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If such then be the value, and such the results of the English ecclesiastical establishment, how high is the destiny of that personage whom the laws of England recognise as its supreme head on earth! How important is it, that the should feel its weight, should understand its grand peculiarities, and be habitually impressed with his own unparalleled responsibility. To misemploy, in any instances, the prerogative which this trust conveys, is to lessen the stability, and counteract the usefulness of the fairest and most beneficial of all the visible fabrics, erected in this lower world! But what an account would that prince, or that minister have to render, who should systematically debase this little less than divine institution, by deliberately consulting, not how the Church of England may be kept high in public opinion, influential on public morals, venerable through the meek yet manly wisdom, the unaffected yet unblemished purity, the energetic yet liberal zeal of its clergy;-but, how it may be made subservient to the trivial and temporary interests of the prevalent party, and the passing hour?
ed, that in them, so much more strikingly than | religious spirit is maintained in our clergy; in in the learned and philosophical of perhaps any proportion as it is diffused among the people; in other nation, increase of knowledge did not ge-proportion as it is encouraged from the throne. nerate scepticism, nor the consciousness of their mental strength inspire them with contempt for the religion of their country? Was it not, that that religion was so modified, as equally to endear itself to the vivid sensibility of youth, the quick intelligence of manhood, the matured re-prince, charged with such unexampled trust, flection of age and wisdom? That it did not on the one hand conceal the beauty and weaken the sense of vital truth, by cumbrous and unnecessary adjuncts;-nor on the other hand withhold from it that graceful drapery, without which, in almost all instances, the imagination, as it were, instinctively, refuses to perform its appropriate function of conveying truth to the heart!-And further, have not the above invaluable effects been owing to this also, that the inherent spirit of christian tolerance, which has been described as distinguishing our communion from every other national communion in the world, by allowing to their minds every just claim, has taken the best possible method of preventing intellectual licentiousness? In fine, to what other causes than those just stated, can we ascribe it, that this country above all others, has been the seat of philosophy, unbounded in its researches, yet modest in its assumptions, and temperate in its conclusions? Of literary knowledge, not only patiently pursued, and profoundly explored, but wisely digested and usefully applied? Of religion, in its most rational, most influential, most christian shape and character;-not the dreary labour of superstition, not the wild delirium of fanaticism, but the infallible guide of reason, the invincible guard of virtue, the enjoyment of present peace, and the assurance of future happiness?
But whatever providential causes have hitherto contributed among us to restrain infidelity and profaneness, have we no reason to fear that their operations are growing less and less pow. erful? And should we not bear in mind, that it is not the form of our church establishment, incomparable as that is, which can alone arrest the progress of danger, if there should arise any declension of zeal in supporting its best interests, if ever there should be found any lack of knowledge for zeal to work with. The character also of the reigning prince will always have a powerful effect either in retarding or accclerating the evil.
Besides the distribution of dignities, and the great indirect influence which this affords the prince, in the disposal of a vast body of preferment; his wisdom and tenderness of conscience will be manifested also in the appointment of the chancellor, whose church patronage is immense. And in the discharge of that most important trust, the appointment of the highest dig. nitaries, the monarch will not forget, that his responsibility is proportionably the more awful, because the exercise of his power is less likely to be controuled, and his judgment to be thwarted, than may often happen in the case of his political servants.
Nor will it, it is presumed, be deemed impertinent to remark, that the just administration of this peculiar power may be reasonably expected as much, we had almost said even more, from a female, than from a monarch of the other sex. The bishops chosen by those three judicious queens, Elizabeth, Mary, and Caroline, were generally remarkable for their piety and learning. And let not the writer be suspected of flattering either the queen or the bishop by observing, that among the wisdom and abilities which now adorn the bench, a living prelate high in dignity, in talents, and in Christian virtue, is said to have owed his situation to the discerning eye of his present majesty.
One of our most able writers on history and civil society, is perpetually inculcating that no political constitution, no laws, no provision made by former ages, can ever secure the actual enjoyment of political happiness and liberty, if What an ancient cannon, cited by the judithere be not a zeal among the living for the fur- cious Hooker, suggests to bishops on the subtherance of these objects. Laws will be mis- ject of preferment is equally applicable to kings. construed and fall into oblivion and ancient-It expressly forbiddeth them to be led by humaxims will be superseded, if the attention of man affection in bestowing the things of God.* the existing generation be not alive to the subject. Surely it may be said, at least with equal truth, that no excellence of our religious establishment, no orthodoxy in our articles, no, nor even that liturgy on whose excellences we have delighted to expatiate, can secure the maintenance of true religion, but in proportion as the * Ferguson.
