Abbildungen der Seite

and rising from his entertainment we feel that “no man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth the new, for, saith he, the old is better.” Being delivered in vindication of their subjects, these lectures are necessarily spiced with controversy. Throughout there is kept up a running fire upon the high claims of the British Crown in matters spiritual; upon the spirit of the English hierarchy, and upon the pretensions of prelacy in the United States; and after taking such a view of the Puritans and their principles as our author treats us to, in which we are made to see and to feel that the age of the Puritans was truly magnatum among the centuries, and that they made the times, in which they lived, great by their principles, and by their zeal and sufferings for the same, we realize that it is next to impossible to write up Puritanism without at the same time writing down prelacy, because of their inherent antagonism, and are prepared to enter into all the depth and strength of feeling bordering upon just scorn and contempt, which is excited in Mr. Hall while sketching the high claims and the high doings of the Crown and English hierarchy against the Puritans, and while reviewing what another has called “the frivolous and ill-natured work of Mr. Coit."

We find in these lectures a character of information and a service to the interests of truth which our present times much need ; and in them we hear this generation virtually called upon to “stand in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths—where is the good way?-and walk therein, and ye shall find rest to your souls.” Not that all old things are good, nor that anything is good because old, for that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to perish, but that the principles of the Puritans were manifestly those of the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever, and such as men can not reject without rejecting the very words of eternal life; nor that we should ask, “why were the former days better than these?” there being many reasons why such a question would not be wise in our mouth, and yet we know not that it would be anything amiss were many, in this time, to make an application of this question to themselves; charging upon their hearts the evils which the question by implication charges upon the times; and to the fruits of their own acts and the influences which the principles they are advocating are now exerting upon the public morals, upon the national interests, and upon the state of religion in this land. For that each generation of men has failed to duly honor such as were sent specially to them in the name of the Lord, if they have not also rejected and stoned them, is a fact which is usually overlooked. That God has had from the beginning one path of duty for his people to walk in, one set of principles of faith and practice for them to maintain, cherish, act upon and inculcate, and, if need be, suffer for, and that this one way has not been delighted in by the great masses of mankind, and that these principles have been usually rejected and contemned when seriously and earnestly contended for and urged upon the hearts of mankind, is a fact not duly borne in mind; and that “we ought to obey God rather than men," seems to be a truth which has grown so old as to have become totally forgotten by many, though it be one of those truths which live and abide forever, though it be as valuable and important now as when first clearly perceived and distinctly asserted by the apostles when straitly charged by the ruling powers of their day not to preach, nor to teach at all in the name of Jesus Christ, and though all that is worth living for in the shape of civil and religious liberty, has come of God's people standing by this truth and sticking up to it, in their several generations, and dying for it rather than renounce it.

There always have been difficulties in the way of getting a true estimate of the Puritans and their principles into the minds of many. One of these has been the kind of men who have written of them, and whose writings have been most popular with the mass of readers. Some of these were morally incompetent to understand the real character of the Puritans, and others have written as though they had a divine calling to asperse them. Able pens have made it clear that Hume, Macaulay, and others, were not morally qualified to appreciate the motives, the ends, and the objects for which such men as Wickliffe, Cranmer, Latimer, Tyndal, Coverdale, Rogers, Hooper, Ridley, Knox, Cartwright, and others, struggled through those interesting and exciting times in which they lived and acted. While the Puritans were men eminently religious, taught of God, and having an unction from the Holy One, and strove for the rights of conscience, for the privilege of worshiping God according to his pure word, and the guidings of his Spirit those whose writings have done most to fix the notions of the mass of mankind touching these people, have been men who saw nothing worth contending for in the religion of Jesus Christ, and had about as much sympathy with paganism as with Christianity-at least, with the corruptest form of Christianity as with the purest. Sketches by such writers, drawn of such men, could not fail to be gross caricatures. Of Hume, Mr. Hall says:

“He spares no pains to stigmatize them as zealots whose principles appear frivolous, and whose habits were ridiculous. But Hume was a cold blooded infidel, peculiarly bitter against Christianity in its evan. gelical form. To judge of the principles of evangelical religion as distinguished from a religion of superstitious forms and splendid rituals, Hume was incompetent. He could not understand the spirit that wrought in the Puritans, and hence his view of their activity was turbulence, their firmness willfulness, their zeal fanaticism-whether the principles of the Gospel be preserved in their purity; whether impositions inconsistent with the Gospel be laid aside ; whether the Church of God shall be severed from the dominion of mere worldly politicians ; whether the Gospel and its ordinances, given by the toils and blood of the Son of God, shall be left as he gave them, simple and pure, with power to secure the great ends for which they were given-these are matters for which Hume cares not, and concerning which he makes no inquiry. How lamentable that his opinions on these subjects should enstamp themselves on so many minds, and form, with scarcely a question of their accuracy, the prevailing sentiments of a large portion of the world !”

