Eustace had long thought that every man concerned in either of those proceedings deserved the gallows, and fancied he could perform the office of executioner. He therefore made less scruple to require a pecuniary commutation for those offences, but thought the proceeds should be carried to a public account. Monthault laughed at this suggestion, said that self-preservation was the soldier's motto, and begged he would only bring the sum total to him, and his receipt should be a full discharge.
Eustace met Monthault next morning with a blank aspect. The accused had not only protested his innocence, but offered to bring testimony that he was in Devonshire at the time. Alarmed, however, at the impending charge, and knowing that riches were in these cases construed into a proof of guilt, he offered half the sum demanded as a present, provided Monthault would be his friend and protect him from further contribution.
Monthault held out his hand carelessly, and only said, "Disburse." Eustace protested that his principles would not permit him to take a commutation for offences from a person whom he believed innocent. Monthault flew into a rage, asked Eustace if, in a battle, or when storming a town, he would stop to ask those he met, "Pray, Sir, are you in heart a rebel? Good Master, were you pressed into the service?" before he hewed them down with his broad-sword? The very proposal of a bribe implied guilt. Eustace acknowledged there was weight in that remark; the offered sum was taken; Eustace carried it to his superior, and received the jackall's share.
Indignant at the wrong, the plundered Loyalist, for such indeed he was, appealed to the Prince's courts. The Lords Hopton, Capel, and the incorruptible Hyde, formed part of that body; and it will be anticipated, that only a want of ability to redress the wrong, prevented immediate reparation. The power of Lord Goring protected his favourite, Monthault; but it was thought proper to reprove the youth, who had acted as his agent. Eustace was summoned before the council. Shame and self-reproach bowed his erect head, and cast a gloom over his ingenuous features. The President explained how greatly such actions endangered the fugitive King, whose life now depended on the fidelity of his subjects, as he flew from post to post, seeking to hide his proscribed head. Eustace burst into tears. "I need proceed no further," continued Lord Hopton, "tell me what urged you to this base action."—"Necessity," replied Eustace, with a look of deep contrition. "That is a bad plea," returned the nobleman, "and urged with a bad grace, by those who refuse to admit it as an excuse for the crimes of rebels. In this instance too, I fear it is a false one. I know you are one of the party, who distinguish themselves by their midnight carousals in Major Monthault's quarters. The necessity which arises from dissipation, can never be urged to excuse peculation."
"Place me in the forlorn hope," said Eustace, "the first time you have any desperate service, and let me expiate my crime."
"So keen a sense of it," resumed Lord Hopton, "is its own punishment. Your name is Eustace Evellin. I have heard of a youth so called.—At Oxford he was said to be one of uncommon hope, the son of a noble Loyalist, distinguished alike for honour and valour; the nephew of a learned divine, a confessor in the cause of monarchy and episcopacy. Are you that person?"—Eustace answered by a burst of agonized grief.—Lord Hopton took him aside, and slided a purse into his hands; "Use this frugally," said he; "'tis the mite of one, whom duty has stripped of superfluities, yet apply again to the same source, rather than give your own heart the pangs which I see it now endures."
"But I am disgraced," said Eustace, with a look which at once bespoke intolerable anxiety and ardent gratitude. Lord Hopton answered, "I blush while I tell you that your fault is too general, to stigmatize those who commit it; but I mistake your character, if you find in its frequency an apology for repeating the crime."
Eustace retired; his dejected heart was warm with approbation of his excellent reprover; yet burning with impatience to obliterate all remembrance of his error, by some brave action which should prove that he was not unworthy the clemency and confidence which his appearance had excited. He told Monthault what had passed. "The old Prig worded it bravely," said he, "but in one respect he is better than most of your precise moralists. Come turn out the pieces—share and share alike you know; and just now they are quite convenient, as there is not a single doit in my purse." Eustace hesitated, knowing that its contents had been left at the billiard-table, but at length complied, with a secret determination that the partnership should immediately terminate.
While his mind still ruminated on the blight which his budding laurels had received, it occurred to him that it would be possible to surprise an advanced post of Sir Thomas Fairfax's army, which lay at a small distance from the town of which Monthault was intrusted with the command. When Eustace suggested the plan to his friend, the latter encouraged the attempt. It had many recommendations to his treacherous heart. The design was so full of danger, that it was most likely to end in the destruction of the whole party, and next to the disgrace, the death of Eustace was what he secretly desired. Nor did he forget that incursions into the energy's quarters could not be made, without hazarding the safety of the town where he was posted, and which Lord Goring told him was of the utmost importance to preserve the line of defence that covered the Royal army. With the true spirit which actuated the western commanders in this disastrous campaign, Monthault cared little what detriment the King received, so he might ruin a rival. He however, took care to shift the responsibility from himself. "If you ask me whether it is feasible," said he to Eustace, "I confess, I think that nothing but great valour, joined to great good fortune, can accomplish the design. But if you pant for glory, you know the adage, 'success attends the brave.' The glory shall be all your own, for as the letter of my orders forbids all hazards, I must officially be ignorant of your undertaking; though, as a friend, I will allow the night-guard to consist of picked men, whom you may dispose of as you think proper."
To succeed in a desperate enterprise, required more experience and better intelligence than Eustace possessed.—Brave in vain, he only led his followers to death or captivity. He was rescued from sharing their fate by a trooper, who, seeing him fainting from loss of blood, lifted him on his own horse, and galloped with him to the head-quarters. The post where Major Monthault was stationed, being weakened by the loss of this detachment, fell into the enemy's hands.
Miscarriages were too frequent to excite long clamour; but the disobedience of a positive command was, in this instance, too marked to be passed over in silence. Monthault, on being examined, denied having commanded the enterprize. Had he advised, or permitted it, was a question put by one of the council; it was over-ruled as inadmissible by Lord Goring; and Monthault made a specious appearance, by talking loudly of the gallantry and excellent intentions of his friend. Pale, wounded, and dejected, Eustace was unable to raise his eyes, fearing nothing so much as the calm severity of Lord Hopton's aspect. The hopes he had formed were blasted; his promised course of glory and success was turned to shame and misfortune; nay, worse, he had materially injured the Prince, whom he would have died to serve.—He stood almost senseless while he heard himself ordered under an arrest, and to be kept from duty for a fortnight. That time was indeed scarce sufficient to heal his wounds; but Eustace could not separate in his mind the restrictions imposed by kindness from the punishment of disobedience.
His extreme agitation moved the compassion of the centinel who was placed over him, and who was indeed the same brave trooper who had saved his life. "Courage, noble Captain," said he; "Their Honours, the Lords of Council, only lock you up to give you time to get well. When they asked me about the business, I told them you was as true a heart as ever lifted broad-sword, only a little too hot—that's all; and one of them, the old Lord, with white hair, that looked at you so, wished that true hearts were more common. Your wounds will be well by the time you are let out; and then we'll cut and slash the round-heads again. Shall we not do them a good one, as we say in Lancashire?"
The name of his native county threw the thoughts of Eustace into a train, no less painful than the wounded feelings of a soldier.—Its dear emigrants, what would they now think of him! Even Constantia would abjure him:—surely she would never hear of his being reproved as a peculator, and ordered under an arrest for insubordination.
"You are too brave a gentleman to mind a few slashes and thumps," continued the talkative centinel; "the surgeon says they will heal up, and you'll have a whole skin again presently; so it must be some other sorrow which casts you down so. And nothing cuts a man up like sorrow, as I have heard good Dr. Beaumont say."
The name roused Eustace to enquire how he knew the opinions of Dr. Beaumont, and the eclaircissement proved the centinel to be Ralph Jobson, the same person who refused to take the covenant at Ribblesdale in the beginning of the civil war, and had ever since felt such a reverence for the Doctor, as to connect with his name every sentiment to which he affixed peculiar importance.—To have rescued his nephew from death or captivity, was a most gratifying event to Jobson's honest heart; and he readily offered to do Eustace any service, even so far as to pass through the enemy's quarters, and inform the Doctor of his misfortunes. "Not for the universe," replied Eustace, "in the present situation of affairs."—"True," answered Jobson, "we must not rob the King of one brave heart just now; and though I was only a poor carter, and am now a trooper and quarter-master's man, mine is as true a heart as that old Lord's with white hair, that I liked the look of. So by way of passing the time, shall I tell you how I got away from the constables, sent by Squire Morgan to take me to Hull, and went to Nottingham and listed under the King; aye, and fought for him too, when Lord Lindsey was killed at Edgehill; and helped to bury Lord Falkland, and the young Earl of Sunderland at Newbury; and saw Lord Newcastle's lambs dye their fleeces in their own blood; aye, and was taken prisoner with the learned Mr. Chillingworth, who wrote against Popery at Arundel-castle, and tended him when he lay sick, and was catechised by Waller's chaplains for being a Papist. He could have talked them all dumb, only he was speechless; and so at last they killed him with their barbarous usage. Why, Captain, I have seen the King of England dining on a hard crust, under a hedge, like a gipsey-stroller. How could you have stood such sights? Why your heart would have broke, instead of being alive and merry to drub the round-heads, as I am."
