« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Travers, have proved the more unpleasant to me, because I believe him to be a good man; and that belief hath occasioned me to examine mine own conscience concerning his opinions. And to satisfy that, I have consulted the Holy Scripture, and other laws, both human and divine, whether the conscience of him, and others of his judgment, ought to be so far complied with by us, as to alter our frame of church-government, our manner of God's worship, our praising, and praying to Him, and our established ceremonies, as often as their tender consciences shall require us. And in this examination I have not only satisfied myself, but have begun a treatise, in which I intend the satisfaction of others, by a demonstration of the reasonableness of our laws of ecclesiastical polity. But, my lord, I shall never be able to finish what I have begun, unless I be removed into some quiet parsonage, where I may see God's blessings spring out of my mother earth, and eat my own bread in peace and privacy: a place where I may, without disturbance, meditate my approaching mortality, and that great account, which all flesh must give at the last day to the God of all spirits.
THE NECESSITY AND MAJESTY OF LAW. The stateliness of houses, the goodliness of trees, when we be. hold them, delighteth the eye; but that foundation which beareth up the one, that root which ministreth unto the other nourishment and life, is in the bosom of the earth concealed; and if there be occasion at any time to search into it, such labor is then more necessary than pleasant, both to them which undertake it, and for the lookers on. In like manner, the use and benefit of good laws all that live under them may enjoy with delight and comfort, albeit the grounds and first original causes from whence they have sprung be unknown, as to the greatest part of men they are.
Since the time that God did first proclaim the edicts of his law upon the world, heaven and earth have hearkened unto his voice, and their labor hath been to do his will. He made a law for the rain; he gave his decree unto the sea, that the waters should not pass his commandment. Now, if nature should intermit her course, and leave altogether, though it were for a while, the observation of her own law's; if those principal and mother elements of the world, whereof all things in this lower world are made, should lose the qualities which now they have; if the frame of that heavenly arch erected over our heads should loosen and dissolve itself; if celestial spheres should forget their wonted motions, and by irregular volubility turn themselves any way as it might happen; if the prince of the lights of heaven, which now, as a giant, doth run his unwearied course, should, as it were, through a languishing faintness, begin to stand and to rest hinnself; if the moon should wander from her beaten way, the times and seasons of the year blend themselves by disordered and confused mixture, the winds breathe out their last gasp, the clouds yield no rain, the earth be defected of heavenly influence, the fruits of the earth pine away, as children at the withered breasts of their mother, no longer able to yield them relief; what would become of man himself, whom these things do now all serve? See we not plainly, that obedience of creatures unto the law of nature is the stay of the whole world ?
Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God; her voice the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and earth do her homage ; the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power. Both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.
SUDDEN DEATH NOT DESIRABLE. Death is that which all men suffer, but not all men with one mind, neither all men in one manner. For being of necessity a thing common, it is through the manifold persuasions, dispositions, and occasions of men, with equal desert both of praise and dispraise, shunned by some, by others desired. So that absolutely we cannot discommend, we cannot absolutely approve, either willingness to live, or forwardness to die. And concerning the ways of death, albeit the choice thereof be only in his hands who alone hath power over all flesh, and unto whose appointment we ought with patience meekly to submit ourselves, (for to be agents voluntarily in our own destruction, is against both God and nature ;) yet there is no doubt, but in so great variety, our desires will and may lawfully prefer one kind before another. Is there any man of worth and virtue, although not instructed in the school of Christ, or ever taught what the soundness of religion meaneth, that had not rather end the days of this transitory life, as Cyrus in Xenophon, or in Plato, Socrates, is described, than to sink down with them, of whom Elihu hath said, Momento morientur,1 there is scarce an instant between their flourishing and not being! But let us which know what it is to die as Absalom, or Ananias and Sapphira died, let us beg of God, that when the hour of our rest is come, the patterns of our dissolution may be Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David; who, leisureably ending their lives in peace, prayed for the mercies of God to come upon their posterity ; replenished the hearts of the nearest unto them with words of memorable consolation ; strengthened men in the fear of God; gave them wholesome instructions of life, and confirmed them in true religion; in sum, taught the world no less virtuously how to die, than they had done before how to live."
