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SEP 19 193 






Author of " Leaders of the E«formation," Sec. 



The Ri(jIU of Translation is reserved. 


The history of English Puritanism still remains to be 
written. Separate aspects of the subject have been 
treated in detail by different \\Titers. M. Guizot, Mr 
Carlyle, Mr Foster, and, from an ecclesiastical point 
of view, Mr Marsden, have all contributed by their 
labours to a right understanding of the great constitu- 
tional and religious struggle of tlie seventeenth cen- 
tury. But it cannot be said that the subject, as a 
whole, in its strange complexity of political, military, 
religious, moral, and social relations, has received as yet 
adequate treatment. Who, for example, has pictured 
to us the living features of those diverse sects, whose 
presence meets us everywhere in surveying the period, 
but whose real character and influence it is so difficult 
to estimate? 

The present volume has no pretensions to be a his- 
tory of Puritanism : it professes merely to give some 
side-glimpses into that history— openings into a wide 
field. If it has any peculiar merit, this will probably 
be found in the analysis which it presents of the moral 


meaning and characteristics of Puritanism as exhibited 
in the great lives which it tries to depict. There is 
notliing in the subject that retains more interest ; and 
this feeling has been present to the writer throughout, 
and served to give, in his own mind, some degree of 
unity to the successive sketches of the volume. 

St Mary's College, St Andrews, 
5th February 1861. 
















Character of the English Reformation, 

Calvinism and Puritanism, 

Epochs in the history of Puritanism, 

Rise of Puritanism. Bishop Uooper, 

Marian Exile, ..... 

Act of Uniformity. .... 

Balance of parties in the Chm-ch, 

Extreme policy of Elizabeth, 

Sufferings of Fox, Covordale, Sampson, Humphrey 

Meeting of Dissenters in Plumbei-'s Hall, 

Movements in Parliament, 

Admonition of Field and Wilcox, . 

Cartwright and Whitgift, 

Grindal's Primacy, .... 

Hooker and Travcrs, 

Books of Ecclesiastical Polity, 

Accession of James. Millenary Petition, 

Hampton Court Conference, , 

Primacy of Bancroft, 

Pilgrim Fathers, .... 

Primacy of Abbot, .... 

Temporary retirement of Abbot, . 

Change of spirit in the Clergj', 

Rise of Arminianism. Laud, . 

Accession of Charles I., . 








Political influences, .... 

Progress and culmination of the struggle. 




1599. Birth at Huntingdon, 

The Cromwell family, 

Childhood and youth, 
1616. Student at Cambridge, 

Irregularities, . 
1620. Marriage, 

Religious change. 

Devotion to the Puritan cause, 
1628. Member of Parliament for Huntingdon, . 

First Speech, 

1631. Removal to St Ives, .... 

1635. Earliest extant Letter. Piu-itan Lecturers, 

1636. Settlement at Ely, 

1637. Excited state of the country, .... 

1638. Spiritual darkness, 

Lord of the Fens, 

Nov. 1640. Meeting of Long Parliament, .... 
1640-2. Progress of the conflict between the King and Par 


Activity of Cromwell as Jlember for Cambridge, 

Aug. 1642. Outbreak of the War, 

Origin of the Ironsides, 

1643. Victories at Grantham, Gainsborough, Winceby, 

July 1644. Battle of Marston Moor, 

Cromwell and the " Godly Party,'' . 
Oct. 1644. Second battle of Newbmy, .... 

Self-Denying Ordinance, 

June 1645. Battle of Naseby, 

April 1646. King's surrender. Close of the first Civil War, 
1646-8. Intrigues and negotiations, .... 
1648. Meeting of Ai-my Leaders at Windsor, 

Cromwell's family, 

1648. Second Civil War. Defeat of Hamilton at Preston 
Dec. 1648. Col. Pryde's Purge, 
Jan. 1649. Execution of Charles I 
Victories in Ireland, 
Scottish CampaigTi, 
Sept. 1650. Battle of Dunbar, 




Sept. 1651. Battle of Worcester, . 
1653. Dismissal of the Rump, 
Military genius, 
Difficulties as a Statesman, 
1653. Barebones, or Little Parliament, 
Dec. 1653. Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, 

Ecclesiastical arrangements — System of Triers, 
Sept. 1654. First Protectorate Parliament, 

Dissolution of Parliament — Various plots, 
1655-6. The Major-Generals, .... 

War with Spain, 

Sept. 1656. Second Protectorate Parliament, 

Negotiations as to the title of King, 
1657. Dissolution of Second Parliament, 

Marriages of his younger daughters. 
Illness of Lady Claypole, 
Sept. 1658. Cromwell's own illness and death. 












Dec. 1608. Birth and parentage, 
1620-5. Early education — St Paul's school, 

Poetical enthusiasm — Spenser and Du Bartas, 

Student at Cambridge, 

Prospects and the Church, 

Twenty-three years of age, 


Early poems. 

Continental journey, . 

Paris — Grotius, 

Florence — Galileo, 

Rome, .... 

Naples — Manso, 

In love, 

Geneva — Diodati, . 
Tutor in London, 
Commencement of controversial 
Anti-prelatic writings. 
Marriage, .... 
Return home of Mrs Milton, 









Puritanism and Anglicanism in their domestic influence, 211 
1644-5. Writings on Divorce, 213-16 

Writings on Education and Liberty of Printing, 
1646. Reconciliation with Mrs Milton, 
1646-9. Inactivity as an author, 

1649. Commencement of political writings, 
Secretary to the Council of State, 
Iconoclastes, ..... 

1650. First Defence for the People of England 
1654. Second Defence, 

Controversy with More, 
1653. Blindness, 
1656. Second marriage, 

Milton and Cromwell, 
1658-60. Political and ecclesiastical tracts, 

Review of intellectual character and influence, 
Prose writings, 
1660-74. Life after the Restoration, 
1662-3. Third marriage. 

Mismanagement of daughters, 
1667. Paradise Lost, 

Later poetic genius, 

Puritan characteristics of his great poems 
1671. Paradise Regained — Samson Agonistes, 
Treatise on Christian Doctrine, 
Letters and compilations. 
Private habits, 
1674. Death, .... 
General character, 



Theologians of Puritanism, 281 

Owen, 282-4 

Howe, 285-7 

1615. Birth of Baxter, 287 

Disgraceful state of the Church in Shropshire, . 288-91 

1625-30. Education and religious experience, . . . 292-6 

Devotion to metaphysics, 297-8 

1633. Visit to Court, 299 

1634. Mother's death, 299 

1636-8. Ill health, ' . . 300 





Views as to Conformity, 



Ordination and first sermon at Dudley, 



Assistant at Bridgenorth, 


Et Cetera Oath — Growing dislike to Prelacy, . 


Halation to political movements of 1640-2, 



Call to Kidderminster, 


Retirement from Kidderminster, . . . . 



Battle of Edgehill, 



Settlement at Coventry, 


Baxter and the Ai-my, 


Relations to Cromwell, 


Picture of Harrison, 


Account of the Sects, 



Ill health and withdrawal from the Army, 


Samts' Rest, 



Return to Kidderminster, .... 



Opposition to Cromwell, 



Inter^'iew with Cromwell, .... 


Labours at Kidderminster, .... 


Powers as a preacher, 


"Writings at Kidderminster, .... 


Missionary aspu-ations, 



Relation to Richard Cromwell, 



Settlement in London, 


Pi-esbyterians and the Restoration, 


Chaplain to the King, 


Meeting at Sion College, .... 


Reformed Liturgy, 



Royal declaration, 


Savoy Conference, 


Negotiations as to Kidderminster, . 


May 1661 

. Act of Uniformity, 


Aug. 1662 

. St Bartholomew's day, 





Conventicle Act, 



Five-Mile Act, 


Life at Acton, 



Dispensing declaration — Resumption of preaching. 




, 368-70 


Trial before JeflPreys, 

. 371-3 


Revolution— Act of Toleration, 









Characteristics as a theologian and preacher, 
Personal character, .... 




Spiritual life of Puritanism, 

Relation of Bunyan to this spiritual life, 
1628. Birth at Elstow, 

Wildness of youth, 

Religious impressions. 

Providential escapes, 
1645. Siege of Leicester, 

Maj-riage, . 

Spiritual excitement. 

Poor women of Bedford, 

Withdrawal from evil companions. 

Ranters — Antinomianism, 

New views of Scripture, 

Gifford and Congregation of Baptists at Bedford 

Spiritual temptations, 

Luther's Commentary on the Galatians, 

Further temptations, 

Justification by Faith — Peace, . 

Admission to Baptist Communion, . 
1656. Set apart to preach, .... 

Character of early preaching, 

Dispute with the Quakers, 


1660. Arrest and examination before the Bedford Justices 
Quarter-Sessions — Renewed examination, 

1661. Assizes at Bedford— Sir Matthew Hale, 
Bunyan' s second wife. 
Continued imprisonment. 
Origin of Pilgrini's Progress, 
The Holy City, or the New Jerusalem, 

1672. Controversy with Bishop Fowler, 

Liberation fi-om prison. 

Controversy with Baptist leaders, 
1678. PubUcation of Pilgrim's Progress, 

Popularity as a preacher — Female admirers. 




1682. Publication of the Hohj War, . 
1684. Second Part of Pilgrim's Progress, 
1688. Journey to Reading — Death, 

Character, .... 

Allegories, .... 

Puritan portraits in the allegories. 

Pseudo-religious portraits, 

Excellences and deficiencies of Puritanism 







The history of English Puritanism is the history both 
of a theological movement and of a great national 
straggle. The spirit of which Puritanism is the sym- 
bol has entered deeply into the national life, and 
strongly coloured many of its manifestations. It has 
given depth and passion not only to the religion, but 
to the literature and patriotism of the country ; it has 
largely contributed alike to its intellectual lustre and 
heroic fame. No one, therefore, can understand the 
sources of our mixed civilisation without studying the 
great Puritanical movement of the seventeenth century. 
It is necessary to penetrate to the heart of this move- 
ment, and find some sympathetic point of connection 
with it, before we can appreciate some of the most 
powerful influences which have moulded the English 
people and made them what they are. Otherwise, as 
with some of our historians, the face of the facts may 
be observed and delineated, but their genuine mean- 
ing will be missed, and the moral forces out of which 
they grew and consolidated into history wiU remain 


Britain was the national soil in which the seeds of 
the Eeformation were destined to take the deepest and 
most enduring root. Germany did far more to origin- 
ate and strengthen the movement in its beginnings ; 
France, in many of its highest minds, showed a more 
ready receptivity and welcome to the new religious 
ideas ; England could boast neitlier a Luther nor a 
Calvin : but the spiritual impulses out of which the 
movement grew, and which constituted its real life 
and strength, found in the Anglo-Saxon character their 
most congenial seat, their highest affinities, their most 
solid nutriment. Slowly, and under many hindrances, 
they spread, unaided by the powerful influence of 
any great teacher, but sinking always more into the 
depths of this character, and gaining a firmer hold of 
it. "While dying out in Germany, and hardly able to 
maintain themselves in France against the fierce odds 
with which they had to contend, they continued to 
propagate and gather force in England amidst all 
obstacles, and only attained, after the lapse of a cen- 
tury, and under many modifications of struggle and 
conquest, to their full development. 

The English Eeformation had a double origin. It 
sprang at once from the people and the court. It was the 
effect of a renewed spiritual excitement in the Church 
and in society ; it was also the creature of statecraft 
and royal policy. Erasmus's Greek Testament, and 
Tyndall's Bible, were the great agents on the one side ; 
Henry VIII. 's matrimonial necessities, and the tradi- 
tional anti-Eomish policy of the Crown, were the mov- 
ing springs on the other. In its earlier stages, and for 
long, the latter element assumed and exercised the pre- 
dominance. The Eeform movement in England became 
characteristically an official movement : the sovereign 


was its guide and head ; the State aimed to direct and 
regulate the course of innovation, and to mould the 
new Protestantism into conformity with the historical 
constitution and venerated usages of the old Catholi- 
cism. But, under all this official guidance, there had 
lived from the first a religious earnestness and active 
zeal for reform, impatient of control. The spiritual in- 
dividualism which the Eeformation everywhere called 
forth was in Eniiland held in check, but not extin- 
guished, by the jealous watchfulness of the State. 
Even the firmness of the Tudor policy was not able 
to destroy, however it restrained, this moral force. 
Whether, if this policy had been persevered in, it 
might have proved successful, and the spiritual ele- 
ment of the Eeformation coalesced more completely 
with the temporal, it is hard to say. The close of 
Elizabeth's life was not without some signs of such an 
issue. But, as it was, the spirit of religious reform 
gathered fresh impulse from the very circumstances 
which were meant to crush it ; and, after years of 
insult and oppression, it first matched and then mas- 
tered the royal policy with which it had been so long 
in conflict. 

It was characteristic of the aggressive spirit of the 
English Pteformation, that it should ally itself with 
that branch of continental Protestantism which was 
most thorough and logical in its expression and re- 
sults. As it was the aim of the state-party, while 
breaking with the Pope, to preserve unbroken the con- 
tinuity of Catholicism, so it was the aim of the more 
radical Pteformers to depart as far as possible from 
Popery. The one side desired to preserve the histori- 
cal, traditions, the medieval forms of worship, and the 
hierarchical framework of the Church of England ; the 


other side desired, in tlie spirit of the Swiss and 
French Protestants, to base the reformation, both of 
doctrine and discipline, anew and directly upon Scrip- 
ture. This was a natural consequence of the profound 
evangelical consciousness quickened by Scripture, and 
appearing to be everywhere reflected in its pages, out 
of which the deeper movement sprang. It was the 
consequence, also, in a great degree, of the peculiar 
tendencies of the time, and the special character of 
the Calvinistic Eeformation. 

Unlike Lutheranism, Calvinism maintained a vi- 
gorous and progressive influence long after its first 
reforming excitement was spent. Less broad and mag- 
nanimous in its beginnings, it was far more concen- 
trated and impulsive in its aims. Eliciting in a far 
less degree the welcoming humours of a free and 
sympathetic humanity, it found in its very narrow- 
ness and inward intensity, rather than genial fulness, 
its chief strength. It attained to more clear and 
systematic aims ; it knew its own resources and hus- 
banded them ; while its dogmatic consistency and in- 
tellectual masterliness exercised a powerful charm 
over many minds at a distance, and gave to its prin- 
ciples a systematic and well-directed efficiency. The 
result was, that while Lutheranism, after little more 
than a quarter of a century's living action, was wasting 
itself in controversy equally violent and feeble, and 
rapidl}^ passing into a barren dogmatism, Calvmism 
was still making vigorous conquests, and drawing 
to itself fresh accessions of force. It came to repre- 
sent the cause of Protestantism abroad more promi- 
nently and boldly than the older movement ; and the 
Protestant spirit of England, amidst its conflicts, in- 
stinctively turned to Geneva, as its great model and 


guide. Calvinism became, if not the progenitor, yet 
the nursing-mother of Puritanism. 

This movement in England towards the Genevan 
Keformation was greatly accelerated and strengthened 
by special circumstances. On the accession of Mary, 
and the triumph of the medieval party, multitudes 
of the most active Eeformers fled to the Continent. 
Geneva, and other Swiss and Ehine towns, were 
the refuges of these Protestant emigres ; and in this 
manner they came into immediate contact with Cal- 
vinism, learned its religious and ecclesiastical spirit 
of independence, became accustomed to the imposing 
outline of its doctrine and the simple severity of its 
ritual, and, in many cases, adopted firmly its consti- 
tutional principles. In these years the influence of 
Calvin's personal character and mental power was at 
its height ; no single man exercised such a sway within 
the sphere of Protestantism ; and all who were brought 
near it carried away ineffaceable traces of the spirit 
which it represented and embodied. 

In tracing this connection between Puritanism and 
Calvinism, it is necessary to notice, that it was an 
ecclesiastical, stiU. more peculiarly than a doctrinal 
sympathy, that united them. So far as doctrine 
was concerned, there was no division as yet in the 
Church of England. It might be too much to say that 
the English Church was in the sixteenth century uni- 
versally Calvinistic in its theology. Such an assertion 
would not allow for those Catholic peculiarities of 
thought which have always distinguished the highest 
divines of this Church, and given a certain breadth 
and freedom to their dogmatic views, even when these 
were most closely allied to the technical modes of 
Calvinistic opinion. Jewell and Hooker, for example, 


while coinciding with this opinion in their doctrinal 
conclusions, are yet far more than Calvinists in a 
certain comprehensiveness and genial width of view. 
But if not exclusively or rigidly Genevan in doctrine, 
even under the primacy of Whitgift, the Church of 
England Avas yet so far from finding any cause of 
quarrel in this doctrine, that it embodied it substan- 
tially iu its thirty-nine articles ; while AVhitgift's well- 
known Lambeth articles* remain to testify how far 
more closely he and others were prepared to bring the 
creed of the Church of England into conformity with 
the Genevan theology in its most extreme forms. 

The cause of quarrel, therefore, was not in this source, 
but in an entirely different one. It was the disciplinal 
and not the doctrinal element of the Genevan Eeform 
which, carried back to England, planted the seed of 
widening discord in English Protestantism. Nay, it 
was something far narrower in its beginning than even 
any general question of church discipline. Never has 
a great movement in a civilised country sprung from 
a more trivial cause. It is like tracing some gigantic 
river, renowned for the great cities along which it has 
swept, the hurrying interests which it has borne on its 
bosom, and the scenes of struggle and associations of 
interest which mark its course, to its source in some 
streamlet, noisy but insignificant. In its outset, Puri- 
tanism brings us face to face with no vital interest, 

* Hooker's criticisms on these articles mark very well the difiference 
indicated in the text between the characteristic theology of the Chm-ch 
of England and Calvinism. The comprehensive mind of Hooker, with 
its broader and more genial survey of theological literature, at once de- 
tected the narro%vness of the proposed articles, and nothing can show 
better than his remarks the fine balance of his spiritual judgment. 
Whitgift's mind was acute and powerful, but narrow and polemical in 
comparison with Hooker s. 


with no grand circumstance of dogmatic or spiritual 
earnestness ; it seems a mere petty thougii violent con- 
tention between rival bishops ; yet it grew into a great 
creed, a significant principle, a systematic and trium- 
phant policy. It did so because it masked, from the 
very first, principles of the broadest distinction. The 
"vestiary" controversy was the mere shaft into the 
mine in which slumbered elements of the most power- 
ful opposition ready to burst into flame. 

It will conduce to the clearness and interest of our 
succeeding pages to mark briefly the progress of the 
controversy to the point at which our sketches begin. 
Up to this point, Puritanism had run through two dis- 
tinct stages of its career. In the first stage, which may 
be said to close with the reign of Elizabeth, it continued 
very much such a contest as it began — a contest in 
the main regarding church order and ceremony — in 
which we can trace sufficiently the opening of a deeper 
issue of principles, but during which it still seemed 
possible that these principles might find some peaceful 
solution. In the second stage, which lasted during the 
reign of James, and that of his son, to the eve of the 
memorable parliament so associated with the triumphs 
of Puritanism, the controversy, while still largely re- 
taining its ecclesiastical character, took at the same 
time a higher and wider range. Starting from the de- 
fined basis of the Millenary petition, it became mingled 
in the course of these reigns with new and exciting 
interests, both theological and political, and gradually 
passed into a great party conflict — a wide schism of 
thought and feeling, of manners and policy. In the 
ninety years that fill up the interval, a quarrel as to 
the dress of bishops had grown into an incurable oppo- 


sition of faitli and an antagonism of constitutional 
principle which could only settle itself by the sword. 
A case of casuistry, in which prelate had encountered 
prelate in the antechamber of Edward VI., had waxed 
into a national crisis, and was fast assuming the pro- 
portions of a civil struggle. 

The appointment of Hooper to the see of Gloucester 
in 1550, marks the well-known rise of the Puritan con- 
troversy. After his nomination, he refused to be in- 
ducted in the customary robes of the Eomish priest- 
hood, which had never been abolished. Hooper had 
lived abroad, and was the friend of Bullinger. His 
natural sensitiveness regarding the idolatrous charac- 
ter of the rites of the Church of Eome, had been quick- 
ened and exaggerated by his residence in Switzerland. 
He was an able and earnest man, a powerful and un- 
tiring preacher,* but possessed of a scrupulous and 
somewhat vehement temper. He not only refused to 
wear the robes, but he considered himself bound to 
preach vehemently against them. Cranmer and Eidley, 
especially the latter, interposed in behalf of Episcopal 
order ; and the dispute became so hot and intolerable, 
that Hooper was confined by order of the Privy Coun- 
cil, first to his house, and then to the Fleet. The 
young king, who at first sought to mediate in the con- 
troversy, it is said, at length " grew very angry with 
Mr Hooper for his unreasonable stiffness." 

Two eminent foreign divines, Peter Martyr and 
Bucer, filled at this time the respective professorships 
of divinity at Oxford and Cambridge. Their counsel 
was sought in the case, and both strongly advised 

* "He preaches four, or at least three times every day." — Letter of 
his wife to Bullinger, 1551. Burnet, iii. 


Hooper to abandon his scruples ; not that they approved 
of the vestments — Martyr, in fact, expressed a wish 
that they should be abandoned — but because they did 
not consider their use in any way sinful or entitled to 
interfere with admission into his office in the usual 
manner. Hooper was not immediately moved, but at 
last he consented to a compromise. He submitted to 
wear the robes at liis consecration, and to appear and 
preach in them at least once.* Afterwards, he was to 
be at liberty to do as he liked. 

Hooper's episcopate thus contentiously began, ter- 
minated ere long in martyrdom. In the sight of the 
cathedral to which he had been consecrated four years 
before, he and Pddley, his old opponent, suffered to- 
gether. Their differences had all vanished in the glory 
of the testimony which they then rejoiced to render to 
their common faith. They had been " two in white," 
in the quaint and touching language of the message 
that passed between them at the awful moment of their 
fate ; but they were now " one in red." 

The excitement of the " vestiary " controversy was 
not extinguished in the flames of Hooper's martyr- 
dom. For a while, it necessarily sank out of sight 
during the more serious dangers that menaced Protest- 
antism in the reign of Mary. But the spirit out 
of which it sprang continued to live on and to gather 
strength. The national return to Eomanism, and the 
ease in many respects with which the transition was 
made, only proved to many minds an incentive to de- 

* These robes, besides the surplice, consisted in the chimere, a long 
scarlet robe, ■worn loose down to the foot, and the rochet, a white linen 
vestment covering the shoulders. These garments, adapted fi'om those 
of the Jewish priesthood, were held by the Church of Rome to be emble- 
matical of the sacrificial efficacy of the Chi-istian priesthood ; and hence 
their peculiar obnoxiousness to the Puritan. 


part further from all its iisages, and to identify Pro- 
testantism with a form of worship as far as possible 
removed from all its rites. On the other hand, there 
were some like Dr Cox, the well-known tutor of King 
Edward, who gathered from their sufferings only a 
deeper love for the ritual, such as it had been set forth 
in the preceding reign, and whose Protestantism, while 
it remained loyal to the policy of Cranmer, shrank 
from all further encroachment with extreme jealousy 
and distaste. With the one class, contact with the 
Eeformed polity abroad elicited sympathy and admir- 
ation — in not a few cases led to new convictions and 
desires ; with the other class, it only evoked a more 
ardent devotion to their home form of worship and 
all its associations. What have been called the 
" Frankfort Troubles," were the most significant and 
notable expression of this disunion during the period 
of the Marian Exile. These troubles were petty and 
discreditable to the cause of English Protestantism ; 
and they left behind them a bitterness which served 
to inflame the discords which soon again broke out in 
the restored Church of England. 

On the accession of Elizabeth the country presented 
a peculiar aspect. The Catholics, although they had 
lost their chief support in the Crown, remained a great 
and powerful party — the most compact and decided 
party beyond doubt in the country. The Protestants re- 
turned from their four and a half years' exile with their 
hatred of Popery inflamed, and the most illustrious and 
able among them considerably more advanced in their 
views of reform. There were, indeed, men like Cox, 
who had little advanced ; but Jewell and Grindal, 
Sandys, Horn, and Parkhurst, had all learned to dis- 


lilve the " ceremonies " .as savouring of Popery ; while 
others, such as old Miles Coverdale, and Fox the 
martyrologist, and Whitehead (whom Elizabeth wished 
to make primate, but whose conscience scrupled both 
at the dignity and its accompaniments), not only 
cherished a deep aversion to the ceremonies, but had 
strongly imbibed the Calvinistic principle, that nothing 
should be "ordered" in the Church which was not 
warranted and required in the word of God. 

The Qaeen herself was genuinely Protestant in con- 
viction. She inherited not only the proud national 
spirit of her father against Eoine, but she understood 
far more than he did the grounds of theological differ- 
ence between the Churches, and had oiven her intelli- 
gent assent to the side of Protestantism. At the same 
time she possessed all her father's love of display and 
authority. She was no less strong in her admiration 
of the old ritual, and her determination to uphold the 
prerogatives of the Crown in the government of the 
Church, than she was strong in her opposition to 
Eome and her disbelief of its grosser superstitions. She 
preserved a crucifix in her own chapel to the last, and 
she had no idea of any church order that did not 
emanate from her own royal will and pleasure. 

Elizabeth acted as might have been supposed from 
her circumstances and character. She strengthened 
her Crown against the Catholics by the Act of Supre- 
macy, but she reserved all power of Church reform in 
her own hands by the Act of Uniformity. This act 
not only prescribed and enforced the Booh of Common 
Prayer and the administration of the sacraments, as set 
forth 5 and 6 Edward VI., and the use of such eccle- 
siastical ornaments as were customary in the second 
year of this reign, but empowered the Queen with 



her commissioners to ordain and publish such further 
ceremonies and rites as might be "necessary for the 
advancement of God's glory and the edifying of His 
Church." It was grievous enough to some of the 
extreme Protestants to return to the church order of 
the second year of Edward, with all its superstitious 
usages as they deemed them ; but this power reserved 
to the Queen, of adding indefinitely to ecclesiastical 
ceremonies, was peculiarly obnoxious to them, as it 
proved peculiarly galling in its exercise. 

Upon this "fatal rock of Uniformity," says Neale, "was 
the peace of the Church of England split." The most 
eminent of the clergy were in favour of leaving off the 
usages which had been the subject of so much conten- 
tion. Grindal and Jewell were strongly committed 
against the vestments. The latter had spoken of them 
as the " relics of the Amorites." Even Parker him- 
self was at first liberal, and indisposed to any violent 
measures. He was glad to have the assistance of old 
Miles Coverdale (who had been in Edward's reign 
Bishop of Exeter) in his consecration, although Cover- 
dale refused to appear in anything but his black Geneva 
gown. He concurred with Grindal in providing a 
sphere of labour — the church and parish of St Magnus, 
at the corner of Fish Street — for the stern old man, 
when no arguments would induce him to resume his 
episcopal duties. There was even a party at Court 
secretly inclined to favour the extreme Protestants. 
Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in the midst of his other 
intrigues, held close relations with some of them. He 
courted and patronised them, under the idea that they 
might be unconsciously serviceable to his criminal 

It is not wonderful if, in such circumstances, manv 


of the clergy exercised their freedom in the matter 
of the contested ceremonies. Nay, as might be ex- 
pected, the spirit of aggression gained ground, and 
not merely the vestments, but many collateral points 
— such as holy days, the cross at baptism, kneeling 
at communion, and the use of organs — were largely 
canvassed, and their abolition strongly urged by a 
vigorous and increasing party. Nothing, perhaps, 
can more strongly show the extent to which this 
aggressive spirit had spread, than the debate which 
took place in the Convocation which met after Eliza- 
beth's second Parliament in 1562, when the pro- 
posals of the Puritan party for reform, in such mat- 
ters as have been mentioned, under the leadership 
of Dean Nowel, the prolocutor, were only lost by a 
majority of one. The numbers stood 58, 59. Of those 
present, in fact, a majority voted in favour of the 
proposals,* but the scale was turned by proxies. So 
nearly were the parties divided within the Church. 
Such a state of things, it may be augured, was far 


* The proposals, which were a modification of those originally brought 
in, less minute, and upon the whole less radical in their spirit, stood as 
follows: — 

"1. That all Sundays in the year, and principal feasts of Christ, be kept 
holy days ; and that all other holy days be abrogated. 

" 2. That in all parish churches, the minister in common-prayer turn 
his face towards the people, and then read distinctly the service ap- 
pointed, that the people may hear and be edified. 

" 3. That in baptism the cross be omitted, as tending to superstition. 

"4. Forasmuch as divers communicants are not able to kneel for age 
and sickness at the sacrament, and others kneel and think supersti- 
tiously, that therefore the order of kneeling may be left to the discretion 
of the ordinaiy. 

" 5. That it be sufficient for the minister, in time of saying divine 
service, and ministering of the sacraments (once), to wear a surjslice ; and 
that no minister say service or minister the sacraments, but in a comely 
garment or habit. 

" 6. Tliat the use of organs be removed." — Neale, vol. i. 143. 


from pleasing to Elizabeth. In the prevailing dis- 
affection among the clergy, she saw not only her own 
supposed rights invaded — a right which no Tudor, and 
she least of all, could behold with complacency ; but she 
and some of her counsellors, moreover, believed that 
they saw in it serious danger to her state and crown. 
The great idea of the Church of England, being one 
and the same (semper eadem was her favourite eccle- 
siastical motto) under all the vicissitudes which it had 
undergone, seemed likely to fade away before the grow- 
ing spirit of innovation. The Catholics, many of whom, 
by the preservation of the ceremonies and the framework 
of the Church, might be supposed gradually drawn to 
submission and loyalty, were likely to be altogether 
alienated by further changes. This apprehension as 
to the Catholics was real and urgent, and was acknow- 
ledged to be such as well by the anxieties of the Puri- 
tans as by the fears of the Court. It was the constant 
argument of the former, that the retention of the Popish 
habits inclined the nation to Popery. " If we compel 
the godly to conform themselves to the Papists," wrote 
Whittingham, " I fear greatly lest we fall to Papism!^ 
" AVliile Popish superstitions have the broad seal, and 
while Popish pomp doth allure and awe the people, 
wherewithal," argued Miles Coverdale, " shall they be 
restrained from backsliding to Eome ?" — a view which 
was encouraged by reported sayings of Bonner and 
others, who professed to see, in the retained usages, an 
evident symptom that the nation would soon again 
relapse into Popery. " An they sup of our broth they 
will soon eat of our beef," was the somewhat coarse 
joke attributed to Bonner. Accordingly, the Puritans 
earnestly identified the triumph of Protestantism with 
the abolition of all Popish ceremonies. The offences 


done to the Catholics by such an abolition, was to 
them one of the principal recommendations of the 
step. It was a blow to Antichrist which would help 
its downfall ; and the necessities of the State were to 
them a secondary and unimportant thought. But this 
was necessarily to Elizabeth herself, and men like Cecil 
— the primary consideration, to which all others must 
yield. The Catholics could not be outraged and 
driven to rebellion without peril to the Crown, and 
ruin to all the best interests of the nation. It is im- 
possible to doubt that this was a real exigency. It is 
perhaps too much to say that it was a defence of Eliza- 
beth's conduct in the repressive measures which, in 
conjunction with Parker, she now resolved to adopt 
against the aggressive or Puritan party in the Church. 
In the beginning of 1564-5 the Queen addressed a 
letter to the archbishop on the subject of " ceremonial 
diversities " and " novelties of rites " in the Church, 
which, "through the negligence of her bishops, had 
crept in and were on the increase." These, she said 
emphatically, " must needs provoke the displeasure of 
Almighty God, and hring danger of rtdn to the people 
and the country;'' and she accordingly charged him 
to investigate into the disorders, and to take means 
that "uniformity of order may be kept in every 
church." The result of this investigation was, that 
a book of articles was drawn up for enforcing uni- 
formity, which did not, owing to the secret opposi- 
tion of Dudley and others, receive the sanction of 
the Privy Council, but which became practically the 
rule of Episcopal action. The most important of 
its provisions was, subscription on the part of the 
clergy to certain promises, which placed them entirely 
as to preaching under the control of their bishop, and 


bound them to the use of the apparel and other institu- 
tions as already established in the Church. 

Fox the martyrologist, Coverdale, and Wliitehead, 
were among the most conspicuous victims of the sys- 
tem of repression upon which Parker now zealously 
entered. He had not been very forward to move, but, 
having once " stirred in the affair," he, and some more 
of the bishops, acted with a determination and vigour 
which outran the more cautious policy of Cecil. He 
professed at last to see that not only were " the rites 
of apparel now in danger, but all other rites univer- 
sally ." * Fox refused to subscribe to the promises of 
the Book of Articles or Advertisements, as it came to 
be called, and was dismissed in disgrace to his quiet 
Salisbury prebend. Such respect was entertained 
for his " age, parts, and pains," that the Bishops did 
not venture to take any further steps against him.- 
Whitehead was suspended ; but the somewhat singular 
favour that he enjoyed with Elizabeth as '' a man of 
parts, but more as a clergyman unmarried" formed 
also a shield of protection to him. Upon " poor old 
Miles " the persecution fell more heavily. He was 
driven from his humble benefice of St Magnus, and 
died in a few years in great poverty. Sampson, Dean 
of Christ Church, and Humphrey, President of Mag- 
dalene College, Oxford, were also summoned before 
the ecclesiastical commissioners, and the former de- 
prived of his deanery. The harshness of this measure 
was aggravated by the fact that Sampson, along with 
his companions Humphrey, Lever, and others, were 
so far from being extreme in their views, that many of 
the ultra-Puritans looked upon them with dislike, and 
altogether disowned their preaching. 

* Strype's Parker, 161 ; A nnals, ii. 129. 


It would be impossible for us to trace minutely the 
course of the controversy, and the persecutions to 
which it gave rise in the time of Elizabeth. The 
subject is a history in itself. We can only briefly 
glance at the two main phases into which the contro- 
versy ran during this period. These phases mark a 
certain definite advance in the principles which guided 
both sides. 

The first is represented by the dispute between 
Cartwright and Whitgift. This dispute had its origin 
in various causes. Personal bitterness between the 
combatants helped to inflame public animosity. They 
had been rival disputants at the university of Cam- 
bridge. Cartwright, as professor of divinity, had 
identified himself with the movement party, and ven- 
tured freely to discuss the new ecclesiastical policy 
in his lectures. Whitgift, as vice-chancellor of the 
university, keenly took the opposite side, and, by his 
influence, silenced and expelled from his office the 
professor of divinity. Cartwright was driven abroad, 
but his spirit survived at home, and circumstances 
soon occurred to draw him again into the field. 

In many of the younger clergy the Protestant schism 
was fast spreading, and assuming a more definite and 
irreconcilable form. A small band of more zealous 
spirits even went the length of establishing themselves 
into a separate congregation on the basis of the Gen- 
evan plan of government. Plumber's Hall, in Anchor's 
Lane, became the scene of the first meeting of Dis- 
senters from the Church of England, in the month of 
June 1567. The appearance of the sheriffs dispersed 
the infant congregation, thirty-one of whom, men and 
women, were seized and hurried to prison. The fact 
of such an attempt at ecclesiastical separation was re- 



garded with dismay. Even many among the bishops, 
who had hitherto befriended those opposed to the cere- 
monies, and especially the vestments, were shocked at 
such an open expression of variance from the Church, 
and joined with their brethren in adopting means to 
arrest it. Grindal, in so far, was united with Parker, 
although, with the mildness characteristic of him, 
he prevailed with Cecil and the Lords of Council to 
dismiss the present offenders after a brief imprison- 
ment, but, at the same time, with a solemn warning of 
greater severity should they persist in their factious 

The Parliament of 1 571 met amidst continued ex- 
citement, and no fewer than seven bills for the " Ee- 
formation of Ceremonies in matters of Eeligion and 
Church Government " were introduced. The Com- 
mons showed a strong sympathy for further reforma- 
tion. Mr Strickland, a " grave and ancient man, of 
great zeal," spoke boldly. " There be abuses in the 
Church of England, there be also abuses of church- 
men — all these it were high time were corrected." 
He received a summons to attend the Privy Council 
for his plain speaking, and was temporarily detained 
from the House. Peter Wentworth spoke with no less 
freedom, and formed one of a committee of six who 
waited upon the archbishop touching a " model of 
reformation." Nothing, however, followed these ex- 
pressions of discontent, except a more determined zeal 
on the part of the Crown and the Bench to enforce the 
laws for uniformity. Only three of the seven bills were 
passed to the House of Lords, and all of them finally 
fell to the ground. 

A new Parliament opened in May 1572, with a 
speech from the Lord Keeper, in which he complained 


of tlie neglect of tlie " laudable rites and ceremonies of 
the Church, the very ornaments of our religion ; " and 
recommended that systematic means should be adopted 
by the bishops for correcting this neglect, " that thus 
the civil sword might support the sword ecclesiastic."* 
Wliile this was the temper of tlie Court, that of many 
of the clergy was increasing in boldness. Two of their 
number, of the names of Field and Wilcox, presented, 
after careful preparation, a document to this Parlia- 
ment, entitled " An Admonition for Eeformation of 
Church Discipline." It keenly exposed the corrup- 
tions of the hierarchy and the proceedings of the 
bishops ; and, after setting forth a new platform of 
Church government, craved that the Church of Eng- 
land might be remodelled according to it, in greater 
conformity to the Word of God and the foreign 
Eeformed Churches. Both the authors were ajDpre- 
hended and committed to Newgate ; but their bold- 
ness only served to call into the field an abler and 
more vigorous champion, who had already whetted 
his pen in the controversy. 

Thomas Cartwright had lately returned from exile, 
with all his Puritan convictions deepened and streng- 
thened. He was an attentive observer of the pro- 
ceedings in Parliament, and when the writers of the 
original " Admonition " were violently withdrawn from 
the scene of conflict, he prepared and published a 
" Second Admonition," more importunate, and to the 
same effect, which came out, according to Heylin, 
"with such a flash of lightning, and such claps of 
thunder, as if heaven and earth were presently to have 
met together." Whitgift, in the mean time, had joined 
in the fray ; and, with the direct concurrence of Parker 
* D'EWES, 195. 


and Cooper, the Bishop of Lincoln published a reply 
to the first "Admonition." The sight of his old ad- 
versary roused Cartwright's blood, and the controversy 
between them became a prolonged and vehement one. 
Cartwiight replied to his answer; Whitgift rejoined 
at great length, both to Cartwright's "Admonition," 
and his attack upon himself; and Cartwright again 
returned to the charge. The "untempered speeches," 
" hard words," "bitter reproaches " ("as it were sticks 
and coals"), which the Puritan hurled at the church- 
man, were sufficiently met by the " flouts," " oppro- 
bries," "slanders and disdainful phrases," which the 
latter imputed to the Puritan.""' On both sides rude- 
ness and vituperation too frequently outweigh sense 
and reason ; and the main drift of the argument loses 
itself in the muddy and wearying channel of per- 
sonal abuse. Each, however, contended with marked 
ability, and, beyond doubt, represented the most vigor- 
ous intellect of his party ; Cartwright displaying, per- 
haps, more vigorous eloquence and rough sense in 
details, a more pungent and superior polemical learn- 
ing ; Whitgift more elevation, comprehension, and 
thoughtful force in general reasoning. 

Cartwright, under all his vehemence and bitterness, 
gives us the idea of a very manly and honest nature ; 
a man of fiery impulses, but of a free and courageous 
spirit. There is something, also, pathetic in the hard- 
ships and sadness of his fate, in comparison with that 
of his prosperous adversary. Pellow-students and rival 
theologians, they had preached from the same univer- 
sity pulpit ; the same career seemed before them. 

* Whitgift does not even disdain to reproach his adversary with 
the poverty which his own harshness had inflicted. — Worh Parker 
Society, vol. i. pp. 45-6, 84. 


But Whitgift then, as afterwards, had chosen the 
winnmg side. He was first made Dean of Lincoln,, 
then Bishop of Worcester, and finally raised to the see 
of Canterbury. Cartwright was twice driven abroad, 
" little better than a wandering beggar." On his second 
return he was seized and imprisoned by order of 
Aylmer, Bishop of London, whose character, amidst 
the oppressions of the time, stands out as peculiarly 
contemptible, in the vindictive severities with which 
it is associated. After his liberation he was jealously 
watched, forbidden to write, and again, after the death 
of Leicester, who had patronised him, imprisoned along 
with a number of other Puritan divines, till he was 
finally released in 1592, and allowed to die in ob- 
scurity. The way of the Puritan was certainly not a 
way of pleasantness. Only one pleasing gleam lights 
up the harsh relations between him and Whitgift. 
After the latter was made primate, he is said to have 
sought an interview with his old adversary, and to have 
offered him kindness. A softening impression was left 
on the minds of both. Whitgift was sufficiently severe ; 
but, unlike Aylmer, there was magnanimity in his 
severity— he harboured no petty malignity ; and after 
all that had passed between hmi and Cartwright, he 
showed the latter such friendliness as to draw from 
his friend and patron, the Earl of Leicester, a letter of 
thanks for his " favourable and courteous usage." 

The principles maintained in their controversy 
show the deeper vein into which Puritanism was 
running. It was no longer merely the accessories of 
f worship that were in dispute, but the subjects of Church 
v) government and authority in themselves. Cartwright 
contended that Scripture was the standard of Church 
government and discipline as well as of doctrine — nay, 


that it was the only standard of rule as of truth in the 
Church, and that the English hierarchy must be reduced 
to the Presbyterian pattern of Scriptural simplicity. 
The opposition was no longer merely to the Popish 
ceremonies, but to the whole structure of the Anglican 
polity, as at variance with Scripture. AVhitgift main- 
tained, on the other side, that Scripture was not 
designed as a standard of ecclesiastical polity ; that 
this polity, on the contrary, was a fair subject for ar- 
rangement on the part of the State and the superiors of 
the Church. The Churchman occupied the ground of 
expediency, destined, ere long, to a far higher elabora- 
tion and defence ; the Nonconformist urged the argu- 
ment of divine right. The latter had already taken up 
his full dogmatic position ; the former not yet. 

During some years the controversy continued with 
great keenness and with various alternations of feeling 
towards the Puritans. After Whitgift and Cartwright 
had laid aside their pens, a swarm of minor writers 
took up the quarrel, and the famous Martin Mar- 
prelate's* pamphlets on the Puritan side, and others 
not a wdiit behind them in scurrility on the Church 
side, f attest the vehemence of excitement which actu- 
ated and convulsed the nation. 

The death of Parker in 1575, and the appointment 
of Grindal to the primacy, were favourable to the move- 
ment. Grindal's well-known predilections, his natural 

* "A vizored knight, behind whose shield a host of sturdy Puritans 
were supposed to fight." — Hallam, vol. i. p. 220. 

"i" Such as " A Fig for my Godson ; or, Crack me this Nut," — that is, 
"A sound Box of the Ear for the Idiot Martin to hold his Peace ;" and "An 
Almond for a Parrot," by Cuthbert Curry -knave — the pseudonyme of Tom 
Nash, who was, says Walton, " a man of sharp wit, and the master of a 
scoffing, satirical, merry pen. " The Cobbler's Book," and " Ha' ye any 
work for the Cooper ? " are specimens of the titles on the Puritan .or 
"Martin Marprelate" side. 


mildness and apostolical simplicity of character, con- 
duced to mitigate the rule of uniformity, and to open 
up the way for a temporary freedom. The " prophesy- 
ings," as they were called, had been begun in the pre- 
ceding primacy. They were designed to meet the 
great lack of intelligent and godly preaching through- 
out the land. The clergy and others in a district met 
together, and engaged in the exposition of Scripture, 
and in other exercises of religious edification. Such 
meetings were the expression of a prevailing spirit of 
religious earnestness, but also to some extent of the 
growing spirit of ecclesiastical freedom. They were 
not likely to be acceptable, therefore, in high quarters. 
Elizabeth frowned, and Parker put them down. But 
Grindal was no sooner established in his office than he 
took the prophesyings under his protection. The result 
was, that he came into collision with the Queen, fell 
into disgrace, and was banished the Court. He himself 
cared little for the royal disfavour in such a cause ; but 
the party who looked to him for protection experienced . 
in many ways the effects of his exclusion from the 
national counsels. Aylmer's bigoted and persecuting 
activity was allowed to run riot. ^ 

The reins of archiepiscopal authority soon passed 
into firmer hands. Grindal died in 1583, and Whit- 
gift was promoted to the primacy. "There was no 
danger," remarks Strype,* " of Ms Grindalising by 
winking at the plots and practices of the Puritan fac- 
tion." His character was too well established, and his 
ecclesiastical position taken up too definitely. Yet the 
Queen was not content to leave him merely to his own 
impulses. She "straitly" instructed "to be vigilant 
and careful for the reducing of all ministers to the. 

* Strtpe's Whitgifi, 114. 


settled order and government;" "to restore the dis- 
cipline of the Church and the uniformity in the ser- 
vice of God established by Parliament, which, through 
the connivance of the prelates, the obstinacy of the 
Puritans, and the power of some noblemen, was run 
out of square."* Whitgift was not slow to justify the 
expectations, and to avail himself of the ample powers, 
reposed in him. He devised three articles for the 
further enforcement of uniformity, and issued orders 
for their subscription throughout his province. Many 
clergy refused, and in consequence were suspended, 
and finally deprived if they continued obstinate. The 
primate never for a moment relaxed his watchful jeal- 
ousy ; the Queen was strongly assenting, even when 
the law was somewhat stretched to reach offenders ; 
repression, systematic, and far-seeing, became the order 
of ecclesiastical and civil policy. To " root out Puri- 
tanism and the favourers thereof," was the undisguised 
aim of her Majesty and the primate. 
j_J^ The powers of a great intellect working in the rec- 
tory of Boscum, in the diocese of Sarum, were of more 
weight in the struggle than all the vigilance of Whit- 
gift, backed by the authority of the High Court of 
Commission. Here Hooker was quietly preparing 
his great work, which deserves to mark the next and 
final stage of the controversy in the reign of Eliza- 
beth. He had retired to Boscum in 1591, after the 
contentions of his ministry in the Temple. The seclu- 
sion was welcome to one whose nature was essen- 
tially tranquil in its loftiness and contemplative 
simplicity. He had shown, indeed, that he did not 
shrink from the active annoyances of a struggle, the 
principles of which he had so deeply pondered. His 
* Camden, 288. 


ministry in the Temple, if not a popular success, proved 
him of a resolute and courageous spirit, capable of 
maintaining his own convictions in the face of opposi- 
tion and amidst the heats of discussion. Travers had 
been conjoined with him here, and to this conjunc- 
tion and its consequences may be traced the bent of 
Hooker's thoughts to the subject in connection with 
which his name has become immortalised. 

Travels, after Cartwright, must be reckoned the most 
distinguished leader of the Elizabethan Puritans. "Al- 
lowing Mr Cartwright for the head," says Fuller, " Mr 
Walter Travers might be termed the neck of the Pres- 
byterian I3arty, the second in honour and esteem." * 
He had been identified since 157-i with a "Plan of 
Presbyterian Government," concocted at Geneva, and 
especially adapted to the meridian of London. This 
plan, revised by Mr Cartwright and other learned 
ministers, had passed into popularity, and become 
a sort of programme of the Presbyterian policy, 
Travers himself stood in high esteem with Lord 
Treasurer Burleigh, whose domestic chaplain he was. 
He had resided abroad, like most of the active Puri- 
tans. He was a man of earnest and fixed convictions, 
who cherished his Presbyterianism as the Gospel itself, 
• and was ready to submit to any sacrifice in its defence. 
Like Cartwright, he was vehement, restless, and im- 
pulsive, animated by lofty but narrow principle, and 
with that tincture of harsh and rude dogmatism which 
distinguishes the religious spirit of the age (save in 
such eminent exceptions as Jewell and Hooker). Cart- 
wright appears to us, upon the whole, the manlier and 
higher character, as he was the more powerful and sys- 
tematic reasoner : a stronger, more living, and less 

* Book ix. p. 136. 


captious earnestness marks him as a controversialist. 
But Travers was evidently more polished and attractive 
in the pulpit. He appears, in fact, to have been one of 
the most popular preachers of his day. 

It was as a preacher that he came in contact with 
Hooker. He had been sometime a lecturer in the 
Temple, when Hooker was appointed to the mastership. 
He was a great favourite with the congregation, many 
of whom were deeply imbued with the Puritanical 
spirit. In the afternoon, when he preached, crowds 
came to hear him, while Hooker's sermon in the fore- 
noon was but thinly attended. " The pulpit spoke," 
old Fuller says, " pure Canterbury in the morning, 
and Geneva in the afternoon ; " while the congregation 
" ebbed " in the former case, and " flowed " in the lat- 
ter.* The special dispute between them related to 
some changes in the dispensation of the Lord's Supper 
that Travers had introduced ; but the two men imper- 
sonated the opposing religious principles of their day, 
not in one particular only, but in the whole style and 
tendency of their thought. The theology of the one is 
intensely Calvinistic, with that narrowing polemical 
tone which the mere disciples of a great system are apt 
to adopt ; that of the other embraces but rises above 

* Fuller's portraits of the rival preachers are graphic, if somewhat one- 
sided. " Mr Hooker : his voice was low, stature little, gesture none at 
all ; standing stone-still in the pulpit, as if the posture of his body were 
the emblem of his mind, immovable in his opinions. Where his eye was 
left fixed at the beginning, it was found fixed at the end of the sermon : 
in a word, the doctrine he delivered had nothing but itself to garnish 
it. His style was long and pithy, driving on a whole flock of several 
clauses before he came to the close of a sentence ; so that when the 
copiousness of his style met not with proportionable capacity in his 
auditors, it was unjustly censured for being perplexed, tedious, and ob- 
scure. . . . Mr Travers : his utterance was graceful, gesture plausible, 
manner profitable, method plain, and his style carried in it indolem 
pietaiis, a genius of grace flowing from his sanctified heart." 


Calvinism. The one is wedded to tlie Genevan polity, 
the other has analysed and estimated the foundations 
of all polity in the intimations of the divine mind re- 
vealing itself in nature, reason, and Scripture. Travers 
no doubt seemed by far the more clever and successful 
pulpiteer ; but he was only a controversialist — Hooker 
was a philosopher. 

The first four books of the ecclesiastical polity ap- 
peared in 1594; the fifth some years later, after the 
author had removed to Bishopsborne, near Canterbury, 
where he died in the last year of the sixteenth century. 
It is difficult to estimate the exact effects of these books 
upon the course of controversy. But there is reason to 
think that they were considerable, and that, after fifty 
years' conflict, the agitation somewhat recoiled under 
the shock of the lofty and far-reaching argument which 
they developed. Of this there can be no doubt, that 
they carried the Puritans into a region of discussion 
where they had difficulty in following the author, and 
where they certainly could not meet him. The Puri- 
tan's strong point, as we have seen, was the supposed 
warrant of Scripture for his views. Scripture, he urged, 
had especially laid down rules for the ordering and 
worship of the Church. " Those things only are to be 
placed in the Church which the Lord himself in His 
Word commandeth," was the fundamental principle 
laid down in the "Admonition." Whitgift had so far 
met this by saying, that the " substance and matter of 
government must indeed be taken out of the Word of 
God ; " yet that " the offices in the Church whereby this 
government is wrought, are not namely and particularly 
expressed in the Scriptures, but in some points left to 
the discretion and liberty of the Church, to be disposed 
according to the state of times, places, and persons." He 


met tlie assertion of the Puritans by a simple negative — 
to wit, that the Scriptures are not the only and absolute 
source of ecclesiastical polity, but that there is a cer- 
tain discretion and liberty left in the hands of the gov- 
ernors of the Church for the time. He did not, how- 
ever, see the necessity of any higher principle to meet 
and absorb their special doctrine, which, in its defin- 
iteness, had a strong affinity for the current theological 
temper. He had no spirit of philosophy carrying him 
beyond the immediate necessities of the argument to 
a larger sphere of moral and political contemplation, in 
which the Puritan doctrine should receive at once due 
recognition and limitation. 

It remained for Hooker to do this in the whole con- 
ception of his work Divine rules must be our guide, 
was the postulate. Granted, was Hooker's argument, 
divine rules must be our guide ; but it does not follow 
that there are no divine rules except those revealed in 
Scripture. All true laws, on the contrary, are equally 
with the rules of Scripture divine, as springing out of 
and resting on the same source as those of Scripture — 
the eternal divine reason. The supreme mind is the 
fountain of all law, whether its revelation be in Scrip- 
ture or in nature and life ; and the excellent and bind- 
ing character of the law does not depend upon the 
special medium of revelation, but on the fact that it is 
really a revelation or expression of the highest Order. 
The particular rules in dispute, therefore, whether or 
not they were expressly contained in Scripture, might 
have a clear divine sanction. They might have a 
valid authority, both in their substance and direct 
origin, in their conformity to reason, and the national 
will and position. For divine law might as truly 
approve itself in such a conformity as in any mere 


verbal imitation of the letter of Scripture. The ques- 
tion accordingly came to be not merely what is laid 
down in Scripture, but what in all respects is fair and 
conformable, "behovefull and beautiful " in itself, in 
harmony with the consecrated usages of history, and 
the exercise and development of the Christian con- 
sciousness in the Church. The ground on which it 
must be decided, in short, is not any mere dogmatic 
and self-constituted Scriptural interpretation, but the 
tfitness and excellence of the thing in all its relations 
/ of time and circumstance — the eternally good ground 
of Christian expediency against theoretical ecclesiasticism 
of any kind. 

Of all the theologians of his age. Hooker was the 
most unpuritan ; he not only opposed a special church 
theory which then sought to dominate in Protestant- 
ism, but he showed how every such theory must break 
against the great laws of historical induction and 
national liberty. He was catholic in judgment and^ 
feeling, but he wrote not merely on the interests of 
Catholicism : it was the rights of reason and of free 
and orderly national development in the face of all 
preconception, of whatever kind, that he really vin- 
dicated. While others merely argued, he reasoned 
and philosophised. 

The dispute was not destined to rest where Hooker 
wished to rest it. The age was not ripe for such 
views as he had expounded, even if his party had 
seen the right application of them. Their publica- 
tion tended in some degree to divert the course of 
controversy, and to help the pause in it which marks 
the close of Elizabeth's reign. But the controversy 
had then also bes^un to slacken of itself. As a mere 


theological polemic, it was wellnigli exhausted, and 
men were wearied with its endless iterations on either 
side. It might have died out if it had not been that 
there were deeper principles at stake than any mere 
points of ecclesiastical policy. From the beginning, 
the ecclesiastical difficulty had masked the far greater 
difficulty of the liberty of the subject ; and it was only 
Elizabeth's vigorous and enlightened sense of her posi- 
tion, and the consistent pride with which she sought the 
national glory in its highest sense, and, notwithstanding 
her apparent deference to the ecclesiastical prejudices 
of the Catholics, yet maintained herself at the head of 
Protestantism in Europe, that enabled her to evade 
this latter difficulty. With all the restlessness of the 
extreme Protestants during her reign, they yet beheld 
in her government their only defence against the re- 
actionary plots that were everywhere threatening the 
very existence of their faith. She might thwart and 
oppress them, but she remained true upon the whole 
to the great cause which they prized, and which, but 
for her, might have been utterly overthrown in Eng- 
land and in Scotland, as it was in France. The poli- 
tical difficulty, therefore, did not emerge in Elizabeth's 
reign. The Puritans felt that, although oppressed in 
conscience, they were not sacrificed to any game of 
political intrigue. Elizabeth, in fact, was as Protest- 
ant as she could be ; and although they did not recog- 
nise this, and their whole conduct indeed protested 
against it, yet the fact vaguely impressed itself on the 
national conscience, and kept it steady and loyal 
amidst all its agitations. 

With the accession of the Stuarts a wholly differ- 
ent turn was given to the political aspects of the con- 


troversy ; wliile its theological spirit also, after a brief 
repose, awakened to fresli bitterness, and, on the Angli- 
can or Church side, took a new and intensely dogmatic 

It was natural for the Puritans to make advances to 
James on his first accession to the throne. A mon- 
arch who, in Scotland, had seemed for a while warmly 
to identify himself with Presbytery, and who, in his 
zeal, had pronounced the Anglican service " an ill-said 
mass in English," might well excite hopes in their 
breasts. They would have been untrue to their con- 
victions if they had not besought his countenance ; 
and they met him accordingly on his way to assume 
his new dignity with their famous Millenary petition. 
The heads of this petition claim our notice, as showing 
what were the definite objects of the Puritans after 
fifty years' struggle. It was their manifesto at the 
opening of the second great stage of the controversy. 
It consisted of four heads. 

1. Concerning Church Service. — It prayed that the 
cross in baptism, the interrogatories to infants, baptism 
by women, and confirmation, should be done away ; 
that the cap and surplice should not be enforced ; that 
examination should precede communion ; that the ring 
in marriage should be dispensed with ; that the Lord's- 
day should be strictly observed ; that church music 
should be moderated and the service abridged ; that 
there should be no bowing at the name of Jesus ; and 
that none but canonical Scriptures should be read, 

2. Concerning Ministers. — It prayed that none but 
able men who can preach be appointed ; that non-resi- 
dence be forbidden, and the lawfulness of the marriage 
of the clergy fully recognised.. 

3. Concerning Church Livings. — It required that 


bishops abandon all preferment except tlieir bishop- 
rics ; that they be not allowed to hold additional liv- 
ings in commendam ; that impropriations annexed to 
bishoprics and colleges be converted into regular rec- 
torial livings ; and that lay impropriations — that is to 
say, livings in the possession of laymen to whom they 
had been given at the Eeformation — should be charged 
with a sixth or seventh part for the support of a 

4. Concerning Church Discipline. — It required that 
excommunication should not be in the name of lay 
chancellors, nor for twelve-penny matters, without the 
consent of pastors. 

With the exception of the first of these heads, which 
contains the main points which had been so long con- 
troverted, it will be observed how very practical is the 
spirit of reform displayed by the Puritans. They had 
profited, in some degree, from their hard experience ; 
they could not lay aside the old subjects of conten- 
tion — the cross in baptism, the ring in marriage, holy 
days and church music ; but these are no longer the 
sole, or even the chief abuses urged by them. The 
lack of preaching, the abuses of Church patronage and 
of discipline, occupy a prominent place : and in fix- 
ing their attention on such practical and notorious 
abuses, while they evaded all allusion to an entire 
change of ecclesiastical policy, and shut out of sight 
the question of Presbyterianism, they no doubt mor- 
ally strengthened their position, and appealed far more 
strongly to the common sense and intelligence of the 
nation. At no period, in fact, do they, as a party 
within the Church, stand higher. It seemed as if, in 
the ebb of the polemical bitterness which had so long 
raged, they had risen to a truer sense of their position, 


and the really urgent necessities of the Church and 
country. All this was owing, in a great degree, to 
the wisdom, moderation, and thoughtfulness of their 
present leader, Dr Eeynolds. Distinguished by pro- 
found learning and elevated character — serious with- 
out gloom, and zealous without harshness — deeply 
convinced, without pedantry, or ambition, or any per- 
sonal interest — he stands out as one of the best eccle- 
siastical characters of his time ; and, in a crisis which 
was most solemn and memorable for the Church of 
England, he bears a lofty contrast to most of the 
dignitaries which assembled around James. He was 
extreme in his Calvinism, and he certainly mistook 
the character of the men with whom he had to deal ; 
but his calmness and sense never forsook him amidst 
all the indignities of the Hampton Court Conference ; 
and to one of his suggestions we owe the only valu- 
able result to which that Conference led — to wit, the 
authorised version of the Scriptures. 

It was obvious, from the very first day that the 
divines assembled together at Hampton, what part 
James was resolved to take. While the archbishop 
and bishops went into "the presence-chamber" to 
consult with the King, the four representatives of the 
Puritans — Dr Eeynolds, Dr Sparks, Mr Knewstubs, and 
Mr Chaderton— were left " sitting on a form outside." 
A conference thus begun terminated as might have 
been expected. James's only interest seemed to be 
to exhibit his knowledge of divinity, and to browbeat 
the remonstrants as soon as they ventured to make 
any suggestions of reform. Even in Barlow's* fawn- 
ing account of the Conference, this is obvious ; and it 

* Barlow, Dean of Chester, who was one of the seven deans present, 
published the Sam and Subxtance of the Conference. 



is difficult to say whether tlie insolence of the King 
or the servility of the prelates is the more contemp- 
tible. As to the power of the Church in things indif- 
ferent, his Majesty said "he would not argue, but 
answer as kings in Parliament, Le Roy savisera." " I 
will have one doctrine," he added, "one discipline, 
one religion, in substance and ceremony." And when 
Eeynolds at last suggested, in default of any more 
extended plan of reform, that the propliesyings, such 
as they had been approved of by Archbishop Grindal 
and others, should be revived, and the clergy be al- 
lowed to meet in provincial constitutions and synods 
with the bishops, he kindled into a passion, fancying 
they were aiming at a Scotch Presbytery, which, he 
said, " agreeth as well with monarchy as God and the 
devil. Then Jack and Tom, and Will and Dick, 
shall meet, and, at their pleasure, censure me and my 
Council, and all our proceedings. Then Will shall 
stand up and say, It must be thus : then Dick shall 
reply, and say, Nay, marry, but we will have it thus : 
here I must once reiterate my former speech, Le Roy 
savisera,'' &c.* 

It is clear that there was not much to be made of 
such a conference. If le Roy saviscra was to settle 
everything, the scruples of the Puritans would go for 
little ; and accordingly it was soon found that the 
royal will was to govern the Church as des]3otically 
as ever, and far more insolently. The Hampton Court 

* There is a coarse and telling humour iu James's taunts about Pres- 
bytery, which, if they were not so utterly unbecoming, might make us 
Kmile. He added, in the same vein, " Pray stay one seven years before 
vou demand that of me, and if then you find me pursy and fat, and my 
windpipe stuffed, I will perhaps hearken to you — for let that govern- 
ment be up, and I am sure I shall be kept in breath." There is a tragic 
irony in the fearful reply which the Presbyterian Long Parliament 
made to this sarcasm of the father in the person of his son. 


Conference was followed by the Convocation of 1604, 
and the passing of the famous hundred and forty-one 
canons, which enforced uniformity under more ri- 
gorous penalties than ever. The Puritans beheld all 
their burdens bound with a double and galling force 
upon their necks. 

Bancroft, moreover, was made primate in the same 
year, and they well understood the significance of this 
fact. Ever since the notorious sermon at Paul's Cross 
in 1588 — a sermon, the purport of which James, then 
in the heat of his Presbyterian zeal, had protested 
against from Scotland — Bancroft was known as the 
leader of the extreme Prelatist party. He had an- 
nounced, so far back as that year, the new ground 
which the controversy was destined to take up on 
the Church side. He had struck the chord of a hos- 
tile dogmatism, which, however strange in its first 
utterance, gradually passed into a general argument 
and watchword. Bishops, he maintained, were a dis- 
tinct order from priests, and possessed superiority over 
them jure divino. Prelacy, in short, was of special 
divine appointment. This was a shaft into the ranks 
of the Puritans which could scarcely fail to excite 
commotion, considering the course which the argument 
had hitherto taken. 

It was some time, however, before the new dogmat- 
ism took root in the ecclesiastical mind, and germinated 
into strength and consistency. It scarcely did so dur- 
ing the course of Bancroft's own primacy. His archi- 
episcopal rule was less distinguished by any intellectual 
change in the character of the controversy, than by 
its coarse and imperious system of repression. He 
himself proved more of an ecclesiastical dictator than 
anything else. Persecution was his active weapon. 


In the previous reign there had no doubt been perse- 
cution, but there had also been argument — a fair field 
of debate, in which the highest intellects of the respec- 
tive sides were pitched against one another — by no 
means to the disadvantage of the Church. But mere 
offence and violence now became the order of the day. 
Hundreds of ministers were suspended, and laymen as 
well as clergymen imprisoned. A bencher of Gray's 
Inn ventured to defend a minister who had petitioned 
the House of Commons, and he himself, at Bancroft's 
instance, was apprehended and immured in jail for 
life. The Puritans suffered, but did not yield, and 
their sufferings gradually won them popular sympathy 
and respect. 

Hitherto they had been only an insubordinate fac- 
tion in the Church. They had constituted an active 
but by no means a large party in the country. They 
were respected for their conscientiousness — they were 
influential from their clear convictions and their ener- 
getic combination ; but there is no evidence that in 
Elizabeth's reign they represented any very general 
national feeling. Elizabeth herself and her policy 
were more popular than anything else, while the old 
Eomanism was still in various districts substantially 
the prevailing religion. But it was the natural ten- 
dency both of James's civil and ecclesiastical policy, to 
invest the Puritan cause with a national and widely 
spread interest. The indecision of the one, and the 
want of magnanimity in the other, created an increas- 
ing sympathy for those who steadfastly upheld the 
principles of Protestantism, and were exposed to sacri- 
fices for their consistency. Such a sympathy especially 
spread among the burgher or citizen class, who had 
already begun to incline this way in the previous 


reign. Many circumstances contributed to the growth 
of this spirit from the very accession of the Stuarts ; 
but it was only in the reign of Charles that it reached 
its full increase. 

The oppression of James's reign drove many of the 
more zealous Puritans from the country, first to Hol- 
land, and then to the great Western Continent, where 
they were destined to plant their faith as the seed of a 
new and powerful civilisation. In 1620 the Mayflower 
and the Speedwell sailed from Delft Haven, bearing 
the first Saxon colonists of America, the Pilgrim 
Fathers. Many were disposed to follow their example. 
To the Puritan mind, in its stern loyalty to the Bible, 
and love of self-government according to its own ideal, 
there was something peculiarly fascinating in the 
thought of erecting a model state on a distant and un- 
explored shore. Had free egress been granted, in this 
and the succeeding reign, to the proud spirits that 
groaned restlessly under prelatic tyranny at home, it 
may be a question whether the dangerous element 
would not have been eliminated from the home society, 
and the shock of civil war averted. The story of the 
eight ships that lay in the Thames, bound for New 
England, in the spring of 1638, on board of which 
were John Hampden, Oliver Cromwell, and Arthur 
Haselrig, may serve at least to suggest the possibility 
of such a result. 

It was the whole aim of Bancroft's policy, as we 
have said, to crush the Puritans. It was inspired by 
the spirit of the royal saying, "I wiU make them 
conform, or else I will harry them out of the land, 
or else do worse." And Clarendon seems to have 
believed that, had Bancroft lived, he would have 
subdued these unruly spirits, and extinguished that 


fire in England that had been kindled in Geneva ; for 
" he understood the Church excellently well, and had 
almost rescued it out of the hands of the Calvinian 

But it was the fatal destiny of the Stuarts not to 
be consistent even in niisgovernment. On Bancroft's 
death in 1610, Abbot was appointed to the primacy, 
and he. Clarendon adds, " unravelled all that his pre- 
decessors had been doing for many years. He con- 
sidered the Christian religion no otherwise than as it 
abhorred and reviled Popery, and valued those men 
most who did that most furiously. He inquired but 
little after the strict observation of the discipline of the 
Church, or conformity to the articles and canons estab- 
lished, and did not think so ill of the Presbyterian dis- 
cipline as he ought to have done. His house was a 
sanctuary to the most eminent of the factious party, 
and he licensed their most pernicious meetings." 
Abbot, in fact, was a semi-Puritan, and it is difficult to 
understand under what mistake James appointed him 
to the office. It is certainly a singular circumstance 
in the history of the movement, that it should twice 
have received a special impulse from the very quarter 
that was designed to check it. As Grindal undid the 
work of Parker, so Abbot undid the work of Ban- 
croft, or at least both of them acted as far as they could 
in the same direction. The primacy was substantially 
Puritan in the case of both ; and had they been per- 
mitted a free exercise of their functions, it is difficult to 
say what might have been the result to the Church of 
England. This, liowever, was not permitted to Abbot 
any more than to Grindal. Like his predecessor, the 
former not only soon lost the royal favour, but sank into 
a pitiful and half-disgraceful obscurity, as the uninten- 


tional agent in a mournful disaster. While liunting 
in a park of Lord Zoucli's, in Hampsliire, he unwarily 
let fly his arrow, and killed the keeper on the spot. 
James showed him personal kindness in the circum- 
stances ; but the primate, deeply distressed in mind, 
withdrew altogether from the Council board, where 
before " his advice was but little regarded." 

During the ten years, however, that Abbot retained 
his place at the head of ecclesiastical affairs, there was 
a great relaxation in the system of prelatic oppression 
inaugurated by Bancroft. The Puritan was left in 
comparative tranquillity. The well-known character 
of the primate, as in Grindal's time, served as a con- 
scious support to him. He was still left to feel that 
he belonged to the Church of England, and to cherish 
the hope that it might one day be comformed to his 
desires. In any case, while the hand of actual perse- 
cution was lifted from him, and his principles not laid 
under ban, he was content to cherish them in peace, 
and to wait for their triumph. 

That triumph was still distant ; and new principles 
and shapes of party were in the mean time springing 
up in more menacing and formidable opposition than 
ever. The spirit which Bancroft had introduced into 
the controversy thirty years before, had been silently 
taking root and growing up in many minds. It would 
be absurd to ascribe too much importance to the memor- 
able sermon at Paul's Cross ; but the echo of it long 
outlived the preacher, and sentiments in conformity 
with it had now begun to characterise a large portion 
of the Anglican clergy. A change of spirit was gra- 
dually creeping over the Church. The deeper thought- 
fulness and manlier sense of the Elizabethan age had 
faded away, and given place to a theological intellec- 


tiialism, comparatively pedantic and formal. Andrews 
and Donne, Williams and Laud, mark the progress of 
this change. These men were sufficiently remarkable 
as preachers and as politicians ; but they had lost the 
comprehensive grasp of principles, and, above all, the 
robust vigour of sentiment and honest earnestness, that 
distinguished the theologians of the Eeformation. In 
comparison with Hooker, or even Jewell, .they had not 
a particle of philosophy. Their theology was a craft 
at Avhich they were marvellous adepts ; but it had lost 
the relation to life and general thought which marked 
that of the previous age. The higher clergy generally 
were become more men of system than of thought — 
members of an order, rather than leaders of an ad- 
vancing spiritual intelligence. It was only natural 
for such men, when they found themselves confronted 
with a defiant dogmatism like Puritanism, to seek their 
safety in the invention and support of an opposite 
dogma. Sacerdotalism, accordingly, became the con- 
tending watchword with Presbyterianism : the divine 
right of the bishop encountered the divine right of the 
Presbytery ; an Anglican jus divinum met the Puritan 
jus divinum. Episcopacy and ceremonialism were not 
merely defensible, but they were stamped with an 
hereditary divine sanction. The one was of apostolical 
succession, the other was a part of the " beauty of 
holiness." The external worship of the Church of 
England became in the hands of these men a positive 
divine institution, just as the Genevan discipline had 
been to the Puritan the handiwork of God — the very 
" pattern " of the things shown in the Mount. Ex- 
treme, as usual, called forth extreme. 

Not only so, but along with this change in the 
ecclesiastical aspect of the controversy, a remarkable 


and decisive change of doctrinal view was rapidly 
proceeding. Calvinism was being abandoned by the 
Church, and becoming the exclusive property of the 
Puritan. This change had been for some time work- 
ing beneath the surface, but it only showed itself 
prominent towards the close of James's reign. It is 
very signilicant, and lay in the conditions of the agita- 
tion from the very beginning. The remarkable thing 
is rather that it should have been so long delayed, 
than that it should at last have come so quickly and 
thoroughly. The Puritan was a Calvinist naturally 
and entirely. The well-spring of his peculiar thought 
and life — the original of his theology and church — 
were in Geneva. The Churchman was Calvinistic, not 
so much from conviction or aftinity of sentiment, as 
from the mere dominance of a great system over the 
theological mind of his time. Calvinism, more or less 
definite, became the reigning expression of the religious 
thought of the age of the Eeformation and that which 
immediately followed. But so soon as the character of 
this thought began to change, Calvinism began to lose 
its hold, and the very means taken to strengthen its 
ascendancy by a natural reaction led to its overthrow. 
James had come from Scotland a zealous Calvinist ; 
and, even after he had been some time on the throne 
of England, he had communicated to the States of 
Holland his abhorrence of the doctrines of the succes- 
sor of Arminius at Leyden.* The change that was 
creeping over other minds, however, had not left the 
royal mind unaffected. It was felt and acknowledged 
at Court, as elsewhere, that Puritanism and Calvinism 
had a natural and essential affinity. The convictions of 
the King were waxing comparatively weak under such 

* Conrad Vorstius. 


an experience ; the last remnant of liis Scottish theo- 
logical education was beginning to break up. Still the 
process was gradual. His mind clung to the old ortho- 
doxy, and he sent, when requested, four representatives 
to the synod of Dort in 1G18. He expressed himself, 
moreover, delighted with the decisions of that famous 
synod. The Calvinistic world was everywhere excited 
and pleased with so triumphant a result. Notliing 
could well have been more summary and successful ; 
but, as in many other cases, the very excess of the tri- 
umph proved a defeat. The Arminians were rudely 
silenced and expelled from the synod ; but the spirit 
of free inquiry which, in their circumstances, these 
men represented, lived on and took a new start, all the 
more surely because of the violent and unreasoning 
treatment with which their opinions had been encoun- 
tered. The " five points " settled at Dort were debated 
over again in many an English parsonage, and in the 
halls of Oxford and Cambridge, and not always with 
the same result — not nnfrequently with a quite oppo- 
site result. Among many of the younger and more 
active clergy, a strong doctrinal reaction set in. The 
sentiments of Arminius and Episcopius were wel- 
comed by them as an availing counterpoise to the Cal- 
vinistic opinions so closely identified with Puritanism. 
They gladly caught the new " wind of doctrine," and 
trimmed their movement to catch its favouring gale. 

The president of St John's College, Oxford, was the 
representative and chief of this rising party in the 
Church. From the time that he had taken his degree 
in 1598, he had been known in Oxford as a zealous, 
confident, and aspiring person ; fond of management, 
and devotedly attached to all the ancient Catholic 
usages of the Church. He was of little stature, and 


the wits had dubbed him i^cl'^^cc Laus. Small he was, 
beyond doubt, in all his convictions and aspirations, his 
poor superstitions and scrupulosities ; * a man of weak 
but obstinate judgment, of cold though intense feel- 
ing, of mean yet tenacious temper, and of narrow yet 
indoiuitable persuasions — exactly the man to initi- 
ate a fanatical movement in behalf of an established 
cause. In this man the new Anglican movement was 
impersonated. He tells us that he was one of those 
who believed in the " divine apostolical right " of Epis- 
copacy ; that his predominant aim as a churchman 
was to secure uniformity, " being still of opinion that 
unity cannot long continue in the church when uni- 
formity is shut out at the church door." The idea of 
ceremonial uniformity possessed him, in fact, as a pas- 
sion. It was the thought in which he lived ; it was 
the cause, we may say, for which he died. The Church, 
as a positive institution, divinely prescribed in every 
lineament and form ; the sacraments and clergy as 
the sole channels of grace ; the dresses and ritual as 
the very "beauty of holiness" — these were to Laud no 
mere matters of argument, but the very essence of 
faith. He saw at once the meaning and value of the 
doctrinal change that had begn.n, and set himself at 
its head. Although comparatively languid in his own 
dogmatic sympathies, it was he who invented the name 
of " doctrinal Puritanism " to designate the opposition 
to the Church, and led the reaction against Calvinism. 
James was at first naturally puzzled by the new 
turn which the defenders of the Church were taking:. 

* Laud's diary shows abundantly the supei'stitions of the man, his 
regard for dreams and omens, and his scrupulous and timid anxieties. 
It is a strange picture of the brooding of a narrow yet enthusiastic 


He could not all at once get quit of liis strongly-pro- 
nounced Calvinism. Beyond doubt he had a lurking 
love for the Genevan dialectics in which he had been 
trained, and in which he himself had been no incon- 
siderable adept. But he loved power still more than 
Calvinism ; and, identifying always more the ecclesias- 
tical with the royal prerogative, according to his fam- 
ous saying, " No bishop, no king," he soon parted with 
any doctrinal scruples he had, and gave the full weight 
of his authority to the new prelatic movement. While 
the miserable intrigue about the Spanish match was 
proceeding — to the great disgust of the old national feel- 
ing, which had not forgot its proud resentment against 
Spain — and the Puritan party availed themselves of 
the state of affairs to inveigh strongly against Popery 
and Arminianism, he issued directions to j^'^^^f^chers, 
commanding them to abstain from such exciting dis- 
cussions. The deep points of election and reprobation,,^ 
and the universality and irresistibility of divine grace, 
were laid under ban, and excluded from the pulpits. 
The directions professed to be aimed against both parties 
alike, but they chiefly struck at the Calvinistic party. 
The pulpit had become the great support of tliis party. 
The system of lecturers, which attained its full growth 
in the succeeding reign, was rapidly spreading in the 
towns. It was greatly patronised by the middle classes, 
who could in no other way have their love for preach- 
ing gratified ; and to assail the freedom of the pulpit 
was really, therefore, to assail one of the most power- 
ful influences exerted in favour of Calvinistic and Puri- 
tan doctrine.* 

* We shall hear more of the lecturers as we proceed. The people de- 
lighted in them ; the High Church clergy detested them. Hej-lin speaks 
of them as being "neither birds nor beasts, and yet both of them to- 


It was not only by sucli means, however, that James 
showed his deepening attachment to the semi-Eomish 
party that was rising in the Church. Tliis party 
aimed, under a totally different feeling from that which 
impelled the early reformers, to assimilate the religious 
observances of the country to those that had existed 
in the old Catholic times. Eegular attendance in the 
parish church on Sundays, and the old recreations and 
games afterwards, was one of their favourite devices for 
this purpose ; and the Book of Sports was the conse- 
quence. There was nothing which more deeply offended 
the Puritan. It violated at once his profound convic- 
tions and his most sacred feelings. The May-pole and 
Sunday dance on the village green became a standing 
opprobrium to his conscience, as they were a dishonour 
to his religion ; and among all his incentives to violent 
action, none was stronger than his outraged feeling 
against a system identified to him with such desecrat- 
ing abominations. 

After the accession of Charles in 1625, the great 
parties in the Church and country became more defin- 
itely and widely opposed to one another. A quarter of 
a century's renewed and embittered conflict had left 
traces wholly irremovable. James's selfish vanity and 
pedantic tyi'annies had thwarted and annoyed the 
popular instincts at every point, without doing any- 
thing to extinguish them. Beyond doubt, the powers 
opposed to Puritanism had lost during this period both 
in intellectual and moral strength. The proud earnest- 
ness which had distinguished the leading churchmen 

gether." " The lecturers," says the more sober Selden, " get a great deal 
of money, because thej"- preach the people tame, as a man watches a 
hawk, and then they do what they list with them." 


of tlie age of Elizabetli, the national sense and dignity 
which they had represented, had passed away ; while 
Puritanism itself had gro^ai, from being a mere con- 
tentious and unruly element, into a great moral and 
political as well as religious cause. 

It is impossible to conceive any one more in contrast 
with this growing phase of the national life than the 
monarch who now succeeded to its guidance. Trained 
under the tutorship of Buckingham and Laud, he had 
attained to manhood without the slightest notion of 
liberty of conscience or liberty of any kind. His reason 
was a slave to the dogmas which he had been taught, 
and all his feelings and sympathies were enlisted on the 
same side. His judgment was narrow, and his will at 
once sanguine and perverse. Blameless in personal con- 
duct, and of pure and pious affections, all that was good 
equally with all that was evil in his nature and educa- 
tion, clung to the fabric of the constitution in Church 
and State as it had descended to him. He cared not 
so much for its principles — for of principles his mind 
did not fit him to have any clear conception — but he 
admired and worshipped its forms and supposed prero- 
gatives. He was, in short, a natural despot, with the 
mystic enthusiasm and deep falsehood, without the reso- 
lute energy and unscrupulous decision, of the race. He 
and Laud suited each other perfectly ; the same dicta- 
torial and overbearing policy in conception, the same 
earnestness in details, the same love of ceremonies, the 
same intensity in trifles, the same suppleness of prin- 
ciple and the same rigour of creed, the same mysti- 
cism and the same formalism, characterised them. 
Their sympathies exactly met, their views coalesced, 
and their ambition sought the same channels of grati- 
fication. Under their united action, the question 


which had so long agitated the country assumed di- 
mensions far more serious and startling than had yet 
characterised it. It became a question not merely of 
ceremonialism and anti-ceremonialism, nor even of 
Episcopacy and Presbytery, but of Protestant free- 
dom and popular rights against Popery in the Church 
and absolutism in the State. The principles of the 
prolonged controversy had worked themselves into 
this broader and more fundamental opposition. The 
ground was taken up for the final conflict approaching 
between the parties. 

It was the political element at length mingling in 
the controversy which carried it to its full height. 
Charles I., in his more consistent assertion of despotic 
power in the face of an increasing disaffection, was 
destined to bind up the opposing forces into a fiercer 
and more compact antagonism, and to precipitate 
them towards their great outbreak. The gap between 
the parties had gone on widening and changing its 
attitude, until they fairly confronted .each other in 
deadly hostility. It was not so much that any new 
claims were advanced on the part of the Crown — pre- 
cedents might be found for the most obnoxious exer- 
cises of the royal prerogative (although scarcely for the 
exact form of them) — but it was that such claims were 
no longer tenable in the face of the changes in public 
opinion, and the altered relations which the Crown and 
Parliament, as the representative of that opinion, now 
bore to one another. The absoluteness which was natural 
and possible to Elizabeth, which had an excuse in the 
comparatively disorganised condition of the national 
sentiment, and which rested, beyond doubt, on a great 
conservative interest in the State and in the Church — 
which, in short, had so much national life in it, and 


was sustained by sucli moral dignity as to enlist in its 
support all tlie highest minds of the time — had ceased 
to have the same reality and meaning in the hands of 
Charles ; while, by its mere continued exercise, it had 
rather grown in pretension than abated any of its 
severity. It had lost its weight without losing its 
sting. The great interests on which it rested had dis- 
appeared, while it seemed to stand as insolently erect 
as ever. The Tudor spirit had fled from it, while it 
showed even an uglier face of tyranny than in the 
Tudor age. 

The mere continuance of the strife had helped to 
aggravate its issue. Constant provocation incensed 
the Crown and increased its arbitrariness, while di- 
minishing its material and moral strength. The do- 
minant party in the Church suffered from the reaction 
of their uncontrolled privileges — especially from the 
withdrawal of that earnest spiritual life which, natur- 
ally inclining to a freer exercise of spiritual rights 
than the Church allowed, was absorbed in noncon- 
formity. There are many painful evidences of this in 
the social history of the time, as preserved in Baxter's 
account of his early years, and in Mrs Hutchison's 
Memoirs. Under the force of the restraint which was 
everywhere laid upon the movements of the religious 
life, great laxity of manners had sprung up under the 
shelter of the Church — nay, within the bosom of the 
Church itself The parochial clergy, who made them- 
selves the mere creatures of a State system, showed 
not merely a lack of earnestness, but frequently a de- 
plorable irreligion and immorality in their conduct.* 
The system became still more contemptible in the men 
who represented it, than oppressive in the agencies by 

* See Sketch of Baxter s Life. 


which it was enforced. On the other hand, the re- 
ligious and social impulses which were confined and 
driven into obscurity gathered strength in their con- 
finement. Kept under control, they got hardened 
and disciplined instead of extinguished. A wide, 
though lurking, popular feeling was gradually awa- 
kened, which began not merely to resent the old inter- 
ferences with religious freedom, but to oppose itself 
constitutionally to the royal prerogative. Eeligious 
oppression was recognised as merely one aspect of a 
power which was inimical to the national freedom 
in all its manifestations. The old spirit of English 
independence was aroused, and looked abroad for its 
enemies on which to take a deadly vengeance. 

It is a striking process of revolution by which a 
controversy about vestments passed into a great na- 
tional struggle. The progress, the outbreaks, and the 
triumph of the contest are all singularly character- 
istic. The patience of resentment, and yet the tena- 
city of conviction, on the part of the people, gradually 
passing in the one case beyond bounds, and, in the 
other case, swelling into a mighty and indomitable 
principle ; the vacillations and contending fanati- 
cisms in tlie Church ; the infatuation and blinded 
selfishness of the two Stuart monarchs ; the mingled 
heroism and caution of the Parliamentary leaders ; the 
disorderly humours which might have proved ruinous, 
and the patriotic resistance which might have been 
broken or wearied out, had not a great Hero stepped 
forward to give unity to the former, and to carry the 
latter forward in a splendid career of victory ; the 
magnanimous and apparently unselfish advance of 
this Hero, till, returning from the bloody glory of his 



Irish conquest, other leaders seemed to retire, and 
leave him master of the field ; the blended grandeur 
and gloom of his usurpation and rule, as they worked 
themselves out amid the perplexities of his Parlia- 
ments, the discontents of his old friends, the mur- 
murs of the army, and the sorrows of his family, and 
yet to the glory of his country, and the renown of his 
name abroad as well as at home ; all make a picture 
— dazzling in colour, yet sober in outline — brilliant 
with all the wonder of romance, yet shaded by the 
steady and softened light of duty — such as nowhere 
else can be paralleled. 

It is our intention to sketch a few of the main 
figures in this marvellous picture. The great soldier- 
figure that stands central and conspicuous over all 
in the group — in whom the spirit of the movement 
assumed its most heroic mould, and broke forth into 
its grandest and most conquering passion ; the proud 
poet and scholar whom we discern by his side — a less 
conspicuous, but a purer and more unworldly figure, 
in whom the same movement reached its height of 
moral and intellectual sublimity ; the enthusiastic 
theologian, who never wearied in the service of a 
cause which yet often filled him with misgivings ; the 
poet-preacher, whose experience and dreams illustrate 
so vividly its internal conflicts and spiritual aspira- 
tions. These are but prominent figures in a crowded 
canvass. Many others would find their place along 
with them in a history of the time ; but the study of 
these may enable us to comprehend, although not in 
all its variety and extent, the real meaning and charac- 
ter of the movement in which they were engaged. 




Op all the representatives of Englisli Puritanism, 
Cromwell is the most characteristic and distinguished. 
No country but England, no religion but Puritan Pro- 
testantism, could have produced such a Hero. In his 
life and character he exhibits, more completely than 
any other, the various principles moving the popular 
heart of England in the reign of Charles I., — the 
political instincts, the social impulses, and the moral 
and Christian enthusiasms which, after smouldering 
as a slow fire for years — breaking out here and there 
into uneasy flame, and dying down again — had at 
length kindled into a raging heat, penetrating every 
home, and lighting up with sympathy or hostility 
every hearth in the kingdom. All that was deepest in 
the inward life of Puritanism — its spiritual struggles, 
its eager gropings after a living truth — and equally all 
that was most marked in its outward features — its 
gravity, severity, and strange mixture of Jewish-Chris- 
tian forms of speech, with the cursory and direct bu- 
siness of the day — find in Cromwell their appropri- 
ate expression. He is Puritan in spirit, Puritan in 
face. The lines of his portrait have all the weighty 
unornamental dignity, the bluff uncourtly heroism, the 
dreamy and somewhat dull imaginativeness, and the 


depths of devotional passion, which Puritan ambition 
in its highest forms recalls. And if Cromwell was 
something more than a Puritan — if he rose, in the 
strength of his genius and broad worldly vision, as 
well as through his active experience of military and 
State affairs, to a higher point of view than Puritan- 
ism in its special character can be said to have done 
— there were also other points of practical virtue, sim- 
plicity, and self-denial, in which many will say that 
during his later career he fell below it. If we take 
him all in all, however, he is certainly its most con- 
spicuous, its greatest representative. The shadow of 
his greatness falls across the whole course of its his- 
tory. Ptising from the midst of its religious influences, 
nursed in the bosom of its spiritual earnestness, har- 
dened into firmness and self-conscious strength and 
triumph in its deadliest conflicts, he at length en- 
throned its principles at the head of the three king- 
doms, and gave them not only a national but a Euro- 
pean sway. 

There have been various biograpliies of Cromwell, 
from Noble's Memoirs of the Protcctoral House of Crom- 
tvell, to Guizot's Life ; but it is not in any of these, even 
in the last, that the student will find the best and 
most living sources of information. These are to be 
found, beyond question, in his own letters and speeches, 
as elucidated by Mr Caiiyle in his well-known work."'' 

* There is none of Mr Carlyle's works better, upon the whole, than 
]iis Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromu-ell. There is none certainly 
marked by a deeper insight, or a more true and close api^reciation of 
fact, with less exaggeration and wantonness of descriptive statement. 
Its editorial and fragmentary character admirably suits the author's 
genius, which is more successful in broad and vivid effects, and dashes 
of portraitvire, than in carefully-drawii outlines and minutely -shaded 
sketches of character. 


Here, as everywhere, tlie man's own words are Ids 
best biography. What he really was, what he thought, 
what he aimed to do, what he failed to do, how he 
lived, and fought, and governed, we can learn more 
from meditation on these words than we can in any 
other way. We get, if not completely to understand 
him, . yet to understand him better than we ever did 
before — to gather up the threads of his life into a more 
consistent tissue — to see what meaning it had, and 
what influence on human history it exercised. 

The life of Cromwell naturally falls into three great 
divisions. The first extends to the close of what may 
be called his private life, or to the outbreak of the 
civil war in 1642.; the second runs from tliis period 
throughout the whole of his brilliant career as a Pu- 
ritan patriot and soldier, a space of twelve years or 
so, on to 1654 ; the last comprises the period of his 
Protectorate, when he appears as a statesman and 
sovereign, a brief space of scarcely four years (1654- 
1658). The proportion between these several periods 
is remarkable : the long and well-matured discipline 
of more than forty silent years of home thought and 
common business, through which the Puritan hero 
was prepared for his work ; the struggle of twelve ; the 
triumph of four. It is well to remember that up to 
middle age, the man whom we see finally ruling the 
destinies of England, and leading in triumph the in- 
terests of Protestantism in Europe, was a quiet farmer 
in the fens of Huntingdon. This of itself were suffi- 
cient to show that no mere theory of restless pride or 
of selfish aggrandisement will gauge his character, 
and account for him as an historical phenomenon. 
To whatever degree the desire of power may have 


been cherished in him by his remarkable fortunes 
and the ever-expanding consciousness of his genius, 
he must also have possessed many strongly-marked 
features, independently of the ambition which ab- 
sorbed the later energies of his career, and drew forth 
the imperial pomp and passion of his character. 

Cromwell was born in the spring of the last year of 
the sixteenth century, at Huntingdon. He was the fifth 
child, and the only son that survived, of Eobert Crom- 
well, younger son of Sir Henry Cromwell, and brother 
of Sir Oliver Cromwell of Hinchinbrook, an excellent 
property in the immediate neighbourhood, now be- 
longing to the Montague family. It was sold by this 
same Sir Oliver, uncle of our hero, to this family. 
Sumptuous living, an easy and rejoicing hospitality on 
the part of both the father and the son, had reduced 
the fortunes of the house, and rendered such a step 
necessary. The father, Sir Henry, was called, from 
his profuse expenditure, " the Golden Knight," and 
Sir Oliver seems to have vied with him in this re- 
spect. In 1603, immediately after the accession of 
James, he entertained the King and his retinue with 
great magnificence at Hinchinbrook. Again, in 1617, 
when James was on his way to Scotland, with Dr 
Laud in his company, intent on Episcopal innovations 
there, he repeated his hospitality, although, on this 
second occasion, with diminished splendour ; and soon 
afterwards the property passed out of his hands. The 
good knight, however, continued to cherish Avarmly 
his Eoyalist predilections, even when his nephew had 
become the great Parliamentary captain. A fine old 
country gentleman he seems to have been, with the 
genuine hearty humour of the race. It is a capital 


trait recorded of liim,* that when his eldest son — in 
whom the family turn for expenditure was hereditary 
— presented a list of his debts, craving for some aid 
towards their payment, Sir Oliver answered with a 
bland sigh, " I wish they were paid." 

On his father's side Cromwell was thus of a gentle 
and old family t — of the same stock, in fact, from 
which Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, came. This 
famous minister of Henry VIII. , as Mr Carlyle has 
shown in detail, was nephew to Oliver's great-grand- 
father. On his mother's side a far higher but somewhat 
more imaginary descent has been claimed for him. 
His mother's name was Elizabeth Stuart ; she was 
the daughter of William Stuart of the city of Ely, " a 
kind of hereditary farmer of the cathedral tithes and 
church lands round that city ; " and the story is that 
this Stuart family in Ely was an undoubted offshoot of 
the royal family of Scotland, having sprung from one 
Walter Steward, who had accompanied Prince James 
into England, when he was seized and detained by 
Henry IV. This scion of the royal blood of Scotland 
is supposed to have married advantageously and settled 
in England ; and one of his race having been Popish 
Prior of Ely, on the dissolution of the monasteries, 
was made, in reward for his pliancy of character, the 
first Protestant dean, through whom came the mother 
of our hero. 

Cromwell's father, according to the well-known popu- 
lar story, was a brewer. This occupation does not seem 
very compatible with his kindred and descent, and 
the hero-worshipper is apt to kindle into some indigna- 

* Carlyle. 

t " I was by birth a gentleman," be himself saj^s. — Speech to Parlia- 
nieyit, Sept. 12, 1654. "Geuere nobile atque illustri ortus," says Milton. 


tion at the suggestion. There seems, however, a fair 
foundation for the story, though Eoyalist calumny has 
touched it with ready exaggerations. Eobert Crom- 
well was evidently a farmer of certain lands of his own 
lying round Huntingdon. His proper business was to 
manage his own estate ; but as his house was conve- 
niently situated for the purpose, with the little brook 
Hinchin running through its courtyard into the Ouse, 
he seems to have combined brewing with agriculture, 
under the laudable impulse of gain. Heath's version, 
in fact, may not be very far from the truth — viz., that 
" the brew-house was managed by Oliver's mother and 
father's servants, without any concernment of his 
father therein." 

Oliver Cromwell's mother was plainly a spirited, 
earnest, and industrious woman, who grudged no 
labour for the good of her family. When she was left 
a widow with six daughters, she gave dowries of the 
work of her own hands to five of them, sufficient to 
marry them into wealthy and honourable families. To 
the last — and she survived to see her son raised to the 
highest pinnacle of power — she cherished her simple 
tastes and homely sense. She desired that she might be 
buried without ceremony in some country churchyard 
— a desire, however, with which her son did not comply. 
There is a poii:rait of her, Mr Foster says, at Hinchin- 
brook, " which, if that were possible, would increase 
the interest she inspires, and the respect she claims ; 
the mouth so small and sweet, yet full and firm as the 
mouth of a hero — the large melancholy eyes — the 
light pretty hair — the expression of quiet affectionate- 
ness suffused over the face, which is so modestly en- 
veloped in a white satin hood — the simple beauty of 
the velvet cardinal she wears, and the richness of the 


small jewel that clasps it, seem to present before the 
gazer her living and breathing character." * 

Cromwell was the only son of his father's family 
that survived. Of his numerous sisters we know little 
beyond the fact of their marriage. Of his relatives, 
however, it may be interesting to know further, that 
one of his aunts on the father's side was the mother of 
John Hampden, who was therefore full cousin to 
Oliver ; and that another cousin, the son of an uncle 
Henry, was the famous Oliver St John, the ship-money 
lawyer. Cromwell's kindred, therefore, were on all 
hands sufficiently notable. He sprang from the gentry 
of England ; and if he gave to his family name an un- 
dying distinction, it conferred upon him, from the first, 
credit and reputation. 

