Page images
PDF
EPUB

pure gold which remained into a new form, matters of faith, in which concern they yielditted at once lo interest, and edify the pub- ed to none of their contemporaries, they inlic mind?

termingled a charity in which they have exIt is worthy of observation, that in all re- celled them all. And, in consequence of this forms, whether civil or religious, wise and radical and truly Christian liberality, a noble good men prove themselves to be such, by spirit of tolerance has ever been the characthis infallible criterion, that THEY NEVER teristic of genuine Church of England diALTER FOR THE SAKE OF ALTERING, but in vines : of those, I mean who have cordially

their zeal to introduce improvements, are agreed with the first reformers, and wished !, conscientiously careful to depart no further no deviation from their principles, either in

from established usages, than strict duty and doctrine or in worship ; 'desiring neither to indispensable necessity require.

add to, nor diminish, the comely order which Instead, therefore, of its being any stigma they had established in the public service; on our church service, that it was collected nor to be dogmatical where they had been from breviaries and missals, it adds substan- enlarged; nor relaxed where they had been tially to its value. The identity of true explicit : yet ready at all times to indulge Christian piety, in all ages, being bereby de the prejudices of their weaker brethren, and monstrated, in a way as satisfactory to the to grant to others that freedom of thought, of judgment, as it is interesting to the heart which, in their own case, they so fully un. In such a procedure, Christian liberty was derstood the value. Our first reformers were united with Christian sobriety; primitive men of eminent piety, and, happily for the piety with honest policy.- A whole commu- interests of genuine religion far less engaged nity was to be attached to the new mode of in controversy than the divines of the contiworship, and, therefore, it was expedient to nent Even those of tbeir own nation, who break their babits no more than 'Christian differed from them in lesser points, and with purity demanded. They only, however, who whom they did debate, were men of piety actually compare those of our prayers which also, and entirely agreed with them in docare selected from Romish formularies, with trines. Hence, the strain of preaching in the originals, cap form a just idea with wbat our Church of England divines, became less discriminative judgment the work was exe- polemical and more vious and practical, than cuted, and what rich improvements are often that of the clergy of other churches. To introduced into the English collects, so as to this end the book of Homilies was highly beighten the sentiment, yet, without at all conducive, being an excellent model which impairing the simplicity. Indeed, the wis served to give the example of useful and dom and moderation of the founders of our practical preaching. In this most important church were equally conspicuous in the particular, and in that of deep and concluwhole of their proceedings ; never strenuous sive reasoning, we mav assign the decided ly contending for any points, not even in that superiority to English divines, above all summary of Christian doctrines, which was those of the continent, though the latter may to be the established standard, but for such perhaps, in some instances, dispute with w affected the grand foundations of faith, them the palm of eloquence. hope and cbarity.

| From divines of the above character, bapHow honourable to our reformers, and to pily never wanting in any age, our national the glorious work in which they so success. establishment has ever derived its best fully laboured, that in the very first forma- strength at home, and its honour and credit tion of the English church, that care to dis- in foreign countries. These have

made the tinguish between essentials and non-essen. Anglican church looked up to by all the tials sold be so strictly exercised, which churches of the reformation. Their learnthe brightest philosophical luminary in his ing has been respected, their wisdom has own, or perhaps in any age, come vears after, been esteered, their liberality has been lov. so strongly recommended, and so beautifully ed and honoured, their piety has been reillustrated. "We see Moses," says lord Ba- vered, by all of every protestant communion con, when he saw the Israelite and the who were capable of discerning and improve Egyptian fight, he did not say, why strive re? ing excellence; nav, even in the Romish but drew his sword and slew the Egyptian. communion, they have sometimes excited a But when he saw two Israelites fight, he said, degree of estimation, which nothing could you are brethren, why strive you? If the have called forth but the most indisputable point of doctrine be an Egyptian, it must be superiority. slain by the sword of the spirit ; but if it be But, it is not only in the clerical order that an Israelite, though in the wrong, then, why

he kindly influences of the English establishstrive you? We see of the fundamental ment have been manifest ; they appear in points Christ penneth the league thus : he the brightest point of view, in those illustriTime is not against us is for us."* But of ous lagmen whose labours have contributed points not fundamental thus --he that is not not less to raise the British name, than the ag minst us is with us.

