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TRINITY-HALL, ALDERSGATE-STREET.-Nonjurors, Extinct.
but the upper room, which retained somewhat the appearance of its original use, was let out as a place of worship to a congregation of Nonjurors. This was the state of it when Maitland wrote in 1738.*
The NONJURORS were a race of men who declined taking the oaths of allegiance to King William and Queen Mary, under the idea that they were usurpers. Their attachment to King James and the Stuart family procured them, also, the name of JACOBITES. The conduct of these men was the most absurd and inconsistent that can well be imagined to fall to the lot of human beings. In politics they were perfectly despotic, and while under the government of the Stuarts, defended the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance in their full extent. Always enemies to liberty, they found it convenient to resist King James's declaration for indulgence; for which offence seven of their bishops were sent to the Tower. Not relishing that submission, which for nearly thirty years, they had preached up to the Nonconformists, they entered into a conspiracy to dethrone their King, and place the Prince of Orange upon the throne. Diffident of their own strength, they invited the co-operation of those persons whom they had been persecuting to prison and to death. These they condescended to dignify as their brethren; expressed a repentance for the past; and promised large rewards for the future. When they had effected their purpose, and sent their King, against the opposers of whose tyrannical proceedings they had been preaching up eternal damnation, into banishment, they all of a sudden grew sullen and discon tented, and turned their backs upon their deliverer. Notwithstanding their former professions, the Act of Toleration was a thorn in their sides, from which they could never disengage themselves; and their cloudy understandings, better suited to the darkness of the middle ages, could not brook
• Maitland's London, vol. ii. p. 716.
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the liberal and enlightened conduct of the king whom they had voted to the throne. They therefore refused taking the oaths to King William's government, for which eight bishops, including Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, were deprived of their preferments, as were several other clergymen, who sunk into poverty and contempt.
The religion of the nonjurors was a strange medley of Popery and Protestantism. To a superstitious reverence for écclesiastical rites and observances, and arrogant notions of the dignity and power of the priesthood, they added the most contemptuous disregard for other Protestants, whom they looked upon as base apostates from the true church. Regarding their episcopal brethren in this light, it is no wonder that they treated nonconformists as heretics, and consigned them over to eternal perdition. The tender mercies of these men were, indeed, of a very peculiar nature. They thought it no crime to assassinate King William, and though foiled in their attempt at so foul and unnatural a murder, when the assassins were called upon to pay the debt of their érimes, they looked upon them as martyrs for the Christian faith, and administered to them ghostly absolution. Sir John Friend, and Sir William Perkins, being condemned to die for attempting this crime, they were attended to the place of execution by three nonjuring clergymen, of whom one was the celebrated Jeremy Collier, who united
giving them solemn absolution, with imposition of hands; in the presence of the multitude; "a strain of impu dence (says Burnet) as new as it was wicked, since those persons died owning the ill designs they had been engaged in and expressing no sort of repentance for them." By admi Mistering priestly absolution to the above traitors, these clergymen identified themselves with the church of Rome,
though they called themselves Protestants, and had the modesty to set themselves up as the only true church. Hopeless, in their opinion, was the state of those unfortunate • Burnet's Own Time, vol. iii. p. 239.
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persons, who could not trace an uninterrupted episcopal descent from the apostolic times. As to the clergy of this description, every Christian ordinance administered by them was null and void; and the estate of those poor souls who followed them was fearful in the extreme, according to the declaration of Mr. Dodwell No salvation out of the episcopal Church of England.
