Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.
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Whereas for some time past hitherto there hath not been any certain course established for the supplying vacant places with able and fit persons to preach the Gospel, by reason whereof not onely the Rights and Titles of Patrons are prejudiced, but many weak, scandalous, popish, and ill-affected persons have intruded themselves, or been brought in, to the great grief and trouble of the good people of this Nation; For remedy and prevention whereof, Be it Ordained by His Highness the Lord Protector, by and with the consent of His Council, that every person, who shall from and after the five and twentieth day of March instant be presented, nominated, chosen, or appointed to any Benefice (formerly called Benefice with Care of Souls) or to preach any publique settled Lecture in England or Wales, shall, before he be admitted into any such Benefice, or Lecture, be judged and approved by the persons hereafter named, to be a person for the Grace of God in him, his holy and unblameable Conversation, as also for his knowledge and utterance, able and fit to preach the Gospel; And that after the said five and twentieth day of March, no person, but such as shall upon such approbation be admitted by the said persons, shall take any publique Lecture, having a constant stipend legally annexed and belonging thereunto, or take or receive any such Benefice as aforesaid, or the profits thereof; And be it further Ordained, That Francis Rous, Esq; Dr. Thomas Goodwin, Dr. John Owen, Mr. Thankful Owen, Dr. Arrowsmith, Dr. Tuckney, Dr. Horton, Mr. Joseph Caryl, Mr. Philip Ny, Mr. William Carter, Mr. Sidrach Simpson Mr. William Greenhill, Mr. William Strong, Mr. Thomas Manton, Mr. Samuel Slater, Mr. William Cooper, Mr. Stephen Marshal, Mr. John Tombes, Mr. Walter Cradock, Mr. Samuel Faircloth, Mr. Hugh Peters, Mr. Peter Sterry, Mr. Samuel Bamford, Mr. Thomas Valentine of Chaford, Mr. Henry Jessee, Mr. Obadiah Sedgewick, Mr. Nicholas Lockier, Mr. Daniel Dyke, Mr. James Russel, Mr. Nathaniel Campfield, Robert Titchborn Alderman of London, Mark Hildesley, Thomas Wood, John Sadler, William Goff, Thomas St. Nicholas, William Packer, and Edward Cresset, Esquires, shall be, and are hereby nominated, constituted and appointed Commissioners for such approbation and admission as is abovesaid; and upon death or removal of any of them, others shall from time to time be nominated in their places by the Lord Protector and his Successors, by advice of His Council, in the interval of Parliaments, and sitting the Parliament, by the Protector and Parliament; And the said Commissioners, or any five or more of them, met together in some certain place in the City of London or Westminster, as His Highness shall appoint, are hereby authorized to judge and take knowledge of the ability and fitness of any person so presented, nominated, chosen or appointed, according to the qualifications above-mentioned, and upon their approbation of such his ability and fitness, to grant unto such person admission to such Benefice or Lecture by an Instrument in writing under a Common Seal to be appointed by His Highness, and under the hand of the Register or Registers for the time being, to be also nominated by the Lord Protector and His Successors; which Instrument the said Register or Registers shall cause to be entered in a Book for that purpose, and kept upon Record.
And it is hereby Declared, That the said person so admitted into any such Benefice, shall be Possessor and Incumbent of the same, and intituled thereby to the Profits, Perquisits, and all Rights and Dues incident and belonging thereunto, as fully and effectually as if he had been instituted and inducted according to the Laws of this Realm; as also the person that shall be so admitted to any Lecture as aforesaid, shall be thereby enabled according to the establishment and constitution of such Lecture, to preach therein, and to have and receive the Stipend or Profits to such Lecture belonging.
Provided always, That no person who shall tender himself, or be tendred for approbation as aforesaid, shall be concluded by any vote of the said Commissioners which shall pass in the Negative as to his approbation, unless nine or more of the said Commissioners be present at such Vote.
