THE GREAT EJECTION
There was no Sunday like it!
Estimates vary but it seems that, including those ejected before 1662 and some who jumped rather than waiting to be pushed, nearly 2,000 ministers and others were silenced or ejected.
There will always be some vagueness about the figure, as some changed their minds. A. G. Matthews says that some 210 later conformed. A contemporary writer, John Walker, says of an Evan Griffiths of Oxwich in South Wales, who was ejected but then conformed, that he became as violent against Dissenters as he had once been against Royalists.
Also, the ejection included not only ministers, but also lec¬turers and even private tutors. Further, some such as Cornishman Francis Howell (1625-79) present anomalies. Howell, ‘a man mighty in the Scriptures’ according to [Edmund] Calamy, was expelled both as Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, in 1660 and then as incumbent of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in North Wales.
In his Nonconformist memorial Calamy deals with some 2,465 people altogether. Matthews and Watts say that the number unwilling to conform in 1662 was 2,029, most in England and 120 in Wales. Some 200 of these were university lecturers.
Matthews points out that a further 129 were deprived at an uncertain date between 1660 and 1663 and with the ejections of 1660 as well, he gives a total of 1,760 ministers (which is about 20 per cent of the clergy) thrust out of the Church of England, silenced from preaching or teach¬ing by law and so deprived of a livelihood.
Gerald Bray comments that ‘almost all of these were Puritans, and so the Act may be said to represent the expulsion of Puritanism from the national Church’. On the other hand, John Spurr points out that Puritans remained within the state church and others, like Quakers and General Baptists, were ejected.
He quotes John Corbet (1620-80), saying, ‘it is a palpable injury to burden us with the various parties with whom we are now herded by our ejection in the general state of dissenters’. Ejected from Bramshot, Hertfordshire, Corbet was, according to Baxter, ‘of extraordinary judgment, stayedness, moderation, peace¬able principles and blameless life, a solid preacher, well known by his writings’. ‘A great man every way’, wrote Calamy.
Most of those ejected were Presbyterian, though some 194 were Independent (154 in parishes, 24 in Wales; 28 lecturers or chaplains and 12 academics). There were also 19 Baptists (11 in Wales).
Historian Daniel Neal tells us that, when the Earl of Manchester told the king that he was afraid that the terms of the act were so harsh many ministers would not comply, Bishop Sheldon replied that he was rather afraid they would.
However, he added, as they had declared themselves so openly, ‘we will make them all knaves’ if they do. Also when Dr Allen, the clerk of the 1661 convocation, said that it was a pity that ‘the door is so strait [strict]’ Sheldon answered, ‘it is no pity at all; if we had thought so many of them would have conformed, we would have made it straiter’.
On the other hand, a man like Bishop Robert Sanderson (1587-1663), who had been ejected by Cromwell’s men in 1648, was much milder, conceding that more was imposed on ministers than he wished had been.
The Dissenters objected to many important details in the Prayer Book. Importantly, they refused ‘to pro¬nounce all baptised persons regenerated by the Holy Ghost’ and regarded it as sinful to give the communion elements to the unfit, to pronounce a general absolution, or to declare everyone they buried ‘our dear brother here departed’.
They also objected to the stipulation that any who had not been ordained by a bishop, as was the case with many in Cromwell’s time, had to be re-ordained. When asked to give one reason for his Nonconformity by his old friend Seth Ward (1617-89) — then Bishop of Exeter — John Howe (1630-1705) instanced re-ordination.
‘Pray, Sir,’ said the bishop. ‘What hurt is there in being twice ordained?’
‘Hurt, my lord,’ Howe famously answered, ‘it hurts my understanding; the thought is shocking; it is an absurdity, since nothing can have two beginnings. I am sure I am a minister of Christ, and am ready to debate that matter with you, if your lordship pleases, but I cannot begin again to be a minister’.
Robert Adkins (1626-85), who Calamy describes as having ‘a large heart and an open hand’, was ejected first from Exeter Cathedral in 1660, complaining of ‘church music jostling out the constant preaching of the Word’, then from St John’s, Exeter, in 1662, when he spoke for many in his farewell sermon, saying, ‘Let him never be accounted a sound Christian that doth not fear God and honour the king.
‘I beg that you would not suffer our nonconformity, for which we patiently bear the loss of our places, to be an act of unpeaceableness and disloyalty. We will do anything for his majesty but sin.
‘We will hazard anything for him but our souls. We hope we could die for him, only we dare not be damned for him. We make no question, however we may be accounted of here, we shall be found loyal and obedient subjects at our appearance before God’s tribunal’.
As the date approached, there was some nervousness on the part of the Government as to whether there would be any kind of insurrection. New regiments were raised and other measures were taken to be on the safe side. In the end, the ejection took place with the minimum of commotion.
On 10 August the diarist Samuel Pepys wrote, ‘the new serv¬ice-book (which is now lately come forth) [the Book of Common Prayer] was laid upon their desk at St Sepulchre’s for Mr Gouge to read; but he laid it aside, and would not meddle with it: and I perceive the Presbyters do all prepare to give over all against Bartholomew-tide.
‘Mr Herring, being lately turned out at St Bride’s, did read the psalm to the people while they sung at Dr Bates’s, which methought is a strange turn… So home with Mrs Turner, and there hear that Mr Calamy hath taken his fare¬well this day of his people, and that others will do so the next Sunday.’
The references are to Thomas Gouge (1605-81), son of William Gouge (1575-1653), who was based in London but worked exten¬sively in Wales and was the author of several practical works (he was one of the most moderate of Nonconformists and would have taken the oath demanded by the Five Mile Act, if Manton had not dissuaded him); to John Herring (d. c. 1672); to William Bates and to Edmund Calamy the elder.
Most ejected men took opportunity to preach farewell sermons where they could, usually on the Sunday before the ejectment took place, 17 August. Some preached more than one sermon. Iain Murray quotes Stoughton’s description: ‘No Sunday in England ever resembled exactly that which fell on the 17 August, 1662, one week before the feast of St Bartholomew.
‘There have been “mourning, lamentation, and woe” in particular parish churches when death, persecution, or some other cause has broken pastoral ties, and severed from lov¬ing congregations their spiritual guides; but for many hundreds of ministers on the same day to be uttering farewells is an unpar¬alleled circumstance.
‘In after years, puritan fathers and mothers related to their children the story of assembled crowds, of aisles, standing-places and stairs, filled to suffocation, of people clinging to open windows like swarms of bees, of overflowing throngs in churchyards and streets, of deep silence or stifled sobs, as the flock gazed on the shepherd — “sorrowing most of all that they should see his face no more”.’
Murray himself says, ‘The atmosphere of that day was electric and charged with emotion; the popular discontent was great and strong guards stood ready in London, but these sermons seem far removed from all that.
‘There is a calmness, and unction and a lack of invective. Great though their sorrow was for their flocks and for their nation, they had a message to preach which was more than equal to the strain of the crisis. An eternal God, an ever-living Saviour and a glori¬ous hope of heaven, carried them through this heaviest trial’.
This extract is taken, with permission, from the author’s new book on 1662 —
The Great Ejection — Today’s evangelicalism rooted in Puritan persecution, EP Books,
176 pages, £8.99, ISBN 978-085234-8024