« IndietroContinua »
ples of conscience, he refused. So high did his character stand, that it is said, he might have had any Bishopric in the kingdom, would he have conformed to all the canons, rites and ceremonies of the establishment; but inviolably faithful to the principles he had embraced, he withstood temptations which would have borne down a man of principles less inflexible.
At the celebrated Savoy conference, Dr. Bates was a conspicuous character. This conference consisted of an equal number of bishops and their assistants; and presbyterian ministers ; constituted commissioners by his Majesty's declaration of October twenty-fifth, sixteen hundred and sixty. Their object was “ To review the book of common prayer, comparing it with the most ancient and purest liturgies; and to take into their serious and grave considerations the several directions and rules, forms of prayer, and things in the said book of common prayer contained, and to advise and consult upon the same, and the several objections and exceptions, which shall now be raised against the same; and if occasion be to make such reasonable and necessary alterations, corrections and amendments, as shall be agreed upon to be needful and expedient for giving satisfaction to tender consciences, and the restoring and continuance of peace and unity in the churches under his Majesty's government and direction.”— They met at the Bishop of London's lodgings in the Savoy, hence it was called the Savoy conference. The result of the conference is too well known, to make it necessary to state it in this place.
When three of the commissioners, on each side were chosen from the rest to enter into some particular points of dispute-Dr. Bates, Mr. Baxter, and Dr. Jacomb, were chosen on the part of the Presbyterians; and Dr. Pearson, Dr. Gunning, and Dr. Sparrow (all afterwards made Bishops) on the part of the establishment. At one of these disputes Bishop Morley was present, and behaved very inde
corously. He frequently interrupted Mr. Baxter, and appealed to Dr. Bates, saying—“ what say you Dr. Bates, is this your opinion ?” to which the Dr. replied—“ I pray iny Lord, give Mr. Baxter leave to speak.” Dr. Gunning appeared to lean considerably towards a reconciliation of the church of England to Rome. He used, says Bishop Burnet, all the arts of sophistry in as confident a manner, as if they had been sound reasoning, and was very fond of Popish rituals and ceremonies. When Dr. Bates urged upon him, that on the same reasons as they imposed the cross and surplice, they might bring in holy water, and lights, and abundance of such ceremonies of Rome which had been cast out; Gunning replied, “ Yes, and I think we ought to have more and not fewer.” During the whole of this protracted, but fruitless debate, Dr. Bates conducted himself with great wisdom and moderation; whenever he spoke it was very solidly, judiciously, and pertinently,” and procured great respect from his brethren, who were of opinion that had the rest been of his mind, things had not come to so unsuccessful an issue.
The act of uniformity passed in the year sixteen hundred and sixty-two, when Dr. Bates was thirty-seven years of age, by which he was deprived of the valuable living of St. Dunstan’s, in the West. On this trying occasion he displayed heroic firmness of mind in lovely union with that mildness and candour which breathe in his writings. Terms were imposed by this act, with which he could not conscientiously comply, though every thing in his nature strongly disposed to a compliance, and made him deeply lament the circumstances that imposed the absolute necessity of secession from the established church. Re-ordination of those who had not been episcopally ordained“A declaration of unfeigned assent and consent to all and every thing prescribed and contained in the book of common prayer--Administration of sacraments, rites and ceremonies as enjoined by the church of England-were among those terms which forced him from her communion with 2000 others who were among her brightest ornaments, both for learning and piety. This was a peculiarly trying time to him; the state of his mind, as well as the principles on which he acted, may
be learned from the close of the farewel sermon he preached to his people at St. Dunstan's church, on this painful occasion, Aug. seventeenth, sixteen hundred and sixty-two, “ I know you expect I should say something as to my non-conformity. I shall only say thus much : It is neither fancy, faction, nor humour that makes me not comply; but merely the fear of offending God. And if after the best means used for my illumination, as prayer to God, discourse, and study, I am not able to be satisfied concerning the lawfulness of what is required, it be my unhappiness to be in error, surely men will have no reason to be angry with me in this world, and I hope God will pardon me in the next.”
