by Charles J.B. Gaskoin
This article first appeared on pages 394 to 396 of volume IX of the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1917).
It could not be described as being particularly sympathetic to Jacobitism.
The Nonjurors were clergy and laymen who, though no Romanists, scrupled to take the oaths of allegiance and abjuration imposed, particularly on office holders, under William III and George I. The term, strictly including some Scottish Convenanters, is commonly restricted to Episcopalians, but extended to persons who, though exempted from the oaths as unofficial, attached themselves to the Nonjurors proper. Those rejecting only the oaths of 1701 and 1714 are sometimes distinguished as Non-Abjurors.
The English and Scottish Nonjurors may be most conveniently treated separately; their Irish brethren, including but one bishop, William Sheridan of Kilmore, hardly demand separate notice.
I. England. -- The English Nonjurors - originally over 400 clergy, with an unknown number of laymen - were often important individually as men of the highest character and of great learning. Corporately, they stood on the one hand for the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance, on the other for the right of the Church to independence in spiritual matters. They maintained a "State point" - that William's title was "pretended"; and a "Church point" - that even a legitimate sovereign could not deprive bishops without ecclesiastical sanction.
Their reputation for piety and learning requires no laboured proof. The Dr. Wolf of The Nonjuror (Colley Cibber's adaptation of Tartuffe, London, 1718) at best misrepresents as typical the servility and intrigue which poverty and dependence perhaps fostered in exceptional cases. Inspired by an antipathy political and possibly personal, it flattered and fomented popular prejudice. But, in spite of Johnson and Macaulay, it has long been recognized as a libellous caricature, well matched by Whiggish abuse of the Nonjurors as "British Hottentots, as blind and bigoted as their brethren about the Cape, but more savage in their manners" (cited by Overton, Nonjurors, p. 310). The Nonjurors in general, sacrificing everything to conscience, showed at least a noble courage. Nor could any small community easily outmatch a group of saints like T. Ken, J. Kettlewell, W. Law, R. Nelson, and N. Spinckes. Again, the mere names of G. Hickes, H. Dodwell, T. Baker, R. Rawlinson, and T. Hearne sufficiently attest the learning of a class in which, at both universities, "the intellectual interests of the time were almost entirely centred" (W. H. Hutton, The English Church, 1625-1714, London, 1903, p. 243).
The Nonjurors were no whole-hearted enemies of William, little as they might approve of his birth, his character, or his creed. They included five bishops of the famous Seven - W. Sancroft, T. Ken, J. Lake, F. Turner, and T. White - with two others, R. Frampton of Gloucester and W. Lloyd of Norwich, who had lacked only opportunity to join them. They accepted William's interposition, stoutly refusing to proclaim their abhorrence of it. They even joined in urging him to safeguard the welfare of the Church and nation. But they denied (Ken with one hesitating reservation) that the crown could be forfeited. Sancroft would neither visit William nor attend the Convention. The other bishops insisted on a Protestant regency for a titular Romanist king. And none joined in the offer of the crown to William and Mary. It was indeed a commission from Sancroft to his suffragans that made the coronation possible; yet neither he nor his party would swear allegiance, or even use the State (henceforward the "immoral") prayers. Hence, under 1 William and Mary, cap. 8, six prelates with their beneficed supporters were ipso facto suspended on 1st Aug. 1689 and deprived on 1st Feb. 1690. Lake, W. Thomas of Worcester (a like-minded bishop), and T. Cartwright of Chester (distinguished from the rest by his devotion to James, whom he followed abroad) died between the passing of the act and the deprivation. Kilmore - Sheridan having withdrawn - was adjudged, like the throne, vacant by desertion.
The sees thus emptied remained unfilled for over a year. William, desiring compromise, offered to waive the oaths if the bishops agreed to discharge their spiritual functions. And great Churchmen like South, though recognizing William, declined preferment gained through the scruples of others. But Nonjurors could not accept conditions involving at least implicit recognition of William's royal supremacy; they could only promise to live quietly. And hence in May 1691 new bishops were consecrated, headed by the reluctant J. Tillotson as primate.
Meanwhile many lay Nonjurors - notably Dodwell, Roger North, and the second Earl of Clarendon - had sacrificed their prospects to their consciences.
