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When once the Hanoverian succession was established, the doctrine of a divine right of kings, with the theories consequent upon, it, passed gradually away; and many writers, forgetting that it was once a generally received dogma in Parliament as in Convocation, in the laws as much as in the homilies, have sought to attach to the Church of England the odium of servility and obsequiousness for its old adherence to it. But as the tenet died not without honour, dignified in many instances by high Christian feeling, and noble sacrifice of worldly interest, so also it had gained much of its early strength in one of the most important principles of the Reformation. When England rejected the Papacy, the Church, as in the old English days before the Conquest, gathered round its sovereign as the emblem and as the centre of its national independence. Only the tie was a personal one; much in the same way as the Pope had been far more than an embodied symbol of Church authority. The sovereign represented the people, but no one then spoke of 'sovereignty residing in the whole body of the people,'[104] or dreamt of asserting that the supremacy of the King was a fiction, meaning only the supremacy of the three estates.[105] So it long continued, especially in the Church. Ecclesiastical is ever wont to lag somewhat in the rear of political improvement. In the State, the personal supremacy of the sovereign, though a very strong reality in the hands of the Tudors, had been tutored into a moderately close conformity with the wishes of the popular representatives. In the Church, the same process was going on, but it was a far more gradual one; and the spirit of loyal deference which long remained unaltered in the one, gained increasing strength in the other. Upon the reaction which succeeded after the Commonwealth, the Church, as it had been ever faithful to the royal fortunes in their time of reverse, shared to the full in the effusion with which the nation in general greeted the return of monarchy, and was more than ever dazzled by the 'divinity which hedges round a King.' But under James II., the Church had cause to feel the perils of arbitrary power as keenly, or even more keenly than the nation in its civil capacity. By a remarkable leading of events, the foremost of the High Church bishops found themselves, amid the acclamations of the multitude, in the very van of a resistance which was indeed in a sense passive, but which plainly paved the way to active resistance on the part of others, and which, as they must themselves have felt, strained to the utmost that doctrine of passive obedience which was still dear to them as ever. Some even of the most earnest champions of the divine right of kings were at last compelled to imagine circumstances under which the tenet would cease to be tenable. What if James should propose to hand over Ireland to France as the price of help against his own people? Ken, it is said, acknowledged that under such a contingency he should feel wholly released from his allegiance.

The revolution of 1688 dissipated the halo which had shed a fictitious light round the throne. Queen Anne may have flattered herself that it was already reviving. George I. in his first speech to parliament laid claim to the ancient prestige of it. The old theories lingered long in manor-houses and parsonages, and among all whose hearts were with the banished Stuarts. But they could not permanently survive under such altered auspices; and a sentiment which had once been of real service both to Church and State, but which had become injurious to both, was disrooted from the constitution and disentangled from the religion of the country. The ultimate gain was great; yet it must be acknowledged that at the time a great price was paid for it. In the State, there was a notable loss of the old loyalty, a blunting in public matters of some of the finer feelings, an increase among State officers of selfish and interested motives, a spirit of murmuring and disaffection, a lowering of tone, an impaired national unity. In the Church, as the revulsion was greater, and in some respects the benefit greater, so also the temporary loss was both greater and more permanent. The beginning of the eighteenth century saw almost the last of the old-fashioned Anglicans, who dated from the time of Henry VIII.--men whose ardent love of what they considered primitive and Catholic usage had no tinge of Popery, and whose devoted attachment to the throne was wholly free from all unmanly servility. The High Church party was deprived of some of the best of its leaders, and was altogether divided, disorganised, and above all, lowered in tone; and the whole Church suffered in the deterioration of one of its principal sections.