Jobson's narrative was interrupted by a visit from Lord Hopton. "Once more, Captain Evellin," said he, "I come to reprove you. That I do so, is a proof of your repeated errors, and of my conviction that they proceed rather from inexperience, than a bad disposition." Eustace expressed his sincere gratitude and deep contrition. "On the former subject," replied His Lordship, "since it relates to myself, I may command silence, and you must feel that your contrition cannot restore to us the brave fellows we lost last night, or regain the post with which Major Monthault was entrusted. But I wish to ask if you knew that positive orders were given, to act only on the defensive?"
Eustace was silent. The manner in which Monthault spoke of his orders, intimated that their letter and spirit were at variance, and how could he throw the shadow of blame on one who had so eloquently defended his behaviour before the council. "I see," resumed Lord Hopton, "there is a mystery in this business; and as the desperate state of our affairs leaves me no power to punish breach of orders, we must endeavour to correct the past. Lord Goring has fled to France; despairing, I presume, of his master's cause. We have now to try to extricate ourselves from the difficulties into which discord and insubordination have plunged us. The Prince has this day required me to take the entire command of the army. 'I have not told His Highness, as hath of late been the fashion, that my honour would not permit me to accept it; but I have said that I knew I could not take it at this time, without resolving to lose my honour; yet since His Highness thinks fit, I am ready to obey him.' I can now therefore do you a real service, by taking you out of ill hands. I will make you my military secretary, and keep you about my person. The past is forgot. As soon as you are able, come to my quarters; but remember, I require a positive estrangement from your past connexions."
The transport of Eustace, at such a proof of confidence, may be readily conceived, and he now felt assured that he should expunge all the stains on his reputation. But ill-fortune and misconduct still attended him, as indeed they did the army to which he was attached. The bands of discipline had been too long relaxed. The general of the infantry refused to obey Lord Hopton, and was committed to prison, to intimidate other mutineers; and though his rapine and extortion had excited universal odium, so low was the general feeling of justice, that his punishment caused yet greater discontent than his rapacity had done. The troops were as corrupted as their leaders; only a small body of horse and a few companies of volunteers, chiefly composed of gentlemen, could be depended upon, in an army drawn up in the extremity of the kingdom, to defend the last holds of Royalty, and protect the heir of the crown from sharing the fate of his father, who was at this time a prisoner in the Scotch army at Newcastle, and scarce treated with the decency of external respect.
Whatever intrepidity, activity, and foresight could perform, was done by Lord Hopton and his faithful coadjutors; but from the hour when he undertook the charge to that of the army's dispersion, "scarce a party of guard appeared with half their appointed numbers, or within two hours of the time they ought." On such enemies Fairfax rushed with the concentrated forces of triumphant rebellion; yet if treachery had not aided his progress, the veteran's bands were again so strongly posted, that the victors would not have reaped bloodless laurels. But Goring's brigade (to which Monthault still belonged), being stationed to guard a down in front of the army, drew off without staying for orders, or intrenched Loyalists, before they had the least previous notice. Defeat and dispersion were the consequence. All efforts to rally the flying troops were vain, the officers cried out that their men could not be brought to face the enemy, and Lord Hopton in vain endeavoured to avail himself of the chances that might result from delay, by proposing to send to the Prince for directions how he should act. "Treat, treat," was the universal cry of the soldiers. Scorning to yield to such base clamour, he indignantly bade them treat for themselves, and retiring with the faithful few who adhered to his fortunes, to Pendennis Castle, falsified his own prediction by losing every thing but his honour, and the last ebbing sands of a long life, wasted by toils and sorrows, that left him merely strength enough to attend the Prince, who had been committed to his trust, to a foreign country, where, exiled from his large possessions, the country and the friends he loved, he found a refuge from triumphant guilt and undeserved misfortune in the grave.
To return to Eustace. The desertion of the post at Bodmin bore such evident marks of treachery, that it could not be attributed to the general trepidation and disorder which possessed the army, and circumstances proved that a correspondence subsisted between Monthault and the Parliamentary general, which the farce of taking him prisoner and committing him to close custody, when the King's forces were generally permitted to disband and return to their houses, strongly confirmed. Lord Hopton recollected that his designs had been counteracted by Fairfax, in a manner which implied previous acquaintance with his purposes. A moment of extreme irritation and anguish, such as a general must feel when he finds all his resources cut off, is not favourable to candour or calm investigation. The connexion between Eustace and Monthault was not dissolved. Notwithstanding the injunctions of the General to hold no intercourse with his late associate, Eustace had been seen in his company, and even detected in the act of writing him a letter. Monthault corresponded with Fairfax; his (Lord Hopton's) own secretary held a private correspondence with Monthault; thus the course of treachery seemed developed. Lord Hopton felt that he had been deceived by the ingenuous countenance of a handsome youth. He rejected his offer of accompanying him to Pendennis, and even demanded from him his sword. "Go," said he, "and when one is again given you, serve your employer with fidelity."
Eustace was thunder-struck, and rushed after his commander to enquire the cause of such severe treatment. "I forgave your extortion and licentiousness," said the General, with a stern austere look which pierced him to the soul; "I pardon the rashness which broke our line of defence, and weakened us by the loss of a brave detachment. After this I took you into a confidential situation, and you betrayed your General and your Prince.
"Never, never," was the exclamation of the tortured Eustace. "I own my other offences, but with my latest breath I deny being a traitor."
"Have you not held a secret and prohibited correspondence?—Guilt chains your tongue. I hoped better things from Eustace Evellin. Farewell, repent and reform." These words were spoken as Lord Hopton mounted his horse. Eustace threw himself on the ground, and in a frantic moment thought self-destruction allowable. Before principle had time to allay this agony of acute feeling, a sob, that seemed to issue from a breaking heart, made him raise his head to see if there were any as wretched as himself. A pale war-worn figure stood beside him, leaning on a carbine; his hat drawn over his eyes, and his body wrapped in a tattered roquelaure. Eustace would have felt ashamed at yielding to such expressions of poignant distress before any observer, had not the more painful consideration that this person had been a witness of his disgrace suppressed every other thought.
"Did you hear the General speak to me?" enquired Eustace in a perturbed accent. After a long pause the stranger answered, "I did."—Those words were uttered in a well-known voice; and at a moment of indelible shame and public ruin, Eustace saw the long-desired features of his father: that father, by whose side he hoped to have fought manfully, in defence of his King and in pursuit of glorious renown, was the witness of an accusation which even mercy could not pardon, and beheld him sinking under the consciousness of acknowledged offences. Dignified in misery, Colonel Evellin stood gazing at the youth on whose virtues his fondest hopes had reposed, now sunk far below even his own desperate fortunes. Eustace held his hands before his face, not daring even to ask a blessing, nor presuming to enquire how they happened to meet at this awful crisis.
Colonel Evellin first broke silence. "You are Eustace Evellin, my only son, for whom I cherished the remnant of my unfortunate life.—Boy, I was plundered of wealth, title, and reputation, by a perfidious friend. I submitted to obscurity and poverty, for I was blessed with a faithful wife in your angel-mother. Thanks be to Heaven, she lives not to see this day!—I have fought and bled for my King. I have endured hardships which would paralyze your pampered niceness to hear described. For eleven months I fed on carrion, reposed on filth, deafened with the sound of battering cannon, the shouts of besieging rebels, and the groans of dying comrades. I have swam across rivers, warding the broken ice from my wounded body. I have, like a hunted wolf, dressed those wounds in mountain-fastnesses, shunning the abode of man, and eluding pursuers whose mercy I disdained to ask. I have seen my King a prisoner, without power to redress his wrongs; my country a prey to tyrants; all her hallowed institutions overturned; but never till now, Eustace, was I completely wretched; for never did anguish, in its most desperate forebodings, whisper that I could be the parent of a traitor."
"Oh, my father!" replied Eustace; "kill me with your weapon rather than your words. By the unimpeached honour of my blessed mother, I am no traitor."
"Who spoke the accusation," returned the Colonel, "which I returned to hear, and to curse the hour of thy birth?—'Twas not the light reproach of petulant folly, anxious to shift the shame of defeat from its own misconduct.' The speaker was the wise, magnanimous Hopton."
"But even wisdom and magnanimity may mistake."
"Was there any intercourse which he interdicted, and you clandestinely continued?"
"There was one who wound himself round my heart by ties which I wanted firmness to dissolve, and I greatly fear he has been a traitor to his country and me."
"No expletives; no qualifying terms; no diminutive appellations, for crimes that involve a kingdom's fate. Under the influence of this man, you have been rapacious, licentious, rash, regardless of subordination."
"And not a traitor!—Gracious Author of my existence, do I live to hear such perversion of language from my Eustace? When all depended on the honour and discipline of those who maintained the King's cause, my son commits crimes which disgrace his religion, his profession, and his principles, yet tells me he is no traitor."
"I never betrayed the confidence of Lord Hopton," said Eustace, attempting to clasp his father's knees. "The correspondence I carried on was to relieve the necessities of one who I thought had served me: not to disclose the secret plans of my General."
"Off! thy touch is contamination;" said the stern soldier. Yet Eustace perceived he melted as he spoke. "By our common wretchedness," continued he, "permit me to follow you. Let us throw ourselves into some garrison, where we may dearly sell our lives. I ask for nothing but to die defending you. Let me but combat by your side, and you shall find, though I have greatly sinned, I can also greatly repent."
