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itself the result of the English Bible, and the Quaker influence is the
influence of the English Bible on history. There is not need for extended
word about the great Wesleyan movement in the midst of this period,
which has so profoundly affected both English and American history. It
has not worked out into such visible political forms. But any movement
that makes for larger spiritual life makes for the strengthening of the entire
life of the nation. The mere figures of the early Wesleyan movement are
almost appalling. Here was a man, John Wesley, an Oxford scholar, who
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spent nearly fifty years traveling up and down and back and forth through
England on horseback, covering more than two hundred and fifty thousand
miles, preaching everywhere more than forty thousand times, writing,
translating, editing two hundred works. When death ended his busy life
there were in his newly formed brotherhood one hundred and thirty-five
thousand members, with five hundred and fifty itinerants who were
following his example with incessant preaching and Bible exposition. It
was the old Wiclif-Lollard movement over again. And here was the other
Wesley, Charles, teaching England to sing again, teaching the old truths of
the Bible in rhyme to many who could not read, so that they became
familiar, writing on horseback, in stage-coaches, everywhere, writing with
one passion, to help England back to the Bible and its truth. Such activity
could not leave the nation unmoved; all its religious life felt it, and its
political life from serf to king was deeply affected by it. It is a common
saying that the Wesleyan movement saved English liberty from European
entanglement. Yet the Wesleyan movement issued from the Bible and led
England back to the Bible.
But apart from these wide movements and the great souls who led
them, there is time for thought of one typical character on each side of the
sea who did not so much make a movement as he proved the point around
which a great fluid idea crystallized into strength. Across the sea the
character shall be that man whom Carlyle gave back to us out of obloquy
and misunderstanding, Oliver Cromwell. Choosing him, we pass other
names which crowd into memory, names of men who have served the
need of England well-Wilberforce, John Howard, Shaftesbury, Gladstone--
who drew their strength from this Book. Yet we choose Cromwell now for
argument. On this side it must be that best known, most beloved, most
typical of all Americans, Abraham Lincoln.
An English historian has said that the most influential, the most
unescapable years in English history are those of the Protectorate. That is
a strong saying. They were brief years. There were many factors in them.
Oliver Cromwell was only one, but he was chief of all. He was not chief in
the councils which resulted in the beheading of Charles I. on that 30th of
January, 1649, though he took part in them. Increasingly in the movements
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which led to that event and which followed it he was growing into
prominence. After Marston Moor, Prince Rupert named him Ironsides, and
his regiment of picked men, picked for their spirit, went always into battle
singing psalms, "and were never beaten." As he rode out to the field at
Naseby (1645) he knew he faced the flower of the loyalist army, while
with him were only untrained men; yet he smiled, as he said afterward, in
the "assurance that God would, by things that are not, bring to naught
things that are." Then he adds, "God did it." Never did he raise his flag but
in the interests of the liberty of the people, and back of every movement of
his army there was his confidence in the Bible, which was his mainstay.
They offered him the throne; he would not have it. He dissolved the
Parliament which had dragged on until the patience of the people was
exhausted. He called another to serve their need. The evening before it met
he spent in meditation on the One hundred and third Psalm. The evening
before the second Parliament of his Protectorate he brooded on the Eighty-
fifth Psalm, and opened the Parliament next day with an exposition of it.
The man was saturated with Scripture. Yes, the times were rude. It was an
Old Testament age, and in right Old Testament spirit did Cromwell work.
And it seemed that his work failed. There was no one to succeed him, and
soon after his death came the Restoration and the return of Charles II., of
which we have already spoken, in which occurred that hint of the real
sentiment of the English people which a wise man had better have taken.
Yet, recall what actually happened. Misunderstanding the spirit of the
English people, which Cromwell had helped to form, but which in turn
had made Cromwell possible, the servile courtiers of the false king
unearthed the Protector's body, three years buried, hanged it on a gallows
in Tyburn for a day, beheaded it, and threw the trunk into a pit. His head
they mockingly set on a pinnacle of the Parliament Hall, whence for some
weeks it looked over the city which he had served. Then, during a great
storm, it came clattering down, only a poor dried skull, and disappeared no
one knows where. But when you stand opposite the great Parliament
buildings in London to-day, the most beautiful buildings for their purpose
in the world, the buildings where the liberties of the English express
themselves year after year, whose is the one statue that finds place within
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the inclosure, near the spot where that poor skull came rattling down? Not
Charles II.--you shall look in vain for him. Not George Monk, who
brought back the King--you shall not find him there. The one statue which
England has cared to plant beside its Parliament buildings is that of Oliver
Cromwell, its Lord Protector. There he stands, warning kings in the
interests of liberty. John Morley makes no ideal of him. He thinks he
rather closed the medieval period than opened the modern period; but he
will not have Cromwell compared to Frederick the Great, who spoke with
a sneer of mankind. Cromwell "belonged to the rarer and nobler type of
governing men, who see the golden side, who count faith, piety, hope
among the counsels of practical wisdom, and who for political power must
ever seek a moral base." That is a rare and noble type of men, whether
they govern or not. But no man of that type governs without red blood in
his veins; and the iron that made this man's blood run red came from the
English Bible.
It is a far cry from Oliver Cromwell to Abraham Lincoln--far in years,
far in deeds, far in methods, but not far in spirit. Great men are kindred,
generations over. We pass from the Old Testament into the New when we
pass from Cromwell to Lincoln; but we still feel the spirit of liberty. From
the days of the Puritans, the Quakers and the Dutch, history had been
preparing for this time. Benjamin Franklin had done his great work for
human liberty; he had summed up his hope for the nation in his
memorable address in 1787, when he stood eighty- one years old, before
the convention assembled to frame a constitution for the new government.
He reminded them that at the beginning of the contest with the British they
had had daily prayers in that room in Philadelphia for the Divine
protection, and said: "I have lived for a long time, and the longer I live the
more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of
men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it
probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured,
Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor
in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without
His concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]