Imatges de pàgina

mained in Holland that the Prince of Orange (who was soon after the glorious instrument of delivering these nations) did him the honour to admit him several times into his presence, and discoursed with him, with great

freedom. And he ever after retained a particular respect for him.

In the mean time King James was making quick advances towards the destruction of the Protestant religion, and the liberties of England. But in the year 1687, for reasons of state, and the better to favour his grand scheme, he published his declaration for liberty of conscience; which the Dissenters accepted of indeed, but the greatest and best part of them wisely refused to concur in an address of thanks to his majesty for that indulgence. Upon this turn of affairs Mr. Howe returned to his flock in London

upon their earnest request. But before he left Holland, he thought it proper to wait on the Prince of Orange, who wished him a good voyage, and advised hiin

tho prehension of the great men of the Church, that nonconformity would have been only resunius aetatis ; since, as the Doctor judiciously observed, that as long as the spirit of imposition continued, it was reasonable to expect that some would think themselves obliged to stand up for a generous liberty, the doing of which may be very consistent with all that charity and brotherly love, that is required either by reason or Scripfure

P. 42. fol. & p. 127-130. oct.

tho he and his friends made use of the liberty granted by King James, yet to be very cautious of addressing, and to use his utmost influence in order to the restraining others; which he readily promised, and was as good as his word.

Upon his return into his own country, which was in May this year, he was received with great joy by his old friends and brethren, and returned with pleasure to the exercise of his ministry. He was thankful for a little breathing time, and indeavoured to improve it to the best purposes, and to preserve himself and others from the snares that were laid for them (B). For notwith

standing (B) The difsenters have often been severely reflected upon for designing to favour the interest of popery against the Church of England at 'this time, merely because a few weak perfons, or some who had received favours from the court, agreed to an address of thanks for this indulgence, and to deciare their approbation of the King's dispensing power. But after all the calumnies thrown out against thein in general, it is well known that they as a body, abhorred the measures of the court; and as bishop Burnet owns, “ They saw through the design of the papists, which “ was to set them now as much against the Church “ of England, as before they had set the Church of

England against them. †" It is not to be thought that any man in his senses could be so as to imaginé, that this indulgence flowed from any regard or affection for them. Every cne saw that it was an artful design to ingage them to approve of the King's dispensing power; that is, to make bim a compliment

+ Vol. 1. p. 673.

standing the great indeavours made use of to draw in the diffenting ministers to approve the measures of the court, Mr. Howe in all their meetings, which were held among them to consider of their own behaviour in this juncture, always declared against approving the dispensing power, and every thing that could give the papists any assistance in the carrying on their designs. And consistently with himself, when he was closeted in his turn by King James, and discoursed with about this affair, which his majesty's heart was so much set upon, he bravely replied ; that he was a minister of the Gospel, and it was his province to preach, and indeavour to do good to the fouls of men : but that as for meddling with ftate affairs, he was as little inclined, as he was called to it, and begged to be excar

ed (C).


of their liberties, and congratulate him, as it were, upon his victory over all the Laws of England.

(C) DR. CALAMY has set the conduct of the diffenters in this regard in a clear and very good light, in p. 43–46. fol. & p. 132--142. oct. To which is added an account of the conversation beween Mr. Howe and Dr. Sherlock, who alked, what he thought the diflenters would do, - supposing the preterments of the Church should become vacant, and an offer should be made of filling them out of their number?

But now came on the glorious revolution; by which means the fears of all trueborn Englishmen, and Protestants, were at once blown over. On this happy occasion, the diffenting ministers waited in a body on the Prince of Orange, and were introduced by the lords Devonshire, Wharton, and Wiltshire ; at which time Mr. Howe in the name of the rest made a, handsome speech to his Highness. To which the Prince replied, that as he came on purpose to defend the Proteftant religion, he would do his utmost still to defend it and to promote a firm union among Protestants. And without question the Prince was sincere, and really incouraged the design which was soon after set on foot for a comprehension and an indulgence. But great was the surprize to see fo strenuous an opposition to this glorious design, particularly from those, who in their fright and distress were ready to promise every thing to the diffenters, provided they would but join them in their efforts to save the Church of England, and the liberties of the nation. Upon this occafion Mr. Howe drew up an excellent paper, but too long to be inserted here, intitled, “ The case of the Protestant diffen


[ocr errors]

ters, represented and argued ;" which is well worthy of every man's perusalt.

However at last, though the comprehension affair came to nothing, yet the memorable act of toleration received the royal assent on May 24, 1689, which repealed the penal laws against difsenters; with which they were contented and thankful, tho some others were very much displeased. It is true, it was said by a certain party several years afterwards, that it was an unreasonable law, and strongly insinuated that it ought to be repealed. But the late lord chancellor King, Cowper, and other great lawyers, on a solemn occasion maintained, that it was one of the principal happy consequences of the revolution; wisely calculated for the support of the Protestant interest ; reasonable in it self; and to be required from the legiflators, as they were Christians, and men professing humanity and good-will, towards one another. But in order to prevent mutual flights and dangerous extremes, Mr. Howe, very prudently, soon after the toleration act passed, published another sheet of


which is intitled thus ; “ Humble requests both « to conformists and dissenters, touching

“ their + See p. 48–53. fol. p. 146–162. oct.

« AnteriorContinua »