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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is the name applied to those English and Scottish Episcopalians who from religious scruples would not, at the Revolution of 1688, take the oath of allegiance to the prince of Orange, for they had already promised to bear true allegiance to king James; and although many persons thought that his departure from the kingdom had released them from that allegiance, there were others who considered the oath to be still binding, and the more so because it bound them to the king's direct heir, as well as to himself, that heir' being now the infant prince of Wales, and not the princess of Orange. Some, on reflection, adopted the principle indicated (though at a much later date) by Nicolson, bishop of Carlisle. "Whenever," he writes, "a sovereign de facto is universally submitted to and recognized by all the three estates, I must believe that person to be lawful and rightful monarch of this kingdom, who alone has a just title to my allegiance, and to whom only I owe an oath of fealty" (Epist. Correspond. 2:387). But although in modern times this principle might be conceded by many persons without hesitation, it was not so easy to act upon it in an age when the displacement of one sovereign by another was a rare occurrence. Hence the clashing of the two oaths was a real difficulty to the consciences of a large number of the clergy, as well as to some of the official laity. This difficulty is well stated in a letter written by Dr. Fitzwilliam, canon of Windsor and rector" of Cottenham, to lady Russell, and dated May 13, 1689: "What now I shall do in this present emergency I am irresolved; but if, having first debated it with myself and advised with my friends, it shall seem most expedient to make such a retreat, I will depend upon your honor's mediation for that favor. It may be I have as sad thoughts for the divisions of the Church and as ardent desires for its peace, as any; and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I prefer not Jerusalem before my chief joy. But I cannot esteem it a good way to seek the attainment of this by any act which shall disturb my own peace... In the mean time I entreat you, very good madam, not to call boggling at an oath clashing against another, as far as I can discern, which I formerly took an unnecessary scruple. I believe, were you under such an engagement, your tenderness and circumspection would be rather greater than mine. The former oath of allegiance runs thus:
‘ I will bear faith and true allegiance to his majesty king Charles, or king James, and his heirs and successors, and him and them will defend. Of supremacy I will bear faith and true allegiance to the king's highness (Charles or James), his heirs and lawful successors, and to my power shall assist and defend all jurisdictions, privileges, pre-eminences, and authorities granted or belonging to the king's highness, his heirs and successors, or united and annexed to the imperial crown of this realm.'
Now I am informed by the statute 1 Jac. c. 1, that lineal succession is a privilege belonging to the imperial crown, and by 12 Car. II, c. 30, § 17, that by the undoubted and fundamental laws of this kingdom neither the peers of this realm, nor the commons, nor both together, in Parliament or out of Parliament, nor the people collectively nor representatively, nor any persons whatsoever, hath or ought to have any coercive power over the kings of this realm. The present oath runs thus:
‘ I will bear true allegiance to their majesties, king William and queen Mary.'
Now let any impartial person resolve me whether one of these, king James having abdicated, be his heir or lawful successor, or could be made so had the people met either collectively or representatively, which they did neither" (Lady Russell's Letters [ed. 1792], p. 458). No one can complain that men who had such scruples of conscience on this subject should be willing to give up their bishoprics. and their parishes rather than do an act which they considered as willful perjury. Macaulay says: "Those clergymen and members of the universities who incurred the penalties of the law were about four hundred in number. Foremost in rank stood the primate and six of his suffragans — Turner of Ely, Lloyd of Norwich, Frampton of Gloucester, Lake of Chichester, White of Peterborough, and Ken of Bath and Wells. Thomas of Worcester would have made a seventh, but he died three weeks before the day of suspension. On his deathbed he adjured his clergy to be true to the cause of hereditary right, and declared that those divines who tried to make out that the oaths might be taken without any departure from the loyal doctrines of the Church of England seemed to him to reason more Jesuitically than the Jesuits themselves." It may be added that Hickes and Jeremy Collier and Dodwell also belonged to the number. Nevertheless, the nonjuring bishops were still left responsible for the cure of souls in their dioceses, and the nonjuring priests for the cure of souls in their parishes. Yet there does not seem to be any instance on record of either bishop or priest endeavoring to carry out their responsibilities in any such complete manner as to justify the claims which they made, or which were made on their behalf, that they could not be