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His two books, 66 of Reformation touching Church-Government in England," addressed to a friend, discover earnestness and integrity; and are the produce of a forcible and acute, a comprehensive and richlystored mind. 6 And here withal,” he “ says, “ I invoke the Immortal Deity, revealer and judge of secrels, that wherever I have in this book, plainly and roundly, (though worthily. and truly) laid open the faults and blemishes of fathers, martyrs, or christian emperors, or have inveighed against error and superstition with vehement expressions, I have done it neither out of malice, nor list to speak evil, nor any vain glory; but of mere necessity to vindicate the spotless truth from an ignominious bondage.” The reformation in our Church had not proceeded, as he thought, to the proper extent; and the suspension of its progress he attributes principally to its prelates, “ who, though they had renounced the Pope, yet hugged the popedom, and shared the authority among themselves.” He gives a minute history of the Church of England from its birth; and, explaining the causes of what he deemed to be its imperfect separation from that of Rome and its halting at a
a Of Reformation, &c. P. W. i. 8.
distance behind the other reformed churches, he
pays no great respect to the venerable names of our early reforiners, who attested the purity of their motives with their blood. Though excellent, they were still indeed fallible men; and, admitting that their example or their doctrine could be employed as the shield of error, every true Christian would join with our author in exclaiming, “ more tolerable it were for the Church of God that all these names (of Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, &c.) were utterly abolished, like the brazen serpent, than that men's fond opinions should thus idolize them, and the heavenly truth be thus captivated.”
His language in these tracts is every where original, figurative, and bold: but his sentences are either not sufficiently or not happily laboured. His words, attentive only to sense, appear to rush into their places as they can; and whenever their combination forms an harmonious period, the effect looks like the result of chance, unconcerted and unheeded by the writer. Force is that character of style which he principally affects, and, that he may obtrude his mind with weight and impression on the mind of his
b Of Reformation, &c. P. W.i. 8.
reader, he scruples not to avail himself of the coarsest images and expressions. His object is to array himself in strength; and, not satisfied with making us to understand his meaning, he must also make us to feel it. His matter and his manner are often equally erroneous: but his deficiencies are sometimes concealed from us by those flashes of imagination which cover his rough pages, and are sometimes pardoned by us in consequence of that conviction which he enforces of the thorough honesty of his heart.
His indignation, though frequently offensive and rude, is frequently, likewise, eloquent and sublime.
Amongst“ many secondary and accessory causes,” he remarks, " that support monarchy, these are not of the least reckoning, though common to all other states; the love of the subjects, the multitude and valour of the people, and store of treasure. In all these things hath the kingdom been of late sore weakened, and chiefly by the prelates. First, let any man consider that if any prince shall suffer under him a commission of authority to be exercised till all the land groan and cry out as against a whip of scorpions, whether this
• Of Reformation, &c. P. W. i. 37.
be not likely to lessen and keel the affections of the subject. Next, what numbers of faithful and free-born Englishmen and good Christians have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean, and
deserts of America could hide or shelter from the fury of the bishops? O sir, if we could but see the shape of our dear mother England, as poets are wont to give a personal form to what they please, how would she appear, think you, but in a mourning weed, with ashes upon her head, and tears abundantly flowing from her eyes to behold so many of her children exposed at once, and thrust from things of dearest necessity, because their conscience could not assent to things, which the bishops thought indifferént? What more binding than conscience? what more free than indifferency? Cruel then must that indifferency needs be that shall violate the strict necessity of conscience;
A modern historian, whose integrity, acuteness, and manly spirit entitle him to my highest respect, speaking of the same things with Milton, the ceremonies and rituals which were enforced with so much unrelenting severity by Laud, remarks with incontrovertible truth—" They were imposed by the prelates as things in themselves indifferent, in which obedience is due to the supreme power, without recollecting that whatever is indifferent in religion should belong to the votary's discretion and choice." Laing's Hist. of Scotland, b.i. 79.
merciless and inhuman that free choice and liberty that shall break asunder the bonds of religion! Let the astrologer be dismayed at the portentous blaze of comets and impressions in the air, as foretelling troubles and changes to states; I shall believe there cannot be a more ill-boding sign to a nation (God turn the omen from us) than when the inhabitants to avoid insufferable grievances are enforced by heaps to forsake their native country.”
His address, in the course of this work, to the two nations of England and Scotland, united at that time in strenuous resistance to the government, is in the same high and spirited style. “Go' on both hand in hand, O nations, never to be disunited. Be the praise and the heroic song of all posterity. Merit this: but seek only virtue, not to extend your limits, (for what need you win a fading, triumphant laurel out of the tears of wretched men?) but to settle the pure worship of God in his church, and justice in the state. Then shall the hardest difficulties smooth themselves before you:' envy shall sink to hell:
e Of Reformation, &c. P. W. i. 46. * Invidia infelix furias amnemque severum Cocyti metuet, tortosque Ixionis angues, Immanemque rotam et non exsuperabile saxum.
Vir. Geor. I. 3.