Изображения страниц



THE STAR CHAMBER. This does not look like a very dreadful room ; and yet once in England even the mention of the name made people shudder. Do you ask why? Because very cruel things were there ordered to be done, by command of the sovereign and some of the highest people of the land.

The Star Chamber itself was a large room in Westminster Palace, once set apart for the king's use. Why it was called the Star Chamber is quite uncer

Learned men who give their attention to finding out such things are not at all agreed among themselves what it means. One

says, it was because of the stars painted on the ceiling; another thinks the chamber had this name given to it because there were kept, by the king's command, in chests in it, some very famous contracts on parchment which were once made by English sovereigns with the Jews who had come to live in this island. But whatever gave the place the name first of all, it was afterwards used as a kind of court, where the king, and several high officers of state, with the lords and some bishops, tried cases, only there was no jury, and no means of defending one's self such as was then and is now per


mitted in the courts of law. It was a great temptation_to bad kings, and kings that were covetous. Many very rich men were called to appear before the court of the Star Chamber, and were for certain false charges fined great sums of money. One man was fined thirty thousand pounds! and was imprisoned for life.

Cardinal Wolsey was the man who put new vigour into this court; and it soon became an engine of state, so that those whom the king and the nobles did not like were severely punished. It was also used to vex and fine people who would not do as the bishops wished. Many good men, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and especially in the time of Charles the First, were made the victims of its evil doings. One good man in the time of Charles the First, whose name was Sir A. Haslerig, says, « The council table bit like a serpent, the Star Chamber like a scorpion. Our souls, our consciences, were put on the rack by the archbishop. We might not speak of Scripture, or repeat a sermon at our table.” This archbishop was named Laud. Besides making the Puritans, as they were called, pay great fines, this Star Chamber ordered them to stand in the pillory, a great cage put up in the streets, where every rude man and boy


[ocr errors]

could throw dirt at them. Their ears were cut off, and hot irons stamped the letters “S. S.” on their cheeks, which meant “ sower of sedition."

This was not all, although this was very wicked and inhuman. Spies were spread over all the country, in every town and village, to hunt out the men who were serving and worshipping God according to their own views of truth. If men did not go to the parish church, but went to a room and prayed together to God, or sang praises to Him, or listened whilst some one talked to them about Jesus, the Son of God—this was thought to be crime enough. And if others were found who sold good books, or who read them, it was just the same. The spies told the bishop's men about them, and these innocent people were punished.

Even the judges were in those days so bad that they would go to the Star Chamber before they went on their assize journeys that they might receive their orders, and thus judge the people whom the spies brought before them harshly. Nay, they had by this

. Star Chamber order made up their minds before they saw or heard anything about the people at all.

That wicked Court of the Star Chamber is now at an end. It has been dead more than two hundred years. The people had grown quite weary of it, and THE TRUANTS AND THE ECHO.

the people's house, the House of Commons, passed & Bill by which the Star Chamber was for ever destroyed. All the people in England were very glad when this was done.

Let us thank God that He has cast our lot in very different days; and as we have so many good things for which those who came before us bled and died, let us thank God also that He raised


such brave and holy men.


Two boys once ran into the woods, instead of going to school. Very soon Will said to Dick

“ We shall not be found out." An echo replied Be found out." Dick started, and replied“I fear some one overhears.” Some one overhears," said the echo. “Never mind. Dont be afraid," said naughty Will. Be afraid,replied the echo. Will was frightened, and said



[ocr errors]

“O, Dick, what can it be? Let us go to school.” Go to school," replied the echo. “O, if our master knows,” said both the boys. “Master knows," rejoined the echo.

66 What shall we do?” cried Will. “ We must not tell a lie ?"

Must not tell a lie," said the echo.

“I will never do this again,” said Will, crying, “if master will forgive."

Master will forgive," responded the echo.

“Let us go," said Will; “we shall not be so very late if we make haste away.

Make haste away,” said the echo.
“I'll go, and do so no more,” said Dick.
Do so no more," said the echo.

Then away scampered the two boys to school. They reached it just in the nick of time, and so escaped punishment.

What made them fear that simple echo, think you? Was it not because it said the same things as the voice in their soul-as that still small voice which blames you when you are wrong, and praises you when you are right? Listen to that voice, and obey it always.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »