Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

of King Charles, whilst this unfortunate Monarch was himself the great actor and the great sufferer in the sad succeeding tragedy of life. With respect to Whitelock, afterwards Cromwell's ambassador to the Court of the Queen of Sweden, he was so far from a rigid Puritan as to be the composer - of what? Treatises on international polity? No but of a most ungodly JIGG, called “ Whitelock's Corranto.” * In this masque, Whitelock's depart

Whitelock's department was the arrangement of the music; but one remarkable circumstance is, that Milton's exquisite Masque of Comus was produced soon afterwards.

Nor can I part from the subject without observing that the Masques of the celebrated Ben Jonson had been the forerunners of this ineffectual but splendid pageantry; he, indeed, for many years supplied the Court with such entertainments, but his last was in 1630-1.

I mention this circumstance, because Hyde, afterwards the great Clarendon, enumerates Ben Jonson as one of his distinguished associates in early life; and also, because Morley, Ken's first patron in life, was adopted by Ben Jonson, in youth, as his son, in the same manner as Charles Cotton, of the same society, was the adopted son of Isaak Walton.

The reader will see hereafter some particular reasons for my introducing these names, and, I must add, that such coincidences, of which history is * The reader may see this jig in Burney's “ History of Music.”

silent, are not only, at least to me, interesting in themselves, but important, as furnishing matter of historical reflection.

Previously to this levity, the most injudicious measure, as the most offensive, to all who had any serious views in religion, was the order, on Sundays, after evening prayers, to read the Book of Sports ; for some ill-advised courtiers possessed those “ in high places” with the opinion that, as John Bull was getting too rigid and austere in his notions, it would be highly conducive to his sanity if he would indulge himself in some innocent recreations, when his Sabbath duties had been performed, as if this pernicious adviser had said to John Bull, “Jump about, John; you are too melancholy by half! why not, on Sundays, have some harmless recreation?"

The “rude forefathers of the hamlet” had been taught, by every minister, to “ remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy;" and the effect of the mandate was directly contrary to what was expected, as were also the harsh arbitrary measures of a Court so hostile to the spirit of English polity as the Star Chamber. John would not jump by compulsion; and he, perhaps, thought that he had less reason, as he might have heard, in a sermon, three hours long by the glass at the preacher's elbow, that God, from all ETERNITY, by a fixed decree, had, for his good pleasure, condemned millions and millions of human beings, merely for his own good pleasure! Nay, according to the doctrines most prevalent at the time, that he had created millions and millions of innocent children,-notwithstanding what our Saviour so tenderly says, * - to shew his infinite mercy and justice, they being passed over and predestined to eternal torments for ever! — nay, born on purpose to be so tormented !ype and if there was a Lord Bishop * who did not quite admit all this, he was voted a “scandalous” Arminian prelate, the enemy of all vital religion !

We can readily suppose John Bull would not be much disposed to recreation after such homilies as these, with which the pulpits of the time resounded; and it is no wonder that our Liturgy was held in such pious horror, when the great doctor of these consoling lessons of Christianity, had pronounced of the English Prayer-book, that it contained “ a great many tolerable FOOLERIES.”

Such were the general doctrines, more or less disguised, which were heard or inculcated in Presbyterian pulpits, except by some who, like honest Richard Baxter, with too much charity in his heart to admit the terrific consequences, struck out what is called a middle way -- which middle way, by the bye, is as old as the Creed. But a little closer reasoning might have convinced Richard,

* « Suffer little children to come unto me," &c. + In contumeliam et PENAM nati ! Calvin. # “Lord Bishops not the Lord's Bishops;" by John Vicars.

Plurimas tolerabiles ineptias! Calvin.

that fate or predestination, with conditions, is no fate, or predestination at all!

The middle way, called Baxterian, * was founded on such reasonings as these: Infinite Wisdom, from all eternity, foresaw that Richard, when a little ungodly urchin at Kidderminster, should make himself sick up with eating APPLES, of which he relates sundry affecting instances in the folio volume of his Life; for instance, that such was his inordinate and unruly appetite for this fruit, that he absolutely stole soine, a sin he afterwards remembered with deep remorse! Providence did not interfere to prevent his falling into this temptation, nor to prevent his witnessing a dance round a maypole, still more impious than stealing upples ; but Providence foresaw that Richard should finally persevere, and that Judge Jeffries should not hang him (see Trial), that his “inner man,” notwithstanding his stealing apples, should not be disturbed in articulo mortis, and that finally his predestination and election should be certain !

* With respect to the predestination of the 17th Article, I conclude it will be granted, that I must judge the Articles of Religion by the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures by the Articles! I can reconcile the 17th Article of our Church to the Scriptures, but not to doctrines more scholastic than scriptural,—of the school of St. Austin, and Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin, not of St. Paul; and further, that, so far from wishing to speak with disrespect of Baxter, I esteem him as a most sincere, excellent, pious, and truly good man, though I might smile at his unscriptural and contradictory code, his remorse for eating too many apples, and his pious ardour against witches.

+ See Baxter's Life.

This is, in fact, Baxter's middle way! At all events, that system of religion which in these times chiefly prevailed, and which is evidently gaining ground again, called “a revival !” was the spirit of Calvinistic Puritanism. This spirit obtained the ascendant through the nation, and was now paramount in this Presbyterian Parliament.

After “ Sion's Plea AGAINST PRelacy,” the “ HISTRIO-MASTIX,” and the book called “SMECTYMNUUS," may be considered as the two loudest blasts of the TRUMPET,” that shook the battlements and citadel of the Episcopal Church - beside these, ten thousand strepent horns of pamphleteering fury, and congregations,humming”* in dismal unison to the tune of ETERNAL reprobation, and denouncing vengeance on Arminian Amalekites, joined to the yells of women,

" who lock'd their fish up, And trudg'd away to cry. No Bishop!'" ushered in the SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT in 1643, to extirpate EPISCOPACY-ROOT AND BRANCH. This Covenant was taken by the Parliament, and all who refused to take it were dispossessed of every thing they held in the Church.

“Old Priest,” in Milton's indignant phrase, being

* When passages in a three hours sermon were applauded, the congregation joined in a general "hum."

« VorigeDoorgaan »