards in name, no doubt sprang from the Lollards, were still parties in the Church. Yet Lollardism, which contributed largely to form in England the state of the public mind that produced the Reformation, exerted also that influence to which must be ascribed much of the revolutionary spirit and zeal which engendered nonconformity. Again, the followers of the Anabaptists cannot be considered as by themselves an organized body of separatists. After the taking of Munster, in 1535, Anabaptists found their way through Holland into England. The first notice of them in English history is in 1538. The English who joined them were treated by Elizabeth just as she treated the foreigners themselves — being ordered to depart the realm. Notwithstanding the order, several remained and joined the French and Dutch congregations in London, and in towns near the coast. From these there can be little doubt sprang the sect of Baptists, who may be distinguished from their parent stock in 1620. when they presented a petition to Parliament, disclaiming the false notions of the Anabaptists, and who first became an organized sect under Henry Jessey in 1640. Nonconformity proper first begins with the refugees from Frankfort and Geneva. They brought back with them Genevan doctrine, discipline, and worship, and gradually the spirit they introduced leavened the dissatisfied ones in the establishment, until nonconformity resulted.
Nonconformity cannot, clearly then, be traced to any sect: that may have found shelter in England, and it is necessary to review the early history of the establishment to find traces of its origin. It will be remembered that it was in the reign of king Edward VI that the English Reformed Church first received a definite constitution. During the time of Henry VIII it remained in a great measure unsettled, and was subject to continual variation, according to the caprice of the king. As organized by Edward, while Calvinistic in its creed, it was Episcopalian in its government, and retained in its worship many of those forms and observances which had been introduced in the days of Roman Catholic ascendency. .In the first of these particulars it resembled, and in the last two it differed from the Genevan Church. During the temporary restoration of the Roman Catholic faith under the administration of Philip and Mary, great numbers:of the persecuted disciples of the Reformed faith sought refuge in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and other parts of the Continent. Of those who fled to Germany, some observed the ecclesiastical order established by Edward; others, not without warm disputes with their brethren, which had their beginning at Frankfort, adopted the Swiss mode of worship, preferring it as more simple, and more agreeable to Scripture and primitive usage. Those who composed the latter class were called Nonconformists. The distinction has been permanent, and the name has been perpetuated. Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne, in 1558, opened the way for the return of the exiles to the land of.their fathers. It was natural for each of the parties of these forced exiles to advocate at home the systems of worship to which they had been respectively attached while abroad; and the controversy which had been agitated by them in a foreign country immediately. became, a matter of contention with the great body of Protestants in their own. It suited neither the views nor inclinations of that princess to realize the wishes of the Nonconformists, or Puritans, as they began to be called, by giving her sanction to the opinions which they maintained, and assenting to the demands which they made. The plain and unostentatious method of religious service which they recommended did not accord with that love of show and pomp for which she was remarkable; and the policy of the early part of her reign, in which she was supported by the high dignitaries both in the Church and State, was to conciliate her Roman Catholic subjects, who, in rank, wealth, and numbers, far exceeded the Nonconformists. The liturgy of Edward VI having been submitted to a committee of divines, and certain alterations betraying a leaning to Popery rather than to Puritanism having been made, the Act of Uniformity was passed, which, while it empowered the queen and her commissioners to "ordain and publish such further ceremonies and rites" as might be deemed advisable, forbade, under severe penalties, the performance of divine service except as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. For some years the contest had turned principally on the question. of ecclesiastical dress; but this action of the queen caused separate congregations to be formed in 1566, in which the Prayerbook was wholly laid aside, and the service was conducted by the book of the English refugees at Geneva. Among the leaders of these separatists, Cartwright held that presbyters assembled in synod had an authority the same in kind with that of bishops. He was the founder of the Presbyterians, aided in his enterprise by the influence and example of Scotland, which had well learned the lessons of Geneva. Brown found the ecclesia in the congregation, and denied the authority both of bishop and synod. From him descend the Independents, Robinson being the founder of the separate sect. In later times the Quakers appear in considerable numbers. There were some minor sects, such as the Family of Love, an offshoot of the Anabaptists; but the four sects — Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Quakers-with the popish recusants, made up the great body of Nonconformists until the rise of Wesleyan Methodism. Against these it was that canons and acts of Parliament were directed.
