|Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.| -- Isaiah
Just as the Reformation was beginning, fresh lands were being found beyond the Atlantic Ocean, where the knowledge of the Gospel might reach. Christopher Columbus, a gallant Genoese mariner, and deeply religious man, was full of the notion that by sailing westwards he might come round to India, and thence make a way for winning back the Holy Land. After much weary waiting, and many entreaties, he obtained three little ships from Queen Isabel of Spain; and with them, in the year 1492, came to the islands which he named the West Indies, lovely places, full of gentle natives with skins of a dark ruddy colour, wearing, for their misfortune, golden ornaments. To get gold was the great longing of the Spaniards, and they did not care what cruelties they used so that they could obtain it. The Pope, finding in the prophecies that the isles of the sea should belong to the Church, considered that this gave him a right to give them away to whomsoever he pleased; so he made a grant of all to the west to the Spaniards, all to the east to the Portuguese. Thereupon great numbers of the Spaniards went over to America; they conquered the two great empires of Mexico and Peru, and settled in the West-Indian Islands, robbing the poor natives of their gold and silver, making slaves of them, and hunting them with blood-hounds when they tried to run away. Many good priests who went out as missionaries did all they could to hinder these horrors, but in vain; and when at last the poor delicate Indians began to dwindle away and die off, the plan was resorted to of bringing negroes from Africa to work in their stead. Though it was a good man who thought of it, in the hope of saving the Indians and making the negroes Christians, it came to most horrible cruelty, and was a disgrace to Christian Europe.
However, these faithful priests worked hard in teaching and converting the Indians all over South America. One brotherhood, called the Jesuits, had great establishments, where they trained up large villages of Indiana in Christian habits, and taught them to be very faithful and industrious. But at home, in Europe, these Jesuits did harm by stepping out of their work as ministers, interfering with governments more than was right, and trying to keep up the authority of the Pope more than real Catholic truth. They taught so many false stories as articles of faith, that at last clever people, wise in their own conceit, began to believe nothing, and became like the fool who said in his heart, |There is no God.| So there came to be a bad feeling against all the clergy, and the Jesuits, who had made themselves very meddling and troublesome, were put down at the entreaty of several kings. When they were taken away from their converts in South America, it turned out that the poor Indians had not steadfastness enough to take care of themselves; so all their well-ordered establishments were broken up, and the people ran wild again. All the Spanish settlers, of whom there were many, still held fast to their Church, and all the coast of the Continent of South America is Roman Catholic.
The English and Dutch had not been slow to find their way to the West, but they went to the colder North instead of to the South, and sought good land more than gold. Some of the English had, during Queen Mary's reign, made friends with some of the Dutch and German Calvinists, who fancied that whatever Roman Catholics had done must be wrong, instead of only a part, and who cared nothing for the ways of the Apostolic Primitive Church. So when the true Catholic faith was upheld by Queen Elizabeth; by James I., who caused our translation of the Bible to be made by forty-eight learned Hebrew and Greek scholars; and by Charles I., who gave Bishops and a Prayer-Book to Scotland, there were many persons who grew impatient and angry that more changes were not made. These broke away from the Church, calling themselves Puritans and Independants, and living in a state of schism. Some, too, thought the king had too much power; and in Charles's time a great many went away and settled in North America, that they might have freedom, and worship in their own way. Those who stayed at home went on to that rebellion against Church and King, which ended in the Scottish Calvinists betraying King Charles, and the English Independants putting him to death for upholding the Bishops, after Archbishop Laud had been beheaded. For nearly eleven years the Bishops were put down, the clergy persecuted, and the use of the Prayer-Book forbidden in England, while all sorts of sects rose up and explained the Bible as they pleased. When, at length, Charles II. came back, and the Church was re-established in England, many more went to the colonies; and though there was a Church settlement in Virginia, the great mass of the North American colonists were Calvinists or Presbyterians, as they are called, because presbyters are their highest order of their ministry, though they cannot be really commissioned priests, never having been ordained by Bishops come down from the Apostles.
The English began to spread fast on every side, as their nation grew stronger and more numerous. They conquered several of the West-Indian Isles, and the Church was there established; but, to their disgrace, they carried on the slave-trade, to supply the settlers with workmen. In the East-Indies, too, they began to acquire large tracts by conquest and by treaty, and a few churches were built there; but they had not tried to convert the great number of heathens who became subject to them, fearing that, should they take offence, they would shake off their dominion. Such clergy as did go out were ordained in England. There was as yet no Bishop to overlook the colonial Churches, so that they could not take deep root.
Still the English Church was living as a witness of the truth at home, with many a great and holy man within her, such as Bishop Taylor, whose beautiful writings are loved by all; Bishop Ken, whose loyalty to Church and King witnessed a good confession, and whose hymns are like part of the Prayer-Book; Bishop Wilson, whose devotions for home and at the Holy Eucharist are our great guide, with more good and humble men and women than the world will ever know of; and this, under God's mercy, saved the nation from falling into the unbelieving state of France, where people thought it fine to laugh at all religion. There, in the end of the eighteenth century, a terrible outbreak took place against all authority, human or Divine; the King and Queen perished by the hands of their subjects; quantities of blood was shed, and for a time it seemed as if the country was given up to demons; the faithful clergy fled or remained hidden; and though at last people began to return to their senses, the shock to loyalty and religion has never been entirely recovered in that country.