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Anne, an effort was made to strangle our new-born liberties. It seemed that so long as a Stuart filled the throne, Englishmen could have no security that their dearest rights should be perpetuated. The accession of the House of Brunswick at that critical juncture, was a signal interposition of Divine Providence, and forms, perhaps, the most important era in the history of our religious liberties. The spirit of intolerance, however, was not Jaid, and it required all the characteristic firmness of our late sovereign to protect the Dissenters from fresh encroachments upon their civil rights. His conscientious adherence to his promise to preserve inviolate the Toleration Act, reflects a higher lustre upon his reign, than all the victories which blazon its annals. By this wise policy, he has deserved far more of the Church of Christ, than Henry VIII. or than Constantine; and notwithstanding the existence of the Test-Act, it is the reign of George III. that must be distinguished as the age of religious liberty.
The history of religious liberty' is a title which promises more than a review of the ecclesiastical annals of our own country. Mr. Brook does, indeed, intimate in his title-page, that the work treats exclusively of the progress of Christianity in Britain; but the subject itself required a more extended survey of ecclesi... astical history. Holland, Germany, Russia, and America would claim the especial notice of the historian who should undertake to illustrate either the past or the present circumstances of the Church with regard to the enjoyment of freedom, or the progress of opinion relative to the doctrine' of religious liberty. Mr. Brook's work is complete so far as it goes, and, but for his title, we should not, perhaps, have been disposed to complain, that his plan precluded his taking a more comprehensive range. The religious history of England affords quite matter enough for two volumes, and we always follow the Author with most pleasure when he adheres pretty literally to original documents. If we have any fault to find with his present work, it is on account of the too large proportion of disquisition and declamation by which the narrative is encumbered. The Author's principles are sound, and the sentiments which he reiterates, are of the first importance. The remarks and reflections which he pauses to offer, are characterised by plain, strong sense, and the spirit of them is completely in unison with our own feelings. But a more dispassionate and less discursive style would, we are persuaded, have been infinitely preferable for the purpose of conveying to general readers the impressions which the Author labours to produce. Not an epithet needs be summoned to add colour to the simple statement of those atrocities which stain every page of ecclesiastical history, rendering it one long catalogue of erimes. The most phlegmatic reader will find it difficult to
preserve his dry composure of feeling, in pursuing the repulsive recital. The only solicitude which the historian has occasion to feel, is, lest religion itself should appear to be answerable for the I crimes of churchmen. All bis endeavours should be directed to this one point,-to establish and illustrate the fact, that neither the precepts, nor the example, nor the institutions of our Lord and his Apostles, are implicated, either directly, or indirectly, in such proceedings;-that they flowed entirely from the corruption of Christianity, and from the assumption of a power disavowed by Christianity; that religion has never been the author of persecution, but always its victim.
Although, we confess, we have not those morbid fears relative to the revival of Popery in this country, by which some pious persons are agitated, and cannot approve of charging upon the Roman Catholics of the present day, the actions of Gardiner and Bouner, yet, we are not quite satisfied that the friend of our early years, the venerable martyrologist Fox, should be laid on. the shelf; or that the affecting and instructive memorials of those days, should be made to give way to tales, and sentimental tracts, abridgements, and memoirs-the shallow tomes by which is at once stimulated and supplied the ever-craving love of novelty. It has, we believe, gone very much out of vogue, to familiarize the young with the sufferings and trials with which our best temporal inheritance as Englishmen was purchased by the Martyrs and Puritans of other days; as if, the contest being apparently ended, and the danger over, the history had lost its interest; as if nothing was to be learned from looking back on the transactions of those dark ages, over which the faith and patience of the noble followers of the primitive martyrs and confessors, shed so bright a gleam. Religious liberty is not now in danger from Popery-that is to say, in England. Granted. But does this form a valid reason that the lessons of past times should cease to be inculcated, and the example of those who were faithful to the death, be no longer presented to the minds of the young? Is either their sense of the value of our best privileges, or the firmness of their attachment to the principles which secure those privileges, likely to be promoted by leaving them in comparative ignorance of what their attainment cost? Modern education presents every subject in the outline, and nothing in the detail: it perplexes the scholar with all manner of questions, but is remarkably summary in its answers to them; while most fertile and ingenious in fictions, it is most brief and reserved in the communication of facts. We are not sure that this is an improved system. The history of his country, the history of the Church, ought to be familiarized in its details to every Christian, so as not merely to be brought within the compass of his general information, but to have a hold upon his associations and sympathies. For our own parts, we
must confess that Smithfield is still to our imagination, a more interesting spot than even Waterloo.
Next in interest to the sufferings of the Martyrs in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Mary, are the unrelenting persecutions endured by the early Puritans in the succeeding reigns. To them we are chiefly indebted, not only for our religious rights, but for our civil freedom. To this sect,' Mr. Hume confesses, the English owe the whole freedom of their constitution.' But, as their persecutors were not Papists, there is a class of writers who imagine themselves called upon to vindicate the immaculate character of the Protestant hierarchy, by pouring contempt or the characters and sufferings of these admirable men. It is 'humiliating,' insidiously remarks a writer in the Quarterly Review,' what has been suffered for no weightier ground of dispute in the beginning, than the surplice and the sign of the cross in baptism. It is thus with a dash of the pen, that this heartless and flippant writer would cancel the claims to veneration, of men of whom the world was not worthy, and whose learning and acuteness were in many instances as illustrious as their piety. The Papist would wish for no better confederate than this Reviewer. Among those who made these matters the subject, though not, properly speaking, the ground of dispute, occur the names of Latimer and Hooper, Coverdale and Rogers, Taylor and Bradford, Jewel and Philpot, men who were the glory of the Reformation. Were these men or the Reviewer, the best judges of the validity of their objections to the Popish apparel?" The cause in which the Puritans bled, was precisely the same as that for which the first Reformers laid down their lives; they were the victims of the same infernal tyranny; and if they were not martyrs, neither were Cranmer, and Ridley, and Latimer.