And it is further Ordained, That all Patrons of any Benefices that are now void, shall within six Moneths next after the five and twentieth of this instant March, and of any Benefice that shall hereafter be void within six Moneths next after the avoidance of the same, present unto the said Commissioners, or any five of them, some fit person to be admitted, and for default of such Presentation within that time, the Presentation for that turn shall devolve by lapse unto the Lord Protector and His Successors.
Provided always, That in case the Patron be disturbed to Present unto such Benefice, and thereupon within six moneths after the avoidance of such Benefice a Suit be commenced for the Recovery of such Presentation, and notice thereof in writing left with the said Commissioners, or any five of them, or the Register, then such notice shall be as effectual to prevent the lapse, as where the Suit was heretofore commenced against the Bishop or Ordinary.
And it is further Ordained, That during the vacancy of such place by reason of such Suit, the said Commissioners, or any five or more of them, have hereby authority to sequester the fruits and profits thereof for supplying of the place with an able Preacher, by the said Commissioners, or any five or more of them, to be nominated and approved of as aforesaid.
And forasmuch as many persons since the first day of April last past have been placed in such Benefices, and Publique Lectures, It is hereby Ordained, That in case such person shall not before the four and twentieth day of June next, obtain approbation and admittance in the maner before exprest, then such person or persons as have right thereunto shall or may Present or nominate some other fit and able person to such place.
And in default of such Presentation within two Moneths after the said four and twentieth day of June, or within six Moneths after the place became void, the Presentation for that turn shall likewise devolve by lapse into the Lord Protector and His Successors.
And for the better satisfaction of the said Commissioners touching the godly and unblameable conversation of such persons as are to be admitted into any place as aforesaid, It is further Declared and Ordained, That before any admittance of any person as aforesaid, there shall be brought to the said Commissioners, or any five of them, a Testimonial or Certificate in writing, subscribed with the hands of three persons of known godliness and integrity; whereof one at least to be a Preacher of the Gospel in some constant setled place, testifying upon their personal knowledge the holy and good conversation of the person so to be admitted; which said Certificate shall be duly registred and filed. And it is also Declared, that all penalty for or in respect of the not subscribing or reading the Articles mentioned in the Act of the 13 year of Queen Elizabeth, Entituled, Reformation of Disorders in the Ministers of the Church: or for not producing such Testimonial as in the said Act is required, shall from henceforth cease and be void.
Persons claiming Augmentations to be first approved.; This shall not extend to revive Offices or Dignities Ecclesiastical, suppressed by Parliament; Nor unto Benefices not presentative, nor Lectures in the University.
And whereas for the better maintenance of Preaching Ministers, several Augmentations by Authority of Parliament have been heretofore granted, Be it further Ordained, That all person or persons, who claim or shall hereafter claim the benefit of such Augmentation, shall before he or they receive the same, obtain the approbation of the said Commissioners, or five of them, as a person qualified as is before mentioned. And in case of approbation, such approbation shall be entred by the Register, who under his hand shall also signifie the same to such person or persons as are or shall be authorized to pay such Augmentation, who are hereby required and authorized from time to time to pay the person or persons so approved, such Augmentation as hath been or shall be granted unto him or the place where he preacheth, taking his or their Acquittances for the same: Provided, and it is hereby Declared, that this Ordinance or any thing therein contained, shall not be construed to extend unto, or to revive any dignities, offices or benefices Ecclesiastical, suppressed by Authority of Parliament; Nor to any benefices Ecclesiastical that were not Presentative before the Ordinance for suppression of Bishops: Nor to any Lectures preached or read in any of the Universities.
And it is hereby lastly Declared and Ordained, That the Approbation or Admittance aforesaid, in such maner as is before prescribed, is not intended nor shall be construed to be any Solemn or Sacred setting apart of a person to any particular office in the Ministery: But onely by such trial and approbation to take care that places destitute may be supplied with able and faithful Preachers throughout this Nation; And that such fit and approved persons faithfully laboring in the work of the Gospel, may be in a capacity to receive such publique stipend and maintenance, as is or shall be allotted to such places.