« PreviousContinue »
design of Providence, when the Norman injured the political interests of our island. dynasty became possessed of the throne ? But that it should, just at that time, he A far more important reformation, than that brought into such circumstances, as should of human laws, or political systems, was at ensure its participation in all the mental aclength to take place. And in this great ec- quirements, of the neighbouring countries, clesiastical revolution, England was intend- appears evidently to bespeak the same boed to act a conspicuous part. For this, even perintendence, as in the instances already these preparatory steps would be necessary. noticed. And may we not clearly trace such steps It is, however, in the great event of the from the epoch of which we are speaking ? English reformation, that we perceive, as 'The encroachments of the papal see bad, till has been already observed,* the most stri. then, been comparatively little felt in Eng. king marks of divine direction ; and it seems Jand. But the Norman princes introduced to discover to us, why it has pleased God to foreiga bishops, who exercised in the church distinguish us by so many previous instances as galling a dominion, as that of their royal of favour. We were not only to be blessed patrons in the state. The consciences of with the light of truth ourselves, but we men,' says Sir William Blackstone, were were to be in some sort, “a city set upon a cnslaved by sour ecclesiastics, devoted to a hill.?. The peculiar temperament of the foreign power and unconnected with the English protestant establishment, wbich placivil state under which they lived ; who now ces it in a kind of middle line between the imported from Rome, for the first time, the churches of the continent, has been also nowhole farrago of superstitious novelties, ticed in a former chapter. But is it not eviwhich had been engendered by the blindness dent, that our national church, bumanly and corruption of the times, between the speaking derived that temperament.from a tirst mission of Augustine the monk, and the previously formed national character? “The Norman conquest.'*
English,' says Voltaire, into whom nature Had these pernicious practices been grad has infused a spirit of independence, adoptually and insensibly introduced, as they were ed the opinions of the reformers, but mitigain most countries on the continent, they ted them, and composed from them a religion would have been inevitably combined with peculiar to themselves.'+ Jt is seldom that, the common habits of the people. But being on such a subject, this acute but most per: thus suddenly and forcibly imposed, in con- verted pen bas so justly described the fact. junction too with such a mass of political But, what a striking testimony is this, not grievances, their almost necessary tendency only to the worth of that national character, was to excite a spirit of resistance. We ac- which thus distinguished itself from the whole cordingly find, that in every advance which Christian world, but also to the depth of that was made towards regaining a free govern- Divine wisdom, which made so many remote ineat, a conquest was gained over some in- and unconnected contingences work togethstances of ecclesiastical as well as of politi- er in producing so valuable a result! cal tyranny; tban which, what more effec In establishing a religion, which is foundtual course could the most sagacious fore- ed on truth, and which consists essentially in sight have pursued, for rousing the national the love of God and man, what more suitamind from the dead drowsiness of supersti- ble dispositions could there be provided, than tion, and preparing it to give a cordial recep an independent spirit and a mitigating lemtion to that light of religious truth, which, per? That both these were eminendly exwhen the proper season should arrive, was to emplified by our venerable reformers, 'neel beam forth with peculiar brightness on this not here be proved. Nor is it necessary to favoured country?
enlarge upon the obvious tendency of the But it is not only in its encroachments and English laws and constitution, to form such severities that we are to regard the Norman dispositions in those who lived within their goveroment as an instrurnent of Providence. influence. If this tendency were doubtful, It, doubtless, was the means of much direct a striking fact in aftertimes might serve to and positive good. The minds of English- illustrate it. I mean, that steady zeal with men needed improvement, still more than which all the great constitutional lawyers, their civil constitution. Alfred had attemp- during the agitations of the seventeenth cen. ted to sow the seeds of learning, as well as tury, endeavoured to preserve to the Engof jurisprudence, amongst his countrymen ; | lish church establishment that very temperbut to inspire a barbarous people with a love ament, which had so bappily entered into its of literature, was what neither he nor his first formation. Nor can we pass over the master, Charlemagne, was able in any great care which was taken, in the very occur. degree to accomplish. An advance of gen- rences of the reformation, for adapting it to eral civilization was necessary to strike out the independent spirit of the English, and such a disposition ; and it was not until to- also for perpetuating, in the establishment itward the beginning of the 12th century, that self, that mild and mitigating temper whicla any part of Western Europe appeared to had influenced its first founders. have been visited with the dawn of an intel. It was indispensable that the change io the lectual day. A connexion, therefore, with church establishment should be accomplisheri the continent previously to that period, could by the paramount powers of the state ; they not have served the moral, and might have
*Chap. xxxv. * Blackstone's Commentaries, rol, iv. last chan. $ Siecle de Louis XIV. chap. xxxii.
alone being either legally, or naturally com- may ascribe to divine Providence the perpetent. But no act of a king or council, or mission of evil, in order to greater good, eren of a parliament, was adequate to effect without sanctioning any maxim, revolting in in the minds of the English public, that ra. theory, or dangerous in practice. tional and cordial acquiescence in the new state of things, without which it must bave been inefficient, as to influence, and insecure
CHAP. XXXIX. as to duration.
