Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

who were, on the whole, well disposed. In order to escape the reproach of Puritanism, many of the clergy sacrificed to Bacchus more than to Minerva, and led the laity to a similar mode of life. Not to incur the reproach of excessive love of peace, some preached at Court, that the King, as Christ's representative, could command what he pleased; and if the people refused to pay him taxes, or enquired into the expenditure, this was presumptuous curiosity, which sought to pry into the sacred ark of the State, and merited the severest condemnation.” Instead of allaying by mildness the violence of opposition, Laud summoned the most distinguished people before him, and inflicted punishment if they had in any manner transgressed the laws of Church discipline. He attempted to support morals by means which included an undue tyranny, and were worse than the evils which they were intended to combat; the extent of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was daily enlarged, all innovations opposed, (though Laud himself innovated,) the censorship of books made more severe, dissenters removed from their posts, and even laymen refused permission to leave their country, and live according to their religious persuasion elsewhere, till they produced an ecclesiastical certificate of their entire agreement with the laws and customs of the church. By this foolish

tyranny, Haslerigg, Hampden, Pym, and Cromwell,

who were on the point of sailing for America, were detained in England; an event, apparently insignificant, and yet productive of the most important consequences. As always happens in these cases, intolerance and resistance increased together; nay, the attacks on the episcopal church soon exceeded all bounds of moderation and decorum; for instance, in the writings of Leighton, Bastwick, Burton, and Prynne. They called the Archbishop an arch officer of the devil, the Bishops, satanical lords, abominable traitors, ravening wolves, unjust assertors of the royal rights, contemners of the Holy Scriptures, promoters of superstition, popery, and impiety, servants of the devil, &c. In Prynne's Histriomastix, we read: “our English shorn and frizzled madams have lost all shame, so many steps in the dance, so many steps towards hell; dancing is the chief honour, plays the chief pleasure of the devil. Within two years, 40,000 plays have been sold, better printed and more sought after than Bibles and Sermons. Those who attend the playhouse are no better than devils incarnate; at least like those who hunt, play at cards, wear wigs, visit fairs, &c., they are in the high road to damnation. And yet their number is so great that it is proposed to huild a sixth chapel to the devil in London; whereas in Rome, in the time of Nero, there were only three; church music is nothing else than the lowing of stupid beasts. The choristers bellow out the tenor as if they were oxen, bark the counter-point like a pack of hounds, groan out their shakes like bulls, and grunt the bass like a herd of swine.” These, and similar expressions, gave the greatest offence, because it was supposed that Prynne meant to compare the King with Nero, and to insult the Queen, who was fond of balls and masquerades. These ultra Puritans, it was affirmed, demand a new church; new laws, new amusements, a new King, and endeavour to excite discontent in the people. Prynne said in his defence, “That he intended only to attack abuses, and express his conviction, but by no means to offend individuals, and least of all the King and Queen, or to compare his Majesty's government with that of Nero. On the 30th of June, 1637, the court sentenced him, Bastwick and Burton, to pay together a fine of 15,000l., to lose their ears, to stand in the pillory, to be branded on both cheeks, and imprisoned for an indefinite period.(*) In the execution of the sentence, deliberate cruelty was employed; they were put into the pillory at noon, that their faces might be exposed to the burning heat of the sun; with Prynne's ear, part of the cheek was cut off;(*) their friends were forbidden to visit them in prison, they were allowed neither books nor writing materials, and even those were punished who had hospitably received them. In like manner, Wharton and Lilburn were punished, put in the pillory, whipped and mutilated. All suffered with the greatest composure, called to mind the sufferings of Christ, and spoke with such energy of enthusiasm and conviction, that they excited compassion in all; and in many the persuasion, that it was only for truth and right, that they could suffer with such courage. No church could then have quietly borne attacks of such a kind, and they entirely bear the character of an age which believes no improvement possible in a mild and conciliatory manner. But, on the other hand, the party attacked behaved still more passionately, did not even act upon positive laws in the infliction of punishment, and excited a universal fear that this ecclesiastical tyranny would be gradually more and more extended. Laud, on the other hand, rejoiced at his victory, and was convinced that he was proceeding in the proper course, and doing what was right; nay, even men like Clarendon, who himself was sensible of the faults of the court, affirmed, that all that was blamed appeared only as isolated and subordinate; and that, upon the whole, there was at that time more happiness, prosperity, and reasons for satisfaction, than at any former period. The few evils, therefore, had been improperly dwelt upon and magnified, or indefinite hopes and wishes indulged, which always leads to destruction. It would have been much better to acknowledge the care with which the King endeavoured by laws and regulations to produce salutary effects. But these very laws and regulations prove that a false expectation was entertained of making real improvements by the interference of government in petty matters. Taxes on wine and other articles, regulations for the weight of waggons, the packing of butter, the number of hackney-coaches, and numberless other things,(*) could not excite any general interest in themselves, and least of all divert, (as it was wished they should,) the attention of the people, from the concerns of the State and the Church. But it is neither unnatural nor indiscriminately blameable, that it is not till times of prosperity and happiness that men chiefly direct their attention to these objects, and that wishes and hopes become more decided. So long as the daily necessities of life absorb all energy and thought, or weakness and fear render it impossible to oppose the deficiencies of social life, a negative tranquillity and satisfaction prevail, which the timid or tyrannical consider as the indication and essence of perfect health, and prefer, as a model, to the mania of revolutionary times. But this deplorable state of things is most frequently produced when, instead of duly promoting political, spiritual, and intellectual improvement, morbid indifference and

« EdellinenJatka »