"Oh, last of a noble stock!" said Evellin, while tears streamed fast down his furrowed cheeks, "if thou dost repent, save thy life for better times."—"Keep me but with you," returned Eustace, "and I shall become all you wish." "I mean to make for Oxford," said the Colonel; "darest thou go with me thither?" "No, no," replied the unhappy youth; "I dare not see Constance till I have erased my shames."—"The soul of thy parents spoke in that sentiment," said the Colonel, unable longer to restrain his arms from clasping his son; but the embrace was accompanied with that groan of woe, which spoke unsubdued repugnance and careless anguish, yet it seemed to restore the half-expiring Eustace to life, at the same time that it confirmed his resolution never to give occasion for such another groan.
Filial piety, which, in despite of all his errors, was a predominant sentiment in the mind of Eustace, soon pointed out to him, that though the sight of his injured but beloved Constance, and her offended father, would, in his present circumstances, be insupportable, it was highly desirable that his father should shelter his infirm frame under the roof of domestic friendship; and perceiving with joy that such was his design, he forbore to persevere in his request of never more separating from him. He knew that a few garrisons in the west still held out for the King, and his sanguine temper taught him to hope, that some happy occurrence might enable him to purify his blemished fame. Colonel Evellin encouraged this hope. Dearly as he prized his son's life, anxious as he was to preserve the true branch of the house of Neville from extermination, a dead son, fallen in the cause of honour, was infinitely better than a living one stamped with the stigmas of traitor and villain.
The advancing divisions of the enemy terminated the interview. Neither could bear to witness the King's troops laying down their arms, or the triumphant rejoicings of the Parliamentary forces. Colonel Evellin took the route to Oxford, which he hoped to gain by the most unfrequented ways; and Eustace intreating his father, if possible, to conceal his disgrace from his dear kindred, turned westward, determining to make every effort to rejoin Lord Hopton.
Where you are liberal of your loves, and counsels, Be sure you be not loose; for those you make friends, And give your hearts to, when they once perceive The least rub in your fortunes, fall away Like water from ye, never found again, But where they mean to sink ye.
The evil genius of Colonel Evellin still pursued him. He had not travelled far before he fell into the power of the rebels, who carried him prisoner to London. He was recognized as one who had done wonders for the King; and, in an enemy every where triumphant, to spare his life was an act of mercy. He was, however, kept in rigorous confinement, and his name excepted out of every act of amnesty. Whether the Presbyterians or Independents gained a temporary ascendancy; whether the Rump or the army struggled to get the King's person into their hands, to give a colourable pretext to their most unrighteous proceedings, a high-minded Loyalist was alike dangerous and opposite to the vacillating humours of men, who, under the pretence of worshipping the God of truth and mercy, served the abominations of perverted understandings and corrupted hearts.
Eustace, accompanied by the faithful Jobson, reached Pendennis Castle, and joined its brave defenders; but Lord Hopton left it before their arrival, to follow his royal charge, who, in compliance with his father's commands, quitted England, which now had only chains to bestow on its Princes. In this strong fortress, celebrated for being the last that held out for the King, Eustace distinguished himself for patient bravery and active courage. But he no longer fought in a conspicuous scene of action, under the eye of a renowned commander, whose praise was glory, and whose reproof was disgrace. He gained indeed the esteem of the venerable Arundel, who, at the age of fourscore, bound his silver-locks with an helmet, and kept the Royal standard flying, till the enemy, astonished at his fortitude and resources, acceded to the most honourable capitulation. But as soon as terms were granted, and the garrison dispersed, Eustace lost all hope of again signalizing himself, nor could the renown gained within the walls of a fortress expunge the disgrace which had been promulgated at the head of an army.
While undetermined how to act, or which way to employ the unvalued life he was bound to preserve in proof of his repentance, Eustace heard of his father's captivity. Another report at the same time reached him, which, as any one who has fondly loved in early youth, when every idea is most likely to be engrossed by the ardent susceptibility of one predominant passion, will readily believe, excited still keener anguish. He was assured that Monthault was at that time an inmate in Dr. Beaumont's family, high in the estimation of all, and even believed to be an accepted lover of Constantia.
To refute a rumour so injurious to loyal faith and female truth, I must remind the reader, that immediately after Lord Hopton's defeat, Major Monthault was ostentatiously pointed out as an object of Parliamentary vengeance, and thrown into confinement. This was done to give him credit with the Loyalists, preparatory to his being sent to Oxford, where it was proposed he should act as a spy, and convey intelligence to the beleaguering army, specifying also such of the inhabitants as were too zealous and determined to make safe citizens in the projected commonwealth. He was soon permitted to break from durance, and arriving at Oxford under the character of a confessor in the Royal cause, he was kindly welcomed by Dr. Beaumont. He brought Constantia the first certain intelligence that Eustace was alive, and had passed through the dangers of a disastrous campaign with little injury.
The voice of fame, alike busy in circulating good and evil tidings, soon informed the family of the public censure which Lord Hopton cast on that unfortunate fugitive, and Monthault would have gained great credit with the Beaumonts for not having been the first to disclose it, had not his own conduct been implicated in the same accusation. Isabel eagerly clung to the visible proofs of his loyalty as an implicit evidence that her brother had been most basely aspersed. "The misery of these times," said she, "is surely sufficient; we need not aggravate the misfortunes of our fellow-sufferers, or the cruelty of our enemies, by crediting the calumnies of malice, or the unfounded fabrications of busy tatlers. Our dear Eustace is accused of treason, and his friend and constant associate is involved in the same charge. Yet if imprisonment and forfeiture of his estates are not testimonials of loyalty, where shall we seek more certain attestations? After having fought and bled for his King, he breaks from captivity and seeks an asylum among us at Oxford. Equally inconsistent is the charge aimed at my gallant brother. Dearest Constantia, surely you cannot believe Eustace to be a traitor; yet your cold looks and marked indifference to poor Monthault, and the care with which you avoid your lover's name, lest his friend should attempt his exculpation, indicate, that either you suffer this futile charge to dwell too much upon your mind, or that you mistook the mere attachment of kindred for devoted affection."
"Isabel," returned Constantia, with a look of mild expostulation, "I know not how far to trust rumour, but this I know, that the tongue of Monthault will corrode the fame of Eustace, either in censuring or commending him. Do not imagine there is any change in me, or that I mistook the nature of my own feelings. Whether Eustace deserves reproach or renown, my heart will never own another possessor. It is either wedded to his deserts, or so estranged by his faults, that love may as well light his fire on a monumental tablet as make me again admire in man, that fair semblance of generous integrity, by which Eustace won me to select him as the partner of my future life. Him I shall ever love, or ever mourn. But were he proved guilty of every base crime laid to his charge, this extortioner, this debauchee, this refractory soldier, nay, even this traitor, must not be placed by the side of Monthault, unless it be right to compare the guilt of frail man with the impious desperation of Satan. My greatest grief and torment proceed from a fact which I cannot dispute: true, as you say, Eustace selected Monthault for his constant associate and particular friend."
These remarks of Constance will disprove the rumour which had reached the ears of her fugitive lover, and prove that Monthault did not succeed in one of the designs which brought him to Oxford; with regard to the other, his intended services to the Parliament during the siege were frustrated by an order extorted from the captive King, requiring that his garrisons should be immediately surrendered to the ruling party. Oxford therefore admitted a detachment of the rebel army, but for some time a spirit of moderation was visible in the treatment bestowed on this honourable asylum of loyalty and learning. The covenant and other oaths were indeed sent down, but as they were not enforced, the conscientious possessors of ecclesiastical and collegiate situations were not ejected for contumacy. The captivity of the King imposed the most scrupulous moderation and quiet submission on all his adherents, and many persons hoped, from this apparent calm, that the national wounds would speedily be healed.
But the suspended fury of two powerful contending parties, concentrating their terrors, and perfecting their deep designs to crush each other before they entirely annihilate a fallen foe, bears no more resemblance to the wise lenity of a regular government towards the refractory subjects it has subdued, than the fearful stillness which is the precursor of a thunder-storm does to the serene tranquillity of a summer's day. No sooner were the Presbyterian republicans subdued by the fanatics, who had gained the entire command of the army, than the murder of the King, and the vindictive persecution of loyalty and episcopacy, plainly shewed that, in the nomenclature of these men, forbearance and liberty meant self-aggrandizement and most merciless oppression of all who dissented from their opinions.
Major Monthault had sufficient political versatility and natural baseness to be a busy actor in these scenes of perfidy and depravity; but his talents were too limited to acquire distinction among men of deep penetration, profoundly skilled in the art of fomenting and managing the malignant passions; besides, the open scandal of his profligate manners ill suited the decorous exterior of seeming saints. His treachery to the Royal cause, therefore, only purchased him the liberty of compounding for his estate at a less fine than was extorted from persons of untarnished fidelity; and he was laid by as an instrument equally mean and vile, incapable of further use. A bad heart can never taste the pleasures which belong to tranquillity; and inaction is torture to those who must shun reflection. Monthault had no resource but in the indulgence of his brutal appetites. The beauty of Constantia excited desire, while the avowed contempt with which she treated him convinced him that the blandishments of flattery and persevering assiduity would never remove the impressions which she had conceived to his disadvantage. The licence of these disorderly times was favourable to deeds of violence. Monthault formed the project of carrying off his mistress by force, and securing her in his parental castle; and disbanded soldiers were easily found, alike daring and lawless, to execute such an atrocious design.
