صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the unwise vituperation of their tutors against the Puritans; then, not only Hume, Clarendon, King Charles, but even the venerable, though not faultless, Church of England, stand fair to be for ever lessened in their eyes: while the dissenting interest naturally obtains especial favour. And it may even happen that they become no way disinclined to the walks of radical reform, having been previously misled so far as to regard Mr. Hampden, as the demagogue of his time.

Although in the present period, and for the lapse of generations, civil liberty has been the supreme object of the desires or the apprehensions of the inhabitants of Great Britain; yet it is extremely remarkable that in the fore part of the seventeenth century, and in the reigns previous to that of Charles I., the aspirations of the wise and patriotic were not so particularly directed to civil, as to religious freedom. The former seems to have then held but a minor place in the regards of men, while the aim at freedom of conscience in ecclesiastical affairs, was the spring of all the movements of those militant ages. But religious liberty, the elder brother, opened the way to the younger; and after a time they seemed to march side by side. From this circumstance, however, it is demonstrable, that no student of British constitutional history can expect to arrive at perfection in his object, without deep and accurate knowledge of the ecclesiastical, as well as civil concerns of the nation. Here lie

the springs of action, and without an acquaintance with these, the history of our realm will appear a mass of effects without adequate causes ; the agents will appear to want motives, or be impelled by such as are altogether disproportioned to the results produced. Thus does British history shew in the hands of Hume, whose antipathy to religion would not permit him to do more than take a loathing glance at the ecclesiastical concerns of the empire and accordingly his work, however beautifully written, is full of inconsistency and causal defect, on the most important branches of the progress of our system of Government. In this point he can scarcely be esteemed a philosophical historian. He does not proceed from an induction of facts to elucidate general principles of government and action. If his error were not unhappily in England nearly universal, it might be amusing to see how summarily this writer disposes of the question of the generation of the great principle of religious toleration. "It is remarkable," he says, "that so reasonable a doctrine owed its origin, not to reasoning, but to the height of extravagance and fanaticism." If Mr. Hume had proceeded upon Baconian practice, he would have suspected his own preconceived judgment in this matter, and perceiving excellent and extensive results, would have patiently investigated the source whence they flowed, and sacrificed his former conceptions at the shrine of truth. Or if he had been actuat

A *

ed by the most ordinary zeal to instruct his readers in the realities of his subject, he would have thought it no lost time to expend some candid and neutral consideration on a cardinal point in our history: which must indeed be considered as the germ of much of the civil and religious liberty of England, completed at the Revolution in 1688; as well as of that of our former American colonies and thence, as the source of this transcendent possession in several of the kingdoms of modern Europe, in South America, and other parts of the habitable globe. If the principle of toleration had not emanated among religious professors, its first promulgators would long ago have been canonized by the world, and covered with glory. But it is deemed impossible that any pure stream can be derived from such a fountain. And if facts are appealed to, which appear in truth to be irrefragable, the series of noble consequences that have flowed is attributed perhaps to chance; or to some occult source that really cannot be detected.

No character in British history has been so mercilessly dealt with as that of Oliver Cromwell. And not only has he suffered unjustly from the hands of the profane, but also from men of whose piety there can be no reasonable doubt. This charge may seem questionable. Can men of genuine piety be guilty of dishonesty like this? But any candid enquirer versed in the history of religious controversy, will be assured, that the mea

sure of an adversary's character is not to be taken from the guage even of a pious opponent. It is wonderful to contemplate the hard words that have passed between the most godly men when they differed in opinion. And this is more observable, when the parties, pushing their differences to an extreme, persist in believing, or affecting to believe, that they have the especial sanction of Scripture on their own side. In most ecclesiastical disputes therefore, when an appeal has been made to Scripture, the wrathful passions have been incurably excited; because although many excellent minds can bear to be adjudged as mistaken reasoners in human affairs; yet it requires a sanctity of temper rarely to be met with, to bear meekly the imputation of favouring opinions contrary to divine revelation: for in affirming such a position against a man, deliberate sin toward heaven, and not mere human mistake is charged. Having this in view, and the remains of corruption in the best of men, we shall not be startled to find bitter libels indulged in by one religious character against another; or that differences on points of Calvinism and Arminianism, Episcopacy, Presbytery and Independency, give rise to the falsest views and expressions regarding others, even among men of whom the best hopes may be entertained of their individual spiritual state. But as Cromwell successively withstood the pretences of various sects, so has he successively stood the brunt of their

misrepresentation. And it has not been a flying shot from one particular quarter, or at one particular period with which he has been assailed; but a tremendous storm from circling and surrounding batteries, re-echoed and rebellowed through the rolling progress of centuries.

For a long time it was the mode to place on Cromwell's shoulders, the censure of all the misery of that period which some writers affect to call the great rebellion. He has been represented as setting early snares for the subversion of monarchy, without motive bat his own personal aggrandizement: of effecting this purpose by consummate hypocrisy; of cheating all parties, raising himself selfishly to the throne, and ending a reign of oppression and terror, with a fanatical and irreligious death. The reverse of all which is demonstrable. For to a neutral and candid person it may be incontestibly shewn, that disinterested patriotism in the most moderate degree required decisive hostility to the King's measures; that Cromwell as well as others acted from honest principle in this respect, and had but too cogent reasons to rouse them; that he fairly proceeded from one step of power to another, by the natural progress of events, without being liable to the imputation of remarkable and criminal ambition; that the chief magistracy of Great Britain was entailed on him by motives of self preservation, by the regard which is

« السابقةمتابعة »