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Comprehenſion PROMOTED.Whether there be not as much reaſon, in regard to the eaſe of the moſt Sober Conſciences, to take away the Subſcription in the Act of Ʋniformity, as well as the Declaration of Aſſent and Conſent?

THough I am a perſon who according to my Genius, and the Preparation of my Studies ſhould be apt to offer ſomething to the Nonconformiſt for their Compliance at this time with the Church in general as Proteſtants; rather than diſcourage any body with Scruples. Yet do I ſee reaſon under this preſent Jun­cture of Affairs, and the kind Inclinations of the Houſe toward Union in their voting away the Declaration of Aſſent and Conſent; to repre­ſent alſo the Subſcription in the ſame Act, and the Oath impoſed in the Act at Oxford for the like redreſs, unto their tender Conſiderati­ons.


I A. B. do declare, That it is not lawful upon any pretence whatſoever, to take Arms againſt the KING. And that I do abhor that Trayterous Poſition of taking Arms by his Authority againſt his Perſon, or againſt thoſe that are Commiſſionated by him. And that I will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England, as it is now by Law eſtabliſhed. And I do declare that I do hold, there lyes no Obligation upon me, or any other per­ſon from the Oath, commonly called the Solemn League and Covenant, to endeavour any change or alteration of Government, either in Church or State, and that the ſame was in it ſelf an unlawful Oath, and impoſed2 upon the Subjects of this Realm againſt the known Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom.


I A. B. do ſwear, That it is not lawful upon any pretence whatſoever to take Arms againſt the KING. And that I do abhor that Trayterous Poſition of taking Arms by his Authority againſt his Perſon, or againſt thoſe that are Commiſſionated by him in purſuance of ſuch Commiſſions: And that I will not at any time endeavour any alteration of Government either in Church or State.

In this Oath and Subſcription, we have the Matter and the Form of words; that is, the Subſtance, and the Compoſure. And the one and the other, in both, are lyable to the enſuing Exceptions.

To begin with the Oath. Here are three parts of it: The firſt part, appears not conſiſtent with Judgment; the ſecond, with Truth; nor the laſt, with Righteouſneſs.

I will take up the laſt part firſt: And I will not endeavour any Altera­tion of Government. There is no Government on earth is ſo perfect, that it hath need of Laws like the Medes and Perſians. Alteration of Laws, and ſo Government (in the Adminiſtration) is as neceſſary many times, upon emergent occaſions, to the Politick Body, as the freſh Air is to the Natural. This Oath was brought into the Houſe to have been made common. It were not a thing Righteous, to have had that Engagement laid on perſons, in ſuch a capacity; it is not Righteous to have it laid on any who are Free-Holders, and Free-Subjects, as we are. The Conſti­tution of our Nation, as Parliamentary, is ſuch, That no Law can be Eſtabliſhed, or Repealed, but it muſt paſs the Houſe of Commons, and ſo the whole Body doth concur in their Repreſentatives, to every Alteration of Government that is made, if it be Legal: And no Houſe of Commons are choſen but by the People. Every Engliſh man is intend­ed to be there preſent, either in Perſon, or by Procuration; and the conſent of the Parliament, is taken to be every mans conſent, ſays Sir Thomas Smith De Rep. Ang. l. 2. c. 2. Nay while the King, Conſilio & aſſenſu Baronum, leges olim impoſuit univerſo Regno, conſentire inferior quiſque viſus eſt in per­ſona Domini ſui capitalis, prout hodie per procuratores Comitatus, By the Counſel and Aſſent of his Barons did give Laws to his whole Realm, every inferior ſeemed to conſent in the perſon of his chief Lord, as now they do by their Burgeſſes, and Knights of the Shires, ſays Sir Henry Spelman. This is ſo true, that in this ſenſe it is, that the Laws that paſs, are ſaid to be Quas vulgus elegerit, Which the people ſhall chuſe. Now then if every Free-Subject hath a fundamental Liberty to chuſe Knights, and Burgeſſes,3 and accordingly to inform them of their Grievances, and petition them for Redreſs; and in them, as their Repreſentatives, do con­ſent to the Alteration of Government and Laws, as are profitable for the Nation, how can ſuch an Oath be impoſed on any, that they will not endeavour any Alteration, as this is? Is not chuſing Bur­geſſes, informing them, petitioning them, acting, and legally con­ſenting, in them, to that end, an Endeavour? and that as much as can be in their place and calling? And no more than an endeavour in their place and calling was challenged by any. It not the Foun­dation-Liberty of the whole people, and our ſelves with them, here in danger? Judg ye that are Wiſe.

