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BROOK's History of the Puritans.
(Concluded from p. 406.)
AFTER So long, and we fear tedious a consideration of the Puritanical question in our second and principal period of Mr. Brook's History, we feel disposed to release our readers from the labour of accompanying us through any lengthened discussion of the third and fourth. The third, being the period of the predominance of the Puritan party, namely, from the meeting of the Long Parliament, (when the power of Charles and the Bishops virtually ceased), to the death of Oliver Cromwell, might indeed afford us ample matter for profitable reflection, as exhibiting the character of Mr. Brook's "Friends of Religious Liberty," in its true and legitimate light. But we shrink from the painful task of selecting from the mass of historical evidence now lying before us, what might enable us to set forth we will not say, Puritans in particular, but Christians in general, in such a light as no fellow Christian can view them, without the most painful emotions. Politics had now, indeed, been completely involved with religion. The wretched imitation of his illustrious, though severe, predecessors by Laud, that real master of ceremonies, and, we are sorry to add, not master of his own worst passions, had greatly provoked the nation in those ticklish times, when the commonest sense would
have taught him at least moderation; and, at the same time, a few desperate revolutionists and republicans had gradually obtained such
complete success in enlisting the harrassed, and still obstinate, Puritans of various classes under their banners, that we doubt if any fair selection could be made for the purpose of shewing the degree of religious liberty which was really aimed at by the honest and pious non-conformist, or for bringing the genuine principles of any one sect into juxta position and comparison with those of the now oppressed and subjugated church. As we should be far, very far, from adopting Laud, and his intemperate and blundering plans, for our criterion of the old and true Church-of-England principles of government, so will we not take the tender mercies of an exasperated Prynne, or Hugh Peters, as our specimen of Puritan zeal for Christian Liberty.
One instance, however, we cannot help selecting from Mr. Brook's own pages, of the spirit of an old zealous Presbyterian, the famed author of the Gangrena, who had perseverance enough to retain, to the end, the moderate and regular principles of non-conformity with which he originally set out; calmness enough to take a general view of all the parties and their several principles, into which his associates at length divided themselves; and candour enough to expose them fully to view, though with all the indignation of the most vehement satirist, in the above mentioned celebrated work.
Mr. Edwards, (an epithet by the bye, in "If ministers,' says the singular this place, meaning too much in Mr. Brook's mind; for however singular he may be in other respects, he was by ne
means singular in declaiming against toleration.) "If ministers will witness for the truth and against errors, they must set themselves against toleration, as the principal inlet to all error and heresy; for if toleration be granted, all preaching will not keep them out. If a toleration be granted, the devil will be too hard for us, though we preach ever so much against them. A toleration will undo all. It will bring in scepticism in doctrine and looseness of life, and afterwards all atheism. O let ministers, therefore, oppose all toleration, as that by which the devil would at once lay a foundation for his kingdom to all generations: witness against it in all places: possess the magistrate with the erit of it, yea and the people too, shewing them how if a toleration were granted, they could never have peace any more in their families, or ever have any command of wives, children, servants Toleration is destructive to the glory of God, and the salvation of souls; therefore, whoever should be for a toleration, ministers ought to be against it. If the parliament, city, yea, and all the people, were for a toleration of all sects .... yet ministers ought to present their reasons against it, preach and cry out of the evil of it, never consent to it, but protest against it, and withstand it by all lawful means within their power, venturing the loss of liberties, estates, lives, and all in that cause, and inflame ns with zeal against a toleration, the great Diana of the sectaries!!!'" Gangrena, Part I. 1646. Brook, Vol. iii. pp. 86, 87.
cured, but only changed; one disease and devil hath left us, and another as bad is come in its room. Yea this last extreme is far more high, violent, and dangerous in many respects. Have we not worse things come upon us, than even we had before? Were any of these monsters heard of heretofore, which are now common amongst us; as denying the Scriptures, pleading for a toleration of all religions and worship? You have pnt down the Book of Common Prayer; and there are many amongst us who have put down the Scriptures, slighting them, yea blaspheming them. You have broken down the images of the Trinity, Christ, Virgin Mary, Apostles; and we have those who overthrow the doctrine of the Trinity, oppose the Divinity of Christ, speak evil of the Virgin Mary, and slight the Apostles. You have cast out the bishops, and their officers; and we have many that cast to the ground all ministers in the reformed churches. You have cast out ceremonies in the sacraments, as the cross, kneeling at the Lord's Supper; and we have many that cast out the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. You have put down saints' days, and we have many that make nothing at all of the Lord's day and fast days. You have taken away the superfluous, excessive maintenance of bishops and deans; and we have many who take away and cry down the necessary maintenance of ministers." "In the bishops' days we had many unlearned ministers; and have we not now a company of Jeroboam's priests?" "The worst of Is it quite clear, after the prelates in the midst of many Arminian tenets and Popish innovations, astonishing effusion of an held many sound doctrines, and had genuine Presbyterian Puritan, that many commendable practices: yea the these " friends of Religious Livery Papists hold, and keep to many berty" really "ventured the loss articles of faith and truths of God, and of liberties, estates, lives and have some order amongst them, encourage all," only in the sacred cause of learning, have certain fixed principles liberty of conscience, and free re- of truth, with practices of devotion and ligious toleration? This passage good works: but many of the sects and will certainly enable us more fully sectaries in our days deny all principles to understand some few sentences order and learning, overthrowing all." of religion, are enemies to all holy duties, in which Mr. Brook hurries over Vide Grey's Answer to Neale, Vol. IV. this unpleasant portion of his Hisp. 62. tory. His unfriendly monitor Mr. Edwards shall supply us with one more guide to the temper of these times, and we will have done. "Our evils," says the Grangrena, in another place,
are not removed or
Here we must confess, is sufficient license to satisfy the most latitudinarian appetite. But still, if amidst all this heterogeneous of productions,
where nature breeds,
Perverse all monstrous, all prodigious things,
we look almost in vain for the small invaluable germ of " Religious Liberty," which has since expanded into such full maturity of growth; we must be allowed to hold, that Mr. Brook has much misemployed his time, whilst he supposed he was writing the history of its early cultivators. Tenderness for the consciences of others, the very touchstone of Religious Liberty seems, in truth, nearly as far from us in this period of the history, as in any other.