achievements, unexampled as they have To the eternal praise then of our reform been, of our armies or our navies. On ac. ers, as well as with the deepest gratitude to count of these men, we have been termed by God, be it said, that in their concern for foreigners, a nation of philosophers; and, for

the sake of their writings, English has be* Lord Bacon on the Advancement of Learning, come not so much a fashionable as, what is book second.

far more honourable, a kind of learned lan

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

quage in almost every country in Europe. One of our most able writers op bistory Yet, io no writers upon earth, has a sense of and civil society, * is perpetually inculcating religion been more evidently the very key. 'that no political coastitution, no laws, no stone of their excellence. This it is which provision made by former ages, can ever se gives thern that sobriety of mind, that intel. cure the actual enjoyment of political happilectual conscientiousness, that penetrating ness and liberty, if there be not a zeal among pursuit, not of subtlety, but of truth; that the living for the furtberance of these ob. decorous dignity of language, that cordiali y jects. Laws will be misconstrued and fall as well as sublimity of moral sentiment and into oblivion and ancient maxims will be suexpression, which have procured for them, perseded, if the attention of the existing gennot merely the suffrage of the understanding, jeration be not alive to the subject. but the tribute of the heart.

Surely it may be said, at least with equal And let it be attentively inquired, how they truth, that no excellence of our religious escame by this rare qualification ? how it hap tablishment, no orthodoxy in our articles, no, pened, that in them, so much more strikingly nor even that liturgy on whose excellencies than in the learned and philosophical of per- we have delighted to espatiale, can secure haps any other nation, increase of knowledge the maintenance of true religion, but in prodid not generate scepticism, nor the con- portion as the religious spirit is maintained sciousness of their mental strength inspire in our clergy; in proportion as it is diffused them with contempt for the religion of their among the people'; in proportion as it is encountry? Was it not, that that religion was couraged from the throne. so modified, as equally to endear itself to i he If such then be the value, and such the revivid sensibility of youth, the quick intelli sults of the English ecclesiastical establishgence of manhood, the matured reflection of ment, how high is the destiny of that personage and wisdom? That it did not, on the age whom the laws of England recognize as one hand, conceal the beauty and weaken its supreme head on earth? How important the sense of vital truth, by cumbrous and unis it, that the prince, charged with such un; necessary adjuncts ;—nor on the other hand, exampled trust, should feel its weizbt, should withhold from it that graceful drapery, with understand its grand peculiarities, and be out which, in almost all instances, the ima habitually impressed with his own unparal. gination, as it were, instinctively, refuses to leled responsibility to misemploy, in any perform its appropriate function of conveying instances, the prerogative which this trust truth to the heart !-And further, have not conveys, is to lessen the stability, and coun. the above invaluable effects been owing to teract the usefulness of the fairest and most this also, that the inherent spirit of christian beneficial of all the visible fabrics, erected tolerance, which has been described as dis in this lower world! But what an account tinguishing our communion from every other would that prince, or that minister have to national communion in the world, by allow- render, who should surtenarcally debase this ing to their minds every just claim, has ta- little less than divine institution, by delibeken the best possible method of preventing rately consulting, not how the Church of intellectual licentiousness? In fine, to what England may be kept high in public opin. other causes than those just stated, can we ion, influential on public morals, venerable ascribe it, that this country above all others, through the meek yet manly wisdom, the unhas been the seat of philosophy, unbounded affected yet unblemished purity, the enerin its researches, yet modest in its assump- getic yet liberal zeal of its clergy ;-but, lions, and temperate in its conclusions ? - how it may be made subservient to the trivof literary knowledge, not only patiently ial and temporary interests of the prevalent pursued, and profoundly explored, but wise party, and the passing hour? ly digested and usefully applied ?-Of reli Besides the distribution of dignities, and gion, in its most rational, most influential, the great indirect influence which this afmost christian shape and character ;--- not fords the prince, in the disposal of a vast body the dreary labour of superstition, not the wild of preferment; his wisdom and tenderness delirium of fanaticism, but the infallible guide of conscience will be manifested also in the of reason, the invincible guard of virtue, the appointment of the chancellor, whose church enjoyment of present peace, and the assur- patronage is immense. And in the discharge ance of future happiness?