For the Words then (or Form), I wonder at this rigour in the Compiler, that a man muſt ſwear, not to endeavour any alteration. Had it not been enough to be engaged, not to endeavour the alteration of the Subſtance of our Government, Epiſcopacy in the Church, and Monarchy in the State, but muſt it be not any alteration? It were well we were ſo abſolutely perfect. And again, muſt they not at any time endeavour any alteration? What if Times ſhould turn, and we be in as great a confuſion as we were, or any the like chance or change come? Muſt theſe men be bound up, that they cannot endeavour to reduce back this Government that we now have? No, not the King and Biſhops, if the iniquity of the Times ſhould put them out; for they have ſworn, they will not at any time endeavour any alteration in Church or State. Sirs! The Matter of this Obligation being againſt the Fundamental-Freedom of the Subject, and Parliament; and the Words, as you ſee, ſo enſnaring, and that againſt that duty all owe to the Publick Good; I offer it you to conſider in the firſt place, whether this laſt part be according to Righteouſneſs?

For the middle part of the Oath: Here is a Poſition of taking Arms by the Kings Authority againſt any Commiſſionated by him; which muſt be ſworn to, as abhor'd, and trayterous. There is now a caſe in the mouths of all the underſtanding Refuſers of the Oath, of Subſcripti­on. Suppoſe ſome Writ ſued out, and comes to the Sheriffs hands, and ſuppoſe ſome to oppoſe the execution by the Kings perſonal Com­mand or Commiſſion, and he thereupon raiſes the Poſſe Comitatus up­on them. I will ask here, Whether the Sheriff acts not herein by the Kings authority? I think it cannot be denied. By the Kings Au­thority, is all one as, by the Law, or in the Name of the King according to Law. And when he can act ſo againſt any for all their Commiſ­ſion, and the Law will bear him out, how is this Position in this caſe trayterous, and to be abhor'd? For my part, I do reſolutely believe, that it was not ever the intent of the Parliament, in this Oath, or the Subſcription, (as to the major part, we may be bold) to ad­vance4 the perſonal Will or Commiſſion of the King above Law, which were to make his Power Deſpotical, and not Royal: Non eſt Rex (ſays Bracton) ubi Dominatur voluntas, non Lex, He is not a King that go­verns by his Will, and not by the Law. And how this Poſition indefinitely (without exception of this caſe at leaſt) muſt be ſworn to, as altogether trayterous I am to learn. The Courts of Law can a­void the Kings Charters or Commiſſions, which are paſſed againſt Law, for the King is ſubject to the Law, and ſworn to maintain it, ſays Judg Jenkins in his Works, p. 48. As for the Form then of the words; It abhor this trayterous Poſition; they are harſh; the word abhor eſpeci­ally, is a word of Intereſt and Paſſion; a cooler word, as, I diſown, or diſallow, might have ſerved. Some of the more grave (as Calamy particularly) were much offended at that word. I may ſay a thing is unlawful in my Conſcience, when I cannot ſay according to truth, I abhor it. There is never a Gentleman in the Land, but may ſwear truly, that he believes it unlawful to company with any other Wo­man, as his own Wife, but if each one were put to ſwear he abhors it, I ſuppoſe ſome very good Sons of the Church, as well as Bre­thren, would be found willing to be Non-conformiſts to ſuch an Oath. Well Sirs! When theſe words Abhor and Trayterous, are ſo harſh in the Compoſure, and when there is ſuch a caſe, and the like perhaps to it, may be put as to the Poſition in the Matter of it, wherein it ſeems juſtifiable, and without offence; I offer it in the next place to conſideration, Whether this middle part of the Oath and Subſcrip­tion be according to Truth?