In relation both to Nonjurors and to persons who, as a duty or a necessity, had accepted the new constitution, but were more or less Jacobite in their sympathies, a question arose of far more than temporary interest. It is one which frequently recurs, and is of much practical importance, namely, how far unity of worship implies, or ought to imply, a close unity of belief; and secondly, how far a clergyman is justified in continuing his ministrations if, agreeing in all essentials, he strongly dissents to some particular petitions or expressions in the services of which he is constituted the mouthpiece. The point immediately at issue was whether those who dissented from the State prayers could join with propriety in the public services. This was very variously decided. There were some who denied that this was possible to persons who had any strict regard to consistency and truth.[106] How, said they, could they assist by their presence at public prayers which were utterly contradictory to their private ones? Many Nonjurors therefore, and many who had taken the oath on the understanding that it only bound them to submission, absented themselves entirely from public worship, or attended none other than nonjuring services. There was a considerable party, headed unfortunately by Bancroft himself, whose regret at the separation thus caused was greatly tempered by a kind of exultation at being, as they maintained, the 'orthodox and Catholic remnant' from which the main body of the English Church had apostatised.[107] Far different were the feelings of those whose opinions on the subject were less strangely exaggerated. If they joined the nonjuring communion, and forsook the familiar parish church, they did so sadly and reluctantly, and looked forward in hope to some change of circumstances which might remove their scruples and end the schism. It was thoroughly distasteful to men like Ken, Nelson, and Dodwell, to break away from a communion to which they were deeply attached, and which they were quite persuaded was the purest and best in Christendom. When the new Government was fairly established, when the heat of feeling was somewhat cooled by time, when the High Church sympathies of Anne had begun to reconcile them to the new succession, and when the last of the ejected bishops had withdrawn all claim on their obedience, many moderate Nonjurors were once more seen in church. They agreed that the offence of the State prayers should be no longer an insuperable bar.[108] They could at all events sufficiently signify their objection to the obnoxious words by declining to say Amen, or by rising from their knees, or by various other more or less demonstrative signs of disapprobation. Some indeed of the Nonjurors, among whom Bishop Frampton was prominent, and a great number of Jacobites, had never from the first lent any countenance to the schism, and attended the Church services as heretofore. The oath of allegiance being required before a clergyman could take office, it is of course impossible to tell whether any nonjuring clergyman would have consented to read, as well as to listen to, the State prayers. But there was undoubtedly a large body of Jacobite clergymen who in various ways reconciled this to their conscience. Their argument, founded on the sort of provisional loyalty due to a _de facto_ sovereignty, was a tolerably valid one in its kind; a far more important one, in the extent and gravity of its bearings, was that which met the difficulty in the face. It was that which rests on the answer to the question whether a clergyman is guilty of insincerity, either in reality or in semblance, in continuing to read a service to part of which he strongly objects, though he is completely in accord with the general tone and spirit of the whole. The answer must evidently be a qualified one. Nothing could be worse for the interests of religion, than that its ministers should be suspected of saying what they do not mean; on the other hand, unless a Church concedes to its clergy a sufficiently ample latitude in their mode of interpreting its formularies, it will greatly suffer by losing the services of men of independent thought or strongly marked religious convictions. Among clergymen who submitted to the reigning powers, though their hopes and sympathies were centred at St. Germains, the alternative of either reading the State prayers or relinquishing office in the English Church must have been singularly embarrassing. To offer up a prayer in which the heart wholly belies the lip is infinitely more repugnant to religious and moral feeling than to put a legitimate, though it may not be the most usual, interpretation on words which contain a disputed point of doctrine or discipline. Yet, from another point of view, it was quite certain that as little weight as possible ought to be attached to a quasi-political difference of opinion which in itself was no sort of interruption to that confidence and sympathy in religious matters which should subsist between pastor and people. It was a great strait for a conscientious man to be placed in, and a difficulty which might fairly be left to the individual conscience to solve.

As for those Nonjurors and Jacobites who joined as laymen in the public services, undeterred by prayers which they objected to, it is just that question of dissent within, instead of without the Church, which has gained increased attention in our own days. When Robert Nelson was in doubt upon the subject, and asked Tillotson for his advice, the Archbishop made reply, 'As to the case you put, I wonder men should be divided in opinion about it. I think it plain, that no man can join in prayers in which there is any petition which he is verily persuaded is sinful. I cannot endure a trick anywhere, much less in religion.[109] This honest and outspoken answer was however extremely superficial, and, coming from a man of so much eminence, must have had an unfortunate effect in extending the nonjuring schism. Although his opinion was perfectly sound under the precise terms in which it is stated, the whole force of it rests on the word 'sinful.' If any word is used which falls the least short of this, Tillotson's remark becomes altogether questionable. Of course no one can be justified in countenancing what 'he is verily persuaded is sinful.' From this point of view, there were some Nonjurors to whom separation from the National Church was a moral necessity. Those among them, for instance, who drew up, or cordially approved, the 'Form for admitting penitents,' in which the sorrow-stricken wanderer in ways of conformity returns humblest thanks for his return from wrong to right, from error to truth, from schism to unity, from rebellion to loyalty--in a word, 'from the broad into the narrow way which leadeth to eternal life,'[110]--how could they be justified in anything short of separation? They could no more continue to attend their parish church, than one who had been a Roman Catholic could attend the mass if he had become persuaded it was rank idolatry, or a former Protestant his old place of worship when convinced that it was a den of mortal heresy. But between Nonjurors of the stern uncompromising type, and those semi-Jacobites who gave the allegiance of reason to one master, and that of sentiment to another, there were all grades of opinion; and to all except the most extreme among them the propriety of attending the public prayers was completely an open question. Tillotson ought to have known his old friend Nelson better, than to conceive it possible that a man of such deep religious feeling, and such sensitive honour, could be doubtful what to do, unless it might fairly be considered doubtful. His foolish commonplace appears indeed to have been sufficient to turn the scale. Nelson, almost immediately after receiving this opinion, decided on abandoning the national communion, though he took a different and a wiser view at a later period.

The circumstances of the time threw into exaggerated prominence the particular views entertained by Nelson's Juror and Nonjuror friends on the disputed questions connected with transferred allegiance. But, great as were the sacrifices which many of them incurred on account of these opinions,--great as was the tenacity with which they clung to them, and the vehemence with which they asserted them against all impugners--great, above all, as was the religious and spiritual importance with which their zeal for the cause invested these semi-political doctrines, yet it is not on such grounds that their interest as a Church party chiefly rests. No weight of circumstances could confer a more than secondary value on tenets which have no permanent bearing on the Christian life, and engage attention only under external and temporary conditions. The early Nonjurors, and their doctrinal sympathisers within the National Church, were a body of men from whom many in modern times have taken pleasure in deriving their ecclesiastical pedigree, not as upholders of nearly obsolete opinions about divine right and passive obedience, but as the main link between the High Churchmen of a previous age and their successors at a much later period. To the revivers in this century of the Anglo-Catholic theology, it seemed as though the direct succession of sound English divines ended with Bull and Beveridge, was partially continued, as by a side line, in some of the Nonjurors, and then dwindled and almost died out, until after the lapse of a hundred years its vitality was again renewed.