Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

In no proper sense, then, can THE PURITANS be said to have been “ the fathers of English Liberty,” unless the term is intended to apply to the Statesmen, who, as Erastians or Independents, as orthodox Christians or as undisguised Deists, (pp. 779 2-781,) controlled as far as practicable, the impetuosity of the Predestinarian Ecclesiastics, though, to effect their own purposes and to preserve the peace of the realm, they were occasionally forced to comply with some of their intolerant humours. To the patriotic and praiseworthy exertions of these individuals, in the Senate, in the Assembly of Divines, in the Army, and in the subordinate departments of Government, I have done ample justice, in pages 352, 400, 436, 444, 448, 452, 469, 779, &c.From the letters and private papers which they have left, several of them seem to have been really noble-minded, though, like other mortals, they did not always perceive the course and issueof the measures which they advised or adopted, and in which they had unhappily involved themselves; and, from this source, impure in some respects as it certainly was, the streamlets of British Freedom, civil and religious, first began to flow in that disturbed period. The first principles of liberty were then discussed with great ability in the writings of some accomplished Jaymen, whose religious sentiments were exceedingly loose; while John Goodwin,* Tobias Conyers, the General Baptists, and the

. The following extract, from the preface to Goodwin's Banner of Justifi. cation displayed, will prove, that the labours of this great man and of his coadjutors had been extensively useful and highly approved :

* Whereas my accuser chargeth me with having my hand against all men, neither is he orthodox in this, unless he takes sanctuary under the wing of the good figure Synecdoche, which hath had a privilege, time out of mind, to grant a pardon to men for this delinquency in speaking, viz. when meaning only some, they say all ; or intending only a part, yet mention or name the whole. But it is a good sign on the Truth's side when her enemies retreat and Alee to their PATHETICALS: For this argues, that their INTELLECTUALS fall short, and that their heart serveth them not to confide in them any further. Yet I cannot but mention this by the way, as matter of sad consideration, although of too frequent occurrency, that men,—who have competent gifts and parts of wit and learning, whereby they might serve their generation and be useful unto many, yet suffering themselves to be over-grown with a conceit that these gifts and parts are far greater than they are, they hereby stifle their opportunity, and give hostages unto sin and Satan that they will never do any great matters against them!

“The remaining article of his charge that I have provoked all men, even to the common pamphleteer, to lift up a hand against me, will keep him out of the New Jerusalem also, without the mediation of the said figure Synecdoche : See Revelations xxi, 27, xxii, 15. I know it would be offensive to the gentleman, if I should relate how many letters, and messages otherwise,- of thankful acknowledgments of the grace of God given unto me for the clearing of those doctrines of lection, Reprobation, &c., and of Christian encouragement to proceed in my way, &c., I have received, time after time, from several persons of considerable worth for godliness and knowledge, inhabiting in several parts of the nation, some of them ininisters of the Gospel, and others of them students in the University of good standing, &c. But because such a story as this would, I presume, be a heavy burden to a tender and weak shoulder, I shall forbear it. In the mean

Arminian members of their Independent Churches, promulgated throughout the land their truly catholic opinions on the subject of Toleration.—Milton, Selden, and others, had digested HalEs's Tract on Schism, and were familiar with some of the post admired productions of the Dutch Arminians: Yet as the war against the King had been undertaken with the avowed intention of rendering the religion of the English people more uniformly Calvinistic, these politicians were aware that they could not succeed with the more clamorous part of the nation, unless they permitted themselves to be constantly addressed as Calvinists. Cromwell was accustomed to excuse himself to his intimate friends, for this easy compliance with the Calvinistic humour, by saying, I must talk to these men after their own way! “ This created in his relative, Mr. Waller, (the Poet,] an opinion, that Oliver secretly despised those whom he seemed to court:" And a similar aversion must have been ultimately produced on the minds of all enlightened men, who had transactions with such servile individuals.

Whether the ears of the republican Statesmen had been so accustomed to the sweet and soothing strains of their Calvinistic flatterers, (who, it is seen, occasionally became their fierce accusers,) or whether loyal Arminianism was known to be of too unbending a character to stoop to such a degrading employment, certain it is, that all divines of the three great denominations who laboured even under any suspicion of being Arminians, were carefully excluded from the court-pulpits till the period of the Restoration. John Goodwin's early services had been of vast importance to the cause of the infant Republic, but he was badly remunerated for them: If any Arminian, therefore, was entitled to stand up as a court-preacher, John was, without doubt, that individual. The liberal sentiments, however, which he had then time, Mr. Hickman must give me leave to tell him and all the world this plain story, that I know certainly, infallibly, above and beyond all possibility of mis. take, that he spake not by the Spirit of God when he said, that my hand hath provoked all men, even to the common pamphleteer, &c. He is an Athenian, and seems to have some sympathy in blood with him that laid claim to all the ships, that came into Piræus, as his own. But he may know, if he please, that there are seven thousand, (and seven thousand more to them twice told,) amongst the Israel of God in this nation, who either never bowed the knee of their judgment to the bloody Moloch of his Reprobation nor to any of his confederates, or else have repented of that superstitious and unadvised homage !”

