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Vol. VI. PHILADELPHIA, JANUARY, 1850. No. 1.
TALES OF THE PURITANS.
Is the parlour of an ancient and somewhat imposing country residence in Warwick, were seated a father and mother, and their only daughter. An air of anxiety rested upon their features, as they gazed in silence upon the nickering embers, which the coolness of an October evening rendered grateful.
The father had seen more than threescore winters. He had been a decided and fearless Puritan from his youth. As the younger son of a wealthy baronet, he was a conspicuous mark for the shafts of persecution. Of fines and imprisonments he had large experience; but fines and imprisonments failed to convince him that it was better to obey men than God. He was a warm friend of the Parliament, and cordially approved of the recourse to arms; though he was too old to become himself a soldier.
It was two days after the battle of Edgehill. English blood had been shed on English soil, by the hands of Englishmen. No authentic report of tht result of the conflict had reached the retired family. In deep solicitude they were awaiting its arrival.
"Father," said Alice, with a voice such as one loves to hear repeat the numbers of the noblest poet, "do you think there will be any further bloodshed?"
"I fear, my child," said Mr. Elliston, "that these are but the beginning of sorrows. God hath a controversy with England, because of her persecutions of his chosen ones. The pros
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pect before her is dark, and would be heartcrushing but for the thought that God reigns."
A knock was heard at the door. It was opened by Alice. A tall, thin man stood before her. The darkness obscured his features, but his words of affectionate greeting revealed the presence of one already famous throughout England, and destined to become famous throughout the world.
"Mr. Baxter!" said Alice, in a tone of mingled surprise and welcome. Mr. Elliston hastened to embrace his friend. Both wept, and for some moments no words were uttered, save brief and devout invocations of the divine blessing.
"You have come," said Elliston, when they were seated by the fireside, "from the seat of war, and can tell us the news—sad enough in any event."
The earnest looks of Alice seconded her father's request. Mr. Baxter smiled sadly, and remarked, "It is no pleasant story for a maiden's ear."
Alice blushed. "Hers is no idle curiosity," said her father; "she is familiar with the principles of this contest, and with the interests at stake."
"On the last Sabbath," said Baxter, "I preached for my reverend friend, Mr. Samuel Clark. In the midst of my sermon, the people heard the cannon pUy, and perceived that the armies were engaged. When the sermon was done in the afternoon, the report was more audible, which made us all long to hear of the success. About sunsetting, many troops fled through the town, telling us that all was lost on the Parliament's side; but they hurried on without giving any particulars."
As Baxter made a slight pause, Alice fixed her speaking eyes upon her father. His countenance was composed, but colourless, and his eyes were closed. "The townsmen, then," continued Mr. Baxter, "sent a messenger to Stratford-on-Avon, and about four o'clock in the morning he returned."
"With what news 1" said Elliston eagerly, if not impatiently.
"The left wing of the Parliament's army was wholly routed by Prince Kupert:"—the old man sighed, and Alice's downcast eyes were moistened.—" While his men were plundering the wagons, the main body and the right wing routed the rest of the King's army."
"How happened it," said Elliston, "that the left wing gave way?"
"It occurred through the treachery of Sir James Fortcscue. When he was ordered to charge, he went over to the King."
"What I always feared. Those who have had experience of hereditary honours, cannot easily resist the flatteries of a king. I would that none but yeomen held commissions in the army."
"You would exclude many noblemen who are the strength of the cause."
"Then it will not prosper. If it prosper, it must be through the instrumentality of God's people."
"True ; yet He sometimes useth the instrumentality of those who are not his servants. The wrath of man is sometimes made to accomplish the purposes of God. But there are noblemen engaged in this cause, who are doubtless governed by the fear of God. Some have already done excellent service. Lord St. John fell in the late battle, and the victory was in no small degree owing to the exertions of Sir Philip Stapleton, and Sir Arthur Hasselrig. What could we do without our noble general, the Earl of Essex?"
"There is one who is far better fitted than he to be leader in arms, as he has been in council from the commencement of the struggle."
"You mean Mr. Hampden. I confess it would give me great content to see the chief power in his hands."
"I distrust not the Earl of Essex, but in Hampden there are gifts and graces, such as God bestowed upon Nehemiah of old."
"I doubt not he is doing the cause greater service than he could render, were the whole oare of the soldiery upon him. My spirit has often been refreshed by the heavenly conversation of that beloved man. He has a ripeness for Heaven which makes me fear that poor distracted England may ere long lack his ser
vices,—in consequence of his being called to the nobler ones of the upper sanctuary."
"Were you near the battle-field?" whispered Alice.
"I visited it the morning after the battle, and found the Earl of Essex keeping the ground, and the King's army upon a hill about a mile off. There were then about a thousand dead bodies upon the field; many had been buried before I came."
"A thousand Englishmen slain by the hands of their brethren!" exclaimed Alice, with a blanched cheek and uplifted hands.
"A thousand souls sent to their everlasting account," said Mr. Elliston solemnly. "When He maketh inquisition for blood, what a fearful account will a tyrannous king and persecuting hierarchy have to render!"
"You speak harshly of his majesty. We must remember that he is our lawful sovereign, though he has had ill advisers. I trust that, now they have seen the resolution of the oppressed, they will consider their folly and wickedness, and give to the King wholesome councils, and such as will bring the troubles to a speedy close. At farthest, one more battle will give us peace."
