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three cheers" for Puritan clergymen than to fight the northern Covenanters. Serious fighting between two such armies was out of the quesa tion. After a few skirmishes, the Scots took possession of Newcastle, and other places in the north; and were no strangers in these quarters for the next seven years. The English Puritans gave them a cordial reception, and treated them rather as allies than enemies.
Such was the attitude and bearing of Puritanism when the Long Parliament met in November, 1640. Scotland and the northern English counties had already shown what spirit they were of; and, within a month of the meeting of Parliament, the metropolis presented a “monster petition," praying for a radical reform in bishops and ceremonies. The poor king, though“ hedged” round with “divinity," and buttressed with the “decent dignified ceremonialism” of his bishops, soon found that he had enough to do to govern such a people. Part of them were already in arms against him; and those who still bore arms on his side were hardly less dangerous than his avowed enemies. A sore beleaguered king! But his new Parliament, instead of rushing to his aid, resolved itself into a “committee of the whole house on religion;" and, instead of voting supplies to put down the Scots, it launched out, in the first months of its existence, on the troubled sea of theological controversy. It offered no better for his majesty than its predecessors, with which he had dealt in a right royal way; but, profiting by their fall, it passed a bill, before it was a year old, “That this Parliament shall not be dissolved without its own consent".
-a daring invasion of the prerogative; but the times were really out of joint, and the king gave the bill his sanction. This, then, was the Parliament which must settle the question which was unsettling the whole country: this Parliament alone, or the Parliament and the king together.
It was apparent from the first, and soon became clear enough, that the king and the Parliament would never draw one way. A Parliament which could even discuss the abolition of Episcopacy, and which actually abolished it, could have no sympathy from a king who was ready to stake his crown and life on the maintenance of that form of church government. But he had given it a charter of permanence, and the power of dissolution was no longer in his hands. However incendiary this Parliament might prove, he could not trample it out in the aggregate, but he might try to quench it in detail. Accordingly, Parliament turning out to be very incendiary, as his majesty thought, early in 1642, he demanded that five members, whom he named, should be sent to the Tower, as traitors who had invited the Scots to invade England. The House was in no hurry to comply; rather gave his majesty to understand that it declined to comply; whereupon his majesty, with an armed force, proceeded in person to seize the obnoxious members. They, being warned of his approach, evaded him, and escaped. London was in consternation; all England was soon in ferment. The crisis was come at last; on the 10th January, 1642, the king, with his court, quitted Whitehall, and from this we date the beginning of the first civil war.
Between this date and the 30th of January, 1649, lies the grandest episode of English history. The principal actors in the drama, as we have said, were the two divided parts of the triune embodiment of King, Lords, and Commons. This compound unity was now rent asunder, and king and Parliament were pitted against each other in mortal antagonism. Each, though apart, was still a centre of power, and attracted huge elements of sympathetic strength. On the king's side was ranged an imposing array of positive and negative, of moral and material forces reverence, prescription, habit, custom, the organised machinery in church and state, the birth and chivalry of England, the fears of the timid, the daring of the bold; and, besides all this, his own name was a tower of strength. On the other side, were a strong sense of right, and the irresistible promptings of an absorbing sentiment. King Charles of England was very great, but the King of Heaven was greater. The claims and commands
of these two seemed now, to a large portion of the earnest thought and manhood of England, to be altogether incompatible; and there was nothing for it but to follow whither the pillar of fire should lead, and leave the issue to the God of battles.
The war broke out soon after the king quitted Whitehall. His majesty had the better of it in the early campaigns; and it was not till Cromwell had reduced to practice the idea of " fighting men of honour with men of religion,” that the royal cause became hopeless. The struggle had now lasted four years—the Scots in the northern counties co-operating with the Parliamentary forces—when, in the spring of 1646, Charles, in disguise, rode off from Oxford, and threw himself on the loyalty of the Scotch army at Newark. If this was not a wise step, the Scots were not to blame. They had fought against him; but had much rather have fought for him, on one condition. They had fought for the Covenant against the King, but had much rather have fought for King and Covenant; and now they besought his majesty, on their bended knees, and with tears in their eyes
, to take the Covenant, or at least to sanction the Presbyterian worship, and they would fight for him to the last man. But disastrous defeat and prospective ruin had not yet brought his majesty the length of toleration. He would not yet let his divine right go, in the smallest tittle of it. Conscience, in this its armed appeal to the God of conscience, had triumphed over him; but he would not yet abate his claim to be the lord of all the consciences in England and Scotland. Finding him impracticable, the Scots delivered him up to the Parliament, in the beginning of 1647; and then, their arrears being fully discharged, they marched away home.
