Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/121

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Books Condemned to be Burnt.

one side of the activity of the legislature of that time. Nothing, indeed, better illustrates the mind of the seventeenth century than the several instances in which Parliament, in the exercise of its assumed power over literature generally, interfered with works of a theological nature, nor does anything more clearly or curiously reveal the mental turmoil of that period than does the perusal of some of the works that then met with Parliamentary censure or condemnation. In undertaking this interference it is possible that Parliament exceeded its province, and one is glad that it has long since ceased to claim the keepership of the People's Conscience. But in those days ideas of toleration were in their infancy; the right of free thought, or of its expression, had not been established; and the maintenance of orthodoxy was deemed as much the duty of Parliament as the maintenance of the rights of the people. So a Parliamentary majority soon came to exercise as much tyranny over thought as ever had been exercised by king or bishop; and, in fact, the theological writer ran even greater personal risks from the indignation of Parliament than he would have run in the period preceding 1640, for he began to run in danger of his life.