The SPIRITUAL GOVERNMENT. [The Societies.]40


"Crown in the Protestant Line, exclusive of Papists for ever, hath left the Nation at more Liberty to take under its Care these Converts, in like manner as hath been so very laudably done in several other Protestant Churches ---- And it seems to be a more seasonable Undertaking at this Time, now there being a more general Disposition among many Learned and other considerable Persons in Popish Countries, to embrace the Reformation: And that the Eyes of such throughout all Europe are turned upon this happy Church under its present Protestant Settlement, as their most desirable and safe Asylum."

It was an Observation, that some that had been convinced of the Romish Errors, were compelled for Want of Bread, to make their Peace with the Church of Rome, after they had publickly, and after a very solemn manner, renounced her. So that among the many Checks the Reformation hath received of late Years, the want of a Fund, to relieve such as for pure Conscience forsake the Romish Communion to embrace the Protestant Faith, is none of the least.

His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Right Reverend the Bishop of London, have been very instrumental in this good Work by their Counsel and Advice: And especially by their humble Application to his Majesty King George, to assist these Objects of Charity, who have hitherto been unprovided for, till some other Means could be found; by charging the Fund of 15000l. per Annum, granted out of the Civil List for the Relief of the poor French Protestants, with the Sum of 400l. per Annum: Which his Majesty was graciously pleased to grant, as a Foundation for a Fund towards the Relief of Converts of any Nation from the Church of Rome.

A Grant from the King of 400l. per Annum to such.

Their Lordships were pleased, in Conjunction with the two Lord Chief Justices, pursuant to his Majesty's Gracious Intentions, to authorize by a Commission bearing Date the 24th of April, 1717, a certain number of Persons, both of Clergy and Laity, to distribute the same to such as should appear to be truly worthy of it, and Objects of Charity within Rules prescribed in their Commission: And at the same time did impower them to invite other Persons to their Assistance, as well as to receive the Benevolence of any private well-disposed Persons towards the same.

A Commission to certain to distribute it, and to take Collections of others.

There are set down in the said printed Account, the Rules prescribed for the said Commissioners: And Orders, which the said Commissioners drew up for the necessary Officers, and other Regulations fit to be observed in executing their Commission: Other Orders, relating to the Committee, to the Treasurer, to the Secretary, and to the Proselytes.

Rules and Orders.

In the beginning of this Commission, the Commissioners laboured under very great Difficulties: The numbers of Petitioners amounting to above Fourscore the first Month; the extreme Difficulty to know each Person's true Character; and who uncapable of getting their own Livelihood; how to dipose of Ecclesiastical Proselytes, which abounded; and above all to separate the Tares from the Wheat, the true Proselytes from the Cheats.

From the State of the Treasurer's Accounts at the Close of the Year, that is, from the 30th of April 1717, to the 30th of April 1718, it appears there hath been paid into his Hands,

The Treasurer's Account.

From the Government,4000000
Annual Subscriptions,2941406
Casual Benefactions,220200
Sum Total,7161606

Whereof Proselytes assisted or otherwise provided for,100
Out of which number are,
Of the Laity,60
Out of these,
Bound Apprentices,7
Provided for to be no more a Burthen upon the Society,29

Money laid out upon the foregoing Accounts, including
Salaries for Instructor, Clerk, Master of Language,

Apothecary, &c. and other necessary Expences,
} 660


Remaining in the Hands of the Treasurer upon the
Account of the rest of the Year,
} 56



The Number of the Proselytes encreases so fast on the Commissioners Hands, that without some additional Supplies, it will be next to impossible to carry on this good Design. Which made the Commissioners apply lately to the Government, to have some Parts of the Estates forfeited (for having been applied to Superstitious Uses) set apart for the Encouragement of the Protestant Religion as by Law Established, and for the Support of Converts from Popery.

The great Encrease of Proselytes.

Besides all these Societies before spoken of, there be the Societies termed The Religious Societies, voluntarily entred into by some good People of the City, on purpose to employ a Part of their Time in Religion, and to quicken one another in Good Things. These had Methods and Orders to be observed among them. Which being laid before the late Queen, and the late Archbishop Tillotson, were enquired into and approved by both; and greatly esteemed by several of the Archbishops and Bishops since. These are superior in Time to any of the other Societies, and perhaps gave occasion to the rest. The Beginning of them was thus: When in King Charles II's Time, there were many infamous Clubs of Atheists, Deists, Socinians, &c. set up; (too many of which, by their scandalous Lives endeavoured to destroy all Sense of Divine Things, and of the Difference of Good and Evil) Some serious Persons of the Church of England thought it necessary to oppose the Proceedings, and formed themselves into Societies that should assist one another in their most holy Faith, and in a Practice agreeable thereunto. These Considerations, and the like, brought together a considerable Number of pious Persons about the Year 1680, who met often to pray, sing Psalms, and read the holy Scriptures together; and to reprove, exhort, and edify one another by religious Conferences. And their Number daily so encreased, that they made about the Year 1700, Thirty Nine Societies in and about London and Westminster. And their Examples have been followed in divers Parts of this Nation, and in Ireland, especially Dublin; where there were five or six Years ago about Ten Societies.

The Religious Societies, their Rise.

And lastly, there be Societies of Young Men, that enter themselves voluntarily into Companies, on purpose to preserve and keep up in themselves a Sense of God: And have their set Meetings, both in private, for Religious Conference: Wherein they have the Counsel and Conduct of some grave pious Minister of the Church of England, for the directing of their Consciences; and for the instructing of them in any Matters of Doubt or Scruple; for the better keeping of a good Conscience both towards God and Man; and observing Justice and Truth in all their Dealings and Callings. And also meet publickly in

Societies of Young Men.