John Bunyan (1628-1688): His Life, Times, and Work

By John Brown; Frank Mott Harrison | Go to book overview

XV.
IN THE REIGN OF JAMES THE SECOND.

ON Friday, February 6th, 1685, Charles the Second passed away, and the same day his successor, as James the Second, met his first Privy Council. The advent of the new king saved the liberties of the country, but more through persistent blundering than deliberate intention. He had even less love for constitutional government and religious freedom than his easy-going brother; but these principles were in less danger now than before, for the simple reason that he was more dating in his attempt to subvert them. Happily for the liberties of England, the new monarch was one of those narrow, obstinate men who, when they happen to take up an evil cause, bring it to ruin by the very precipitancy of their haste to serve it. More than anything else in life James II. desired to see the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic religion in England, and, unfortunately for him, that which was nearest to his own heart was the one thing farthest from the hearts of his people. Here was the beginning of that division between the King and the country which was to end in catastrophe for the one and deliverance for the other. The King soon showed the haste he was in. As Duke of York he had hitherto heard Mass with closed doors; now the doors were thrown open. During Lent the palace sermons were preached by Popish divines, and when it was over, Easter was celebrated with unusual splendour. Easter was followed by the coronation, from the ceremonies of which there was the marked absence of the Communion Service and of the customary presentation to the monarch of an English Bible. People generally understood the meaning of the omission, and the situation was expressed with Quaker-like directness by that follower of George Fox who said to the King, "We are told that thou art no more of the persuasion of the Church of England than we are; we hope, therefore, thou wilt grant us the same liberty which thou allowest thyself."

-333-

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