After all the harsh measures employed by the Calvinists, Arminianism could never be eradicated out of our two Universities. On this subject, T. HODGES made the following remarks before the Commons, March 10, 1646:

“ Take special care of our Fountains, the Universities, that learning may be encouraged ; and (that) doctrines contrary to soundness of faith, or (to] holiness of life and manners, be wholly there suppressed. For want of this, because there have been errors in the first concoction, they could never, in many, be mended to this present day; but many congregations have been poisoned with Arminianism, Socinianism, yea, downright Popery. It was the milk they sucked in at the University from ill tutors; and their people must either take that or none, for they have no better to give tbem.”

recently embraced, excluded him effectually from the favour of the great Republicans ;* and while pastors of far inferior talents basked in the sunshine of Whitehall, this highly-gifted person, though an Independent, was suffered, after many struggles, to instruct his congregation in comparative privacy and quietness. Many of the stories circulated concerning him, after the murder of King Charles the First, evidently belong to Dr. Thomas Goodwin, who, in the capacity of chaplain to the Protector, was a man of eniinence, while the doctrinal views of his reputed relative precluded him from all such marks of Puritanic distinction. But though the English Arminians gained no ill-scented laurels of this kind, numbers of their opponents stood ready to receive the commands of their political superiors.

Many circumstances concurred to render those of the Arminian Clergy who either adhered to Episcopacy, or were recent converts to it, a neglected race. They could not boldly refer, like many of the Puritan Divines before both the Houses, (pp. lii, lxi,) to any previous mighty stirrings on their part in the cause of sedition; for they were then under persecution, principally on account of well-tried loyalty to their sovereign, and of warm attachment to the ancient institutions of their country. They had no clerical friends at the Republican Court, who could give a modest hint in their favour,—as Vines the Presbyterian has done (p. lxv,) for his Calvinistic brethren “the pure Independents," when all other resisters of Predestinarian ordinances were omi. nously compared to “the Egyptian striving with the Israelite, whom Moses smites down);"—or as MARSHALL has done, (p. lxxvi,) when describing “the horrible errors” of the times, he excepts

Speaking of the great benefit which Mr. Hickman or any of his Calvinist friends would confer on him, by producing such arguments against his theological tenets as would“ put him to a stand," John Goodwin says, would be the best benefactors unto me in the good things of this world, that I have met with these many years. Especially they would have been such unto me, had they befriended me in that kind heretofore, whilst and when I was more capable of the courtesies and benefactures of the world than now I am, expecting daily to remove into that climate where the sunshine of this world hath no warna. ing or cheering influence at all. For certain I am, that those (Arminian) tenets, from under the conscience whereof I might well have been delivered by the means specified, have divided between the world and me, and kept many of the good things thereof from me, by reason of their unsupportableness unto the greater part of men, and more especially unto the great men in the state of my sojourning, and to those who, by their consent, (yea, they love to have it so,) exercise dominion over their faith, under the importune claim of being orthodox, and sound in their judgments from the one end of them even unto the other, in matters appertaining unto God. I have neither any disposition within, por occasion without, to turn plaintiff against the world ; a man with a competency of wisdom may very well be content with my portion in it. For my good Goji hath fed me and mine, with food convenient, yea, and clothed and harboured us accordingly: And the truth is, that, for things greater than these, it is best receiving them at the Resurrection."GOODWIN's Banner of Justification displayed.

" They

"such as are to be found among Gon's PEOPLE, to whom He never hath given an equal light, and notwithstanding which errors, Himself bears with them, and would have his people bear one with another !On the contrary, Marshall points out in the same discourse, not the old silenced ministers, but a

new generation of men” who were then “risen up and spread all the points of Arminianism, Universal Redemption,” &c. as those whom the Lord had not given” the Parliament "liberty to forbear." When the Calvinists alone were thus numbered and treated as "God's people,” though according to their own eloquent descriptions they were surrounded with swarms of heretics and unbe. lievers, of their own or of the Parliament's formation, (pp. xlii, lvi,) we cannot wonder at the ignorant admiration of those " blessed days" which has been expressed by certain of the illinformed of their modern successors.*

_Some persons have said, • Mr. Orme, in his Life of Dr. Owen, gives the subjoined glowing account of that period : “ During the Commonwealth, no system of church-government can be considered, as having been properly, or fully established. The Presbyterians, if any, enjoyed this distinction. But the ministers who occupied the parish churches, were of very various sentiments. Many of them were secret. friends to the old Episcopacy and the liturgy. Many were for a reformed Episa copal government. Others thought no form of ecclesiastical polity of Divine right, or gave themselves no concern about the matter. Some were Independents, and a few were Baptists. Cromwell's policy encouraged this diversity, as he dreaded the ascendancy of any one party. If the ministers attended to their own duty, and did not interfere with his affairs, whatever their sentiments were on church government, it did not prevent the enjoyment of his favour. This state of things may be considered anarchy and confusion by many, but it may be ques. tioned, whether the great ends of the gospel ministry were ever more effectually accomplished in this country, than during this period. No sacrifice of conscience was demanded-no encroachments on religious liberty were practised—no bounds were prescribed to zealous exertion for the good of the souls of men. Every man sat under his vine and his fig-tree without fear. The word of the Lord had free course and was glorified.”

