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lingly pursue this theme, but there are other topics to which we
Of The Life of Sir Thomas More' we have recently had occasion to speak, and shall therefore say nothing more at present than that it constitutes one of the most beautiful pieces of biography in our language. There was much in the character of the writer to induce intimate sympathy with his hero, and the light of genius mellowed and warmed by the purest admiration, is, therefore, diffused throughout the work.
Our remaining observations will be confined to the ' Review of the Causes of the Revolution of 1688.' This was a posthumous publication, and is, therefore, deficient, in some minor points, of the finish which would have been given by the final revision of the author. Such as it is, however, we feceive it with gratitude, and hesitate not to assert that, for all the higher and more useful purposes of history, it is the best narrative of the period in question which we possess. We might have wished for more details, but the disquisitions are never wearisome, and for the most part are invaluable. Not one could be omitted without injury, and the light they reflect is just such as intelligent Englishmen needed. Great skill is shown in the disposition of the narrative, and passages might be quoted which, for skilful grouping, and beautiful and felicitous sketches, have rarely been surpassed. As the reign of James involves many questions pertaining to religious freedom, and the conduct of our nonconformist fathers; and as we are solicitous that our readers should be thoroughly acquainted with it, we shall adduce, for their information, the judgment of Sir James on some of these points.
James 11. had two objects in view, the establishment of despotism, and the restoration of the papacy. In the pursuit of the first, he had the support of the Church of England, which had bound itself hand and foot to his service, by an officious avowal of the most servile tenets. Passive obedience and non-resistance were propounded by authority. The clergy were the zealous tools of an unprincipled and tyrannical court. The pulpit fulminated against English freedom, and Oxford, ever foremost in denouncing the political regenerators of mankind, sought to brand with infamy the choice spirits of the day. Had James been wise as he was merciless, he would have accomplished his crusade against civil freedom before he sought to alienate the secularities of the church. Had he done so, the result might have been doubtful. Churchmen would have cheered him on. The pulpit and the universities would have eulogised his piety and triumphed at his success. Many lives would have been lost, much blood would have been shed. A
long struggle must have ensued, and English freedom, when at length achieved-as achieved it would certainly have been-must have been purchased at a vast sacrifice of life and social wellbeing. Happily the stolid monarch took the other course, and the dynasty now occupying the throne, is proof of what followed.
'It may seem singular,' remarks Sir James in reference to this subject, that James did not first propose the repeal of the Habeas Corpus Act, by which he would have gained the means of silencing opposition to all his other projects. What the fortu
nate circumstances were which pointed his attack against the Test, we are not enabled by contemporary evidence to ascertain. He contemplated that measure with peculiar resentment, as a personal insult to himself, and as chiefly, if not solely, intended as a safeguard against the dangers apprehended from his succession. considered it as the most urgent object of his policy to obtain a repeal of it; which would enable him to put the administration, and especially the army, into the hands of those who were devoted by the strongest of all ties to his service, and whose power, honour, and even safety, were involved in his success. An army composed of Catholics must have seemed the most effectual of all the instruments of power in his hands; and it is no wonder that he should hasten to obtain it. Had he been a lukewarm or only a professed Catholic, an armed force, whose interests were the same with his own, might reasonably have been considered as that which it was in the first place necessary to secure. Charles II., with a loose belief in popery, and no zeal for it, was desirous of strengthening its interests, in order to enlarge his own power. As James was a conscientious and zealous Catholic, it is probable that he was influenced in every measure of his government by religion, as well as ambition. Both these motives coincided in their object: his absolute power was the only security for his religion, and a Catholic army was the most effectual instrument for the establishment of absolute power. In such a case of combined motives, it might have been difficult for himself to determine which predominated on any single occasion.'vol. ii. pp. 55, 56.
The policy of the monarch was soon evident. It was not in his nature to conceal it long. He would have done so had he been capable of it, not from honesty, but from interest; not that hypocrisy and falsehood were abhorrent to his nature, but that he was too short-sighted to calculate the probabilities of the future, and so completely surrendered to a besotted bigotry, as to be blind to the inevitable consequences of his actions, and reckless of the claims of truth and honour. The most infatuated of his sycophants could not fail to perceive the tendency of his measures. It was written as with fire, and combined the baseness of hypocrisy with an unscrupulous violation of the laws. The monarch proclaimed himself the friend of toleration. The
wolf put on sheep's clothing, the more readily to accomplish his design, and spoke a language and avowed a creed foreign from his nature. His purpose was to combine the nonconformists with the catholics against the hierarchy, and he therefore published A Declaration for liberty of Conscience,' in which he assumed to suspend the execution of all penal laws, and to grant permission to his subjects to meet and worship God according to the dictate of their consciences. We need not shew the falsity of all this. It is universally seen and admitted; or if there be any who still doubt it, they are obviously inaccessible to reason and evidence. The king's design was soon revealed. Catholics were appointed to benefices in the church, were recommended to the governors of the Charter-House, and were nominated to lucrative and influential posts at Oxford and Cambridge. This was touching the apple of the eye. It exhausted the forbearance of the church, and put in the foreground of the great struggle of English liberty, those very men who were most deeply and solemnly pledged to the king. Thus it frequently happens, in the course of an over-ruling Providence, that men are compelled to work out ends, the reverse of what they had intended. The church would have borne anything but this. Patriots might have been beheaded like Russell and Sidney, prisons have been crowded with nonconformists, whole districts have been surrendered to military violence, the ermine itself have been disgraced, the temple of justice profaned, by the brutal violence of Jeffries and the unscrupulous servility of other expounders of English law. All this, and more than this, may have occurred, and thanks would have been impiously rendered to Almighty God, for the blessing vouchsafed in the person and government of so religious and merciful a king. But the moment that royal hands were placed on the temporalities of the church,—when a portion of her revenues was sought to be conferred on the adherents of the papacy, her anger knew no bounds, and her sons became the loudest impugners of that prerogative which they had hitherto worshipped. The infatuated monarch was astonished at the hostile position taken up by the church, and was at no pains to conceal his feelings. Referring to this point of the history, our author observes