But for this, Providence itself made ad- The same subject continued. Tolerant spirit mirable provision. The pious and amiable of the church. Circumstances which led Edward was kept upon the throne, until all to the revolution-And to the providential that was necessary to be done, in an exter succession of the house of Hanover, nal and political way had been effected. The circumstances attending the reformaThen, for a time, the old system was permit- tion, which has been most regretted, was, ted to return, with all its horrible accompan- that a portion of the protestants were dissatiments, in order, as it should seem, that the isfied with it, as not coming up to the extent protestant church of England might not rest of their ideas; and that this laid the foundaupon buman laws alone, but might appear to tion of a system of dissent, which broke the bave originated in the same essential princi- uniformity of public worship, and led, at ples with those of the apostolic church, and length, to a temporary overthrow, both of to have been constituted by men of a like the ecclesiastical and civil constitution. spirit, who, when called to it, were similarly On these events, as human transactions. prepared to seal their testimony with their our subject does not lead us to enlarge. If blood.
the above remarks, with those in a foregoing The service that these illustrious men had chapter, on the peculiar characters of the done, by their temperate wisdom, and admi- English establishment be just, these persons, rable judgment, in the reign of Edward, in however conscientious, were opposing, withcompiling such a liturgy, and establishing out being aware of it, an institution which, such a worship, and such a form of doctrine, from its excellent tendency and effects, is ever to be beld in grateful remembrance. seems to have been sanctioned by ProviBut their passive virtue, their primitive he- dence. But may not even their opposition, roism, in patiently, and even joyfully dying and subsequent dissent, be considered in the for those truths which they had conscien- same light as those other transactions, which tionsly adopted ; this it was which establish- bave been mentioned ; that is, as permitted ed protestantism in the hearts of the English by the all-wise Disposer, in order to benefipopulace! They saw the infernal cruelty of cial results, which could not in the nature of the popish leaders, and the calm magnanim- things, according to our conception, have ity of the protestant martyrs. They saw been equally produced through any other intbese holy men, whose connexion with secu- strumentality? For example : did it not lar politics might be thought to have cor- supply the aptest means, which we can conrupted them, and whose high station in soci- ceive, for answering the important purpose, ety might be supposed to have enervated which was mentioned above--the perpetua. them, facing death in its most dreadful form, ting in the establishment itself, that mild and with more than human tranquillity! They miligating temper, which had so signally insaw all this, and the impression made upon fluencell its first foundlers. them was like that which was made on the If Christian virtue be, in every instance, Israelites at Mount Carmel, by the event of the result, and the reward, of conflict; anil the memorable contest between the priests of each virtue be formed, as it were, out of Baal, and the prophets of the Lord. Ac- of the ruins of the opposite vice; then may cordingly, on the death of Mary, the acces- we not deem it morally certain, that a Chris, sion of Elizabeth excited universal joy.-- tian community, which ‘God delighted to The acquiescence of the people in the chan- honour,' should, as well as individuals, lare ges made by Henry, and even by Edward, an opportunity suitable to its circumstances, were little more than acts of .necessity, and of not being overcome of evil.' but of overtherefore implied no revolution in the gen- coming evil with good?' And would it not, eral opinion But now it was evinced, by therefore, appear probable that, though it every possible proof, that a thorough detesta- should possess thai political strength, and tion of popery had extended itself through that portion of outward dignity, which might the whole community. •Were we to adopt,' be necessary to its efficiency as a national says Goldsmith, the maxim of the catho- establishment, it should also have some oplics, that evil may be done for the produc position to encounter, some trials to sustain, Lion of good, one migbt say, that the perse some calumnies to surmount, some injuries cutions in Mary's reign were permitted only to forgive? Would not such circumstances to bring the kingdom over to the protestant strengthen its claim to being deemed an inreligioa. The people had formerly been tegral part of the church militant? and wonle compelled to embrace it, and their fears in- they not fit it for answering all the purposes duced them to conform, but now almost the of a Christian establishment, far better than whole nation were protestants from inclina- if it had possessed that exclusive ascendency, tion.' Nothing can surely be more just than which should leave no room for the exercise the substance of this sentiment The lively of passive, and almost supersede the necessity writer seems only to have forgotten that we even of active virule?