Of Macaulay, the Princeton Review of January, 1850, says:

“In many parts there are clear indications that he wants what we deem an essential qualification in a historian of those eventful times, deep and earnest religious convictions. The conflicts during the Stewart dynasty involved principles of infinite value both in religion and politics—principles entering into the very life of the church and state. The points raised by the nation in that grand debate were whether, as Christians, they should be free to follow the dictates of conscience, or be bound to worship God in a form prescribed by human authorities; whether as citizens they should be governed by law, or the arbitrary will of the prince. Now it never should be forgotten that while civil rights were at stake, they did not originate the contest. Religion was the occasion of it. It was a struggle to gain exemption from prescribed forms of divine worship which aroused and quickened inquiry respecting political rights. The Puritans were the first men who unfurled the banner of freedom, and they never deserted it. Arbitrary power they always detested—the supremacy of law they always asserted. But grievances of conscience are widely different from grievances affecting the mere citizen. No one can be really sensible of the former without considerable share of religious knowledge, and an earneșt conviction of its importance. The men whom Elizabeth and the Stewarts fancied they could bend and mold at will, were divinely instructed in the true nature and sublime objects of religion. In their view it was a thing of infinite moment, involving transactions between their own souls and the eternal God of awful solemnity. They felt that they had souls to be saved or lost; the fear of him who held their everlasting destinies in his hands excluded all other fear; so that, like the early heralds of the cross, they could give the calm but bold challenge to the haughtiest monarchs, ' whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.' We have adverted to the character of the men and the times, simply to show that no man is completely fitted to tell their story who is a stranger to the power of godliness.”Princeton Review, January, 1850, pp. 104–6.

Another difficulty in getting just views of these people before the minds of many, lies in the fact that the friends of the English heirarchy, and of Episcopacy in general, have not been able to defend and propagate their views of church government, discipline, and worship, without speaking unfavorably of the Puritans. Ever since the reign of Elizabeth, Episcopacy has been the natural adversary of Puritanism, and where it has molded and shaped men's notions of it, these have been made unfavorable. There is a natural antagonism between the two. The one can not be written up without the other being written down in public favor. The one can not be shown to be scriptural, without the other being necessarily shown to be unscriptural. And those who take their notions of Puritanism from the representations of those who are the devoted friends of Episcopacy, must think unfavorably of the former. The principles upon which Episcopacy rests its claims, can not be defended without necessarily assailing the principles of the Puritans. And from Mr. Hall's showing, in his Review of Dr. Coit, Episcopal writers have been as sadly wanting in some essential qualifications to tell the story of the Puritans, as those who were either “cold-blooded infidels," "or those who were destitute of a good degree of religious knowledge, and of clear and earnest religious convictions.”

“On reading the work," he says,

“ What do I find ? A manful discussion of the great principles for which the Puritans contended? A denial of the persecutions inflicted upon them by the government and the Church of England ? A vindication of the principles on which the Church of England claimed the right to persecute, i. e., to make canons for the use of ceremonies and to impose the same by law ? Nothing like it. He wanders over the whole history, as if utterly unconscious that any principles are at stake. He roams over those most stirring times of the whole range of English history, all unconscious of the great events transpiring around him. He is unable to comprehend the tremendous results depending of freedom or despotism-of truth or superstition--of light or darkness--to the English dation and through them to so large a portion of the family of man, He can not see what made those times stormy-he can pot comprehend what had wakened up so many minds to such prodigious efforts of genius, and what aroused them to such dauntless courage and self-sacrificing endurance. He goes through the field 'mousing' after the faults and follies, or inconsistencies of the great actors in those events, and he can see nothing else.'"

Mr. Coit's inability to “ tell the story of the Puritans” may have come either of the principles of ecclesiatiscal polity to which he was warmly attached or of his being in himself “frivolous and ill-natured"-or of both. But there can be no mistake as to the spirit with which he “tried to say unwel. come truths” of the Puritans. It was clearly the spirit which brought him into full sympathy with their long standing adversaries, and which would not only maintain all that Hooker ever wrote in defense of “the Church's power to make and impose ceremonies and require their use by law, but would also “justify the queen, her bishops, and her high commission,” in all the severities which they inflicted upon such as scrupled obedience to such things.

But whether “cold-hearted infidels ” write, or learned and attractive authors who are “wanting in” “true and earnest religious convictions,” or men who are the natural and immemorial adversaries of the Puritans—it is much to be remarked and lamented that we have just fallen upon a time when many most willingly and gladly take their impressions of this

« ZurückWeiter »