Had the Puritans and Nonconformists been so fortunate as to bave had Papists for their oppressors, it is true, that those who were hanged, would probably have been burned, and those who perished in prison, would have suffered at the stake; but their names would at least have come down to us with all the lustre of martyrs. Whitgift and Parker would not then have been denied the honour of ranking with Gardiner and Bonner, in whose steps they trod; and Sheldon and Ward would have received their due share of infamy. But, unhappily, these prelates were Protestants, and, therefore, the honour of a party requires that history should be gagged or made to perjure herself. The "Lives of "the Puritans" and the "Nonconformist's Memorial," must be restricted to the Dissenter's Library. The infidel Hume, the oracle of that party on most points, must, in reference to this part of our history, be dismissed as a suspicious authority; and Clarendou, the persecutor, shall be admitted as the only impartial witness in his own cause. How pitiable is that party bigotry
which cuts off a man from all intercourse of sympathy with the good and great even of former ages, who range beyond the narrow pale of his own communion, seeming to inflict a moral incapacity to appreciate their heroic worth! It is surely some drawback on the privilege of belonging to any church, to be required to propitiate its jealousy by such a sacrifice of generous sentiment and Christian feeling.
It might have been thought, that the old feud between the Hierarchy and the Puritans, would by this time have worn itself out, for want of persons sufficiently implicated in the original quarrel, to feel much concern in prosecuting it. For what more has the present Establishment to do with the Church of Elizabeth, than with that of Philip and Mary? Or what have the Dissenters of the present day to do with the excesses of the 'Fanaties' in the days of Cromwell and Hugh Peters? If religious liberty be an evil, and ecclesiastical tyranny a good, or if there are persons who deem them such, then, the solicitude manifested to bring forward with every malignant aggravation, the alleged excesses of the republicans, and to cast a veil over the transactions of the preceding and the subsequent reigns, is rational and easily to be accounted for. But otherwise, to undertake, at this time of day, a vindication of the bloody tyranny of the Tudors, and the not less arbitrary and intolerant government of the Stuarts, and to become the panegyrist of Strafford and of Laud, would seem to be a task so perfectly gratuitous as well as ungracious, as to be unworthy of any writer of talent or character. Our readers, however, cannot but be aware, that the press teems with reviews, magazines, charges, sermons, and other writings, in which the warfare against Puritanism, ancient and modern, is kept up with all the zest and spirit which animated the politicians and prelates of persecuting times. The Bible Society has roused the slumbering spirit of intolerance. The times when the Church had its synods and convocations, is perpetually adverted to as the good old days, the golden age of its prosperity. Charles and Laud are again placed at the head of the noble army of martyrs, while good king William is unceremoniously treated as a well-meaning Dutchman of no great wit and not much courage. The time of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, is represented by these writers as the only interruption of good government and rational piety,-the only period at the remembrance of which an Englishman needs blush for his country; and on this it is endeavoured so to fix the attention, as to obliterate, if possible, from recollection, all that made the great rebellion necessary, and the more auspicious revolution of 1688, glorious.
Were attempts like these chargeable only on a few harmless and feeble bigots of the Non-juror school, or on some jejune
and needy scribblers writing for pence or for preferment, there would be nothing either ominous or extraordinary in the circumstance. But when literary men, whose avocation exposes them to no professional bias, and whose situation in life discharges them from the necessity of becoming the mere hirelings of party, are seen laboriously transposing history, wresting it, as the Romanist does Scripture, from its genuine import, in order to make it serve to rivet error and sanction oppression,-when such men, apostates, perhaps, from better principles, are found employing their book-wisdom and their eloquence or ingenuity, in giving fresh currency to forgotten calumnies, and in re-editing the offal of obsolete libellers, the matter becomes more serious, and it is high time that works like the present were multiplied, in which facts derived from approved historical records, may supply the most effective answer to the special pleadings of party advocates.
We deem the present work a seasonable as well as a valuable publication. Though displaying less research, and containing a smaller proportion of original matter, than Mr. Brook's Lives of the Puritans, it will probably be more acceptable to general readers on account of its being in the form of continuous narrative. The work is confessedly a compilation, a great part of it being given either in the very words of the authorities referred to, or with a slight variation of their language. The historians who are chiefly followed, are, Stillingfleet, Collier, Fuller, Fox, Kennet, Echard, Strype, Burnet, Warner, Welwood, Neal, and Rapin; but other writers are occasionally referred to. Very considerable labour must have been bestowed on the collation of these authorities, and the arrangement of such multifarious materials; and it is labour turned to excellent account. The mere reprint of the documents and statements brought together in these volumes, is a service rendered to the public.
The first chapter comprises the period from the first propagation of Christianity to the death of Henry VII. Section I. contains some preliminary remarks on the liberal constitution of the Apostolic Churches,' for which he acknowledges himself mainly indebted to the Author of "Protestant Nonconformity;" but there is a rather awkward interweaving of his own phraseology with that of the writer from whom he has borrowed so largely In one paragraph (p. 7), Milton's pithy remark, that
we read not that Christ ever exercised force but once, and that was to drive profane ones out of his temple, not to force them in,'-occurs without any reference or mark of quotation; and a similar freedom is taken, not with the valuable thoughts' merely, but with the expressions of other writers. In the narration of facts, this adoption of the very language employed by the original writer, is, perhaps, allowable, and a general re