of that most important trust, the appointment But, whatever providential causes have of the highest dignitaries, the monarch will hitherto contributed among us to restrain in- not forget, that his responsibility is proporfidelity and profaneness, have we no reason tionably the more awful, becanse the exerto fear that their operations are growing less cise of his power is less likely to be controuland less powerful?' And should we not bear ed, and his judgment to be thwarted, tban in mind, that it is not the form of our church may often happen in the case of his political establishment, incornparable as that is, which servants. can alone arrest the progress of danger, if Nor will it, it is presumed, be deemed im. there should arise any declension of zeal in pertinent to remark, that the just administra. supporting its best interests, if ever there tion of this peculiar power may be reasona: should be found any lack of knowledge for bly expected as much, we had almost said zeal to work with. The character also of even more, from a female, than from a mothe reigning prince will always have a pow-narch of the other sex. The bishops chosen erful effect either in retarding or accelerating the evil.

* Ferguson.

by those three judicious queens. Elizabeth, seems incumbent on such communities as | Mary, and Caroline, were generally remark- appear to have been thus signally favoured.

able for their piety and learning. And let What advantage, for instance, has the whole not the writer be suspected of flattering ei- civilized world derived from the philosophither the queen or the bishop by observing, zing turn of the ancient Greeks! How that among the wisdom and abilities which widely extensive, and how durable has been dow adorn the bench, a living prelate high its induence. in dignity, in talents, and in Christian vir of what importance are the benefits, tues, is said to have ownd bis situation to the which the politic spirit of the Roman empire discerning eye of his present majesty. diffused among the countries of Europe, most

What an ancient canon, cited by the judi- of which, to this day, acknowledge the hand cious Hooker, suggests to bishops on the sub- that reared them from barbarism, by still reject of preserment is equally applicable to taining those laws which that hand transcrikings. - It expressly forbiddeth them to be led bed for them, as if Rome were allowed to do by hramun affection in bestowing the things of that for men's circumstances, which Greece God.*

was permitted to effect for their minds !

But a third instance is encumbered with

less difficulty,—the designation of Judea to CHAP. XXXVIII.

be the local source of true religion. In this

small province of the Roman empire, what Superintendence of Providence manifested

a scene was transacted, and from those transin the local circumstances and in the civil actions, what a series of consequences have and religious history of England.

followed, and what a system of influences

has been derived, operating, and still to opeAmong the various subjects on which the rate on individuals-communities-nations, mind of the royal pupil should be exercised. in ways, and with effects, the happiest, or there is none more appropriate, than that most awful, as they are embraced or rejectwhich might, perhaps, be most fitly denomi- ed ; and leading to results, not to be calcumatei, the providential history of England lated even as to this world--but wholly inThat it has not bitherto engaged a!tention, conceivable, as to that future world where in any degree suitable to its importance, is all the deep purposes of God are to have much more an apology for its being, in the their perfect consummation. present instance, specially adverted to, than But, if such has been the method of Provi. reason for its being any longer neglected. dence in those great designs, which have

