Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/181

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disunited was helpless, and became the scene of plots, intrigues, and passionate animosities, which would drag it into continental warfare as a feeble ally to one or other of the contending powers. Religious unity was felt by the wisest to be a political necessity; no sacrifice was too great to obtain it. The best hope was that the English people would accept the spirit of the changes made under Henry VIII., and forget after a little time the spirit displayed under Edward VI. and Mary. If the framework were securely erected things might slowly adjust themselves. Hot blood would cool; opinions would modify one another; the general forms of public worship were such as all men might readily agree to accept; on doubtful points of practice and belief there was large latitude.

Such were the hopes of the wise and prudent; but it requires little knowledge of history to know that wisdom and prudence play a very slight part in directing human affairs. The motive power in all things is generally the passionate resolve of small bodies of men to have their own way because it is their own. There was a sufficient number of adherents of the Marian Church to form a party, which intrigued abroad for Elizabeth's downfall and the subjection of England to Spain. This party had little hold in England itself, where Romanism might have speedily been absorbed if the religious settlement had prospered as it was hoped. But the returned exiles from Geneva had adopted the views of the French reformer, and strove to give them practical effect. The theology of Calvin was a weighty contribution towards many questions which