Mr. Elliston kept silence, but by a gesture showed plainly that he differed from his friend. The opinion expressed by Baxter was very generally entertained by the Puritans, but Mr. Elliston was in frequent communication with Mr. Hampden, who had far juster views of the prospects of the nation.
"Are the soldiers still at Edgehill?" said Alice.
"The King's troops have gone to Oxford. The Earl of Essex having taken care of the wounded, is at Warwick Castle."
"A thousand slain ones on the field! Was it not an awful sight?"
"It was. The sight of death in so many ghastly forms, woke within me more dreadful thoughts of the second death than I am wont to entertain. Were the war to continue long, I would join some regiment and labour to prepare the soldier for the great change which is ever at his door. There are, however, unmy in the army, to whom a sudden summons would not be unsafe."
"Were there any mourners seeking for lost friends on the field of death?"
"I saw there a mother with her infant child. She sought its father among those grim corpses. She placed the child on the ground by the side of the dead, and it dabbled its little hand in the clotted gore, and looked up and smiled, and wondered at the tears which ruined from the eyes of the mother. I spoke to the distressed woman, and found alas! that she had no hope for him who was gone."
"It must be wrong," said the gentle mother, who had hitherto listened in silence. "What are the oppressions which have been suffered to scenes like these? Mr. Baxter, you are a minister of a peaceful gospel—can you countenance such deeds?"
"I confess I long had doubts respecting the lawfulness of drawing the sword, apparently against his majesty, but, really in defence of his just authority, till they were resolved by Mr. Hampden. He has thought deeply upon the matter, and taken counsel of God. When we last met, we spent the whole night in conference upon this subject, not without much prayer. He wept sorely at the necessity of having resort to the weapons of blood; but it seemed to him to be clearly a case in which God himself mustereth the host to war. If ever man lived with a single eye, that man is John Hampden. He has most earnestly asked wisdom from God, and, I doubt not, has received it."
"I agree with you perfectly in that opinion," said Mr. Elliston.—"You are feeble and weary, and need rest. We will hear more from you on the morrow. You do not design to make us a brief visit?"
"I found myself shut out from my field of labour, and feeling sure of a welcome, I came with the purpose of remaining till the fighting is at an end."
"You judged rightly that you would be welcome. We shall be glad to have you with us as long as you propose." The manner in which he said this, revealed to the observing ear of Alice, his conviction that the visit was likely to be a protracted one. So much the better, So far as the visit was concerned. Mr. Elliston's was but one of ten thousand firesides in England, where Mr. Baxter would have been welcome for a lifetime.
The Bible was placed before him. A chapter was read, and expounded with the clearness, copiousness, and heart-application which characterized the services of Baxter. A fervent prayer was then offered for themselves, for their country, and for the church of God.
Mr. Baxter remained with his friend nearly a month, when the war, instead of being ended, had spread all over England. In the mean time, he had discovered, to his great grief, that his old friend was little better than a republican. Mr. Elliston had not, like Baxter and many others, deluded himself into the belief that the Parliament was not carrying war against the King. He regarded the King as an enemy to be conquered; yea, he thought he might as lawfully be shot as any soldier in his army.
Baxter, ever zealous to confute political as well as religious heresies, held long discussions with his host, and spared no arguments to win him back to loyalty. He also sought to guard Alice from adopting, on this subject, the opinions of her father. She would listen, with pleased attention, to his propositions and distinctions; sometimes interposing questions which would inconveniently interfere with the continuity of his elaborate logic, and sometimes in gentle, yet glowing language, giving utterance to sentiments which would have charmed the ear of Milton.
Perceiving no prospect of a speedy termination to the war, unwilling to remain inactive, and perhaps ill-pleased with his failure to restore his friend to loyalty, Baxter accepted an invitation to become the minister of the garrison at Coventry.
Some months had passed, and the cloud still hung over England, ever and anon discharging its fiery contents. It was evening. Alice was sitting alone in the parlour—her parents having gone to an evening lecture. There was a gentle knock at the door. The timid servant hesitating, Alice lifted the latch. "George Hollis, what has brought you here!" was her halfunconscious exclamation. It was the first time she had pronounced his name without the customary prefix. She became conscious of the fact as soon as the words had escaped from her lips, and in her confusion, she neglected to invite him to enter. He waited not for an invitation; but seeing her in need of support, he gently placed his arm around her, and pressed her to his heart, then led her to the sofa, and seated himself by her side. For a moment the silence was unbroken, unless it were by the audible beating of her heart. Their eyes met—there was a world of meaning exchanged in that glance.
"Why are you not at the University?" said Alice, making a desperate effort to break the oppressive silence.
"Because," said he, smiling for the first time since his entrance, "I find a much stronger attraction here."
"These are not the times for compliments. You did not employ them at my uncle's, I pray you do not enter upon them here. It is a matter of joy to your friends, that while many are exposed to the dangers of the field, your duty calls you to the quiet retreats of learning." This was spoken in order to give a turn to the conversation. Hollis was half-inclined to regard it as ironical.
"Have I done well in remaining thus long in those quiet retreats, leaving my countrymen to bear the heat and burden of the day 1"
"Men have different callings."
"I recently met one who when these troubles