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Progress of the Nation. page 3

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But the strong hand and sense of Cromwell, so long as he lived, had enabled him to maintain a free church, in which all men of real Christian faith and feeling were permitted to officiate, except insubordinate episcopalians and catholics. Moderate episcopalians, who could conscientiously hold livings, were not expelled, so that they were of religious lives, and did not interfere with the existing government even, says Cromwell, a few anabaptists were in it. To papists the liberality of Cromwell never reached; he considered them, with the rest of his age, as belonging to the mother of superstition, and objectionable as the avowed adherents of a foreign and hostile power. Though the protector was on the whole averse to persecution, yet the fines on recusants were diligently levied, and the presbyterians, perhaps for the most part without his knowledge, persecuted other religionists under the commonwealth - a fact amply demonstrated by the history of the Society of Friends, for during the commonwealth arose that singular people.

The doctrines and conduct of the Friends, or, as they were soon denominated, the Quakers, marked another epoch of that age in the advance towards the true understanding of Christianity, and the acquirement of its freedom. We have seen, that notwithstanding all that the nonconformists had suffered, notwithstanding all the great minds and noble hearts which had appeared among them, they had not yet come to perceive the full and true liberty of Christ. They objected to certain ceremonies and habits, and certain religious opinions, but they did not object at all to the establishment of a state religion, - many of them not even to the episcopal hierarchy, but were a part of it. The independents had made the nearest approach to the apprehension of perfect freedom; they had adopted and acted upon the opinion, that every congregation is independent of all others, and that no minister of the gospel possesses any jurisdiction over another; but they still admitted the right of a state establishment, and under Cromwell accepted office in one. The Friends not only proclaimed the doctrine, that all state establishments of Christianity are unscriptural, but that they violate the political rights of the subject; they therefore denounced all usurpation of human lordship over conscience; all hireling teachers of a state creed, tithes, church rates, and every ecclesiastical demand whatever. To George Fox we owe this bold and manly system, this sudden leap from the chains of long spiritual slavery,, into the full freedom of the gospel law - a man to whom there has never yet been done full justice beyond the pale of his own society, and whom we have recently seen attacked by lord Macaulay with an animus extraordinary in a descendant of this society. Macaulay has represented Fox as half an idiot, but it would be far better for the world if it had more such idiots. It would be enough to set aside this splenetic opinion of a writer who has taken every opportunity to vilify the great men of Quakerism, to place against his opinion that of some great thinkers of our own country and time. Coleridge, from whom so many modern celebrities have drawn what is original in their philosophy, Emerson and Carlyle included, says, "There exist folios on the human understanding and the nature of man, which would have a far juster claim to their high rank and celebrity, if, in the whole huge volume, there could be found as much fulness of heart and intellect as burst forth in many a simple page of George Fox." Carlyle says, "This man, the first of the Quakers, and by trade a shoemaker, was one of those to whom, under ruder form, the divine idea of the universe is pleased to manifest itself; and across all the hills of ignorance and earthly degradation, shine through, in unspeakable awfulness, unspeakable beauty on their souls; who, therefore, are rightly accounted prophets, God - possessed. Mountains of incumbrance, higher than AEtna, had been heaped over that spirit; but it was a spirit, and would not be buried there. That Leicester shoeshop, had men known it, was a higher place than Vatican or Loretto shrine. Stitch away, thou noble Fox! every prick of that little instrument is pricking into the heart of slavery and world - worship and the mammon god. Thy elbows jerk in strong swimmer strokes, bearing thee into lands of true liberty. Were the work done, there would be in broad Europe one free man, and thou art he."

