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min's edition appeared ; and has rescued from oblivion many a choice sentence and pregnant fact, interred in old and rare pamphlets and tomes eaten by time. The editing of the book has evidently been a labor of love; and much has been added to make us more familiar with the habits, manners, modes of thought, and principles of action, current among the Puritans, and to enable us to appreciate the position they occupied with respect to their contemporaries. Both of the editors are characterized by a love of religious liber. ty, and do not hesitate to give their author a little gentle correction when he slips from the principles of toleration. Both are Baptists; Dr. Toulmin an Arian Baptist, Mr. Choules a Calvinistic one. In the notes of the former, some curious information is given respecting the Unitarians who were mingled among the persecuted non-conformists, and of the hot disputes which sometimes occurred between men confined in one prison, for one offence.
Mr. Choules occasionally allows a little acerbity to steal into his style, in referring to the pretensions of Episcopacy and Catholicism ; but not more than could be expected from a man who has devoted years to a tract of history blasted by the fire of theological hatred, and red with the blood of the saints. It is almost impossible for any person, whose pulse leaps at the thought of senseless and brutal wrong, done to men whose sin consisted in being purer and more honest than their contemporaries, to travel through cir. cumstantial details of rapine and murder, without occasion. ally letting loose his tongue, both at the perpetrators and at the systems under which such crimes were sanctified. Such little deviations from the bland and opinionless impartiality, with which such enormities should be contemplated, must be forgiven to those who edit narratives of religious feuds and persecutions.
The Rev. Daniel Neal, the author of the work, lived at a period when the ardor of theological dispute and recrimi. nation had become allayed, and when the history of the Puritans could be written with the calmness requisite for truth and fairness. He was born in 1678, and died in 1743. The first volume of his history appeared in 1732. He was a clergyman of the old school of laborers, once so common in New England, writing two sermons a week for thirty years, devoting eight or twelve afternoons in the month to visiting his congregation, and after wearing out brain and body in the service of his people, dying at last with the pen literally trembling in his hand. Though, in his doctrinal sentiments, a Calvinist, and a sturdy defender of his creed, he appears to have been temperate and just to others, disliking warfare on points of faith, and especially opposed to that mode of argument which addresses the reason through penal laws and machines of torture. He was what the world, almost universally, would call a good man,-performing all the relations of life with exemplary fidelity, and presenting a character which infidelity could not but honor, and even licentiousness respect. We believe that he aimed conscientiously at truth in his history, and was incapable of a deliberate perversion of fact. The general fairness of his statements, though doubted at times, has never been successfully impugned. All the errors which criticism has discovered in his work arose either from the imperfection of his materials, or that unconscious bias towards his own party, from which the most candid minds are not always free. His character in every respect shines well, as contrasted with that of his opponents, Grey and Warburton, who brought in question his historical honesty. The candor of such a critic as Dr. Grey may be estimated by his edition of Hudibras, in which he seems to have taken great delight in prowling amidst the literary filth of Charles the Second's time, to rake up morsels of ribaldry, originally directed by sensualists and renegades against the Puritans, and which by the mercy of the world, would otherwise have been allowed to rot out of existence. The fierce, unjust, domineering spirit of War. burton, whose vast learning was held in bondage to paradox and bigotry, and who passed to preferment and power through the gate of sycophancy, was not peculiarly fitted to criticise, or even consistently to abuse, such a man as Neal. At any rate, all the light which has been shed on the times since the original work was written has flowed freely into the minds of its editors, and any mistakes into which the author may have fallen have been rigorously corrected. As it now stands, it can be taken as a reliable history, in which matters of fact and matters of opinion are cautiously discriminated.
The style of Neal's work, if it does not evince a large command of expression, is still not deficient in many excel. lencies. It contains numerous passages of that homely eloquence, which springs from simple earnestness of feeling, and finds its way directly to the heart. There is occasion. ally much felicity in the selection of words embodying homely fancies, and which convey the sense by suggesting an image. This characterizes, indeed, almost all the school of writers to which Neal belonged, and gives to many of the forgotten pamphlets of the last half of the seventeenth cen. tury a raciness of style more expressive than elegant. There is, at times, considerable picturesque quaintness in Neal, and not unfrequently a kind of half-suppressed irony, which relieve the business-ltke character of the general diction of his history. We have not found the book dull. By occasionally skipping or condensing an account of some nonconformist preacher, in whose biography the author's pen is a little too liberal of ink, and disregarding a few abstracts of voluminous documents, we think it would please the general reader. The honesty and simplicity of the writer's nature shine clearly through his style, and give it an originality and freshness which it could not derive from a more scrupulous rhetoric and a less natural arrangement. In the narration of facts, the disposition of arguments, the compression of evidence, the review of disputed questions, and often in the keen criticism of motives, and clear insight into matters overladen with passion and verbiage, the style and the mind of Neal are displayed to great advantage. It is difficult to resist the conclusion, that the intention of the author in writing his work was not to serve any party or private views, but that his object was, in his own words, to do “some service to the cause of truth, and to the religious and civil liberties of mankind."
We think the publication of this book timely, apart from its historical value and interest. The great principle on which rested equally the justice of the Reformation, and the Puritan secession, is now often called in question. Authori. ty once more declares its right to supersede conscience. The thoughts and feelings of the tenth and fourteenth centuries are translated into the language of the nineteenth. Propositions, long considered as truisms, are now attacked as paradoxes. Archbishop Laud has his eulogists; Luther his detractors. The right of the individual mind to form its faith from the most thoughtful and candid perusal of the Bi. ble is denied. All the blood that has been shed, all the tortures which have been endured, all the miseries which have been suffered, to convert this principle into an established fact, are thus implied to have been wasted. The world has been battling blindly to establish a great heresy, repugnant to right reason and to the word of God; and the inference is, that many of the martyrs have but “ passed out of one flame
into another." If this right of individual judgment be a mere figment of the brain, the wars into which it has led some of the best and noblest of the race are the greatest satires on human folly and depravity ever written in blood and consecrated by suffering and heroism.
We know and deprecate the evils of dissent, and the evils which flow from the unrestrained exercise of individual judgments in matters of religion. Atheism and fanaticismthe one denying, the other degrading, God—are the two pits into which the inquirer is liable to fall, who casts off authority and trusts to his own mind. The volumes before us are full of examples which tell against kirk as well as against church. Senseless doctrines, accompanied by bigotry equally senseless; hatreds taking the name of duties; passions wearing the guise of revelations; pride and conceit speaking the language of conscience ;-these too often meet us among the zealots who were associated with the Puritans, and among all great bodies of men who have opposed reli. gious hierarchies. The dunce and the enthusiast are ever ready to supplant the established superstition with the superstition of ignorance and passion. But evils as bad as these cling to the best efforts of man, and arise from the imperfection of his nature. Besides, it should not be forgotten, that it is chiefly persecution that forces men into fanaticism. The dreams and ravings of zealots, wrought into uncontrollable excitement by the discipline of torture and confiscation, are arguments against the extravagant pretensions and wanton cruelties of the oppressors who drove them mad. That English liberty has been preserved and extended, that the rights of the human mind in matters pertaining to government, as well as religion, have not suffered a disastrous eclipse in the shadow of absolutism, is owing to the determined stand taken by the Puritans, as a body, for liberty of