Images de page
PDF
ePub

come more prevalent than it once was, and they do not cover the whole of the ground embraced by Mr. Stoughton. Mr. Marsden's volumes are singularly candid and generous in their mode of treatment, and are creditable alike to his Christian spirit and to his learning ; but they are more limited in their range than those before us. Mr. Stoughton has been desirous not only to trace public movements, to describe the struggles between the contending parties, to show the mutual relations and influences of the civil and ecclesiastical affairs of the times, but also to make us familiar with the characters and lives of the more conspicuous-men, to trace the growth of different religious communities, and to give as far as is possible a faithful representation of the different manifestations of

religious life in the period of which he treats. There are not many who would have attempted such a work, and still fewer who could do it well; for it requires not only many of the higher qualities of the historian, but also the deep spiritual sympathies of the earnest Christian. Unfortunately, these are often found in association with strong sectarian predilections and prejudices, of which it is not easy for any man altogether to divest himself, and so it happens that the man who, in other respects, would be eminently fitted for such a task, is too strong a partizan to do it with that impartiality essential to success.

It is easy enough, in short, to find those who have a feeling of profound indifference to all the great questions involved, and treat all the religious differences of the contending parties as nothing more than quarrels as to the distinction between "tweedledum and tweedledee,” as it would be equally easy, on the other side, to find those who, in their strong atiachment to one class of opinions, would seek to represent the excellencies of the party by whom they were defended, and the errors of their opponents. To find a man of true spiritual insight, who has fought out for himself the self-same battles as those which he has to describe, whose impartiality is the result, not of insensibility, but of that large-heartedness which finds some point of contact and sympathy with various sects, who is firm without being bigotted, and liberal without tending to latitudinarianism, is a much more difficult thing. Mr. Stoughton answers to all these conditions. He sometimes seems to us lacking in the moral nerve which would enable him to form a clear, sharp, incisive judgment, and to express it in strong and decided language, but he is never deficient in the far rarer qualities of Christian candour and generosity. And if any are sometimes tempted to wish that he had been more forcible in his denunciations, they must not forget that there always have been, and probably always will be, men to do this work, while there are very few to undertake the kind of service Mr. Stoughton has done so efficiently. Strafford, Laud, and Charles will always have their censors, who will condemn-as they need, in the interests of humanity and freedom, to be condemned—their deeds of falsehood, treachery, and despotism. But we have not had before, nor are we likely soon to have again, any one who will depict with such exquisite beauty the character and lives of men occupying humble positions, but doing in the spirit of simple Christian faith and love, their noble work for God and

The strong partizan Herrick and the gentle, loving Herbert--the eccentric but excellent Newcome, the more grave and severe divines of his party, and Abraham Colfe, “the quiet parish presbyter (not priest), who was more given to works of mercy than controversial arguments," Bates with his “ Nestorlike eloquence, which fell in gentle flakes,” the calm and dignified Calamy, standing aloof from the conflicts of the day, and Love and Jenkyn, the stern opponents of the course taken by the triumphant Parliamentarians—the quaint Thomas Fuller and the devout and earnest Baxter--the learned Owen, Lightfoot, Usher, and others, and the humble mechanic Ewins, one of those born orators in whom genius makes up for the defects of culture—the advocates of priestly prerogative such as Cosin and Bramhall, and the somewhat wild and mystical opponent of all ministerial authority, George Fox-the Puritan Sibbes, and the devout Anglican Andrewes, all receive full justice at his hands.

Many men write under a secret tendency to discover that which is evil and defective in men. Mr. Stoughton cherishes a more large-hearted faith in goodness, and is ever on the watch for indications of its presence. He does not expect spiritual life to be moulded after one pattern, to reveal itself in the same forms, and to adopt the same language. His book, therefore, we may hope, will find an entrance into different religious communities, and have a happy influence in correcting some of those false and bigoted notions in which we are all of us too apt to indulge in relation to those from whom we differ. Far more important than any mere literary work, any contribution to a fuller knowledge of the ecclesiastical history of the period is this Catholic teaching. We are conducted to a great variety of scenes, to the stirring conflicts of Parliament and the soberdeliberations of the Presbytery meeting in Sion College, to the exciting debates of the Westminster Assembly, and the pleasant fellowship of Boothby, where Sanderson and Hammond carried on that “loving intercourse, which reminds us of the friendship of Basil and Gregory in far earlier times," to the halls of Oxford, where the Independent Vice-Chancellor well sustains the dignity of his office as well as its old reputation for learning, and to the quiet retirement of Bemerton, where Herbert leads his saintly life and sings his sweet songs of devotion and peace. Always we find ourselves in the hands of a wise, thoughtful, and genial guide, who has an eye for all that is beautiful, and a heart to love all who are good, and who contrives to while away the time by pleasant and characteristic stories, that give us a more thorough knowledge of the men and the times.