The special Act of Uniformity had only been partially carried into effect from the time of its being passed, in 1558, to 1565. But in 1565 it began to be rigidly enforced, and many of the Nonconformists were deprived of their preferments (for, notwithstanding their sentiments, most of them had still remained in connection with the Established Church, being from principle averse to an entire separation); many also were committed to prison. The High Commission Court, tyrannical in its very constitution, became still more severe in the exercise of its functions; and at length, in 1593, the Parliament declared that all persons above sixteen years of age who should absent themselves for one month from the parish church should be banished from the kingdom; and if they returned without license, should be sentenced to death as felons." These provisions, though directed principally against the Roman Catholics, affected the Protestant Nonconformists with equal severity; and, with reference both to Roman Catholics and Protestants who dissented from the Church of England, were unjust and impolitic. The Nonconformists during the reign of Elizabeth are not to be regarded as an unimportant faction. Both among the clergy and the laity they were a numerous body; and they would have been powerful in proportion to their number had they only been more closely united among themselves. A motion made in 1561, at the first convocation of the clergy which was held in England, to do away with the ceremonies and forms to which the Puritans objected, was lost by a majority of only one, even though the queen and the primate, Parker, were well known to be opposed to such a change. In the Commons the Puritan influence was strong; and if that house be supposed, in any adequate degree, to have represented the people for whom it legislated, their numerical force throughout the country generally must necessarily have been great. Without presumption, therefore, they might have expected that their remonstrances would be listened to and their grievances redressed.
Certainly it would have been wiser in the government to endeavor to secure their support than to awaken their discontent and provoke their opposition, more especially when the hostile aspect of foreign nations is considered, and when we remember that the English Roman Catholics, whose numbers and power rendered them particularly formidable, were eagerly watching every symptom favorable to the re-establishment of the ancient faith. Nor would it have been a difficult matter to yield to the claims of the Nonconformists. The moderate among them sought not the overthrow of the ecclesiastical constitution, but contended merely that certain rites and observances. which they regarded as departures from the purity and simplicity of Christian worship, should be dispensed with; and, generally, that matters commonly recognized as things indifferent should not be insisted on as indispensable Doubtless many were less reasonable in their demands, and injustice and persecution tended much to increase their number. A party, at the head of which was professor Cartwright, of Cambridge, desired a change, not only in the forms of worship, but in Church polity also, and would have substituted Presbytery in the room of Episcopacy. Another party, viz., the Independents, or Brownists, as they were termed, going still farther, wished the disseverment of the connection between Church and State altogether. Still there is every reason to believe that a slight concession to the demands of the less violent, and the display of a spirit of forbearance, would have satisfied many, would have allayed the dissatisfaction of all, and would have been the reverse of disagreeable to the country generally. Unfortunately an opposite course of policy in this and subsequent reigns was chosen; which ultimately conducted to the horrors of a civil war, the subversion of the regal authority, and those disastrous events which make the history of the 17th century one of the most melancholy pages of the annals of England.
Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, and was succeeded by James VI of Scotland. From one who, like him, had been the member of a Presbyterian Church, and had on more than one occasion expressed his decided attachment to its principles and worship, the Nonconformists, not without reason, expected more lenient treatment than they had met with in the preceding reign. But their expectations were bitterly disappointed. In compliance with their petitions, a conference was indeed appointed and held at Hampton Court, at which nine bishops and as many dignitaries were present on the one side, and four Puritan ministers, selected by James, on the other. The king himself presided, and took part in the debate. But no good results ensued. The Nonconformist representatives were loaded with insults, and dismissed in such a manner as might well give birth to the darkest anticipations regarding the fate of the party to which they belonged. Shortly after a few slight alterations of the national rubric were made, and a proclamation issued requiring the strictest conformity. In 1604 the Book of Canons was passed by a convocation, at which bishop Ban croft presided. It announced severe temporal and spiritual penalties against the Puritan divines, and was followed up by unsparing persecutions. In spite, however, of all the means employed for its eradication, the cause of Nonconformity advanced. In the Church itself there were many of the clergy who held the Puritan opinions, though they deemed it inexpedient to make a very open display of them, and who sighed for a change; and the number of such was largely augmented by the alteration which James made in his creed — from Calvinism to the doctrines of Arminius.
