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Of those who were responsible for shaping the policy of the Nonjuring party in the second generation, the palm must be awarded to Jeremy Collier, a man in whom learning was allied to wit, and both were wielded by a singularly audacious and resolute will. Being deprived of the Lectureship of Gray's Inn for refusing to take the oaths, he immediately came to the front as an assailant of the Revolution, in a smart pamphlet, "The Desertion Discussed," which argued that the King's flight, being the result of coercion, could not be lawfully construed as vacating the throne. For this production Collier was arrested on the charge of sedition. In 1692 he was again incarcerated, on suspicion of holding communication with the ex-King; on which which occasion he showed his unyielding temper by preferring to lie in prison, rather than by giving bail to admit the authority of King William's courts of justice. Four years later he was once more embroiled with the law. When Friend and Perkins were executed at Tyburn for a plot against William's life, Collier accompanied by two other Nonjuring clergymen took his place on the scaffold by their side, and at the last moment
administered absolution to them with solemn imposition of hands. The audacity of this public act of defiance created an immense sensation. The two archbishops and ten of their suffragans, who happened to be at hand, issued a declaration, commenting severely on the "irregular and scandalous proceedings." To escape an indictment in the King's Bench for treason Collier absconded, and was outlawed, and apparently remained so till his death in 1726, the Government wisely declining to take any further notice. of him. There was better work for him to do than playing at sedition. In the corruption which had infected the English drama since the Restoration, he found a far worse evil to attack than the Revolutionsettlement could have been even in the most prejudiced eyes. To this combat he girded himself with all the energy of his nature, and struck a giant's blow in his Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, published in 1698. This work, rugged in style but rich in sarcasm and pitiless in its force, together with the subsequent defences of it against Congreve and other playwrights, forms Collier's best claim to the remembrance and gratitude of posterity. His indict. ment was really unanswerable, and he beat the wits at their own weapons. As Johnson remarks in his Life of Congreve:
"His onset was violent; those passages, which while they stood single had passed with little notice, when they were accumulated and exposed together excited horror; the wise and the pious caught the had so long suffered irreligion and licenalarm; and the nation wondered why it tiousness to be openly taught at the public charge. The dispute was protracted
through ten years; but at last comedy grew more modest, and Collier lived to
see the reward of his labor in the reformation of the theater."'
No sooner had the defeated playwrights laid down their arms, than Collier found a new vent for his irrepressible energy in writing his many-volumed Ecclesiastical History; a work which provoked numerous attacks for its bias toward a narrow ecclesiasticism, but was on that account the stronger recommendation of him for the episcopate, when the Nonjuring communion found it expedient to proceed to fresh consecrations. But if Collier's learning and reputation threw luster on the little band of irreconcilables, he was none the less one of the causes of their ruin. His headstrong temper produced a new split, and alienated more than ever the sympathy of the nation from their cause. Their only chance of permanence lay in union and moderation; and this Collier deliberately sacrificed to indulge his individual preference for such liturgical usages as the mixed chalice, oblation of the elements, and prayers for the dead. In vain were the remonstrances of prudence and the shafts of satire. The gentleman late of the communion of the Church of England, but now of his own," went on his reckless way, dragging after him at small muster of Essentialists," as the innovators were nicknamed by the conservatives, and an additional nail was driven into the Nonjurors' coffin.
It was under Collier, and his other colleague, Brett, learned in liturgies, that the seceding "Usagers," styling themselves "the Catholic and orthodox remnant of the British
Church," played the curious little comedy of negotiating on equal
terms for an alliance with the Greek Church. One cannot but wonder that Mr. Lathbury should have treated the transaction seriously, and considered it of "especial interest." For any one possessed of the slightest sense of humor, we should deem it scarcely possible to peruse with gravity the documents in which the insignificant handful of sectaries coolly invites the four patriarchs of the stately and immovable communion of the East to change their faith and their liturgy, and offers them in return leave to celebrate divine service occasionally in St. Paul's according to the Greek ritual, “if it should please God to restore the suffering Church of this island and her bishops to her and their just rights." To accept that offer, whatever it might be worth, the patriarchs showed no objection; but as for any change on their side, they replied with scarcely concealed scorn,
Our Oriental Church, the immaculate bride of the Lord, has never at any time admitted the novelty, nor will it at all allow of any.” So the matter came to nothing, as might have been foreseen from the beginning, had not the Nonjuring Usagers been hopelessly devoid of common sense in ecclesiastical matters.
