Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

did.

'band some part of the army ; but no sooner did the General discover their intentions, than, after a short and fruitless negotiation for arrears,, perhaps merely a cover for his projected measures, he repaired to the House at the head of a few officers and privates, and quietly dissolved that assembly. Then followed some days of humiliation, and seeking after God. In compliance with Cromwell's wish, the council of officers decreed, that 139 persons should exercise the sovereign power; all, according to the true spirit of practical republicanism, to be nominated solely by himself. With this dexterous measure he was content for the present, as preparatory to the execution of his grand design; and precisely as he had conjectured, that miserable handful of statesmen, called Barebones', or the Little Parliament, being the dregs of the wildest fanatics, and chiefly men of low birth and mean acquirements, became tired in a few months of functions which they were incompetent to discharge, and after having committed some vulgar extravagancies in legislation, resigned the government into the hands of Cromwell as Lord Protector. This violent assumption of authority had now, in truth, been rendered in some degree necessary ; the Royalists being too unpopular, the Presbyterians too intolerant, and the Independents too weak in numbers, to be intrusted with supreme power. The Westminster assembly, have ing lingered out as a committee, died a natural death, in sympathy with the Long Parliament.

VII. 1653. In the instrument of government, prepared by the council of officers, it was appointed that no penalties should enforce religious belief; that a regular provision should speedily be made for the ministry; and, as before, that a general toleration should be exercised, popery, prelacy, and licentiousness being alone excepted. Presbyterìanism was nominally made the established religion; and in every county monthly presbyteries were still held for the ordination of ministers, agreeably to the forms prescribed by the directory.

VIII. 1654. Whether Cromwell is to be deem. ed a hypocrite or an enthusiast, he deserves credit for consistence, and, we may add, sincerity of enlarged sentiment, in his treatment of the various religious parties. While he exhibited the singular phenomenon of a governor's making a different persuasion from his own, the established faith of the nation whom he governs, he disarmed the Presbyterians of whatever might prove noxious to other professions, in their intolerant and tyrannical spirit. “I am the only one,” said he, “ who has known to subdue that insolent sect which can suffer none but itself! Can we not remember," wrote he at Edinburgh to the Scottish clergy, « what we ourselves have suffered lately from intolerance; and shall we inflict, when in power, the like severities on our brethren?" At another time, a deputation of the London divines com. plained, that the cavalier episcopal clergy debauched the minds of the faithful, and drew them away from their regular ministers. " Do they so?” said the Protector ; “ I will give orders. concerning this : but, hold ! in what manner do the cavaliers debauch your people ?"-" By preaching,” replied the divines. “Is that all ?” said Cromwell ; “ then preach back again *.”

Cromwell favoured the Independents, not as himself an Independent, but because in principle and practice they were the most tolerant among all persuasions. His chaplains were Independents, and he himself frequently joined in the enthusi. astic fervours of the meanest privates in the army. Still further to promote toleration, and to check the Presbyterians, he mingled among the commis. sioners, Independent and Baptist ministers, with nine or ten laymen; and their combined numbers, being in all thirty-eight, were now distinguished by the appellation of Tryers. Of these, five were sufficient to approve of candidates for the ministry, but not less than nine might reject them of: The

* See Warburton's Remarks.

The Protector likewise contemplated the giving of full en. couragement to the Jews ; but the minds of his counsellors and statesmen were not sufficiently expanded to sanction this measure with their assent.

† Scobel, p. 366 ; Baxter's Life, p. 72. The names of these comiuissioners may be seen in Neale, vol, ii.

VOL. II. . E k

candidates who passed muster received a sealed instrument from the commissioners, investing

them in the full possession of their benefices. The · Tryers, however, left to their own discretion, be.

ing all Calvinists, and many of them extravagant fanatics, inquired only concerning the conversion and progress in grace, perceptibly experienced by the probationers for the ministry ; or, at best, investigated their proficiency in the Genevan doctrines *

* This body sate at Whitehall till after the death of Cromwell, in 1659. For the convenience of remote ordination, they had sub-committees in the several counties. They demanded letters testimonial, but imposed no oath of allegiance to Cromwell; and hence several of the episcopal clergy glided silently into preferment. Among others, Fuller the historian obtained a living, having only answered to their inquiries, that he made a conscience of his thoughts.

The powers granted to the Tryers have been, with justice, pronounced to have been higher archiepiscopal and supra-metropolitan. Under the old regime, a clerk, if aggrieved or rejected, had the redress of a Quare impedit; but here no appeal was allowed from the decision, comprised, without comment, in the words, Not approved. Much expense and trouble were incurred by the clergy, from long journeys, and the delay of their examinations. The questions were such as ignorance, impudence, and hypocrisy might answer; and a man's own account of his sensible experiences was taken for Gospel. Nye and Peters were the two chief Tryers. When a malignant minister came before them, it was their usual mancuvre, to pose him with dark and abstruse questions in theology, in order to set his claim quietly aside. Two specimens of their examinacions bave fortunately been transmitted to posterity;

Little learning being requisite to satisfy these interrogatories, the ministry was disgraced by an

and it would bave baffled the understandings of the wisest among the children of men, to have kept pace with the intricate windings of these inquisitors. But Duncombe and Sadler, the ministers under the torture, were themselves sublime Calvinists, or at least found it convenient to appear so; and their answers, in point of incomprehensible nonsense, fell not at all short of the questions which called them forth. Bebold one or two examples ! To me it is only matter of surprise, how these sophs and respondents could contrive to preserve their gravity.

Q. Is faith mediate or immediate ?
A. It is mediate in one sense, and immediate in another.
Q. Was God willing or unwilling that Adam should fall ?

A. With submission to your opinion, I conceive, there was a willing unwillingness."

N. B. These two answers will remind the reader of the student at Cambridge, who being interrogated, “ Whether. the sun moves round the earth, or the earth round the sun?" replied, in order to make quite sure of his point, “ Sometimes the one, and sometimes the other.”

Q. Which is greater, original or actual sin ?
A. Actual.
Q. Is murder a greater sin than original sind
Q. (By another.)– Is the branch greater than the root?:
(Remark by a third.)-That's a home question.

A. Actual sin is an aggravation of original sin, and, there fore, it is a greater sin.

N. B.-By this reasoning, resentment is an aggravation of murder, and, therefore, it is a greater sin.

Q. Is regeneration a substance or an accident?
A. I do not understand your meaning.
2. Nye. It is plain ; answer.

« AnteriorContinuar »