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miserably to bewail the state of the Reformed Churches, who were come to a period in religion and would go no further than the instruments of their reformation. As for example, the Lutherans could not be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; for whatever part of God's word He had further revealed to Calvin, they had rather die than embrace it; and so, said he, you see the Calvinists, they stick where he left them, a misery much to be lamented : for though they were precious shining lights in their times, yet God had not revealed his whole will to them; and were they now alive, said he, they would be as ready to embrace further light as that they had received. Here, also, he put us in mind of our Church Covenant : whereby we engaged with God and one another to receive whatever light or truth should be made known to us from his written word. But withal exhorted us to take heed what we receive for truth; and well to examine, compare, and weigh it with other Scriptures before we receive it. For, said he, it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such Anti-Christian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once, &c.,"—Words almost astonishing in that age of low and universal bigotry which then prevailed in the English nation: wherein this truly great and learned man seems to be almost the only divine who was capable of rising into a noble freedom of thinking and practising in religious matters, and even of urging such an equal liberty on his own people. He labours to take them off from their attachment to him, that they might be more entirely free to search and follow the Scriptures.”—pp. 86–90.
VI. The early Allusion, and I may say, Testimony, to the
Religious Spirit and Conduct of the first Settlers in North AMERICA, borne by GEORGE HER
BERT, the prince of the Sacred Poets of England. Everyone is familiar with two lines in the poem of Herbert entitled, The Church Militant
“Religion stands on tip-toe on our land
Ready to pass to the American strand,” because they are quoted by good old Izaac Walton, when he speaks of the Temple, a posthumous work of Herbert's, published by his friend, Nicholas Farrer.
When the manuscript was presented to the ViceChancellor of the University of Cambridge for his license to print, he scrupled to allow the sentiment in these lines to go forth. Mr. Farrer would by, no means allow the objection, and as Walton tells the story “after some time and some arguments for and against their being made public, the Vice-Chancellor said, 'I knew Mr. Herbert well, and know that he had many heavenly speculations, and was a divine poet; but I hope the world will not take him to be an inspired prophet, and, therefore, I license the whole book,' so that it came to be printed without the diminution or addition of a syllable.”
At what time the particular poem was written
which contains the obnoxious couplet is not known, and the only chronological fact respecting it is, that it was written in or before 1633, for in that year the author died. This was only twelve years after the emigration of the Leyden people, and supposing that it was written before he became settled on his benefice in Wiltshire, it would be only nine years after that emigration, and before the Puritan stream began to set so strongly as it afterwards did to the shores of North America. So that it may, without violence, be understood to have a kind of reference to Robinson's church, or in other words, to the Scrooby church, and even to be an independent testimony from a very distinguished member of the English church at once to the deeply religious spirit and to the excellent morality of these Puritan Separatists.
The Journal of Governor Winthrop affords an excellent comment on this celebrated couplet. In 1634 he says, after having recorded that Mr. Humfrey and the Lady Susan his wife, a daughter of Thomas, the third Clinton Earl of Lincoln, had arrived in the colony, that “godly people in England began now to apprehend a special hand of God in raising this plantation, and their hearts were generally stirred to come over.” (Savage's Winthrop, i. 135.) A strange and awful calamity, however, befel this most unfortunate family who were allied to the noblest houses in England, when they were settled in America.
Herbert was not one of those persons who can see
no good in any form of Christian profession but that which they themselves adopt. He could see good in all forms and modes of Christian profession, and undoubtedly good there is in them all, and hard is it to say in what form it exerts itself the most successfully to produce what is the great end of all forms and all professions, lives of holiness and virtue.
But these two celebrated lines are not the only part of the poem which may seem to have relation to the first Founders of New Plymouth. In the persuasion that the passage is less known than it ought to be, I place in this appendix an extended extract. At the same time it must be owned that there are allusions in what follows to the Spanish conquests in America : and the great argument of the whole poem, The Church Militant, is the westward progression of Christian Faith.
“But as in vice the copy still exceeds
The pattern, but not so in virtuous deeds;
To these diminishings, as is between The spacious world and Jewry to be seen. Religion stands on tip-toe in our land Ready to pass to the American strand. When height of malice and prodigious lusts, Impudent sinning, witchcrafts and distrusts (The marks of future bane) shall fill our cup Unto the brim, and make our measure up: When Seine shall swallow Tiber, and the Thames, By letting in them both, pollutes her streams : When Italy of us shall have her will And all her calendar of Sins fulfil; Whereby one may foretell, what sins next year Shall both in France and England domineer : Then shall religion to America flee: They have their times of gospel, e'en as we. My God, thou dost prepare for them a way, By carrying first their gold from them away For gold and grace did never yet agree; Religion always sides with poverty. We think we rob them, but we think amiss : We are more poor and they more rich by this. Thou wilt revenge their quarrel, making grace To pay our debts, and leave our ancient place To go to them, while that which now their nation But lends to us, shall be our desolation. Yet as the Church shall thither westward fly So Sin shall trace and dog her instantly: They have their period also and set times Both for their virtuous actions and their crimes. And where of old the Empire and the Arts Ushered the Gospel ever in men's hearts,