Many semi -mythical stories are told of our hero's 
childhood and youth. There is probably some grain 
of truth preserved in them, with loads of calumny and 
falsehood. In some, the element of fact or trait of 
character, from which the mythical embellishment has 
arisen, can be clearly traced. This is particularly 
the case with the singular story told by Noble and 
Heath, of his having, during the Christmas revels at 
his uncle's house, " besmeared his clothes and hands 
with surreverence " (whatever that may particularly 
mean), and in this state accosted the master of mis- 
rule, and " so grimed him and others upon every 
turn," as to create a serious disturbance, and lead to 
his being thrown into an adjoining pond, and there 
" soused over head and ears." Such a story not inaptly 
corresponds with his odd and somewhat coarse turn 
for practical jokes in after years ; and probably this 
well-known feature of his later character is the simple 

* Foster's Lives of the Statesmen of the Commonwealth, voL i. p. 9. 


explanation of the earlier tradition. So of his vision, 
in which, when laid down to sleep one day, tired with 
his youthful sports, he saw the curtains of his bed with- 
drawn by a gigantic figure, which told him that he 
should yet be the greatest man in England. Although 
soundly flogged by the schoolmaster, at the particular 
desire of his father, for entertaining such a piece of 
folly, it is said that the dream could not be driven out 
of the boy's head, and, according to the testimony of 
Clarendon, it passed into a popular tradition regarding 
him, " even from the beginning of troubles, and when 
he was not in a posture that promised such exalta- 
tion." It is even said to have had some weight with 
him in his decision to decline the crown, as he remem- 
bered that the figure had not mentioned the word hing, 
but only that he should be the greatest man in the 
kingdom. Such a story can only be considered as an 
evidence of the ease with which the popular mind 
satisfies itself as to the explanation of great facts, 
whose real meaning it never comprehends. The best, 
perhaps, of all these stories of Cromwell's boyhood, is 
that which relates how he fought with Prince Charles 
at Hinchinbrook, when he was there with his father 
in 1G04, on his way from Scotland to London. The 
tradition is that he gave the Prince a bloody nose — 
a circumstance, says Noble, which was looked upon 
" as a bad presage to that King when the civil wars 
commenced." Even Mr Foster seems struck with so 
notable an omen. "The curtain of the future was 
surely," he says, " for an instant upraised here." We 
may safely say that the story is a good one, and that, 
supposing Prince Charles and the youthful Cromwell 
did encounter each other, the stalwart " manchild of 
the brewer of Huntingdon " was no doubt very likely 


then, as afterwards, to prove victor, and even to leave 
the impress of his prowess on the face of his victim. 

The young Oliver was sent to the grammar-school 
at Huntingdon, at the head of which was a Dr Beard, 
remarkable for the severity of his pedagogic discipline. 
As a schoolboy he is represented to have been " noto- 
rious for robbery of orchards and of dove-houses, steal- 
ing the young pigeons, and eating and merchandising of 
them." Likely enough the energy of his " rank nature " 
found vent in a somewhat riotous indulgence in all 
the usual sports and escapades of boyhood; and one 
statement we can believe to be literally true — that he 
would work as " a very hard student for a week or two, 
and then be a truant or otiose for twice as many 

From school at Huntingdon, Cromwell went to Cam- 
bridge in the end of his seventeenth year (1616), and 
was entered as a commoner of Sidney Sussex College. 
The same wild reputation follows him here. He made 
"no proficiency," says one of the gossips,* " in any kind 
of learning ; but then and afterwards sorting himself 
with drinking companions and the imder sort of people 
(being of a rough and blustering sort of disposition), 
he had the name of a royster among most that knew 
him." During his short residence at Cambridge, says 
another, f " he was more famous for his exercises in the 
fields than in the schools (in which he never had the 
honour of, because no worth and merit to, a degree), 
being one of the chief match-makers and players at 
football, cudgels, or any other boisterous sport or 

Whatever truth there may be in these descriptions 
of his irregularities, it is by no means true that he made 
* Sir William Dugdale. f Heath. 


no progress in learning. In after years lie had a fair 
knowledge of Latin, which he could only have acquired 
at this time. During his Protectorate he conversed with 
the Hague ambassadors in Latin;* and Waller, his 
kinsman, reports that he was well versed in Greek and 
Eoman history. His Avas not, indeed, in any sense, a 
scholarly nature ; but it is a mere aspersion — one of 
the thousand that have gathered around his name — to 
suppose that he was indifferent or hostile to learning. 
The respect which lie showed in the days of his power 
to his old Alma Mater, the testimony of Milton and 
others, are sufficient to refute any such accusation. Ac- 
cording to Milton, " he gathered up the literary dust 
of Cambridge without deepening the tracks of learning. 
He acquired an ordinary acquaintance with literature 
without being in any sense learned." He had other 
work to do than that of the schools. With a soaring 
loftiness, according to his wont, the poet-secretary 
continues the idea : " It did not become that hand to 
wax soft in literary ease which was to be inured to 
the use of arms, and hardened with asperity; that 
right hand to be wrapt up in down among the noc- 
turnal birds of Athens, by which thunderbolts were 
soon after to be hurled among the eagles which emu- 
late the sun." 

Cromwell had scarcely been more than a year at 
Cambridge when his father died, and he returned home 
in consequence. So far as we can judge, this event 
terminated his scholastic education. The circum- 
stances of his mother — the large charge with which she 
was left — the loss of her father in the same year — and 
an alienation which had existed for some time between 
Sir Oliver's family and her ow^n — j^robably prevented 

* Only ''very vitiously and scantily," according to Burnet's sneer. 


Oliver continuing liis studies. He proceeded soon 
after to London, to commence the study of law. He is 
stated to have entered as a member of Lincoln's Inn, 
although research has failed to discover his name in 
the books of any of the Inns of Court. 

During this period his youthful excesses are reported 
to have reached their height. The gossips * vie Avith one 
another in " strongly-coloured " stories of his wildness 
and debaucheries. It is impossible to say what amount 
of truth there may be in such stories. Mr Carlyle makes 
short work with them, but the uniformity of the tradi- 
tion woukl seem to imply some substratum of truth. 
Wickedly coloured they no doubt are — embellished 
by all the piquant inventiveness of the slander of the 
Eestoration — yet we " can well believe that the youth 
of Cromwell was one of stormy and passionate excite- 
ment. A nature like his is apt to give the rein to its 
impulses, till some special influence or event comes to 
arrest and turn it in a new direction. 

Such a change in his life was now at hand. While 
in London he had become acquainted with the family 
of Sir James Bourcliier, " a civic gentleman " of good 
means and considerable property near Felsted in Essex ; 

* Heath, Anthony Wood, and almost " every contemporaneous re- 
cord," says Mr F'oster, " combine to give a strongly-coloured picture of 
his uncontrouled debaucheries at this time." One extract will suffice. 
"The ale-wives of Huntingdon and other places, when they saw him a- 
coming, would nse to cry out to one another, ' Here comes young Crom- 
well, shut up your dores,' for he made no punctilio to invite his roysters 
to a barrel of drink, and give it them at the charge of his host ; and in 
satisfaction thereof either beat him or break his windows, if he offered 
any show, or gave any look or sign of refusal or discontent." There is a 
worse story than any mere personal debauchery, which represents him 
as attempting to obtain possession of his uncle. Sir Thomas Steward's 
property, on some plea of his uncle's imbecility ; — but the calumny has 
obviously originated in a misinterpretation of some family disagreement. 


and on the 22d of August 1620, when he was twenty- 
one years and four months old, Oliver Cromwell was 
married to Elizabeth, daughter of this gentleman, in 
the Church of St Giles, Cripplegate, London. Eliza- 
beth Bourchier is not said to have been possessed of 
any remarkable personal attractions. She is not much 
spoken of, indeed at all, in his letters or elsewhere. 
Several letters, indeed, of his to her survive, written 
during his Scottish campaign, and one of hers to him, 
belonging to the same period ; but they are brief and 
not particularly characteristic. The impression they 
give of her is that of a strongly affectionate and sensible 
woman, but somewhat narrow-minded and exacting * 
— more intent on her family cares than on the great 
concerns in which her husband was acting a part. One 
has said — and the description seems to suit her very 
well — that she was " an excellent housewife, and as 
capable of descending to the kitchen as she was of 
acting in her exalted station with dignity." 

After his marriage Cromwell settled in his father's 
residence at Huntingdon, and during the next eight 
years we scarcely know anything of his history. He 
appears to have farmed, as his father had done before 
him, and spent his life in the usual manner of a 
country gentleman. His own means must have been 

* She says in the single letter of hers which survives (which, by the 
way, is extremely wretched in its spelling), almost querulously, " I 
should rejoice to hear yoiu- desire in seeing me — but I desire to submit to 
the providence of God." But she says also beautifully, and with a touch- 
ing strength of affection — "My life is but half a life in your absence, did 
not the Lord make it uj) in himself." In one of his replies, Sept. 1650, he 
says, characteristically, " I have not leisure to write much. But I could 
chide thee that in many of thy letters thou writest to me that I should 
not be unmindful of thee and thy little ones. Truly, if I love thee not 
too well, I think I err not on the other hand much. Thou art dearer to 
me than any creature — let that suffice." 


limited, and his duties probably left liim but little 
leisure. He liad leisure, however, to think ; for it 
was during these years, and there is reason to suppose 
not long after his marriage, that the great religious 
change passed upon him which coloured his whole 
life, and, more than anything else, gave consistency 
and meaning to it. How this change was wrought 
there remains no means of tracing. There is no record 
of his spiritual experience at this early period ; and 
we cannot even say whether Sir Philip Warwick's 
reminiscences of his illness and hypochondria* refer to 
this or a later time of his life. At the best, these are 
but vague signs of the great crisis of his spiritual 
being, whose secret intensity can only be gathered 
from the fulness of feeling and energy of action which 
it called forth. 

He soon showed the bent of his new impulses. 
Eeligious life and earnestness appeared to him all to 
lie with the persecuted Nonconforming party in the 
Church. Whether or not any of them had been instru- 
mental in leading him to new thoughts, his sympathies 
at once gathered round them. His house became a 
refuge of the Puritan preachers ; they met in it for wor- 
ship, in which he not only joined, but actively parti- 
cipated. He became known as one of the most active 
of the party, and identified himself with all their move- 
ments, appearing personally in their behalf before the 
Bishop of Lincoln.-f- From being an idle and boisterous 
youth, he became in a few years a zealous, religious, 

* Dr Simcott, physician, Huntingdon, told Sir Philip that Cromwell 
was very " splenetic " about this time — that he had been sent for at mid- 
night to see him — that he laboured under the impression he was just 
about to die — and had " strange fancies about the town-cross." 

t Afterwards Archbishop Williams. 



We can well understand, altliougli we are not able 
clearly to trace how all this occurred to Cromwell. 
As soon as he began to seek a sphere of activity in 
connection with his new convictions, his great energy, 
and quick sympathies with the common social feeling 
around him, would naturally drive him into the ranks 
of Puritanism. Without frivolity, earnest and tho- 
rough-going even in his dissipations, with no reverence 
for conventionalities, but rather a fierce impatience of 
them, the Court or ecclesiastical party possessed no 
points of attraction to him. The only feeling that 
might have bound him to it — the old traditionary 
loyalty of his family, which had cost his uncle and 
grandfather so dear — had become weakened by various 
circumstances, even if its natural influence had not 
been broken by his disagreement with his uncle. 
Eoyalism had lost its old charm ; it had widely 
alienated the national feeling. Spanish intrigues and 
Laudian ceremonialism had made it especially con- 
temptible with ardent reforming young minds. Puri- 
tanism became, by mere force of contrast, the in- 
stinctive creed of such minds between the years 
1620-30. To one like Cromwell, with a vague, un- 
easy sense of genius, and a profound feeling of the 
reality of religion stirring him, it opened up a field 
of active interest and ambition. Every one of its 
objects made a claim upon his sympathy and enthu- 
siasm. The privilege of preaching the gospel with as 
few formalities as possible — the right to a private 
judgment in matters of conscience — the need of de- 
fence against the old Papal spirit of bondage over 
men's souls and bodies — these were things directly 
calculated to interest a young Protestant gentleman 
in the beginning of the seventeenth century. We can- 


not tell when the great principle of the rights of con- 
science first impressed Cromwell ; hut we shall see how 
early he was excited about Popery, and every attempt 
to reintroduce it ; and liow at last, in the days of his 
power, it was perhaps his highest honour to reach 
the right meaning of the doctrine of toleration, and 
nobly to vindicate it against the straitest sect of that 
very Puritanism which had first 2)ractically taught 
him it. 

During these early years of his residence at Hunt- 
ingdon, six children were born unto him, four of whom 
were sons, but only two of whom* survived, and after- 
wards reappear in history. With this family growing 
up around him, and amidst his farming duties, and 
Puritan interests and associations, he spent this quiet- 
est period of his life. Gradually he rose to repute and 
credit among his fellow-townsmen. Particularly he 
seems to have concerned himself in the scheme at this 
time set agoing by some of the wealthy London Puri- 
tans for buying-in lay impropriations as they were 
offered for sale, and from such funds providing lec- 
turers to supply the spiritual destitution prevailing 
in many parts of the country. This was a favourite 
scheme of the Puritans ; and these lecturers, we have 
seen, were their favourite preachers. "It is incred- 
ible," says Fuller, "what large sums were advanced in 
a short time towards so laudable an employment." 
Lecturers spread themselves over the country, espe- 
cially in the market-towns, where they preached on 
market-days and on Sunday afternoons ; and we shall 
find immediately how great was Cromwell's interest 
in their maintenance and work. 

* Another son (five in all), and two more daughters, of whom we shall 
afterwards hear, constituted his family. 


His activity and talent were already, in 1625, so 
well recognised, that it was proposed in that year, 
when Charles called together his second Parliament, 
to send him up to Westminster as member for the 
borough of Huntingdon. The proposal, however, did 
not on this occasion take effect. In 1628, when 
Charles, needy for supplies, and unable to find them 
by other and less constitutional means, called together 
his third Parliament — the famous Assembly that drew 
up and passed the Petition of Right — Cromwell was 
returned as member for Huntingdon. His cousin 
Hampden was member of this Parliament, and other 
names no less celebrated — Selden, Elliot, Pym, and 
Holies. Long afterwards, when the rustic squire from 
Huntingdon had become the greatest man in England, it 
was remembered what a rough and clownish appearance 
he presented at this time ; and in the mad days of the 
Restoration the subject suggested itself to a divine, 
whose cleverness scarcely redeems the infamy of his 
sycophancy, as a telling point for a royal sermon. "Who 
that had beheld such a bankrupt beggarly fellow as 
Cromwell," says South, preaching before Charles II., 
" first entering the Parliament House with a threadbare 
torn coat and a greasy hat, and perhaps neither of them 
paid for, could have suspected that in the course of 
so few years he should, by the murder of one king, 
and the banishment of another, ascend the throne, be 
invested in the royal robes, and want nothing of the 
state of a king, but the changing of his hat into a 
crown ! " * 

The first session of this Parliament did not last long, 

* South was not yet bishop, but only chaplain to Buckingham when 
he thus preached before his royal patron, " Odds fish, Lory," exclaimed 
Charles, after the sermon, ''your chaplain must be a bishop. Put me 
in mind of him at the next vacancy." 


but it had been distinguished by various important 
movements. Among other things that it had taken in 
hand, was tlie severe exposure of certain Popish 
practices on the part of Mainwaring, one of tlie royal 
chaplains. Pym led the way in this exposure ; and the 
chaplain, abandoned for the time by his master and 
Laud, had to submit to the censure of the House. The 
royal favour, however, was speedily extended to him 
in compensation. No sooner had Parliament risen than 
he was promoted. Other circumstances of ill omen had 
occurred. " Tonnage and poundage " had been levied 
unwarrantably without Parliamentary consent, and in 
the very face of the provisions of the Petition of Eight ; 
this great remonstrance itself was reported to have 
been tampered with. Parliament reassembled in the 
January of the following year, not in the very best of 
tempers it may be imagined. A committee of religion 
was immediately appointed, and a hot and indignant 
debate ensued as to the Romanising tendencies dis- 
played in high quarters. Hampden had spoken, and 
when he sat down his cousin for the first time rose 
and addressed the house. " A harsh and broken voice 
of astonishing fervour," * made a strange contrast to 
the mild and dignified accents of Hampden. But 
energy is stamped on every word of the broken and 
fragmentary record of this first sj)eech of CromwelL 
The direction which his sympathies had been taking 
— his association with Puritan lecturers, the impa- 
tience of his stern Protestant feeling, are all apparent. 
He said " he had heard by relation, from one Dr Beard 
(his old schoolmaster at Huntingdon), that Dr Ala- 
baster had preached flat Popery at Paul's Cross ; and 
that tlie Bishop of Winchester (Dr Neile), he had com- 
* Foster. 


manded him as his diocesan he should preach nothing 
to the contrary. Mainwaring, so justly censured in the 
House for his sermons, was, by the same bishop's means, 
transferred to a rich living. If these are the steps to 
church preferment," added he, " what are we to ex- 
pect ? " Cromwell's statement so impressed the House, 
that it resolved on immediate action. In the Com- 
mons' Journals of the same day, there stands recorded 
the following notice : " Upon question ordered. Dr 
Beard of Huntingdon to be written to by Mr Speaker, 
to come up and testify against the bishop : the order 
for Dr Beard to be delivered to Mr Cromwell." * 

The Protestant temper of the House was not to be 
restrained. The King, by the help of the Speaker, tried 
to evade its determinations. When it came to the 
point, Mr Speaker Finch refused repeatedly to "put 
the question," alleging that he had the King's orders to 
adjourn. But at length, after an astonishing scene, in 
which the Speaker gave way to tears, while the members 
around menaced him if he persisted in opposing the 
mind of the assembly, he was forcibly detained in 
his chair until they had passed three emphatic resolu- 
tions protesting against " Arminianism, Papistry, and 
illegal tonnage and poundage." Dissolution, of course, 
immediately followed these proceedings ; and Crom- 
well, after a brief Parliamentary experience, returned 
to his native Huntingdon, to remain still for some years 
in comparative obscurity. There can be no doubt, 
however, that from this time he became a man of mark 
in his party. Far more, jDrobably, than we can now 
guess, he had shown during this short period of public 
life, powers fitted to raise him to influence and distinc- 
tion ; while, at the same time, he had entered into 
* Carlyle. 


connection with the great national leaders of the move- 
ment. He was no longer merely the head of a pro- 
vincial party, hut one of a patriot band, representing a 
powerful national feeling. In communion with such 
men, he must have felt his sympathies elevated, and 
his convictions enlightened and strengthened. 

Cromwell returned to Huntingdon in the spring of 
1629. In the course of the following year he was named 
along with his old schoolmaster, and Eohert Barnard, 
Esq., a Justice of the Peace for that borough. Here he 
remained for three years or so, still carrying on, appa- 
rently in connection with his mother, his old farming 
operations. He seems, however, to have been but ill 
at ease — troubled with dark thoughts as to his own 
spiritual condition and the state of the country. It 
is to this period that Mr Forster refers his " strange 
fancies about the town-cross," and his hypochondriacal 
apprehensions of death. It can be easily imagined 
how his strong nature, having been caUed forth into 
temporary excitement by the events of the Parliament 
of 1G28, and having sunk back into an uneasy and tor- 
menting inaction, w^ould prey upon itself. 

In 1631 he effected the sale of the properties in 
which he was interested in the neighbourhood of Hunt- 
ingdon, and removed to St Ives, five miles down the 
river, where he rented a grazing farm. His mother 
appears to have remained at Huntingdon, as we find 
that his children continued to be baptised in the old 
church there. At St Ives he became still more dis- 
tinguished than hitherto for his systematic and rigor- 
ous devotions, and for the religious influence which he 
sought to exercise over those around him. He prayed 
with his family and servants in the morning and even- 
ing. He souglit to mix up religion with the work of 


the fields, just as afterwards he mixed it up with the 
work of iigliting. The spirit which inspired and 
fashioned his famous Ironsides out of ploughmen and 
graziers, was now working in him. He continued also, 
with increasing heartiness, his old concern in the Puri- 
tan lecturers sustained by the rich merchants of Lon- 
don. These lecturers had been greatly persecuted dur- 
ing the years succeeding the dissolution of Parliament. 
Laud and his accomplices had hunted them down 
wherever they could, and discouraged and broken up 
the system as far as in their power. St Ives appears 
to have been fortunate in possessing for its lecturer, up 
to the year 1635, one Dr Wells, "a man of goodness, 
and industry, and ability to do good in every way, not 
short of any man of England," says Oliver, in his first 
extant letter. This letter is in every way remarkable. 
It is addressed " to my very loving friend Mr Storie, 
at the sign of the Dog in the Eoyal Exchange, 
London ;" and after congratulating Mr Storie and his 
fellow-citizens on their good works in " providing for 
the feeding of souls," by means of the lectures which 
they had instituted in the county — and speaking of the 
excellence of Dr Wells, who had been so acceptable in 
his calling, and since whose coming the Lord had 
wrought by him much good among them — it proceeds 
to regret the likelihood of the lectures' discontinuance 
for want of funds. " And surely," he urges, " it were 
a piteous thing to see a lecture fall in the hands of 
so many able and godly men, as I am persuaded the 
founders of this are, in these times wherein we see they 
are suppressed, with too much haste and violence, by 
the enemies of God's truth. Far be it, that so mu<3h 
guilt should stick to your hands, who live in a city so 
renowned for the clear shining light of the gospel. 


You know, Mr Storie, to withdraw the pay is to let 
fall the lecture — for who goeth to warfare at his own 
cost ?" — a very characteristic hint — the clear light of 
common sense (as always with him) shining through 
the most fervid expressions of religious feeling. 

Amidst all his religious exercises, Oliver's farming 
was not prosperous. The lands seem to have been of 
a boggy, intractable character, yielding no return for 
his patient industry. It is the sneer of Hume, copy- 
ing Heatli as usual, that " the long prayers which 
he said to his family in the evening, and again in the 
afternoon, consumed his own time and that of his 
ploughman," and left no leisure for the care of his 
temporal affairs. No man was ever less likely than 
Cromwell to commit such a mistake. He had now, 
and always, far too practical an eye for such maunder- 
ing. Yet, whatever was the cause, he did not succeed 
at St Ives. His crops failed, and his health became 
disordered. The cold and damp of the district affected 
his throat, producing a kind of chronic inflammation in 
it. It was remembered long afterwards what a strange 
appearance he used to make at church, as he came up 
the aisle — his throat rolled in flannel, his rough dress 
ill-arranged — and the red flannel flaunting after him. 

In 1636 he is found no longer at St Ives, but at Ely. 
Here he had succeeded to his maternal uncle. Sir Thomas 
Steward, who, as his fathers before him, had farmed the 
cathedral tithes. He took up his residence in the old 
glebe-house near St Mary churchyard — a house still 
standing, and described by Mr Carlyle in 1845 as an ale- 
house, with still some chance of standing ; " by no means 
a sumptuous mansion," he adds, "but it may have con- 
veniently held a man of three or four hundred a-year, 
with his family, in those simple times. Some quaint 


air of gentility still looks tlirougii its ragged dilapida- 
tion." Here Cromwell spent the few remaining years 
of comparative inaction that still awaited him, " living 
neither in any considerable height nor yet in obscurity," 
as he told his Parliament of 1654. 

The state of the country was in those years rapidly 
getting worse. Charles had nearly played out his scheme 
of self-government. The trial of Hampden, protracted 
for months, served to feed the popular discontent. The 
quiet magnanimity of the victim, the eloquence of his 
defence, the legality as well as righteousness of his 
cause, all served to stimulate the public ardour, and 
strengthen the rising feeling against the ministers and 
the Court. The bishops, too, were carrying their short- 
lived triumph to its most oppressive and insolent 
excesses. Old Palace Yard, on the 30th of June 1 637, 
presented a spectacle calculated to move men's hearts 
— not to submission, .nor even to despair, but to fierce 
impatience and rooted vengeance rather. Prymie, and 
Bastwick, and Burton — a lawyer, physician, and clergy- 
man — were there exhibited in three pillories, and had 
their ears cut off and their cheeks branded before 
a large crowd. This was what Laud's ingenious 
ecclesiastical devices had come to. These men had 
ventured to question not only the policy but the legality 
of these devices. Prynne had openly declared that he 
was prepared to prove them to be contrary to the law 
of England. This was the answer he and the rest 
received. Legal or not, they were to be enforced at 
the expense of the ears of all gainsayers. The threat 
was a vain one. " Cut me, tear me," cried Prynne, " I 
fear thee not — I fear the fire of hell, not thee ;" while 
Bastwick's wife, at the foot of the scaffold, received her 
husband's ears into her lap and kissed them. 


This very same year, and only a montli later, scenes 
equally remarkable in their wayAvere transacted in Scot- 
land. • Jenny Geddes with her stool and ever-memor- 
able cry, " Deil colic the wame of thee, thou foul 
thief, wilt thou say mass at my lug ? " had made in old 
St Giles's a " beginning of the end." The fierceness of 
national indignation was rising high. It was getting 
"too hot to last." * 

As Cromwell in his Ely home mused on such 
matters, his heart was deeply stirred in him. He was 
wrapped now, according to his Avont, in deep gloom, 
and now excited to violent energy. His thoughts were 
driven inwards, and lie anxiously pondered anew 
whether the ground of the matter was right in him. 
A letter of this period to his cousin, Mrs St John, the 
second in Mr Carlyle's list, is among the most cha- 
racteristic of all his compositions that have been pre- 
served. Amidst its wild and gropiug earnestness, and 
strange intensity of biblical language, it sheds a vivid 
light upon the inward man. A strongly-moved and 
earnest soul makes itself bare to us, just as it emerges 
from darkness and struQ'oie. He writes : " Dear cousin 
— I thankfully acknowledge your love in your kind 
remembrance of me upon this opportunity. Alas ! you 
do too highly prize my lines and my company. I may 
be ashamed to own your expressions, considering how 
unprofitable I am, and the mean improvement of my 
talent ; yet to honour my God, by declaring what he 
hath done for my soul, in this I am confident, and will 
be so. Truly then, this I find, that He giveth springs 
in a dry barren wilderness, where no water is. I live, 
you know where — in Mesech, which they say signifies 

* Burton's sayinjj, as he was carried fainting from the scene of his 



'prolonging — in Kedar, which signifies hlackness : yet 
the Lord forsaketh me not. Though He do prolong, 
yet He will, I trust, bring me to His tabernacle, to His 
resting-place. My soul is with the congregation of the 
first-born : my body rests in hope : and if here I may 
honour my God by doing or by suffering, I shall be 
most glad. Truly, no poor creature hath more cause 
to put himself forth in the cause of his God than I. I 
have had plentiful wages beforehand, and I am sure I 
shall never earn the least mite. The Lord accept me 
as his son, and give me to walk in the light — and give 
us to walk in the light, as He is the light. He it is 
that enlighteneth our blackness, our darkness. I dare 
not say He hideth his face from me : He giveth me to 
see light in His light. One beam in a dark place hath 
exceeding much refreshment in it. Blessed be His 
name for shining upon so dark a heart as mine. You 
know what my manner of life hath been. Oh ! I lived 
in, and loved darkness, and hated light ; I was a 
chief, the chief of sinners. This is true : I hated god- 
liness, yet God had mercy on me. the riches of his 
mercy ! praise them for me. Pray for me, that He who 
hath begun a good work would perfect it in the day 
of Christ." * 

An air of singular reality, confused but vivid, is 
impressed upon every line of this letter — a reality not 
suggested by the scriptural language in which it is 
expressed, but which looks through all the conventional 
phrases of that language. It is a poor, nay, it is an 
unintelligible criticism, which can see nothing but 
hypocrisy in such a letter. It ought to be remembered 
that, on any other supposition than that of the down- 
right and awful sincerity of the writer, much more 
* Carltle, 141-2. 


than hypocrisy is needed to explain it in the circum- 
stances — addressed as it was to his cousin, and meant 
for her eye alone ; we must suppose weakness and 
folly as well, of which not even a royalist theologian 
would venture to accuse Cromwell. 

This is one side of the picture which our hero pre- 
sents to ns in these years — an earnest man concerned 
about his soul, and rejoicing that the light of Christ has 
dawned upon him. There is another side to the picture, 
in which we see him no less earnest, in a different 
capacity, as a leader of the popular feeling in a great 
movement which made much noise at the time in 
Huntingdon and its neighbourhood. The Earl of Bed- 
ford had some years before started a scheme for the 
draining of the extensive fens which covered some mil- 
lions of acres in that and the adjoining counties — a pro- 
ject long talked of. The work had proceeded so far. 
The great Bedford level, as it was called, for carrying 
the river Ouse between elevated embankments into the 
sea, had been completed, or nearly so ; when the Crown, 
by commissioners, interfered with the professed design 
of abetting the work, but in such a manner as to stir 
up a tierce strife in all others interested. Its spirit of 
encroachment here, as everywhere, was so obviously 
manifested as to provoke opposition on all hands. 
Oliver Cromwell threw himself heart and soul into 
the movement, headed the widespread disaffection, 
and by a " great meeting " at Huntingdon, and other- 
wise, effectually put a stop to the invasions of the 
Crown, and for the time defeated the completion of 
the great project. He was far, however, from being 
opposed to it in itself, and it is absurd to represent 
the matter as if he were so.* It was merely his 

* So far from this, that when, in the year 1649, the Long Parliament 


instinct liere, as elsewhere, to resist the domineering 
spirit of the Crown in defence of popular rights and pri- 
vileges. The notoriety he acquired in this commotion 
procured him among the people the appellation of the 
" Lord of the Fens." The great energy and decision 
of his character were quietly noted, and it was felt that 
he would make himself known in the times that were 
approaching. It was remarked that he was a man 
" that would set well at the mark." 

Times sufficiently stirring were at hand. The at- 
tempt to re-establish Episcopacy in Scotland had 
produced its natural fruits. The famous Glasgow 
Assembly had demolished the elaborate machinery 
devised by Laud and his coadjutors. Charles resolved 
to send an army into Scotland to enforce his designs ; 
and the long-forgotten idea of a Parliament was once 
more pressed upon him as the only mode of enabling 
him to meet his difficulties and equip his army. A 
Parliament was accordingly summoned in the spring 
of 1640 ; Cromwell was appointed to sit in it as 
member for Cambridge ; but it had scarcely met when 
it was dismissed. The royal temper was still intract- 
able ; and a last desperate effort, to which Wentworth, 
now Earl of Strafford, gave all his influence, and con- 
tributed himself the large sum of £20,000, was made 
to raise and send forth an army without Parliamentary 
intervention. The attempt, however, was disastrously 
unsuccessful. The soldiers were ill-affected towards 
the cause of Episcopacy : "in various towns on their 
march, if the clergymen were reported Puritan, they 
went and gave them three cheers ; if of surplice ten- 
dency, they sometimes threw his furniture out of win- 
passed an Act for ''draining the great level of the fens," Lieutenant- 
General Cromwell was among its most active supporters. 


dow." * Sucli an army was obviously not likely to 
set up the power of the bishops. Tlie Scottish force 
in the mean time penetrated England, and forcing its 
way toward Newcastle, the King's army retired upon 
Yoik, where he and Strafford were. 

The war was virtually ended ; and Charles returned 
to his capital baffled and gloomy at the result. Sum- 
moning hastily a " Council of Peers," he concluded a 
treaty with the Scots, and was compelled once more to 
think of calling together a Parliament. Twelve of the 
Peers petitioned him to do so. The city of London 
would only advance money on condition that he would 
do so. The Scots remained at Newcastle comfortably 
quartered, and encouraging by its sympathy the Puritan 
disaffection everywhere. Charles was in straits such as 
he had never yet been ; and reluctantly he yielded and 
summoned the Commons. This, known as the Lous 
Parliament, was the most memorable that ever sat in 
England. It met on the ^/arc? of November 1640. The 
long-suppressed feelings of tlie country at length found 
vent in a persistent course of reform. Bill followed 
bill in rapid redress of grievances under which the 
Commons had long groaned. Ship-money was de- 
clared to be illegal ; the Star Cliamber and the High 
Court of Commission were abolished ; the power of 
arbitrary taxation was taken from the King, and the 
bill for triennial Parliaments passed. Laud was im- 
peached, and imprisoned in the tower ; Strafford was 
struck down from his proud and oppressive elevation. 
Never was monarch more hopelessly embarrassed 
— more violently and yet feebly inconsistent — than 
Charles. At one time he tried a compromise with the 
popular party ; then he entered into plots with the 
* Carlyle. 


army for the rescue of Strafford from the Tower ; then, 
finally, he abandoned him, and signed his condemna- 
tion on the 10th of May 1641. 

After the death of Strafford a temporary reaction 
set in. The secession of Hyde and Culpeper and Falk- 
land from the popular party, served for a while to 
weaken it, and strengthen the side of the King. Many 
as well as these known names were disposed to think 
that the royal concessions had proceeded far enough ; 
that the rights of the constitution had been amply 
vindicated ; and that the course of innovation should 
be stayed. They felt that the country was trembling 
on the brink of revolution ; and that a further step in 
advance, still more a step of violence on either side, 
would precipitate matters towards a crisis which must 
issue in a civil war. They shrunk from the fearful 
responsibility of such an issue. That this was the 
honest motive of such a man as Falkland in joining 
the King there can be no doubt. Personal peculiarities 
in him, as well as in Hyde, may have had something 
to do with the result ; his keen and sensitive nature, 
delicate and classic in its aspirations, may have oper- 
ated, just as Hyde's reserved dignity and coldness did, 
in withdrawing him from the cause of popular agita- 
tion. But it is clear, also, that the genuine principles 
of both were implicated in making the stand they did. 
They had been foremost in urging on the "Bill of 
Attainder," for they hated Straftbrd even more than 
Pym and Hampden ; but in his overthrow they seemed 
to see the security of the constitution ; and they gave 
themselves to the service of the King with a sincere 
desire to maintain the integrity of the Government, 
and avert the revolutionary dangers which seemed 


But tliey mistook — even Hyde did — the character 
of the King, and they underrated the daring and 
address of the leaders of the popular cause. Following 
Strafford's execution, the King had gone to Scotland ; 
and there, in the midst of many intrigues, and in con- 
tact with tlie ardent courage of Montrose,* he had re- 
covered not only his spirits, but his old ideas of prero- 
gative and kingly power. He returned, inflamed with 
his own importance, and a sense of his outraged rights, 
and threw himself far more heartily into the counsels 
of the Queen and her secret Popish conclave, than into 
the deliberations of liis new supporters. 

In the mean time Pym had taken a step which re- 
opened the whole subject of popular grievances, and 
struck a deadly blow at the new policy of conciliation. 
He had prepared and was urging forward " The Grand 
Eemonstrance." Whatever be the explanation of this 
move of the ParUamentary leaders — whether it pro- 
ceeded from their honest convictions that the process 
of reform was not by any means complete — from their 
fears, or their ambition — it had the effect of giving a 
new and decisive turn to the struggle. Their victory 
made them more confident, and the King more des- 
perate. The remonstrance was carried by a majority of 
eleven, on the 22d of November, after a long debate and 
a memorable scene, which, save for the firmness and pre- 
sence of mind of Hampden, might have ended in blood- 
shed. It was on leaving the house after this exciting 
struggle that Cromwell is reported to have said to 
Falkland, that if the remonstrance had not been carried. 

* It is doubtful whether Montrose had any personal intercourse with 
the King, although Clarendon alleges that he had. "He" (Montrose), 
he says, "came privately to the King." There can be no doubt, how- 
ever, that communications passed between them. 



lie would have sold all that lie liad next day and gone 
off to America. 

Other events followed in rapid succession. The long- 
pending attack against the bishops was unexpectedly 
brought to a violent issue. Through the folly of Wil- 
liams, the thirteen who had been impeached were 
arrested, and eleven of them carried to the Tower, 
to bear Laud company. Charles, at the same time, 
intoxicated by his flattering reception in the city by 
a Eoyalist Lord Mayor, and seduced by the evil coun- 
sels of the Queen and her creatures, was meditatiug 
designs of a dark and aggressive character. Selecting 
five of the leaders of the Commons and one in the 
Lords, he demanded their impeachment and surrender 
as traitors ; and when baffled in this milder effort, he 
made his appearance in Westminster with an armed 
guard to enforce his summons and arrest his victims. 
The step was at once impotent and fatal. The mem- 
bers, duly warned, had disappeared into the city ; and 
Parliament retreated thither also, "to be safe from 
armed violence." 

The crisis could now no longer be delayed. The King, 
with the Queen and his family, left London, while the 
five impeached members were transported in triumphal 
barges from the city to Westminster. The city militia 
lined the banks of the Thames on both sides. Four 
thousand knights and gentlemen on horseback arrived 
from Buckingham to hail their compatriots, and carry- 
ing in their hats a printed oath to live or die in defence 
of the Parliament. The popular enthusiasm knew no 
bounds ; and amid this display of excited patriotism, 
the House of Commons took immediate and energetic 
resolutions for the defence of the country. An armed 
guard was appointed to watch the approaches to the 


town, before a new governor of the Tower, in the con- 
fidence of Parliament, should be appointed ; the gover- 
nor of Portsmouth was ordered to receive no troops 
or ammunition into that town without the sanction 
of Parliament ; and Sir John Hotham, a gentleman of 
influence in Yorkshire, was commanded to take pos- 
session of Hull, the great northern arsenal, and pre- 
serve it. 

The King still professed to keep up negotiations 
with Parliament, but his sole aim was now to o-ain 
time to carry out the hostile measures on which he 
had already resolved. He retired first to Hampton 
Court and then to Windsor ; and there, in a secret coun- 
cil, it was agreed that the Queen should proceed to 
Holland, taking the crown jewels with her, and do all 
she could to raise arms and ammunition, and excite 
sympathy for the royal cause. As Charles returned 
from Dover, where he had seen her embark, he was 
met by urgent messages from Parliament as to the 
command of the militia, which it claimed for men pos- 
sessing its confidence. This was almost the last point 
on which he held out. He had yielded the governor- 
ship of the Tower ; he had even, against the advice 
of Hyde, yielded to the tears of the Queen what his 
own conscience strongly repudiated — the bill of exclu- 
sion against the bishops ; but he would not give way on 
the subject of the militia. Instead of returning to Lon- 
don, he met the prince with his tutor at Greenwich, 
and immediately set out northwards. Twelve Parlia- 
mentary commissioners overtook him on his way, and 
again solicited him on the subject of the militia ; but 
he refused to alter his previous answer "in any point." 
A week later new messengers found him at Newmarket, 
and a long and excited conversation ensued ; Charles 


urging, with something of pathetic dignity, his com- 
plaints, and Lord Holland, on behalf of the Parliament, 
still reiterating the question of the militia. "Might 
not the militia be granted, as desired by Parliament, 
for a time?" "No, by God," was his reply, "not for 
an hour. You have asked that of me which was never 
asked of a king, and which I would not intrust to my 
wife and children." And so was snapped the last feeble 
thread of negotiation on both sides ; while parties 
rapidly took their sides, and the country prepared for 
a fierce and hitherto unexampled struggle. 

During these two memorable years, Cromwell was 
an active although not a prominent agent. Beside 
Pym or Hampden, or even Strode or Haselrigge, he 
was not conspicuous in the Commons. He did not 
speak much, but he was constant on committees, zeal- 
ous against the bishops, and in many ways one of the 
most earnest, untiring, and forward of the party. We 
find him moving for a conference with the Lords to 
stay the investiture of five new bishops which Charles 
was foolish enough to urge forward at such a time 
(October 1641, just after the reassembling of the Par- 
liament). We find him again bringing before the 
House a calumny circulated by the royalists to the 
effect that it was offended at the entertainment given 
by the city to the King (27th November). But a still 
more important motion than either of these was made 
by him in the same month of November. The country 
had been startled and horror-struck by the news of the 
Papal insurrection and massacre in Ireland. It was 
necessary that troops should be raised for the defence 
of the kingdom ; and it became an obvious anxiety to 
the popular party that these troops should not be 
diverted from their proper object to the furtherance of 


the King's private designs. This was exactly a point 
to interest Cromwell, who was already beginning to see 
more deeply into the nature of the crisis than many of 
those around him. To the heads of a proposed confer- 
ence with the Lords on the state of the kingdom, it 
Avas accordingly added, " upon his motion," that the 
two Houses should unite in passing an ordinance to 
continue the command of the "train bands on that 
side Trent" in the hands of the Earl of Essex (who 
had been appointed to this command during the Kmg's 
absence in Scotland), " until Parliament should take 
further orders The effect of this motion was really 
to open the question which, in the following year, 
as we have seen, became the critical and final one be- 
tween the Parliament and the King. 

These, as well as other incidents, are sufficient to 
prove the activity of Cromwell in the early years of 
the Parliamentary struggle. There have been two 
sketches of him, however, preserved during those years, 
Avhicli perhaps give a still more lively impression of 
the part that he took, and the zealous earnestness that 
he showed, in the popular cause. They are of cog- 
nate origin — neither of them flattering, yet both very 
graphic in their way. The one is from the garrulous 
pen of Warwick, and the other from the politely-ma- 
licious pen of his friend and patron, Clarendon. We 
subjoin them for the reader's gratification. He will 
note particularly the photographic impress of the out- 
ward features of our hero. 

" The first time," says Warwick, " that I ever took 
notice of ]Mr Cromwell, was in the very beginning 
of the Parliament held in November 1640, when 
I " (he was member for Ptadnor) " vainly thought my- 
self a courtly young gentleman — for we courtiers 


valued ourselves much upon our good clotlies ! I 
came into the House one morning well clad, and 
perceived a gentleman speaking, whom I knew not, 
very ordinarily apparelled — for it was a plain cloth 
suit, which seemed to have been made by an ill country 
tailor. His linen was plain, and not very clean; and 
I remember a speck or two of blood upon his little 
band, which was not much larger than his collar. 
His hat was without a hat-band. His stature was of 
a good size ; his sword stuck close to his side ; his 
countenance swollen and reddish, his voice sharp and 
untuneable, and his eloquence full of fervour ; for the 
subject-matter would not bear much of reason, it being 
in behalf of a servant of Mr Prynne's, who had dispersed 
libels against the Queen for her dancing ; and he aggra- 
vated the imprisonment of this man by the council- 
table unto that height, that one would have believed 
the very government itself would have been in great 
danger by it. I sincerely profess it lessened much my 
reverence unto that great council, for he was very much 
hearkened unto. And yet I lived to see this very 
gentleman, whom, out of no ill-will to him, I thus 
describe — by multiplied good successes, and by real 
but usurpt power (having had a better tailor, and 
more converse among good company) in my own eye, 
when for six weeks together I was a prisoner in his 
sergeant's hands, and daily waited at "Wliitehall — ap- 
pear of a great and majestick deportment, and comely 

The other description, by Clarendon, is equally cha- 
racteristic. The scene is a private committee, which 
sat in the Queen's Court; the subject regarding an en- 
closure of certain wastes belonging to the Queen's man- 
ors, which had been made without consent of the 


tenants, and transferred by tlie Queen to one of her 
servants " of near trust," who again had disposed of 
his interest to the Earl of Manchester, against which 
the tenants, as well as " the inhabitants of other man- 
ors," had petitioned with loud complaints as a great 
oppression. Notwithstanding Mr Hyde's courtly lan- 
guage, the business does not look well — was, in fact, 
just a case for the interference of the " Lord of the 
Tens," who had already, in his own district, amply vin- 
dicated the rights of the people against royal oppres- 
sion in such matters. " Oliver Cromwell being one of 
them," continues Hyde, " appeared much concerned to 
countenance the petitioners, who were numerous, to- 
gether with their witnesses ; the Lord Mandeville being 
likewise present as a party, and, by the direction of the 
committee, sitting covered. Cromwell, who had never 
before been heard to speak in the House,* ordered the 
witnesses and the petitioners in the method of pro- 
ceeding, and seconded and enlarged upon what they 
said with great passion ; and the witnesses and per- 
sons concerned, who were a very rude kind of people, 
interrupted the counsel and witnesses on the other 
side with great clamour when they said anything that 
did not please them; so that Mr Hyde (whose office 
it was, as chairman, to oblige persons of all sorts to 
keep order) was compelled to use some sharp reproofs, 
and some threats, to reduce them to such a temper that 
the business might be quietly heard. Cromwell, in 
great fury, reproached the chairman for being partial, 
and that he discountenanced the witnesses by threat- 
ening them; the other appealed to the committee, 
which justified him, and declared that he behaved him- 
self as he ought to do, wliich more inflamed him 

* Not true, as we have seen. 


(Cromwell), who was already too much angry. When 
Lord Mandeville desired to be heard, and with great 
modesty related what had been done, or explained 
what had been said, Mr Cromwell did answer and 
reply upon him with so much indecency and rudeness, 
and in language so contrary and offensive, that every 
man would have thought that as their natures and 
their manners were as opposite as it is possible, so 
their interest could never have been the same." 

Every one has seen such portraits as that drawn by 
Warwick — the " stature of a good size," the " counte- 
nance swollen and reddish," the " voice sharp and un- 
tuneable," the " linen plain and not very clean," the 
" speck or two of blood upon his little band " (an ex- 
panse of shirt worn over the collar of the coat, with a 
view to the long hair which was then fashionable), " not 
much larger than the collar itself" (that is to say, un- 
fashionably narrow in the eyes of the " courtly young 
gentleman ") ; " the plain cloth suit made by an ill 
country tailor." The features are exactly such as the 
photograph stamps M-ith faithful unspirituality, while 
the true portrait lies behind the outer and uuillumined 
lines, to be called forth by the vivifying eye of the 
friendly imagination — to every other eye invisible. The 
process is not difficult in the present case ; it scarcely 
needs, as with the reminiscent courtier, the help of " a 
better tailor" to see in Warwick's literal but coarse like- 
ness the true image of the Puritan hero, with his proud 
soul lighting up his countenance, and suffusing it with 
indignation ; plain and bluff in his dress and manners 
now as at all times, but now also, under all his external 
coarseness, having a certain "great and majestical de- 
portment, and comely presence," no less than in his 
days of state. Under the exaggerations of both sketches, 


and especially tlie vehemence and "passion" of manner 
on whicli they dwell, it is easy to trace the keen patriot, 
warmed more by excitement in other people's sendee, 
and the sense of wrong done by the strong against the 
weak, than by any regard to liis own interests, or by the 
impulses of his own ambition. There can be no doubt 
that, although he was not yet recognised as a Parlia- 
mentary leader, those who were ostensibly leaders saw 
and appreciated his great powers, and looked forward 
to his future career with interest, perhaps with awe. 
" Who is that man — that sloven — that spoke just now ? 
for 1 see that he is on our side by his speaking so 
warmly," asked Lord Digby of Hampden, as they left 
the House the same day that Sir Philip Warwick de- 
scribes what he saw, and how it impressed him. Con- 
ceited trimmers like Digby, whom the snares of the 
Court so soon entangled, were not likely to know any- 
thing of the blunt and uncouth member for Cam- 
bridge. " That sloven," was Hampden's reply, " if 
we should ever come to a breach with the King, which 
God forbid, will be the greatest man in England." 

It was not, however, till the crisis of the war that 
Cromwell's peculiar and unexampled powers were 
shown. As soon as the King's final determination about 
the militia was known, he was found in his native district 
organising an incipient force among the servants and 
farmers who had formerly acknowledged and been em- 
boldened by his influence. His military genius showed 
itself from the first. The sense of a great talent awoke 
in him, which might for ever have lain hid in the deep 
background of his nature but for the exigency which 
called it forth. The nucleus of his famous troop of Iron- 
sides may be said to date from this very commencement 
of the war — from the first preparations which he made 


with such zealous foresight to preserve in the midland 
counties the authority of the Parliament and extend its 
power. These preparations were entirely successful, 
effective in proportion to the quietness and decision with 
which they were carried out. The Midland, or what 
were called the Eastern Associated Counties, remained 
true to the ])opular cause throughout the struggle ; 
and from their unanimity and compact organisation, 
escaped comparatively the miseries of actual warfare. 
Of his military activity at this time we get merely 
glimpses, but they are very significant and characteristic 
glimpses. Tlie university of Oxford had already sent its 
plate to the King for his service. Cambridge was medi- 
tating a similar step when Cromwell appeared, "seized 
the magazine in the castle, and hindered the carry- 
ing of the plate from that university." His musketeers 
were over all the country, keeping a vigilant watch 
for the Parliamentary interests, " starting out of the 
corn and commanding stray youths to give an account 
of themselves." His uncle, Sir Oliver, had a visit from 
him. The old royalist had evidently been meditatmg 
help for the King in his straits, and his nephew and 
godson " thought it might be well to pay him a visit 
with a good strong party of horse." "Warwick is the 
gossip here, as so often elsewhere ; and there is a de- 
lightful piquancy in the story M'hich he tells — such a 
mixture of business and dutifulness — of sternness to 
the cause and yet reverent affection for his imcle — 
that we are inclined to own its truth, doubtful as is 
the source. " During the few hours that he was there 
Cromwell asked him (the imcle) liis blessing, and 
would not keep on his hat in his p)Tesence ; but at the 
same time he not only disarmed but jjhtndcrcd him, for 
he took away all his plate." 


On the 23d of August 164-2, Charles raised the royal 
standard at Nottingham, in an unpropitious storm of 
wind which blew it do^vn again. The Earl of Essex, 
at the head of the Parliamentary forces, received in- 
structions, " by battle or other^^'ise, to rescue the King 
and his sons from these perfidious counsellors, and 
bring them back to Parliament." The Earl of Bed- 
ford, a grave and moderate man, like Essex, was made 
general of the horse ; and Oliver Cromwell was named 
captain of the 67th troop. 

Tlie King, accompanied by his nephew. Prince Ptupert, 
lately arrived from Germany, removed to the western 
counties, and set up his headquarters at Shrewsbury. 
Essex advanced towards him slowly, and Charles 
dreamed of marching upon London and finishing the 
war by a single bold stroke. He had even proceeded 
some days on his march, when Essex overtook him 
on the borders of Warwickshire, and the first battle 
ensued in this great struggle — the battle of Edgehill, 
as it was called'. The result was indecisive. Prince 
Eupert broke the Parliamentary horse and pursued 
them from the field ; but, on the other hand, the royal 
infantiy were dispersed, the Earl of Lindsay, com- 
mander-in-chief, severely wounded, and the King's 
standard taken. 

Apparently it was after this battle, and the expe- 
rience he derived from it, that Cromwell had that 
remarkable conversation ^\ath Hampden which he him- 
self narrates,"' as to the quality of the Parliamentary 
forces, and the need of an entirely diflerent metal to 
meet the aristocratic gallantry opposed to them. " At 
my first going out into this engagement, I saw these 
men (the men of the Parliament) were beaten at every 

* Speech to Second Parliament. Carlyle, ii. 526. 


hand, and I desired liim (Hampden) that he would 
make some additions to my Lord Essex's army of some 
new regiments, and I told him that I could be service- 
able to him in bringing such men in as I thought had 
a spirit that would do something in the work. This is 
very true that I tell you ; God knows I lie not. Your 
troops, said I, are most of them old decayed serving- 
men and tapsters, and such kind of fellows, and, said I, 
these troops are gentlemen's sons, younger sons, and 
persons of quality ; do you think that the spirits of 
such base and mean fellows will be ever able to en- 
counter gentlemen that have honour and courage and 
resolution in them ? Truly I did tell him, you must 
get men of spirit." Hampden admitted the excellence 
of the notion, but deemed it impracticable. Cromwell 
set about convertiug it into a fact. He had already, 
in truth, made a beginning with the men he had raised 
in his own district. Carrying out the same plan, and 
seeking for men of a religious spirit, potent to meet the 
spirit of honour opposed to them, he formed a regiment 
of horse, most of them freeholders and freeholders' 
sons, who, " upon matter of conscience," engaged in the 
quarrel under his guidance ; and being " well armed 
within by the satisfaction of their own consciences, 
and without by good iro7i arms, they would as one 
man charge firmly and fight desperately." * " They 
were never beaten," he himself said, proudly, of them. 
And " bold as lions in fight, they were in camp tem- 
perate and strict in their behaviour." " Not a man 
swears but he pays his twelvepence," was the current 
remark of the day regarding them. 

The great soldier of the Cominonwealth was already 
apparent in the captain of the 67th regiment of horse. 
* Whitelockh. 


The energy, compreliensioii, and snccess of his move- 
ments marked him out at the first from the other Par- 
liamentary commanders. In comparison with the re- 
spectable patriotism of Essex, the ostentation of Wal- 
ler, and the vacillating intrepidity of Manchester, he 
was found steady, hopeful, self-possessed, victorious 
in whatever was intrusted to him. None of all then 
acting against the King — not even Hampden, nor 
Oliver St John — saw so clearly that "things must 
be much worse before they are better ;" and with 
this calm and strong conviction, he took his measures 
and made his preparations accordingly. While Essex 
hesitated, and Parliament negotiated, he acted — and 
acted with a decision which never returned upon itself 
nor questioned its aims. This decision is the great 
secret of his success. However we may explain it — 
whether, with some, as a part of a deliberate and daring 
scheme of ambition, formed from the beginning, or as 
the expression of his honest and deeply-felt convictions 
regarding the state of England at the time — it is the 
great key to the sweeping energy with which he ad- 
vanced from point to point in his great career. While 
the accidents of the strife removed men like Hampden 
on the one side and Falkland* on the other from the 
scene ; and the pressure of unforeseen and unexplain- 
able dangers, fast accumulating, wore out and destroyed 
others like Pym — more than all the others great m the 
senate, and capable of directing the storms of faction ; 
Cromwell seemed to grow in proud confidence and 

* There is something very touching in Falkland's death, notwithstand- 
ing Mr Carlyle's sneer as to the " clean shirt." He courted and found 
death on the field of Newbury, "weary," as he said, of the times, and 
foreseeing much misery to his countiy. Clarendon's portrait of Falk- 
land is one of his most perfect, and must always fascinate the historical 


cheerful aud expanding consciousness of right as the 
struggle went on. As Essex became more desponding, 
and Waller .more incompetent, and Manchester more 
scrupulous, and the great names of Pym and Hampden 
remained no longer as guides amid the darkness, the rude 
determination and unconquerable heroism of this man 
made him master of every successive exigency, — and 
what he gained he never lost. If we could conceive 
Cromwell removed from the scene of struggle, and our 
view only rested on the divisions of the already diverg- 
ing parties in the Commons, or the inconsistencies and 
feebleness of its generalship in the field, the chances of 
internal dissolution would seem far more imminent than 
approaching triumph to the popular cause. And Crom- 
well himself was still labouring under this fear when, 
more than a year hence, he openly accused Manchester 
in the House of being reluctant to conquer. The rally- 
ing but inconsistent forces of Puritanism, he felt, needed 
a commander to unite them ; or, if this was impossiljle, 
to carry the boldest principles of the movement to 
triumph, and to bend the others into subordination 
and harmony. More obscurely, perhaps, he felt even 
then that he himself was that commander — that the 
genius of the movement was destined to culminate in 
him as its greatest hero. 

In the early spring of 1643, Cromwell is for the first 
time designated colonel, and shortly afterwards {May 
] 643), he obtained, to use his own words, a " glorious 
victory." The scene of tliis victory is supposed to 
have been near to Grantham, although history has 
failed to give any chronicle of it save his own brief 
and characteristic description. " Advancing, after 
many shots on both sides," he says, " we came on with 
our troops a pretty round trot, they standing firm to 


receive iis : and our men charging fiercely upon tliem, 
by God's Providence tliey were immediately routed, 
and ran all away ; and we had the execution of them 
two or three miles. I believe some of our soldiers did 
kill two or three men apiece in the pursuit." 

His next achievement was the relief of Gainsborough, 
which he effected after a sharp and bloody struggle, 
in which General Cavendish, second son of the Earl of 
Devonshire, and cousin of the Earl of Newcastle, then 
the great representative of, and the most successful com- 
mander for, the King in the north, was killed.* The 
action was close hand to hand, " horse to horse," "when 
we disputed it with our swords and pistols a pretty 
time." The steadiness of Cromwell's men, however, 
triumphed. " At last, they a little shrinking, our men 
perceived it, pressed on upon them, and immediately 
routed the whole body ; and our men pursuing, had 
chase and execution about five or six miles." This 
engagement was the first in which Cromwell came into 
notice as a military leader. " It was the beginning of 
his great fortunes," says Whitelock ; " now he began 
to appear in the world." 

It was in the month of July that this achievement 
of Cromwell's took place. In the previous month 
Hampden had fallen wounded to death in a skirmish 
on Chalgrove Common, some miles from Oxford. He 
was seen " to quit the field before the action was fin- 
ished, contrary to his custom, with his head hanging 
down." Charles, at Oxford, was greatly excited by 
the news ; and with a pathetic courtesy, which touches 
us even if we may doubt its sincerity, sent to inquire 
for his great opponent, and to offer to send him medi- 

* " My captain-lieutenant," says Cromwell, "slew him with a thrust 
under his short ribs." 


cal assistance if he liad none at hand. All assist- 
ance, however, was vain. Hampden felt from the first 
that his wound was mortal, and busied his last hours 
in writing letters to his friends, and earnestly counsel- 
ling those active measures for the prosecution of the 
war that he had long had at heart. He was attended 
by an old friend, Dr Giles, Rector of Chinnor, and his 
dying words were words of prayer — " Lord, save my 

Hampden's death, and Waller's serious reverses, 
gave a very gloomy turn to the affairs of Parliament 
at this time. On all sides save in the east they wore 
a disastrous look. Here, notwithstanding the back- 
wardness of Lord Willoughby, the Parliamentary gene- 
ral, the vigour of Cromwell's influence was everywhere 
apparent. Especially he held in check the forces of 
Newcastle, and proved a terror to the northern Papists. 
He had been appointed by the Parliament governor 
of the Isle of Ely, and this strengthened his influence 
throughout the district. In this capacity he is found 
making a speech in Ely Cathedral, which must have 
astonished his auditors. An Act of Parliament had 
abolished the ecclesiastical usages obnoxious to the 
Puritans. Cromwell counted it his business to see 
the Acts of Parliament in this as in other things strictly 
enforced ; and one of the canons being so foolish as to 
disregard the new arrangements, and proceed in the 
old manner of surplice and ceremony, he was saluted 
with the cry, " Leave off your fooling, and come down, 
sir" — a cry which doubtless startled the ecclesiastic 
in the midst of his elaborate sanctities. 

In the autumn of 1643 he had a hard fight at 
Winceby, in which he nearly lost his life. " His horse 
was killed under him at the first charge, and fell down 


upon liim ; and as he rose up lie was knocked down 
again." Afterwards, however, he recovered a "poor 
horse in a soldier's hand, and bravely mounted him- 
self again."* It is evident that Cromwell had enough 
to do during the somewhat unhappy close of the first 
period of the war. There is no evidence, however, that 
he was for a moment desponding, or even embarrassed. 
His letters betray an invariable self-confidence — a 
steady faith. 

The campaign of 1644 opened vigorously on both 
sides. Essex and Waller commanded for the Parlia- 
ment in the midland and western counties ; Manches- 
ter and Cromwell in the eastern counties ; and Fairfax 
and his father in the north co-operated with the 
Scots, who had entered England to the number of 
20,000, under the command of the Earl of Leven. 
Newcastle, who had gallantly maintained the royalist 
cause in the north, was now besieged in York by the 
combined forces of the Parliament and the Scots. 
Prince Eupert hastened from Lancashire at the head 
of 20,000 men to his relief. On his approach the 
Parliamentary forces raised the siege, and after an 
ineffectual attempt to intercept him withdrew towards 
Tadcaster. So far Eupert had accomplished his pur- 
pose ; but, not content with this measure of success, he 
insisted on giving battle to the Parliamentary army. 
In spite of Newcastle's remonstrances, he carried his 
design into effect. The marquess felt himself insulted 
and overborne by the rude and impetuous prince. He 
evidently discredited the existence of a letter from the 
King, which the prince urged as his plea for fighting ; 
yet he yielded, declaring that he had no other ambi- 
tion than to live and die a royal subject. A somewhat 

* Narrative by John Vicars, 1646 ; quoted by Carlyle, p. 190, vol. i. 



similar dissension distracted the councils of the Par- 
liamentarians. The Scots were opposed to battle, and 
their timid counsels for a while prevailed, to the great 
disgust and indignation of Cromwell. A battle, how- 
ever, was inevitable. Eagerness on the one side was 
responded to by hope * on the other ; and although the 
Scots were already within a mile of Tadcaster, and 
Manchester's foot were also on the march, they turned 
at a summons from Fairfax that Eupert had drawn out 
his forces to meet them on Long-Marston Moor ; and 
there, on the evening of the 2d of July, the two armies 
met. After a severe and varying struggle, which at 
first seemed in favour of the Eoyalists, who broke and 
dispersed both Fairfax's men on the left, and the Scots 
in the centre under Leven, "vdctory declared in favour 
of the Parliamentary army. The Eoyalists were driven 
from the field with great disaster, and chased within a 
mile of York ; " so that their dead bodies lay three 
miles in length." 

This decisive victory was, beyond doubt, mainly due 
to Cromwell, who retrieved the day with his horse, 
after it seemed nearly lost. There is no reason to 
doubt the accuracy of his own account, that " the 
battle had all the evidence of an absolute victory, 
obtained by the Lord's blessing upon the godly party 
principally. We never charged, but we routed the 
enemy. The left wing which I commanded, being my 
own horse, saving a few Scots f on our rear, beat all 
the Prince's horse. God made them as stubble to our 
swords." And it was after he had thus done his own 
share of the work on the left that he swept round 

* " Hope of a battle moved our soldiers to return merrily," says a 
Parliamentary chronicler — AsH. 
t Commanded by General David Leslie. 


with his victorious horse to the right, where Fairfax 
and Leven had yielded to the Eoyalists, and turned there 
also tlie tide of battle. 

The event was a signal one for Cromwell and the 
army, and more than justified Prince Eupert's eager 
inquiry at a prisoner who was taken on the eve of the 
engagement — " Is Cromwell there ? " It was beginning 
to be felt now, on all hands, that he was the great hero 
on the Parliamentary side of the struggle. He and the 
" godly party " that he represented henceforth emerge 
into prominence as the genuine war-party. It was 
evident that they had aims beyond the Presbyterians, 
and that they were rapidly acquiring an influence in 
the army which would enable them to carry out these 
aims. The very extremity of their views gave them 
strength on the field. While Essex in the south and 
west, and Leven in the north, were distracted in their 
warlike efforts by their desires of peace, and Manches- 
ter shared in their anxieties, Cromwell and his party 
had no misgivings. Their minds were not set on 
peace. They saw the deeper turn that the revolution 
was taking, and they gladly gave themselves to the 
current. Cromwell himself more and more felt that 
war was his element — that his place of power was on 
the battle-field. It was there that his soul kindled into 
greatness, and that his marvellous energies for the first 
time had found adequate scope. The tone in which he 
writes, accordingly, shows how far aU ideas of peace 
were from his mind at this period — how he was knit- 
ting himself up to a fiercer struggle than ever, and how 
his own side of the cause was becoming more intensely 
and dogmatically consecrated to his mind and imagina- 
tion as the cause of God. 

But this very determination on the part of Cromwell 


and liis followers, it may be imagined, filled moderate 
men all the more with distrust and apprehension. They 
seemed to awaken suddenly to a perception of the 
dangerous character of this powerful leader. Man- 
chester especially, perhaps from more immediate con- 
tact with him, and a closer cognisance of his designs, 
became alarmed and doubtful. The old bonds of 
amity between the general and lieutenant of the 
eastern associated counties were broken — never to be 
repaired. The altercation which subsequently ensued 
between them in Parliament was merely the expres- 
sion of a deep-seated misunderstanding and dis- 
like that had been for some time springing up. The 
Peer resented the forward zeal and incessant inter- 
ference of his lieutenant ; the latter was indignant at 
the indecision, and what he no doubt considered the in- 
competency of his general. Perhaps we may infer, 
from Clarendon's story of their early conflict, that there 
never had been any great heartiness of affection be- 
tween them. On one side the moderate men drew 
together, and held meetings as to the critical aspect of 
affairs, and the dangerous prominence into which a 
single triumphant soldier was rising. On the other, 
Cromwell separated himself more definitely from the 
Presbyterian party, taking Fairfax with him, and 
bent with an unflinching heart on a more energetic 
and conclusive prosecution of the war. 

The slight results that had followed the great victory 
of Marston Moor, Essex's reverses in the south-west, 
and the submission of his troops, helped to confirm 
Cromwell in his views. He and all the decisive party 
felt that some great stroke must be struck, before the 
royal power could be overthrown, and the poj)ular 
cause, as they esteemed it, triumph. While these dis- 


sensions were still at their height, the armies met 
once more on their old ground at Newbury.* Charles, 
inflated by the news of Montrose's triumphs in Scot- 
land, made a sudden resolve to march upon London. 
Parliament, however, collected its forces and waited his 
movement. Essex, ill at ease and despondent, refused 
to join the army and take the command ; but Man- 
chester took his place, and Cromwell headed, as before, 
the horse. After some severe skirmishing on the two 
previous days, the serious fight began on the 29th of 
October. It was long and bloody, and contested with 
desperate bravery on both sides. At night, when the 
moon rose above the field of carnage, it was unde- 
cided. The Eoyalist troops had not suffered more than 
their opponents, and still stood their ground. But 
Charles, apprehensive and hopeless of victory, with- 
drew his forces during the niglit in the direction of 
Oxford. The vigilant eye of Cromwell detected this 
movement, and he earnestly implored Manchester to 
allow him to fall with his cavalry upon the retreating 
army. But Manchester refused ; and the fruits of a 
virtual victory were again lost. 

Cromwell returned to Parliament full of gloomy 
resolves. He took Vane into his counsel, and silently 
they formed their plans for a new organisation of the 
army, and the subversion of the Presbyterian generals, 
under whose guidance so little good had come of their 
fighting. In Parliament they had to proceed cau- 
tiously, as they were still there in a considerable 
minority. His indignation, however, against Man- 
chester could not be restrained ; and he had scarcely 
returned, when he openly accused him of lack of zeal, 
and of backwardness in the cause. Ever since the 

* Where Falkland bad fallen in September 1G43. 


taking of York, following the victory at Marston Moor, 
he had seemed afraid of decisive victory, he said, " as if 
he thought the King too low, and the Parliament too 
high." Manchester retorted in the House of Lords, and 
did not spare Cromwell, whom he in turn accused of 
disrespectful and seditious language towards both the 
House of Lords and the King. He did not hesitate even 
to bring forward an unmeaning and absurd charge of 
cowardice, which Cromwell's enemies had trumped up 
against him. Great excitement and alarm prevailed 
among the Presbyterians. Cromwell had become their 
bugbear. They held consultations as to whether they 
should impeach him. Essex's house was their rendez- 
vous ; and Wliitelocke has preserved a very graphic 
account of a meeting, to attend which both he and 
Maynard were sent for in the middle of the night. It 
ended in nothing, and Cromwell only grew stronger as 
he took a higher courage from the baffled movements 
of his enemies. 

In the month of December he ventured openly upon 
the first part of the scheme which he, Vane, and others 
had concocted. The House of Commons was met in a 
grand committee, to consider the sad condition of the 
kingdom groaning under the intolerable burdens of the 
war ; and " there was a general silence for a good space 
of time,", every one waiting for the other to begin the 
unpleasant subject, when Lieutenant-General Crom- 
well rose to speak — " it being now high time to speak, 
or for ever hold the tongue," as he said. He spoke 
of the miserable condition of the country, and then of 
what the enemy, and even " those who had been 
friends at the beginning said, that the members of 
Parliament were contiuuinu; the war for their own 


private interests — having got great places and com- 
mands, and the sword in their hands ;" and then sug- 
gesting that all " strict inquiry " or recrimination 
should be abandoned as to past oversights, of which he 
admitted himself guilty as well as others ; he expressed 
a trust that, having true English hearts and zealous 
affection towards the general weal of their mother 
country, there were no members of either House who 
would scniple to deny themselves and their own private 
interests for the public good. 

The result of this ingenious movement is well 
known as the " self- denying ordinance," which, after 
much debate, and having been rejected by the Lords, 
was at length passed by both Houses. 

There has been a great deal of discussion as to 
Cromwell's particular relation to this ordinance. Did 
he mean honestly to include himself under its dis- 
qualifying clauses ? And was it merely the force of 
circumstances, and the necessities of Parliament, that 
afterwards secured him in his military command? 
Or was it part of the scheme from the first, that while 
Essex and Waller and Manchester were got rid of, he 
should be retained, and the way more completely 
opened for his ambition ? The selection of Fairfax for 
general, who was known to be under Cromwell's in- 
fluence, and the keeping open his own appointment of 
lieutenant-general, or second in command, are pre- 
sumptions in favour of the latter view. The general 
facts of the case — the improbability of men like Vane 
and Ludlow being parties to any scheme of mere 
personal ambition on Cromwell's part — the accidental 
manner in which Cromwell's services were protract- 
ed, and, with apparent reluctance, authorised by the 


Commons — Josliiia Sprigge's empliatic statement ■"' on 
the subject — all favour the former opinion. 

Any general argument on either side is beset by diffi- 
culties. It may be safely said, however, that there is no 
evidence that the men who assisted Cromwell to carry 
this measure were accomplices with him in any delibe- 
rately planned scheme of ambition to serve his interests. 
They acted mainly, no doubt, from an honest motive to 
serve their own designs, and bring the war to a success- 
ful determination. They saw that nothing but such a 
sweeping measure, and the reconstruction of the Parlia- 
mentary forces under new generals, who should be free 
from the jealousy and timidity of the old ones, could 
secure such a result. Vane and others knew Cromwell's 
great military genius and decision, without doubting at 
this time that his patriotic views w^ere similar to their 
own. They looked, therefore, without distrust on his 
continuance in his command, f Their aim was to have 
an efficient army, d'nd only secondarily, and with a 
view to this primary aim, to deprive certain officers of 
their command. As for Cromwell himself, we cannot 
believe that lie contemplated his own permanent re- 
tirement from the stage of military affairs. He knew 
his own strength and the needs of his country too 
well to allow us to suppose that he could have delibe- 
rately entertained such an idea. Essex and Waller 
and Manchester might pass from the scene. The ac- 
cidents of their lot, more than anything else, had 
placed them where they were ; and, unambitious as 

* See extract from his Anglia Bediviva, afterwards quoted, and found 
at length in Carls le, vol. i. p. 206. Sprigge was ehajjlain to Fairfax, 
and has left in this work a " florid but authentic " account of the new 
model army, by whose exertions the war was brought to a triumphant 

+ There is evidence of this, Carlyle says, p. 208, vol. i. 


both Essex and Manchester were, they laid down 
their command probably with more pleasure than 
they ever took it up. But Cromwell's charac- 
ter and position were altogether different. Of all 
men he was the genius of the crisis, and he could 
only pass away with it. To suppose that his retention 
of his command was a result of his own elaborate 
deception, consciously worked to this end, is to mistake 
his character, and to contradict certain undeniable 
facts ; but to suppose, on the other hand, that he 
doubted that his services could be retained, is to 
credit him with a dulness from which no man was 
more free. He knew all the circumstances of the 
case, and no doubt calculated on the issue. These 
circumstances, far more than any plot or direct schem- 
ing on his part or others, had the real settling of the 

The story is, and it seems perfectly credible, that he 
came to Windsor " to kiss the general's hand, and take 
leave of him, when, in the morning, ere he was gone 
forth of his chamber," certain commands were received 
by him, " than which he thought of nothing less in all 
the world," * to pursue and attack a convoy sent by 
Prince Paipert to transport the King from Oxford to 
Worcester. The connnands were from the committee 
of both kingdoms ; and immediately on receiving them 
Cromwell took horse, and not merely attacked the con- 
voy successfully, but, after his wonted manner, per- 
formed various gallant exploits in succession. Fairfax 
no doubt honestly felt that he could not want him ; 
and he and other officers accordingly petitioned Parlia- 
ment that he might be appointed lieutenant-general, 
and commander-in-chief of the horse. The Commons 
* Sprigge. 


continued his services for " forty clays," and then for 
" three months," and so on, until at last, in the glory 
of his exploits, and the need of his guidance, no one 
challenged his position, and he assumed his natural 
supremacy as the real head of the army of the Com- 

After various deeds in his old district, he is found 
on the memorable field of ISTaseby. Fairfax, who had 
laid siege to Oxford, suddenly raised it at the com- 
mand of Parliament to go in search of the King, and 
try the new army in a decisive contest. Consciously 
reliant on the stronger genius of his friend, it was then 
that he sent the message to the Commons about Crom- 
well, and that the latter, at his invitation, hastened to 
join him. They came up with the King's forces at 
Naseby, a small hamlet near Northampton ; . and here, 
on the 14th of June 1645, after three hours' fight very 
doubtful, and conspicuous deeds of bravery on both 
sides, Eupert's wonted heedlessness in pursuit, and 
Cromwell's steadiness, self-control, and his final charge 
at the head of his dragoons, decided the fate of the day. 
]S]"ever did soldiers fight better than Cromwell's troopers 
on this great day, and he was not slow to improve the 
occasion. " Sir," wrote Cromwell to the Speaker of the 
Commons House of Parliament, on the very field of 
battle, a day before the despatch of Fairfax, " this is 
none other but the hand of God ; and to Him alone 
belongs the glory wherein none are to share with Him. 
The general served you with all faithfulness and hon- 
our ; and the best commendation I can give him is, 
that I dare say he attributes all to God, and would 
rather perish than assume to himself — which is an 
honest and a thriving way ; and yet as much for bravery 
may be given to him in this action as to a man. Honest 


men served you faithfully in this action. Sir, they are 
trusty ; I beseech you in the name of God not to dis- 
courage them. He that ventures his life for the liberty 
of his country, I wish he trust God for the liberty of 
his conscience, and you for the liberty he fights for." 

The Eoyalist power was completely broken by the 
battle of Naseby. Charles in vain tried to rally new 
forces in Wales ; he in vain looked towards Scotland, 
where Montrose, after a succession of brilliant skir- 
mishes, had at length been utterly vanquished at Philips- 
haugh by Leslie. Discomfited and discouraged on all 
sides, he again withdrew into Oxford for a while. In 
the mean time, the Parliamentary forces under Crom- 
well pursued their career of victory. After having re- 
duced the " clubmen " m the south-west — for the most 
part " poor silly creatures," whom the hardships in the 
war on both sides had goaded to an active resistance 
in their own behalf — he marched towards Bristol, which 
had been lost to the Parliament in the first year of the 
war. After a vigorous storm, and obstinate resistance, 
the Parliamentary forces made themselves masters of 
its outer forts, and Prince Eupert was glad to capitu- 
late for a free exit. This may be said to have been 
the last great stroke of the war. With the fall of 
Bristol, the hopes of Eoyalism were extinguished. 
Eupert was driven forth a wanderer without an army, 
and Charles himself left without succour. 

From Bristol the triumphant Puritans marched 
southward, reducing every stronghold on their way — 
Winchester, Basing House, Wallop. In the south and 
in the west, where they had hitherto been strongest, 
the remains of the Eoyalist forces were entirely crushed. 
Sir Ealph Ilopton, one of the most honourable of all 
the commanders on the side of the King, was driven 


into Cornwall, and finally, in the following spring, 
compelled to surrender the wreck of his army, and 
betake himself to the Continent. 

The King, shut up in Oxford, moodily contemplated 
the ruin of his adherents everywhere. Sir Jacob 
Astley, almost the very last of those who kept the 
field for him, was surrounded and captured on his way 
to join him at Oxford, on the 22d of March 1646. He 
is reported to have said, as he fell into the hands of the 
enemy, " You have now done your work, and may go to 
play, unless you fall out among yourselves." Charles 
saw no rescue ; and in the end of the following month 
at midnight, on the 27th of April, he left Oxford in 
disguise, and sought shelter in the Scottish camp at 

This closed the "First Civil War;" four years of 
bloody and varying struggle, in which one man, more 
than any other, amidst all its vicissitudes, had been 
seen to rise step by step. At the opening of the war 
his name had been little more than heard of within 
the precincts of Westminster, — at its close, his fame 
was second to none in England. The Parliament 
hastened to do honour to him. He was welcomed 
with state, and received the thanks of the House for 
his " great and many services." A pension of .£'2500 
was settled on himself and family, and certain land 
granted to him as a security for the allowance. 

It is no part of our plan to endeavour to trace the 
thread of movements and negotiations which fol- 
lowed Charles's retirement to the Scottish camp — his 
continued refusal to come under the conditions of the 
Covenant — his attempts to play off the Presbyterians 
against the Independents and the Independents against 
the Presbyterians — the failure of the treaty of New- 

' CROMWELL. 109 

castle — the King's surrender into the hands of the Par- 
liament — and the further train of negotiations which 
sprang from this event. These two years' intrigues, in 
all their meaning and aims, remain still very intricate 
and baffling to the historical student. In all that 
concerns Cromwell especially, the entanglement is 
extreme ; and it cannot be said that the most recent 
elucidations clear up anything here. To what extent 
Cromwell deliberately encouraged and abetted the 
schemes of the army — to what extent he was drawn 
along unwillingly into these schemes, and forced by 
the necessity of his position to act as he did — as the 
only condition of saving himself and his compatriots — 
it is difficult to say. The more we look at all the cir- 
cumstances, the more does the idea of conscious design 
on the part of Cromwell to guide the conflict to its 
issue recede into the background ; and that issue itself 
appear as a terrible retribution waiting on the hopeless 
jealousies of rival interests, as yet inflamed rather than 
satisfied by the blood that had been shed on both 
sides. The result long hung in the balance. The 
Parliament, backed by the city, was really bent on 
settlement with the King, if he would only adopt the 
Covenant and authorise the Presbyterian form of Church 
government. The army, confident in its own strength, 
and especially in the thoroughness and earnestness of 
its fanatical convictions, had no thoughts of com- 
promise. As between the two, Cromwell and others 
seemed to mediate ; but all his sympathies and all his 
convictions were with the army. He knew them and 
they knew him. He himself may have been really 
anxious to treat with Charles ; there may have been 
even some foundation for the alleged agreement be- 
tween them, whereby he was to receive an earldom 


and the government of Ireland ; there can be no 
doubt that his frequent presence at Hampton had 
nearly excited to outbreak the jealous fanaticism of 
the army. But he could, nevertheless, have scarcely be- 
lieved in the possibility of a reconcilement at this time ; 
he saw with too open an eye all the difficulties of the 

Whatever sincerity may have animated Cromwell in 
the various projects for a settlement, there was no 
sincerity on Charles's part. His duplicity strength- 
ened as his weakness increased. It had become a 
part of his nature, nay, of his religion ; and while with 
the one hand he professed to yield, with the other he 
communicated to the Queen that she might be entirely 
easy as to his concessions which he made, as he had 
no intention of observing them when the time came. 
The story of Cromwell and Ireton discovering the 
King's secret correspondence with the Queen sewed up 
in a saddle on the way to Dover, may be apocryphal, 
but it is perfectly conceivable. And even, as a story, 
it symbolised the universal feeling as to Charles's in- 
veterate and hopeless falsehood. This feeling, that it 
was impossible to bmd him — that after all that had 
been gained nothing was really secure if he was only 
restored to power — coupled with the mounting fana- 
ticism and proud resentment of the army, which had 
already begun to look on the King as the great criminal 
whose arbitrary ambition had been the cause of so 
much bloodshed in the country, effectually rendered 
all projects of treaty impracticable, and was fast pre- 
paring the way for the tragedy which was to end the 

The great meeting at Windsor, in the beginning of 
1648, bears a marked significance in this point of view. 

CKOMWELL. 1 1 1 

It is plain that the idea of Charles's fate had then be- 
come fixed in the minds of the leaders of the army. The 
picture is an awful and exciting one — lurid with the wild 
gleam of religious passion, and darkened by the clouds of 
political hatred. There is a peculiar mystery of horror, 
now as at all times, in the mixture of divine ideas with 
men's hates, jealousies, and revenges. " After one whole 
day spent in prayer, on the next day, after many had 
spoken from the word and prayed, Lieutenant-General 
Cromwell did press very earnestly on all present to a 
thorough consideration of our actions as an army, and 
of our ways, particularly as private Christians, to see if 
any iniquity could be found in them, and what it was, 
that if possible we might find it out, and so remove 
the cause of such sad rebukes as were upon us." . . . 
Then after another day's self-examination and prayer, 
and " bitter weeping, so that none was liardly able to 
speak a word to each other, they were led and helped 
to a clear agreement among themselves, not only dis- 
cerning that it was the duty of our day, with the forces 
we had, to go out and fight against those potent ene- 
mies which that year in all places appeared against us, 
with a humble confidence in the name of the Lord, 
only that we should destroy them. . . . And we were 
also enabled then after sermon, seeking His face, to 
come to a very clear and formal resolution on many 
grounds at large then debated amongst us : that it 
was our duty, if ever the Lord brought us again in peace, 
to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to account for 
that blood he had shed and mischief he had done to 
his utmost against the Lord's cause and people in these 
poor nations. "■^' 

It is pleasing to turn from this unhappy picture to 

•■ Carlyle, vol. i. p. 313. 


contemplate our hero in a different liglit. Of his 
family we do not learn much in those years, but they 
had now grown up around him. Of his five sons, in- 
deed, only two remained. The eldest, Eobert, had 
died in 1639, at Felsted, where he had probably been 
living with his maternal grandfather, who had his 
country-seat there. The burial registers of that parish 
contain a singular entry regarding him, celebrating his 
piety and speaking of his father as t'lr honoraiidus. 
He died at the age of nineteen, in the full promise of 
his opening manhood {fuit exiniic 2'>'i'US juveniss, dcum 
timcns supra multos, says the register) : and there can 
now be no doubt that it was to this untimely and bitter 
stroke that the father alluded, in the memorable words 
as to " his eldest son," that he uttered on his deathbed.* 
Although no trace of it is to be found in any of his 
correspondence, the deep sorrow had yet sunk into his 
heart, to come forth to the light again in the moment 
of his own approaching fate. His second son Oliver, 
who lived to be a cornet in the eighth troop of what 
was called " Earl Bedford's horse," was slain in battle, 
but at what particular date remains unknown. His 
two eldest daughters were both married in the spring 
of 1646 ; the one to Ireton, and the second to Clay- 
pole, who became " Master of the Horse" to Cromwell. 
His peculiar attachment to " Lady Claypole " is 
well known. Writing from Scotland in 1651, he says, 
with the j)eculiar brief pathos at times characteristic 

* See Foster's Essay on the Civil Wars and Cromwell, an admirable 
piece of historical criticism, like all the other writings of the author 
on this fruitful time. For the discovery of the parish register of Fel- 
sted, and the fact that Cromwell's eldest son lived to manhood— a fact 
um-ecognised even in Mr Carlyle's volumes — the public are indebted to 
Mr Foster. Both Mr Carlyle and Guizot make the words of the death- 
bed refer to the death of Oliver (the second son) . 


of liim : " I earnestly and frequently pray for licr and 
for liim [her husband]. Truly they are dear to me — 
very dear." We nowhere, however, trace his hand in 
correspondence with her. 

The following remarkable letter is addressed to his 
elder daughter, Mrs Ireton, in the autumn of 1646, 
while the negotiations with the King were proceeding. 
It deserves to be set before the reader fully in the light 
which it casts upon the character of both father and 
daughter. The intensity of religious persuasion which 
animated both comes out very strongly. After excus- 
ing himself for not writing to her husband, from the 
laudable and considerate plea that " one line of mine be- 
gets many of his, which I doubt makes him sit up too 
late," he continues : " Your friends at Ely are well ; 
your sister Claypole is, I trust in mercy, exercised 
with some perplexed thoughts. She sees her own 
vanity and carnal mind ; bewailing it, she seeks 
after (as I hope also) what will satisfy : and thus to be 
a seeker is to be of the best sect next to a finder; and 
such an one shall every faithful humble seeker be at 
the end. Happy seeker, happy finder ! Who ever 
tasted that the Lord is gracious, without some sense 
of self- vanity and badness ? Who ever tasted that 
graciousness of His, and could go less in desire — less 
than pressing after full enjoyment? Dear heart, press 
on ; let not husband, let not anything cool thy affec- 
tions after Christ. I hope he will be an occasion to 
inflame them. That which is best worthy of love 
in thy husband is that of the image of Christ he bears. 
Look on that and love it best, and all the rest for that. 
I pray for thee and him ; do so for me. " Surely touch- 
ing and grand words ! No indifference or derision 
can empty them of their meaning. There is a reality 



and weight of meaning in every sentence, beside which 
the common sort of religious commonplace is dim and 
pale. That tliey came from our hero's heart none can 
doubt, however they may try in vain to fathom the 
strange mystery of this heart. 

The long, intermitting correspondence regarding the 
marriage of his son Kichard, serves also to present him 
in a very characteristic light. It began in February 
1647-8, and did not terminate till April 1649. It is 
marked by eminent sense and shrewdness, and a 
prudent forethought and care as to settlements in his 
son's interest. There is a swift decisive summariness 
in it, and a force of meaning in every sentence no less 
notable than in his more serious letters. It matters 
not what the business in hand may be, Cromwell Avould 
have it done at once and well. Eichard's character 
also stands clearly depicted in these letters as that of a 
good, easy, and unambitious man, of gentle, cheerful, 
and strong affections, but singularly unendowed by 
any of his father's vigorous and aspiring temper.* 

The meeting of the army leaders, we have seen, took 
place in the spring of 1648 ; and the Presbyterians, 
now finally alienated from the Independents, were 
already active in discontent and open tumult. In 
Kent, in Wales, and in the north, there were signs of 
renewed agitation on behalf of the King. The Scotch 
had at length declared in favour of Eoyalty, against 
the " Sectaries," and entered England, 40,000 strong, 
under the command of the Duke of Hamilton. Leav- 
ing a portion of the Eepublican party at St Alban's to 

* On the Cth of April 1649, Cromwell writes to his " woi-thy friend, 
Richard Mayor, Esquire, at Horsley," thus : " Sir — My son had a great 
desire to come down and wait upon your daughter. I perceive that he 
minds that mwe than to attend to business here" [London]. 


overav/e the capital (doubtfully Presbyterian), Crom- 
well marched towards Wales, and began what has 
been called the " Second Civil War." It was but of 
brief continuance. At the head of his veterans he 
attacked and took Pembroke Castle, and speedily sub- 
dued Wales. He then hurried northwards to encoun- 
ter the Scotch under Hamilton. The battle of Preston, 
in the month of August, may be said to finish the 
campaign. Nothing could be more complete than 
the disaster which he inflicted on the immense and 
disorderly mass of the Scotch army, but imperfectly 
hearty in the cause for which they fought. His suc- 
cess was again everywhere complete. The Kirk party 
in Scotland, headed by Argyle, lent their influence to 
aid his designs. The conqueror advanced into Edin- 
burgh, took up his abode in the " Earl of Murrie's 
house in the Cannigate " there ; accepted a great 
banquet from the submissive Covenanters ; and, hav- 
ing put things in order to his mind, returned south- 
wards. He was again in England, busy with renewed 
negotiations about the King before the close of the 

The Royalist interests were now everywhere crushed. 
The Presbyterians, still nominally a majority in Par- 
liament, were in reality defeated. The army had en- 
tirely broken wdth them, and its leaders were already 
the true masters of England. They knew their power, 
and waited their opportunity. While Cromwell tar- 
ried in the north, extinguishing the last embers of 
Eoyalist disaffection. Parliament made one more last 
effort to come to an understanding with the King, 
and so arrest the power of the Revolution, which 
it felt was fast sweeping towards itself It was 
in vain. The forty days' treaty of IsTewport came to 


nothing, like all its predecessors. Charles was hope- 
less ; long-practised craft had poisoned the very foun- 
tains of trust in him, and treaty with him was no longer 
possible. The Parliament had ceased to be powerful ; 
the force which it had evoked in its own defence had 
risen up against it ; its creature had grown to be its 
master. While other interests had suffered from the 
continuance of the war, the army had risen on their 
weakness or ruins, and it now stood the only govern- 
ing power in England. 

On the 20th of November we find Oliver at Knot- 
tingley, writing to Fairfax as to the grievances of the 
army, and his quiet determination to support them. All 
the regiments had petitioned against the treaty of New- 
port, and " for justice and a settlement of the king- 
dom" — a sufficiently ominous petition! Cromwell 
expresses his sympathy with them, and is persuaded 
that the cause is a good cause — nay, a divine one. 
" I find," he says, " in the officers of the regiments a 
very great sense of the sufferings of this poor kingdom ; 
and in them all a very great zeal to have impartial 
justice done upon offenders. And I must confess I 
do in all, from my heart, concur with them ; and I 
verily think, and am persuaded, that they are things 
which God puts into our hearts." 

At the same time, only a few days later, he writes 
to Colonel Hammond, who was in charge of the 
King in the Isle of Wight, one of his most re- 
markable letters.* We can read in it the struggling 
depths of his spirit, and the stern though confused 
strength of his convictions. Undivine as these con- 
victions may seem to us, they seemed to him to rest on 
an eternal foundation. Hypocrisy is about the very last 
♦ Caulyle, i. 393. 


word we should think of applying to them. It is not 
a double mind, hut a too intense and absorbed mind, 
out of which they come. It is the madness of a fixed 
idea, and not the treachery of a false nature, of which 
they are born. The fearful duty towards which he 
points, is obviously no pretence of language, but the 
overmastering impress of a diseased faith, which has 
taken up into its supposed divine warrant all human 
scruples and personal interests, and sublimated them 
till they seem celestial in the consecrating halo through 
which he views them. " If the Lord have in any mea- 
sure persuaded His people of the lawfulness — nay, of 
the duty — this j^^rsuasion ijrcvailing upon the heart is 
faith : and acting thereupon, is acting in faith ; and the 
more the difficulties are, the more the faith." Out of 
such a faith, it is not difficult to see what duties — nay, 
what crimes — might grow. 

This letter to young Hammond never reached its 
destination. He had been wavering for some time in 
his trust, puzzled and awestruck, as well he might be, 
by the dire crisis gathering around him. With his 
scruples, " dear Eobin " was not to be trusted, even 
to the force of such arguments as Cromwell's let- 
ter contained ; and, accordingly, a more imperative 
argument is served upon him in the shape of an order 
to remove to headquarters at Windsor, while a less 
scrupulous Colonel Ewer, who had already distin- 
guished himself by his forwardness in the presenta- 
tion of the army remonstrance to the Parliament, 
beset the royal lodgings at Newport, and removed the 
King to a more solitary and secure confinement in 
Hurst Castle. 

Things now rapidly approached the end which 
Cromwell and others had foreseen and prepared for 


some time. The Commons refused to entertain the 
remonstrance of the army by a large majority. The 
news rekindled the military devotion which we have 
already seen so ominous in its results. After a day 
spent in prayer, the army resolved to march upon 
London. This was on the 2d of December. On the 
4th, Parliament had not only dismissed the army re- 
monstrance, but decided, by a majority of forty-six, 
that his Majesty's concessions in the treaty of New- 
port were a ground of settlement. On the 6th, two 
regiments — one of cavalry, and one of foot — were 
marched into Palace Yard, and into AVestminster Hall ; 
and Colonel Pride, with a paper in his hand, contain- 
ing a list of the obstinate majority, furged* the Parlia- 
ment of refractory Presbyterians, and left the Inde- 
pendents victors on the floor of St Stephen's as in 
the ranks of the army. 

The result is well known. The House of Com- 
mons, tliinned in numbers — reduced to a mere frac- 
tion of its numbers — resolved to impeach the King, 
and bring him to trial. The Lords tried to interpose 
some obstacles when the ordinance instituting a high 
court to try the King came before them. Man- 
chester, Denbigh, and Pembroke declared they would 
have nothing to do with it. " I would be torn to 
pieces, rather than take part in so infamous a busi- 
ness," said Denbigh. The Commons, however, deter- 
mined to proceed without them, and the High Court 
of Justice, with John Bradshaw at its head, began 
its proceedings on the 8th of January. After three 
weeks' sitting, and many strange and exciting inci- 
dents, the King was condemned on the 27th. His 
lofty and quiet mien, in contrast with that of his rude 

* Carlyle's picture of this famous event is very graphic- -p. 399. 


and stormy accusers, has stamped itself indelibly on 
the historical imagination. It is an impressive and 
touching picture. Charles appeared the hero at last, 
when the long web of his craft had run out, and he 
was thrown back upon the simple dignity of his kingly 

On the 29th, the warrant for the execution was 
signed and sealed ; and on the following day, in 
"the open street before Whitehall," Charles Stuart, 
"king of England," was beheaded amid the tears of 
his attendants and the wonder of the multitude. 

Cromwell apparently took no siKcial share in these 
proceedings. There is no reason whatever to believe, 
as has been represented, that he had the King's life in 
his hands ; and the stories as to the visit of his cousin, 
and other interpositions made with him on the King's 
behalf, are in the main mere exaggerations. What credit 
is due to the other and less worthy stories as to his 
strange, mad levity — his smearing Henry Martin's 
face with ink, after his signing the death-warrant, and 
Martin in turn smearing his, it is difficult to say. He 
had such a mad turn with him, beyond doubt. The ter- 
rible workings of his inner life, the tumult of principle 
and aspiration which often raged within him, sometimes 
broke out in this ungovernable manner, showing, yet 
hiding, the wild surging of passion within in an unintel- 
ligible uproar and folly of external manner. It is a suffici- 
ently awful contrast — the buffoonery of the triumphant 
soldier, and the pathetic dignity of the fallen monarch ; 
but even if that traditionary imagination, which is 
always tender to suffering and severe to successful 
principle, has not given much of the contrasted colour- 
ing to the two pictures, we must remember that the 
character of a great historical event is not to be decided 


by tlie mere beauty or ofFensiveness of its accidents. 
Crime or not, the death of Charles seemed, beyond 
doubt, to those who were concerned in it, the inevitable 
issue of the great struggle in which they had been 
engaged. It w^as the ending of the tragedy — the Nemesis 
of long years of suffering and tyranny. The pathos 
of it must ever move our pity ; but even our horror of 
it forms no ground on which utterly to condemn it. 

Cromwell Avas now virtually master of England. 
As head of the army, he was the head of the nation. 
It is true that Fairfax still continued nominally 
first in command ; and that Cromwell, even some 
time after this, professed not only a willingness, but 
apparent eagerness, to serve under his old friend, say- 
ing he would rather do so than command the greatest 
army in Europe.* But while this nominal precedence 
was still conceded 'to Fairfax, the real power and su- 
premacy lay with our hero. A Council of State was 
appointed to manage the executive in civil affairs ; and 
Cromwell consented to go with the flower of his vete- 
rans to Ireland, and reduce that kingdom to civil order 
and obedience. 

