« EdellinenJatka »
near the close, when in the darkest gloom, light, the morning light of Wickliffe, and the diffusion of the Scriptures among the people in their vernacular tongne, a wakens the first well-founded hope of better days.
Book fifth, coming down to the end of the reign of Richard third, nearly covers the fifteenth century, and shows the undiminished regard for prelacy and Rome on the part of the rulers; while that of the people becomes continually weaker. Deterioration in the moral and intellectual character of the clergy is here very apparent. The elevation and procession of the host, pilgrimages to the shrines of saints, to holy wells and other places of reputed sanctity, were now their chief recommendation, instead of furnishing instruction for the people.
Book sixth, covering 118 years, brings down the train of events to the close of the reign of Elizabeth, extending through the so called “Reformation in England." For many reasons this deserves thorough and extensive investigation. Nor is there any disposition apparent in this history, to shrink from a thorough sifting of authorities, and a reversal of former verdicts, where reliable facts de mand it. On this part of the work, great carefulness and thoronghness have manifestly been devoted, with generally the most satisfactory impartiality. The use made of the State papers of this period, and of many other collections of contemporaneous correspondence, gives strength and security to the positions here taken, and renders it morally certain they can never be successfully controverted. An over sensitive high churchman, though in name a republican and an American, may wince and look away at the undisguised features of monstrous wickedness, which he has been accusto:ned to venerate. But if any candid reader can go through the ample development of the reign of Henry VIII, contained in the first and second chapters of this book, and not blush to claim that as a religious reformation, which this royal adulterer begun, his partialities are certainly not to be envied. Right well do we understand the independence of true Protestant principles, and of the character and conduct of inen sometimes professing to adopt them. But Henry was in no comprehensive or allowable sense of the term a Protestant at all. The flagrant inconsistency of his bloody persecution of all other dissidents from Rome, except
himself, which led him to burn so many Lollards, Lutherans and Anabaptists at Smithfield, cannot but arrest attention. In 1535, twenty-six worthy Hollanders, accused of Anabaptistry and denial of transubstantiation, were condemned and executed by this infamous monarch. Three or four years later he personally presided as grand inquisitor, and condemned to death an amiable and inoffensive schoolmaster named Lambert, or Nicolson, for the denial of the real presence in the eucharist. When Romanists contend against Protestantism as identified with Henry, they perform a very gratuitous and suicidal act. He was as sturdy an advocate for the early and late abominations of the papacy as themselves.
The mere accident of his setting himself up as pope, instead of the triple-crowned functionary at the eternal city, is nothing very remarkable any way. The advocates of that system have to reconcile other collisions as to the person of the true successor of St. Peter, at different periods of their history, quite as difficult as this. They are but setting up a man of straw, one of their own, too, when they undertake to oppose Protestantism in the person of Henry. It would be about as consistent for them to oppose Hildebrand himself as a Protestant, because he contested the rights of a competing pope. The folly of any Protestants who consent to range themselves for the contest with the man of sin, under such a banner, is most egregious. The truth will eventually make itself known and respected, that neither Henry nor his daughter Elizabeth had any true Protestant blood in their veins; though their personal convenience and state policy did sometimes lead them, like other thorough Romanists and Jesuits, to dissimulate. Nor is this view of his character, so far as religion is concerned, inharmonious in any degree with his general principles and practice. Witness his perfidy in every one of his six marriage contracts. The cool effrontery with which, after having robbed, for his own purpose and benefit, the religious houses of iheir endowment, he came into his parliament and asked them to compensate him for that reforming process of spoliation! The half vandal spirit in which he doomed to destruction extensive libraries and valuable manuscripts which had been accumulated in the abbeys which he overthrew, and the general deterioration of learning consequent on his VOL. XIII. -NO. XLIX.
high handed, selfish and iniquitous proceedings, need but be adverted to, as corroboration of the view above stated.
Book seventh, covering the first sixty years of the seventeenth century, and embracing the period of the Commonwealth, is in another, and far more pleasant sense, interesting; as indicating some real progress in religious reform, and the diffusion of true scriptural Christianity among the people. Ample breadth is given to the development both of the civil and religious transactions of this period, with commendable fidelity to truth, rather than to prejudice and bigotry. Neither kingcraft nor priestcraft is handled so gingerly as some of their loving partisans may desire ; but thanks to a returning sense of right, which this generation has seen beginning to assume its proper ascendency; we do here get gleams of truth and facts multiplied and incontrovertible, instead of the stupid slime of perversion and error, so long and lavishly dealt out by the whimpering sympathizers with royalty and prelacy.
