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attending a removal to a distant and uncultivated shore.
subject – one
munity the co
We have one advantage in relation to this subject, Unity of the which does not belong to some other enreligious com- quiries of a similar nature. New Plymouth lonistë. was not built and peopled by persons wholly independent of each other, who had assembled there by accident, or who were each attracted by the prospect of some private and particular advantage. They came there a united body of men, bound together by solemn compact, men of one heart and one mind, intent on the same purpose, and that a holy one. They were a federal body, a protestant congregation, community, or Church in their sense of the term, formed according to what they had brought themselves to regard as the scripture or gospel model ; yet not a set of wild enthusiasts with principles and opinions founded on palpable errors or on frauds, but calm deliberation; and as to several of them, cultivated and discerning men—men entitled to have an opinion in respect of their religious profession, whatever judgment another may form of the value of the opinion, or the soundness of the reasoning, by which it was
supported. It is of such a body of men that we have to treat, and it is obvious that they may be contemplated as a unit; and the history of the foundation of New Plymouth is in fact but the first chapter in the history of this confederation.
It may be necessary for the right understanding of what follows to introduce at this point Origin and in the story some account of the nature that commuand origin of communities, such as that before us : and a few words will be sufficient for our present purpose, as I have no intention of entering into the wide argument to which it might invite us.
When the Reformation of the sixteenth century, supported as it was by so much learning and piety, by so much political power, and by so much of the popular will, had set men's minds at liberty to rove at pleasure in the fields of theological and ecclesiastical enquiry, they must have been blind indeed who did not perceive that men's minds would never settle down in one uniform opinion, and that even great diversity might be expected, leading to rivalries, and struggles for supremacy. And politicians, quick to discern whatever impairs the strength and endangers the safety of a state, proceeded as soon as it was possible to form National Churches, in which there should be a uniformity of faith and ordinances, resembling that uniformity which had been maintained by other means and on other principles in the times gone by. In constructing these National Churches, it was the object, at least in England, so to form them, that the greatest number of people might be comprehended within them, with as little shock as might be to any favourite opinions or prejudices. England, it is to be remembered, had at that time many families, from the highest to the lowest ranks, dispersed all over the country, who adhered in principle and in heart to the ancient and then abrogated system, and who recollected with affectionate reverence the touching ceremonies of the ancient rituals, the beauty of the churches then but lately defaced, the works of art in painting and sculpture, in goldsmith's work and embroidery, with which they were adorned, and the sweet music of the choir and the bell-tower. In the frame of the new Church of England, the claims of these persons were not to be disregarded (they were at least Englishmen), and there was therefore more of condescension to them than some of the more rigid Reformers could approve. But in proportion as there were attempts made to conciliate these people by retaining certain of the ancient forms and ceremonies, and by keeping up the episcopal order, there was offence given to another body of persons who seem to have held as a principle that there was nothing good in the ancient church, and that it was enough to say of any practice in religion to condemn it, that it was a relic of popery. When all was done for the satisfaction, as far as could be, of both these parties, and a compromise was made perhaps as wisely and justly as could have been devised, though the great body of the English nation, both clerks and laymen, did enrol themselves as members of the national church, there were some who refused to do so or who yielded a reluctant and imperfect adhesion ; Romanists, on the one hand, who pretty early rejected even occasional communion, and Puritans on the other, who did for the most part conform, though without concealing their objection to many of the rites and ceremonies of the church, and even to its constitution itself. The difficulty was to know how to deal with these persons of extreme opinions in opposite directions. Unfortunately the wisdom of toleration was not then understood among the persons in whose hands temporal power was lodged, and they therefore determined that that power should be used to enforce compliance. Fine and imprisonment, deprivation of their benefices, degradation from the ministry, and even death itself, were awarded against both Catholic and Protestant nonconformists, and great was the suffering in consequence. But the storm of the persecution which casts so dark a shade over the reigns of Elizabeth and James, fell with far greater severity on the Romanists, who however mingled political projects of a very dangerous and often hateful kind with the zeal which they professed for the ancient order of the church. Some of the finest spirits of the time, such as Campion and Southwell, were sent by violence to the place whither Sir Thomas More had been sent. The Puritan also points to his martyrs and confessors, yet the Puritans were at that time a far less formidable body, with less compactness and less defined principles, and seemingly might have conformed altogether for the sake of peace and union, which are surely things far more valuable than testimonies, however earnest, against the cross in baptism or the ring in marriage.