A stern duty, however, awaited him in the first in- 
stance. The spirit of insubordination continued to 
spread in the army. So far, he had yielded to this spirit, 
and identified himself with it. The King's death had 
been hastened on and accomplished under its exciting 
influence, sweeping all before it, and really controlling 
the organisation of Parliament, while the latter yet pro- 
fessed to act in some measure independently and ac- 
cording to its lawful forms. It was clear, however, that 
unless the spirit of agitation was checked, the bonds of 
all order would be dissolved, and government rendered 

* Russel's Cromwell, vol. ii. p. 45. 


impossible. Cromwell saw and appreciated the crisis ; 
and, secure of the main leaders, who had been actively 
concurring with him in the King's death, and whose 
ambition and vengeance were fully satiated for the 
time, he resolved to strike a swift and effective blow 
on the first reappearance of disorder. Accordingly, a 
mutiny having broken out in Whalley's regiment, the 
prominent disturbers were seized, tried by court-mar- 
tial, and one of the most vehement of them shot down 
forthwith in St Paul's Churchyard. The disturbance 
spreading to the regiments quartered in the country, 
the same effective measures were adopted. Lilburne, a 
particularly noisy agitator of the time, was securely 
imprisoned, other ringleaders were shot, and the 
" levellers " everywhere quelled. It was a moment of 
imminent danger ; and what it might have come to, 
save for the energy of the Lieutenant-General, it is diffi- 
cult to say. But here, as everywhere, he was master 
of the moment ; and while he saved his country 
from anarchy, he raised his own fortunes to a higher 

The career of victory on which he now entered — at 
the head of an army that had learned respect, as well 
as affection for him — first in Ireland, and then in Scot- 
land, is written broadly in the history of his country. 
The mingled glory and carnage of his Irish campaign 
have formed a theme for the eulogy of his admirers, 
and the detractions of his enemies almost equally. 
The military genius which it displayed, the swift energy 
and decision of his movements, the terrible grandeur 
of his work, all admit ; while there are few who can 
read without horror the indiscriminate slaughter which 
he not only permitted, but encouraged and authorised. 
The single defence that can be offered for his cruelty 


was its necessity. He had undertaken the task of paci- 
fymg Ireland ; and this task could only be accom- 
plished by the exhibition of a power calculated to over- 
awe and subdue the unruly elements which then every- 
where raged in that country. Cromwell knew this. 
He knew that nothing short of an example of resistless 
determination and might could effect his purpose. 
This is his own excuse ; and in war it is and must 
ever be held a valid excuse. Severity is, then, truly 
mercy in the end. As he himself says, " Truly, I 
believe this bitterness " (putting every man of the gar- 
rison of Drogheda to death) " will save much effusion 
of blood, through the goodness of God." One shudders 
indeed to read of the goodness of God in connection with 
such carnage, and still more to read the explanations 
which he gives more at length in his communication 
to the Speaker of the Commons. " It was set upon 
some of our hearts that a great thing should be done, 
not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God. And 
is it not so clearly? That which caused your men to 
storm so courageously, it was the Spirit of God, who 
gave your men courage. " Such words breathe more than 
the vengeance of the old Theocracy against the Canaan- 
ites ; and it was the same spirit, no doubt, that animated 
these Puritan warriors, and made them march to siege 
and battle with Bible watchwords in their mouths, 
and the fury of unholy wrath in their hearts. There 
is nothing to be said in defence of the spirit from any 
Scriptural point of view. Every such defence must pro- 
ceed upon utterly mistaken grounds ; but if the spirit 
cannot be defended, the policy which employed it, and 
made it subservient, not merely to the physical subju- 
gation, but the moral ordering of a kingdom, may be 
excused, and even vindicated. 


In the course of nine months, Ireland was all but 
subdued, and Cromwell, leaving the completion of 
the work to Ireton, hastened back to London in con- 
nection with the pressing state of matters in Scotland. 
There Puritanism had renewed the alliance with Roy- 
alty. Charles II. had taken, or professed to take, the 
Covenant ; and the Scottish nation, with its religious 
conscience thus dubiously quieted, had armed itself to 
maintain his rights, and set up again the fabric of 
sovereign authority in the two kingdoms. The exist- 
ence of the Commonwealth was seriously threatened, 
and a blow must be struck immediately before the 
threatening evil spread into England. Cromwell was 
the only man to strike this blow. He and the Council, 
indeed, professed to urge the command upon Fairfax. 
It is difficult to suppose that he could have been sin- 
cere in this ; yet we need not suppose that he merely 
acted a part.'"' His real intention, probably, was to 
bring Fairfax to a point ; to force him either to an 
active service, which he knew was far from congenial 
to him, or to compel him to give up his commission — a 
result which he accomplished. He set out for Scotland, 
for the first time, " Captain-general and commander- 
in-chief of all the forces raised, or to be raised, by au- 
thority of ParKament, within the Commonwealth of 

No part of Cromwell's career is more exciting, pic- 
turesque, and instructive as to his character, than his 
Scottish campaign. His long letters to the clergy ; 
the zeal and effect with which he criticises their argu- 
ments, and assails their position ; his respect for the 
religious earnestness opposed to him, and yet his 

* Ludlow, in his sneering, deprecatory way, saj^s, " Crcmwell acted 
his part so to the life, that I really thought he wished Fairfax to go." 


scorn for its narrowness ; the wisdom of many of 
his remarks on Christian liberty and Church policy, 
are all deeply interesting. Presbyterianism then, 
and always has, shown but a slight capacity to see 
through its own formulse to the living truth beyond. 
With what smiling yet strong irony does the great 
soldier try to raise it to a higher point of view ! Ad- 
dressing the " Commissioners of the Kirk," he asks, 
" Is it therefore infallibly agreeable to the word of 
God all that you say ? I beseech you in the bowels of 
Christ, tliink it possible you may be mistaken. Precept 
may be upon precept, line may be upon line, and yet the 
word of the Lord may be to some a word of judgment, 
that they may fall backward and be broken, and be 
snared and taken." * Again, a month later, in a letter 
to "the Governor of Edinburgh Castle," who had 
written on behalf of the ministers : " Are you troubled 
that Christ is preached ? Is preaching so exclusively 
your function? Is it against the Covenant? Away 
with the Covenant if this be so ! . . . Where do you 
find in the Scriptures a ground to warrant such an 
assertion, that preaching is exclusively your function ? 
Though an approbation from men hath order in it, and 
may do well, yet he that hath no better warrant than 
that hath none at all. Approbation is an act of con- 
veniency in respect of order — not of necessity to give 
faculty to preach the gospel. Yoiir pretended fear, 
lest error should step in, is like the man wJio woidd keep 
all the ivine out of the country, lest men should he drunk." "f 
Yet again, in the same letters : " We look at ministers 
as helpers of, not lords over, God's people. I appeal 
to their consciences whether any person, trying their 
doctrines and dissenting, shall not incur the censure of 

* Carlyle, ii. "20. t C,\RLTLE, ii. 64. 


sectary. And what is this hut to deny Christians their 
liberty, and assume the infallible chair ? What doth 
he, lohom lue would not be likened unto, do more than 
this ? " 

Such is the intellectual and theological side of 
Cromwell, on his second memorable visit to Scotland. 
The militaiy side is not less impressive. Of all his 
military achievements, that of his retreat to Dun- 
bar, and subsequent battle, is perhaps the greatest, if 
for no other reason than because, for the first time in 
the course of his conquering career, we see him in 
straits through which he cannot get " almost without 
a miracle." " The enemy hath blocked up our way," 
he writes, '"' " and our lying here daily consumeth our 
men, who fall sick beyond imagination." But the force 
of his genius rises with the occasion. " Our spirits are 
comfortable, praised be the Lord, though our present 
condition be as it is. . . . Whatever become of us, it 
will be Avell for you to get what forces you can to- 
gether." Nowhere does he seem more the hero. No 
scene in all his life is at once more striking and 
simple in its grandeur — the half-famished troops, lying 
weary and exhausted with their fruitless marches 
in search of an enemy that had refused to fight them, 
but had hung in their retreat, with a harassing tena- 
city, on their rear ; their turning to bay in the narrow 
corner (" the pass at Copperspath ") in which they 
were hemmed, with tlie hills before them covered by 
the enemy, and the sea behind ; the night of storm 
and " hail clouds ; " the quiet magnanimity of his let- 
ter to Haselrig ; the eagerness with which he watched 
the Scottish troops descend from their vantage-ground ; 

* Letter to Sir A. Haselrig at Newcastle, dated " Dunbar, '2d Sep- 
tember 1G50." 


the prayer and the pealing watchword — " The Lord of 
Hosts" — as it rang through the English ranks in the 
morning; the terrible charge upon the half-sleeping 
and drenched Scotch; and the cry which Hodgson 
heard burst from him as they first wavered and fled, 
" They run ! I profess they run ! " 

The Scotch, after their defeat at Dunbar, rallied at 
Stirling; but their councils were divided, and their 
strength effectually broken. Some of them, irrespec- 
tive of the Covenant, were disposed to embrace the 
Royal cause. Others, in zeal for the Covenant, dis- 
trusted the King and his special adherents. Tliere 
were, in fact, three parties : a right, left, and middle — 
a Eoyal, Eeligious, and Eoyalist-religious, or official 
party — Malignants, Whigs or Remonstrants, and 
" .Kesolutioners " — so called from their having carried 
tlirough the Parliament and Assembly a set of resolu- 
tions for the admission of Malignants to fight in the 
general cause of covenanted Royalty. It was a great 
satisfaction to Cromwell that, the genuine Covenanters 
or "Whigs having been dispersed in the west by Major 
Whalley, he was left to fight it out with the two other 
parties, for whom he had comparatively little respect. 
His visits to Linlithgow and Glasgow, where Mr 
Zachary Boyd " railed on his soldiers to their very 
face in the High Church ; "* his correspondence with 
tlie heads of the Remonstrant party; his siege of 
Edinburgh Castle and its surrender, fill up the events 
of the year. Then follow, his somewhat serious illness 
during the winter in his old lodging, the " Earl of 
Murrie's house in the Canigate;" his second visit to 
Glasgow; his church-going, and personal conferences 
with the clergy, who hesitated not in his presence to 

* Baillie, iii. 119. 


"give a fair testimony against the Sectaries;"* re- 
newed operations hither and thither in the spring 
(1651) near to Stirling, and across to Burntisland ; the 
breaking of the Eoyalist army from Stirling, and its 
march into England ; his march in pursuit, and the 
great and decisive victory of Worcester on the 3d of 
September, the anniversary of the day of Dunbar. 

The battle of Worcester was, as he wrote, his " crown- 
ing mercy;" "as stiff a contest for four or five hours 
as ever I have seen." The Scots fought with desperate 
bravery, but their efforts were of no avail. The star 
of Cromwell was in the ascendant. The passion of a 
great strength which had never been broken in battle, 
was upon him, and carried him resistlessly to victory. 
Carlyle says grandly, " The small Scotch army, be- 
girdled with overpowering force, and cut off from help 
or reasonable hope, storms forth in fiery pulses, horse 
and foot ; charges now on this side of the river, and 
now on that ; can on no side prevail ; Cromwell recoils 
a little, but only to rally and return irresistible ; the 
small Scotch army is on every side driven in again ; 
its fiery pulsings are but the struggle of death ; agonies 
as of a lion coiled in the folds of a boa." f 

Cromwell returned in triumph to London after an 
absence of fifteen months, during which he had more 
securely established his power over the army, and en- 
hanced his fame by two great battles. It is not to 
be supposed that he and the other chiefs of the army 
would be more deferential to the " Eump" of a Parlia- 
ment (little more than a hundred members) still sit- 
ting in Westminster, than they had been to the same 
assembly wlien in comparative strength and consider- 
ation. On its part the Parliament was sufficiently 

* Baillie, 1G5. t Caulyle, ii. 142. 


deferential, four of its most dignified members Laving 
been commissioned to meet the conqueror at Ayles- 
bury with congratulations, and to accompany him as 
he entered London amid the obeisance of Lord Presi- 
dent and Council, Sheriffs, and Mayors, and the shout- 
ing of the multitude. " In the midst of all," White- 
locke says, " Cromwell carried himself with much affa- 
bility." Afterwards, indeed, his bearing was criticised. 
His chaplain, Hugh Peters, told Ludlow that he dis- 
cerned in his master on the occasion, a certain inward 
elevation and excitement of conscious greatness, as if he 
already saw within his grasp the crown and sovereignty 
of England — so much so, that he (the chaplain) had said 
to himself, " This man will be king of England yet." 
Beyond all doubt, Cromwell returned from his great 
successes in Ireland and Scotland, if not a changed 
man, yet with far higher and clearer aims for himself 
and his country. It was impossible that he should 
not feel how the reins of power had been gathered into 
his hand, and that if the nation was to be settled after 
its long and exhausting conflicts, he must himself 
undertake the settlement of it. It is vain for any 
to talk of unprincipled craft and ambition at this 
stage of his career.* Circumstances had made him 
first the hero, and now the virtual sovereign of his 

Still, for nearly two years, he remained without any 
special assumption of sovereignty, while Parliament 
was engaged in endless debates and negotiations as to 
its dissolution, and the arrangements for a new repre- 
sentative. Such debates had commenced from the 
time of the King's execution, but gone to sleep during 
the Scottish campaign. Cromwell's return brought 

* As Guizot even in his latest biography does. 


them to life again, and by a majority tlie "Eump" 
agreed to its dissolution three years hence. 

Many conferences were held in the mean time, at 
Cromwell's house at Whitehall, with the chiefs of the 
army and divers of the Parliamentary leaders, as to 
the order of government ; some, especially the law- 
yers, arguing in favour of a limited monarchy under 
the King's son— others, with almost all the officers of 
the army, declaring in favour of a republic. While 
these negotiations were proceeding in London, and the 
soldiers of the Commonwealth were resting from their 
stern struggles, and enjoying the excitement of politi- 
cal discussion and petitioning, its sailors, under Blake 
and Dean, were achieving glorious triumphs over the 
Dutch,* and establishing its supremacy on the seas and 
throughout Europe. The " Eump " calmly took the 
triumphant course of events as its own, and seemed 
less disinclined than before to resign its position and 
influence. The army became impatient, and petitioned 
more vehemently; conferences increased at the Lord 
General's house. Parliament at length resolved on 
instant dissolution — a whole year earlier than it had 
first intended ; but the bill by which the members of 
the "Eump" proposed to carry their resolution into 
effect, was clogged with such conditions as should 
secure their own return to the new Parliament, and 
their effectual influence over its composition, f Such 
a proposal deeply incensed Cromwell and the army, 
and he determined to prevent its passing. 

The act by which he accomplished this was one of 
the most questionable, if also one of the most scenic 
and daring in the upward course of his ambition. Its 
external features stamped themselves vividly on the 

* March 1653. + Guizot's Cromwell, 348, vol. i. 



memories of those who witnessed it, and were long 
afterwards remembered with a mixture of fear and 

The Lord General was busy in consultation on the 
ever-renewed subject of the government of the country, 
with the officers of the army and certain members of 
Parliament, waiting for others who had promised to 
come, on the 20th April (1653), when, instead of the 
expected members, a message came that the House 
was intent on hurrying through its bill. Deeply 
moved, Cromwell is yet represented as veiy reluctant 
to act, when Colonel Ingoldsby arrived, exclaiming, 
" If you mean to do anything decisive, you have no 
time to lose." Vane was earnestly pressing the 
measure to a vote, notwithstanding Harrison's dis- 
suasions. It seemed likely that he should succeed in 
his object. Cromwell at length made up his mind 
and hastened to Westminster, taking a troop of mus- 
keteers with him from his own regiment. These he 
disposed to suit his purpose, and then entered him- 
self and " sat down as he used to do in an ordinary 
place." His appearance and the cut of his clothes, as 
on former occasions, were all remembered. He was 
" clad in plain black clothes and grey worsted stock- 
ings ;" and the old passion and fervour, as when he had 
some great work to do, gleamed in his eye. For a 
while he listened with apparent calmness to the de- 
bate. Vane was still speaking, and as he urged the 
immediate passage of the bill, Cromwell beckoned to 
Harrison, saying, " This is the time, I must do it." On 
Harrison's representation, however, he still remained 
for a quarter of an hour, until Vane ceased speaking, 
and the question was about to be put from the 
chair, " That this bill do now pass," when he rose, put 


down his hat, and addressed the House, at first in 
a measured and rather complimentary manner, till, 
waxing hot with the burning thoughts that had been 
long on his mind, he changed his tone, and vehe- 
mently reproached them with their injustice, delays, 
and self-interest. "Your time is come," he exclaimed, 
as his violence increased and almost mastered him,* 
"your time is come, the Lord hath done with you; 
He has chosen other instruments for the carrying on of 
His work that are more worthy." Several members -}- 
interposed, " but he would suffer none but himself to 
speak." At length Sir Peter Wentworth found voice, 
and spoke for a little, upbraiding Cromwell for his 
unbecoming language and ingratitude as a trusted 
servant of the Commonwealth. But this only further 
kindled his passion, and, thrusting his hat upon his 
head, and leaping into the centre of the floor, he cried, 
" Come, come, we have had enough of this — I'll put 
an end to your prating." As he spoke, he stamped 
upon the floor and beckoned to Harrison, " Call them 
in," when the doors flew open and his musketeers 
made their appearance. " You are no Parliament," he 
exclaimed, as he wildly walked up and down, flinging 
taunts at the members all round. " I say you are no 
Parliament ; begone, give way to honester men. Some 
of you are drunkards," and he looked on Mr Chal- 
loner. " Some of you are adulterers," and his eye 
searched poor Sir Peter Wentworth and Henry Marty n. 
He walked up to the table on which lay the mace 
carried before the Speaker, " "What shall we do with 
this bauble ? " he said ; " take it away. It's you that 

* He spoke, says Ludlow, " with so much jjassion and discomposure 
of mind as if he had been distracted." 
i" Vane and Martyn. 


have forced me to tins ; " "I have sought the Lord 
night and day that He would rather slay me than put 
me up on the doing of this ; but now begone." One by 
one they rose and left — a special shaft being aimed at 
Sir Harry Vane as he ventured some further remon- 
strance on departure. " Sir Harry Vane — Sir Harry 
Vane — ^the Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane." 
The house was cleared, the door locked, and the key 
and the mace carried away ; and so ended for the time 
the great Parliament of England, so glorious in its be- 
ginning, so feeble and ridiculous in its close. 

This may be said to mark the conclusion of the 
second period of Cromwell's career. Hitherto he has 
appeared first as the Puritan patriot and man of the 
people, and then as the great and successful warrior 
of the Commonwealth. The transformation has been 
sufficiently astonishing, from the farmer of St Ives to 
the conqueror of Ireland and the victor of Dunbar and 
Worcester. He is still to show himself in another and 
perhaps higher character ; but before proceeding, we 
may pause briefly to characterise his military genius. 

In no other great hero, not even in Alexander or 
Napoleon, do we recognise a more intuitive military 
genius, more exact appreciation of the difficulties to 
be overcome, more prompt and skilful boldness in 
meeting them, more decision in council, more terrible 
energy in action, above all, more quiet consciousness of 
strength, more effective control of himself and others, 
till at the right point he could apply all his resources 
and bear down opposition with an overwhelming mas- 
tery. The campaigns of other warriors, as Napoleon's 
early career in Italy, may seem to be more dashing 
and brilliant, but they are not really more glorious. 
They may dazzle more by their eclat, but they do 


uot show, in a greater measure, patience combined 
with energy, forethought with swiftness, and rapidity 
with thoroughness of execution. In tlie liigliest mili- 
tary genius there must always be a sublime faith 
amounting to passion. Mere calculations, and mere 
discipline and science, may achieve great victories, 
especially in modern times, but will never inspire 
with enthusiasm great armies, and mould them into 
conquerors. The passion of a fixed idea can alone do 
this ; and Cromwell was animated from first to last 
by the highest form of this passion. His faith was 
no mere intensity of selfish trust — no mere personal 
ambition ; it was a faith in the God of battles, a fixed 
devotion to the Divine. The same theocratic consci- 
ousness which sustained David in his wars with the 
Philistines, sustained Cromwell in his wars with the 
cavaliers. He was the servant of God, his soldiers 
were the people of God — " the godly party." So, be- 
yond doubt, he thought. It was " principle" that 
moved him and moved them to engage in the quarrel 
— they made " conscience " of their cause ; and it was 
this lofty and intense consciousness of the Divine 
which made the highest, the really prevailing element 
of that military genius, which, from guarding with 
stern faithfulness the eastern associated counties with 
his troop of Ironsides, carried our hero in triumph to 
Marston Moor, and from Marston to Naseby, and from 
Naseby to Drogheda, Dunbar, and Worcester. 

But henceforth it is no longer as warrior but as 
statesman that we contemplate him. With the crown- 
ing mercy of Worcester his military career was ended, 
and a new career of patriotic statesmanship opened to 
him. The difficulties of the country, the difficulties 
of his position, were immense; but he had counted the 


cost, and lie was not tlie man to flincli from the posi- 
tion and the work to which Providence had called him. 
There are few pages of history more nobly pathetic — 
more deeply tragical than the struggle on which he 
now entered, and which he sustained for five years. 
This concluding period of his life may not, indeed, at 
first sight seem a struggle, but rather a triumph. Our 
attention is apt to be fixed by the prosperous aspects 
of the Protectorate, the power which he exercised in 
Europe as the head of the Protestant cause, and the 
glory which he everywhere gave to the name of Eng- 
land among the nations ; but his position was, never- 
theless, one of struggle almost to the last. The history 
of his Parliaments and the study of his speeches are 
enough to show this. He desired to govern constitu- 
tionally after all that happened, and this was no easy, 
nay, it was an impossible task in the circumstances. 
He relished power, but he hated injustice. He would 
have no interest oppressed, not even the Jews or 
Quakers, whom all stronger sects alike delighted to 
persecute. He was thoroughly tolerant in so far as 
he could elicit any response to his own tolerant spirit 
from the contending parties.* He desired, therefore, to 
make the basis of his government as broad as possible, 
compatible with the interests of religion and the cause 
for which he had fought. He aimed, in short, to con- 
struct in a liberal spirit the forms of the old constitu- 
tion. But it was just the retribution of his career that 
he could not do this. The steps by which he had 
risen to power had so shattered that constitution ; his 
own position, however just in a sense deeper than all 

* " If the poorest Christian, the most mistaken Christian, shall desire 
to live peaceably and. quietly under you : I say, if any shall desire but 
to lead a life of godliness and honesty, let him be protected." — Speeches, 
Carlyle, ii. 


constitutions, was so autocratic — so arbitrary and in- 
definite — that it was not possible for liim to re-establish 
the powers which had been cast down, and restore tliem 
to quiet and efficient worlving. 

His first effort at statesmanship was the famous As- 
sembly of Puritan notables, derisively know as Bare- 
bones Parliament. Two days after the dismissal of the 
"Eump," he published a "Declaration of the Lord 
General and his Council of Officers," explaining the 
step which he had been forced to take, and the grounds 
of it ; and intimating that he was about to call to- 
gether an assembly of " known persons, men fearing 
God, and of approved integrity, who should see to the 
settling of the Commonwealth." The manner in which 
this assembly was • collected was sufficiently singular. 
The Independent ministers throughout the country 
were to take the sense of their congregations, and to 
send up to the Lord General and his officers, lists of 
those whom they judged "qualified to manage a trust 
in the ensuing government — men able, loving truth, 
fearing God, and hating covetousness." From these 
lists Cromwell and his officers in council'"' selected one 
hundred and thirty-nine representatives, and to these, 
summonses were sent to appear at Whitehall on the 
4th of July 1653. Only two to whom summonses 
were sent did not appear. 

No assembly, perhaps, ever essayed a more difficult 
task than this assembly of Puritan notables — none has 
ever been more vilified and ridiculed. Praise God Bare- 
bones, " the leather merchant in Fleet Street," has been 
historically embalmed as its symbol of contempt ; and 
yet, as Carlyle says, with a scorn outmatching all the 
cavalier ridicule which has been lavished on it, " Praise 

* New council. 


(jod, thougli lie deal in leather, and lias a name that 
can be misspelt, is in every respect a worthy and good 
man — the son of pious parents — himself a man of piety 
and understanding and weight, and even of consider- 
able private capital — my witty flunkey friend !" — as 
his scorn explodes in a burst. For all this, and not- 
withstanding Mr Carlyle (whose fealty to his hero, and 
admiration of his actions, nothing can move), there 
were plainly elements of ridicule about this assembly. 
The very manner in which it was collected must have 
brought together disproportionate and ludicrous ele- 
ments — men. God-fearing and honest, it might be, with 
a heart to do their country good, abolish its abuses, 
and re-establish order and peace within its bounds, 
yet men also more remarkable for piety than policy — 
more fitted to legislate in their respective parishes 
than in the Parliament of England, and presenting, 
in the nature of the case, many external features 
moving to mirth rather than to respect, and to a sus- 
picion of wide incongruity between their capacity and 
their aims. Such an impression has certainly stamped 
itself on the national mind, and perpetuated itself in 
an inveterate association of ridicule surrounding the 
" Barebones Parliament." 

Cromwell's speech to this assembly is the first of 
the now well-known series. He told them, that by rea- 
son of the " scantiness of the room and the heat of the 
weather" he would "contract himself;" but he spoke, 
nevertheless, for more than two hours. He reminded 
them of all the remarkable events by which, since the 
opening of the civil war, they had been brought to the 
point at which they now stood. " Those strange turn- 
ings and windings of Providence — those very great 
appearances of God in crossing and thwarting the pur- 


poses of men, that He miglit raise up a poor and con- 
temptible company of men into wonderful success." 
He reviewed the recent conflict of the army and Par- 
liament, and defended the course which he had taken 
in dissolving the latter as a necessity laid upon him for 
the defence of those " liberties and rights" for which he 
and others had fought. Necessity was his great argu- 
ment, and his only valid argument. " It has come by 
way of necessity — ^by the way of the wise providence 
of God through weak hands," he urged. He then 
counselled them to tolerance in memorable words,* 
and to owning their call. " You have been passive in 
coming hither, being called. Therefore own your call ! 
I think it may be truly said that there never was a 
Supreme Authority consisting of such a body, above 
one hundred and forty, I believe ; never such a body 
that came into the supreme authority before under 
such a notion as this, in such a way of owning God, 
and being owned by Him/'-f- 

The assembly, among its first acts, assumed the 
name, insignia, and privileges of Parliament. It also 
manifested great activity in practical measures of re- 
form, collection of taxes, and consolidation of the 
revenue ; but so soon as it essayed the higher task of 
reforming the church and the law, it fell into intermin- 
able divisions. Opposition assailed it from all sides ; 
and the more moderate, alarmed and wearied at the 
wild projects of the extreme gospel party, led by Har- 
rison, tendered their resignation, and the assembly was 
broken up. 

Cromwell was moved by this first legislative failure ; 
but he took courage. He and his officers adopted more 
decided measures than they had yet done to strengthen 

* Quoted in foregoing note. t Carlyle, ii. 211. 


liis power. They met and drew up an " Instrument 
of Government," conferring upon him the office of 
Lord Protector of the Gommomvcalth of England, Scot- 
land, and Ireland. This was on the 12tli of December 
1653 ; and on the 16th Cromwell was formally in- 
stalled in the " Chancery Court in Westminster Hall." 
The ceremony was simple but impressive : he was 
dressed in a " rich but plain dark suit — black velvet, 
with cloak of the same ; about his hat a broad band of 
gold." Mr Lochier, his chaplain, gave an exhortation. 
Lambert presented him, on his knees, with a civic 
sword, while he laid aside his own, denoting his ex- 
change of military for civil rule. 

The " Instrument of Government " by which Crom- 
well now ruled was in many respects a wise and 
liberal measure. It made provision for the calling of a 
new Parliament on a broader and fairer basis of repre- 
sentation than hitherto.* It decreed that without the 
sanction of Parliament no taxes could be raised, and 
that its laws were to have effect within twenty-one 
days, whether they received the assent of the Protector 
or not. Further, Parliament was not to be prorogued 
without its own consent during the iirst five months 
of its sitting ; and all officers of state were to hold 
their appointment subject to its approval. All this 
sufficiently proves how eager Cromwell was to rest his 
power on the old forms of the constitution, liberalised 
in the spirit of the great conflict which had closed. 
He was not disposed, as afterwards he declared, on 
any account to aliandon his cause and the position to 
which he had been raised, which he considered neces- 

* It antedated the reform of Parliament, in short, by more than a 
hundred and fifty years, cutting off small and "rotten" boroughs, and 
giving members to large and growing towns that had recently sprung up. 


sary for the vindication of this cause — " he would be 
rolled in blood in his grave rather ; " but supposing 
his position granted, he would far rather govern consti- 
tutionally than otherwise. 

Cromwell was no sooner installed than he set him- 
self, in conjunction with his Council, earnestly to the 
task of government. His most urgent and important 
work was to introduce some order into the confused re- 
ligious influences surrounding him, whose ferment had 
borne him on triumphantly to power, but whose mere 
anarchic developments no man was less disposed to 
countenance, even if they had not directly provoked 
his hostility by their attacks upon his position. He 
prized Christian liberty in his heart, and freely con- 
ceded it to all peaceable citizens ; but he had no 
hesitation in putting the rein upon men " who forgot 
all rules of law and nature," and made " Christ and the 
Spirit of God a cloak for all villany and spurious ap- 
X^rehensions." So he quietly checked the excesses of 
the Anabaptist leveller, Feak, and his colleagues ; * and 
despatched Harrison, the head of the Fifth-monarchy 
men, to his home in Staffordshire. What to do, how- 
ever, with the general ecclesiastical arrangements of 
the kingdom, was a more difficult question. Episco- 
pacy was abolished ; Presbytery had not taken its 
place ; and great disorder and much inefficiency in the 
Christian ministry prevailed throughout the country. 
Cromwell very wisely did not attempt to set up a con- 
sistent form of church government. He did not 
trouble himself with the mere machinery of Christian 
instruction ; but he determined to carry a thorough 
reform into the spirit and character of the instruction 
itself He did not care particularly whether the 

* See Feak's message to him. Caulyle, p. 234. 


clergy were Presbyterians, or Independents, or even 
Anabaptists — (Episcopacy, as identified witli malig- 
nancy and royalism, was not embraced in his system) — 
so that they were faithful, peaceful, Christian men. 
With the view of securing such a result, he appointed 
a commission for the trial of public preachers, com- 
posed of the most distinguished Puritan clergy, with 
certain laymen added to them. He further appointed, 
in the same spirit, commissioners in each county to 
inquire into " scandalous, ignorant, and inefficient " 
ministers, and have their places supplied with faithful 
men. Arbitrary as such commissions were in their 
constitution, there exists undoubted evidence of the 
fairness and tenderness as well as thoroughness with 
which they executed their task, and the widely benefi- 
cial influence which they exerted.* Able and serious 
preachers who lived a godly life, of what " tolerable 
opinion soever they were," multiplied throughout the 
land, so that many thousands of souls blessed God for 
what had been done.t 

The foreign relations of the country were at the same 
time triumphantly ordered by him, and his power uni- 
versally acknowledged abroad. Treaties were concluded 
with Holland, Denmark, and Sweden. The Dutch, 
humbled Ijy the splendid victories of Blake, were glad 
to conclude a peace. France and Spain sent embassies, 
and so far acknowledged the new government. 

But the great test of the goverment was still to come. 
A new Parliament, elected on the reformed basis of re- 
presentation laid down in the " Instrument," met on the 

* Baxter's Unprejudiced Evidence. 

•\- No doubt, also, hardships were inflicted under such a system, which, 
in its natural arbitrariness, could not fail of such results. Fuller's case 
has been often cited. 


3d of September ] 654, tlie anniversary of tlie day of 
Dunbar. It was to be a " free Parliament," as Crom- 
well liimself said, or at least as free a Parliament as 
could then be in England. Catholics were excluded, 
and those who had served in the late war against the 
Commonwealth ; but otherwise. Republicans and Pres- 
byterians, as well as adherents of the government, were 
freely chosen. There were to be 460 members — 400 
for England, 80 for Scotland, and 30 for Ireland. The 
Parliament had scarcely met, when it showed symp- 
toms of disaffection, Cromwell addressed it long and 
powerfully. His three speeches to this Parliament 
are his greatest oratorical efforts, less involved and 
confused in their outline than his speeches commonly 
are, more heated with genuine feeling, and rising to 
easier and higher touches of eloquence. In the first, 
he impressed upon them the importance of their meet- 
ing, and the great end of it, " healing and settling.'' 
He then described the wild religious fanaticism which 
he had been obliged to put down, and the measures of 
reform which the government, himself, and his Council 
liad accomplished. He narrated how he had made peace 
with Swedeland, with the Danes, and with the Dutch, 
and how he was in treaty with France. The whole 
speech was luminous with political wisdom, and ably 
designed to smooth into practical working order the 
diverse tempers before him. 

He had miscalculated, however, the men with whom 
he had to deal. Instead of setting themselves to the 
quiet work of legislation on the assumed basis of the 
government which had called them together, they set 
themselves to discuss the validity of this government, 
and the question of the " Instrument " by which it was 
constituted. This refractory and captious spirit roused 


Cromwell to instant action. He had them summoned 
to the " painted chamber," and addressed them again 
at length, above all insisting that the government was 
settled in its "fundamentals," and that these were be- 
yond tlieir question. This truly grand speech contains 
the clearest enunciation of his great principle of reli- 
gious liberty,* and is touched here and there with a 
noble tenderness of feeling. " There is, therefore," he 
concluded, " something to be offered to you ; a promise 
of reforming as to circumstantials, and agreeing in the 
substance and fundamentals — that is to say, in the form 
of government now settled." They were to be required 
to give their assent and subscription to this promise 
and agreement, as the condition of their continuing to 
sit in Parliament. 

The more stern of the Eepublican leaders — Bradshaw, 
and Scott, and Haselrig — refused the subscription, and 
quitted London. A majority, however, acceded to the 
condition, and began anew the work of legislation ; 
but they made little of it. ^Vliile admitting the fun- 
damental article of the " Instrument " of government, 
they quibbled over the details, and, by the end of their 
five months, they had made no progress in voting 
supplies or reforming circumstantials. Accordingly 
they received their dismissal, in a speech flaming high 
with a proud resentment, that they had been unjust to 
him, and insensible to the great opportunity offered 
them of benefiting their country. Some had spoken of 
his creating necessities that he might exalt himself 
and his family. Such a charge brought down the 
whole thunder of his wrath. " I say this, not only to 
this assembly, but to the world, that the man liveth 
not who can come to me, and charge me with having 

* Carltle, ii. 298. 


in these great revolutions made necessities. I chal- 
lenge even all that fear God. And as God hath said, 
' My glory I will not give to another,' let men take 
heed, and be twice advised how they call His revolu- 
tions, the things of God, and His workings of things 
from one period to another — how, I say, they call them 
necessities of man's creation." 

This Parliament, beyond doubt, was a great disap- 
pointment to Cromwell. It destroyed his hopes of 
constitutional government ; it served, by its captious 
stubbornness and disaffection, to revive everywhere 
the spirit of discontent ; it proved to him his weak- 
ness in the midst of his power. He felt bitterly that 
he could not set up what he had cast down. His own 
faction he might maintain, but the old forms of the 
constitution — free and settled in their working — with 
which he desired to surround himself, seemed intract- 
able in his hands. All his activity was needed, im- 
mediately on the dissolution of Parliament, to crush 
the plots, Eoyalist and Eepublican, which had gathered 
new life during its sittings, and were everywhere ready 
to burst forth. Ludlow and Alured, in Ireland, Over- 
ton and others, in Scotland, needed to be looked 
after. Fleetwood was instructed to deal with the one, 
and Monk with the others. Various other leaders 
of the "Anabaptist levelling party," Harrison, Carew, 
and Lord Grey of Groby, were seized and confined in 
various prisons. With these, his old allies, he dealt 
as tenderly as possible, consistently with the safety 
of his position and government. With Penruddock, 
and the leaders of the Ptoyalist insurrections in the 
north and west, he dealt far more severely. They 
expiated their rashness on the scaffold ; or, what was 
almost worse, they were shipped to the West Indies 


and sold as slaves. Everywhere lie crushed out the 
embers of disaffectiou with a firm yet considerate 
hand. Viewed in the light of his own postulate as 
to his position, his acts were necessary, and by no 
means cruel, as a whole ; viewed in any other light, 
they must, of course, be judged arbitrary, and cruelly 

Now for some time he remained more absolute in 
his single authority than ever. Throughout the coun- 
try he established a species of military despotism — his 
famous system of major-generals. It was divided 
into districts, and a military chief appointed in each, 
whose duty it was to put down all anarchy, and keep 
the Eoyalists quiet, by levying heavy fines upon them 
for the support of the State. The system was an 
unmitigated tyranny, both politic and social. Nothing 
can be said for it except its stern necessity as a tem- 
porary provision for the maintenance of order. The 
peace it secured, and the confidence it re-established, 
are said to have proved in many respects beneficial. 

Having thus quieted the aspect of affairs at home, 
he had leisure to direct and extend to still more splen- 
did results than hitherto his foreign policy. Identify- 
ing himself with the interests of free religious opinion, 
and proudly vindicating them as the champion of 
Protestantism, he assumed towards foreign nations an 
attitude of controlling influence. It is at this time 
we contemplate him, along with Milton, writing on 
behalf of the persecuted Piedmontese, and refusing to 
sign the treaty with France till it had promised to see 
with him to the rights of these poor people. He or- 
dained a day of fasting and a public collection to be 
made for them, while Milton represented their case in 
letters to all the Protestant powers. 


The same principle wliicli made Cromwell thus 
stand forth as the representative of Protestantism in 
Europe, plunged him into war with Spain, as the 
natural enemy of Protestant England. This is the 
express ground on which he himself defended the 
Spanish war. " The Spaniard is your enemy; and 
your enemy, as I tell you, naturally, by that anti- 
pathy which is in him,* and also providentially, and 
this in divers respects." The armament which he 
fitted out against their West India possessions, while 
it failed in its substantial objects, took possession of 
Jamaica, which has ever since remained a British 
possession. This, at the time supposed to be a barren 
conquest, was the only trophy of an expedition which 
had evidently been one of great interest and hopes 
to him. It is the single failure of his career, and he 
resented it by throwing the commanders of the expe- 
dition into the Tower on their return home. 

Strengthened by the reduction of his enemies at 
home, and by the glory of his power abroad, Cromwell 
was induced once more to summon a Parliament for 
the 17th of September 1656. After adressing them 
(as usual) in a lengthened speech -f- explaining the 
position of affairs, and the grounds on which he was 

* Elsewhere, in the same speech : " Why, truly your great enemy is 
the Spaniard. He is a natural enemy. He is naturally so ; he is 
naturally so throughout — by reason of that enmity that is in him against 
whatsoever is of God." 

i" The conclusion of this speech is in his grandest strain ; as, indeed, 
the whole is wonderful — " rude, massive, genuine, like a block of un- 
beaten gold." In the end he says, — "If God give you a spirit of re- 
formation, you will prevent this nation from ' turning again ' to these 
fooleries [' horse-races, cock-fightings, and the like ! ' which had been 
abolished as having been made the occasion of Royalist plots, &c.] ; 
and what will the end be ?— Comfort and blessing. Then INIercy and 
Truth shall meet together. There is a great deal of ' truth ' among 
professors, but very little ' mercy.' They are ready to cut the throats 



prepared to maintain the government, lie purged them 
according to a rule which had been agreed upon be- 
tween him and his Council. A hundred members out 
of the four hundred were prevented from taking their 
seats. This violent act, only justifiable, like many- 
others, by the necessities of his position, excited great 
indignation ; but it was carried quietly through ; and 
Haselrig (his old friend), and Ashley Cooper, and 
other disturbing spirits, sent back to their homes to 
nurse their discontent in private. 

Parliament thus purged and approved, showed itself 
more subservient to his wishes. It wasted its time, 
indeed, in fruitless and absurd discussions as to the 
opinions of a poor wandering fanatic of the name of 
Naylor, and the punishment with which he should be 
visited — evidence enough how far it was from appreci- 
ating those noble expressions of the doctrine of tolera- 
tion which he addressed to it. But at length, after some 
five months' work and many negotiations, it drew up a 
new "Instrument of Government," by which it provided 
for the Protector assuming the office of king, and appoint- 
or one another. But when we are brought into the right way, we shall 
be merciful as well as orthodox : and we know who it is that .saith, ' If 
a man could speak with the tongues of men and angels, and yet want 
that, he is but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.' 

" Therefore I beseech you, in the name of God, set your hearts to this 
work. And if you set your hearts to it, then will you sing Luther's 
Psalm [the 4(ith, of which Luther's hymn, Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott, 
is a par ai:)h rase]. This is a rare jDsalm for a Christian !— and if he set 
his heart open, and can approve it to God, we shall hear him say, ' God 
is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.' If 
Pope and Spaniard, and devil and all, set themselves, though they 
should ' compass us like bees,' as it is in hundred-and-eighteenth 
psalm, yet in the name of the Lord we should destroy them. And, as 
it is in this psalm of Luther's, ' We will not fear, though the earth be 
removed, and though the mountains be carried into the middle of the 
sea ; thougli the waters thereof roar and be troubled ; though the 
mountains shake with the swelling thereof.' " 


ing his successor. The interviews and debates to which 
tliis proposal led, the strange and apparently inconsis- 
tent veerings in Cromwell's own mind, make a deeply 
interesting but perplexing study. Suffice it to say that 
they ended in his rejecting the proposal of Parliament. 
On the 8th of May 1657, he finally decided not to 
adopt the title of king ; and the issue was, that he was 
again, and more formally, inaugurated as Protector, 
amid the joyful huzzas of the people. The same Par- 
liament abolished the system of major-generals; and 
in the new instrument reconstituting the Protectorate, 
it provided for the institvition of a House of Lords. 
Piece by piece, he would fain have siUTOunded him- 
self with all the old machinery of the constitution. 

After an adjournment of six months, Parliament re- 
assembled, and of the fifty-three Peers nominated by 
Cromwell, forty appeared to take their place. Scarcely 
any of the old Peers, however — not even Lord Warwick 
— came. He declared that he could not sit in the same 
assembly with Hewson the cobbler and Pride the dray- 
man. The Protector, by reason of " some infirmities 
upon him," made them but a short speech ; probably 
he was somewhat despondent and hopeless. The posi- 
tion of affairs was once more critical ; his own health 
was failing — the old factions were noisy and gathering 
strength again. The members excluded in the previous 
session now professed their willingness to take the oath 
of the new constitution, and there was no longer any 
valid reason for insisting upon their exclusion. Hasel- 
rig, one of the most persevering and violent, had been 
prudently nominated by Cromwell a Peer, but he de- 
clined to take his seat, except in the House of Com- 
mons. He insisted upon having the oath administered 
to him, and took his place in the Commons as the 


leader of tlie old Kepublicans. As may be conjectured, 
dissensions speedily sprang up in sucli an assembly. 
Only two days after the opening of the session, a 
message was sent from tlie House of Lords, inviting 
the Commons to unite with them in an address to his 
Highness to appoint a day of fasting and humiliation. 
This was enough to kindle the embers of unappeasable 
dissatisfaction. The Eepublicans fired at the title 
which the so-called Peers had given themselves. " We 
have no message to receive from them as Lords," they 
exclaimed — "they are but a swarm from ourselves." 
In vain Cromwell summoned them to attend him in the 
Banqueting Hall, at Whitehall, and addressed them in 
earnest and solemn words, as to the dangers that were 
threatening at home and abroad, and his determination 
to stand with them in the old cause — the interests of 
the Commonwealth which he had sworn to maintain. 
They returned, only to renew with more eagerness their 
faction fight as to the title under which they should 
recognise the other House ; and after a five days' 
debate, they decided by a majority, not to recognise 
it under the name of the House of Lords. 

This decision stirred the Protector to the very depths 
of his stormy nature. AVithout consulting with any 
one, he went, accompanied by only a few guards, to the 
House of Lords, and summoned the Commons to at- 
tend him. Fleetwood, his son-in-law, here joined him, 
and tried to dissuade him from his plans, which, he 
urged, would take even his friends by surprise. But 
laying his hand upon his breast, he swore by the living 
God, that he would do it, and that they should not sit 
another hour. His speech was short, and betrayed 
the depth of his emotion. We feel a noble pity for 
the giant bending beneath the pressure of his difficul- 


ties, resolute not to yield, and yet unable to bear soli- 
tary the heavy burden. "To be petitioned and advised 
by you to undertake such a government — a burden 
too heavy for any creature — certainly, I did hope that 
the same men who made the frame, should make it 
good unto me. I can say in the presence of God, in 
comparison with whom we are but poor creeping ants 
upon the earth, I would have been glad to have lived 
under my woodside, to have kept a flock of sheep, 
rather than undertake such a government as this." 
A magnanimous pathos, surely, in this thought of his 
old quiet former life at such a time ! He reproached 
them with their moving the question of a " Eepublic," 
as opposed to the government already settled — with 
their tampering with the army — with their even, some 
of them, "listing persons by commission of Charles 
Stuart," to join with any insurrection that might be 
made. " And what is like to come upon this," he con- 
cluded," the enemy being ready to invade us, but even 
present blood and confusion ? And if this be so, I do 
assign it to this cause — your not assenting to what 
you did invite me by your petition and advice, as that 
which might prove the settlement of the nation. And 
if this be the end of your sitting, and this be your 
carriage, I think it high time that an end be put to 
your sitting. And I do dissolve this Pakliajment ! 
And let God be judge betwixt you and me." 

Parliament was accordingly dismissed — its endless 
debatings suddenly stifled ; but not sooner than neces- 
sary ; for Koyalist discontent was everywhere active, 
breaking out in ever-renewed flame. " If the session 
had lasted but two or three days longer," says Har- 
tlib, Milton's friend (to whom his tractate on educa- 
tion was addressed), " all had been in blood, both in 


city andcoiintiy, on Charles Stuart's account." Crom- 
well was fully conscious of liis perils. And now, as 
ever, lie took his resolutions swiftly, and followed them 
up with prompt and unflinching action. Two ring- 
leaders"' in the Royalist plots were seized, condemned, 
and summarily executed — notwithstanding the influen- 
tial connections of the one, and the earnest entreaties of 
his own daughter in the case of the other. Once more 
he crushed, by his terrible yet considerate vigour, his 
enemies on all hands. His arms on the Continent 
were at the same time triumphant. Dunkirk was 
gloriously taken, and its keys deposited in his hands. 
Splendid presents were exchanged between him and 
Mazarin, and splendid embassies sent to him. He 
received them in kingly state, rising from his throne 
and advancing two steps to meet the Duke of Crequi, 
' the head of the embassy, and seating him on his right 
hand, while his son Eichard sat on his left. His 
power seemed more consolidated, his position more 
triumphant, than ever ; but in reality the shadow of 
his fate was rapidly closing around him ; he was pressed 
by pecuniary difiiculties ; calamity had attacked his 
prosperous family ; and his own health was breaking 
under the harassing burden of his anxieties. 

His two eldest daughters, we have seen, were married 
in the outset of his career. The eldest was by this 
time married a second time, to Fleetwood (one of 
Cromwell's stanchest friends), Ireton having died in 
Ireland. Both his sons were busily engaged in various 
duties of oftice. Henry, the younger, unlike his brother, 
was of bold and enterprising spirit, and shared his 
father's genius for government. His administration of 
Ireland, under great difficulties, showed a vigilance, 

* Sir Henry Slingsby, uncle to Lord Faulconbridge, and Dr Hewit. 


capacity, and energy, which have won the commenda- 
tion even of Eoyalist critics of the time. The impres- 
sion we gatlier of Henry is almost more cavalier than 
Puritan ; a dashing, gallant, and generous fellow he 
appears to have been, of careless temper though strong 
will, and, if Mrs Hutchison and other sources are to 
be believed, somewhat dissolute.* His two younger 
daughters, Mary and Trances, were now grown up. 
Both, especially " the Lady Frances," suggest a pleas- 
ing picture of beautiful, vivacious, and happy youth. 
The one was wedded to Viscount Faulconbridge, "a 
person of extraordinary parts," and strongly attached 
to the Protector's person and government ; the other 
to Mr Rich, grandson of the Earl of Warwick, and 
heir to his estates. This last f marriage was a sub- 
ject of anxiety to Cromwell. The "settlements," as 
before, in the case of Eichard, were hard to make, 
and yet the "little Fanny" (she was only seven- 
teen) was resolved to settle. It came right in the 
end, and both sisters were married within a week 
of each other (November 1657). Cromwell had great 
pride in all his daughters. His family feelings were 
strong, and tenderly affectionate. But his heart, above 
all, clung to the Lady Claypole. She was "dear 
to him — very dear." It was the tragedy of his lot, 
as he now seemed to stand at the pinnacle of his 
power — his enemies at home and abroad crushed 
and silent, and the incense of foreign flattery surround- 
ing him on his perilous seat of sovereignty — to have 

* See a remarkable and very interesting letter of remonstrance from 
bis sister Mary (7tb Dec. 1655), wbicb suggests tbe same conclusion. 

Y " And truly, I must tell you privately, they are so far engaged that 
the match cannot be broken off. She, Frances, acquainted some of bis 
friends with her resolution when she did it." So writes her sister Mary 
to Henrv in June 1656. 


darkness sent into his house, and the desire of his eyes 
removed. The prosperous glory of his family under- 
went sudden eclipse ; and, at the very height of his 
fame and power, he died broken in heart, nursing 
deeper than all state anxieties the sorrows of his home. 
Only twelve days after the dissolution of Parlia- 
ment, his son-in-law, Mr Eich, took ill and died. 
Wedded only in the previous November, ]iis death 
took place in February (1657-8); and the removal of 
one so young and beloved, leaving a still younger 
widow, cast the first shadow over his household. Only 
two months after, the Earl of AVarwick, one of the 
Protector's oldest and most prudent friends, followed 
his young grandson to the grave. Severe as these blows 
were, they did not touch him so acutely as to interfere 
with his activity. He was plunged in cares of foreign 
policy and negotiations with Thurloe and others. A 
new Parliament, rendered imperatively necessary by 
the state of the finances, was talked of; the French 
embassy, with its glittering show, had to be received ; 
and, amidst all, the Lord Protector bore himself with 
what spirit and show of sovereign unconcern he could. 
But while these State affairs were being transacted, a 
deeper sorrow than he had yet known was preparing 
for him. " The Manzinis and Dues de Crequi, with 
their splendour and congratulations, " had scarcely 
withdrawn, when all his thoughts were absorbed by 
the news of the serious illness of his daughter Eliza- 
beth (the Lady Claypole). Weak and invalid for some 
time, he had sent her to reside at Hampton Court ; but 
the internal disease under which she suffered rapidly 
increased. Pain of body alternated with anxiety of 
mind regarding her beloved father. " She had great suf- 
ferings, and great exercises of spirit." For fourteen days 

CROMWELL. ■ 153 

the Protector watched by her bedside, " unable to at- 
tend to any public business whatever." The stormy 
world in which he had so long lived was far removed, 
as he sat, during these silent days and nights, watching 
the ebbing life of his darling child. " It was observed 
that his sense of her outward misery in the pains she 
endured took deep impression upon him." 

On the 6tli of August she died, and on the 7th he 
himself was reported ill in a letter of Thurloe to his 
son Henry. About this time it was that he called for 
the Bible, and desired them to read to him in Philip- 
pians iv. 11-13. " ' Not that I speak in respect of want : 
for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith 
to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I 
know how to abound : everywhere and in all things 
I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, 
both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things 
through Christ which strengtheneth me.' This Scrip- 
ture did once save my life when my eldest son* died, 
which went as a dagger to my heart — indeed it did." 
After this he partially recovered, and made an effort 
to resume his labours. George Fox records how he 
met him in these few days riding into Hampton Court 
Park at the head of his life-guards ; "and, as he rode," 
says the garrulous self-conscious Quaker, " I saw and 
felt a waft of death go forth against him." 

On the 2-lth of August he left Hampton Court and 
returned to Whitehall. A sudden visit of Ludlow to 
town filled him with some disquiet, and he sent Fleet- 
wood to inquire after him. He was himself again ill, 
and liis disease rapidly gained ground. At length he 
was confined to bed. His physicians stood around, with 
sad faces, and his wife sat anxious by him. A strange 

* Eobei-t (as before explained). 


excitement, however, buoyed up his own heart ; and, 
taking his wife's hand, he said, " I tell thee I shall not 
die of this bout. I am sure I shall not." The strong 
spirit was reluctant to yield ; and his chaplains fancied 
that they heard the voice of God, in answer to their 
prayers, saying, "He will recover." The days passed, 
however, and there was no sign of recovery. On the 2d 
of September, the eve of his fortunate day, he asked, in 
a lucid interval of his delirious sufferings, " Is it pos- 
sible to fall from grace?" " It is not possible," the min- 
isters replied. "■ Then I am safe," he said, " for I know 
that I Avas once in grace ; " and he poured forth an 
earnest confession and prayer to God.* During the 
night his voice continued to be heard in snatches of 
prayer. " God is good — truly, God is good," he often 
repeated. Amid the wild storm of the autumn night, -}- 
the voice of the dying hero rose in these still and 
grand accents. At length he muttered, when desired 
to take some refreshment, "It is not my design to 
drink or sleep ; but my design is to make what haste 

* There are few prayers more touching, more trulj' Christian, in all 
the annals of devotion. " Lord, though I am a miserable and wretched 
creature, I am in covenant with Thee through grace. And I may, I 
will, come to Thee for Thy people. Thou hast made me, though very 
unworthy, a mean instrument to do them some good, and Thee service ; 
and many of them have set too high a value upon me, though others 
wish and would be glad of my death. Lord, however Thou dispose of 
me, continue and go on to do good for them. Give them consistency of 
judgment, one heart, and mutual love ; and go on to deliver them, and 
with the work of reformation ; and make the name of Christ glorious in 
the world. Teach those who look too much upon Thy instrument, to 
depend more upon Thyself. Pardon such as desire to trample on the 
dust of a poor worm, for they are Thy people too. And pardon the folly 
of this short prayer, even for Jesus Christ's sake. And give us a good 
night, if it be Thy pleasure. Amen." 

•)• " The usual representation is here followed, which makes the night 
of the 2d of September (1658) ' such a night in London as had rarely 
been.' The height of the storm, however, is stated by some to have 
been on Monday the 30th of August."— Carlyle, ii. 665. 


I can to be gone." When morning dawned lie lay 
insensible; and between three and four of the after- 
noon of his fortunate day, he heaved a deep sigh and 

In attempting to sketch the character of Cromwell, 
it is especially necessary to get some central point of 
view from which we can survey it in its whole outline. 
The complexities which it presents — its deep and in- 
volved shades — its confused and apparently conflict- 
ing features — render this all the more necessary. For, 
otherwise, his character becomes unintelligible — a mere 
mass of inconsistencies, in which we can see no coher- 
ence or meaning. He is great, and yet base ; religious, 
and yet a hypocrite ; a demagogue, and yet a despot ; 
a dissembler, and yet a trifler ; a man of vast and im- 
perial schemes, and yet a man of low and paltry in- 
terests. This is something of the blurred and contra- 
dicting picture which Cromwell presents in many of 
our histories. It may be safely said that no great 
character can be explained in this manner. "We must 
seek for some inward unity out of which the character 
has grown — for hidden threads of consistency running- 
through it, underlying all its more obvious appearances, 
and binding up its complicated structure into an in- 
telligible whole. 

The secret of Cromwell's character appears to lie 
where he himself supposed — in the depth and power 
of his religious sentiment. This we must either admit, 
or hold him throughout to have been a hypocrite. 
Only one of these two alternatives can possibly re- 
main after the careful study of his letters. This man 
was either from the first a conscious hypocrite, acting 
a part, as has been maintained — deliberately fore- 


casting schemes of glorious yet fraudulent ambition, 
the perfidy of which he sought to conceal by the most 
elaborate and unwearying pretensions to piety ; or he 
was at first and throughout a man in whom the sense 
of the Divine predominated — whose rooted and most 
ruling instinct was to do God service ; and who, amid 
all his actions, deeply censurable as some of these may 
have been, never entirely lost sight of this principle 
or purpose. Eeligion so fiUed his life that it either 
held him or he held it as a mere tool in his service. 
And there are few who will read his correspondence 
and speeches from beginning to end, with any under- 
standing of them — with any intelligent sympathy with 
the time and its modes of religious feeling — and doubt 
which of these views is the correct one. 

The alternative of hypocrisy in the face of his 
letters involves a series of suppositions so incredible, 
as to compel every candid student to part with it.* 
These letters are written in all circumstances — when 
as yet he was but a Puritan farmer and friend of 
persecuted ministers, when first the great contests 
of the Parliament began to stir his tumultuous ener- 
gies on the eve of battle, and when the excitement of 

* In evidence of this, allusion may be made to the different view of 
Cromwell's character suggested by Mr Foster in his " Life," written 
for the Cabinet C't/clopcedia more than twenty years ago — in many re- 
spects an admirable life — and that suggested in his recent paper, The 
Civil Wars and Oliver Cromwell. The "inimitable craft and skill, as- 
suming the garb of sanctity," which explains so much in the " Life," has 
entirely disappeared in the later sketch. The result of Mr Carlyle's 
labours, he says, "has been to show conclusively, and beyond further 
dispute, that through all these [Cromwell" s] speeches and letters one 
mind runs consistently. In the passionate fervour of his religious feel- 
ing the true secret of his life must be sought, and will be found. Every- 
where visible and recognisable is a deeply interpenetrated sense of 
spiritual dangers, of temporal vicissitudes, and of never-ceasing respon- 
sibility to the Eternal, ' Ever in his great Taskmaster's eye.' " — Foster's 
Essays, i. 312. 


victory was yet on liiin — regarding the most ordinary 
domestic details, and tlie most broad general principles 
of religion and policy. They all bear a natural im- 
press ; they show the man, the politician, the warrior, 
the lather, the husband, and patriot, and not merely 
the religionist. The religious ideas and phraseology 
in which they abound are in no sense factitious ; they 
are the living essence of his common thought ; they 
are mixed up with everything he says and does. The 
same tone pervades the letters throughout — the same 
cast of earnest, grave, and tender feeling — the same 
air of rcaliiy. As we read them, and try to purge our 
minds of all remembrance of the traditionary Cromwell 
with his hypocrisies and grimaces, there is nothing 
whatever that could excite such an image within us. 
His character rises before us plain, massive, and grand ; 
rude in its features, irregular in its outline, but glowing 
with an intensely concentrated meaning ; radiant with a 
divine fire in every feature — an earnest, practical, strong 
man, " in the dark perils of war, and in the high places 
of the field : hope shone in him like a pillar of fire when 
it had gone out in all others." The confidence of a 
divine cause — the light of a divine trust — the soaring- 
passion of a faith mighty to subdue mountains, — these 
are the grand elements of his character. He un- 
covers his most familiar thoughts, he writes of the 
most ordinary details as to the marriage and settle- 
ment of his son, and the same earnestness meets us — 
the same practical spirit and aim show themselves. 
No expression escapes from him that suggests osten- 
tation or mere effect, or double dealing. If this be 
hy[)Ocrisy, it is difficult to conceive what more the 
most natural and downright smcerity could have been. 
We recognise in Cromwell, therefore, above all, the 


reality of religious conviction. He lived hy faith. It 
was the firm perception and hold of the Divine that 
carried him forward through all his difficulties and 
amidst all his triumphs. God he felt to be with him 
and to be his God ; and his firm persuasion of this it 
was that strengthened his heart and consecrated his 
sword, and bore him erect when weakness or blindness 
left others struck down or groping helplessly amidst 
the confusion and darkness. The spirit of Puritanism 
found in him its most thorough expression as well 
as its greatest representative. He was penetrated to 
the very core of his being by the thought that God 
was ever near to him and guiding him, " ordering 
him and affairs concerning him," and that the cause 
which he served was His cause. He " seldom fought 
without some text of Scripture to support him." And 
as he fought, he lived. He was an " unworthy and mean 
instrument," to do some good, and God some service. 
To doubt or deny the leading of God in the great events 
of his time, was to him the deepest impiety — the most 
ungodly malice. " Is it an arm of flesh that hath done 
these things ?" he says, writing from before Waterford 
in lGi9. " Is it the wisdom, or counsel, or strength of 
men ? It is the Lord only. God will curse that man 
and his house that dares to think otherwise. Sir, you 
see the work is done by a divine leading. God gets 
into the hearts of men, and persuades them to come 
under you. . . . These are the seals of God's appro- 
bation of your great change of government — which 
indeed was no more yours than these victories and 
successes are ours ; yet let them with us say, even the 
most unsatisfied heart amongst them, that both are the 
righteous judgments and mighty works of God." 

This spirit may be called fanaticism. The identi- 


fication of the Divine, not merely with a great moral 
cause, but with the accidents of that cause — the inter- 
pretation of success as a token of the divine favour, 
and the reverse — all this is of the essence of the fana- 
tical. Puritanism itself was a fanaticism, in so far as 
it merged the spiritual in the temporal, and made its 
own dogmas and ordinances tlie measure of the divine. 
And the impartial critic cannot refuse to admit that 
fanatical elements mingled in Cromwell's character. 
The presence of these elements made him pre-eminent- 
ly the man of his time — the great impersonation and 
power of it. But wliile we can everywhere trace in 
him the capacities of fanaticism, and while these show 
themselves now and then in startling and even shock- 
ing expressions, we see also at every turn of his life 
how far he was above them — how the native greatness 
of his mind, the breadth of his spirituality, as well 
as the shrewdness of his sense, raised him beyond the 
limits of the enthusiast. Destitute of intellectual cul- 
tivation, and without any of the checks that come from 
iTesthetic sensibility or refinement, his mind was yet too 
enlightened, sound, and sagacious, and his sympathies 
too direct, broad, and vigorous, to permit him to be ab- 
solutely swayed by any theories whatever. It was this 
that made the difference between him and many of 
the men like Harrison, or even Vane, who at one time 
surrounded him, and with whom he acted. It was 
this that made the difference between him and the 
Scotch ministers and generals with whom he argued. 
The Divine was never to him this or that institution 
or covenant. The external never enslaved him, how- 
ever it guided him. The great hero of Puritanism, he 
yet rose above its narrowness. Its faith never left him, 
and its hopes never died out of him, but its forms fell 


away from liim when tliey w^ere no longer serviceable. 
Moving in an atmosphere of the wildest fanaticism, 
and having " sucked its very dregs," as Mr Hallam will 
have it, yet Cromwell was himself no fanatic. The 
Divine mastered him, but did not prostrate him. It 
inspired, and guided, and blessed him — it carried him 
to triumph and power ; made him a tower of strength 
to the persecuted Protestant abroad, and a protection 
to the peaceable Protestant at home. But even when 
its highest passion swayed him, and the very hand 
of God seemed upon him and his Avays, his own 
eye was clear, and his heart sound, and his hand 
steady ; and while the whispers of the Divme were in 
his ear, there was no intoxication nor delusion in his 

Cromwell, then, was no hypocrite and no mere enthu- 
siast. He was simply the greatest Englishman of his 
time ; the most powerful, if not the most perfect, ex- 
pression of its religious spirit, and the master-genius 
of its military and political necessities. This is the 
only consistent and adequate explanation of his career. 
Every such time of revolution must find its representa- 
tive and hero, the mirror and minister of its necessities, 
but at the same time the master of them. Had Crom- 
well been less religious, he could never have become 
a centre of influence in such a time. Not even the 
subtlest and most profound dissimulation could have 
made him so. Had he been merely religious — had the 
Godward tendency absorbed his being, and become a 
disease of fanaticism, rather than a stimulant of patriot- 
ism, then his incipient influence would have crumbled 
to pieces in his grasp, and his power have gone from 
him so soon as he tried to exercise it. It was not 
merely because he represented his time, but because he 


rose above it — because religion was in him the nurture 
of transcendent abilities, the baptism and ever-renew- 
ing life of heroic energies — that he became what he was, 
and accomplished what he did. Eeligion formed him, 
but the original materials were of the grandest and 
most powerful character. " A larger soul, I think, hath 
seldom dwelt in a house of clay than his was." * 

This largeness of soul was everywhere seen in Crom- 
well's actions. His mind heaved with the burden of 
his thoughts at every great crisis of his life. He saw 
the wide issues stretching out before him — issues quite 
unseen and unappreciated by many with whom he 
acted ; and the absorption of thought and semi-pro- 
phetic rapture which sometimes came from this dreamy 
and far-reaching foresight,-|- appears to be the true ex- 
planation of many supposed instances of his profound 
dissimulation. He has been credited with elaborate 
and hidden scheming, when in fact he was rather dream- 
ing, seeing in vision before him the great outline of the 
future. A certain exaltation of spirit, lofty, ardent, 
and uncalculating, was apt to sway him like a divine 
afflatus, betraymg itself in his face and manner, some- 
times in a radiant majesty and kingly presence, and 
sometimes in a wild and boisterous humour. It was 
this that, suffusing his whole being, and giving to his 
steps an " uncontrollable buoyancy " when he entered 

* Maidstone. 

f His supposed words to M. de Bellifevi'e, President of the Parliament 
of Paris, who had seen and known him before his assumj^tion of power — 
words upon which Mr Foster has dwelt so much in his recent essay — that 
" one never mounts so hirjh as when one does not know where one is going " — 
are not inconsistent with the gift of foresight attributed to him, even if 
the words were anything more than a confused memory on the part of 
M. de Bellievre. Cromwell's foresight was not the foresight of worldly 
prudence, but the vision of his destiny as in God's hands, to do some 
great work, to mount as high as he could. 



London in state, after the battle of Worcester, led his 
Republican chaplain to murmur to himself, " That man 
will yet be king of England." It may have been the 
same rapt excitement that made him jest so wildly with 
Ludlow and Martin on the eve of the King's death, and 
pursue the former down stairs vdth the cushions of the 
council-chamber in which they had met, and where, 
while talking with them, the curtain of the future had 
risen before him. Ludlow, with his " wodden head," 
could only see the tomfoolery of this ; but there was 
a fulness of bursting thought, of inarticulate emotion, 
in our hero that may be conceived exploding in such 
a riotous and absurd manner, as this and many stories 
impute to him. Many of these stories, indeed, are mere 
lies — the concoctions of the mean cowards that dared 
to slander him after the Eestoration for a j)iece of bread. 
Yet it was of the very character of Cromwell's greatness 
— substantial and massive, without classical dignity or 
harmony or delicacy — to be indifferent to outward 
polish and calm restraint of demeanour. Some ele- 
ments of his rude farmer life — of that disorderly ap- 
pearance which, on his first becoming known in Parlia- 
ment, so stamped itself on the minds of his contempo- 
raries — probably remained in him to the last, under all 
his "great and majestical deportment." 

For mere -forms of any kind he evidently cared little. 
He appreciated and made use of them in public, and 
wherever the national honour was concerned in him as 
its representative ; but he was also glad to lay them 
aside, and descend from formality to simple familiarity. 
" With his friends," says Whitelock, " he would be 
exceedingly familiar, and by way of diversion would 
make verses with us. He would commonly call for 
tobacco, pipes, and a candle, and would now and then 



take tobacco himself. Then lie would fall again to his 
serious and great hisiness." Obviously a plain and simple 
man among his fellows, with no airs and no grandeurs 
about hmi when he had no stately work to do, no 
national splendours to represent, and no Manzinis and 
Dues de Crequi to overawe. Tliis genuine simplicity, 
amidst all his extravagances and assumptions, we can- 
not help thinking had more to do than anything else 
with his refusal of the title of king. With the reality 
of sovereignty in his possession, the mere name and 
insignia could have but few attractions for him. And 
confused and unintelligible as those interviews and 
speeches between him and the Parliamentary chiefs and 
lawyers on the subject are — suggesting now his wish 
for, and now his indifference to, the title — the prompt- 
ing of his own manly and simple nature had probably 
as much to do with the result as the apprehension of 
the army or any other cause whatever. To represent 
him as merely dallying with the Parliament and the 
lawyers, while he had made up his mind to accept, and 
as having been at length only prevented from carrying 
out his wishes by the threatenings of the army chiefs, 
is more consistent with a character of craft and intriofue 
than with one of principle, tact, and energy. 

The student of this part of English history is every- 
where driven back upon a broad interpretation of facts. 
He has always the same problem before him — to ex- 
plain tlie culmination of a patriotic and religious revo- 
lution by the triumph of mere force and perfidy, planned 
with long deliberation, and executed with consummate 
skill ; or, on the other hand, to regard the power and 
Protectorate of Cromwell as the inevitable issue of 
successive national exigencies, understood and seized as 
they came by a master — by the one man in the king- 


cTom wlio had a real discernment of the course of events, 
and real capacity to guide and order them. There 
are, no doubt, circumstances on the mere surface that 
favour the former explanation. It was the one which 
necessarily sprang up and became part of the national 
creed after the Eestoration. But the more all the 
inner history and details of the time are studied ; the 
more the temper of the religious influences, which then 
more than all other influences moved the English 
people, is aj^prehended ; the more, above all, the great 
central character is probed and examined in the light 
of his own sayings and doings, apart from the scur- 
rilous exaggerations of Royalist pamphleteers,* or the 
envious misinterpretations of Eepublican zealots, t — the 
more will the latter view gain ground as the only con- 
sistent and intelligible, as well as enlarged and liberal 
interpretation of all the circumstances. Selfish and 
despotical as may still be judged many of the acts of 
Cromwell ; puzzling and obscure as must remain some 
of the shades of his character ; perilous as may be the 
very glory claimed for him — such as no other in our 
national liberty can ever share, and none without crime 
could ever again dream of ; — yet his true parallel will 
be found not in the vulgar despot, who triumphs by 
terror and rules by the bayonet, but in the divine hero 
who, interpreting the instincts and necessities of a great 
people, rose on their buoyancy to the proud position 
which, having seized by his commanding genius, he 
held, upon the whole, with a beneficent influence, as he 
did with an imperishable glory. 

* Heath and others. f Ludlow and otheis. 




It may seem questionable to assume Milton as a re- 
presentative of Puritanism ; and in the narrower sense 
of that word, the question would be a fair one ; for 
Milton was certainly a great deal more than a Puritan. 
His mind and culture show elements even anti-Puri- 
tan. His youth and early manhood were academic 
and literary. Classical and poetical studies moulded 
his taste, and disciplined and refined his intellect. 
The Cambridge student of the years 1625-1632 — 
the youthful poet at Horton — and the leisurely dilU- 
tante traveller at Florence, Eome, Naples, and Geneva, 
during the seven following years — seems far enough 
from participation in the religious spirit which was 
then spreading throughout England, and beginning 
to move it to its centre ; then, again, the later spiri- 
tualist of the years of the Eestoration, Arian in doc- 
trine, and latitudinarian in practice, who owned no 
church, and nowhere joined in public worship — the 
blind old x^oet — the divine dreamer of a Paradise Lost 
and a Paradise Eegained — " who used to sit in a grey, 
coarse cloth coat at the door of his house near Bunliill 
Fields, in warm sunny weather, to enjoy the fresh air," 
may seem equally removed from the nonconformity 
that was still active and zealous under all its renewed 


oppressions — that lived in jails or flourislied in corners 
beyond the scrutiny of the Five-mile Act. 

It is nevertheless true that, in all the higher and 
more comprehensive meaning of the word, Milton was 
a Puritan. Even in his early years, his sympathy 
with its spirit of ecclesiastical reform, the polemical 
hatred against Episcopacy which it nourished, pre- 
vented him from entering the Church. On his re- 
turn to England from his travels abroad, he plunged 
into the very heart of the religious contention that 
was then brewing on all sides. His first prose writings 
are as distinctively Puritan in their dogmatic spirit as 
any writings in all the century. During the years of 
his controversial manhood, he was identified closely 
with every great phase of the movement. He was the 
advocate of its triumphs — of its excesses. He stood 
forth before the world as its literary genius and apolo- 
gist. And, finally, his two great poems, while classical 
in their structure and in the severe and felicitous ma- 
jesty of their style, are intensely Puritan in their spirit 
— in the intellectual ideas, and even the imagmative 
scenery through which their great purpose is worked 
out and impressed upon the mind of the reader. 

There is no picture of Puritanism, therefore, that 
would be at all complete which did not embrace John 
Milton as one of its prominent figures. The very fact 
that his relations to it are in some respects exceptional 
— that he stands so much alone, and above the move- 
ment, while intimately connected with it — makes it all 
the more necessary to introduce him ; for there is no 
other character can be a substitute for him ; there is 
no one else that did the same work as he did, and in 
the same spirit. He remains the single great poet that 
Puritanism has produced ; and while we shall see 

MILTOX. 169 

abundantly how mucli more went to his formation than 
Puritanism — how broader sympathies and affinities 
were necessary to nurse and educate his genius — we 
shall see at the same time what a peculiar consecration 
its religious spirit gave to that genius — to what un- 
earthly heights it carried it "above the Olympian hill," 
"above the flight of Pegasean wing ; " and what richness, 
and strength, and mystery of grandeur all his high 
powers derived from commimion with those biblical 
thoughts and biblical forms of expression on which 
the Puritan spirit exclusively fed and delighted to 
clothe itself. 

The life of Milton is in itself a sort of Puritan 
Drama, severe, earnest, sad, yet with the bright lights 
of an irrepressible poesy irradiating it. The spiritual 
discontent and unrest of his youth hiding itself be- 
neath a widely sympathetic and varied culture of his 
intellect, taste, and feelings, of which his early poems 
continue the ever beautiful expression ; his stormy 
and contentious manhood, mingling pride and stern- 
ness, and even cruel harshness, with the assertion of 
the most noble principles, both political and religious ; 
and then the mournful close of all, " the evil days and 
evil tongues " — 

" In darkness, and with dangers compassed round, 
And solitude," 

in which his high hopes for human freedom and the 
triumph of divine truth expire — the picture is a grandly 
impressive one, the heroic lesson of which is only the 
more conspicuous from the apparent failure, the sacri- 
fice of the hero. 

His life divides itself conveniently for our purpose 
into three main epochs — the fi-rst extending to his 


return from liis travels abroad and settlement at home 
on the eve of the outbreak of the civil war (1608-40) ; 
the second running throughout the memorable twenty- 
years of the civil war and the Commonwealth (1640-60) ; 
and the third reaching from the Restoration to his 
death in 1674. The first of these is the period of 
his education and early poems — the classical period, so 
to speak, of his life ; the second marks the era of his 
controversial activity — the Puritan phase of his career ; 
the third is the age of his later great poems, and of 
his contemplative speculations in Christian doctrine. 
The first period is the most crowded with external 
incidents ; the second and third derive their chief in- 
terest from the splendid intellectual monuments that 
so thickly mark them, and the preparation of which 
constituted their chief occupation. 

Milton's father was a scrivener in Bread Street, 
London, and there the poet was born on the 9th of 
December 1608. Besides himself, there were four 
children, three sisters and a brother. Two of the 
sisters died in infancy; but his brother Christopher 
and his sister Ann both meet us in interesting rela- 
tions as we trace the career of the poet. The original 
seat of Milton's family was in Oxfordshire ; and the 
reputed grandfather of the poet, by name also John 
Milton, is said to have held the office of under-ranger 
of the royal forest of Shotover, in the immediate vicin- 
ity of Oxford.* Piccent researches -J- cannot be said to 

* " His grandfather was of Holton in Oxfordshire, near Shotover," 
saj's Aubrey. " He was," says Wood, " an under-ranger or keeper of 
the forest of Shotover, near to the (said) town of Holton, but descended 
from those of his name who had lived beyond all record at Milton, near 
Holton and Thame in Oxfordshire." 

f Mr Hunter and Mr Masson. 

MILTON. 171 

have thrown any clearer light on the pedigree of the 
poet. That his grandfather's name was Kichard and 
not John, and that he was of Stanton St John's instead 
of Holton, have been suggested with some degree of 
probability, but without any satisfactory clue of evi- 
dence. It is more clearly known that he was a Eoman 
Catholic, and rigidly devoted to his faith ; so that when 
his son John, the father of the poet, embraced the Ee- 
formed doctrines, he disinherited him, and would never 
again receive him into favour. To this event, pro- 
bably, it was owing that he settled in London as a 
scrivener, a business very much resembling that of a 
modern attorney. 

Under the sign of the Spread Eagle in Bread Street, 
Milton's father throve in this capacity. He was a 
" man of the utmost integrity," his son says, with 
some degree of pride ; eminently successful in his pro- 
fession, but by no means merely a man of parchments 
and law, for he found leisure to devote himself to liter- 
ature, and especially to music, in Avhich he became 
highly proficient, and one of the best composers of his 
time. The name of the poet's mother is commonly 
supposed to have been Bradshaw, of the same family 
as the famous John Bradshaw, President of the Coun- 
cil of State in the Commonwealth, although, somewhat 
strangely, her own grandson Phillips gives the name 
as Caston. Of her character there is not much known, 
save what her son says in the same treatise in which 
he characterises his father. " She was a most approved 
mother," he says, " and widely known for her works of 

Milton's home appears to have been a very happy 

* " Matre probatissima et eleemosynis per viciniam protissimam 
nota." — Defeiisio Secunda. 


one — a grave and earnest Puritan home, in wliicli 
prayer was daily offered, in wliicli the minister of the 
parish, the Kev. Eichard Stoke, a " zealous Puritan, 
and constant, and judicious, and religious preacher," 
was a frequent visitor, but where no gloom reigned. 
His father's devotion to music must of itself have 
lightened any tendency to domestic austerity, and 
his son's tastes in the same direction proved a con- 
stant source of entertainment. The Poet gave very 
early promise of his wonderful gifts, and this, com- 
bined with his singular beauty, made him an object 
of very fond and proud interest to his parents. In 
evidence of this, we have his portrait taken by Cor- 
nelius Jansen when he was only ten years of age, — 
the well-known picture of the little boy-poet, with his 
auburn hair not yet clustered round his neck, but lying 
in soft gentle waves on his forehead ; the face, dreamy 
and solid rather than bright and vivid, set above a stiff, 
broad, and elaborate frill, and light-fitting tunic, enve- 
loping his person more like a casing of armour than a 
soft and fitting child-raiment. According to Aubrey, 
he was even now a poet. The verse-making tendency 
had begun to show itself in him, fostered by his father 
and his father's friend John Lane, whose " several 
poems, if they had not had the ill fate," says Philips, 
" to remain unpublished, might have gained him a 
name not much inferior, if not equal to Drayton and 
others of next rank to Spenser." Not only Lane's 
poems, but his very name has perished in the great 
current of English literature. 

Milton's special education seems to have been con- 
ducted at home in those early years, under the direction 
of a tutor of the name of Thomas Young, a Scotchman 
by birth, and a student of St Andrews. He afterwards 

MILTON. 173 

became a proniiuent Puritan divine, and Milton retained 
for him a strong feeling of gratitude and respect.* 

When about twelve, the young poet was sent to St 
Paul's grammar school, founded by Dean Colet, and in 
the poet's time under the charge of a Mr Gill and his 
son, the former of whom was really a man of superior 
worth and learning, "a noted Latinist, critic, and divine." 
The son was also a man of considerable accomplish- 
ment — a poet in his way, but of an erratic and trouble- 
some disposition. Milton, in after years, preserved 
somewhat intimate relations with both of them, and 
various Latin letters passed between him and young Gill, 
for whom he seems always to have felt a warm interest, 
notwithstanding his vanity and recurring unsteadiness. 
Here he laid the foundations of his Latin scholarship, 
although none of his compositions in that language 
can be referred to so early a date.-f- Here also his 
mind opened to the great world of thought. He him- 
self tells us that " before he left school he had acquired 
various tongues, and also some not insignificant taste 
for the sweetness of philosophy." He pursued his 
studies with great ardour, strongly encouraged by his 
father, whose name he never ceases to mention with 
affectionate esteem, when he alludes to the subject of 
his education, which he often does in his writings. His 
ardour was in fact over-stimulated ; and late hours and 
undue application as a boy laid the foundation of 
weakness inliis eyes, and otherwise injured his health. 
" The study of humane letters," he says, " I seized 
with such eagerness that, from the twelfth year of my 
age, I scarcely ever went from my lessons to bed be- 

* He was one of the Smectymnuan divines that Milton defended, 
t The earliest is a letter to his old tutor Young, dated March 26, 
1625, immediately after he had left school and entered at the university. 


fore midniglit ; which, indeed, was tlie first cause of 
injury to my eyes, to whose natural weakness there 
were also added frequent headaches." 

Along with liis classical studies he found leisure 
to cultivate his native literature, and his poetic 
vein had already begun to flow freely in his own 
language. The poetry of the Elizabethan age, in its 
outburst of splendid production, could not but fas- 
cinate a youthful imagination such as his. His own 
admiring language, as well as the tastes of his school- 
master,* admit of little doubt that he studied Spenser 
with delighted enthusiasm. But a poet of far less 
name — scarcely, indeed, remembered now — appears to 
have exercised the most direct influence over Milton 
at this time, and even permanently to have imbued 
his poetic thought with certain forms of imaginative 
suggestion. This was Du Bartas, a famous French 
poet of his day, whose Divine Weeks and Works had 
been translated by Sylvester and become widely popu- 
lar. Du Bartas was a particular friend of King James, 
and had visited him in Scotland, "f His popularity at 
Court had probably helped the circulation of his poem ; 
but it had in itself also many claims to the interest 
of such an age, when intellectual excitement was 
running so strongly on religious topics. The high- 
sounding breadth and magnificence of its descriptions, 
the vague though barren grandeur of its conceptions — 
its bastard sublimity, in short — were just what was 

* Old Gill evidently knew SjDenser and admired him. See Mason's 
Milton, p. 62. 

+ The i-eaders of James Melville's Diary will remember a famous in- 
tellectual skirmish in St Mary's College, St Andrews, between Andrew 
Melville and Archbishop Adamson, at which Du Bartas and the King- 
were present, and the judicious criticism of the former upon the encounter 
of the rival theologians. 

MILTON, 175 

likely to seize on the mind of a sclioolboy,* even such 
a schoolboy as Milton. In the two specimens which 
have been preserved of his political genius at this time, 
we can trace distinctly the influence of his study of 
Du Bartas. These are two translations of Psalm 114 
and 13G, which were afterwards published by himself, 
with the inscription that "they were done by the 
author at fifteen years old." Johnson's somewhat 
disparaging criticism of these pieces is well known; 
but they are spirited and harmonious, showing the true, 
clear, firm tone of genius, although the echo of Du 
Bartas lingers in them. 

Milton was entered, on the 12th of February 1624, 
as a " lesser pensioner " at Christ's College in Cam- 
bridge. -f* His tutor was the Eev. William Chappel, 
who became Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and 
afterwards Bishop of Cork. Chappel was a man of 
great distinction in his college, especially as a dis- 
putant. He had displayed his powers with singular 
triumph before King James in 1615, and'^'even against 
the King himself when he ventured, with his accus- 
tomed vanity, to take up the subject, and enter the 
lists with the theological champion. James, with 
unwonted good-nature, after getting the worse of an 
argument, " professed his joy to find a man of so great 

* Mr Masson has quoted a saying of Dryden's, in which he owns to the 
same influence. " I can remember," he says, " when I was a boy, 
I thought inimitable Spenser a mean poet in comparison of Sylvester's 
Du Bartas, and was rapt in ecstacy when I read these lines : — 
' Now when the winter's keener breath began 
To crystallise the Baltic ocean, 
To glaze the lakes and bridle up the floods, 
And periwig with wool the bald-pate woods.' " 
t " Admissus est pensionarius minor, Feb. 12, 1624, sub Mro Chap- 
pel, sohitque pro ingressu, 10s.," says the catalogue of students for the 


talents, so good a subject." No tutor, according to 
Fuller, " bred more or better pupils than Mr William 
Chappel, so exact his care in their education." How- 
ever this may have been, Milton and he did not suit 
each other ; for towards the end of his second academic 
year they had a quarrel, so inveterate and disagree- 
able as to necessitate Milton's removal from the uni- 
versity for some time. This is the famous incident 
of his " rustication," of which Johnson has made such 
unfavourable use. The incident, when looked into, 
seems to have been of a comparatively trivial character, 
not involving the loss of a term, if it partook of the 
character of "rustication" at all ; while the insinua- 
tion, introduced with such an air of rotund reluctance, 
but with such real relish — " I am ashamed to relate, 
what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last 
students in either university that suffered the public 
indignity of corporal correction" — does not rest on any 
satisfactory evidence.* 

To the clsse of the same year we are indebted for 
the verses " On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a 
Cough." The infant was his niece, the daughter of his 
sister, who, just before the poet left home for college, 
had been married to Mr Edward Philips, of the Crown 
Office. The little one had scarcely come to excite its 
parents' hopes when it was snatched away : — 

" fairest flower ! no sooner blown than blasted — 
Soft silken primrose, fading timelessly — 
Summer's chief honour — if thou hadst outlasted 
Bleak winter's force that made thy blossom dry." 

There is, with some youthful pedantry, great sweetness 

* The reader is referred to Mr Masson (pp. 135, 136), who has ex- 
amined with the most conscientious care this as every other incident of 
the poet's youthful career. 

MILTON. 177 

in the verses, and a lingering softness, very touching, 
as in the concluding verse — 

" Then thou, the mother of so sweet a child, 
Her false -imagined loss cease to lament, 
And wisely learn to curb thy sorrows wild. 
Think what a })resent thou to God hast sent. 
And render Him with patience what He lent. 
This if thou do, He will an offspring give, 
That till the world's last end shall make thy name to live." 

In the remaining years of Milton's academic career 
he established a high reputation for scholarship ; and 
whereas, at first, he seems to have been but little 
liked,* he became at length, if not popular, yet highly 
esteemed in his college. His nephew says, " He was 
loved and admired by the whole university, particu- 
larly by the fellows and most ingenious persons in 
his house." And he himself, in reply to an opponent, 
who, on the commencement of his controversial acti- 
vity, when he had begun to stir the powerful dislike 
of the Prelatic party, accused him of having been 
" vomited out " of the university "after an inordinate 
and riotous youth," derisively thanks him for the slan- 
der; "for it hath given me," he continues, "an apt 
occasion to acknowledge publicly, with all grateful 
mind, that more than ordinary respect which I found 
above any of my equals at the hands of those cour- 
teous and learned men, the fellows of that college, 
wherein I spent some years : who, at my parting, after 
I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified 
many ways, how much better it would content that I 
would stay ; as, by many letters full of kindness and 
loving respect, both before that time and long after, I 
was assured of their singular good affection towards 
me." "f* 

* Johnson. + Apology for Smedymnuus. 



It was Milton's intention, on proceeding to Cam- 
bridge, to qualify Mmself for the Church. His father 
and his friends seem to have considered this the na- 
tural employment to which his great powers called 
him, and he himself entered into their intentions. 
" By the intentions of my parents and friends, I was 
destined, of a child, to the service of the Church, and 
in my own resolutions." "When precisely his own 
mind began to waver in this resolution, we cannot 
say. His imiversity experience had something to do 
with it; but the real cause was deeper, and lay, be- 
yond doubt, in the profound opposition of his temper 
and character to the spirit then prevailing in the heads 
of the Church. Laud had been appointed Bishop 
of London in 1628, and during the next three years 
— coinciding with the concluding years of Milton's 
university course, when his mind would be naturally 
busy with his prospects, and he was perfectly com- 
petent to appreciate the full bearing of all that was 
going on around him — the new Court favourite, bishop, 
and privy councillor, was carrying out his schemes for 
the more Catholic remodelling of the Church with a 
high hand. These schemes were such as a mind like 
Milton's could only contemplate with disgust. The 
proud consciousness of genius which he already che- 
rished, his lofty sympathy for all that was great and 
noble in moral sentiment, his intense seriousness of 
thought, and his contempt for mere forms and nice- 
ties of detail, must have made him regard such a 
system as Laud's with the whole dislike of his high 
and sensitive nature. This is sufficiently apparent in 
his own language, in the same passage from which we 
have already quoted. " Coming to some maturity of 
years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the 

MILTON. 179 

Church, that he who would take orders must subscribe 
slave, and take an oath, without which, unless he 
took with a conscience that he would relish, he must 
either straight perjure or split his faith, I thought 
better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred 
office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude 
and forswearing." The subscriptions and oaths re- 
quired from candidates for holy orders, he says here, 
expressly repelled him ; but it was not these formali- 
ties merely in themselves — for, in point of fact, he had 
already, by his entrance into the university, complied 
with all that they involved ; it was such signs of bond- 
age, viewed in the light of the dominant system, whose 
aim was to exterminate all individuality and freedom 
of conscience, and the nobleness of thought that alone 
comes from these ; it was the Prelatic " tyranny," in 
short, which more than ever, and in worse forms, 
had invaded the Church, that really moved him to 
abandon it. 

He does not seem, however, to have made up his 
mind definitely before he left the university. The 
process of struggle and dislike had begmi, but it had 
not yet terminated ; for it is in the last year of his 
university course that he is supposed to have written 
to a friend as if he were still slowly carrying on his 
preparations for the Church, " not taking thought of 
being late, so it give advantage to be more fit.'' His 
friend, who is unknown, had remonstrated with him 
on his " too much love of learning, and his dreaming 
away his years " in the arms of studious retirement, 
rather than actively bestirring himself for the duties 
of life; and he defends himself in a strain half-play- 
ful, half-serious. Although he does not clearly ex- 
plain, he hints that he had far deeper grounds than 


any mere "endless delight of speculation" for liis hesi- 
tation — grounds which had not yet turned him from 
his resolution, but were evidently in course of doing 
so. In this same remarkable letter he encloses the 
well-known beautiful sonnet " On his being arrived 
at the age of twenty-three : " — 

" How soon liath Time, the subtle thief of youth, 
Stolen on his wing my three-antl-twentieth year ! 
My hasting days fly on with full career, 
But my late spring no bud or blossom showeth. 
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth 
That I to manhood am arrived so near ; 
And inward ripeness doth much less appear 
Than some more timely-hajipy spirits endueth. 
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow, 
It shall be still, in strictest measure, even 
To that same lot, however mean or high. 
Towards which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven. 
All is, if I have grace to iise it so. 
As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye." 

There is beneath the deprecating tone of the sonnet 
the same quiet consciousness of strength as in the 
letter, and especially the same grave moral serious- 
ness. His " inward ripeness " might much less ap- 
pear, considering his years, than in the case of others; 
Imt even while his modesty suggests this thought, his 
heart tells him that the ripeness is there, and will 
show itself in full time ; and his proud integrity, and 
climbing earnestness, he knows, are equal to any task 
that may be assigned him. There is now, and at all 
times, in Milton, a sustained self-conscious strength and 
dignity of purpose which shrinks from no inspection. 

On leaving Cambridge, after taking his Master's 
degree in July 1682, Milton retired to his "father's 
country residence" at Horton, in Buckinghamshire. 
Hither the scrivener had sought a pleasant retreat 

MILTON. 181 

in which to spend his old age. The world had j)ros- 
pered with him ; his daughter was well and happily 
married, and his sons nearly educated, and looking 
forward to settlement in the world ; and so he sought 
repose, in his declining years, from the cares of busi- 
ness, amidst the rural delights whose memory had 
lingered in his heart from the days that he left the 
village home in Oxfordshire. Hoi-ton is pleasantly 
situated, not far from Windsor, in the district famil- 
iarly known in our political history as the Chiltern 
Hundreds. A fertile landscape, well wooded and 
watered, " russet lawns and fallows grey," and the 
quiet rich meadow-pastures, such as the English eye 
delights to look upon, formed the scene then as well 
as now — the noble towers of Windsor, " bosomed high 
in tufted trees," rising over it, and crowning it with 
their magnificence. Here Milton spent the most part 
of the next five years of his life, varied by occasional 
journeys to London for the purpose of purchasing 
books, or of " learning something new in mathematics 
or in music." 

There is no period of our poet's life that fixes itself 
in such a fitting and felicitous picture before the mind 
as these five years at Horton. It is the eminently poeti- 
cal period of his life — poetical not merely in the luxu- 
riant inspiration of the "Allegro" and "Penseroso," the 
"Arcades," " Comus," and " Lycidas," but in the cir- 
cumstances in which we image him to ourselves ; for 
without drawing upon our mere fancy, we cannot but 
conceive him as a loving and delighted student of nature 
in those years. He himself, indeed, says nothing of his 
conscious delight in nature. In his allusions to this 
period he speaks rather of his hard and continued 
studies. " In continued reading, I deduced the affairs 


of the Greeks to tlie time when they ceased to he 
Greeks." But, however husy with his historical studies, 
his imagination must have been also intensely quick- 
ened by the outward world around him. At every 
pore of his sensitive being he must have drunk in 
deep draughts of natural beauty, and through every 
sense garnered up treasures of imagery for exquisite 
use ; for his poems of this period, especially the 
"Allegro" and "Penseroso," show a pure, full, and 
unrestrained abandonment to outward impressions, 
quite singular with him. The most charming com- 
placency in Nature is united to the most vehement 
and passionate sympathies with it. His soul goes 
forth in revel with its moods — now gay with its smiles, 
now sad with its gloom, now singing in a clear heaven 
of light, and now "most musical, most melancholy." 
There is little or none of the self-conscious restraint, 
reflective subtlety, and elaborate application that may 
be traced in his muse both before and afterwards. 
Tor example, in his ode on the " Nativity," composed 
before leaving college, as well as in his college exer- 
cises, we see strongly at work the didactic elements 
of his mind forecasting a high and solemn lesson in 
every play of thought ; and this moral intent — this 
divine aim — was deeply implanted in the very heart 
of Milton's genius, and gives its complexion to all 
his most characteristic writings. But now, for a while, 
in his fresh and free communion with nature, he is 
able to forget this moral spirit, and to surrender him- 
self to the mere wayward impulses of sensuous feeling 
as they stir him. It is as if he had made a pause in 
the serious and thoughtful purposes of his life, and 
given himself up for a season to an entranced enjoy- 
ment of external life and beauty. 

MILTON. 183 

The sonnet on " May Morning/' wliicli opens this 
series of his poems, strikes the key-note of the whole : — 

"Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger, 
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her 
The flowery May, who from her green laj) throws 
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose. 
Hail, bounteous May ! thou dost inspire 
Mirth and faith, and warm desrre. 
Woods and groves are of thy dressing. 
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing ; 
Thus we salute thee with our early song, 
And welcome thee, and wish thee long." 

The song of the nightingale warbling at eve, " when 
all the woods are still ; " the night raven singing be- 
neath the "jealous wings" of the "brooding dark- 
ness ; " the lark beginning her flight and " startling 
the dull night" "from her watch-tower in the skies;" 
the "dappled dawn," "the frolic wind," "breathing 
the spring," and "the rocking winds piping loud;" 
the great sun 

' ' Robed in flames and amber light. 
The clouds in thousand liveries dight ; " 

the morn "riding near her highest noon ;" and 

" as if her head she bowed, 
Stooping through a fleecy cloud ; " 

the " upland hamlets, with many a youth and maid 

" Dancing in the checkered shade ; " 

and the evening stories when the dance is done, spiced 
by the "nut-brown ale ;" the whistle of the ploughman 
o'er the furrowed land ; the blithe song of the millv- 
maid ; the mower whettmg his scythe, and the shep- 
herd telling his tale, 

" Under the hawi;horn in the dale." 

