Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

paupertatis, qua tam cito volatur in regnum cælorum.”' This is the remark of St. Bernard upon

that verse.? * Of other virtues,” he says,

o the reward is indicated by a promise in the future time: hereditabunt, consolabuntur; but here it is actually given;" an important application to be remarked by the moderns, who defend the form of the happy life of Epicurus in the words of Zeno. To shew respect to poverty was one of the distinguishing features of the religion which guided chivalry. A poor man was treated with respect; knights and princes would visit him in his cabin, and would salute him with kindness on his way; learned theologians would conceal their wisdom from him, lest he should be intimidated; bishops would ask his prayers, and emperors would wash his feet.

This must be sufficient to exemplify the manner in which these men interpreted the holy Scriptures : let us now observe the deep sense which they entertained of their value. “ The word of God in his holy Scriptures," says Father Lewis of Grenada, “can accomplish all things. It can raise the dead, regenerate the living, cure the sick, preserve the sound, give sight to the blind, warm the indifferent, feed the hungry, strengthen the weak, and give resolution to the despairing. This is that heavenly manna which had the taste of all kinds of meat, there being no taste or sweetness that the soul can desire which is not found in the word of God. It is by means of it that the sad are consoled, and the irreligious converted to piety.” “ Let sleep overcome the priest,” says St. Jerome, “as he holds the book, and let the holy page receive his declining face;" meaning to teach the duty of constant study of the holy Scriptures. St. Ambrose says, that “the reading of the holy Scriptures is the life of the soul." 4 Having exposed the four causes of human ignorance in general," says Roger Bacon, “I wish in this part to shew wisdom to be one and perfect, and that this is contained in the sacred writings, from the roots of which all truth arises, and in which is all wisdom, since from one God all wisdom is given, and to one world, and on account of one end." He then collects various passages out of the holy Fathers, to

[ocr errors]

1 De Adventu Domini, iv.
3 St. Hier. Ep. ad Eust.

2 Catechism, ii. preface.
+ Serm. 35. Joan. vi. 64.

express the importance of holy Scripture. If St. Cyprian would recommend prayer, with fasting and alms, he quotes holy Scripture :and the Count of Stolberg reminds the moderns that the great and holy St. Cyprian in that early age receives as the word of God the books which they have thought proper to strike out of the canon, viz. Tobias as in this place, the books of the Maccabees, and the 14th chapter of Daniel, together with the other Deutero-canonical books :3 also the book of Wisdom, and that of the son of Sirach. But it will be said, that knights and temporal men were both unacquainted with holy Scriptures, and ignorant of all this divine and spiritual wisdom. The former examples might have taught us that this was by no means the case. It must be remembered that monasteries furnished schools for the laity, who afterwards went into the world. The young French princes used to be brought up in the abbey of St. Denis. There,” says Marchangy, “between the tombs which never flatter, and the altar where the wretched would come to implore divine assistance, they learned early to follow the narrow way of justice. It often happened that they were so struck with the rapidity of life, with the nothingness and danger of greatness, and of that sceptre which passes from hand to hand, and remains with no one, that they grew disgusted with the throne before mounting it, and were unwilling to leave their innocent and peaceful joys for those honours and pleasures to which they felt no attraction. It was in these sanctuaries that the son of King Philip I. knew the orphan Suger; and notwithstanding the difference of their rank, a lively friendship soon united their hearts. The heroic Louis VI., on becoming king, did not forget the friend of his childhood. Suger was called to his council

, and made minister. Neither did he forget the religious lessons of his youth.”. The knights and barons were seldom able to lose those salutary impressions which they had acquired in these schools. Once familiar with the holy sacrifice, and the evening chant, and the lessons of Scripture, how could they ever forget the words of eternal

"5

1

Opus Majus, ii. 1.

2 De Oratione Dominica. 3 S. Cyprian. Epist. lvi. • Ib. Epist. ad Fortunat. de Exhort. Martyr. et de Mortalitate. 5 La Gaule Poétique, iv.

life? It is true, in the first age of the Church the holy Scriptures of the New Testament not having been written or arranged, the faithful in general had no such resource ; and it is true also, that in the ages following after their composition, the Church practised great caution in giving copies of the holy Scriptures. St. Cyril, the holy Archbishop of Jerusalem, says, “ Since all men cannot read the Scriptures, but some by ignorance, and others by occupation, are prevented from becoming acquainted with them, we have a creed in a few verses, which I wish you to recite with all care, not writing it down on charts, but engraving it in your heart : and take heed lest any one teach you contrary to it ; for if an angel should preach any other gospel to you but this which you have received let him be anathema. Watch, therefore, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which you now receive, and write them on the tables of your heart.” 2 Before printing was invented, which was not for above 1300 years after Christ, there were but few able to read, and still fewer able to purchase books. Grecie, Countess of Anjou, had to give 200 sheep for a collection of homilies; so that the bulk of mankind must have perished during that period if the written Word had been their only rule. But the wisdom and mercy of God had sent apostles and successors to preach his Word, and to instruct men in all holiness; and so far was the study of the written Word from being a more secure mode of acquiring a knowledge of his will, that we know many who made use of it wrested it to their own destruction. The notorious heretic or heathen, Hieraklos, who lived in the close of the third century, knew the whole Bible by heart. But where there was humility and love, the holy Scriptures in the hands of temporal men were studied by them with diligence and with fruits of holiness. Long before Wickliff's time there was a complete translation of the Bible in the English language. In the council of Clovesho, in the year 747, the seventh canon enjoined the frequent reading of the Bible in monasteries, where temporal men received their education. About the reign of our Henry II., a hermit called Richard translated from Latin into English all the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for

