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The oppressive and cruel sentences of this iniquitous Court, together with those of the Star-Chamber, another tribunal utterly irreconcilable with the principles of a free Constitution, in the reign of Charles I, were the means by which an universal odium was excited against the Government, and the spirit of the people at last roused to resistance.
In Elizabeth's reign the Articles of the Church were reduced from forty-two to thirty-nine ; and since that time they have suffered no change. They were published with this title, “ Articles whereupon it was agreed by the Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces, and the whole Clergy, in the convocation holden at London, in the year of our Lord God, 1562, according to the computation of the Church of England, for the avoiding of the diversities of opinions, and for the stablishing of consent touching true religion. Put forth by the Queen's authority.”—They were first published in Latin only, but in 1571, they were published by public authority in both the Latin and English languages.
The succession of James to the Crown of England had flattered the hopes of the Puritans, with the prospect of a milder and more auspicious reign. They expected that a Prince who had been educated in the same school of theology with themselves, and who seemed to have so deeply imbibed its spirit and discipline, as to pronounce the Kirk of Scotland the purest under the sun, would relax, if he did not sever, the chains in which they had been so long held by the government of Elizabeth. But they soon found that his power was employed, not only to rivet them, but to give them additional weight. At first, indeed, he pretended to moderate the passions, and to soften the prejudices of both Churchmen and Puritans, and thus by compromising the pretensions of both parties, to reduce them to harmony. Under the pretence of me. diating, as an impartial umpire, he appointed a conference of the Bishops and dignified Clergymen of the Church, on the one hand, and of the leaders of the Puritans, on the other, to be held at Hampton Court. On this occasion the King and his ministers were present. But the King did not long support the character of a mediator which he bad assumed. He soon declared himself hostile to the Puritans, and entered the lists as champion for the discipline and ceremonies of the Church.
He insisted par. ticularly on the alliance between Monarchy and Episcopacy, which he considered as so intimate that they must stand or fall together. His maxim was, No Bishop, no King. The Prelates, in their turn, offered incense liberally to the talents of the royal disputant, whom they considered as the oracle of Heaven. Whitgift, the primate, is said to have exclaimed with rapture, that un. doubtedly his Majesty spoke by the special assistance of God's Spirit. With such high-seasoned panegyrics was he fed by his courtly Prelates. They admired his eloquence, his masterly skill in theological controversy, and his talents for debate. He was too partial to himself to question the accuracy of their judgment. The Puritans, who never knew how to combine flexibility of manners with steadiness of principle, and who were generally roughly obstinate, and repulsive in their habits, were ill qualified to gain upon the affections of such a monarch as James. Stiff and pedantic in his manners ; pusillanimous, yet rash in his temper ; ostentatious of his learning, yet extremely defective in his judgment of propriety; and though no stranger to dissimulation, which he considered as kingcraft, he could neither assume that softness of behaviour which is necessary to win men's hearts; nor support that dignity and consistency of character, which procure veneration for the persons of princes. Thinking himself qualified to dictate the doctrines and discipline of religion to all his subjects, to call his decisions in question appeared to him a high degree of arrogance, approaching to rebellion. His sovereignty he regarded, not as a trust derived from the people, and held by him for their good, but as a power communicated immediately by God, and for the exercise of which he was accountable only to the donor. Unhappily, many of the Bishops and dignified Clergy supported these extravagant pretensions, and supported them too, in that place, the pulpit, which is the most improper that can be imagined, for agitating and deciding on theories of government. To set bounds to kingly power, was represented as one of the most atroci. ous crimes, and a presumptuous invasion of that divine right, by which monarchs were constituted the absolute vicegerents of Heaven. Passive obedience to princes was represented as the only sure way by which subjects could hope for eternal glory, and non-resistance the only mark of submission to the will of God. The many were supposed to be made for one, and this “enormous faith,” as the Poet justly calls it, was delivered as the dictate equal. ly of the law and of the Gospel. Thus human nature was degraded, that one man might spurn the rest of his species; and, wrapped up in the conceit of his imaginary greatness, might look down equally upon their joys and their sorrows, as those of another race of beings, with whom they possessed nothing in common.
This strange association of absurd politics with religion, was, however, incidental; not the necessary consequence of the religious system adopted by the Church, but the
result of combined rash speculations on political philosophy, a subject which at that time very few of the Clergy had deliberately examined, and which still fewer of them understood. The Church of England, like every other Church, the great doctrines of which are formed upon the maxims of Scripture, is decidedly hostile to faction, and to rebellion against a lawful Government, but she highly appreciates the blessings of a free constitution, and treats with sacred reverence, the rights and privileges of the people. The bench of Bishops have, in various instances, since the Revolution, and particularly in the latter part of Queen Ann's reign, stood forth the firm assertors of the liberties of Englishmen, when they were attacked by their own Representatives. To that order, as such, therefore, no blame can attach from the errors of their prede
Presbyterian and Independent Clergymen bave, upon various occasions, shown themselves sufficiently disposed to support absolute power, when that power was exerted in their own favour. A man's being a Bishop does not necessarily make him either proud or fawning; and equality of ecclesiastical power, is perfectly consistent with arrogance and ambition.
In the system embraced by the Puritans, the principles of civil liberty, and the desire of further reformation in the services of religion, were combined. They were the first who planted in this country the tree of liberty, and who watered its roots with sedulous care. While James and his Bishops were eagerly employed in lopping its branches, and shedding its honours, they watched its growth with a wakeful eye, dug around and manured it, till it struck its fibres deep into the earth, and reared its head majestic towards Heaven. Even the excision of some of its most luxuriant and topmost branches, gave it
a stronger girth, and a greater degree of health and vigor. Happy, had it never been suffered to shoot into wanton boughs, or to assume fantastic and unnatural forms! It was under the shade of this tree that the religious tenets of the Puritans were sheltered, and by entwining themselves round its trunk, they spread their leaves through an ampler space, and acquired a firmness which they could not have attained, had they not been thus protected and supported.
The association of civil tyranny with the forms and discipline of the Church would, at any time, and in any staté, in which the spirit of liberty was awake, be likely to prove extremely inimical to her best interests. In the former reign, the principles of a free constitution had been formed into a system, by men of sagacious and penetrating minds, who knew how to appreciate these blessings themselves, and to rouse the sentiments and feelings of others to form a proper estimate of their value. . Though the vigorous and watchful government of Elizabeth had carefully repressed, and nipped the first blossoms of rising liberty, its root had taken a firm hold of the soil, and in James's reign, it again sprouted, and rose with increased strength. The leaders of the House of Commons, having caught the flame of freedom, dispersed, and blew up its sparks in the bosoms of the people. Few hearts were so cold as not to feel its heat, and cherish its influence. To extinguish these glowing embers, which threatened, by one general conflagration, to destroy the pillars of absolute government, 'every exertion of prerogative, and every grasp of power was employed. The calling in of religion to the aid of arbitrary sway, and the employing of her eternal sanctions, to wrest from the hands and hearts of men the most valuable of their tem