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in England, but as they had mostly been elected by the parish, instead of being presented by the patrons, it was enacted that they should not remain in possession unless they obtained proper presentation from the patron, backed by the Bishop. To the strict Presbyterian mind a harmonious call’ from the flock was a sacred thing, and to accept the nomination of an authority seemed sacrilege; and a number of parishes disregarded the order.
On this, on the 1st of October, 1662, a Parliament sitting at Glasgow, no doubt chiefly composed of lairds who were patrons, enacted that every minister who did not comply before the 1st of November, should be ejected from his manse. This meeting is known by the title of the Drunken Parliament, for the people of Glasgow affirmed that every man in it was intoxicated, excepting Lockhart of Lee, who declared that the Ordinance would lay the country desolate. The accusation was not unlikely to be in the main true, for hard drinking was scarcely accounted a vice.
Archbishop Sharp had been much against this hasty measure, well knowing how cautiously the people needed to be dealt with ; and the effect was that, after the example of the English ministers on Black Bartholomew's Day, though for less causes, 200 ministers, at the least computation, 350 at the largest, all quitted their kirks at once, so that by the end of the year 1662, England and Scotland were in the same condition, with an authorised minister in many churches, and an unauthorised minister outside ; but with this difference, that in England such cases were comparatively unfrequent, and the minority adhered to the ousted pastor; in Lowland Scotland it was the rule, and the greater number held to their old ministers instead of to the young men fresh from the University and episcopally ordained.
Something of the same kind was going on it England, and there were continual complaints from the clergy and committals by the magistrates. There were at one time 190 in prison, and Colonel Hutchinson was one of the persons imprisoned under this Act. He was arrested in his own house, while expounding the Epistle to the Romans, and died in confinement. He uwes most of his fame to the loving memoir of him, written by his wife.
Charles, who hated severity and wanted money, tried to get an Act passed permitting Nonconformists to purchase dispensations for the exercise of their religion. The measure was brought forward in the House of Lords; but the Bishops justly considering it unworthy, procured its defeat, and for this the King never quite forgave them.
A still more severe Act followed in 1665, forbidding any Nonconformist minister to come within five miles of any place where he had been pastor, under pain of being imprisoned for six months, nor might they act as domestic chaplains, tutors, or schoolmasters, or unless they took an oath condemning all war against the King, and all alteration in Church or State.
Those who could bring themselves to take this oath were better off than before ; but it fell very hard on those who would not, banishing them from their old homes, and depriving them of the maintenance; and at one time or other, almost all the more distinguished Nonconformists underwent the sentence of imprisonment. It was the measure which had been dealt to the Church, but that did not make it less harsh, or more in the spirit of the Christian faith.
Charles put forth a declaration promising indulgence to tender consciences, and assuring those who lived peaceably, that he would move Parliament to pass some Act that would enable us to exercise the power of dispensing which we believe to be inherent in us.'
This declaration greatly displeased Parliament, who thought that it was intended to be the means of encouraging Popery, and that it would lead to schism and encourage sects. The King was obliged to give up his plan; and at the same time the clergy sent up a petition for several laws against the Anabaptists, and for an increase of the fine for not going to church.
The Commons passed in 1664 the first Conventicle Act, fining and imprisoning every person above sixteen years old who should be present at any act of religion unauthorised by the English Church, if there were five persons present besides the numbers of the household. If the offence were committed a third time, it was visited with banishment to the American plantations, and the execution of the law was placed in the hands of the Justices of the Peace, often rude illiterate squires, quite unfit to deal with matters of conscience, and with ministers far more educated as well as thoughtful than them. selves. The Quakers, who would not go to church because they did not consider that only the faithful met there, suffered heavily under this Act.
BY ELIZABETH M. SEWELL.
IMMORTALITY! how quietly some persons in the present day put the thought aside. That is one of the states of mind which I can never understand. I think I could more easily accept the creed of Materialism, and make Death the end of all, than the no-creed of Agnosticism, which says, “I will not trouble myself about it. For after all Death is real, not thinking about it does not make it less real. Materialists have sight on their side. If seeing is believing,' Death must be the end of all; and as it comes to us as naturally as sleep, the majority of mankind, it might be thought, would welcome it. Why do they not? What is it which makes the untutored Indian talk of the spirit-land and the happy hunting-grounds? I have often wondered at it. Death, when it comes before one, is such an absolute negation of life. Silent, motionless, even decaying,—we gaze on the form we loved, and as we gaze we weep, and then we bury the body in the ground, and speak of the terrible blank, the utter desolation of our existence; and yet, all the time, the doubt of Death haunts us. We do not believe in its destruction as extinction. Even Materialists speak hesitatingly about its power; whilst Agnostics calmly decline to discuss it. I believe myself that nothing can ever make mankind accept it as an end. I believe that the instinct of Immortality has been implanted in us by God, like other instincts, to neutralise the influence of sight. “Seeing is not believing' in this case. The traditions and superstitions of the human race are against it, and putting aside all other testimony, this alone would always be an insuperable obstacle to my own acceptance of Death as a final end.
