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heart, and what a feeling soul, were beneath the religious habit. These bad belonged in an eminent degree to the character of St. Bernard, as might be inferred even from his celebrated funeral sermon for his brother. Marchangy says of St. Bernard that “ he was the most astonishing and sublime character which modern or ancient history can offer to the meditations of a profound writer or of an ardent poet.”! What a number of affecting and beautiful narrations bear testimony to the feeling and the poetic genius of the monks, from whom we have derived them! When did there ever appear a generous benefactor to mankind who was not loved by them? When Louis IX. was attacked by the fever, “A la procession,” says an old writer, “furent li moines nus piez en pleurs et en larmes, et à peine povoient chanter, pour la grand douleur qui ils avoient de la maladie du roy.
Such, then, were the clergy during these ages. That the number of religious houses may have been too great in some places, is possible ; still a philosophic observer of history will be slow in condemning the zeal which founded and replenished them. Who are the men described by Socrates as attaining to true wisdom? 6. Those who, endowed with a good disposition, and well brought up, having been banished by the wicked, find leisure for living with philosophy, being delivered from the engagements which interfered with it. As when a man of mighty soul, born in a mean city, despising its miserable politics, looks down
upon them as beneath his notice, and devotes himself wholly to the contemplation of wisdom; so these few who taste how sweet and happy a possession it is, beholding the madness of the many, and how, in short, no one says or does any thing sound respecting the state, neither is there any ally with whom any one going to the assistance of justice might be sufe; but as a man falling among wild beasts, neither wishing to become himself unjust and cruel, nor able, being alone, to resist so many monsters, perishes before he can either be an assistance to others or others to him; all this considering, remaining private, and doing their own business, as in a whirlwind the dust is seen in clouds carried up above the houses, beholding other men
La Gaule Poétique, iv. 161.
involved in the pollution ; these love to remain within doors, content if they can but keep themselves pure from injustice and unholy things, and lead a quiet life here, till, having fulfilled their course, they may depart cheerfully, devout, and full of hope.”! What a picture and what a defence is here of the monasteries in the middle ages! It was said by the moderns that they abounded with abuses, and that they became utterly corrupt. The infamous ministers of the tyrant Henry VIII. furnish an unquestionable evidence to prove the falsehood of such a charge as far as England is concerned, since the act which dissolved the lesser convents sets forth in the preamble, that in the divers and great solemn monasteries in this realm (thanks be to God), as they had the base hypocrisy to add, “religion is well kept and observed.”2
No doubt there were bad monks every where and in all ages; but in all probability what St. Augustine says of his experience might have been repeated in every age, that
some of the most perfect Christians, as well as the worst, were in monasteries.”3 It was the friars, as Machiavel says, who chiefly convinced the people that they ought to leave to God the judgment of the high prelates of the church, and attend to the affair of their own salvation. It was the monks who afforded a refuge for the miserable and the oppressed, who raised, amidst mountains and woods, those magnificent temples, where God was worshipped in all the beauty of holiness : finally, as St. Augustine says, “In every city and town, castle and hamlet, it was openly preached that men should turn from earthly things to the one true God; and every day, throughout the world, it was proclaimed with one voice sursum corda se habere ad Domi
Yet these are the men whom the disciples of the modern school revile and ridicule and condemn. An historian has nothing to do with the criminality of their conduct as it respects religion and Christianity. It is not for a temporal man, unauthorised or unsent, to denounce the judgments of the Almighty: but as a departure from the natural principles of piety and justice, he may be permitted to warn them from continuing to perpetuate such charges. To one who said that he had always heard Minos spoken of
| Plato de Repub. lib. vi. p. 297. Collier, part ii. 113. 3 Epist. ad Pleb. Hisp.
4 Lib. de vera Religione, 5.
as a wicked man, Socrates replies in the Platonic dialogue, “ There is nothing more impious and more to be guarded against than the sinning by word or deed against the Gods; and, in the second place, against godlike men: so that altogether there is required always much forethought when you are about to blame or to praise a man, lest you should not speak the truth ; for there is vengeance with God when any one blames the man who resembles God, or praises the man who is contrary to him.” Νεμεσά γάρ ο θεός όταν τις ψέγη τον εαυτό όμοιον, ή επαινή τον εαυτώ εναντίως έχοντα. We have seen enough already to convince all wise and good men, that these priests and monks, to whom the knights and princes of chivalry bowed down in reverence, were not the men whom they should fearlessly decry and malign, until they make them appear to the multitude as very moral monsters; not the men to be buffeted, abused, spit upon, and covered with a mantle of derision, to be scourged and drenched with vinegar and gall, and when thus disfigured, to be led out before a clamorous rabble, while men calling themselves Christians, reformed, pure, and tolerant, were to cry out to the agents of the law and the sword, “Away with them, away with them !"2 but, on the contrary, that they were men whom, if the nations of the earth, on losing their first faith, were resolved upon removing from among them, their kings and rulers should have dismissed, as Plato banished Homer and Hesiod from his Republic, ordering them to depart indeed, but at the same time crowning them with flowers and covering them with perfume.3
X. In reviewing the chivalrous character under the influence of the Christian faith, it would be unpardonable to omit a particular mention of the charity and unostentatious benevolence of ancient manners; although here we are continually reminded of that sentence which the introduction of Christianity has rendered so true: multorum egregia opera in obscuro jacent !" When the executors of Montesquieu were inspecting his papers, they found a note of 6500 livres, as sent to M. Main of Cadiz, who, upon inquiry being made, related that the money had been employed in delivering a native of Marseilles, who had been captured and confined at Tetua. If this memorandum, 1 Minos.
