115. ROYAL DECLARATION OF INDULGENCE (1672)
Our care and endeavours for the preservation of the rights and interests of the church have been sufficiently manifested to the world by the whole course of our government since our happy restoration, and by the many and frequent ways of coercion that we have used for reducing all erring or dissenting persons and for composing the unhappy differences in matters of religion, which we found among our subjects upon our return. But, it being evident by the sad experience of twelve years that there is very little fruit of all those forcible courses, we think ourselves obliged to make use of that supreme power in ecclesiastical matters which is not only inherent in us but hath been declared and recognized to be so by several statutes and acts of parliament. And therefore we do now accordingly issue out this our royal declaration, as well for the quieting the minds of our good subjects in these points, for inviting strangers in this conjuncture to come and live under us, and for the better encouragement of all to a cheerful following of their trades and callings from whence we hope, by the blessing of God, to have many good and happy advantages to our government as also for preventing for the future the danger that might otherwise arise from private meetings and seditious conventicles.
And in the first place, we declare our express resolution, meaning, and intention to be that the Church of England be preserved and remain entire in its doctrine, discipline, and government, as now it stands established by law; and that this be taken to be, as it is, the basis, rule, and standard of the general and public worship of God; and that the orthodox conformable clergy do receive and enjoy the revenues belonging thereunto; and that no person, though of different opinion or persuasion, shall be exempt from paying his tithes or other dues whatsoever. And further we declare that no person shall be capable of holding any benefice, living, or ecclesiastical dignity or preferment of any kind in this kingdom of England, who is not exactly conformable.
We do in the next place declare our will and pleasure to be that the execution of all and all manner of penal laws in matters ecclesiastical against whatsoever sort of nonconformists or recusants be immediately suspended, and they are hereby suspended. And all judges of assize and jail-delivery, sheriffs, justices of the peace, mayors, bailiffs, and other officers whatsoever, whether ecclesiastical or civil, are to take notice of it, and pay due obedience thereunto; and, that there may be no pretence for any of our subjects to continue their illegal meetings and conventicles, we do declare that we shall from time to time allow a sufficient number of places, as shall be desired, in all parts of this our kingdom, for the use of such as do not conform to the Church of England to meet and assemble in, in order to their public worship and devotion which places shall be open and free to all persons. But to prevent such disorders and inconveniences as may happen by this our indulgence, if not duly regulated, and that they may be better protected by the civil magistrate, our express will and pleasure is that none of our subjects do presume to meet in any place until such place be allowed and the teacher of that congregation be approved by us. And lest any should apprehend that this restriction should make our said allowance and approbation difficult to be obtained, we do further declare that this our indulgence as to the allowance of public places of worship, and approbation of teachers, shall extend to all sorts of nonconformists and recusants, except the recusants of the Roman Catholic religion; to whom we shall no ways allow in public places of worship, but only indulge them their share in the common exemption from the executing the penal laws and the exercise of their worship in their private houses only. And if, after this our clemency and indulgence, any of our subjects shall presume to abuse this liberty and shall preach seditiously, or to the derogation of the doctrine, discipline, or government of the established church, or shall meet in places not allowed by us, we do hereby give them warning and declare we will proceed against them with all imaginable severity....
Cobbett, Parliamentary History, IV, 515 f.