The opinions of great men, English and American, might be numerously added, but they are the fruits by which we must recognise the tree; and from no religious reformer has the modern world received, and is receiving, more substantial benefit in weaning it from forms and task-masters to spiritual freedom. The awl of Fox still goes on pricking into the heart of slavery, world-worship, and the mammon god. I do not intend to exempt him from the charge of a certain degree of fanaticism - both he and his adherents were not altogether free from it; but the theory of his religious "belief comprehended the ideal of all religious freedom. And this arose in part from that want of education which the outward-tending mind of Macaulay has seen only as a defect. Free from every educational dogma, he became struck with the importance of religion, and taking the Bible with him into the fields, he there carefully studied it, and soon discovered the true nature of this beneficent dispensation - that Christianity is a thing so spiritual, so entirely a gift of God to every man that is born, that no other man in the shape of king, bishop, or priest, has a right to come between this divine gift and the human soul; consequently, no state religion, no state priest, no state compulsion for their support, can be justified; consequently, all tithes, church-rates, Easter offerings, and such things are anti-Christian, and to be resisted by every constitutional means. He saw clearly that Christianity proclaimed the civil freedom of every rational creature; it enjoined obedience to good government, but discountenanced by its very benevolence and its celestial maxim - "Do to others as ye would be done to " - all tyranny and slavery. On the same grounds he was thoroughly satisfied of the nature of that most fatal of infatuations - war.

Whatever his sagacious mind once embraced as truth, he had the integrity and boldness to proclaim everywhere. He advanced into the presence of princes, and declared it there with the same ease and freedom as amongst his own peers. It may well be imagined, that when numbers began to flock around him, and from every class of society, clergy, soldiers, magistrates, gentlemen, and men of the general mass, that his system would bring down upon him and his followers the unmitigated vengeance of the persecuting hierarchy. His was no partially reforming system; it did not object to this or that dogma, this or that ceremony in the state religion, but it assailed, root and branch, state religion itself. It was a system peculiarly odious to priests, because it was an entirely disinterested one, for it went even to declare that nothing should be received for preaching, where if could be at all dispensed with, nothing in any case without the consent of the people. The state clergy saw, that if it succeeded, priestcraft was gone for ever: royalty on its restoration, saw that it would lop off the right arm of despotism - craft paid to preach the divine right of kings, and passive obedience of the people. But Fox and his friends were prepared to speak, write, and suffer for it. He himself traversed a great part of the kingdom, visited America and Holland, holding immense meetings in the open air, and addressed many letters to various princes and people in power on its behalf. Barclay delineated its features in his celebrated "Apology for the true Christian Divinity." Penn wrote boldly for it, and spoke boldly for it, too, on his trials, especially that with William Mead at the Old Bailey, an account of which has often been reprinted, as a splendid instance of the vindication of trial by jury. Anthony Pearson, who had been a justice of the peace, published his "Great Case of Tithes," in which all the evils and anti-Christianity of the tithe system were duly exposed. Thomas Lawson wrote, "A Mite in the Treasury," and "The Call, Work, and Wages of the Ministers of Christ and of Antichrist," two most spirited and able expositions of political religion. Elwood wrote his interesting life, abounding with scenes of imprisonment and patient endurance for his principles. Besse compiled, from official documents of the Society of Friends, a work of everlasting condemnation to the priests of the church of England; and Sewell wrote the "History of the Society" at large, a work declared by Charles Lamb to be worth all other ecclesiastical history put together. In these and other works they asserted those great principles of religious freedom now so generally adopted, and for these they suffered. Seeing clearly how a royal religion disturbed and oppressed the real church of Christ, how it neutralised all its benign doctrines, they determined, cost what it would, to hold no communion with it. They would neither marry at its altars, nor bury in its soil, and for this their dead were torn out of their graves by the parish priests and their minions; and they were not only heavily fined and imprisoned for marrying at their own chapels, but their children were declared illegitimate. At Nottingham, in 1661, an attempt was made by a public trial to disinherit some orphans on this ground, but the worthy old judge Archer brought Adam and Eve as precedents, and declared that their taking each other in marriage in the presence of God was valid, and if those children were illegitimate, then we were all so. On this singular decision the marriages of Friends were recognised and made legal. But had it been otherwise, such was the sturdy firmness of the Friends, that they would have suffered loss of both property, liberty, and life, to the last man, sooner than concede an iota to this unjust system; and the whole fury of the executive power was let loose upon them. They were given up a prey to vindictive parsons, and ignorant, priest-ridden justices of the peace, and to the whole greedy rabble of informers, constables, and the lowest refuse of society.