James II's death, apparently inviting reconciliation, merely added Non-Abjurors to Nonjurors, for the oath of 1701 not only abjured the Pretender, but expressly recognized William's legitimacy - a point hitherto discreetly evaded. And the oath of 1714, to George I, increased their number.
But Nonjurors, however Jacobite in sympathy, were seldom actively disloyal. Turner, indeed, earned exile by complicity in Preston's and Fenwick's plots (1690 and 1696). And the Non-Abjuror historian T. Carte, apparently a '15 rebel, had a price of £1000 on his head as a conspirator with Atterbury. But Turner's implication of his fellow-thinkers in his treasons was unjustified. They waged, indeed, a paper warfare. They ministered spiritual comfort to dying plotters. But they seldom plotted themselves. One Jacobite scheme was actually revealed by a Nonjuror. And, as the Jacobite menace weakened, Nonjuring politics - the "State point" - lost all importance.
The "Church point," however, to some extent remained. The conception of the Church as an autonomous society - the lasting contribution of the movement to English theological thought - had an immediate practical significance. It produced a certain alienation of the Nonjurors from the Establishment. They repudiated deprivation by mere Act of Parliament. They therefore considered Tillotson and his fellows intruders, thrust into sees not canonically vacated, without title to recognition, at least while the lawful incumbents survived and claimed their rights. And hence some of them condemned the National Church as now schismatic.
"Some" - for all along they suffered from those distracted counsels which especially beset seceders from a great communion who lack alike a supreme constituted authority and the sobering influence of corporate wealth and temporal responsibilities. Even their bishops adopted different attitudes towards William's proceedings: Thomas of Worcester, who died before suspension, was yet already preparing to welcome Stillingfleet as his successor; Ken remained at Wells as late as possible, publicly protested, like Turner, against his deprivation, and long retained his diocesan style; and Sancroft yielded only to the imminent threat of forcible eviction. Again, Kettlewell justified resistance by the mere injustice of the expulsions, Dodwell only by their invalidity.
There was equal disagreement as to future relations with the Established Church. Sancroft, unlike Ken, declared her schismatic. Hickes denied to her "usurping" bishops and their adherents not only sacerdotal powers, but even the benefits of the Incarnation (it was the posthumous publication of his attack on all Jurors that provoked Benjamin Hoadly to reply, and so led to the "Bangorian Controversy" and the long suspension of Convocation). But Kettlewell professed himself still a member, and many clergy, though never officiating, remained in lay communion.
Practice as to public worship therefore inevitably varied. Some, like Law and Nelson, attended their parish churches, without protest against the "immoral prayers." Others went, but protested: Frampton, retaining a small living, read the service and preached, but omitted the names of the sovereigns. Others, again, attended only failing some convenient Nonjuring assembly. And others refused attendance altogether, holding, with Sancroft, that it would necessitate a second absolution after the service. Yet in the country, generally, opportunities for special corporate worship were few. Even in London, though Nonjuring "churches" were reckoned in 1716 at over fifty, the prologue to The Nonjuror mocked their furtive character:
Each lurking pastor seeks the dark,The number is possibly a gross exaggeration. The Nonjurors had now not only lost their great protagonist Hickes, but, even before his death, suffered a secession revealing once more their inveterate disunity.
Dodwell's Case in View Consider'd (London, 1705) had limited the separation to the lifetime of the deprived bishops. Hence in 1710, when Ken, the sole survivor, renounced his claims, Dodwell and many others rejoined the Established Church, though still maintaining the "State point." But Hickes insisted that only official repudiation of the deprivations could heal the schism, and the distinct Nonjuring episcopal succession which his view required had been secured in 1694, when he and Thomas Wagstaffe became suffragan bishops of Thetford and Ipswich. Here again difference of opinion had appeared. The consecration, authorized by James and Sancroft, was performed by Lloyd (to whom Sancroft had delegated his metropolitan authority in 1692), Turner, and White. But Frampton held aloof, and Ken only reluctantly consented. The proceeding involved continued schism, and its claim to legality - based on Henry VIII's Act for Suffragan Bishops - was not undisputed. Yet the "Hickesites," between 1713 and 1741, carried out further consecrations, continuing the episcopal line till the death of Robert Gordon in 1779. The new prelates, however, were bishops "at large," without territorial title, though Jeremy Collier, after Hickes's death, styled himself "Primus Anglo-Britanniae Episcopus."