The only difficulty attendant on this undertaking seemed to consist in wresting her from the protection of her friends; for though courts of law no longer afforded relief to injured loyalists, a police was still preserved, and the precincts of a college could not be violated with impunity, or indeed with a prospect of success. He resorted, therefore, to stratagem, invented a tale of distress, and disguised a female accomplice to pass as the widow of a soldier who had fallen at Naseby. A story of sick children perishing for want was likely to operate on the feelings of humane young women. Constantia and Isabel were soon drawn beyond the walls of Oxford, and conducted along the banks of the Charwell, in search of this scene of misery. When they were at such a distance from the city as to preclude the chance of assistance, several men, masked and disguised, rushed out of an inclosure, seized their fainting prey, and bore her from her shrieking companion to a carriage which waited to receive her. The horses set off at full speed, and Isabel, in an agony of despair, ran after it till it was out of sight, invoking the interposition of Heaven, and casting many a vain look around to see if any human succour was at hand. Tired and exhausted, she at last recollected, that to return to the city and relate the event, describing to the municipal officers the road the fugitives had taken, would afford the most probable means of rescue; and, though it would be unspeakable agony to meet her bereaved uncle and aunt, she yet considered that her being with them would afford them some consolation, beside the advantage of her testimony for the recovery of her dear companion.
When Constantia revived from the state of insensibility into which the suddenness of the assault had hurried her weak spirits, she found herself in a chaise with Monthault, who watched the return of her senses to pour out some passionate encomiums on her beauty, and protestations of his insurmountable, though hopeless love. "I will speak this once," said she, "and then for ever be silent. Hear, abandoned man and perfidious friend! I would sooner die than yield to your wishes; and I know my father would weep less over my corpse, than if he saw me contaminated by your embraces. Restore me to him; nay, only give me liberty to fly back to his dear arms, and I will never disclose that you were the ravisher; but if you persist in your cruelty, it will be of no other avail than to plunge your soul in additional guilt."
Alarmed by the determined firmness of her manner, Monthault changed his tone. He protested she misunderstood his expressions; for that, though he never should cease to adore her, he had merely engaged in this enterprize as the agent of Eustace, to whom he was going to carry her. Hopeless of obtaining her father's consent (since he knew his disgrace had reached Oxford), and incapable of living without her, they had projected this scheme; and he besought her to be calm, as a few hours would bring her to her plighted love. "Surely, beautiful Constantia," said he, "you would not wish to escape from your faithful, though dishonoured Eustace." "The Eustace I knew and loved," returned she, "was faithful and honourable. Base seducer, and slanderer of unsuspecting innocence, this subterfuge cannot deceive me a moment; and I once more warn you to let me go, or dread my desperation."
A disposition like Monthault's is rarely threatened out of its deliberate purpose; but, happily for Constantia, the skill of the driver was not proportioned to the expedition he was commanded to use, and he overturned the carriage at the entrance of a small village. Constantia's cries soon drew several people to her assistance, who, supposing her distress proceeded from her alarm at the accident, assured her that the gentleman who lay senseless on the ground was only stunned by the fall, and that the blood which streamed from her own face was caused by a very slight wound. "It is from him," said she, "that I entreat to be preserved; only hide me from him. Let him suppose I escaped in the moment of confusion, and every kind office I can do you in the course of my life will be too little to shew my gratitude. Beside my own prayers, I will promise you those of my dear father, the worthiest and best of men; these he will daily offer to Heaven for the preservers of his only child."
The rustic witnesses of this scene listened with stupid surprise to this address. The women busied themselves in binding up the deep gash in Constantia's forehead; the men, in raising Monthault, and lifting up the carriage. By this time the out-riders were come up, who, faithful to their commission, prepared to place Constantia on one of the horses, when her loud shrieks, the bustle, and crowd, attracted the attention of two gentlemen who were travelling on the road, to whose inquiries of what was the matter, one of Monthault's gang brutally answered, a carriage had been overturned and a gentleman much hurt. "But he is quiet enough," said he; "whereas his wife, who is only a little scratched, screams as if she would raise the dead."
"Her distress at least requires tender treatment," said one of the gentlemen. "Why are they lifting her on that horse?" "To take her to a surgeon, your honour." "What! from her lifeless husband, while she herself is but slightly injured? Something must be wrong here." At the moment Constantia thought herself lost, a strenuous hand grasped the bridle of the horse on which she was placed; and a commanding voice called to the man who held her in his arms to stop at his peril. The villain drew his sword, and attempted to hew down his opposer; but at that instant Constantia had sufficient strength to loosen his clasp and throw herself upon the ground, from which she was raised by the other gentleman, who assured her she should be protected, in a voice which, with rapture, she recognized to be that of the worthy Barton.
"Oh my guardian angel," said she, "are you come to save me again? My second father, hold me in your sheltering arms till you can restore me to my kindred. I have been forced away by brutal ravishers. There lies the master ruffian senseless; and," continued she, waving her hand, "there are his cruel accomplices."
By this time the other stranger had disarmed his antagonist, pulled him from his horse, and committed him to custody. "My Lord," said Barton to him, "this is a most providential adventure. We have again rendered a signal good service to one of those pretty maidens whom you assisted at Halifax." "To which of them?" eagerly inquired the young nobleman. "Mistress Constantia Beaumont," returned Barton. "But where is Isabel?" "Safe at Oxford, and consoling my friends, I trust," replied Constantia. "Oh, Sir! I know not by what name to address you; but if you are the pupil of the excellent Barton, you will, like him, defend the friendless who has been forced away from her natural protectors."
"Most willingly," answered the unknown; "but if that man is your husband, how can I take you out of his power?" Constantia then briefly told her story; her morning walk with Isabel; her seizure; Monthault's protestations; the overthrow of the chaise, and the attempt of the myrmidons to force her away. The rest of these wretches had now made their escape, leaving the one who was in custody and their employer, who began to shew signs of life, to answer for their crimes.
Barton then took upon himself the office of restoring Constantia to her friends, and begged his companion to remain with Monthault to see that he had proper treatment, and was secured from escaping. They drove back to Oxford with such rapidity as to precede the return of Isabel, who had the happiness of seeing the beloved friend, whose loss she came to announce, restored to the embraces of her affectionate family.
While Mr. Barton and Dr. Beaumont were exchanging those sentiments of cordial esteem which mutual worth is sure to inspire, Isabel's eyes inquired if the gallant officer, who had so much interested her, had given no signs of reciprocal recollection. She was dissatisfied that he was not her cousin's escort; and though, in wishing to see him again, she thought she had no other motive than to thank him for past services, she never before felt so much pain from unacknowledged gratitude. Constance was too much overpowered by the remembrance of her own preservation to attend to the silent perplexity of Isabel, whom a secret consciousness of what she could scarce believe to be a fault restrained from a thousand inquiries which she would not have scrupled to make after one to whom she was wholly indifferent.
The transport which Dr. Beaumont felt at the restoration of his daughter was checked by a discovery of the most agonizing kind. Monthault still continued in a languishing condition; but his accomplice underwent an examination as to the purpose of his attempt, and the name of his employer. On promise of pardon the miscreant offered to make a full discovery. His conditions were accepted; and he then named Eustace Evellin as the person who was to receive the advantage of the nefarious action. He asserted, that being overcome with despair at the thought of having forfeited his uncle's favour by his bad conduct, Eustace determined to possess his cousin at any hazard, and that Major Monthault had been wrought upon, by his earnest entreaties, to become his agent. The woman who had personated a trooper's widow, and drawn the two ladies to the retired spot where Eustace was seized, gave such a description of the stranger who bribed her to fabricate a tale of distress as exactly tallied with the person of Eustace, but bore no resemblance to Monthault. Another was brought to swear that he had seen Dr. Beaumont's nephew in Oxford since its surrender to the Parliament. His long silence to his family was an inexplicable mystery; but to visit Oxford without throwing himself at his uncle's feet, and imploring pardon, was such a tacit acknowledgement of conscious unworthiness, as even the candour of Dr. Beaumont could not controvert. In an agony of mind, far exceeding all that he had endured for his despoiled fortunes, and only equalled by what he felt for his persecuted King; he requested Mr. Barton to discharge the accomplices, and hush up the business. He then returned home, clasped the trembling Constantia in his arms, and conjured her never to name her unworthy cousin. "I would bid you not think of him," said he; "but the viper will be remembered by its sting, after we have discovered it to be a poisonous reptile with a beautiful outside. And much gratitude is due to Heaven, that the base infection of his nature has been fully disclosed, before you were bound to him by indissoluble ties." Constantia asked if Monthault was the accuser of Eustace. "Monthault," replied the Doctor, "is silent. A chain of evidence confirms, that he was merely an agent in this iniquitous design of tearing you from me."—"Impossible," replied Constance, "never did agent embark with such eager passion in the views of another. It was for himself, the monster pleaded; and it was only a mean attempt to quiet my cries for assistance, when he talked of carrying me to Eustace.—Fortunate dissembler, how well he contrives to throw the guilt of his own treasons on that ill-fated youth."
