Page images

this thought even higher, and insists on the demonstration of moral and spiritual healing as eminent proof that God is understood and illustrated.” (Mis

cellaneous Writings, p. 345.) The English Prayer Book preserved the Psalms of David, the thanksgiving of Simeon (the “Nunc Dimittis”) and the “Magnificat” of the Virgin Mary, that great charter of spiritual democracy which affirms:

“He (the Lord) hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.

“He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich He hath sent empty away.”

Truth is no respecter of persons. Worldly dominating prelates who sat Sunday after Sunday, robed in silken vestments in their oaken carved stalls, and listened to the words of the Virgin's psalm, never realized that soon a new order of humble men and women would arise, living, vivid witnesses to the power of Mary's declaration about the nature of God, and that from their simple, obscure homes they would bring about such an overturning in the religious order of the world that not only England and Italy would be amazed at the consequences but new lands would be discovered and new nations born, and the great tide of reformation and regeneration would flow outwards and onwards till the last pagan rite should be renounced, the last coercion of the individual conscience be surrendered, and the "earth be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea."





HE course of this world appears but as one long

fighting line, sustaining shock after shock of con

tending forces locked in a life and death combat. The student of history, as he travels through century after century of ceaseless conflict, sighs wearily, at length demanding that "rest for the people of God” which has been so sweetly promised by the writer to the Hebrews, and which seems so far from fulfilment. More especially is this true of the scribe of religious development, whose narrative is ever at the summit of man's highest effort and most solemn emotion. The true Christian can never be portrayed otherwise than aflame with superhuman courage fighting against flood-tides of evil, and when the light of his generation sets upon hard-won victories, it rises on the morrow upon the heads of his children only to usher in the day of further battle.

It is perhaps for this reason that the notation 1600 is viewed on the pages of history with peculiar delight. There is an entirely erroneous, but wholly pleasurable, feeling that the seventeenth century is a period of peace and prosperity, of quaint old homesteads, carved oak presses, organ music, elderberry wine, four-poster beds and pewter plates. The mind at once conjures up a picture such as Longfellow gives in the opening lines of "Evangeline." “There in the midst of its farm, reposed the Acadian village. Strongly built were the houses, with frames of oak and of chestnut, Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries.

Thatched were the roofs with dormer windows; and gables projecting
Over the basement below, protected and shaded the doorway.
There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sunset
Lighted the village street, and gilded the vanes on the chimneys,
Matrons and maidens sat in snow white caps and in kirtles
Scarlet and blue and green, with distaffs spinning the golden
Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuttles within doors
Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the song of the

maidens." Visions rise of gay, light-hearted cavaliers with sweeping plumes and Vandyke lace collars, of laughing, graceful, high-born ladies in light, rustling silk gowns, wearing their curls in soft feminine showers about their faces under the daintiest of lace caps; or if the eye turns in fancy to their more sober Puritan sister, it is a very gentle, reposeful picture that greets the gaze,-a modest Psyche, dove-like in her grey suiting, with the folds of her white kerchief as fresh and snowy as blossom in May.

In actual fact, there never was a time when the conflict of convictions was sharper, or England more sorely torn with inward strife, than during this century of her great civil war, an era which remade history and which, after pangs and throes unspeakable, established Protestantism and Parliament as the governing powers of the Realm. The country lanes resounded to the hoofs of armed cavalry. Prince Rupert's Horse and Cromwell's Ironsides turned village and market town alike into military camps, and many a wounded soldier was nursed under the old oak rafters that stretch in solid benediction across the walls of those grey stone manor and farm houses, now nestling so peacefully amid their orchards and pasturage. The peasants of Wycliff's time who had gathered in ignorant, angry mobs, hungry in soul and body, crudely demanding justice, bread, and better laws, had had the Bible—the English

« PreviousContinue »