James was equally astonished and incensed at the resistance of the Church of England. Their warm professions of loyalty, their acquiescence in measures directed only against civil liberty, their solemn condemnation of forcible resistance to oppression (the lawfulness of which constitutes the main strength of every opposition to misgovernment), had persuaded him, that they would look patiently on the demolition of all the bulwarks of their own wealth, and greatness, and power, and submit in silence to measures which,
after stripping the Protestant religion of all its temporal aid, might at length leave it exposed to persecution. He did not distinguish between legal opposition and violent resistance. He believed in the adherence of multitudes to professions poured forth in a moment of enthusiasın; and he was so ignorant of human nature as to imagine, that speculative opinions of a very extravagant sort, even if they could be stable, were sufficient to supersede interest and habits, to bend the pride of high establishments, and to stem the passions of a nation in a state of intense excitement. Yet James had been admonished by the highest authority to beware of this delusion. Morley, Bishop of Winchester, a veteran royalist and episcopalian, whose fidelity had been tried, but whose judgment had been informed in the civil war, almost with his dying breath desired Lord Dartmouth to warn the king, that if ever he depended on the doctrine of non-resistance he would find himself deceived; for that most of the church would contradict it in their practice, though not in terms. It was to no purpose that Dartmouth frequently reminded James of Morley's last message; for he answered, that the bishop was a good man, but grown old and timid '
It must be owned, on the other hand, that there were not wanting considerations which excuse the expectation and explain the disappointment of James. Wiser men than he have been the dupes of that natural prejudice, which leads us to look for the same consistency between the different parts of conduct which is, in some degree, found to prevail among the different reasonings and opinions of every man of sound mind. It cannot be denied that the church had done much to delude him. For they did not content themselves with never controverting, nor even confine themselves to calmly preaching the doctrine of non-resistance (which might be justified and perhaps commended); but it was constantly and vehemently inculcated. The more furious preachers treated all who doubted it with the fiercest scurrility, and the most pure and gentle were ready to introduce it harshly and unreasonably; and they all boasted of it, perhaps with reason, as a peculiar characteristic which distinguished the Church of England from other Christian communities. Nay, if a solemn declaration from an authority second only to the church, assembled in a national council, could have been a security for their conduct, the judgment of the University of Oxford, in their convocation in 1633, may seem to warrant the utmost expectations of the king. For among other positions condemned by that learned body, one was, that if lawful governors become tyrants, or govern otherwise than by the laws of God or man they ought to do, they forfeit the right they had unto their government.' Now, it is manifest, that, according to this determination, if the king had abolished parliaments, shut the courts of justice, and changed the laws according to his pleasure, he would, nevertheless, retain the same rights as before over all his subjects; that any part of them who resisted him would still contract the full guilt of rebellion; and that the co-operation of the sounder portion
to repress the revolt would be a moral duty and a lawful service. How, then, could it be reasonable to withstand him in far less important assaults on his subjects, and to turn against him laws which owed their continuance solely to his good pleasure? Whether this last mode of reasoning be proof against all objections or not, it was at least specious enough to satisfy the king, when it agreed with his passions and supposed interest.'-Ib. pp. 165–167.
The sketches of Baxter, Bunyan, and William Penn, are admirable; evincing alike the candour and truthfulness, the enlightened philosophy and ready appreciation of excellence, under all its varied forms, by which the writer was so eminently distinguished. We must be content, however, to point them out to our reader, and pass on to other points of more public interest.
The Declaration of Indulgence placed the nonconformists in a perplexing and perilous position. On the one hand, they had been long and cruelly persecuted by the protestant church, despoiled of their goods, deprived of the rights of citizenship, incarcerated in loathsome prisons, forbidden the exercise of their ministry, and, in many cases, banished from the realm. They had vainly appealed to the compassion of the clergy. Insult had been added to wrong, and the intolerant and wicked policy of prohibiting the education of their children in what they deemed the truth of God, was distinctly avowed. So far, therefore, everything inclined them to act adversely to the church, and joyfully to avail themselves of any interval of repose, come whence it might. On the other hand, they could not recognise the king's dispensing power, without jeopardizing the liberty for which such perils had been incurred, and laying the whole fabric of English law beneath the foot of the monarch. Future evils were to be balanced against present relief, the tyranny that was hazarded against the liberty that was proffered. The proper course would have been to meet, and worship according to their convictions of duty, without thanking the king; -to have availed themselves of the breathing time allowed, without approaching the throne to acknowledge obligation, or uttering language which was friendly to prerogative in its contests with freedom. This would have been the right course; and it was that which the great body of dissenters pursued. Some, however, proceeded much further; and while we regret, we need not wonder at their having done so. The drowning man makes no inquiry respecting the hand which is stretched out for his rescue; the prisoner stops not to ask whether the door of his prison-house has been opened by authority; life or liberty is received with joyfulness, and it is not till afterwards the reflection occurs, that some drawbacks may possibly be attendant on the boon conferred. So it was in the present case.