« VorigeDoorgaan »
Vane, he thought himself entrusted with the sceptre of the millennial year. Like Fleetwood, he cried in the bitterness of his soul, that God had hid his face from him. But, when he took his seat in the council, or girt on his sword for war, these tempestuous workings of the soul had left no perceptible trace behind them. People who saw nothing of the godly but their uncouth visages, and heard nothing of them but their groans and their whining hymns, might laugh at them. But those had little reason to laugh who encountered them in the hall of debate, or in the field of battle. These fanatics brought to civil and military affairs a coolness of judgment, and an immutability of purpose, which some writers have thought inconsistent with their religious zeal, but which were in fact the necessary effects of it. The intensity of their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on every other. One overpowering sentiment had subjected to itself pity and hatred, ambition and fear. Death had lost its terrors, and pleasure its charms. They had their smiles and their tears, their raptures and their sorrows, but not for the things of this world. Enthusiasm had made them Stoics, had cleared their minds from every vulgar passion and prejudice, and raised them above the influence of danger and corruption. It sometimes might lead them to pursue unwise ends, but never to choose unwise means. They went through the world like Sir Antegale's iron man, Talus, with his flail, crushing and trampling down oppressors, mingling with human beings, but having neither part nor lot in human infirmities; insensible to fatigue, to pleasure, and to pain; not to be pierced by any weapon, not to be withstood by any barrier.
"Such we believe to have been the character of the Puritans. We perceive the absurdity of their manners. We dislike the sullen gloom of their domestic habits. We acknowledge that the tone of their minds was
often injured by straining after things too high for mortal reach; and we know that, in spite of their hatred to Popery, they too often fell into the worst vices of that bad system, intolerance and extravagant austerity; that they had their anchorites and their crusaders, their Dunstans and their De Montforts, their Dominics and their Escobars. Yet, when all circumstances are taken into consideration, we do not' hesitate to pronounce them a brave, a wise, an honest, and an useful body."
There is something in the tone of this splendid passage which I am afraid will ring painfully on your ear, at least it does on mine; but you will readily separate this from the particular fact which I adduced the extract to illustrate-namely, the spiritual, devoted, self-denying, and highly exalted character of the religion of those truly excellent men who were mixed up with much baser matter, under the indiscriminate name of Puritans. Persecution has been often permitted, in infinite mercy, by the Supreme Head of the church, to exercise and purify the graces of his servants: nor has it ceased as to its spirit, even in the present day, as Bishop Maltby would tell us (the prayer that we may be hurt by no persecutions having, I suppose, become obsolete, with two thirds of the Bible); but still we know nothing of it in its fiery sharpness: the boundary between the world and the church is not clearly defined in public opinion; for, though it exists as marked as ever in truth and in the word of God, yet as to visible, external profession, the shades are softened and melt into each other; the tares are not only more numerous than formerly, but the enemy has discovered a new species of them, so like wheat as to deceive all but an Omniscient Eye; so that there is the greatest danger of spiritual relaxation, and a meagre, stunted growth in the divine life. How earnestly does it behove every true follower of Christ to guard against this seductive influence! In
the days of the Tudors and Stuarts, Papists and Protestants, Episcopalians and Puritans, all really thought religion a matter of importance; a thing worth contending for, and suffering for; whereas now, the great danger is from sceptical indifference. There is a grievous Erastian spirit among us, which is expelling religion from our public forms, and, if heed be not taken, will sap its very foundations in private also.
The Puritans have gained much discredit for their barbarous opposition to things of no importance in themselves, and particularly for their iconoclastic propensities. But in fairness it ought to be remembered, that they connected these things in their own minds with the return of Popery, and that the doctrinal and ecclesiastical notions of some of their opponents, such as Laud, did not tend to tranquillize their minds on the subject. Winchester, like most other ecclesiastical towns, will long rue their dilapidations. The soldiers of Sir William Wallace did irreparable and malicious damage to the churches, and especially to the cathedral, even to pillaging tombs and making brutal sport with the bones of the dead. It would be difficult to ascertain how much of this mischief they did conscientiously, and how much wantonly; how much as Puritans, and how much merely as soldiers but I am inclined to hope that if the latter part of the estimate were fairly weighed, the former would appear considerably lighter. For it ought to be remembered that the royalist soldiers were often almost as mischievous as the parliamentarian; in proof of which I need not go beyond this city of Winchester. The king's troops turned churches into barracks and stables as remorselessly as those of the republican and Presbyterian army; and, though they did not destroy crosses, batter crucifixes, put out the eyes of the Virgin Mary, blow up altars, rifle tombs, and obliterate superstitious inscriptions from hatred to Prelacy or Popery, yet, in their capacity of good,