excluded from their sees or parishes by order of Parliament, as that would appear to give to the state ecclesiastical authority which it did not possess. Sancroft issued a commission to three of his suffragans to consecrate Burnet to the bishopric of Salisbury, and under this commission the consecration took place on May 31, 1689. But after this act of Parliament had come fully into force, Sancroft made no further attempt to carry out his duties or to assert his spiritual jurisdiction, only remaining at Lambeth until he was turned out, which was little if anything more than an assertion of his temporal rights to his benefices; rights which possibly an act of Parliament could really extinguish. Many of the other bishops, and any number of the clergy, seem to have been surprised into yielding their spiritual charges, and so letting their sees and parishes practically lapse into the' hands of those whom they considered unlawful intruders. They vacated their spiritual charges as James had vacated his throne, and yet claimed to be still the rightful occupants of the posts they had vacated. Thus if there was a grave error on the part of Parliament in omitting to provide for others doing what Parliament itself could not do in omitting to release the nonjuring clergy from their spiritual responsibilities, there was also a grave error on the part of the latter in acting as if they had been so released. And while this latter course went far to cut the ground from under their feet as regards the claim which the nonjurors asserted, styling themselves the only rightful representative of the Church in the dioceses and parishes committed to them, so it went far to justify Tillotson and the rest of the intruders in assuming themselves to be rightfully possessed of posts which had thus been suffered to lapse into their hands. Even so far the Nonjurors cannot be altogether exonerated from a share in the confusion — very nearly approaching, if not actually amounting to schism — which was caused in the six dioceses and four hundred parishes, where they were thus provided each with two pastors. Macaulay adds: "Most of them passed their lives in running about from one Tory coffee-house to another, abusing the Dutch, hearing and spreading reports that within a month his majesty would certainly be on English ground, and wondering who would have Salisbury when Burnet was hanged. During the session of Parliament the lobbies and the Court of Requests were crowded with deprived persons, asking who was up, and what the numbers were on the last division. Many of the ejected divines became domesticated as chaplains, tutors, and spiritual directors in the houses of opulent Jacobites. Not one in fifty therefore of those laymen who disapproved of the revolution thought himself bound to quit his pew in the old church, where the old liturgy was still read, and where the old vestments were still worn, and to follow the ejected priest to a conventiclea conventicle, too, which was not protected by the Toleration Act. Thus the new sect was a set of preachers without hearers; and such preachers could not make a livelihood by preaching. In London, indeed, and in some other large towns, those vehement Jacobites whom nothing would satisfy but to hear king James and the prince of Wales prayed for by name, were sufficiently numerous to make up a few small congregations, which met secretly and under constant fear of the constables. in rooms so mean that the meeting-houses of the Puritan dissenters might by comparison be called palaces."
The first step which had been taken towards placing the nonjuring clergy in a schismatical position was an imprudent act committed by Sancroft himself by delegating to Lloyd, the ejected bishop of Norwich, that archiepiscopal jurisdiction which he declined to exercise personally. This was done by an instrument dated Feb. 9, 1691-2, when he had allowed his authority to lie dormant eighteen months; during half of which time Tillotson had been consecrating suffragans for the province, and ordaining and confirming within the diocese of Canterbury, while Sancroft himself had been living the life of a hermit on a small property which he possessed at Fresingfield. Under the authority thus delegated to him, Lloyd shortly after took steps for consecrating two bishops; and the consent of the exiled king having been obtained, Hickes, the deprived dean of Worcester, was consecrated suffragan bishop of Thetford, and Wagstaffe suffragan bishop of Ipswich, on Feb. 24, 1693-4, the consecrating bishops being those who had previously occupied the sees of Norwich, Ely, and Peterborough. The consecration took place secretly in a private house, but was witnessed by the earl of Clarendon; it was known to very few persons, and those in confidence, until the latter part of the year 1710, when, all the deprived bishops but Ken being dead, and he having resigned his see, a discussion arose among the Nonjurors as to the continuance of their separation. Upon the death of Ken — that saintly bishop departing to his rest on March 19,1710 or 1711 — many of the Nonjurors, among whom were Nelson, the well-known author of Fasts and Festivals, and the learned Henry Dodwell, began again to frequent their parish churches, and gave up all formal connection with. the separated party. But another section, led by