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Alas! how few in that very Parliament would have escaped the severity of their own laws
Quam temerè in nosmet legem sancimus iniquam ! These extracts are most important, as throwing light on the principles of toleration, which, it has been said, the Independents, and the Independents only, understood and practised. Important they are in many respects. When we condemn for religious opinions, we should look at the example, and pause a moment to ask, “whether we remember of what spirit we are?” The subject being the “ blasphemy of Nayler," on which these holy legislators are debating, who but must detest the hypocrite Colonel Boteler, who, with due solemnity, adds —“I hope there is no man here but has sought God what to say, before he spoke in this business !”*
The whole debate is well worthy the attention of the Christian and the legislator; but we ought not to have omitted what was said by Waller the poet, concerning which hear the ingenuous relater: “He (Waller) said a great deal more to extenuate the crime, but I minded it not” – he seems to have minded carefully enough every word of the Evangelical Colonels and Captains.
Colonel White proposed “that his tongue might be bored through."
Colonel Barkley," that his hair might be cut off!'
Major-General Harris, "that his tongue might be slit or bored through, and that he be stigmatized with the letter B.”
Major-General Skippon “Seeing you are off the other question (that is, taking away his life], wherein I
WE HAVE OFFENDED GOD! make the other punishment as high as you CAN!” And these frantic
* Burton's Diary, p. 113.
bloodhounds are called GODLY, and were the only persons who understood the principles of TOLERATION!
When the bloody sentence of this National Starchamber was given, Nayler offered two or three times to speak, and to say he desired to know what his crimes were. His last words, after sentence, were in the spirit of Christianity: “ The Lord lay not these things to your charge! I shall pray that he may not.” The sentence was:
Resolved, that James Nayler be set on the pillory, with his head in the pillory, in the New Palace, Westminster, during the space of two hours, on Thursday next, and be whipped by the hangman through the streets of Westminster to the Old Exchange, London; and there, likewise, to be set upon the pillory, with his head in the pillory, for the space of two hours, between the hours of eleven and one, on Saturday next; in each of the said places, wearing a paper containing an inscription of his crimes : and that at the Old Exchange bis tongue shall be bored through with a hot iron, and that he be there also stigmatized in the forehead with the letter B; and that he be afterwards sent to Bristol, and conveyed into and through the said city, on a horse bare ridged, with his face back, and there also publicly whipped, the next market-day after he comes thither : and that from thence he be committed to prison in Bridewell, London, and there restrained from the society of all people, and kept to hard labour till he be released by the Parliament: and, during that time, be debarred of the use of pen, ink, and paper, and have no relief but what he earns by his daily labour.”
When the admirers of religious toleration descant, with such virtuous indignation, on the Star-chamber sentence against Leighton and Prynne, let them think of this sentence against Nayler, and be silent.
How has Laud been held up to execration for an entry in bis Diary, recording minutely the punishment of Leighton! which I believe to be Prynne's cold blooded interpolation! But let us remark Burton's own pious curiosity in witnessing the execution on Nayler :
“This day B. and I went to see Nayler's tongue bored through, and him marked in the forehead. He was pale when he came out of the pillory, but high-coloured after the tongue-boring!”
So soon did Independency attain its ne plus ultra of intolerance; and, having attained this point, a saner sense of religion succeeded; for the weathercock turned round, almost instanter, to the opposite quarter.
In fact, fanaticism invariably leads the way to licentiousness! To show how soon after the cruelties on Nayler, a directly contrary spirit began to prevail, we may mention that, in 1658, the Latin play of " Ignoramus was re-printed, with its coarse, pedantic jokes, which had so much delighted James the First. Who would now have read the sublapsarian subtleties of Davenant ? or his irrefragable answer to a writer who — thought God might have mercy?” From a MS. Diurnal of the Parliament, 1658, in the possession of the descendant of Clement Walker, Jobo Walker Hepeage, of Comptonhouse, I am able to show that, besides Anthony Wood's concert at Oxford, in the year 1658 “the Opera” was first mentioned. This document is singular:
“Thursday, Feb. 5, 1658. — The Lords being acquainted that, notwithstanding the Laws against stageplays and interludes, yet there are stage-plays, interludes, and things of the LIKE NATURE, called “OPERA," acted, to the scandal of Religion and the Government,Ordered a Committee.” I cannot make out the names of the Committee, except Lord Claypole.
So, the “phylacteries” of the Presbyterians being “clipped,” INDEPENDENCY, under the great Cromwell, fretted its hour on the stage, till it sunk down exhausted. Then the Cathedrals again echoed the sublime anthem, and the old parishioner welcomed with tears of affection his pastor, who had haply survived exile, and poverty, and persecution.
PROGRESS AND DOMINATION OF
I have stated, as a matter of historical proof, that Laud never resorted to any measures of severity, as far as he was concerned, till his life wAS IN DANGER!*
* Before he had moved a step, a nephew of Archbishop Abbot preached against him, from the Oxford pulpit, whilst he was present, and the charge was that he would not speak with sufficient violence against Papists : “If they do at any time speak against the Papists, they beat a little upon the bush, and that softly too, for fear of disquieting the birds within."
“I came time enough,” says Laud, in a Letter to the Bishop of Lincoln, “ to be at the rehearsal of this sermon, upon much persuasion, when I was fain to sit patiently and hear myself abused almost an hour together, being pointed at as I sat. For this present abuse, I would have taken no notice of it, but that the whole University apply it to me; and my friends tell me I shall sink my credit if I answer not Dr. Abbot in his own. Nevertheless, in a business of this kind, I will not be swayed from a patient course : only I desire from your Lordship some directions."
Of Archbishop Abbot's Christian feelings we may judge by his remonstrance to King James the First : “Your Majesty hath proposed a TOLERATION! By your Act you labour to set up the most damnable and heretical doctrine of the Church of
It was indeed alleged, prior to 1628, that he was pected of Arminianism!” To be “suspected” of Arminianism is not to be an Arminian, and, if he was, it was not high-treason to maintain his own conscientious sentiments on a question of theology.
Who, then, first opposed the “RIGHTS OF CONScience?” I affirm, Pym and Cromwell, when in Parliament, they assumed the power which the stern Leaders of the Reformation had wrung from the infallible Church of Rome, and claimed it for the INFALLIBLE Church of Geneva !
November 27, 1628, Pym in Parliament lays down this Law : “It belongs to PARLIAMENT TO ESTABLISH TRUE RELIGION, and to PUNISH FALSE!” Cromwell, now for the first time spoke in Parliament, and he echoed the infallible Presbyterian :
“Mr. Oliver Cromwell” informed them that the Bishop of Winchester “did countenance flat Popery!* &c. If these be the steps to Church-preferment what may we expect!” says this Parliamentary “Defender of the Faith,” afterwards our Lord Protector."
The Parliament, so early as 1628, came to the following definite, and tolerant conclusion !
“Whoever shall seem to extend Arminianism, OR ANY
Rome—the WHORE OF BABYLON !" Laud answered Fisher by Scriptural arguments, and yet Laud was a Papist; and he was condemned to be " hanged, drawn, and quartered,” among other charges, for having been heard to say “The Pope was not Antichrist !" What should I suffer, who hesitate not to avow my sincere belief that the WHORE of Geneva has been as well versed in the infallible principles of persecution as the “Whore of Babylon!"