« НазадПродовжити »
These sentiments, expressed in the year 1617, show that at that early period he had no liking for the more frightful positions of Calvin; and we learn, by the satisfactory testimony of several personal friends, that in his latter years he had altogether forsaken the tenets known by that name ; and some published letters of Dr. Hammond's represented that the archbishop utterly and publicly disclaimed them.
Little remains to be added to the account which we have now given of this part of the primate's life. He constantly and earnestly preached the Gospel, and exemplified in his own character the instructions which he delivered. "The discourses," says his chaplain, Dr. Bernard, "which daily fell from him at his table, in the clearing of difficulties in the Scripture, and other subjects, especially when learned men came to visit him, were of great advantage to such as were capable of them. It often put me in mind of that speech of the queen of Sheba to Solomon — Happy are these thy servants that continually stand about thee, and hear thy wisdom. And such was his humility that he would, in practical subjects, apply himself to the information and satisfaction of the poorest and weakest person that should desire it; nay, sometimes rather incline towards such than to others more learned; which strangers wondered at, as the disciples marvelled at our Saviour's talking with the poor woman at Samaria, and answering her questions rather than heeding of them. (John, iv. 27.)
"The order observed in his family as to prayer, was four times a day; in the morning at six, in the evening at eight, and before dinner and supper in the chapel, at each of which he was always present.
"On Friday in the afternoon constantly an hour in the chapel was spent in going through the principles of religion in the catechism, for the instruction of the family. And every Sunday in the evening, we had a repetition of his sermon in the chapel, which he had preached in the church in the forenoon.
"In the winter evenings he constantly spent two hours in comparing of old manuscripts of the Bible, Greek and Latin, where about five or six of us assisted him, and the various readings of each were taken down by himself with his own hand."
About the begining of the year 1640, the archbishop was invited to England, with the hope that his character and influence might help to allay the storm which had been gathering so long, and which threatened to descend upon the kingdom in misery and sorrow. Willing to use such powers as he possessed in promoting public peace, he embarked with .his wife and family, little thinking that he should never more return to his native land.
From darkness here and dreariness
Only be Thou at hand to bless
Is not the pilgrim's toil o'erpaid
By the clear rill and palmy shade?
And see we not, up earth's dark glade,
By a merciful providence, God so conducts the steps of his servants as to deliver them out of innumerable troubles; and a pious christian cannot look back upon his past journey through life without seeing reason to own that many combinations of circumstances have brought blessings into his hands, although they might easily have been so arranged as to terminate in misery.
Archbishop. Usher had cause to be thankful that he was led into England at this time, and that his stay was protracted during many months; for he thus escaped the most dreadful scene of ferocious slaughter Which the pages of modern history describe.
But we are a little anticipating the course of our narrative. Immediately on his landing, the primate set out with his family to London ; where, finding himself in the midst of civil and religious discord, he soon proceeded to Oxford, hoping that peace might yet linger within the precincts of the University. In this expectation, however, he was disappointed; so, after enjoying the learned society of the place for a short period, he returned to the metropolis, resolving to exhort the people fearlessly, as well by preaching as writing, to be "loyal and obedient to their prince," while he endeavoured "to the utmost of his power to heal those breaches, and reconcile those differences, which were ready to break out both in church and state."
Soon after his return, the impeachment of lord Strafford came on; the archbishop frequently visited him in prison, and the earl consulted him about many parts of the defence which he intended to make at his trial.
When the bill of attainder passed the House of Lords, in May, 1641, the king, perplexed between the peril of refusing his assent and the injustice of granting it, sent for archbishop Usher and some other prelates. It was on a Sunday morning that the king's messenger came to the primate, while he was preaching in the church in Covent Garden. Descending for a moment from the pulpit, "to learn what urgent affairs so unseasonably demanded his attention, he told the messenger that " he was then employed about God's business, which as soon as he had done he would attend upon his majesty;" and then, returning to his place, proceeded with his sermon. Afterwards, when he arrived at Whitehall, the king was engaged with other advisers; but in the evening he had a conference with his royal master, and (as he solemnly assured Dr. Parr) declared his opinion, " that if his majesty was satisfied by what he had heard at the trial that the earl was not guilty of treason, he ought not in conscience to consent to his condemnation." And when the king yielded to the popular demand, and gave to the bill that sanction which weighed upon his spirits during the remainder of his days, the archbishop expressed his feelings with tears in his eyes, "Oh, sire, what have you done? I fear that this act may prove a great trouble upon your conscience; and pray God that your majesty may never suffer for signing this bill I"
It is related that lord Strafford, when viceroy of Ireland, had looked upon archbishop Usher with no very friendly feeling, and therefore it is the more delightful to observe, that he made choice of the primate for his spiritual adviser now that his days were numbered. The good archbishop had many interviews with him, and on the last evening of his mortal existence assisted him in his prayers to that court where, as the earl remarked, "neither partiality can be expected nor error found." Next morning he attended lord Strafford to the scaffold; kneeled down and prayed by his side; observed with comfort that the departing nobleman was engaged in silent devotion; was personally addressed in that courageous and eloquent speech which he delivered before disrobing for execution; and then, having received his last farewell, hastened from the touching scene, and bore to the king the tidings that all was over, adding the only consolation which the case admitted, that he had seen reason to believe that the earl was well prepared for that change, and that his last gloomy hours were brightened by the hope of eternal glory.
In the same year, 1641, archbishop Usher and bishop Hall were engaged in writing in defence of the church; and if they had been calmly and dispassionately attended to I the Church would have been saved the fiery trial which befel it. Usher's opponent was no less a person thanMil ton, and episcopacy was the subject of their controversy. The palm of victory has been assigned to each; but, as Dr. Symmons remarks, in his Life of Milton, "if argument and reason could have prevailed, the result [to the church] would probably have been different . The learning of Usher and the wit of Hall certainly preponderated in the contest, and they seem to have been felt not only by the Smectymnuan * divines, but by Milton himself. The affected contempt with which he speaks of ' the dust and pudder in antiquity' of his ' respected friends, lying at the mercy of a coy and flirting style,' of their 'antagonist vapouring them out with quips and snapping adages, and employing weak arguments headed with sharp taunts,' sufficiently betrays the weak points of his friends and the strong ones of his opponents. If the church, indeed, at this time, could have been upheld by the abilities of its sons, it would have been supported by these admirable prelates; but numbers, exasperation, and enthusiasm, were against them .... The tone of this debate was far from mild, and all the combatants, with the exception of Usher, seem to have been careless of
• The word Smectymnuus is composed of the initial letters of the names of five divines, who united their powers in writing down episcopacy under the above title.