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OUTLINES OF THE HISTORY OF PRESBYTERIANISM, IN
BY THE REV. H. MONTGOMERY, LL.D.
(Continued from page 209, No. VII.) CHARLES II. entered London, and ascended the throne of his Ancestors, on the 29th day of May, 1660. Exhausted for upwards of sixteen years, by civil wars, the contentions of rival sects, the intrigues of ambitious statesmen, and the outrageous despotism of military leaders, the entire Nation rejoiced in the prospect of established order, under the sway of a legitimate Monarch, trained in the school of adversity, and well aware of the dire calamities which the obstinate exercise of arbitrary power had inflicted upon his Father. All parties and all sects expected to see their rights secured and their interests promoted, as none had openly opposed the “Restoration;" but the Presbyterians calculated on receiving special favor, as having been the steady opponents of Cromwell's usurpation, and the principal agents in smoothing the ascent of Charles to the throne. Nor were these the sole grounds of their reliance. They depended still more upon the strictly orthodox education which the young King had received, in Scotland, under the great Lights of their Church, and the public formalities with which he had twice subscribed “The Solemn League and Covenant," for the "extirpation of Popery and Prelacy.” But, like the Bourbons of France, in our own days, as an eloquent Writer has forcibly expressed it, Charlos, “in his adversity, had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing." On the contrary, he entered upon the possession of power with as exalted notions of the kingly prerogative, both in Church and State, as had been entertained by any of his Predecessors ; whilst, owing to the exhaustion of the Nation, the jealousies of parties, and the failure of "The Great Rebellion,” he clearly foresaw that he was not likely to encounter any formidable opposition to his arbitrary will. As to the influence of his Calvinistic education in Scotland, it was precisely what every man of common sense might have anticipated. Four or five Sermons on Sunday-Lectures and Expositions during the other days of the week—“long prayers,” morning and evening—“halfmile graces," at meals-gloomy faces at all times—and an impertinent surveillance upon his private pursuits—all those, naturally and effectually disgusted him, not only with Presbyterianism, but even with all religion; and, as the slave hates his task-master, so did Charles abhor his spiritual tyrants and their Church. He became, in fact, what thousands have become under similar training, an infidel, a scoffer, and a profligate-ready, without any religion, to profess whatsoever faith might be most convenient, and to persecute all sects that dissented from the Creed which he condescended to patronize. We do not, indeed, require the light of History to show us the evils of what has been miscalled “religious training”-that is, the inculcation of gloomy Sectarian dogmata, the enforcing of an insincere profession, and the representing of religion as unfriendly to the natural and innocent enjoyments of life ; for, we have all known, in our own day, the melancholy results of such mistaken efforts, in the deplorable misconduct of those who have revenged themselves for the unreasonable restraints and ascetism of early years, by the irreligion and profligacy of their after lives. No one, therefore, can be surprised, that Charles escaped, at once, from the Calvinism of Scotland, and the salutary restraints of all religion ; or that, having been tormented with cant, and forced to become a hypocrite, he should, without scruple, have violated his twice-sworn adherence to “The Solemn League and Covenant,” and thrown himself into the open arms of that very Prelacy which he had pledged himself “to extirpate!" Nothing can be more absurd, than to expect honesty towards man, from him who has been previously made dishonest towards his Creator. I have no sympathy, therefore, with those who 80 loudly clamour against Charles for his violation of “The Covenant,” for his ingratitude to Presbyterians, or even for his crimes. He was doubtless a profligate man and a bad Sovereign; and, I have no desire to palliate those private and public offences which he might have avoided : but, I sincerely believe, that many of his most glaring violations of private decency and public liberty, had their origin in his “ Scotch training,” which caused him to dislike all religion, and specially to abhor Presbyterianism. As to the King's “ingratitude towards Presbyterians," I cannot comprehend it. They supported him out of no regard for his person, or for the promotion of either civil or religious liberty. On the contrary, they were guided by unmingled selfishness and religious intolerance; and having Charles sufficiently
trained,” as they believed, to be their mere slave and instrument, they calculated on holding under him all the offices and emoluments of the State, and obtaining the complete establishment of Presbyterianism as the religion of Great Britain and Ireland, to the entire extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, and every species of Dissent. To talk of gratitude, therefore, for a support which was purely selfish, and utterly devoid of any one principle of public virtue, is eminently absurd. Charles knew them thoroughly: he remembered the gloomy thraldom in which they had held him: and he dexterously employed them for the promotion of his own selfish objects, precisely as they designed to render him subservient to theirs. No gratitude, therefore, could be fairly claimed on either side ; for both parties were playing a purely personal game-the one, to gain a throne ; the other, to obtain a monopoly of civil power, and to secure the intolerant ascendancy of their Church. In this game, the King was conqueror. He ascended the throne without compact or condition of any kind: and, knowing the intention of the Presbyterians to use him as their instrument, he, not unnaturally, threw himself into the arms of the Episcopalians, who had been the persevering friends of his unfortunate Father.