"Dear, credulous girl," returned the Doctor, "I have often bid you love young Evellin, and do not wonder that you find it hard to unlearn that lesson. Yet, rest assured, it is not on dubious testimony, that I found my conviction of his being corrupted by the lax morality of these evil times, in which one party deems an attachment to the antient constitution an excuse for debauchery, and the other uses the verbiage of religion as a commutation for obedience to its precepts. It is most true, Eustace was publicly disgraced by Lord Hopton, accused of crimes to which he pleaded guilty, suspected of others which he faintly denied. With horror I must tell you that his unfortunate honourable father had the anguish of witnessing his shame."
Constance raised her streaming eyes and clasped hands to Heaven, exclaiming, "If his crimes have been any thing worse than the precipitation of thoughtless youth, there is no truth in man. Till his fame is cleared I will not name him. But I shall never cease to think of him till this heart ceases to beat, or rather till my intellects are too clouded to discern the difference between error and depravity. You have often said that one of the sorest calamities of this turbulent period is the celebrity acquired by successful wickedness, which encourages offenders to traffic largely in iniquity; but the fate of poor Eustace continues to exhibit the severity of retributive justice. Discarded by both his fathers, and divorced from his love, where has the pennyless outcast funds to feed the craving avarice of criminal associates, to suborn accomplices, and to bribe witnesses? A destitute exile has at least presumptive evidence that he is innocent of stratagems which wealth alone could attempt; and surely wealth is always too selfish to forego the indulgencies which it pawns its soul to purchase."
The sensibility of Constantia Beaumont was as permanent as it was acute; her sense of honour was refined and delicate; but her high-seated love was fixed on those unalterable properties which not only rejected every light surmise to her lover's disadvantage, but also clung to the conviction of his integrity with a confidence which, in the present state of things, looked like obstinate credulity. No chain of circumstances, no concurring testimony could induce her to think Eustace treacherous or depraved. By his own mouth alone could he be condemned. She must see his misdeeds and hear his confession before she would determine to recall her vows. With all the vivid hope of youthful inexperience, she continued to believe that he would return and confute his accusers. Months, nay, years, rolled away; the hope grew fainter. No certain tidings of his proceedings reached them after the fatal battle of Dartmoor, when Lord Hopton precipitately doomed him to ignominy. She had heard that his father commanded him to live and redeem his lost fame; and she often fancied he was busily employed in obeying that command. Indulging this idea, she hoped that his glory would burst upon them with such unquestionable splendour, that every tongue would applaud, while she took her hero by the hand, and asked her father to rescind the injunction which forbade her to avow her unchangeable affection.
The zeal of the true Christian for Christ and his Gospel is never accompanied with those flaming contentions and oppositions, which, though engaged in the best of causes, certainly testify a corrupt mind. They had rather obey than dispute, follow than have the pre-eminence.
The year 1648 produced events, that were alike the glory and the shame of England. It was first signalized by the illustrious stand which the university of Oxford made against successful usurpation, by appointing delegates to examine the oaths they were now required to take, and to state why, in reason and conscience, they could not submit to the imposition. These delegates, to their eternal renown, and to the honour of those for whom they acted, "though then under the power of a strict and strong garrison put over them by Parliament, the King in prison, and their hopes desperate, passed a public act and declaration against the covenant, with such invincible arguments of the illegality, wickedness, and perjury contained in it, that no man of the contrary opinion, nor even the assembly of divines, which then sat at Westminster, ever ventured to make any answer to it." And the publication of their reasons, "must remain to the worlds end, as a monument of the learning, courage, and loyalty of that excellent place, against the highest malice and tyranny that ever was exercised in or over any nation."
Resistance of such a pure and steady character, conducted with meek fortitude, and supported by unimpeachable wisdom, was too dangerous an offence to be forgiven. Ejection of the members from the scanty subsistence which they derived from their collegiate endowments, was the first punishment. To this, banishment from Oxford was immediately added, and, in many cases, imprisonment. The obnoxious oaths were tendered to all the members of the university, and those who refused to compromise their consciences for bread, were commanded to quit the happy asylum of their age, or to renounce all their youthful studies and hopes in twenty-four hours, by beat of drum, on pain of being treated as spies. Few were found so selfish as to submit to the alternative of perjury; and thus the venerable sages and generous youth of England went forth like the confessors of antient times, "of whom the world was not worthy; afflicted, destitute, tormented, they wandered in deserts, in mountains, in caves, and dens of the earth." At one time they were forbidden to earn a subsistence as private tutors in families; at others, restricted from performing any ministerial functions, even so much as administering the sacrament to dying persons, who yet, by the arbitrary regulations of many of the new parochial ministers, might not receive it from them, unless they also first took the covenant.
Dignified clergymen were at this time travelling on foot, nearly destitute of common necessaries, and relying on the charity of casual passengers for support. Cathedrals had long been converted into barracks for horse-soldiers, and bishop's palaces into prisons for the ejected clergy, whose families, now deprived of the last pittance, and actually in want of bread, became earnest supplicants that the moiety of the benefices, of which their fathers were deprived, (and which the Parliament had agreed should be appropriated to their support,) should be regularly paid. "But these applications oftener produced vexatious and expensive suits than effectual relief."
As the clerical associates of the party who now reigned triumphant, rushed in crowds to fill the vacant seats, the aspect of Alma Mater was completely changed. As much sanctity as possible was thrown into the face, and mirth and pleasantry were avoided as marks of a carnal mind. The young competitors for academical learning were led to examination, through rooms hung with black, and illuminated by so faint a taper, that it only served to make darkness visible. This obscurity was a prelude to a fearful questioning by a Saint, "with half a dozen night-caps on his head, and religious horror in his countenance", who asked him whether he abounded in grace,—the state of his soul,—if he was of the number of the elect—the occasion of his conversion, and the exact period when it happened. Such was the general aspect of manners, and such the state of learning; many respectable exemptions were, however, found in men who placed religion in something more essential than lecturing out of Calvin's institutes, pointing Scripture-texts at political opponents, or assuming the vinegar aspect of puritanical monachism. Some also have been recorded, who shewed that they were dissenters from purely conscientious motives, who refused to enrich themselves with the plunder of episcopacy, and, considering the clergy of the desolated church as men and brethren, stretched out the hand of humanity to alleviate their afflictions.
Such was the good Barton. By one of the sports of Fortune, he was nominated to the stall which Dr. Beaumont was expected to vacate, by refusing the prescribed oaths. Among the foibles of this worthy man, must be ranked a high opinion of his own spiritual attainments; but this being qualified by the technical phrases of his sect, did not alarm his really tender conscience, for though he would have considered the same inordinate degree of self-esteem as sinful, in one who did not hold the same religious tenets; yet, by changing the term disposition into gift, he thought himself permitted to talk of his present piety, knowledge, perseverance, diligence, and success in the ministry, as of a vessel filled with grace, and ordained to honour. Still, when he spoke of himself as man, he used the strongest terms of self-abasement. He had no doubt he should be able to foil Dr. Beaumont in argument, and convince him that the Anglican church was really anti-christian. His benevolence and liberality urged him to undertake this office at this time, in hopes that, since the Doctor's subsistence depended upon his acquiescence, expediency would facilitate conviction. The noble disinterestedness of this intention must attract admiration; and though there were abler advocates in the cause of Presbytery, it would have been difficult to select one whose motives were so commendable.
When Barton visited his friend, with a view to effect his conversion, he took care to conceal the interest he himself had in the business. With many encomiums on the Doctor's learning and moral conduct, he urged him to that conformity which would preserve him in a state of usefulness. He spoke of the differences between moderate members of the Lutheran and Reformed churches as including no essential doctrines; and mentioned the friendly intercourse which Calvinistical congregations on the continent had ever maintained with the church of England, assisting her in her troubles, and receiving her persecuted members with open arms. He observed, that what was not evidently of divine origin should never be made binding to the souls of men, that it was never too late to retract errors, and if, in the first hurry of separation, some remains of popish impurity adhered to a new-born church, it behoved its members to remove the defilement, as soon as a more simple and scriptural view of the subject allowed them to complete the work of reformation.
So far Dr. Beaumont, in general, agreed with Mr. Barton; but, adverting to the learning and talents of the fathers of the Anglican church, he conceived it attributable to their moderation and wisdom, and not to their want of sincerity or of clear spiritual views, that they endeavoured, not to build a new church, but to purify and reform their old one. Hence, in reply to the taunt of the Romanists, "Where was your religion before Luther?" they could say, "Our religion preceded your corruptions, and ever was in the Bible;" thus claiming for their founder, neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Melancthon, nor Zuinglius; but the Saviour of the world. As to the remark, that what was not of divine institution should not be made a condition of communion, it applied with full force against the new-fangled covenant, and he clearly proved the injustice of an imposition, which could never be called law, while it wanted the essentials which the constitution required; namely, the assent of the three legislative powers. It threw a grievous burden upon the conscience of those who took it, because, not content with binding them to the new form of worship, it also required them to endeavour to extirpate Prelacy, classing it with Popery, superstition, heresy, schism, and profaneness. These may all be proved contrary to the word of God; whereas, allowing that episcopacy is not actually prescribed by Scripture, its greatest maligners have never been able to shew that it is contrary to any rule or precept expressed or implied. No conscientious man, therefore, could take this covenant, unless he thought that Prelacy ought to be interdicted, and its maintainers persecuted to extirpation.
