Thus much have I thought proper to premise. It is impossible to judge correctly of the men of any age, without taking into consideration the circumstances in which they were placed, and the opinions that prevailed in their time. To apply the standard of this year of grace, 1856, to the religious enlightenment of more than two hundred years ago, would be like measuring one of Gulliver’s Lilliputians by Gulliver himself. I trust that the world has since improved, and that of whatever passing follies we may be guilty, we shall never retrograde to the old narrow views of truth. If mankind are capable of being taught any lesson, surely this is one—that persecution or dislike for opinion sake is a folly and an evil, and that we best perform the will of Him to whom we are commanded to be like, not by contracting our affections into the narrow sphere of those whose opinions harmonize with ours, but by diffusing our love over His creation who pronounced it all “very good.”
Come on, Sir! now you set your foot on
In novo orbe.
Ben JONSON’S Alchemist.
Our tale begins within a few years after the end of the first quarter of the 17th century, at Boston, in Massachusetts, then in the infancy of its settlement.
On an evening in the month of May, were assembled some seven or eight men around a table, in a long, low room, the sides only of which were plastered, the rough beams and joists overhead being exposed to view; the windows were small, and the floor without a carpet; and the furniture consisted of the table, over which was spread a black cloth, whereupon stood several lighted candles in brass candlesticks, of a dozen chairs, covered with russet-colored leather, and of some wooden benches, ranged against the walls, and which were occupied by various persons. At one end of the apartment the floor was raised a few inches, and the chair standing on this elevation differed from the others in having arms at the sides, and in being of ampler proportions, as if by its appearance to vindicate a claim to superior position. But unpretending as was the room, it was a place of no little importance, being no less than the Court Hall and Council Chamber of the “Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England.” At the moment of which we are speaking, it was appropriated to a meeting of the Court of Assistants of the Colony.
The person occupying the arm-chair, on the platform, was a man of not unpleasing appearance, somewhat less than fifty years of age, and dressed with considerable precision in the style prevailing among gentlemen of distinction at that day. His face was rather long, and surmounted by a high and well developed forehead, from the top of which, dark, parted hair fell in curls down the temples over a white ruff,