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Art. I. The History of Religious Liberty, from the first Propagation

of Christianity in Britain, to the Death of George III., including ils successive State, beneficial Influence, and powerful Interruptions. By Benjamin Brook. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. xvi, 1098. Price 11.4s.

London. IT T is no serious disparagement of a good work, that it has a

bad title. That which Mr. Brook has chosen in the present instance, amounts almost to a misnomer. It is not the history of religious liberty with which these volumes are occupied, but the history of ecclesiastical tyranny. Religious liberty, during the greater part of the period which they embrace, was a non-ens ; and its biography inight be summed up in a few paragraphs. What, indeed, does the history of the Church ever since the age of Constantine exhibit, but one long bloody struggle for the recovery of the Christian's birth-righi, the freedoin with wbich Cbrist has made bin free? Where have there been ecclesiastical rulers who have not manifested their affinity to Antichrist, by usurping a domination over the conscience? Or what is Antichrist, but buman power enthroving itself in the temple of God? What Mr. Brook terins'the doctrine of religious liberty,' has been denounced alike by prelate and presbyter, in every age, as the worst of all possible heresies; and even now, it is admitted as a necessary consequence of our civil liberties, rather than as a principle of Christianity. It is only because ecclesiastical power is chained by the constitution, that religious liberty bas in this country an existence. Its history, properly speaking, goes no further back than the Act of Toleration; for, even during the Protectorate, it was far from being established. The Episcopalians, though visited with penalties, not, in reality, for their religious, but for their political opinions, were still exposed to persecution ; and all the influence of Cromwell was necessary to prevent the Presbyterian clergy from putting their fingers on

their brethren’s consciences to pinch them.' In the reign of Vol. XVI. N.S.

2 R

Anne, an effort was made to strangle our new-born liberties. It seemed that so long as a Stuart filled the throne, Englislimen could have no security that their dearest rights should be perpe. tuated. The accession of the House of Brunswick at that critical juncture, was a signal interposition of Divine Providence, and forms, perhaps, ihe most important era in the history of our religious liberties. The spirit of intolerance, however, was not Jaid, and it required all the characteristic firmness of our late sovereign to protect the Dissenters from fresli encroachments upon their civil rights. His conscientious adherence to bis pro. mise to preserve in violate the Toleration Act, reflects a higher lustre upon his reigo, than all the victories which blazon its annals. By this wise policy, he bas deserved far more of the Church of Christ, than Henry VIII, or than Constantine ; and notwithstanding the existence of the Test-Act, it is the reigu of George 111. that must be distinguished as the age of religious liberty.

The ' bistory of religious liberty' is a title which promises more than a review of the ecclesiastical anuals of our own country. Mr. Brook does, indeed, intimate in his title-page, that the work treats exclusively of the progress of Christianity in Britain; but the subject itself required a more extended survey of ecclesi... astical history. Holland, Germany, Russia, and America would claim the especial notice of the historian who should undertake to illustrate either the past or the present circumstances of the Church with regard to the enjoyment of freedom, or the progress of opinion relative to the doctrine of religious liberty. Mr. Brook's work is complete so far as it goes, and, but for his title, we should not, perhaps, have been disposed to complain, that his plan precluded his taking a more comprehensive range. The religious history of England affords quite matter enough for two volumes, and we always follow the Author with most pleasure when he adheres pretty literally to original documents. If we have any fault to find with his present work, it is on account of the too large proportion of disquisition and declamatiou by which the narrative is encumbered. The Author's principles are sound, and the sentiments which he reiterates, are of the first importance. The remarks and reflections which he pauses to offer, are characterised by plain, strong sense, and the spirit of them is completely in unison with our own feelings. But a more dispassionate and less discursive style would, we are persuaded, have been infinitely preferable for the purpose of conveying to general readers the impressions which the Author labours to produce. Not an epithet needs be summoned to add colour to the simple statement of those atrocities which stain every page of ecclesiastical history, rendering it one long catalogue of érimes. The most phlegmatic reader will find it difficult to

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preserve his dry composure of feeling, in pursuing the repulsive recital. The only solicitude which the historian has occasion to feel, is, lest religion itself should appear to be answerable for the crimes of churchinen. All his endeavours should be directed to this one point,--to establish and illustrate the fact, that neither the precepts, nor the example, nor the institutions of our: Lord and his Apostles, are implicated, either directly, or indirectly, in

such proceedings ;--that they flowed entirely from the corruption > of Cliristianity, and from the assumption of a power disavowed

by Christianity;--that religion has never been the author of per-, secution, but always its victim.

