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of the controversy they have occasioned are so hackneyed by this time, that we are sure our readers will excuse our disinclination even to approach them. Yet it is hardly possible to follow the precise line of truth, without danger of being drawn into the abyss. And when once involved, it is still less so, to adhere to that calmness of judgment without which there is no hope of extrication. Luckily for us, in this dilemma, we are likely to be helped out by the somewhat original mode of thinking which our contemporary has adopted, and by the duty we are under rather to follow the path marked out for us than to open any of our own. And this we hope to do as closely as it is possible.
The first proposition which the Reviewers advance, is, that “ the nature of the contest in England between Churchmen and Puritans was merely a political one, and not, as is usually represented, a religious one.” And this they support by the argument we now subjoin.
“This may fairly be inferred, from what is said by both of our authors. Professor Kingsley tells us, (Disc. p. 55,) 'their (the Puritans') opposition to the Church of England was mainly political, and limited in a great measure to discipline.' And Mr. Bacon tells us, (Disc. p. 14,) that, of the many Puritans who came to New England at its first planting, none, save the pilgrims of Plymouth, had denounced the Church of England, or had separated themselves from its communion.' And in another place he asks, 'What were the Puritans? Let sober history answer. They were a great religious and poLITICAL party, in a country and in an age in which every man's religion was a matter of political regulation. They were, in their day, the reforming party in the Church and state of England.' (p. 34.) But when we say it was a political controversy, we do not mean that nothing was said concerning religion, nor even that the Puritans did not profess to be seeking its promotion ; but we intend to assert the plain and simple proposition, that the real contest between Churchmen and Puritans was FOR THE POLITICAL ASCENDENCY ; Churchmen desiring to continue prelacy as the religion of state, while the Puritans were striving to elevate Presbyterianism to the same post ; both parties, the meanwhile, professing to be influenced solely by a regard for religion, and having its best interests deeply at heart. If, therefore, the professions of these partisans are to be taken as evidence of the nature of the controversy, it was purely a religious one ; but, if we judge of the upon it.
nature of that controversy as we do of those of later days, by the end sought, we cannot hesitate to conclude that it was political. So long, then, as the ulterior object of any party is to gain the political supremacy, no matter what their pretensions may be, whether to purify the church, to establish a new religion or a new form of discipline, to introduce better laws or wiser rulers, - still, the end being political, the contest is political." - p. 53.
We have extracted the whole of this passage, with its emphatic words and small capitals, because it appears to us to be the basis of whatever of argument can be found in the remainder of the article. We have no hesitation in at once declaring, that it fails to support the proposition advanced
There is a change of language in it, which may deceive the unwary, but which cannot stand the test of a moment's scrutiny. Neither Mr. Bacon nor Professor Kingsley admits, that the contest between Churchmen and Puritans was merely a political one, - nor would it have been true, if they had done so. The latter gentleman, in our opinion, goes too far when he says, it was “mainly political ” ; the former states the case right when he describes it as " a religious, and a political contest, when religion was a matter of political regulation.” Hence the political struggle on the part of the least powerful party in religion, was one not of their seeking. The religious scruple became a political question, only because the King and the Church insisted upon shutting up every other avenue to its indulgence. To show this clearly, it is only necessary to look back to the origin of the Reformation in England. When Henry the Eighth quarrelled with the Pope, he listed the great barrier to the progress of the new opinions. This was very unintentionally done on his part, it is true ; but still, once done, the deed could not be undone. And, having been done, it was not possible that the privilege of thought and reasoning upon religious subjects, thus newly obtained by the people, would not lead to great diversities of sentiment. The triumph of the Reformation was secured ; but it was not practicable to dictate the precise degree to which that triumph should be carried ; nor, where men are constituted as they now are, to require that they should all stop short at the word of command, and be ready to arrange their future creed exactly by the rule which was VOL. L. - NO. 107.
