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unless indeed his commands should be contrary to the law of God. In such a case, it would of course be right to follow the scriptural rule, and to "obey God rather than man." But no circumstances can justify such a deed as that of which we have just been reading,—the execution, the murder rather, of the lawful sovereign.
You remember, no doubt, an example we have in Scripture, of honour and respect shown by David to a king who had tried to kill him, and from whom his life was in constant danger. Instead of committing any act of vengeance, when Saul was in his power, we are told that David said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord."-Well would it have been for those concerned in the death of Charles I, had they studied the Bible with simplicity and sincerity, instead of with a pre-determination to find in it a sanction for their deeds of violence and blood. If they had done this, we should never have mourned over the sad story which has engaged our attention to-day, nor have lamented that our national history is disgraced by such an event as the execution of Charles I.
XXXI. ENGLAND WITHOUT A
Oh then how blind to all that truth requires,
To call it freedom, when themselves are free;
Tear off reserve, and bare my swelling heart.
We come now to that period of English History, which is called the time of the Commonwealth. The king being dead, the Parliament determined to carry on the government without one, and the country was for some years considered as a Republic. But perfect equality among men is unnatural and impossible. At all times, and in all places, there will be found some who seem necessarily to rise above their fellows, and others who sink below. Some are
fitted to command, and others are fitted to obey; and, under proper restriction, and with a due regard to law and right, this is well, and for the benefit of both parties. But it too often happens, that the strong and powerful characters which are called into action in stormy periods, exercise a tyrannical and despotic influence over those whom circumstances place under their control. So it was at the period of which we are speaking. Of all the men who had taken part in the proceedings of the late reign, there was one whom talents, and determination, and capacity for ruling, made far more conspicuous than any of the rest. This was Oliver Cromwell. At first, he was only a member of Parliament, and a general in the army; but afterwards, he assumed a higher title, and a greater share of power. He soon distinguished himself by his military skill. Ireland was at this time in a state of confusion and rebellion; and Cromwell, thinking that he should there have an opportunity of exercising his powers, contrived, without much difficulty, to obtain the office of lord lieutenant; and after making due preparation, he went over to that country, and commenced his plans of operation. Such was his skill in military achievements that, in the course of less than a year, he brought the greater part of Ireland under subjection. This he accom
plished indeed by very severe and cruel measures. Cities were besieged and taken, and their inhabitants slain, without mercy, in large numbers. Nothing was suffered to oppose Cromwell's will, and the power of his arms; and that power soon became felt and acknowledged; so that, whenever the commander appeared before a town, it was believed that resistance would be vain, and the gates were accordingly thrown open before him.
And now let us turn to Scotland. On the death of the late king, his son Charles was proclaimed in that country. He was then in Holland, and did not at first venture back to the land of his forefathers. The Scotch however sent commissioners to invite him, and to propose a treaty; and though there were some things in that treaty which he did not quite like, he thought it best to accept the invitation, and prepared to cross
over to Scotland. In the meantime, he lost a friend who would probably have been a great assistant to him in fighting his way back to the throne. This was the brave Marquis of Montrose, who was strongly attached to the royalist party, and who had formerly distinguished himself in battle in the cause of Charles I. Latterly, he had been residing quietly in France; he now once more resolved to take up arms for the support of the young
king; and having received help from other quarters, he raised an army with which he landed in Scotland. But there he found himself in the midst of enemies. The covenanters, who had been so strongly opposed to the late sovereign, were of course no friends to Montrose, and they determined to be revenged for the part he had formerly taken. So an army was sent against him; he was defeated, made prisoner, and conveyed to Edinburgh, with a great deal of ignominy. There he was tried for rebellion, condemned, and sentenced to be hung like a common malefactor.
Soon after this cruel execution had taken place, Charles arrived in Scotland. He was received by the covenanters, but allowed no royal authority, and was placed under so many restrictions, that his life was far from being a pleasant or a happy one. But he did not very long remain in this position. When the English Parliament heard that the Scotch were making a treaty with Charles, they were exceedingly angry. Forces were immediately despatched to Scotland; and Cromwell, leaving the affairs of Ireland to the management of General Ireton, soon appeared at their head. The Scotch were defeated at the battle of Dunbar; and Charles found himself surrounded by enemies on one side, and by those whom he could not call friends on the other.