The son and successor of James, Charles I, adopted towards the Nonconformists the policy of his predecessors. His haughty temper and despotic disposition speedily involved him in difficulties with his Parliament and people. In carrying into execution his designs against Puritanism, he found an able and zealous assistant in archbishop Laud, under whose arbitrary. administration the proceedings, of the Star Chamber and High Commission Court were characterized by great severity. Many Puritans sought for safety aid quiet in emigration; and the colony of Massachusetts Bay was founded by them in the New World. But a proclamation by the king put a stop to this self-banishment; and thus even the miserable consolation of expatriation was denied. Hundreds of Puritan clergymen were ejected from their cures on account of their opposition to the "Book of Sports," published in the previous reign. Calvinism was denounced by royal authority, and severe restrictions laid on the modes and times of preaching. But a change was approaching. In 1644 Laud was declared guilty of high-treason, and beheaded; and about five years after Charles shared the same fate. The Parliament abolished Episcopacy and everything in the Church that was opposed to the model of the Genevan Church. During the Protectorate, Presbytery continued to be the established religion. Independency, however, prevailed in the army, and was in high favor with Cromwell. Under his government the Quakers and Baptists flourished unmolested; and other sects, some of which held the wildest and most visionary tenets, came into existence. All were tolerated. Episcopacy only was proscribed; and the Nonconformists, in their hour of prosperity, forgetful of the lessons which adversity should have taught them, directed against, its adherents severities similar to those of which they themselves had been the objects. On Nov. 8,1645, an "ordinance" was passed by the Lords and Commons, who then claimed to be the Parliament of England, declaring that "the word 'presbyter,' that is to say 'elder,' and the word 'bishop,' do in the Scripture intend and signify one and the same function;" and that, "it being an usurpation on the part of bishops for them alone to ordain, henceforth ordination was to be given by presbyters," under certain rules respecting examination and trial which were laid down in the ordinance; and then it was enacted that all persons who shall be ordained presbyters according to this Directory "shall be forever reputed and taken, to all intents and purposes, for lawful and sufficiently authorized ministers of the Church of England" (Rushworth, Hist. Coll. 7:212). At this time the parochial clergy were rapidly and very generally driven from their parishes. Many were notoriously loyal to the crown and to Episcopacy, and had to flee for their lives because they would not take the covenant and the engagement; many were imprisoned (some with circumstances of great cruelty, as when twenty were kept under hatches in a ship on the Thames); and it is believed that not a few were "sent to plantations" to slavery, as the early Christians were sent to the mines. There were also "committees for inquiry into the scandalous immoralities of the clergy," and as the least taint of loyalty to Church or king, the use of the Prayer-book, or the refusal of the Directory was scandalous and immoral in the estimation of these committees, they turned out most of those clergy who were not got rid of by other means. The consequence of all these rigid measures was that nearly the whole of the episcopal clergy were deprived of their benefices during the early years of the great rebellion. A few temporized, a few were protected by influential laymen, and a few escaped notice; but the number of those who thus retained their places was very small, and it is probable that the popular estimate which put. down the number of the clergy ejected by the parliamentary party at 8000 to 10,000 was correct. As the episcopally ordained clergy were thus driven away from their churches, their parsonages, their tithes, and their glebes, the Presbyterians and Independents stepped into the vacated benefices, and were securely settled in them by the authority of the ordinance of Parliament which is quoted above. Thus it came to pass that between the years 1643 and 1660 most of the parishes throughout England and Wales received for their incumbents ministers who had not received episcopal ordination, the number of such amounting to about 10,000 at the time of the Restoration.
