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ENGLISH literature includes valuable histories of the Church, some of them prominently exhibiting whatever relates to Anglicanism, others almost exclusively describing the developments of Puritanism. In such works the ecclesiastical events of the Civil Wars and of the Commonwealth may be found described with considerable, but not with sufficient fulness. Many persons wish to know more respecting those times. The book now published is designed to meet this wish, by telling the ecclesiastical part of England's story at that eventful period with less of incompleteness. In doing so, the object is not to give prominence to any single ecclesiastical party to the disadvantage of others in that respect; but to point out the circumstances of all, and the spirit of each, to trace their mutual relations, and to indicate the influence which they exerted upon one another. The study of original authorities, researches amongst State Papers and other MS. collections, together with enquiries pursued by the aid
of historical treasures of all kinds in the British Museum, have brought to light many fresh illustrations of the period under review; and the author, whilst endeavouring to make use of the results so obtained, has reached the conclusion, that the only method by which a satisfactory account of a single religious denomination can be given, is by the exhibition of it in connexion with all the rest.
His purpose has been carefully to ascertain, and honestly to state the truth, in reference both to the nature of the events, and the characters of the persons introduced in the following chapters. He is by no means indifferent to certain principles, political, ecclesiastical, and theological, which were involved in the great controversy of the seventeenth century. As will appear in this narrative, his faith in these is strong and unwavering: nor does he fail to recognize the bearing of certain things which he has recorded, upon certain other things occurring at this very moment; but he cannot see why private opinions and public events should stand in the way of an impartial statement of historical facts, or a righteous judgment of historical characters. For the principles which a man holds remain exactly the same, whatever may have been the past incidents or the departed individuals connected with their history. Happily, a change is coming over historical literature in this respect; persons and opinions are now being distinguished from each other, and it is seen, that advocates on the one side of a great question were not all perfectly good, and that those on the other side were
not all thoroughly bad. The writer has sought to do honour to Christian faith, devotion, constancy, and love wherever he has found them, and never in any case to varnish over the hateful opposite of these noble qualities. And he will esteem it a great reward to be, by the blessing of God, in any measure the means of promoting what is most dear to his heart, the cause of truth and charity amongst Christian Englishmen.
The plan of the work, and the various aspects under which the public affairs, the principal actors, and the private religious life of England from the opening of the Long Parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell are exhibited, may be discovered at a glance, by any one who will take the trouble to run over the table of
Many defects which have escaped the Author will doubtless be noticed by his critics, and in this respect he ventures to throw himself upon their candour and generosity. One omission, however, may be explained. The theological literature of the period needs to be studied at large, for the purpose of making apparent the grounds upon which different bodies of Christians based their respective beliefs. Most ecclesiastical historians fail to exhibit those grounds. The Author is fully aware of this deficiency in his own case ; but it is his hope, should Divine Providence spare his life, to be enabled, in some humble degree, to supply that deficiency at a future time.
He begs gratefully to acknowledge the valuable assistance rendered him by the Very Reverend the Dean of Westminster, in what relates to Westminster Abbey and the Universities—by Mr. John Bruce, F.S.A., for information and advice on several curious points—and by Mr. Clarence Hopper, who has collated with the originals, almost all the extracts from State Papers. Nor can he omit thankfully to notice the special facilities afforded him for consulting the large collection of Commonwealth pamphlets in the British Museum, and the polite attention and help which he has received from gentlemen connected with Sion College and with Dr. Williams' Library. He has also had other helpers in his own househelpers very dear to him, whom he must not name.