Superintendence of Providence manifested in the local circumstances and in the civil and religious history of England.
*The Ecclesiastical Polity.
AMONG the various subjects on which the mind of the royal pupil should be exercised, there is none more appropriate, than that which might, perhaps, be most fitly denominated, the providential History of England. That it has not hitherto engaged attention, in any degree suitable to its importance, is much more an apology for its being, in the present instance, specially adverted to, than reason for its being any longer neglected.
conceivable, as to that future world where all the deep purposes of God are to have their perfect consummation.
But, if such has been the method of Providence in those great designs, which have heretofore been carried on in the world, can we suppose that the same plan is not substantially pursued in his present arrangements? Are not blessings still to be conferred on society? Blessings. yet in general unknown. and greater meaThe marks of divine interference, in the ge- sures of those which are already in part attainneral arrangement of states and empires, are ed ?-How rare, for example, has been hitherto rendered so luminous by the rays which Scrip the blessing of complete civil government-of ture prophecy has shed upon them, as to strike such a political system as combines the apparent every mind which is at once attentive and can- contrarieties of public security with personal did, with a force not to be resisted. But, while liberty! An object aimed at by the wisest legisthis indisputable truth leads us necessarily to lators of earlier times, but regarded by them as infer, that a like superintendance to that which a beautiful theory, incapable of being realized! is over the whole, acts likewise respecting all Still more-How limited is the attainment of the separate parts; the actual tracing this su- religious truth of well-weighed well-digested reperintendence, in the occurrences of particular ligious belief-and of well-conceived, well-regu nations, must, in general, be a matter of diffi-lated divine worship! Christianity exists in the culty and doubt, as that light of prophecy, which falls so brightly on the central dome of the temple, cannot reasonably be hoped for, when we turn into the lateral recesses.
Scripture, like virgin gold in the mine; but how few, comparatively, have been able to extract it without loss, or to bring it into public circulation without deplorable alloy! How erroneous, in most instances, are those modes and exercises of it, which are adopted by states and governments; and how seldom does it seem rightly apprehended, even by the most enlightened indi
in this state, is little short of an imputation on divine wisdom. But, in the mean time, how disastrous are the consequences to individuals and to society!
If there be then a country, long and signally distinguished in both these important instances
There are instances, however, in which God's providential works shine so clearly by their own radient light,' as to demonstrate the hand which fashioned, and the skill which arranged them. And though others are of a more doubt-viduals! To suppose things will always remain ful nature; yet, when the attainments of any one particular nation become matter of general influence, so that what was, at first, the fruit of merely local labour, or the effect of a peculiar combination of local circumstances, becomes from its obvious utility or intrinsic excellence an object to other surrounding countries, and grows at length into an universal benefit ;-in such a distinction, we can hardly forbear to trace something so like a consistent plan of operations that the duty of observing and acknowledging it, seems incumbent on such communities as appear to have been thus signally favour- | ed. What advantage, for instance, has the whole civilized world derived from the philosophizing turn of the ancient Greeks! How widely extensive, and how durable has been its influence.
Of what importance are the benefits, which the politic spirit of the Roman empire diffused among the countries of Europe, most of which, to this day, acknowledge the hand that reared them from barbarism, by still retaining those laws which that hand transcribed for them, as if Rome were allowed to do that for men's circumstances, which Greece was permitted to effect for their minds!
But a third instance is encumbered with less difficulty, the designation of Judea to be the local source of true religion. In this small province of the Roman empire, what a scene was transacted, and from those transactions, what a series of consequences have followed, and what a system of influences has been derived, operating, and still to operate on individuals-communities-nations, in ways, and with effects, the happiest, or most awful, as they are embraced or rejected; and leading to results not to be calculated even as to this world,—but wholly in
in the former, so as to have been the object of universal admiration ;-in the latter, so as to have been looked up to by all the most enlightened parts of the Christian world.-If there be such a country, can we help regarding its su periority to other countries as the result of a providential destination, as clear as that which allotted philosophy to ancient Greece, and civil polity to ancient Rome ?-And may it not even be added, as really divine, though not miraculous, as that which gave true religion to ancient Judea.