loyal soldiers, who needed food and lodging, fuel and sport, they effected sometimes nearly as much damage, and committed scarcely less sacrilege. You remember where stood the venerable foundation of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, on the top of the high hill which commands Winchester. This, among other places, the king's troops converted into barracks in the year 1643; and we find the master and alms-folk bitterly complaining to Charles's field-marshal Hopeton of their sacrilegious spoliations. "The soldiers," say they, "keeping their rendezvous there, have not only devoured nine quarters of seed barley, and broken down and burnt up the great gates, all the doors, tables, boards, cupboards, timbers, partitions, barns and stables, but have also used violence to the house of God, burning up all pews and seats in the church; also the communion table and all other wainscoat and timber there that they could lay their hands on; and have converted the said house of God into a stable for horses and other profane uses, to the great dishonour of God." These things ought to be taken fairly into the account, that we may not overcharge one side while we forget the outrages of the other. Such outrages were also the more inexcusable on the side of the Cavaliers, not only because they had no apology of religious principle or prejudice, as was the case with many of the other party, who thought they did God service in their war upon Prelacy as well as Popery, upon copes and surplices, as well as consecrated shrines and altars; but because the king's party boasted of being persons of more polished education and habits than their opponents, and therefore were doubly self-condemned in their wanton spoliations. When we recollect that one of the first acts of our learned Universities, after the death of Charles the First, was to make Cromwell a Doctor of Laws, and a whole batch of illiterates, as Joyce the taylor, Hewson the shoemaker, Rose the throwster, Harrison the
butcher, and Oley the drayman, Masters of Arts, we cannot wonder that much of taste and refinement was not to be found in the soldiers, or even the officers, of the Commonwealth armies; and that they could not make very accurate distinctions as to what ought to be destroyed as superstitious, and what ought to be spared as innocent and laudably interesting. Had the parliamentary leaders even determined to spare what was valuable or curious, they would probably have known no better way of doing so than Mummius, the Roman general, who, when he sacked Corinth, told the people entrusted with the works of art, that if they lost them they should buy new ones. But, in truth, in such a heated state of parties, and with the rage of civil war rampant throughout the land, mischief was naturally to be expected on both sides, and moderation on neither. If the estimate thus impartially adjusted should cool intemperate partizanship, it ought also to have another tendency-to make us discern more fully the evils of war, especially civil war, and, most of all, religious war, and to value more adequately the blessing we enjoy of being mercifully exempted from its ravages. May an All-wise and Gracious Providence guard us against the recurrence of such scenes. Horresco referens!
(To be continued.)
ON ONE OF THE REGULATIONS OF
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
I HAVE read with much satisfaction the rules and regulations of King's College, London, which appear to me in general truly excellent; but I respectfully submit to those of your readers who are proprietors or officers of that institution, whether it is judicious to require of boys of sixteen years of age such a stipulation as the following?"All the students will be required, before they shall CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 358.
enter the college, to subscribe a declaration that they will strictly abide by such rules and regulations as the council shall lay down for the good government of the college, so far as the same may affect the students in attendance on the regular courses or otherwise."
Now I respectfully suggest that it is not wise to require subscriptions of any kind from a boy of sixteen; since such subscriptions in point of fact are seldom or ever of any practical utility, while in numerous instances they are very likely to be violated; thus unnecessarily causing moral guilt, and a habit of disregarding the solemnity of vows and promises. But if subscriptions of any kind, even subscriptions to rules known and well defined, are superfluous and may prove injurious; how much more injudicious is it to require a subscription to rules and regulations not yet in existence, and the nature of which no human being can foresee? If a young man breaks the rules of the college, or does not choose to submit to such regulations as shall from time to time be imposed, the proper remedy is admonition, reprimand, literary punishment, or ultimately suspension or expulsion, as the case may require: but to make him stipulate that he will not break rules, and, above all, rules not yet in being, is a superfluity of caution which tends to no benefit, and may involve much evil. Every youth who honestly subscribes such a declaration, must do it with some mental reservation; -first taking it for granted, as indeed he has every reason to believe will be the case, that the rules will never be contrary to the word of God or in any way unlawful or injurious; and secondly, with a tacit understanding that, if at any time he should not feel inclined to obey them, he is at liberty to take his name off the books, and leave the college. But neither of these reservations is expressed or allowed for; his declaration is final, absolute, prospective, and tied down to things
not yet in being; so that, if it were possible that the council should ever make a regulation most improper or directly sinful, there is his solemn stipulation, morally tantamount to an oath, that he will obey it.
Suppose that the whole plan and policy of the college were at some future period to be changed; for what in worldly affairs is constant? Look, for example, at the rapid changes which took place in schools and colleges in the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth; and what awful falsification of stipulations and breaking of oaths attended them! Even King's College itself is a memorable instance of this mutability of human purposes; for when this college was planned, expressly to oppose the London University, was it ever imagined that it would open under the altered circumstances of the present day? The king was to be its patron: but would the founders have been so solicitous of this honour if they could have known that it would open under the patronage of a king who is a Whig, a Reformer, and a voter for Catholic Emancipation? To secure it more fully, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the Lord Mayor of London for the time being, were to be among its "perpetual governors;" but who could foresee what changes would come to pass, and especially, that the founder of the London University would be the Lord Chancellor? I have not a shadow of suspicion that the college will swerve in our day, or our children's, from its avowed objects, or adopt any rule but what is wise and well considered; but the circumstances I have alluded to may shew the folly of making unconditional promises for futurity, when we know not what a day may bring forth. The military oath is the only unconditional and prospective oath in this country, which I recollect. "I swear to obey the orders of the officers who are set over me; so help me God." No reserve is allowed; let the order be
lawful or unlawful, religious or irreligious, the soldier is bound by his oath to obey. Among the monastic orders, such oaths are common.
