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opening scenes of the Restoration. I then reminded you of the remark that political reasoners have always made on occasions of this nature, that as mankind are ever in extremes, their resistance or rebellion no sooner ceases and changes into obedience, than their obedience becomes servility; and that such renewals of an ancient government form an epoch of all others the most critical and dangerous to the liberties of a people.
The scenes that took place every where in the metropolis and through the kingdom, during the first stages of the Restoration, certainly confirmed such general conclusions.
To a certain degree, so did even the proceedings of the restoration parliament. Still it must be allowed that more care was taken of the liberties of the subject by the House of Commons than the general principles of human nature would have led us to expect; and this, as I then observed, is an important merit that belongs to the Presbyterians, who constituted so large a portion of its members, particularly to Sir Matthew Hale, the judge so justly celebrated.
Hale is understood not to have been wanting to his country at this memorable period. He endeavoured to take proper securities for the constitution; to come to some understanding with the king on this subject before he was finally restored; but all proposals of this kind were overruled.
You will do well, therefore, to observe the events that followed in consequence of these securities not having been taken. You will observe the conduct of the king through the whole of his reign, and finally the revolution that at length became necessary, in the short space of less than thirty years; and that, at this revolution, the patriotic party did only take such securities as Sir Matthew Hale would probably have proposed at the Restoration. You will then make your own inferences with respect to the propriety of all principles of general confidence, when interests so delicate, so fugitive, so important, are concerned, as those of civil liberty. Men of peaceable dispositions and refined minds are always the first to countenance these principles of general confidence in rulers and government; they are the very men, as I have once before observed, who should be the last; for they are the very men who of all others would stand most aghast, when things are at last driven to the dreadful alternative either of asserting the liberties of a people by force, or losing them for ever.
We now proceed to the history of the reign. The first parliament, the convention or restoration parliament, was soon dissolved, and a new and regular parliament was immediately summoned, and met in May, 1661.
This was the pensionary parliament, as it was called, the parliament that sat afterwards for so many years.
Great exertions had been made by Clarendon in the elections, and it is understood that only about fifty-three of the Presbyterian interest were returned.
The settlement of the nation after the rebellion was the great work before them, and was in fact intrusted to Lord Clarendon. This settlement was principally to be directed to two main points. In the first place, the state of the property was to be adjusted. Great transmutations had taken place, amid the rapine and confiscations, forced sales and purchases, which had been made under the authority of parliament and the protectorate.
The adherents of the king were visibly those who had suffered during the commotions.
This subject is left in great perplexity by the account of Clarendon ; but, comparing this account with other representations, to be found in a note in Harris's Life of Charles II., vol. i., page 370, on the whole it may be concluded that
such property as had been torn from the royal party, and was still in any very visible and distinguishable shape, was after some delay and management seized upon by the state and restored to its original owners. The crown lands, for instance, the church lands, were taken from those who had purchased and held on parliamentary titles, and some of the estates of the great families were recovered; but on the whole the good sense and legal education of Clarendon, and the natural fears of the king lest his throne should be endangered, concurred in producing the acts of indemnity and oblivion. These were passed in the restoration parliament, and immediately confirmed on the meeting of the new parliament. By these acts men seem to have been in general secured in the possession of their estates and property, as they then stood, with such exceptions as I have alluded to, and such an endless subject of contention was for ever put to rest.
The next great subject was one of even more difficulty, the final settlement of the church. The church government had become Presbyterian; was it to remain so? Was it to be modified ? The circumstances were these. In England intolerance had run, as in other countries, its natural course; first, between the Papists and Protestants, as you will see in Fox's Martyrs, and Dodd's Church History. The Church of England under Elizabeth had waged war also with the Puritans, still more so under James I., and again, yet more violently, under the direction and counsels of Charles I. and Laud.
All this you will see in Neale’s History of the Puritans (you will easily make out from the prefaces what the chapters contain). In the great rebellion, however, it had happened that the Presbyterians had established themselves, and they persecuted the members of the Church of England in their turn. On this head Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy may be consulted. A few pages of the work, where the author gives a general computation of the numbers who suffered, and a few more where he describes the different cases, will be a sad and sufficient specimen of the subject.
Finally, under these mutual injuries the members of the Church of England, who had been so distressed and overcome, were now once more triumphant by the event of the Restoration.
Such were the circumstances, when the final settlement of the whole awaited the direction of Clarendon.
Now that the establishment should be suffered to continue, as it then stood, to continue Presbyterian, was not to be expected.
The chancellor had succeeded to the controversial opinions of his unfortunate master, Charles I. A large description of laymen and divines concurred with him, all like himself, long and highly exasperated with the Presbyterians; and the king, in the mean time, was, in secret, chiefly anxious, that in the settlement some kindness and service might be rendered to the Roman Catholics.
Clarendon and the church could not assent to those theological tenets which they considered as false, nor could, in like manner, the Presbyterians to those which they equally considered as unauthorized by the Scriptures.
The only question, therefore, was, whether all mention of the points in dispute could not be omitted, and the communion be thus made sufficiently comprehensive to include both.
This measure was practicable, for the Presbyterians objected not to the lawfulness of an establishment; and their differences with the church of England, related chiefly, in doctrine, to the particular point of the apostolic origin of episcopacy; and in discipline, to some few others of ceremony; such as the wearing of the surplice, and the bowing at the name of Jesus, relics of Popery, as they conceived; points which, whether in themselves important or not, became important to the inferior sect if the superior sect insisted upon them, and if they were not passed over in silence. The question therefore was, whether points of ceremony at least could not be passed over in silence by Clarendon and the church of England.
No adjustment of the kind, however, took place. The misfortune is, that no men have ever yet been able to prevail upon themselves to adopt a system of comprehension, who had it in their power to do otherwise: they cannot bear to omit in silence, for the sake of peace, and on the principles of benevolence and policy, those points which they find disputed; they are rather urged the more, on that account, to establish what they believe to be the doctrines of truth. The
love of truth, and impatience of opposition, in this manner become passions that inflame each other, and not only in those who impose the law, but in those who are to receive it, in the inferior as well as the superior sect. Vain, in the mean time, are the convocations, and conferences, and discussions of theologians; and therefore the result of the whole is, that questions of this nature have always been determined, very disgracefully to mankind, merely by the opinions of the strongest sect.
In this instance the Presbyterians, as they were the inferior sect, pressed hard for a comprehension; but their hopes had gradually clouded over after the restoration of the king. Conferences were appointed between their divines and those of the church of England, which may be judged of, by those who pursue this subject, through Neale, Baxter, and other writers; but all to no purpose, and the act of uniformity was at length passed; the terms of which turned out to be such, that the Presbyterian ministers could not conscientiously conform. Two thousand of them, on the day appointed for their final decision, threw up their livings; a memorable sacrifice, no doubt, to principle, after all that can be said, and that has been said, not very liberally, to explain away its merit.
Lord Clarendon, in the history of his life, gives a full account of this great measure, and of all the acts of his very important administration. Most of this history of his life is extremely interesting, this part particularly. But along with this account in Clarendon, the work of Neale should be considered : part of the fourth chapter, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the second part of the second volume, should be very attentively read. They are not long, and with Clarendon, will be sufficient. But Burnet may be afterwards referred to.
Since these passing observations were written, the Constitutional History of Mr. Hallam has appeared, where the whole subject is very ably and impartially presented to the reflection of the reader, and must by all means be read.
When the student has arrived at the termination of the subject, he ought once more to consider the short, but important declaration of the king from Breda ; and again, his declaration