library at Lambeth, it is surely much to be wished, for the peace of mind of humble Christians, that all the documents to which this sort of authority belongs should be rummaged out and sent to the press as soon as possible; for, unless this be done, we may all, like the Doctor when he refused the oaths last year, be committing sins in the full persuasion that we are discharging duties. In truth, it is not easy to believe that the Convocation Book furnished Sherlock with any thing more than a pretext for doing what he had made up his mind to do. The united force of reason and interest had doubtless convinced him that his passions and prejudices had led him into a great error. That error he determined to recant; and it cost him less to say that his opinion had been changed by newly discovered evidence, than that he had formed a wrong judgment with all the materials for the forming of a right judgment before him. The popular belief was that his retractation was the effect of the tears, expostulations and reproaches of his wife. The lady's spirit was high; her authority in the family was great; and she cared much more about her house and her carriage, the plenty of her table and the prospects of her children, than about the patriarchal origin of government or the meaning of the word Abdication. She had, it was asserted, given her husband no peace by day or by night till he had got over his scruples. In letters, fables, songs, dialogues without number, her powers of seduction and intimidation were malignantly extolled. She was Xanthippe pouring water on the head of Socrates. She was Dalilah shearing Samson. She was Eve forcing the forbidden fruit into Adam's mouth. She was Job's wife, imploring her ruined lord, who sate scraping himself among the ashes, not to curse and die, but to swear and live. While the ballad makers celebrated the victory of Mrs. Sherlock, another class of assailants fell on the theological reputation of her spouse. Till he took the oaths, he had always been considered as the most orthodox of divines. But the captious and malignant criticism to which his writings were now subjected would have found heresy in the Sermon on the Mount; and he, unfortunately, was rash enough to publish, at the very moment when the outcry against his
Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/159
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