Stolberg, Geschichte, ix. 522.
Catechesis, v. de Fide et Symbolo, 12.

1

the whole year, as also the Psalms of David. Selden also records, that a metrical translation of the Psalms was made into English about the time of King Edward II.2 Pope St. Gregory relates in his dialogues, that there was a poor man at Rome, named Servulus, living under a gateway, who could not read, but yet he had procured some books of the holy Scripture; and when any monks came by, he would pray them to read to him ; and in this way he became very learned in the holy Scriptures. St. Marcella in retreat had acquired such a knowledge of the holy Scriptures, that St. Jerome thought it almost incredible : and women remaining in the world, of the highest rank, were often assiduous in this sacred study. A Book of the Gospels, which yet exists a specimen of the perfection of the art of painting in miniature, had been sent by Adela, sister of Charlemagne, to the abbot of St. Maximin, at Triers. In a later age we find a king, Stanislaus of Poland, employing part of his time during twenty years in translating parts of the holy Scripture into Polish. We read in the wise king how young Maximilian was taught to read the holy Scriptures. I have seen a quotation from the Partidas, where Alfonso the Wise says in his law, “a king should learn to read, that he may be the better able to understand the Scriptures, and read the great feats which have been wrought in the world, from which he may learn many good customs. And the wise men of old not only held it advisable that kings should be taught to read, but also that they should learn all the sciences, which was the opinion of King David and King Solomon, and of Boethius, who was a wise knight.” But if we are called upon to bring proof that this divine wisdom was found in temporal chivalry, there are instances in abundance to satisfy such an inquirer. Boethius has been cited by King Alfonso, and with justice; for it was in the excellence of God that he took final refuge. the whole universe in the immensity of God; in his bosom he saw all glory, all dignities, all riches, all treasures, all pleasures, all consolation, all joy, all beatitude. Mark how a brave cross-knight can argue respecting one of the deepest questions of divinity. “Ad ce propoux des Beduns,” says Joinville, "je dy que j'ay veu depuis mon retour d'oultre

1 Weever's Funeral Monuments, 152.
2 Titles of Honour, c. iii.

He saw

mer aucuns portans le nom de Chrestien qui tiennent la loy des Beduns. Car sont aucuns qui disent, que nul ne peut mourir

que

à ung jour determiné, sans aucune faille, qui est une chose faulce. Car autant je estime telle creance, comme s'ilz vouloient dire, que Dieu n'eust point de puissance de nous mal faire ou aider, et de nous eslonger ou abregier les vies, qui est une chose heretique. Mais au contraire, je dy que en lui devons nous croire, et qu'il est tout puissant et a povoir de toutes choses faire : et ainsi de nous envoier la mort toust ou tard à son bon plaisir. Qui est le contraire de la creance des Beduns, qui disent leur jour de mort estre determiné sans faille et sans qu'il soit possible qu'il puisse estré eslongné ne abregé.”

The awful questions on this subject were set at rest to our ancestors by the masterly reasoning of St. Augustine in his book De Civitate Dei,? which was so familiar to them; and besides the good sense and simple faith of plain men of honour, or that which De Maistre terms “le bon sens militaire," was an excellent preservative against the heresies and mistakes of such a speculative doctor as Jansenius ; for it is most true, Nunquam aliud natura, aliud sapientia docet.” The very ceremonies of the Church tended strongly to keep all the great mysteries of faith impressed upon the minds of men. The silence and the kneeling down in the Credo at the words, « Et incarnatus est,” were more effectual in preserving the great foundation of the faith among men, than all the sermons that ever were or ever could be preached. What must have been the faith of King Louis IX., who “would not stir one foot to behold a miracle in confirmation of his belief !” What wisdom is in this sentence of Alain Chartier in his Curial ! “ Dieu souffre et veut être prié d'homme selon l'affection temporelle et humaine, mais il exauce selon sa raison éternelle et divine !" What but deep meditation induced Montagne, in an age of introducing new religions, to say, “Je suis desgouste de la nouvelleté quelque visage qu'elle porte, et ay raison : le meilleur titre de nouvelleté est tres-dangereux ?” Mark how spiritual and wise were the sentiments of a poor peasant-girl who had no instructor but the curate of her rustic parish. The

I v. 9.

« PoprzedniaDalej »