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 exercise of Church discipline and cherish and hold up the hands of the faithful ministers of the Church. To all which Charles II. ‘made as gracious an answer as we could expect,’ says Baxter, ‘insomuch that old Mr. Ash burst out into tears of joy.’ Who doubts that the profligate King avenged himself as soon as the backs of his unwelcome visitors were fairly turned, by coarse jests and ribaldry, directed against a class of men whom he despised and hated, but towards whom reasons of policy dictated a show of civility and kindness? There is reason to believe that Charles II., had he been able to effect his purpose, would have gone beyond Cromwell himself in the matter of religious toleration; in other words, he would have taken, in the outset of his reign, the very steps which cost his successor his crown, and procured the toleration of Catholics by a declaration of universal freedom in religion. But he was not in a situation to brave the opposition alike of Prelacy and Presbyterianism, and foiled in a scheme to which he was prompted by that vague, superstitious predilection for the Roman Catholic religion which at times struggled with his habitual scepticism, his next object was to rid himself of the importunities of sectaries and the trouble of religious controversies by reestablishing the liturgy, and bribing or enforcing conformity to it on the part of the Presbyterians. The history of the successful execution of this purpose is familiar to all the readers of the plausible pages of Clarendon on the one side, or the complaining treatises of Neal and Calamy on
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