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There were other reasons for discontent.You remember the marriage of Charles with the Princess Henrietta of France. She was a Roman Catholic; and when she came to this country, a number of priests and attendants, of her own religion, accompanied her. Now had the king felt and acted rightly in regard to religion,—had he really seen the importance of preserving the Protestant faith pure, both in his own family, and among his subjects, he would never have consented to such a connection. But his yielding temper led him unhappily in this matter, as in many more, to act in accordance with the persuasions of others, instead of exercising his own judgment. No wonder that the people, who still had the evil effects of Popery fresh before their minds, should look forward with alarm to the influence of Roman Catholics residing in the court.
But this was not all. The Bishop of London at that time, was Dr. Laud, who afterwards became Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud was a learned, and, in a certain sense, a religious man. He was most zealous for what he considered the welfare and interest of the Church of England; and he exercised his influence with the king, for the purpose of promoting and carrying out what he considered right. But though Laud was by profession a Protestant, his views were, in many respects, so very much like those of the Romish Church, that fresh fears were entertained by some parties in the country on this account, as well as in regard to the more decided Popish influence of the Queen's friends and attendants at court. Laud strongly insisted upon the observance of certain rites and ceremonies in public worship, many of which were quite contrary to the simplicity of religion, and in accordance with the forms of the Church of Rome. At the celebration of the Lord's Supper, for instance, as he approached the communion table, he made many low bows, particularly when coming to that part of the table on which were placed the bread and wine. And then, after reading the prayers appointed, he would gaze for a moment on the bread, retreat a step or two, and again bow towards it; as though, according to the Romish doctrine, he considered it to be something more than mere bread, the emblem only of the body of Christ,--as we are taught scripturally to receive it. The same ceremony was performed too with the consecrated wine. The Communion Table was called an altar, in order to imply that a sacrifice was actually offered when the Lord's Supper was celebrated. In all this, one of the chief objects of Laud was unduly to raise his own office, and to exalt his authority even above that of the king.
Some time before, a court had been established called the Star Chamber. Before this court, persons were brought, frequently on slight accusations, and condemned to very cruel and unjust penalties. The party opposed to all the innovations in the Church of which we have been speaking, and who were afraid of making the slightest approach to any thing like Romish rites and ceremonies, were known by the name of Puritans. This party came particularly under the severity of the Star Cham. ber, through the influence of Laud. One gentleman, named Prynne, wbo had certainly shown too much violence in the cause, though his intentions were probably right, was sentenced to lose his ears; and others were subjected to similar or equally barbarous punishments.
The government of Charles was still more unpopular in Scotland than it was in England. Great offence was given there, by an attempt made to oblige the people to adopt our book of Common Prayer, to which they objected very strongly, as they had hitherto been unaccustomed to the use of any form in public worship. Many of the Scotch united together in a covenant to oppose the introduction of novelties in religion, and the disputes which this occasioned led to arms being taken up on both sides. That part of the kingdom, therefore, was in a state of turmoil. As to Ireland, the management of affairs there was entrusted to the Earl of Strafford. He was a man of extraordinary ability, but as he was on the side of Charles and Laud, he was much disliked by the opposite party.
A new parliament was assembled, after an interval, as I told you, of several years. When the Commons once more came into power, they determined to exercise it; and now they, in their turn, began to act with undue severity and harshness. It generally happens in times of excitement, when feeling overpowers judgment, that while some go wrong by acting in one direction, others go equally wrong by acting in a direction exactly contrary; for it is by no means true, that the opposite of wrong is always right. And so it was now. The error of Charles and Laud consisted in raising the authority of the church too high, and in introducing certain rites and ceremonies which approached very nearly to Romanism. The error of the Commons, many of whom were Puritans, and of the dissenting party generally, consisted in resisting these innovations with too great violence, in condemning every thing done by the opposite side without justice or discrimination, and in rejecting all rites and forms in religion, even those which were not only harmless, but useful, proper, and scriptural, and in accordance with the precept which bids us do all things, in the church as well as in the world, “ decently and in order.” The Puritans no doubt did some good for the cause of religion by their vigour and zeal, but too often, during this period, their zeal was “not according to knowledge.'
One of the first acts of the Commons was to restore to liberty and favour those who had unjustlý suffered for their resistance to Charles's illegal measures, especially that respecting the levying of taxes; and then they proceeded against Strafford and Archbishop Laud. Laud was committed to custody, and remained for a long time a prisoner in the Tower. Strafford was brought to trial upon a variety of charges, none of which were founded in truth and justice. He was condemned and sentenced for treason, by his unjust and cruel enemies, one of the chief of whom was Sir Henry Vane, the Secretary of the House of Commons. Charles hesitated for a time, before he could consent to the execution of a man whom he really valued. But, as usual, he was overpowered by those of stronger and more determined wills than himself, the fatal step was taken, and a messenger was sent to Strafford, to bid him prepare for death in three days! He was surprised when the intelligence was brought to him. He had supposed, that his royal master would never allow him to die so