Such are mere fragments of the series of imagery that 


meets us in "L' Allegro" and " II Penseroso," all gathered 
from the daily scenes and sounds surrounding the poet 
in Horton, filling his heart with gladness, colouring 
his imagination witli the most varied hues, and mould- 
ing his utterances to the most perfect music. There 
are nowhere in our language such charming nature- 
pieces — such breathings of harmonious responsiveness 
to the checkered influences of the external world as 
they play over the soul, and draw it now to mirth and 
now to melancholy, now to rapture and now to sad- 
ness. It requires an effort of thought to realise the 
Milton of later years in those effusions, with scarce a 
plan, without the least trace of moral lesson ; like the 
continuous snatches of a melodious spirit swayed by 
the sensitive impulses of the hour, and catching up, 
by the mere affinity of imaginative contrast — by the 
links of mere vagrant association — the successive pic- 
tures that evoke and express its feeling. They have 
none of the classicality of his " Ode" — of its severe 
majesty, its spiritual aim. They are the mere war- 
blings of a rich-souled child of nature, giving forth, in 
bursts of lyrical sweetness, the natural impressions 
which have sunk into his being and wakened it to 

In the " Comus " and the " Lycidas " we have the 
same full, vivid, and rich appreciation of nature, but 
not the same degree of abandonment to its impulses. 
There is much more of ethical and didactic seriousness 
in both. The moral austerity of the lady in "Comus" 
rising in "sacred vehemence" against the "unhallowed" 
suggestions of the Bacchanal — the whole idea of the 
poem, which is essentially ethical, notwithstanding its 
light lyrical structure and the sensuous fulness of its 
imagery — remind us of Milton's more characteristic 

MILTON, 185 

spirit; while the pensive grandeur of the " Lycidas," 
with all its lingering and softened music, has its almost 
perfect harmony and blended pathos of feeling broken 
by a passage wdiere we catch loudly the voice of the 
stern Puritan moralist : — 

" Last came, and last did go, 
The pilot of the Galilean lake : 
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain ; 
The golden oi)es, the iron shuts amain. 
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bes2)ake : 
' How well could I have spared for thee, young swain, 
Enow of such, as for their bellies' sake 
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold ! 
Of other care they little reckoning make 
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast. 
And shove away the worthy bidden guest. 

And, when they list, their lean and flashy songs 
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wTctched straw : 
The hungry sheep look up and are not fed ; 
But, swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw, 
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.' " 

The difference between the stern strength, the vehe- 
ment and even harsh earnestness of these lines, and 
the gentle natural ])atlios, the sweet-tempered tender- 
ness of those almost immediately following — 

" Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies. 
The tufted crow-toe and i)ale jessamine, 
The white pink, and the pansy freaked with jet, 
The glowuig violet. 

The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine, 
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head. 
And every flower that sad embroidery wears : 
Bid amaranthus all his l)cauty shed. 
And daftbdillies till their cu])S with tears. 
To strew the laiu-eat herse where Lycid lies " — 

presents in interesting connection the two main and 
contrasted features of Milton's genius — severe, self- 


contained seriousness, and surrendering passionateness 
— the conscious reflectiveness of the moralist, and the 
rich abounding sensitiveness of the poet. 

During those happy years at Horton we see him 
almost entirely as the gentle poetic dreamer. His im- 
agination, fed by the rural sights and sounds amidst 
which he lived, burst into its most beautiful bloom. 
The joyous fulness of his ripening manhood, as it 
were, filled up his whole activity. But we detect in 
such a passage as that from the " Lycidas " how the 
austere and polemical side of his nature was vigorous 
and working beneath all the rich manifestations of the 
imaginative and poetical The Milton of Horton, as he 
apparently dreams away his years in studious leisure 
and the love of nature, is still the Puritan, although 
we can just trace, as it were, the grave Puritan eyes 
looking forth from a face of bright natural beauty, and 
tresses of luxuriant culture. The eyes are Puritan 
eyes as we steadily gaze into them, though all else is 
artistic, imaginative, unpuritan. 

On the 3d of April 1G37 Milton's mother died, and 
in the spring of the following year he set out for the 
Continent. He had probably for some time cherished 
this project, and his mother's death, by breaking the 
tie which bound him to Horton, may have set him 
free to carry it out. He arrived in Paris in May, 1638, 
furnished with a letter of advice — an " elegant epistle," 
he terms it — from Sir Henry Wotton. Through Sir 
Henry or others he was introduced to Lord Scudamore, 
the English ambassador, who received him very cour- 
teously ; and what was still more gratifying to him, 
took pains to make him acquainted with Grotius, then 
ambassador in Paris for the Court of Sweden. The 
great Dutchman was naturally an object of regard to 

MILTON. 187 

Milton ; and Grotius, on his part, seems to have recog- 
nised the worth and genius of the young Englislunan. 
" He took," says Phillips, " the visit kindly, and gave 
him entertainment suitable to his worth and the higli 
commendations he had heard of him." Grotius was 
then busy with a great scheme of comprehension for 
the Lutheran and English Churches. He had broached 
the subject to Laud, but with little success. No doubt 
he would discourse of its advantages with Milton — we 
may please ourselves at least with this thought ; but 
he was not likely to receive much more encourage- 
ment from him than he had done from the English 
primate, though from very opposite reasons. The mild 
latitudinarianism of the Dutch jurist and divine, his 
Arminian sympathies and spirit of ecclesiastical indif- 
ference, were not likely at this date to commend them- 
selves to one moved with disgust at Prelatic tyranny, 
and w^ho, even in Italy, could not hold his tongue on 
the subject of Popery. 

Milton's stay in Paris was short — only " for some 
days," according to Ms own statement. He took his 
departure towards Italy, furnished with letters of intro- 
duction to English merchants along his proposed route. 
He seems to have taken his journey leisurely, probably 
by way of Lyons and the Pihone to Marseilles, and 
thence to Mce, where he took packet for Genoa. Erom 
Genoa he went, also by sea, to Leghorn, and thence 
to Pisa and Florence. Here he remained for " two 

It is easy to imagine the delighted enthusiasm with 
which Milton would enter Italy. And, coming after 
his sojourn amid quiet English landscapes, the change 
to its brilliant skies, and the southern luxuriance of its 
natiu'al life, may have been among the most fruitful 


and eiiricliing sources of liis enjoyment. His poetic 
culture certainly bears traces of the one influence, no 
less than of the other. Yet, so far as we can gather 
from his own statement,'" which is the only basis of 
our knowledge of his Italian journey, it was the Italy 
not so much of natural beauty as of scholarly and his- 
torical association that interested Milton. Florence, 
as the great centre of Italian culture, was the first place 
where he tarried. In this city, which he says he had 
always regarded above others for the elegance of its 
language and the distinction of its men of genius, he 
found himself for a while in a congenial home ; and 
he recalls as an imperishable memory the pleasant in- 
tercourse he had there with its great scholars. " There, 
immediately," he says, " I contracted the acquaintance 
of many truly noble and learned men, whose private 
academies (valuable alike for the cultivation of polite 
letters, and the preservation of friendships) I constantly 
frequented. The memory of you, Jacopo Gaddi ; of you. 
Carlo Dati; of you, Frescobaldi, Coltellini, Bonmattei, 
Chementelli, Francini, and of several others, always 
grateful and pleasant to me, time shall never destroy." 
With these worthies he entered into the most free and 
unreserved literary associations. At their meetings or 
academies he gave specimens of his poetical powers 
by reciting some of the Latin poems he had already 
composed, t They complimented him in return. 
Count Carlo Dati eulogised him in a Latin address, 
and Francini wrote an Italian ode in his praise. An- 
other litterateur, Antonio Malatesti, whose name does 
not occur in his enumeration, presented him with a 

* Defensio Secunda. 

*t-" Under twenty, or thereabouts," he says. He shows a singular 
anxiety at all times to claim any merit arising from the youthfulness of 
his compositions. 

MILTON. 189 

manuscript copy of his poems, inscribed with a flatter- 
ing dedication to himself. What probably interested 
Milton still more than these literary pleasantries of 
intercourse — he seems to have talked freely and fully 
with these friends on the subject of religious and in- 
tellectual liberty. In his " Areopagitica," he says, 
in allusion to this, " I could recount what I have seen 
and heard in other countries, where this kind of inqui- 
sition tyrannises ; where I have sat among their 
learned men (for their honour I had), and been counted 
happy to be born in such a place of philosophic free- 
dom as they supposed England was, while themselves 
did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into 
which learning amongst them was brought ; that this 
was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits ; 
that nothing had been there written now these many 
years but flattery and fustian." 

An allusion in the same passage lets us know that 
he also visited, while in Florence, the famous Galileo, 
grown old and blind, and a " prisoner to the Inquisi- 
tion for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the 
Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought." The 
impression made upon his mind was evidently a strong 
and lasting one,* and served to deepen his hatred of 
ecclesiastical tyranny. 

The glory of Italian literature, as well as of Italian 
art, had perished before the time of Milton's visit, as 
the above passage indicates to have been the feeling of 
the Italians themselves. With the death of Tasso in 
the end of the previous century (1595), their last 

* His remembrance of Galileo remained to suggest an image in Para- 
dise Lost, Book I., 289, 290— 

" The moon, whose orb 
Tlirough open glen the Tuscan artist views. 
At evening from the top of Fesole. " 


great poet had passed away ; and if sometliing more 
than " flattery or fustian " still lingered, the real life of 
Italian genius was yet gone. The very picture sug- 
gested by the allusions of Milton — the literary acade- 
mies which everywhere prevailed — the sonnet- writing, 
and panegyrising, and epigrammatical embellishing, 
which were the great staple of literary produce, all 
point to a period of intellectual decadence. Amidst 
these small and rather wearying flatteries, it is inter- 
esting and touching to think of the genius of England, 
still in its lusty youth, and ripening into one of its 
noblest expressions, offering its homage in Milton's 
person to the weakened and departing genius of 

From Florence Milton proceeded by way of Siena 
to Eome, where he remained about the same time that 
he had done at Florence. The "antiquity and ancient 
fame " of the city detained him, although he does not 
seem to have formed so many friends here, or to have 
lived a life of such free literary and social intercourse 
as at Florence. He makes special mention, however, 
of one friend, from whom he experienced such kind- 
ness as to draw from him afterwards a long letter in 
acknowledgment. This was Lucas Holstein, a German, 
and Protestant by education, but who had entered 
into the service of the nephew of the Pope, Cardinal 
Francesco Barberini, and become one of the librarians 
of the Vatican. Milton describes in his letter how, 
going to the great library without any introduction, he 
was received by Holstein, who had heard of him, with 
the "utmost courtesy," and conducted by him to the 
museum, and allowed to inspect the splendid collec- 
tion of books and MSS. Nor did Holstein's kindness 
stop here. By his influence Milton was invited to a 

MILTON. 191 

great entertainment and concert at the house of tlie 
cardinal, his patron, who honoured the poet on the 
occasion by waiting in person at the door of the saloon 
to receive him, and, almost laying hold of him by the 
hand, introduced him in a " truly most honourable 

It was probably on this occasion, as his biographers 
have conjectured, that he heard the famous Leonora 
Baroni sing, to whom he has addressed Latin epigrams, 
expressive of the delight with which he heard her. 
Her " very voice sounds God," he says, in language 
more grand than reverential. 

Having completed his stay at Eome, he set out for 
Naples. On his way he met a "certain eremite," 
who, evidently captivated by the intelligence of the 
young Englishman, introduced him, on his arrival at 
Naples, to John Baptist Manso, Marquis of Villa, the 
most distinguished of Neapolitans, the friend and bio- 
grapher of Tasso, now nearly eighty years of age, but 
as keenly interested as ever in genius and poetry. 
Milton warmly expresses his obligations to him. " As 
long as I stayed," he says, " I experienced from him 
the most friendly attentions. He accompanied me 
to the various parts of the city, and took me over the 
viceroy's palace, and came more than once to my 
lodgings to visit me. At my departure he excused 
liimself for not having been able to show me the 
farther attentions he desired in that city, because that 
I would not be more silent in the matter of religion." 
A kindly, judicious old man ! who would fain have 
been of more service to the young poet, whom he 
evidently admired and liked, if he had only been more 
cautious with his tongue. Milton fully appreciated 
his kindliness, and showed his appreciation, after the 


accustomed manner, by an address in Latin hexame- 
ters, in wliicli, in the name of Clio and of great Phos- 
bus, he wishes his " Father Manso a long age of 
health," and prays that it may be his own lot to have 
such a friend as Manso had been to Tasso, should he 
ever be able to carry out his aspirations to write, as 
the Italian poet had done, a great epic.'"'' Manso 
repaid the compliment by the present of two richly 
ornamented cups, with an affixed epigram, quaint and 
graphic, in allusion to the old story of the beautiful 
Anglic youths and Gregory the Great.-(- 

It was Milton's original intention to have prolonged 
his journey to Greece, but the news of affairs in Eng- 
land stayed his farther progress. " While I was de- 
sirous," he says, " to cross into Sicily and Greece, the 
sad news of civil war coming from England called me 
back ; for I considered it disgraceful that, while my 
countrymen were fighting at home for liberty, I should 
be travelling abroad at ease for intellectual purposes." 
Accordingly he retraced his steps to Eome, unheeding 
the warnings which had been conveyed to him by the 
English merchants at Naples, who had learned by 
letters that " snares were being laid for him by the 
English Jesuits if he should return to Eome." His 
freedom of speech seemed likely to prove dangerous 
as well as inconvenient to him. Some of the bold 
sentiments that he had vented on his former visit had 
probably been repeated in ecclesiastical ears. Threat- 

* Not Paradise Lost, however, of which, as yet, he has no thoughts, 
but an epic calling back " our native kings and Arthur's stirring wars." 
■f- " Joannes Baptista Mansus, Marquis of Villa, Neapolitan, to John 
Milton, Englishman. 

" Mind, form, grace, face, and morals are perfect. If but thy liead were, 
Then not Anglic alone, but truly angelic thou'dst be." 

Masson's Milton, 768. 

MILTON. 193s 

enings had been heard against him, and his friends 
took the alarm ; but the Jesuits, after all, did not 
take the trouble to molest him. He was allowed to 
enter Eome again and depart safely, although he takes 
care to assure us that he made no concealment of his 
opinions. "What I was, if any one asked, I con- 
cealed from no one. If any one in the very city of 
the Pope attacked the orthodox religion, I, as before, 
for a second space of nearly two months, freely de- 
fended it."* 

He returned also to Florence to regale himself 
once more with the congenial society that he had 
left behind him there; and it is supposed to have 
been on this second visit to the fair Tuscan city, or, 
as some conjecture, as he passed through Bologna on 
his way to Venice, that he made the acquaintance of 
a Bolognese lady, " young, gentle, loving," from whom 
he had great difficulty in tearing himself away. We 
know nothing of this love affair save what he himself 
tells us in his five Italian sonnets and single canzone 
on the subject ; and these give the inner history more 
than the external circumstances of his passion. From 
one of these sonnets, however (that addressed to his 
friend Diodati), we learn that the lady was a genuine 
Italian beauty, " with no tresses of gold, or cheeks of 
vermeil tincture, but the new type of a foreign beauty, 
of carriage high and honourable, and in whose eyes 
there beamed the serene splendour of a lovely black, 
while her song was so bewitcliing that it might lure 
from its middle hemisphere the labouring moon." He 
who used to " scorn love and laugh at his snares," had 
now fallen and become entangled in them. The wonder 

* This was his rule, he says ; but he did not, of his "own accord, 
introduce into these places conversation about religion." 


is that, with his poetic heart and florid fiihiess of manly 
beauty, he had escaped so long ; and, indeed, it may 
be doubted whether this be the first gleam of a tender 
interest in his life.* Unhappily he was destined to be- 
come too reflectively conscious of this interest, and of 
the relations and consequences which spring out of it. 
Having visited Venice, and shipped homewards 
there a collection of books and music which he had 
been diligently making in the course of his journey, 
he returned across the Alps to Geneva, where he re- 
mained for some time. Of this stage of his tour we 
know less than of any other, although the home of 
Calvinistic Protestantism must have had singular at- 
tractions for Milton. To what extent his residence in 
it may have served to develop his ecclesiastical views, 
and to deepen his increasing dislike to the Church of 
England, it would be diflBcult to say. The great minds 
to whom he Avould most naturally have deferred had 
all gone by this time. Even the elder Turretin was 
dead some years before.-|- His chief associate was John 
Diodati, one of the professors of theology, and the uncle 

* See Masson's Life, ^. 160. Every one, too, knows the story of the 
young foreign lady who, passing in the neighbourhood of Cambridge a 
spot where Milton had lain down and fallen asleep \inder a tree, was so 
struck with his beauty that she approached to look at him, and left in 
his hand unperceived (as she thought) some Italian lines written in 
pencil expressive of her admiration ; and how Milton, on awaking, and 
being informed who had placed the lines in his hand, conceived a violent 
passion for the fair unknown, and afterwards went to Italy in quest 
of her, and dreamed of her to the last as his vanished ideal. The 
story, of course, is mythical, as in the case of many other poets, of 
the visit of the Spirit of Truth and Beauty to our poet, and his unat- 
tainable search after its full enjoyment. The later facts of the Bolognese 
lady and his Italian visit probably gave some of its colouring to tho 

Milton's delicate and blonde beauty, it may be added, was a common 
topic of remark while he was at the university, so much so that he was 
called " The Lady of his College." f 1631. 

MILTON. 195 

of the young friend to whom one of his Italian sonnets 
was addressed. Diodati was an able and accom- 
plished man, but there is no trace of his having exer- 
cised any peculiar influence upon Milton. The nephew 
had been his form-fellow at St Paul's school. Their 
souls had been knit together as those only of young 
men are at school and college ; and he now learned 
with deep grief of his friend's death during his absence 
in Italy. The friendly heart* had been cold in death, 
even while he had been recalling its sympathy witli 
liim in his love anxieties. 

Trom Geneva Milton returned by the " same route as 
before " to Paris, and reached England about mid- 
summer 1 639, having been absent " a year and three 
months, more or less." He closes his own brief nar- 
rative of his journey with the memorable words, " Here 
again I take God to witness that I lived in all those 
places where so much license is permitted, free and 
untouched by any kind of vice and profligacy, having 
this thought constantly before me, that though I 
might escape the eyes of men, I could not escape 
those of God." 

On his return, he settled in London. Of Horton 
we learn no more, and are left to conjecture that his 
father had disposed in the interval of his pleasant 
residence there, the jpatcriium ms, and gone to live 
with his second son, Cristopher, with whom we find 
him some time after this at Eeading. At first Milton 
lived in lodgings, but very soon he removed to a house 
of his own, " sufficiently large," as he says, " for him- 
self and his books." This house was in Aldersgate 
Street, and stood at the end of an entry. It was one 
of many houses of the sort at this time in London, 

* Pectus amicus nostri, says Milton to Diodati in one of his letters. 


called "garden houses," removed by their position 
from the noise of the streets, and was, as his nephew 
says, " the fitter for his turn, by the reason of the 
privacy, besides that there were few streets in London 
more free from noise than that." Here our poet 
settled with his books, delighted to resume his " inter- 
mitted studies," * and with a cheerful feeling that the 
national excitement, now running at its height in the 
metropolis, was working out ends dear to his sense 
of liberty and his convictions of religion. His own 
time of action had not yet come. 

In betaking himself to a life of studious retirement 
and educational activity, Milton did exactly what be- 
came him ; for it was not in outward activity, but 
in the realm of thought, that he was destined to influ- 
ence the development of the revolution. He knew his 
own function sufficiently ; and Johnson's sneer, there- 
fore, about his "vapouring away his patriotism in a 
private boarding-school," is as inapplicable as it is ill- 
natured. He took his two nephews to live with him, 
and received a few more pupils, sons of his friends, 
to whose education he devoted himself. It was an 
employment in which he himself never could have 
felt any shame, whatever some of his biographers 
may have done ; and Johnson only betrays his own 
soreness of feeling in connection with his early and 
less happy employment in the same capacity, by 
the manner in which he speaks of this portion of 
Milton's life. 

The course of study which he travelled over with 
his pupils was a very extensive and somewhat re- 
markable one, — the principle of which was to com- 
mmiicate useful information, along with the know- 

* Def, Secunda, 

MILTON. 197 

ledge of Greek and Latin. He read with them ac- 
cordingly, with a few exceptions, not what are nsually 
called the classics, but such writers as the four Scrip- 
tores, Rci Rusticcc, Cato, Varro, Palladius, and Colu- 
mella; Pliny's natural history and Celsus; and in 
Greek, such poets as Aratus and ApoUonius Eho- 
dius.* In addition, he instructed them in mathe- 
matics and astronomy, and entered with them on a 
course of theological study in Hebrew and Chal- 
daic, " so far as to go through the Pentateuch, and 
gain an entrance into the Targum;" and in Syriac, so 
far as to read some portions of St Matthew's Gospel 
in that language. On Sundays he read w\i\\ them in 
the Greek Testament, and dictated parts of a system 
of divinity, mainly extracted from the Dutch theolo- 
gians. Whatever we may otherwise think of such a 
system of instruction, it shows a reach and compre- 
hensiveness quite Miltonic. It has an air of inde- 
pendence too, that in this, as in other matters, was 
very characteristic of him. Looking back with some 
degree of contempt upon parts of his own scholastic 
training, and proudly confident in his own judgment, 
he was exactly the man to carry out a new system, 
without any regard to the opinions or prejudices of 
others. In education, as in social life and government, 
Milton was naturally a theorist, reasoning out his 
plans with consistent and dogmatic earnestness from 
certain main principles. 

Aubrey describes him, in his intercourse with his 
pupils, as " severe on the one hand," yet also " most 
familiar and free in his conversation;" exacting, so far 
as application on their part was concerned, yet freely 

* These works, Cato, Varro, &c., it will be seen, reappear in his own 

Tractate on Education, 


according to tliem the benefit of his advice and assist- 
ance. He worked hard along with them, and shared 
the frugality of their meals. Once in three or four 
weeks, however, he gave himself a "gaudy day," 
which he spent with some young friends, the chief of 
whom were Mr Alphry and Mr Miller, "the beaux of 
those times," says Phillips, " but nothing nearly so 
bad as those nowadays." 

But Milton had scarcely begun his studies with his 
pupils when he felt himself also called to other and 
more important work. Although his patriotism had 
not prompted him on his first return to enter actively 
into the contest between King and Parliament, yet he 
was far too deeply interested in the contest, and had 
far too thorough a penetration of its real causes, long 
to remain silent. As he himself afterwards said, in 
the noblest of his early prose writings on the sub- 
ject,* his knowledge was a "burden" to him. He 
felt that God had given him, " in more than the 
scantiest measure," to know something distinctly of 
him and of his true worship, and that the obligation 
lay on him to speak out what he knew. It was the 
condition of the Church that now, as before, chiefly 
occupied his attention. He and many others felt 
that it was the prelatical tyranny of recent years that, 
more than anything else, had afflicted the country. 
The ecclesiastical clique that had ruled the King, and, 
by its base and petty tyrannies, insulted the national 
Protestant feeling, had long been the object of his 
detestation. This detestation had been augmented 
into an anti-Episcopal feeling of the strongest cha- 
racter, due in some degree, perhaps, to his residence 
in Geneva. At length his convictions became so 

* Second Book of the Reason of Church Government againsl Prelaty. 

MILTON. 199 

urgent on the subject that lie could no longer forbear 
to utter them. He thought how miserable an account 
he would be able to give of himself, ''what stories he 
should hear within himself all his life after, of dis- 
courage and reproach," if he did not assist the Church 
of God in her struggle with her enemies. The voice 
of rebuke would be heard by him saying, " Thou hadst 
the diligence, the parts, the language of a man, if a 
vain subject were to be adorned or beautified ; but 
when the cause of God and His Church was to be 
pleaded, for which purpose that tongue was given 
thee that thou hast, God listened if He could hear thy 
voice among his zealous servants, but thou wert dumb 
as a beast." 

Under the influence of such feelings, Milton pre- 
pared himself for the long course of polemical warfare 
in which he was to spend the most part of the next 
twenty years of his life. With regret he quitted tem- 
porarily the high intentions which he had nourished, 
of doing something for his country's literature which 
it would "not willingly let die." Proudly, and with 
that grand consciousness of "his own parts," which was 
always remarked in him, he speaks of his plans and 
the divine consecration of his genius. " That which 
the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Eome, or 
Modern Italy, and these Hebrews of old, did for their 
country, I, in my proportion with this, over and above 
of being a Christian, might do for mine." This had 
been his thought ; but for the present these intentions 
were "plucked from him by an abortive and fore- 
dated discovery." His "garland and singing-robes 
must be laid aside for a time ;" he must clothe himself 
with the garments of controversy ; but he promises to 
resume his higher function as far " as life and free 


leisure will extend," when the land shall have "en- 
franchised herself from this impertinent yoke of pre- 
laty, under whose inquisitorious and tyrannical duncery 
no free and splendid wit can ilourish." He was, in- 
deed, to keep his promise to resume the singing-robes, 
long laid aside, and " soaring in the high reason of his 
fancies," to take a loftier poetic ilight than he had yet 
done, but in far other circumstances from those he 
fondly anticipated ! 

The polemical wiitings which Milton now published 
in rapid succession against Episcopacy, constitute the 
first of the three divisions into which his controver- 
sial writings divide themselves. A bulky pamphlet 
in two books, addressed to a friend under the title of 
Reformation in England, and the causes that hitherto 
have hindered it, opens the series in 164?!. This is a 
vehement attack upon Prelacy as unscriptural and 
unprimitive. All his long-harboured hatred to the 
system comes out in it. The comparison of the early 
church of Ignatius, and even of Cyprian, is pointed 
by him to the disadvantage of its later Popish and 
prelatic assumptions. "Then did the spirit of unity 
and meekness inspire and animate every joint and 
sinew of the mystical body ; but now the gravest and 
worthiest minister, a true bishop of his fold, shall be 
reviled and ruffled by an insulting and only canon- 
wise prelate, as if he were some slight, paltry com- 
panion ; and the people of God, redeemed and washed 
with Christ's blood, and dignified with so many glo- 
rious titles of saints and sons in the Gospel, are now 
no better reputed than impure ethnics and lay dogs. 
Stones, and pillars, and crucifixes, have now the ho- 
nour and the alms due to Christ's loving members. 
The table of communion now becomes a table of sepa- 

MILTON. 201 

ration, stands like a walled platform upon the brow 
of the quire, fortified with bulwarks, and barricaded 
to keep off the profane touch of the laics ; while the 
obscene and surfeited priest scruples not to paw and 
mammoc the sacramental bread as familiarly as his 
tavern biscuit." Such an extract will convey to the 
reader a sufficiently lively impression of the strength 
and vehemence of spirit which distinguish this first 
polemical writing of our author. 

Bishop Hall entered the lists as the champion of 
his order, and published, in the same year, A71 hmnhle 
Remonstrance in favour of Einscopacy. To this an 
immediate reply appeared, the joint production of five 
Puritan ministers,'" the initials of whose names formed 
the word Smectymnuiis, under which appellation the 
work appeared. 

Archbishop Usher joined in the fray, and devoted 
his great learning and patience of inquiry to the in- 
vestigation of the right government of tlie Church, and 
the defence of Episcopacy against the writers who 
had attacked it. The five Puritan ministers were no 
match for the tolerant and enlightened prelate, whose 
calm wisdom and profound information left them far 
behind in the discussion. This consciousness, besides 
his own interest in one of the Smectymnuans (his old 
tutor, Thomas Young), is supposed to have drawn 
Milton again into the field. He felt that he had 
thrown down the gauntlet in his first treatise, and 
that it behoved him to come to the rescue in a strife 
which he had provoked, and regarding which he felt 
so deeply. Two further writings accordingly appeared 
from his pen still in the same year — the first entitled, 

* Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young (Milton's tutor), 
Matthew Newcome, and William Spenston. 


Of Prclatical Episcopacy, and wlutlicr it may he de- 
duced from the Ajwstolical times hy virtue of those 
Testimonies which are cdlcgcd to that purpose in some 
late Treatises, one of which goes under the name of 
James, ArchMshop of Armagh ; tlie second, The reason 
of Church Government urged against Prclaty, in two 
"books. The latter is a somewhat extended treatise, 
discussing the various points of the argument under 
successive heads and chapters, and containing, in the 
preface to the second book, that noble and touching 
account of his early studies and literary aims, which 
has been so often quoted. 

Even these works, however, did not exhaust Milton's 
labours for the year. He published, further, Animad- 
versions upon Bishop Hall's Reply to Smectymnuus. 
Having once taken up the pen, he did not let it rest 
in his hands. The labour was congenial to him, 
although he says he did it "not without a sad and 
unwilling anger, not without many hazards." In the 
present case he appears to feel that he has gone some- 
what beyond the bounds of grave controversy. But 
a bishop acts upon him for the present with a magical 
force of indignation. His invective dilates, and his 
scorn lashes itself into a wilder fury, whenever the 
object crosses his intellectual vision. Even a man 
so worthy as Hall, is only "an enemy to truth and 
his country's peace," and this all the more that " he 
is conceited to have a voluble and smart fluence of 
tongue." " I suppose, and more than suppose," he 
adds, " it will be nothing disagreeing from Christian 
meekness to handle such a one in a rougher accent, 
and to send home his haughtiness well besprinkled 
with his own holy water." 

His freedom and roughness of speech called forth 

MILTON. 203 

a swift and unsparing reply, Avritten, as was sup- 
posed, by a son of the bishop. Tliis reply bore the 
title of A Modest Confutation against a Slanderous 
and Scurrilous Lihel, and retorted Milton's animad- 
versions by a vehement and somewhat disgraceful 
attack upon his character. Stung by the " rancour 
of an evil tongue," he published his Apology for 
Smectijmnuus, the most elevated of all his writings on 
this subject, especially in the introduction, where he 
replies to the assault upon his character, in a tone of 
disdainful magnanimity very characteristic. When- 
ever he strikes the chord of his own feelings, and 
the personal or moral interest of his theme sways 
him, it is observable how his tone rises, how his 
thoughts attain a loftier sweep, and his language shows 
a richer and grander strength. In fair argument, — in 
detailed rejoinder, — he is frequently weak and coarse. 
His weapons are, as it were, too heavy for him ; and 
he makes rough and aimless gashes at his adversary, 
rather than adroitly disables him. His inferiority to 
Hall in light fence, in a " coy and flirting style," as he 
contemptuously calls it, was evidently rather conscious 
to himself, although it was a consciousness far from 
humiliating to him. With the proud scorn of a great 
mind, he knew that, right or wa-ong, on small matters, 
he had the highest and most comprehensive view of 
the moral bearings of the question. 

Upon the whole, these earlier prose Aviitings of Mil- 
ton, although of little critical value in the determina- 
tion of the special controversy, are grand specimens 
of Puritanical argument. Puritanical they are to 
their very core, — in the style of their reasoning, — in 
the intensity of their feeling, — in the harsh bitterness 
of their assault upon the catholic forms of the Church, 


—in their almost total want of liistorical apprecia- 
tion — in everything save, perhaps, the magnificent 
luxuriance and swell of style, with gleams of the 
old Horton radiance upon it. The fundamental prin- 
ciple of Puritanism as to Church government — that 
it is "platformed in the Bible,"* is almost everywhere 
assumed by him as beyond question; or when it is 
argued, as in the two opening chapters of The Rca^ 
son of Church Government, — argued as if it were a 
foregone principle upon which little time need be 
wasted. He says expressly in his first pamphlet of 
Reformation in England, " If, therefore, the constitu- 
tion of the Church be already set down by divine pre- 
script, as all sides confess, then can she not be a hand- 
maid to wait on civil commodities and respects," — a 
singular enough statement in the view of Hooker's 
great work, with which he shows his acquaintance in 
a later writing-}- of the same year. But while pro- 
fessedly adhering to this principle, the very language 
in which he expounds it rises above it. The formal is 
continually running with him into the moral — the 
technical into the spiritual J — and the latter element, as 
may be easily imagined in a mind like Milton's, by- 
and-by gained the ascendancy, and left far behind his 
earlier visions of a definite church polity " taught in 
the Gospel." 

More even than the argumentative principles of 
these treatises, the intense anti-prelatical bitterness 
which they display, and the dogmatic unhistorical 
tone in which they estimate Catholicism, mark their 
Puritanism. The harsh and intemperate coarseness of 

* The Reason of Church Government, chap. i. 
+ Ibid., chap. ii. 

J Ibid., chaps, ii. and iii. — in the latter, when he replies to Usher's 
argument drawn from the Pattern of the Law. 

MILTON. 205 

language in which Milton almost uniformly speaks of 
" bishops " is a singular illustration of the times. They 
are a " tyrannical crew, and corporation of impostors 
that have blinded and abused the world so lono-." * 
Their " mouths cannot open without the strong breath 
and loud stench of avarice, simony, and sacrHege em- 
bezzling the treasury of the Church on painted and 
gilded walls of temples, wherein God hatli testified to 
have no delight; warming their palace kitchens, and 
from thence their unctuous and epicurean paunches, 
with the alms of the blind, the lame, the impotent, the 
aged, the orphan, the widow/'f Their supposed greed 
and gluttony is a special and constantly recurring sub- 
ject of attack. I - What a plump endowment," he" says, 
"would brotherly equality, matchless temperance, fre- 
quent fasting, incessant prayer and preaching, be to 
the many-benefice-gaping mouth of a prelate ! what a 
relish it would give to his canary-sucking and swan- 
e^tmg palate !"§ "A race of Capernaitans," he else- 
where exclaims, " senseless of divine doctrine, and 
capable only of loaves and belly-cheer ! " || " A man 
shall commonly find more savoury knowledge in one 
layman than in a dozen of cathedral prelates." 

This coarse vehemence of tone, wherever the image 
of well-endowed Prelacy crosses his argument, can only 
be understood or at all excused when we remember 
that it was Prelacy that seemed to Milton, more than 
anything else, to have "filled the land with confusion 
and violence." The Laudian bishops seemed to him 

* Of Reformation, book i. -^ m^i 

J It is remarkable how constantly this line of attack runs thron<.h the 
anti-Ep,scopal polemics of the seventeenth century. Some of ^le ex 
pressions in .vhich it is conveyed, in the Scottish Presbyterian writinc^s 
are equally ludicrous and nauseous in their plainness and strength. ' 

fe Oj Rejornmtwn, book i. y Animadversmis, dr. 


all tliat he painted tliem. The institution with which 
they were identified looked to his eyes a mere " tyran- 
nical dnncery," a mere " tetter of impurity," without 
ancient dignity or catholic beauty. Calvin* does not 
take a more extremely polemical view of the rise of 
Catholicism, or manifest more incapacity in appreciat- 
ing the circumstances of its historical growth, and 
its conservative fitness for great practical ends. He 
can only see fraud, avarice, faithless and t}Tannical 
ambition, in the picture which history luings before 
him. The dogmatic present obscured all fair and dis- 
cerning appreciation of the Catholic past. In this 
respect Milton was a Puritan, scarcely, if at all, above 
the popular level of his age. The same spirit shows 
itself in his scornful contempt of the Liturgy, and his 
abuse of what he calls " Antiquity," — the Patristic 
writings, namely, of the fourth and fifth century. The 
one still "serves to all the abominations of the anti- 
Christian temple," and " while some men cease not to 
admire its incomparable frame, he cannot but admire 
as fast what they think is become of judgment and 
taste in other men, that they can hope to be heard with- 
out laughter ;"-f- the other is an "undigested heap and 
fry of authors." " Whatsoever time, or the heedless 
hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to 
this present in her huge drag-net, whether fish or sea- 
weed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen, those are 
the fathers." X 

In all this Milton shows that while he had imbibed 
the moral spirit and Christian earnestness of Puritan- 
ism, he had also learned its dogmatic narrowness. The 
reaction against Laudism had driven him to an excess 

* Institutes, book iv. cap. 6, 7. 
f Apology for S-inectymmms, sect. xi. J Of Prelatical E^iscoj)acy. 

MILTON. 207 

of opinionativeness, and of passionate and resentful feel- 
ing on the other side. He had lost the balance of 
candid judgment on the great topics in dispute : few 
men had it in his day. In knowledge and argument- 
ative clearness he must be placed below such men 
as Usher or even Hall. There is a wild unfairness in 
him that provokes sympathy for his opponenis, and 
which is felt to be but ill sustained by his irregular and 
loosely-compacted masses of argument. Yet there is also 
in his very unfairness a strength of moral indignation, 
and crowning his most straggling reasonings a light of 
principle, that carries him into higher regions of discus- 
sion than any of his contemporary controversialists. 

The Apology for Smcctymnuus closed the series ; and 
an important incident of his life requires to be narrated 
before we can understand the origin and character of 
the second phase of his controversial career. 

Milton had now attained his thirty-fifth year, and 
save his passion for the fair unknown Bolognese, his 
heart had remained untouched — so far as is clearly 
known. There is no evidence that he was now 
seized with any sudden and romantic passion : all the 
circumstances of the case rather seem to show the con- 
trary. The fact is, that in his new mode of life he 
felt the want of some one to assist him in his household 
cares and duties ; and this probably more than any- 
thing else suggested the thought of marriage to him. 
It is a poor ideal of a poet's marriage, but it is the one 
that most exactly suits the circumstances. All that is 
really known is, that " about Whitsuntide of the year 
1643, Milton took a journey into the country, nobody 
about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was 
more than a journey of recreation. After a month's 
stay, home he returns a married man who set out a 


bachelor — his wife being Mary, the eldest daughter of 
Mr Eichard Powell, then a Justice of the Peace, of 
Forest Hill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire." Such is 
the statement of his nephew Phillips ; and none of his 
biographers have been able to add any clearly ascer- 
tained details to the story, * however ingeniously and 
happily it may have been filled up by the pleasant 
conjectures of the authoress of The Maiden and MaiTicd 
Life of Mary Powell. There is reason, indeed, to be- 
lieve that he had some previous acquaintance with 
the Powells. This is suggested by the story itself, as 
well as by the discovery of certain pecuniary relations 
long pending between the families. -|- The Miltons, 
it will be remembered, came from this very district. 
It is very probable, therefore, that Milton's unex- 
plained journey about Whitsunday 1643, was by no 

* Mr Masson has not yet reached this stage of his task, and his power 
of research may throw some clearer light upon the story. 

i" The researches of Mr Keightley have discovered that a loan of £500 
had been made by Milton's father, in his son's behalf, to Mr Powell. So 
far back as the year 1627, the third year of his university course, this 
debt is found to have been contracted to Milton by his future father-in- 
law. In whatever way we explain this circumstance — even if we suppose 
it to have been a pure business transaction on the part of the scrivener 
with one who, belonging to his native district, had naturally applied 
to him for the money — it serves as a point of connection between the 
families. Milton could not help feeling some interest in a family, the 
head of which stood indebted to him in such a sum, especially as it is 
evident that difficulties arose regarding the jjayment of the debt. We 
can well imagine, therefore, that the journey into Oxfordshire in 1643 
was by no means Milton's first visit to the Powells. We may even 
suppose, with Mr Keightley, that, while staying at Horton, he had 
"taken many a ride over to Forest Hill, and that on his return from the 
Continent he may have gone down more than once to try to get his 
money." Setting up house, as he then was, the money must have been 
an object to him, and such occasional journeys to Forest Hill seem ex- 
ceedingly natural in the circumstances. The attachment may have thus 
gi'own i;p more graduallj' than has been supposed. On such visits he 
may have seen and admired Mary Powell, and, forgetful of the debt, 
courted and won the daughter. 

MILTON. 209f 

means liis first visit to "Forest Hill, near Shotover." 
But, whether it was so or not, there is too good reason 
to conclude that his courtship and marriage were hasty 
and ill-considered. 

Mrs Milton had scarcely settled in her new residence 
when she returned on a visit to her parents, and, not- 
withstanding her husband's entreaties, refused again 
to leave them. Michaelmas, when she promised to be 
back, came, but she remained at home ; her husband's 
letters remained unanswered ; and a special messenger, 
at length despatched by him to escort her back, was 
dismissed with " contumelious treatment." Such are 
the well-known facts of this unhappy affair in our 
poet's life. Into these bare facts we must read the 
best meaning we can. 

Incompatibility of temper and character is the natu- 
ral explanation, and the one suggested by Milton's 
own allusions to the subject. A young girl, the 
daughter of a devoted royalist family, married on a 
sudden to one whom, at the best, she had more learned 
to respect than to love — transported from the happy 
country, and a romping household of eight children, 
where, Aubrey tells us, there was a "great deal of 
company and merriment, as dancing," &c., to the dull 
and studious retirement of Aldersgate Street, where 
"no company came to her, and she often heard her 
nephew cry and be beaten ; " it is easy to understand 
how rapidly the elements of incompatibility might 
develop themselves in such a combination of cir- 
cumstances. It was a sufficiently harsh change for 
the young wife, and it would have required a char- 
acter of more firmness and elevation than she seems 
to have possessed to resist the depressing influences 
of the change, and to adapt herself to her new duties. 



And Milton was not likely to do liis utmost to smooth 
and ligiiten lier new lot for her. Probably he never 
thought of such a thing. There is nothing in his 
writings that suggests that he would have much deli- 
cacy or considerate tenderness in such a matter. In all 
his allusions to the subject — even in his poetry — there 
is a harshness of tone, and a cold austerity of feeling, 
that shows a man more disposed to stand on his rights 
than a heart wounded in its most sacred feelings. 
He could speak, for example, of his wife as a "mute 
and spiritless mate," and exclaim, "who knows but 
that the bashful muteness of a virgin may ofttimes 
hide all the unHveliness and natural sloth which is 
really unfit for conversation ! " Nay, in still stronger 
language, with evident pointing to his own marriage, 
he deplores the case of one who " finds himself fast 
bound to an uncomplying discord, or, as it oft happens, 
to an image of earth and phlegm, with whom he looked 
to be the copartner of a sweet and gladsome society." 
Such expressions no doubt escaped from him under 
strong provocation ; but even in such a case they show, 
as well as his whole tone on the subject of matrimony, 
a want of forbearing gentleness and reserve of feeling. 
He was capable of the deepest affection, of the most 
genuine kindness — his after-conduct proved this ; but 
that bright and delicate courtesy, which seeks to please 
woman apart from duty, and which acknowledges de- 
votion to the sex, as an imperial sentiment ruling the 
necessities of social existence — this is not found in 
Milton. It is foreign to his deliberate theory of life ; 
it is no part of the radiant investment with which he 
surrounds his Eve, or ideal woman. 
. How far the fact of his Avife being a royalist * may 

. * " The family," Phillips says, " being generally addicted to the cava- 

MILTON. 211 

liave liacl to do witli the unliappy result, it is difficult 
to say. Such an opposition of feeling would not be 
without its influence, as in the contrasted and not 
less unhappy, although less notorious, case of Hooker. 
Hooker's wife was inclined to Puritanism,* and her 
temper certainly partook of its less amiable charac- 
teristics. None can ever forget the depressing pic- 
ture given in Walton's Life, of " Pdchard being called 
to rock the cradle," when his two old pupils paid him 
a visit at his parsonage. Milton's royalist wife forsook 
him ; Hooker's Puritan wife tormented him ; and, be- 
yond doubt, the great antipathy which they represented 
cut deeply into the heart of society — in many families 
setting brother against brother and wife against hus- 
band. The Puritan and the Anglican were far more 
separate than the Anglican and the Catholic had ever 
been. The schism of the former represented the true 
disunion produced by the Eeformation in England ; 
that of the latter, powerful as it was politically, did 
not spring out of any equally wide or clearly marked 
divergence. The undertone of sentiment in the Eliza- 
bethan Church was, after all, much the same as in the 
old Catholic days. Although the monasteries were 
suppressed and the power of the Pope denied, the 
intellectual and moral spirit of the Church was but 
little changed, and the old festivals and order of ser- 
vice remained very much the same. But with Puri- 

lier party, and some of them possibly engaged in the King's service, who 
by this time had his headquarters at Oxford, and was in some prospect 
of success, they began to repent them of having matched the eldest 
daughter of the family to a person so contrary to them in opinion ; and 
thought that it would be a blot on their escutcheon whenever that court 
should come to flourish again." 

* There is good reason to believe this, for her Puritan friends seem 
to have made free with his MSS. after his death. See Keble's Preface 
to Oxford edition of Hooker. 


tanism arose a fundamental difference of opinion, 
and this difference soon worked itself into all the 
forms of religions service and all the relations of social 
life. In the very cut of the hair and the mode of 
dress it showed itself; and such an influence, pene- 
trating the whole framework of society, could not fail 
to operate extensively upon the family relations — in 
certain cases harmonising and strengthening them, but 
in certain other cases embittering and weakening them. 
It suggests a striking enough reflection, that the two 
intellectual chiefs of the rival systems. Hooker and 
Milton, should have tasted in their domestic life the 
bitterness of the great schism which, in its opposite 
sides, they represented. Standing intellectually in 
the van of the struggle, they were made to feel how its 
mighty agitations touched their own hearths, and its 
unhappiness pierced to their own hearts. 

The series of pablications which the unfortunate 
result of Milton's marriage called forth, are among the 
least interesting and valuable of his writings. They 
bear too obviously the trace of the special circum- 
stances which called them forth, and are, throughout, 
far too arbitrary and personal in their attempt to settle 
a practical question of grave and difficult import. 
He has himself sought to vindicate for them a place in 
the great intellectual plan which he set before him, of 
maintaining the cause of liberty in all its essential 
bearings. "I perceived," he says, "that there were 
three species of liberty which are essential to the hap- 
piness of social life — religious, domestic, and civil ; and 
having already written concerning the first, and the 
magistrates being strenuously active in obtaining the 
third, I determined to turn my attention to the second, 
or the domestic species. As this seemed to involve 

MILTON. 213 

three material questions — the conditions of the conjugal 
tie, the education of children, and the right of free 
speculation — I undertook the examination of each of 
them, and began by explaining my sentiments, not 
only concerning the matrimonial rite, but concerning 
its dissolution, shoukl this become necessary.""' Such 
a task may very well have presented itself to a mind 
like Milton's. The question of divorce, as merely one 
aspect of the great question of liberty, may have pre- 
viously interested him ; but it is, nevertheless, plain 
that his writings on the subject, which followed one 
another in quick succession from 1644 to 1C45, sprang 
directly out of his own case, as they everywhere bear 
the stamp of it. The general principle which they 
each and all maintain was the one involved in his own 
marriage — the principle, namely, "that indisposition, 
unfitness or contrariety of mind, arising from a cause 
of nature unchangeable, hindering, and ever likely to 
hinder, the main benefits of conjugal society, which are 
solace and peace," is a sufficient reason of divorce. 
In four treatises, f published within little more than a 
year, he advocated this principle, now and then, in its 
statement and illustration, rising into an elevated 
strain of moral reflection or of indignant sentiment ; 
but, as a whole, in a manner tedious, minute, and un- 
satisfactory. His tendency to theorise and carry out 

* Defensio Secunda. 

•f "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce restored to the good of 
both Sexes from the Bondage of Canon Law" (1644)— in which year two 
editions appeared, addressed to " The Parliament of England with 

" The Judgment of Martin Bucer touching Divorce" (1644). 

" Tetrachordon ; or Expositions upon the Four Chief Places in Scrip- 
ture which treat of Marriage or Nullities of Marriage," (1645) ; also ad- 
dressed to the Parliament. And, 

" Colasterion ; a Eeply to a nameless Answer concerning the Doctrine 
and Discipline of Divorce," 1645. 


liis deductions arbitrarily from a single point of view, 
is especially conspicuous in these writings ; and, coming 
in contact with a subject which obstinately resists its 
application, it often leads him into great weakness of 

Viewing the subject ideally and in the abstract, all 
would admit the force of Milton's argument, that a 
marriage which is not one of heart and sympathy, 
securing to the husband and wife respectively, "against 
all the sorrows and casualties of this life," " an intimate 
and speaking help, a ready and reviving associate," is 
no true marriage, but " a perpetual nullity of love and 
contentment — a solitude and dead vacation of all 
acceptable conversing. " " When love finds itself 
utterly unmatched and justly vanishes, — nay, rather 
cannot but vanish," — then, though the artificial bond 
may subsist, a union, such as alone becomes two ration- 
al beings, is already dissolved. The outward relation 
may continue, but "not holy, not pure," not beseeming 
the sacred character of marriage. ("For in human 
actions the soul is the agent." " Intellective prin- 
ciples " must form their spring, else they " participate 
of nothing rational, but that which the field or the fold 
equals.")* In the region of mere idea and moral prin- 
ciple this is incontrovertible, but, unhappily for the 
argument, the question is not an ideal, but an entirely 
practical one. In so far as marriage is an object of 
legislation, it cannot be dealt with in the abstract, or 
on any principle of sentiment. Society can only take 
cognisance of a tangible bond, constituted by obvious 

* The whole of this passage from tlie Tetracliordon gives a very good 
idea of Milton's main argument. In its mixed beauty and coai'seness of 
expression it is also interesting, in a literary point of view, as a speci- 
men of his style and of that of his age in such matters. 

MILTON. 215 

sanctions, and subsisting so long as certain plain con- 
ditions involved in the bond are fulfilled, or may be 
fulfilled. The State cannot, apart from all higher views 
of the question, provide for the operation of the varying 
influences of human temper and feeling, or, as our author 
^YOuld have it, show " some conscionable and tender 
pity for those who have unwarily, in a thing they never 
practised before, made themselves the bondmen of a 
luckless and helpless matrimony." * Men and women 
must protect themselves in the first instance ; and if it 
be true that " the soberest and best governed men are 
least practised in these affairs, and that, for all the 
wariness that can be used, it may yet befall a discreet 
man to be mistaken in his choice," society is, never- 
theless, not bound to make allowance for such mistakes, 
where they would clearly tend to interfere with its 
order and stability. It is only when a greater injury 
and disturbance to this order would arise from the 
maintenance of the marriage tie than from its dissolu- 
tion — as in the case of adultery — that society can con- 
sent to its dissolution. It is only by some abnegation 
of man's absolute rights that he enjoys the benefits of 
social intercourse at all ; and a man cannot be free to 
consult his own mere inclination — which is what is 
really implied in his argument — in the disruption of 
so vital a bond as marriage, so long as he remains 
a member of the community whose sanctions guarantee 
the sacredness and security of the bond while it lasts. 
He cannot have the privileges of civilisation and at the 
same time the license of an unfettered individuality. 
Milton would, no doubt, have repudiated such an in- 
terpretation of his theory— in fact, he does so ; still, it 
seems impossible to distinguish his principle logically 

* Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. 


carried out, from that of an absolute individual liberty 
to retire from the marriage-contract so soon as any 
distaste of mind or of nature may spring up between 
married persons. To a great extent, moreover, the 
question is argued by him all on one side — that of the 
man ; marriage is regarded especially with a view to 
Ms advantage, and its breach with a view to his con- 
venience. There is a haughty and cold indifference to 
the rights on the other side, as well as to all the grave 
difficulties and anxieties connected with children, 
which adds to the unsatisfactoriness of his argument 
while weakening its interest. 

In these few remarks we have merely looked at 
Milton's argument in its relation to the rights and 
obligations of society. Its relation to Scripture sug- 
gests another view, which he is far from having 
evaded, but the difficulties of which it cannot be said 
that he has any more satisfactorily met and resolved. 
The truth is, that the question was one of too delicate 
and practical a character for his genius, which ranged 
freely among principles, and possessed a grand power 
of theoretic and eloquent deduction, but which was 
unaccommodating and unyielding in its application 
to the problems of practical life. 

We see the full force of his genius at this time 
displayed in a writing of a very different character — 
viz. his famous Areo])agitica, or Speech for the Liberty 
of Unlicensed Printing, published and addressed to the 
Parliament in the same year, 1644. The subject ob- 
viously fell within his great plan of discussing the 
whole question of liberty, and he had long reflected 
on it accidentally, as the Areopccgitica was called 
forth by a special Act of the Parliament to which 

MILTON. 217 

it was addressed* Far less complicated than the sub- 
ject of divorce, and admitting of a far more direct 
and conclusive appeal to the great principles which 
lie at the foundation of human freedom, Milton's task, 
in the present case, if not more congenial to his feelings, 
was far more suited to his intellect. Starting on that 
elevated key which was natural to him, which was the 
appropriate expression of the lofty pitch at which his 
ideas mostly ranged, he scarcely drops this key through- 
out the treatise. His thoughts march, from beginning 
to end, at the same high level, only swelling here and 
there into a richer and more felicitous fulness. Nothimj 
can be grander or more expressive than many of the 
separate sayings -f* which enrich the style of this treatise, 
and give to it dignity, force, and pregnancy, condensing 
into a massive gem-like pith wide trains of advancing 
argument. There are none of his prose writings less 
. temporary, less imbued with the narrowness and acci- 
dents of his own personal feeling, or less bound to the 
mere temper and tendencies of his time; and this is 
shown in the mere fact of its continued popularity (if 
we can use such a word in Milton's case at all), while 
his other prose writings, for the most part, are forgot- 
ten and unread, save by the student. 

* The Parliament, under the influence of the Presbyterians, had set 
forth an order " to regulate printing : that no book, pam23hlet or paper, 
shall be henceforth printed, unless the same be first licensed by such, or 
at least one of such, as shall be thereto appointed." 

■f As, for examf)le, when he defends the readingrof all sorts of books 
by the example of holy Chrysostom, who nightly studied Aristophanes, 
and " had the art to cleanse a scurrilous vehemence into the stijle of a rousing 
sermon ; " or again, when he says, that a " man may he a heretic in the 
truth, and if he believes things only because his pastor says, or the 
' Assembly ' so determine, without knowing other reason, though his 
belief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes a heresy j" or, when 
again he tells us that "opinion in good men is but knowledge in the laakiwj." 


The great principles expounded in tlie Areopagitica 
are as true and as needful now as they were in Mil- 
ton's own day ; the very illustrations by which lie 
enforces them have, with a slight change of colouring, 
a vividness of application that, after two centuries, 
and all our boasted Protestantism, is perfectly start- 
ling. Take merely one as a specimen in which he pic- 
tures certain " Protestants and professors" in his day : 
" They live and die," he says, " in as errant and im- 
plicit a faith as any lay Papist of Loretto ; men who, 
unable themselves to bear the burden of their religion, 
find out some factor, to whose care and credit they 
commit it — some divine of note and education, to 
whom they assign the whole warehouse of their reli- 
gion, with all the locks and keys ; so that a man may 
say his religion is no more within himself, but comes and 
goes according as that good man frequents bis house. 
He entertains liim, gives him gifts, feeds him, lodges 
him ; his religion comes home at night, prays, is libe- 
rally supped, and sumptuously laid to sleep ; rises, is 
saluted, and, after the malmsey, or some well-spiced 
bruage, and better breakfasted than he whose morning 
appetite would have gladly fed on green figs between 
Bethany and Jerusalem, his religion walks abroad at 
eight, and leaves his kind entertainer in the shop, trad- 
ing all day without his religion." There are few things 
more exquisite than this, both in its descriptive truth, 
and its broad yet covert sarcasm ; while it paints to the 
life the spirit which still infests much of our Protest- 
antism. Tliere are many passages equally felicitous, 
clothing the deepest truths in a diction of mingled 
luxuriance, sweetness, and power.* The treatise claims 

* It is impossible to give an anthology of siicli pieces ; but we may 
instance that in which he speaks of the knowledge of good and evil in 

MILTON. 219 

tlie ever-renewed study of tlie friends of Protestant 
freedom. Nowhere are its principles more fairly and 
eloquently expounded ; and even the germ of all that 
is really just and good in the most recent discussions 
of " Liberty " will be found in it. 

Still, in the same year, he published his "Trac- 
tate on Education," addressed to Master Samuel Hart- 
lib, in which he advocates a plan of instruction similar 
to that which he had conducted with his nephew. 
There are some features of the plan narrow and erro- 
neous ; but there are others, such as the transference 
of logic and literary composition from the beginning 
to the close of the scholastic career, and the advantages 
which he attributes to a musical training, eminently 
suggestive. The " Tractate " is brief and pleasing in 
its style, with much of the same pungent richness of 
thought and observation that distinguishes the Arcopa- 

The publication of these writings, with those on the 
subject of divorce, all during a space of eighteen 
months,'"' while Mrs Milton remained with her friends 
at Forest Hill, must have left Milton little leisure to 
seek for any other solace in his solitude. According 
to the story, however, he is represented as at length 

the world as leaping forth "out of the rind of one apple tasted as two 
twins cleaving together," and breaks forth into the strain — "I cannot 
praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that 
never seeks out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where 
that immortal garland is to be ran for not without dust and heat." 
Elsewhere he says grandly, and in the highest spirit of freedom, 
" Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the 
earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and pro- 
hibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple. Who 
ever knew truth put to the ^vorse in a free and open encounter i Her confut- 
ing is the lest suppressing." 

* The first edition of his Poems — those of the Horton period, with a 
few others, also appeared in 1645. 


desirous of carrying Ms principles of divorce into prac- 
tice ; and, as accordingly, paying his addresses to a 
young lady, daugliter of a Dr Davis. Whether the 
rumour of such an event had any effect in piquing the 
jealousy of his wife, we cannot say. Other and better 
known circumstances — the ruin of her family with 
that of the Eoyal cause, and the surrender of Oxford in 
1646 — led her to think of the possiblity of a reconcilia- 
tion, notwithstanding the apparent gulf which his writ- 
ings had placed between them. Milton's own friends, 
probably alarmed at the practical turn which his 
speculations seemed about to assume, concurred in her 
intention, and did what they could to bring it to a pros- 
perous issue. One day when he was visiting a rela- 
tive, named Blackborough, in the lane of St Martin's-le- 
Grand, his wife, who had concealed herself in an inner 
room, came forth, and threw herself at his feet implor- 
ing forgiveness. The sternness of his anger at first 
restrained the boon ; but at length he relented,* and 
took her again to his home and heart. She returned, 
not to the house in Aldersgate Street, but to a larger 
house which he had taken, and was then preparing at 

Here Milton continued his old vocation, and we are 
left to infer that his reconciliation with his wife con- 
tinued cordial. It is not likely that he could have 

* The following lines from the tenth book of Paradise Lo^t almost 
certainly point to, if they do not really describe, the scene which oc- 
curred on this occasion between Milton and his wife : — 
" She ended, weeping ; and her lowly plight, 

Immovable till peace obtain'd from fault 

Acknowledged and deplored, in Adam wi'ought 

Commiseration : soon his heart relented 

Towards her, his life so late, and sole delight, 

Now at his feet submissive in distress : 

Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking, 

His counsel, whom she had displeased, his aid ; 

As one disarm'd, his anger all he lost." 

MILTON. 221 

found his ideal of matrimony realised in one whose 
sympathies and tastes were evidently in many re- 
spects opposed to his own. He made the best of his 
position, however, and in the issue he proved himself 
a warm friend to his wife's family. When the disasters 
of the civil war drove the Powells from their Oxford- 
shire home, and entirely ruined them for the time, he 
received the whole of them into his house, where, in 
the course of a few months, his father-in-law seems to 
have died. 

Tliis addition to his household must have par- 
tially mterrupted his scholastic labours, or at least 
interfered with their privacy and efficiency. Phillips 
indicates as much when he tells us, that after their 
removal the house looked again " like a house of the 
Muses only." The accession of scholars, he confesses 
at the same time, had not been great ; and this pro- 
bably led to Milton's removal in the end of the year 
1669 to a smaller house in Holborn, "with its back 
opening into Lincoln's-Inn-Fields." Before this re- 
moval his eldest daughter Anne was born on the 29th 
July 1646 ; the second daughter, Mary, was born in 
the house in Holborn on the 25th of October 1648. 

Phillips has some absurd story of a plan of mak- 
ing Milton, at this time, an officer in Waller's army. 
" He is much mistaken," he says, " if there was not 
about this time a design of making him an adjutant- 
general in Sir William Waller s army ; but the new 
modelling of the army proved an obstruction to this 
design. " This story is improbable, both in relation to 
Waller and to Milton, the former of whom was a Pres- 
byterian, and not likely therefore to have courted the 
assistance of one whose wider sympathies with the 
revolutionary movement were rapidly carrying him 


beyond Presbyterianism ; while the latter was not 
very likely to have thought of such a position. It 
labours under the farther improbability of not answer- 
ing to the circumstances, for the new modelling of the 
army was by this time completed, or nearly so, and 
Waller superseded in his command.* 

From the time of his removal to Holborn, Milton 
seems to have gradually abandoned his scholastic 
function and confined himself to his studies. His 
pupils either fell of, or, on his father's death in March 
-1647, he may not have had the same occasion to 
employ himself in this manner. His literary activity 
is not found to correspond with his supposed leisure. 
The three years from the commencement of 1646 are 
entirely barren in authorship, although he is supposed 
during this period to have written the four first books 
of his History of England. Probably several of the 
conipilations-|- which he afterwards published, and of 
which he seems to have been fond, owe their origin to 
this period. 

In the beginning of the year 1649 we find him 
busy with his first treatise regarding the King, which 
opens the third series of his controversial writings. It 
was intended to bear upon the position and fate of 
Charles, but it was not published till a week or two 
after his execution. Its extended title sets forth in 
full its object: " The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, 
proving that it is lawful, and hath hecn held so through 
all ages, for any who have the power to call to account a 
tyrant or wicked King, and, after due conviction, to de- 

* Phillips fixes the time, in Mr Keightley's notes, to have been " not 
long after the march of Fairfax and Cromwell through the city" 
(August 1647). 

f For example, besides his History of England, his Accidence Com- 
menced Grammar, and his Brief History of Moscovia. 

MILTON". 223 

pose and put hwi to death, if the ordinary Magistrate 
have neglected or denied to do it; and they who of late 
so much blame deposing (i.e. the Presbyterians) are the 
rtien that did it themselves." 

The general tone of this treatise shows how com- 
pletely Milton had identified himself with the extreme 
movement party in the revolution. His mind was not 
one to shrink from the obvious course of events ; its 
convictions were too stern, and its impulses too con- 
fident ; it rose, rather, and felt itself stronger in the 
face of so great a crisis. He has no patience with the 
Presbyterians, who, having brought affairs to such a 
conclusion by their conduct to the King, refuse to con- 
cur in his condemnation, and " begin to swerve and 
almost shiver at the majesty and grandeur of some 
noble deed, as if they were nearly entered into some 
great sin." To him, as to the great leader of the move- 
ment, the course of affairs was their own justification. 
The Parliament and army needed no other vindication 
than the "glorious way wherein justice and victory 
had set them ; the only warrants through all ages, 
next under immediate revelation, to exercise supreme 

He argues the theses with which he has inscribed 
the treatise from two points of view; first, from the 
nature of the kingly ofiice, as being " only derivative, 
transferred, and committed to the holder in trust, from 
the people, to the common good of them all, in whom 
the power yet remains fundamentally, and cannot be 
taken from them without a violation of their natural 
birthright ; " and, secondly, from such historical " ex- 
amples" as seemed to him to justify it. The argument, 
conducted from the first point of view, where he 
handles principles, is, as usual, far more true and 


effective than the historical argument to which the 
necessities of the case, as regarded by his adversaries 
more than his own inchnation, compelled liim. The 
former (barring its iterations of a hypothetical formal 
covenant between people and their rulers, which so 
long continued a staple theory of political waiters) is 
one of the most clear and consistent arguments in 
Milton's controversial writings, unembarrassed by any 
trace of passion, and free from that generalising vague- 
ness and rigour of statement with which he generally 
covers any weak position. 

The treatise had but little effect in its intended 
direction of " composing the minds of the people." 
It had, however, a decided effect upon the Council of 
State, with Bradshaw, Milton's kinsman, at its head. 
It is even possible that Bradshaw may have had some- 
thing to do with the suggestion of the defence of the 
conduct of the army and Parliament. In any case, 
such a defence could not pass unacknowledged by 
those whom it so deeply concerned. Its author was a 
man whose services could be obviously turned to good 
account. He had both the heart and the ability to aid 
them as few had. The office of Foreign or Latin 
Secretary to the Council of State, was accordingly 
offered to Milton, and accepted by him, at a salary of 
about £290 per annum. The date of his appointment 
is the 18th of March 1649. 

His special business in this capacity was to pre- 
pare, in Latin, the foreign correspondence of the 
Council; and forty-six letters, which were published 
after his death, so far represent his labours in this 
direction. With a view to these labours, and in order 
to be near their scene, he removed from Holborn to 
lodgings at Charing Cross ; and by the end of the year 

MILTON". 225 

(1649) lie was established in lodgings at Whitehall,* 
where he remained for a year and a half. 

Milton's ordinary duties, however, as Secretary to 
the Council of State, formed the least notable part 
of the work wliich devolved upon him in his new 
vocation. Of all his remaining prose writings, ■{- the 
most elaborate and important are directly connected 
with his office, and grew out of it. These writings, 
more than anything else, identify him with the events 
of his time. They are in a manner national documents, 
in which he professed not merely to ex2D0und his own 
sentiments (he never allows the reader, in any of them, 
to forget his own lofty personality), but, moreover, to 
represent the nation and people of England. We see 
in them the greatest intellect of the age dealing with 
its greatest problems — contemplating the great revolu- 
tionary movement still sweeping its widening course in 
these memorable years, when the highest authority of 
the State having been struck down, the master that was 
to seize the slackening reins of government had not yet , 
taken them in hand — and from the very heart of the 

* His residence at Whitehall appears to have been a subject of dispute 
between the Parliament and the Council, as indicated by various orders 
of Council in the course of 1651. By one of these, of date the 11th of 
June, a Committee is instructed to go to the Committee of Parliament 
for Whitehall, to acquaint them with the case of Mr Milton, "in regard 
of their positive order for his speedy remove out of his lodgings in 
Whitehall ; and to endeavour with them that the said Mr Milton be 
continued where he is in regard of the employment which he is in to the 
Council, which necessitate him to reside near to the Council." This 
negotiation, however, does not seem to have had a favourable issue ; for 
we find Milton's household again " soon after," transported to a " pretty 
garden house in Petty France, in Westminster, next door to the Lord 
Scudamore's opening into St James's Park." Here he remained till the 

'I' His observations on the Articles of Peace between the Earl of 
Ormond and the Irish were published before his appointment to the 



movement directing its agitations, and vindicating its 

There can be no doubt of tlie grandeur of the in- 
tellect thus employed, and of the deep interest attach- 
ing to its reflections. The views of Milton are valuable 
in virtue of the mere compass and earnestness of his 
powers ; it is something to know what the highest 
genius in England thought of the mighty events 
amidst which he was living. But with the fullest 
admission of this, there are few who will recognise 
in him any adequate title to represent and interpret 
the mixed feelings of the people of England at this 
crisis. Isolated in the very greatness of his powers, 
dogmatical in his convictions, austere in his sympa- 
thies, and self-concentrated and proudly independent 
in all his moral impulses, we feel as we read these 
apologetic writings that their author is as ever in- 
tensely one-sided. Not merely does he not do justice 
to any opposite point of view from his own, but he 
shows the most rude and violent contempt for it. He 
speaks as one who, standing amid a crowd, and pro- 
fessing to represent it, yet takes counsel only with 
his own heart, and in the very act of representation 
asserts his solitary and sublime personality. He could 
not be sympathetic with the common hearts around 
him ; he could not understand the varying pulses of 
the popular feeling, as it veered lately in high resent- 
ment against the King, and now in deep and pathetic 
sorrow over his tragic end. This was to him the evi- 
dence of a mere " voluntary and beloved baseness," 
which could not appreciate the reality of a national 
mission nor the glory of a great cause. 

This one-sidedness, frequently weak in its bitter- 
ness, is especially characteristic of his Iconodastcs, 

MILTON". 227 

in answer to the famous defence and description of 
the King in his sufferings, entitled Eikon BasiliM. 
There is none of Milton's writings less pleasing than 
this. The subject was unfortunate, and scarcely to he 
handled save with a delicacy of criticism, and a point 
of grave and pathetic satire, of which he was no master. 
The ingenious misrepresentations of the book to which 
he was replying, and the attempt which it makes to 
cover Charles's delinquencies by an appeal to his per- 
sonal virtues and diligent pietisms, might have been 
successfully met by an exposure, respectful yet keen, 
and tender while just ; but Milton is simply insulting 
in the harshness and bitter frigidity of his invective. 
He assails the memory of the " martyr " with a savage 
intemperance, which excites our pity far more than it 
convinces our judgment. The description given of him 
in the Eiko7i, is " a conceited portraiture drawn out to 
the full measure of a masking scene, and set there to 
catch fools and silly gazers." " Its quaint emeblms and 
devices " are " begged from the old pageantry of some 
Twelfth Night's Entertainment at Whitehall." Eidi- 
culing the affectionate cares of Cliarles's attendants, 
his only grief is " that the head was not shook off to 
the best advantage and commodity of them that held it 
by the hair." The prayer which he delivered to Bishop 
Juxon, immediately before his death, is alleged to be 
stolen, word for word, from the mouth of a heathen 
woman praying to a heathen god, and that in no serious 
book, but in the "vain amatorious poem" of Sir Philip 
Sidney's ^rca^^m,* "as if Charles and his friends thought 
no better of the living God tlian a buzzard idol, fit to 
be so served and worshipped in reversion with the pol- 
luted oils and refuse of Arcadias and romances." 

* The prayer of Pamel^ in the A rcadia. 


There is tlironghout the whole of the treatise a wan- 
ton vein of personal criticism npon the King, — his 
character, — his religion, — " the superstitions rigour of 
his Sunday's chapel, and the licentious remissness 
of his Sunday's theatre," — even his family relations. 
The Presbyterians, as sharing in the lamentation for 
the death of Charles, come in, as constantly in this 
series of writings, for the lash of a vehement scorn, 
"Their pulpit stuff, from first to last, hath been the 
doctrine and perpetual infusion of servility and wretch- 
edness to all their hearers, and their lives the type of 
worldliness and hypocrisy, without the least true 
pattern of A^irtue, righteousness, or self-denial in their 
whole practice." This is sufficiently sweeping, and 
well shows the one-sidedness and passionate depth of 
Milton's polemical nature. By the mere force of big 
abuse, and the heavy march of a reviling rhetoric, he 
tries to crush his adversaries, never seeking any points 
of appreciating or tolerant interest with them, never 
sparing in tenderness any feature of apparent excel- 
lence, but dealing his blows with indiscriminating 
roundness, as if he delighted in the havoc and pain 
that he inflicted. 

His two great Latin works — his first and second 
Defences for the Peoijle of Englard — are of a higher 
character than the Iconodastcs. In them he deals 
with the King's deposition and death more on the broad 
and general grounds of the first elements of govern- 
ment. On such grounds Salmasius was no match for 
him ; and the literary world of his day did not present 
his match. Even Grotius, if we could conceive him 
engaged in the controversy, could not have brought to 
it a more enlarged, comprehensive, and enlightened 
grasp of the great principles of political science than 

MILTON. 229 

our author. He is found, like all tlie writers of his 
time, mingling up the discussion of these principles 
with scriptural precedents, and trying to prop his cause 
on the dogmatic authority of the biblical text, as well 
as on the clear basis of natural reason and justice. 
This, which the controversial methods of his time 
required, does not add value to his treatise ; it is the 
weak and failing point in it. Its real force arises 
from the degree in which it carries the discussion 
beyond such formal pedantries of the schools and the 
details of theological sophistry into the free atmos- 
phere of moral and political argument. In this 
higher region, as always, lies his strength. Here 
was his real triumph against Salmasius, who — a 
mere scholar and grammarian — nowhere ventured 
beyond the shallow dogmatisms of scholastic tradi- 
tion, and sought to defend the excesses of tyranny 
by the worn-out falsehoods of literary j^edantry and 
scriptural assumption. 

The genius and force of Milton's Defence were uni- 
versally acknowledged. He himself tells us that he 
received the congratulations of all the foreign minis- 
ters in London upon its publication. Queen Christina 
could not help complimenting it to the face of Salma- 
sius ; and the veteran grammarian is said to have sick- 
ened and died with chagrin at the triumph of his rival. 
It may have been that his opponent's unsparing invec- 
tive did touch him to the heart, and shorten his days. 
On both sides the amenities of controversy were un- 
kno^vn ; and with all our respect for Milton's genius, 
and admiration for the magnificent argument which 
his Defence embodies, it must be confessed that the 
coarse scurrility in which it abounds is often very trying 
and offensive. " Eogue," " puppy," " foul-mouthed 


and infamous wretch,"* are among the epithets he 
applies to the scholar at Leyclen, whose ears had been 
long accustomed to the incense of flattery and the en- 
comiums of disciples. In the very preface he attacks 
with ridicule what Salmasius and all his friends no 
doubt considered his strong point — his latinity. Sal- 
masius had used the word persona in the modern sense 
of person ; Milton exclaims, " Qute unquam latinitas 
sic locuta est," and then makes heavy mirth over the 
idea of murder being committed on the mask of a 

This tone of personal abuse rises in the second De- 
fensioiyro Populo Avglicano into a still higher and more 
vehement key ; but in this case Milton received special 
provocation. His own character had been maliciously 
and disgracefully attacked ; and although that " meek 
silence and sufferance," and the eloquence of deeds 
" against faltering words," of which he elsewhere speaks, 
would now, and always, have better become him, yet 
we cannot wonder that when he felt himself so bitterly 
aggrieved he should have poured forth the vials of his 

* Those are merely specimens. His vocabulary of abuse is tremen- 
dous— directed not only against Salmasius himself, but against his wife. 
" Domi Lyciscam habes," he says, " qufe tibi misere dominatur," c. iii. 

f In iMrsona regis. Salmasius had complained that executioners in 
vizards (personati carnifices) had cut off the King's head. " Quid hoc 
homine facias?" exclaims Milton ; " questus est sujjra ' de paricidio in 
persona regis admisso ; ' nunc in persona carnificisadmissumqueritur" — 
(What sort of a fellow is this ? having complained above of murder per- 
petrated on the mask of a king, he now comjDlains that it was commit- 
ted in the mask of an executioner.) In the reply which Salmasius left 
behind him, and which was not published till the Restoration, he eagerly 
defends his latinity, and retorts Milton's scurrility with reproaches on 
the subject of his blindness. It is a sufficiently sad spectacle; and 
Johnson's blunt comment upon it brings out all its odium and absurdity. 
" As Salmasius," he says, "reproached Milton with losing his eyes in the 
quarrel, Milton delighted himself with the belief that he had shortened 
Salmasius's life ; and both perhaps with more ma;lignity than reason." 

MILTON. 231 

most noisome wrath in rei3ly. The unfortunate issue 
of the affair was, that he happened to be mistaken in 
the object upon whom he poured his opprobrium. His 
defence against the work of Salmasius appeared in the 
€nd of 1650. Immediately in the following year a 
reply appeared, which he attributed to Bishop Bram- 
hall, and which he did not consider worthy of calling 
forth any confutation from his own pen. This he left 
to his nephew, John Phillips, whose work he corrected 
and sanctioned. In the course of the following year, 
however, a work appeared abroad, bearing the title 
Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Ccelum adversus Paricidas 
Anglicanos, in which his character, and even his 
personal appearance, were held up to infamy. The 
real author of this attack was a Frenchman, Peter 
Dumoulin, afterwards rewarded with a prebendal stall 
in Canterbury; but Milton got somehow persuaded 
that its author was a Scotchman of the name of More, 
who was Greek Professor at Geneva when he visited it 
in 1639. All the personal rancour of the Defensio 
Secunda is suggested by this idea of More's authorship, 
and never was poor wretch so impaled on the horns 
of a wild but lofty abuse. Nothing can exceed the 
proud bitterness — the sublime scurrilousness of the 
tone. His name is played with — morns being the 
Latin for a mulberry-tree ; his amours are depicted ; 
his whole history is set in the light of the most cutting 
sarcasm. It is amusing yet pitiful to see a genius like 
Milton's dragged through the mire after an unknown 
libeller, and missing its aim after all. Nor was he 
contented with this defence ; in the following year 
(1655) he returned to the subject, and penned a pam-, 
phlet expressly in self-defence, under the title Auctoris 
pro se Defensio contra Alexandrum^ Morum Ecclesiasten; 


and this having called More himself more prominently 
into the field," he aimed at him a further Rcsponsio. 
A controversy which had begun in a noble instinct of 
patriotism, and the principles involved in which had 
tasked his great powers to the utmost, unhappily de- 
generated into an obscure squabble as to character, in 
which our author could only wdn a triumph by calling 
names with a more lusty and powerful tongue, if also 
with more reason, than his antagonist. 

After these labours, which carry us on to the year 
1655, Milton appears to have rested from authorship 
for some time. There is reason to think that he had 
exhausted himself in these arduous preparations, and 
that his impaired health needed rest and recreation. 
Already, in the preface to his First Defence, he com- 
plains of his bodily indisposition ; that he is so weak in 
body as to be forced to write by piecemeal, and to break 
off "almost every hour," while the subject was one that 
required all his stretch of mind. The special " bodily 
indisposition" to which he alludes w^as probably the 
increasing failure of his sight. He himself believed 
that his blindness was accelerated by his labours on 
that occasion ; and the reproaches of Salmasius and of 
the author of the attack upon him, which he attributed 
to More, seem to indicate that the public had the same 
feeling. He was totally blind in the year 1653, if not 
previously. His blindness arose from paralysis of the 
optic nerve, and was the result of his intense habits of 
study, induced upon original weakness. It did not 
affect the appearance of his eyes, which remained free 
from all speck or discolouring, — the same dark grey 
orbs looking forth into the world of life and nature, al- 

* More had also replied to the first attack. See Keightley's Life, 
p. 49. 

MILTON. 233 

tliougli no longer able to flasli forth the rich meanings 
in which they pictured themselves to his imagination. 
About the same period that his decaying sight became 
blindness, another calamity overtook him in the loss of 
his wife. There is no reason to think, after all that 
happened, that this was not a calamity to him. Dur- 
ing eight or nine years of wedded life, those two hearts, 
bitterly as they had been alienated, and mortifying as 
many of the associations connected with their rupture 
had been, must have yet contracted many ties of affec- 
tionate union, the dissolution of which could not but 
bring sharp grief to the survivor. Milton was left 
alone in his blindness, Avith three little girls, the eldest 
of whom was only a child. It was a pitiful position 
for the blind and lonely man, and we cannot wonder 
that he sought ere long another helpmate. His home 
must have been but a poor and uncomfortable one, 
without some one to superintend it and look after 
his daughters ; and to this period may be traced the 
seeds of those evil and careless dispositions in them of 
which he afterwards complained. With something of 
the proud spirit of their father, and the pettish coy 
nature of their mother,* and without affectionate vigi- 
lance to guard them from evil, no wonder if the little 
creatures became disorderly and impatient in their 
manners, and grew up into some hardness of nature. 
After about two or three years of widowhood, Milton 
married for his second wife, Catherine, daughter of a 
Captain Woodcock of Hackney. The marriage was 
performed by civil contract on the 12th of Xovember 
1656, by Sir John Dethicke, "knight and alderman," 

* Milton's complaint of his wife's muteness and reserve was probably 
in a great degree the mere coyness of her youthful simplicity in the view 
of his superior powers. 


after the publication of their agreement and intention 
on three market-days. There is nothing known of the 
relatives of this lady, although Mr Keightley has haz- 
arded a conjecture that, on this occasion also, Milton 
married " out of his own tribe " (as he says). He pre- 
sumes that the lady was a Eoyalist or Presbyterian. 
In any case the marriage was a happy one, only too 
swiftly broken. This second wife died in childbed 
about fifteen months after their union. In a beautiful 
sonnet, bearing the date of 1658, the poet has com- 
memorated her virtues and his affection for her : — 

" Methought 1 saw my late espoused saint 
Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave. 

Her face was veiled ; yet to my fancied sight 

Love, sweetness, goodness, in her pei'son shined 

So clear, as in no face with more delight : 

But ! as to embrace me she inclined, 

I waked ; she fled ; and day brought back my night." 

Notwithstanding his blindness, Milton remained as 
Latin secretary throughout the Protectorate. He re- 
ceived an assistant, and a colleague * was also joined 
with him, who, latterly, was his friend Andrew Marvell. 
He still continued himself to prepare all the higlier 
and more important State papers, many of which, in 
the shape of letters written in the name of the Pro- 
tector, are published along with his other works. 

It will not appear unnatural to those who under- 
stand the men and the circumstances, that he should 
have willingly acquiesced in the Protectorate, and 

* An order in counci], dated April 17, 1655, reduces Milton's salary 
from £288 to £150, to be paid to him during his life; from which circum- 
stance some have inferred that this was virtually a rctirini] pension : but he 
continued in active service long after this ; and in 1689 there is an order 
for the payment of John Milton and Andrew Marvell, both at the rate of 
£200 a-year. 

MILTON. 239 

rendered its great master liis services. Milton was 
a republican ; and to the very last, when all may be 
said to have lost faith in a free Commonwealth, he 
wrote in the same high and confident admiration of 
it as ever. But while he was a republican, he was 
no democrat. So far from this, his nature and all his 
sympathies were intensely aristocratical. It was not 
for the government of the people, the " credulous and 
hapless herd begotten to servility," but for the govern- 
ment of the wisest, that he cared. This is the express 
ground on which he defends, in his Dcfcnsio Secunda, 
the authority of Cromwell. " In the state of desolation," 
he says, " to which the country was reduced, you, O 
Cromwell, alone remained to conduct the government 
and serve the country. We all willingly yield the 
palm of sovereignty to your unrivalled ability and 
virtue, except the few among us who, either ambitious 
of honours which they have not the capacity to sustain, 
or who envy those which are conferred on one more 
worthy than themselves, or else who do not know that 
nothing in the world is more ijlcasing to God, more 
agreeable to reason, more jiolitically just, or more gene- 
rally uscfid, than that the supreme power should he vested 
in the best and wisest of men" * Like Cromwell him- 
self, the author of the Defence despised incompetency 
and hated disorder. The incapacity and factiousness 
of the Eump sufficiently justified, to his mind, their 
violent dismissal ; and, if we may judge from the w^ay 
in which he alludes to the circumstance, even Colonel 
Pride's purge secured his sympathy and approval. 

With such sentiments, it can be no matter of 
surprise that he not only accepted the Protectorate, 
but cordially approved of it. It did not appear to 
* p. 945. 


him ill tlie liglit of a usurpation, but only as a neces- 
sary means of consolidating the liberty which England 
had achieved for herself. He cherished no fear of 
Cromwell tyrannically betraying the interests of the 
country ; he admired the heroic grandeur of his char- 
acter, and he gladly and proudly served under him. 
To what extent these two great minds came into 
closer contact we have no means of knowing. There 
was, of course, much in Milton of which Cromwell 
could have no appreciation ; and, absorbed in the 
urgent duties of practical government, the Protector 
may have scarcely penetrated beneath the surface of 
the mighty genius that worked beside him in the 
Council oftice at Whitehall, and gave itself with such 
willing capacity to do his service. He may have 
been to Cromwell, after all, but his blind secretary, 
possessing a rare and serviceable gift of expression 
in the Latin tongue ; a man of marvellous and ready 
powers, but little more. We would fain cherisli a 
different idea, and believe that two such minds could 
not come together as they did wuthout reciprocal ad- 
miration, and insight into each other's deeper spirit ; 
and that, as Milton saw and appreciated the great 
qualities of the only man lit to govern England in 
those years,* so Cromwell discerned in his blind com- 
panion the traces of a genius, the mightiest that then 
swayed the realm of thought and of imagination. There 
were moments certainly, as in the preparation of the 

* Sonnet to the Lord General Cromwell, May 16, 1652. 

" Cromwell, our chief of men, who, through a cloud. 
Not of war only, but detractions rude, 
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude, 
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast ploughed. 
And on the neck of crowned fortune proud 
Hast reared God's trophies, and His works pursued." 

MILTON. 231? 

great state papers in vindication of the war with Spain, 
and the writing of the letters to the King of France in 
behalf of the persecuted Piedmontese, when they must 
have come very near to each other in intellectual 
sympathy, and their hearts flashed high together in 
proud resentment over religious wrongs. The great 
Puritan warrior and poet, in high converse respecting 
the rights of free thought and the necessity of vindi- 
cating the Protestant cause and the name of England 
abroad as well as at home — s];irred into indignant pity 
— with the one, overflowing in commanding remon- 
strance ; with the other, rising into a sublime appeal 
to the great Avenger — suggests one of the most noble 
and touching pictures which even that heroic age 

After Cromwell's death Milton still acted in his 
official capacity under the brief Protectorate of Eicli-- 
ard, and then in the name of the restored Parliament 
that succeeded on his abdication. His last official 
document bears the date of May 15, 1659. His pen was 
unusually busy during the troubled months that fol- 
lowed. His apprehensions in regard to religious liberty 
and the purity of the Church were all renewed, and he 
addressed Parliament at length on both subjects. The 
first he handled in a Treatise of civil liberty in ecclesias- 
tical causes, showing that it is not lawftd for any i^rson 
on earth to compel in matters of religion. The latter he 
set forth in Considerations touching the likeliest means 
to remove hirelings out of the Church, ivherein is also 
discourse of tithes, church fees, and church revenues, and 
whether any maintenance of ministers can he settled hy 

The first of these treatises is in his best style, en- 
larged and profound in argument, and animated and 


nervous in expression, with almost none of tliat minute 
and reiterated appeal to scriptural and historical re- 
ferences which so often breaks the force and clear 
coherence of his reasoning. It is an exposition of the 
fundamental principles of Protestantism, and the doc- 
trine of toleration which arises out of them. He Avas 
always happy and powerful in this field of argument. 
The comprehensive and expressive sweep of many of 
his statements have the same pregnant bearing as 
in the Areopagitica upon the general state and rela- 
tions of religious and speculative opinion. There is 
nothing, he shows, that many professed Protestants 
less understand, than the ground on which they stand, 
and which alone gives any consistency to their posi- 
tion. There is nothing they are so slow to yield to 
one another as perfect liberty of opinion — nothing 
even that they seem more afraid to claim for them- 
selves ; while yet there is, and can be, no other basis 
of Protestantism than this perfect freedom whereby 
every man judges the truth for himself in the light 
of Scripture. That " no man, no synod, no session 
of men, though called the Church, can judge de- 
finitely the sense of Scripture, is well known to be a 
general maxim of the Protestant religion, from which 
it follows plainly, that he who holds in religion that 
belief or these opinions which to his conscience and 
actual understanding appears with most evidence or 
probability in the Scriptures, though to others he 
seem erroneous, can no more be justly censured for 
a heretic than his censurers, who do but the same 
thing themselves which they censure him for doing." 
And in reference to this principle he points out 
how far more reprehensible is the conduct of the 
persecuting Protestant than the Papist. " The Papist 

MILTON. 239 

exacts one belief as to the Chiircli due above Scrip- 
ture, . . , but the forcing Protestant, although he 
deny such belief to any Church whatsoever, yet takes 
it to himself and his teachers, of far less authority 
than to be called the Church, and above Scripture 

In this treatise, and that on True Religion, Here- 
sie, Schism, and Toleration, published only the year 
before his death, we have our author's mature ^iews 
on the subject of toleration. His point of view is as 
comprehensive in the earlier as in the latter treatise. 
The principles announced in botii cover every latitude 
of doctrinal opinion — Popery and idolatry excepted ; 
the latter as being " against all Scripture, and there- 
fore a true heresy, or rather an impiety, wherein a 
right conscience can have nought to do ; " the former 
as being not so much a religion as a usurped political 
authority, " a Eoman principality rather endeavouring 
to keep up his old universal dominion under a new 
name and mere shadow of a Catliolic religion." Mil- 
ton, in short, had worked out tlie intellectual prin- 
ciples of toleration thoroughly, but under the pressure 
of traditionary modes of thought, which were of the 
very religious framework of Puritanism (his view of 
idolatry, for example), he did not see his way to the 
universal practical application of these principles. 
The course of opinion has helped to work the subject 
free from the obtruding elements of dogma which re- 
fused to concede to a conscientious idolatry its free 
rights of sufferance ; but it cannot be said that it has 
yet disembarrassed it of all the difficulties connected 
with the political assumptions of Popery. 

In the second treatise whose title we have given, 
Milton's Protestantism may be said to reach its fur- 


tliest point of development. Its aim is substantially 
to vindicate the separation of Church and State. The 
question of tithes is discussed as quite inapplicable 
to the Christian ministry, and the necessity of any 
legal maintenance for this ministry is strongly repudi- 
ated. Eecorapense is to be given to ministers of the 
Gospel " not by civil law and freehold, but by the 
benevolence and free gratitude of such as receive 

Besides these treatises devoted to the subject of 
religion, the political state of affairs engaged his 
interest and occupied his pen at this time. He 
penned in October (1659) A letter to a friend con- 
cerning the ruptures of the Commonwealth, which was 
not, however, published at the time. A public pam- 
phlet followed On the ready and easy way to establish 
a Free Commonwealth, and the excelle7ice thereof, com- 
pared with the ineonvcnienccs and chetnges of readmit- 
ting kingship into this nation. In this publication 
Milton drew a strong picture of the evils of a return 
to the royal authority. He painted the difference be- 
tween a commonwealth freely served by its greatest 
men " at their own cost and charge, who live soberly 
in the families, walk the streets as other men, may be 
spoken to freely, familiarly, friendly, without adora- 
tion ; and a kingdom whose king must be adored like 
a demi-god, with a dissolute and haughty court about 
him, of vast expense and luxury, masks and revels, 
to the debauchery of the prime gentry." He recom- 
mended that the supreme power should be vested 
in a perpetual grand Council of ablest men, chosen 
by the people, to consult of affairs for the public 
good. The model of the Council that seems to have 
run in his mind was the Jewish Sanhedrim ; and, 

MILTON". 241 

after all the dreams and new models of government 
that had occupied men's minds, there was nothing 
new or sj^ecially practicable in that which he pro- 
posed. Men's minds were wearied of change and un- 
settlement ; there were but few with the same proud 
heroic convictions as himself; the course of affairs, 
with General Monk at their head, was drifting ra- 
pidly into the old channel of royalty, with scarcely 
less fanatical enthusiasm than it had drifted away 
from it, and the republican pamphlet in the circum- 
stances made no impression. He addressed a brief 
summary of it to Monk in a letter intended for his 
own special perusal ; but the old and waiy soldier had 
made up his mind, and Milton was left to mourn in 
darkness and silence the infatuation of his country- 
men. A sermon by a Dr Griffiths on the "Fear of 
God and the King," in which the miserable trash so 
common in previous and after reigns as to the inviol- 
able right of kings, was openly vented, yet once more 
called our watchful patriot into the field. He pub- 
lished notes upon this sermon ; and with this closed 
what we may call his public and political career. 

The main thought that occurs in review of this 
period of Milton's life, is the extent to which he repre- 
sented, in his single person, the intellectual strength 
and aspirations of triumphant Puritanism. If Milton 
could be conceived removed from the scene during the 
decade that followed the death of Charles, the great 
'■^iterpreter of all that was most characteristic and 
powerful in English political and speculative thought 
would be gone. It is very true that there were whole 
sections of the national feeling during this time that 
he did not, and could not, represent. From what re- 


mained of the old Eoyalism and Anglicanism, and no 
less from the strong though subdued Presbyterianism 
which had so long contended side by side with the 
freer Protestantism which itself had evoked, he was 
entirely separated. He did not try to understand 
either, and was incapable of doing them justice. But 
this did not disqualify — nay, it only qualified him the 
more to stand forth as the prominent defender of that 
bolder spirit of political and religious thought, which 
was the natural development of the great movement 
of the century. The sj^ecial dogmas, both constitu- 
tional and biblical, in which the movement began, 
could not, in the nature of things, bind the national 
mind as it rapidly expanded under its new conscious- 
ness of freedom. The current of opinion soon broke 
into a wider and freer course. Puritanism enlarged 
its conceptions, till it left behind it its Eoyalist timidi- 
ties, and, in a great measure, its doctrinal narrowness. 
It was this higher and more thorough spirit — this 
progressive phase of the Eevolution, — its extreme 
right, so to speak, — that really governed England in 
those years ; and Milton was its intellectual leader. 
His great genius was wholly given, to the service, the 
exposition, and defence of its political, social, and re- 
ligious claims. While Cromwell was in his Govern- 
ment its practical expression, he was in his writings 
its argumentative expositor ; and as the one stands 
alone in his capacity, so does the other. As Crom- 
well had no political, so Milton had no intellectual, 
compeer. Together they represent the highest advance 
to which the great revolutionary wave of the century 
surged before it fell back again for a time into the 
muddy and confused channel of the Eestoration. 

Because Milton and Cromwell outlived, in many 

MILTON. 243 

respects, tlie original narrowness of Puritanism, it 
would be absurd to say that they are not to be 
classed as Puritans. Puritanism was not merely a 
mode of theological opinion, such as we discern in 
the Westminster Confession and the prevailing theo- 
logical Kterature of the time. It was a phase of 
national life and feeling, which, wliile resting on a 
religious foundation, extended itself to every aspect 
of Anglo-Saxon thought and society. Its distinguish- 
ing and comprehensive principle was the adaptation 
of State and Church to a divine model. In all things 
it sought to realise a divine ideal. But it was not so 
much the unity and consistency of a particular ideal, 
as the aim towards some ideal, and the dogmatic, posi- 
tive, and formal manner in which this aim was carried 
out, that characterised it. The creed of Puritanism, 
therefore, both theological and ecclesiastical, might 
and did vary. Cromwell, Milton, and others soon 
pushed through the narrow bonds of Presbyterian ism 
into a broader religious atmosphere. And Milton 
especially — gifted with that innate intuition of the 
divine which has a constant tendency to ascend above 
forms, and seek its ideal ever higher in the region 
of the contemplative — not merely abandoned Presby- 
teriauism, but rose, in many respects, above the dog- 
matic basis to which it was so strongly welded. His 
was not a mind like that of Owen, or even Baxter, to 
rest set in any mould of dogmatic opinion prepared for 
it, or to busy itself with merely working out this mould 
into more complete and profound expressions. He 
was himself a vates — a divine seer — and no mere theo- 
logical mechanic. 

Yet while Milton rose above the hardening forms of 
Puritanism, its spirit never left him. He never out- 


lived the dream of moulding botli the Church and 
society around him into an authoritative model of the 
divine. In all his works he is aiming at this. He is 
seekina; to brino- down heaven to earth in some arbi- 
trary and definite shape. If there is anything more 
than anotlier that marks his mode of thought, it is 
this lofty theorising, which applies its o^vn generalisa- 
tions with a confident hand to all the circumstances 
of life, and, holding forth its own conceptions, seeks 
everywhere in history and Scripture for arguments to 
support them, and to crush out of sight everything 
opposed to them. Even when he is least Puritan, 
in the hmited doctrinal sense of the word — as in his 
writings on divorce — lie is eminently Puritan in spirit. 
Whatever may be his special opinions, he is every- 
•where a dogmatic idealist — not merely an interpreter 
and learner of the divine — but one who, believing him- 
self confidently to be in possession of it, does not hesi- 
tate to carry out his ideas into action, and square life 
according to them. The varying and expansive charac- 
ter of his opinions does not in the least affect the 
unity of his spirit. 

