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Chap. 6. On the defects of their system in regard to a mo-
preachers and writers in the society.
Nos enim qui ipsi sermoni non interfuissemus, et quibus C. Cotta locos et sententias hujus disputationis tradidisset-id ipsum sumus in eorum sermone adumbrare conati.-Cic. De Oratore.
THE materials of this volume were gleaned from various sources; and during that period in which the society of Friends struggled into existence.
**** In that extraordinary period, when death had removed the head of that party which had been flung into power by the whirlwind of faction, the British nation replaced its native prince on the throne of his fathers.
***** But Charles II. was an unprincipled man. He neither feared God, nor regarded man. He was a Jesuit in politics, a Judas in religion, a Nero on the throne. Irreclaimable even by the lessons which the nation had given his family, in the reigns of his father and grandfather; and deplorably and culpably ignorant of the duty and the art of ruling; and in a great degree a stranger to the character and disposition of that high-minded people, over whom he was placed as chief magistrate, he came to the throne with all the errors of a Stuart, if possible, tenfold increased. His reign, under the tutorship of Lauderdale, exhibited little else than misrule, and tyranny and cruelty.
The kingdom he claimed as his inheritance by birthright. The treasure, and the bodies, and the consciences of the people he considered as his property; and as much at his disposal as his moveables, or the tenants of his stables. By the act of supremacy of A. D. 1669, procured by the most corrupt influence, he received power over all matters and persons, ecclesiastical and civil. He modelled the form of worship and government in the church according to his will. He denied to the people the right of electing their ministers, or of thinking for themselves, or of taking care of their own souls.
The whigs of Scotland, whom lord Belhaven styled the true blue presbyterians,"* did not understand this. They had once recalled the king, and had set the crown on his head. They expected a different return. They remonstrated. They called this an impious stretch of power. The conscience, they told him, is left as free as the wind on their mountains. This was, moreover, trenching on their chartered rights as Scotchmen; and it was a laying on the shoulders of an erring mortal what could be borne by no man. It was the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ that he was usurping.
To this bold declaration of a very brave and loyal people, Charles II. replied by an edict, which drove four hundred of Scotland's best and most faithful ministers into prison, or into exile; and he placed their flocks under bishops and curates, most unhappily selected-for, according to bishop Burnet, they were without religion, and many of them without morals.
A Scotchman's conscience is not to be dictated to in matters of religion. The mass of the people instantly turned away from those temples in which they had formerly worshipped with delight; but which were now polluted by the slaves of tyranny. They invited their pastors to meet them in their private houses-for their churches were taken from them. These houses were soon found to be too small for the mass of population which crowded forward around their much loved pastors. They betook themselves to the fields. Hence the origin of conventicles and field meetings.
To put down these, and to regain the consciences of his subjects, Charles II. had recourse to cruel means. His sanguinary laws made it penal in any person even to be present at a conventicle: and high treason in a clergyman to officiate in any way at it. A price was set on the heads of the ministers who refused to abandon their flocks, and become traitors to religion. The soldiery were turned loose on the country: and they butchered pastor and people!
The people, after long submission and suffering, goad
*In his speech in the Scottish parliament, 1706.-I mean here the whigs of the covenant, of course.
ed on to despair, began, at length, to assert the lawfulness of self-defence against these lawless and brutal soldiers, let loose against them by those who had sworn to protect them. Hence the origin of the practice of coming armed to the conventicles.
It was no sooner known that they had assumed this attitude than they were denounced as rebels-and without an examination of their grievances, they were put out of the protection of the law. And what was the character of these men? They were no rebels. Oppression had driven them to desperate measures of defence. There was not a moral stain on their character-some few individuals, of fierce spirit, only excepted. They were devout and pious men; they possessed an ardent love of civil and religious liberty, which no force nor inquisitorial cruelty could subdue. In fine, the only crime that the tyrant could allege against them, was that of self-defence against his tyranny. Their sole crime was their determination to be free; and to secure their religion against those prelates who were, in a manner so unbefitting their office, dragooning a nation to their religion and ceremonies.
In the dreadful hour of oppression this band of Christian patriots raised the standard of self-defence. In the oath of their covenant they pledged support to each other, and fidelity to their God. They appealed to the Almighty for the justness of their cause: and proclaimed war against the tyrant and his bloody council.
All their efforts failed to rouse the sleeping energies of the nation. The patriot's voice was drowned in the clamours of the spies and court parasites. The body of the nation left this band to their fate for twenty and eight years! Pentland witnessed their melancholy overthrow; and Scottish liberty wailed on her mountains while the brave covenanters fell. Drumclog saw them rally and gain a battle. But Bothwell's bloody field saw them broken irrecoverably. The Christian patriots were driven to their mountains and fastnesses. They wandered in the deep morasses; and hid themselves in the caves. The bloody tyrant, as if infuriate with success, had recourse to means so shocking to every feeling heart, that they seem almost the fables of romance to our ears. In addition to outlawry, and the confiscation of property, his zeal