Book eighth, which covers only twenty-eight years, from the restoration of Charles second, to the revolution of 1688,-is made memorable and important by that adjustment of the religious parties and sects of that day into somewhat more of fixedness and form, which most of them have preserved to the present time. The chapter on the history of religion in this period begins with an interesting illustration, from comparison, of the principles of religious stringency or freedom, as indicated by the forms of civil government. This last is described under four forms, called, respectively, Absolutism, Constitutionalism, Republicanism, and Democratism. The same development is found in religion ; and they have their respective representatives in Papacy, Protestant National Churchism, Independency and Fanaticism. We should love to give an extract here, defining, explaining and expatiating upon this general subdivision and classification. Our limits will not however allow of it, and it cannot be condensed into admissible extent without essentially marring it. We pass it by reluctantly, with the single remark, that had the writer as far conjoined the second and third of these divisions into constitutional republicanism-as, from his excusable preferences for the British .constitution, he has endeavored to combine the first and
second, he would have more accurately indicated the true resemblance of independency, or, as in this country it is usually called, Congregationalism. It is a constitutional republicanism, -the Bible, and especially the New Testament, which embodies the laws of the present dispensation, holding the place of constitution; and under ihat, the majority of each church, -as in well regulated republics,-ordering all things for the common good. Cordially do we commend the whole of this discussion, filling several pages, to the student's careful consideration.
Religious liberty, with Roger Williams and Rhode Island as its first embodied illustration, comes into this chapter for the honorable notice which it so richly merits. It is not a little mortifying, however, to notice that the rule of “following the nearest contemporary historical authority” has led the compiler, in this instance, to quote and rely on the authority of Dr. Morse's Geography, of 1789, in a high degree derogatory to the result of the experiment of religions freedom in that little State. Could ihe writer of this chapter have fully understood, however, the true state of the case, and made adequate allowance for the bigotry and sectarian prejudice, which in this and other instances marred the truthfulness of Dr. Morse's statements, he would not, we are sure, have given the currency of his quotation to the now happily obsolete vituperation, which was far too common with reverend Pedobaptist doctors, when speaking of Baptists or their institutions, sixty years since. Fortunately the little colony of the banished victim of Massachusetts intolerance has lived down the obloquy which the apologizers of those naughty acts long sought to heap upon her.
Book ninth and last, extending to the beginning of the reign of George third, and which fills the whole of Vol. IV, of this history, contains much which we would like to notice, but we must not trespass farther at present. We cannot but cherish the hope that the continuance of the work, on the plan here so successfully prosecuted, may be speedily secured, at least through the long reign of the next monarch. What mighty events would there be embraced! Our own revolution, the founding of a mighty empire in India, the rise, the wide dominion and fall of Napoleon, linked to English history in so many interest
ing ways, throughout its whole extent, are among the astounding events of a single reign. Ere long, too, as we cannot but hope, that relic of corruption, the union of church and state in England, which now seems tottering, will be reformed out of existence, along with its somewhat kindred abominations, a rotten borough representation in parliament; for if not thus speedily removed, ominous indications abound that its preposterous and arrogant assumptions and illiberality will not be endured. Already the dissenters from this too richly endowed national church, fully equal its adherents; and will such mockery of justice and equal rights be tamely endured by a people, who, knowing their rights, can readily find means to secure them ?
We cannot be mistaken in the estimate which we have expressed of both these works, as admirably adapted to make wiser and better all who peruse them in a candid and liberal spirit. The American publishers of the Pictorial History have laid our countrymen under lasting obligation for the economical and inviting form in which this great work has been brought out. At an expense so small is it afforded, compared with the extent of matter and embellishment here furnished, that we shall be greatly surprised is the intelligent families in all parts of our country do not possess themselves of an early copy, and secure its manifold advantages. Sure we are, it must become and long remain both the standard and the treasure-house of English history.
R. B.: N. B., Jan., 1848.