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of echoes of the portentous sound, “The Church is in danger.” The cause was brought into Parliament, and the author was impeached and tried in Westminster-hall. He was, during the trial, lodged in the Temple, and carried every day to the tribunal in a coach, attended by immense assemblages of the people, who shouted their huzzas, strove to kiss his hand, and struggled for pre-eminence in the most abject obeisance; while others of superior rank, from windows and balconies, gave him demonstrations of respect and attachment. So zealous were his partizans, that they compelled the passengers in the streets, and members of Parliament, to do him honour by shouting the watch-word of their party, “The Church and Sacheverell.” They even surrounded the Queen's sedan, on her way to the House of Lords, and to enlist the royal mind in their cause, cried “God bless your Majesty and the Church, and we hope your Majesty is for Dr. Sacheverell.” The clergy also rallied round the Doctor, at his trial, and extolled him as the champion of the Church. To this there were many honourable exceptions, both among the bishops and the inferior clergy The trial lasted three weeks, and ended in the conviction of the accused, and with the sentence that his sermon should be publicly burnt by the hands of the hangman, and that its author should be prohibited from preaching for the term of three years. A pitiful exhibition of justice this. By Sacheverell and his friends it was looked upon as a triumph, and received with ecstasies. But this did not satisfy the Doctor's friends, for now they turned their fury against what they considered his greatest enemies, the dissenters. The flames of many a meeting-house, both in the metropolis and the provinces, crackled to the tune of “High Church and Sacheverell. Down with the dissenters."
Sacheverell travelled through the country in a kind of triumphal procession, and was received with little short of regal splendour. The clergy in their gowns, magistrates in the insignia of office, accompanied by thousands of men in arms, came forth to pay their homage to the champion of the Church, and the persecutor of dissenters; while the tory nobility and gentry threw open their mansions at his approach, which they considered, from that moment, dignified and hallowed by the sojourn of such a guest.
But why all this? The people were ignorant, and their leaders intolerant. It was one of the last spasms and convulsions of expiring bigotry. But that it was not yet dead, “The Schism Bill," to which we now advert, will sufficiently prove. Such events as those we have just contemplated could not have occurred unless there had been a determined hostility in the nation to the nonconformist body, and a resolution to crush their liberties, if not by law, at least by violence. There was a purpose to do both; and under the influence, and by the efforts, of the infidel Bolingbroke, one of Queen Anne's ministers of state, this was now to be accomplished. It was clearly seen that the best way of repressing dissent, next to the repeal of the Act of Toleration, which their boldest and most cruel foe was not audacious enough to attempt, was to prevent the education of their children in their own principles. Julian the apostate, as he is called, had adopted this refined barbarity against the Christians. His writings and conduct have been the delight of most infidels, and Bolingbroke was not wanting in this admiration of his school. The bill to which we now allude was entitled “ An Act to prevent the growth of Schism, and for the further security of the Churches of England and Ireland, as by law established ;" it forbad, under severe pains and penalties, any one to be a schoolmaster of any grade, public or private; 'or to teach children any religious catechism whatever, besides the catechism of the Church of England. The dissenters petitioned to be heard by counsel against the bill, but their petition was rejected. However, one or two clauses were gained in their favour, such as allowing them to have schoolmistresses to teach their children to read, and even masters to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, or any part of mathematical learning which relates to navigation and mechanics only. And any nobleman or noblewoman might have teachers in their families, provided they qualified them as the act directed. Such an infamous measure did not pass without the most strenuous opposition from the Whigs, and was carried at last in the Lords, only by a majority of five, there having been seventy-seven for it, and seventy-two against it. Twenty-two temporal peers and five bishops recorded on the journals their protest against it. The royal assent was given, and by a statute which grossly fouled the stream of British legislation, the education of their children, in defiance of the demands of nature, justice, and religion, was taken out of the hands of the dissenters.
Bitter was the distress of the Nonconformists, and loud their cries to Him who telleth the groans and heareth the prayers of the afflicted, and who in his merciful purposes had determined that this iniquitous measure should not oppress his servants. He sent that grim monarch, to whom all earthly sovereigns must yield, to arrest the British Queen in her career, and make way for the house of Hanover to the British throne. Anne died the very day on which “ The Schism Bill” was to come into operation.
No part of the population of this country has ever been more loyally attached to the present illustrious family upon the throne of Great Britain, than the Protestant dissenters—nor has any
had more reason for it-for since their accession, religious liberty has never been touched, except to be enlarged. From that auspicious era in our history, the great principle of freedom for the conscience, like imperceptible but irresistible leaven, has been diffusing itself through the whole community. A vain and abortive attempt was made in the year 1715 to awaken the echoes of the Sacheverell mobs by the cry of “The Church in danger,” and some few meeting-houses at Oxford, Birmingham, Bristol, Chippenham, Reading, and Norwich were burnt or damaged. But these were soon stopped. Relief was granted to the Quakers in the first year of GEORGE I. on the subject of oaths. In 1718, “The Test and Corporation Acts” were somewhat moderated. There were two events in this reign which were very favourable to religious liberty: the first was the Bangorian controversy that arose out of Dr. Hoadley's sermon before the King, in which he not only advocated the broadest principles of toleration, but also went much too far in his views of the spirituality and liberty of the Christian church, and of the mere human expediency of our Anglican establishment to please the Tories and the High Church party. The other event was the downfall of Bishop Atterbury, the Goliath, as he has been called, of priestly dominion and intolerance. The Schism Bill and Occasional Conformity Bill were repealed in the early part of the reign of George I. who ever was the enlightened and firm advocate of the rights of conscience.
During the reign of GEORGE II. some feeble and ineffectual attempts were made by the Convocation of the clergy to infringe the principle of the Toleration Act, and the rights of conscience, by silencing Arians, Socinians, and sceptics. The spirit of persecution, like the ejected demon of which we read in the gospels, still roamed about in dry places, restless, envious, and prepared for mischief. The mild, the learned, the pious Doddridge, whom in his latter days bishops delighted to honour, was not only grossly insulted by the populace for his nonconformity, but had to sustain a prosecution, instigated by the neighbouring clergy for teaching an academy. Information of this intolerance having been carried to the King, he interfered with his royal authority, and stopped the proceedings.
GEORGE III. distinguished the commencement of his reign by a declaration from the throne, which endeared him, as a friend of religious liberty, to every generous and impartial mind, and especially to the great body of nonconformists. “The peculiar happiness of my life,” said this amiable monarch, “will ever consist in promoting the welfare of my people, whose loyal and warm affection to me, I consider as the greatest and most permanent support of my throne; and I doubt not but their steadiness to these principles will equal the firmness of my resolution to maintain the Toleration Act inviolable. The civil and religious rights of my loving subjects are equally dear to me as the most valuable prerogative of my crown; and as the surest foundation of the whole, and the best means to draw down the divine favour on my reign, it is my fixed purpose to countenance and encourage the practice of true religion and virtue.” These were sentiments worthy of the monarch of the greatest nation upon earth; and what adds might and strength to them is, that, whatever were his weaknesses, or his faults, as a monarch, this declara