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No wonder they indulged in wild speculations, and made extravagant investments, in those then unexplored regions. They were like captives suddenly released from the galling chains and stifling atmosphere of the slave ship, who tread Elysian fields and inhale the intoxicating air of God's unfettered winds. It is an evidence of their sincerity that they carried their religion into everything, even their fighting and their politics. Bodies of their troops, often dispensing with what they denominated the carnal drum and fife, marched to the harmony of David's Psalms, sung to the tunes of Mear and Old Hundred. Sermons, extending in length to six and eight mortal hours, were preached to the regiments, by chaplains mounted on artillery carriages. The camp of the revolutionists was not more the scene of rigid military drilling, than of warm discussions on the five cardinal points of their faith. The Roundheads in Parliament engaged in debates on original sin, and the scriptural mode of baptism, as well as upon laws concerning the civil and military affairs of the State. The very names which figure in the transactions of those times indicate the spirit of the age. There was Praise-God Barebones, Kill-sin Pimple, Smite-themhip-and-thigh Smith, Through-much-tribulation-we-enter-into-the-kingdom-of-heaven Jones-names as familiar as those of John Hampden and Harry Vane. What happier illustra tion of Cromwell's intuitive knowledge of the men he commanded, than his brief bulletin, pronounced at the head of his army, on the eve of one of the decisive battles of the revolution, fought under a drizzling rain, “Soldiers ! trust in God; and keep your powder dry!" Faith and works.
OLIVER CROMWELL, the man of his age, and whose impartial biography is yet unwritten, was the soul of old Puritanism, and the warrior-apostle of religious toleration. He maintained this priceless principle in stormy debate, on the floor of Parliament, against the passive obedience of the Churchman, and the uniformity of the Presbyterian, and defended it amid the blaze and roar of battle against the brilliant gallantry of Rupert and the fiery assaults of Lesley. The “ Ironsides” of the revolutionary forces, composed of the Independents of Huntingdonshire, constituting the “ Imperial guard” of the republican army, were raised and disciplined by Cromwell. Through long training, in the camp and the conventicle, he had fired them with a hatred of kingly and priestly tyranny, which, in after years, on many a field, under his leadership, swept to ruin the legions of an arrogant court and hierarchy. The historic pen of England has done injustice to him and to them. The reason is obvious. That pen has not been held by their friends, but their enemies. For a hundred years succeeding Cromwell's time, the English scholar and historian was dependent on the rich and noble, in Church and State, for patronage and bread. He must have been a rare man who coveted opprobrium and penury, by writing against civil and ecclesiastical institutions, hoary with age and venerated by the great mass of his country
And these very institutions Cromwell and his followers had temporarily overthrown. He assisted at the death of the monarch-they aided to prostrate the church-bringing kings and subjects, bishops and curates, to a common level. Can we expect the leveled to do justice to the leveler ? English historians have written of him and them as the beaten always write of the beaters as the scattered of the scatterers—the vanquished of the victors. Admitting their extravagances and their austere sectarianism, the impartial pen will record of the Puritans of 1645, that they exhibited many of the fruits of a sincere piety, and fostered the germ of that toleration which blends the dignity of free thought with the humility of Christian charity. Their descendants have exhibited all the heroic virtues of their fathers, tempered with the liberalizing influences of succeeding generations. Eminent for learning and piety, they have been the patrons of all the arts which adorn and purify mankind, and, in the darkest hours of the party of progress and reform, have been true to the good cause. The scion from the parent stock, planted by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1620, struck its roots deep into our American soil, and myriads of master minds in all the States of the Confederacy now repose under its overshadowing foliage, and pluck the fruits of civil and religious freedom from its spreading branches.
The power of the Established Church received a blow in the civil wars, from which it never fully recovered. At the Restoration, under Charles II, it took advantage of a real or fancied dread of the increase of Popery in the kingdom, to seduce Dissenters into an acquiescence in the adoption of laws favoring Episcopal supremacy, and which were subsequently employed to oppress Protestant Nonconformists. The chief of these were the Corporation and Test Acts, to the enactment, operation, and final repeal of which, the reader's attention is invited.
