Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/98

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this.[1] But some popular preachers harangued so vehemently at Edinburgh against liberty of conscience, which they called the mystery of iniquity, that Melville did not venture to obey his master's instructions. A draught of a Toleration Act was offered to the Parliament by a private member, but was coldly received and suffered to drop.[2]

William, however, was fully determined to prevent the dominant sect from indulging in the luxury of persecution; and he took an early opportunity of announcing his determination. The first General Assembly of the newly established Church met soon after his return from Ireland. It was necessary that he should appoint a Commissioner and send a letter. Some zealous Presbyterians hoped that Crawford would be the Commissioner; and the ministers of Edinburgh drew up a paper in which they very intelligibly hinted that this was their wish. William, however, selected Lord Carmichael, a nobleman distinguished by good sense, humanity and moderation.[3] The royal letter to the Assembly was eminently wise in substance and impressive in language. "We expect," the King wrote, "that your management shall be such that we may have no reason to repent of what we have done. We never could be of the mind that violence was suited to the advancing of true religion; nor do we intend that our authority shall ever be a tool to the irregular passions of any party. Moderation is what religion enjoins, what neighbouring Churches expect from you, and what we recommend to you." The Sixty and their associates would probably have been glad to reply in language resembling that which, as some of them could well remember, had been held by the clergy to Charles the Second during his residence in Scotland. But they had just been informed that there was in England a strong feeling in favour of the rabbled curates, and that it would, at such a conjuncture, be madness in the body which represented the Presbyterian Church to quarrel with the King.[4]

  1. The King to Melville, May 22, 1690, in the Leven and Melville Papers.
  2. Account of the Establishment of Presbyterian Government.
  3. Carmichael's good qualities are fully admitted by the Episcopalians. See the Historical Relation of the late Presbyterian General Assembly and the Presbyterian Inquisition.
  4. See, in the Leven and Melville Papers, Melville's Letters written from London at this time to Crawford, Rule, Williamson, and other vehement Presbyterians. He says: "The clergy that were put out, and come up, make a great clamour: many here encourage and rejoyce at it.… There is nothing now but the greatest sobrietie and moderation imaginable to be used, unless we will hazard the overturning of all; and take this as earnest, and not as imaginations and fears only."