The Restoration, in 1660, placed Charles II on the throne of his ancestors, and led to the restitution of the old system of Church government and worship. Attempts were made, indeed, by a comparatively small but yet noisy party, to prevent the reintroduction of the episcopal system in its integrity; but the great body of the laity being strongly exercised against this attempt, it was at once defeated. One of the first proceedings of the restored Parliament was to pass an act for the conforming and restoring of ministers (12 Car. II, c. 17), which enacted that "every minister of the Church of England who had been ejected by the authority of the rebellion Parliament should be restored to his benefice by Nov. 25, 1660; provided he had not justified the king's murder or declared against infant baptism." Under this act, many of the non-episcopal ministers had to retire from the livings into which they had been instated, that the old persecuted, poverty- stricken clergy, who had been turned out of them fifteen or sixteen years before, might be restored to their homes and their flocks. Some even of those who had been episcopally ordained had also to retire; and thus Richard Baxter had to give way for the return of the old and rightful vicar of Kidderminster, whose place he had not unworthil. held for half a generation. But half a generation of exile, war, persecution, and hardship had not left many of the old clergy to return to their parishes, and most of these were left occupied by non-episcopal incumbents until the Act of Uniformity came into force. This act was passed Aug. 24, 1662, and by it all who refused to observe the rites, as well as to subscribe to the doctrines of the Church of England, were excluded from its communion, and in consequence exposed to many disadvantages and to cruel sufferings. "This act of Parliament," says Blunt, who seeks to defend the Anglican side, "was no novelty, being the fourth Act of Uniformity which had been passed since the Reformation, and having its parallel in-several 'ordinances' of the Parliament which were passed during the rebellion. It is, moreover, absolutely necessary that, if the Church system was to be restored, some enactment should be made enforcing the first principle of the system — that of episcopal ordination. But it was under the consideration of Parliament (especially of the House of Lords, which received a formal request to hasten it from the House of Commons) for several months; and it was so constructed as to deal considerately with the non-episcopal incumbents, as well as to deal justly with the principles of the Church. The former were not, therefore, 'ejected,' as has been so often represented; but opportunity was given to them of retaining the benefices which they held without any difficulty if they were willing to conform to those principles which had always been maintained, and which could not. be given up, respecting episcopal ordination, the use of the Prayer-book, and decent loyalty to the crown. The conditions thus imposed were stated as follows in the Act of Uniformity. Every parson, vicar, or other minister whatsoever, who now hath and enjoyeth any ecclesiastical benefice or promotion within this realm of England, . shall openly and publicly before the congregation there assembled declare his unfeigned assent and consent to the use of all things in said book contained and prescribed. in these words, and no other: 'I, A B, do here declare my unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the book entitled The Book of Common Prayer,' etc. Every such incumbent, or any one to be admitted to an incumbency thereafter, was required to subscribe the following declaration:
'I, A B, do declare that it is not lawful, on any pretense whatsoever, to take arms against the king; and that I do abhor that traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his person. or against those who are commissioned by him; and that I will conform to the liturgy of the Church of England as it is now by law established. And I do declare that I do hold there lies no obligation upon me, or on any other person, from the oath commonly called "The Solemn League and Covenant," to endeavor any change 'or alteration of government, either in Church or State; and that the same was in itself an unlawful oath, and imposed upon the subjects of this realm against the known laws and liberties of this kingdom.'