It would be tedious to unearth from merited oblivion the names of the later leaders of the sect, whose minds seemed to contract pari passu with the contraction of their dwindling communion; but there remains one commonly ranked with them, which is too deserving of respect to be passed over, and with it we shall close our list. It is that of William
Law, the author of the Serious Call. | and retired into private life. We have his own explanation of this step, in a letter written on the occasion to his brother, but it leaves the difficulty unsolved. What he says is this:
"What can be more heinously wicked than heartily to wish the success of a person on account of his right, and at the
same time in the most solemn manner in
the presence of God, and as you hope for mercy, swear that he has no right at all?"
But that the Pretender had no right is exactly what Law's recent sermon had implied, by asserting in the most emphatic terms that the right resided in Anne; and to account for his conduct we are compelled to fall back on the supposition, that his language had been moulded on the absurd Jacobite
In Mr. Overton's work, mentioned above, will be found the fullest and most discriminating account of this remarkable man which has yet appeared; and we can commend the volume as being of a very different caliber from the more recent Life of Leslie already noticed. One thing only at the outset has struck us as curious. It is this, that the author, while continally insisting on Law's logical acumen and rigid consistency of conduct, apparently fails to see that, in becoming a Nonjuror at all he performed the feat which has been described as turning one's back on on one's self. The circumstances were these. A few months before the death of Queen Anne, Law-then a young clerical fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge-fiction, which pretended that Anne preached and published a Thanksgiving sermon for the peace of Utrecht, and wound up with a flaming assertion of "the Divinity of our sovereign's authority, and the absolute passive obedience we owe her." Now as Law could not possibly be ignorant that Anne reigned by a parliamentary title, to the exclusion of the Pretender, who on the principles of legitimacy was the rightful sovereign; this language, strictly interpreted, could only mean that the parliamentary title had conveyed to her the divine right on which the Nonjurors took their stand, and, as a necessary consequence, had withdrawn it from the Pretender. Yet no sooner had the first George succeeded her, having exactly the same parliamentary title, than Law's conscience revolted against the oaths, and without a moment's hesitation he threw up his fellowship and his ministerial office,
merely occupied the throne as a warming-pan for her brother, and was provisionally possessed of the divine right as his locum tenens.
When it has been said that Law refused to take the oaths at the accession of George I., the whole of his connection with the Nonjurors has been mentioned. He never joined himself to either section of the party, never wrote a word in their favor, never even, so far as appears, made personal acquaintance with any of them. Secession from the Established Church did not enter into his thoughts; to the end of his life he continued to attend his services with invariable regularity. Whatever weight attaches to his name, not an atom of it can be claimed for the schism. On this account it might almost be urged that he has no title to be represented in our little gallery of portraits. But he is too interesting a character
to be entirely passed over; and what we shall attempt is not to reproduce the facts of his uneventful life, but with a few strokes, to depict the man himself, chiefly with the view of explaining why his reputation has fallen so far below the level to which his moral and intellectual qualities seemed likely to raise it.
