But in the elections for the new Parliament the zeal for Church and King swept all hope of moderation and compromise before it. "Malignity " had now ceased to be a crime, and voters long deprived of the suffrage, vicars, country gentlemen, farmers, with the whole body of the Catholics, rushed again to the poll. The Presbyterians sank in the Cavalier Parliament to a handful of fifty members. The new House of Commons was made up for the most part of young men, of men, that is, who had but a faint memory of the Stuart tyranny of their childhood, but who had a keen memory of living from manhood beneath the tyranny of the Commonwealth. Their very bearing was that of wild revolt against the Puritan past. To a staid observer, Roger Pepys, they seemed a following of "the most profane, swearing fellows that ever I heard in my life." The zeal of the Parliament at its outset, indeed, far outran that of Charles or his ministers. Though it confirmed the other acts of the Convention, it could with difficulty be brought to confirm the Act of Indemnity. The Commons pressed for the prosecution of Vane. Vane was protected alike by the spirit of the law and by the King's pledge to the Convention that, even if convicted of treason, he would not suffer him to be brought to the block.
But he was now brought to trial on the charge of treason against a King "kept out of his royal authority by traitors and rebels," and his spirited defence served as an excuse for his execution. "He is too dangerous a man to let live," Charles wrote with characteristic coolness, " if we can safely put him out of the way." But the new members were yet better churchmen than loyalists. A common suffering had thrown the squires and the Episcopalian clergy together, and for the first time since the Reformation the English gentry were ardent not for King only, but for Church and King. At the opening of their session the Commons ordered every member to receive the communion, and the League and Covenant to be solemnly burnt by the common hangman in Westminster Hall. The bill excluding bishops from the House of Lords was repealed. The conference at the Savoy between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians broke up in anger, and the few alterations made in the Liturgy were made with a view to disgust rather than to conciliate the Puritan party.
The temper of the new Parliament, however, was not a mere temper of revenge. Its wish was to restore the constitutional system which the civil war had violently interrupted, and the royalists were led by the most active of the constitutional loyalists who had followed Falkland in 1642, Hyde, now Earl of Clarendon and Lord Chancellor. The Parliament and the Church were in his conception essential parts of the system of English government, through which the power of the Crown was to be exercized; and under his guidance Parliament turned to the carrying out of the principle of uniformity in Church as well as in State on which the minister was resolved. The chief obstacle to such a policy lay in the Presbyterians, and the strongholds of this party were in the corporations of the boroughs, which practically returned the borough members. An attempt was made to drive the Presbyterians from municipal posts by a severe Corporation Act, which required a reception of the Communion according to the rites of the Anglican Church, a renunciation of the League and Covenant, and a declaration that it was unlawful on any grounds to take up arms against the King, before admission to municipal offices.
A more deadly blow was dealt at the Puritans in the renewal of the Act of Uniformity. Not only was the use of the Prayer-book, and the Prayer-book only, enforced in all public worship, but an unfeigned consent and assent was demanded from every minister of the Church to all which was contained in it; while, for the first time since the Reformation, all orders save those conferred by the hands of bishops were legally disallowed. The declaration exacted from corporations was exacted from the clergy, and a pledge was required that they would seek to make no change in Church or State. It was in vain that Ashley opposed the bill fiercely in the Lords, that the peers pleaded for pensions to the ejected ministers and for the exemption of schoolmasters from the necessity of subscription, and that even Clarendon, who felt that the King's word was at stake, pressed for the insertion of clauses enabling the Crown to grant dispensations from its provisions. Every suggestion of compromise was rejected by the Commons; and Charles at last assented to the bill, while he promised to suspend its execution by the exercize of his prerogative.
The Anglican Parliament however was resolute to enforce the law; and on St. Bartholomew's day, the last day allowed for compliance with its requirements, nearly two thousand rectors and vicars, or about a fifth of the English clergy, were driven from their parishes as Nonconformists. No such sweeping alteration in the religious aspect of the Church had ever been seen before. The changes of the Reformation had been brought about with little change in the clergy itself. Even the severities of the High Commission under Elizabeth ended in the expulsion of a few hundreds. If Laud had gone zealously to work in emptying Puritan pulpits, his zeal had been to a great extent foiled by the restrictions of the law and by the growth of Puritan sentiment in the clergy as a whole. A far wider change had been brought about by the Civil War; but the change had been gradual, and had ostensibly been wrought for the most part on political or moral rather than on religious grounds. The parsons expelled were expelled as " malig-nants" or as unfitted for their office by idleness or vice or inability to preach. But the change wrought by St. Bartholomew's day was a distinctly religious change, and it was a change which in its suddenness and completeness stood utterly alone.
The rectors and vicars who were driven out were the most learned and the most active of their order. The bulk of the great livings throughout the country were in their hands. They stood at the head of the London clergy, as the London clergy stood in general repute at the head of their class throughout England. They occupied the higher posts at the two Universities. No English divine, save Jeremy Taylor, rivalled Howe as a preacher. No parson was so renowned a controversialist, or so indefatigable a parish priest, as Baxter. And behind these men stood a fifth of the whole body of the clergy, men whose zeal and labour had diffused throughout the country a greater appearance of piety and religion than it had ever displayed before. But the expulsion of these men was far more to the Church of England than the loss of their individual services. It was the definite expulsion of a great party which from the time of the Reformation had played the most active and popular part in the life of the Church. It was the close of an effort which had been going on ever since Elizabeth's accession to bring the English Communion into closer relations with the Reformed Communions of the Continent, and into greater harmony with the religious instincts of the nation at large.