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and with the advice and opinion of each and every
of my affeffors, the reverend persons beforenamed, do expel the said Thomas Grove from the faid Hall, and hereby pronounce him also expelled.
SUCH, Sir, was the sentence, which you represent to be the most cruel and unjust that ever was passed; and such the reasons on which it was founded. I shall not stay to make any general obfervations on it, but hasten to answer the particular objections you have urged against it, article by article.
But before I proceed, I cannot help observing that under a pretence of greater method and perspicuity you have inverted the order of the charge, even as it stands in your own articles of accusation. The order in which it stood on the examination, and which is most natural, was this — ift, the accusation of some of them being brought up to trade; which would have had no weight, had it not been connected with the second-viz, that they were totally illiterate, and incapable of performing the statutable exercises of the University, and their Hall -- then followed the third — viz. that they had frequented illicit conventicles, in which they had preached, and prayed extempore ; and that one
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of them had officiated as a minister in holy Orders, though a layman; — the 4th was, that they held and maintained tenets contrary to the doctrine of the church of England; however, that I may not be obliged to turn over your book backwards and forwards to reduce it to regularity and method, I shall take it as it stands, and attend you page by page, as nearly as I can, through the whole labyrinth of
* The first charge you consider is that of attending illicit conventicles. To ascertain what is a conventicle you quote Jacob's law dictionary, but with great partiality, and want of fidelity; you adopt only what may best serve your turn, leaving out what makes against you, though immediately connected with what you quote : thus, you drop the definition of a conventicle, which is “ a private assembly for the exercise of religion,” but take the words immediately following it; and here you stop; paying no regard to Mr. Jacob's quotation from 22 Car. II. which declares what conventicles are illegal. Nor are you more faithful in quoting that act of parliament; you give us the preamble, buc conceal the part, which alone relates to the point in question, where it is enacted that, if any person above the age of fixteen shall be present at any alsembly, conventicle, or meeting, under colour or pretence of any exercise of religion in other manner than according to the liturgy and practice of the
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church of England, at which conventicle there shall be five persons or more assembled together over and besides those of the same houshold, if it be a house where there is a family inhabiting; or if it be in a house, or field, or place where there is no family inhabiting, then, when any five persons or more are so assembled, every one shall be subject to the penalty of five shillings for the first offence, and ten Shillings for the second.
Sect. 3. Every person, who shall take upon him to preach or teach in any such meeting, assembly, or conventicle, shall forfeit twenty pounds for the first offence, and forty pounds for the second.
Sect. 4. If any person shall suffer any such conventicle, assembly, or unlawful meeting, as aforefaid, to be held in his house, out-house, barn, yard, or back-lide, shall forfeit twenty pounds.
This act, as the author of the remarks upon Mr. Whitefield's letter observes, is indeed in some degree altered by the toleration-act; by which fome conventicles are permitted under certain restrictions ; but all other conventicles, which come not under the description given of such as are thereby permitted, are still continued to be forbidden by the 22 Car. II.
Thus sect. 19. No congregation, or assembly for religious worship shall be permitted or allowed by this act, until such place of meeting Ihall be cer
tified to the Bishop of the diocese, or Arch-deacon
Nor being acquainted with the · Kentish story to which you appeal as decisive in this point, I cannot contradict
you with regard to the fact itself, but have
great reason to suppose it did not turn on that hinge, on which you rest it. The conventicle might
, be illicit, and yet the Justice of peace become liable to punishment for having taken unwarrantable and illegal measures to suppress it; he might therefore
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be glad to compound matters, and make them up in the manner you relate ; a case which, I apprehend, frequently happens. And as to the a religious societies in Queen Anne's time ; if they were composed of Lords fpiritual and temporal, &c. I will take upon me to pronounce that they did not permit laymen, barbers, weavers, staymakers, &c. to pray extempore, or to preach, and expound the fcriptures to them - But that members of the church of England may be, and actually have been, censured for frequenting illicit conventicles is very evident from Queen Elizabeth's circular letter to the Bishops throughout England; in which your meetings are exactly described, and the pernicious tendency of them fully set forth – The following is a copy of it, taken from Stripe's life of Archbishop Grindal — Appendix P. 85
The Queen to the Bishops throughout
England for the suppressing the exercise
RIGHT Reverend Father in God, we greet you well. We hear to our great grief, that in fundry parts of our realm there are no small number of persons presuming to be teachers and preachers of the church (though neither lawfully thereunto called, nor yet fit for the fame) which, contrary to our laws established for the public divine service of