Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conventicles


‘Sunday 7 August 1664

…While we were talking came by several poor creatures carried by, by constables, for being at a conventicle. They go like lambs, without any resistance. I would to God they would either conform, or be more wise, and not be catched!...’

Samuel Pepys lived through a time when conventicles were a source of physical and legal dispute.  Earlier in 1664, Pepys wrote about what became the Conventicle Act of 1664.  

'Friday 13 May 1664

… In the Painted Chamber I heard a fine conference between some of the two Houses upon the Bill for Conventicles. The Lords would be freed from having their houses searched by any but the Lord Lieutenant of the County; and upon being found guilty, to be tried only by their peers; and thirdly, would have it added, that whereas the Bill says, “That that, among other things, shall be a conventicle wherein any such meeting is found doing any thing contrary to the Liturgy of the Church of England,” they would have it added, “or practice.” The Commons to the Lords said, that they knew not what might hereafter be found out which might be called the practice of the Church of England; for there are many things may be said to be the practice of the Church, which were never established by any law, either common, statute, or canon; as singing of psalms, binding up prayers at the end of the Bible, and praying extempore before and after sermon: and though these are things indifferent, yet things for aught they at present know may be started, which may be said to be the practice of the Church which would not be fit to allow….’

Walter Scott wrote about conventicles as well, more from a historical perspective, as in the following from “Tales of a Grandfather”:

‘…But this modified degree of zeal by no means gratified the more ardent and rigid Covenanters, by whom the stooping to act under the Indulgence was accounted a compromise with the Malignants —a lukewarm and unacceptable species of worship, resembling salt which had lost its savour. Many, therefore, held the indulged clergy as a species of king's curates ; and rather than listen to their doctrines, which they might have heard in safety, followed into the wilderness those bold and daring preachers, whose voices thundered forth avowed opposition and defiance against the mighty of the earth. The Indulged were accused of meanly adopting Erastian opinions, and acknowledging the dependence and subjection of the Church to the civil magistrate,—a doctrine totally alien from the character of the Presbyterian religion. The elevated wish of following the religion of their choice, in defiance of danger and fear, and their animosity against a government by whom they had been persecuted, induced the more zealous Presbyterians to prefer a conventicle to their parish church; and a congregation -where the hearers attended in arms to defend themselves, to a more peaceful meeting, when, if surprised, they might save themselves by submission or night. Hence these conventicles became frequent, at which the hearers attended with weapons. The romantic and dangerous character of this species of worship recommended it to such as were constitutionally bold and high-spirited; and there were others, who, from the idle spirit belonging to youth, liked better to ramble through the country as the life-guard to some outlawed preacher, than to spend the six days of the week in ordinary labour, and attend their own parish church on the seventh, to listen to the lukewarm doctrine of an Indulged minister…’

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