But if it is not an end, then it must be a continuation ; not merely a new beginning, for that would involve the extinction of consciousness and memory. The teaching of Buddhism, indeed, recognises consecutive stages of existence, in which past acts tell upon the condition of the soul in a subsequent state, whilst the individual who thus passes from one state to another is not supposed to be aware of the transition. But his life, in this new period of existence, in whatever stage it may be—whether higher or lower than that which
has gone before-must be to him a new beginning. To his own consciousness he has had no previous existence; and the idea of consecutive conditions of Being, so intimately connected that they form but one life, and yet each condition, having a separate and distinct consciousness, is surely unthinkable.
I leave it, therefore, for we are not called upon to dwell upon that which is unthinkable. Continuation of life to me involves continuation of that which makes us recognise or be conscious of our own identity, and this recognition appears to be inseparably dependent apon memory.
If this be so, then, independent of all questions of sin, its punishment, or its pardon, the possibility of a future existence must be of importance. For with memory we must carry with us, when we enter upon another world, the materials for enjoyment, or for suffering, which we have gathered in this world. That is the very lowest idea of the connection between the two worlds. When we add to this the supposition of our happiness and misery, Hereafter, depending upon our actions Here, it seems to me little less than insanity to put aside the inquiry into our prospect of immortality as one in which we are not at present interested.
A long time ago I remember reading the Abbé Huc's travels in China. He describes a conversation which he had with a Chinaman who was thoroughly impressed—so at least the man declared—with the truth of Christianity, but who resolutely refused to be baptized. The Abbé remonstrated with him, and asked the reason of his refusal. * You will allow,' said the Chinaman, that we human beings are made up of body and soul, and you must also allow that we cannot attend to two things at a time. Now, whilst we are in this life, the body is all-important to us; if we neglect it, we shall die; therefore, I give my full attention to my body now; when I get into another world then will be the time to think of the soul.'
The Chinaman's argument was convincing in his own eyes. He was an Agnostic; but whether Chinese logic is the highest form of human reason, is at least doubtful.
For myself I rest with greater confidence upon the words of a French philosopher, whose name I imagine must be received with some respect, even in these days of enlightenment and discovery. I refer to Blaise Pascal. He says, “L'immortalité de l'âme est une chose qui nous importe si fort, et qui nous touche si profondément, qu'il faut avoir perdu tout sentiment pour être dans l'indifférence de savoir ce qui en est. Toutes nos actions et toutes nos pensées doivent prendre des routes si différentes, selon qu'il y aura des biens éternels à espérer, ou non, qu'il est impossible de faire une démarche avec sens et jugement qu'en la réglant par la vue de ce point, qui doit être notre premier objet.
'Ainsi notre premier intérêt et notre premier devoir est de nous éclaircir sur ce sujet, d'où dépend toute notre conduite. . . . Je ne
puis avoir que de la compassion pour ceux qui gémissent sincèrement dans ce doute, qui le regardent comme le dernier des malheurs, et qui, n'épargnant rien pour en sortir, font de cette recherche leur principale et leur plus sérieuse occupation. Mais pour ceux qui passent leur vie sans penser à cette dernière fin de la vie, et qui, par cette seule raison qu'ils ne trouvent pas en eux-mêmes des lumières qui les persuadent, négligent d'en chercher ailleurs, et d'examiner à fond si cette opinion est de celles que le peuple reçoit par une simplicité crédule, ou de celles qui, quoique obscures d'elles-mêmes ont néanmoins un fondement très solide; je le considère d'une manière tonte différente. Cette négligence en une affaire où il s'agit d'euxmêmes, de leur éternité, de leur tout, m'irrite plus qu'elle ne m'attendrit; elle m'étonne et m'épouvante; c'est un monstre pour moi.
"Je ne dis pas ceci par le zèle pieux d'une dévotion spirituelle. Je prétends, au contraire, que l'amour propre, que l'intérêt humain, que la plus simple lumière de la raison doit nous donner de ces sentiments. Il ne faut voir, pour cela, que ce que voient les personnes les moins éclairées.'*
There can scarcely be words stronger than these. Pascal, indeed, goes on to argue, that as heaven cannot be intended for those who doubt their souls' immortality, there is no choice left them but annihilation or hell. This will not be accepted in the present day. Philosophers have learnt to do without heaven, and they utterly reject the idea of bell. They take it for granted that if there is a God and a future state, all must necessarily be well with them in that state, whether or not they think about it now, and I have no wish to contest the point; but when it comes to accepting their teaching myself, and acting upon it, I must of course use my own judgment, as they use theirs. And the first doubt which suggests itself to me comes in the form of what may appear a very low selfish question : Is it safe (as the expression is) to chance happiness in another world?
Suppose—merely as a possibility—that we are to live on for ever. Suppose there is a God, who is a Personal Being, a Moral Governor, and who has ordained that our happiness in that future life shall depend upon our recognition of Him in this life, is it really safe to put aside now without inquiry the probability of His existence, His worship, His laws, and the necessity of our obedience to them ?
I find people, in their writings or their conversation, arguing, that although these things may possibly be true, they are non-proven, and can never be proven in the sense of demonstration, and therefore it is better not to disturb the mind by considering them.
But I fail to see how such questions can be quietly left. It does not appear-so far as my observation goes—that the same line of argument is adopted as reasonable in other cases. No doubt there are curious inquiries which we feel to be beyond the reach of our intellect, about which we are contented not to trouble ourselves ; but
* "Pensées de Pascal,' 2nde partie, art. ii.