Subsequently to this, some of the more moderate in the establishment, among whom were Lord Keeper Bridgman, Lord Chief Justice Hale, Bishops Wilkins and Reynolds, Drs. Tillotson and Stillingfleet, attempted a comprehension of such as could be brought into the church by a few abatements. Proposals were drawn up by Bishop Wilkins and Dr. Burton, and communicated to Drs. Bates, Manton and Mr. Baxter, and by them to their brethren. According to these proposals a bill was prepared for the parliament, but violent opposition being made to it by some of the Bishops it never passed.
In sixteen hundred and sixty-eight, we find Dr. Bates with Drs. Manton and Jacomb, presenting an address to the King, who received them graciously, and expressed himself well pleased with the address; how much he was persuaded of their peaceableness, that he had known them to be so ever since his return; and promised to do his utmost to get them compre
hended within the national establishment. But his Majesty failed to fulfil his promise; while the work of persecution against the non-conformists proceeded with increased vigour.
Though he was never cast into prison, which was the lot of numbers of his brethren, he had once a very narrow escape.
A Mrs. Beale being near death, several pious persons were solicited to meet in her room and pray for her, Dr. Bates and Mr. Baxter were to be of the number, of which information being given, two justices of peace with the parliament serjeant-at-arms, came at the appointed time to apprehend them and lay them in prison. Providence preserved them, for they did not attend, though ignorant of the design of their persecutors. The justices and serjeant-at-arms rushed into the room, where the gentlewoman lay ready to die, but missing their prey returned greatly disappointed. “ What a joy,” observes Mr. Baxter on this occasion, “ would it have been to them that reproached us as Presbyterian seditious schismatics to have found but such an occasion' as praying with a dying woman to have laid ús up in prison !"
At this time Dr. Bates was pastor of a dissent ing congregation at Hackney, near London, assem bling in a large and ancient, but irregular edifice situated in Mare-street, where he exercised his ministry with great success; and at the same time was one of the Tuesday lecturers at Salter's Hall, in London, where his popular talents as a preacher, drew immense crowds.
In sixteen hundred and seventy-five we find him again engaged in attempting pacific measures between the church and those who had seceded from it. Tillotson and Stillingfleet requested an interview with him and several other non-conforming ministers, to treat of an act of comprehension and union, stating that they were encouraged to it, by several lords, spiritual and temporal. They met privately, and terms of accommodation were agreed upon, but
several bishops raising a violent clamour, the business came to an end. Thus were all the endeavours of Dr. Bates, to promote union and concord frustrated. In Dr. Tillotson, he met with a man likeminded with himself, uniformly disposed to adopt pacific measures. 6.
“ Blessed are the peace-makers : for they shall be called the children of God.” Between these amiable and excellent men, there subsisted a long and intimate friendship, which no difference of opinion could interrupt or destroy. The peaceableness of Dr. Bates' disposition, the excellence of his character, and his high connections, were no security to him against persecution. Warrants were issued out for distresses in Hackney to the amount of £1400, and among the rest the Dr. was distrained upon. Thus in addition to the blessedness of the peace-maker, he enjoyed that of the persecuted for righteousness sake.
The accession of James II. to the throne of England, produced no amelioration in the persecuted condition of the dissenters. The parliament presented an address to the King, desiring him to issue his royal proclamation, to cause the penal laws to be put in execution against dissenters from the church of England. This brought down the storm, and one of the first who felt its fury, was the pious Baxter, who had already endured no small degree of persecution. The following anecdote presents a pleasing view of Dr. Bates fortitude and inviolable faithfulness to his friendships. Mr. Baxter was seized and committed to the King's Bench.Labouring under a severe indisposition, he moved by his counsel for time, but Judge Jefferies of infamous celebrity, said he would not give him a minute's time, no, not to save his life, adding, “ Yonder stands Oates in the pillory, and if Mr. Baxter stood on the other side, I would say, two of the greatest rogues in England stood there.” When he was brought to his trial, Dr. Bates attended and stood by him at the bar, though fully aware of