At a time when the legislature is laudably diminishing the number of civil oaths, and every wise man feels how desirable it is not to weaken the sacredness of solemn obligations by imposing unnecessary burdens on the conscience, it is surely much to be regretted, that the boy of sixteen should make vows for the young man of one and twenty; and, especially that he promise obedience to laws and regulations not in existence, and respecting which it is time enough to enforce obedience when they are devised and registered. That obedience will in practice be neither the more nor the less certain for the matriculating stipulation.
The idea of a boy's subscribing to statutes, is taken from the example of our universities and ancient foundations. But the practice at these needs itself to be reformed, and not to be made a pattern for new institutions. At Oxford the pupil, if of sixteen years of age, subscribes the Thirty-nine Articles, and takes the oath of the king's supremacy, and another of fidelity to the university. I
need not discuss the propriety of making a youth of sixteen subscribe the Articles, which most probably he has never read, and certainly does not fully understand; but I am surprised to find it added in the Statute Book, that if he has attained the age of twelve, but is not of the age of sixteen, he shall merely subscribe the Articles, as if this were a much less serious affair than the oath of supremacy. It is true, that in practice boys of twelve are not at present matriculated; but this is a mere accident, and does not alter the essential features of the system.
While I am alluding to this subject, and the Oxford Statute-Book is in my hand, I will note two or three other points not wholly unconnected with the topic. I would inquire whether the student is not obliged to seek" graces," and to pay large fees
for obtaining them, when the matters for the neglect of which the graces are implored are not possible to be performed. Many a studious under-graduate is doubtless desirous of attending the various public lectures pointed out in the Statute Book, and which professors are paid to deliver. But it has been often popularly stated, that those lectures are not in fact delivered; and that thus the pupil not only loses the instruction he wished to obtain, but is actually made to pay heavy fines for not having attended lectures which were never delivered. If this notion is unfounded, some of your academical readers will doubtless correct it; and the query which I have proposed will clear up a current charge, which does not tend to the honour of our seats of learning.
Again, in the ceremonials of taking a degree, I find in the Statute Book, that the manner in which the candidate implores it, and the University grants it, corresponds to the following formularies of presentation. For the degree of Bachelor of Arts; "Most illustrious Vice-Chancellor, and ye most excellent Proctors, I present to you this my scholar in the faculty of arts, that he may be admitted to the reading of any of the books of Aristotle's Logic, and the other acts imposed by the statutes; and I testify that he has read, or heard read, the Articles of Faith and Religion, &c." For the degree of Bachelor in Music; "Most illustrious ViceChancellor, &c. I present, &c. that he may be admitted to the reading of any book of Boethius :" in Medicine; that he may be admitted to the reading of any book of Hippocrates:" in civil law; "to the reading of the Imperial Institutes:" and in Divinity; "to the reading of any Epistle of St. Paul; which I therefore conclude an under-graduate cannot statutably attempt. The degree is conferred in corresponding terms, so that we have three times repeated this obsolete matter of reading Aristotle, Boethius, Hippocrates, and, as a matter of University grace,
St. Paul. This constitutes, in fact, the technical essence of the degree.
I say nothing of innumerable regulations about vestments, and minute ceremonies, which though many of them obsolete, more of them unnecessarily burdensome, and not a few of them frivolous, or only useful as respects the fees attached to them, are not the most serious matters of consideration. It is due to our forefathers to add, that most of these regulations were intended to conduce to good order and discipline; and even where they are not of any great utility, it seems scarcely necessary to innovate, unless they are found to be positively injurious or inconvenient. But I cannot but think the payment of fees and fines for graces and dispensations for not doing what the candidate could not do, and would not have been allowed to do, is an exceptionable practice. I do not mean that the fees or fines are too large;-posssibly not; but why not make a regular charge of them, and abolish the unintelligible or fictitious items which enter into their amount, to the serious detriment of Christian truth and simplicity.
Again; the Statute Book tells me that the candidate for a degree swears, among many other matters, that 66 he will not read or hear lectures at Stamford;" which he may as safely swear as that he will not study in the moon, for no such rival university has for many ages existed; but it is not very reverent to call God to witness such an oath. I find this in a copy of the Statute Book not many years old; but I have heard that this part of the oath has been recently rescinded; and I only quote it for the sake of shewing that statutes intended to bind posterity ought not to be too minute, but should be conversant with principles rather than mutable details. A modern Oxford statute "concerning vehicles," denounces by name "phaetons ;" because," it is added, no former statute had provided against this evil of the improper use of ve