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Art. VII.—Spiritual Heroes ; or, Sketches of the Puritans; their
Character, and Times. By John Stoughton. London: Jackson
and Walford. Hero-worship is dying out. It has had its day, and is now giving place to a purer and nobler faith. During many centuries it has been dominant throughout the world. It has reigned everywhere, and found its votaries amongst all classes, the high and the low, the learned and the rude. From times immemorial it has been the universal faith of mankind; and the few
-alas, that their numbers were so small !—who dissented from its worship and exposed its folly, have been deemed the weakest and most contemptible of mortals. We speak, of course, of the actual, not the ideal, hero-worship; that which has been, not that which might be; a thing of fact and reality, not of poetry or hope. Carlyle tells us, and his words, properly understood, are correct, that'hero-worship never dies, por can die.' There is a true, a noble, a divine veneration, as well as a false, perishable one, and the mischief is, that the glowing language of the poet-philosopher, which is true of the former only, is often applied to the latter. The gods whom men have worshipped have commonly been idols, mere creatures of the earth. The warrior who has triumphed in wholesale slaughter, the statesman who has successfully intrigued for power, the man who has adopted the passions of an age, and reduced them to system, and given them a permanent shape,-these have, for the most part, been the idols at whose shrine men have bowed, and on whom historians ard poets, novelists, and even philosophers, have waited as officiating priests. The history of man has been a lamentable exhibition of credulity and folly. What is sterling and real has been passed over in contempt, while the garnitures and semblances have awakened admiration and commanded worship. The realities and sincerities' of which Carlyle speaks, however worthy of veneration, have, with rare exceptions, been subjected to temporary eclipse. Failing in the present, they have looked to the future for their reward, and that future has often been long deferred and of slow approach.
The history of puritanism furnishes an illustration. Men may censure it as they please, but it was a genuine thing; for nature has adopted it, and it has grown, and grows. We are only just beginning to realize its truthfulness. Men's eyes are opening to its genuine traits. They see that its roughness, its austerity, its dogmatism, are but the casket in which a precious jewel was enclosed. A mighty revolution is taking place in men's thoughts and judgments concerning it, and those who are wise will prepare themselves for a corresponding change in men's conduct. The one will inevitably follow the other. No earthly power can prevent it. A bright mirror has been unveiled, and, as men gaze upon it, they will see the forms of living truth, and he changed into the same image. For upwards of two centuries, puritanism has been descried as a vile leprosy. It is now in a transition state, and, ere long, its radical element, associated with the milder and more tolerant spirit of the present age, will become the ruling power of our country.
With these views, we cordially welcome every contribution to puritan history. They hasten on the progress of the public mind, correct its misconceptions, remove its prejudices, and familiarise it with forms of truth from which it has been accustomed to recoil. This history cannot be too deeply pondered. As the author of the volume before us remarks, ‘From the beginning, puritanism has been the soul of English protestantism, and therefore its history deserves to be diligently studied, and its spirit gratefully revered, by all who really value the cause of the Reformation. The first title of this volume is not quite to our mind. We dislike the whole class to which it belongs; but this is matter of taste, on which authors will have, and are perhaps entitled to have, their preferences. Mr Stoughton's design is not to furnish a history of the puritans.
· He would venture only,' he tells us, 'on a few sketches of their character and times, chiefly with a view to illustrate their spiritual heroism. * * * In executing his task, he has attempted the painting rather than the sculpture of history, not confining himself to the exhibition of groups in bold relief, or in forms of statuary, but aiming to represent alike the men and the times in which they lived, combining them as in a picture-the former constituting the leading figures, the latter the background of the composition. Guizot speaks of the anatomy, the physiology, and the physiognomy of history-very important distinctions for the historian to remember. It is that branch of the pictorial art of history which represents the last of these, that the Author ventures to attempt. He would fain paint his heroes as living men, their souls beaming in their countenances, and vividly transfer to others the deep impressions which they have made upon his own mind.' - Preface, p. vi.
The object here avowed is most admirable; but we doubt whether the author, in adopting it, has fairly consulted the character of his own mind. His style is wanting in the brilliancy, and point, and condensation, which it requires. His intellect, also, is deficient in graphic power. He does not paint to the life. His canvass does not beam with intelligence. His heroes do not look out upon us with the glow and freshness of the hour-the passions, or the purpose, which then moved their inner soul. His scenes are characterized by prettiness rather than power, and fail therefore to stir the depths of the heart. His sketches of individuals are also wanting in those minuter and more distinctive traits which give certainty to a likeness. We took in vain for the slight, rapid, and electric touches which specially mark the genius of an artist, and give expression to his portraits. Mr. Stoughton himself appears to have felt this deficiency, and, apprehensive that his readers might not otherwise identify his sketches, has supplied us with the names of several. Locke, Penn, South, and Howe, may be mentioned as instances. Such supplemental information, like the notes to some modern poems, reflects either on the author or his readers. They betoken feebleness and inadequacy of expression on his part, or a discreditable want of apprehension on theirs. Let us not be misunderstood in these remarks. They pertain only to the form, not to the substance, of this volume. The book is a good book, notwithstanding the deficiency, and will prove useful to a large class of readers. Critical justice requires us to point out what we deem a failure in the execution of the work, and, having done so, we proceed with much more pleasure to notice its excellencies. The value of the work is as an introduction to puritan and nonconformist history. In this character it sustains a very creditable position, and will answer a useful purpose. It is well adapted to attract young people to the study of our ecclesiastical records, and to convey to them a general conception of the character and sufferings of our forefathers. Such a book was needed, and the spirit in which this has been composed is at once truthful and catholic, free alike from bigotry and latitudinarianism. The author writes like a man who has thought out and who values his own convictions, but who never permits them to render him insensible to the excellencies of others, or to sanction the intolerance with which some have sought to enforce his views. The volume is divided into thirteen chapters, the titles of which will convey the best idea of its character. They are as follows:- The Islington Congregation. - The Three Martyrs.- Pilgrim Fathers. The Church in Southwark.—The Brave Lord Brooke.—The Westminster Assembly. - Oxford under Owen. — East Anglian Churches.—Black Bartholomew.-The Plague Year.-Tolerance and Persecution. - The Three Death-beds.—The Three Graves.'