If England be this community, if England be the single nation upon earth,-where that checked and balanced government, that temperament of monarchic, aristocratic and popular rule, which philosophic statesmen, in ancient times, admired so much in theory, has been actually realized-If it be also distinguished by a temperament in religious concerns little less peculiar, is not every thinking member of such a community bound to acknowledge with deepLest gratitude, so extraordinary a distinction? And what employment of thought can be more interesting than to trace the providential means by which such unexampled benefits and blessings have been conferred upon our country!
To enter at large into so vast a subject, would be an impracticable attempt, on such an occasion as the present. It would itself furnish materials for a volume rather than for a few pages ;*
* The train of thought pursued in this and the follow
[ing chapter, as well as some of the thoughts themselves,
and to treat it with justice would be a task, to which the best informed and profoundest mind would alone be competent. A few scattered observations, therefore, are all that we can pretend to offer, not however without hope, that they will excite to a deeper and more extended investigation. We are told by St. Paul, that 'he who made of one blood all nations, fixed not only the time before appointed (the epochs of their rise and fall) but also the bounds of their habitation.' The result of this created arrangement, respecting the greater divisions of the earth, Europe, Asia, and Africa, separated, yet connected by that inland ocean the Mediterranean Sea, have been already noticed. But, nothing has been more pregnant in its consequences in this general plan than the insulated situation of Great Britain, with respect to our national circumstances.-If we are at this day free, while so many neighbouring nations are enslaved. If we stand erect, while they are trampled on-let us not entirely attribute it to any superiority in ourselves, of spirit, of wisdom, or strength; but let us also humbly and gratefully ascribe it to that appointment of the Creator, which divided us from the continent of Europe. Had we been as accessible to the arms of France, as Holland, Switzerland, or the Austrian Netherlands, we might perhaps have been involved in the same calamities. But we cannot stop here. The entire series of our history, as a nation, seems in a great measure to have been derived from this source; and every link in the chain of our fortune bears some sig. nificant mark of our local peculiarity. With out this, where would have been our commercial opulence or our maritime power? If we had not been distinct as a country we had not been distinct as a people. We might have imbibed the taints, been moulded by the manners, and immerged in the greatness of our more powerful neighbours. It was that goodness which made us an island, that laid the foundation of our national happiness. It was by placing us in the midst of the waters that the Almighty prepared our country for those providential uses to which it has served and is yet to serve in the great scheme of his dispensations. Thus, then, we behold ourselves raised as a nation above all the nations of the earth by that very circumstance which made our country be regarded, two thousand years ago, only as a receptacle for the refuse of the Roman empire!
To this, evidently, it has been owing, that amongst us, the progress of society, from barbarianism to high improvement, has not only been more regular, but more radical and entire, as to all the portions and circumstances of the body politic, than in any instance with which we are acquainted. Shut in from those desolating blasts of war which have ever and anon been sweeping the continent, the culture of our both here, and in one or two former passages may perhaps be recognized by the Rev. and learned Doctor Miller, late fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, as a kin to those views of providential history, which he has given in a course of lectures in that college. The author gladly acknowledges having received, through a friend,
a few valuable hints from this source, of which it is Barnestly hoped the public may in due time be put in full possession.
moral soil has been less impeded, and the seeds which have been sown have yielded ampler, as well as maturer harvests. vicissitudes-but in a manner peculiar to ourWe have had our selves. They seem clearly providential, and not fortuitous; since it is certain that the agitations which we have experienced, and the apparent calamities which we have suffered have been, in almost every instance, signally condu cive to our advancement. came possessed by the Saxons, she appeared When England beonly to be sharing the fate of other European countries; all of which, about that period, or soon after, became the prey of similar hordes of invaders. But a difference of result, in our particular instance, arising chiefly from our insular situation, after some time, presents itself to us, as already marking that happy des tination with which Providence intended to fa
an army of those northern invaders took posIt has been observed by historians, that when session of any country, they formed their establishment with a view of self-defence, much more than to civil improvement. They knew not how suddenly they might be attacked by some successful army of adventurers; and therefore says Dr. Robertson, 'a feudal kingdom resembles a military establishment, rather than a civil institution.' same historian,' was well calculated for defence, 'Such a policy,' adds the against the assaults of any foreign power; but its provisions for the interior order and tranquillity of society, was extremely defective; the principles of disorder and corruption being discernible in that constitution under its best and most perfect form.'*
established potentates of the continent seem to To this feudal system,' however, the newly have been impelled by necessity; but an inevitable consequence was, that that taste for liberty, which had animated their followers in their native forests, could no longer be cherished, and was of course doomed to extinction.
