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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A diminutive of convent, denoting properly a cabal, or secret assembly of a part of the monks of a convent, to make a party in the election of an abbot. The term conventicle is said by some to have been first applied in England to the schools of Wickliffe, and has been since used in a way of reproach for those assemblies which dissent from the established church. In 1664, what was called the conventicle act was passed, decreeing that if any person above 16 years of age, was present at any meeting for worship, different from the church of England, where there should be five persons more than the household, they should for the first offence, suffer three months imprisonment, or pay 5l. for the second the punishment is doubled, and for the third they were to be banished to America, or pay 100l. and if they returned to suffer death. This act having expired, it was revived in 1669, for by 22 Car. II. cap. 1. it is enacted, That if any persons of the age of sixteen years, subjects of this kingdom, shall be present at any conventicle where there are five or more assembled, they shall be fined five shillings for the first offence, and ten shillings for the second: and persons preaching, incur a penalty of twenty pounds. Also suffering a meeting to be held in a house is twenty pounds penalty: justices of peace have power to enter such houses, and seize persons assembled: and if they neglect their duty, they forfeit 100l. And if any constable, &c. know of such proceedings, and do not inform a justice of peace or chief magistrate, he shall forfeit 5l. But the 1st of William and Mary, cap. 18. ordains that Protestant dissenters shall be exempted from these penalties; though if they meet in a house with the doors locked, barred, or bolted, such dissenters shall have no benefit from the 1st of William and Mary. Officers of the government, &c. present at any conventicle at which there shall be ten persons, if the royal family be not prayed for in express words, shall forfeit 40l. and be disabled, Stat. 10. Anne. cap.2.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Conventicle'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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