Meanwhile yet another controversy had arisen. The Prayer Book of 1662, with Kettlewell's form of recantation for converts, satisfied the early liturgical demands of most Nonjurors. But Hickes used the Communion Office of 1549, and after his death (1715) a reform movement began, culminating in the compilation, by Collier, T. Brett, and others, of a new Service Book (1718) based on the 1549 Prayer Book, but enriched from primitive liturgies. Four "Usages" - the mixed chalice, prayers for the faithful departed, prayer for the descent of the Holy Ghost on the consecrated elements, and prayer of oblation of the consecrated elements - were thus adopted, sometimes even declared necessary to salvation, by "Usagers." "Non-Usagers" rejected them, or at least condemned a view branding as schismatic Romanists, Anglicans, and even most Nonjurors. The Scottish bishops, invited to decide, named a mediator whose attempted compromise failed. Both parties consecrated bishops to maintain their views, and only in 1732 was ritual unanimity attained through the "Instrument of Union," restoring the 1662 book on condition that it should be so used and interpreted as to satisfy the Usagers on the four crucial points.
No important event marked the later history of the English Nonjurors, but meantime they had long negotiated for union with the Orthodox Church, failing, however, completely - mainly through the demand of the Eastern patriarchs for unconditional submission.
Episcopal Succession Among the English Nonjurors.
i. The Regular Succession.
1694 - George Hickes (d. 1715); Thomas Wagstaffe (d. 1712)ii. The Irregular Succession
(a) For America2. Scotland -- In Scotland the almost universal rejection of the oaths by the clergy, including every bishop, on the one hand, and the re-establishment of Presbyterianism, on the other, created conditions unparalleled in England. No "Church point" of the English type was possible. Yet almost the whole Episcopal Communion was involved in the "State point." Anne, indeed, allowed a tacit toleration, though the Toleration Act of 1712 nominally enforced the oaths and prayers. But her death, the '15, and (after a peaceful period) the '45 brought ever more harshness to bear on the Church, culminating in an attempt to destroy it altogether. The share of Churchmen in Jacobite risings - though far slighter in 1745 than in 1715 - was both a cause and a consequence of this severity. Hence the decline of Jacobitism and the accession of George III - resolute for toleration - were epoch-making in Scottish Church as in English political history. And the recognition of George by the Scottish bishops when the Young Pretender died ended the northern Nonjuring movement.
Meanwhile Scottish Nonjurors had both influenced and been influenced by their English brethren. Archibald Campbell and James Gadderar, Scottish bishops "at large" living in London - Campbell for life, Gadderar for many years - had supported both the Usages and the negotiations with the Eastern Church, and with others had helped to consecrate English bishops. Conversely, the Usages problem - complicated by the question whether bishops should again become diocesan (though no regular royal nomintions or congé d'élire was available) or, as a college, should jointly rule the whole Church - divided the Scottish Nonjurors. They too produced two sets of bishops - Usagers and diocesans v. Non-Usagers and collegers. But here again a compromise, favouring the diocesans, established final peace in 1732. To the Scottish Church Gordon, the last regular English Nonjuring bishop, commended his dwindling flock. To the single-handed action of the Scottish Campbell - an irreconcilable Usager - the English Nonjurors owed an irregular episcopal succession lasting frorm 1733 to 1805. And from the Scottish Church the American Colonies finally secured a renewal - in canonical fashion - of the short-lived line of bishops irregularly founded by the English Nonjuror R. Taylor in 1722.
LITERATURE. - T. Lathbury, Hist. of the Nonjurors, London, 1845; J.H. Overton, The Nonjurors, do. 1902 (the notes afford a good guide to works on the movement); S.L. Ollard and G. Crosse, Dict. of English Church Hist., do. 1912, s.v. The subject is also partially treated in Lives of the leading Nonjurors, notably in the biographies of Ken by "A Layman" (J.L. Anderson), 2 vols., do. 1854; and E.H. Plumptre, 2 vols., do. 1890. Nonjuror writings - especially those of Brett, Collier, Dodwell, Hickes, C. Leslie, and Spinckes - illustrate the various controversies.
This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran (firstname.lastname@example.org) and was last updated October 30, 2003.
© Noel S. McFerran 2003.