That the schism, of which we speak, was be accomplished in a state of religious liberty, permitted by Providence, for some such pur- In too many other Christian couotries, the pose as that just described, appears probable, establisbed religion has appeared to rest enfrom the agreement of such an intention tirely upon a political foundation. lo conwith that wise and temperate plan by which sequence of this, men of lively talents have. the reformation had been effected; from the too generally, in such countries, become inobvious consistency of providing for the con- fidels In England, the tolerant nature of tinuance of that moderate and mitigating the church establishinent, in honourably. temper of the first reformers; and, above all, inaintaining, and giving the highest reverbecause it is evident that the event in ques- ence to a national form of worship, but altion has actually answered this valuable pur- lowing individuals their unrestrained choice, pose; the most eminent divines of our church has left religion itself to be a matter of reahaving been generally as much distinguished son and conviction, as really as it was in the for candour towards those who differed from primitive times: and the consequence has them, as for ability and firmness in maintain been, that reason and conviction have sig. ing their own more enlarged mode of con- nally done their part. Infidels have made duct.
their utmost efforts; with every aid that perThat they could not have so fully mani- verted talent and misapplied learning could fested these amiable and truly Christian give them; but all they could accomplish, qualities, in a state of things where there was has been to call forth far more powerful nothing to call them forth, is self-evident; minds to defeat them with their own wea-' and it is almost as certain, that even their pons: and to demonstrate, that though the possession of such virtues must depend upon divine religion of the Gospel leans on polititheir having had motives to exercise thein. cal support, for the sake of greater public We accordingly perceive, in the lives and utility, yet its appropriate strength is that of writings of thie great luminaries of our invariable reason, irrefragable truth, and church, not only a happy prevalence of li- self-evident egrellence. beral principles, and charitable feelings, but And wbile the English establishment has, also the very process, if we may so speak, thus served the general interests of religion, by which these principles and feelings were she bas most substantially served herself.. formed. From having continually in their Making her appeal to reason, she has been view a set of persons, who had subslantially estimated accordingly; and what she has the same faith, yet differed in modes of wor- not endeavoured to extort by force, has been ship, we see them acquiring a peculiar habit greatly yielded to her trom rational attachof distinguishing between the ess ntials and ment. It was natural, that the toleration circumstantials of religion. Their judgment which was given, should, in so exclusive a becomes strong, as their charity becomes en community, be largely made use of. But Jarged, and above all other divines, perbaps, this leaves room for the establishment to try they investigate religion as phil sophers, its comparative fitness to attach more miods, without injury to the hunility of their faith, in which, be it said without insidiousness, or the fervency of their devotion. In almost the result has at all times been such, as sigevery other communion (though with some nally to strengthen whatever has been ad-. adınirable exceptions) deep contemplative duced to illustrate the high providential uses: piety often appears associated with some of the established church of England. sentiment or practice, which is apt to abate Still, however, as the patural and proper. our estimation of the rationality of the party, tendency of the very best things may be. or if rationality be preserved, there is too thwarted by opposite influences, we ought to often some diminution of the pious affections. be aware that the genuine tendency of the And what proves, that, from the seeming establishment to attach men's minds, and reevil of which we have spoken, God has by commend itself by its own excellence, should his overruling influence deduced this good, is, not be trusted in so confidentially, as that that the completest spirit of toleration, and anv of those to whom this precious deposit is this high description of character, have not committed sbould, from an idea that its inbeen commonly united, but that seasons Auence cannot be weakened, become supine, which peculiarly called forth in churcbmen while its enemies are alive and active. We the exercise of Christian forbearance, were do not mean, that they should oppose the adalso singularly fruitful in examples of this versaries of the church by acrimonious con-. sublime and philosophic piety.*
troversy, but by the more appropriate weaIn fact, whether we consider the circum- pops of activity and diligence. stances under wbich the church of England reasonably presume, that the Almighty, havwas formed, the language in which she ex. ing wrought such a work for us at the Represses her sense of the Christian doctrines, formation, will still continue his blessing, the spirit which pervades all her formularies, while the same means are employed to mainor the temper which has distinguished the tain, which were used to establish it. But to first fouuders, and all their genuine success- this end every aid should be resorted to, eveors; she evidently appears designed by Eter- ry method should be devised, by which the nl Wisdom to have been a tolerant church; great mass of the people may be brought to and hy being such, to be the means of serv- the public worship of the church. To one ing the great cause of Christianity, in cer- most important means we have already adtain important instances; which could only verted, * and it cannot be too much insisted * See bishop Burnet's history of his own times.