The epithet or the quality of Eclectic, therefore, 
which some have applied to jNIilton, is more mislead- 
ing than in any sense characteristic. " He was not a 
Puritan," Macaulay says ; " he was not a free-thinker ; 
he was not a Eoyalist. In his character the noblest 
qualities of every party were combined in harmonious 
union." So far as this is true at all, it is true merely of 
the superficial qualities of his nature. If by a Puritan 
he meant one who wore long hair, who disliked music, 
who despised poetry, then Milton certainly was no 
Puritan. But it is only to a very material fancy that 
such qualities could be supposed to constitute Puritan- 

MILTON. 245 

ism. It would never for a moment have struck our 
poet himself that his love of music, or of poetry, or 
even his wearing his hair long, separated him in any 
degree from his own party, or assimilated him to that 
of the Court. With the latter party he had not a single 
element of intellectual affinity. He and the Eoyalist 
writers of the time stood at entirely opposite poles. 
The whole circle of his ideas, political, poetical, and 
theological, was absolutely opposed to theirs. He would 
have abhorred Hobbes, as he despised and ridiculed 
Charles I. His intellect was as little eclectic as any 
great intellect can be. It sought nurture at every 
source of cultivation, and fed itself on the most varied 
literary repasts ; but after all it remained unchanged, 
if not uncoloured, by any admixtures. He Avas direct, 
dogmatic, and aspiring, but never broad, genial, or dra- 
matic. " His soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." 
He outshone all others. But while elevated ui his 
grandeur, he was not comprehensive in his spirit. 
Even when he soared farthest beyond the confines of 
contemporary opinion, he carried with him the intense, 
concentrated, and Hebraic temper which characterised 
it. Puritanism was in many, perhaps in most, a very 
limited, while, at the same time, a very confident and 
unyielding, x^hase of thought. In ]\Iilton it loses its 
limits, but it retains all its confidence and stubborn- 
ness. It soars, but it does not widen ; and even in its 
highest flights it remains as ever essentially unsym- 
pathetic, scornful, and affirmative. It lays down the 
law" and the commandments. It is positive, legislative, 
and authoritative. This is the temper of our author 
everyAvhere, and tliis was the Puritanical temper in its 
innermost expression. 

As to Milton's prose writings themselves, regarded 


from an intellectual and literary point of view, it is 
difficult to give any summary estimate of tliem, — tliey 
are so great, and yet so unsatisfactory. Putting out 
of view his two Latin treatises in defence of the people 
of England — which in the very fact that they were 
written in Latin may be said to have prepared their 
own oblivion after the first excitement and admiration 
caused by them were past — it is doubtful whether the 
neglect into which his English prose works have fallen 
is not to a large degree merited. Controversial in 
their aim and structure,* they are not generally fair, 
consistent, and impressive as arguments. No one 
would tliink of consulting either Milton's anti-pre- 
latical or divorce writings, still less perhaps his writings 
against Charles L, for a candid statement of the diffi- 
culties involved in the questions which they discuss. 
It was not the tendency of his mind to see difficulties, 
or to admit objections. He goes right at his point in 
the ideal-dogmatic manner characteristic of him, see- 
ing only his own side, and disdaining or putting out 
of sight any other ; or where he is sometimes brought 
face to face with a hard fact, or an embarrassing text, 
cutting them asunder, and scornfully casting them 
away.-f- They are consequently incomplete and inef- 
fective ; their polemics weary while they fail to con- 
vince ; and the reader who seeks in them for the 
weapons of argumentative victory, or for the solution 
of his own perplexities, leaves them dissatisfied and 
unconvinced. For after all there is nothing stronger 

* This, of course, has no apjjlication to his History of England, and 
other historical and educational compilations. But these works, what- 
ever merits they have, do not furnish any grounds for an independent 
estimate of Milton as a prose writer. 

f As the way, for example, in which he deals with our Lord's state- 
ment about adultery as the only valid plea of divorce. 

MILTON. 247 

in argument, and nothing wliicli serves the purpose 
better in the end, than candour — the honest wish to 
deal fairly and rise above obstinate prejudices. It may 
not secure a ready triumph, nor a party triumph, but 
it secures the only triumi^h that the reason acknow- 
ledges, when the passions of the hour have died down, 
and the heats of violent zeal are gone out. It is 
this quality more than anything else — this lofty and 
rational fairness— that makes Hooker, as a reasoner, 
so satisfactory. The "Books of Ecclesiastical Polity," 
in virtue of their calm, candid, and elevated philoso- 
phical spirit, form almost the single text-book of the 
controversy that retains a Living and instructive in- 

But unsatisfactory as Milton's prose writings are in 
their controversial features, whenever he passes, as he 
often does, from historical or scriptural polemic to 
general discussion, intellectual reference, or personal 
description, he is luminous, impressive, and power- 
ful. His large and earnest genius moves at ease in 
this higher atmosphere. His thoughts have scope to 
expand to their natural dimensions, and his style rises 
into corresponding majesty. Wliile the mere details 
of controversy fret and irritate him, degrade his 
ideas, and lumber his style, wherever he gets above 
them under the sway of moral passion or the buoy- 
ancy of his proud intellect, his prose no less than his 
poetry becomes very grand. There are many passages 
in which his austere enthusiasm, swelling into lyrical 
rapture, breaks forth into wondrous symphonies of 
language. In these fits of eloquence, neither Hooker 
nor Bacon equal him. The one is more simple and 
expressive in detail; the other rolls long sentences 
into a sweeter and more sustained melody; but neither 


rises into such voluminous and crashing bursts of 
music. And these passages of apostrophic grandeur 
and elevation, where the controversialist sinks out of 
sight, and the seer or poet alone appears, are more nu- 
merous in his earlier and anti-prelatical writings than 
might be imagined. They suggest strongly the idea of 
one who is naturally above the work he has in hand 
— whose native element is far above the din of con- 
troversy, and the temporary strife to which he lends 
himself. In this manner of writing, he was inferior 
to himself, and had the use but of his " left hand," as 
he said. The " genial power of nature " led Mm to 
quite another task ; and it is this genial power, con- 
stantly becoming restive and breaking forth into prose- 
poetry wherever the subject will permit, that gives 
their highest interest to these writings. The slightest 
catch or allusion is enough to set him off; as when, 
in the First Book of Rcformatioii, the mention of the 
fathers and the martyrs of the English Church leads 
him to exclaim: "And herewithal I invoke the immor- 
tal Deity, Eevealer, and Judge of Secrets, that wher- 
ever I have in this book plainly and roundly (though 
worthily and truly) laid open the faults and blemishes 
of fathers, martyrs, and Christian emperors, or have 
otherwise inveighed against error and superstition Avith 
vehement expressions, I have done it neither out of 
malice, nor list to speak evil, nor any vainglory, but of 
mere necessity to vindicate the spotless truth from an 
ignominious bondage," &c. Again, in his Animadver- 
sions iqwn the Remonstrants' Defence,'^ so dry and plain 
a subject as the alleged novelty of the Puritanical re- 

* Macaiilay has noticed the elevated strain into which Milton rises in 
this treatise, when it might have been least expected, and whose general 
structure is not i^articularly interesting or forcible. 

mLTON. 249 

forms makes him break fortli into a rapture of reply, 
in which he invokes the " One-begotten Light and per- 
fect Image of the Father." " Thou," he says, " hast 
discovered the plots and frustrated the hopes of all the 
wicked in the land, and put to shame the persecutors 
of Thy Church ; Thou hast made our false prophets to 
be found a lie in the sight of all the people, and 
chased them, with sudden confusion and amazement, 
before the redoubled brightness of Thy descending 
cloud, that now covers Thy tabernacle. Who is there 
that cannot trace Thee now in Thy beamy walk through 
the midst of Thy sanctuary, amidst those golden can- 
dlesticks which have long suffered a dimness amongst 
us through the violence of those that seized them, and 
were more taken with the mention of their gold than 
of their starry light ? " 

The conclusion to the Second. Booh of Reformation 
forms one of the most heightened and prolonged of 
these lyrical apostrophes, into which Milton so natu- 
rally bursts. It is, moreover, peculiarly characteristic 
in its combination of strength and rugged invective, 
with the most charming sweetness of tone, as in the 
following single sentence, which is all for which we 
can afford space. Addressing God, and inveighing in 
most denunciatory terms against the bishops who as 
" wild boars have broke into Thy vineyard, and left the 
print of their polluting hoofs on the souls of Thy ser- 
vants," he continues : " let them not bring about 
their damned designs that stand now at the entrance 
of the bottomless pit, expecting the watchword to open 
and let out those dreadful locusts and scorpions, to 
reinvolve us in that pitchy cloud of infernal darkness, 
where we shall never more see the sun of Thy truth 
again, never hope for the cheerful dawn, never more 


hear the "bird of morning sing." How exquisitely the 
fine sense of the poet here seduces the ahnost raving 
polemic, and under its iniluence the tone of blustering 
and rude invective sinks into a softened cadence, and 
the fresh music' of the dawn ! 

Altogether, Milton's prose writings, while they can 
never acquire, as they can never be said to have pos- 
sessed, popularity (in the ordinary sense), must always 
remain a favourite resource to the student of our poli- 
tical and literary history, and among the highest en- 
joyments of every lover of ennobling thought, and of 
combined magnificence and beauty of expression. Like 
many other massive but irregular compositions, the 
more they are studied, and the more familiar we be- 
come vnth them, the more will we see and appre- 
ciate their real poM'-er and interest. All that is coarse, 
weak, and temporary, falls away as we gaze upon their 
grand outlines ; while the broad basement and aspiring 
pillar, graced by the most rich and curious touches of 
an exquisite art, comes forth in bold and finished im- 

Milton's life, after the Eestoration, sinks away into 
quietness and obscurity. We have some characteristic 
facts from one or two gossipy admirers,* who were 
proud to recall their recollections of him. We know 
it chiefly by its splendid fruits in Paradise Lost and 
Paradise Regained. 

He continued to the end to hope in a Eepublic. 
Shut up in his own world of political idealism, he 
calmly sketched in his letter to Monk the " brief de- 
lineation of a free Commonwealth, " while the whole 
machinery of the Eevolution was tumbling to pieces 

* EUwood the Quaker, and (at second hand) Richardson the painter. 

MILTON. 251- 

around him, and the Eestoration was already impend- 
ing. After the re-establishment of the monarchy, = 
he withdrew into seclusion, and was glad if he could 
only escape notice. His writings against the late 
King were seized, and, along with Goodwin's Oh~ 
structors of Justice, burned by the hands of the com- 
mon hangman. He was himself in custody after the 
Act of Indemity was passed, on what ground is not 
known ; but it does not appear that any serious de- 
signs were entertained against him. There is a story 
that he owed his safety to the poet Davenant, who 
requited in this manner Milton's interposition on his 
behalf, when taken captive during the civil war and 
condemned to die. The tale is so pleasing, as John- 
son says, that we could wish to believe it ; but there 
seems no satisfactory evidence that Milton's life was 
ever really in danger. Whatever may have been 
Charles's faults, vindictiveness was not one of them. 
He had too little seriousness even to cherish resent- 
ment for his father's death ; he left the punishment 
of the regicides to Parliament ; and there were men 
such as Marvell, Morrice, and others, there, who were 
good friends of Milton, and who would do what they 
could to throw the shield of their protection over the 
blind patriot. 

During the fourteen years which he outlived the 
return of royalty, he resided chiefly in London ; and 
latterly, for the final nine years of his life, in a house 
in Artillery Walk, leading into Bunhill-fields. " This 
was his last stage in the world," as Phillips says. It 
is with this residence that Pdchardson's reminiscences 
connect him. Here he was remembered sitting in " a 
small chamber hung with rusty green, in an elbow- 
chair, and dressed neatly in black ; pale, but not 


cadaverous, his hands and fingers gouty, and with 
chalk stones. . . . He used also to sit in a grey 
coarse cloth coat at the door of this house, in warm, 
sunny weather, to enjoy the fresh air, and so, as well 
as in his room, received the visits of people of dis- 
tinguished parts as well as quality." He had many 
illustrious visitors, especially strangers of distinction. 
" He was much more admired abroad," Aubrey says, 
" than at home ; " although there were those at home 
too, such as Dryden, who, after the publication of 
Paradise Lost, learned to look with reverent and ad- 
miring eyes towards the great recluse. 

Two years before his retirement to this house 
(1662-3), he married a third time, an event which 
proved happy in its issues for himself, but which 
served to reveal a very unpleasant picture of strife 
and misery in his home. At the time of his marriage 
his eldest daughter, who was lame and "helpless," 
was about seventeen, and his youngest about eleven 
years of age. From whatever cause, they had grown 
up without fondness or respect for their blind father. 
We have his own statement that they were " unkind 
and undutiful." His brother reported that he had 
heard him complain that " they were careless of him 
being blind, and made nothing of deserting him ; " 
that they combined together with the maid to cheat 
him in his marketings, and that "they made away 
with some of his books, and would have sold the rest 
to the dunghill woman." * These statements were eli- 
cited in evidence in the trial respecting his will that 
followed his death. They suggest a very miserable 

* Mary, the second one, is even reported to have said, when she heard 
of his intended marriage, that " that was no news to hear of his wedding, 
but if she could hear of his death, that was something." 

MILTON. 253 

state of things ; but the shadow of the picture "by no 
means falls exclusively on the daughters, when all 
the facts are regarded. The wilful and hoyden blood 
of their mother, her dislike of retirement, and indif- 
ference to literature, they appear to have shared ; but, 
let it be remembered how young they were. Most 
fathers do not look for any special amount of gravity 
and filial consideration and housekeeping accomplish- 
ments at such an age as even the eldest had reached. 
It was in Milton's nature to be exacting ; not sparing 
himself, he had no idea of sparing others. It was his 
nature, moreover, not to allow for the position of others. 
With all his nobleness, he was deficient in forbearance 
of spirit and sympathy Avith weakness. He could no 
more understand the natural frivolities of girlhood than 
he could understand the deeply-stirred affections of 
royalism after the execution of the King. 

Milton, accordingly, mismanaged his daughters as 
he had mismanaged their mother, although with more 
excuse in the one case, from the helplessness indviced 
by his blindness. He required the two youngest to 
assist him in his studies, in a manner in which some 
daughters might be proud to assist their father, but 
which no mere sense of duty — nothing but a strong love 
and a congenial taste — could sustain day by day. He 
made them his amanuenses and readers. He expected 
them to be always ready to write to his dictation, and 
to read to him, not merely in English, but in languages 
of which they themselves did not understand the 
meaning.* This was part of their training ; and there 
are few who will not be prepared to sympathise with 

* This is the account of Phillips, so far corroborated by Aubrey. De- 
borah's own account to Dr Wai-d, of Gresham College, substantially 
agrees with it. 


them in its irksomeness. Subjected to the rule of a 
step-mother, whose temper towards them at least ap- 
pears to have been harsh, although Milton says she 
was " very kind and careful of him " * — it is little 
wonder that they found their father's home uncom- 
fortable, and that one after anotlier they should have 
left it. Deborah, the youngest, and who was most of 
a favourite with her father, was the last to leave ; but 
she, too, at length quarrelled with Mrs Milton, and 
3-bout the year 1669 all the three daughters had gone, 
according to Phillips, " to learn some curious or in- 
genious sorts of manufacture that are proper for women 
to learn, particularly embroidery in gold and silver." 
'Two of them subsequently married — the eldest and 
youngest — the latter of whom survived to a good old 
age, and was reverently sought out and assisted by 

Milton's third wife was of good family, being the 
daughter of Mr Eandle MinshuU, of Wistaston, near 
JSTantwich, in Cheshire. The marriage was one of con- 
venience, arranged for him by his friend Dr Paget, who 

* Phillips, who strongly takes the side of the children in the domestic 
quarrel, says with brief vigour, that his uncle's third wife "persecuted 
his children in his lifetime, and cheated them at his death." Consider- 
ing how difficult it is in contemporary life to ascertain the truth in such 
matters, it is no wonder that we should meet with discrepancy in the 
long-past story of Milton's family disagreements. Aubi-ey says of this 
wife, that " she was a genteel person, of a peaceful and agreeable 
humour ; " and Aubrey knew her personally. Milton's own account of 
her kindness to him is given in the text. On the other hand, Richard- 
son calls her a termcujant, and represents her as worldly, and rather 
grasping. Such varieties in the domestic portraiture of the same per- 
son, seen from different points of view, are not uncommon. The truth 
probably is, that as a wife, Elizabeth Milton was affectionate and use- 
ful, a good and managing housekeeijcr, with the somewhat imperious 
temper which is apt to distinguish that character, and the chief effects 
pf which naturally fell upon her husband's disorderly and hoyden 

MILTON. 255 

was connected with tlie lady ; and the arrangement, 
whatever its disadvantages to the daughters, proved a 
blessing to himself. " Betty," as he called her, appears 
to have well understood the austere and high nature 
with which she had to deal, and to have smoothed, 
with a clever fitness and tender hand, his declining 

The same solicitous medical friend (Dr Paget) who 
had provided Milton with a wife, shortly after found 
him also a companion, more suited to be his reader, 
and more proud of being so, than any of his daughters 
had been. This was a young Quaker of the name of 
Ellwood, who stands in interesting association with 
these last years of the Poet, and to whom, particularly, 
we are indebted for certain well-known information as 
to the connection between Paradise Lost and Pa.radise 
Regained. Ellwood felt an honourable pride in this 
association, and has recorded certain characteristic 
traits of the great man. " I was admitted to him, 
not as a servant, which at that time he needed not, 
but only to have the liberty of coming to his house at 
certain hours when I could, and to read to him what 
books he should appoint me, which was all the favour 
I desired. ... I went every day in the afternoon, 
except on the first day of the week, and, sitting by 
him in his dining-room, read to him such books, in the 
Latin tongue, as he pleased to hear me read. At my 
first sitting to read to him, observing that I used the 
English pronunciation, he told me, if I would have the 
benefit of the Latin tongue, not only to read and to 
understand Latin authors, but to converse with foreign- 
ers, either abroad or at home, I must learn the foreign 
pronunciation. To this I consenting, he instructed 
me how to sound the vowels. This change of pro- 


nunciation proved a new difficulty to me ; but Lahor 
omnia vincit im^jrobus, and so did I, which made the 
reading more acceptable to my master. He, on the 
other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire I pur- 
sued learning, gave me not only all the encouragement 
but all the help he could ; for having a curious ear, 
he understood by my tone when I understood what I 
read, and when I did not ; and accordingly would stop 
me, examine me, and open the most difficult passages 
to me." 

In these simple and garrulous traits, we can read 
an interesting and pleasing picture of the great scholar 
and his young Quaker friend and pupil. After all his 
]3olitical and ecclesiastical excitements, it had come 
to this quiet retirement, and the perusal of his old 
favourite authors. The country which he had faith- 
fully served might be ungrateful, but he certainly 
bore no loss ; not only so, but, with the magnanimity 
of a great spirit, he requited his country's neglect by a 
nobler and far more lasting service than any he had 
yet rendered. 

The first years of his enforced retirement saw the 
preparation of his great epic. Paradise Lost was cer- 
tainly complete in the spring of 1667 — probably a 
year before this ; * but there is abundant evidence 
that he had been working at it long before. Accord- 
ing to Aubrey's statement, he had commenced it as 
early as 1658, when there may have seemed to him, 
under the settled rule of Cromwell, the prospect of a 
period of literary ease and culture.f So early an 

* Ell wood says that he had seen the MS. in the beginning of 1606, 
while visiting Milton at Chalfont, Buckinghamshire. 

■f It desen'es to be noticed that literature did seem rising into renewed 
prosperity under the rule of Cromwell, who showed in this, as in other 

MILTON. 257 

origin, liowever, is not sufficiently substantiated, and 
is in itself unlikely. If his mind were then busy with 
the subject, it was probably in the earlier and cruder 
shapes in which it is presented in the Cambridge 
MSS. These MSS. show two plans of a sacred mys- 
tery or drama, on the subject of the Fall of Man, in 
the second and more perfect of which " Lucifer appears 
in an aspect exactly corresponding to that in which 
he is jpresented in Paradise Lost, bemoaning himself, 
and seeking revenge upon man." * It is interesting 
to think of him working at his great conception in 
this tentative manner ; but there is every reason to 
believe that it was not till after the " evil days and 
evil tongues" of the Eestoration had forced him into 
privacy and solitude, and driven his mind back upon 
the lofty plans and ideas of his earlier years, that 
he really entered upon the composition of Paradise 
Lost. We can easily conceive with what enlarging 
joy his mind, freed from the political cares that had 
so long encumbered it, would revert to those half- 
forgotten plans, and with what pride he would once 
more take to himself, in his " darkness" and sheltered 
solitude, the " garland and singing robes" so long 
laid aside. The old thought to do something in 
his country's literature such as " the greatest and 
choicest wits of Athens, Eome, and Modern Italy, and 
those Hebrews of old, did for their country" — " some- 
thing so written to after-times as they should not wil- 

matters, a wide toleration, and extended his patronage to royalist as 
well as anti-royalist writers. Cowley and Hobhes returned from exile. 
Butler " meditated, in the house of one of Cromwell's oflQcers, his gro- 
tesque Satires against the Sectaries ; " and Davenant, on his liberation 
from prison, received permission to open a theatre.— See Guizot's 
CroriuoeU, ii. 167. 
* Keightlet. p. 400. 



lingly let it die " — would then return upon liim with 
a zest and consciousness of strength all the greater 
that he had felt how " inferior he was to himself " 
in that "cool element of prose" — "a mortal thing, 
among many readers of no empyreal conceit" — to 
which he had been so long confined. His higher 
genius had never ceased to stir him to some higher 
and more enduring work ; and now, when all the 
public objects for which he had cared and laboured 
were overthrown — when his ideal schemes of ecclesi- 
astical and civil liberty were shattered and destroyed 
— with what eagerness would he recall his vanished 
dreams of poetry, and from the very depths of his pa- 
triotic despair make to himself a higher and brighter 
vision of contemplation ! The idealising grandeur 
which in great spirits often comes from weariness and 
disgust at practical life — the reaction of a mind like 
his — thrown back upon its original foundations, and 
congenial intuition of the " bright countenance of 
Truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies " 
— such seems the natural explanation of the sublime 
conception which now built itself up under his ima- 
ginative touch. 

In contemplating Milton's resumption of the Muse, 
it is particularly interesting to notice the change of 
spirit that had come over him in the long interval of 
controversy through which he had passed. The cha- 
racteristics of his early poetic genius survive in his 
later poems in all their richness and strength, but 
they are mellowed as with a riper flavour ; they are 
more mature, more lofty, and, if not more instinct with 
emotion, yet of a grander and more encompassing 
power of feeling. The sweetness lingers, but it is of 
a grave and more earnest cast ; the old sensitiveness 

MILTON. 259 

to natural beauty has retired behind a new swell and 
fulness of moral passion, such as no other poet but 
Dante has ever reached, or even approached. It is this 
increase of reflective and moral interest which marks 
the peculiarity of his later poetic powers. The reader 
sees at once what a world of hard exjDerience the poet 
has passed through, and how his nature has at once 
deepened and expanded under it. It has struck its 
roots far more firmly into the enduring rock of the 
Divine ; it has reared its natural majesty far more 
nearly into the very light and glory of Heaven. A cer- 
tain gaiety of heart and nimbleness of fancy has gone 
from him; the inspiration of U Allegro, II Penscroso, 
and the Comus is there, but chastened and checkered, 
— lying like patches of charming spring sunshine on 
the broadened current of his genius — while he has ga- 
thered in the course of twenty years of toilsome and 
agitating disputes a strength of intellectual fibre, a com- 
pass of intellectual treasure, a reach of spiritual con- 
ception, and an intensity of spiritual imagination, which 
amount almost to a new faculty of poetic accomplish- 
ment. The traces of harmony and of varied culture 
in his early poems, the fulness of historical allusion 
and local memory, and descriptive minuteness and fide- 
lity that creeps out in them, are now everywhere mani- 
fest in an accumulated degree ; while the religious 
and speculative interest which was in them subsidiary, 
has taken the foreground, and sublimed by its exalting 
and consecrating power, all his other gifts to a higher 
and more potent capacity. Many a poetic genius 
would have sunk and gone out under such an ex- 
perience as that through which Milton had passed. 
It would have been weighed down, if nothiog more, 
by the very accumulation of its intellectual resources. 


It was tlie peculiarity and greatness of liis genius to 
become only more buoyant under all its load of 
wealth — to rise witli it on more triumphant wings, 
and to harmonise and mould the whole so as to give 
more splendour, variety, compass, and majesty to his 
poetic conceptions. 

Any mere literary criticism of Milton's later poems 
is beside our purpose. It concerns us, however, to 
point out the influence of the puritanical spirit and 
mode of thought upon the great productions which 
mark this period of his life. In reference to Para- 
disc Lost, in particular, in which all his powers are 
seen in their most concentrated vigour and harmony, 
this becomes a somewhat interesting task. The more 
attentively the whole argumentative plan of this poem 
is studied, and the more the lines of religious thought 
wliich underlie it, and bind it into a grand epical 
unity, are brought into view, the more will there be 
recognised in them the puritanical impress — the seal 
of a genius moulded after the great type of Genevan 
thought, however richly diversified and enlarged. 

It was and remains an essential characteristic of this 
thought to conceive of the struggle between good and 
evil in the world in the light of a great scheme defi- 
nitely concluded in the Divine Mind, and finding its 
highest warrant in the wise appointment of the Divine 
Will. The mysterious facts of sin and redemption are 
not merely recognised as they exist and operate in the 
world, or as many conceive them to be revealed in 
Scripture, but they are further apprehended and re- 
cognised as parts of an ideal economy or system of 
decrees which explains them, and with a view to winch 
they were divinely preordered. Divine truths are not 
merely accepted by Calvinism in their obvious import. 

MILTON. 261 

but they are reasoned backwards into a great specu- 
lative conception, embracing them all, and giving to 
each its appropriate meaning and explanation in regard 
to the rest. It is the aim of all Christian thought, 
more or less, no doubt, to do the same thing : thought 
cannot become active on the facts of revelation with- 
out trying to unite them into some ideal scheme or argu- 
ment. But it was the ambition of Puritan theology to 
have done this more completely than any other in its 
great system of divine decrees. The mysteries of the 
world lay unravelled in all their outline before the 
spiritual vision of the Puritan, and his mind acquired 
a dread familiarity with the divine in its supposed 
workings and ends. The author of Paradise Lost is 
everywhere such a Puritan. The conception of the 
divine decrees lies at the basis of his poem. The 
whole plot is wrought' out from it. The fall of the 
rebel angels, the creation and fall of man, are merely 
successive exigencies by which the divine mind carries 
out its preconceived plans. There is no mystery be- 
hind, lurking shadowy in the abyss of the Godhead. 
All is prearranged and clear, setting out from a definite 
decree, thus disclosed to the angelic intelligences : — 

*' Hear, all ye angels, progeny of light, 
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers, — 
Hear my decree, which, unrevoked, shall stand : 
This day have I begot whom I declare 
My only Son. 

To him shall bow 
AU knees in heaven, and shall confess him Lord." 

From this absolute act the whole argument of the 
epic enfolds itself Beginning in an arbitrary and au- 
thoritative assertion of will, it advances along the same 
line of conception. Satan erects his will in opposition to 


the divine decree. Assertion calls forth assertion, and 
the conflict of good and evil proceeds as a conflict of 
naked power on both sides. Device in Satan is met 
by device in heaven ; the craft of hell seems to triumph 
for a while, and man falls ; but it is only by prear- 
rangement to a greater rising. 

It is not merely the general scheme of thought here 
presented which is Puritan, but, above all, the mode 
of the thought. There is no attempt to invest the 
primal decree of the Godhead, out of which the 
whole action of the poem may be said to spring, with 
rational interest. Notwithstanding tlie often quoted 
verses in the opening of the poem, the mind is not 
made to rest on any moral vindication — the assertion 
of eternal justice, truth, or righteousness — but on the 
bare contemplation of power, the promulgation of an 
absolute decree, and the maintenance of that decree in 
the face of the antagonism which its very absoluteness 
provokes — 

' ' New laws from Him who reigns, new minds may raise 
In lis who serve," 

argues Satan. It is the mere command to submit, 

' ' Law and edict upon ns, who, without law. 
Err not," 

that calls forth the spirit of rebellion. The contest is 
a contest of will against will, and the ideas of right 
and wrong only spring out of it — they are not pri- 
marily obtruded upon the reader. This sufficiently 
shows the origin of the conception. This naked pro- 
trusion of will, irrespective of moral intent, as in itself 
an adequate spring and explanation of action in the 
Divine, is eminently characteristic of the school of 
theological thought to which Milton belonged. 

The perception of this enables us to analyse an 

MJLTON. 263 

impression, to which there are few who do not own 
in reading the poem — admiration of the character of 
Satan. Irresistibly we feel our thoughts raised as we 
contemplate this wonderful creation ; and a certain 
vastness of heroic interest gathers around the scarred 
and mighty form of the " Archangel ruined"— 

" Above the rest 
In shape and gesture proudly eminent." 

It is not sympathy, it is not mere admiration, but it 
is the blended feeling of pathos, wonder, and awe, that 
surrounds a once mighty foe overthrown and laid in 
the dust. All readers confess to some share of this 
feeling. The degree in which it is raised is the great 
triumph of the poem as a work of art. The interest 
radiates from Satan as the central figure, without 
which, in its peculiar combinations of fallen grandeur, 
all would be comparatively tame. In immediate con- 
nection with this figure the poet reaches his loftiest 
sublimities ; and as we recede from it in the later 
books, his power does not hold us in such thrall. 
JSTow the main secret of this strong interest in Mil- 
ton's Satan is the peculiar character of the conflict in 
which he is represented as engaged. He falls before a 
higher power ; he is crushed down to hell ; but, from 
the prominence that is given to mere force in the con- 
test, our moral sympathies, so far from being directly 
outraged by his rebellious spirit, are greatly enlisted 
on his side. It was necessary, for the purposes of his 
poem, that Milton should take up this view ; the poem 
otherwise would have been no epic, and possessed no 
source of excitement. But it may be seriously ques- 
tioned how far tliis triumph of art is a triumph of 
truth. Tlie Puritan spirit here helped the poet; it 
fed the mighty creation which had seized his ima- 


gination ; but, as this spirit disappears, it is felt that 
the limitations which have given an epical intensity 
and grandeur to the poetic conception, have narrowed 
and emptied of its fulness the spiritual thought. 

One of the most remarkable results of Milton's poem 
is the manner in which it has added to the Protestant 
conceptions of the spiritual world. The antecedent 
drama of conflict in heaven, the fall of the rebel 
angels, theii' resentment in hell, and plot against man 
— are all amplifications beyond the scope, yet in the 
very spirit, of the Puritan theology with which his 
mind was imbued. He not only ascends to the postu- 
late of this theology — the absolute decree of the 
Divine — and weaves it into his whole plan ; but he 
fills up the ante-human space which precedes the real- 
isation of the divine plans on earth by an aiTay of 
spiritual machinery, fitting, with a smgular unity and 
effect, into these plans, and explaining them. Between 
the decree which sets up the throne of the Messiah, 
and the fall of man, which necessitates the interposi- 
tion of Messiah's power, he introduces a series of 
events transcending Eevelation, yet so admirably de- 
veloping its hints, and so completely harmonising 
with the general scheme of its thought, that there 
are many minds that have lost all sense of distinction 
between what is merely imaginative and what is dog- 
matic in the representation. The epical agencies and 
scenery of the early books have not merely coloured 
the religious imagination, but they have, so to speak, 
become a part of the creed of Protestantism. They 
have replaced in it, in higher and more beautiful forms, 
the medieval beliefs of celestial and anti-celestial hier- 
archies, and given to them such a vividness of imj^res- 
sion and force of theological truthfulness, that with 


many they seem to be only natural and colierent parts 
of the Christian system. Nothing can more show how 
entirely congenial Milton was with the prevailing type 
of Christian thought in his day, than this fact of his 
having not only taken up its scheme into his poem, 
and organised the whole from it, but of his having, 
moreover, stamped his own imaginative enrichments 
of it upon the minds of succeeding generations as 
really parts of the same great outline of thought. 

The same thing is shown by many special charac- 
teristics of the poem ; the daring boldness, for example, 
with which long trains of argument are put into the 
mouth of God, and of the Son of God, and the marked 
forensic or juridical structure of some of these argu- 
ments. No parts of the poem are more wonderful, or 
show more marvellously the elastic sublimity of the 
author's genius. With what a rare skill he triumphs 
over masses of unpoetic material, and fuses them into 
living idea and sentiment ! But he also sometimes 
greatly fails ; and the bald structure of the argumen- 
tative dialogue or monologue reveals the hardness of 
the theologian rather than the plastic ease and richness 
of the poet. 

In Paradise Regained this baldness of theological 
structure is more conspicuous. There is a compara- 
tive tunidity and want of grasp in the conceptions 
of the poet ; while the moral spirit is more narrow 
and stern — as especially in the manner in which he 
speaks of heathen wisdom in the Fourtli Book. The 
didactic character of the poem, its want of action, and 
the argumentative character of the conflict carried on 
between the Saviour and the tempter — all serve to 
bring into stronger relief, or, at least, into a more 
complete view, the formal peculiarities of Milton's 


thought. Paradise Lost is a far grander illustration 
of this thought ; but Paradise Regained is, as a whole, 
a more select pattern of it. The one soars in its 
sublime action and wealth of imaginative idea far be- 
yond all mere schemes of argument ; the other scarcely 
travels beyond a very definite line of intellectual con- 
ception. The dogma of his great epic, however essen- 
tial to its structure, and however significant of his own 
spirit and creed, is, after all, a mere skeleton on which 
the majestic form of the poem is hung. The dogmatic 
import of Paradise Regained fills up the whole out- 
line, and makes the whole story of the poem. 

Tlie origin of Paradise Regained is related by Ell wood 
as follows. During the time of the plague, in 1665, 
Milton quitted Loudon, and took up his abode at Chal- 
font, in Buckinghamshire, where his Quaker friend, 
with that untiring and cheering kindliness which dis- 
tinguished him, had provided for him, as he says, a 
"pretty box" about a mile from his own residence. 
On Ellwood paying him a visit here " to welcome him 
to the country," Milton called for a manuscript, which 
he gave to him, with a request that he should take it 
home, and, after carefully reading it, return it with his 
judgment thereupon. This was the manuscript of 
Paradise Lost. On returning it, wdth a " due acknow- 
ledgment of the favour he had done me in communi- 
cating it to me," continues the Quaker, " he asked me 
how I liked it, and what I thought of it, which I 
modestly and freely told him ; and after some further 
discourse about it, I pleasantly said to him, ' Thou hast 
said much here of Paradise lost — but what hast thou 
to say of Paradise regained?' " 

Supposing Milton to have commenced the composi- 
tion of Paradise Regained soon after this conversation 

MILTON. . 267 

witli Ellwood in the summer of 1GG5, it was probably 
finished in the course of the following year. It was 
not published, however, till six years later, in 1671, 
when it appeared, along with Samson Agonistes, in 
one volume. 

This latter poem, classical as it is in form, is the 
most Puritan of all Milton's poems in sternness of spirit 
and concentrated and rigid outline. There is less of 
the "genial power of nature" in it— less of that soft 
brightening spirit of beauty which relieves the graver 
cast of his thought elsewhere, and touches his higher 
moods with a happy tenderness and exquisitely pleas- 
ing grace. The Hebraic temper is diffused and un- 
bending throughout, not only mournful, but harsh, 
breathing the vengeance of the theocratic hero — fallen, 
despairing, and impatient. It is difficult not to believe 
that Milton has allowed to escape in this poem some- 
thing of the proud bitterness of feeling which, beneath 
all the quiet surface of his later years, he yet cherished, 
as he remembered the great cause with which he had 
been identified, the heroes who had adorned it, and the 
miserable overthrow in which all had sunk and gone 
to ruin. Even his own domestic misfortune casts its 
deep and painful shadow over the picture which he 
draws ; and in the vehement objurgations of his deceived 
hero we catch the very strain of the author of the Doc- 
trine and Discipline of Divorce. * Save for this poem, 
we could somehow suppose Milton to have been a 
happier man than he really appears to have been in 
those later years of his life. 

Besides his great poems, this period is generally 
credited with the preparation of his treatise on " Chris- 

* There is almost an identity at times in the language, as between the 
famous passage in the Doctrine, etc., regarding "' an uncomplying discord 


tian Doctrine." The history of this treatise is now well 
known. It was discovered in 1823 in the State-Paper 
Office by Mr Lemon, and edited and translated by the 
Eev. Mr Summer, now Bishop of Winchester. It had 
been deposited in the State-Paper Office nnder the 
following circumstances : Milton, apparently designing 
that it should be published abroad, had intrusted it 
before his death to a certain Daniel Skinner, of Trmity 
College, Cambridge, supposed to be a nephew of his 
friend Cyriac Skinner. This gentleman carried it to 
Amsterdam, and there offered it to Elzevir for publica- 
tion; but after examining the manuscript, the Dutch 
publisher declined the undertaking. The English 
Government, in the mean time, had heard of the ex- 
istence of the manuscript, and, apprehensive that it 
might contain writing " mischievous to the Church 
or State," was desirous of securing possession of it. 
With this view, Dr Barrow, Master of Trinity, lATote 
to Skinner, warning him of the danger he was incur- 
ring in his attempts to have it published. Skinner, 
instigated by this warning, again obtained possession 
of the manuscript, and transferred it to the custody 
of the Secretary of State, by whom it was deposited 
in the office, where Mr Lemon found it undisturbed 
in 182.3. 

A question has been raised as to the right relation 
of this treatise to Milton's theological views. Does it 

of nature," and a "bondage now inevitable," where one looked for 
"sweet and gladsome society," and the following lines : — 

" Whate'er it be to wisest men and best, 
Seeming at first all heavenly under virgin soil — 
Soft, modest, meek, demure : 
Once found, the contrary she proves, a thorn 
Intestine, far within defensive arms 
A cleaving mischief— in his way to virtue, 
Adverse and tui-bulent," 

MILTON. 269 

really represent his later convictions ? Tliis has gene- 
rally been assumed as beyond question ; but an argu- 
ment has been lately raised on the subject. One thing 
must be admitted, that it was certainly commenced 
at an early period. "VVlien he first engaged in the 
education of his nephew, on his return from Italy, 
Phillips tells us that it was a part of his system on 
the Sundays to dictate portions of a " tractate which 
he thought fit to collect from the ablest of divines 
who had written of that subject, Amesius and Wol- 
lebius," &c. The Treatise on Christian Doctrine is 
found exactly to answer to this description. Large 
portions of it are not only taken from these two 
Dutch theologians, but the whole arrangement of the 
work, not only under two main divisions, entitled the 
Knoioledge of Ood and the Worship of God, but in its 
special chapters, is found to be borrowed from them. 
At whatever time of his life, therefore, the Treatise 
may have been completed, it was evidently begun early 
in the second or controversial stage of his career. It 
has been contended, very much on this presumption, 
that it really represents liis early and not his later 
theological opinions — that its Arianism was the faith 
of his comparative youth, from which he departed as 
his Christian experience deepened, and his Christian 
knowledge expanded.* There is some plausibility in 
this conjecture, but it is certainly not borne out by 
any conclusive facts — while, as a theory, it rests on a 
mistaken view of Milton's mind and character. That 

* See B'Mlotheca Sacra, July 1859 and January 1860, where this view- 
is defended at great length, and with a very elaborate examination of all 
the facts bearing upon the point. It does not appear to me, however, 
after the most candid attention to his argument, that the writer has 
made out his case. 


Milton should be an Arian is supposed to be incom- 
patible with his Puritan spirit and the tenor of the 
theological systems which moulded his thought in so 
evident a manner. But this is to judge Milton in far 
too arbitrary and summary a manner. He was a 
Puritan, but he was also more than a Puritan. He 
had studied the Genevan and Dutch systems of theo- 
logy until his habit of thought had become quite 
attempered to them, and he carried their most abstract 
theories into the composition of his great poems ; but 
he was also far more than a student of any theological 
theories. He w^as a thinker on his own behalf: he 
had a natural largeness and independence of mind, 
combined with the strongest confidence in his own 
judgment, and something like contempt for mere 
Catholic tradition, whether in doctrine or church dis- 
cipline. Such a mind was exactly the one to venture 
on new paths of theological deduction, and, amid the 
contemplative quietness of his later years, to elaborate 
views, which seemed to him to arise from his own free 
sense of inquiry. It is absurd, as we have already said, 
to identify Puritanism with any uniform series of doc- 
trinal conclusions. It represents a mode of theological 
thought, rather than a definite sum of theological re- 
sults ; and Milton's Arianism, so far from being at 
variance with this mode of thought, might be argued 
to be only a consistent issue of it. The spirit of 
logical analysis which insists upon definition at every 
point, and carries its formal argumentativeness into 
the highest mysteries of spiritual truth, would find 
nothing uncongenial in Milton's speculations on the 
nature of the Godhead. 

It appears to us, upon the whole, beyond doubt, that 
the Treatise of Christian Doctrine represents Milton's 

MILTON. 271 

most mature theological opinions. Its Arianism need 
not puzzle any student of Paradise Lost. Its latitu- 
dinarian tone in regard to polygamy and the obliga- 
tion of the Sabbath, need not even surprise any one 
who rightly understands his mind and character. 
Unpuritan as the sentiments on these subjects are 
— more characteristically so than his Arianism — 
they are merely the natural development of that 
spirit of free-thinking wliich, in Milton as in some 
others, struggled all along with the dogmatism of 
their time. When, in the very heat of his controver- 
sial career, he showed, both in his Areopagitica and 
his divorce writings, the strength of this tendency, 
and his willingness to enter into conflict with the pre- 
vailing orthodoxy; and in the retirement of his later 
years, and the quiet evolution of his own opinions, he 
was not likely to yield less to the impulses of his own 
bold inquiry and his ready and confident opiniona- 
tiveness. There may seem, on a superficial view, 
considerable inconsistency between such parts of the 
Christian Doctrine, and especially between the libe- 
I'al rationalising spirit which distinguishes them, and 
the narrow 'Hebraic spirit, for example, of Samson 
Agonistes; but such an inconsistency, even if it was 
more marked than it is, is only the difference between 
the poet yielding himself up to the mood of long-che- 
rished feelings, and the intellectualist following out 
the thread of his own reasoned convictions. Apparent 
inconsistencies of this kind may be found in all great 
minds ; and in a mind like Milton's, it is only the 
natural expression of its largeness and diversity, at 
once poetic and concrete, and speculative and theo- 
retic. It seems exactly to suit the character of Mil- 
ton, to conceive of him in his later years embalming 


in liis poetry tlie spirit of tlie great movement in 
wliicli he liaci been engaged, and yet freely criticising 
and holding himself above its sjDecial dogmatic con- 

The three years during which Milton survived the 
publication of Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistcs 
are marked by various publications. In the year 
1672 he published a scholastic work,* which had pro- 
bably been prepared for some time. During the next 
year he republished his poems, English and Latin, 
with some additions, and also his Tractate on Educa- 
tion. His treatise on True Religion, Heresy, Schism, 
Toleration, &c., already noticed in connection with his 
views on the latter subject, belongs to the same year. 
In the succeeding and last year of his life he was still 
busy publishing. He collected together his Latin 
Epistolce Familiares, the letters which he had written 
to friends from 1625 to 1666, and also his Prolusiones 
Oratorim which he had dehvered at Cambridge, and 
gave them to the world. He appears to have care- 
fully treasured all his literary efforts, not merely his 
original and independent works, but liis scholastic 
and other compilations. Mr Keightley has remarked 
on his fondness for compilation. Besides his treatise 
on Christian Doctrine, he left behind him a short ac- 
count of Eussia or Moscovia, founded on the narratives 
of persons who had visited the country. 

During these years the tenor of Milton's life was of 
an even peacefulness. Study, music, and quiet recrea- 
tion filled up his days. The notices of his manners 
and appearance that have been preserved by Aubrey 
and others, chiefly refer to this time. He was an 
early riser: in his youth he used to sit up late, but 

* Ards Logicce pknior Institutio ad Rami Methodum Concinnata. 

MILTON. 273 

lie had long since changed this practice, and he now 
retired to bed early, and rose in the morning at four 
in summer, and five in winter. Sometimes he 
would lie in bed awake, and have some one to read 
to him, or to write to his dictation. After he rose, 
a chapter of the Hebrew Bible was read to him, 
and the whole of the early part of the day employed 
in reading or writing — "the writing," Aubrey says, 
"was as usual as the reading." He used to dictate 
sitting at ease in his chair, with his leg thrown over 
the arm of it. He dined at one o'clock, and took exer- 
cise for an hour, often also in a chair, in which he 
used to swing himself. His dinner was frugal, and he 
drank little but water. But he had a quiet relish for 
the comforts of the table, and commended his wife for 
her attention to his tastes. There is a pleasing, and 
yet a painful sense of dependence in the remark attri- 
buted to him. " God have mercy, Betty. I see that 
thou wilt perform according to thy promise, in pro- 
viding me such dishes as I think fit, whilst I live ; and 
when I die, thou knowest that I have left thee all." 
His poor daughters ! They had no doubt, among 
their other neglects, kept their father's table but 
poorly supplied, and he had not forgotten their negli- 
gence. The afternoon was devoted to music. He 
played on the organ or bass viol ; and either sang him- 
self or made his wife sing. His wife had a good voice, 
he said, but no ear. Eenewed study and conversation 
with his friends brought the evening to a close, when, 
after a light supper, a pipe of tobacco, and a glass of 
water, he retired to rest about nine o'clock. 

His conversation, according to Aubrey, was "ex- 
tremely pleasant," with a vein of satire. His daugh- 
ter Deborah also says that he was " delightful com- 



pany, the life of conversation, and that on account of 
a flow of subject and an unaffected cheerfulness and 
civility." His powers of composition varied, he has 
liimself told us, with the season. " His views never 
happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the 
vernal, and whatever he attempted (at other times) 
was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his 
fancy never so much." 

His beauty of person in youth and manhood has 
been already remarked. He was evidently not un- 
conscious of it, as may be gathered from the man- 
ner in which he expresses himself in his Defensio 
Secunda in reply to the vulgar abuse of the anony- 
mous libeller who attacked him. " I do not believe," 
he says, " that I was ever noted for deformity by 
any one who ever saw me ; but the praise of beauty 
I am not anxious to obtain. My stature, certainly, 
is not tall, but it rather approaches the middle than 
the diminutive." The florid and delicate complexion 
of his youth he retained till advanced in life, so that 
he appeared to be ten years younger than he was ; 
and the smoothness of his skin was not in the least 
affected by the "wrinkles of age." His eyes Avere 
grey, and never lost their hue, blind as he became. 
His hair was light brown, or auburn ; it remained in 
profusion to the last, and he wore it parted evenly on 
his forehead, as seen in his portraits. " He "had a 
delicate tuneable voice, and pronounced the letter r 
very hard" — " a certain sign," Dryden said to Aubrey, 
" of a satirical wit." " His deportment was affable, 
and his gait erect and manly, bespeaking courage and 

It has been noticed that Milton attended no clmrch, 
and belonged to no particular communion of Chris- 

MILTON. 275- 

tians. His blindness was probably to some extent tlie 
explanation of this, although it requires but a slight 
knowledge of his mind and Avritings to understand 
what little importance he himself would attach to such 
things. His religious consciousness, in its very strength, 
did not easily conform to external modes of worship. 
" His having no prayers in his family " is a somewhat 
unmeaning accusation, seeing that he began every 
morning Avitli the reading of the Scriptures, and that 
his wife and he, in his later years, were all the family. 
Of his last days we know little. He suffered some 
time from gout ; yet in the end of the autumn of 
1674 he appears to have been in fair health and 
cheerfulness. He is described by one of the witnesses 
in the suit regarding his will, as dining in his kitchen 
on a day of October, along with his wife, when he 
" talked and discussed sensibly and well, and was very 
merry, and seemed in good health of body." On Sun- 
day, the 8th of the following month, he expired, so 
painlessly and quietly, that those around were uncon- 
scious of the moment of his departure. His remains 
were laid beside those of his father, in the Church of 
St Giles, Cripplegate. 

Our view of Milton's character and influence has 
been fully indicated in the course of our sketch. But 
a few touches may be added to sum up our esti- 
mate. Of the two great types of human character, 
the broad, humane, and sympathetic, and the narrow, 
concentrated, and sustained, Milton belongs to the 
latter. His greatness awes us more than it delights 
us. It is like an isolated, solitary, and majestic 
eminence, which we never approach without reve- 
rence, but beneath the shadow of which few men 


dwell familiarly. Something similar to what Johnson 
said of his great poem, that while we read it, we are 
carried along with excited admiration, but when we 
have laid it down, we do not willingly recur to it, is 
true of his character. While we look on him we see 
and admire how lofty, and pure, and true he was; but 
his very goodness is not attractive. It wants ease, 
freedom, and sweetness, and, above all, breadth and 
life of sympathy. It is cold, if not stern, in its severe 
harmony and goodness. His goodness is almost more 
stoical than Christian in its proud, self-sustained, and 
scornful strength. 

The pride of conscious power is everywhere conspi- 
cuous in him. His very manner carried force with it. 
He had an air of "courage and undauntedness," as 
Wood said. A hard adversary with his pen, he was 
also well exercised in the use of the small-sword, and 
in his youth was quite a match, he tells us, for any 
one, though much stronger than himself. The same 
" honest haughtiness and self-esteem " mark him as a 
scholar, as a controversialist, as a poet. From the 
lonely height of his own lordly genius and virtue he 
looked down on others. His genius was a prized 
possession from his youth, raising him (he felt) above 
his feUows, and consecrating him to a high mission. 
His virtue never trembled before temptation ; it flung 
aside all ordinary seductions as easily as the strong 
rock drives back the idle summer waves that play 
around it. From such an imperial height of nature, 
he contemplated society around him with a somewhat 
disdainful interest, and sought to rectify its disorders, 
civil and ecclesiastical, with a high and resentful hand. 
He felt that he was born to rule, and so he was ; but 
in the world of ideas rather than in the world of 

MILTON. 277 

reality. He wanted tact and skill, and appreciation of 
the thoughts and feelings of others, and of any range 
of ideas beyond his own to enable him to be a prac- 
tical reformer. He remains a great theorist. And the 
same sublime ideality that is the chief attribute of 
his genius, is the prominent feature of his character. 
Contemplating him from first to last as a student at 
Cambridge, as a visitor in the academies of Italy, as 
the enemy of bishops, and the secretary of Cromwell, 
as the blind old poet of Bunhill-fields, we are struck 
by his soaring grandeur, and the elevation which he 
reaches above his contemporaries. " His natural port," 
as Johnson says, "is gigantic loftiness." In an age 
of moral greatness, where heroic rehgious principle 
swayed the lives of public men around him, the char- 
acter of Milton is seen to rise majestic in its moral 
strength, and his life to be conformed with a rare 
consistency to a divine ideal. AH is throughout as, 
at the age of twenty-three, he resolved it should be — 

"As ever in his great Taskmaster's eye." 

The impression he left upon his contemporaries was 
plainly of the kind we have described. He could be 
cheerful in conversation ; there was a rich liveliness 
in some moods of his genius ; but he was mainly of a 
grave, lofty, severe spirit. " He had," Eichardson says, 
" a o-ravity in his temper, not melancholy, or not, till 
the latter part of his life, sour— not morose or iU- 
natured ; but a certain severity of mind — a mind not 
condescending to little things." These last words are 
full of truth. Milton's greatness wanted condescen- 
sion ; his goodness was without weakness ; his mag- 
nanimity Avithout sweetness. Not only what he 
makes Samson say, "AU wickedness is weakness," 


but the converse he seems to have believed. Had he 
been less strong, and less disdainful in his strength, we 
could have loved him more and not admired him less. 
Had pity mingled with his scorn, and gentleness with 
his heroism, he could have presented a more pleasing 
if not a more imposing character. 

But if there are other characters that more elicit 
our affection, there is none in our past history that 
more compels our homage. We behold in him at 
once the triumph of genius and the unwavering 
control of principle. He is the intellectual hero of a 
great cause ; he is also the purest and loftiest, if not 
the broadest, poetic spirit in our literature. If there is 
harshness mingling with his strength, and a certain 
narrowness and rigidity in his grandeur, the most 
varied tastes and the widest oppositions of opinion 
have yet combined to recognise in John Milton one 
of the highest impersonations of poetic and moral 
greatness of which our race can boast. 




The three great theologians of English Puritanism are 
Owen, Howe, and Baxter. They are very distinct in 
character and mind, and the first and last were con- 
spicuously opposed in various points of principle and 
doctrine ; yet together these three names form the 
highest representatives of the theological type of 
thought and feeling which sprang from, or rather ac- 
companied and animated, the Puritanical movement. 
They are, if we may use the word in reference to' such 
writers, the classics of Puritan theology. In them its 
spiritual hfe reached its most elaborate expression, and 
took its most characteristic intellectual forms. Their 
lives — those of Owen and Baxter especially — were inti- 
mately blended with its varying fortunes, not merely 
as the leaders of its thought, but as among the most 
active of its counsellors, and the ablest of its politi- 
cians ; they shared in its triumphs, and directed its 
ecclesiastical and educational aims in the interval of 
its power ; they mingled in the disasters of its fall, and 
bore in their persons the effect of its sufferings. The 
Puritan Christianity of later times has always looked 
back to them with a peculiar reverence, and united 
their names in a community of hallowed respect. 
Owen is, of the three, the most perfect example of 


the Puritan Theologian. The main interest of his life 
and all the interest of his writings is theological. 
Whatever is most essential and characteristic in Puri- 
tan divinity is to be found in his works. Its leadinf^ 
ideas of covenants, decrees, and federal relations, com- 
pose the substance and structure of his thought. The 
spiritual world appears to him moulded on a rigid 
outline, which is not merely convenient and suggestive, 
but which has become to his mind the very constitu- 
tion and reality of that world. His reasoniugs run in 
great lines, or mass in blocks of system, which fill up 
for him the whole sphere of truth, and leave nothing 
behind. The profoundest mysteries are measured and 
weighed in the cool balances of his logic ; the most 
awful secrets are handled as if mere pleas in debate. 
Gifted with a logical faculty, both keen and compre- 
hensive, he cuts through the deepest questions, and 
lays side by side, in order, the most involved and 
hardest subtleties. Loving, like all genuine Puritans, 
argumentative amplification and detail, proceeding from 
a few settled principles, and wholly undisturbed by 
any of those deeper questionings which draw the mind 
back upon first principles in their universal relations, 
he is, of all theologians, scarcely excepting Calvin 
himself, the most consistent, definite, and exhaustive, 
on his own assumptions. A bolder and more unflinch- 
ing theorist never trod the way of those sublime revela- 
tions that "slope through darkness up to God." He 
is a Calvinist beyond Calvin. He explains, and de- 
fines, and sums up, in his theological arithmetic, what 
even the great Genevan did not venture to do. The 
atonement is with him not merely a " sacrifice to satisfy 
divine justice," but a " full and valuable compensation 
made to the justice of God, for all the sins of all those 

BAXTER. 283 

for wliom Christ made satisfaction." It is only the 
Puritan divines of America, such as Edwards and 
Hopkins, who have approached or rivalled Owen in 
analytical boldness, and far-reaching, undeviatiug, and 
comprehending theological deduction. 

Along with scholastic earnestness, profound devo- 
tion to scri]3tural studies, and a life of eminent spiri- 
tuality, we find in Owen a like combination of practi- 
cal sense and faculty for business as in his prototype 
Calvin. He had the same administrative power, the 
same coolness and patience of purpose, with a far higher 
courtesy and tolerance of feeling. This latter feature 
of Owen's character deserves particularly to be noticed. 
Hard and dogmatic in intellect, he was genial and 
gentle in his temper. Eesolute in his own views, and 
ever ready to contend for them with his unresting pen, 
he had none of the meanness of bigotry which refuses 
to It^nour those who differ from him. He protected 
Pockock in his Hebrew professorship from the vulgar 
interference of the Parliamentary Triers, and left the 
Prelatists unmolested who assembled opposite his own 
door in Oxford to worship according to the Prayer- 

His government of the University of Oxford as vice- 
chancellor was a striking proof both of his administra- 
tive ability and his equable and happy disposition. 
Looking at all the difficulties that surrounded him, 
it may be considered a masterpiece of policy. His 
learning and talents commanded respect ; his firmness 
and kindness won him authority, and enabled him to 
preserve peace amidst the distracting elements. No 
other Puritan divine probably could have been in- 
trusted with the task, or, if intrusted with it, could 
have executed it with the same success. 


It was the felicity of Cromwell to detect tins gift of 
government, and turn it to account. Of all the reli- 
gious men the Protector had about him, he found none 
more useful than Owen. He may have liked others 
more, and found in men like Hugh Peters, far infe- 
rior in sense and character, points of greater spiritual 
affinity; hut, as a statesman, he trusted none so much, 
and he had good reason for his trust. The strong con- 
victions of the vice-chancellor, his earnest, yet calm 
faith, his activity and zeal, and yet his moderation 
and sense, made him one of the most conspicuous 
representatives, and at the same time one of the most 
powerful supporters of the Protectoral cause. 

Wliile Owen was the great dogmatist of the Puritan 
theological movement, Howe was its contemplative 
idealist. Possessing a far less acute and discrimina- 
ting mind, he excelled in grandeur of imagination and 
depth of feeling. His conceptions rise into a freer 
independence of logical forms, and a loftier harmony 
of moral speculation. This majestic and luminous 
elevation, and a certain tenderness and freshness of 
spirit, make him more congenial to the modern stu- 
dent than Owen, or even than Baxter. The latter is 
more popular, and his directness and force are more 
fitted to impress the common reader; but Howe far 
more frequently soars into the sphere of contempla- 
tive reason, and fills the mind with the imagery of 
thought. Among so many men of logic and of action 
he was the Christian philosopher. His spirit cer- 
tainly more nearly approaches the philosophic than 
that of any other Puritan divine. Puritan formali- 
ties cling to him, and the tedium of his style, and 
the prolixity of his divisions and subdivisions, never 
allow us to forget the age to which he belongs ; but he 

BAXTER. 285 

also often rises above it, and, by the lustrous fulness 
of liis calm intellect, pierces far beyond its intellectual 
and spiritual machinery. 

The life of Howe, like his writings, was compara- 
tively quiet, and removed from the bustle of his times. 
He was one of Cromwell's chaplains, it is true ; but 
the unworldliness of his character, his unambitious 
temper, and the spirituality of his devotions, kept him 
apart from the stir that surrounded him. It is a re- 
markable evidence of the comparatively undisturbed 
repose of his life, and the philosophical cast of his 
mind, that amidst the endless controversies in which 
his contemporaries w^ere plunged, there is none of his 
writings that can be said to be directly polemical. 
The Living Tcmjjle is a vindication of Christian tnith, 
but not of his own peculiar views of it against any of 
the sectaries and heretics of the day. It is more akin 
to the apologetical literature of a later time than to 
the controversial theology of his own. His vision 
ranged, as it were, over the hot fray of combatants 
immediately around him, and only descried in Spinoza 
an opponent worthy of his pen. Controversy then 
only assumed an interest for him when it ascended 
into the region of first principles, and left behind the 
formal details of ecclesiastical and theological warfare. 

It is pleasant to contemplate such a man as Howe 
amid the fierce passions and rude and often petty con- 
flicts of his age. He could not but bear their dint, 
living, as he did, in the very midst of them ; but they 
touch him as little as possible. His countenance 
shows the traces of a refined and elevated nature, and 
of the same largeness and tenderness of soul that 
mark his wiitings. It would be difficult to conceive 
a more noble, spiritual, or gentle set of features. A 


native dignity of manner and character shine in them.. 
The court of Cromwell may not seem the most fit- 
ting nursery of such a nature ; but the presence of one 
who, like Howe, combined earnestness with refine- 
ment, and all the glow of the Puritan religious feeling 
with a chastened taste and a radiancy of imagination, 
is enough to show that we are not to judge this court 
according to any mere vulgar estimate. It must have 
been a pure and high atmosphere in which Howe 
moved freely and exercised influence. One who lived 
so much above the world, and on whose spirit dwelt so 
familiarly the awe and grandeur of the Unseen, Avould 
be a constant monitor, both of high principle and duty, 
in circumstances sufficient to try the one and seduce 
from the other.* 

As a preacher, he must have favourably contrasted 
with most of the Court chaplains. Others may have 
roused more by their vehemence, and delighted by their 
highness of doctrine ; but none approached him in dig- 
nity, and a certain mixture of sweetness and sublimity 
of sentiment, that still captivates the reader. Especi- 
ally when he descants of the glories of heaven, and his 
large but lazy imagination finds room to expatiate 
amidst its felicities, he rises into a pictured eloquence 
that is wonderfully impressive amidst all the prolixi- 
ties that encumber his style. 

Of our three theologians, Baxter was the most ener- 
getic, and in some respects the most prominent ; the 

* Howe represented the highest religious aspect of Cromwell's court. 
It was not all that he wished it to be ; and his sensitive ujjrightness and 
faithfulness sometimes brought him into conflict with the ruder and mor^ 
fervent notions of the Protector. Preaching on one occasion of the fallacy 
and pernicious pride apt to be generated by the idea of a particular faith 
in prayer, Cromwell was observed to " knit his brows and discover great 
uneasiness : " and afterwards the chaplain thought for some time that the 
Protector was " cooler in his carriage toward him." 


BAXTER. 287 

most active sharer in tlie events of liis time, and one 
of the most zealous representatives of its spirit ; not 
merely theologian, but preacher, politician, and nego- 
tiator to the very last, when the powers of Puritanism 
had again sunk under oppression. He is more com- 
prehensive than Owen, and rises more above the 
technical bondage of his system; while its spirit 
pervades as completely, if not more completely, every 
form of his mental life, and shows itself in him in a 
greater variety of mental forms. He was more in the 
world, more mixed in its conflicts, and more moulded 
by them than Howe. He appears, therefore, the most 
interesting representative of theological Puritanism : 
others bear its doctrinal stamp more definitely and 
precisely ; but the very freedom of Baxter's doctrinal 
sentiments, which brought him into contact at almost 
every point with the religious activity of his age, in- 
vests his theological career with a greater attraction, 
and makes- it richer in lessons of varied meaniuG: and 

Richard Baxter was born at the village of Eaton- 
Constantine, " a mile from the Wrekin-hill," in Shrop- 
shire, on the 12th of November 1G15. His father was 
a freeholder in this county, originally of some sub- 
stance. His mother's name was Beatrice, and she is 
designated as "the daughter of Richard Adeny of 
Rowton, a village near High Ercall, the Lord Newport's 
seat in the same county." His father had lived a 

* Baxter has written his own life — a portly folio, under the name of 
ReliquUe Baxteriance. It contains the most ample details of his history, 
and will be our chief guide and authority throughout. There is also a 
painstaking and creditable work by Mr Orme, entitled The Life and 
Times of Richard Baxter, in two volumes, the second of which is devoted 
to a review of his works. The same author has a similar work on Owen. 


wild and jovial life in liis youth, and squandered a 
great part of his estate in gaming ; but about or short- 
ly before the time of his son's birth a great change 
passed upon him. He became severely and strictly 
religious, and spent much of his time in pious medita- 
tion and study. This change had arisen from reflec- 
tion, and the " bare reading of the Scriptures in private, 
without either preaching or godly company, or any 
other book than the Bible." Godly company and reli- 
gious instruction, in fact, were not to be had in the 
district. The picture which Baxter draws of the clergy 
and their assistants is of the most melancholy descrip- 
tion. As we read it, and think that the men whom 
he describes were not exceptions, but ordinary spe- 
cimens of the parochial clergy of King James, the ar- 
dour of local Puritanism becomes strongly intelligible. 
The people, according to his description, were like their 
pastors — rude, ignorant, and irreligious. With such 
a clergy, it is remarkable that any moral or spirit- 
ual life subsisted among them at all. It is not re- 
markable that such as did subsist should have been 
called Puritan, and that its adherents, at first not at 
all disaffected, should have l3ecome gradually alienated 
from a Church that knew not how to respect the sem- 
blance of piety. 

The incumbent at Eaton Constantino was eighty 
years of age. He had never preached, and yet he held 
two livings twenty miles apart. He repeated the 
prayers by heart ; but, unable to read the lessons from 
his failing sight, he got first a " common thresher and 
day-labourer," and then a tailor, to perform this duty 
for him. At length a kinsman of his own, who had 
been a stage-player and a gamester, got ordination, 
and assisted him. Tlie clergy of the neighbourhood 

BAXTER. 289 

were no better. In High Ercall there were " four 
readers successively in six years' time — ignorant men, 
and two of them immoral in their lives." A neich- 
hour's son, "who had been a while at school, turned 
minister," and even ventured to distinguish himself 
from the others by preaching ; but it was at length 
discovered that his orders were forged by the " ingeni- 
ous" kinsman of the old incumbent, who had been 
a stage-player. " After him, another neighbour's son 
took orders, who had been a while an attorney's clerk, 
and a common drunkard, and tippled himself into so 
great poverty that he had no other way to live ; it was 
feared that he and more of them came by their orders 
the same way, with the forementioned person." These, 
he adds, were the schoolmasters of his youth. They 
" read common prayer on Sundays and holy days, and 
taught school and tippled on the week days, and whipt 
the boys when they were drunk, so that we changed 
them very oft." * 

The people he has described more particularly in 
another work.-f- " The generaUty seemed to mind 
nothing seriously but the body and the world : they 
went to church, and would answer the parson in re- 
sponds, and thence go to dinner, and then to play. 
They never prayed in their families ; but some of 
them, going to bed, would say over the Creed, and 
the Lord's Prayer, and some of them the ' Hail, 
Mary.' All the year long, not a serious word of 
holy things, or the life to come, that I could hear of, 
proceeded from them. They read not the Scripture, 
nor any good book, or catechism. Few of them could 
read, or had a Bible. They were of two ranks. The 

* Life, p. 2. 

f The True History of Councils, Enlarged and Defended, pp. 90, 91. 


greater part were good husbands, as tliey called them, 
and savoured of notliing but their business, or interest 
in the world ; the rest were drunkards : most were 
swearers, but not equally. Both sorts seemed utter 
strangers to any more of religion than I have named, 
and loved not to hear any serious talk of God, or duty, 
or sin, or the gospel, or judgment, or the life to come; 
but some more hated it than others. — The other sort 
were such as had their consciences awakened to some 
regard to God and their everlasting state ; and, accord- 
ing to the various measures of their understanding, did 
speak and live as serious in the Christian faith, and 
would much inquire what Avas duty and what was sin, 
and how to please God and to make sure of salvation. 
They read the Scriptures, and such books as The Prac- 
tice of Piety, and Dent's Plain Man's Patliway, and 
Dod on the Commandments. They used to pray in 
their families and alone — some on the book, and some 
without. They would not swear, nor curse, nor take 
God's name lightly. They feared all known sin. 
They would go to the next parish church to hear a 
sermon when they had none at their own ; would read 
the Scriptures on the Lord's day, when others were 
playing. There were, where I lived, about the num- 
ber of two or three families in twenty, and these by 
the rest were called Puritans, and derided as hypo- 
crites and precisians, who would take on them to be 
holy. Yet not one of them ever scrupled conformity 
to bishops, liturgy, or ceremonies, and it was godly 
conformable ministers that they went from home to 

There is no reason to think that these pictures of 
the state of religion in Baxter's youth are overcharged. 
We can trace here and there the colouring of the Puri- 

BAXTER. 291 

tan. The " good husbands, as they were called," who, 
although they might have no prayer in their families, 
said devoutly the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, or 
even the "Hail, Mary," before going to bed, may 
have been decently religious people, with some higher 
thoughts than he attributes to them. But making all 
allowance, the picture is sufficiently gloomy. The com- 
mon life, clerical and laic, is of a very coarse and gross 
kind ; and men who had been awakened to a sense of 
religion Hke Baxter's father must have felt a strong 
repulsion to it. He was specially marked out as a 
Puritan ; and on Sundays the devotions of the good 
man in his family were interrupted by the merrymak- 
ing around the Maypole, which was erected beside a 
great tree near his door. Here " all the town " col- 
lected on Sunday afternoons, after a brief reading of 
the common prayer, and danced till dark. Although 
the "piper" was one of his own tenants, he "could 
not restrain him, nor break the sport. " Baxter honestly 
confesses that his heart was frequently with the merry- 
makers ; he could have joined them and participated 
in their sport, but the reproach of Puritan which they 
addressed to his father served to deter him. He re- 
flected that his father's quiet study of the Scriptures 
must be after all better than their merriment, and 
the workings of conscience helped to check the va- 
grancies of the heart. The same thoughtfulness con- 
vinced him thus early that the name of Puritan was 
applied to others as well as his father in mere malice, 
for nothing else than " reading Scripture and praying 
and talking a few words of the life to come," instead 
of joining in the ungodly habits of those around them. 
Devout as his father was, in no other sense was he 
a Puritan; he never "scrupled common prayer nor 


ceremonies, nor spake against "bishops, nor even so 
much as prayed but by a book or form." 

Touched as Baxter was by such serious thoughts 
from his youth, he was yet far, as he afterwards con- 
sidered, from being truly religious. Though his con- 
science would trouble him when he did wrong, yet he 
was addicted to divers " sins," which he has catalogued 
as follows : — 1. Lying, that he might escape correc- 
tion; 2. "Excessive gluttonous eating of apples and 
pears," to which he attributes the habitual weakness of 
stomach which cost him so much trouble and pain 
through life ; 3. Eobbery of orchards ; 4. Fondness for 
play, and that with covetousness for money ; 5. De- 
light in romances, fables, and old tales ; 6. Idle and 
foolish chat, and imitation of the scurrilous talk of 
other boys ; 7. Pride in his master's commendations of 
his youthful learning ; 8. Irreverence towards his pa- 
rents. The catalogue is somewhat Puritan in its am- 
plification and severity. Boyhood would be scarcely 
boyhood without its play, its idleness, its love for 
romances, and even its fondness for apples. 

Baxter's early education was very interrupted, as 
may be supposed, from the character of his tutors. 
From six to ten years of age he was under the four 
successive curates of the parish — " ignorant men, and 
two of them immoral in their lives." These years he 
had spent at his grandfather's residence near High 
Ercall. On his return to his father's house in his 
tenth year, he was placed under a more competent 
tutor, who possessed in his library the Greek ISTew Tes- 
tament and Augustin's De Civitate. But this teacher 
also neglected his trust. During two years he gave 
his pupil little or no instruction, and chiefly occu- 
pied himself in railing against the Puritans. After 

BAXTER. 293 

this lie went to the free school at Wroxeter, under the 
charge of Mr John Owen, a diligent and respectable 
man, who did his duty. Here he had for his school- 
fellows the two sons of Sir Eichard Newport, one of 
whom became Lord Newport in his day, and Eichard 
AUestree, who afterwards became canon of Christ 
Church and provost of Eton College, and was distin- 
guished for his adherence to the Eoyal cause. He 
recounts a significant trait of his boyhood in connec- 
tion with his class-fellows : " When my master set 
him up into the lower end of the highest form where 
I had long been chief, I took it so ill that I talked of 
leaving the school, whereupon my master gravely but 
very tenderly rebuked my pride, and gave me for my 
theme Ne sutor ultra cirjndam." 

It was about his fifteenth year that he considers 
himself to have awakened to a more clear and lively 
sense of religion. With some other boys he had been 
robbing " an orchard or two," and being under some 
convictions of wrong-doing, he fell in with an old torn 
book which a poor day-labourer in the town had lent 
to his father. The book was called Bunny's Resolution; 
it had originally been wiitten by a Jesuit of the name 
of Parsons, but adapted by Bunny to the Puritan taste 
and standard.* The volume made a deep impression 
upon Baxter's youthful mind. It showed him the 
folly and misery of sin, and the inexpressible weight 

* This is a singular enough fact — one of those instances which meet 
us everywhere of the secret links of connection between religious feeling 
in all sects and under the most diverse forms of manifestation. It is 
the same sensitive conscience which is touched in Jesuit and Puritan, 
the same feeling of guilt calling for the same remedy. The Jesuit 
(Parsons) not unnaturally considered Bunny to have used unwarrant- 
able liberties with his book, and the latter wrote a pamphlet in his de- 
fence. The same book was useful to others among the Nonconformists 
as well as 'Baxter.— Owen's Life and Times, p. 6. 


of things eternal ; it excited in liim the fervent desire 
of embracing a holy life ; yet it remained doubtful 
to him whether his sincere conviction began now, or 
before, or after. He had still but too little sense of 
the love of God in Christ to the world or himself. The 
treatise of the Jesuit dwelt upon this too slightly. 
But another volume that came to his hand in the 
same accidental manner, disclosed to him the mys- 
tery of divine love. A poor pedlar brought to his 
father's door, among his other wares, J^ibb's Bruised 
Reed, and in this he found what was lacking in the 
Resolution. It " opened" the love of God to him, and 
gave him " a livelier apprehension of the mystery of 
redemption, and how much he was beholden to Jesus 
Christ." Various other books, such as Perkins On 
Repentance, and the Right Art of Living and Dying 
well, and also Culverwell's Treatise of Faith, were 
highly useful to him. More than to any others was 
he indebted to these silent teachers ; and the fact was 
never forgotten by him. He remarks that the use 
which God made of books above ministers to the 
benefit of his soul, made him exceedingly in love with 
good books, so that he amassed as great a treasure of 
them as he could. 

It is interesting to notice the volumes which in suc- 
cessive ages are associated with the conversion of emi- 
nent religious men. Every age has its own peculiar 
literature of conversion. It needs spiritual stimulants 
especially adapted to it. There is something, as it 
were, in the atmosphere of religious thought and feel- 
ing from time to time that requires to be condensed 
and exhibited, so as to bear with a touchmg effect upon 
the minds that are growing up under- it. The tones 
of Bunny's Resolution, or even Gribb's Brnised Reed, 

BAXTER. 295 

would now fall but feebly on tlie youthful inquiring 
mind ; and even Baxter's own more memorable and 
powerful Gall to the Unconverted, whose piercing ear- 
nestness has reached so many hearts, may have lost 
something of its force and interest to the modern 
reader. As the thoughts of men are widened, or at 
least altered in religious range, as in everything else, 
the argument and appeal fitted to tell most powerfully 
must be reflected from some new point, and made to 
bear with a fresh life upon changed feelings and views. 
When Baxter was ready for higher studies he was 
induced, by the persuasion of his teacher, to place him- 
self under the tuition of Mr Eichard Wickstead, chap- 
lain to the Council at Ludlow, instead of proceeding 
directly to the university. The inducement to do this 
was that the chaplain was permitted to have a single 
pupil, to whom he could give his undivided attention. 
But in this case also Baxter was unfortvmate ; the 
chaplain paid little or no attention to his pupil. " His 
business was to please the great ones, and seek pre- 
ferment in the world ; and to that end he found it 
necessary sometimes to give the Puritans a flirt, and 
call them unlearned, and speak much for learning, 
being but a superficial scholar of himself He never 
read to me nor used any savoury discourse of godli- 
ness ; only he loved me, and allowed me books and 
time enough ; so that as I had no considerable helps 
from him in my studies, yet I had no considerable 
hindrance." He mentions with gratitude that he was 
preserved from the temptations that surrounded him in 
the town. An acquaintance which he formed with a 
young man was of great service to him. They became 
fast companions. " We walked together," he says, " we 
read together, we prayed together, and when we could 


we lay together ; lie was the greatest help to my seri- 
ousness of religion that ever I had before, and was a 
daily watchman over my soul ; he was unwearied in 
reading all serious practical books of divinity ; he was 
the first that ever I heard pray extempore (out of the 
pulpit), and that taught me so to pray. And his 
charity and liberality were equal to his zeal ; so that 
God made him a great means of my good, who had 
more knowledge than he, but a colder heart." The 
sequel of all this fervency is sad. Baxter's companion 
fell, in course of time, into habits of drunkenness and 
even of scoffing. The last he heard of him was that he 
had become a " fuddler, and reviler of strict men." It 
is kindly of Baxter to chronicle at length the good he 
got from one who lived so to disgrace his Christian 
profession. The reader of Bunyan's life may remem- 
ber a somewhat similar incident in his early religious 

On his return, after a year and a half, to his father's 
house, he found that his old master, Owen, was dying 
of consumption ; and, at the desire of Lord Newport, 
he undertook the management of his school, " for a 
quarter of a year or more." His studies were there- 
after continued with Mr Francis Garbet, the " faithful 
learned minister at Wroxeter." He read logic with 
him, and entered upon a more severe course of intel- 
lectual application than he had yet attempted. His 
weak health broke down in the attempt. He was 
seized with a violent cough and spitting of blood; 
his end seemed near at hand ; and anxiety as to his 
spiritual condition greatly increased. He mourned 
over his "senseless deadness ;" he felt as if he knew 
nothing of the " incomparable excellency of holy love 
and delight in God ; " and he groaned and prayed for 

BAXTER. 297 

more " contrition and a broken heart," and most for 
" tears and tenderness." This was a time of painful 
and sad experience, but also of great spiritual improve- 
ment. It made him realise more the power of redeem- 
ing love, and destroyed in him the promptings of mere 
intellectual and literary ambition, the sin (as he sup- 
posed) of his childhood ! 

From this time his studies were mainly confined to 
divinity ; his idea of going to the university was aban- 
doned ; and he gave himself to an active and direct 
]3reparation for the Christian ministry, to which he 
meant to devote himself. The clear direction thus 
imparted to his studies gave them importance, and 
stimulated his intellectual interest. But he was in 
the habit of regretting his loss of a university educa- 
tion. He esteemed himself but a poor scholar. " Be- 
sides the Latin tongue, and but a mediocrity in Greek 
(with an inconsiderable trial at the Hebrew long after), 
I had no great skill in languages." " And for the 
mathematics," he adds, " I was an utter stranger to 
them ; and never could find in my heart to direct any 
studies that way." Logic and metaphysics were his 
peculiar labour and delight. Both his natural aptitude 
and his opportunities turned his main studies in this 
direction. By inborn intellectual tact Baxter was a 
metaphysician, and the hardest subtleties of the school- 
man were to him but natural aliment. He united in 
his youth, as in after years, that singular mixture of 
practical fervency and intellectual dryness, which we 
find in not a few of the schoolmen, and in their Pro- 
testant exemplars of the sixteenth century.* " Next to 
practical divinity," he says, " no books so suited with 

* This is a fact deserving of some psychological study — the intense 
and lawless flow of feeling in some of the schoolmen and divines of the 


my disposition as Aquinas, Scotus, Durandus, Ockham, 
and their disciples ; because I thought they narrowly 
searched after truth, and brought things out of the 
darkness of confusion ; for I could never, from my 
first studies, endure confusion. Till equivocals were 
explained, and definition and distinction led the way, I 
had rather hold my tongue than speak ; and was never 
more weary of learned men's discourses than when I 
heard them long wrangling about unexpounded words 
or things, and eagerly disputing before they understood 
each other's minds, and vehemently asserting modes 
and consequences and adjuncts before they considered 
of the Quod sit, the Qiiid sit, or the Quotiqjlex." 

He continued for some time in great weakness of 
body, and in great anxiety as to his spiritual condition. 
His inward tremors reflected his outward debility. His 
spiritual fears and hypochondria, though not induced, 
were greatly increased by the disorders of his constitu- 
tion. Not only now, but throughout life, he was in 
ill health. Amid all his labours he bore a weakened 
and diseased frame ; it lasted long, but it never ceased 
to trouble him ; and in his writings everywhere we 
may trace something of the restlessness and morbid 
colouring of the Invalid. 

About his eighteenth year, his views of life under- 
went a temporary diversion. Persuaded by his old 
tutor, Mr Wickstead of Ludlow, to lay aside his pre- 

seventeenth century, combined with a logic, not merely hard, but arid 
and barren in its hardness. Among the latter, an example occurs in 
Samuel Rutherford, who, in his Latin theological polemics, and in his 
famous letters, shows this singular conjunction of mental qualities — 
logical aridity and sentimental fluidity. Polemics more hard and tech- 
nical than those of Rutherford (as in his Disputatio Scholastica de Div'uia 
Provldeiilia, &c. ) not even the seventeenth century has bequeathed to us 
— letters kindling with a more intense and- even tmhealthy fervour are 
scarcely to be found in the records of mysticism. 

BAXTER. 299 

paration for the ministry, he went to London " to get 
acquaintance at Court, and get some office, as being the 
only rising way." He says tliat he himself consented 
reluctantly to this .step ; he had no great confidence 
in his tutor's judgment, who had done his part but ill 
towards him ; but his parents entered heartily into the 
proposal, and to please them he agreed. Accordingly, 
he went to town, and stayed at Whitehall with Sir 
Henry Herbert, then " Master of the Eevels," about a 
month. It is a strange conjunction, Baxter and the 
Master of the Eevels ! He does not explain the con- 
junction, or by what chance his friend selected such 
an abode for him. If it was meant to give him a 
taste for Court life, it had, as might be expected, 
the very opposite effect. He was disgusted with 
what he saw. He felt quickly that he had " enough 
of the Court." " When I saw a stage play instead 
of a sermon on the Lord's-day in the afternoon, and 
saw what course was then in fashion, and heard little 
preaching but what was, as to one part, against the 
Puritans, I was glad to be gone. At the same time 
it pleased God that my mother fell sick, and desired 
my return ; and so I resolved to bid farewell to those 
kind of employments and expectations." 

On his return home, Baxter found his mother seri- 
ously ill, and in the following May (1634?) she died.* 
He describes the severity of the snow storm on his 
way home, and throughout the winter. His horse 
stumbled with him on his journey, and he was nearly 
crushed under the wheels of an approaching waggon. 
The home-bound youth, the cheerless season, and the 

* His father married a second time " a woman of great sincerity in 
the fear of God." The connection appears to have been a happy one for 
Baxter, who speaks of his stepmother in terms of high commendation. 


dying mother, make a sadly impressive picture. The 
storm began about Christmas-day, and lasted till 
Easter, tlie snow lying, in some places, " many yards 
deep ;" many who went abroad in it perished. " Shut 
up in the great snow" through all the dreary winter, 
he M^as the witness of his mother's piteous sufferings 
till death released her in the spring. 

He now approached manhood, but his health had 
not strengthened. From the age of twenty-one till 
near twenty-three, his debility continued so extreme 
that he did not expect to live. Under this experience 
of suffering, he became more impressed than ever by 
the interests of religion, and the folly of those who 
neglect it ; and the desire to enter into the Christian 
ministry (should his life be spared) grew stronger than 
before. He so felt the unspeakable greatness of the 
soul's salvation, that he thought if men only heard 
of it as they ought, they could not live careless and 
ungodly lives ; and " he was so foolish as to think that 
he himself had so much to say of such convincing 
evidence for the truth, that men could scarcely be able 
to withstand it." This was the genuine instinct of the 
Preacher. The triumphant faith that he would move 
others by what so deeply moved himself, bespoke in 
Baxter thus early the true sj^ring of all pulpit elo- 
quence. It is pleasant to think of his nursing, amidst 
aU his weakness, and when he seemed near to die, the 
impulse which was to give its highest distinction and 
energy to his life. 

It was natural that in his circumstances he should 
give special attention to the controversy then agitating 
the Church of England. The presence of this contro- 
versy has been seen more or less in every turn of his 
boyhood, in relation to his father, and the villagers 

BAXTER. 301 

amongst whom lie lived — his teachers, and his brief 
visit to Court. His father, deeply religious as he 
was, and called a Puritan by the rioting villagers, be- 
cause he would not countenance their Sunday sports, 
was yet a Conformist. He never " scrupled common 
prayer nor ceremonies, nor s^^ake against bishops." 
Baxter had grown up with the same feelings and habits 
of worship. He "joined with the common prayer 
with as hearty a fervency as afterwards he did with 
other prayers." Not only so, but as far as he was able 
at this time to examine the subject for himself, and 
consider the fair grounds of argument on either side, 
he clearly inclined to the side of the Conformists. It 
appeared to him that their cause was " very justifiable, 
and the reasoning of the Nonconformist weak ; " and 
he candidly confesses that the superior learning of the 
Church writers impressed him. Among these writers, 
he has mentioned in liis life Downham, Sprint, and 
Burgess, and elsewhere he has mentioned Hooker, 
with whose great work, as well as with his sermons, 
he frequently shows his familiarity. He had also 
" turned over Cartwright and Whitgift. " On the 
whole, he takes a fair and discriminating view of the 
controversy at this date. In ceremonies such as kneel- 
ing, and the ring in marriage, he saw no ground for 
scruple. The surplice and the cross in baptism seemed 
to him less lawful, and the latter he never once used. 
A form of prayer and liturgy he judged to be un- 
doubtedly lawful, and in some cases lawfully imposed ; 
but there appeared to him much disorder and defec- 
tiveness in the Church of England liturgy in particu- 
lar. He also became doubtful about subscription, and 
greatly deplored the want of discipline in the Church. 
These were his mature convictions after ordination, 


wliich he received when he was about twenty-three 
years of age. He confesses that there were some sub- 
jects which he had not, at this date, examined with 
the care that he ought to have done. He had never 
once read over the Book of Ordination or the Book of 
Homilies, nor did, he sufficiently understand certain 
controverted points in the Thirty-nine Articles. 

Following his ordination, he was, about 1638, ap- 
pointed to be head-master of a school established at 
Dudley. Here, in the parish church, he preached his 
first sermon. Here, also, he studied more at length 
the subject of Conformity, and became a zealous advo- 
cate for it. He " daily disputed against the Non- 
conformists, " whose censoriousness and inclination 
towards separation he judged to be a threatening evil 
— as much contrary to Christian charity on one side, 
as persecution was on the other. 

He continued in Dudley about a year, when he re- 
ceived an invitation to Bridgenorth, the second town 
in Shropshire, to be assistant to the incumbent there. 
He considered it his duty to accept the invitation ; 
the employment exactly suited him, as he was left at 
liberty in certain particulars, in regard to the obli- 
gation of which he was beginning to feel uneasy. 
The minister of the place, Mr William Madstard, is 
described as " a grave and severe ancient divine, very 
honest and conscionable, and an excellent preacher, 
but somewhat afflicted with want of maintenance, and 
much more with a dead-hearted unprofitable people." 
Here he preached with great zeal and to a very full 
congregation ; but he complains that, although his 
labours were not without success, the people generally 
were very ignorant, and given to " tippling, ill com- 
pany, and dead-heartedness." The freedom which 

BAXTER. 303 

he enjoyed from all restraint in the discharge of his 
duty greatly pleased him ; he used the Common Prayer, 
but he never administered the Lord's Supper, nor ever 
baptised any child Avith the sign of the cross, nor ever 
wore the surplice. This freedom of action, combined 
with his youthful fervour of feeling — for he never any- 
where " preached with more vehement desire of men's 
conversion " — evidently made his work in Bridgenorth 
pleasing to him, notwithstanding the small results that 
seemed to follow it. 

The first thing that disturbed him, and led him to 
renewed reflection on Church government, was the 
Et cmtcra oath, as it was called, which required the 
clerg}" to swear that they would " never consent to the 
alteration of the present government of the Church hy 
Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, Archdeacons, &c." The 
attempt to enforce an obligation of this nature, it may 
be imagined, made a great commotion. Many, even 
of the Conforming clergy, were not disposed to bind 
themselves thus arbitrarily and blindly ; only the 
Laudian section, who maintained that Episcopacy was 
jure divino, and that the royal will in itself was abso- 
lutely authoritative in ecclesiastical government, could 
honestly subscribe it. The measure was equally igno- 
rant and outrageous — like many other acts of Laud's 
administration. It compassed no adequate purpose, 
while it called forth the strongest animosity, and ral- 
lied in opposition the intelligence and the conscience 
of the nation. 

A meeting of clergy was held at Bridgenorth to 
" debate the business," and Baxter distinguished him- 
self by his vigorous hostility to the oath. His re- 
newed investigation and discussion of the subject 
shook his faith in Episcopal government altogether, or 


at least in tlie " English diocesan frame." A system 
which admitted of such tyrannical action, and which, 
for practical purposes of moral discipline, was so power- 
less, he at length became satisfied was a " heterogenial 
thing," quite unlike the primitive Episcopacy. And 
so it was, as he himself says, that the Et ccetera oath 
became the means of alienating him and many others 
from the moderate conformity in which they desired 
to spend their lives, and rousing them " to look about 
them, and understand what they did." 

This occurred on the eve of the Scottish war, when 
the Covenant excitement had broken forth, and the 
noise of the successful opposition made in Scotland to 
the royal authority was spreading into England, and 
kindling into flame the discontent arising from the 
exaction of Ship-money. The national agitation was 
extreme. Years of misgovernment had embittered the 
country, and the most arbitrary interferences outraged 
the rights of the people and the Church, without com- 
pacting the interests of Government. The spirit of 
loyalty and reverence was wearing out, while the ris- 
ing discontent was only met by insolence and violence. 
The Scottish army at length marched into England ; 
and, pressed on all hands, the King was forced to call 
a Parliament. 

After a temporary delay, the dismissal of the Parlia- 
ment, and the renewed invasion of the Scotcli, the 
Long Parliament met in 1640 ; and it had no sooner 
done so than it showed of what spirit it was. The 
Shij)-money and the Et ccctcra oath mark the two lines 
of civil and ecclesiastical reform into which it imme- 
diately launched ; tlie impeachment of Strafford and of 
Laud proved the stern spirit in which it was prepared to 
vindicate the national rights, and avenge the national 

BAXTEK. 305 

injuries in botli directions. The speeches of Falkland, 
Digby, Grimstone, Pym, and Fiennes were printed and 
greedily purchased throughout the country. The clergy, 
and the bishops in particular, were the objects of loud- 
voiced indignation. A special committee of Parlia- 
ment sat to receive complaints and petitions against 
them ; and the chairman, Mr John White, published, 
as a specimen of the reports made to it, One Century 
of Scandalous Minister es, showing a picture of " igno- 
rance, insufficiency, drunkenness, filthiness, &c.," such 
as all good men were ashamed of. 

Baxter viewed all this commotion with syinpathy, 
and yet without any cordial or partisan interest. He 
nowhere shows any warm feeling on the Parliamentary 
side. There is now and at all times a lack of political 
heartiness in him. He speaks of the great movement 
as from a distance, as if he were an outside spectator 
of it, and held his mind in a fair and critical balance 
between the parties. This gives a certain value to his 
statements ; but we could have wished that he had 
shown a warmer tinge of enthusiasm, and expressed 
his mind more fully regarding the great public events 
of his day.* 

The ecclesiastical changes arising out of the Parlia- 
mentary investigation soon affected his position. The 
town of Kidderminster, with many other towns, sent 
up a petition against their vicar, as unlearned and 
quite unfit for the ministry. It stated that he preached 

* He implies, indeed, that he was more zealous and decided at the 
time than the line of his remarks and reflections long afterwards might 
lead us to suppose he was. " Herein," he says, " I was then so zealous, 
that I thought it was a great sin for men who were able to defend their 
country to be useless. And I have been tempted since to think that I 
was a more competent judge upon the place, where all things were before 
our ej'es, than I am in the review of those daj's and actions so many 
years after, when distance disadvantageth the reflection," 



only once a quarter, and that " so weakly as to expose 
himself to the laughter of the congregation ; that he, 
moreover, frequented ale-houses, while his curate, in 
this respect, was worse than himself, being a ' common 
tippler and drunkard,' and an 'ignorant insufficient 
man,' who understood not the common points in the 
children's Catechism. The vicar, with a conscious 
feeling of incompetency, sought to compound the busi- 
ness with the petitioners. He offered to withdraw his 
present curate, and make a respectable allowance for 
a preacher or lecturer, to be chosen by a committee of 
the people. The inhabitants agreed to this, and after 
trial of another person, at length selected Baxter to 
the office. He himself was inclined to the place, and 
after preaching one day, he was chosen, as he says, 
" nemine contradicente. And thus I was brought by 
His gracious providence to that place which had the 
chiefest of my labours, and yielded me the greatest 
fruits of comfort. And I noted the mercy of God in 
this, that I never went to any place among all my life, 
in all my changes, which I had before desired, designed, 
or thought of (much less sought), but only to those 
that I never thought of, till the sudden invitation did 
surprise me." 

Kidderminster attracted Baxter from the large field 
of usefulness that it opened to him. There was a full 
congregation and "most convenient temple;" and, 
although the people, for the greater part, were igno- 
rant, rude, and riotous, like those at Bridgenorth, 
there were among them a small company of converts 
— humble and godly folks — of good conversation, 
who were a sort of leaven among the rest of the 
community. He was encouraged also by the fact that 
there had never been any " lively serious " preaching 

BAXTER. 307 

in the place, for his experience at Briclgenorth had 
made him resolve that he would never go among a 
people who had been "hardened in unprofitableness 
under an awakening ministry." His ultimate success 
corresponded to the heartiness of his zeal and the 
affection and earnestness with which he entered upon 
his duties. It is not till his second settlement at 
Kidderminster, however, that we are invited to con- 
sider his pastoral relations there. He had to submit 
to a temporary exile from it, and during this period 
we are carried with him into the midst of more excit- 
ing scenes. 

The immediate cause of Baxter's retirement from 
Kidderminster was the extreme hostility between the 
Eoyalist and Parliamentary parties in the town. An 
order had been received from the Parliament to demo- 
lish all statues and images in the churches and church- 
yard ; he approved of the order, but did not interfere, 
he says, in the execution of it. The multitude, how- 
ever, fixed the blame upon him, and he only escaped 
from assault by being absent from the town at the 
time. WJien the excitement was beginning to quiet, 
it was renewed by the reading of the King's declara- 
tion and the preparations for war. The mob of the 
town was strongly Ptoyalist ; they had got the cry, 
" Down with the Eoundheads ! " which they vocifer- 
ated whenever any stranger appeared in the streets 
with " short hair and a civil habit," and followed up 
their insolence by personal violence. Baxter was ad- 
vised to withdraw till the excitement died down. He 
proceeded to Gloucester, where he remained a month, 
and where he made acquaintance with the new forms 
of religious zeal which were every\vliere springing up 
in the country. A small party of Anabaptists were 


labouring with great keenness in this city to promote 
their views; while the minister, a hot and impatient 
man, tended, by liis opposition, to harden, rather than 
convince them. Other sects were lil^ewise spreading, 
and Baxter gazed with amazement on the dogmatic 
conflicts that surrounded him. After a short resi- 
dence here, he returned to Kidderminster, and made 
an effort to settle once more among his people; but 
the contentions continued so violent that he was 
under the necessity of again withdrawing ; the fuiy of 
faction was such in the town and neighbourhood as to 
interrupt all useful discharge of his duties. 