I freely admit, however, that although the Presbyterians had no claim of gratitude upon Charles, they had an unquestionable right to justice at his hands: and, assuredly, no remembrance of the unequalled treachery of the Scotch Army in selling his unhappy Father to the English Parliament-and no recollection of the irksome restraints which they had more recently imposed upon himself could, in any degree, palliate the shocking atrocities committed, under his sanction, during the first ten years of his reign, by his brutal officers and soldiery, in his iniquitous crusade to force Episcopacy upon a reluctant nation. Neither was his treatment of the English Presbyterians and Independents much less revolting-two thousand of the ablest and most pious Ministers of the Land being ejected from their Livings by the infamous “Act of Uniformity,” in the year 1662 ; and all public worship being prohibited, under the severest penalties, unless performed according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. Even in private houses, the assembling of more than five persons for religious exercises, entailed the penalty of imprisonment, confiscation of property, or banishment.
In Ireland, where the accession of “a Covenanted King” had awakened sentiments of the liveliest satisfaction amongst the Presbyterian inhabitants, their rejoicing was speedily changed into mourning. At first, indeed, they had grounds of hope ; for, when two Ministers proceeded to London, they obtained the singular favor of an audience, “through the good offices of Sir John Clotworthy and Mr. Annesley, and were permitted to lay before his Majesty their claims upon his gracious protection, on the score of their known attachment to his Royal House, as evidenced in their early protest against the usurpation of Cromwell." The two Brethren thus favoured were William Keyes, of Belfast, and William Richardson, of Killileagh, whose account of the transaction has been thus recorded. "Mr. Annesley read the Address, and the King looked with an awful, majestical countenance upon them: yet, he gave them good words, owning the Ministers of Ireland's loyalty in the time of the Usurpers, and promising his royal protection, in the time to come. He bid them not fear; for he had appointed a Deputy for Ireland who would prove their friend; and concluded by promising to give Lord Robarts -his commands concerning them.”