The difficulties of Parliament seemed only to increase with the capture of the king and the discomfiture of his armies. England had passed through the crisis of a four years' war, and now men naturally looked for a harvest somewhat commensurate with such a seedtime. But the eternal dualism of humanity forbade it. While the king lived and kept the field, English Puritans and Scotch Covenanters were united as one man against him; but, now that their common enemy was subdued, they fell out and disputed among themselves. The army and the Parliament—the former representing the Independents, the latter the Presbyterians—got into hot dispute as to the true basis of a settlement of the nation. The Presbyterians preponderated in Parliament, and were disposed to make what the army considered to be a too easy, in fact, a very dangerous, arrangement with the king. The Scots sympathised with their Presbyterian brethren in England. The fountains of the great deep were again opening, and another deluge was rushing on apace. There had been a civil
war for great principles; and now, there must needs be another civil war for little
details! While the elements were gathering for this second thunderburst, the king made his escape from Hampton Court, and this precipitated the crisis.
Charles fled from Hampton Court, November 16, 1647, leaving behind him letters of right royal pretensions, and turned up in the Isle of Wight. The war now broke out again with redoubled fury. Wales and several English counties were speedily in a flame. The Scots, under the Duke of Hamilton, twenty thousand strong, marched into England, “ to deliver the king from sectaries;” in other words, to have a hit at the Puritan Independents, who were now rather tending towards republicanism. Cromwell again took the field; came up with the Scots at Preston, and,“ by the help of the Lord," utterly routed them. He then marched victoriously to Edinburgh; back again victoriously to England; all resistance melting away before him. Meanwhile, the Parliament (covertly at cross-purposes with the army) continued to negociate with the king; and, towards the close of 1648 (in the summer and autumn months of which these transactions took place), resolved that his majesty's concessions were sufficient, and should be accepted. Here was a fine prospect for the army! The military chiefs and the Parliamentary minority speedily assembled, and took counsel what was now to be done. Shall all our blood and toils be spent in vain, then? No, verily! The Parliament's resolution was taken early on the morning of 5th December. The Puritan soldiers and other leaders passed all that day and the following night in consultation and prayer. On the morrow, they acted. On the 6th December, 1648, Colonel Pride, with a company of foot, planted himself at the entrance of the House of Commons, and stopped this and the other member, as they were about to enter. Upwards of a hundred members were thus disposed of. This was “Pride's Purge.” The Presbyterian Royalist majority were thus reduced to the minority, and, in these strangely altered circumstances, the question of a settlement of the nation was again discussed. There could be no true settlement without justice on delinquents, especially on the chief delinquent, who had brought all those troubles on the nation. Accordingly, it was resolved to bring the king to trial. This was in the beginning of December, 1648. On the 29th of January, 1649 (his majesty having been convicted of “high treason, and other high crimes," in the interval), his death-warrant was signed, and he was beheaded, on the open street, before Whitehall, the following morning.
We must here pause in our historical summary. We have just reached the threshold of the Commonwealth, but our limited space forbids us to dwell on the profoundly interesting movements and events of the decade from 1649 to 1659-60. We have reached the threshold of the Commonwealth through seas of blood, and through the blood of a king; but the threshold of a Commonwealth is not, unfortunately, the threshold of the Millennium. The antagonistic principles which, during the last seven years, had met in armed and mortal conflict on many a battlefield, had not yet exhausted themselves. Thousands of living men, in whom they were incarnated, had fallen on both sides, but the principles for which they fought and died still lived and struggled as before. Those which were incarnated in the king did not die with him, and his death did not secure the ascendancy of their antagonists. It could not be so. Never by such means can it be so. The wars which ushered in the Commonwealth were a prominent manifestation of the everlasting duel between good and evil, which varies in its manifestation from age to age, but never ceases among men.