This Avas in October 1642, on the eve of the battle 
of Edgehill. He had retired to Alcester, and, while 
preaching there for his friend Mr Samuel Clark, on 
the morning of the 23d, " the people heard the cannon 
play." He has given a graphic description of what 
he heard and saw. " When the sermon was done in 
the afternoon the report was more audible, which 
made us all long to hear of the success. About sun- 
setting many troops fled through the town, and told 
us that all was lost on the Parliament side, and that 
the carriages were taken, and the waggons plundered, 
before he came away. The townsmen sent a message 
to Stratford-on-Avon to know the truth. About four 
o'clock in the morning he returned, and told us that 
Prince Rupert wholly routed the left wing of the Earl 
of Essex's army; but while his men were plunder- 
ing the waggons, the main body and the right wing- 
routed the rest of the King's army, took his stand- 
ard, but lost it again; killed General the Earl of 
Lindsay, and took his son prisoner ; that few persons 
of quality on the side of the army were lost ; that the 
loss of the left wing happened through the treachery 

BAXTER. 309 

of Sir Faithful Fortescue, Major to Lord Fielding's regi- 
ment of horse, who turned to the King when he should 
have charged; and that the victory was obtained 
principally by Colonel Hollis's regiment of red-coats, 
and the Earl of Essex's own regiment and life-guard, 
where Sir Philip Stapleton, Sir Arthur Haselriggs, 
and Colonel Urrey, did much." Next morning Baxter 
visited tlie battle-field, while the two armies still re- 
mained facing one another "about a mile off." There 
were about a thousand dead bodies in the field be- 
tween them ; and many, he supposes, had been already 

His plans were now very uncertain. He was unable 
to live at Kidderminster, with soldiers of the one side 
or the other constantly among the people stirring up 
tumult, and the city exposed to the fury of the con- 
tending parties. He had neither money nor friends, 
and he knew not where to turn. At length he was 
induced to go to Coventry, wdiere he had an old ac- 
quaintance, and here he proposed to stay tiU one of 
the parties had obtained the victory, and the war was 
ended, which, he thought, must happen within a few 
days or weeks, in the event of another battle. This 
idea of the speedy termination of the war was a pre- 
vailing one at its commencement. In this expecta- 
tion, however, he was soon undeceived ; and when he 
was thinking anew what he should do, he received 
very opportunely an offer from the Governor of Co- 
ventry to take up his abode with him and preach to 
the soldiers. He embraced the offer, but refused to 
receive any commission as a chaplain in the army. 
He continued during a year to discharge this duty, 
preaching once a-week to the soldiers, and once on the 
Lord's day to the people. He then removed to Shrop- 


shire for two months, in order that he might be of 
assistance to his father, who liad suffered amidst the 
troubles of the time ; after which he returned to Co- 
ventry, and continued in the discharge of his former 
duty for another year. 

Here, upon the whole, he lived a peaceable life, con- 
sidering the distractions in which the country w^as 
plunged. His only trouble was the Sectaries. Some 
of Sir Harry Vane's " party from New England " had 
arrived in the place, and " one Anabaptist tailor," 
by his restless heresy, disturbed the whole garrison. 
Baxter courted encounter with them, and, by his con- 
stant vigilance, and ready powers of argument, met 
them at every point, so that they did not succeed with 
the Coventry soldiers as with the rest of the army. 
He preached over " all the controversies against the 
Anabaptists first, and then against the Separatists; 
and, in private, his neighbours and many of the foot 
soldiers, were able to baffle both Separatists, Anabap- 
tists, and Antinomians." 

It was during this period of his second residence 
at Coventry that he took the Covenant, and openly 
declared himself on the side of the Parliament, both 
of which steps, but the first especially, he afterwards 
regretted. His idea of the Covenant was that it was 
mainly intended as a test for soldiers and garrisons ; 
he did not anticipate that it should be exalted, as it 
was, into a national badge. 

While he continued at Coventry in comparative 
peace, every day brought him the new^s of the pro- 
gress of the war, — of some fight or another, — or some 
garrison or another, — lost or won. "Like men," he says, 
" in a dry house, who hear the storms abroad," he 
heard from his retreat the sounds of siecre and battle. 


The "two Newbury fights, Gloucester siege, the mar- 
vellous sieges of Plymouth, Lime, and Taunton, Sir 
William Waller's successes and losses, the loss at 
Newark, the slaughter at Bolton, the greatest fight of 
all at York " (Marston Moor), came in rapid succes- 
sion, so that every morning he looked for the news of 
some fresh triumph or disaster. It was a terrible 
time, he confesses: "miserable and bloody days, in 
which he was the most honourable who could kill 
most of his enemies. " 

During the same period those great changes in the 
leaders and the character of the war took place which 
are marked by the self-denying ordinance. The Earls 
of Essex and Manchester, and Sir William Waller, dis- 
appeared from the scene, and Faii-fax and Cromwell 
took their place. Baxter throws no light on these 
movements. Sir Harry Vane in the Commons, and 
Cromwell in the army, appear to him to explain all. 
Both of those leaders, and Cromwell especially, he 
heartily detested. It is difficult to say to what ex- 
tent the traditionary view of Cromwell's character as 
a deeply-designing hypocrite, who planned the whole 
issue of events to serve his selfish aggrandisement, has 
been owing to Baxter's strong and unhesitating repre- 
sentations. His statements are certainly very confident, 
and must have had great influence on many minds. 
There seems to have been a natural antipathy between 
the two men. Cromwell's conduct, when Baxter visited 
the army, is significant of his feeling ; Baxter's com- 
ments on the character and motives of the General show 
a vein of personal dislike, as well as misunderstanding. 
His whole description of the army and its leaders is, 
on the face of it, strongly coloured by the hues of his 
own discontent. It deserves consideration as being 


that of an eyewitness and an honest man, who would 
report nothing but what strictly seemed to him the 
truth. But its querulous and dogmatic tone, and the 
wounded self-esteem which it betrays, are enough to 
caution us against the accuracy of its representations. 
It was the noise of the great victory of Naseby, 
which sounded loud in the ears of the Coventry garri- 
son, not far off, and a wish to see some friends whom 
he had not seen for years, that carried Baxter to the 
quarters of the army. He does not seem to have had 
any intention of remaining ; but he felt great curiosity 
as to the state of religious feeling among the soldiers 
and their leaders, and some anxiety as to his own 
reception. He was astonished at the one and disap- 
pointed at the other. " We that lived quietly at 
Coventry," he says, " did keep to our old principles ; 
we were unfeignedly for King and Parliament ; we 
believed that the war was only to save the Parliament 
and kingdom from Papists and delinquents. . . . 
But when I came to the army among Cromwell's 
soldiers, I found a new face of things which I never 
dreamed of : I heard the plotting heads very hot upon 
that which intimated their intention to subvert both 
Church and State. Independency and Anabaptistry 
were most prevalent ; Antinomianism and Armenian- 
ism were equally distributed. Abundance of the 
common troopers and many of the officers I found to 
be honest, sober, orthodox men, and others tractable, 
ready to hear the truth, and of upright intentions ; but 
a few proud, self-conceited, hot-headed sectaries had 
got into the highest places, and were Cromwell's chief 
favourites, and by their very heat and activity bore 
down the rest, or carried them along with them, and 
were the soul of the army, though much fewer in num- 

BAXTER. 313 

ber than the rest. I perceived that they took tlie King 
for a tyrant and an enemy, and really intended absohitely 
to master him or ruin him ; and that they thought if 
they might fight against him, they might kill or con- 
quer him. . . . They were far from thinking of a 
moderate Episcopacy, or of any healing way between 
the Episcopal and the Presbyterians. They most hon- 
oured the Separatists, Anabaptists, and Antinomians ; 
but Cromwell and Ms Council took on them to Join them- 
selves to no party, hut to he for the lihcrtij of all. Two 
sects, I perceived, they did so commonly and bitterly 
speak against, that it Avas done in mere design to make 
them odious to the soldiers and to all the land ; and 
that was — 1. The Scots, and with them all Presbyte- 
rians, but especially the ministers, whom they called 
Priests and Priesthyters, and Dryvines and the Dissembly 
men, and such like ; 2. The committees of the several 
counties, and all the soldiers that were under them 
that were not of their mind and way." 

Baxter was deeply concerned by this state of things. 
It opened to him suddenly a new view of the prospects 
of the struggle and of the dangers to which the country 
was exposed. He blamed himself and others for their 
inattention to the religious condition of the soldiers ; 
and particularly accused himself for having declined 
an invitation, which he had received some time before, 
from Cromwell, to join his famous troop of horse as 
their chaplain. The men of the troop, he says, had 
all subscribed the invitation, but he had not only sent 
them a denial, but a rebuke of their way of thinking. 
Afterwards he had met with Cromwell at Leicester, 
who had personally remonstrated with him on his 
refusal. He says nothing more of this meeting ; but 
it seems pretty clear that it had been a testing one on 


Cromwell's part. He had scanned Baxter with his 
penetrating eye, and ascertained that they wonld not 
suit each other. Wliether it was his scrupulous sensi- 
tiveness, or his restless self-confidence, or some other 
cause, it is difficult to say ; but there can be little doubt 
that Cromwell decided that the zealous preacher was 
not likely to prove a man after his heart. Accord- 
ingly, when he made up his mind to join the army, 
as chaplain to Whalley's regiment, Oliver bade him 
" coldly welcome," and " never spake one word more" 
to him. He was excluded from headquarters, " where 
the councils and meetings of the officers were," and 
soon found himself out of place. "Most of his design," 
in joining the army," as he confessed, " w^as thereby 
frustrated." And not only was he destined to inactivity, 
at least on the scale he desired, but he was made the 
subject of scoffs on the part of the soldiers. Cromwell's 
secretary " gave out that there was a reformer come 
to the army to undeceive them, and to save Church 
and State, with some such other jeers." Baxter attri- 
butes all this coldness and insolence of the Independent 
party to their having been made privy to his designs 
against the Sectaries. This may have had some effect, 
but his self-confidence exaggerates when he supposes 
that Cromwell was likely to have any dread of his in- 
fluence. The simple truth seems to be, that they did not 
like each other, and that the great leader, while not in- 
terfering with the preacher's activity, carefully shunned 
his counsel. 

According to Baxter's own confession, he had no 
dealings with Cromwell during his whole stay in the 
army ; he was left to infer his designs from his own 
general observations and suspicions. The following 
is his statement : — " All this while, though I came not 

BAXTER. 315 

near Cromwell, his designs were visible, and I saw liim 
continually acting his part. The Lord-General suffered 
him to govern and do all, and to choose almost all the 
officers of the army. He first made Ireton Commis- 
sary-General ; and when any troop or company was to 
be disposed, or any considerable officer's place was 
void, he was sure to put a Sectary in the place ; and 
when the brunt of the war was over, he looked not so 
much at their valour as their opinions " (an accusation 
certainly inconsistent with the character of Crom- 
well and even with Baxter's own subsequent state- 
ment as to Cromwell's disguise of his own opinions. 
No man was less likely than Cromwell to prefer 
opinions to character) ; " so that by degrees he had 
headed the greatest part of the army with Anabaptists, 
Antinomians, Seekers, or Separatists at best. All 
these he led together hy the jwint of liberty of conscience, 
which was the common interest in wliich they did 
imite. Yet all the sober party were carried on by his 
profession that he only promoted the universal interest 
of the godly, without any distinction or partiality at 
all ; but still when a place fell void it was twenty to 
one but a Sectary had it ; and if a godly man of any 
other mind or temper had a mind to leave the army, 
he would secretly or openly further it. Yet he did not 
openly profess what ojDinion he was of himself, but the 
most that he said for any one was for Anabaptism and 
Antinomianism, which he usually seemed to own." 

The companion picture of Harrison is very good, 
and well worth quoting. There is much less ill na- 
ture in it. " Harrison, who was then great with him 
(Cromwell), was for the same opinions. He would 
not dispute with me at all" (he knew his disputant 
obviously too well) ; " but he would as good discourse 


very fluently from out himself on the excellency of 
free grace, though he had some misunderstandings of 
free grace himself He was a man of excellent natu- 
ral parts for affection and oratory, but not well seen on 
the principles of his religion ; of a sanguine com- 
plexion, naturally of such vivacity, hilarity, and alac- 
rity, as another man hath when he hath drunken a 
cup too much ; but naturally, also, so far from humble 
thoughts of liimself, that pride was his ruin." 

Baxter, it is clear, had no sympathy with the party 
rising into power. Slow to identify himself with the 
revolution in its earlier stages, it soon outran, in its 
course, all his views as to the need of change. If 
not in all things formally a Presbyterian — for he ob- 
jects strongly to various points of their discipline (the 
institvition of lay elders, for example), and was "not 
of their mind in any part of the Government which 
they would have set up " — he was yet more of a Pres- 
byterian than he was anything else ; and politically 
his opinions did not go at all beyond theirs. He was 
" unfeignedly for King and Parliament" against Pa- 
pists and Schismatics. So he " understood the Cove- 
nant ; " and he felt at a loss to understand the deeper 
and more implacable form which the war gradually 
assumed. To him, it represented nothing but the ma- 
chination of selfish and unprincipled men. He had no 
perception of the deeper currents of national feeling, 
growing out of the reaction from long years of dis- 
graceful oppression, which were finding vent with the 
continued course of the struggle, and bearing men on 
they scarcely knew whither. 

The same narrowness of apprehension and sympathy 
prevented him from understanding the various parties 
in the army, and the diverse sects which had sprung 

BAXTER. 317 

up in the country. He has given us descriptions of 
these parties and sects ; but there is a want of discri- 
mination in liis colouring, and a lack of charity in his 
judgments. Especially, he shows a defective insight 
into the character of the spiritual atmosphere around 
him — the teeming source of the conflicting opinions on 
which he looked with amazement. 

The relaxation of the bonds of religious authority 
which had so long weighed upon the religious con- 
science of England, brought with it an upheaving of 
the elements which had been not merely suppressed, 
but treated with scorn and insult. In the first rise of 
the English Eeformation, the principle of individual 
responsibility had no scope : it took little or no part. 
The course of reform was arranged by the wisdom of 
the State, and the policy of certain Church leaders. 
And Avhen the principle of religious liberty began 
to show itself in the earlier manifestations of Puri- 
tanism, it was thwarted and crushed at every point. 
Authority held its own powerfully against it, not 
merely by the right of possession, but beyond doubt 
also, as we have seen, by the influence of learning 
and talent, impersonated in Hooker, Downham, and 
others. The result of this was, that the spring of 
religious liberty was driven inwards to nurse itself 
upon its own discontent, and to rebound, when the op- 
portunity came, with a more violent and lawless effect 
than it would otherwise have done. For it is not to be 
supposed that a principle which has its root in the re- 
ligious conscience, can be defeated by any arguments, 
however ingenious and powerful, against some of its 
manifestations. Even if we allow Hooker's great 
argument to be triumphant against the Puritan tenet 
of his day, which sought to erect the text of Scripture 


into an absolute standard of ecclesiastical government 
and policy, it had not and could have no effect against 
the deeper principle of the movement, which testified 
to the indefeasible right of the human conscience to 
judge for itself in matters of religion. And this prin- 
ciple, accordingly, under protracted restraint, only con- 
tinued to gather a more heated intensity, — destined to 
break forth into the wildest forms as soon as the hand 
of authority was relaxed. The same spiritual force 
which, at the time of the Eeformation, relieved itself 
in such religious excesses as Anabaptism in Germany, 
and Libertinism in France, — having been longer con- 
fined in England, — at length burst forth in a greater 
excess, corresponding to its maturity, and the embit- 
tering restraints in which it had been held. The ele- 
ment of religious liberty, cast suddenly loose, broke 
out into the most lawless and extravagant forms. The 
individual conscience, rioting in its sense of freedom, 
knew not its own weakness. 

This is the natural explanation of the numerous 
sects which now sprang up in England. The succes- 
sive manifestations of the religious excitement show 
a constant advance, a progressive outburst, of the 
principle of individual liberty in religion. Presbyte- 
rianism was the first expression of the principle, and 
long continued its only noticeable expression. During 
the whole reign of Elizabeth, and even of James, the 
religious restlessness of the country scarcely vindicated 
for itself any free movement save in this direction. 
The Presbyterian platform of Church government, with 
its recognition of the popular voice in preaching and 
discipline, as opposed to the authoritative rule of bish- 
ops and archbishops, and a mere service of prayer and 
homily — this was all the aim of Puritanism in its 

BAXTER. 319 

primary forms. The Presbyterians were so far from 
letting go the element of authority, that they gave it, 
in the hands of the clergy, as the interpreters of Scrip- 
ture and the special administrators of discipline, a 
peculiar prominence. It was the lack of discipline 
and of Church authority, in controlling the lives and 
opinions of clergy and iaity, as may be seen from our 
present sketch, and many other sources, which was 
one of their chief complaints against the prelatical 
system of the time. Baxter never advanced beyond 
Presbyterianism. The element of clerical authority 
which it embodied, and its machinery of ecclesiastical 
inquisition, continued always to be of great value in 
his eyes. 

It was not to be expected, however, that the reli- 
gious feeling of the country, when once fairly let 
loose, should stoj) at this point. The exchange of 
the authority of Bishops for that of Presbyters was 
not likely to content the popular conscience. Ac- 
cordingly, so soon as the war commenced, and all 
bonds of ecclesiastical control were dissolved, the 
excited religious feeling gave itself full vent, and 
burst forth in a great variety of forms. IndejDcn- 
dency, Anabaptism, and the whole brood of sects 
depicted by Baxter — Vanists, Seekers, Eanters, Quak- 
ers, and Behmenists — rapidly arose, jostling one an- 
other for pre-eminence, and filling the country with 
their discordant din. 

The two first of these forms of religious opinion 
show the growth of religious liberty on the ecclesi- 
astical side. The doctrinal peculiarities of Indepen- 
dency differed, as they do to this day, but slightly 
from those of Presbyterianism; and the Anabaptists 
(who were as different as possible from their name- 


sakes of the previous century in Germany) differed 
from the Presbyterians and Independents, according 
to Baxter's own statement, only " in the point of bap- 
tism, or, at most, in the points of predestination, free- 
will, and perseverance." Many of the most eminent 
of Anabaptists, such as Bunyan, were strict Calvin- 
ists. So far as the idea of the Church, however, was 
concerned, they popularised the principles of the Inde- 
pendents, as they in their turn had done those of the 
Presbyterians. In each case the element of external 
Church authority sunk more out of sight, and the con- 
gregational or individual element took its place. A 
hierarchy of priests and a diocesan framework had 
gradually passed through Presbyteries, and a regular 
order of the ministry into the absolute independence 
of the Christian people, and the free call and privilege 
of every one possessing the gifts to assume the pas- 
torate. Still, in all these great parties the idea of 
authority and of the Church was so far preserved that 
the Bible was recognised as the absolute source of 
religious truth, and the absolute standard of practical 
morality, to be enforced upon their members by due 
appliancies of discipline. 

The five remaining sects noticed mark the expan- 
sion of the principle of religious individualism in a 
new and far deeper direction. They attacked not 
merely the external ecclesiastical authority against 
which the others rebelled, but the very substance of 
the religious truth which all these upheld. Each of 
them, though in different degrees, and with a varying 
excess, sought to find the standard of religion ivithin, 
rather than without — in the heart, rather than in Scrip- 
ture. The objective principle of authority disappeared, 
and religion resolved itself into a mere subjective 

BAXTER. 321 

feeling, asserting an absolute independence, and con- 
taining its own sufficient warrant. 

The circle of religious liberty completed itself, as it 
will always do when traditionalism is entirely cast 
aside, in an unrestrained freedom of the spirit, which 
appeared to Baxter and Bunyan, and their dogmatic 
contemporaries, mere licence and impiety. Wild 
enough extravagance much of it was, but we must be 
careful frequently not to accept their colouring, what- 
ever credit we give to their facts. Many men, evi- 
dently of deep piety and of a wide spiritual compre- 
hension, as our theologian was forced to confess, were 
amongst the number of these sectaries. 

Baxter's idea of their origin is scarcely worthy of 
his common sense, not to speak of his penetration. 
Nothing will satisfy him but that they chiefly sprung 
from the machinations of the Papists. We will con- 
dense his account of them severally, so far as it ap- 
pears interesting. The " Vanists " were, accordmg to 
him, the followers of Sir Harry Vane, and "first sprung 
up under him in New England, when he was gover- 
nor there." Their chief characteristic was an obscure 
mysticism, which tended to exalt the spiritual and 
internal character of religion. " Their views were 
so cloudily formed and expressed, that few could 
understand them." They claimed universal liberty 
of conscience, and the entire independence of reli- 
gion from the interference of the civil magistrate. 
Lord Brook, and Sterry and Sprigge, both men 
of name and fame in their day, belonged to this 
party. Of Sterry, Baxter speaks in his life with 
great ill-nature, punning somewhat wretchedly upon 
his name in conjunction with that of Yane (" vanity 
and sterility were never more happily conjoined"); 



while, in his Catholic Theology, on the other hand, 
after having perused a treatise of his on Free Will, he 
commends him in high terms. " I found in him," he 
says, "the same notions as in Sir Harry Vane; but all 
handled with much more strength of parts and rap- 
ture of highest devotion and candour towards all 
others than I expected. His preface is a most excel- 
lent persuasive to universal charity. Love was never 
more extolled than throughout this book. Doubtless 
his head was strong, his wit admirably pregnant, his 
searching studies hard and sublime, and, I think, his 
heart replenished with holy love to God, and great 
charity and moderation and peaceableness towards 
men; insomuch that I heartily repent that I so far 
believed fame as to think somewhat hardlier of him 
and his few adherents than I now think they deserve." 
This retractation is worthy of Baxter's heart, as it 
teaches a universal lesson. If rival theologians would 
try to understand, rather than to overcome, one another, 
what increase of truth and charity might be the issue ! 
How many a logical Baxter still assails an intuitive 
Sterry in the Christian world, and even by poor wit 
tries to cover him with ridicule, while the same " holy 
love to God" may really be warming the heart of each, 
and all the difference between them be some wretched 
convention of language, covering no life of meaning, 
but only hiding the one from the appreciation of the 
other, and both, it may be, from a more comprehensive 
appreciation of the truth ! 

One is glad to record this piece of repentant charity 
on Baxter's part. The only regret is that it was so 
much needed, and not so comprehensive as it ought 
to have been. Vane, no less than Sterry, claimed 
some apology. His whole conception of Vane is an 

BAXTER. 323 

unworthy one, and the language in which he speaks 
of him harsh and unjust. 

The second sect he describes as Seekers. "These 
maintained that our Scriptures were uncertain; that 
present miracles are necessary to faith ; that our 
ministry is null and without authority, and our wor- 
ship and ordinances unnecessary or vain ; the true 
church, ministry, scripture, and ordinances being lost, 
for which they are now seeking. I quickly found 
that the Papists principally hatched and actuated 
their sect." They were as nearly connected, probably, 
with the Presbyterians as with the Papists. Their 
origin must be sought in the disorganised condition 
of religious feeling. Where all was unfixed, these 
men were in search of a satisfying truth. In the 
absence of any authoritative church, they were seek- 
ers after one. They were therefore the extreme reac- 
tionists from Popery. 

" The third sect was the Planters. These also made 
it their business, as the former, to set up the right of 
nature in men, under the name of Christ, and to dis- 
honour and cry down the Church, the Scripture, the 
present ministry, and our worship and ordinances. 
They called men to hearken to Christ within them ; 
but in that they enjoined a cursed doctrine of liber- 
tinism which brought them all to abominable filthi- 
ness of life. They taught, as the Familists, that God 
regardeth not the actions of the outward man, but of 
the heart, and that to the pure all things are pure 
(even things forbidden) ; and so, as allowed by God, 
they speak most hideous words of blasphemy, and 
many of them committed whoredoms commonly." 

There were many facts in the social life of the period 
that unhappily bear out Baxter's description of the 


Eanters. Bunyaii, we shall find, had a Eanter friend, 
who rapidly passed from a high state of religious ex- 
altation to a state of moral libertinism. It was one 
of the characteristics of the time, just as it had been 
among the Zwickau fanatics of Germany, and the 
Libertines of Switzerland and France, to run from ex- 
treme religious fervour to the wildest practical licence. 
At the same time, it is not history, but calumny, to 
regard the whole sect as nothing less than immoral 
fanatics, who wilfully revelled in blasphemy and licen- 
tiousness. Some who had been strict professors of 
religion* allied themselves to it, and were influenced to 
do so, beyond doubt, by some real element of spiritual 
life which it embodied. Any such spiritual life, how- 
ever, soon vanished in the midst of so much excitement, 
and in the entire absence of all dogmatic control ; and 
the sect rapidly fell into degradation and contempt. 
Their " horrid villanies," Baxter says, " speedily extin- 
guished them ; so that the devil and the Jesuits quickly 
found that this way would not serve their turn, and 
therefore they suddenly took another." 

" And that," he continues, " was the fourth sect, the 
Quakers, who were but the Eanters turned from horrid 
profaneness and blasphemy to a life of great austerity 
on the other side. Their doctrines were mostly the 
same with the Eanters : they made the light which 
every man hath within him to be his sufficient rule ; 
and consequently the Scripture and the ministry were 
set light by. They spoke much for the dwelling and 
the working of the Spirit in us, but little of justifi- 
cation and the pardon of sin, and our reconciliation 
with God through Jesus Christ. They pretend their 
dependence on the Spirit against set times of prayer, 

* Baxter's Life, p. 77. Folio. 

BAXTER. 325 

and against sacraments. They will not have the Scrip- 
tures called the Word of God; their i^rincipal zeal 
lieth in railing at ministers, and in refusing to swear 
before a magistrate, or to put off their hat to any, or to 
say you instead of tliou or thee. At first they did use 
to fall into tremblings and sometimes vomitings in their 
meetings, and pretended to be violently acted upon by 
the Spirit, but now that is ceased. They only meet, 
and he that pretendeth to be moved by the Spirit 
speaketh; and sometimes they say nothing, but sit 
an hour or more in silence, and depart. Their chief 
leader, James Nayler, acted the part of Christ at Bristol, 
according to much of the history of the Gospel ; and 
was long laid in Bridewell for it, and his tongue bored 
as a blasphemer by the Parliament. Many Franciscan 
friars and other Papists have been proved to be dis- 
guised speakers in their assemblies, and to be among 
them ; and it is like as the very soul of all these hor- 
rible delusions." 

There is not much to criticise in this picture of the 
Quakers ; its separate features are historically true, 
as they are lifelike, but the general impression is ex- 
aggerated and ill-natured. Baxter's belief of the con- 
nection of this sect with the Papists was no doubt 
strengthened by the accidental political relations into 
which the two bodies were thrown towards each other 
in the latter part of his life. Disowned alike by Epis- 
copalians and Presbyterians, an affinity of persecution 
drew them together, and they became, in the latter 
years of Charles, and again in the reign of James, the 
joint objects of royal favours. In such facts Baxter 
saw the confirmation of his theory of their origin. 

The Behmenists are the last sect enumerated by him 
Their opinions "go much towards the way of the former, 


for tlie sufficiency of the light of nature, the salvation 
of heathens as well as Christians, and a dependence on 
revelations, &c. ; but they are fewer in number, and 
seem to have attained to greater meekness and conquest 
of passion, than any of the rest. Their doctrine is to 
be seen in Jacob Behmen's books by those that have 
nothing else to do than to bestow a great deal of time 
to understand him that was not willing to be easily 
understood, and to know that his bombastic words 
signify nothing more than before was easily known by 
common familiar terms." 

These sects were all more or less represented in the 
army, which was the hot-bed of the prevailing extrava- 
gances of opinion. The Antinomianism which so 
largely characterised the religious feeling of the time 
found its chief support and strength among the daring 
soldiers that surrounded CromweU. The doctrines of 
free grace, in the extreme reaction which took place 
against the Laudian sacramental tenets, were appre- 
hended by many irrespective of their moral influence. 
An unbridled opinionativeness, and a consequent con- 
tempt for all authority, political and moral, as well 
as religious, were fostered by hosts of pamphlets, 
written by such men as Overton, and the pretended 
Martin-Mar-Priest,* and others. The most fierce ex- 
pression of this spirit was among the Levellers, headed 
by Lillburne and Bethel, who not only denied every 
rule of church government, but denounced all civil 
order as tyranny. " They vilified all ordinary worship ; 
they were vehement against both king and all govern- 
ment except popular. All their disputing was with 
as much firmness as if they had been ready to draw 

* These were in imitation of the Martin-Mar-Prelate pamphlets of the 
Elizabethan Puritanism. Overton is supposed to have been an infideL 



their swords upon those against whom they disputed." 
^'They would bitterly scorn me," Baxter adds, "amongst 
their hearers, to prejudice them before they entered 
into dispute. They evaded me as much as possible ; 
but when we did come to it, they drained all reason in 
fierceness, and vehemency, and multitude of words." 
Here again the idea of the Papists haunts him. " I 
thought they were principled by the Jesuits, and acted 
all for their interest and in their way. But the secret 
spring was out of sight" — far below the surface of 
Jesuitical intrigue certainly. 

Baxter remained with the army so long as to be pre- 
sent at several of its operations. Shortly after joining 
it, he marched with it to Somerton ; and as he had 
preached with the cannon of Naseby sounding in his 
ears, so now he actually saw from the brow of a hill 
on which he stood the engagement at Langport. Bethel 
and Evanson, with their " troops, encountered a select 
party of Goring's best horse, and charged them at 
sword's point, whilst you could count three or four 
hundred, and then put them to retreat." The dust was 
so great, being in the very height of summer, that the 
combatants could not see each other ; but he saw all 
clearly from the eminence on which he stood. There 
were no troops engaged but Bethel's and Evanson's, 
and " a few musqueteers in the hedges." After their 
repulse, Goring's army seemed to show fight again, 
but on the steady advance of the Parliamentarians, 
they broke and fled "before they received any charge." 
" I happened to be next to Major Harrison," he adds, 
"as soon as the flight began, and heard him with a 
loud voice break forth into the praise of God with 
fluent expression, as if he had been in a rapture." 

The army proceeded to Bridgewater, whither Goring's 


army had fled, and thence to Bristol, during the siege 
of which Baxter was taken seriously ill. He recovered 
just in time to see the city taken, at the cost of Bethel's 
life, who " had a shot in his thigh, of which he died, 
and was much lamented." He was successively pre- 
sent at the sieges of Sherborne Castle and of Exeter ; 
but before the completion of the latter siege, he departed 
with Whalley's regiment, which was sent to watch the 
royal garrison at Oxford. Whalley wintered in Buck- 
inghamshire, and there laid siege to Banbury Castle, 
and afterwards to Worcester, where " he lay in siege 
eleven weeks," till the main army under Cromwell 
again jomed him, and together they attacked Oxford. 
During the winter-quarters in Buckinghamshire, at a 
place called Agmondesham, Baxter had a famous tilt 
with the sectaries of Bethel's troop. Establishing 
himself in the reading-pew at a church where they had 
come together to propagate their opinions among the 
simple country people, he disputed against them alone 
from morning till almost night — "for I knew their 
trick," he says, " that if I had but gone out first, they 
would have prated what boasting words they liked 
when I was gone, and made the people believe that 
they had baffled me, or got the best : therefore I stood 
it out till they first rose and went away." 

At Worcester he again fell ill, and having visited 
London for medical advice, he was sent to Tunbridge 
Wells to recruit. He was able to join the army once 
more : but his health was unequal to his exertions and 
anxiety of mind in the discharge of his duties, and on 
a renewed attack of illness at Melbourne, near Ashby- 
de-la-Zouche, he was glad to return to the hospitable 
house of Sir Thomas Ptous, where he had been welcomed 
and cared for during a previous illness. " Thither I 

BAXTER. 329 

made shift to get," lie says, " in great weakness, where 
I was entertained with the greatest care and tenderness 
while I continued to use the means of my recovery ; 
and when I had been there a quarter of a year, I re- 
turned to Kidderminster." 

Thus closed Baxter's connection with the army, 
which had lasted about two years * — years of trouble 
and perplexity to him, aggravated by ill health and 
the contrary spirit of those amidst whom he lived. 
The connection was not a happy one in any respect. 
He appears to have exercised but little iniluence over 
the unruly soldier-saints with whom he came in con- 
tact, while his naturally disputatious temper received 
an imdue and almost morbid development in con- 
stant conflict with their pertinacity, " disputing from 
morning till almost night." On the other hand, it 
is probable that he learned thus early some of the 
experience to which, in later life, he gives frequent 
expression — that truth is not to be found in "a multi- 
tude of controversies." Certainly, if ever a man learned 
this by solemn and even dire experience, it was Baxter. 
His growing conviction of it could not change his 
nature ; to the last he was accustomed to fight it out 
with every adversary that challenged him; but with 
a noble inconsistency his aspirations for peace rose 
above the din of battle in which he was engaged, 
and he felt it to be the weary and useless uproar it 
often really was. 

It was while resident at Eous Lench that he began 
his career as a writer. Here he wrote the first part 
of the Saints Rest, as he tells us in an address to 

* He appears to have settled in Coventry in 1642, where he stayed, ac- 
cording to his own statement, Uvo years. He seems to have left the army 
in 1646. 


" Sir Thomas Kous, baronet, and tlie Lady Jane Eous, 
his wife/' which he prefixed to the work. It is plea- 
sant to reflect that it was at this time — the close of a 
period of turmoil in his life, and when his own weak- 
ness kept him face to face with death* — that lie com- 
posed the most beautiful part of the best of all his 
works. How ardently must he have turned to the 
contemplation of the heavenly rest ; and, amidst the 
lofty raptures with which it inspired him, how poor 
and dim must have seemed the world of raging sects 
from which he had emerged! "Well might he say, 
" How sweet the Providence which so happily forced 
me to that work of meditation which I had formerly 
found so profitable to my soul, and hath caused 
my thoughts to feed on this heavenly subject, which 
hath more benefited me than all the studies of my 
life." It is remarkable, also, that the very fact which 
partly led Baxter to begin this treatise — the want of 
books — has given to the first part of it, which was all 
that he now completed, a unity, life, and interest 
wanting in many of his other writings. His tendency 
to digression was checked from the lack of subjects 
to feed it, and obeying merely the instinct of his 
own meditative feeling and imagination, his thoughts 
arrange themselves into a far more harmonious and 
effective shape than they generally do. It would have 
been lucky for Baxter as a writer had he more fre- 
quently composed without access to books, and the na- 
tural vein of meditative and hortatory rhetoric, which 
was his strength, been left to flow freely, without the 
incumbrances of an argumentative prolixity, which set 
all patience at defiance. The second part of the 

* " Living in continual expectation of death, with one foot in the 
grave," he himself says. — Pref. 

BAXTER. 331 

Saints' Rest sliows the comparative disadvantage of 
scholastic leisure, and his habitual turn for polemical 
discursiveness. It is tedious and out of place. It 
might be omitted, and the work improved. But as it 
is, there is a touching harmony of tone in the Saints 
Rest. There are few with any solemn feeling of reli- 
gion who can read it unmoved ; the fervour and pas- 
sion of its heavenly feeling, blending with the scenes 
of glory which it depicts, the pathos of its appeals, 
the ardour of its description, the enraptured sweet- 
ness of some of its pictures, the affection, force, and 
hurry of its eloquence when he gives free rein to 
his spiritual impulses, and brushes unheeding and 
headlong past the tangled brakes of logic that lie 
in wait for him — all render it one of the most im- 
pressive religious treatises which have descended to 
us from the seventeenth century. Much of its im- 
pressiveness flows from the intensity of the Puritan 
feeling which it everywhere reflects, and the vivid 
reahsation of the unseen, in which this feeling lived 
and moved. The colouring of its heaven is steeped \ 
in the intense hues of the religious imagination of the \ 
time— Brook, Hampden, and Pym* were among the J 
saints whom he rejoiced he should meet above. The 
definitions, the arguments, many of the descriptions, 
are Puritan ; yet the highest charm of the treatise is 
the fulness with which it reflects the catholic ideas 
of the eternal rest — the love, life, and fervour of ten- 
der-hearted and universal piety that it breathes. 

After a retirement of some months Baxter settled 

* Baxter, it is true, cancelled these names from a subsequent edition, 
after the Restoration ; but this he did merely to avoid offence to the 
authorities, and not "as changing his judgment of the persons." It was 
a pity, at the same time, that he did it, especially as he tells us, "this 
did not satisfy" these authorities. 


once more at Kidderminster : he declined the vicarage 
which the people " vehemently urged upon him," but 
he gladly returned among them in his old capacity. 
In this, as in every other relation of his life, he showed, 
so far as money was concerned, a most unselfish spirit ; 
he might have secured himself in legal title to the 
parish, but he did not care to do so ; his position was 
legal in every substantial sense of the term, and the 
treatment to which he was subjected after the Eestora- 
tion, when he wished to return and minister to his 
old people, was equally harsh and injurious. 

Baxter remained in Kidderminster fourteen years, 
during which the great events of the King's trial and 
death, the war with Ireland, the triumph of Cromwell, 
his difficulties, victories, and death, were all transacted. 
Busy with his never - ceasing labours of preaching, 
catechising, and writing, Baxter looked forth upon 
these events of his time with a spirit saddened and 
displeased, yet not so vexed and irritable as before. 
He details the events with strong reflections on Crom- 
well and his party, their "rebellion, perfidiousness, 
perjury, and impudence;" but the peace which he 
enjoyed during so many years to labour in his calling, 
the pleasures of activity and success in which his life 
was spent, exerted their natural influence of content- 
ment upon his mind. During the war with Scotland, 
he bestirred himself, according to his own confession, 
strenuously on the side of the King ; he sympathised 
in the aims, if he did not share in the plans, of Love 
and others. But while Cromwell, according to his 
policy of making an example, took a swift and fa- 
tal vengeance on poor Love, he never even deigned 
to notice Baxter's factious movements. Convinced 
that he could not bend him to his will, he had too 

BAXTER. 333 

much magnanimity to interfere with him violently, 
still more to submit him to any punishment. He 
respected him, although he did not like him. This 
Baxter is forced to acknowledge, although he ascribes 
the conduct of the Protector to "policy" rather than 
magnanimity. " When Cromwell was made Lord 
Protector," he says, " he had the policy not to detect 
and exasperate the ministers and others who consented 
not to his government. Having seen what a stir the 
engagement made before, he let men live quietly with- 
out putting oaths of fidelity upon them, except mem- 
bers of Parliament." 

Yet Baxter's opposition, according to his own state- 
ment, might well have provoked some mark of censure. 
" I did seasonably and moderately," he says, " by 
preaching and printing, condemn the usurpation and 
the deceit which was the means to bring it to pass. I 
did in open conference declare Cromwell and his ad- 
herents to be guilty of treason and rebellion, aggravated 
by perfidiousuess and hypocrisy." This, too, while he 
is forced to admit the beneficent aim of Cromwell's 
government in point of fact. Honesty compels from 
him this admission, and it is of peculiar value in the 
circumstances. " I perceived that it was his design 
to do good in the main, and to promote the Gospel and 
the interests of godliness more than any had done 
before him, except in those particulars which were 
against his own interest. The powerful means that 
henceforth he trusted to for his cstaUishment was doing 
good, that the people might love him, or, at least, be 
willing to have his government for that good, who 
were against it because it was usurpation." 

It was clear from the beginning that these two men 
did not suit one another. Yet Cromwell was more 


tolerant and just than Baxter. In the very height of 
his power, and after all Baxter's hard words, we find 
the Protector courting the stern and implacable Divine. 
He had avoided him in the heat of the struggle ; he 
had borne with him in the crisis of his ascendancy 
when his intractable temper was really dangerous : but 
after the " Instrument of government" was arranged, 
and power seemed settled in his hands, he sought an 
interview with him, and endeavoured to impress upon 
the refractory Presbyterian his views of the course of 
events and of God's providence in the change of gov- 
ernment. The proceeding, even in our author's invi- 
dious account of it, is highly creditable to Cromwell, 
while it certainly proves the high esteem in which 
he himself was held, and the influence of his position. 
It was no sign of weakness on the Protector's part. 
He had sufiiciently shown by his magnanimous con- 
duct that he had nothing to fear from men like Baxter. 
He designed it, no doubt, for what it really was, a 
mark of respect to his character, and an acknowledg- 
ment due to his sincere convictions. Baxter, however, 
remained obstinate in these convictions. 

He had been sent for to London by Lord Broghill 
to assist in the determination of certain " Fundamentals 
of religion," with a view to the arrangements of the new 
government. His opinions on this subject were very 
sensible, and stand in favourable contrast to those of 
the " over- orthodox doctors" — Owen, Cheynell, and 
others.* While they insisted on many minute and 
absurd points being introduced as fundamental, he 

* Among the advantages of Baxter's visit to London at this time, and 
his conferences with other divines on the subject of "Fundamentals," 
was his introduction to Archbishop Usher, Of all men of this troubled 
time. Usher was one of the most catholic and peaceable in his views. 
Baxter and he were very friendly, and in their notions of Church govern- 

BAXTER. o35 

would have had the brethren to offer Parliament the 
Creed, LorcTs Prayer, and Decalogue alone as Essentials 
or Fundamentals (lie preferred the former expression). 
" These, he held, contained all that is necessary to 
salvation," while they had been taken by all the ancient 
churches " for the sum of their religion." While the 
negotiation as to Fundamentals was proceeding — for, as 
Baxter anticipated, it proved a " ticklish business" — he 
was brought by his friend Lord Broghill to preach 
before Cromwell. The occasion was too tempting, and 
Baxter, preaching from 1 Cor. i. 10, regarding divisions, 
gave the Lord Protector very plainly a piece of his 
mind. " My plainness," he adds, " I heard, was very 
displeasing to him and his courtiers, but they felt it 
after. A little while after, Cromwell sent to speak to 
me, and, when I came, in the presence of only three of 
his chief men, he began a long and tedious speech to 
me of God's providence in the change of government, 
and how God had owned it, and what great things he 
had done at home and abroad in the peace with Spain 
and Holland. When he had wearied us all with speak- 
ing thus slowly about an hour, I told him it was too 
great condescension to acquaint me so fully with all 
these matters which were above me ; but I told him 
that we took our ancient monarchy to be a blessing 
and not an evil to the land, and honestly craved his 
patience that I might ask him how England had ever 
forfeited that blessing, "S,nd unto whom that forfeiture 
was made ? Upon that question he was awakened into 
some passion, and then told me it was no forfeiture, 

ment they could have perfectly united. It was Usher's scheme of re- 
duced Episcopacy, we shall see, which he and the other Presbyterian 
divines made the basis of their proposed compromise with the prelates 
of the Restoration. 


but God had changed it as pleased Him : and then he 
let fly at the Parliament which thwarted him ; and 
especially by name at four or five of those members 
who were my chief acquaintances, whom I presumed 
to defend against his passion, and thus four or five 
hours were spent." A few days after, Cromwell had 
another interview with our divine, to hear his "judg- 
ment about liberty of conscience," but with an equal 
want of success. Again Baxter complains of his " slow 
tedious speech," and still more of the speeches of two 
of his company, " in such like tedious, but more igno- 
rant." He offered to tell him more of his mind " in 
writing in two sheets, than in that way of speaking in 
many days." There is an amusing gravity in this 
offer. Cromwell was confessedly tedious and slow of 
speech ; but Baxter, of all men, professing brevity in 
writing ! Two sheets ! Two hundred sheets would 
have been a more likely result, and that " preface on 
the subject," which he had " by him," we make no 
doubt that Cromwell never found time to read it. He 
received the paper. " I scarcely believe," its author 
confesses, " that he ever read it, for I saw that what 
he learned must he from himself T 

The view in which Baxter is now presented is al- 
most the only public glimpse that we get of him 
during the eventful fourteen years he spent at Kidder- 
minster. His time was mainly filled up with nobler 
labours than any he was capable of rendering in the 
career of political action. His zealous opinionative- 
ness prevented him from entering into hearty and har- 
monious co-operation with others in carrying out any 
line of practical negotiation. In this respect he was no 
leader. The politics of Puritanism could never claim 
him as a warm ally or representative. It is its reli- 

BAXTER. 337 

gious tliougiit and pastoral earnestness, and not its 
civil ambition, that lie impersonated. 

He has left us details of his pastoral labours during 
these years — details which represent a life of unceasmg 
activity and vigorous and joyous earnestness. He was 
indeed a " workman not needing to be ashamed ; " and 
such work as he had at Kidderminster, and the free 
scope in which he had to do it, were entirely to his 
heart's content. There is no part of his life of which 
he writes with such zest : his constitutional queru- 
lousness rises almost into buoyancy of spirit, as he 
dwells upon — 1. His employment ; 2. His successes ; 
and, 3. The advantages which he enjoyed. 

1. Before the wars — that is, during his first stay — he 
preached twice each Lord's-clay ; but after the war 
" but once, and once every Thursday, besides occasional 
sermons." Two days every week, (Mondays and Tues- 
days), he and his assistant took fourteen families be- 
tween them for private catechism and conference. 
He spent about an hour with a family, and admitted 
no others to be present. He devoted the afternoons to 
this work, the forenoons to study. On the evening of 
Thursdays he met with his neighbours at his house, 
when one of them repeated the sermon, and then they 
propounded any doubt or inquiries that occurred to 
them, and he " resolved these doubts." On the first 
Wednesday of every month he held a meeting for 
parish discipline ; and every first Thursday in the 
month the clergy met for discipline and disputation ; 
and in those disputations it fell to his lot to be " al- 
most constant moderator," when he usually prepared 
a "written determination." All this he recalls as his 
" mercies and delights, and not as his burdens. " Such 
was his "sweet and acceptable employment." 



2. He next recounts his successes. And lie will not 
suppress his satisfaction, he says, with a joyous elation, 
" though I foreknow that the malignant will impute 
the mention of it to pride and ostentation. For it is 
the sacrifice of thanksgiving which I owe to my most 
gracious God, which I will not deny Him for fear of 
being censured as proud." His preaching became very 
popular after the first " burst of opposition" which he 
had experienced from the "rabble" before the wars. The 
congregation increased gTeatly, so that they were fain 
to build five galleries to the church, which in itself 
was very capacious, and the most commodious and con- 
venient that he was ever in. The private meetings also 
were full. On the Lord's-day there was no disorder, 
" but you might hear an hundred families singing 
psalms and repeating sermons as you passed through 
the streets. In a word, when I came thither first there 
was about one family in a street that worshipped God 
and called on His name ; and when I came away, there 
were some streets where there was not found one family 
on the side of a street that did not do so." Although 
the administration of the Lord's Supper was so ordered 
by him as to displease many, he had 600 communicants, 
of whom he says, " There were not twelve that I had 
not good hopes as to their sincerity." " Some of the 
poor men did competently understand the body of divi- 
nity, and were able to judge in difficult controversies. 
Some of them were so able in prayer, that very few 
ministers did match them in order and fulness and apt 
expressions, and holy oratory with fervency. Abund- 
ance of them were able to pray veiy laudably with their 
families, or with others. The temper of their minds 
and the innoeency of their lives were much more laud- 
able than their parts" 

BAXTER. 339 

And while Baxter was thus successful with his own 
parishioners and flock, his relations with his brethren 
of the ministry were also of a happy and useful char- 
acter. This was a source of more likely difficulty to 
him than any other, from the peculiarity of his tem- 
per ; but the felicity of his position at Kidderminster 
seems to have triumphed even here. " Our disputa- 
tions," he says, " proved not unprofitable. Our meet- 
ings were never contentious, but always comfortable ; 
we take great delight in the company of each other, so 
that I know that the remembrace of those days is plea- 
sant both to them and me." 

3. The thought of his successes suggests that of his 
" advantages." There were certain accidents of his 
position which appeared to him of great service in 
promoting his usefulness at Kidderminster, upon which 
he reflected with gratitude, and which he details chiefly 
with a view to other men's experience in managing 
ignorant and sinful parishes. The first advantage 
that he appears to himself to have enjoyed was the 
peculiar condition of the people, who had not before 
been hardened under an awakening ministry, as he 
considered the people of Bridgenorth to have been. 
" If they had been sermon-proof," he says, " I should 
have expected less." His next and main advantage 
was his own effective preaching. "I was then," he 
adds, " in the vigour of my spirits, and had naturally 
a familiar moving voice (which is a great matter 
with the common hearers); and doing all in bodily 
weakness, as a dying man, my soul was the more 
easily brought to seriousness, and to preach ' as a 
dying man to dying men.' For drowsy formality 
and customariness doth but stupify the hearers 
and rock them asleep. It must be serious preaching 


which will make men serious in hearmg and obey- 
ing it." 

With the recommendation of a "familiar moving 
voice," it is easy to conceive how impressive and 
powerful Baxter must have been as a preacher. There 
is a simplicity, directness, and energy in his sermon- 
style, tliat goes to the heart even now, and which 
must have told with a wonderfully stimulating effect 
upon his Kidderminster hearers. In the pulpit he 
was raised above the scholastic medium of thought 
and definition on which his mind was otherwise apt 
to dwell. As a " dying man," face to face with " dying 
men," he became vehemently practical. The flame of 
an overpowering conviction burning in his own soul, 
communicated life and ardour to all his words. His 
sermons are certainly digressive and tedious according 
to our modern notions. But we must remember that 
what would now be intolerable tedium, was not only 
borne cheerfully, but expected and welcomed in his 
age. The thoughts of all men of the time, at least 
of all that Baxter was likely to address, were intensely 
theological. AVhat now seem to many mere abstrac- 
tions, were to his generation living realities, — forces 
moving men to fight and die. Discussions, whose 
irrelevancy offends us, and digressions over which we 
weary, were instinct with meaning to his audiences. 
Prolixity, which we contemplate with a shudder, may 
have excited in them enthusiasm. A vanished charm 
must have lain in division and subdivision — in the 
mere ringing, in varied cadences, of the same note of 
exhortation, alarm, or consolation. Beyond doubt, 
there was in all this something peculiarly consonant to 
an age in which, while there was a pervading and keen 
excitement about religion, there was evidently much 

BAXTER. 341 

ignorance and dulness of religious apprehension. In 
no respect is the age more remarkable. The very- 
rapidity with which sects arose on all hands, shows 
how narrowness of religious intelligence mingled with 
excitement of religious feeling. 

The key to much of the characteristic literature of the 
time lies in this peculiar combination. A time of in- 
tense faith, with little speculative or historical enlight- 
enment, was necessarily one of endless religious con- 
troversy and sermonising. Men who were moved to 
the depth of their hearts by religious convictions — the 
interest of whose life was centred in the character of 
their theological belief — and yet who had only very 
dim and confused ideas of the past course of Christian 
opinion and history, were necessarily cast afloat on the 
preaching of the time to feed their religious cravings. 
Shut within their own limited sphere, the conflicting 
tenets around them acquired a novelty and supposed 
potency which made them subjects of ever-renewing 
attraction ; and the sermons, which were almost their 
only means of theological instruction, could scarcely be 
too long, — so greedily did they thirst after a knowledge 
which was to them of such vital moment. While we 
may object, therefore, to the length and verbosity of 
these sermons, and mourn over a dulness which seems 
to argue in us a lost faculty of attention, we may yet 
understand how the very elaborateness and digressive 
impertinences of their structure constituted, in their 
own time, a chief source of their influence. 

But w^e must also remember that many of Baxter's 
sermons, as we have them, are really expansions of 
what he preached, intended for being read rather than 
being heard. The Saints' Rest itself, which in its com- 
plete shape is an elaborate treatise, in four parts, filling 


a goodly octavo, was originally written as a sermon, 
and the Reformed Pastor equally so. We must judge 
Baxter's preaching, therefore, rather from parts of such 
treatises than from the whole ; and it is easy to trace 
in them all places where the preacher only or mainly 
is to be recognised — passages of rapid and overpower- 
ing practical energy, in which every word is lit with 
the passion of concentrated oratory, and which hurry 
the reader with something of the same glow of feeling 
which they must have kindled in those Avho heard them. 
Such passages tell more than anything else what Bax- 
ter's oratory must have been, when he was in " the 
vigour of his spirits." Some, like Howe, may have ex- 
celled him in grandeur and elevation of conception, or 
in pathetic tenderness of feeling, as in The Redcejiiers 
Tears over a Lost World ; others, like Flavel, sur- 
passed him in piquancy and pith of idea, and homely 
expressiveness of language, acting on the hearer like a 
series of unexpected surprises, always stimulating and 
rewarding attention ; but none approached him in 
sweep and fulness of emotion, and in that sustained 
and prolonged rush of fiery appeal, earnest pleading, 
entreaty, or rousing alarm which constitute the most 
characteristic elements of pulpit eloquence. Baxter 
communes so^d to soid with his hearers ; every other 
interest is withdrawn ; no colouring medium of fancy 
or of mere literary effect distracts the impression ; 
only the Gospel, in the urgency of its claims or the 
pricelessness of its treasures, is made to fill the mind 
and heart. It is this fulness of the Gospel animating 
every sermon, and the conscious responsibility of pro- 
claiming it — of " beseechmg man in Christ's stead to 
be reconciled to God" — that gives to his highest flights 
that mixture of awe and passion, of rapture and yet of 

BAXTER. 343 

sense and reality, which makes him unequalled as an 
evangelical preacher. 

Baxter's labours at Kidderminster were continued 
till the eve of the Eestoration. AVitli his preaching 
and pastoral visits, and clerical disputations, it might 
have been supposed that his time would have been 
fully occupied. But in addition to all these labours, 
he published a great variety of treatises during this 
period. Having once entered upon the field of author- 
ship, his pen never rested. He wrote a treatise against 
infidelity,* one on Christian Concord, and another on 
Universal Concord; also disputations on the Sacra- 
7nents and on Church Oovcrmncnt. His Call to the Un- 
converted, and his Reformed Pastor, with many other 
tracts on special doctrines, also belong to the same 
period. And not only did he write of Christian con- 
cord, but he prosecuted zealously various proposals of 
union among the Presbyterians, Independents, and 
Episcopalians, and even the Baptists. His views on 
this subject drew him into controversy with Dr Owen, 
who, though much less flexible in his notions, both 
theological and ecclesiastical, yet exceeded our divine in 
calm judgment and practical temper. These proposals 
one and all failed, no less than the more famous ones 
under higher auspices, in which he afterwards engaged. 

But Baxter had aspirations also of another kind in 
those days — aspirations which show how far his Chris- 
tian zeal ranged above the level of his time, and anti- 

* His Uiireasonahleness of Infidelity, directed against Clement Writer, 
of Worcester, who professed to be one of the sect of Seekers, but 
was either, says Baxter, a "juggling Papist or an infidel." — " An arch- 
heretic, a fearful apostate, an old wolf, a subtle man, a materialist and 
moralist," says Edwards, in his Gangroena. Baxter, in his later years, 
wrote two additional treatises in defence of the Christian religion, one 
of them against Lord Herbert's De Veriiate. 


cipated the triumphs of a later missionary Christianity. 
He was one of the most active in providing the means 
for Elliot, the apostle of the Indians, to carry on his 
great work in America. He maintained a correspond- 
dence with this devoted missionary, entered most 
heartily into his plans, and expressed himself with a 
mingled wisdom and enthusiasm on his difficulties 
and aims, well deserving of study even now. " The 
industry of the Jesuits and friars, and their successes 
in Congo and Japan, do shame us all save you," he says. 
Perhaps no career would have better suited Baxter 
himself than one like Elliot's, in which his fervid and 
untiring zeal, his evangelical energy, and his impulses 
to independent movement and government, would have 
had free and unbounded scope. 

The death of Cromwell, and the accession and re- 
signation of his son Eichard, found Baxter still at Kid- 
derminster. It is remarkable that, while he looked 
upon the government of the father with unfavourable 
and even bitterly hostile feelings, he regarded the 
government of the son with a friendly interest. The 
mild respectability of Eichard's character, his domes- 
tic virtues, his respect for the clergy and " the sober 
people of the land," as Baxter calls them, attached 
him, as well as many others, and made them readily 
submit to his assumption of power. " Many sober 
men that called his father no better than a traitor- 
ous hypocrite, did begin to think that they owed him 
subjection; which, I confess, was the case with my- 
self." In this expression of o]3inion we can see already 
the commencement of the scliism between the great 
body of the nation, who were tired of contention, and 
who hated the idea of military rule, and the soldiery 
of the Commonwealth, who had virtually governed 

BAXTER. 345 

England by their chief during the last ten years. 
Eichard Cromwell was disposed to represent this 
great and peaceful body of his countrymen. He felt 
himself more allied in sympathy with them than any 
other, and his Parliament was composed mainly of 
men of this class. They, in turn, reciprocated his 
favourable dispositions ; they not only recognised a 
lawful government in his person, but they recog- 
nised the House of Lords, as it had been constituted 
by his father, and were ready peaceably to co-operate 
with it. All this, however, Avas the very reason why 
the soldiery first looked on with displeasure, and then 
actively interfered to overturn his Government. The 
army had no wish to embroil the country ; they had 
been satisfied with the late Protectorate ; but they had 
no intention of letting power slip out of their hands. 
Men like Fleetwood, and Lambert, and Harrison, were 
not the men to permit themselves to be quietly super- 
seded by the return of the civil forms of the constitu- 
tion to their old ascendancy. In Oliver Cromwell 
they had acknowledged at once the head of the army 
and the head of the State ; in Eichard they only saw 
the latter, and that in a very mild and unauthorita- 
tive shape. They saw, at the same time, that the 
continuance and consolidation of his power and the 
power of his Parliament would prove the decay and 
extinction of their own — and they resolved to prevent 
such a result. An active minority in the Commons, 
headed by Sir Harry Vane, abetted their designs. 
There were still men like him who believed in a re- 
public ; even Owen, with all his practical moderation 
and foresight, was of this number. 

Before such a combination of parties Eichard fell. 
The officers of the army united in opposition to him ; 


the more violent of the sectaries disowned him ; 
" Eogers Feake, and such like firebrands, preached 
them into fury, and blew the coals ; but Dr Owen and 
his assistants did the main work." Richard had not 
coveted power, and he retired from it without regret. 

During the agitations that followed — the calling 
together of the " old Eump," its dismissal once more, 
the provisional government in the hands of the offi- 
cers of the army, and Monk's march upon London — 
Baxter still remained in his retirement. But as soon 
as the crisis of the Eestoration approached, he drew 
near to London. He felt the instinct of business, and 
that it was well for him to be at headquarters. He 
arrived in London in April 1660, and soon after, 
along with Dr Manton, held an interview with Monk, 
to " congratulate him." L'Estrange, in one of his scur- 
rilous attacks, after the Eestoration, accused him of 
endeavouring to influence Monk against the King. 
Apart from his own express denial, such a charge 
refutes itself, as inconsistent with all Baxter's con- 
victions and his prejudices. He confessed, indeed, to 
Lauderdale, whom he met on his first reaching Lon- 
don, and "who was just then released from his tedious 
confinement in Windsor Castle," that he had scruples 
about his "obligations to Eichard Cromwell," but 
these scruples were removed by the course of events, 
and every feeling and sympathy of Baxter induced 
him to royalism. He himself explains his interview 
with Monk. It was more creditable to his simplicity 
and enthusiasm than to his penetration. He went to 
request him that "he would take care that debauchery 
and contempt of religion might not be let loose upon 
any man's pretence of being for the King, as it already 
began with some to be." To all such fears there was, 

BAXTER. 347 

iu tlie mean time, a ready assurance. Charles showered 
his proclamations from Breda announcing liberty of 
conscience,* and denouncing " debauchery and pro- 
faneness in those who called themselves the King's 
party." The royal condescension was unbounded at 
the moment. The nation reciprocated the confidence 
which Charles invited. Men who remembered the 
perfidy of the father might urge caution towards the 
son ; but the current of loyalty had set in too strongly 
to be resisted. The most flattering letters as to 
Charles's devotion to the Protestant religion were re- 
ceived from Protestant clergymen in France. "Sir 
Eobert Murray and the Countess of Balcarras " inte- 
rested themselves in procuring such letters, and they 
came in profusion from Daill^ and Drehncourt and 
Eaimond Caches. From the latter, "a famous pious 
preacher at Charenton," Baxter himself received a pom- 
pous character of the King, certifying to his regular 
attendance on the Protestant worship, even in "places 
where it seemed prejudicial to his affairs." 

There was everywhere throughout the country an 
outbreak of loyal enthusiasm. The nation was wild 
with delight; the city bells were rung joyously; bon- 
fires blazed in every street; and the health of the 
King was drunk amidst uproarious gladness.-|- Wliilst 
all this enthusiasm was at its height, the Convention 
Parliament met and decreed that the King should be 
sent for. The popular joy seems scarcely to have 
extended to the Parliament, for "they presently ap- 

* In his famous declaration, dated Breda, April 4, 1660, Charles pro- 
claimed "liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be dis- 
quieted or called in question for differences of opinion which do not 
disturb the peace of the kingdom." 

+ See Aubrey's description, MiscelL, vol. ii. 


pointed a day of fasting and prayer;" and on this 
occasion Baxter was selected, along with Dr Calamy 
and Dr Ganden, to " preach and pray with them at 
St Margaret's, Westminster." This is enough to 
show the complexion of "the Convention" Parliament. 
Loyal, it was yet Puritan and Presbyterian; the ca- 
valiers had been returned in considerable numbers, 
but the Presbjrterians still formed the clear majority; 
and Baxter was now in his element exhorting them. 
" In that sermon," he says, " I uttered some passages 
which were matter of some discourse. Speaking of 
our differences, I told them that whether we should 
be loyal to our King was none of our differences. In 
that we were all agreed: it being as impossible that 
a man should be true to the Protestant principles and 
not be loyal, as it was impossible to be true to the 
Papist principles and to be loyal. And for the con- 
cord now wished in matters of Church Government, I 
told them it was easy for moderate men to come to a 
fair agreement, and that the late Eeverend Primate of 
Ireland (Usher), and myself, had agreed in half an 

It was a brief return of Presbyterian power after 
long neglect, and Baxter rejoiced in it ; the Indepen- 
dents and Dr Owen had retired out of sight. Milton 
was mourning in blindness and solitude the infatua- 
tion of his countrymen. Calamy, Manton, Eeynolds, 
Bowles, and " divers others," along with Baxter, were 
the men of the hour. They had it all their own way ; 
and, amidst prayer and praises, they hailed the restora- 
tion of Charles Stuart. Certain of them went to Breda 
to accompany him ; and, as he passed through the city 
towards Westminster, " the London ministers in their 
places attended him with acclamation, and, by the 

BAXTER. 349 

hands of old Mr Arthur Jackson, presented him with 
a richly adorned Bible, which he received, and told 
them it should be the rule of his actions."' 

It is impossible to contemplate the conduct of the 
Presbyterian clergy at this time without very mixed 
feelings. Pity, and even contempt, mingles with our 
respect for them. The readiness with which they re- 
ceived Charles's protestations, the facility with which 
they allowed themselves to be duped by them, * and 
yet their honest desire to have the nation settled, 
and the simplicity with which they negotiated with 
Charles and Clarendon, excite this conflict of senti- 
ment. It must be admitted that they showed them- 
selves but poor interpreters of the national mind, or of 
the Pioyal character. In the great crisis in which they 
and the country stood, it required men of profound 
policy and far-seeing tactics to uphold the interests 
which they represented ; they were men merely of 
sober views and of honest intentions. 

Wlien we understand the character of Charles and 
his advisers on the one side, and of the Presbyterian 
clergy on the other, it is not difficult to read the mean- 
ing of the tangled and unhappy negotiations which 
foUow^ed. Charles himself had no serious feelings on 
the subject of religion ; he would gladly enough have 
given way to some modifications of the old Prelatical 
and Ritual system, if it would have procured him 
freedom from trouble. He seems even to have had a 
sort of liking and a feeling of gratitude towards the 
clergy, who interested themselves in his restoration. 

* There is something revolting and yet ludicrous in the story of Charles 
causing the Presbyterian clergy who visited him at Bi-eda to be placed 
" within" hearing of his (pretended) secret devotions. The baseness of 
the thing is scarcely more incredible than the simplicity of the clergy. 


Baxter's rough honesty and forwardness of speech 
whetted his careless humour.* But he had no sense 
of honour ; " the word of a Christian King," which he 
had solemnly pledged at Breda, had no meaning in his 
mouth ; the thought of his engagements never troubled 
him for a moment ; and consequently, when the na- 
tional feeling, with the assembling of the next Parlia- 
ment, carried the reaction in favour of arbitrary autho- 
rity and the old Anglicanism beyond his own hopes, he 
naturally fell in with it, and abandoned all attempts 
at holding a fair balance between the Presbyterian and 
ultra-Episcopalian parties. The Presbyterians, at the 
same time, had greatly over-estimated their own posi- 
tion and strength in the country ; and beyond their own 
modified schemes of church government and ritual 
they had no comprehensive policy. They were superior 
in learning, in earnestness, and moderation, to the 
bishops who opposed them. Baxter and Calamy, and 
Manton and Bates, were men of a higher standard, both 
of intellect and character, than Morley and Sheldon, 
and Gauden and Sparrow ; but their views were scarcely 
wider, and in principle not less intolerant. They 
fought for a church theory scarcely less narrow than 
that of their opponents, while they failed to recognise 
that their theory no longer represented any national 
sentiment. The public mind had ceased to interest 
itself in Presbyterianism. It remained a respectable 
tradition, but it was no longer a living power. It no 
longer moved the people. They had gone off into more 
extreme sects, or, with the dominant impulse of the 

* In an interview which Baxter had with Charles, October 22, he tells 
us that he expressed a fear that his plain speeches might be displeasing 
to the King, who replied that he was " not offended at the plainness, 
freedom, or earnestness of them, and that for my free si^eech he took me 
to be the honester man." 

BAXTER. 351 

hour, they had returned to swell to its brimming height 
the resurging tide of Eoyalist Anglicanism. It became 
very soon apparent that the Presbyterian clergy who 
had played so prominent a part in the King's restora- 
tion, were destined to have no weight on the national 
comisels, and no influence in moulding a new ecclesi- 
astical constitution. 

It was necessary, however, for Charles and his ad- 
visers to mediate for some time. So long as the Con- 
vention Parliament sat, the interests of Presbyterianism 
could not be overlooked. The clergy who had sur- 
rounded Charles on his return to Westminster, were its 
guides and authorities ; and an influence which seemed 
backed by such a national representation demanded 
conciliatory and careful treatment. Several of the 
Presbyterian clergy were accordingly selected to be 
royal chaplains. Baxter was among the number, and 
along with Eeynolds, and Calamy, and Spurstow, once 
preached before his Majesty. Lord Broghill, after- 
wards Earl of Orrery, and the Earl of Manchester, were 
chiefly active in these proceedings. They were botli 
men of the early Presbyterian party, and the former as 
well as the latter had taken part in the civil wars on 
the Parliamentary side ; but the ascendancy of Crom- 
well and the Independents had driven them into retire- 
ment, until they came forward to give their prominent 
assistance on the eve of the Piestoration. 

Through the intervention of these noblemen, a con- 
ference was arranged between the King and the Pres- 
byterian clergy. The Lord Chancellor Clarendon was 
of course present at the conference ; and, so far as we 
can judge from his own account, Baxter was the chief 
speaker on behalf of the clergy. The great aim of his 
address was, according to a favourite view of his own, 


to convince the King of the difference between the 
" sober-minded x^eople" (himself and the Presbyterians 
generally), " who were contented with an interest in 
heaven, and the liberty and advantages of the gospel 
to promote it," and the " turbulent fanatic persons in 
his dominions." He urged the possibility of a union 
between the Presbyterians and Episcopalians — "of 
what advantage such a union would be to his Majesty, 
to the people, and to the bishops themselves — and how 
easily it might be procured, by making only things 
'necessary to be' the terms of union — by the true 
exercise of Church discipline against sin — and by not 
casting out the faithful ministers that must exercise it, 
and obtruding unworthy men upon the people." The 
audience ended in a " gracious answer," and in such 
further assurances of royal interest, and earnest desires 
to draw parties together, that an old Puritan minister, 
Mr Ash, "burst out into tears of joy, and could not 
forbear expressing what gladness the promises of his 
Majesty had put into his heart." 

It is needless to discuss whether Charles was sincere 
now or not. The idea is inapplicable to such a character. 
In so far as he cared neither in the abstract for Epis- 
copacy nor Presbytery, he may be pronounced sincere 
in wishing that they would be reconciled, and let him 
alone ; but in so far as he really used no efforts to 
carry out his promises, but gladly abandoned the Pres- 
byterians so soon as the spirit of a new Parliament 
permitted him to do so, his want of truth here, as 
everywhere, was conspicuous. " Either at this time or 
shortly after," the Presbyterian clergy were requested 
to draw out a statement of their proposals as to Church 
government. The King professed a wish to deal with 
a few representatives of either party rather than to 

BAXTER. 353 

make any general appeal to the body of the clergy. 
The latter process, which Baxter and others urged, he 
well said, " would be too tedious and make too much 
noise. " He promised to make the Episcopalians, on their 
side, draw out a paper of "concessions," so that seeing 
both together it might be apparent what probability 
of success awaited the negotiation. The Presbyterian 
clergy accordingly "appointed to meet from day to 
day" at Sion College, and in " about three weeks' time" 
they were ready with a paper of proposals which they 
agreed to submit to the King, along with Archbishop 
Usher's form of government, called his Eeduction. Mr 
Calamy and Dr Eeynolds were the chief authors of 
the proposals ; " Dr Worth and Dr Eeynolds drew up 
what was against the ceremonies : the abstract which 
was laid before the King I," says Baxter, " drew up." 

In so far, the leaders of the Presbyterian clergy 
acted with great wisdom. Their adoption of Arch- 
bishop Usher's model as the basis of Church govern- 
ment showed a singular spirit of moderation. Their 
tolerance of a liturgy, while requiring the amendment 
of several parts of the Book of Common Prayer and 
objecting to its rigorous enforcement, was no less com- 
mendable. That they should, while making these 
concessions, have recurred to their old complaints as 
to the surplice, the sign of the cross in baptism, bow- 
ing at the name of Jesus, and kneeling at the altar, 
was only what might have been expected. The very 
extent of the concessions they made in the general 
mode of Church government and worship would only 
lead them to cling more tenaciously than ever to those 
accidents which their long struggle had invested with 
a deeper importance than ever. Had the heads of the 
Episcopalian party been actuated by the same honest 



motives as the Presbyterian leaders, it seems as if 
tlie divisions wliicli had so long rent the Church 
of Enoiand might now have been healed. It seems 
so, because in point of fact the wisest men on either 
side were not far from one another. Baxter and 
Usher had agreed in half an hour, as the former had 
told the Convention Parliament in the sermon he 
preached before them. Pteynolds, who drew up the 
paper at Sion College against the ceremonies, after- 
wards became a bishop. Calamy apparently would 
have accepted the offer also made to him if he could 
have done so consistently with his former opinions 
and the sympathy of his friends. Baxter's scrupulous 
temper, more than his principles, prevented him from 
accepting a similar offer. Yet here, as everywhere 
throughout this varying struggle, it may be doubted 
whether there were not fundamental oppositions be- 
tween the parties as a whole that precluded all idea 
of hearty and happy union. It was not any broad 
difference of dogmatic principle, but it was a difference 
of feeling, of sympathy, of aim — a difference in the 
mode of religious thought and the very idea of Chris- 
tian worship. The literature of the times shows this 
in a striking manner. The Puritans, with all their 
deep devotional fervency, had become accustomed to 
models of worship altogether unlike the old Catholic 
forms. Baxter's Reformed Liturgy, and the circum- 
stances in which it was written, ]3roves this memorably. 
It is difficult to suppose that those who looked upon 
the Book of Common Prayer with an affectionate and 
admiring zeal, which persecution had only deepened, 
could have cordially united with those who regarded 
Baxter's Liturgy as an appropriate or tasteful expres- 
sion of devotional feeling. In passing from the one 

BAXTEK. 355 

to tlie other we enter, beyond doubt, into a changed 
atmosphere : we leave the calm, tranquil, and hoary- 
sanctities — dim in their antique reserve — of the Ca- 
tholic past, for the heated, lengthy, and obtrusive 
utterances of a comparatively modern dogmatism. 

But whatever may have been the wish or indiffer- 
ence of the King, or the inclination of the Presby- 
terians, it must be admitted that the Episcopalian 
leaders never meant to enter into any compromise. 
Accordingly, while the former had been debating 
their concessions at Sion College, the latter had been 
doing nothing. " When we went with our pa]3ers to 
the King," says Baxter, " and expected there to meet 
the divines of the other party, according to promise, 
with their proposals, also containing the lowest terms 
which they would yield to for peace, we saw not a man 
of them, nor any papers from them of that nature — no, 
not to this day." The King, however, received their 
papers, and expressed himself pleased that they were 
" for a liturgy, and had yielded to the essence of Epis- 
copacy." It was also announced to them shortly after- 
wards that the royal intentions as to religion would be 
made known in the form of a declaration, " to which 
they would be at liberty to furnish their exceptions." 
This declaration appeared on the 4th of September 
1660. It renewed the King's assurances of liberty of 
conscience given at Breda, commended the conduct of 
the Presbyterian ministers who had there waited upon 
him, and held out the prospect of a meeting to revise 
the liturgy. Baxter Avas greatly displeased with this 
document when he saw it, and wrote a sharp and urgent 
reply to it, which, however, he modified at the re- 
quest of Calamy and Eeynolds. He had many inter- 
views with the Lord Chancellor on the subject, and also 


witli some of the bishops ; and after a second reply, or 
"paper of alterations," had been substituted for the 
first — which, even in its modified form, was "so un- 
grateful" to the Chancellor that they were never called 
upon to present it to the King — a formal interview be- 
tween his Majesty and the representatives of both par- 
ties was held at the " Lord Chancellor's house." The 
chief point of discussion at this meeting regarded the 
authority of the bishop, whether it should be with the 
consent of the presbyters or not — Baxter and his friends, 
of course, earnestly contending for this consent. The 
wary Chancellor let the Presbyterians understand that 
he had received petitions from the Independents and 
Anabaptists, and he proposed thatthey and others should 
be allowed to meet for " religious worship, so that they 
did it not to the disturbance of the peace." The Pres- 
byterians did not venture to repudiate this proposal, 
but they gave it a very cold response. They dreaded 
that the toleration would extend to Papists and Soci- 
nians ; and " for our parts," said Baxter, " we could 
not make their toleration our request." The result of 
this meeting was so far good. The " declaration" was 
issued in a new and revised form, in which it was 
found that the consent of the presbyter was recognised. 
Baxter was delighted when he first saw this change, 
and " presently resolved to do his best to persuade all 
to conform, according to the terms of the declaration." 
His elation did not last long, and the breath of 
suspicion seems to have haunted him even in the 
moment of it. For it was only the next day that, 
on being asked by the Lord Chancellor if he would 
accept a bishopric, he hesitated till he should see 
the matter of the declaration passed into a law. 
Pteynolds, Calamy, and himself, "had some speeches 

BAXTER. 357 

together " on the subject, and they came to the con- 
chision that there was nothing inconsistent with their 
principles in the acceptance of a bishopric ; " but all 
the doubt was whether the declaration would be made 
law as we then expected, or whether it were but a 
temporary means to draw us on till we came up to 
all the Diocesans desired." In the end, as has been 
already stated, Eeynolds was the only one that ac- 
cepted a bishopric. Baxter's letter to Clarendon, in 
which he declined the proffered honour, is a touch- 
ing and noble document, bright in every sentence 
with his rare disinterestedness. We may regret his 
scruples, but we must admire his simple-minded in- 
difference to the world and its honours. When, in 
the close of the letter, he says that, " for the sake of 
that town of Kidderminster, he would gladly receive 
the vicarage there, or, if this cannot be managed, that 
he would willingly resume his old post of curate," his 
self-sacrifice rises into pathos. A still higher spirit 
of self-sacrifice, indeed, might have prompted him to 
lay aside his personal scruples, and have extorted yet 
more warmly our admiration — but it would not so 
much have moved and interested our affections. 

In the King's declaration it was announced that 
the Liturgy should be revised and reformed; and Bax- 
ter continued to urge the Chancellor to adopt the 
means for carrying out this part of the royal inten- 
tions. The result was the famous Savoy conference 
in the spring of the following year (1661), which may 
be said at once to have brought the negotiations to a 
head, and to have shown the insincerity on the Epis- 
copalian side, which had characterised them all along. 
Twenty- four commissioners, with certain assistants, 
were appointed to meet at the Savoy, the Bishop 


of London's lodgings, and take into consideration the 
subject of the Liturgy. The list comprises all the 
well-known names who had hitherto taken the lead 
in the negotiations, and the prospect of settlement 
might have seemed a fair one. But before the com- 
missioners had met, the election of a new Parlia- 
ment, and the turn of public affairs, had emboldened 
the Episcopalian party to a degree which entirely 
destroyed any such prospect. Disinclined in them- 
selves to yield anything, they now perceived that the 
nation was prepared to support them in their most 
extreme views. Parliament was prepared to outrun 
even the zeal of the bishops ; and in such circum- 
stances it was not likely that they would be more 
ready than they had been to meet the Presbyterians 
half way with concession. Accordingly the confer- 
ence was nearly breaking down at the very com- 
mencement on this point. As before — after the de- 
liberations of the Presbyterians at Sion College — the 
Prelates had no proposals to make — no concessions to 
advance. The Bishop of London, as their spokesman, 
opened the conference by saying that it was not they, 
but the opposite party, that had been the " seekers of 
the conference," and that they had nothing to say or 
do till the Presbyterians had brought forward in writ- 
ing what alterations they desired in the Liturgy. This 
was an ingenious Prelatic device, and, to some extent, 
served its purpose. Baxter, contrary to the advice of 
all his brethren, as he confesses, concurred in the 
statement of the Bishop of London ; and the issue 
was, that he and others agreed to draw out a state- 
ment of their exceptions to the Book of Common 
Prayer, and of additions or new forms, such as would 
meet their approval. 

BAXTEK. 359 

It was tlie latter part of the task that Baxter 
undertook, and in the course of a fortnight he had 
completed an entirely new liturgy, to which we have 
already alluded. This was a fatal attempt. It was 
impossible that by any plan Baxter and his friends 
could more effectually have played into the hands 
of their opponents. The rashness and self-confidence 
betrayed in the very conception is enough to amaze 
us. It served to startle even the most moderate 
among the bishops, while it put the weapon of re- 
sistance which they desired into the hands of those 
who had made up their minds against all change. 
The result was what might have been expected. It 
was felt, even before the renewal of discussion, that 
all hope of settlement was at an end. The paper 
of exceptions, and a "fair copy of our reformed lit- 
urgy," was handed to the bishops, but Baxter expresses 
his doubts whether they were ever read by the " gene- 
rality of them." The conference itself degenerated into 
a series of disputations between some of the more 
active and zealous of the bench, and our divine as the 
chief spokesman of the other side. In this rivalry 
of logic he found a lively interest, and acquitted 
himself with distinction; but his cause suffered and 
sank into contempt. Many of the bishops absented 
themselves, and even some of the Presbyterians, among 
whom was Lightfoot, followed their example. The 
attendance dwindled to three or four of either party, 
besides the chief combatants. Some spectators from 
" the town " gathered to witness the intellectual com- 
bat. Gunning — a clever and well-informed divine of 
the Laudian school, " noted for a special subtlety of 
arguing " — took the main share of the debate on the 
part of the bishops. " The two men," says Burnet, 


" were the most unfit to heal matters, and the fittest 
to undo them, that could have been found out. . . . 
They spent some days in much logical arguing, to the 
diversion of the town, who thought here were a couple 
of fencers engaged in disputes that could never be 
brought to an end, or have any good effect." 

The unfortunate issue of the Savoy conference pre- 
pared the way for all the harsh and miserable legisla- 
tion that followed. When men had begun to laugh at 
the subject of dispute, the time of renewed intolerance 
and persecution was not far distant. The character 
of the Presbyterians, besides, had somewhat suffered 
from the ill-fated meeting. Their moderation, at first 
so commendable that it placed their opponents in a 
predicament from which they could hardly escape, save 
by yielding their claims, was rendered suspicious by 
the idea of a new liturgy, and the general tenor of the 
discussion. The effects were immediately apparent. 
Baxter, who had lately refused a bishopric, now found 
it impossible to obtain his modest settlement at Kid- 
derminster as vicar, or even as curate. He details 
at length his dealings in this matter with Claren- 
don, and Morley, Bishop of Worcester, and Sir Ealph 
Clare, " an old courtier," who seems to have been the 
man of property and influence at Kidderminster, " the 
ruler of the vicar, and all the business." The affair 
throughout is painful and discreditable to all engaged 
in it saving Baxter himself. It is perfectly obvious 
that they had no wish to promote his request. Even 
Clarendon, with all his professions, cannot be credited 
with any honest wish to befriend him ; and he at 
length had penetration enough to see this, however 
his simplicity may have been at first beguiled. " For 
a Lord Chancellor," he says, " that hath the business 

BAXTER. 361 

of the kingdom in liis hand, and lords attending him, 
to take up his time so much and often about so low 
a vicarage, or a curateship, when it is not in the 
power of the Iving or the Lord Chancellor to procure 
it, though they so vehemently desire it ! But, oh ! 
thought I, how much better do poor men live who 
speak as they think, and do as they profess, and are 
never put upon such shifts as these for their present 

Unable to procure his desired settlement at Kidder- 
minster, he settled in London, and became colleague 
for some time to Dr Bates, at St Dunstan's-in-the-West, 
where he preached once a-week. Here began the sys- 
tem of molestation, from which he was scarcely ever 
afterwards free. Spies waited upon his sermons, and 
reported their subjects in high quarters,* with in- 
sinuations of their seditious tendency. He is said to 
have frightened and driven them away by his telling 
exposures in a series subsequently pubhshed under 
the title of '' The Formal Hypocrite Detected." The 
crowds that thronged to his preaching were very 
great. On one occasion, when preaching at St Law- 
rence, Jewry, his famous sermon on " Making light 
of Christ," Lord Broghill and the Earl of Suffolk, 
" with whom he was to go in the coach," were "fain to 
go home again," so great was the crowd ; while the 
pastor of the church was glad to get up into the pulpit 
with him, as the only place where he could find room. 
On another occasion, at St Dunstan's, an alarm was 
raised that the edifice was in danger. His calm 
courage and lofty appeal to the "great noise of the 
dissolving world" made a deep impression on the 

* " I scarce tliink that ever I preached a sermon without a spy to give 
them his report of it." 


excited and rushing congregation, and succeeded in 
quieting it. 

Baxter continued liis preacliing till the passing of 
the Act of Uniformity. Wliile the church of St Dun- 
stan's was preparing, he preached at St Bride's, " at 
the other end of Fleet Street," and also at Blackfriars, 
and he held, besides, a week-day lecture in Milli Street, 
at the request of Mr Ashurst, "with about twenty citi- 
zens." He was willing, in however humble a capacity, 
to serve the Church. His scrupulous disinterestedness 
would not allow him to receive any remuneration, ex- 
cept for his lectures in Milk Street, for which, he says, 
" they allowed me forty pounds per annum till we were 
all silenced." 

This issue was fast approaching. The Parliament 
of 1661 was keen to hurry matters to a crisis. It 
began its career by requiring every member to take 
the sacrament after the old manner, and by ordering 
the Covenant to be burned. The power of the sword 
was declared to belong inalienably to the sovereign, 
and all members of corporations were bound to testify 
that resistance was unlawful. While busy in this 
work of reactionary legislation, the insurrection of 
the Fifth-monarchy men, under Venner, took place. 
Everything seemed designed to carry the tide of reac- 
tion to the highest. This insane attempt served as a 
justification for the proposal of the most extreme 
measures against all parties disaffected in any degree 
towards the Church. The Act of Uniformity was 
passed in May. By this Act every minister was bound, 
before the feast of St Bartholomew, in the ensuing 
August, to declare his assent to everything contained in 
the Prayer-book, under penalty of forfeiting his bene- 
fice. Baxter did not even wait for the expiry of the 

BAXTER. 363 

probationary period, but immediately gave up preach- 
ing. " The last sermon I preached," he says, " was on 
May 25." His reasons were that he considered him- 
self to be included under a doubtful clause of the Act, 
which was supposed to termmate the liberty of lecturers 
at that time, and that he wished that his nonconfor- 
mity might act as an example to others who might 
have hesitated. 

St Bartholomew's day, the 2-ith of August 3662, 
marks a great epoch in the religious history of England. 
Puritanism henceforth merges into Nonconformity. The 
ejection of two thousand of the most pious and excel- 
lent ministers of the Church carried the struggle which 
had been so long waged within it into a different sphere, 
and imparted to it a new character. During two years 
Baxter had been one of the most prominent men in 
the country. In the last efforts of Puritanism to main- 
tain its ground within the ecclesiastical order of the 
country, he had been its conspicuous representative. 
With the Act of Uniformity he withdrew into private 
life, and for ten years is scarcely heard of, save as one 
of many victims of the miserable persecutions of the 
period, which pursued him to his most retired privacy. 

Strangely enough, he commenced this period of his 
life by an act which he had hitherto looked upon as 
scarcely permissible in the case of a clergyman — he 
got married. His wife's name was Margaret Charlton. 
She was young and well-born : he was not old,* but 
his health had never been good, and his circumstances 
were sufficiently gloomy. There is not much wonder. 

* Her age is stated to have been twenty-two or twenty-three, while 
Baxter was in his forty-seventli year. She belonged, according- to his 
own statement, to " one of the chief families in the county" (Worcester- 


therefore, that the marriage excited great astonishment, 
according to his own confession. "The king's mar- 
riage was scarcely more talked of" It proved, how- 
ever, in every respect a happy union. Mrs Baxter 
was not merely a pious and excellent help-mate to 
her husband, but a noble-hearted and heroic woman, 
who shared and lightened his imprisonment. She 
died before him, and he embalmed her memory in 
what he called a " Breviate of her life." 

After his marriage he retired to Acton, where he 
followed his studies " privately in quietness." He at- 
tended the parish church in the forenoon, and in the 
afternoon preached in his own house to a few friends 
and "poor neighbours," who assembled with his family. 
JSTow and then he spent a day in London. The works 
on which he was engaged were his chief interest. He 
completed here his Christian Directory, or Sum of 
Practical Divinity, and also some of his well-known 
shorter works, his Life of Faith, his 8aint or Brute, 
Row or Never, and The Divine Life. One day as he 
was preaching " in a private house," a bullet was fired 
in at the window, passed by him, and narrowly missed 
the head of his sister-in-law. 

During these years that Baxter passed at Acton, the 
course of public events was marked by a series of start- 
ling vicissitudes. In 1663 there was renewed talk of 
a comprehension, in which he bore his part, but which 
ended as before in nothing. The King had passed in 
December of the preceding year an indulgence, includ- 
ing Papists ; but Parliament had remonstrated, and 
followed up their remonstrance by the Conventicle 
Act (1663), which prohibited attendance on any wor- 
ship but that of the Church of England, under the 
severest penalties — three months' imprisonment for 

BAXTER. 365 

tlie first offence, five for the second, and seven years' 
transportation for the third, on conviction before a 
single Justice of Peace. In the close of 1665 the 
plague broke out in London, when, Baxter says, " most 
of the conformable ministers fled and left their flocks 
in the time of their extremity," and the ejected Noncon- 
formists preached in the forsaken churches and minis- 
tered to the sick and dying. Yet during this very 
time — when the Parliament, in dread of the visitation 
which had laid waste London, had taken refuge at 
Oxford — Sheldon and Clarendon busied themselves in 
riveting the chains of Nonconformity by the infa- 
mous Five Mile Act, which prescribed that all who 
refused to swear that it was unlawful, on any pretence 
whatever, to take up arms against the King, should be 
banished five miles from any corporate town or burgh 
sending members to Parliament. 

The fall of Clarendon in 1667, and the rise of the 
Duke of Buckingham, brought some remission from 
these bitter exactions ; but the strain of intolerance 
was only temporarily relaxed. Through various alter- 
nations, — -renewed proposals for comprehensions by 
Lord Keeper Bridgman — a renewed royal indulgence 
in 1672 — and yet further proposals for accommoda- 
tion, in which Tillotson and Stillingfleet took a part, 
with Manton, Bates, and Baxter on the side of the 
Nonconformists, — the ecclesiastical liistory of the reign 
preserved the same disgraceful character, only equalled 
by its court disasters and military dishonour. The 
national life and reputation sank gradually to a lower 
ebb; while the bishops, with an obstinacy equally 
mean and wicked, still stood in the way of any com- 
promise, and delighted to stretch forth the hand of 


Baxter appears to have lived in studio^^s quietness 
at Acton till about 1670. The venerable Sir INIatthew 
Hale was his neighbour, and a very pleasant neigh- 
bour, with whom he had frequent conferences, " mostly 
about the immortality of the soul and other philoso- 
phical and foundation points, which were so edify- 
ing that his very questions and objections did help 
me to more light than other men's solutions." He 
greatly commends Hale's piety, moderation, and cour- 
tesy. " When the people crowded in and out of my 
house to hear, he openly showed me great respect be- 
fore them at the door, and never spoke a word against 
it. He was a great lamenter of the extremities of the 
times, and of the violence and foolishness of the pre- 
dominant clergy ; and a great desirer of such abate- 
ments as might restore us all to serviceableness and 
unity." His quiet life of study, and his philosophical 
discussions with Sir Matthew Hale, were suddenly in- 
terrupted by a warrant smnmoning him before the 
justices at Brentford. He was accused of holding a 
conventicle, and of not having taken the Oxford oath. 
After being subjected to great rudeness, and scarcely 
permitted to speak in his own defence, he was com- 
mitted to Clerkenwell Prison. Here, however, his 
imprisonment was "nogTeat suffering," for "I had," 
he says, "an honest jailer, who showed me all the 
kindness he coidd. I had a large room and the liberty 
of walking in a fair garden. My wife was never so 
cheerful a companion to me as in prison." He was 
liberated at length by a habeas corpus, some flaw hav- 
ing been found in his mittuuus. This the judge, in 
dismissing him, took care to point out. The law was 
against conventicles, he was reminded, and " it was only 
upon the eri'or of the warrant that he was released." 

BAXTER. 367 

In order to escape further molestation he returned 
to Totteridge, near Barnet. He was afraid " they might 
amend their mittimus " and lay him up again, and 
this drove him from Middlesex and his pleasant house 
at Acton. His present residence was far from com- 
fortable. He had only "a few mean rooms, which 
were extremely smoky, and the place withal so cold " 
that he spent the winter in great pain, troubled by " a 
sore sciatica, and seldom free from much anguish." 
Amidst all his discomfort, however, he never inter- 
mitted his studies. His great Latin System of Divinity 
— his Mctliodus Thcologim — was now begun. Here 
also he wrote his Aijology for the Nonconformists, and 
entered into a long discussion with Owen about the 
old ever-recurring subject of the terms of union among 
Christians. It was at this time, too, that he had a cor- 
respondence with the Earl of Lauderdale, with whom he 
had formerly some dealings on the eve of the Eestora- 
tion. Lauderdale either had a really kindly interest 
in Baxter, or he craftily acted at the suggestion of 
others, with the view of removing him to scenes where 
his influence would be less troublesome. He offered to 
take him with him to Scotland, and to make him either 
a Bishop there or a Principal of one of the Colleges. 
But Baxter pleaded his age and infirmities, and his 
engagement in the composition of his Mcthodus, 
which, if he lived to finish it, "was almost all the 
service he expected to do to God and His Church more 
in the world." Hard as was his lot in England, he 
was evidently not disposed to commit himself to the 
tender mercies of Lauderdale in Scotland. 

After the King's " dispensing declaration" in 1672, 
he removed to London, and resumed, after an interval of 
ten years, public preaching. " The 1 9th of November 


(1672), my baptism day, was tlie first day," he says, 
" after ten years' silence, that I preached in a tolerated 
public assembly." From this time on to 1682, or 
another space of ten years, he continued to preach 
under varying circumstances of difficulty and per- 
secution. It is not necessary to trace his successive 
changes during these mournful and unhappy years — 
now encouraged by the capricious indulgence of the 
royal declaration — and now threatened by the restrain- 
ing vigilance of Parliament. Driven from one place of 
worship to another — from St James's Market House to 
Oxendon Chapel, which the liberality of his friends 
built for him — from Oxendon Chapel to one in the 
parish of St Martin, then to Swallow Street, and finally 
to New Street, — he was hunted by informers, and 
worried by persecutors, wherever he went. " I was 
so long wearied," he says, " with keeping my doors 
shut against them that came to distrain my goods for 
preaching, that I was fain to go from my house, and to 
sell all my goods, and to hide my library first, and 
afterwards to sell it : so that if books had been my 
treasure (and I valued little more on earth), I had 
now been without a treasure. For about twelve years 
I was driven a hundred miles from them ; and after I 
had paid dear for the carriage, after two or three years 
I was forced to sell them." Two warrants for his 
apprehension were issued during this period ; and on 
one occasion constables and beadles, for twenty -four 
Sundays, watched his chapel door in Swallow Street 
to seize hmi. 

On the 24th of August 1682 he preached in New 
Street. "I took that day," he says, "my leave of the 
pulpit and public work in a thankful congregation." 
He had been in the country to recruit liis health, and 

BAXTER. 369 

returned in great weakness. " When I had ceased 
preaching," he says, " and was newly risen from ex- 
tremity of pain, I was suddenly surprised by a poor 
violent informer, and many constables and officers 
who rushed in, apprehended me, and served on me 
one warrant to seize my person for coming within five 
miles of a corporation, and five more warrants to dis- 
train for a hundred and ninety pounds for five ser- 
mons." He was " contentedly" proceeding to jail 
when a medical friend, Dr Thomas Cox, meeting him, 
forced him to return to his "couch and bed," giving 
at the same time his oath before five justices that he 
could not be removed to prison " without danger of 
death." The King is represented as having been con- 
sulted on the subject, and as having said, " Let him die 
in his bed." It was determined, however, that his 
supposed deathbed should be as bitter as possible. 
" They executed all their warrants on my books and 
goods, even the bed that I lay sick on, and sold them 
all." And when he had borrowed some further bed- 
ding and necessaries, they threatened to come again 
and take all, so that he had no remedy but " to forsake 
his house, and goods, and all, and to take secret lodg- 
ings at a distance in a stranger's house." * 

Baxter was destined, amidst all his weakness, to 
survive this harsh and cowardly cruelty, and even worse 
treatment than this. Again, in 1684, while he lay "in 
pain and languishing," warrants were sent forth against 
him. On his refusing to admit them, six officers were 
set to watch at his " study door, who watched all 
night, and kept me from my bed and food, so that the 
next day I yielded to them, who carried me, scarce 
able to stand, to the sessions, and bound me in four 

* Penitent Confessions. 
2 A 


hundred pounds bond to my good behaviour." Ee- 
peatedly he was subjected to the same infamous 
harshness, and forced, in " all his pain and weakness, 
to be carried to the sessions-house, or else forfeit his 
bond." It is impossible to conceive oppression at 
once more petty and intolerable — cruelty more un- 
necessary and more tormenting. 

In such acts of despotic weakness and cowardly 
brutality the last years of the reign of Charles ap- 
]3ropriately dragged themselves out. The prisons were 
crowded with "aged ministers," the Courts of Justice 
were grossly corrupted, thronged by a base and miser- 
able crew of informers — the spawn of an age of lies 
and imposture — and presided over by men without 
principle or humanity. The Court, the Church, the 
Universities were alike without credit or honour. 
And while hundreds of the aged Puritan clergy 
languished in j)rison, some of the best blood of Eng- 
land was shed upon the scaffold. The same justice 
which w^as outraged by the sufferings of Baxter turned 
with averted eyes from the murder of PaisseU and 
of Sidney. 