If, by " the great ends of the Gospel Ministry,” Mr. Orme means “the great ends" which Calvinism then had in view,--the attainment of political power and of ecclesiastical patronage, his assertion will be correct ; for never were those " ends more effectually accomplished in this

country, than during this period,” by one race of Predestinarians or another. But, if " the great ends? of converting sinners from the error of their ways, and of teaching them to lead holy and quiet lives, be those which he intends, the preceding copious extracts from the sermons of Calvinistic pastors will prove, that these good effects were not produced by the promulgation of their peculiar doctrines; and that the nation at large was, under their management, in a state of deeper moral wretchedness than in the days of the Bishops.

But the concluding sentences of Mr. Orme's remarkable paragraph are untrue, and could never have been written by any man minutely acquainted with the history of that æra. The assertions are untrue as they regard the conduct of the dominant Calvinistic sects towards each other ; for their mutual complaints and recriminations were concerning attempted “sacrifices of conscience" and " encroachments on religious liberty.” But they are most glaringly untrue with regard to Episcopalians and Arminians, who, after Cromweli had seized the reins of empire, constituted no inconsiderable portion of the people whom he ruled with a rod of iron. Were no “ demands” made to sacrifice conscience, when Epis.

" that if the ministers of the gospel attended to their own duty, “ and did not interfere with Cromwell's affairs, whatever might “ be their sentiments on church-government, they were not ex“cluded from the enjoyment of his favour.” Adopting this as an undoubted maxim, many amiable writers have been led to suppose, that as the Protector's persecuting ordinance of 1655 was particularly directed against the Episcopal Clergy, they were a race of divines, as seditious and pragmatical as those by whom they had been supplanted. The reverse of this will, however, be found to be correct; and when the great number of Episcopalians, who had been ejected from the ministry in 1643, are added to the hosts of young men, who, in the latter days of the Repub lic, were prevented from entering into Holy Orders on account of their Arminian principles, they present to the world the grand spectacle of a company of courageous yet humble sufferers, worthy

copalians were ejected from their livings, for their conscientious attachment to the Liturgy? What was the nature of the Calvinistic Covenant, which, in 1643, was appointed by Parliamentary Ordinance to be taken ? " It was the test of the “ faction. No man was allowed to practise the Law, no man admitted into the “ Ministry, that had not taken it; and it was imposed, under a penalty, upon “ the whole nation. Then, after the taking of it, it was made death for any “man to return to his allegiance [to his King] ; and all the deserters of the con.

spiracy, that were murdered under a form of justice, were put to death for “ Breach of Covenant !” Omitting all mention of the Engagement and other Republican Oaths, how can Mr. Orme venture to say, that “no sacrifice of conscience was demanded," when this solemn League and Covenant became an intolerable burden to his own denomination ? Were " no encroachments prac. tised on religious liberty," and did “ every man sit under his own vine and fig. tree without fear,” when a whole congregation of Episcopalian believers was interrupted and seized by armed soldiers, while in the solemn act of receiving the wiemo. rials of their Saviour's death ? (P. 451.) And can “ no bounds" be said to have been “ prescribed to zealous exertion for the good of the souls of men,” when, in the early days of the Inter-regnum, the Presbyterian discipline was established by Parliamentary ordinance throughout England, -and when in Cromwell's time the Independents, by means of the cognate Commissions of " Triers and Ejectors," opened and shut the door of preferment to other denominations ? 6. The word of the Lord had free course," indeed, and was often quoted for the encouragement of seditious and rebellious enterprizes before the Long Parliament itself' : But the vapid manner in which it was “ glorified” under their administration, the Puritans themselves have described in the preceding pages.

The following brief allusion to the liberty of Cromwell's æra is more correct than the description given by Mr. Orme. It was written by a man, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were actors in those turbulent scenes, and whose father was early initiated in the same principles. (See pages 812-815.) In his Calm Address, on the subject of the American War, the Rev. John WESLEY says : “Do not you observe, on the other hand, the perfect liberty which we enjoy ? Not, indeed, derived from our forefathers, as some writers idly talk. No; our forefathers never enjoyed it, either before or after William the Conqueror, and least of all in the time of the Long Parliament or under Oliver Cromwell. English Liberty commenced at the REVOLUTion. And how entire is it at this day! Every man says what he will, writes what he will, prints what he will. Every man worships God, (if he worships him at all,) as he is persuaded in his own mind."

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »