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CONSTITUTIONAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL
History of England,
DECEASE OF ELIZABETH TO THE ABDICATION OF JAMES II.
THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF WYCLIFFE."
IN TWO VOLUMES.
18, st. PAUL'S CHUCH-YARD,
The revolution of 1688 is the acknowledged epoch of our civil and religious liberties. That revolution, though accomplished with little effort and without commotion, was the result of a protracted struggle in behalf of popular rights, and of one maintained chiefly by religious men.
In its earlier stages this patriotic contention derived its main strength from the puritans; and to the last, when it received important aid from members of the established church, it was an object of the utmost solicitude with the body of English nonconformists; nor is there any hazard in saying that their weight was then found sufficient to turn the scale on the better side.
The influence of these parties, and especially of the puritans and their descendants, on the great questions of civil freedom, and liberty of conscience, is a topic of inquiry equally curious
and valuable. It was not to have been expected that writers, having no sympathy with the religious principles of these men, should treat their story, in this view of it, either adequately or fairly: and it is a little singular that no nonconformist should ever have attempted that separate and continuous investigation of it, which its interest and importance so clearly demand. The leading design of the author has been to produce a work of this nature. It has also been his wish that it should be sufficiently extended to afford a satisfactory exhibition of its subject, without being so formidable in its appearance as to deter the general reader from approaching it.
Should it be inferred from these observations that the ensuing narrative will be found to consist of indiscriminate censure on the one hand, and mere eulogy on the other, the perusal of a few chapters will probably be sufficient to correct this misapprehension. That division of the moral or religious virtues which is implied in this too frequent method of setting forth the history of England during the seventeenth century, does not belong to the present state of existence. According to one of our popular writers,—and in this he is merely the echo of a host,—the puritans were a compound of “ barbarism, intolerance, and madness," and
animated, by a relentless malignity, against every thing great, and good, and beautiful. They did infinite mischief, and always from a pure love of doing it: a little good they also did; but it was ever with an intention to do evil. Their weakness was marvellous, and the fittest subject in the world for ridicule, had it not been allied to wickedness still more remarkable, and deserving far other means of correction. Such, in substance, is the character of the English puritans, as given in the volumes recently published under the title of “ Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles the First." To the class of readers who can derive pleasure from fictions of this description, when substituted in the place of history, the present work will be in no way acceptable. At the same time it will not surprise the writer to learn, that there are ultras on the other side to whom the opinions sometimes expressed in these sheets will not be quite satisfactory. He has not cared to become a caterer for the morbid passions of any party. His object has been to induce a just estimate of the sentiments of devout men in former times, and to promote that enlightened attachment to the principles of freedom by which those men were generally animated. That view of religion is defective and false which does not make the