With the death of Charles and the accession of 
James, in February 1685, Baxter's troubles reached their 
height. In the beginning of this year he had pub- 
lished a Paraphrase on the New Testament, with notes, 
in the course of which he was supposed to make 
some disparaging reference to the bishops. The charge 
was a mere pretence. The real aim w^as effectually 
to silence by imprisonment one w^ho had so long 
been a favourite object of resentment to the Church 
and the Government. On the 28th of February he 
was committed to the King's Bench Prison by war- 
rant of Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. He apphed 

BAXTER. 371 

for a haheas corpus, and by this means was enabled 
to secure his liberty till his trial, which was fixed 
to take place in May. The indictment, which is 
a long Latin document, interspersed with quotations 
from his Faraplirase, charged him with being a sedi- 
tious and factious person, of depraved, impious, and 
restless disposition, and with exciting others to hosti- 
lity against the Church and the bishops. On the 18th 
of May his counsel moved that, on account of his ill- 
ness, some further time might be given him before his 
trial. Jeffreys exclaimed, " I will not give him a 
minute's time more, to save his life. We have had to 
do with other sorts of persons, and now we have a saint 
to deal with, and I know how to deal with saints as 
well as sinners. Yonder," he roared, " stands Gates in 
the pillory" — this infamous informer was at the time 
expiating his offences in the New Palace Yard — " and 
he says he suffers for the truth, and so says Baxter ; 
but if Baxter did but stand on the other side of the 
pillory with him, I would say two of the greatest 
rogues and rascals of the kingdom stood there." 

The trial occurred on the 80th of May. Baxter came 
into court, attended by Sir Henry Ashurst, the son of 
his old friend, Alderman Ashurst, who had been so 
warm a patron of the Puritan clergy.'"' Sir Henry had 
feed counsel to defend him, and PoUexfen opened the 
case on his behalf As he proceeded, Jeffreys brutally 
interrupted him. A question arose as to Baxter's sup- 
posed application of the passage about the " long 
prayers of the Pharisees," to the Liturgy. " Is he not 

* " Among the Nonconformists he acted as a father and a counsellor, 
while his pm-se was ever open to relieve their wants, and his house for 
a refuge to them." To Baxter he was a peculiar friend—"' my most en- 
tire friend," he says. 


now an old knave to interpret this as belonging to 
liturgies ? " " So do others," replied Pollexfen, " of the 
Church of England, who would be loth so to wrong 
the cause of liturgies as to make them a novel inven- 
tion, or not to be able to date them as early as the 
Scribes and Pharisees." " No, no, Mr Pollexfen," said 
the judge ; " they were long-winded extempore prayers, 
such as they (the Puritans) used to say when they 
appropriated God to themselves : ' Lord, we are thy 
people, thy peculiar people, thy dear people.'" "And 
then, he snorted and squeaked through his nose, and 
clenched his hands, and lifted up his eyes, mimicking 
their manner, and running on furiously as he said they 
used to pray." * " A\Tiy, my lord," said Pollexfen, with 
grim irony, " some will think it is hard measure to 
stop these men's mouths, and not let them speak 
through their noses." " Pollexfen," cried Jeffreys, " I 
know you well ; I will set a mark on you ; you are 
the 23atron of the faction. This is an old rogue, who 
has poisoned the world with his Kidderminster doc- 
trine, ... an old schismatical knave ; a hypocritical 
villain." He accused Baxter of encouraoinsj the late 
civil war. Pollexfen appealed to the notorious fact that 
his client, along with Mr Love and others, was always 
well affected to the King and royal family ; and that at 
the Restoration his services were rewarded by the offer 
of a bishopric. But Jeffreys would listen to no reason. 
" What ailed the old blockhead, the unthankful villain, 
then," he replied, " that he would not conform? Hang 
him, he hath cast more reproach upon the constitution 
and discipline of our Church than will be wiped off this 
hundred years ; but I'Jl handle him for it ; for by G — 
he deserves to be whipped through the city." 

* Baxta'a Life and Times. Okme, p. 454. 

BAXTER. 373 

In the same disgraceful manner the trial proceed- 
ed. Jeffreys was drunk with the excitement of hate 
and natural ferocity. The intensity of his passion is 
at once ludicrous and revolting. When Baxter inter- 
posed some remark in his defence, he cried out, " Rich- 
ard, Eichard, dost thou think we'll hear thee poison 
the court ? Eichard, thou art an old fellow ; an old 
knave ; thou hast written books enough to load a cart, 
every one as full of sedition — I might say treason — as 
an egg is full of meat. Thou pretendest to be a 
preacher of the gospel of peace, and thou hast one foot 
in the grave ; it is time for thee to begin to think what 
account thou intendest to give. But leave thee to thy- 
self, and I see thon'lt go on as thou hast begun ; but, 
by the grace of God, I'll look after thee. . . . Come, 
what do you say for yourself, you old knave ? come, 
speak up. AVhat doth he say? I am not afraid of 
you for all the snivelling calves you have got about 
you" — alluding to some persons who were in tears 
about Baxter. " Your lordship need not," calmly re- 
plied the aged divine ; " for I'll not hurt you." 

There have been many such trials of " cruel mock- 
ings ; " but few present a more shameful and humili- 
ating spectacle than that of Baxter. Justice has been 
in other cases as grossly outraged, but it has seldom 
or never been exhibited in an aspect at once more 
hideous and contemptible. The trial ended, of course, 
in conviction. As the jury retired, Baxter ventured to 
say, " Does your lordship think any jury will pretend 
to pass a verdict upon me npon such a trial?" "I'll 
warrant you, Mr Baxter," said Jeffreys, rejoicing in his 
savage coarseness to the last ; " don't you trouble your- 
self about that." He was fined five hundred merks, 
and sentenced to lie in prison till he paid it. Jeffreys 


is understood to have suggested a severer sentence — 
the base indignity of corporal punishment ; but to this 
his colleagues refused to assent. Baxter was unable to 
pay the fine, or probably declined to do it ; aware that 
his liberty would be soon again threatened by some 
equally unjust attack. He lay in prison for nearly two 
years. At length, at the instance, it is supposed, of 
Lord Powis, he was discharged, and went to live in 
Chesterhouse Square, near the meeting-house of Syl- 
vester, a Nonconformist friend and minister. 

Here he spent in peace and liberty his remaining 
years. Weak and dying as he had seemed to be for 
long, he survived the Kevolution, and was able even 
to take some part in the public measures then devised 
for the protection of the dissenting clergy. "Wlien all 
schemes of comprehension had again failed through 
the obstinacy of Parliament, an Act of Toleration was 
passed, by which the Nonconformists were brought 
under the full protection of the law, on subscribing cer- 
tain of the Thirtj'-nine Articles, and taking the oaths 
to Government. Baxter availed himself of this act, and 
incited his Nonconforming brethren to do so, in a char- 
acteristic manner. He drew up a lengthened paper, 
setting forth the sense of the articles, as he understood 
and was willing to subscribe them. His criticisms 
and expositions in many cases show his singularly ex- 
ceptive and over-curious logic. It would be difficult 
to say that he has made any point more clear by his 
distinctions, but he satisfied himself ; and no fewer 
than eighty dissenting clergy, in London and the neigh- 
bourhood, joined with him in his explanations, and 
subscribed the required articles. This fact testifies to the 
extent of his influence, even at this time, when he had 
retired from public life. 

BAXTER. 375 

Feeble and old as he was getting, his pen rested 
not. To this period belongs his elaborate work on The 
True History of Councils Enlarged and Defended, his 
Dying ThougMs, and many other works, controver- 
sial and practical. He resumed preaching, so far as 
his health permitted. On the Sunday mornings he 
took the place of his friend Sylvester, and he held 
a meeting also every alternate Thursday morning. 
He continued thus to preach for four years and a 
half, when he was disabled " from going forth any 
more to his ministerial work. So that what he did 
all the residue of his life was in liis own hired 
house, where he opened his doors morning and even- 
ing every day." 

Thus laboured Baxter unresting to the end. At last 
his " growing distemper and infirmities" confined him, 
first to his chamber and then to his bed. But even 
from his deathbed he may be said to have preached to 
the friends who came to see him. " You come hither 
to learn to die," he said : " I am not the only person, 
that must go this way. I can assure you that your 
whole life, be it ever so long, is little enough to pre- 
pare for death." * He was very humble and resigned. 
In the midst of his sharp sufferings, he would say 
— "It is not for me to prescribe — when Thou wilt, 
what Thou wilt, how Thou wilt." Again — " I have 
pain, but I have peace, I have peace." At length, on 
the evening before his death, his sufferings became 
almost intolerable. He cried out in great agony, till, 
somewhat relieved, he was heard softly to murmur 
" Death, death.",. Early on the morning of Tuesday, 
December 8, 1691, he expired. 

* Bates. — This old friend, who preached his funeral sermon, has pre- 
served a minute account of his last sickness and death. 


Baxter appears before ns in sucli various attitudes, 
that it would require a very extended criticism to 
estimate in full liis labours, writings, character, and 
influence. As a writer alone, his works would fur- 
nish matter for long analysis and comment. What are 
called his " practical works " fill by themselves four 
folio volumes, of about a thousand double-columned 
pages each ; and these, of course, do not comprise his 
great doctrinal treatises, and many of his controversial, 
biographical, and historical writings. His two sys- 
tematic treatises on divinity, the one in English and 
the other in Latin, under the respective names of 
Catholic Theology, and Mdhodus Theologicc Christiancc, 
extend, the one to TOO and the other to 900 folio pages. 
His age, it has been said, was " one of voluminous 
authorship, and Baxter was beyond comparison the 
most voluminous of all his contemporaries." Some 
impression of this voluminousness may perhaps be 
gathered from a comparative statement of the same 
writer * who has made this remark : — " The works of 
Bishop Hall," he says, " amount to ten volumes octavo. 
Lightfoot's extend to thirteen ; Jeremy Taylor's to 
fifteen ; Dr Goodwin's would make about twenty ; Dr 
Owen's extend to twenty-eight ; Richard Baxter's, if 
printed in a uniform edition, could not be compressed 
in less than sixty volumes, making more than from 
thirty to forty thousand closely-printed pages ! " 

It would be a weary, and it would not be a profit- 
able task, to enter upon any examination of such a 
mass of wellnigh forgotten theological literature. It 
would, at any rate, be beside our puq)ose in these 
pages. We shall not even attempt any special criti- 
cism of Baxter's theological opinions. They were a 

* Orme, Baxter's Life and Writings, vol. ii. p. iQQ. 

BAXTER. 377 

subject of endless dispute in his own day, and long 
after lie had sunk to a quiet grave. They touched 
distinctions, many of which have lost all vitality of 
meaning, and would be scarcely intelligible at present. 
To try to revive them would interest none but the 
theological reader, and would not, in liis case, serve 
any good end. It will be more useful, as well as 
more consonant with our aim, to endeavour to char- 
acterise Baxter's general mode of thought, as repre- 
sentative of that of his time, and of the mass of 
theological literature which constituted one of the chief 
manifestations of Puritanism. Differing as Baxter 
did from Owen and others ; involved as he was in 
constant controversy with the extreme Calvinists of 
his generation ; and disposed as some would be to 
deny to him the name of a Calvinist altogether, — there 
is yet no divine of his age bears, in deeper and broader 
impress, the spirit of its religious and theological be- 
lief. He rose above a mere formal Calvinism ; but 
the very processes of reasoning, and peculiarities of 
intellectual apprehension, by which he did so, were 
Calvinistic. He waged a ceaseless fight with the 
Sectarian exaggerations, both of doctrine and eccle- 
siastical practice, that surrounded him ; but the wea- 
pons by which he did so were the very same which 
had cut out for the sects a more lawless and indepen- 
dent way on the great high-road of Protestantism. 
Certainly, of all the men who express and represent 
the spiritual thought of the Puritan age, none does so 
more completely, and to the very centre of his intel- 
ligence, than Ptichard Baxter. 

It was a chief characteristic of this thought, as we 
have already seen, to bring within the sphere of clear 
and coherent argument — in other words, of a compre- 


hensible and didactic scheme, logically related in all 
its parts — the various subjects of the Christian revela- 
tion, and the various phenomena of the spiritual life. 
It systematised religion, both in its intellectual and 
practical relations, to a degree scarcely inferior to that 
of the old scholastic and media3val systems. Christian 
doctrine was to it a vast body of argued knowledge, 
and the Christian life a great " directory of conduct." 
Baxter was prominently possessed by both these 
ideas. They are to be found in all his writings ; 
while he has left, in his Methodus Theologicc on the 
one hand, and his Christian Directory on the other, 
his own extended solution of the range of questions, 
both doctrinal and practical, which concerns the 

Of all the divines of his time, none was more bold 
and deductive. None carried argument with a more 
daring and confident hand into the last recesses of 
the Christian mysteries. Others, such as Owen, 
were more formally and consistently logical. They 
exhibited a more constructive and vigorous power of 
thought. But Baxter possessed an inquisitorial and 
freely-ranging logic, that out-argued all his contempo- 
raries. His restless acuteness impelled him with an 
unshrinking force on all the great problems of Chris- 
tian theology, while his self-confident subtlety made 
him believe that he had explamed them by processes 
of hypothetical argumentation of the most complicated, 
and sometimes of the most imaginary, character. His 
principle of trichotomy, laid down in his Methodus, 
and his views of sufficient grace and of election, are 
conspicuous examples of this. 

The principle of a "divine trinity or unity" ap- 
peared to him to be imprinted on the " whole frame of 

BAXTER. 379 

nature and morality," and to fiirnisli tlie only key to a 
"true method in theology." What Monadism was to 
Leibnitz, as it has been said, Triadism was to Baxter. 
It was the "just distribution" into which all natural 
and all divine science fell. He saw a threefold unity 
everywhere ; in the relations of the godhead — in the 
spiritual constitution of man — in the method of salva- 
tion — in the fruit and grace of it. Father, Word, and 
Spirit — life, intellect, and will — nature, grace, and 
glory — Governor, Saviour, Sanctifier — faith, hope, 
charity, — such are some of the trinal distinctions 
which seem to him to underlie all knowledge, and 
especially all Christian knowledge. Such divisions 
he esteemed a "juster methodising of Christian veri- 
ties according to the matter and Scripture than is 
yet extant." JSTothing can better show the peculiari- 
ties of Baxter's mental temperament, as developed and 
sharpened in the theological atmosphere of his time. 
Such a conception may be considered more an ex- 
travagant than a fair representation of the Puritan 
mode of thought ; but it only brings out, on this 
account, more prominently its characteristic tendency. 
Its author had exactly that measure of originality 
and independence which enabled him to present in 
relief the peculiarities of a prevailing system. Owen 
would never have yielded to the temptation of such 
a speculation ; it would have seemed to him a law- 
less intrusion of human ingenuity into the great pro- 
vince of Christian faith ; yet it was the very same 
dominance of logical argumentation, the same rage for 
systematising within this province, which governed his 
own less fanciful and more constructive reasonings on 
the mystery of the Atonement. The method of both 
was the same — only the one used it with a more sober 


consistency and regard to the tenor of the Calvinistic 
tradition than the other. 

The same peculiarity marks all Baxter's distinctive 
views. They are modifications of Calvinism; but 
they are, at the same time, strongly characterised by 
its hyperlogical scholastic tendency. It was, for ex- 
ample, one of the chief problems in the Genevan 
system of doctrine from the beginning, how to recon- 
cile the free invitation of the Gospel to all, with the 
special gift of grace to some. The will of God as 
loving, and desiring the salvation of, all, seemed to 
come into painful conflict with the same will as only 
efl&cacious in the salvation of some. The spirit of 
modern theological inquiry, with its comparative dis- 
regard of system, is content to acknowledge here a 
profound mystery, which it does not seek to resolve. 
It accepts without any qualification, as an express 
dictate of Scripture, the reality of God's loving will 
to all men, while it leaves the mystery of opposition 
to this will to rest simply on the fact of the corre- 
sponding reality of a human will, which, in virtue of 
its very character — because it is a true will — may 
oppose itself to the Divine. Such a simple appeal to 
fact, however, was not in the spirit of the old theoretic 
divinity. It insisted on compassing the perplexing 
dilemma by some argumentative solution, and this, 
too, on the divine side. The mystery of the divine 
action must be resolved ; and if so, it is clear that it 
only admitted logically of one solution. The call of 
the Gospel is in name, and, according to some hypo- 
thetical sense, addressed to all ; but in truth it only 
concerns some. The principle of logical distinction 
was fearlessly applied to the last mystery — ^the rela- 
tion of the divine and human spirit — in such a man- 



ner as to suppose a double or mixed action in the 
former, whereby it was operative, and yet not ef- 
fectually or successfully operative, in the bestowal 
of grace. Baxter here, as everywhere, adopted the 
principle of the Genevan theology, but developed 
characteristically his own theory as to the solution 
of the problem. " As there is a common grace," he 
says, " actually extended to manlvind" (that is, com- 
mon mercies contrary to their merit), " so there is 
such a thing as sufficient grace in silo genere, whicli 
is not effectual." The ordinary Calvinist was content 
to say that there is common grace and there is special 
grace, explaining the former in various ways, but with 
a uniform result — viz., that it is not in a true or 
saving sense grace at all. Baxter maintained that it 
is truly grace, and yet not grace; or, in his own words, 
"sufficient" grace, and yet not "effectual" grace- 
something "without which man's will cannot, and 
with which it can, perform the commanded act toward 
which it is moved, when yet it doth not perform it." 
This is surely to argue, and yet not to explain any- 
thing. The spirit of rationalistic inquisition, carried 
out more boldly and ingeniously, only ends in a 
more hopeless perplexity — grace sufficient and yet 
not sufficient! That the case baffles explanation — 
that this and every relation of the infinite to the finite 
evades all logical solution — was an admission too 
plain and direct for the theology of the seventeenth 

In the same manner he argued regarding the great 
contrast of election and rcprohatiooi. He supposed, in 
the genuine spirit of his time, that he explained the 
inscrutable secrets of the divine mind by the applica- 
tion of modes of human expression which can have no 


relation to that mind. He mistook, as such explanations 
generally do, a mere verbal inventiveness for a pro- 
cess of thought. He held firmly to election, and, in a 
certain sense, to reprobation, yet not, as he said, pari 
jjassu, or as both springing equally out of the will of 
God. Such a view, which the more consistent Cal- 
vinists around him held, was opposed to his deep 
and pathetic recognition of the reality of the divine 
" call to the unconverted." But, borne away as he 
was by the argumentative subtlety of his day in the 
treatment of such questions, he tried to fill up the gap 
in his logical consistency by hypothetical reasonings 
of his own, which, when analysed, have no meaning, 
and touch no element of fact* 

When we turn from Baxter's doctrinal writings to 
his practical treatment of the Christian life, we meet 
with the same spirit of over-zealous and burdensome 
argumentativeness. His Christian Directonj, or Sum 
of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience, fills the 
whole of the first volume of the folio edition of his 
practical works. It traverses, in four parts, the wide 
field of " Christian ethics, or private duties of Chris- 
tians ; economics, or family duties of Christians ; eccle- 
siastics, or church duties ; and of Christian politics, or 
duties to our rulers and neighbours." As "Amesius's 

* His reasoning, in this particular case, is plainly Arminian. It could 
not, in foot, be anything else ; as. if such matters are to be reasoned 
about at all, the process of reasoning must take one of two fundamental 
lines, of which the Calvinistic is, bej'ond doubt, the onlj^ strictly logical 
and conclusive. Baxter says, "In election, God is the cause of the 
means of salvation by His grace, and of all that truly tendeth to procure 
it. But, on the other side, God is no cause of any sin which is the 
means and merit of damnation ; nor the cause of damnation, but on the 
supposition of man's sin. So that sin is foreseen in the person decreed to 
damnation, ltd not caused, seeing the decree must be denominated from 
the effect and object." 

BAXTEK. 383 

Cases of Conscience were to his Medulla tlie se- 
cond or practical part of theology," so he designed, 
he tells us, his Directory as a supplement to his 
Methoclus Thcologim. It is impossible, save in the 
Eomish casuists, to find anything more minute, elabo- 
rate, and formal, than Baxter's divisions and subdivi- 
sions in this work. The Christian life is not con- 
ceived in its related or broader characteristics as 
a breathing and full-formed reality, rising in the 
" beauty of holiness " from a germ of grace in the 
heart, " the planting of the Lord, and honourable ; " but 
it is dissected in every fibre and vein of its constitu- 
tion; the rounded and spontaneous form stripped off, 
and the skeleton framework and unsightly ligaments 
every^vhere exposed. The outKne is not that of an 
organic structure, but of an artificial model, end- 
lessly divided in its parts, — but without comprehen- 
sion, or even a just discrimination. The contem- 
plation to which the reader is invited is a deeply 
mournful and painful one, over which the heart grows 
weary, and the conscience rises affrighted, rather than 
gathers strength or quickening. There is no natural 
end to the multiplication of questions and cases. 
The author seems merely to stop in his catalogues 
of sins and duties when his memory is run out for 
the time. He admits this. After discussing, for 
instance, " thirty tongue sins, and twenty questions 
for the conviction of drunkards ; eighteen necessary 
qualifications of lawful recreation; eighteen sorts that 
are sinful ; and twelve convincing questions to those 
who plead for such pastimes ; thirty-six questions about 
contracts; twenty about buying and selling; sixteen 
respecting theft; and one hundred and seventy-four 


about matters ecclesiastical ;"* lie yet regrets that the 
want of his library at the time when he composed 
the work prevented him from enlarging his enumera- 
tion of cases. " The very sight," he says, " of Sayrus, 
Fragosa, Eoderiques, Tolet, &c., might have helped my 
memory to a greater number." 

It is perhaps not altogether fair to say that this me- 
chanical and unreal treatment of the Christian life, as 
an unceasing routine of vices to be avoided and virtues 
to be learned, is characteristically Puritan. For the 
Eomish casuists have carried the same mode of treat- 
ment even to a greater and more unhappy excess, and 
Baxter's contemporary, Jeremy Taylor, as prominent a 
representative of Anglican, as Baxter is of Puritan, theo- 
logy and piety, has, in his Ductor Duhitantium, followed 
the same line. It was characteristic of the theological 
spirit of the seventeenth century in its varied manifes- 
tations. Yet there was that in Puritanism which an- 
swered with a peculiar fitness to this casuistical in- 
spection and analysis of life. Its disciplinary system, 
as it sprang out of Geneva, was stamped with an in- 
quisitorial authority which sought to touch the indi- 
vidual Christian at every point, and to bring his con- 
duct into conformity with definite rules. The necessity 
of this disciplinary training — of the negation not merely 
of human passions, but of human folly and amusement, 
— by the application of outward restraints, was peculi- 
arly Genevan. In no respect did the Puritans urge their 
demands more forcibly while still a minority in the 
Church, as in no respect did they carry them out more 
intolerantly m the day of their triumph. After look- 
ing into Baxter's Christian Directory, one can under- 
stand how intolerable life would have been made had 

* Orme's Life and Writings of Baxter, vol. ii. p. 175. 

BAXTER. 385 

the stricter form of Puritanism preserved its power, 
and had it all its own way. It would have set up a 
court of conscience* in every parish, and drilled human 
conduct, in its most private activities, into a sombre 
and harsh routine. As it was, it prescribed, wherever 
it could, the old country sports, converted Christmas- 
day into a fast, and punished adultery with death. To 
such legislative restrictions it would have superadded 
many yokes for the private conscience, which neither 
our fathers of the seventeenth century nor their chil- 
dren could bear. And none would have gone further 
in this way than Baxter, because, with all his perspi- 
cacity and sense, he was a man himself of infinite 
scruples ; while his notions both of individual and civil 
freedom were narrow and unenlightened. In this very 
work he lays down, in opposition to Hooker, the doc- 
trine of the divine right of government, and conse- 
quently the duty of passive obedience, in the most 
undisguised manner. 

But if Baxter represented Puritanism in the over- 
argumentative and unreal character, which both its 
rehgious speculation and its religious discipline were 
apt to assume, he was also the conspicuous representa- 
tive of its spiritual energy and fervour ; and here every 
mind will own his greatness. The details of Puritan 
dogma and ethics may cease to excite interest ; but the 
fire and life of Christian enthusiasm which, especially, 
made Puritanism what it was, can never cease to stir 
the heart, and awaken the admiration of all who appre- 
ciate the self-sacrifice which is willing to spend and be 

* Bishop Heber tells us, in his Life of Jeremy Taylor, that during Owen's 
predominance at Oxford, asVice-Chancellor, a regular court of conscience 
was held in the university, which the students ludicrously nicknamed the 
" Scruple Shop." 

2 B 


spent in the service of God. Prophecies shall fail, and 
tongues shall cease, and knowledge vanish away ; but 
"charity never faileth." Whatever fate may overtake 
dogmatical and ecclesiastical technicalities, spiritual 
earnestness still shines with an imperishable lustre. 
And there is no form of Christianity which has ever 
been more instinct with this spiritual earnestness — 
none which has sought more eagerly and intensely to 
" win men to Christ," and to count all things but 
loss, in comparison with the service and the glory of 
God, than Puritanism ; while, of its great preachers, 
there is no one who exhibits this feature more than 
Kichard Baxter. We have already seen what his labours 
were as a pastor ; and these labours were only a natural 
expression of a divine energy in him, which knew not 
how to rest. There was present, through all his days 
and in all his work, such a constant sense of God and 
the Unseen — such a practical apprehension of the 
awful meaning of salvation in Christ — of men's wretch- 
edness without Christ, and their blessing in Him — that 
it coloured and ordered his whole existence. A rare 
warmth of Christian sensibility glows in his sermons, 
and gives to them and his practical writings the life 
they still have. As we read the Saint's Rest, or the 
Reformed Pastor, or the Call to the Unconverted, we 
feel everywhere throbbing the pulse of an impassioned 
seriousness. The speech is that of one who, gazing 
beyond the mere shadow of earthly things, realises 
himself all the " powers of the world to come," and 
would have others do the same. Its burden is ever- 
more the same message of divine love to perishing 
sinners, "beseeching them in Christ's stead to be 
reconciled to God." It is as if his own soul ever 
moved responsively to the awful thought wliich he 

BAXTER. 387 

says, in his Reformed Pastor, should be present to the 
mind of every preacher. '' 0, if these sinners loere hut 
convinced and awakened, they might yet he converted and 
liver " What ! " he adds, " speak coldly for God and 
men's salvation ? Can we believe that our people must 
be converted or condemned, and yet can we speak in 
a drowsy tone ? In the name of God, brethren, labour 
to awaken your hearts before you come ; and when you 
are in the work, that you may be fit to awaken the 
hearts of sinners." Baxter's own heart, in his more 
memorable sermons, is on fire with an awakened sym- 
pathy. The gleam of spiritual urgency lights up 
every sentence. The pathos of spiritual tenderness 
weeps over the sinner, and the awe of a mighty crisis 
startles and alarms him. He has, as Sylvester said, 
" a moving <7ra&o? and useful acrimony in his words. 
When he spake of weighty soul concerns, you might 
find his very spirit drenched therein." It is the noblest 
aspect in which we can contemplate Puritanism when 
we look upon it as summoning men with a terrible 
zeal from the life of the world and of the flesh to the 
life of faith in God ; and Baxter is the great apostle of 
its evangelical fervency. 

It is in the same point of view that his character 
rises to its highest lustre. A single-minded earnest- 
ness is its pervading feature — in the strength of which 
every other is absorbed. Intellectually subtle and 
hyper-logical — of an almost tormenting ingenuity of 
argument and device — he was, in action, simple and 
unselfish as a child, with no thought but for the good 
of others. His rare disinterestedness is conspicuous 
at every turn of his life. His spiritual devotedness 
rises to martyrdom. Self was utterly forgotten in 


tlie ever-active engrossing thought of doing good, and, 
above all, of saving men's souls alive. " Love to the 
souls of men," said one of his friends, " was the pecu- 
liar character of Mr Baxter's spirit. All his natural 
and supernatural endowments were subservient to this 
blessed end. It was his meat and drink, the life and 
joy of his life, to do good for souls." 

This energy of spiritual enthusiasm, how it lives in 
all he did and suffered ! His heart is in his work. He 
carries forward every task with an impulsiveness that 
glows in its restless zeal — that hurries forward and breaks 
down obstacles rather than warily meets them. This 
was not the quality most needed in some of the emer- 
gencies of his life, and especially in those miserable 
negotiations following the Eestoration, in Avhich he took 
so conspicuous a share. His fiery and single-hearted 
ardour was no match for the cool diplomacy and the 
wily intrigue of Clarendon. But we love him none the 
less, but all the more, for this. And when we see this 
grand and loving energy engaged in its appropriate, its 
highest, work — of " winning souls to Christ" — " bearing 
all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, suffer- 
ing long and yet kind" — we feel how great a hero was 
this Puritan divine. Few have ever lived more unself- 
ishly, more heroically — for God. Amidst pain and 
weariness, amidst imprisonment and spoiling of his 
goods, through disease and in the constant fear of death, 
he kept a valiant heart, and he gave all its valour to 
do the will and the work of Christ. 

Tlius practically great, Baxter's character, like his 
age, fails in breadth. Catholic in aspiration, and even 
in principle — for no one has expounded with a more 
wise and comprehensive moderation the grounds of 
Christian union — he was yet contracted in sympathy, 

BAXTER. 389 

and frequently illiberal in feeling. His account of 
Cromwell, and his description of the Sects, sufiiciently 
show this. With all his generosity of impulse, there 
was a tinge of harshness in him — a sharpness not of 
nature but of temper. His constant suffering affected 
his views of life and society, and imparted to them a 
sombre tone irrespective of that which sprang out of 
the general character of his Puritan faith. Yet in his 
harshness there was no malignity, and not the least 
trace of cynical indulgence. If sometimes ungenerous 
in his appreciation of others, he was intolerant of any 
weakness or sin in himself " I never knew any per- 
son," said Dr Bates, " less indulgent to himself Self- 
denial and contempt of the world were shining graces 
in him." 

Both his self-mortification, and his eager and plead- 
ing affection for the spiritual good of others, can be 
traced in the worn countenance which his familiar 
portraits present. " Abstinence, severities, and labours 
exceeding great," are marked in its ascetic lines and 
somewhat grim expression ; while the depth of his 
ardently affectionate soul speaks in the piercing eye. 
Upon the whole, a certain painful severity predomi- 
nates. Friends like Bates may have remembered his 
countenance amidst its gravity, somewhat inclining to 
a smile ;" but his portraits show nothing of this. There 
is no smile lurks beneath their sad gaze. And so his 
character is wanting in hearty vigour — in emotional 
healthiness. There is a poverty of the merely natural 
life — a lack of genial interest — and of the appreciation 
of any mere earthly beauty or art — that takes from 
it the richness of a full manhood. He was a Puritan, 
and little more. Unlike our two former characters, he 
rose but slightly above his time. As its systems con- 


fined Ms intellect, its moral narrowness bound his char- 
acter. He was strong in its strength ; he was weak 
in its deficiences. The very intensity of his spiritual 
earnestness was in some degree born of this one-sided- 
ness. Had he possessed a broader feeling, and sym- 
pathies more widely responsive to nature and life, he 
could not have lived so entirely as he did above the 
world, and given himself with such an unresting 
vigilance to the love and ministry of souls. If we 
look at him as a man, this want of breadth and vari- 
ety of interest diminishes his greatness ; if we look 
at him as the Puritan pastor and divine, it was the 
very singleness of his spiritual energy that made his 
excellence and crown. 

In this view, the life of Eichard Baxter must ever 
touch the Christian mind with the elevation of its 
self-sacrifice. It was a steady, long-enduring heroism, 
although the world may little regard him as a hero ; 
and the more we look beneath the surface we shall find 
that softer and engaging features were not wanting. 
Gentleness, if not smiles, lay near to his severity ; and 
beneath a certain irritability and flashing vehemence, 
" rather plain than complimentary," there may be also 
found the mildness of patience, and the beauty of a 
silent cheerfulness. 

B U N Y A N. 


In our previous sketches we have contemplated Puri- 
tanism in its more general and comprehensive aspects. 
Cromwell and Milton, and even Baxter, are represent- 
atives of this phase of our national life in those larger 
and controversial relations in which it came promi- 
nently into public notice, and entered as an element 
of disturbance or settlement into our national history. 
In Cromwell we have seen the culmination of its 
military and political genius — in Milton, the highest 
expression of its intellect — in Baxter, its ecclesiastical 
and theological spirit ; but in none or all of these 
have we contemplated, with the distinctness which it 
deserves, its spiritual and social character. True, 
there are in these lives many indications of the spi- 
rituality which mainly animated and sustained the 
movement, and made it a national power — which, 
like a subtle cement, ran through all its parts and 
compacted them into a great historical whole. It was 
the strength of this spirituality which, more than any- 
thing else, made the bond of connection between Crom- 
well and his followers, and enabled him to represent 
them with the effect and triumph that he did. Yet it 
is mainly as the undercurrent of his life that it ap- 
pears. The struggles of soul through which the hero 


of tlie Commonwealth passed — and to wliicli many 
features of his history and some of his letters testify 
in the strongest manner — only rise to the surface here 
and there as we survey the restless heroism of his 
career. The military and political phases of his char- 
acter draw away our interest. In Milton, again, the 
working of the spiritual life is so strong and consistent 
throughout, and so thoroughly interfused with the 
growth of his intellectual being, that we can scarcely 
distinguish it as a separate element — his w^hole nature 
is so serious, so religious, and formed in its develop- 
ment such a unity of power, tliat we would try in vain 
to disentangle the special influences which entered 
into its constitution and gave it such a massive and 
controlling harmony ; while in Baxter, although we 
everywhere come across the pervading spiritual feel- 
ing in which lay the whole strength of his life and 
the wonderful energy of his w^ork, the prominence of 
the theological and ecclesiastical elements distract our 
attention, and may be said to form the main charac- 
teristics presented to us. 

In order to give any adequate picture of Puritanism, 
however, it is necessary to survey, as closely and as 
much by itself as we can, its distinctive spiritual life. 
To the Puritan and the Anglican, religion not merely 
presented marked differences in externals — but in its 
very spirit — in the mode in which it wrought within 
the heart, and coloured and determined the inner 
life. Tlie habit of religious thought which came from 
Puritanism and that of the old Catholicism of Eng- 
land, were widely distinguished. The Puritan's hatred 
of externals, and reaction against the formalities in 
which the Anglican piety delighted, drove his devo- 
tional feeling to feed more upon itself, and so developed 

BUNTAN. 395 

an intense and passionate spirituality, and a social 
instinct of a quite peculiar, as it was of a very in- 
fluential, character. Both in Bunyan and in Baxter 
we trace the influence of these characteristics, but in 
the former especially. In the life of the author of the 
Pilgrim's Progress we see tliem in their most simple 
and unmixed form. Bunyan is, above all, the spiri- 
tualist of Puritanism; while, at the same time, the 
circumstances of his social position serve to reveal 
more expressively than we have yet seen, the work- 
ings of the system upon the oTdinary social existence 
of those midland counties in which it abounded. 

Bunyan's life is a spiritual story, with a very slight 
setting of external incident and adventure. Its in- 
terest is found in the vehement and critical inward 
struggles which he has himself depicted, and not in 
any succession of events or any rare development of 
mental powers. His Grace Ahounding to the Chief 
of Sinners — in which he has, with his own very vivid 
and homely power, set forth the divine dealings with 
his soul — is nothing else than his autobiography. 
He had no other life to tell of in comparison ; for all 
his outward activity as a preacher — broken by his long 
imprisonment — and all his creative fertility as a writer, 
were the mere expressions of the spiritual passion in 
which he lived and moved and had his being. In so 
far, however, as Bunyan's life does take us into the 
outer world of England in the days of the Protectorate 
and the Restoration, it serves, as we have said, to bring- 
before us the everyday social aspects of Puritanism, 
which are apt to escape us in lives of more public 

We have before us a Puritan life comparatively 
divorced from all excitements of military, or political, 


or ecclesiastical struggle. With the great events of his 
time, with which Cromwell and Milton and Baxter come 
into such close contact, he had nothing to do. He was, 
in fact, only a youth of twenty-one when the King was 
beheaded, and when the first great series of events 
which crowned the Puritan struggle with triumph 
was completed; and with this series of events we 
could not connect him at all, were it not for a well 
known anecdote of his own about the siege of Leices- 
ter. Far away, then, from the centre of movement, 
and in the background, as it were, of that stirring 
time, runs the career of Bunyan. And yet not the 
less, but all the more, on that account, he serves to 
illustrate it in one of its most characteristic features. 
He is not a prominent actor upon the stage ; but his 
figure in the background is typically expressive of the 
spirit which animated and governed a host such as 
him, in everything but his genius. While Puritanism 
was developing its lofty aims in the high places of 
the kingdom, it was no less colouring by its influ- 
ence every village and civic community. While it 
was legislating for Europe, and writing State-papers 
in behalf of the persecuted Protestants abroad, it was 
moving the hearts and ordering the lives of the poor 
women of Bedford, and of the tinker's son in the 
neighbourhood; and its working in the one case, no 
less than in the other, is necessary to enable us to 
understand its full meaning, and to appreciate its 
comprehensive and pervading power. 

John Bunyan was born at Elstow, a village within a 
mile of Bedford, in the year 1628, the year in which 
Charles called his third Parliament — that famous Par- 
liament of the Petition of Ptight, in which Cromwell 

BUNYAN". 397 

made his first speech. He was, he tells us, " of a low 
and inconsiderable generation ; his father's house being 
of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all 
the families of the land." His father was, in short, a 
tinker, and Bunyan himself was bred to the same call- 
mg. The father, however, does not seem, any more 
than the son, to have pursued his trade in the usual 
vagabond-manner we associate with the name. For 
Bunyan tells us that he was sent to school " to learn 
both to read and to write, the which I also attained ac- 
cording to the rate of other poor men's children, though 
to my shame I confess I did soon lose what I had learn- 
ed, even almost utterly." His boyhood was wild and 
thoughtless— very much what we might conceive the 
Hfe of a gipsy-tinker boy to be. He revelled in coarse 
and profane language, and was careless of the truth, 
or of any fear of God. In his own strong simple way he 
tells us it was his delight " to be taken captive by the 
devil at his will, being filled with all unrighteousness," 
the which " did so strongly work both in my heart and 
life, that I had but few equals in both for cursing, 
swearing, lying, and blaspheming the name of God."^' 
^ This, we are to remember, is Bunyan's account of 
his boyhood, as he looked back upon it from his later 
religious point of view. It would be a mistake— 
and yet it is one into which many of his biographers 
have fallen— to suppose from the manner in which he 
speaks of himself here and elsewhere, that his youth 
was peculiarly wicked beyond that of the class to 
which he belonged. There is clear evidence to the 
contrary in his own statements. A habit of profane 
swearing, and a wild and reckless indulgence in Sun- 
day pastimes, are the facts of wickedness with which 
his sensitive conscience charges his early years. From 


licentiousness his own strong declarations expressly 
free him ; and there is no evidence that he was ad- 
dicted to drunkenness or any form of dishonesty which 
we readily associate with his supposed gipsy race and 
tinker occupation. The truth is rather that, from 
his boyhood, Bunyan was of a strongly rehgious turn 
of mind. The great ideas of life and death, heaven and 
hell — those spiritual contrasts which afterwards he was 
to embody in such rare variety and picturesqueness of 
form — had smitten his impressionable imagination 
from his youth, and clung to him. They did not for 
many years work themselves into the fibre of his 
spuitual being, so as to become its living and effec- 
tual springs of action ; but they were there, dormant 
and ready to start fortli into powerful consciousness. 
If practically he now lived without God — and his 
habit of profane swearing showed how far religion 
was from having any real influence over liim — he 
was yet so far from being without thoughts of re- 
ligion, that such thoughts haunted him as living 
things, moving in tlie shadowy background of his 
being, and mingling in it every now and then with 
a fearful though unpractical effect. They possessed 
him. They peopled his dreams, and in their con- 
stant presence and intimacy made familiar to him 
the strangest fancies ; " for often," he says, " after I 
had spent this and the other day in sin, I have been 
greatly afflicted while asleep with the apprehensions 
of devils and wicked spirits, who, as I then thought, 
laboured to draw me away with them, of which I could 
never be rid. Also I should, at these years, be greatly 
troubled with thoughts of the fearful torments of hell- 
fire ; still fearing that it would be my lot to be found 
at last among those devils and hellish fiends who are 

BUN YAK 399 

there bound down with the chain and bonds of darkness 
unto the judgment of the great day. These things, I 
say, when I was but a child — but nine or ten years old — 
did so distress my soul, that then, in the midst of my 
many sports and childish vanities amidst my vain com- 
panions, I was often much cast down and afflicted in 
my mind therewith ; yet could I not let go my sins. 
Yea, I was also then so overcome with despair of life 
and heaven, that I should often wish either that there 
had been no hell, or that I had been a devil, supposing 
they were only tormentors ; that if it must needs be 
that I went thither, I might rather be a tormentor than 
be tormented myself" 

Although such thoughts did little more than tor- 
ment him, they never altogether left him. He never 
appears, amid all his practical recklessness, to have 
risen above them for any length of time. Every ac- 
cident served to recall them, and religion rose before 
his mind as a haunting image, even when he sought 
to banish it away. There was a tenderness in his 
heart towards it, while he was yet despising and tram- 
pling it under foot. He says, for example, that while 
taking pleasure in his own wickedness, it was a great 
grief to him when he saw those who made a religious 
profession doing wickedly. It made his " spirit trem- 
ble." " As once above all the rest, when I was in the 
height of vanity, yet hearing one to swear that was 
reckoned for a religious man, it laid so great a stroke 
upon my spirit that it made my heart ache." 

He recalls various incidents in this early period of 
his life of a providential character. Once "he fell 
into a creek of the sea, and hardly escaped drowning." 
Another time he fell out of a boat into the river Ouse, 
" Bedford Eiver," as he calls it, "but mercy yet pre- 


served him." At another time, when in the field with 
a companion, he seized, he says, an adder, and " having 
stunned her with a stick, he forced open her mouth, 
and plucked her sting out with his fingers." He re- 
mained unhurt ; but had it not been for the divine 
mercy, his " desperateness" would have destroyed 
him. Most memorable of all, when he was a soldier, 
enlisted, it may be supposed temporarily, in defence of 
the Commonwealth, he was " drawn out to go to such a 
place to besiege it." This was in the summer of 1645 
when Charles, having had his army finally broken on 
the field of Naseby, sought a few hours' refuge in 
Leicester, which he had taken some days before. It 
was retaken by the Parliamentary forces a few days 
later ; and Bunyan believed himself to have providen- 
tially escaped death on the occasion. " When drawn 
out as one of the besieging party, and just ready to go," 
he says, " one of the company desired to go in my room, 
to which when I had consented, he took my place, and 
coming to the siege, as he stood sentinel, he was shot 
in the head with a musket bullet, and died." * 

Following this — a year or two we must suppose, 
for even two years would only make him nineteen — 
he married ; and this event proved of the happiest 
character to him. His wife was the daughter of 
godly parents, and herself a pious woman. Unpro- 

* According to this statement, it might seem doubtful whether Bun- 
yan was really engaged at the siege of Leicester. Of Bunyan's military 
career, indeed, it cannot be said that we know anything with distinct- 
ness or certainty. It remains a matter of dispute, whether he belonged 
to the Parliamentary or the Royalist army. His latest biographer, Mr 
Offer, who enters on details, inclines to the opinion, that " so loyal a 
man joined the Royal army, and not that of the Republicans." If in the 
Parliamentary army he was probably engaged at Naseby, as well as pre- 
sent at the siege of Leicester ; and, in any case, his military experience 
left ineffaceable traces on his memory and imagination, as is abundantly 
shown from the conception and composition of the Holi/ War, 

BUNYAN. 401 

vided with worldly goods — "not having so much house- 
hold stuff as a dish or spoon" betwixt them, — she 
had got "for her part," two books — The Plain Man's 
Pathiuay to Heaven, and the Practice of Piety, — which 
turned out of more value to liim than a richer marriage- 
portion. The study of those books, aided by the re- 
ligious conversation of his wife, deepened his reli- 
gious impressions. He was still far, however, from 
being a religious man. Outwardly he began " to fall 
in very eagerly with the religion of the times ;" he 
became a regular church-goer, and joined with great 
apparent zeal in the service — nay, he was seized with 
a fit of superstitious devotion towards all connected 
with the church — " both the high place, priest, clerk, 
vestment service, and what else belonging to it, count- 
ing all things holy that were therein contained, and 
especially the priest and clerk most happy, and with- 
out doubt, greatly blessed, because they were the ser- 
vants, as I then thought, of God, and were principal 
in the holy temple to do his work therein. This con- 
ceit grew so strong upon my spirit, that had I but seen 
a priest (though never so sordid and debauched in his 
life), I should find my spirit fall under him, reverence 
him, and grant unto him ; yea, I thought, for the love 
I did bear unto them (supposing they were the minis- 
ters of God), I could have laid down at their feet, and 
have been trampled upon by them ; their name, their 
garb, and work did so intoxicate and bewitch me." 

When Bunyan looked back upon this period of his 
life, he could only see its gross superstition. He would 
not admit that his conversion had yet begun. " All 
this while," he says, " I was not sensible of the dan- 
ger and evil of sin. I was kept from considering that 
sin woidd damn me what religion soever I followed, 

2 c 


unless I were found in Christ. Nay, I never thought 
whether there was such a one or no." But, sivinsf 
the fullest assent to his own views, we cannot help 
recognising in the new turn of his thoughts the work- 
ing of the same religious nature and influences already 
traced in his earlier dreams and visions.. These in- 
fluences never forsake him. Now they pursue him as 
shadowy terrors in his sleep ; and now they make 
him adore the mere walls of a church, and the ground 
on which a priest treads. His imagination is steeped 
one way or another in religious ideas, and paints 
with its vivid colours his inner life, altliough his moral 
energies are as yet unaffected by them. 

Practical results were by and by to follow his intense 
agitation. For a while he struggled against the con- 
victions and imaginations that possessed him, but they 
were always acquiring a stronger hold of his heart, and 
making themselves more felt and owned as motives to 
action. The crises of spiritual impulse through which 
he passed during this process, almost reached the point 
of madness. His excited feelings now utter them- 
selves in voices, and now image themselves in features 
expostulating with him, and looking down upon him. 
Never, certainly, did any one, by the mere strengtli of 
imaginative passion, break down more than Bunyan 
the boundaries of time and space, — pierce through the 
objective facts amidst which most men live, — and pass 
more really into the invisible world. One day he 
heard a sermon on Sabbath-breaking, and it so filled 
his mind that, he says, he for the first time felt what 
guilt was. He went home for the time "greatly 
loaded" with the sermon, " with a great burden on his 
spirit." After reachmg home, however, and especially 
after he had "well dined," the effect of the sermon 

BUNYAN. 403 

wore off. He sliook it out of his mind, and returned 
with great delight to his old custom of sports and 
gaming. " But the same day," he tells us, " as I was 
in the midst of a game of cat, and having struck it one 
blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the 
second time, a voice did suddenly dart from heaven 
into my soul, which said, ' Will thou leave thy sins 
and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell ? ' At 
this, I was x^ut to an exceeding maze ; wherefore, leav- 
ing my cat upon the ground, I looked up to heaven, 
and was as if I had, with the eyes of my understanding, 
seen the Lord Jesus look down upon me, as being very 
hotly displeased with me, and as if he did very severely 
threaten me with some grievous punishment for those 
and other ungodly practices." As " he stood in the 
midst of his play," arrested by this voice and vision, 
the conclusion fastened itself upon his spirit, " that he 
had sinned beyond j)ardon, and that it was now too 
late for him to look after heaven ; and burying all bet- 
ter impulses in this overwhelming thought of despair, 
he returned desperately to his sport again. 

Such extremity of sj)iritual excitement could not 
last ; and so we find him soon after this entering up- 
on a new course. Startled out of his evil habit of 
swearing by the rebuke of a woman at whose shop 
window he was cursing in his wonted manner, and 
who, though she was a very loose and ungodly wretch 
herself, yet protested that he swore and cursed at such 
a rate as made her tremble to hear, he began a career 
of outward reformation. He left off entirely the habit 
which had become a second nature to him ; and whereas 
before he could not speak " without putting an oath 
before and another behind," he was now able to speak 
without a single oath, " better and with more pleasant- 


ness than ever lie Imd done before." At the same time 
he fell into the company of an old man who "made 
profession of religion," and whose conversation led him 
to the study of the Scriptm^es, in the historical narratives, 
of which, he says, he took great pleasure ; " but as for 
Paul's Epistles, and such like Scriptures, he could not 
away with them." 

In this state he continued for about a year, during 
which he set the commandments before him " for his 
way to heaven." He strove earnestly to keep them, 
and when he succeeded in doing so he was comfort- 
ed ; and when at any time he fell away from them he 
was greatly afflicted. His neighbours remarked with 
amazement his " conversion from prodigious profane- 
ness to something like a moral life ;" and when he 
heard them commending him, it pleased him " mighty 
well." In all this Bunyan found evidence that he was 
nothing as yet but "a poor painted hypocrite." On 
this period of his life, when he was esteemed " a right 
honest man," he looked back with scarcely less com- 
placency than he did upon the preceding period of pro- 
faneness. All this while he was " ignorant of Jesus 
Christ, and going about to establish his own righteous- 
ness." The sharp decision Avith which he seized the 
different features of the religious life, and the realistic 
persistency with which he separated and individualised 
them, prevented him from seeing the threads of unity 
running through the different stages of his career. The 
same wonderful imagination that peopled the Pilgrim's 
Progress with living creatures representative of distinct 
qualities and states in religious experience — each with 
a separate personality — made him conceive his own 
several states vividly apart from one another. During 
this period, therefore, he was merely dwelling, accord- 

BUNYAN. 405 

ing to his own figure, in the village of Morality, and 
acting the part of Mr Worldly Wiseman. Yet his re- 
ligions education was advancing more than he after- 
wards thought. He had not found the true spring 
of spiritual life ; but he was groping towards it ra- 
ther than turning out of the way when he felt con- 
scientiously concerned about keeping the divine com- 
mandments, and found some peace of conscience in 
doing so. 

The full blessing of grace was about to visit him ; 
and it came, as God's blessings often come, in what 
might seem the most accidental manner. Bunyan 
had listened to many sermons, and not without profit, 
not without severe excitement of conscience in one 
case that we have seen. But "the word fitly spoken," 
and which dropped as good seed into the good and 
honest heart, did not come to him from any sermon, 
but from the chance talk of " three or four poor wo- 
men sitting at a door of one of the streets of Bedford, 
Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in 
their hearts, as also how they were convinced of their 
miserable state by nature ; they talked how God had 
visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and 
with what words and promises they had been refresh- 
ed, comforted, and supported against the temptations 
of the devil. And methought," he adds, " they spake 
with such pleasantness of scripture language, and with 
such appearance of grace in all they said, that they 
were to me as if they had found a new world. At 
this I felt my own heart begin to shake, for I saw that 
in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the 
new birth did never enter into my mind." 

The conversation of these poor women in the streets 
of Bedford marks the turning-point in Bunyan's life. 


Their words about the new birth sank deeply into his 
heart. When he left them, and went about his em- 
ployment, his thoughts still " tarried with them," 
and he returned again and again to their society, till 
the spark kindled by their words burned into a liv- 
ing and warming flame. For the first time, his spi- 
ritual emotions were not merely agitated but soothed. 
The feeling not merely of his own wickedness, but of 
God's method of saving him from his wickedness, came 
home to him, and he was seized with a "very great 
softness and tenderness of heart," and also with " a 
continual meditating" on what these poor women had 
asserted to him from Scripture. He passed, for a 
time, into a highly ecstatic frame of mind. He was 
lifted, as it were, out of the earthly and formal life 
that he had been living, and brought near to the very 
gates of heaven. He could not get his spiritual aspi- 
rations satisfied ; and in his intense desires after the 
things of heaven, this world and all its good seemed to 
him poor and unprofitable. " Tliough I speak it with 
shame," he says, " yet it is a certain truth : it would 
then have been as difficult for me to have taken my 
mind from heaven to earth, as I have often found it 
since to get again from earth to heaven." 

He now finally parted from all his old companions ; 
and he gives us a mournfully affecting glimpse of one 
of them who madly resolved to go on in his evil ways. 
There is a wild strange pathos in the contrast between 
the old companions parting on the road of life — the 
affectionate tenderness of Bunyan, and tlie dare-devil 
recklessness of his friend. " There was a young man 
in our town to whom my heart before was bent more 
than to any other ; but he, being a most wicked crea- 
ture, I now shook him off and forsook his company ; 

BUNYAN. 407 

"but about a quarter of a year after I had left him, I 
met him in a certain lane, and asked him how he did. 
He, after his old swearing and mad way, answered ' he 
was well.' 'But, Harry,' said I, 'why do you curse 
and swear thus ? Wliat will become of you, if you die 
in this condition?' He answered me in a great chafe, 
* What would the devil do for company, if it were not 
for such as I am ! ' " 

But a new trial awaited him in the course upon 
which he had entered. The spirit of Antinomianism, 
which spread so widely in the wake of the religious 
excitement which had long been moving England, 
was extending among the religious professors at Bed- 
ford. The " Eanters' books " were eagerly read, and 
held in high esteem by many. The poor man who 
had first by his conversation led Bunyan to the study 
of the Holy Scriptures, and with whom he had ever 
since maintained a religious intimacy, fell under the 
influence of these books. The doctrines of grace were 
exaggerated by him into doctrines of license, and he 
abandoned himself to his new impulses with all the 
vehemency of an enthusiastic nature. " He turned," 
says Bunyan, " a most devilish Eanter, and gave him- 
self up to all maimer of filthiness, especially unclean- 
ness ; he would deny that there was a God, angel, or 
spirit, and would laugh at all exhortations to sobriety. 
"When I laboured to rebuke his wickedness, he would 
laugh the more, and pretend that he had gone through 
all religions, and could never hit upon the right till 

Startling as such contrasts appear, and inconsistent 
with all sanity of judgment, they were not uncommon 
in this age. Men's minds in such a storm of religious 
fervour as prevailed passed rapidly from one extreme 


to another. There was no principle too fixed or sacred 
for discussion : all landmarks in religious doctrines 
and experience had been torn up, and the spirit of 
inquiry, once set in motion, ran in many such cases 
as this "poor man," from indifference to earnestness 
and the study of the Bible, and from these again, 
under some new and irrepressible stimulus, to con- 
tempt, and libertinism both of thought and practice. 
In this respect Puritanism was merely repeating the 
history of every great religious revival. It seems im- 
possible for multitudes to be moved by the doctrines 
of grace and the sweeping and contagious fervour 
that comes from a revived interest in these doctrines, 
without many yielding, as the wave of religious feeling 
begins to ebb, to a certain licence of feeling. With the 
thoughts continually lifted above the practical duties 
of morality into that higher region where the Divine 
comes into immediate contact with the human, — trans- 
ported beyond the lower levels of religion to the prime 
source whence it issues — in which are all its springs — 
it is no wonder if ignorant and unbalanced minds 
should try to make the original spiritual element every- 
thing, and turn the act of grace into a cover of their 
lawlessness. Certainly there have been those who in 
all such times have done so, — whose principle has 
been that " God does not and can not see any sin in 
any of his justified children."* The act of grace is 
held to be not only primary and absolute, but also 
adequate in itself — apart from all moral result ; and 
inflamed with this dominant idea, they turn religion 
into a frenzy, and piety into a barren ecstasy or a mis- 
chievous unreality. 

This spirit had been now spreading in England for 

* Quoted from the works of Antinomian leaders. — See Marsden, p. 224. 

BUNYAN. 409 

some years ; and we have already, in our sketch of 
Baxter, seen the fruits of it. During the two preced- 
ing Stuart reigns tliere had been hanging on the 
verge of Puritanism various sects with a tendency to 
doctrinal latitudinarianism, such as the Anabaptists, 
Brownists, and Eamilists. These had risen into new 
prominence with the dissolution of the old ecclesias- 
tical bonds ; and along with them had sprung up the 
other and wilder sects of which we have spoken — 
Seekers, Behmenists, and Perfectionists, one and all 
seeking the ideal of religion in an arbitrary mys- 
ticism transcending the common duties and responsi- 
bilities of life. The Ptanters were the last and extreme 
offshoot of this spirit, many of whom, like Bunyan's 
poor friend, seem to have been carried from excess to 
excess till they denied the very existence of God ; 
while others conceived of Him as a bodily shape, and 
others as a mere pervading Principle in the universe. 
The same spirit readily took the most different shapes 
of temporary belief or of no-belief. Ignorance and 
vanity, once unbridled, knew no limit to the vagaries 
of fantastic spiritualism into which they ran. 

Bunyan was in some respects not unlikely to have 
fallen under the influence of this spirit. The almost 
diseased activity of his spiritual imagination, and his 
ignorance of Christian truth, combined with his suscep- 
tibility to its broadest and most mysterious represen- 
tations, might have proved a fitting soil for the recep- 
tion of this extravagant mysticism. But with all his 
religious excitability, he possessed a healthy natural 
sense and manliness which saved him from such wild 
opinions. He does not deny that they presented 
something congenial to him, — that they were " suitable 
to his flesh ; " but God, who had designed better things 


for him, " did not suffer him to accept them/' His 
increasing love of the Bible, and his growing percep- 
tion of its cardinal doctrines, enabled him to see how 
widely they were opposed to " such cursed principles," 
and preserved him in the right path. The Epistles 
of St Paul, wliich he had formerly despised, now began 
to open their meaning to him. "I began," he says, 
" to look into the Bible with new eyes ; and especially 
the Epistles of the Apostle St Paul were sweet and 
pleasant to me ; and then I was never out of the 
Bible, either by reading or meditation, still crying out 
to God that I might know the truth and way to 
heaven and glory." 

But his views of Scripture were withal still dark 
and confused. Although he had got into the right 
track, his was too intense, and, at the same time, too 
ignorant, a nature to go on in an even course of pro- 
gress. His " Christian " was the type of himself ; 
and the difficulties and temptations which beset the 
" Pilgrim " in his " Progress " from this world to that 
which is to come, are not more numerous than those 
which beset the author on his own spiritual journey. 
In reading the Scriptures, he became greatly perplexed 
by the w^ord " faith ; " especially this word, " put him 
to it." He mused on it, and could not tell what to do. 
Without faith he felt he could not be saved ; but how to 
tell whether he had faith or not baffled all his thought. 
At last the idea struck him that the only way in which 
he could really learn that he had faith was " by try- 
ing to work some miracles ;" and one day as he went, 
between Elstow and Bedford this temptation was " hot! 
upon him," and took special form in his mind, urging 
him " to say to the puddles that were in the horse 
pond, Be dry ; and to the dry places. Be you puddles.'' 

BUN Y AN. 411 

Just as lie was going to make tlie trial the thought 
came to him : " But go under yonder hedge and pray 
first that God would make you able. But when I 
had concluded to pray, this came hot upon me, that if 
I prayed and came again and tried to do it, and yet 
did nothing notwithstanding, then to be sure I had 
no faith, but was a castaway and lost. Nay, thought 
I, if it be so, I will not try yet, but stay a little longer," 
But still the thought kept tormenting him, and tossed 
" betwixt the devil and his own ignorance," he was so 
perplexed that he did not know what to do. 

During all this time he seems to have maintain- 
ed a religious intimacy with the poor women at Bed- 
ford whose conversation had been originally so blessed 
to him. These women belonged to a small Baptist 
congregation which met under the ministry of one 
John Gifford, whose history, like Bunyan's own, and 
even more than his, presents a strange picture of 
the extremes of experience and life through which 
many passed in this eventful time. Gifford had been 
a major in the Eoyal army, and, having been engaged 
in some Eoyalist insurrection, was seized, and sen- 
tenced to the gallows. By the help of his sister he 
contrived to make his escape on the night before his 
intended execution ; and after undergoing many hard- 
ships, he came to Bedford in disguise, and began the 
practice of physic. He had lived in the army, and he 
continued in his new profession to live a reckless and 
ungodly life, devoted to drinking, gambling, and pro- 
faneness. He cherished a peculiar bitterness against 
the Puritans, and is said even to have entertained the 
design of killing one of their leading men in Bedford, 
for no other reason than to gratify his ferocity against 
them. Such a man might seem an unlikely subject 


ever to become a Puritan and Baptist preacher. But 
so it came about. In a fit of desperation, after losing 
money in gambling, Gifford happened to look into one 
of the books of Eobert Bolton, and what he read so 
impressed him, that he betook himself to the company 
of the persons whom he had so scorned ; and, being 
"naturally bold," he soon rose to distinction among 
them. He formed a number of them, among whom 
was the very person he had thought of killing, into a 
separate congregation, and became their pastor. To 
this small congregation belonged the poor women 
whose talk had reached Bunyan's heart ; and Bunyan 
liimseK about this time became attached to it. "We 
can understand the influence that a strong and zeal- 
ous man like Gifford would exercise over a sensi- 
tive and inquiring mind like Bunyan's; and the his- 
torian* of the English Baptists has represented him 
as the evangelist who pointed out to our perplexed 
pilgrim the wicket-gate, by instructing him in the 
knowledge of the Gospel. Certainly, the happy spirit- 
ual state of " these poor" Baptist people deeply pos- 
sessed his mind. It imaged itself to him in a kind 
of vision," which, both for its own beauty, and the 
interesting analogy which it presents to some of the 
after-thoughts of the Pilgrims Progress, deserves to 
be quoted. " I saw," he says, " as if they were on the 
sunny side of some high mountain, there refresh- 
ing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, 
while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, 
aflQicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. Methought, 
also, betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did com- 
pass about this mountain ; now through this wall my 
soul did greatly desire to pass, concluding that if I 

* Mr Ivimey. 

BUN Y AN". 413 

could, I would even go into the very midst of them, 
and there also comfort myself with the heat of their 
sun. About this wall I thought myself to go again 
and again, still prying as I went to see if I could find 
some way or passage by which I might enter therein, 
but none could I find for some time. At the last, I 
saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little door-way in 
the wall, through which I attempted to pass. Now, the 
passage being very straight and narrow, I made many 
offers to get in, but all in vain, even until I was well- 
nigh quite beat out by striving to get in. At last, 
with great striving, methought I at first did get in 
my head ; and after that, by a sideling striving, my 
shoulders and my whole body ; then was I exceeding 
glad, went and sat down in the midst of them, and so 
was comforted with the light and heat of their sun. 
Now, the mountain and wall were thus made out to 
me. The mountain signified the church of the living 
God : the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable 
shining of his merciful face on them that were within : 
the wall, I thought, was the word that did make sepa- 
ration between the Christians and the world : and the 
gap which was in the wall, I thought, was Jesus Christ, 
who is the way to God the Father. But forasmuch as 
the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow 
that I could not but with great difficulty enter in 
thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life 
but those that were in downright earnest, and unless 
also they left that mcked world behind them — for here 
was only room for body and soul, but not for body and 
soul and sin." 

Bunyan's spiritual perplexities were far from being 
at an end. In fact, as his mind opened to the deeper 
mysteries of the Christian faith, and his acquaintance 


witli Scripture grew in detail, without as yet harmon- 
ising into a consistent whole, he became the victim of 
anxieties still darker and more tormenting than he had 
hitherto experienced. He had been troubled about 
faith — he was now troubled about election. In both 
cases his temptation was the same — to look away from 
Christ to himself — to fix his attention not upon the 
fulness of divine grace, but on the limits and conditions 
which seemed to accompany the act of grace. As he 
had formerly asked, " But how if you want faith in- 
deed? how can you tell you have faith?" so now he 
asked, " How can you tell that you are elected ; and 
what if you should not — ^how then ? " " Why then," 
said Satan, "you had as good leave off, and strive no 
further ; for if, indeed, you should not be elected and 
chosen of God, there is no hope of your being saved. 
For it is neither in him that willeth, nor in him that 
runneth, but in God that showeth mercy." " By these 
things I was driven to my wit's end, not knowing what 
to say, or how to answer these temptations." Strangely 
enough, he found comfort and strength in this per- 
plexity from a text in the Apocrypha.* It came to 
him as a light in the midst of his darkness. As he 
was " giving up the ghost " of all his hopes, the sen- 
tence fell with weight upon his spirit. It was as if it 
talked with him. " Look at the generations of old 
and see — did ever any trust in God and were con- 
founded ? " He was somewhat daunted to find it only 
in the Apocrypha ; but he says, very sensibly, that al- 
though it was not among those texts that we caU holy 
and canonical, yet as the sentence was the sum and 
substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to 
take the comfort of it : and I bless God for that word 

* Ecclesiasticus, ii. 16. 

BUNYAN. 415 

— for it was of good to me. That word doth still 
ofttimes shine before my face." 

His next doubt was, " But how, if the day of grace 
should be past and gone ? — how if you have overstood 
the time of mercy ? " As he was walking in the country 
one day, this doubt came upon him ; and with that 
strange ingenuity with which the spirit learns to tor- 
ment itself in such a case, the thought suggested itself 
to him that the small congregation of good people at 
Bedford was all that God would save in tliese parts, 
and tliat he had come too late, for these had got the 
blessing before him. At length, however, he thought 
on the text — " Compel them to come in that my house 
may be filled — and yet there is room ;" and in the light 
and encouragement of this word he went a pretty 

About this time he was in the habit of frequenting 
Mr Gifford's house, " to hear him confer with others 
about the dealings of God with their souls ; " but he 
derived little or no benefit, he tells us, from these con- 
ferences ; he only learned the more to see his own 
wickedness and corruption, "I could not believe 
that Christ had a love for me. Alas ! I could neither 
hear him, nor see him, nor feel him, nor favour any of 
his things. I was driven as with a tempest : my heart 
would be careless ; the Canaanites would dwell in the 
land. Sometimes I would tell my condition to the 
people of God, when they would pity me, and tell me 
of the promises ; but they had as good have told me 
that I must reach the sun with my fingers as have 
bidden me receive or rely upon the promises. All my 
sense and feeling were against me ; and I saw I had a 
heart that would sin, and that lay under a law that 
would condemn." 


In this state lie continued " for some years together." 
Like Luther, he could only say, Oh my sins ! my sins ! 
They seemed to cleave unto him, and wholly pollute 
him. "I thought now that every one had a better 
heart than I had. I thought none but the devil him- 
self could equalise me for inward wickedness and 
pollution of mind." And yet all this while he was 
" never more tender as to the act of sinning. His 
conscience would smart at every touch, and he could 
not tell how to speak his words for fear he should mis- 
place them." His sensitiveness of conscience was such 
that he dreaded even that his very torments should 
cease. " For I found that unless guilt of conscience 
were taken off the right w^ay — that is, by the blood of 
Christ — a man grew rather worse for the loss of his 
trouble of mind." And in order that this should not 
be his case, he would muse upon the punishment of 
sin in hell-fire, that the sense of sin might be kept 
alive in his heart. In this condition, a sermon that he 
heard on the love of Christ brought for a while peace 
to him. The words — "Thou art fair, my love," ap- 
plied to the poor tempted soul, seized upon him. He 
was in great joy for a time. " Thou art my love — 
thou art my love. " " Twenty times together," this 
would sound in his heart, and it grew warmer as the 
blessed accents repeated themselves. At length he 
felt as if his sins could be forgiven him. "Yea," he 
says, " I was now so taken with the love and mercy of 
God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain 
till I got home. / thought I could have spoken of his 
love, and have told of his mercy to me, even to the very 
crows that sat in the ploughed lands before me." 

This time of gladness did not last long. He wished 
that he had possessed a pen and ink in the moment of 

BUNYAN. 417 

his elevation, to write down God's goodness to him, 
for surely he will not forget it forty years hence. 
"But, alas !" he adds, "within less than forty days, I 
began to question all again." 

The vividness of his spiritual feelings kept him on 
the rack, and pursued him as a tormenting presence. 
His imagination gave voice and shape to his inward 
suggestions ; and a text became to him a living being 
following him, and addressing him. About a week or 
a fortnight after the last manifestation of grace to his 
soul, he says, " I was much followed by the scrip- 
ture — 'Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to 
have you ; ' and sometimes it would sound so loud 
within me, that once above all the rest I turned my 
head over my shoulder, thinking, verily, that some 
man behind me called me, being at a great distance, 
methought he called so loud. . . . Methinks I 
hear still, with what a loud voice these words — ' Simon, 
Simon,' sounded in mine ears ; and, although, that was 
not my name, yet it made me suddenly look behind 
me, believing that he that called so loud meant me." 
He did not understand the meaning of this at the time, 
but afterwards it seemed to him as a warning that a 
" cloud and storm was coming down upon him." 

In truth, his temptations assumed now a darker and 
more fearful form. Hitherto they had concerned his 
own safety — now they attacked his trust in religion 
altogether. He was "handled twenty times worse 
than he had been before ; " all comfort was taken from 
him ; darkness seized upon him ; after which " whole 
floods of blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and 
the Scriptures," were poured upon his spirit, to his 
great confusion and astonishment. "Whether there 
were in truth a God or Christ, and whether the holy 

2 D 


Scriptures were not rather a fable and cunning story, 
than the holy and pure word of God" — such were the 
questions that agitated and darkened him. He could 
not rest "from morning to night." He was carried 
away with them as " with a mighty whirlwind." His 
only consolation was that he felt there was something 
in him opposed to such questions. While under this 
temptation, he often found his mind suddenly put upon 
it, "to curse and swear, or to speak some grievous 
things against God, or Christ, his Son, and of the 
Scriptures." At times, he thought himself possessed 
of the devil. At other times, he seemed as if he should 
be bereft of his wits. His agitation certainly verged 
on insanity. His will seemed to lose all control. He 
compares himself to a child forcibly seized by a gipsy, 
and carried away from friend and country. He would 
kick, and shriek, and cry, yet he was bound on the 
wings of the temptation, and the wind would carry 
him away. When he heard others talk of the sin 
against the Holy Ghost, the temptation was so strong 
upon him to commit this sin, that he says — " I have 
often been ready to clap my hands under my chin to 
hold my mouth from opening ; at other times, to leap 
with my head downwards into some muckhill hole to 
keep my mouth from speaking." Like Luther, he 
felt the presence of the Tempter disturbing all his 
efforts at devotion. " Sometimes I have thought I 
have felt him behind me pull my clothes. He would 
be also continually at me in time of prayers to have 
done — to break off^ — make haste — you have prayed 
enough, and stay no longer — still drawing my mind 
away. When I have had wandering thoughts, and I 
have laboured to compose my mind, and fix it upon 
God, then with great force hath the Tempter laboured 

BUNYAN. 419 

to distract and confound me, and to turn away my 
mind by presenting to my heart and fancy the form of 
a brute, a bull, a bison, or the like, as if I should pray 
to these." In his misery, the animals moved his envy, 
and he would gladly have exchanged his condition for 
that of a dog or a horse. And yet, while thus bleed- 
ing at every pore of his spiritual being, he complains 
of his insensibility. His heart was so hard at times, 
he says, " that he would have given a thousand pounds 
to shed a tear, and could not." 

Gradually light began to break upon this period of 
his darkness. Various scriptures came to his aid. 
One day, as he was sitting in a neighbour's house, 
very sad at the consideration of his many blasphe- 
mies, this "word" came suddenly to him, "What shall 
we say to these things ? * If God be for us, who can be 
against us?' Because I live, ye shall live also." " But 
these words were but hints, touches, and short visits; 
though very sweet when present." Such "angel visits" 
gradually increased ; and Mr Gifford's instructions 
proved also wholesome in his distress. He made rapid 
progress for a while in faith and in peace of mind. 
He was led from truth to truth in a manner that 
excited his astonishment, as he recalled it. "Truly," 
he exclaims, " I thus found, upon this account, the 
great God was very good unto me ; for, to my remem- 
brance, there was not anything that I thus cried unto 
God to make known and reveal unto me but he was 
pleased to do it for me." He found strength and 
comfort even from the contemplation of the errors of 
the Quakers, which led him to the study of the 
Scriptures, for, as " the Quakers did oppose the truth, 
so God did thus the more confirm me in it, by leading 
me into the scripture that did wonderfully maintain 


it." His elevation and spiritual happiness were re- 
markable for a time. It would be too long "to stay 
and tell in particular how God did set me down in 
all the things of Christ — yea, and also how He did 
open His words unto me, and make them shine before 
me, and cause them to dwell with me, talk with me, 
and comfort me over and over, both of His own being 
and the being of his Son and Spirit and Word and 
Gospel." And just as before in his depression, his 
imagination had conjured up miserable voices and 
hideous images, which. haunted him as realities — so 
now, in his elevation, it pictured to him, in visible 
forms of beauty, the assurance of his salvation, " I 
had an evidence, as I thought, of my salvation from 
heaven, with many golden seals thereon, all hanging 
in my sight;" and the heavenly sight did so ravish 
him that he wished the last day were come, or that 
he were " fourscore years old now, that he might die 
quickly, and that his soul might go to rest." 

It is an affecting contemplation this wonderful 
child-nature of the great Puritan dreamer — now moved 
to grief — now strung to joy — now plunged in horrors 
of great darkness — and now raised to heights of celes- 
tial blessedness. Eeflection scarcely enters into his 
varying moods; he is not swayed by any calm and 
coherent succession of ideas. Truth or error, in the 
abstract, is nothing to him; he cannot hold them 
before his mind, and contemplate, and weigh the 
thoughts which they present ; but he lives himself in 
all his thoughts. Transmuted into passions — made 
living by the ever-burning glow of his imagination — 
they become all-powerful for the time, and carry him 
whithersoever they will. 

About this time a copy of Martin Luther's Commen- 

BUNYAN. 421 

tary on the Galatians fell into his hands, and proved 
greatly beneficial to him. The copy was so old that it 
was ready to fall piece from piece if he did but turn it 
over ; but its antiquity only made it the more precious 
in his eyes ; and when he had " but a little way per- 
used," he found his condition " so largely and pro- 
foundly handled in it, as if it had been written out of 
his own heart." This spiritual affinity between Luther 
and Bunyan is very striking and interesting. In the 
realistic vividness and fertility of their spiritual im- 
agination they were strongly allied. The divine life 
imaged itself to them in the same depths and heights, 
the same representative contrasts, the same agencies 
of Satanic and of angelic and heavenly power. The 
presence of evil was to Luther the same personal 
tempter as to Bunyan — reasoning with him, pulling 
at his clothes, violently and insolently assaulting him ; 
and the idea of deliverance suggested itself to both 
in the same manner, as an immediate influence 
from above lifting them out of their sins. The spi- 
ritual experience of Luther accordingly was a mir- 
ror in which Bunyan might well see his own heart 
reflected, while the doctrine of the Commentary on the. 
Galatians was exactly such as was calculated to min- 
ister to his urgent necessities. He never forgot his 
obligation to this book ; he continued to prefer it (ex- 
cepting the Holy Bible) before all other books, " as 
most fit for a wounded conscience." 

And now, for a brief space, his heart was bound in 
delightful union with Christ. The day seemed for 
him to break, and the shadows to flee away. " Oh ! " 
he exclaims, "methought my soul cleaved unto Christ, 
my affections cleaved unto him. I felt my love to him 
as hot as fire ; " and yet a deeper and more torment- 


ing trial tlian he had yet experienced was awaiting 
him. He seemed to have been raised to the heights 
of love, and to have been gladdened with the sight of 
the Delectable Mountains, only to be plunged into a 
deeper "valley of the shadow of death." "Quickly 
after this my love was tried to the purpose. Eor, 
after the Lord had in this manner thus graciously de- 
livered me from this great and sore temptation, and 
had given me such strong consolation and blessed evi- 
dence from heaven, touching my interest in his love 
through Christ, the tempter came upon me again, and 
that with a more grievous and dreadful temptation 
than before." 

■ This temptation was nothing less than " to sell and 
part with the blessed Christ, to exchange him for the 
things of this life — for anything." This horrid sugges- 
tion haunted hun day and night for a whole year. He 
was not rid of it " one day in a month, no, not some- 
times one hour in many days together, unless when 
asleep." It mixed itself in all he did, so that he 
could not eat his food, " stoop for a pin, chop a stick, 
or cast his eye to look on anything," without the 
thought pursuing him, " Sell Christ for this, or sell 
Christ for that ; sell Him — sell Him." Under the in- 
fluence of this temptation he was once more reduced 
to a state bordering on insanity. He was so stirred 
with the idea of yieldmg to the horrid suggestion, 
that his mental agitation showed itself in his bodily 
movements, and he would thrust forth liis hands or 
elbows in deprecation, still answering, as fast as the de- 
stroyer said, " Sell Him," — "I will not, — I will not: no, 
not for thousands, — thousands, — thousands of worlds," 
reckoning in this manner lest he should seem to set 
too low a value u^^on Him," until he scarcely knew 

BUNYAN. 423 

where he was, or what to do. This lasted for some 
time; his mind was continually disquieted, and no- 
thing could give him rest; but he still repelled the 
assaults of the adversary ever as they were renewed ; 
until one morning, as he lay in his bed under un- 
usually fierce temptation, he felt the thought pass 
through his mind, " Let Him go if He will." The old 
spirit of resistance relaxed for a moment, — worn out 
by frequent straining ; and he felt his heart, as he 
fancied, freely consent to the dreadful impulse. " Oh ! 
the diligence of Satan ! " he cries, " Oh ! the desx^erate- 
ness of man's heart ! Now was the battle won, and 
down fell I, as a bird that is shot from the top of a tree, 
into great guilt and fearful despair. Thus, getting 
out of my bed, I went moping into the field, but, God 
knows, with as heavy a heart as mortal man, I think, 
could bear, where, for the space of about two hours, I 
was like a man bereft of life, and as now past all 
recovery, and bound over to eternal punishment." 

There is a strange sad vividness in the picture that 
he draws of the misery into which he was now plunged 
— the alternations of fear and horror and partial hope 
that came upon him. He thought of the passage in 
Hebrews, xii. 16, 17, about Esau selling his birthright, 
and afterwards finding no place for repentance, though 
he sought it carefully with tears ; and the words became 
to his soul " like fetters of brass to his legs, in the con- 
tinual bondage of which he went for several months 
together." Yet from the first, too, a casual gleam of 
hope illuminated the thick darkness of his trial. 
About ten or eleven o'clock on the same day that he 
seemed to himself to have committed the fearfid sin of 
selling his Saviour, he says, " As I was walking under 
a hedge (full of sorrow and guilt, God knows), and be- 


moaning myself for this hard hap, that such a thought 
should arise within me, suddenly this sentence rushed 
in upon me, ' The blood of Christ remits all guilt.' At 
this I made a stand in my spirit ; with that this word 
took hold upon me, ' The blood of Jesus Christ his own 
Son cleanseth us from all sin,' 1st John, i. 7. Now I 
began to conceive peace in my soul ; and methought I 
saw as if the Tempter did leer and steal away from me, 
as being ashamed of what he had done." But this 
pleasant gleam of light and peace by the hedgerows 
on the first day that he meditated with a darkened 
heart on his sin, soon left him, and through many suc- 
ceeding pages he does little but represent the phases 
of gloomy and despairing thought into which he was 
plunged. He imagined he had committed the un- 
pardonable sin ; and an " ancient Christian," to whom 
he confided his anxious terror, told him that " he 
thought so too." He compared his sin with David's, 
and Peter's, and Judas' ; and the only relief he had in 
the retrospect was, that he had not "as to the circum- 
stances " transgressed so fully as Judas. Even this 
bare hope was quickly gone. It seemed to him as if 
no sin equalled his own. " He had sold his Saviour, 
and there remained to him no more sacrifice for sin." 
" This one consideration would always kill my heart 
— my sin was point blank against my Saviour, and 
that, too, at that height, that I had in my heart said 
of Him, ' Let Him go if He will.' Oh ! methought 
this sin was bigger than the sins of a country, of a 
kingdom, or of the whole world, no one pardonable, 
not all of them together was able to equal mine ; mine 
outwent them every one." 

A breath of hope sometimes ruffled the current of 
his misery. Once as he was walking to and fro " in 

BUNTAN. 425 

a good man's shop," bemoaning his sad and doleful 
state, and afflicting himself with self-abhorrence for 
his wicked and ungodly thought, " suddenly there was 
as if there had rushed in at the window the noise of 
wind upon me, but very pleasant, and as if I heard a 
voice speaking, ' Didst thou ever refuse to be justified 
by the blood of Christ?' To this my heart answered 
groaningly, ' No.' Then fell with power that word of 
God upon me, ' See that ye refuse not Him that speak- 
eth ' (Heb. xii. 25). This made a strange seizure upon 
my spirit ; it brought light with it, and commanded 
a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts 
that did before use — like masterless hellhounds — to 
roar and bellow, and make a hideous noise within me. 
It showed me, also, that Jesus Christ had yet a word 
of grace and mercy for me, that He had not, as I had 
feared, quite forsaken and cast off my soul. Verily, 
that sudden rushing wind was as if an angel had come 
upon me, — it commanded a great calm in my soul ; 
it persuaded me there might be hope." Yet again 
the Tempter returned. With the resurrection of hope 
the spirit of prayer awoke in him, and when about to 
humble himself, and beg that God would, of His won- 
derful mercy, show pity to- him, and have compassion 
upon his wretched sinful soul, the Tempter suggested 
that prayer was not for any use in his case ; that it 
could do him no good, because he had rejected the 
Mediator, by whom all prayers come with acceptance 
to God the Father, — and without whom no prayer can 
come into his presence. The most vexatious doubts 
sprang from this new root of bitterness. The very 
abundance of the grace of Christ seemed to prove an 
aggravation of the guilt of his rejection of Him. 
The fearful thought of his heart, " Let Him go if He 


will " returned upon him in all the darkness of its 
despairing agony. "Now, therefore, you are severed 
from Him," the voice kept echoing within him. " You 
have severed yourself from Him. Behold, then, His 
goodness, — but yourself to be no partaker of it. " " Oh ! " 
thought I, " what have I lost ! what have I parted with ! 
what has disinherited my poor soul ! Oh, 'tis sad 
to be destroyed by the grace and mercy of God ; to 
have the Lamb, the Saviour, turn lion and destroyer 
(Eev. vi.) By such strange and unusual assaults of 
the Tempter his soul was "like a broken vessel, driven 
as with the winds." A deep and pathetic gloom settled 
upon him. What touching tenderness in this picture 
which he draws of himself ! " One day I walked to a 
neighbouring town, and sat down upon a settle in the 
street, and fell into a very deep pause about the most 
fearful state my sin had brought me to ; and after long 
musing, I lifted up my head, but methought I saw as 
if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge to 
give light ; and as if the very stones in the street and 
tiles upon the houses did bend themselves against me. 
O how happy now was every creature over I was ! for 
they stood fast and kept their station, but I was gone 
and lost." 

But this was about the crisis of his misery. For as 
"breaking out into the bitterness of his soul," he 
heaved a sigh, " How can God comfort such a wretch? " 
a voice, as if in echo, replied to him, " This sin is not 
unto death." He was filled with admiration at the fit- 
ness and unexpectedness of this sentence ; the " power, 
and sweetness, and light, and glory, that came with it, 
also, were marvellous." He was lifted for the time out 
of doubt, and gradually, though still with many strug- 
gles and some relapses, he regained composure of mind. 

BUNYAN. 427 

Voices of comfort wereheard by Mm — as formerly voices 
of woe had rung in his ears. At one time he retired 
to rest with the quieting assurance, " I have loved thee 
with an everlasting love." Next morning when he 
awaked, " it was fresh upon his soul," and he believed 
it. Again, when renewed doubts assailed him as to 
whether the blood of Christ was sufficient to save his 
soul, the words sounded suddenly within his heart, 
" He is able." " Methought this word able was spoke 
loud unto me — it showed a great word — it seemed to 
be writ in great letters." Thus he went on for many 
weeks, " sometimes comforted and sometimes torment- 
ed." Upon the whole, he made advance. The dark- 
ness cleared away more and more as his mind dwelt 
upon the promises of Scripture, and he came to under- 
stand the harmony of their message in his behalf as 
a poor sinner. " And now remained only the hinder 
part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone beyond 
me, only some drops did still remain that now and 
then would fall upon me." They were but drops ; and 
then there came " clear shining after the rain." As he 
was passing into the field one day, still with some dashes 
in his conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, sud- 
denly this sentence fell upon his soul, " Thy righteous- 
ness is in heaven ; " and therewith he saw, with the eyes 
of his soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand, and saw, 
moreover, that it was not his good frame of mind that 
made his righteousness better, nor yet his bad frame 
that made his righteousness worse, for " his righteous- 
ness was Jesus Christ himself," the same yesterday, 
to-day, and for ever. " Now," he adds, in rejoicing 
language, " did my chains fall off my legs indeed ; I 
was loosened from my afflictions and irons ; my temp- 
tations also fled away. . . . 'Twas glorious to me to 


see His exaltation, and tlie wortli and prevalency of all 
His benefits ; and that because now I could look from 
myself to Him, and would reckon that all those graces 
that now were green on me were yet like those cracked 
groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry 
in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at 
home ! In Christ my Lord and Saviour. Now Christ 
was all ; all my righteousness, all my sanctification, 
and all my redemption." 

The full and perfect truth of justification by faith 
was now owned by Bunyan, and gave him a sure 
ground of confidence such as he had not hitherto felt. 
He realised the mystery of union with the Son of God 
and all the blessings of his representative character ; 
and his mind turned from the distractions of his own 
spiritual state to rest with assurance on the great work 
of Christ for him. He felt himself, through his living 
union with Christ, to be truly a sharer in this work, 
whose perfection constituted the certainty of his salva- 
tion. " For if he and I were one," he says, " then his 
righteousness was mine, his merits mine, his victory 
also mine. Now, could I see myself in heaven and 
earth at once. In heaven by my Christ, by my head, 
by my righteousness and life, though on earth by 
body or person. Now, I saw Christ Jesus was looked 
upon of God ; and should also be looked upon as that 
common or public person in whom all the whole body 
of his elect are always to be considered and reckoned ; 
that we fulfilled the law by him, died by him, rose 
from the dead by him, got the victory over sin, death, 
the devil, and hell by him ; when he died we died, 
and so of his resurrection, ' Thy dead men shall live, 
together with my dead body shall they arise.' " * 

* Isaiah, xxvi. 19. 

BUNYAN. 429 

These "blessed considerations and scriptures, with 
many of a like nature," were made henceforth to 
" spangle " in his eyes ; and from this time, although 
not with a uniform clearness, his soul dwelt in com- 
parative " light and peace." In looking back upon the 
dark way of his temptations, he ascribed them espe- 
cially to two causes — a want of vigilance in prayer — 
and a too material trust in God. He had besought God, 
on one occasion, to interpose to save his wife from 
pain, and having received, as he supposed, an answer 
to his prayer, he was led to " tempt God," by relying 
upon his interpositions after such a manner. Bitter as 
had been his experience, he believed that it brought 
him many advantages. Beyond doubt it did. The 
wonderful sense that he ever afterwards had of "the 
blessing and glory of God and his beloved Son "— the 
" glory of the holiness of God breaking his heart in 
pieces " — the insight which he acquired into the mean- 
ing of the Scriptures, and especially the nature of its 
promises, and further into the " heights and depths " 
of grace and love and mercy — " great sins drawing 
out great grace" — all this sprang as precious fruit 
from his bitter trial — fruit unto righteousness and life 

This happy change in Bunyan's condition was fol- 
lowed by his admission to fellowship with " the people 
of God at Bedford." He joined Gifford's congregation, 
and was openly baptised by him, probably in the river 
Ouse, although he himself says nothing of the fact. 
It is somewhat singular, as Mr Philip, his most co- 
pious biographer, points out, that he does not dwell 
upon the subject of baptism at all in connection 
with his admission to the society of the Baptists. He 
speaks of the Lord's Supper, and mentions that the 


scripture, " Do this in remembrance of me," was 
made a very precious word unto him, " for by it the 
Lord did come down upon my conscience with the 
discovery of his death for my sins, and as I then felt 
did, as if he plunged me in the virtue of the same." 
He speaks also of the temptations which still pursued 
him — how they fastened upon this ordinance, which at 
the first had been such a source of comfort ; but he 
says nothing of his baptism : it does not seem to have 
occupied any Dnpoii;ant place in his spiritual history ; 
the strange drama of his temptations did not find in 
it any centre of interest or attraction. Bunyan be- 
came a Baptist, in fact, more from accidental associa- 
tion than anytliing else. He had found the truth 
among the poor men and women of the " water-bap- 
tism way," as he called it — and therefore he embraced 
this way ; but from the very depth and sincerity of 
his spiritual nature, he rose far above the mere for- 
malities of the sect, and did not hesitate, with an 
unsparing hand, to point out their narrowness and 
prejudices when he saw occasion. 

About this time he fell into some sickness. The 
distress of mind that he had undergone, combined, per- 
haps, with his wandering and unsettled life, terminated 
in this natural result. A nervous system so highly 
strung as his could not but suffer from the extremes 
of depression and joy which had agitated him. The 
very delicacy and sensitiveness of nervous organisation 
which made such extremes familiar to him — and out of 
which grew the vivid impressions which filled his spi- 
ritual imagination — made him, at the same time, liable 
to the weakness and disease springing from over-excite- 
ment. We are not surprised, therefore, that he was 
suddenly and violently seized with what seemed con- 

BUNYAN. 431 

sumption. His life appeared in danger, and he set 
himself to examine seriously into his state and condi- 
tion for the future. As he did this, the black troop of 
his sins came flocking into his mind, and his former 
state of despair was wellnigh returning upon him ; but 
he was now too fully instructed in the truth to jdeld 
to the apprehensions that assailed him. His free justi- 
fication in Christ came as a reviving thought in the 
midst of his apprehensions: "Ye are justified freely by 
this grace through the redemption that is in Christ 
Jesus." * " Oh, what a turn these words made upon me ! 
Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome 
sleep and dream ; and listening to this heavenly sen- 
tence, I was as if I had heard it thus spoken to me : 
' Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and in- 
firmities I cannot save thy soul ; but behold my Son is 
by me, and upon him I look and not on thee, and shall 
deal with thee according as I am pleased with him.' At 
this I was greatly enhghtened in my mind, and made 
to understand that God could justify a sinner at any 
time ; it was but his looking upon Christ, and imparting 
of his benefits to us, and the word was forthwith done. 
And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came 
with great power upon my spirit, ' Not by works of 
righteousness that we have done, but according to his 
mercy he hath saved us.' Now was I got high. I 
saw myself within the arms of grace and mercy, and 
though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, 
yet now I said, 'Let me die.' Now death was lovely 
and beautiful in my sight, for I saw we shall never 
live indeed till we be gone to the other world. Oh ! 
methought this life is but a slumber in comparison 
with that above." 

* Rom. iii. 24. 


This elevation of spirit lasted till another severe fit 
of illness seized him. His depression returned with 
this renewed attack. The terrors of death and of judg- 
ment again seized his startled imagination, and he felt 
himself already descending into the pit as one dead 
before death came. But the words of the angel carry- 
ing Lazarus into Abraham's bosom, " So shall it be 
with thee when thou dost leave this world," sweetly 
revived him and helped him to hope in God. The 
text, " death where is thy sting, O grave where is 
thy victory?" fell with joyful weight upon his mind. 
Suddenly he became well. He felt his strength grow 
as his mind settled into calmness. The evil spirit which 
had so long troubled him was not entirely gone ; but 
he was rapidly rising above it. Once more a cloud of 
great darkness hid from him the face of God ; but it 
was only a passing one. After some three or four 
days, as he was sitting by the fire he suddenly felt the 
words to sound in his heart, " I must go to Jesus ; " 
and at this his darkness fled away, and the blessed 
things of heaven once more stood clear in his view. 
He was for a little uncertain as to the words of encou- 
ragement, and in his dilemma appealed to his wife : 
" Wife," he said, " is there ever such a scripture, * I 
must go to Jesus.'" She said she could not tell. But 
as he stood musing, there came "bolting in" upon 
him the passage, " And to an innumerable company of 
angels," * and he felt satisfied and rejoiced. Often 
afterwards this passage occurred to him, and brought 
him strength and peace. 

After Bunyan had been for some years connected 
with the Baptist congregation in Bedford, he began to 
take a part in their proceedings. His earnestness, 

* Heb. xii. 22. 

I BUNYAN. 433 

mental vivacity, and gifts of expression, soon pointed 
liim out as fitted for the work of the ministry. "After 
1 had been about five or six years awakened," he says, 
" and helped myself to see both the want and worth 
of Jesus Christ our Lord, and also enabled to venture 
my soul upon Him, some of the most able among the 
saints with us — I say the most able for judgment and 
holiness of life — as they conceived — did perceive that 
God had counted me worthy to understand something 
of His will in His holy and blessed Word, and had 
given me utterance, in some measure, to express what 
I saw to others for edification : therefore they desired 
me — and that with much earnestness — that I would 
be willing sometimes to take in hand in one of the 
meetings to speak a word of exhortation unto them ; the 
which, though at the first it did much dash and abash 
my spirit, yet being still by them desired and entreat- 
ed, I consented to their request, and did twice, at 
two several assemblies (but in private), though with 
much weakness and infirmity, discover my gift amongst 
them, at which they not only seemed to be, but did 
frequently protest as in the sight of the great God, 
they were both affected and comforted, and gave 
thanks to the Father of mercies for the grace bestowed 
on me." 

Finally, in 1656, "after solemn prayer, with fasting, 
he was set apart to the more ordinary and public 
preaching of the word." He felt deeply the solemnity 
of the work to which he had devoted himself, and was 
in no hurry to enter upon it. After his first attempts 
he went into the country and addressed small audi- 
ences there, privately, for he " durst not make use of 
his gift in an open way ;" but gradually the con- 
sciousness of his vocation grew upon him, and he felt 

2 E 


a " secret pricking forward thereto." It could not be 
otherwise. Gifts such as Bunyan's could not be hid ; 
and soon he began to preach openly throughout the 
district around Bedford, the Gospel " that God had 
showed him in his Holy Word of Truth." Unimportant 
as his position had hitherto been, something would 
seem to have been known of his history and the won- 
derful experiences of which he had been the subject, for 
he tells that when the country understood that the 
profane tinker had become a preacher, " they came in 
to hear the word by hundreds, and that from all parts." 
God gave him success, for he had not preached long 
before " some began to be touched and greatly afflicted 
in their minds at the apprehension of the greatness of 
their sin, and of their need of Jesus Christ." 

The account which Bunyan gives of his preaching 
sufficiently explains his success. He tells us that he 
" preached what he felt." His own experience made 
the substance of his sermons, and we can understand 
what life and power this gave to them. The terrors of 
the law, and the sense of sin, had lain heavily upon his 
conscience. He had felt " smartingly " what it is to 
dwell without God and without hope in the world ; 
and he " declared that under which his own poor soul 
did groan and tremble to astonishment." " I went my- 
self in chains to preach to them in chains ; and car- 
ried that fire in my own conscience that I persuaded 
them to be aware of" This was the main burden of his 
preaching for two years. He cried out against men's 
sins, and their fearful state because of them. Then 
after this, as he himself advanced in knowledge, and- 
peace, and comfort, through Christ, he altered his style ; 
"for still," he says, " I preached what I saw and felt, . 
Now, therefore, I did much labour to hold with Jesus.; 

BUNYAN". 435 

Christ in all his offices, relations, and benefits unto the 
world, and did strive also to discover and remove their 
false supports and props on which the world doth both 
lean, and by them fall and perish. On these things 
also I staid as long as on the other. After this God 
let me into something of the mystery of the unioa of 
Christ ; wherefore that I discovered, and showed to 
them also." 