It was also provided that 'no person who is now incumbent and in possession of any parsonage, vicarage, or benefice, and who is not already in holy orders by episcopal ordination, or shall not before the feast of St. Bartholomew be ordained priest or deacon, according to the form of episcopal ordination, shall have, hold, or enjoy the said parsonage, vicarage, benefice, with cure or other ecclesiastical promotion, within this kingdom of England or the dominion of Wales;' but shall be utterly disabled and ipso facto deprived of the same; and all his ecclesiastical promotions: shall be void, as if he was naturally dead.' The Act of Uniformity, therefore, to secure the integrity of the Church system, on the one hand, and to secure the vested interests acquired by long possession on the part of the non-episcopal incumbents on the other, offered to the eight or nine thousand of the latter who still remained that, if they would be ordained, accept the Prayer-book, and renounce their engagement to destroy episcopal government, or to bear arms against the crown, the right to retain their benefices. The great majority accepted the terms that were thus offered, so legalizing their position, and qualifying themselves to carry out the system of the Church of England according to its long-established principles. The Nonconformists who did not accept these liberal terms offered by Parliament have been paraded before the world for two centuries as amounting in number to 2000. Contemporary writers of authority, as, for example, bishop Kennett, in his Register and Chronicle, the great storehouse of information respecting the years 1660-1662, often denied that the number was so large; but Calamy, in 1702, published an Abridgment of Baxter's Life and Times, the ninth chapter of which is occupied with biographical notices of some of the Nonconformists, and in which he gives the number of 2000 as correct. When this chapter was answered, in 1714, by Walker's folio volume on the Suffering of the Clergy, Calamy compiled a 'Continuation' of his former work, which was published in 1721 in two volumes, and in which he still maintained that 2000 Nonconformists were 'ejected' by the Act of Uniformity. A critical examination of Calamy's evidence shows, however, that he has much overstated his case, the number being not much more than one third of what he alleges it to be; and as so much has been made of the matter by dissenting writers, it is worth while to show what is the real conclusion furnished by his evidence. The list of ejected ministers printed by Calamy may be distributed under the seven following heads:
(1) Those who were actually dead before the time of ejection arrived;
(2) those who yielded up their places to the dispossessed episcopal incumbents;
(3) curates and lecturers, whose appointments were not benefices, and who were not, therefore, 'ejected' from any by the act;
(4) cases, in which the list sets down two incumbents for the same benefice;
(5) cases in which bishops' registers show that other men than those named in the list were in possession;
(6) those who on Calamy's own showing had no benefices to be lost, but whom he includes among those ejected from benefices;
(7) those who may have been deprived by the operation of the Act of Uniformity.
By the help of Newcourt's Repertorium of the diocese of London, those ministers whom Calamy names as ejected from benefices in that diocese may be distributed under these seven heads as follows:
The number of those who it is possible may have been ejected is thus, taking the general average, only 43.3 per cent. of the number given by Calamy for the diocese of London. If this proportion be taken as regards the alleged number ejected throughout England and Wales, that number will thus be reduced from 2000 to 867. It seems improbable, therefore, that the number of Nonconformist ministers who were ipso facto deprived of their parishes on St. Bartholomew's day was much or any over 800; and as contemporaries allege that some of these were men of property; that some made good marriages; that some returned to the trades which they had left for the pulpit; and that great kindness was shown to those who were poor by the bishops and nobility (Kennett's Register, p. 888, 919), it may be concluded that much exaggeration has been used by those who have turned the event to the, discredit of the Church. Among those who thus refused to accept the terms offered by the Act of Uniformity, there was also a large number who continued to attend the ministration of the Church, and whom Baxter calls 'Episcopal Nonconformists.' 'These,' he says, 'are for true parish churches and ministers reformed, without swearing, promising, declaring, or subscribing to any but sure, clear, necessary things; desiring that Scripture may be their canons; taking the capable in each parish for the communicants and Church, and the rest for hearers and catechized persons; desiring that the magistrate will be judge as to whom he will maintain, approve, and tolerate; and the ordainer judge of whom he will ordain; and the people be free consenters, to whose pastoral care they will trust their' souls, desiring that every presbyter may be an overseer over his flock, and every Church that hath many elders have one incumbent, president, for unity and order; and that goodly diocesans may (without the sword or force) have the oversight of many ministers and churches, and all these be confederate and under one government of a Christian king, but under no foreign jurisdiction, though in as much concord as possible with all the Christian world. And they would have the keys of excommunication taken