August 1650: An Act against several Atheistical, Blasphemous and Execrable Opinions, derogatory to the honor of God, and destructive to humane Society.

Pages 409-412

Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.

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August, 1650

[9 August, 1650.]

Declaration 27 Sept. 1649.; Any person maintaining any of the Opinions here enumerated.; shall suffer six moneths imprisonment without Bail.

The Parliament holding it to be their duty, by all good ways and means to propagate the Gospel in this Commonwealth, to advance Religion in all Sincerity, Godliness, and Honesty, Have made several Ordinances and Laws for the good and furtherance of Reformation, in Doctrine and Maners, and in order to the suppressing of Prophaneness, Wickedness, Superstition and Formality, that God may be truly glorified, and all might in well-doing be encouraged. But notwithstanding this their care, finding to their great grief and astonishment, that there are divers men and women who have lately discovered themselves to be most monstrous in their Opinions, and loose in all wicked and abominable Practices hereafter mentioned, not onely to the notorious corrupting and disordering, but even to the dissolution of all Humane Society, who rejecting the use of any Gospel Ordinances, do deny the necessity of Civil and Moral Righteousness among men; The Parliament therefore, according to their published Declaration of the Twenty seventh of September, One thousand six hundred forty nine, To be most ready to testifie their displeasure and abhorrency of such Offenders, by a strict and effectual proceeding against them, who should abuse and turn into Licentiousness, the liberty given in matters of Conscience, Do therefore Enact and Ordain, and be it Enacted and Ordained by the Authority of this present Parliament, That all and every person and persons (not distempered with sickness, or distracted in brain) who shall presume avowedly in words to profess, or shall by writing proceed to affirm and maintain him or her self, or any other meer Creature, to be very God, or to be Infinite or Almighty, or in Honor, Excellency, Majesty and Power to be equal, and the same with the true God, or that the true God, or the Eternal Majesty dwells in the Creature and no where else; or whosoever shall deny the Holiness and Righteousness of God, or shall presume as aforesaid to profess, That Unrighteousness in persons, or the acts of Uncleanness, Prophane Swearing, Drunkenness, and the like Filthiness and Brutishness, are not unholy and forbidden in the Word of God, or that these acts in any person, or the persons [so] committing them, are approved of by God, or that such acts, or such persons in those things are like unto God: Or whosoever shall presume as aforesaid to profess, That these acts of Denying and Blaspheming God, or the Holiness or Righteousness of God; or the acts of cursing God, or of Swearing prophanely or falsly by the Name of God, or the acts of Lying, Stealing, Cousening and Defrauding others; or the acts of Murther, Adultery, Incest, Fornication, Uncleanness, Sodomy, Drunkenness, filthy and lascivious Speaking, are not things in themselves shameful, wicked, sinful, impious, abominable and detestable in any person, or to be practised or done by any person or persons: Or shall as aforesaid profess, That the acts of Adultery, Drunkenness, Swearing and the like open wickedness, are in their own nature as Holy and Righteous as the Duties of Prayer, Preaching or giving of Thanks to God: Or whosoever shall avowedly as aforesaid profess, That whatsoever is acted by them (whether Whoredom, Adultery, Drunkenness or the like open Wickedness) may be committed without sin; or that such acts are acted by the true God, or by the Majesty of God, or the Eternity that is in them; That Heaven and all happiness consists in the acting of those things which are Sin and Wickedness; or that such men or women are most perfect, or like to God or Eternity, which do commit the greatest Sins with least remorse or sense; or that there is no such thing really and truly as Unrighteousness, Unholiness or Sin, but as a man or woman judgeth thereof; or that there is neither Heaven nor Hell, neither Salvation nor Damnation, or that these are one and the same thing, and that there is not any distinction or difference truly between them: All and every person or persons so avowedly professing, maintaining or publishing as aforesaid, the aforesaid Atheistical, Blasphemous or Execrable Opinions, or any of them, upon complaint and proof made of the same in any the cases aforesaid, before any one or more Justice or Justices of Peace, Major or other Head-Officer of any City or Town Corporate by the Oath of two or more Witnesses (which Oath the said Justice or Justices and Head-Officer have hereby power to administer in all the cases aforesaid) or Confession of the said persons, the party so convicted or confessing, shall by the said Justice or Justices, or other Head-Officer committed to Prison or to the House of Correction, for the space of six moneths, without Bail or Mainprize, and until he or she shall have put in sufficient Sureties to be of good behavior for the space of one whole year.