The bigotry of the nonjurors was truly contemptible; and it is matter of lamentation that they found so many learned men to advocate their cause. Their principal leaders, besides the deprived bishops, were Hicks, Leslie, Dodwell, and Collier; the first and last of whom were raised by their nonjuring brethren to the episcopal dignity: but it was merely nominal. Kettlewell, Spinkes, Brett, Howell, and Welton, were also of the same party. The preaching and writings of these men, created, for several years, a considerable ferment in the nation; and so violent was their conduct, that oftentimes it was found necessary to exert the strong arm of the civil power against them. When we consider the studied opposition manifested by the nonjurors towards King William, and the present royal family, and which often broke out into acts of treachery and violence, the lenity shewn to them by the government was truly surprising. To this, their own conduct towards the nonconformists, while in power, was a striking contrast. After the Revolution, many of the deprived nonjuring clergymen set up private congregations, distinct from those supported by the state. Among those, Mr. Welton, the deprived minister of Whitechapel, is particularly mentioned; though where he preached seems uncertain. As they were all the highest of the high clergy, they conducted the worship in their meeting-houses, in strict conformity to the ritual of the Church of England.
The author of an abridged history of nonconformity, who is a Dissenting minister of the Presbyterian denomination, VOL. III.
TRINITY-HALL, ALDERSGATE STREET― Nonjurors, Extinct.
has expressed himself concerning the nonjurors in a manner much more favourable than we have felt ourselves obliged to do. He describes them 66 as a new set of Dissenters from the establishment, deserving honourable mention ;" and their clergy as men of "learning, virtue and piety, and as worthy of the places they filled in the church as any of their contemporaries." In this panegyric, built upon a supposition of their integrity, we cannot agree. The learning possessed by the nonjurors is acknowledged, in many cases, to have been considerable; but it was devoted to the baneful support of superstition, priestcraft, and intolerance. The virtue of these men was exemplified in their frequent attempts to assassinate King William, for which one clergyman, and several laymen suffered death as traitors. Piety some of them certainly had, but it was of a very extraordinary kind, and better suited to the cells of a cloister, than to the society of rational beings. Their integrity, also, appears to us as very suppositious. They first turn their backs upon King James, by inviting a foreign prince to the throne; then, because he would not go all the lengths they desired, they again face about, and their consciences will not permit them to withdraw their allegiance from their former sovereign, whom they wish to reinstate on the throne from which they had driven him. That the consciences of some of them were made of pliable stuff, is evident from the examples of the two Sherlocks; and they prove to a demonstration, that the consciences of some men, like the councils of princes, often turn upon the fate of a battle. William, the elder, was greatly embarrassed how to act at the Revolution. At first, he utterly refused taking the oaths to William III. and advised a considerable number of the city clergy to follow his example: but Mrs. Sherlock had no such scruples. The government gave him time for consideration, which, aided by her entreaties, formed a revolution in his mind,
• Cornish's Brief History of Nonconformity, p. 185-157.
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and he at length complied. An arch bookseller seeing him soon afterwards handing his wife along St. Paul's Churchyard, said, "There goes Dr, Sherlock, with his reasons for taking the oaths at his fingers ends." His apostacy procured him the hatred of the whole Jacobite party, and afforded new matter for the wit of his adversary South. As William Sherlock did not submit till King William had firmly established his throne, by the battle of the Boyne, so his son Thomas, who succeeded him as Master of the Temple, and was afterwards Bishop of London, owed his conversion to the battle of Preston, which confirmed the throne to George I. On the Sunday succeeding to the battle, he preached a loyal revolution sermon; which occasioned the benchers to remark, that "it was a pity it had not been delivered at least the Sunday before." (R) Of this double conversion, the following epigram was thought to be characteristic:
As Sherlock the elder, with his jure divine,
So Sherlock the younger still made it a question,
From the Nonjurors, Trinity-Hall passed to the Methodists. Mr. Wesley, in one of his journals, has the following passage concerning this place. "May 24, 1738. In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God makes in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation. And an assu
(R) It has been affirmed that it was the event of the battle of Aghrim for which he waited; that he had a friend on the spot to write to him immedi ately, and as soon as he heard that Ginkle was victorious, he took the eaths.
• Noble's Continuation of Granger, vol. i. p. 91.