Imágenes de páginas

struggle of the Revolution, and has ever been the right arm of our defense and the rock of our salvation.

But we shall not lose sight of God, if we turn to contemplate the agencies he has used in blessing us; if we ask, what principles and what men, under him, have been the source and means of our national exaltation. Indeed the text requires this view. After recognizing God as the original source of blessings to the Hebrews, it proceeds to specify the great instrument of their creation and diffusion. "He hath not dealt so with any nation," exclaims the Psalmist, "and as for his judgments," that is, his word, ordinances, and sacred institutions, as for these, "they have not known them." A most distinct testimony that the presence and power of God's word and laws, were the great source of blessing and glory to his covenant people; and the want of them the great and sore evil which pressed heavily on the surrounding nations. Just as where the sun, is there will be light, and warmth, and life, and beauty; and where he is not, there will be cold, and darkness, and death.

I hold it to be susceptible of demonstration that the vital principles of all real political and religious liberty, and, by consequence, of all real national prosperity, were enshrined, as the germ in its seed, in the truths and institutions which God gave the Israelites by Moses. Accordingly we find, that so long and just in proportion as that people adhered to those truths and institutions, they were enlightened, virtuous, and free. Not a period of depression, anarchy, or servitude occurs in their entire history, except in connection with their corruption or abandonment of these means of elevation and blessing; nor, on the other hand, was there ever a period of national security, prosperity, and glory, which was not connected with a return to the revelation and ordinances of God. Faithfully walking in the light of that revelation, and in the spirit and observance of those ordinances, the Jews would have been a united, exalted, glorious nation to this day. Alas! the insanity of human wisdom and human pride! They did not, they would not know the things which belonged to their peace, and therefore, at length, every vestige of their national existence and glory was swept away by the just judgments of God!

I hold it to be also an equally clear truth, that these essential principles of personal and national well-being were reïnshrined in the institutions, and reässerted with still greater distinctness and power in the doctrines of Jesus Christ. In them, "the true foundations of society and government of the authority of public and the obedience of private men-of the political and civil rights of the citizen, are laid in moral obligation, with God as its author and man as its subject. In them, the code of public morals is founded on the code of private morals. Government is regarded as an institution for the good of society, and rulers as only agents,

while the relative rights and duties of the governor and the governed are referred to the plain practical sense-the divine, yet simple wisdom-the pure, just, and immutable principles of Christian morals." In a word, the only truly philosophical and adequate basis and constitution of society and government, are presented in the holy doctrines and simple institutions of the New Testament.

What unwonted impulse Christian ideas gave to the human mind, I can not stop to relate; nor how waves of influence and blessing circled out from the central points of evangelic instruction and labor, until almost the extremities of the world felt the strange sensations and impulses of waking, life, progress. Great results were achieved. Sublime movements in the mental and moral sphere of things began. A new power was felt operating on the individual and on the state, ennobling the peasant and claiming authority over the emperor.

God, however, permitted the truth to be overlaid again with corruption, and the rising hopes of the world were shrouded. Human wisdom and ambition, with intolerable effrontery, dared to set themselves above the wisdom and the simplicity of the Gospel, and were justly left to the appalling consequences. And yet, through those dismal periods which succeeded that early corrup tion of evangelic truth, that fearful putting out of the divine light, there were still men, and bodies of men, who, in the midst of persecution and death, maintained their integrity and held by and transmitted the truth. They were the Cathari, the Paulicians, the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Lollards, and the Bohemians. Tortured, butchered, burnt, driven from nation to nation, and even from continent to continent, they still bore witness for Christ, and preserved the doctrines and institutions of His holy Church, until the truth broke again upon the world, as in a flood of light and glory, at the Reformation. Yes, across that dreary interval there was a little stream of life-some precious rays of imperishable brightness. The progress of liberty, then, has been likened to "the stream of the desert, or the summer-brook passing through the wilderness, but still keeping its clear and pebbly channel, rippling over the stones, and murmuring in the silence of the night, refreshing the weary traveller in his wanderings, and giving him to anticipate the time, when he should find a broader surface, peradventure, some beautiful lake or nobler ocean, where he might bathe and invigorate himself, and around whose shores he should behold fertile and waving fields, and partake of delicious and abundant fruits. That time came, in the moral import of this comparison, at the epoch of the Reformation.

On the principles and character of that great event I should love to dwell and they belong to our subject. But time presses, and I must hasten. Let me just say, it was the fruit of the Bible. Luther was a mere instrument, though a noble one-scattering

[ocr errors]

broadcast the incorruptible seed. Though bred a monk, and as devoutly pious as the best of them, he was twenty years old, before his eye rested on the word of God. But the effect then was electric-resistless. He bowed to its supreme authority; he felt within him the kindling energies of a new and divine life: from that day, he was the indomitable champion of the rights of man and the truth of God. And when, from the wild heights of Wart burg, he threw down among the German people his admirable translation of the Scriptures, the effect upon their minds was like that he had felt on his own. The multitude were let into a new world of ideas and feelings-they felt an irresistible impulse, upward from the degradation in which they had been held for centuries, and which they had been taught was to be their heritage forever; and at the sight, priests and tyrants raved and trembled. "The grand result," says Dr. Merle D'Aubigné, “of all the principles of the Reformation, and of all the considerations flowing from them, is worthy of such a cause and of such champions. It centres in two words-duty and usefulness; duty as the only criterion of right; usefulness, as the only standard of merit.In a word, the Reformation ordained, not only for its own day, and for the communities of that day, but for all time and for all nations, that the New Testament is the only genuine moral constitution of society, and its principles the only safe and wise foundation of all civil and political establishments."