On other branches of the oath, such as its pretext of defending the King's person, while it justified raising armies to deprive him of his lawful rights, and accusing the faithful adherents of the King as being malignant incendiaries, and the cause of the nation's misfortunes, Dr. Beaumont forbore to expatiate; as a clergyman, he was required chiefly to look at the ecclesiastical tendency of this obligation, and on that account he preferred poverty, bonds, or even death, to subscription.
Barton acknowledged that his party had gone too far, and hoped time would soften their asperity, and reclaim those who had so loudly complained of persecution, from continuing to be persecutors. He enlarged on the beautiful simplicity of primitive worship, as described in Scripture; talked of the mistakes which had proceeded from a misapplication of the word Bishop in our translations, and complained that the church was profuse in her ceremonies; that her forms were too copious, redundant, and evidently copied from the Romish missal; and that her terms of subscription were too minute and galling to tender consciences.
Dr. Beaumont acknowledged that, like all human institutions, the church of England, its Liturgy, and its authorised translation of Scripture, were imperfect; but unless we admit fallibility as a justifiable motive for rejecting whatever is of human origin, and withholding our obedience to all governments, because there is something defective in them, this objection must fall to the ground. The very nature of man, which prevents him from devising what is perfect, enables him to discover those defects in the labours of others, which his self-love will not let him perceive in his own; and thus it has ever been easy to detect and censure abuses, but difficult to correct them. He proved, that no congregation of Christians could be maintained, without observing various forms and arrangements not mentioned in Scripture, in which there is no fuller description of public service, than that they met together, with one accord, for the purpose of prayer, praise, singing hymns, reading and expounding the word of God. The rule, "Let all things be done in order," coupled with the injunction, "to obey those who have rule over you," justified every national church in framing articles of concord, and a formulary for public worship; and he thought private Christians could not be vindicated for disobeying their spiritual superiors, unless the required terms included something contrary to divine laws. He inferred from Acts, chap. iv. v. 24, and the following verses, that a form of prayer was early used in the Christian church, as it had been in the Jewish; and he stated that the divine compendium prescribed by our Lord was, indeed, a selection of passages from Jewish prayers. He observed, that without a service, previously known to all the congregation, only the minister could be said to pray, the rest were auditors, not a congregation; listeners to their orator, and judges of his eloquence; not petitioners in their own name, begging mercy of God.—Seceders generally pleaded that they put confidence in their minister; but he would tell them, this was being more Popish than the church of England could be, in retaining some of the dresses, Liturgies, and hierarchical orders used by the Romanists; for it was an error of that church, against which our reformers most vehemently protested, to give undue importance to the officiating minister, on whose intention and purpose the value of the sacred ordinance depended. If we change the word Intention to Gift, is the absurdity less glaring? The Papists believe, that their priest in the mass can, if he so wills it, change a wafer into flesh; and that his coinciding purpose is necessary to make any means of grace effectual. The Anti-formalists call it serving God, to stand while their minister utters extemporary prayers, the propriety and suitableness of which must depend on his wisdom and elocution. The resemblance between the lower classes of secular preachers, and the mendicant Friars, whose conduct was the disgrace and ruin of Popery, is most evident; especially in their abuse of the parochial clergy, from whom they completely estranged the minds of the people, and then led them into all the absurdities of fanaticism. He shewed that it was preserving the worst parts of Popery to make a merit of attending religious assemblies, instead of considering and hearing the word, as a help to right action; and that in uncharitable judgment of others, with respect to their spiritual state, and a pertinacious persuasion that salvation is confined to their own church, the strict Calvinist and the strict Papist were as one. And he bade Mr. Barton to join with him in praying God, that there might not be a still closer resemblance; for the crime of King-killing was of Popish origin, and was defended under the plea, that to promote the cause of God by cutting off his enemies was our duty, thus investing themselves with the right of judging who were God's enemies, and what was truly his cause.
In saying that the discipline and Liturgy of the English church was copied from that of the church of Rome, the case was unfairly stated. Her reformers endeavoured, in all things, to go back to the earliest and purest models. With singular modesty of judgment, they thought invention and discovery ill-sounding names in religion. The usages she kept in common with Rome were those she copied from the primitive churches, and were therefore uncontaminated with her errors.
In respect to the word bishop, admitting there was a misapplication of the term, in its present sense, to the ministers of the Ephesian and Cretan churches, whom Timothy and Titus were commissioned by St. Paul to select and appoint, yet it was to Timothy and Titus themselves, and to the authority they were commanded to exercise over these bishops or presbyters, that we were to look for the scriptural precedent of Episcopacy. The word Bishop did not come into the use to which we now apply it during the lives of the apostles, who possessed the same species of superintendence. But after the death of St. John, the apostolical fathers, who succeeded as governors of the church of Christ, modestly declined assuming the name of Apostle, as sanctified by the peculiar appointment of their heavenly Lord. As Christianity spread, each tract of country, or large city, had its bishop or overseer, who ordained the subordinate presbyters and deacons, and administered the rite of confirmation. Such, without exception, was the government of the church for nearly sixteen hundred years; and during that period scarce any objections were started against its utility. What St. Paul appointed Timothy to be at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, that was Clement at Rome, Ignatius at Antioch, and Polycarp at Smyrna; each the ecclesiastical superintendent of his respective congregation, and a bond of union among dispersed societies of Christians.
As to the hardship of the terms of communion required by the Church, and the unscriptural tendency of some of her forms, Dr. Beaumont wished that the objectors would agree in stating what they wanted to have altered, in such a manner that unity might indeed be promoted. "But while," said he, "every one conceives himself at liberty to find fault, and no two agree in what you would have changed; while some of your most learned and pious bring forth new liturgies, framed according to their own peculiar fancy, without the least reference to ancient forms, or any even plausible pretence why their inventions should supplant what has been long in use; while others run into metaphysical subtleties and nice definitions of abstract doctrines; and others inveigh against all forms as subversive of Christian liberty, are we not justifiable in retaining what we have till you agree in producing something better? And as to the multiplicity of our institutions, even with our fearful example to teach you brevity and simplicity, you have not found the drawing up of the constitution of a church so simple a thing. The Directory which was fashioned by your divines took almost a day to read over; and it is with a bad grace that you object to our using words not found in holy writ, which we say are rendered necessary by the present state of theological controversy, when your divines adopted many new-coined, indefinite words, for which neither Scripture, precedent, nor significance, could be pleaded."
Mr. Barton forbore replying to many points in dispute; he acknowledged that the assembly of divines "had disappointed the hopes of their employers;" but, recurring to episcopacy, he said, that admitting the existence of a superintending order among the primitive clergy, how could we reconcile the poverty and lowliness of the antient bishops with the splendour, wealth, and temporal power of their successors? and he added, that the ruin of the church was greatly owing to the secular lives of the clergy.
To this Dr. Beaumont replied, that in different states of the church different duties were required of her ministers. And if (as experience proved) in a state of persecution, the head of the flock was first called to suffer, it followed that in prosperous times those who occupied that station should also be admitted to an upper seat at "the shearer's feast." Wealth, power, and splendour, are not of necessity sinful. They did indeed often afford temptations to offend, and so did poverty; a low servile condition, a life of austerity and mortification, nay, even religious observances, for the Pharisee sinned in an act of worship, by boasting himself to be righteous, and despising others. "It must ever be," said he, "while the Christian priesthood is filled by men subject to infirmity, that in prosperous times the ministry will, in numerous instances, be formed of worldly-minded persons, who follow their Lord for the bread he distributes, and care little for the bread of life. Such persons being active, ambitious, practised in those habits which bring their possessors into notice, endowed with much worldly wisdom, and perhaps supported by powerful interest, must, according to the ordinary course of things, climb to eminent stations, and by the publicity of their conduct give occasion to scandal. But no sooner does the church appear in danger, than these mock supporters desert her; either changing their party for that which, they think, will eventually predominate, or seeking personal security in concealment. But then the true servants of God appear in view; they who, meek and humble, pious and learned, claim only the distinction of defending or suffering for a calling which they embraced with a view of fulfilling its duties, not of engrossing its rewards. All this results, not from the discipline of our church, but from human nature; and which-ever of your sects finally gains the ascendancy, the worldly-minded man will find in it the same expedients to help him to obtain the secular objects at which he aspires."