Although, we confess, we have not those morbid fears relative! to the revival of Popery in this country, by which some pious persons are agitated, and cannot approve of charging upon the Roman Catholics of the present day, the actions of Gardiner and Bouner, yet, we are not quite satisfied that the friend of our early years, the venerable martyrologist Fox, should be laid on the shelf; or that the affecting and instructive memorials of those days, should be made to give way to tales, and sentimental tracts, abridgements, and memoirs--the shallow tomes by which is at once stimulated and supplied the ever-craving love of novelty. It bas, we believe, gone very much out of vogue, to familiarize

the young with the sufferings and trials with which our best * temporal inheritance as Englishmen was purchased by the 10 Martyrs and Puritans of other days; as if, the contest being,

apparently ended, and the danger over, the history had lost its interest; as if nothing was to be learned from looking back on the transactions of those dark ages, over wbich the faith and patience of the noble followers of the primitive martyrs and confessors, shed so bright a gleam. Religious liberty is not now in danger from Popery—that is to say, in England. Granted. But * does this form a valid reason that the lessons of past times should cease to be inculcated, and the example of those who were faithful to the death, be no longer presented to the miods of the young? Is either their sense of the value of our best privileges, or the firmne of their attachment to the principles which secure those privileges, likely to be promoted by leaving them in comparative ignorance of what their attainment cost? Modern education presents every subject in the outline, and nothing in the detail: it perplexes the scholar with all manner of questions, but is remarkably summary in its answers to them ; while most fertile and ingenious in fictions, it is most brief and reserved in the communication of facts. We are not sure that this is an improved system. The history of his country, the history of the Church, ought to be familiarized in its details to every Christian, so as not merely to be brought within the compass of his general information, but to have a hold upon his associations and sympathies. For our own parts, we

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must confess that Smithfield is still to our imagination, a more interesting spot than even Waterloo.

Next in interest to the sufferings of the Martyrs in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Mary, are the unrelenting persecutions endared by the early Puritans in the succeeding reigns. To thein we are chiefly indebted, not only for our religious rights, but for our civil freedom. "To this sect," Mr. Hume confesses, the Eng. "lish owe the whole freedoin of their constitation. But, as their persecutors were not Papists, there is a class of writers who imagine themselves called upon to vindicate the immaculate character of the Protestant hierarchy, by pouring contempt of the characters and sufferings of these admirable meu. * humiliating,' insidiously remarks a writer in the Quarterly Review,' what has been suffered for po weightier ground of dispute 6 in the beginning, than the surplice and the sign of the cross in * baptism.' It is thus with a dash of the pen, that this beartless and flippant writer would cancel the claims to veneration, of een of whom the world was not worthy, and whose learning and acuteness were in many instances as illustrious as their piety. The Papist would wish for no better confederate than tbis Reviewer. Among those who made these matters the subject, though not, properly speaking, the ground of dispute, occur the names of Latimer and Hooper, Coverdale and Rogers, Taylor and Bradford, Jewel and Philpot, men who were the glory of the Reformation. Were these men or the Reviewer, the best judges of the validity of their objections to the Popish appareli' The cause in which the Puritans bled, was precisely the same as that for wbich the first Reformers laid down their lives; they were the victims of the same infernal tyranny; and if they were not martyrs, neither were Crapmer, and Ridley, and Latimer.

Had the Puritans and Nonconformists been so fortunate as to bave had Papists for their oppressors, it is true, that those who were hanged, would probably have been burned, and those who perished in prison, would bave suffered at the stake; but their names would at least bave come down to us with all the lustre of martyrs. Wbitgift and Parker would not then have been denied the honour of ranking with Gardiner and Bonner, in whose steps they trod; and Sheldon and Ward would have received their due share of infamy. But, unhappily, these prelates were Protestants, and, therefore, the honour of a party requires that history should be gagged or made to perjure herself. The “ Lives of

the Puritans" and the “Nonconformist's Memorial," must be restricted to the Dissenter's Library. The infidel Hume, the oracle of that party on most points, must, in reference to this part of our history, be dismissed as a suspicious authority; and Clarendou, the persecutor, shall be admitted as the only impartial witness in his own cause. How pitiable is that party bigotry

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