« PoprzedniaDalej »
those of grace,
destroying the vital principles of virtue and veracity; "of which," as a modern says, “ it behoveth wisdom to fear the sequels even beyond all apparent cause of fear.” Saint Anselm, quoting the great maxim, “ Non debemus facere mala, ut veniant bona,” begins with “ quoniam,” implying, that this is the well-known recognised law of religion. The saints and theologians weighing every word they utter, declare, as a learned Jesuit says, " That it is not lawful to lie, no not for the salvation of the whole world.”? The great rule was, “ never to leave the works of justice for
Essential domestic duties were not to be neglected under pretence of devotion.4 « The good doctrine," says the same holy friar, “requires always that men prefer things of obligation to those of devotion, those of precept to those of council, necessary things to what are voluntary, and those which God commands to those which man prescribes to himself through piety. The contrary practice is owing to the deceit of the devil, who thus takes men on their weak side, and prompts them to follow their own will rather than their duty." Hence the sublime expression in the prayer of the church, “ Deus, quem diligere et amare justitia est ;”& " implying,” as Clemens Alexandrinus said, that “ from the true and only wisdom virtue is never separated ;"? and that “piety is action, following God.” So that the Duke of Guise made a true and sublime answer to the Protestant who had attempted to assassinate him, and who declared he was actuated solely by a view to the interest of his religion. “Now then," said the duke, “I wish to shew you how my religion is more gentle than that which you profess. Yours has advised you to kill me, without hearing me, without my having ever offended you ; and mine commands me to pardon you.” Here, then, we arrive at a most remarkable feature in the religion of chivalry. Every offence against true honour is irreconcilable with it. However anxious men may be in a religious cause, a soldier who betrays his friend, a general who forsakes his
Epist. iii. 90.
7 Stromat. ii. 10.
king, a daughter who turns her own father out of doors, a legislator who establishes a premium to reward traitorous relations and undutiful children ; all these persons are expressly condemned by the Catholic religion, besides being for ever the proper objects of contempt and detestation and horror among all men who possess the sentiments of chivalry. A man of honour cannot express any other opinion, though he should be condemned to the quarries the next minute for uttering it. The same judgment awaits such persons as John Knox, who praised the murderer of Cardinal Beaton ; and Beze, who extolled Poltrot, who assassinated the Duke of Guise, and the people who compared him to David, and who made the engravings which we still see, representing him raised in glory to heaven for this base murder ; and Sir Edward Coke, who argued in praise of O'Donnel's innocent children being shut up all their lives in the Tower, saying, “periissent nisi periissent,” meaning that they would have been brought up Catholics, if set free. This lesson might indeed be drawn from the unperverted conscience and light of that ancient tradition which is ascribed to nature. The ancients knew it, although there was the policy of Numa and Sertorius, of Pisistratus and Lycurgus, who were said to have tampered with truth for a good end. There is a beautiful example in the first book of Herodotus. Pactyas, the Persian rebel, had fled as a supplicant to the Cymeans, who received and sheltered him, as they were bound to do, by their law of conscience. Upon receiving orders from the Persian monarch to deliver this person to his resentment, they were thrown into dismay. They dreaded the power of the tyrant, and while they were necessarily conscious of their duty, they obeyed the dictate of their fear by affecting to doubt it, and so they sent to consult the Oracle of Branchis, to learn the will of God, although they already knew what that required. The answer was instantly given, " to deliver up Pactyas.” The messengers returned, and the Cymeans, thus confirmed, (the very word of the moderns on such occasions,) prepared to deliver up the victim. Aristodicus, a just and prudent man, entreated that nothing might be concluded until he should be sent with other messengers to the same oracle.
I Val. Max, i. 2.
