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The early Allusion, and I may say, Testimony, to the
Religious Spirit and Conduct of the first Settlers in NORTH AMERICA, borne by GEORGE HERBERT, 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
Spain hath done one, when Arts perform the other,
VII. How the case of SEPARATION appeared to an eminent
This view of the case of Separation and of the character of the divines who were leaders in it, is copied from a manuscript of John Shaw, a Puritan minister of great eminence, but who sought reformation of the church, as precluding the necessity of separation from it. Yet he was compelled to withdraw himself by the operation of the act of Uniformity in 1662. The manuscript was written in 1664, for the special instruction and benefit of his only son. When he wrote it he had returned to Rotherham, where he had been Vicar, from Hull where he had a benefice, from which he was removed. See Calamy's Account, &c., p. 823. He referred his own conversion to a more religious life to the preaching of Mr. Weld, who afterwards went to New England. There is a copy of the Life of Shaw by himself, spoken of by Calamy, amongst the Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum. He was born in the year of the Scrooby Emigration.