The first of these chapters relates to the time of Mary, when popery occupied the high places, and the morose temper and gloomy bigotry of the queen was successfully managed, for priestly purposes, by Gardiner and Bonner. It was a woful time for England. Its manhood and its virtue were fiercely assailed in the name of the Holy Catholic Church, and for a time they appeared to quail. The exterior of popery was restored ; and those who looked only on the surface, the church processions, the splendid ritual, parliamentary statutes and convocation debates, the fires of Smithfield, and the quietude of the people, may be excused in supposing that popery was permanently restored. Religion,' said the Venetian ambassador in writing home, though apparently thriving in this country, is, I apprehend, in some degree the offspring of dissimulation. Generally speaking, your Serene Highness may rest assured, that with the English the example and authority of the sovereign is everything, and religion is only so far valued as it inculcates the duty due from the subject to the prince. They love as he loves; believe as he believes. They would be full as zealous followers of the Mahometan and Jewish religions, did the king prefer either. Such was the language of an Italian respecting our country, and though we now smile at its folly, we must, in mere justice, admit that there was much in the then condition and recent history of our people to warrant it. Mr. Stoughton has collected some interesting traits of this period, when the faithful met 'in the woods of Islington to feed upon the truth,' for which, however, we must refer our readers to his volume. Fox has rendered the persecutions of this reign familiar to all classes, and we therefore prefer taking our extracts from the less known, and more distinctively puritan, portions of the work.
Persecution has not been confined to Catholic times, however much it may suit the purpose of some zealots so to represent it. It has been even recently practised in various Protestant countries, and is now raging in districts which were once deemed the refuge of freedom. In our own country, a Protestant hierarchy has steeped its hands in the blood of the saints. Its mode of procedure has been somewhat different from that of its predecessor, but the spirit of its policy has been equally intolerant. It has wanted the power of the papacy, and has been curbed by the more enlightened and merciful temper of the age; and hence the milder form which its persecutions have taken.
Mr. Stoughton's second chapter records the executions of Barrow, Greenwood, and Penry, and we recommend its attentive perusal to those who eulogize--and there are such—the tolerant character of the Church of England. They were not the only martyrs of this reign. So early as 1583, Elias Thacker and John Coping had been executed at Bury St. Edmonds, for denying the spiritual supremacy of the queen; and vast numbers were from time to time incarcerated, many of whom died under their prison privations and sufferings. Barrow was apprehended
on the 19th of November, 1586, when engaged in an errand of mercy to some of his brethren, who were prisoners in the Clink. It was a Sabbath day, but Whitgift and the bishops, like their popish predecessors, thought they did God service by the extirpation of heretics, and Barrow was therefore immediately arraigned before the Archbishop.
On the afternoon of that Sabbath,' says our author, 'when it might have been supposed that Whitgift, Bishop of London, would have found some holier emplovment, Barrowe was brought into the presencechamber, where his lordship sat in state, and forthwith proceeded to examine him. The plan pursued in this Commission Court was not to try the accused on evidence, but to administer what was called the exofficio oath, and then, by a train of inquisitorial questionings, to endeavour to make the individual criminate himself—a precious piece of criminal jurisprudence borrowed from the Church of Rome, and sanctified by the proceedings of Bonner and others under Queen Mary. Barrowe sturdily refused to be sworn, and gave the Bishop several very short and tart replies; upon which he was committed to the Gate-house, and on the 27th November following was brought before the High Commissioners at Lambeth, where, he informs us, he found a goodly synod of bishops, deans, and civilians, beside such an appearance of well-fed, silken priests as might have beseemed the Vatican.' Again he refused to swear; again he was committed. On the 24th March, he was examined on his affirmation, without oath. It appears, from his replies, that he went further than the Puritans in his ecclesiastical views.'-p. 47.
Heylin and Collier represent Barrow and Greenwood as having been released, on a promise of renouncing their obnoxious opinions, but of this we have no sufficient evidence, nor does it accord with what we know of the men, or with the distinct declaration made by Barrow, to the doctors and deans' sent to confer with the prisoners after their conviction, that they 'had been well-nigh six years in their prisons. If it were so, they were speedily recommitted, as they had been several years in prison when arraigned at the Old Bailey, on the 21st of March, 1592–3. They were indicted on the statute of 23 Elizabeth, for writing seditious pamphlets and books, to the slander of the queen and her government. This was the current phraseology of the day, and when rendered into plain English, simply meant that they denied the spiritual supremacy of the queen. They were of course convicted, and when sentenced to die, 'None of them,' we are informed by the then Attorney-General, 'showed any token of recognition, and of their offences, and prayer of mercy for the same, saving Bellot alone. The others pretended loyalty and obedience to her majesty, and endeavoured to draw all that they had maliciously written and published against her majesty's government, to the