But, in those days, the promises of Kings were exceedingly evanescent; and it is very probable that Charles forgot the whole matter before the happy messengers returned to Ulster. He did not neglect, however, to issue a Royal Ordinance for the complete re-establishment of Episcopacy, with all its former privileges and powers; and, immediately afterwards, he re-instated all the Bishops whom Cromwell had deposed. Bramhall, already known as the inveterate enemy of Presbyterians, he made Primate of all Ireland; and, the celebrated Jeremy Taylor, he inducted to the See of Down and Connor. In the mean time, Lords Justices were appointed to govern Ireland, who, at the instigation of the Bishops, issued a Proclamation "forbidding all unlawful Assemblies, and directing Sheriffs and other officers to prevent or disperse them.” This Proclamation was specially directed against the holding of Presbyteries; and, having had the King's promise of protection, as already stated, four Ministers proceeded to Dublin, to remonstrate with the Government, on this infringement of their rights. Two days in succession, they were called before the Privy Council ; but only to be mocked and reviled by several Bishops and other members; and consequently they returned without redress. This, however, was only the beginning of troubles ; for, almost immediately after their return, Jeremy Taylor, summoned all the Presbyterian Ministers in his Diocese, to attend his Visitation, at Lisburn. Knowing his great eminence as a Scholar, and having some hope of his moderation, they deputed three Ministers to wait upon him, in order to show, that as Presbyterians, they could recognise neither episcopal authority nor ordination. He received them haughtily, and sneered at their plea of “conscience, which a Jew or a Quaker might use;" but advised them, if determined not to submit, to absent themselves from the Visitation. Immediately afterwards, however, he declared their Parishes vacant, to the number of thirty six ; and proceeded to appoint persons episcopally ordained to officiate in their Churches. The other Bishops speedily followed the bad example of Jeremy Taylor ; so that, in a short time, Sixty One devoted servants of God were summarily ejected from their dwellings, and houses of worship, because they would not violate the dictates of conscience! Nay, they were even precluded from preaching publicly in any place ; and were compelled to instruct their affectionate people from house to house, and sometimes, during the darkness of night, in larger numbers, amongst the glens and wilds of the country.
Most heartily do I venerate those admirable men, who not only sacrificed comfort and subsistence for the sake of conscience, but even jeopardized their liberties and lives, in times of such intolerance and tyranny. I can almost forgive their own former persecutions of episcopalians, catholics, independents, and anabaptists, in honor of their glorious firmness and integrity: and, yet, I cannot suppress my wonder that men who, themselves, attached such high and just importance to Christian principle and honest profession, could have failed to admire in others the ennobling qualities which adorned their own characters! How strange are the inconsistencies of erring mortals ! How wonderful to find, in the self-same individual, a persecutor and a martyr—a man eager to ruin his brother for being honest enough to keep “a good conscience," and yet ready to endure any personal suffering, rather than sacrifice his own! Such anomalies, in human nature, however, are by no means uncommon. At this moment, in what is miscalled “ The Free Church of Scotland,” we have an illustration on an extended scale-where five or six hundred Calvinistic Ministers command our admiration on account of their magnanimous worldly sacrifices, in defence of what they consider Christian Liberty, whilst they are practically rivetting additional fetters upon themselves and their people; and, whilst, only two years ago, they disgracefully exerted all their energies to abet the actual robbery of the Non-subscribing Presbyterians of Ireland, for having peacefully seceded, like themselves, from an older Church, in whose communion they could no longer conscientiously remain!
We ought not, however, to be so much surprised at witnessing some melancholy inconsistencies amongst frail and sinful creatures, as we should rejoice that, on great emergencies, so many noble and honest spirits are generally to be found, ready, at all hazards, to vindicate the rights of conscience. Persecutions, like fire, purge away the dross, and leave nothing but the sterling ore behind ; and, happily, in the year 1661, there was much gold and little alloy amongst the Presbyterian Ministers of Ulster. Whilst Sixty One upright Pastors nobly "maintained the profession of their faith without wavering," only Seren Ministers and Two Licentiates conformed to the episcopal Establishment. These had all come from Scotland, pledged Presbyterians and sworn Covenanters ; but, they cast their vows to the wind, renounced the Covenant, received prelatical ordination, and became members, or rather slaves, of that very Church which they had, by repeated vows, solemnly pledged themselves to extirpate! And, yet, this melancholy exhibition of human frailty does not reflect so much disgrace upon the nine unprincipled men who became the victims of strong temptations, as it does upon the entire system of bribes and penalties, in the concerns of religion. In the sight of God, the seducer is worse than his erring victim--the suborner of perjury is more profligate than the low wretch who swears falsely for gain—and all the Creed-bound Churches whic have produced, and are producing, thousands of dishonest Ministers, under the vain plea of promoting uniformity of faith, lie under in