1 Job xxxiv. 20: "In a moment shall they die."
THE EXCELLENCY OF THE PSALMS. The choice and flower of all things profitable in other books, ine Psalms do both more briefly contain, and more movingly also express, by reason of that poetical form wherewith they are written. The ancients, when they speak of the Book of Psalms, used to fall into large discourses, showing how this part above the rest doth of purpose set forth and celebrate all the considerations and operations which belong to God; it magnifieth the holy meditations and actions of divine men; it is of things heavenly an universal declaration, working in them whose hearts God inspireth with the due consideration thereof, an habit or disposition of mind whereby they are made fit vessels, both for receipt and for delivery of whatsoever spiritual perfection. What is there necessary for man to know which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect amongst others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of Grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come, all good necessarily to be either known, or done, or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident unto the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not in this treasure-house a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be found. Hereof it is, that we covet to make the Psalms especially familiar unto all. This is the very cause why we iterate the Psalms oftener than any other part of Scripture besides; the cause wherefore we inure the people together with their minister, and not the minister alone, to read them as other parts of Scripture he doth.
1 The reader here is reminded of the lines of Tickell on the death of Addison
“He taught us how to live, and I too high
The price of knowledge, taught us how to die." 2 The best edition of Hooker's works is that by Keble, 2 vols., the author of the "Christian Year," and the writer of a valuable article on sacred poetry in the 32d vol, of the Quarterly Review. For an account of the tracts which gave rise to Hooker's great work-his Ecclesiastical Polity-see Bela's " Anecdotes of Literature," 1. 19-23.
The Minstrels were a class of men in the middle ages, who subsisted by the arts of poetry and music; who went about from place to place, and offered their poetical and musical wares wherever they could find a market. They appear to have accompanied their songs with mimicry and action, and in short to have practised such various means of diverting, as were much admired in those rude times, and supplied the want of more refined entertainment. These arts rendered them extremely popular and acceptable wherever they weni. No great scene of festivity was considered complete that was not set off with the exercise of their talents; and so long as the spirit of chivalry existed, with which their songs were so much in keeping, they were protected and caressed.
Of the origin of the Minstrels, it is difficult to find any thing satisfactory. The term seems to be derived from the Latin minister or ministellus, “an attendant," "an assistant," as the Minstrels were attendant upon persons of rank, and assistants at their entertainments. But whatever may be said of their origin, the Minstrels continued a distinct order of men till centuries after the Norman conquest, and there is but little doubt that most of the fine old ballads in English Literature, were not only sung, but in many cases written by the professed Minstrel.
There are many incidents in early English history which show how numerous was this body of men, and in what high estimation they were held. The one most familiar, is that of King Alfred's entering the Danish camp, in the disguise of a harper. Though known by his dialect to be a Saxon, the character he assumed procured him a hospitable reception. He was admitted to entertain the Danish princes at their table, and stayed among them long enough to observe all their movements, and to plan that assault which resulted in their overthrow. So also the story of Blondell's going unharmed over Europe, in search of Richard I., goes to prove the same fact-the high estimation in which the Minstrel in early times was held.
In the reign of Edward II. (1307—1327) such extensive privileges were claimed by Minstrels, and by dissolute persons assuming their character, that they became a public grievance, and their liberties were restricted by express statute. Finally, in the 39th year of the reign of Elizabeth, (1597,) this class of persons had so sunk in public estimation, that a statute was passed by which « Minstrels, wandering abroad, were included among rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars," and were adjudged to be punished as such.
SIR PATRICK SPENS. This ballad lays claim to a high and remote antiquity. There are different opinions as to its origin, which the reader may see stated in Sir Walter Scott's * Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.” The probability is, that it is founded on authentic history, and that it records the melancholy and disastrous fate of that gallant band which, about the year 1280, followed in the suite of Margaret, daughter of Alexander the Third of Scotland, when she was espoused to Eric of Norway. According to Fordun, the old Scottish historian, many distinguished nobles accompanied her in this expedition to Norway, to grace her nuptials, several of whom perished in a storm while on their return to Scotland.
1 Read --Percy's "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry"-Motherwell's "Ancient and Modern Minstretsy -Sir Walter Scott's “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border"--The "Book of the British Balade" -Herd's "Collection of Songs and Ballads."
The king sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blude-red wine:
To sail this new ship of mine ?"
Sat at the king's right knee:
That ever sailed the sea.”
And sealed it with his hand,
Was walking on the strand.
To Noroway o'er the faem;
'Tis thou maun bring her hame!"
The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Sae loud loud laughed he;
The tear blindit his e'e.
And tauld the king o' me,
To sail upon the sea ?
“ Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship must sail the faem;
'Tis we must fetch her hame.”
They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn,
Wi' a' the speed they may;
Upon a Wodensday.
They hadna been a week, a week
In Noroway, but twae,
Began aloud to say:
And a' our queenis fee.”
Fu' loud I hear ye lie!
1 Skilful mariner.
2 Broad, large.