Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

I am strongly attached to the Church of England, from whose lap I sprang and at whose bosom I have been fostered: but my attachment to her is not that of instinct, but of reason. I love her not merely because she is

my mother and my nurse, but because she is deserving of my love. I regard her as she offers to God a spiritual worship, yet condescends to the imperfect nature of the worshipper; and keeps as remote from the rude and unsightly devotion of Calvin, as from the childish and idolatrous mummery of Rome: I respect her as she extends her usefulness by accommodating her ranks to those of the community in which she is established; and, while she contributes to the social harmony by her enforcement of its requisite subordination, considers man upon a level when she officiates as the minister of God: but I give to her my most ardent affection when I contemplate her as mild and liberal, as uniting order with toleration, as the patroness of learning and the encourager of inquiry, as the determined enemy of persecution for opinions, whether it be avowed by the stern republicanism of a presbytery or by the unfeeling policy of a pontifical conclave. Such is the ground on which I rest my affection to my native Church: but if I saw

her actuated by a narrow and ferocious spirit, guarding her own temporal honours with more jealousy than the vital principles of Christ's religion, doing evil with the flagitious pretence that good may be the result, mounted on a sanguinary tribunal to suppress opinion with overwhelming punishment, and hearing with delight the groan that issued from a bosom hostile to herself—if I saw her in this sad state of defection from her own character and of apostacy from the religion of her Master, I should no longer recognise her as the object of my

filial reverence;

I would renounce her with indignation; and, throwing her disgraceful favours at her feet, I would retire, beyond her corruption and her vengeance, to some uncivilized region where I might vindicate the name of Jesus from her impious profanation, and show him to be the author of blessings, not of misery to man.

These sentiments are not mine alone; they are the property of every English christian who is undepraved by habit or unseduced by interest. At the period of which we are writing, their influence was almost universally acknowledged. Numbers, terrified and shocked by Laud's violences, fled over the Atlantic, and planted in the deserts

of New England the standard of civil and of religious freedom. Numbers, reserving themselves for more propitious times and not despairing of their country, sought a temporary asylum in the bosom of Europe; and still greater numbers remained in sullen and formidable inaction at home, either

protected by their own situation, as laymen, or sheltered, if ministers, in the families of the nobility; and all solicitously waiting for the moment of reformation or revenge.

This was now arrived, and they exulted at its presence. Defeated by the Scots in consequence of the disaffection of the English, and in the midst of political gloom, which was hourly condensing and growing blacker, the king, averse as he might be from the measure, was at length compelled by the imperious circumstances of his situation to have recourse in earnest to a parliament: and the representative of the nation was accordingly convened.

This parliament, as Lord Clarendon witnesses, was formed wholly of members who

y If we could wish for more evidence (for better there cannot be) of the certainty of the fact in question, we might obtain it from a writer who on this subject is as well entitled perhaps to credit as Clarendon himself, Dr. Lewis Du Moulin, who wrote the “ Appeal of the Non-conformists upon their obedience

were friendly to the government and to the Church of England, and who wished not to overthrow, but who, disgusted and frightened by the spectacle which had been presented to them, were resolute to redress and ardent to reform. The power, which the present state of things threw into their hands, enabled them to cut off, with an immediate and effectual stroke, much of the existing mischief in its pernicious source. In the second month of their sitting, they impeached the unfortunate primate; they rescued his victims from their dungeons; they recalled his exiles ? to to God and the King," in 1681, affirms that “ The Parliament," (the Long Parliament,)“ both Lords and Commons, was most if not all composed of peaceable, orthodox Church of England men, all conforming to the rites and ceremonies of episcopacy; but yet greatly averse to popery and tyranny, and the corrupt party of the Church of England that inclined toward Rome," &c.

? The returning Puritans might have exulted over their prostrate persecutor in nearly the same strains of triumph, which Isaiah, in his two-fold character of prophet and of poet, so nobly ascribes to the exiles of Israel on the fall of the King of Babylon. “ How hath the oppressor ceased !-He, who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.All they shall speak, and say unto thee-Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the ground, and the noise of thy viols. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble? that did shake kingdoms!-that opened not the house of his prisoners ?" The Star Chamber and High Commission Courts were abolished by an act of the legislature on the 5th of July, 1641.

Q

behold his fall; they released the press

from its “ horrid silence," and permitted it to pour its long imprisoned torrent on the heads of the oppressor

and his party. On Milton's return from the continent, he found, as he informs us, the clamour loud and general against the bishops; some complaining of their tyranny, and some protesting against the existence of the mitred hierarchy itself. It was now beginning to be safe to talk: but, the Parliament not being yet convened, the public indignation was forced still to wait, during a short interval, before it could diffuse itself from the press. When this rapid propagator of opinions and best guardian of truth was at last liberated, the prelatical party was assailed on all sides with argument and learning, with virulence and reproach. Our author, as I believe, was on this occasion the leader of the attack; the first who became the organ of his own and of the popular resentment against the rulers of the church. His beloved tutor, Young, had been one of the victims of the primate's intolerance; and the new polemic entered on his career with the blended feeling of public and of private wrong, with the zeal of a sanguine and with the emotion of an injured

man.

« AnteriorContinuar »