Says the complacent Blackstone, “In order the better to secure the Established Church against perils from Nonconformists of all denominations, Infidels, Turks, Jews, Heretics, Papists, and Sectaries—there are two bulwarks erected, called the Corporation and Tests Acts. By the former, (enacted in 1661,) no person can be legally elected to any office relating to the government of any city or corporation, unless, within a twelvemonth before he has received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of England ; and he is also enjoined to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy at the same time that he takes the oath of office ; or, in default of either of these requisites, such election shall be void. The other, called the Test Act, (enacted in 1683,) directs all officers, civil and military, to take the oaths and make the declaration against transubstantiation, in any of the king's courts at Westminster, or at the quarter sessions, within six months after their admission; and, also, within three months to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the usage of the Church of England, in some public church, immediately after divine service and sermon, and to deliver into court a certificate thereof, signed by the
minister and churchwardens, and also to prove the same by two credible witnesses, upon forfeiture of £500, and disability to hold the same office." The disabilities operated still further. By subsequent enactments, if any person held office without submitting to the tests, he was not only fined £500, but was forever incapacitated from prosecuting any action in the courts of law or equity, from being the guardian of a child, or the executor or administrator of a deceased person, or receiving a legacy. By subsequent legislation, the same tests, except the sacrament, were exacted of various classes of persons not holding civil or military offices, such as dissenting ministers, practitioners of the law, teachers of schools or pupils, members of colleges who had attained the age of eighteen, &c.
As has been stated, the Corporation and Test Acts were passed when England was alarmed at a threatened invasion of Popery, and their penalties were intended to be aimed chiefly at Papists, though their sweeping provisions included all classes of Nonconformists. The Protestant dissenters, through fear or hatred of the Catholics, consented to be placed under the general anathema, with a sort of understanding that, when the danger was over, they should be relieved from its pressure. They lived long enough to repent of their folly.
These acts were not only a gross violation of the rights of conscience, but were injurious to the public weal in many respects, and beneficial in none. Whilst they never made one Christian, they deprived the State of the services of many of its best and bravest citizens, drove much of learning and piety from the pulpit, and genius and promise from the university. By making the profession of a particular creed a necessary qualification for office, and the reception of the Lord's Supper according to a prescribed ritual the passport to civil and ecclesiastical advancement, they degraded the holiest rites of religion, brought annually to the communion-table of the Establishment thousands of hypocrites, and placed constantly at its altars hundreds of horse-racing and fox-hunting clergymon.
They were a perpetual source of annoyance to dissenters who would not barter their faith for place and pelf, by subjecting them to prosecutions for refusing to qualify themselves for offices to which they had been maliciously elected, to be followed by ruinous fines or long imprisonments. In a single year (1736) £20,700 were raised from fines imposed on dissenters, who conscientiously refused to serve in the office of sheriff; and for a long time it was the custom of municipal corporations to elect dissenters to office, and then enrich their coffers from fines levied upon them for refusing to receive the qualifying tests At length, the common oppression drove Protestant and Catholic dissenters into a formidable union for the restoration of their common rights, and engendered a hatred of the Established Church, its clergy, its creed, and its ordinances, which twenty years of qualified toleration have not been able to abate or scarcely to mitigate.
Repeated efforts were made for the repeal of these acts. Protestant dissenters, having suffered their penalties for nearly a century, grew numerous and influential, when Parliament, instead of boldly meeting the question of repeal, began to exercise that temporizing cunning so characteristic of British legislation, and grudgingly ameliorated a grievance which it had not the grace to wholly abrogate. It commenced the practice of passing, at the close of each session, amnesty bills, exempting dissenters, who had violated the acts, from the operation of their penalties; and so framing the bills as to cover not only past offenses, but all which might be committed before the close of the next session, when another bill would be enacted. This relieved dissenters from practical oppression under these acts, for some eighty years previous to their final repeal.
But, so intelligent and high-minded a portion of the State were not content to receive rights inherent and immutable, as an annual boon from the legislature. The struggle for unqualified repeal never ceased till the disgraceful acts were blot