Quiet sketches of scenes that lie apart from the beaten track of the historian, suggestive pictures of a kind of life undreamed of by those who do not care to visit those hidden nooks and corners where in times of trouble men of simple aim and retiring temper find a resting-place, brief notices of little incidents and features which throw a flood of light upon points hitherto comparatively obscure, diversify the course of the narrative, and greatly increase its charm. The “hand of the diligent maketh rich," and Mr. Stoughton's careful search into the old archives has enabled him to exhume many buried and forgotten treasures. In many of his sketches of the political and parliamentary life he had been anticipated by Mr. Forster, whose services in this department can hardly be appraised at too high a value, but in the strictly ecclesiastical field he has broken up a great deal of new ground. The MS. collections to which he has had access have enabled him often, by means of two or three apparently slight references, to give his readers a conception of the general state of things which could not possibly be gathered from more formal documents reciting public proceedings. The relations of the different parties to each other, the extent to which coercion and persecution were carried, the influence exerted by Puritanism upon the life of the country, the differences between the religious life of the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries, are so vividly presented, that we gain a clearer conception of them than we have previously been able to realize. Among the most valuable and attractive chapters in the work are that depicting the moral and religious character of the people under Puritan rule, and that describing varieties of spiritual life as exhibited in the men, who are not strongly identified either with the AngloCatholic or Puritan parties, and “in whom there is the absence of either peculiarity or a blending of the two." In this class Mr. Stoughton reckons George Herbert, whom he contrasts with Thomas Fuller, pointing out how the different natures of two men, who, though sympathizing so strongly in ecclesiastical principles and general moderation and catholicity of view, were most diverse in temperament. “And if any one will take the trouble to compare the portraits of Herbert and Fuller, he must confess that Herbert's gravity would look as foolish in the face of Fuller, as Fuller's archness would be most unseemly if it could be forced on Herbert's sedate countenance.” In the same category Mr. Stoughton reckons Sir George Dalston, the poet Quarles, Lord Montague, and Sir Bevill Grenville, who, though stout cavaliers, had an amount of earnest piety too rarely found amongst men of their party. While portraying those of high and noble spirit, and doing equal justice to conscientious loyalty and to principle wherever found, Mr. Stoughton very quietly and incidentally indicates the existence of a class of men who loved ease and preferment better than the truth. The following paragraph shows how, in some parts of the country, at all events, the celebrated Vicar of Bray found numerous imitators :

"Some of the clergy in those times were very flexible. The district of Craven, in Yorkshire, is very remarkable for the examples of this description which it afforded. As in the sixteenth century, when the incumbents of that beautiful part of England gently bowed to all ecclesiastical changes, from the enactment of the Six Articles to the Act of Uniformity of Queen Elizabeth-so was it with their successors in the seventeenth century. Not a time is contributed from that quarter to the list of either Walker or Calamy. Surplice or Geneva cloak, Liturgy or Directory, Episcopacy or Presbyterianism, a King or a Commonwealth-all came alike to the accommodating Rectors and Vicars of that charming locality. Others of a similar temper were found amidst less beautiful scenery."

The story of Puritanism, which Mr. Stoughton here tells is in fact the story of the English Reformation. What the Huguenots were in France, what the Calvinists were in the Low Countries, the Puritans were in England—fighting the same battle, though under different conditions-upholding the same principles, and animated by the same desire for Christian liberty and simplicity of worship. The Evangelicals of to-day boast of the Protestant character of their Church, and complain of Ritualism because of its anti-Protestant tendencies, but history hardly bears out the idea that the Anglican Establishment was intended to be a Protestant community. Anti-papal in its constitution—thoroughly Anglican both, in polity and ritual—it was undoubtedly meant to be; but its sympathies were as little with strong Protestantism as with Romanism itself. We remember, indeed, an Evangelical orator-hardly seeing how his own argument would cut two ways-insisting upon the identity of the British Church, notwithstanding all the changes wrought in it by the Reformation, illustrating his point by a very obvious and homely statement, that a man whose face was washed still remained the same man. It would have been more to his point if he could have shown that a man could get a new head, and a new set of limbs, alter his whole language and style of expression, adopt a new name, and still retain his personal identity. A singular question might then be raised as to the changes which would destroy identity; but the attempt to insist upon its preservation by the English Church, notwithstanding the great alterations which were made in it, sounded strangely enough when coming from one who insists specially on the Protestant character of the Church. It is absurd to maintain that Anglicanism -- while renouncing the headship of Rome, separating itself from the fellowship of Catholic Christendom, and altering many of its dogmas and observances remained still the same system as before. But it is equally clear that it did not identify itself with the great Protestant movement of Europe. In the latter part of the reign of Edward VI., there were distinct and decided movements in that direction, the influence of the Continental Reformers was powerful in the counsels of the English Church; and had the young king lived, it is very possible that the whole character of the Establishment would have been modified. But neither the noble nor the people at large were prepared for such extensive changes; there had been comparatively little of that preliminary work necessary for the emancipation of a nation who had been so long bound by Popish superstition ; and therefore when Elizabeth ascended the throne, a good deal of the work which had been done by Edward VI. was reversed. The Anglicanism of the Stuarts was even more decidedly retrograde in its character than that of Elizabeth's time. Mr. Stoughton very well describes the differences under Elizabeth. AngloCatholics were Calvinists; before the Civil Wars they became Arminians. Preaching upon the controversy was forbidden; and Bishop Morley, on being asked what Arminians held, wittily replied, “The best bishoprics and deaneries in England." Ecclesiastical pretensions became more advanced; there was a continued series of encroachments by the High Commission upon the jurisdiction of the civil courts, awakened the jealousy of all true friends of liberty, and the full-blown AngloCatholicism of Laud had far more sympathy with Rome than with Geneva.

"Looking at changes in the doctrine and at progress in the policy of Anglo-Catholics, perhaps, on the whole, the persons intended by that denomination may be best described as distinguished by certain principles or sentiments, rather than by any organic scheme of dogma or polity. They formed a school of thought which bowed to the decisions of the past, craved Catholic unity, elevated the episcopal office, exalted Church authority, suspected individual opinion, gave prominence to social Christianity, delighted in ceremonial worship and symbolism, attached great importance to order and uni

« PrécédentContinuer »