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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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the name given to those beneficed clergy of the Church of England who refused to take the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary in 1689. They were about four hundred in number, and included William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, and four others of the "Seven Bishops," Thomas Ken of Bath and Wells, John Lake of Chichester, Thomas White of Peterborough and Francis Turner of Ely, together with three other bishops, Robert Frampton of Gloucester, William Thomas of Worcester and William Lloyd of Norwich (who is sometimes confused with his namesake, the bishop of St Asaph, one of the "Seven Bishops"). Other distinguished nonjurors among the clergy were: William Sherlock, master of the Temple, Jeremy Collier, the ecclesiastical historian, Charles Leslie, the controversialist, George Hickes, dean of Worcester, Nathanael Spinckes, John Fitzwilliam, canon of Windsor, and John Kettlewell, the devotional writer. The most famous nonjurors among the laity were Henry Dodwell, Camden professor of history at Oxford, Robert Nelson, Henry Hyde, second earl of Clarendon, and Roger North, the lawyer. Afterwards their number was augmented by the refusal of William Law, author of The Serious Call, Thomas Carte, the historian, Thomas Hearne, the antiquary, and others, to take the oaths of allegiance to George I. Ken, the most eminent of the nonjurors, disapproved of their subsequent proceedings, and Sherlock and Dodwell afterwards took the required oaths, the former becoming dean of St Paul's.

Believing in the doctrine of non-resistance to established authority, the nonjurors argued that James II. was still the rightful king, and likened the position of William to that of Cromwell. Taking examples from the Old Testament and from the practice of the early church, their antagonists traversed these arguments, and a long and voluminous controversy followed. Many have thought that the position of the nonjurors was inconsistent, and Dr Johnson said, "I never knew a nonjuror who could reason," although he appears to have excepted Leslie from this general condemnation. The government did not treat the nonjurors harshly. With the approval of William III., Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, attempted to reconcile them to the new order; and it was only when the generous terms offered by Burnet had been refused, that, in February 1690, they were deprived of their sees and other benefices. Although they had only a small following among the mass of the people, who were not required to take the oaths of allegiance, Sancroft and his colleagues claimed to represent the true Church of England, and requested James II. in his exile to nominate two new bishops to carry on the episcopal succession. James chose Hickes and Thomas Wagstaffe (1645-1712), who were consecrated in 1694 as bishops of Thetford and Ipswich respectively. A further consecration took place in 1713 when Collier, Spinckes and Samuel Hawes (d. 1722), were consecrated "bishops at large." In 1718 the introduction of a new communion office with some "usages" taken partly from primitive liturgies, and partly from the first prayer-book of Edward VI. caused a schism among the nonjurors, dividing them into "Usagers" and "NonUsagers." The four "usages" were: The mixed chalice, prayers for the faithful departed, prayer for the descent of the Holy Ghost on the consecrated elements, and the Oblatory Prayer, offering the elements to the Father as symbols of His Son's Body and Blood. Accepting the "usages" the two bodies united in 1731, but other dissensions followed, although the episcopal succession was maintained until the death of a bishop named Charles Booth in 1805. The last nonjuror is supposed to have been James Yeowell, who died in 1875. Public worship was conducted in chapels or "oratories," and sometimes in private houses.

In Scotland the nonjurors included the greater part of the clergy of the Episcopal Church, which ceased to be the state church in 1689. Many of these men and some of their English colleagues were ardent Jacobites, and were punished for sharing in the risings of 1715 and 1745, and in other Jacobite movements. The Scottish clergy maintained their attitude of resistance to the government until the death of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1788, when the bishops met at Aberdeen, and unanimously agreed to submit to the government of King George III. A large number of the Presbyterians in Scotland, principally found among the Cameronians, also refused to take the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary; but as their reasons for this refusal were quite different from those of the episcopalian nonjurors, they are not usually referred to by this name (see Cameronians).

For the history of the nonjurors, see Macaulay, History of England vol. ii. (London, 1895); T. Lathbury, History of the Nonjurors (London, 1845); and especially J. H. Overton, The Nonjurors (London, 1902), a defence of the sect. (A. W. H.*)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Nonjurors'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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