thereafter to be measured to them by the sovereign power. The attempt to measure out such a rule was the grand mistake of the Tudor and Stuart princes, persevered in until it levelled the throne itself to the dust. The position taken for the English Church was a false position, and one in direct resistance to all experience of human nature. For it commanded dissent from the ancient doctrine, and yet left no room for opinion to exercise itself. It stimulated to reflection, and then punished the indulgence of it. It first treated man as a rational being, and then prescribed to him the uniformity of attitude which can be got only from blocks. In an age of excitement, when the mind, just freed from its setters, was revelling and gambolling in the very wantonness of its newly-acquired power, it undertook to check these extravagances as if they were crimes. And, when the furious battle arose between the old and the new opinions, it ventured to assume a middle position, which, like all middle positions, satisfied neither party, and stimulated the ardor for victory in both. The Puritan directed his attack against the Church, only because he regarded it as the lurking-place from which Romanism might again spring out upon him, and bind him hand and foot, a slave for ever after to the Pope ; whilst the Catholic made his approaches gradually and cautiously against it from the hope, constantly entertained, that there was a sentiment existing within, which would lead to a voluntary surrender of the citadel, and thus save him the hazard of a storm. The Puritan wished to cut off the possibility of the existence of that sentiment, by removing from sight and hearing every bond of sympathy or tie of association which might tempt to a return. And this it was which gave rise to the disputes about forms, the sign of the cross in baptism, the wearing of the surplice, the ring in marriage, the nature of which superficial thinkers have since marvelled at rather than understood. To the reformer, these were all so many living signs of the restoration of the Papal supremacy, the strength of which was by no means diminished by the policy, singularly adapted to confirm his worst suspicions, which was put in practice by Archbishop Laud. It is a remarkable circumstance, that the popular impression respecting the probability of such an event has survived in England to this day. And the greatest controversy now going on in the Church, that growing out of the publication of the “ Oxford Tracts,” turns upon this single point ; a controversy deemed of consequence enough to receive a distinguished notice in the pages of the very number of the “New York Review” now before us, which contains the charge against the Puritans, that their struggle was not religious, but only for the political ascendency.
The truth is, that there were two very distinct shapes, in which the principles of the Puritans developed themselves, neither of which can with any fairness be put out of sight. The one is to be found in the religious disputes of the period in question, the other is clearly discernible in the Parliamentary History. In both will be seen the same origin of complaint, grievous oppression ; and, in both, the same earnest desire to sustain opinions boldly formed, honestly entertained, and fervently advocated. It is, therefore, with no small surprise, that we notice the reiteration of the word " profession," with so much emphasis, in the extract we have made. We can hardly persuade ourselves, that our brother Reviewers can mean to call in question the good faith, or sincerity in religious feeling, of those whom they attack. But, if they do, we can safely leave them to the enjoyment of their own suspicions, without hazard of injury from their effect. The pillory, the axe, the block, and the gibbet ; the loss of ears and noses, and of the means by which life can be made comfortable and honorable, rather than the surrender of an abstract opinion, form a class of arguments addressed to the minds and hearts of men, which soar far above the range of all ordinary methods of detraction.
The great error of the whole argument of the New York Reviewers, then, rests in a total misconception and consequent misrepresentation of the nature of the religious struggle that took place. They consider it as a mere struggle for power between two regularly organized parties, putting forward certain doctrines as the rallying-points for their members, but resorting to them only to cover a political end, the establishment of their own supremacy. It is difficult to show an instance in which the facts of history have been more singularly perverted. And writers, whose business it was to find some defence for their own hostility, by blackening the character of those whom they oppressed, when ascribing to the Puritans the worst possible intentions, are gravely quoted as authorities from whom a conclusion may be formed respecting “ the light in which these were viewed by their opponents,” and a justification implied of the persecution which they suffered. The whole structure of the edifice is artificial in the extreme. There can be no doubt, that the doctrines of the Puritan reformers were generally considered at court as unfavorable to monarchy. King James took an early opportunity in his reign to express his opinion upon the matter. He laid down the rule, “No bishop, no king,” at the Hampton Court conference, and distinctly announced to the Puritans then present, that “ he would make them conform, or harry them out of the land, or else worse.” But this surely is no justification for the persecution, which followed under Archbishop Bancroft, and was resumed with tenfold severity by Laud, on account of mere opinion ; nor does it fix upon the Nonconformists, who submitted without resistance, the truth of any of the charges which their malignant enemies were so fond of advancing. The mode of making an extract here and there, from the most violent writers among the Puritans, in order to hold the whole body responsible for the acts of those individuals, is so obviously an enemy's trick, that it is astonishing any fair-minded writer could rely upon it for a moment, to support any position whatsoever. The object was so well understood at the time as to call forth very complete and satisfactory disavowals of the motives imputed ; and these were often made in an authorized shape. “Let the bishops sift well our courses,” they say, "since his Majesty's happy entrance in among us, and let them name wherein we have done aught, that may justly be said ill to become the ministers of Jesus Christ. Have we drawn any sword ? Have we raised any tumult ? Have we used any threats ? Hath the state been put into any fear or hazard through us? Manifold disgraces have been cast upon us, and we have endured them ; the liberty of our ministry bath been taken from us, and (though with bleeding hearts) we have sustained it. have been cast out of our houses, and deprived of our ordinary maintenance, yet have we blown no trumpet of sedition. These things have gone very near us, and yet did we never so much as entertain a thought of violence. The truth is, we have petitioned the King and state ; and who hath reason to deny us that liberty? We have craved of the prelates to