The Commonwealth was proclaimed in May following the king's death. It was ordered by Parliament (Pridepurged, and now thoroughly Puritanic), “That the people of England, and of all the dominions and territories thereunto belonging, are, and shall be, and are hereby constituted, made, established, and
confirmed to be, a Commonwealth or Free State; and shall from henceforth be governed as a Commonwealth and Free State—by the supreme authority of this nation, the representatives of the people in Parliament, and by such as they shall constitute and appoint officers and ministers unto them, for the good of the people, and this without any King or House of Lords.” Puritanism so ordered it—Puritanism, now near its culminating point—the triumphant principle for the moment—the better, and far the better, principle in this notable conflict, but not by any means a perfect one. When good and evil take the incarnate forms of living men, and come in collision in this concrete shape, they are never thoroughly good, nor absolutely wicked; and this is the chief reason why their conflict is never-ending. A foolish and tyrannical king had been disposed of, and the Puritans had nothing more to fear from Charles I.; but they were again soon called to arms against his son, Charles II. The Commonwealth was only a year old, when it was menaced by the young Charles, in alliance with the Scotch Covenanters. Cromwell, in the past months, had marched in the spirit, and with more than the success, of a Joshua, over the length and breadth of Ireland, storming cities, and doing exploits “in the name of the Lord;” and now, in the end of June, 1650, he set out for Scotland at the head of an army which had never known defeat. We cannot follow him in what proved to be a second career of victory. The Covenanters fought stoutly for the Covenant and the King, for more than twelve months; and then, by a bold but unsuccessful strategic move, they gave Cromwell the slip, and marched into England, hoping to rally the Presbyterian loyalty of that country around the white banner of the Covenant—a bold but unsuccessful step. Cromwell came up with them at Worcester, on the 3d September, 1651, and, after a protracted and bloody battle, valiantly fought on both sides, he utterly routed them, and put a final end to the civil wars.
To this issue the armed revolt of Puritanism has now led us—to the trial and execution of one king, to the defeat and inglorious flight of another. “No modern reader," says Carlyle, “ can conceive the then atrocity, ferocity, unspeakability, of the execution of the king. To be equalled, nay, to be preferred, think some, in point of horror, to the crucifixion of Christ ! Alas, in these irreverent times of ours, if all the kings of Europe were to be cut in pieces at one swoop, and flung in heaps in St Margaret's Churchyard on the same day, the emotion would, in strict arithmetical truth, be small in comparison. We know it not, this atrocity of the English regicides; shall never know it. I reckon it perhaps the most daring action any body of men to be met with in history ever, with clear consciousness, deliberately set themselves to do." There is no exaggeration here. What, then, we naturally ask, was the
true nature of that Puritanic spirit which did the deed? What were the strong principles of action which were then so strongly stirred in the Puritan heart of England?
We must go far back for an historical illustration. Cromwell, we have said, marched through Ireland in the spirit and might of a Joshua; and we would now add, that he marched through all his battlefields in the might of a Joshua, because he was filled with the spirit of the conqueror of Canaan. Cromwell doubted no more than Joshua, that he was fighting the battles of the Lord. His armies, equally with those of Joshua, were impressed with the same conviction. The religious phraseology of the Puritans was not a cant: it was the genuine expression of their most cherished thoughts. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the glory.” This was the uniform tenor of Cromwell's despatches, in writing to the Parliament of his battles and victories After a storm and victory at Waterford," Is it an arm of flesh that hath done these things?" he writes. "Is it the wisdom, or counsel, or strength of men? It is the Lord only. God will curse that man and his house that dares to think otherwise." And when the war was over, and the question was, whether the Parliament or the army-whether genuine Puritanism, or half-hearted Presbyterianism–shall rule in England ? the officers and regiments spent whole days and nights in special prayer for wisdom and counsel from above. The Puritans, now in the ascendant, believed, first, in God's eternal law and providence; and, secondly, that they knew his law, that they were his peculiar people, and that, in all these great transactions, they were the special instruments of his just judgments upon unrighteous men. This was Puritanism—these were its strong principles of action. The civil war was a crusade, in the strictest meaning of the term.
We now take leave of those old heroes with high, but not unqualified, admiration. It will be good for us to visit them occasionally, principally for their nobleness, but also for their faults. They were a brave people; and, measured by the motives which prompted it, a nobler conflict than that which they waged with principalities and powers, the world had never seen, nor has it yet seen. They were a clear, though not full-sighted people; theirs, in a higher and better sense even than the poet's, were
the vision and the faculty divine." They saw the vision of the Highest and the Holiest, and they saw also the vision of human life, bounded, as it ever is, with feebleness, helplessness, and the blackness of darkness, on one side; and, with the help and strength of the Mighty One, with the unspeakable splendours of heaven and eternity, on the other. They had ears to hear the voice of duty, and hearts to respond to it. Listening for the heavenly voices, they heard them from the eternal heights, commanding them to leave father and mother, wife and children—to put all of earth to peril, and to go forth"
to the help of the Lord against the mighty." To hear was to obey. They went forth, strong in faith; and in the name of the Lord they did valiantly. They acted history as few men have acted it, and if all history be a continued prophecy, theirs is so emphatically-a prophecy which we shall do well to read and understand. The Puritan warriors have long gone to rest. The stormful valour of their great hearts is still enough now. The heroes of the Commonwealth, the whirlwind, the tempest, the garments rolled in blood, are fixed there, mute and still, in the silence of the receding ages, but yet