out of the hands of laymen (chancellors or lay brethren), and the diocesan to judge in the synods of the presbyters in cases above parochial power' (Life and Times, App. p. 71, ed. 1696). These were probably a large class among the laity for some time after the Restoration" (Dict. Hist. Theol. s.v.). But whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the real number of those who were visited with suffering by the Act of Uniformity, there is certainly no ground for the indifference with, which some historians have deigned to treat those men in supposing that their consciences were more tender than they need be, for it must be remembered they were men of as extensive learning, great abilities, and pious conduct, as ever appeared. Mr.Locke, if his opinion have any weight, calls them "worthy, learned, pious, orthodox divines, who did not throw themselves out of service, but were forcibly ejected." Mr. Bogue thus draws their character: "As to their public ministration," he says, "they were orthodox, experimental, serious, affectionate, regular, faithful, able, and popular preachers. As to their moral qualities, they were devout and holy; faithful to Christ and the souls of men; wise and prudent; of great liberality and kindness; and strenuous advocates for liberty, civil and religious. As to their intellectual qualities, they were learned. eminent, and laborious." These men were driven from their homes, from the society of their friends, and exposed to the greatest difficulties. Had the government of the day been content with requiring subscription from those who desired to remain as ministers of the establishment, without proceeding to the passing of obnoxious, persecuting, and iniquitous acts against those whose consciences forbade their compliance with the requirements of the Act of Uniformity, dissent would not, in all probability, have taken such deep root in the minds of the people, nor would it have attained that growth to which it subsequently reached. The burdens of Nonconformists were very greatly increased by another enactment, under the same reign, entitled the "Conventicle Act," whereby they were prohibited from meeting for any exercise of religion (above five in number) in any other manner than allowed by the liturgy or practice of the Church of England. For the first offense the penalty was three months' imprisonment, or a fine of £5; for the second offense, six months' imprisonment, or £10; and for the third offense, banishment to some of the American plantations for seven years, or £100; and in case they returned; death penalty without benefit of clergy. By virtue of this act the jails were quickly filled with dissenting Protestants, and the trade of an informer was very gainful. So great was the severity of these times, says Neale, that they were afraid to pray in their families if above four of their acquaintance, who came only to visit them, were present; some families scrupled asking a blessing on their meat if — five strangers were at table. But this was not all. In 1665 an act was brought into the House to banish them from their friends, commonly called the "Oxford Five-Mile Act," by which all dissenting ministers, on the penalty of £40, who would not take an oath (that it was not lawful, upon any pretense whatever, to take arms against the king, etc.), were prohibited from coming within five miles of any city, town corporate, or borough, or any place where they had exercised their ministry, and from teaching any school. Some few took the oath; others could not, and consequently suffered the penalty. Yet even this was not all. Two more enactments under this sovereignty were made, the so-called Corporation. and Test Act, the last named of which was claimed to have been passed "for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants." But as it enacted that "all in place or office, civil or military, under the crown, or in receipt of any salary by patent or grant, shall take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, and shall receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper within three months after admittance," it virtually directed itself with equal severity against Protestant dissenters, for it excluded from offices of trust in the state those who refused to receive the eucharist according to the rubric of the Church of England. After this time dissent continued in a very depressed state, and had to struggle with various fortunes. In 1673 "the mouths of the High-Church pulpiters were encouraged to open as loud as possible. One in his sermon before the House of Commons told them that the Nonconformists ought not to be tolerated, but to be cured by vengeance. He urged them to set fire to the fagot, and to teach them by scourges or scorpions, and open their eyes with gall."' Such were the dreadful consequences of this intolerant spirit, that it is supposed near 8000 died in prison in the reign of Charles II. It is said that Mr. Jeremiah White had carefully collected a list of those who had suffered between Charles II and the Revolution, which amounted to 60,000. The same persecutions were carried on in Scotland; and there, as well as in England, many, to avoid molestation, fled from their country. But, notwithstanding all these dreadful and furious attacks upon the dissenters, they were not extirpated. Their very persecution was in their favor. The infamous character of their informers and oppressors; their own, piety, zeal, and fortitude, no doubt, had influence on considerate minds; and, indeed, they had additions from the Established Church, which several clergymen in this reign deserted as a persecuting Church.
Anglican divines appear as apologetic in behalf of king Charles and his extravagant measures; and, lest we stand accused of representing only the side of the Nonconformists, we here insert the apologies offered by one of the ablest Anglican historians, the Rev. John Henry Blunt, who says: "The statutes passed by Charles It against nonconformity proceed on two principles, which used to be thought undeniable, viz., that the Church and the commonwealth are co-extensive, the same body under its two aspects; and that the government of such a Christian state has the duty of training its subjects in Christian truth and religious practice. Rulers, it was thought, were bound to enforce the observance of Church laws as well as the laws of a secular political economy. The former of these was, at the end of the 16th century, no such Utopian notion as it now appears to be. For the first ten years of Elizabeth's reign Papists frequented the English service, and it might have been not unreasonably hoped that such a reformation was possible as would retain the whole nation in the Established Church. So long as this. theory of the identity of the Church and nation appeared not impossible to realize (and there is no wonder that patriotic statesmen were slow to relinquish it), it followed inevitably that temporal penalties were added to spiritual censures, that breaches of Church bounds were met by strict enactments. Rebellion against the Church was also rebellion against the State; and, in point, of fact, secession from the Church was accompanied by insurrection against the government. The conspiracy of Hacket and Coppinger was just. before the passing of the act of A.D. 1593. Presbyteries and independent congregations would lead, it was well known, to the overthrow of temporal as well as spiritual thrones. Rebellion against the sovereign began with disobedience in religion, and disobedience in religion was dealt with according to its results. The hundred and thirty years from Elizabeth's accession to the Revolution are the attempt to realize the high ideal of the true union and coincidence of Church and State." During the reign of king James the Nonconformists for a while at least enjoyed more or less liberty. He, suddenly changing his course, though simply for the purpose of restoring popery, granted universal toleration, and preferred Nonconformists to places of trust and profit. Toleration truly came only in the reign of king William III, when the so-called "Toleration Act" was passed (in 1689), and thus was granted immunity to all Protestant dissenters, except Socinians, from the penal laws to which they had been subjected by the Stuart dynasty. The benefits conferred by this measure were indeed subsequently much abridged by the "Occasional Communion Bill," which excluded from civil offices those Nonconformists who, by communion at the altars of the Church, were by the provisions of the Test Act qualified to hold them, and by the "Schism Bill," which restricted the work of education to certificated churchmen. But after the accession of George I, he being fully satisfied that these hardships were brought upon the dissenters for their steady adherence to the Protestant succession in his illustrious house, against a Tory and Jacobite ministry, who were paving the way for a popish pretender, procured the repeal of them in the fifth year of his reign, and since then, by the removal of the "Test Act," and by the passing of the acts relating to registration and marriage, dissenters have been allowed the peaceful enjoyment of the rights of conscience.
Though religious liberty now prevails in Britain. it must be confessed that the great subject of nonconformity remains still to be agitated, and the great questions which it has provoked cannot be considered as yet finally settled. The Puritans, under the Tudors, became Nonconformists under the Stuarts, and Dissenters under the family of Hanover. They have been men of the same principles substantially throughout. In maintaining the rights of conscience, they have contributed more than any other class of persons to set limits to the power of the crown, to define the rights of the subjects, and to secure the liberties of Britain. They have wrested a rod of iron from the hand of despotism, and substituted in its place a scepter of righteousness and mercy. They have converted the divine right of kings into the principles of a constitutional government, in which the privileges of the subject are secured by the same charter which guards the throne. The history of the principles of such a body ought not, therefore, to be regarded as unimportant by any friends of British freedom. The Nonconformist controversy contributed greatly to ascertain the distinct provinces of divine and human legislation; to establish the paramount and exclusive authority of God, and of the revelation of his will, over the conscience of man; and to define the undoubted claims of civil government to the obedience of its subjects in all matters purely civil. To the same controversy we are indebted for the correct and scriptural sentiments which are now extensively entertained respecting the unsecular nature of the kingdom of Christ. The intermixture of heavenly and earthly things does indeed still prevail, and its pernicious tendency is yet imperfectly estimated by many; but considerable progress has been made towards the full discovery of the entire spirituality of the Messiah's kingdom. Its independence of secular support and defense; its resources both of propagation and maintenance; its uncongeniality with the principles, spirit, and practice of earth-born men, are now much more generally admitted than they once were. In fact, the ablest defenders of ecclesiastico-civil establishments have now entirely abandoned the doctrine of divine right, and boldly avow that they are no part of Christianity, but only a human expedient for its propagation.