2 Dr. Doyle.
- O quam
intended for personal use, had not been thus accidentally found, the name of the person who acted this most generous part would have been for ever unknown. When the Earl of Flanders sought refuge in the “poor smoky house” of an old woman in Bruges, crying out, “ 0, good woman, save me; I am thy Lord therle of Flaunders ;" “ the poor woman,” says Froissart, “knewe hym well, for she had ben often tymes at his gate to fetche almes, and had often sene hym as he went in and out a sportyng.” Acts of charity when they are thus indirectly presented are the more striking. Froissart relates of the famous Earl of Foix, that “ he gave fyve florins in small money at his gate to poore folkes, for the love of God.” How extensive and truly primitive in its dispensation was the charity of Charlemagne, as stated by Eginhart! “ He was most devout in sustaining the poor, not only taking care of those in his own kingdom, but wherever he heard of Christians in poverty beyond the seas, in Syria, and Egypt, and Africa, in Jerusalem, and Alexandria, and Carthage, he used to send them money."
Let us attend to Joinville's account of Saint Louis. “ From the time of his earliest youth he was pitiful towards the poor and afflicted; and during his reign there were always twenty-six poor people fed daily in his house, and in Lent the number was increased. Frequently he waited
upon them himself, and served them from his own table; and on the festivals and vigils he always served them before he ate or drank; and when they had enough, they all received money to carry with them. In short, it would be impossible to relate the number and greatness of acts of charity which were performed by the king Saint Louis." Joinville says, that when some persons complained of this expense, he made reply,
- Qu'il aimoit mieux faire grans despens à faire aumosnes, que en boubans et vanitez :" and the historian adds, that, for all his alms, there was nothing deficient in the expenditure of his house, or unworthy of a great prince. Whenever he travelled within his kingdom, he was in the habit of visiting the poor churches and hospitals; he would inquire for poor gentlemen and widows, and for young ladies who were in distress, that he might enable them to marry.
Wherever there was suffering and distress, there he bestowed his money and his
interest. The commissioners whom he sent into the provinces to make restitution were directed to draw up a list of the poor labourers of each parish who were dis. abled, and these were provided for by the king. His will contained a vast number of donations to monasteries and hospitals, to poor young women for their dowry, to the poor in general who wanted clothing, to scholars who had not the means of defraying the expense of their education, to widows and orphans, and, lastly, to clerks, until they should procure a benefice. It is related of King Robert, son of Hughes Capet, that he fed three hundred poor people every day. Upon Maunday Thursday, he served them on his knees, and washed their feet; and thence the custom prevailed in France, as in Germany, for the king to perform this pious ceremony every year. In Archbishop Turpin's Chronicle, we read of the Saracen Argolander, who found Charlemagne at dinner, when he came to be baptised and to confirm the truce. The king was surrounded with knights and priests, who sat at many tables ; but Argolander espied also thirty poor men, in mean habits, without either table or tablecloth, sitting and eating their scanty meals upon the ground. He inquired what they were. “ These,” replied the king, “ are people of God, the messengers of our Lord Jesus, whom, in his and his Apostles’ names, we feed daily." Upon this Argolander concluded their religion to be false, and refused to be baptised. “ Here, then,” says the writer of this renowned history, “we may note, the Christian incurs great blame who neglects the poor. If Charles, from inattention to their comfort, thereby lost the opportunity of converting the Saracens, what will be the lot of those who treat them still worse? They will have this sentence pronounced : ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat ; naked, and ye clothed me not.' It must be added, however, that according to faithful chronicles, Charlemagne gave orders that for the future these poor people should be better clothed and fed.
There still exists an order from Philip, Duke of Burgundy, to his treasurer, to give a sufficient sum to his al
1 Jean de Bouchet, Annales d'Aquitaine, 94.