"As to your charge, Mr. Barton, that the lives of our clergy gave occasion to the downfall of our church, you cannot prove it, unless, invested with the attribute of omniscience, you can look into the hearts of men, and estimate the comparative worth of two numerous communities. The claims of our church to apostolical purity rest on her doctrines, constitution, and services. These are capable of proof and investigation, and are not affected by the unworthiness of her ministers. The pretensions of those sects who reject all creeds, forms, and canons, rest solely on the qualities of their members; and those who deny that human institutions can be binding, seem to adopt the common language of reformers, intimating, that they who pull down the old temple must be a wiser and worthier race of beings than those who supported it. Now as each man takes a personal interest in the triumph of his party, he thinks it his duty, not only to give his neighbour credit for whatever portion of graces and abilities he lays claim to, but also makes the same claim for himself; and he must be a bad caterer who cannot make a savoury compound of spiritual delicacies, when he thus traffics in them by barter. Yet I often wonder how they, who positively insist on the absolute depravity of mankind, can reconcile it to consistency, to make so many of their own brethren absolutely saints. They call themselves in the aggregate, the vilest of sinners; yet, when they come to describe particulars, they employ language which even the most eminent of all the Apostles had too humble a sense of his defects to adopt. But on the contrary, we who do not found our claims on the superiority of the earthen vessels in which the heavenly treasure is lodged, are not solicitous to describe the church militant in terms appropriate only to the church triumphant. We see and deplore the vices and errors of each other; and after that acknowledgment, do not, worthy Barton, call us uncandid if I add, we also discover yours. I will go further, and own, that we record that as a blemish which you produce as a beauty; I mean your zeal to promote separation, so plainly contradictory, not merely to a dubious text, a difficult chapter, or even an epistle hard to be understood, but to the whole tenor of the New Testament, which, from St. Matthew to the Revelations, preaches concord, brotherly love, candour, humility, lenity in judgment, meekness, submission, unity in belief, in worship, in our conduct on earth, and in final hope of an eternal reward in heaven."
Mr. Barton admitted the use and necessity of an establishment, notwithstanding the errors which must at first mix with it, and the inert supineness it must afterwards introduce; but he saw little danger in schism, and doubted if it could indeed be counted a sin. He enlarged on those texts which permitted Christian liberty, and laid it down as a fundamental rule for the only difference allowable in a state, that one church should be approved and all the rest tolerated. The approved church should be that which had most members, and it should afford public maintenance and greater encouragement to its pastors; but all opinions might be promulgated with equal freedom, and every person left at liberty to interpret Scripture as he pleased, and to serve God in his own way.
Dr. Beaumont conceived the adoption of this plan would give occasion to much talk about religion, but would ripen none of its fruits. The attention of most men would be too much engrossed by temporal pursuits to exercise this privilege of choice, till sickness or calamity urged them to think of a future world. Weak minds, he said, would be "ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth," and the best disposed would be most apt to fall into error from extreme solicitude to be right. The differences between Christians chiefly consist in mysterious or speculative points; hence the perpetual controversies of those who were struggling to enlarge their communities, would divert the attention of mankind from moral duties. Every preacher would become, as it were, a religious prize-fighter, drawing round him an auditory as a means of subsistence, instead of instructing a congregation in their duty to God. So there would be endless dispute, nice sifting of abstract ideas, and censorious inquisitiveness into the spiritual state of our neighbours, but little humility, charity, or true piety; which consist in grateful adoration of, and sincere obedience to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and not in speculations on the incomprehensible nature and unfathomable purposes of God. From such unedifying pursuits our church, in her articles, dissuades even her riper members; how much more then must she, in her elementary instructions, avoid exciting a taste for them in the tender minds of her catechumens.
"Respecting the texts which require us to exercise Christian liberty, we ought" observed Dr. Beaumont, "to remember two considerations, which will assist us so to understand, as not to misapply Scripture. We should first consider the occasion which called forth the precept, and I believe you will find many of those you quoted, were meant to dissuade Gentile converts from observing the abrogated institutions of the Jewish law; at least, I am sure you will not find one which permitted a convert to say he chose to belong to the congregation of Paul or Apollos, or Cephas. Such licence of choice St. Paul strictly prohibits, ever labouring, as his Master had done before him, to build up a church in perfect unity of faith and worship. The other hint which I would suggest to you is, that the example of the Devil shews us that texts of Scripture may be wrested so as to recommend presumption and other enormous offences. Most assuredly, human governments have no power to inhibit man from interpreting the Word of God as his conscience dictates, but it is much to be wished, for the repose of Christendom, for the comfort of individuals, and the general increase of Christian graces, that "the unlearned and unstable" would exercise that lowliness and sacred awe which, operating as a moral restraint, would prevent them from giving their crude conceptions as faithful interpretations of the secret things of the Most High. This evil began to work in the Apostles' days, and every heresy and error that has since arisen in the Catholic church, claims for its foundation some misapplied text, which the perverse subtlety, or presumptuous ignorance of its founder wrested from its true significance. The usurpations of Popery, the daring impieties of Socinus, the mystical reveries of pietism, and the turbulent licentiousness of the fifth-monarchy-men, all assail the champions of orthodoxy with weapons stolen from the divine armoury. Nay, I have heard that the doctrine of metempsychosis has been supported by Scripture-proof, and many texts brought to prove the re-appearance of one human soul in a variety of bodies. Though therefore I sincerely deprecate all legal restraints on the free use of the Word of God, I must commend those divines who enforce the moral restraints I have mentioned, instead of encouraging a boundless latitude of interpretation.
"Shall I weary you if I point out whence arise these discrepancies of opinion? We look into Scripture to confirm our preconceived notions, not with a reverent desire of learning the truth. Each sect prefers some portion of Christian doctrine to the whole, and urges its favourite tenet to an undue extreme. Unskilful interpreters separate texts from their contexts, or they found doctrines on obscure passages, explaining away those plain ones by which the more difficult should be expounded, and overlooking those cautions by which the Holy Spirit guards against exaggeration. By such men a rhetorical illustration, a poetical figure, a local or temporary instruction, are made to form points of faith or positive rules of practice. It is evident many, even of the moral precepts, given by our Saviour, cannot be literally obeyed; and were intended rather to cultivate a general feeling, than to be referred to as a precise injunction; and if we allow for the strong imagery of eastern idiom on these occasions, let us do the same for those texts from whence arose the unhappy disputes among Protestants, on what are called the Five Points; which gave great occasion to Popery to exult in the disorder produced by our separation from her. And would to God that could have been avoided without partaking in her sins!
"To illustrate my idea of the manner in which even moral texts should be construed, I should consider your favourite precept of "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free," as rather intended to limit the frequent injunctions "to obey those who have rule over us," and to shew Christianity did not enjoin servility, than as designed to prove that we are allowed to choose our own temporal and spiritual masters. And that this is the true interpretation, the universal opinion of mankind must prove, who, in preferring government to anarchy, and supporting the state by coercive laws, shew that they consider the multitude as naturally subject to the institutions of the country which gave them birth, and whose protection and privileges they enjoy. And believe me, Mr. Barton, those who now insist so much on the rights of equal liberty, when they come to govern, will inforce the duty of subordination, and will exact all the claims to which age, station, authority, prescription, or superior attainments are entitled. I shall not blame them; the peace of society depends on the inviolability of these claims. I only censure them for exciting popular resentment against us, by holding forth ideas of perfection which experience tells us cannot be realized in this life."
"I perceive," returned Barton, "you object to the fundamental doctrines on which we found our separation; but, if you refuse to be my convert, let me hope that you will at least affect a passive acquiescence. If the King assents to the terms which Parliament now requires, and abolishes episcopacy, surely you will not resist what you must then, on your own principles, admit to be law."
Dr. Beaumont steadily answered, that even then he would not take the covenant; for though the King and Parliament conjointly possessed very ample legislative powers, they could not alter the constitution, of which they were conservators, not fabricators. "But," said he, "this question is scarcely a speculation. I am well aware that our high-minded King too little values the title and parade, which he is aware is all the present Parliament will ever grant him, to wound his own conscience, or lay snares for that of others. I have therefore rather to consider how I shall suffer with my King, than whether I can temporize with him. I know, worthy Barton, you have a message to deliver. It does not come upon me as an assassin upon a sleeping man; I have long foreseen that this strong-hold of loyal and episcopal principles could not be spared; and I have earnestly implored the grace of Christian fortitude, that I may resign my last temporal possession without a murmur. The power possessed by the predominant party to afflict us, is given them by God. It is designed to purify a sinful people, and to revive the flame of piety in a lukewarm church, whose best restorative will be exemplary holiness. Tried in the furnace of adversity, I doubt not that she will come out pure gold, and that our present sorrows will serve as a warning to the latest times in which England shall be remembered as a nation, to beware of the leaven of hypocrisy, to avoid divisions, and to cultivate universal charity and forbearance, instead of vain unprofitable disputations on metaphysical rights and abstruse doctrines."
Mr. Barton asserted that public morals had been much benefited by the new ministry, who, however unpromising their attainments and manners might be to secular eyes, shewed by their success that they were chosen implements in the hand of Providence to convert the nation. He observed the cause of unity would be considerably benefited by England's conforming to the discipline of the reformed churches abroad. He would not affirm that episcopacy was the cause of her present miseries; but he insisted it would be a hindrance to her healing her wounds.
Dr. Beaumont answered, that there was no doubt Divine Power could accomplish its ends by any instrument; but as it was presumptuous in man to require Omnipotence to work miracles, so it was the duty of rulers to select the most capable and promising agents for every work of importance. The will of God was as often fulfilled by stubborn folly as by obedient wisdom; yet those who wished that "will to be done upon earth," would fill responsible stations with those that seemed most like the inhabitants of heaven.