Hickes, determined to perpetuate the secession, and for that purpose to continue the succession of bishops. Hickes and Wagstaffe had been consecrated only as suffragan bishops to bishop Lloyd, and had therefore no authority after his death in 1710. Wagstaffe himself died in 1712, and Hickes being thus left as the sole episcopal representative of the Nonjurors, and being then seventy-one years old, called in the assistance of two Scottish bishops, Campbell and Gadderar, and on Ascension-day, in 1713, these three consecrated Jeremiah Collier, Samuel Howes, and Nathaniel Spinckes — Scotland thus once more contributing an element of schism to England. Hickes died in 1715 and Collier becoming the leader of the now formally constituted sect, Henry Gandy and Thomas Brett were consecrated by him and the other two schismatical bishops on Jan. 25, 1716. In the following year began the dispute among the Nonjurors respecting the ‘ usages.' Collier wrote a tract entitled Reasons for restoring some Prayers and Directions as they stand in the Communion Service of the first English Reformed Liturgy, etc. In this he advocated the reintroduction into the Communion Service of the mixed cup, of the invocation of the Holy Ghost, of the Prayer of Oblation, and of prayers for the departed, these always having been used by Hickes, who celebrated them with the Communion Office of Edward VI, first book, and by Collier himself, while Brett and the Scottish bishop Campbell strongly supported the practice. A division thus sprang up in the now small body of Nonjurors, Spinckes and Gandy leading one party, which wished to retain the use of the last book of Common Prayer; Collierand Brett leading another section, which used the first book: the former party being called ‘ Nonusagers,' and the latter ‘ Usagers.' The two parties remained separate, each consecrating several bishops, from the year 1718 to 1733, when a reconciliation took place, though some still continued to be ‘ Usagers' and others ‘ Nonusagers.' The sect lingered on during the whole of the 18th century, but with continually diminishing numbers, and with continually increasing divisions. Few priests seem to have been ordained among its members, but the consecration of bishops was kept up at last in a very irregular and reckless manner until nearly the close of the century. Among them were men of great learning, whose works have been of high value to the Church, especially Hickes and Dodwell as theologians, Collier and Carte as historical writers, Brett as a high authority in liturgical theology, Kettlewell, Nelson, and Law as devotional writers, whose influence deeply affected the religion of the Church for a century and a half. The Nonjurors appear to have always held their services in private houses, and many of their clergy practiced medicine or followed some trade. Gordon, the last of their regular bishops, died in 1779; Cartwright, one of the last of the irregular section, practiced as a surgeon at Shrewsbury, and was reconciled to the Church at the abbey there in 1799. Boothe, the last of all their bishops, died in Ireland in 1805, but some small congregations of Nonjurors are said to have existed some years later. Many of the last of the Nonjurors, however, attended their parish churches, only reserving to their consciences the privilege of using Prayer-books which had been printed before the Revolution."
A close intimacy was always kept up between the Nonjurors of England and the Episcopalians of Scotland, and they were mixed up with the Jacobite party to a dangerous extent, some of them even suffering for high- treason in 1716 and 1745. Not a few of them went over to the Roman Catholics; and when an act was passed against recusants, the Nonjurors were included. The strong desire for catholic reunion which thus impelled them to seek it somewhere, although their political feelings would not permit them to seek it in the Church of England, also led to an attempt in 1716 to bring about "a concordat between the orthodox and catholic remnant of the British churches and the catholic and apostolic Oriental Church." The full particulars of this have been printed in Williams's Orthodox Church of the East in the 17th Century, p. 30-34; but the correspondence on the subject fell through in 1725. The Episcopalian Nonjurors in Scotland ceased to be such after the death of prince Charles in 1788, and in 1792 they were relieved from various penalties and restrictions. Presbyterian Nonjurors, too, there were and are in Scotland; but these Scottish Episcopalians, perhaps, are called Nonjurors improperly any longer, for their ground of difference from the Establishment is more on account of ecclesiastical than political principles. See Bickersteth, Christ. Student, p. 298; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 2:183; Lathbury, Hist, of the Nonjurors; Stephen, Hist. of the Church of Scotland, 3:546- 549; 4:129,143,167,168; Perry, Church Hist. of England (see Index in vol. 3); Palin, Hist. of the Church of England, 1688-1717, ch. iv, and Appendix; Littell's Living Age, Nov. 1, 1845, art. 4; Blunt, Dict. of Theology, s.v. (See SCOTLAND, CHURCHES IN); (See REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nonjurors'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/nonjurors.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.