For the second offence shall be Banished.; Felony to return with out License.

And if any person or persons so convicted as aforesaid, shall at any time afterwards avowedly profess, maintain or publish as aforesaid, any of the aforesaid Atheistical, Blasphemous or Execrable Opinions, upon complaint and proof made of the same before any one or more Justice or Justices of the Peace, Major or other HeadOfficer of any City or Town Corporate, by the Oath of two or more Witnesses (which Oath the said Justice or Justices, or Head-Officer have hereby power to administer) or confession of the said person, the party so confessing, or against whom proof shall be made as aforesaid, shall be by such Justice or Head-Officer sent to the Common Gaol of such County, there to remain without Bail or Mainprize, until the next Assizes or Gaol-Delivery to be held for the said County: And if any such person shall be there convicted, by confession or otherwise, for such aforesaid avowedly professing, maintaining or publishing as aforesaid, any of the Atheistical, Blasphemous or Execrable Opinions aforesaid, That then the Judge or Judges before whom such Conviction shall be had as aforesaid, shall have power, and is hereby required to pronounce Sentence of Banishment upon such person so convicted as aforesaid, out of the Commonwealth of England, and all the Dominions thereof; And thereupon every such person and persons so convicted and adjudged as aforesaid, shall depart out of this Commonwealth at such Haven or Port, and within such time as shall be in that behalf assigned and appointed by the said Judge or Justices, unless the same offender be letted or stayed by such reasonable means or causes, as by the Common-Laws of this Nation are allowed and permitted in cases of Abjuration for Felony; And in case of such let or stay, then to depart within such reasonable and convenient time after, as the Common Law requireth, as in case of Abjuration for Felony as aforesaid: And if any such Offender so convicted and adjudged as aforesaid, shall not go to such Haven, and within such time as is before appointed, and from thence depart out of this Commonwealth, according to this present Act; or after such his departure, shall return or come again into this Commonwealth, or any the Dominions thereof, without special Licence of the Parliament in that behalf first had and obtained, That then in every such case the person so offending, shall be adjudged a Felon, and shall suffer as in case of Felony, without benefit of Clergy.

This Act to be read and given in charge at Assizes and Sessions.

And to the end this Law may be the more effectually put in execution, and the growth of the aforesaid, and the like abominable and corrupt Opinions and Practises, tending to the Dishonor of God, the Scandal of Christian Religion, and the Professors thereof, and destructive to Humane Society, may be prevented and suppressed, Be it Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every Justice and Justices of Assize, Justices of Oyer and Terminer, Justices of the Peace and Gaol-Delivery, be required and enjoyned at their Assizes and Sessions of the Peace in every County, City and Town Corporate respectively, which shall be held next after the publishing of this Act, to cause the same to be openly read and published, and do from time to time give in charge to the Grand Jury, to enquire of, and present the Offences and Neglects aforesaid; which the said Justices of Assize, Justices of Oyer and Terminer, Justices of the Peace and Goal-Delivery, have likewise by vertue of this Act, power and authority to Hear and Determine.

Act to be Proclaimed.

And be it lastly Enacted by authority aforesaid, That the Sheriffs of every County, the Majors, Bayliffs or other HeadOfficer of all and every City, Borough or Town Corporate, be enjoyned and required within one week after this Act shall be sent unto them or any of them, to Read, or cause the same to be Read and Proclaimed in every City, Borough or Town Corporate, upon the Market-day, and to cause the same to be affixed and set up in the publique places of such City, Borough or Town, as is usual and accustomed.

Offenders to be accused within Six moneths.

Provided always, That no person or persons shall be punished, impeached, molested, or troubled for any offence mentioned in this Act, unless he or she be for the same offence accused, presented, indicted or convicted within six moneths after such offence committed.