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The Church in Danger - British Parliamentary and Electoral Politics, 1688-1832 (HI254)

[Francis Atterbury and others], A Letter to a Convocation Man, concerning the Rights, Powers and Privileges of That Body (London, 1697)

In plain English, then, I think that if ever there was need of a Convocation, since Christianity was established in this kingdom, there is need of one now: when such an open looseness in men's principles and practices and such a settled contempt of religion and the priesthood have prevailed everywhere; when heresies of all kinds, when scepticism, Deism and atheism itself overrun us like a deluge; when the Mosaic History has by men of your own order been cunningly undermined and exposed, under pretence of explaining it; when the Trinity has been as openly denied by some as the Unity of the Godhead sophistically opposed by others; when all mysteries in religion have been decried as impositions on men's understandings, and nothing is admitted as an Article of Faith but what we can fully and perfectly comprehend; nay, when the power of the Magistrate and of the Church is struck at, and the indifference of all religions is endeavoured to be established by pleas for the justice and necessity of an universal Toleration, even against the sense of the whole Legislature. At such a time, and in such an age, you and I, Sir, and all men that wish well to the interests of religion and the State, cannot but think that there is great need of a Convocation.

Notes

Appeals for the recall of Convocation (a synod of church and clergy)

Articles exhibited by the knights, citizens and burgesses in Parliament assembled, in the name of themselves and of all the Commons of Great Britain, against Henry

Sacheverell, Doctor in Divinity, in maintenance of their impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanours.

Whereas his late Majesty King William the Third, then Prince of Orange, did with an armed force undertake a glorious enterprise, for delivering this kingdom from Popery and arbitrary power, and divers subjects of this realm, well affected to their country, joined with and assisted his late Majesty in the said enterprise; and it having pleased Almighty God to crown the same with success, the late happy Revolution did take effect and was established.

And whereas the said glorious enterprise is approved by several Acts of Parliament, and amongst others, by an Act made in the first year of the reign of King William and Queen Mary, entitled An Act declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, and settling the Succession of the Crown; and also by one other Act made in the same year, entitled An Act for preventing Vexatious Suits against such as acted in order to the bringing in their Majesties or for their Service; and also by one other Act made in the same year, entitled An Act for appropriating certain Duties for paying the States General of the United Provinces their Charges for his Majesty's Expedition into this Kingdom and for other Uses: and the actings of the said well-affected subjects in aid and pursuance of the said enterprise are also declared to have been necessary and that the same ought to be justified.

And whereas the happy and blessed consequences of the said Revolution are: the enjoyment of the light of God's true religion established among us, and of the laws and liberties of the kingdom; the uniting her Majesty's Protestant subjects in interest and affection by a legal Indulgence or Toleration granted to dissenters; the preservation of her Majesty's sacred person; the many and continual benefits arising from her Majesty's wise and glorious administration; and the prospect of happiness for future ages by the settlement of the succession of the Crown in the Protestant line, and the Union of the two kingdoms [of England and Scotland].

And whereas the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in Parliament assembled, did by their Address of the seventeenth of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and five, lay before her Majesty the following vote or resolution, viz, 'That the Church of England, as by law established, which was rescued from the extremest danger by King William the Third of glorious memory, is now, by God's blessing, under the happy reign of her Majesty in a most safe and flourishing condition; and that whoever goes about to suggest and insinuate that the Church is in danger under her Majesty's administration is an enemy to the Queen, the Church and the kingdom'; and by their said Address did humbly beseech her Majesty to take effectual measures for making the said vote or resolution public, and also for punishing the authors and spreaders of such seditious and scandalous reports; and on the twentieth day of the same December, her Majesty was pleased to issue her royal proclamation accordingly.