By natural endowment Law was eminently fitted for controversy. Whether castigating Hoadley's Lowchurchism, vindicating morality against Mandeville's cynical Hobbism, or confuting Tindal's exalta. tion of reason at the expense of Revelation, he wielded the weapon of logic and satire with notable effect, and seldom failed to detect and pierce the weak spots in his opponent's armor. But the qualities which did such good service in demolition were less efficient in construction; and it is by building up, not by pulling down, that enduring reputation as a spiritual guide is achieved. To apply religion practically to the regulation of human life in its modern developments requires a breadth of experience and a comprehensiveness of view, which Law's secluded life denied him, and his ascetic intensity of disposition indisposed him to value. Life with us is a much larger and more complex thing than he had any idea of; it is not to be satisfactorily parceled out between devotions of the closet and acts of charity, nor to be summed up in the single duty of renouncing the world. Law's masterpiece, the Serious Call, with all its intense earnestness, its downright precision, its lively sketches and keen satire, is a splendid failure, because by every one, except recluses, what it demands in the name of religion is
at once felt to be impracticable. The model of a perfect life propounded in it is the example of those who, "renouncing the common business and common enjoyments of life, as riches, marriage, honors and pleasures, devoted themselves to voluntary poverty, virginity, devotion, and retirement." Even for the less aspiring, to whose weakness some indulgence is due, the demand is not abated below the imitation of those with whom "watching and prayers, self-denial and mortification, were the common business of their lives." No room is left for any of the great interests, political, social, artistic, scientific, which exercise and train the faculties of mankind, and are the cement and adornment of civilized life; they belong to the world and with the world they must be renounced. As the mind is to be despoiled of all its furniture, so must the body be of all its grace and ease. "A saint genteelly dressed is as great nonsense as an apostle in an embroidered suit." Every meal is to be an exercise of self-denial, and we are to humble our bodies every time that we are forced to feed them. The nearer a house approaches to a monastery, with its continual round of devotions, the more will it conform to the ideal of the devout life.
The absolute sincerity with which Law propounded his scheme of a religious life was evinced by the endeavor to fashion his own life according to it. He remained unmarried upon principle, holding in abomination the sight of "reverend doctors in sacerdotal robes making love to women." One cannot help laughing at his suggestion of the incongruity there would be in our
Lord's austere forerunner, John the Baptist, making "an offer of his heart to some fine young lady of great accomplishments.' When circumstances enabled him, after the end of his tutorship and residence in the family of Mr. Gibbon, grandfather of the historian, to form a home with two wealthy ladies at his native King's Cliffe, the establishment became a living embodiment of the doctrine expounded in the Serious Call. Out of an income of 3,000l. a year, one-tenth only was spent on their united wants, the remaining nine-tenths being disbursed. to the last penny in charity. The hours were divided between devotion and good works. Four times a day the whole household was assembled for lengthy religious exercises, beside the attendance at the parish church on Litany days. Luxury, art, amusements, all means of mental culture, were rigidly banished; all books even, except religious ones. Human learning was regarded as a temptation and a snare; even the arts of reading and writing were looked upon as somewhat doubtful blessings. With the rush of the great world as it swung on its way not a heart in that little circle beat in sympathy or hope. To observe with literal exactness all the precepts in the Sermon on the Mount was part of the scheme, and the result was an instructive one. When it was known that there were thousands of pounds to be given away, and that the rule "Give to him that asketh thee" was held to be imperative, the consequences could not be doubtful. A ragged levee became a daily institution, and the village swarmed with vagabonds and impostors, until the parishioners were
provoked into presenting a petition to the magistrates for the abatement of the intolerable nuisance.
Now, beautiful for simplicity and conscientiousness as the character must have been, which in the England of the eighteenth century produced such a singular phenomenon as Law's household, `we cannot wonder that it has failed to secure for him any permanent recognition of his competency to be a safe guide in religion. As soon as the question is asked, What would the world be like if it were universally fashioned on his type? the case is decided against him. Granting him to have possessed every qualification for a religious teacher, except the soundness of judgment which has its roots in a just conception of the genius of Christianity, and a practical acquaintance with the manifold aspects of human life, that single defect was a fatal one. It ran through his whole nature, and affected his theological speculation as much as his conduct and habits. As years advanced with him it manifested itself under a new form in the spell thrown over his mind by the writings of Jacob Behmen, and in the strange theosophy which he borrowed from that extraordinary shoemaker to fill his later works. The unpractical and narrow idealist of the Serious Call naturally ripened into the mystic dreamer.
Of all the Nonjurors, to Law alone has it happened to have his character sketched by the pen of an almost contemporary writer of the first rank. Gibbon's description of him, in his well-known autobiography, would indeed have been more interesting if it had been framed from personal intercourse. It is very doubtful if he ever saw his father's