Sacramental Certificates, of which there are many thousands
among the Middlesex County Records, are the outcome of
the Act of Parliament, 25 Car. II. c. 2, known as the Test Act.
By this it was enacted that any person that should bear
any office, or receive any pay, or hold any office from his
Majesty, should take the Oath of Allegiance in one of the
High Courts and receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
according to the usage of the Church of England. Every
one admitted to any such office was required to take the
oath at the next Quarter Sessions and to receive the Sacrament within three months. He was also to deliver a
certificate, at the time of taking the oath, of having received
the Sacrament, signed by the minister and churchwarden
of the parish and attested by two credible witnesses, and
at the same time to make and subscribe a declaration,
"I, A B, do declare that I do believe that there is not any
transubstantiation in the Lord' Supper or in the elements of
bread and wine at or after the consecration thereof by any
As every official person receiving the Sacrament had thus
to be attested by two witnesses in addition to the minister
and churchwarden, it was a common practice for three
persons more or less known to each other to attend together
for mutual attestation. Of A B and C, A and B would
attest C, A and C do the same for B, and B and C for A.
The certificate was then to be sworn to in court, and
deposited with its Records. The result was an accumulation
of a vast number of Sacramental Certificates in the archives
of the various courts containing, if the whole series were
complete, the autograph signatures of all the distinguished
churchmen and laymen who at any time during the continuance of the Act held any public office. The certificate,
of which a facsimile is here given for the sake of the form,
contains the autograph of Sir Isaac Newton, who on the 5th
of July, 1702, (it is not clear on what occasion), received the
Sacrament together with Sir John Stanley, Bart., and Isaac
Gamier, the three reciprocally attesting each other as above.
The Rev. William Wake, the attesting minister, was successively Dean of Exeter, Bishop of Lincoln, and Archbishop
of Canterbury. He is best known for his strenuous but
futile efforts to unite the English and Gallican Churches.
The titles of his pamphlets on this and kindred subjects fill
two or three pages of the British Museum Library Catalogue.
Though this certificate does not itself fall within the dates
of the present volume, it is an exact counterpart of the
many that do.
The employment of such a test must be looked upon in
any case as a profanation, though in that of a man of
reverent spirit like Newton it might be less objectionable
than in others. There is something of almost diabolical
grotesqueness in the spectacle of a ruffian like Colonel Percy
Kirke receiving the Sacrament of peace and love as a qualification for setting off with his "lambs" on some bloodthirsty expedition like that against the Somersetshire
peasants who had been deluded into following Monmouth
in his rebellion.
The Test Act was not repealed until 1829.