Yet nevertheless the said Henry Sacheverell preached a sermon at the Assizes held at Derby, August the fifteenth, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and nine, and afterwards published the same in print with a Dedication thereof. And the said Henry Sacheverell also preached a sermon at the cathedral church of St Paul, before the Lord Mayor, aldermen and citizens of London, on the fifth day of November last, being the Anniversary Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the deliverance from the Gunpowder Treason, and for beginning the late happy Revolution by giving his late Majesty a safe arrival here, and for completing the same by making all opposition fall before him till he became our King and Governor; which said sermon he, the said Henry Sacheverell, afterwards likewise published in print, with a Dedication thereof to Sir Samuel Garrard, baronet, Lord Mayor of the city of London; and with a wicked, malicious and seditious intention to undermine and subvert her Majesty's government and the Protestant succession as by law established, to defame her Majesty's administration, to asperse the memory of his late Majesty, to traduce and condemn the late happy Revolution, to contradict and arraign the resolutions of both Houses of Parliament, to create jealousies and divisions amongst her Majesty's subjects, and to incite them to sedition and rebellion.

Article I

He, the said Henry Sacheverell, in his said sermon preached at St Paul's, doth suggest and maintain that the necessary means used to bring about the said happy Revolution were odious and unjustifiable; that his late Majesty, in his Declaration disclaimed the least imputation of Resistance; and that to impute Resistance to the said Revolution is to cast black and odious colours upon his late Majesty and the said Revolution.

Article II

He, the said Henry Sacheverell, in his said sermon preached at St Paul's, doth suggest and maintain that the aforesaid Toleration, granted by law, is unreasonable, and the allowance of it unwarrantable. And asserts that he is a False Brother with relation to God, religion or the Church who defends Toleration and liberty of conscience; that Queen Elizabeth was deluded by Archbishop Grindal, whom he scurrilously calls a False Son of the Church and a perfidious prelate, to the toleration of the Genevian discipline; and that it is the duty of superior pastors to thunder out their ecclesiastical anathemas against persons entitled to the benefit of the said Toleration, and insolently dares or defies any power on earth to reverse such sentences.

Article III

He, the said Henry Sacheverell, in his said sermon preached at St Paul's, doth falsely and seditiously suggest and assert that the Church of England is in a condition of great peril and adversity under her Majesty's administration; and in order to arraign and blacken the said vote or resolution of both Houses of Parliament, approved by her Majesty as aforesaid, he in opposition thereto doth suggest the Church to be in danger, and as a parallel, mentions vote that the person of King Charles the First was voted to be out of danger a the same time that his murderers were conspiring his death; thereby wickedly and maliciously insinuating that the members of both Houses who passed the said vote were then conspiring the ruin of the Church.

ArticleIV

He, the said Henry Sacheverell, in his said sermons and books, doth falsely and maliciously suggest that her Majesty's administration, both in ecclesiastical and civil affairs, tends to the destruction of the constitution; and that there are men of characters and stations in Church and State who are false brethren, and do themselves weaken, undermine and betray, and do encourage and put it in the power of others who are professed enemies to overturn and destroy the constitution and Establishment; and chargeth her Majesty, and those in authority under her both in Church and State, with a general maladministration. And as a public incendiary, he persuades her Majesty's subjects to keep up a distinction of factions and parties, instils groundless jealousies, foments destructive divisions among them, and excites and stirs them up to arms and violence. And that his said malicious and seditious suggestions may make the stronger impression upon the minds of her Majesty's subjects, he the said Henry Sacheverell doth wickedly wrest and pervert divers texts and passages of Holy Scripture.

All which crimes and misdemeanours the Commons are ready to prove, not only by the general scope of the same sermons or books, but likewise by several clauses, sentences and expressions in the said sermons or books contained; and that he, the said Henry Sacheverell, by preaching the sermons and publishing the books aforesaid, did abuse his holy function, and hath most grievously offended against the peace of her Majesty, her crown and dignity, the rights and liberties of the subject, the laws and statutes of this kingdom, and the prosperity and good government of the same. And the said Commons, by protestation, saving to themselves the liberty of exhibiting at any time hereafter any other article or impeachment against the said Henry Sacheverell, and also of replying to his answers, or any of them, and of offering proofs of all the premises, or any of them, and of any other article or impeachment that shall be exhibited by them, as the case according to course of Parliament shall require, do pray that he, the said Henry Sacheverell, may be put to answer to all and every the premises; and that such proceeding, examination, trial, judgment and exemplary punishment may be thereupon had and executed as is agreeable to law and justice.