The marks of divine interference, in the beretofore been carried on in the world, can general arrangement of states and empires, we suppose that the same plan is not substanare rendered so luminous by the rays which tially pursued in his present arrangements ? Scripture prophecy has shed upon them, as Are not blessings still to be conferred on 80to strike every mind which is at once atten. ciety? Blessings, yet in general unknowa, tive and candid, with a force not to be resist- and greater measures of those which are aled. But, while this indisputable truth leads ready in part attained ?-How rare, for ex. us necessarily to infer, that a like superin ample, has been hitherto the blessing of comtendence to that which is over the whole, plete civil goveroment-of such a political acts likewise respecting all the separate system, as combines the apparent contrarie. parts; the actual tracing this superinten ties of public security with personal liberty ! dence, in the occurrences of particular na. An object aimed at by the wisest legislators tions, must

, in general, be a matter of diffi of earlier times, but regarded by thein as a culty and doubt, as that light of prophecy, beautiful theory, incapable of being realized ! which falls so brightly on the central dome Still more—How limited is the attainment of of the temple, cannot reasonably be hoped religious truth of well weighed, well-digestfor, when we turn into the lateral recesses. ed religious beliefand of well-conceived,

There are instances, however, in which well-regulated divine worship! Christianity God's providential works shine so clearly exists in the Scripture, like virgin gold in the * by their own radiant light,' as to demon- mine ; but how few, comparatively, bave strate the hand which fashioned, and the been able to extract it without loss, or to skill which arranged them. And though bring it into public circulation without deothers are of a more doubtful nature ; yet, plorable alloy! How erroneous, in most inwhen the attainments of any one particular stances, are those modes and exercises of it, nation become matter of general influence, which are adopted by states and governments; so that what was, at first, the fruit of mere- and how seldom does it seem rightly apprely local labour, or the effect of a peculiar hended. even by the most enlightened indiCombination of local circumstances, be- viduals! To suppose things will always recomes from its obvious utility or intrinsic ex- main in this state, is little short of an imputacellence an object to other surrounding tion on divine wisdom. But, in the mean conotries, and grows at length into an uni- time, how disastrous are the consequences versal benefit :-in such a distinction, we to individuals and to society ! can hardly forbear to trace something so If there be then a country, long and sig. like a consistent plan of operations that the pally distinguished in both these important duty of observing and acknowledging it, instances-in the former, so as to have been

the object of universal admiration ;-in the * The Ecrleriastical Polity

latter, so as to bave been looked up to hy all

[ocr errors]

the most enlightened parts of the christian France, as Holland, Swisserland, or the Ausworld. If there be such a country, can we trian Netherlands, we might perhaps have help regarding its superiority to other coun- been involved in the same calamities. But tries as the result of a providential destina- we cannot stop here. The entire series of tion, as clear as that which allotted pbiloso- our history, as a nation, seems in a great phy to ancient Greece, and civil polity to an- measure to have been derived from this cient Rome ? -- And may it not even be ad- source ; and every link in the chain of our ded, as really divine, though not miraculous, fortune bears some significant mark of our as that which gavė true religion to ancient local peculiarity. Without this, where would Judea.

have been our commercial opulence or our If England be this community, if England maritine power? If we had not been disbe the single nation upon earth, where that tinct as a country we had not been distinct checked and balanced government,--that as a people. We might have imbibed the temperament of monarchic, aristocratic, and taints, been moulded by the manners, and popular rule, which philosophic statesmren, immerged in the greatness of our more pow. in ancient times, adınired so much in theory, erful neighbours It was that goodness which has been actually realized-If it be also dis- made us an island, that laid the foundation of tinguished by a temperament in religious our national happiness. It was by placing concerns little less peculiar, is not every us in the midst of the waters that the Al. thinking member of such a community bound mighty prepared our coustry for those provto acknowledge with deepest gratitude, so idential uses to which it has served and is yet extraordinary a distinction ? And what em- to serve in the great scheme of his dispensaployment of thought can be more interesting, tions. Thus, then, we behold ourselves raisthan to trace the providential means by which ed as a nation above all the nations of the such unexampled benefits and blessings have earth by that very circumstance which made been conferred upon our country!

our country be regarded, two thousand years To enter at large into so vast a subject, ago, only as a receptacle for the refuse of the would be an impracticable attempt, on such Roman empire ! an occasion as the present. It would itself To this, evidently, it has been owing, that furnish materials for a volume rather than amongst us, the progress of society, from for a few pages ;* and to treat it with justice barbarianism to high improvement, has not would be a task, to which the best inforıned only been more regular, but more radical and and profoundest mind would alone be compe- entire, as to all the portions and circumstantent. A few scattered observations, there- ces of the body politic, than in any instance fore, are all that we can pretend to offer, not with which we are acquainted. Shut in however without hope, that they will excite from those desolating blasts of war which to a deeper and more extended investigation. have ever and anon been sweeping the conWe are told by St. Paul, that. be who made tinent, the culture of our moral soil has been of one blood áll nations, fixed not only the less impeded, and the seeds which have been time before a opointed (the epochs of their sown have yielded ampler, as well as maturrise and fall) but also the bounds of their bab- er harvests: We have had our vicissitudes itation. The result of this created arrange. but in a manner peculiar to ourselves. They ment, respecting the greater divisions of the seem clearly providential, and not fortuitous; earth, Europe, Asia, and Africa, separated, since it is certain that the agitations which yet connected by that inland ocean the Med- we have experienced, and the apparent caiterranean Sea, have been already noticed lamities which we have suffered have been, But, nothing has been more pregnant in in almost every instance, signally conducive consequences in this general plan than the to our advancement. When England be. insulated situation of Great Britain, with res. came possessed by the Saxons, she appeared pect to our national circumstances. If we only to be sharing the fate of other European are at this day free, while so many neigh- countries ; all of which, about that period, bouring nations are enslaved If we stand or soon after, became the prey of similar erect, wbile they are trampled on---let us not hordes of invaders. But a difference of reentirely attribute it to any superiority in sult, in our particular instance, arising chiefourselves, of spirit, of wisdom, or strength ; ly from our insular situation, after some but let us also humbly and gratefully ascribe time, presents itself to us, as already markit to that appointment of the Creator, which ing that happy destination with which Proy. divided us from the continent of Europe. idence intended to favour us. Had we been as accessible to the arms of It has been observed by historians, that when

an army of those northern invaders took pos* The train of thought pursued in this and the session of any country, they formed their esfollowing chapter, as well as some of the thoughts tablishment with a view of self-defence, themselves, both here, and in one or two former much more than to civil improvement. passages, may perhaps be recognised by the Ruv. They knew not how suddenly they might be and learned Doctor Miller, late fellow of Trinity attacked by some successful artny of advenCollege, Dublin, as a-kin to those views of provi- turers; and therefore says Dr. Robertsou, dential history, which he has given in a course of lectures in that college. The author gladly aca feudal kingdom reserables a military esknowledges having received, through a friend, a tablishment, rather than a civil institution. few valuable hints from this source, of which it is

« Such a policy,' adds the same historian, carnestly hoped the public may in due tine be put was well calculated for defence, against in full possession.

the assaults of any foreign power; but its

provisions for the interior order and tran- Is it not then remakable that, when such quility of society, was extremely defective ; a concurrence of favourable circumstances the principles of disorder and corruption be- existed in that very sequestered spot should ing disceroible in that constitution under its arise an individual, 50 precisely fitted to turn best and most perfect form. **

them to, what appears, their allotted purpose? To this . feudal system, however, the Had there not been an Alfred to accomplish dewly established poteptates of the continent the work, all these capabilities might soon seem to have been impelled by necessity; have vanished, and our national happiness but an inevitable consequence was, that that never have been realized. On the other taste for liberty, which had animated their hand, bad Alfred lived without bis approprifollowers io their native forests, could no ate sphere of action, he would no doubt lave longer be cherished, and was of course been a successful warrior, a gracious prince, doomed to extinction.