"You must allow us, who have played a losing game, to talk," said Dr. Beaumont, "and believe me, that so far from meaning any thing personal in my remarks, I honour the patience with which you listen to my prosings, and the benevolence which induces you to wish me to see my own interest. As far as I have observed, men of sound heads, and sober lives, are oftener endued with the especial graces of the Holy Spirit, than persons of weak judgment, or those whose previous conversation placed them in the power of sin, that grand hardener of the heart. A great change has indeed taken place in the manners of the nation; but when I see the dreadful scenes that daily occur; the first persons in the kingdom dragged to prison, or to the scaffold, for no other crime than allegiance; estates confiscated; the temples of God despoiled; the mysteries of religion ridiculed and disputed; the bonds of family-affection broken; servants turned into house-hold spies; domestic privacies violated by informers, in the shape of friends; every one disputing about religion, yet few knowing in what it consists; spiritual pride calling itself piety, and censoriousness affecting the name of zeal for our neighbour's salvation; insubordination pervading every order of society; all clamouring for their own way, and 'meaning licence, when they cry liberty;' the most disingenuous shifts and dishonest contrivances resorted to, not merely without punishment, but without fear of censure; when I see all this, can I say that morals are improved, because theatres are turned into conventicles, and banquets and revels give place to polemical lectures? The faces of men do indeed assume the appearance of sanctity, but that it is only the appearance is evident, because true piety gives chearful serenity to the countenance, and easy simplicity to the whole carriage. It occasionally blazes in ordinary conversation, but it is in the fervent and edifying language of glory to God, and good-will to man. It never talks, for the sake of some secular, or treacherous purpose, of seeking the Lord.—It judges not its neighbour's heart.—It boasts not of its early provocations and present acceptance, nor does it debase the doctrine of Providence, by low and familiar applications of Almighty interposition to its own trivial concerns; applications which argue, not religious thankfulness, but self-importance. It is careful never to anathematize its opponents, by a misapplication of Scripture-texts or events, knowing 'that the sword of the Spirit,' must not be wielded by personal, or party animosity. Nor does it suffer the fervors of devout love and gratitude, to overpower the humility of conscious dust and ashes. Its approaches to the Holy One of Israel are made with reverence. The sanctity of a penitent heart revolts from every allusion to carnal passion, with more than virgin horror; and in its most elevated raptures it still sees the Creator, and the creature, the Saviour, and the sinner, the Sanctifier, and thing sanctified. Such is true piety, the habit of the soul; not the disfigurer of the countenance, nor the fashioner of the apparel, in which points it shews no difference from good sense, and modest propriety."
"The observations you have made on the advantages which would result from the King's giving up episcopacy, require but a brief reply. If, as has been shewn, Calvin introduced a form of discipline, perfectly anomalous, the error of the reformed churches, in departing from antient usage, is not to be copied, but shunned; and conformity would make England do wrong, not prove Geneva to be right. On this false view of unity, might the primitive Christians and Protestant martyrs be censured for non-conformity. It could be said, that they disturbed the repose of the world, by opposing the old doctrine of the unity of the Godhead to idol worship, or, that by preaching the primitive faith, they annulled the lucrative Christianity in which the Papacy traded. Nor do I admit that expedience is a lawful rule of conduct, in cases where moral principle is concerned. We must act as our conscience, enlightened by the best helps we can procure, tells us is right, and leave the event to God."
"And now," continued Dr. Beaumont, "my good friend, for such I know you are, even in this attempt to change my principles, though my coat has been worn too long, and is of too stubborn stuff to cut into the new shape, tell me the name of my successor, that I may remember him in my prayers. For trust me, he, and all those who supplant the episcopal clergy, will have an arduous duty to fulfil. The eyes of Europe will be turned upon them. They have made a vast vacuity, and it will require no common portion of ability, no ordinary supply of graces, to fill the mighty void. Popery has long looked to our church for the most potent soldiers. See that ye be able to maintain the Protestant cause as effectually, and serve God as well with your labours and your lives."
Mr. Barton too well recollected Dr. Beaumont's remarks, on the covert avidity of praise, which was too marked a feature of the separatists, to use any of those phrases of humble sound, but arrogant purport, which he had just heard so properly rebuked. He thanked Dr. Beaumont for his promised intercession, in behalf of himself and his evangelical brethren; frankly acknowledging their situation would be arduous. "As to your immediate successor," said he, "I trust you will not find him, a 'barren fig-tree,' but one in 'whom faith worketh by love;' though, peradventure, his face is not shaped in exact conformity to your notions of a religious aspect, and his mode of study may have led him to doubt, where you are certain, and to deem that perspicuous, in which you see difficulties." The controversialists parted with mutual good-will.
Dr. Beaumont had already taken every precaution to fortify and prepare his family for the trial which awaited them. He had forcibly pointed out the defective patience of those, who, though submissive and composed under corrections, which proceeded immediately from the hand of God; such as sickness, loss of friends by death, or any misfortunes arising from unpropitious seasons, or other accidents; are querulous and rebellious, when the same Sovereign Disposer of events corrects them through the intervention of their enemies. Pride, envy, hatred, ingratitude, selfishness, and treachery, are evils permitted against others; as well as plagues and offences in those who cherish them. Like pain, or decrepitude, hurricanes or drought, poverty or death, they prove, and purify the servants of God. The wrath of man has an allowed limit, which it can no more pass, than the raging ocean can the rocks by which it is bounded. And, if under the trial of moral evil, we behave wisely, charitably, and devoutly, we shall often find that even fraud and envy will produce some temporal advantages. Strangers have frequently stretched out their hands to help those whom friends and kindred have oppressed and abandoned. The world is ever disposed to look kindly on persons suffering wrong, provided they are not vehement in their resentments, and disposed to assist themselves by honest industry and wise measures. The cruelty of a tyrant has sometimes introduced superior desert to conspicuous notice; and at the worst, there is an inward peace, "which passeth understanding," that the oppressor never can enjoy, nor can he deprive the victim of his hatred from partaking of it. This is that peace of God which we forfeit, only by displeasing Him.
Nor did he deem adversity and poverty useless situations to others. The wish of the powerless is recorded, the intercessive prayer of the indigent is offered to God by the Mediator, who observed and blessed the scanty donation of the poor widow. Those angels, who wait around His throne, serve the Most High, as acceptably as they who fly on his messages. It was owing to too inordinate a love of the praise of men, that people generally feared to spend their lives in a condition, where no one thought their actions worth attending to.—We like the text, "Let your light shine before men;" but we recoil from that which bids us be content with the approbation "of Him who seeth in secret." These commands were intended for different stations, one suited the affluent, the other the needy, and they were, beside, limitations and comments on each other, teaching us neither to contemn praise, nor to pursue it too ardently. He spoke much of the passive virtues, patience, returning good for evil (which the most indigent might do by remembering their enemies in their prayers), self-denial, self-examination, and aspirations after a better world. Few, he said, were in a state so destitute, as not to be able to render some service to their fellow-creatures; but all might serve God. While we possessed the inestimable gift of reason, we had ample cause to bless Him, even if we were poor, old, lame, blind, or helpless; and from such a disfigured censor, how grateful would the incense of praise ascend to our Creator's courts?
He desired Mrs. Mellicent to moderate the asperity with which she spoke and acted towards the triumphant party. He told her he had fixed his determination to return to Ribblesdale, the scene of his pastoral charge, from which he thought himself not lawfully exonerated, and where his presence might be of some service, at least as an example. But as he could only gain permission to continue there, by preserving the most quiet demeanour, she must now, from regard to his safety, (if from no better motive) avoid execrating the round-heads. He gently hinted too, that, since they must now appear in a very different capacity to what they had formerly done, a more condescending carriage, and less sharp austerity, would better conceal them from the exultation of their enemies.
He intreated Constantia, (whose silent anxiety for Eustace had paled the roses on her cheek) to think of the various miseries which had overwhelmed the nation, and to bear her portion with fortitude. Many great families had seen all their promising branches cut off. Many had to lament worse than the death of their offspring, namely, their treachery, and hopeless wickedness. To have preserved all his family around him, and only to have lost his fortune, would have been, in these times, a too rare felicity. Many profligates were neglected in their education, and of such, small hope of reformation could be formed. But if Eustace were alive, the good seed had been sown in his heart, and he could not but hope, that he would at last, if not even till the eleventh hour, be found labouring in the vineyard.
Isabel needed little admonition. She had joined with the family in the devout services in which Dr. Beaumount had exercised them, to strengthen their fortitude and arm them with Christian graces. She rose from her knees, patient, cheerful, full of resources, and ready to engage in the task of active duty. She anticipated a return to harder toils and privations, than those to which she had submitted in early life; but she felt equal to her expected trial. She rejoiced in the capability of her vigorous constitution, firm health, and unbroken spirits. She could read to the Doctor—clear-starch Mrs. Mellicent's pinners—nurse Constantia—cook for the family—take in plain-work—teach school—in short do every thing to make them comfortable, and find her own comfort in so doing.