"Cromwell and his friends, indeed, gave it out, that they could not understand what right the magistrate had to use compulsion in matters of religion. They thought that all men ought to be left to the dictates of their own consciences; and that the civil magistrate could not interfere in any religious concerns, without ensnaring himself in the guilt of persecution." p. 95. A declaration from this archhypocrite, evidently carrying its own crudeness and nullity in its face! Nor do we think it worth while, even Mr. Brook himself being judge, to shew how it was acted upon, more particularly with regard to the episcopal clergy. It is very true also, "the Parliament voted, that all should be indulged or tolerated, who professed the fundamentals of Christianity: and certain learned divines were appointed to draw up the fundamentals to be presented to the House." pp. 96, 97. And Baxter, to whose life Mr. Brook refers, sufficiently informs us on what principle these fundamentals were attempted to be drawn up, together with his own total dissent from Owen and others in the commission, and the ridiculous issue of the whole*. In short,
“One merry passage," says Mr. Baxter, "I remember, occasioned laughter. Mr. Sympson caused them to make this a fundamental, that He that alloweth himself, or others, in any
if we were disposed to smile, the wretched attempts which this wretched interregnum made to obtain even the very "colour or front," whether of uniformity, comprehension, or toleration, would afford sufficient materials for the most poignant satire on the weakness, and inconsistency of poor human nature. For the honour of our conmon Christianity, as well as for the sake of our readers' time, we forbear to draw out our observations upon them to further length. We allow the utmost to Mr. Brock's now victorious heroes, (what, indeed, we should have been still more ready to allow to their predecessors) when we attribute to them the praise of zeal unfeigned, however misguided, for their own religious opinions; and of a desire most honest, though most visionary, of bringing the reformed church to their own notions of a strict, uniform, and perfect system of doctrine, discipline, and administration. We will allow further, the great learning of many honest men, who were employed in building this castle in the air, which at the last ended in a mere Babel. Nay,
known sin cannot be saved.' I pleaded against the word allowed,' and told them that many a thousand lived in wilful sin, which they could not be said to allow themselves in, but confessed it to be sin; and that there seemed a little contradiction between 'known sin,' and
he doth not allow, i. e. approve it. But 'allowed:' so far as a man knoweth sin, they would have their way. At last I told them, as stiff as they were in their opinion and way, I would force them with one word to change, or blot out all that fundamental. I urged them to take my wager; and they would not believe me, but marvelled what I meant; I told
them that the Parliament took the In
dependent way of separation to be a sin :
and when this article came before them,
they would say, 'By our brethren's own judgment, we are all damned men, if we allow the Independents, or any other sectarics in their sin. They gave me no answer, but they left out all that fundamental!
we will even admit with Mr. Neale, that
"Better laws were never made against vice, or more rigorously executed. Drunkenness, fornication, profane swearing, and every kind of deban chery, were deemed infamous, and were universally" (a large admission, however!) "discountenanced. The clergy were laborious to an excess,' in preaching, praying, catechising, and visiting the sick." (We presume it is meant those of the Parliament's introduction). "The magistrates were exact in suppressing all kinds of games, stage plays, and abuses in public houses: and a play had not been acted in any theatre in England, for almost twenty years." p. 99. Intro. duction.