* Chap. xviii.
60—that the lower classes, among which the tially fostered. Certain it is, that at every defection is greatest, should betimes receive period of our history, when an advance is an impression on their minds, not only of inade in civil matters, some step appears God's goodness and mercy, but of his power generally to have been gained in ecclesiastical and supremacy; and also, that God is the concerns also ; and the completion of the real original authority by which .kings reign, one is equally that of the other. But it and princes decree justice ;' by which obe- seems as if the distinct agency of Providence, dience and loyalty to government are enforc. in bringing our church to that avowed and ed, and all the subordinate duties of lite re-established tolerance, wbicb was alike conquired of them. It is from the pulpit, un genial to its spirit, and necessary to its pur. doubtedly, that every duty, both to God and pose, is even more remarkable than that maa, is best inculcated, and with a power series of interpositions which has been reand sanction peculiar to itself; and it is the ferred to in the civil bistory of the country. clergy that must prepare for God faithful And let it not be forgotten, that the toleraservants and true worshippers ; and for the tion of our church is connected with our king a willing and obedient people. national love of civil liberty, and that the
But the clergy, however zealous, pious, state also is tolerant.* and active, cannot find time to do all that The long reign of queen Elizabeth seems might be done. A people might be prepar to have been designed for the purpose of ed for the clergy themselves. The minds of consolidating and perpetuating the great children should be universally familiarized work which had been accomplished. Durwith the moving stories, and their affections ing that period, all the energies of the preexcited by the amiable characters in the Bi- rogative were exercised for the exclusive ble. When the beautiful allegories of the maintenance of the established religion. New Testament have been not only studied, And may we not believe, that this was necesbut properly interpreted to them ; when their sary, till the new order of things should memories have been stored with such sub- have established itself in the habits of the jects and passages as constantly occur in people. preaching, the service of the church, by be That neither civil nor religions liberty was coming more intelligible, will become more fully enjoyed in England till the revolution, attractive. And as we have already observ. will not be denied. And that the weak, ed, with their religious instructions, there and sometimes most erroneous conduct of should be mixed a constant sense of their the race of Stuart was providentially overruown church, the privileges of belonging to led, so as to lead to that glorious consummait, the mischief of departing from it, the du tion, is equally obvious. May we not then ties which lie upon them as members of it suppose, that this family was brought upon They should be taught the nature of the the throne for this purpose, when we see, government of this church, the authority that when ihat object was ripe for accomfrom which it is derived, and their duty and plishment, the family, in its male line, was obligations, not as children only, but through excluded from the sovereignty, on the clearlife, to its ininisters
. They should be taught est grounds of invincible necessity, and what all the offices and institutions of the hopeless bigotry; an event, the occasion for church mean ; that none of them are empty which was as much to be deplored, as its mo. Ceremonies, but arrangements of genuine tives are to be revered, and its consequences wisdon, and to be valued and used accord- to be gloried in This revolution was one
of those rare and critical cases, which can We will venture to say, that were such a dever be pleaded as a precedent by disconmode of training the lower classes every tent or disaffection. It was a singular inuchere adopted, they would then, not occa- stance when a high duty was of necessity susionally, fall in with the stream on Sundays, perseded by a higher; and when the para. and be mixed, they know not why, with a mount rights of law and conscience united Congregation of customary worshippers ; in urging the painful but irresistible necesbet they would come with ability to under-sity. stand, and dispositions to prefer the establish God has made buman society progressive, ed mode of worship; their ideas and senti- by the laws of nature, as well as by the orments would readily mix and assimilate with der of his Providence. At some periods, what they saw and heard. And thus an hab- this progress seems accelerated.
It is, itual veneration, both for the church and its doubtless, the wisdom of those who preside pastors, would be an additional preparation over communities, to mark all such periods, for the gradual influence of real religion on and instead of resisting, to regulate the protheir minds. But while these modes of in- gress. This did not the unfortuna e house struction may be maintained by the leisure of Stuart. Their political errors shall not and the liberality of the laity, the clergy here be enumerated Probably they would must be the life, and soul, and spirit of them have been preserved from them, if they had
Bat to return.--Perhaps, in a fair view of not fought against divine Providence, in sevthe importance of that truly Christian liberty, eral instances. The spirit of the English which ever since the revolution of 1689 has reformation was that of rational but strict been established in England, it might be doubted, whether this was not the ultimate * It is to be lamented that there was a most unobject, on account of which, the civil rights happy instance of departure from this spirit in the of the English community were so providen-reiga of Charles II.
