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The colony of the Puritans was driven out of England, as the oppressed Hebrews were driven out of Egypt; and to this country they came, under just as sacred and holy an invisible guidance, as the Israelites of old to the land of Canaan. In the simple, striking language of the Bible, “ It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt; this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel, in their generations.” And so was the night of the departure of our pilgrim ancestors a night of the Lord ; it was to them a night of sorrow, both when they came, and when they landed; but it was that night of the Lord; and it brought a day of glory, such as the world had not seen for ages, and of which, God grant the light may never
Ay! call it holy ground
The spot where first they trod!
FREEDOM TO WORSHIP GOD!
We leave now this colony, growing, under God's protecting care, in numbers and in
pass to another scene, about twenty years afterwards, when the conflict for liberty on the one side and tyranny on the other, was raging between King Charles I. and the Parliament with Oliver Cromwell. :
The scene is in a church, and yet it looks like a camp,
for it is crowded with soldiers, as well as with a village congregation. It is not the Lord's day, but a public talking day for sectarian controversy; and you might think the confusion of Babel had been
there renewed from the strife of tongues and opinions to which you listen. . There are fierce Antinomians, and Free-willers, and Episcopalians, and Independents, and Anabaptists, and Presbyterians and Nonconformists; all animated with zeal and ready to contend for their peculiar opinions. T'he troopers of one regiment, and the soldiers of another, throw forth opinions and arguments with almost as much fury as they did musket balls in war. But in the midst of all this confusion, there stands in the reading pew under the pulpit, a plain man in a black dress, evidently a clergyman, with the Bible in his hand; a thin, pallid, but heavenly countenance, though indicating as great a sharpness in controversy as any of the soldiers in war; and he stands, and disputes, and discusses with the soldiers, without once quitting his post or relinquishing the contest, from morning till night. This is Richard Baxter, the holy, venerated author of the Saints' Rest. He served for a season as chaplain in the parliamentary army, and in justice to that army as well as to himself, I must describe in his own words something more of his position. “I was almost always,” says he, “ when opportunity offered, disputing with one or the other; sometimes upon civil government, and sometimes upon church order and government; sometimes upon infant baptism, often against Antinomianism and the contrary extreme. But their most frequent and vehement disputes were for liberty of conscience, as they called it; that is, that the civil government hath nothing to do to determine any thing in matters of religion by constraint or re
straint ; but that every man might not only hold, but preach and do, in matters of religion, what he pleased : that the civil magistrate hath nothing to do but with civil things, to keep the peace, protect the church's liberties, &c.”
This is certainly a most striking testimony as to the character of Oliver Cromwell's army. Their very relaxations and amusements were chosen, not in the tap-room or the tavern, not in revelling and drunkenness, but in serious, hard contested arguments with one another, and with the keenest disputant of the times, on some of the most important questions that can occupy the human mind. They were deeply interested, as no army ever was before, on the subject of religion; nor was it any wonder, that with such an army, Oliver Cromwell was invincible. Religious liberty was them; it was the grand heresy of the army; Richard Baxter pays the highest compliment to them, in saying that they contended more \vehemently for this than for any thing else. It was this precious possession and birthright of the Christian, which a persecuting religious hierarchy, in alliance with the despotism of the Stuarts, would have utterly destroyed.
A word seems necessary in regard to the multitude of sects existing in those days, and the causes and the nature of them. In the nature of the human mind there never can be a dead uniformity of opinion on any subjects; there cannot be on political subjects, and on religious matters, it was never intended by the great Head of the church that there should be. We may liken
religious opinion in the church of Christ to the growth of a tree; there are ten thousand varying twigs and branches, and of the buds and blossoms you can find no two exactly alike, and in a million leaves there are a million varieties of ontline, hue, veins, and fibres ; and the fruit itself is different in shape, color, fragrance and taste. And for all this, the tree is incomparably more beautiful and wholesome. while that tree is growing, you should, for one season only, cover it over with some great crushing weight; it would still grow; the life of nature is too vigorous, too indestructible, except you uproot it, to be kept from shooting ; but if you remove that weight in the Autumn, what will you find as the result of compressed vital energy? Distortions, excrescences, monstrosities ; knotted and contorted branches, uptwisted and inveterately convolved; leaves nested with worms, and overcurled, and grown in spasms and bunches; and fruit, if at all, hard and deformed, green, odious and bitter. Precisely such is the effect of violently crushing the growth of opinion ; sects, that would have spead into symmetrical varieties in twigs and foliage, with fair mellow fruit to suit all palates, are vermiculated, and pressed into inveterate deformities and perhaps poisonous monstrosities.
“They corrupt the discipline of Christ,” says Baxter, “ by mixing it with secular force. They reproach the keys, or ministerial power, as if it were a leaden sword, and not worth a straw, unless the magistrates' sword enforce it. What
then did the primitive church for three hundred
Worst of all, they corrupt the church, by forcing in the rabble of the unfit and unwilling; and thereby tempt many godly Christians to schisms and dangerous separations. Till magistrates keep the sword themselves, and learn to deny it to every angry clergyman who would do his own work with it, and leave them to their own weapons,—the word and spiritual keys,- the church will never have unity and peace. I disliked also," Baxter adds, “some of the Presbyterians, that were not tender enough to dissenting brethren; but too much against liberty, as others were too much for it; and thought by votes and numbers to do that which love and reason should have done." Ah, how much truth in this sad aphorism, as the habit of mankind; votes and numbers, instead of love and reason. church of Christ,” Baxter curiously remarks,“the sober, sound, religious part, are like Christ, that was crucified between two thieves. The profane and formal persecutors on the one hand, and the fanatic dividing sectaries on the other, have in all ages been grinding the spiritual seed, as the corn is ground between the millstones.”
And now, I must add to this the sensible remarks of the judicious and impartial biographer of Baxter, as to the period on which we have been dwelling. “It is worthy of observation,” says Mr. Orme, “that all attempts to produce uniformity have either been defeated or have occasioned fresh divisions. Under the appearance of outward unity, the greatest diversity of opinion generally prevails.
6. The poor