and clearly, as far as the state of men's In Britain alone such a necessity did not minds admitted, a friend to letters, and such exist. The possession of the country being rude arts as were then in use ; but he would once accomplished, its tenure was compara- not have been venerated, at the distance of tively secured by the surrounding ocean a thousand years as the founder of the best Defence was not to be neglected; but dan- scheme of laws, and the bappiest system of ger was not immioent. Thus po new habit government, that the world ever saw. Such was forced on the new settlers, so as to ex- a correspondence, then, of so distinguished pel their original propensities; and accor- an agent to so apt a sphere of action, and dingly whatever means of safety they might attended with results so permanent, so benehare resorted to against each other, during ficial, and so widely influential on human the maltiplicity of these governments, we society, was surely far above fortuitous coinsee at the distance of four centuries, Alfred, cidence. Was it not, on the contrary, an turning from successful warfare against in- adaptation so self-evident, as can only be as. vaders, to exercise that consummate wisdom, cribed to the special interference of overwith which bis mind was enriched, in syste- ruling Providence ? matizing those very aboriginal principles of It is true, that, by the Norman conquest, Saxon liberty. A civil polity was thus erect- the benefits derived from this wise and haped, which was not only in its day the most py establishment appeared for the time overperfect scheme of government that had yet whelmed by a threefold tyranny,-regal, existed, but it also was formed of such mate- feudal, and écclesiastical. But this, on an rials, and established on such a solid founda- attentive view, will appear no less to have tion, as never after to be wholly demolished; been over-ruled for good. To repress for until at length, it has been gradually wrought the purpose of excitement, and to employ into that magnificent fabric, which, through gross admixtures, in order to higher purifithe blessing of heaven, is at this day the glo cation, are procedures congruous with all ry and the defence of our island.

the laws of nature. In these rudiments, then, of the first En. In a constitution formed in so dark an age, glish constitution, let us gratefuliy recognize and adapted to so rude a people, there could the first most striking indication of a partic- be little more than the crude elements of nlar providence presiding over our country. such a political system, as more advanced A genius, the first of his age, is raised in a times would require. Yet had the enjoy. remote and insulated part of Europe, - ment of those earlier privileges remained where, at first view, it might be thought his undisturbed, nothing better might have been talents must be destitute of their proper aimed at ! and instead of that progressive sphere of action. But in what other Euro- advance, with which we have been blessed, pean country could bis enlarged views have our nation might, at this day, have only been been in any adequate degree realized ?- distinguished by a blind and stupid attachWhere the feudal government was establish- ment to some obsolete forms of liberty, from ed, such wise and liberal arrangements as which all substantial worth had long since those of Alfred were necessarily precluded ; departed. For the prevention of such an at least they could not have been introduced, evil, human foresight could make no proviswithout stripping such a government of its ion; and we may now look back with wonessential characters ; Alfred's system being der, on the wisdom, as well as efficacy, of às strictly civil, as the other was military. the process. The original plan was guarded He provided suficiently for external safety, by the same gracious hand, until the habits but it was internal security and tranquility induced by it were fixed in the minds of to which his exquisite policy was peculiarly Englishmen ;-tben it was suspended, that directed. And from its correspondence with they might struggle to regain it; and by the right reason, with the native spirit of the activity thus excited, and more and more people, and with the local circumstances of elicited by new competitions, they might at the country, it so rooted itself in the English length attain to the highest civil and politisoil, as to out-live all the storms of civil dis- cal happiness, which has been enjoyed in this cord, as well as the long winter of the Nor- imperfect state of being man tyranny.

But on a yet more enlarged view of our

national progress, shall we not be led to conRobertson's View of the State of Europe, pre- clode, that something more than the improvefixed to Charles V. Sect. 1.

ment of our political constitution was in the Vol. II.

16

« PreviousContinue »