His request was granted, and the new embassy departed for the oracle. They propose the former question, and the same answer is as quickly returned. But Aristodicus, being now convinced of some mistake, proceeded to explore the temple, and to disturb the birds, to whom religion afforded that asylum : whereupon a voice cried out, 0 most unholy man, why do you dare to commit such deeds ? Do you venture to disturb my supplicants ?” Aristodicus replied, “O King, are you resolved to protect your supplicants, and do you command the Cymeans to deliver up theirs ?” Upon which the celebrated answer was returned, · Yea, I do command you this, seeking your destruction as impious men, that
you may never again consult the oracle, and inquire whether you should abandon your supplicants." These words conveyed memorable instruction; they taught lessons of prudence and moderation to men, lessons of fidelity and truth in the sacrifice of inclination to duty, of hasty passion to the unalterable laws of virtue and justice; they taught them to be just before they were generous, to obey before they sacrificed. A dramatic poet of Greece inculcated the same. When Strepsiades complains of the clouds for deceiving a silly clown like him, they reply:
αεί ποιούμεν ταύθ' εκάστοθ', όταν τινα
όπως αν είδη τους θεούς δεδoικέναι. .? So far were the ancients from holding the immoral sophism of the moderns, that sincerity is an excuse which will always avail. A modern metaphysical writer of celebrity has shewn. “how it comes to pass that a man may justly incur punishment, though it be certain that in all the particular actions that he wills, he does, and necessarily does, will that which he then judges to be good ; for, though his will be always determined by that which is judged good by his understanding, yet it excuses him not ; because, by a too hasty choice of his own making, he has imposed on himself wrong measures of good and evil ; which, however false and fallacious, have the same influence on all his future conduct as if they were true and right. He then vitiated his own palate, and must be an
| Aristoph, Nubes, 1456.
swerable to himself for the sickness and death that follows from it. The eternal law and nature of things must not be altered to comply with his ill-ordered choice. If the neglect or abuse of the liberty he had to examine what would really and truly make for his happiness misleads him, the miscarriages that follow on it must be imputed to his own election. He had a power to suspend his determination; it was given him that he might examine, and take care of his own happiness, and look that he were not deceived : and he could never judge that it was better to be deceived than not, in a matter of so great and near concernment."
All this is little more than what Aristotle lays down in his Ethics. But from all this it follows that the ancients were sensible, like the Christian chivalry, of the insurmountable obligations which they lay under to follow the natural dictates of true honour and morality. So that when the poet makes persons advise Cato to consult the oracle, he replies, that his course is already plainly pointed out by the voice of conscience and honour, and, albeit with some foolish sophisms, he rejects their proposal.
Scimus, et hoc nobis non altius inseret Ammon.
Et cælum et virtus ? Superos quid quærimus ultra.? XVIII. Who has not been struck, in the preceding instances, with the humanity which accompanied the spiritual elevation of men in these ages? The sublime piety of the saints is not more eminent than the tenderness and humanity which they have evinced in the relations of life. I have already alluded to a remarkable sermon by St. Bernard on the death of his brother Girard, who had held a minor office in the monastery of Clairvaux. The saint had been preaching a series of sermons on one book of the Holy Scriptures, and the first part of the discourse, in which he alludes to his brother's death, is a continuation of the subject which had employed him on the preceding
? Lucan, ix. 572.
1 iii. 5.
day. At length he breaks out, “How long shall I dissemble and conceal the interior fire which consumes my sad breast? What is this canticle to me who am in bitterness ? Quid mihi et cantico huic, qui in amaritudine sum? The power of grief has defeated my intention, and the indignation of the Lord hath wasted my spirit. I have done violence to my soul, and I have hitherto dissembled, lest affection should seem to have conquered faith. While others wept, I, as you can testify, followed the sorrowful train with dry eyes ; with dry eyes I stood at the grave, until all the solemn rites were fulfilled. Clad in the sacerdotal habits, I recited with my own tongue the accustomed prayers for him ; with my hands I threw, as usual, the earth upon his beloved body, which was soon to be earth. They who beheld me wept, and wondered that I did not weep, and they rather lamented me who had lost him ; but I only struggled against affection with the strength of faith. Nor had I the same command over my grief as over my tears, but, as it is written, turbatus sum et non sum locutus. But grief suppressed sinks more deeply, and is more intense from not being suffered to have vent. Fateor, victus sum. Exeat necesse est foras quod intus patior; it must come out to the eyes of sons who, knowing the loss, will hear my complaint with more humanity, and will console me with greater gentleness. You know, my sons, how just is my grief. You observe what a faithful companion hath deserted me on my road, one so awake to care, so active in affairs, so sweet in conversation. Who so necessary to me? by whom was I so loved ? Frater erat genere, sed religione germanior. I was weak in body, and he bore me; I was faint in heart, and he comforted me; negligent, and he excited me; forgetful, and he reminded me. Whither art thou torn from my hands, man after my own heart? We have loved each other in life, how shall we be separated in death ? Hard condition, but it is my fortune, not his, which is tearful. For you, dear brother, if you have lost those dear to you, it was that you might find those who were still dearer : but what consolation is left to me? I have lost the delights of friendship ; you have but changed them. How I desire to know what you, who are in the choir of angels, now think of me in the midst of trouble and sorrow! if