But the immediate demands of our subject lead us from the continent from the exciting scenes and noble actors there, to our own ancestral island. It is one of the signal features of the Reformation that it took so strong a hold upon the Saxon race. Its principles and spirit were more readily and thoroughly received by them than by any other. The personal ambition and lust of Henry the Eighth only hastened an event that was destined to come, whether kings and parliaments befriended or opposed. It was impossible, and is impossible, to trample upon Saxons forever. England became nominally Protestant. She would have become, though at a later period, genuinely so, if that monarch and his successors had not interposed their selfishness and power to retain all the forms, orders, and essential principles of the old Hierarchy, with only a change in the headship and the name. For long years that was almost the only change. But during those years, and as a result of that merely nominal Reformation, there sprung up the noble race of men, whom their enemies called, by way of reproach, and whom we call in love and highest honor, The Puritans; the choice wheat, or rather the fine gold of England and Scotland, in those days when the principles and the souls of men were fearfully tried. Shall I venture to describe those grand, those peerless men, heroes as well as saints? I confess, my admiration of them is so unqualified and profound, as might endanger

the impartiality of my representation. Let another, then, pronounce their eulogy; another, whom no one will suspect of overloving them-an Edinburgh Reviewer. "The Puritans," says the now Lord Macaulay, "were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not content with acknowledging in general terms an over-ruling providence, they habitually ascribed every event to the will of that Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast; for whose inspection nothing was too minute. To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was the great end of existence. They rejected with contempt the ceremonious homage which other sects substituted for the worship of the soul. Instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze full on the ineffable brightness, and to commune with him face to face.

"Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial distinctions. The difference between the greatest and meanest of mankind seemed to vanish, when compared with the boundless interval which separated the whole race from Him on whom their own eyes were constantly fixed. They recognized no title to superiority but his favor; and, confident of that, they despised all the accomplishments, and all the dignities of the world. If they were unacquainted with the works of the philosophers and poets"-as they were not-" they were deeply read in the oracles of God. If their names were not found in the register of heralds, they felt assured that they were recorded in the Book of Life. If their steps were not accompanied by a splendid train of menials, legions of ministering angels had charge over them. Their palaces were houses not made with hands; their diadems, crowns of glory which should never fade away. On the rich and the eloquent, on nobles and priests, they looked down, for they esteemed themselves rich in a more precious treasure, and eloquent in a more sublime language; nobles by the right of an earlier creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier hand. The very humblest of them was a being to whom a mysterious and terrible importance belonged; on whose slightest action the spirits of light and darkness looked with anxious interest; who had been destined, before heaven and earth were created, to enjoy a felicity which should continue when heaven and earth have passed away. For his sake empires had risen, and flourished, and decayed. For his sake, the Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of the evangelist and the harp of the prophet. He had been wrested, by no common deliverer, from the grasp of no common foe. He had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony-by the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun had been darkened; that the rocks had been rent; that the dead had arisen; that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring God !"

Undoubtedly the eloquent writer was sufficiently intent on his antitheses, but in the highest and best sense of his delineation, it is no more eloquent than just. Those men were men of noble ideas and noble hearts. They asserted, they bled for, and when, after a time, they came into power, they gloriously exemplified the principles of human liberty. They proclaimed them to the nations, and the grand notes reverberated through Europe: "Mutual rights, popular suffrage, administrative responsibility, and the sovereignty of the people!" And more-they said, and they said in thunder tones: Religion must be free!" "Where did they get such ideas? From the Bible. And such principles? From the Bible. And such lofty purposes? From the Bible. And such invincible power to declare and effect them? From the God of the Bible Jehovah Sabaoth!


We are accustomed to use the term Puritans, however, with a too limited application. We mean by it, almost exclusively, that company of noble men who first, in the heart of England, and in the bosom of the English Church, asserted the essential doctrines of liberty, and who suffered and died in their defense. They were originally Episcopalians. Afterwards, when with an open Bible and unfettered mind, they examined the question of the apostolic Church, most of them became Presbyterians; many of them, however, and they inferior to none in the love of liberty, the acquisition of learning, and the lustre of holiness, became Independents. But these were not the only Puritans. In its legitimate meaning, the term belongs also to the equally resolute and holy champions of liberty and Gospel truth, who lived then in Presbyterian Ulster and ever glorious Scotland; to multitudes in the churches of Germany, Holland, and Geneva; and last, but not least, to the immortal Hugenots. All these were Puritans. these took their stand on the same great and eternal truths; all these were animated by the same lofty and sacred spirit; all these girded on the same spiritual armor, and sometimes, when they were compelled to it, the armor which is not spiritual, and, battled side by side in those stern and mighty contendings, whose result, among others, also great and glorious, is our national elevation and freedom.


It is true, however, that when we trace the stream of our national life and blessings in their earlier course, while they were yet, as it were, rippling under ground, or through dense thickets, or around the base of moveless rocks, or made their way through stagnant or turbid morasses, we naturally trace them first and chiefly along the Scotch and English channels. These appear to us the main streams; the others, tributaries. And for this reason, we said, that the immediate demands of our subject led us from the continent to England.

The men, then, whom God employed, were Puritans; and what

« AnteriorContinuar »