A conference of the leading Nonconformists of England was held in London Feb. 15, 1876, for the purpose of expressing their views upon several questions which are to come before the present Parliament, namely, the Burials Bill, the legality of clerical fellowships, and the administration of the Endowed Schools Act. Mr. Osborne Morgan stated that this was the seventh time he had brought a bill for amending the burial acts before Parliament. He advocates giving the English dissenting minister full privilege to officiate at funerals in the parish churchyards, just as the Episcopal ministers in Scotland, who are Dissenters in that country, are allowed to read their service in the Presbyterian graveyards. The extent of the grievance is seen in the fact that there are 13,000 parishes in England where the .only graveyard is that attached to the Church of England parish, and under the control of the parochial clergyman. In none of these can any one be buried unless the English Church service is read at the grave. The Hon. Lyulph Stanley, in an address upon clerical fellowships; said that there were 171 such fellowships in the University of Cambridge, and 108 at Oxford. Resolutions in support of the Nonconformist positions upon all these subjects were passed. In the evening a large public meeting, presided over by Mr. McArthur, M.P., was held at Exeter Hall. There is evidently a strong move in England for separation of Church and State.
There is a society in England called "Central Bartholomew," which is busy with a defense of nonconformity, and aims to bring about the final and full separation of Church and State in Great Britain. In 1866 it brought out a Bicentenary volume, which includes, besides the public documents bearing on the ejection of "the Two Thousand," an "Introduction" to the documents, written by Mr. Peter Bayne, and entitled Puritanism, its Character and History. Then we have Mr. Binney's two Bicentenary sermons, lectures by the Rev. Thos. Adkins, of Southampton, and the Rev. R. A. Redford, of Hull; the Canadian Bicentenary Papers, No. 1, History of Nonconformity in England in 1662, by Rev. W. F. Clarke; and Reasons for Nonconformity in Canada in 1862, by Rev. F. H. Marling; a sermon by the Rev. W. Kirkus, preached on St. Bartholomew's day, on The Nature and some of the Probable Consequences of Perfect Religious. Liberty; The
Church of Christ in England, by the Rev. C. Stover. The Society has also published the following:
(1), Tract Series — The First Protest. or the Father of English Nonconformity, by Edward Underhill, Esq.; The Book of Sports, by the Rev. R. Halley, D.D.; The Star Chamber and High Commission, by Peter Bayne, Esq., A.M.; The Ejection of the Episcopalians, by the Rev. J. G. Miall; The Savoy Conference, by the Rev. Dr. M'Crie; The Act of Uniformity and the Subsidiary Acts, by Peter. Bayne, Esq., A.M.; The Farewell Sunday, by Rev. Charles Stanford; The effects of the Ejectment, by Rev. A. Mackennal, B.A.; On the Prayer-book, by Rev. J.H. Millard, B.A.; On Clerical Subscription, by Rev. W. Robinson; The Act of Toleration, by the Rev. Dr. Lorimer.
(2), Lecture Series — The Story of the Ejectment, a lecture by the Rev. Thomas M'Crie, D.D.; Fidelity to' Conscience, a lecture by the Rev. A. M'Laren, B.A.; Nonconformity in 1662 and in 1862, a lecture by the Rev. R. W. Dale, M.A.; The Design of the Act of Uniformity, a lecture by the Rev. Robert Halley, D.D. See also Bogue, Charge at Mr. Knight's Ordination; Neale, History of the Puritans; De Laune, Plea for the Nonconformists; Palmer, Nonconformist's Mem.; Price, Hist. of Nonconformity;. Conder, Fletcher, and Dobson, On Nonconformity; Martin, Letters on Nonconformity; Dr. Calamy, Life of Baxter; Pierce, Vindication of the Dissenters; Bogue and Bennet, Hist. of the Dissenters, 1:78; Bickersteth, Christian Student, p. 252; Christianity in Great Britain (Lond. and N. Y. 1874); Stoughton, Eccles. Hist. of England (Church of the Restoration), vol. i and ii; Skeats, Hist. of the Free Churches of England, p. 75-97; Brit. Qu. Rev. April, 1871, art. iii; Oct. 1873, art. vii; Contemp. Rev. Jan. 1872, art. ii.