The history of their full extent of persecutions belongs to a later period; but the rise and principles of this society demand a notice in the religious history of this period as one of the most important events of any age. Those principles - their effect, or field of influence - are not to be measured by the limited growth of the society which first promulgated them. Like many other bodies out of which great principles have sprung, it has become, as it were, fossilised, retaining the form, and even the reverence of the original body; but the principles themselves are the principles of Christianity, coextensive with the universe in their action on spiritual life. It was the mission of Fox to liberate them from the conventional forms in which outward and worldly motives had imprisoned them, to sweep away all the cobwebs of school and state sophistry from them, and to recall the conviction of man to them in all their simple and sublime beauty. The puritans in general had made little progress in the comprehension of religious freedom; what they claimed themselves they were ready to withhold from others. Cromwell and the independents made a great advance, yet withheld this liberty from catholics and episcopalians; but Fox demonstrated that the liberty of the Gospel was the equal birthright of all men. All these religious reformers were ready to permit or become themselves a state church. Fox reminded them that the " Kingdom of Christ was not of this world;" that when they had rendered to Csesar the things that are Csesar's, civil support and obedience, they must render to God the things which are God's, the rights of conscience, and the independence of his church. For all the civilising and angelising influences of religion - resistance to slavery, oppression, war, priestcraft, world-worship, and mammon-worship - which are the divine and eternal essence of the Gospel, the philosophy and the theology of George Fox asserted the independence and universality, and these principles, now adopted into nearly all creeds, are silently but perceptibly at work to leaven the whole mass of society, and in the course of ages to throw down every tyranny, every cruelty, every abomination, on every side of the globe.

Progress of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce

In the reigns of James and Charles this country neither maintained the reputation of our navy acquired under Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, nor made great progress in foreign commerce. The character of James was too timid for maritime or any other war, and when he was forced into action it was only to show his weakness. He put to death the greatest naval captain of his time, Raleigh, who, if well employed by him, might have made him as much respected at sea as was Elizabeth. Yet he built ten ships of war, and for some years spent thirty-six thousand pounds a year on the navy. The largest ship which had yet been built in England was built by him, which, however, was only fourteen hundred tons. As for commerce, he was too much engaged in theological disputations, in persecution of papists, wrangling with his parliaments, and following his hawks and hounds, to think of it, and consequently there were every fresh session grievous complaints of the decay of trade. The Dutch were fast engrossing both the commerce and the carrying trade of this country. During this reign they traded to England with six hundred ships, and the English traded to Holland with sixty.

The naval affairs of Charles were quite as inglorious as those of his father. As James beheaded the best admiral of England, Charles chose for his the very worst in Europe, and the disgrace of Buckingham's expedition to the Isle of Rhe was the consequence. Charles's contests with his parliaments, which terminated only with his life, destroyed all chance of his promotion of our naval ascendency, and of the cultivation of commerce. All this was wonderfully changed by the vigorous spirits of the commonwealth. The victories of Blake, by which the naval greatness of Holland and Spain were almost annihilated, raised the reputation of the British arms at sea as well as on land to the first place in the civilised world. St. John was no sooner despatched by the parliament to the Hague as ambassador, than, perceiving the immense advantage which Holland drew from being the great carriers of Europe, he drew and got-passed the celebrated Navigation Act, which, providing that no produce of Africa, Asia, or America, nor of any English colony should be imported into England except in English ships, and that the manufactures or merchandise of no country in Europe should be imported except in English ships, or the ships of the nation where they were produced, at once transferred an enormous amount of maritime business to this country.

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