the most moderate, for religious improvement and reformation; and a and conduct, on the generation tenfold license, both in principle immediately subsequent to their own. When in entire possession of the ground, they found themselves totally unable to keep it, We suppose the profoundest acts of legislation, all the resources of the most accomplished politicians, civil or ecclesiastical, could not have held together, for many months of which the government and conlonger, the incongruous materials stitution, both in church and state, under Oliver Cromwell, were com posed. When he died, the country and in imminent danger of falling was without a head, without a plan, into the wildest anarchy. The few leading Presbyterians, the most respectable and weighty of the whole confederacy, saw no alternative but that of recalling the king, and re-establishing the ancient and discarded church. Like a spoiled child, who has gained the utmost of his wishes, and having broken to atoms the most expensive furniture, and exhausted all the means of amusement unwisely put within his reach by an indulgent parent, is glad at last to return to his or dinary pursuits and tasks for his wonted and long-lost satisfaction; so these men, with little thanks to their moderation or change of sentiment, yet under the influence at for the king whom they had driven once of satiety and necessity, send out; set up the bishops whom they had pulled down; and quietly await the event for themselves, glad enough to exchange the res ponsibility of governing any longer, for all the hazards of a tardy submission. When it can be fairly proved, that the restorers of king Charles had any other means of providing, either for the nation or for themselves, than this one measure, we shall then be more disposed than we now are to allow the credit sometimes claimed for them in this business. At least, till that is proved
A most surprising account, it must be allowed, of the metamorphose of a land but just before represented as overrun with "heathens, epicures, and atheists." p. 35. Let this pass, however, and what a whit are we nearer to the darling object of Mr. Brook's idolatry, or the alleged design of his illustrious worthies, the establishment of a pure system of religious freedom? "It is ridiculous," says the shrewd Montesquieu, "to see the impotent attempts of the English nation after the death of Charles I. to establish a pure republic without virtue." And equally may we apply the observation to the troubled, and feverish efforts made in these strange times to bring in and fix upon the country something analogous to that, in the constitution of ecclesiastical affairs. We think, in truth, almost the only consistent church-lesson to be derived from this period of our ecclesiastical history is the absolute folly and inanity, whilst this nation and human nature remain as they are, of attempting what, these early Puritan theorists did attempt, to introduce a perfect national discipline, The attempt, instead of ultimately succeeding to their wishes, only brought down unnumbered calami-, ties upon themselves; a never-dying prejudice against all plans, even
we think so much surprise should not be expressed at that which so very soon followed upon the king's restoration, viz. the famous Act of Uniformity in 1662; so indignantly and sternly perpetuated, amongst the Non-conformists and their posterity, by the name of the Black Bartholomew Act.
On this last period of Mr. Brook's historical Introduction, we confess that we are disposed to say not much more than Mr. Brook himself has said. It opens so new and so wide a field for discussion; the case was now again so completely changed from that which had existed and agitated the church in the previous reigns; the persons, as well as principles, were so different; religion and politics both wore so different an aspect; and affairs were really verging now so much nearer to the happy consummation of a free toleration, under a fixed, though comprehensive, church-establishment, that it would be the height of temerity to pronounce at a glance upon the merits of an act which, after all, was in some shape necessary, even as a step towards toleration,-much more to compare it to another truly black St. Bartholomew's day, which consigned 40,000, some say 100,000, innocent Protestants in cold blood to the murderous knife of midnight assassins. Besides, where shall we look for an impartial account of a transaction so unfairly classed? Good, honest, contemporary and suffering, Mr. Baxter tells us, of "hundreds of able ministers with their wives and children having neither house nor bread." It is complained by church writers, that in Mr. Neale's time, the numbers had been aggravated and swelled up to " 2000, about or even above, of all sorts, who quitted or refused to accept, preferment." Vid. Neale, iv. 369, 8vo. Mr. Brook is satisfied with neither of his favourite authorities on this important point, but has recourse to Mather's History CHRIST, OBSERV. No. 163.
of New England, and from thence roundly asserts that
"It is well known, that near 2,500 faithful ministers of the Gospel were silenced. And it is affirmed upon a modest calculation, that it procured the death of 3000 non-conformists, and the ruin of 60,000 families!!!" All, as Mr. Brook triumphantly adds, " to establish uniformity in all ecclesiastical matters. A charming word indeed! for the thing is still wanting, even amongst those who promoted these tragic scenes." p. 100.
Certainly we must think the thing still wanting amongst those who DESCRIBE them!-Yet surely Mr. Brook would not have spoken so slightingly of the thing, if he had reflected for a moment that the very League and Covenant, which so unhappily beguiled the consciences of many hundred really faithful ministers at this juncture, swore to "endeavour to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity of religion." 1st Art. And if he consults Pt. ii. p. 433, of Baxter's life, we think he will find the following points strongly illustrated:-1. That the proper Sectarians or Independents rejoiced that the terms of the public ministry were not more enlarged, in order to have a large number excluded, and so a toleration of separate churches rendered necessary. 2. That the Presbyterians rather wished for more comprehensive terms, in the hope of still obtaining entire uniformity. 3. That the graver and more thinking part sat still, and meddled not with the business, having not yet made up their minds whether the terms were too large, or not large enough, or in what manner Parliament could or should have acted but as it did.
To say more on this portion of our history, would be evidently to travel out of the line laid down for us by Mr. Brook himself. We have no doubt that here he found himself, as we do, standing upon very different ground from that of