Bunyan's heart, in short, was in his preaching. He 
uttered in living phrase his own warm feelings. He 
spake as he was moved. He was possessed by the 
truths which he addressed to others. It was not 
enough for him to say, " I believe and am sure ;" but 
he felt " more than sure " of what was life and joy and 
peace to his own soul. Everything else to him was 
but shado-wy and dim in comparison with the realities 
of sin and salvation, of wrath and redemption through 
the blood of Christ. He lived only in the conscious- 
ness of the life of faith, and his preaching was the mere 
expression of his constant thoughts and feelings. And 
so it touched and awakened the common minds he ad- 
dressed. The vivid extempore words of such a man, — 
coming right from his heart, — were exactly those most- 
likely to arrest and impress the audiences that gathered 
round him. He says, " I never endeavoured to, nor durst, 
make use of other men's lines (though I condemn not 
all that do), for I verily thought, and found by expe- 
rience, that what was taught me by the word and Spirit 
of Christ, could be spoken, maintained, and stood to by 
the soundest and best established conscience. ... I 
have observed that a word cast in by the by hath done 
more execution in a sermon than all that was spoken 
besides. Sometimes also, when I have thought I did 
do good, then I did the most of all ; and at other times, 


when I thouglit I sliould catcli them, I have fished 
for nothing." 

He was not of a disputatious turn. In his preach- 
ing he kept clear of such things as were " in dispute 
among the samts." He had too large a soul to take 
delight in mere word-splitting, and on different occa- 
sions he showed himself above the contentious spirit 
of his age. But strangely enough it was in a contro- 
versial capacity that he was destined to make his first 
appearance as an author. In 1656 some itinerant 
preachers of Quakerism had come to Bedford, — and in 
the parish church, called the " Steeple House," had 
lield a disputation on the subject of their doctrines. 
They found in Bunyan not only a sturdy but an intel- 
ligent and able opponent. Quaker spiritualism — lively 
and mystic as his own spiritual fancies were — had no 
charm for him. It seemed to him to destroy altogether 
the reality of the Gospel salvation, to take away an 
outward " Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, fulfilling 
the law, dying without the gate of Jerusalem as a 
sacrifice for sin, as rising again, as ascending into and 
interceding in heaven, and as coming from heaven 
again in his flesli to judge the world." No one was 
more able than Bunyan to appreciate what was good 
in Quakerism — its deep inward sense of the Divine — 
the necessity of Christ ivithin the heart, of which it 
said so much — but he had also a very strong and 
even vehement feeling of what he deemed its serious 
errors. A Christ not merely in him but without him ; 
a Saviour for him ; and in whose substantive work 
on earth, " reconciling the world unto God," he knew 
bimself to be safe — this was to him of the very 
essence of the truth, for which he was called upon to 

BUNYAN. 437 

With this view lie published his first treatise, under 
the title, " Some Gospel Truths, opened according to 
the Scriptures, on the Divine and Human Nature of 
Christ Jesus : His coming into the world : His right- 
eousness, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, 
and second coming to judgment, plainly demonstrated 
and proved." The book contains a very sensible and 
well-reasoned argument for the divinity of Christ. The 
question is argued from prophecy, — from the works of 
Christ,— from the whole testimony of Scripture, some- 
times not very critically, — yet always reasonably, — 
and in a very sound and intelligent spirit throughout. 
Nothing could show better Bunyan's strong and sober 
judgment under all the enthusiasm of passionate devo- 
tion that animated him. It proves also his diligence 
as a student of scripture. He misses almost nothing 
bearing upon his subject, and if he does not penetrate 
below the surface, or bring the old texts into new 
combinations, he yet arrays and expounds them in 
their accepted meanings, with an impressive and con- 
sistent force. In conclusion, he replies to the Quaker 
objections with great acuteness and success. Admit- 
ting to the full the necessity of a Christ within, this 
is not, he contends, to be held in opposition to a Christ 
without, but in strict and necessary connection there- 
with ; " for where the spirit of Christ is in truth, that 
spirit causeth the soul to look to the Christ that was 
born of the Virgin for all justification. And, indeed, 
here is my life — namely, the birth of this man, the 
righteousness of this man, the death and resurrection 
of this man, the ascension and intercession of this 
man for me, and the second coming of this man to 
judge .the world in righteousness. I say here is mT/ 
life — if I see this by faith without me, through the 


operation of tlie Spirit within me, I am safe, I am at 
peace, I am comforted, I am encouraged ; and I know 
that my comfort, peace, and encouragement is true, and 
given me from heaven by the Father of mercies, through 
the Son of the Virgin Mary, who is the way to the Fa- 
ther of mercies, who is able to save to the uttermost all 
that come to the Father by Him. This is the rock, 
sinner, upon which if thou be built, the gates of hell, 
nor Eanter, Quaker, sin, law, death, no, nor the devil 
himself, shall ever be able to prevail against thee." 

Controversial as the treatise is, its language is, upon 
the whole, temperate. It is the language of one more 
anxious to establish truth . than to refute error. It 
would not, however, have been characteristic of the 
age if it had been altogether free from rudeness and 
extravagance of epithet, and harshness of feeling. It 
was a customary device of controversy then to open 
the attack in the title — to make it as sharp and incisive 
as possible ; and Bunyan wields this weapon with a 
hearty goodwill. His secondary title condenses more 
vituperation than any other part of his book. It runs 
thus : — " Answers to several Questions, with profitable 
Directions to stand fast in the Doctrine of Jesus, the 
Son of Mary, against those blustering Storms of the 
Devil's Temptations which do at this Day, like so 
many Scorpions, break loose from the Bottomless Pit 
to bite and torment those that have not tasted the 
Virtue of Jesus by the Eevelatiou of the Spirit of 

The Quakers felt the force of Bunyan's attack ; and 
one of their leaders, Edward Burroughs, a " son of 
thunder and consolation," published a reply to it. The 
reply was entitled, " The True Faith of the Gospel of 
T^eace, contended for in the Spirit of Meekness ; and 

BUNYAN. 439 

the mystery of Salvation (Christ within the hope of 
Glory), vindicated in the Spirit of Love against the 
Secret Opposition of John Bunyan, a professed Min- 
ister in Bedfordshire." Bunyan had put all his fierce- 
ness into his title ; and after his talk of scorpions, had 
showTi little heat or abuse of language ; but Burroughs, 
all gentleness in the title, breaks out into foaming 
wrath in his text. His words, " soft as dew, or as the 
droppings of a summer cloud," portend a storm, such 
as no doubt won for him his admiring appellation of 
" Son of Thunder." He thus inveighs— " Your spirit 
is tried, and your generation is read at large, and your 
stature and countenance is clearly described to me to 
be of the stock of Ishmael and of the seed of Cain, 
whose line reacheth unto the murthering priests, Scribes, 
and Pharisees. Oh, thou blind priest, whom God hath 
confounded in thy language, the design of the devil in 
deceiving souls is thy own, and I turn it back to thee. 
Thou directest altogether to a thing without disposing 
the light within and worshipping the name Mary in thy 
imagination, and knowest not Him who was before the 
world was, in whom alone is salvation, and in no other. 
If we should diligently search we should find thee, 
through feigned words, through covetousness, making 
■merchandise of souls, loving the wages of unrighteous- 
ness. The Lord rebuke thee, thou unclean spirit, who 
hast falsely accused the innocent to clear thyself from 
guilt. . . . Thy weapons are slanders, and thy refuge 
is lies ; and thy work is confused, and hath hardly 
gained a name in Babylon's record." 

Burroughs was a man of consideration in his party ; 
and in reality, as his letters to his family are said to 
prove,* a man of tenderness as well as of boldness. 
* Philip's Life of Bvunyan, p. 238. . . 


He did not hesitate, as others of his sect, to remon- 
strate with the great Protector in the day of his power. 
Tt is obvious, however, that he showed as little sense 
as temper in dealing with Bunyan. Humble as the 
author of Gospel Truths Opened was, and with but a 
modest opinion of himself, he was not to be silenced 
by mere loudness of tone and stormy language. He 
replied accordingly with great advantage, quietly ex- 
horting his adversary to preserve a more sober spirit, 
and some appearance at least of moderation. He tells 
him that he fights against the saints " with a parcel of 
scolding expressions." He then returns to his charge 
against the Quakers. Their "inner light" he argues, 
is nothing more than conscience. " That light where- 
with Christ, as He is God, hath lightened every one that 
Cometh into the world, is the soul of man, which is the 
life of the body, and yet itself is but a creature. This 
creature hath one faculty of its own nature, called con- 
science, which hath its place in the soul, where it is a 
judge to discern of things good or bad. Now, this con- 
science, this nature itself, because it can control and 
chide them for sin, therefore must it be idolised and 
made a God of . . . Conscience is not the spirit of 
Christ, but a poor dunghill creature in comparison 
with the spirit of Christ." He maintains, in answer 
to Burroughs' charge of misrepresentation, that the 
Quakers were in their principles substantially the same 
as the Banters, and waxes somewhat bitterly satirical 
in maintaining this point. To the reproach- of covet- 
ousness and making merchandise of souls, which Bur- 
roughs had recklessly urged against him, he replied, as 
he well might, in a high, yet patient and well-pos- 
sessed spirit. " Friend, dost thou speak thus as from 
thy own knowledge, or did any other body tell thee 

BUNYAN. 441 

SO ? However, that spirit that led thee out of this 
way is a lying spirit. For though I be poor, and of 
no repute in the world as to outward things, yet this 
grace I have learned by the example of the Apostle, to 
preach the truth ; and also to work with my hands 
both for mine own living and for those that are with 
me, when I have opportunity. And I trust that the 
Lord Jesus, who hath helped me to reject the wages of 
unrighteousness hitherto, will also help me still, so 
that I shall distribute that which God hath given me 
freely, and not for filthy lucre's sake." 

Bunyan turned from controversy gladly to preaching 
and the more practical work of the ministry. A truly 
apostolical zeal animated him to carry the tidings of 
salvation which had made his own heart joyful to 
those who were living without any profession of re- 
ligion. His great desire was "to get into the dark- 
est places of the country, even amongst those people 
that were farthest off profession." He laboured with 
unceasing earnestness to see the fruits of his ministry, 
and if it proved fruitful, nothing else disturbed him 
— no opposition daunted him. The "doctors and 
priests vehemently opposed him ; " but he quietly 
pursued his calling, giving no heed to their railing. 
Sometimes, indeed, in the very midst of his preach- 
ing, his old darkness came upon him. The old spirit 
of fear and evil suggestion still visited him, and at 
times would so violently assault him with thoughts 
of blasphemy, that he was prompted to utter them 
aloud before the congregation. Occasionally, when he 
had begun to preach with much clearness, evidence, 
and liberty of speech, before ending he would become 
" so blinded and estranged from all that he had been 
saying, that he did not know or remember what he 


had been about ; as if my head," he says, " had been 
in a bag all the time of my exercise. " Then he 
would be sometimes lifted up with his apparent suc- 
cess, and some " sharp and piercing sentence," as that 
respecting " sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal,"* 
would ring in his heart, and bring him to the dust of 

When these spiritual temptations failed to move 
him, and his ministry only grew and prospered the 
more, because of his constant sense of his spiritual 
weakness and his protracted discipline, his adversary 
" tried another way," which was perhaps still harder 
for Bunyan to bear, although his unflagging spirit and 
the testimony of a good conscience no less supported 
him here. Malicious and ignorant slanders were put 
in circulation against him, as that he was a " witch, 
a Jesuit, a highwayman, and the like." Worst of all, 
and with the boldest confidence, it was reported that 
he had his "misses, whores, and bastards — yea, two 
wives at once, and the like." He professed to glory 
in these slanders as characteristics of his Christian 
profession, even " as an ornament ;" but they were not 
the less painful to his sensitive spirit, and they roused 
him both to unwonted indignation and protest. He 
calls them "fools and knaves" who have thus dared 
to slander him, and appeals confidently to his estab- 
lished character in refutation of the calumnies. "My 
foes," he says, " have missed their mark in this their 
shooting at me. I am not the man. I wish that 
they themselves be guiltless. If all the fornicators 
and adulterers in England were hanged up by the 
neck till they be dead, John Bunyan, the object of 

* " Shall I be proud because I am a sounding brass ? Is it so nauch to 
be a fiddle?" he says, characteristically. 

BUNYAN. 443 

tlieir envy, would be still alive and well. I know not 
whether there be such a thing as a woman breathing 
under the copes of the heavens, but by their apparel, 
their children, or by common fame, except my wife. 
And in this I admire the wisdom of God that he made 
me shy of women from my first conversion until now. 
These know, and can also bear me witness, with whom 
I have been most intimately concerned, that it is a 
rare thing to see me carry it pleasantly towards a 
woman. The common salutation of women I abhor — 
it is odious to me in whomsoever I see it. Their com- 
pany alone I cannot away with ; I seldom so much as 
touch a woman's hand, for I think these things are not 
so becoming me. When I have seen good men salute 
those women that they have visited, or that have visited 
them, I have at times made my objection against it ; 
and when they have answered that it was but a piece 
of civility, I have told them it is not a comely sight ; 
some indeed have urged the holy kiss, but then I have 
asked why they made baulks, — why they did salute the 
most handsome, and let the ill-favoured go. Thus, how 
laudable soever such things have been in tlie eyes of 
others, they have been unseemly in my sight." 

There is a charming simplicity in this confession. 
No one could doubt, after such a statement, the clear- 
minded honesty and guileless straightness of heart of 
the tinker preacher. The touch as to " making baulks," 
on the bestowal of the holy kiss, possesses an irresist- 
ible naivety, more like the innocent prattle of a child 
than the maturely recorded experiences of a man. 
Bunyan was, indeed, and remained, a child m heart. 
The simplest rules and plainest instincts of duty 
always guided him, and left his motives and conduct 
intelligible as the daylight. 


He had been preaching about four years, when the 
Eestoration came, and brought serious consequences 
to him, as to many others. He had been in difficulty 
before. The book of the Baptist congregation, pre- 
served at Bedford, bears an entry to the effect that, 
"on the 25th December 1657, the Church resolved to 
set apart a day for seeking counsel of God what to do 
with respect to the indictment against brother Bunyan, 
at the Assizes, for preaching at Eaton." He has not 
himself said anything of this indictment; and there 
is every reason to suppose that it was not prosecuted. 
Probably it was some expression of the dislike of the 
Presbyterians towards him ; the " doctors and priests, 
who opened their mouths wide against him " when he 
began his ministry ; but however strongly they might 
desire to silence him, this was not so easily accom- 
plished, while the firm, but tolerant, hand of Crom- 
well still held the reins of power. 

He was among the first, however, who experienced 
the persecuting effects of the Eestoration. The inof- 
fensiveness of his life, and the comparative obscurity of 
his ministry, might have been supposed a sufficient 
shield to Bunyan ; but his plain speaking, and down- 
right sincerity of character, and the popularity of his 
ministry among the lower orders, made him obnoxious 
to local vigilance and jealousy. He became a victim 
to these, rather than to any direct act of vengeance 
on the part of the Government. As yet, in fact, the 
Government had taken no steps to control the liberty 
of preaching. The Act of Uniformity, and the Con- 
venticle Act, were still in the distance. But certain 
old acts against unordained preachers were sufficient 
to enable the Justices of Bedford to take steps against 

BUNYAN. 445 

He lias himself told us the story of his seizure, and 
the reasons which induced him to risk himself, not- 
withstanding the dissuasions of his friends. He was 
engaged to preach at " Samsell, by Harliugton, in 
Bedfordshire." A warrant was out against him, issued 
by Justice Wingate ; and, just as he had met with 
his friends, and they were ready to begin their exer- 
cise, — "Bibles in their hands," — the constable came 
in. Bunyan might have made his escape, and was 
advised to do so ; but he thought that "if he should 
run and make an escape," it would be "of ill savour 
in the country ; " his conduct might prove a " discou- 
ragement to the whole body." He had no vain am- 
bition to be a martyr, but he honestly looked ujjon 
himself as an example to his co-rehgionists, and, hav- 
ing weighed the whole matter in his mind, he resolved 
not to fly. 

He was brought before the Justice next morning ; 
and the matter would have ended easily, if he would 
have permitted his sureties to become bound that 
he would cease from preaching. But to this he 
would on no account consent. "Wingate urged that 
it was against the law for him to preach, and that 
he should confine himself to his calling. He replied 
that he could follow his calling and preach too, and 
the object of his meetings was only " to instruct and 
counsel people to forsake their sins and close in with 
Christ, lest they miserably perish." The Justice with- 
drew to make out a "mittimus" to send him to jail, 
and, while he was absent, one Dr Lindale, whom he 
calls an " old enemy of the truth," came in, and fell 
to taunting him " with many reviling terms." Lin- 
dale appears to have been a beneficed clergyman of 
Bedford ; and we see in him the natural scorn of the 


cavalier diurchman for the preaching tinker. They 
enter into a railing dispute about the latter's right 
to preach ; — Bunyan pleading cleverly the text, " As 
every man hath received the gift, even so let him 
minister the same ; " and Lindale, throwing in his 
teeth the case of "Alexander the coppersmith, whO; 
did much oppose and disturb the Apostles," " aiming 
'tis like at me," he adds naively, "because I was a 
tinker." "You are one of those Scribes and Phari- 
sees who for a pretence make long prayers, to devour 
widows' houses," urged Lindale. Bunyan retorted 
that "if he had got no more by preaching and pray- 
ing than he had done, he would not be so rich as 
he was." 

The interview is painful, but characteristic ; the 
impudent dignity of the churchman, the complacency 
of the Puritan. In aU fairness, we cannot accent Bun- 
yan's idea of Lindale, any more than Lindale's idea 
of Bunyan. We know the latter's worth and sim- 
plicity, notwithstanding that he seemed to Lindale a 
mere fanatical rogue ; and although Lindale was pro- 
bably no model of an apostolical divine, we have 
no reason to think that he was a mere enemy to reli- 
gion, a mere " Hate-good." Bunyan's most copious 
biographer* has not been able to bring any facts 
against him beyond those that appear in the narra- 
tive, although he has not failed to apply to him op- 
probrious language. 

As Bunyan was being carried off to prison, some 
of his friends appeared, and made another effort to 
obtain his release. He was led back before Wingate ; 
and another Justice, of the name of Foster, makes 
his appearance, of whom we have a very singular, 
* Philip. 

BUNTAN, 447 

and not very intelligible, portrait. " When I came to 
the Justice again," he says, " there was Mr Foster 
of Bedford, who, coming out of another room, and 
seeing of me by the light of the candle, — for it was 
dark night when I came thither, — he said unto me, 
'Who is there? John Buny&n?' with such seeming af- 
fection, as if he would have leaped on my neck and 
kissed me, which made me somewhat wonder that 
such a man as he, with Avhom I had so little acquaint- 
ance, and, besides, that had ever been a close opposer 
of the ways of God, should carry himself so full of 
love to me ; but afterwards, when I saw what he did, 
it caused me to remember those sayings, 'Their 
tongues are smoother than oil, but their words are 
drawn swords.' When I had answered him that, 
blessed be God, I was well, he said, ' What is the occa- 
sion of your coming here?' or to that purpose. To 
whom I answered that I was at a meeting of people 
a little way off, intending to speak a word of exhorta- 
tion to them ; but the Justice hearing thereof, said I, 
was pleased to send his warrant to fetch me before 

And then follows a long altercation between them. 
Foster was evidently no friend of Bunyan, but neither 
does he seem to have cherished towards him any wil- 
ful hostility ; he had' rather wished to cajole him, and 
have the matter hushed up. He was apparently an 
ordinary specimen of the crafty civic politician, who 
did not wish the peace disturbed if he could help 
it ; his conduct is that of the self-important provin- 
cial dignitary, who had no dislike to the preacher, 
save in so far as he interfered with his magisterial 
responsibility. When he found that he could not 
move Bunyan's calm sense of duty, he was naturally; 


angered, and concurred in the sentence to send liim 
to prison. His friends made still another effort, five 
days later, to get him delivered on bail, but this 
also was unsuccessful "Whereat," he says, " I was 
not at all daunted, but rather glad." A spirit like 
this was not likely to yield before the Justices of 

After he had lain in prison about seven weeks, 
the Quarter Sessions came to be held in Bedford. A 
formal indictment was preferred against him, and he 
was tried before five Justices, whose names he has pre- 
served. The indictment charges him with " devilishly 
and perniciously abstaining from coming to church to 
hear divine service," and with being " a common up- 
holder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles, 
to the great disturbance and distraction of the good 
subjects of this kingdom, contrary to the laws of our 
Sovereign Lord the King," &c. The only interest of 
the trial arises from the glimpses which it gives us 
of the popular religious sentiments among Churchmen 
and Puritans, at this stage of the controversy. The 
discussion turned in the first instance on Bunyan's 
opposition to the Church Service, and especially the 
Book of Common Prayer. He is very firm and ready, 
if not very enlightened or comprehensive, in his argu- 
ments. Justice Keeling, his chief disputant, presents 
a singular mixture of sense and ignorance. To Bun- 
yan's Scripture texts he can find little or nothing to 
say, but he responds with heartiness to the common 
sense of some of his remarks ; and although rude and 
offensive in his language, he does not appear unjust 
or violent beyond the terms of the law. He was a 
fair specimen, probably, of a royalist magistrate of the 
time — ignorant and somewhat insolent, but good-na- 

BUNYAN. 449 

tured and indifferent,— confounding all religion, except 
that of the Prayer-Book, with fanaticism and sedition. 
Bimyan was pressed to declare his reason for not 
attending the service of the Church. He pleaded that 
he "did not find it commanded in the Word of God." 
Keeling urged that he was commanded to pray. The 
Puritan admitted this, but said he was not bound to pray 
by the Common Prayer Book. The prayers in it "were 
such as were made by men, and not by the motions of 
the Holy Ghost within our hearts." A man can only 
pray "through a sense of those things which he wants, 
which sense is begotten by the Spirit." The Justice 
owned the truth of this, but maintained that it was pos- 
sible to pray "with the Spirit, and with the Book of Com- 
mon Prayer too." He further defended the Prayer-Book 
as warrantable, "after our Lord's example, who taught 
his disciples to pray ; and that as one man may con- 
vince another of sin, so prayers made by men and read 
over may be good to teach and help men to pray." 
Bunyan replied with the text, " The Spirit helpeth our 
infirmities." So far Keeling conducts the argument 
fairly enough, and not without force. There is a rough 
sense in many of his statements. By-and-by, however, 
he falls, along with his brother Justices, into mere 
railing. Wearied probably wdth Bunyan' s pertinacity, 
he appears to lose his temper, and to the pious ejacu- 
lations of the Puritan, retorts, " This is pedlar's French 
— leave off your canting." 

The result was that Bimyan was sentenced to three 
months' imprisonment, with a warning that if he did 
not cease his preaching he would be banished, and if 
found afterwards within the realm, that he should 
" stretch by the neck for it." This was all that the 
Eestoration had to say to men like him, and it was 

2 F 


a somewhat sorry saying. Imprisonment — and then 
banishment — and then hanging — if you do not con- 
form to the parish church. It met happily a "spirit 
of power," not to be daunted even by such threats. 
" If I was out of prison to-day," replied Bunyan, " I 
would preach the Gospel again to-morrow, by the 
help of God." 

Yet, with all his boldness, he felt deeply the pain- 
fulness of his lot. Parting with his wife and chil- 
dren Avas " like pulling the flesh from his bones ; " 
and especially the thought of his poor blind child, 
who " lay nearer to his heart than all beside," made 
him cry out bitterly — "Oh ! the thoughts of the hard- 
ship I thought my poor blind one might go under, 
would break my heart to pieces. Poor child, thought 
I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion 
in this world ! Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer 
hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, 
though I cannot now endure the wind should blow 
upon thee. But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I 
must venture you all with God, though it goeth to 
the quick to leave you. Oh ! I saw in this condition 
I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon 
the head of his wife and children ; yet, thought I, 
I must do it — I must do it." 

When Bunyan had been in prison three months an- 
other effort was made to induce him to submit to the law, 
as interpreted by the Justices. They sent to him the 
Clerk of the Peace, Mr Cobb, to reason with him, and 
to endeavour to gain his assent to terms which would 
admit of his being liberated. This seems to have been 
done on their part in perfect good faith ; there is no 
evidence of a wish to inflict illegal punishment upon 
him, Paide and violent as they had been when heated 

BUNYAN. 451 

in altercation witli him — prompt and liarsli as liad been 
their vigilance in making his arrest — the magistrates 
of Bedford were not yet without some relentings, or at 
least desires to be quit of a troublesome business. 
They must not be judged unfairly. The Clerk of 
the Peace also, who acted as their agent on this occa- 
sion, was apparently a reasonable and kindly man — 
really anxious to open up a door for his escape 
from prison, if he only could be brought to yield a 
little. It was conceded to liim that he might address 
his neighbours in private, x^i'ovided only that he did 
not call together an assembly of the people ; but 
he would not give up any part of his freedom, and 
urged that his sole end in meeting with others was to 
do as much good as he could. It was replied by Cobb 
that others urged the same in their unlawful meetings, 
such as had issued in the late insurrection in London.* 
Bunyan declared that he abhorred such practices, and 
pleaded his readiness to manifest his loyalty both by 
word and deed. Their argument came to nothing. 
Bunyan insisted on his right of preaching freely. He 
would give the notes of all his sermons, to prevent 
occasion of suspicion as to his doctrine ; for he seri- 
ously desired to " live quietly in his country, and to 
submit to the present authority ; " but he would not 
purchase his freedom by any promise of public silence. 
He would lie in jail rather. " The law," he said, "hath 
provided two ways of obeying ; the one, to do that 
which I in my conscience do believe that I am bound 
to do actively ; and where I cannot obey actively, there 
I am willing to lie down and to suffer what they shall 
do unto me." At this his interlocutor sat still, and 

* The insurrection of Venner, wliich was made the pretext of dealing 
severely with the Nonconformists. 


said no more, " which, wlien he had done," he adds, "I 
thanked him for his civil and meek discussion with 
me ; and so we parted. that we might meet in 
heaven ! FarewelL" 

He remained in prison, under sentence of " ban- 
ishment or hanging," unless he should recant. But 
just as the time drew near in which he should have 
" abjured, or done worse," the coronation took place ; 
and, according to a royal proclamation, persons im- 
prisoned and under sentence were allowed to sue for a 
pardon within twelve months. This suspended any 
further proceedings against him ; and when the sum- 
mer assizes came on (1G61), he resolved to avail him- 
self of the privilege of petitioning. His friends were 
either forgetful, or possessed little influence ; and it was 
left to his wife to urge his case before the judges, 
which she did with a noble and pathetic dignity 
which has made her memorable, and stamped her as 
one of the heroines of Puritanism. She Avas his second 
wife, Avhom he had married about a year before his 
imprisonment. Of his former wife's death we are told 
nothing. Her early influence for good upon him will 
be remembered, and everything said of her suggests a 
favourable impression. His second wife was " worthy 
of the first" — a gentle, modest, yet intrepid woman, 
whose meekness and simplicity shine forth under all 
her hardiness and courage in behalf of her husband. 

Sir Matthew Hale was one of the judges, and to 
him Bunyan's wife iirst came with her petition. He 
received her "very mildly," telling her " that he would 
do her and me the best good he could ; but he feared, 
he said, he could do none. " " The next day again," 
he continues his narrative, " lest they should, through 
the multitude of business, forget me, we did throw 

BUNYAN. 453 

anotlier petition into the coacli to Judge Twisdoii, who, 
wheji he had seen it, snapt her up, and angrily told 
her that he was a convicted person, and could not be 
released unless I would promise to preach no more. 
Well, after this, she again presented another petition 
to Judge Hale, as he sat upon the bench, who, as it 
seemed, was willing to give her audience. Only Jus- 
tice Chester being present, slipt up and said that I 
was convicted in the court, and that I w^as a hot- 
spirited fellow, or words to that purpose, wliereat he 
(Hale) waived it, and did not meddle therewith." The 
conflict between the willingness of Hale — his Avish 
to do a service to the poor woman before him — and 
the rude unkindness of his brother judges — the help- 
lessness of the petitioner, " throwing her petition into 
the coach to Judge Twisdon " as he passed — give us a 
touching glimpse of the times, and of the unhappy 
difficidties of honest and good men like Hale who 
sought to serve the Government of the Eestoration. 

It might have been supposed that his repulses would 
have daunted one even so courageous as Bunyan's wife ; 
but, like the woman before the august Judge, as her 
husband hints, she resolved "to make another ven- 
ture." As the Judges sat in the "Swan Chambers, 
with many justices and gentry of the country in com- 
pany together," she came before them "with abashed 
face and trembling heart," yet determined, if possible, 
to gain a hearing. She directed herself to Hale again, 
but he told her as before that he could do her no good, 
because her husband had been held as convicted on 
his own statements. She continued her pleading, 
urging that she had been to London, and spoken with 
one of the House of Lords there, who said that her 
husband's case was committed to the Judges at the 


next assizes. Chester and Twisdon would hear no- 
thing on the subject — the one repeating always, " He 
is convicted," " It is recorded ; " and the other urging 
that her husband was a "breaker of the peace." As 
she spoke of " four little children,"* the heart of Hale 
was touched, and he answered very mildly, say- 
ing, " I tell thee, woman, seeing it is so, that they 
have taken what thy husband spoke for a conviction, 
thou must either apply thyself to the King, or sue out 
his pardon, or get a writ of error." This was but 
small comfort to the poor woman : but even so much 
"chafed" Justice Chester, so that he "put off his hat, 
and scratched his head for anger." Unable to prevail 
with them to send for her husband that he miuht 
speak for himself, which she often desired them to do, 
she left in deep distress at her want of success. "I 
could not but break forth into tears," she says, add- 
ing, with a truly Puritanic touch, " not so much 
because they were so hard-headed against me and my 
husband, but to think what a sad account such poor 
creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, 
when they shall then answer for all things." 

The result of all was, that Bunyan was left in prison. 
Fortunately, he found a friend in his jailer, and his 
imprisonment was mitigated for some time to such 
an extent as to render it merely nominal. He was 
permitted to go and come, and even engage in preach- 
ing, as he had been accustomed. " I had by my 
jailer," he says, " some liberty granted me, more than 
at first, and I followed my wonted course of preach- 
ing, taking all occasions that were put into my hand to 
visit the people of God, exhorting them to be steadfast 
in the faith of Jesus Christ, and to take heed that they 

* The children of his former wife. 

liUNYAN. 455 

touclied not the Common Prayer, &c., but to mind the 
word of God." The harshness which he encountered 
seems, as in all such cases, to have hardened his pol- 
emical hostility to the Church of England. The very 
consciousness that he was in "bonds" for what he 
considered the truth, and that his visits and preach- 
ing were surreptitious, operated to intensify his zeal, 
and to call forth a warmer fervour of opposition to 
those from whom he suffered. His sufferino's also 
served to increase his importance and influence among 
his own people. Hitherto he had not been in any 
sense a leader among them. His conflict with the 
Quaker, Burroughs, may have given him some promi- 
nence, heightened by the remarkable circumstances of 
his conversion ; but it required his imprisonment, and 
the intrepid defence which he made for his opinions, 
to bring into full view his claims to respect and influ- 
ence. It was this rising reputation in his own j)er- 
suasion which, no doubt, led him to run the risk of 
going to see " Christians at London," as he tells us lie 
ventured to do, by the indulgence of his jailer. This 
indulgence, however, cost him severely. His enemies 
hearing of it threatened the jailer with expulsion from 
his oftice, and his liberty Avas in consequence short- 
ened, so that he " must not look out of the door." It 
was charged against him that he went to London " to 
plot and raise " divisions, and make insurrection, which, 
"God knows," he says, "was a slander." 

Bunyan certainly cannot be supposed to have had 
any hand in political plots against the Government, 
No man in the country was more honestly loyal. If 
he had only been allowed to preach, no one was dis- 
posed to live a more peaceable life. Southey has indeed 
said that " the man who distinauished a handful of 


Baptists in London as the Christians of that great me- 
tropolis, and who, when let out by favour from the 
prison, exhorted the people of God, as he calls them, to 
take heed that they touched not the Common Prayer, 
was not employed in promoting unity, nor in making 
good subjects, however good his intentions, however 
orthodox his creed, however sincere and fervent his 
piety." That may or may not be — but it is little to 
the point. There is no tyranny that might not urge 
such a plea. Neither Bunyan nor his co-religionists 
were a whit the worse subjects on account of their 
peculiar notions regarding the Prayer-Book and the 
number of Christians in London. These notions — right 
or wrong — had nothing to do with the civil obedience 
of those that held them. Bunyan's confinement, as 
Southey goes on to urge, may have proved an advan- 
tage to him — it may have given leisure for his " under- 
standing to repose and cool ; " but it was not the less 
a gross infringement of civil liberty ; and it is but a 
miserable defence of a Church and a cause that tries 
to find any justification for the hardships inflicted on 
the author of the Pilgrim's P7'og7rss. 

He made still some further efforts at the " fol- 
lowing assizes " to be released from his imprisonment. 
He tried even to have his name " put into the calen- 
dar among the felons, " and to " make friends of the 
Judge and High Sheriff, who promised that he should 
be called." His friendly jailer rendered him every 
assistance he could, but all his efforts were frustrated. 
He blames severely for this his quondam friend Mr 
Cobb, the Clerk of the Peace, who had formerly inte- 
rested himself in his behalf, or appeared to do so. It 
would almost seem as if the Justices of Bedford and 
their friends felt their position, and the character of 

BUNYAN. 457 

their legal administration, committed in Bmiyan's case ; 
and that some strongly official feeling more than any- 
thing else interfered with his liberation. He had been 
" lawfully convicted," the Clerk of the Peace argued, as 
the Justices had done, and he was, therefore, " not to 
be set free except in the ordinary course of the law." 
He represents Cobb as running first to the Clerk of 
the Assizes, and then to the Justices, and then again to 
the jailer, in case his name should get into the calen- 
dar through any misrepresentation or informality, and 
an opportunity for his release be ojDcned up. So it 
was he was " hindered and prevented from appearing 
before the Judge and left in prison." 

Here he remained during . the next seven years — 
years of silent but wonderful mental growth to him. 
Working with his hands to support his family — making 
tag-laces for his wife and children to sell* — his mind at 
the same time found work for itself. His imagination 
became more intensely and creatively active than it had 
ever been. In the solitude of his prison he learned to 
dream ; or rather, for he had always been a dreamer, 
he learned to depict his dreams. He became the great 
artist of that spiritual world in which he lived and 
moved and had his being. Shut out from living com- 
munication witJi his fellow-men, and thirsting after 
sympathy with the spiritual realities — the diverse forms 
of religious passion — with which he had been so con- 
versant in his ministerial experience, he called them 
into life around him, and peopled his solitude with 

* Charles Doe, one of his friends, who visited Bunyan in prison, and 
afterwards interested himself in the collection of his works, says, " I 
have been witness that his own hands ministered to his and his family 
necessities, making many hundred gross of long tagged laces, to fill up 
the vacancies of his time, which he had learned to do for that purpose 
since he had been in prison." — Memoir, iv. 


tlieir breathing and active presence. From the ver}' 
darkness and inactivity and solitariness of liis outward 
life was born the faculty which made his inner life 
bright with the conception of those beautiful and 
varied characters, and that vivid imagery of incident 
which compose his allegories. Had Bunyan's spiritual 
zeal and imaginativeness found scope in outward 
work, — had he been left practically to direct Christians 
and Faithfuls and Hopefuls — to exhort the Timorous 
and Doubting — and to reprove the Pliable, the Forma- 
list, the Hy[)ocrite, and the Talkative, — we might never 
have had the vivid pictures of these characters that 
we have from his fertile pen. It was when his living 
tongue could no longer reach them, when the actual 
struggle to help the weak and rebuke the erring was 
no longer possible to him, that his fancy fashioned in 
a dream the Pilgrim's Progress, and all his creative 
skill w^as called forth in depicting it. The world of 
actual religious struggle w\as removed from him ; but, 
as he dreamed, lo ! it was once more around him, and 
he lived in it, and found his highest interest and 
pleasure in it. Every form of the reality had stamped 
itself on his mind, and it came forth to the touch of 
his fancy true and perfect. He might be hindered 
from ministering to his flock in Bedford, but none 
could hinder him from ministering to the flock of his 
imagination, whose necessities and difficulties — whose 
hopes and fears — were as real to him as if he had lived 
in visible contact with them. 

Bunyan himself has told how accidentally he hit 
upon his great plan. He was engaged in the com- 
position of some other book — some have supposed, and 
not improbably, his Grace abounding to the Chief of 
Sinners, or the autobiographical narrati-\^e from which 

Bu:^7TAi^. 459 

we have quoted so mncli in the course of our sketch 
— wheu he "fell suddenly into an allegory." Many 
points of similitude between the Christian life and a 
journey struck him on the instant, and he noted them 
down ; the idea once started, it branched off into num- 
berless illustrations, and his memory could scarcely 
keep pace with the creations of his heated fancy * 

There is reason to think that the Pilgrims Progress 
was not the first product of his allegorical faculty, 
although it first proved to him its strength. His ima- 
ginative dreaming had already found scope in efforts 
less happy, but which show no less strongly how natu- 
rally his mind turned in this direction. The extended 
sermon, entitled Tlw Holy City, or the Nno Jerusalem, 
was probably the first of his writings of this kind. It 
was published while he was still in prison in 1665, 
and he has himself, in his " Prefatory Epistle to four 
sorts of Eeaders," told us the history of its origin. The 
statement gives us an interesting glimpse of his prison 
life, apart from its own importance. " The occasion of 

* " And thus it was : I writing of the way 
And i-ace of saints, in this our Gospel daj'. 
Fell suddenly into an allegory 
About their journey and the way to glory. 
In more than twenty things, which I set down ; 
This done, I twenty more had in my crown ; 
And they again began to multiply. 
Like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly. 
Nay then, thought I, if that you breed so fast, 
I'll put you by yourselves, lest you at last 
Should prove ad injirtitinn, and eat out 
The book that I already am about. 
Well, so I did ; but yet I did not think 
To show to all the world my pen and ink 
In such a mode ; I only thought to make 
I knew not what ; nor did I undertake 
Thereby to please my neighbour ; no, not I ; 
I did it mine own self to gratify." 


my first meddling with tliese matters," lie says, " was as 
followeth : Upon a certain fast-day, I being together 
with my brethren in our prison-chamber, they expected 
that, according to our custom, something should be 
spoken out of the Word for our mutual edification ; 
but at that time I felt myself, it being my turn to 
speak, so empty, speechless, and barren, that I thought 
I should not have been able to speak among them so 
much as five words of truth with life and evidence ; 
but at last it so fell out that providentially I cast mine 
eye upon the 11th verse of the one-and-twentieth chap- 
ter of this prophecy (Eev. xxi. 11) ; upon which, when 
I had considered a while, methought I perceived some- 
thing of that jasper, in whose light you there find this 
Holy City is to come or descend : wherefore, having got 
in my eye some dim glimmerings thereof, and finding 
also in my heart a desire to see further thereunto, I with 
a few groans did carry my meditations to the Lord Jesus 
for a blessing, which he did forthwith grant, according 
to his grace ; and, helping me to set before my bre- 
thren, we did all eat and were well refreshed ; and 
behold also, that while I was in the distributing of it, it 
so increased in my hand that of the fragments that we 
left, after we had well dined, I gathered up this bas- 
ketful. Methought the more I cast mine eye upon 
the whole discourse the more I saw lie in it. Where- 
fore setting myself to a more narrow search through 
frequent prayer to God, what first Avith doing and 
then with undoing, and after that with doing again, I 
then did finish it." 

In the process of " doing and undoing, and doing 
again," we can imagine Bunyan trying his strength as 
a spiritual designer. His own complacency in his 
newly-found gift is obvious. He is like a man who. 

BUNYAN^. 461 

laboriously striving to learn a task, suddenly finds 
himself in possession of a more cunning way of doing 
it. He has started a spring of hidden accomplish- 
ment, which works in him henceforth with a joyous 
and fruitful activity. But the accomplishment is not 
without its snares. Its very facility to one like Bun- 
y an— all whose thoughts are images— is its danger ; 
and it cannot he said that he has escaped this danger. 
Certainly he has not done so in his first attempt. In 
the Holy City there is too little concentration— too 
much of the mere straggling play of fancy— catching 
at every point, and stretchiug its capricious tendrils 
around every clause, and even word. It is tedious in 
its minute spiritualising, and frequently overdone and 
mistaken in its applications ; but it shows, at the same 
time, a wonderful consistency and life of treatment. 
Almost any taste but that of Bunyan's, with its singular 
instinct of truthfulness, even where it is following out 
a wrong idea, would have gone lamentably astray in 
the execution of such a task as he attempted. 

Bunyan tried his new powers not merely in prose, 
but in verse. His poems are supposed to have been 
chiefly written during his imprisonment. They have 
feeling and tenderness, and a quaint grace of expres- 
sion ; but more can scarcely be said in their behalf. 
They have none of the imaginative vigour and life 
of his allegories. His Profitable Meditations,^ his One 
Thing is Needful, and Ehal and Gerizzim, or the Bless- 
ing and the Curse, may interest the curious, and even 
excite the admiration of certain minds ; but in them 
we see Bunyan, not in his strength, but in his weak- 
ness. His rhymes at times are deplorable, as any one 
may judge from looking at the poetical prologues to 

* A beautiful edition of these, edited by Mr Offer, has just appeared. 


the two parts of the Pilgrim's Progress. Yet there is a 
strange, careless felicity here and there — and especially 
in his Divine Emblems. In these, more than elsewhere, 
he really rises at times into poetry; and the simple 
tenderness of his imaginative brooding breaks forth 
into touching and expressive pictures. * 

During the last three or four years of his imprison- 
ment, its strictness was greatly relaxed. He was per- 
mitted, as before, to visit his friends, and even to 
preach. So little was his action fettered, that he was 
really designed to the pastoral office among his old 
Bedford congregation before lie had formally obtained 
his freedom. He renewed his interest in religious 
discussion by making a vigorous attack upon a book 
then making some noise. The Design of Christianity, 
by Dr Fowler, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, This 
book marked the rising of the new spirit wdiich 
was so soon to leaven the theology of the Church of 
England. It was the design of Christianity, accord- 
ing to it, not so much to free man from guilt, and to 
grant a free and gracious pardon, as to restore his 
nature to its original state of soundness and moral 
harmony. It spoke of a righteousness as a " sound 

* For example, in the following lines on the " Sun's Reflection upon 
the Clouds on a Fair Morning" — 

" Look yonder ! Ah ! methinks mine eyes do see 
Clouds edged with silver as fine garments be ; 
They look as if they saw the golden face 
That makes black clouds most beautiful with grace. 
Unto the Saint's sweet incense of then- prayer. 
These smoky curled clouds I do compare ; 
For, as these clouds seem edged or laced with gold, 
Their prayers return with blessings mainfold," 

If this is scarcely poetry, it is, perhaps, something better ; and there 
are others, such as the lines on a " Fruitful Apple-Tree," and those on 
the " Child with a Bird at the Bush," that show the same rich simpli- 
city of language, and the same sweet plaintive tone. 

BUNYAN. 463 

complexion of zeal, such, as maintains in life and 
vigour whatsoever is essential to it, by the force ancV 
power whereof a man is enabled to behave himself as 
a creature indued with a principle of reason, keeps his 
supreme faculty on its throne, brings into due subjec- 
tion all his inferior ones, his carnal imagination, his 
brutish passions and affections." The purity of human 
nature — the essence of the Divine — was represented as 
consisting in a " hearty approbation of, and an affec- 
tionate compliance with, the eternal laws of righteous- 
ness, and a behaviour agreeable to the essential and 
immutable differences of good and evil." 

Such principles were peculiarly obnoxious to Bunyan. 
They came into conflict with all his own deepest ex- 
periences, as well as with his views of Scripture. 
Christianity, viewed as a mere moral system, was to 
him no Gospel at all ; and he no sooner heard of the 
book, than he was anxious to see it and reply to it. 
It was brought to him in prison in February 1672, 
and in the course of forty-two days he had written 
his answer to it, under the title of A Defence of the 
Doctrine of J^istifcation by Faith in Jesus Christ, 
2Jroving that Gospel Holiness flows from thence. His 
defence is a vigorous and lively argument — not very 
systematic or coherent, but making up for the want 
of system by the cleverness and energy of its detailed 
attacks. He makes short work with the learning and 
philosophy of the Design of Christianity ; and, taking 
his stand on the simple letter of Scripture, on many 
points very successfully encounters Fowler. His 
whole heart was in the work, and he is not sparing 
in his epithets. He begins as follows: — "Sir,— Having 
heard of your book entitled The Design of Christianity, 
and that in it was contained such principles as gave 


just offence to Christian ears, I was desirous of a 
view thereof, that, from my sight of things, I might 
be the better able to judge. But I could not obtain, 
till the 18th of this 10th month, which was too soon 
for you, Sir, a pretended minister of the Word, so 
vilely to expose to public view the rottenness of your 
heart on principles diametrically opposite to the sim- 
plicity of the Gospel of Christ. And, had it not been 
for the consideration, that it is not too late to oppose 
open blasphemy (such as endangereth the souls of 
thousands), I had cast by this answer as a thing out 
of season." 

Such a mode of attack was too easily retorted ; and 
Fowler replied in a style that far outdid Bunyan's 
abuse. His answer Avas entitled, Dirt Wiped Off, and, 
in the course of it, he designated Bunyan by such 
epithets as " a wretched scribbler," " a most black- 
mouthed calumniator," " so very dirty a creature, 
that he disdains to dirt his fingers with him." 

Bunyan was pardoned and liberated in September 
^\]772, at the time of the Declaration of Indulgence, 
after Charles had formed his secret plans for the re- 
establishment of Popery. The story has been, that 
Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, and Dr Owen, were con- 
cerned in his liberation; but there seems no good 
ground for this story. His old enemies, the Quakers, 
appear to have had more to do with it. "When Charles 
had issued his Indulgence, some of the Quakers sued 
for a special act of pardon, which they are said to 
have obtained, in consideration of the services wliich 
one of their number had rendered to the King, in 
assisting his escape after the battle of AVorcester. 
Greatly to their honour, the Quakers used their tem- 
porary access to the royal favour, not merely for the 

BUN Y AN. 465 

good of tlieir own sect ; tliey got included in the " in- 
strument " of pardon the names of many Dissenters, 
and, among others, that of John Bunyan.* 

On his release Bunyan devoted himself with renewed 
and enlarged activity to the duties of his ministry. A 
private house, which had been licensed as a place of 
meeting for his congregation, had become " so thronged 
that many were constrained to stay without, though it 
was very spacious, every one striving to partake of 
his instructions." He lived, we are told by one who 
was a "true friend and a long acquaintance," f in much 
peace and quiet of mind, contenting himself with that 
little God had bestowed upon him, and sequestering 
himself from all secular employments to follow that of 
his call to the ministry. Besides his labours in Bed- 
ford, he visited the neighbouring villages and counties, 
where he believed he could do good by his preaching 
or pastoral attentions, — "where he knew or imagined 
any people might stand in need of his assistance." The 
regularity of his visitations, and the general respect 
which began to be paid to him, procured him the ap- 
pellation of Bishop Bunyan. This may have been said 
half in "jeer," as his biographer supposes ; but even 
in this sense it testifies to the consideration which he 
had obtained among his sect, and the wide influence 
which he exercised. 

Notwithstanding his encounter with Dr Fowler, he 
maintained his character as an uncontroversial and 
peace-loving man. He spent much of his time in 
works of peace and charity, " in reconciling differences, 
by which he hindered many mischiefs, and saved some 
families from ruin." In such "fallings out "he was 

* Offor's Memoir of Bunyan, Works, i. 61. Ed. Glas. 
•t* Continuation of Mr Bunyan's Life. 
2 G 


uneasy till he found tlie means of reconciliation, and 
of establishing again the bonds of aftection. 

The same peace-loving spirit that marked his private 
life distinguished his ecclesiastical views. He was 
himself a Baptist, in the strictest sense ; he maintained, 
that is to say, that adult baj)tism was the scriptural 
rite, and repudiated the baptism of infants ; but he 
would not, with the great body of his co-religionists, 
convert the practice of personal " water baptism," as . 
they called it, into a test of communion. In a short 
treatise which he published after his liberation, en- 
titled A Confession of my Faith and a Reason of my 
Practice, he set forth his principles of communion in 
a very catholic spirit. He would hold Christian in- 
tercourse with all who showed faith and holiness, and 
who were willing to subject themselves to the laws 
and government of Christ in His Church. His views 
met with a storm of opposition from the more extreme 
of his own sect. Three of their most able and learned 
men — Dan vers, Kiflfin, and Paul— undertook the de- 
fence of sectarianism, and sought to overwhelm him 
at once by their learning and abuse. He complained 
meekly of the "unhandsome brands that they had laid 
upon him," as that he was a " Macliiavelliau," a man 
"devilish, proud, insolent, presumptuous, and the like." 
He refused to say in reply, " The Lord rebuke thee — 
words fitter to be spoken to the devil than a brother ; " 
but he appealed to the sense and judgment of his 
readers, in a further treatise on- the sul)ject, adding 
the following noble declaration : — " What Mr Kiffin 
hath done in the matter I forgive, and love him never 
the worse ; but must stand by my principles, because 
they are peaceable, godly, profitable, and such as tend 
to the edification of my brother, and as, I believe, Avill 

BUNYAN. 467 

be justified in the day of judgmeut. That I deny the 
ordinance of baptism, or that I have placed one piece 
of an argument against it, though they feign it, is quite 
without colour of truth. All I say is, that the Church 
of Christ hath not warrant to keep out of her com- 
munion the Christian that is discovered to be a visible 
saint by the Word — the Christian that walketh accord- 
ing to his light with God." 

But Bunyan was strong not only in temper, but in 
argument. He had a good cause, and felt that he had ; 
and he was not the man to yield in such a case to any 
storm of opposition, however much it might pain him. 
He vindicated at length his " j)eaceable principles and 
true," — met abuse with courageous confession, and sec- 
tarian feebleness with a quiet ridicule, which at times 
he could employ with great effect. His opponents had 
inquired insolently how long he had been a Baptist ; 
and remarked that it is " an ill bird that bewrays his 
own nest." He replied that he cared little for names 
— his only concern was to be a Christian. " As for 
these factious titles of Anabaptist, Independent, Pres- 
byterian, and the like, I conclude that they come 
neither from Jerusalem nor Antioch, but rather from 
hell and Babylon, for they naturally tend to division. 
You may know them by their fruits." * One of his 
opponents had said, that, " as great men's servants are 
known by their livery, so are Gospel believers by the 
livery of water baptism ;" to which he satirically re- 
plies — " Go you but ten doors from where men know 
you, and see how many of the world or Christians will 
know you by this goodly livery. What ! known by 
water baptism to be one who hath put on Christ, as 
a servant by the gay livery his master gave him? 

* Vol. ii. p. 6i9. 


Away, fond man : you do quite forget the text, ' By 
this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye 
love one another.' " * 

After the publication of the Pilgrim's Progress in 
1678, and some of his more popular tracts, such as 
Come and Weleome to Jesus Christ, Bunyan acquired 
not only respect but fame. Efforts were made to in- 
duce him to leave his congregation at Bedford for a 
more public sphere, but he steadily resisted them. As 
his friend Charles Doe says, " he refused a more plen- 
tiful income to keep his station." He made frequent 
visits, however, to London, to preach, and there his 
popularity attracted immense crowds to hear him. "I 
have seen," says Doe, "to hear him preach, by my com- 
putation, about 1200 at a morning lecture, by seven 
o'clock on a working day, in the dark winter-time. I 
also computed about 3000 came to hear him one Lord's 
day at London, at a Town's End meeting-house ; so 
that half m- ere fain to go back again for want of room, 
and then himself was fain, at a back door, to be pulled 
almost over people, to get upstairs to the pulpit." 

His popularity, and the attachment of his female 
converts, gave rise to a wretched scandal, upon which 
one of his biographers -f* has dwelt with unnecessary 
length. We have already quoted his opinion that he 
had no power of " carrying it pleasantly with women," 
their company alone he could not away with. One of his 
female disciples, however, Agnes Beaumont by name, 
courted his company on a particular occasion in such 
a manner as to try his firmness and overcome it. He 
was on his way from Bedford to preach at a neighbour- 
ing village. All his friends were stirred with anxiety 
to hear him, and Agnes amongst others. She was to 
* Vol. ii. p. 638. t Philip. 

BUNYAN. 469 

have been carried to the "meeting" on horseback, by a 
"certain j\Ir Wilson of Hitchin," but he disappointed 
her. As she stood at her father's door, plunged in grief, 
Bunyan himself, "quite unexpected," came up on horse- 
back ; and she, trembling with eagerness to go, yet 
afraid herself to ask to be taken by him, got her bro- 
ther to do so. He replied, "with some degree of 
roughness," "No, I will not carry her." But at length 
he was persuaded to do so. And she, overjoyed, got 
up behind him on the saddle. The affair, as may be 
imagined, gave rise to scandal. The tableau of Bunyan 
and a young woman riding together to sermon is amus- 
ing to the fancy ; and, with all allowance for the dif- 
ferent manners of the time, we can imagine how it 
would tickle the gossips of Bedford. Save as an illus- 
tration of these manners, the story is scarcely deserv- 
ing of preservation. It has been handed down in the 
narrative of the woman herself, which is of some length, 
and full of singularly naive touches here and there.* 

Bunyan's re])utatiori and popularity were not for a 
moment affected by this ridiculous scandal ; it may be 
questioned, indeed, whether it ever was anything more 
than a piece of idle talk. He continued his preach- 
ing and pastoral labours with unllagging energy. His 
sermons, when he went to London to preach, drew not 
only the multitude, but learned and distinguished men 
to hear him. There is a story told of Dr Owen being 
greatly taken by his preaching, and on his being asked 
by the King " how a learned man, such as he, could 

* As when she saj^s — " I had not rode far before ray heart began to 
be lifted up with pride at the thoughts of riding behind the servant of the 
Lord, and was pleased if any looked after as we rode along. Indeed, I 
thought myself very happy that day ; first, that it pleased God to make 
way for my going ; and then, that I should have had the honour to ride 
behind Mr Bunyan, who would sometimes be speaking to me of the things 
of God." 


sit and listen to an illiterate tinker," of his answering, 
"Please your Majesty, conld I possess that tinker's 
abilities for preaching, I would most gladly part with 
all my learning." The story is at least good evidence 
of Bunyan's popularity as a preacher. He must have 
been well known and well admired before he was likely 
to form the subject of conversation between the King 
and Dr Owen. 

It might be questioned whether Bunyan's sermons, 
as we read them, bear out his fame as a preacher. 
They are, like all other sermons of the time, very long, 
and frequently very tedious in their extension and 
subdivisions. They are marked strongly by the Puri- 
tan characteristic of advancing from point to point 
through a wide series of didactic and illustrative re- 
marks, without unfoldmg any new elements of thought 
— beating out the whole round of scriptural truth, 
instead of seizing some definite point of doctrine or of 
duty answering to the text, and summarily expound- 
ing and enforcing it. It must be remembered, how- 
ever, that many of his sermons, like Baxter's, are ob- 
viously not so much what he preached, as expanded 
treatises, composed after being delivered in a shorter 
form. And amidst all their length and tediousness, 
we can sufficiently trace in such compositions as the 
" Jerusalem Sinner Saved," " Come and Welcome to 
Jesus Christ," the " Pharisee and the Publican," and 
"The Greatness of the Soul, and Unspeakableness 
of the Loss thereof," the elements of the lively and 
remarkable interest that his preaching excited.* The 
homely pith, simple feeling, and delineative vividness, 

* The sermon called " Bunyan's Last Sermon," from John i. 13, may 
be presumed to be more like the length and general character of his 
sermons as he preached them. 

BUNTAN. 471 

combined witli tlie spiritual solemnity and unction of 
these addresses, must have been powerfully attractive 
in delivery. To all who felt and appreciated the awful 
realities of which Bunyan spoke, the learned and dis- 
tinguished, as well as the ignorant and poor, it is easy 
to imagine what impressiveness there would be in his 
charming simplicity, plain but pictured earnestness, 
and his deep and fervid spirit of devotion. The liveli- 
ness of his fancy, the very commonplaceness of his 
argument — never vulgar, only homely — the constant 
life, sense, and expressive ease of his style, even when 
the turn of his thought is crude or extravagant, are all 
among the highest qualities of popular pulpit oratory. 
An intellectual nature like Bunyan's, the direct growth 
of the popular religion — apt, imaginative, and eloquent, 
without any scholastic training — frequently finds its 
highest expression in preaching. This was not Bun- 
yan's case. His allegories express and embalm his 
characteristic genius far more completely than his 
sermons ; but in these also we can see the working of 
many of his exquisite gifts. 

In such labours Bunyan spent the remaining years 
of his life, which are unmarked by any events of par- 
ticular importance. He and the Baptist congregation 
at Bedford had to encounter renewed persecution in 
1682, when the Tory and Papal reaction set in against 
the exclusive and tyrannical spirit with which the 
Whigs had used their power. His old enemies, the 
" Justices," were again busy during this period, and 
the meeting-house for some while was shut up. Bun- 
yan himself, however, does not appear to have been 
molested. He had sufficiently shown his peaceable 
and unfactious character, and they could find no ex- 
cuse for disturbing him. 


In the midst of this persecution he published his 
Holy War. The popularity of the Pilgrim's Progress, 
and the success which it had met, not only beyond his 
own sect, but beyond the bounds of Puritanism, led 
him to the conception and composition of this more 
elaborate allegory. As in many other cases, however, 
this new effort never attracted the notice nor excited 
the interest of the first. As a mere literary composi- 
tion, there are some points of view in which the 
Holy War might claim even a favourable comparison 
with the earlier work. The allegorical idea on which 
it is based is worked out with a more consistent and 
curious art ; there is less rapid and shifting change 
of scene, and less confusion of purpose, than in the Pil- 
grims Progress ; yet, as a whole, it is greatly wanting 
in the poetic charm and the nameless interest and 
fascination of the latter allegory. It neither seizes 
upon the imagination nor touches the heart as the 
story of Christian does. Singularly ingenious, elabor- 
ate, and coherent in its illustrations and characters, it 
is almost as great a marvel, but it is not nearly so 
felicitous nor exquisite a product of genius. The 
second part of the Pilgrims Progress appeared two years 
later (1684). A second part has seldom been handled 
with a happier success. The old associations — the fa- 
miliar scenes — the series of imagery — are all preserved ; 
the same simple charm lies on every page ; while in 
such characters as Mercy there is a deeper tenderness 
— and in others, such as Greatheart and old Honest, 
there is a broader and more vivid dramatic outKne 
than in any of the figures in the first part. The por- 
traits throughout show, if possible, a freer and easier 
mastery of hand, although it must yield to the first 
in the freshness and life of its scenes and incidents. 

BUNYAN. 473 

These were not — and, in tlie nature of tlie case, could 
not be — rivalled. 

On the accession of James, in the following year, 
Bunyan seems to have apprehended the likelihood of 
renewed trouble. This is inferred from the fact of his 
having conveyed at this time any little property or 
goods he had acquired to his wife. He was destined, 
however, to finish his days in peace. He continued his 
pastoral labour till the eve of the Eevolution. His 
last work was that of a peacemaker. It was the char- 
acter he had always loved, and with no work more 
appropriate could he have closed his career. A friend 
of his who lived at Eeading had threatened to disinherit 
his son ; he was approaching his end ; and the idea of 
his leaving the world unreconciled to his son weighed 
upon Bunyan's heart. He undertook a journey to 
Eeading on horseback — was successful in renewing 
the bonds of amity between father and son — and had 
reached London on his way back. Here, however, he 
took ill — worn out with the journey — and rapidly sank. 
He died in the house of his friend Mr Stradwick, a 
grocer, and was buried in the Campo Santo, as Southey 
calls it, of the Dissenters — Bunhill-fields Burying- 
ground. The day of his death is stated in his epitaph, 
and in the Life appended to his Grace Abounding, to 
have been the 12th of August 1688; but other autho- 
rities gave a later day of the same month. 

Bunyan died as he had lived — a faithful, simple 
man, intent upon his duty. His character is so simple 
in its elements, and has been so fully exhibited in the 
numerous touches of self-portraiture which we have 
quoted from his autobiography, that little remains to 
be added on the subject. Naturally a man of deep 


and powerful earnestness and firm will — veliement in 
Ills impulses, but moderate in his desires — he would 
in any circumstances have proved a remarkable man. 
He was, as he believed, before his conversion a notable 
sinner ; he became, after conversion, a notable Chris- 
tian, like his own Greatheart. Had he never been 
more than a tinker at Elstow, he must have exercised 
over his neighbours a social influence proportioned to 
his strength of will and the determination of his con- 
victions. He was not a man to let his life pass idly 
by with the current. It is impossible to look at his 
X3ortrait, and not recognise the lines of power by whicli it 
is everywhere marked. It has more of a sturdy soldier 
aspect than anything else — the aspect of a man who 
would face dangers any clay rather than shun them ; 
and this corresponds exactly to his description by his 
oldest biographer and friend, Charles Doe. " He ap- 
peared in countenance," he says, " to be of a stern and 
rough temper. He had a sharp, quick eye, accom- 
plished, with an excellent discernmg of persons. As 
for his person, he was tall of stature, strong boned, 
though not corpulent ; somewhat of a ruddy face, with 
sparkling eyes, wearing his hair on the upper lip 
after the old British fashion ; his hair reddish, but in 
his later days time had sprinlvled it with grey ; his 
nose well set, but not declining or bending, and his 
mouth moderate large ; his forehead something high, 
and his habit always plain and modest." — A more manly 
and robust appearance cainiot well be conceived, his 
eyes only showing in their sparkling depth the foun- 
tains of sensibility concealed within the roughened 
exterior. Here, as before, we are reminded of his 
likeness to Luther. We see in both the same combi- 
nation of broad, burly humanity with intense spir- 

BUNYAN. 475 

itual passionateness — of simplicity and affectionate- 
ness with an obstinate, nnflincliing, some would say, 
a headstrong courage. The Puritan, upon the whole, 
is narrower than the Eeformer in the range of his 
religious sympathies, and in the aspiration of his 
genius — in general culture and magnanimity of 
mind. There is a freer and larger play of human 
feeling, and altogether a grander nature in the German. 
There are, however, many special points of intellec- 
tual as well as spiritual resemblance between them. 
They have together the same intuition of the popular 
religious instincts— the same mastery of the popular 
dialect — the same love of allegory and story, and the 
same picturesque liveliness of deUneation — and not 
least, the same intense appreciation of the Puritan 
doctrine of justification, as the sum and substance of 
Christianity— the same susceptibility to states of spir- 
itual darkness and struggle, joined to an unyielding 
force of conviction, when once the truth is understood 
and seized. We have already seen how much Bunyan 
was indebted to Luther. Of all the books that he 
found useful in his spiritual perplexities, none, except 
the Bible, was so congenial and satisfactory to him as 
the Comrmntary on the GalcUians. He found his own 
spiritual condition so largely and profoundly reflected 
in that book, that " it seemed to have been written out 
of his own heart." 

While rough and soldier-like in exterior, his old 
biographer adds that Bunyan was "in his conversation 
mild and affable, not given to loquacity or much dis- 
course in company, unless some urgent occasion re- 
quired it ; observing never to boast of himself or his 
parts, but rather seem low in his own eyes, and submit 
himself to the judgment of others ; abhorring lying 


and swearing ; being just in all that lay in his power 
to his word ; not seeming to revenge injuries, loving 
to reconcile differences, and make friendship with all." 
He was, in short, an honest, gentle, and peaceable 
man — strong to endure and struggle for the sake of 
principle, and in the doing of what he considered duty 
— but as little of a fanatic and "pestilent fellow" as 
any man could be. As a good soldier of Jesus Christ, 
he was ready to endure hardness ; he would submit to 
contumely and imprisonment rather than compromise 
his conscience regarding the Book of Common Prayer ; 
but he was no disturber, he willingly granted to 
others the same rights that he claimed for himself. 
The longer he lived he cared less for peculiarities, and 
set his heart more on the substance of all religion. 
He loved to make peace. This genuine spirit of reli- 
gion shewed itself in him, mastering all the earth- 
born passions and sectarianism so apt to cling to it. 

It was the glory of Puritanism to have produced 
many such men — men of a zeal and courage that 
soared beyond all worldly considerations, and dared 
everything for the truth, as they believed it, and yet 
men whose highest instinct it w^as, if they had been 
let alone, to be quiet and faithful in the work to 
Avhich God had called them — men who lived in the 
fullest radiance of the di\dne, and yet would have 
been content to do good works unnoticed among men. 
It was the disgrace of the Eestoration that it mistook 
and ill-used such men, that it knew not the " sons of 
God" save as "rogues" and "knaves," "conceited, 
stubborn, fanatical dogs," * to be insulted, imprisoned, 
and " stretched by the neck." Puritanism had no 
doubt used its own dominance with a high hand ; it 

* Jeffreys' language. Baxter's trial. 

BUNYAN. 477 

had been proud and scornful, and sufficiently tyranni- 
cal in its day of triumpli ; but it never either hated 
so blindly, nor punished so indiscriminately and wan- 
tonly as Eoyalism. Narrow as was its spiritual vision 
in many ways, and hard its dogmatism, it had a broader 
eye and a larger heart than the miserable and de- 
graded fanaticism of licence and cruelty which dis- 
placed it, — and which found its natural and appropri- 
ate employment in the persecution and maltreatment 
of men like Baxter and Bunyan. 

The special interest of Bunyan's writings, in our 
point of view, consists in the number and variety of 
the pictures of popular Puritanism that they contain. 
His allegories teem with such pictures. He is the 
great artist of the spiritual life of Puritanism. He had 
himself lived through almost every phase of its pious 
excitement ; his deep, sensitive nature responded to 
all its chords of emotion ; and his vividly creative 
imagination enabled him to seize and reproduce its 
varied experiences in concrete representations, which 
have perpetuated them far more lastingly than any 
analysis or description could have done. And not 
only what he himself had felt and known, but what he 
had seen — all the diverse aspects of the religious and 
the irreligious life around him — stamped themselves 
as pictures on his mind, and reappear in his writings. 
The field from which he drew his artistic materials 
was strictly limited. It was only its relation to reli- 
gion — to his own form of it, in fact — that made any 
aspect of life interesting to him ; but within his range, 
there is no artist has produced so many clearly-marked 
individualities of portraiture. 

So perfect in many respects is Bunyan's art, — so fer- 


tile and easy liis creative faculty, — tliat we are apt to 
overlook the extent to which he borrowed directly 
from the real life around him. The more, however, we 
study the Pilgr-wi's Fr ogress and the Bohj War, in 
connection with his own history and times, the more 
will we see reason to believe that their numerous cha- 
racters directly and broadly reflect both the outer and 
inner characteristics of the religious world familiar to 

In all his allegories, but especially in the Pilgrims 
Progress, there is what may be called a purely ideal 
or imaginative element, and a strictly realistic or lite- 
ral element. The former is their poetic groundwork, 
and is, in the main, drawn from Sciij)ture. Bunyan 
knew no literature except that of the Bible ; his 
imagination fed itself upon its grand forms of ex- 
pression, — its wondrous scenes. It was at once 
truth and poetry — all truth, and all poetry — to him. 
And, accordingly, his allegories are found constructed 
upon such great outlines of imaginative incident and 
scenery as he had there learned to admire. All cri- 
tics have been struck with the simplicity and faith- 
fulness with which he reproduces scriptural circum- 
stance and idea. But, combined with his vivid biblical 
imagination, there is also everywhere, in his allegories, 
the evidence of a rare power of actual observation, — 
of sharp insight into the living characteristics around 
him, — and great fuhiess of artistic skill in drawing 
these from the life as he knew and saw them. It is 
the religion of the Bible which he portrays ; minds 
trained in the most opposite schools of Christian 
thought have recognised the accuracy of his repre- 
sentations ; but it is also religion, such as he saw it 
in Bedford and its neighbourhood among his ielloAV- 

BUNYAN. 479 

Baptists, — among tlie adherents of the restored Church 
— in its Puritan peculiarities, — in its Anglican com- 
promises — with the stamp of persecution and exag- 
geration on the one hand, — and the taint of self-^ 
indulgence and worldliness on the other hand. The 
poetical scriptural element seems to give more the 
general outline, the varied scenery of the Pilgrwis 
Progress ; the realistic Puritan element, more the 
graphic homely toviches that make the characters 
start to life before us. 

The flight of Christian from the city of Destruction, 
the changing difficulties, helps, snares, dangers, de- 
lights, and encouragements, through which he passes 
on his journey to Mount Zion ; the Slough of De- 
spond, the Village of Morality, the Narrow Gate ; 
the Interpreter's house, with all its encouraging and 
warning sights ; the place of the Cross, where Chris- 
tian's burden " loosed from off his shoulders and fell 
from off his back ; " the Hill of Difficulty ; the House 
Beautiful, with the lions guarding it ; the Valley of 
Humiliation, and the fight with ApoUyon, " a monster 
hideous to behold, clothed with scales like a fish, and 
with wings like a dragon, and feet like a bear, and 
out of whose belly came fire and smoke ; " the terrors 
of the Valley of the Shadow of Death ; Vanity Fair, 
its persecutions, and the trial and death of Faithful ; 
the Ptiver of Life, and the meadow " curiously beauti- 
fied with lilies, and green all the year long;" Doubting- 
Castle, and the Giant Despair ; the Delectable Moun- 
tains, with their gardens and orchards, their vineyards 
and fountains of water, and the shepherds feeding 
their flocks ; the hill Clear, with the view of the gate 
of the Celestial City ; the Enchanted Ground, whose 
air naturally tended to drowsiness ; and the country 


of Beulali, whose air was very sweet and pleasant, 
where " they heard continually the singing of birds, 
and saw every day the flowers appear on the earth, 
and heard the voice of the turtle in the land;" and, 
finally, the Eiver of Death, running very deep be- 
tween the Pilgrims and the gate of the Celestial City. — 
The great and permanent charm of these successive 
pictures is the faithfulness with which they reproduce 
biblical ideas and imagery. One sees the reflection 
of Scripture everywhere. Bright, felicitous, and pic- 
turesque as Bmiyan's imagination is, he nowhere tra- 
vels beyond its range. Nature is beheld by him only 
in the light of the sacred page, and delineated by him 
only in its descriptive language. The Pauline ideas 
of sin and of salvation are closely preserved by him 
in their great outlines. So far, his representations are 
true, not merely to one phase of Christianity, but to 
the universal Christian instinct and feeling. All con- 
fess, in some measure, to this catholicity in the con- 
ception of the Pilgrims Progress — this broad fidelity 
and ideal felicity in its treatment. 

But, fully admitting this ideal scriptural element — 
answering to the almost universal Christian apprecia- 
tion of the story — it is equally true that, when we 
descend from its general imaginative texture to a par- 
ticular examination of many of its features and cha- 
racters, we meet with the most literal and direct ex- 
pressions of liis own Puritan observation and expe- 
rience. In the first instance, his imagination draws 
its materials from Scripture — in the second, from life ; 
and it is, above all, this realistic element that gives 
to Bunyan's great allegory its special interest. It is 
because he draws so much from outward fact that we 
find his pages so living — and linger over them — and 

BUNYAN. 481 

return to them — and find them not only instructive, but 
entertaining. Spenser, in his great allegory, is richer 
in poetic feeling, and in the expression of natural 
beauty — he has represented higher forms of ethical 
conception, and taken a wider view of humanity — 
but he has nowhere caught life, and mirrored it, as 
Bunyan has done. He is a dreamer throughout ; his 
imagination roams wholly in an ideal region ; there 
is no familiarity, no tangibility, in his portraits ; and 
hence, even those who most admire the poetry of the 
Faery Queen, feel little interest in its successive 
stories. It is read for the grandeur, beauty, and luxu- 
riance of its poetical ideas and descriptions ; but who 
ever read it from any sustained interest in its legends, 
or the characters — exquisite creations as some of them 
are — that figure in them ? But we read Bunyan for 
the interest of his story, and especially for the pi- 
quancy, variety, and homely expressiveness of the 
characters that cross Ms pages. In comparison with 
all other allegories that ever were written, the Pil- 
grim's Progress is interesting ; and among the main 
sources of tliis interest are the diverse portraits 
of the social and religious life of Puritanism that it 

Christian himself, in the deep dejection and misery 
with which he begins his journey, in his self-conscious 
absorption concerning his own safety, and his abso- 
lute separation from all his old labours and interests, 
in the dangers that beset his every pause and his 
every gratification by the way, is a picture of the Puri- 
tan Christian. The groundwork — the main features of 
the character — are broadly biblical and catholic ; but 
there is also, in such points as now mentioned, the 
clear practical stamp of Puritanism. The conception 

2 H 


of the world as a city about to be burned up, with no 
good and no hope in it — of the Christian life as a swift 
and unresting passage from Destruction to Safety in 
heaven — is drawn from Scripture, yet drawn with the 
tone of exaggeration of the religious ideas in which 
Bunyan was nurtured. 

Such peculiarities and touches of the practical reli- 
gious life familiar to him appear strongly in some of 
the accessory characters. No character of the time 
was more conspicuous than that of the warrior Chris- 
tian — the religious soldier of the Commonwealth ; and, 
accordingly, this idea is one of the author's most fre- 
quent inspirations. His best Christians are all fightmg 
Christians — men who not only hold their own, but slay 
giants by the way, and manfully encounter and over- 
come monsters .that impede their progress. Greatheart 
is one of his happiest portraits, and he is the portrait 
of a warrior Christian, with " sword and shield and 
helmet," and who is " good at his weapons ; " who kills 
Giant Grim, and Giant Maul, and Giant Slay-good, 
and, most of all, takes off the head of Giant Despair, 
and demolishes Doubting Castle. He is at once guide, 
preacher, and soldier. Old Honest is even a more ex- 
pressive specimen. His first exclamation, when Great- 
heart and the others accost him, and ask him what he 
would have done if they had come to rob him, as he 
for a moment supposed, reveals in full liis character. 
" Done :" he says ; " why, I would have fought as long- 
as breath had been in me : and had I so done, I am 
sure you would never have given me the worst of it, 
for a Christian can never be overcome unless he shall 
yield of himself" There is an affecting simplicity in 
old Honest ; he has no thoughts but to do his duty 
and fight. Then there is Valiant-for-the-Trutli, who 

BUNYAN. 483 

foiiglit " till his sword did cleave to his hand." Doubt- 
less Bunyan knew such fighting saints, and the touches 
with which he sets them before us may have been 
transferred from living specimens of the race. Cer- 
tainly in such portraits we have before us true and 
life-like illustrations of the soldier Cluistian of the 

It is remarkable that in the Holy War, where the 
characters are so entirely military, we have no such 
natural and happy portraits as those of Greatheart 
and old Honest. Captain Eesistance, and Captain Con- 
viction, and Captain Boanerges, &c., are comparative 
shadows — mere dim ideals, not half filled up. While 
the general intellectual conception of this allegory is, 
as we have said, well worked out, with even greater 
consistency than that of the Pilgrim'' s Progress, there 
is yet throughout it a want of the life and reality of 
characterisation that distinguish the earlier allegory. 

There was nothing more characteristic of Puritanism 
than the conflict and distress of emotion which it asso- 
ciated with religion. All religious life and excellence 
sprang out of the darkness of some great crisis of 
spiritual feeling. " I live you know where," Crom- 
well wrote to his cousin, " in Kedar — which signifies 
darkness." It is remarkable how prominently Bunyan 
has seized and expressed this idea. Considering his 
own experience, it would indeed have been strange if 
he had not. The Slough of Despond awaits every in- 
quiring pilgrim — the pure-minded Mercy no less than 
the sinful Christiana. And even after many pilgrims 
have got far on in their journey — after Vanity Fair has 
been passed, and theEiver of Life and the Pleasant Mea- 
dbw — there is Doubting Castle and Giant Despair. Mr 
Feeble-mind, Mr Despondency and his daughter Much- 


afraid, Mr Little-faith, and Mr Feariag, who " lay roar- 
ing at the Slough of Despond for above a month," are 
all true but anxious and distressed pilgrims. It is im- 
possible not to see the impress of a prominent feature 
of popular Puritanism in such characters. The burden 
of their spiritual weakness oppresses and prostrates 
them. It is only when Greatheart delivers them from 
Giant Despair that they have any relief " Now when 
Feeble-mind and Eeady-to-Halt saw that it was the 
head of Giant Despair indeed, they were very jocund 
and merry. Now Christiana, if need was, could play 
upon the viol, and her daughter Mercy upon the lute ; 
so, since they were so merry disposed, she played them 
a lesson, and Eeady-to-Halt would dance. So he took 
Despondency's daughter Much-afraid by the hand, and 
to dancing they went in the road. True, he could not 
dance without one crutch in his hand, but I promise you 
he footed it well ; also the girl was to be commended, 
for she answered the music handsomely. As for Mr 
Despondency, the music was not so much to him : he 
was for feeding rather than dancing, for that he was 
almost starved." There is queer grim humour in this 
picture of Puritan mirth. It is but a rare gleam, and 
a very grotesque one. Mr Despondency had evidently 
the truer appreciation of his position. The most de- 
voted saint could not live without eating ; but no com- 
bination of lute and viol and handsome footing can 
make the dancing congruous. 

While Bunyan has preserved such various types of 
the Puritan Christian, he has not forgotten their op- 
posites in the Eoyal Anghcanism, or false religion of 
the day, as it appeared to him. By-ends is one of 
his most graphic pictures. He and his friends and 
companions, Lord Time-server, Lord Fair-speech, Mr 

BUNYAN. 485 

Siriootliman, Mr Facing-both-ways, Mr Anything, and 
the parson of the parish, Mr Two-tongues, all make 
a group of which Bunyan knew too many speci- 
mens. In Puritan times they had been zealous for 
religion ; while it sat in high places, they had admired 
and respected it, and seemed to be among its most 
forward followers ; but they had arrived at such " a 
pitch of breeding," " that they knew how to carry it 
to all." From the stricter sort they difiered in two 
small points. "1st, They never strove against wind 
and tide ;" and, 2d, " They were always most zealous 
when religion goes in his silver slippers." " They loved 
much to talk with him in the street when the sun 
shines and the people applaud him." "They had a luck 
to jump in their judgment with the present times." 

Talkative is a specimen of another phase of pseudo- 
religious life. It was his great business and delight 
" to talk of the history or the mystery of things," of 
" miracles, wonders, and signs sweetly penned in Holy 
Scripture." He is a capital, if somewhat overdone, 
picture of the empty religious professor, who learns 
by rote the " great promises and consolations of the 
Gospel," who can give a " hundred Scripture texts for 
confirmation of the truth — that all is of grace and 
not of works ;" who can talk by the hour, of " things 
heavenly or things earthly, things moral or things evan- 
gelical, things sacred or things profane, things past or 
things to come, things essential or things circumstan- 
tial," but who, notwithstanding all his " fair tongue, is 
but a sorry feUow." He is the son of one Say-well, 
and dwells in Prating Eow. He can discourse as well 
on the " ale-bench" as on the way to Zion. " The more 
drink he hath in his crown," the more of such things 
he hath in his head. He is " the very stain, and re- 


proach, and shame of religion." — " A saint abroad, a 
devil at home." " It is better to deal with a Turk than 
with him." How many Talkatives must have made 
their appearance in the wake of the great Puritan 
movement — the spawn of its earnest and grave pro- 
fessions ! Bedford and its neighbourhood had, no 
doubt, many of them ; and Bunyan knew and despised 
them in life, as he has fixed them in immemorial dis- 
grace in his pages. 

The most complete scene from life probably in the 
Pilgrim's Progress is the trial of Faithfid. at Vanity 
Fair. The mob that shouted against Faithful and 
Christian, and " beat them, and besmeared them with 
dirt," and called them " Bedlams and mad," is the pic- 
ture of a Eestoration mob hooting the persecuted saints. 
Lord Hategood, the judge, is the impersonation of the 
odious arrogance and ready cruelty of the justices, as 
they appeared to Bimyan ; the jury and the witnesses 
are all more or less portraits ; not a feature is filled in 
which does not represent some fact or circumstance 
well known to him. The indictment is almost his own, 
under which his long imprisonment was sealed. " They 
were enemies to, and disturbers of their trade ; they 
had made commotions and divisions in the town, and 
had won a party to their own most dangerous opinions, 
in contempt of the law of their Prince." Jeffreys him- 
self might be supposed speaking in the words of the 
judge. " Thou runagate, heretic, and traitor, hast 
thou heard what these honest gentlemen have witnesed 
against thee ? " Faithful : " May I speak a few words 
in my own defence ? " Judge : " Sirrah, sirrah, thou 
deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately 
upon the place : yet, that all men may see our good- 
ness toward thee, let us hear what thou hast to say." 

BUNYAN. , 487 

The idea and forms of a trial had strongly impressed 
themselves on Bunyan's mind. It had been one of 
the most familiar and imposing scenes of his own life, 
and so had become fixed upon his memory, and a part 
of his imaginative furniture. It is depicted at great 
length in tlie Holy War, as well as in the Pilgrim's 
Progress. This shows the homely limits, but at the 
same time the strength and vivacity, of his fancy. He 
drew from his own narrow experience — but his art 
made the dim pictures of his memory all alive with 
the fitting touches of reality. 

This realistic character of Bunyan's allegories is of 
special interest to us now. We are carried back 
to Bedford and the Midland Counties in the seven- 
teenth century, and we mingle with the men and wo- 
men that lived and did their work there. It is in 
many respects a beautiful and affecting picture that 
we contemplate. A religion which could produce men 
like Greatheart, and old Honest, and Christian him- 
self, and Faithful, and Hopeful — and of which the 
gentle and tender-hearted Mercy was a fair expression, 
— had certainly features both of magnanimity and of 
beauty. There is a simple earnestness and a pure- 
minded loveliness in Bunyan's highest creations that 
are very touching. Puritanism lives in his pages — 
spiritually and socially — in forms and in colouring 
which must ever command the sympathy and enlist 
the love of all good Christians. 

But his pages no less show its narrowness and defi- 
ciencies. Life — even spiritual life — is broader than 
Bunyan saw it and painted it. It is not so easily and 
sharply defined — it cannot be so superficially sorted 
and classified. It is more deep, complex, and subtle — 
more involved, more mixed. There may have been 


good in Talkative, with all his emptiness and love for 
the ale-bench — and Mrs Timorous, and even By-ends, 
might have something said for them. Nowhere, in 
reality, is the good so good, or the bad so bad, as Puri- 
tan evangelical piety is apt to conceive and represent 
them. There is work to be done in the city of De- 
struction as well as in fleeing from it. The Meadow 
with the sparkling river, and the Enchanted Ground, 
are not mere snares to lure and hurt us. There is 
room for leisure and literature, and poetry and art 
even, as we travel to Mount Zion. There is a meeting- 
point for all these elements of human culture, and the 
" one tiling needful " — without wdiich all culture is 
dead — though Bunyan and Puritanism failed to see it. 

Let us reverence with all our heart the spiritual 
earnestness of such men as Bunyan, and of the system 
they represented ; few things higher or more beautiful 
have ever been seen in this world. But we are also 
bound, if we would not empty our earthly existence of 
the beautiful and grand — the graceful, fascinating, and 
refined in many forms of civilisation and art — to claim 
admiration for much that they despised, and a broader, 
more tolerant, and more genial interpretation of nature 
and life than they would have allowed. 



Page 29, line 20, for on read in. 

,, 39, ,, 8, for ten read twelve. 

,, 93, ,, 21, oraii great before key. 

,, — ,, 25, for unexpIainaUe read inextricahle. 

„ 175, „ 13, for 1624 read 1625. 

„ 180, „ 14, for endueth read indueth. 

,, 183, ,, 23, for morn read moon, 

>> — ,, 8, for faith read youth. 

„ 242, ,, 17, omit z7 before its. 

,, 274, ,, 4, for views read veui. 

» 278, „ 5, for coztW read would. 




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■ The grandest demigod I ever saw was Dr Carlyle, minister of Musselburgh, commonly called Jupiter Carlytti,' 
flrom having sat more than once for the king of gods and men to Gavin Hamilton ; and a shrewd, clever 
old cai'le was he."— Sik W. Scott. 

In Octavo, ivith Portrait, price 14s. 








Edinburgh Review, January 1861. 

This book contains by far the most vivid picture of Scottish life and man- 
ners that has been given to the public since the days of Sir Walter Scott. In 
bestowing upon it this high i^raise, we make no exception, not even in favour 
of Lord Cockburn's Memorials — the book which resembles it most, and which 
ranks next to it in interest. Indeed, even going beyond the range of our Scot- 
tish experience, we doubt whether there is anywhere to be found as trust- 
worthy a record of the domestic, social, and intellectual life of a whole bygone 
generation, or an appreciation of the individual peculiarities of the persons 
by whom that generation was led, as shrewd and unprejudiced, as has been 
oequeathed to us by this active, high-spirited, claret-di-inking, playgoing, and 
yet, withal, worthy and pious minister of the Kirk. 

National Review, January 1861. 

A more delightful and graphic j'jicture of the overj'day life of our ancestors 
it has never been our good fortune to meet with. . . . It is no slight thing, 
after such a lapse of time, to have the illustrious men of that age resuscitated 
bj'' the master hand of their contemporary, and brought again before us in body 
and soul. With how different a feeling will many a student, when he arises 
from the perusal of this Autobiography, glance his eye down the shelves of his 
library, no longer dealing in his mind with empty names of standard authors, 
but listening to the voices of real men, and entering into their writings in a far 
more intelligent manner when he has seen them face to face. We do not often 
pray for autobiographies — for, as a class of literature, they are of very unequal 
merit — but we shall heartily rejoice to see as many more autol)iograpliies as 
possible if they are half as well worth reading as Jupiter Carlyle's. 


Blackwood's Magazine. 

Following; no master, moulding himself on no model, the charm of these 
pages is their originality. They are not BosweUian, nor Johnsonian, nor Col- 
ley Gibberish, nor traceable to any source. Yet in their liveliness of descrip- 
tion, sly touches of satire, and vigorous analysis of character, combined with 
the naturalness of incident and surprising variety of interest deduced from 
ordinary- adventm-e, we are constantly reminded of Gil Bias. 

Daily News. 

It will surprise no one that this Autobiography — which, though composed 
more than fifty years ago, has remained unpublished till now — should prove, 
as it does, a veritable treasure of information anrl anecdote relating to Scotch 
society in the last century. The period over which these reminiscences extend 
is, indeed, nearly as interesting to English as to Scotch readers. To the great 
majority of the former we do not hesitate to say that the chief cause of their 
interest in Scotch historj' and Scotch manners has been their delighted famili- 
arity with the Waverley novels. But while these have given them more or 
less interest in every period of Scotch history, they have especially endeared to 
them one period — the Scotland of "sixty years since" (from the date of the 
publication of "Waverley") — the Scotland of the "Antiquary" and the "Heart 
of Midlothian " — the Scotland which Scott himself knew and loved, and was 
just in time to fix for ever on the canvass in immortal tints before it faded 
away before the dawn of a new era. Now, this Autobiography is replete with 
picture and anecdote of Scotch life and character of just this particular period. 
. . . We might quote from almost every page to the amusement of our 
readers, though to the questionable benefit of the jjublisher ; but we prefer to 
recommend them to go themselves to the storehouse of entertainment and 
instruction provided for them in the Autobiography of this fine old, enlightened, 
liberal-minded Scotch divine. 


This book overflows with pictui-es of life, character, and manners belonging 
to the past century. A more racy volume of memoirs was never given to the 
world — nor one more difficult to set forth — save by the true assertion, that 
there is scarcely a page which does not contain matter for extract, or which 
would not bear annotation. Every reader of the Scott novels (something like 
every one who can read English) must delight in Jupiter Carlyle's Memoirs. 

Daily Telegraph. 

There are few autobiographies amongst those which have appeared of late to 
compare with the one now before us. ... To the public we most cordially 
recommend this volume as containing a great deal that is entertaining and 
informing. Carlyle, as a man of enlarged mind, having enjoj'ed the society and 
conversation of the most noted men of his time, has brought together in the 
pages of his Autobiogi-aphy much that is worth knowing to all persons, espe- 
cially to young men of the age, who may make a model to themselves advan- 
tageously of this long career of a most gifted, agreeable, and amusing observer 
of the events and personages of the last century. 


To say that he has written one of the most intensely-interesting books, which 
we have devoured rather than read, is not to say enough in its favour. . . . 
If a marvellous acuteness united to a happy though not always merciful power 
of sarcasm — if an honest outspokenness, and a style pleasantly quaint and 
always manly and forcible — if these qualities in an author can tend to produce 
a good book, then Dr Carlyle's book ought to be a good one. He knew well 
— and we must remind our readers that his knowledge was not of the common 
vein — Adam Ferguson, John Home, Hume, Adam Smith, and three-fom-ths of 
the men who made Scotch society in the last century the most delightful enjoy- 
ment on earth. ... So rich is this volume in pictorial biography, that 
we scarcely know from what portion of it to choose our extracts. 


Literary Gazette. 

A shrewd observer of men and manners, living during perhaps the most 
deeply-interesting period of our history, he was favoured by a happy com- 
bination of circumstances such as has seldom fallen to the lot of a single indi- 
vidual. Sufficiently an actor in the eventful scenes of the last century to be 
accepted as a reliable authority, yet sufficiently secluded from the world to 
have leisure for a philosophic survey of the events that were passing around 
him, he has bequeathed to us a picture of the times, which for breadth of 
colouring and vividness of detail can scarcely be surpassed. . . . We lay 
down this deeply-interesting volume with a sincere feeling of regret. For mar- 
vellous originality and fidelity of description it is unsurpassed in the language. 

Edinhurgli Witness. 
Thus accomplished in mind, attractive in person, essentially social in nature, 
and free from any taint of the over-religiousness that would have barred his 
reception into much of the society of his times, Dr Carlyle became in suc- 
cession the friend and guest of almost all the notability of his day. In spite 
of his position as minister of the comf)aratively obscure parish of Inveresk, 
scarcely a man of the age worth knowing in politics, literature, fashion, law, 
medicine, or even in jihilosophy and metaphysics, but came within the wide 
radius of his acquaintanceship. Few have escaped from the annotations of 
his diligently recording, quietly humorous, yet not unfrequently sharp and 
sarcastic pen. The charm of the Autobiography is not the life it professes 
to record. It lies in its minutely daguerrcotyped views of the events and 
manners of his times, and the faithful, life-like portraits ho has hung around 
himself of his contemi:)oraries. The Autobiography is but the pollard round 
which a thousand climbing plants have intertwined themselves, and which all 
but cover with their rich foliage and flower the tree to which they owe their 
support. We forget the minister of Inveresk as he brings us face to face with 
the fixed, stern vengeance of the Porteous mob, or leads us through the scenes 
of the '45 ; or recalls to us the form, the voice, the living person, of men whose 
names are identified with the most stiiTing historical transactions of the last 
century, and with our literature, philosophy, and science in their young and 
palmy da}s, when Robertson, Hume, Hutchison, Home, Adam Smith, CuUen, 
MacLaurin, and Black, were rising into fame, or reaping the well-earned 
honours of their genius. By the brief, graphic touches that abound in this 
volume, life is given back to the history of the last century ; and its actors, 
known to us only through stately biographies, are translated from cold marble 
figures once more into breathing men. 


The most curious and amusing, if not also, in all respects, the most valuable 
contribution that has been made for many a day to the political, the ecclesias- 
tical, but especially the social, history of Scotland. 

Glasgow Herald. 

A book of surpassing interest, and one which excites in us that feeling of 
gratitiide with which we would receive an unexpected gift of great usefulness 
and princely cost. 

Liverpool AlTjion. 

We wish to speak in the very highest terms of this most interesting book, 
and to recommend its perusal to all of our readers who are interested in the 
persons who lived, and the great events that happened, in our country one 
hundred and fifty years ago. Dr Carlyle was only a Presbyterian minister of 
the Established Church of Scotland, but he lived as an equal among the giants 
of literature and politics who about that time made Edinburgh the intellectual 
capital of the country, and his Autobiograjihy is full of pleasant notices of all 
the best and greatest men of his time. 


Scottish Press. 
_ Without question, a more valuable, and at the same time amusing, contribu- 
tion to the literature of the domestic history of our country has not been made 
for many years. 

Caledonian Mercury. 
This is the most readable and enjoyable book of its kind that has been issued 
from the Edinburgh press for many years. . . . The volume has a distinct 
historical value, as well as an enchaining and curious interest. 

Inverness Courier. 

It is one of the most valuable and entertaining works that has appeared 
respecting the men and manners of Scotland in the eighteenth centurv, and is 
written with so lively and graphic a pen that it cannot fail to become very 
popular in the country. 

Dundee Courier, 

In the Autobiography of Dr Alexander Carlj'le we have one of the most 
valuable contributions that have ever been made to the social annals of Scotland, 
inasmuch as it is descriptive of a period of particular interest in the history of 
our country, and of men of whom in general Scotland has just cause to be 
proud. . . . The book is a perfect No sooner has the reader entered 
upon it than he is hurried along with the fascination of a romance. The 
sketches of society are vivid and racy, and the author's delineations of character 
appear true to a line, while his descriptions of men and manners are given with 
a minuteness and fidelity worthy of the pen of Defoe. 
Manchester Review. 

One of the most valuable contributions to the literary and social history of 
the eighteenth century that has ever been written ; so much so, indeed, as to 
make us wonder why so charming a book should have been allowed to remain in 
manuscript so many years. 

Ayrshire Express. 

Not only the publication of the season, but the most notable accession which 
has been made to this barren yet peculiarly interesting department of our 
national literature for many years. 

Aberdeen Journal. 

The book is one of the most remarkable which has appeared for a long time ; 
and while it affords a great deal of matter suggestive of comment, it is pre- 
eminently a book to be possessed, and read through and through, and over and 
over again. 

Fife Journal. 

It is seldom one gets a photograph, as it were, of the days gone by so vivid 
and true to the life as is aflforJed by a volume just published. . . . No book for 
many years has been published so replete with reading for everybody — reading 
which young and old, learned and unlearaed, alike will regard as interesting, 
and read, and read, and read again. 

Glasgow Examiner. 

It can scarcely be opened without suggesting the strong common sense — the 
deep sagacity — the dry humour— the cutting sarcasm — the far-sightedness of 
the author. It has been truly said that there has been no such delineation of 
the private life of our great men since Boswell's Johnson. . . . There is a 
strength of thought, a grasp of intellect in his writing -beyond any writer we 
remember. We shall recur to this wondrous volume again. 

Dublin Evening Mail- 
But we must conclude ; and in turning from a book to which we have directed 
so unusually large a share of our attention, it is scarcely necessary to say that 
we recommend it heartily to our readers. It is, in truth, one of the most 
amusing and instructive which has fallen under our notice for many a day. 


English puritanism and its leaders: 

Princeton Theological Seminary-Speer Library 

1 1012 00035 2619 




Ps ■