exist. The possession of the country being In Britain alone such a necessity did not once accomplished, its tenure was comparatively secured by the surrounding ocean. was not to be neglected; but danger was not Defence imminent. Thus no new habit was forced on the new settlers, so as to expel their original propensities; and accordingly whatever means each other, during the multiplicity of these of safety they might have resorted to against governments, we see at the distance of four centuries, Alfred, turning from successful warfare against invaders, to exercise that consummate wisdom, with which his mind was enriched, in systematizing those very aboriginal principles of Saxon liberty. A civil polity was thus erected, which was not only in its day the most perfect scheme of government that had yet and established on such a solid foundation, as existed, but it also was formed of such materials, length, it has been gradually wrought into that never after to be wholly demolished; until at magnificent fabric, which, through the bless
Robertson's View of the State of Europe, prefixed to Charles V. Sect. 1.
THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.
ing of heaven, is at this day the glory and the, defence of our island.
In these rudiments, then, of the first English constitution, let us gratefully recognize the first most striking indication of a particular providence presiding over our country. A genius, the first of his age, is raised in a remote and insulated part of Europe,-where at first view, it might be thought his talents must be destitute of their proper sphere of action. But in what other European country could his enlarged views have been in any adequate degree realized? Where the feudal government was established, such wise and liberal arrangements as those of Alfred were necessarily precluded; at least they could not have been introduced, without stripping such a government of its essential characters; Alfred's system being as strictly civil, as the other was military. He provided sufficiently for external safety, but it was internal security and tranquility to which his exquisite policy was peculiarly directed. And from its correspondence with right reason, with the native spirit of the people, and with the local circumstances of the country, it so rooted itself in the English soil, as to out-live all the storms of civil discord, as well as the long winter of the Norman tyranny.
Is it not then remarkable that, when such a concurrence of favourable circumstances exist. ed in that very sequestred spot should arise an individual, so precisely fitted to turn them to, what appears, their allotted purpose? Had there not been an Alfred to accomplish the work, all these capabilities might soon have vanished, and our national happiness never have been realized. On the other hand, had Alfred lived without his appropriate sphere of action, he would no doubt have been a successful warrior, a gracious prince, and clearly, as far as the state of men's minds admitted, a friend to letters, and such rude arts as were then in use; but he would not have been venerated, at the distance of a thousand years as the founder of the best scheme of laws, and the happiest system of government, that the world ever saw. Such a correspondence, then, of so distinguished an agent to so apt a sphere of action, and attended with results so permanent, so beneficial, and so widely influential on human society, was surely far above fortuitous coincidence. Was it not, on the contrary, an adaptation so self-evident, as can only be ascribed to the special interference of overruling Providence?
It is true, that by the Norman conquest, the benefits derived from this wise and happy establishment appeared for the time overwhelmed by a threefold tyranny,-regal, feudal, and ecclesiastical. But this, on an attentive view, will appear no less to have been over-ruled for good. To repress for the purpose of excitement, and to employ gross admixtures in order to higher purification, are procedures congruous with all the laws of nature.
In a constitution formed in so dark an age, and adapted to so rnde a people, there could be little more than the crude elements of such a political system, as more advanced times would require. Yet had the enjoyment of those earlier privileges remained undisturbed, nothing better
might have been aimed at! and instead of that
But on a yet more enlarged view of our na-
Had these pernicious practices been gradually and insensibly introduced, as they were in most countries on the continent, they would have been inevitably combined with the common habits of the people. But being thus suddenly and forcibly imposed, in conjunction too with such a mass of political grievances, their almost neWe accordingly find, that in every adcessary tendency was to excite a spirit of resistvance which was made towards regaining a free government, a conquest was gained over some instances of ecclesiastical as well as of political tyranny; than which, what more effectual course could the most sagacious foresight have pursued, for rousing the national mind from the dead give a cordial reception to that light of religious drowsiness of superstition, aad preparing it to truth, which, when the proper season should ness on this favoured country? arrive, was to beam forth with peculiar bright
But it is not only in its encroachments and
* Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. iv. last ehap.
we pass over the care which was taken, in the very occurrences of the reformation, for adapting it to the independent spirit of the English, and also for perpetuating, in the establishment itself, that mild and mitigating temper which had influenced its first founders.