piety. This strictness, the conduct both of (and a little, it may be feared, of that dissimJames and even of the first Charles, had a ulation too,) which had been so manifest in tendency to extinguish, by sanctioning, and, some former monarchs of her family. Yet in a degree, enjoining the profanation of the even this weakness was overruled to great Lord's day. The order of public worship, purposes. Had ber attachment to the dutchas established by the reformers, was suffi. ess of Marlborough been more moderate, the ciently majestic;--no decorous circumstance duke might not have possessed that supreme being wanting, no exceptionable ceremonies authority, which enabled him to humble, by being admitted. Instead of wisely and so unexampled a series of victories, that pow. steadily guarding this admirable arrange- er which had been the scourge of protestanment from encroachments, the unfortunate tism, and the pest of Europe. And had her Charles endeavoured to bring back these temper been less mutable, it might not have genuflections, and other ceremonies which been so easy to accomplish a peace, when the the first reformers had discarded ; and enfor reasonable ends of war had been so fully an. ced these innovations by a severity, still swered. more abhorrent from the temper of the An It would almost seem that the issue of this glican church. Under such mismanagement, princess was deemed by Providence too centhese dissentient principles, wbich existed tral a branch of the Stuart family, to be ensince the reformation, were fanned into that trusted with the newly-renovated constitufurious flame, from which the English con- tion. A more distant connexion had already stitution in church and state seems to bave been specially trained for this most important come forth uphurt, only because the designs trust, though with little apparent probability of over-ruling Providence required their of being called to exercise it, the princess preservation.
Apne having been no less than seventeen The second Charles, uptaught by the ca- times pregnant. The death of the duke of lamities of his virtuous but misguided father, Gloucester, the last of her family, at length disregarded all principle in his public, and turned the eyes of the English public towards outraged all decency in his private conduct. the princess Sophia ; from benceforth she and His reign was a continual rebellion against her issue were recognised as presumptive that Providence, which had destined the En- beirs to the crown. Many of the events glish nation to exemplify, both good gove.n- which occurred during the last years of queen ment, and good morals, to the surrounding Anne's reign, served not a little to enhance world. Perhaps, however, nothing short of to all who were cordially attached to the Enthe enormities of himself
, and the misconduct glish constitution, the providential blessing of his successor, could have been sufficient to of so suitable a succession. impel the English, after the miseries they A more remarkable event is scarcely to be had so lately experienced from anarchy, to found in the annals of the world. Nothing the vindication of their just, constitutional could be more essential to the interests of rights. And probably, again, they would British liberty, than that they, who were connot have possessed that temper, which kept cerned for its maintenance, should be posthem from demanding more than their just sessed of the promptest and most uvexceprights, if they had not received that previous tionable means of filling the vacant throne. discipline from the hand of heaven. It is No prince was fitted to their purpose, who worthy of notice, that when the house of Stu- was not zealously attached to the protestant art was dispossessed of the throne of England, religion; and it was desirable that he should, that same Providence caused a respite in fa- at the same time, possess such a title, on vour of those two* princesses who had not nar- ground of consanguinity, as that the princiticipated in the vices of their father's house. ple of hereditary monarchy might be as little of these, the elder was made a chief instru- departed from, as the exigencies of the case ment in the great work which was to be ac- would admit. For the securing of both complished. She was a cordial protestant, these radical objects, what an adequate proand a pious Christian ; and we cannot doubt, vision was made in the princess Sophia, and but her marriage with that prince, who was her illustrious offspring! The connexion appointed to perfect our liberties, was a spe- thus near, was made interesting by every cir. cial link in the chain of intermediate causes. cumstance which could engage the hearts of She became a true English sovereign : a English protestants. The princess Sophia lover of the establishment, and an example was the only remaining child of that only reof christian charity Strictly and habitually maining daughter of James the first, who devout amid all the temptations of a court, being married to one of the most zealous she was prepared to meet death with almost protestant princes of the empire, became bis more than resignation.
partner in a series of personal and domestic The character of her sister was much less distress, in which his committing himself, on impressive ; her good qualities being better the cause of the protestants of Bohemia, infitted for a private life than a throne. It volved bim and his family for near half a would be hard to charge her with inheriting century. In her, all the rights of her moth the faults of her ancestors, from all the gross er, as well as of her father, were vested ; er instances of which she was clearly exempt. and while by the electorial dignity, (of which Yet there certainly appears, in her attach- her father had been deprived) being restored ments, much of that weak subjection of mind, to her husband, the duke of Hanover, she
seemed, in part, compensated for the affic* Mary and Anne.
tions of her earlier life,-her personal char.