For the firſt part, we have a large aſſertion roundly ſworn. The Oath and Subſcription runs not only that it is not lawful to take Arms againſt the King, or that it is not lawful on any pretence, but on any pretence (or cauſe) whatſoever. The Gramatical literal conſtruction of that word ſeems to intimate no leſs than that this Propoſition muſt be held without reſtraint or limitation. Among the moſt eminent of Authors, who have wrote for the power of Princes, and eſtabliſht it againſt reſiſtance in their writing on this ſubject, I ſuppoſe there are few or none to be valued above theſe three, Barclay, Grotius, Arniſaeus. And we ſhall find that they have all their reſtrictions, or caſes of exception in the maintenance of this tenet. And how ſhall any be over-earneſt here to puniſh the refuſer, when if the matter be ſcan'd, the reaſon perhaps why he refuſes will be found only becauſe he hath read more than ſome others that yield their ſubmiſſion. I begin with Barclay, that is William Barclay a Scot, and Counſellor to the King of France; who writes againſt Buchaan, Boucher, and other Monarcho-maciſts, as he calls them. This5 learned man endeavours to make his Prince to be above the whole People, That conſequently no Arms can be taken againſt him; ne­vertheleſs when he comes to put ſome preſſing caſes, he thus limits himſelf. Quid ergo, nulli ne caſus incidere poſſunt, quibus populo in Re­gem arma capere jure ſuo liceat? Nulli certe quamdiu Rex manet. What then? Can there no caſes happen wherein it is lawful for the People to take arms againſt the King by right? None certainlly ſo long as he remains a King. There are caſes indeed he accounts in which a King does exuere perſonam Regis, or, dominatu ſe exuere; put off the perſon of a King. And particularly (l. 3. c. 16.) he mentions two. Si Regnum alienet; Si Rempublicam evertere conetur, If he go to alienate his Kingdom. If he go to overthrow the Commonwealth. I do not ſay I approve this Doctrine. The Papiſts uſe the ſame we know in another caſe, We may not fight againſt our King, but if the Pope Excommunicate him, he ſhall be no King with them. Let us come to Grotius, and firſt quote him in his judgment of Barclay, leſt you may think elſe I miſtake him. Barclaius (ſays he) Regii imperii licet aſſertor fortiſſimus, huc tamen deſcendit, ut Populo & inſigni ejus parti jus concedit ſe tuendi adverſus immanem ſaevitiam. Barclay, though the moſt ſtrong aſſertor of Kingly Government, does deſcend to this, that he grants a right to the People, or the moſt eminent part of them, of de­fending themſelves againſt intollerable oppreſſion. For himſelf then after he hath aſſerted this Tenet, Summum imperivm tenentibus jure reſiſti non poſſe. That the higher Powers may not lawfully be reſiſted, from Scripture, Antiquity, Authority and Example, to as much purpoſe perhaps as any, he comes to put ſeven Caſes wherein he does Lectorem monere ne putet in hanc legem delinquere eos qui revera non delinquent,〈◊〉warn his Reader leſt he miſtake ſome for Delinquents, that are not. For Arniſaeus he hath wrote three learned Books of Politicks, De Jure Majeſtatis. De Doctrina Politica. De Au­thoritate Principum in Populum ſemper inviolabili; ſeu, Quod nulla ex cauſa ſubditis fas ſit contra legitimum Principem arma ſumere. That the Authority of Princes over the People ought to be inviolable: or, That it is lawful for no cauſe to take up Arms againſt our lawful Prince. Here then we have our Tenet; In the ſtate whereof, he comes in the iſſue to diſtinguiſh between Rex and Tyrannus, A King and a Tyrant Tyrannus in Titulo, & Tyrannus in exerntio, A Tyrant in Title, and in Practiſe. And Tyrannus in Exercitio he counts do excidere de jure etſi haereditario, Does fall from his right, though hereditary. Traditur Reſpub­lica Principi in eum finem (ſays he) ut illi praeſit in ſalutem omnium, a quo ſi prorſus deſciverit etiam de poteſtate cadit, quam non alio fine ſibi commiſſam habebat. The Commonwealth is delivered to the Prince that he ſhould rule over it for the common ſafety, from which if he departs6 altogether, he falls even from the power it ſelf which was committed to him only for this end. By ſuch Teſtimonies as theſe, without naming others, I would convince thoſe perſons who were the Compilers of theſe Declarations, to be ſubſcribed, or ſworn, with ſome reſent­ment, that when the ſenſe and meaning of them is ſuch as we are not like to boggle at, they ſhould be yet compoſed ſo in ter­minis, as to be obnoxious to ſo grand Exception.

For the form then yet of the words, I A. B. do ſwear that it is not lawful, &c. Here is an Oath to the matter of a Propoſition, and that queſtioned, to the determination of a point of Conſcience, and that diverſly decided. An Oath ſhould be to a matter of Fact, and can­not be taken but to that, whereof we are certain. To require of men therefore to ſwear to the Verity of a Doctrinal Propoſition, is not according to judgment, being a thing impoſſible, becauſe no man is infallible. Now Sirs then, when here is ſuch an Erratum in the Compoſure as the want of the words, I believe, or the like. I ſwear that I hold, or beleeve, that it is not lawful, &c. And ſo material an exception as the judgment of the moſt learned in general comes to, againſt the Subſtance in terminis of the firſt part of this Oath, which yet goes down moſt ordinarily without chewing, I humbly offer it in the third place to be conſidered, how this Oath can be taken either in Truth, or Judgment? An Oath muſt be taken in Judgment, in Truth, and in Righteouſneſs. The firſt part (I argue) is not ac­cording to Judgment; the ſecond not according to Truth; the third not according to Righteouſneſs.

I proceed to the Subſcription.