severities that we are to regard the Norman go- | agitations of the seventeenth century, endea vernment as an instrument of Providence. It, voured to preserve to the English church estadoubtless, was the means of much direct and blishment that very temperament, which had so positive good. The minds of Englishmen need-happily entered into its first formation. Nor can ed improvement, still more than their civil constitution. Alfred had attempted to sow the seeds of learning, as well as of jurisprudence, amongst his countrymen ; but to inspire a barbarous people with a love of literature, was what neither he nor his master, Charlemagne, was able in any great degree to accomplish. An advance of general civilization was necessary to strike out such a disposition; and it was not until toward the beginning of the 12th century, that any part of Western Europe appeared to have been visited with the dawn of an intellectual day. A connexion, therefore, with the continent previously to that period, could not have served the moral, and might have injured the political interests of our island. But that it should, just at that time, be brought into such circumstances, as should ensure its participation in all the mental acquirements, of the neighbouring countries, appears evidently to bespeak the same superintendence, as in the instances already noticed.
It was indispensable that the change in the church establishment should be accomplished by the paramount powers of the state; they alone being either legally, or naturally competent. But no act of a king or council, or even of a parliament, was adequate to effect in the minds of the English public, that rational and cordial ac. quiescence in the new state of things, without which it must have been inefficient, as to influ. ence, and insecure as to duration.
But for this, Providence itself made admirable provision. The pious and amiable Edward was kept upon the throne, until all that was neces sary to be done, in an external and political way had been effected.-Then, for a time, the old system was permitted to return, with all its horrible accompaniments, in order, as it should seem, that the protestant church of England might not rest upon human laws alone, but might appear to have originated in the same essential principles with those of the apostolic church, and to have been constituted by men of a like spirit, who, when called to it, were similarly prepared to seal their testimony with their blood.
It is, however, in the great event of the English reformation, that we perceive, as has been already observed,* the most striking marks of divine direction; and it seems to discover to us, why it has pleased God to distinguish us by so many previous instances of favour. We were not only to be blessed with the light of truth ourselves, but we were to be in some sort, a city set upon a hill. The peculiar temperament of the English protestant establishment, which The service that these illustrious men had places it in a kind of middle line between the done, by their temperate wisdom, and admirable churches of the continent, has been also noticed judgment, in the reign of Edward, in compiling in a former chapter. But is it not evident, that such a liturgy, and establishing such a worship, our national church, humanly speaking, derived and such a form of doctrine, is ever to be held that temperament from a previously formed na- in grateful remembrance. But their passive tional character? The English,' says Voltaire, virtue, their primitive heroism, in patiently, and 'into whom nature has infused a spirit of inde- even joyfully dying for those truths which they pendence, adopted the opinion of the reformers, had conscientiously adopted; this it was which but mitigated them, and composed from them a established protestantism in the hearts of the religion peculiar to themselves.'t It is seldom, English populace! They saw the infernal cruthat, on such a subject, this acute but most per-elty of the popish leaders, and the calm magna. verted pen has so justly described the fact. But, what a striking testimony is this, not only to the worth of that national character, which thus distinguished itself from the whole Christian world, but also to the depth of that Divine wisdom, which made so many remote and unconnected contingences work together in producing so valuable a result!
nimity of the protestant martyrs. They saw these holy men, whose connexion with secular politics might be thought to have corrupted them, and whose high station in society might be supposed to have enervated them, facing death in its most dreadful form, with more than human tranquillity! They saw all this, and the impression made upon them was like that which In establishing a religion, which is founded was made on the Israelites at Mount Carmel, by on truth, and which consists essentially in the the event of the memorable contest between the love of God and man, what more suitable dispo- priests of Baal, and the prophets of the Lord. sitions could there be provided, than an indepen- Accordingly on the death of Mary, the accession dent spirit and a mitigating temper? That both of Elizabeth excited universal joy.-The acqui these were eminently exemplified by our vene-escence of the people in the changes made by rable reformers, need not here be proved. Nor is it necessary to enlarge upon the obvious tendency of the English laws and constitution, to form such dispositions in those who lived within their influence. If this tendency were doubtful, a striking fact in after times might serve to il. lustrate it. I mean, that steady zeal with which all the great constitutional lawyers, during the • Chap. xxxv.
† Siecle de Louis XIV. chap. xxxii.
Henry, and even by Edward, were little more than acts of necessity, and therefore implied no revolution in the general opinion. But now it was evinced, by every possible proof, that a thorough detestation of popery had extended itself through the whole community. Were we to adopt,' says Goldsmith, the maxim of the catholics, that evil may be done for the production of good, one might say, that the persecutions in Mary's reign were permitted only to bring the