This hath two parts. The one is the Purport of the Oath; of which therefore I ſhall add no more, but this, That when the mat­ter of the one and the other in the former part thereof, is ſuch as enters the foundation of Politicks in general, and the Laws, and State of our Land in particular (which is〈…〉〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a Ringdom regulated by Laws, as Sir Thomas Smith has it. Rex ſub Deo & ſub Lege, The King is under God and the Law, ſays Hooker and Bracton. ), So that it requires the skill of the greateſt Judges, Sergeants, and Sages of the Law to determine the caſes included in it, every poor ſilly Miniſter is put to decide the ſame for himſelf, and to have that evidence therein, as to be able to take his Oath, or give his hand to the certainty of it. The other part of the Subſcription concerns the Covenant, where the words [nor any other] are ſuch a Ford, that (as to the Conſciences of all not throughly Epiſcopal) ſo far as I ſee, is unpaſſable. It is nothing to me to ſubſcribe there lies no ob­ligation on me from the Covenant to endeavour any alteration of Govern­ment,7 becauſe I never took it, it was againſt my Conſcience, and I can conceive for others in a private capacity what have they to do with Government? No Oath can bind to ſedition and diſobedience. But as for ſuch who are in a publick capacity and can act lawfully toward Reformation in their place; What ſhall I ſay to thoſe? One way there is indeed will ſtrike off all, and that is, to hold the pre­ſent Government eſtabliſhed to be Jure Divino altogether, ſo that any alteration is ſin. He that holds thus, may affirm clearly that though a man ſwear he would endeavour to alter the Government, it binds him nothing, let him be in what capacity he will; the leaſt alterati­on is unlawful, and he muſt therefore repent of his Oath, and not perform it. But if a man hold that the Presbyterean Government is rather Jure Divino; or that neither Epiſcopal nor Presbyterean is Jure Divino. Or that Epiſcopal Government is well, yet that ours as it is now, is not altogether ſo well, but that ſomething may be alter­ed for the better; I would fain be informed how ſuch a man can abſolve him who is in a publick capacity (as a Parliament man), from his endeavouring ſo much, according to time and prudence, if he hath ſworn before that he will. It is in vain to hide where the water ſticks. There are ſome cannot tell how to abſolve One other for their lives. I ſay not there lies an Obligation on any to do as they have ſworn, for fear it be dangerous; and I dare not ſay there lies none, becauſe I fear God. But this I may ſay, that I deſire to be inſtructed; and this I will ſay, that it is a hard thing to be put on it, to ſay that there lies no Obligation upon any other but our ſelves, whether there does or noTo relieve us in this Grievance, and others of the like nature with this, I propoſe this remedy, to wit, That thoſe Declarations which are required of the Nonconformiſt, to be made, ſubſcribed, or ſworn, may be impoſed only in the matter and end, and ſo long as he comes up in his ſenſe and meaning to give ſatisfaction therein, he may be left to the liberty of uſing his own ex­preſſions.

To conclude, There are many have been hugely ſenſible that the Papiſts at this ſeaſon were borrowing a Helve for their Hatchet out of the Wood of the Fanaticks; and that if they came to obtain their purpoſe, it is not hard to conjecture which Trees were like to go down afterwards, one with another. If it ſhall pleaſe the Parliament therefore, now to proceed with vigour, to an eſtabliſhment by Law of the mo­derate and ſober Proteſtant, that can unite in our Parochial Congre­gations, to out-ballance both theſe Extremities. And if thoſe perſons who preach the Goſpel to others could be perſwaded to put the great8 duty of it, which is ſelf-denial, into practiſe themſelves, in the matter or Pluralities, to make an Act for Comprehenſion ſignificant, I know nothing more deſireable to the proſperity of the Engliſh Church and Nation. Provided only by all means, that neither of theſe parties, her enemies, be exalted, or new ſpirited by Perſecution for their Conſcien­ces. Secundae cogitationes prudentius, & Moderatius conſulunt? & pru­dentius, quia moderatius. Second Thoughts do counſel us more prudently, and more moderately; and more prudently, becauſe more moderately.


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TextComprehension promoted. Whether there be not as much reason, in regard to the ease of the most sober consciences, to take away the subscription in the Act of Uniformity, as well as the declaration of assent and consent?
AuthorHumfrey, John, 1621-1719..
Extent Approx. 21 KB of XML-encoded text transcribed from 5 1-bit group-IV TIFF page images.
SeriesEarly English books online.
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(EEBO-TCP ; phase 2, no. A86884)

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Bibliographic informationComprehension promoted. Whether there be not as much reason, in regard to the ease of the most sober consciences, to take away the subscription in the Act of Uniformity, as well as the declaration of assent and consent? Humfrey, John, 1621-1719.. 8 p. s.n.,[London :1704]. (By John Humfrey.) (Caption title.) (Identified as Wing H3675, reel 2533, of the UMI microfilm set "Early English books 1641-1700".) (Reproduction of original in the Newberry Library.)
  • Oaths -- England -- Early works to 1800.
  • Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 1660-1714 -- Early works to 1800.
  • Great Britain -- History -- 1689-1714 -- Early works to 1800.

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