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Maid of Orleans was asked by her unfortunate judges, whether or not she was in the grace of God? swer was, “Si je n'y suis, Dieu m'y veuille mettre ; et si je y suis, Dieu m'y veuille tenir.”
Was it for the sage reverend modern doctors of the 18th century to condemn the ignorance and grossness of the middle ages ? told without ceasing,” says the Count De Maistre, “ of the grossness of our ancestors : there is nothing so gross as the philosophy of our age; the good sense of the 12th century would have laughed at it.” But generous and heroic souls were sure to imbibe the intellectual dew of heaven.
“ Credo ego generosum animum,” says Petrarch, "præter Deum ubi finis est noster, nusquam acquiescere.”? What an example in the heroic Calderon ! - This favoured mortal,” says Schlegel, “had escaped from the obscure labyrinth of doubt, and had found a refuge in the lofty asylum of the faith. It was from thence, in the bosom of an unalterable peace, that he contemplated and portrayed the stormy course of life. Guided by religious light, he penetrated through all the mysteries of human destiny ; even the end of misery is no longer an enigma to him; and each tear of the unhappy appears to him like the dew
the flowers, every drop of which reflects heaven.”
In attempting thus to give a general idea of the profound wisdom and spirituality of the religion which guided chivalry, there are other reflections which will be suggested by an acquaintance with its character. For instance; it is certain that when once the articles of faith were laid down, there was no attempt to teach or require any general system of philosophy. “ Men were left," as an eloquent modern writer says, “ to consider and contemplate what comes in sight, as it were, and disappears again;" as St. Bernard applies the words of our Lord,
“ Vado et venio ad vos. Modicum et non videbitis me, et iterum modicum et videbitis me.” Cicero, after shewing that Socrates never taught a regular system of philosophy, like those who came after him and founded the academic and peripatetic schools, adds, “Ita facta est, quod minime Socrates probabat, ars quædam philosophiæ."3" Socrates, speaking of his own philosophy, says ironically to the conceited sophist who knew all about Soirées de St. Petersbourg.
2 De Vita Solitaria. 3 Acad. i. 4.
every thing, like almost every one of the moderns, ý uèy γάρ έμή φαύλη τις αν είη και αμφισβητήσιμος ώσπερ όναρ ούσα, ή δε ση λαμπρά τε και πολλήν επίδοσιν έχουσα. Now where God had not expressly spoken, it was the spirit of the Church to lead men to confess that their own philosophy was not more exact and clear than that of the ancient sage. Nay, in these very articles of faith there was no system or theory adopted by the Church; for this reason, that God had not been pleased to give an entire view of the plans of his mercy. The men who left the Church, and founded sects in different ages, have invariably raised a system, and distorted and mangled and cut off the words of holy Scripture to support it: one would have predestination and no free-will, another, faith and no reward for works : it was in vain that they were confronted with the plain and express precepts of the Scripture; these men, whose religion was the Bible, were too deeply in love with their theory to heed what it advanced against them. The extravagance of that natural philosopher, who, maintaining his theory, that all great chains of mountains are in the direction of east and west, and being reminded of the Andes, which lie north and south for upwards of four thousand miles, replied, that the fact objected to his theory was a mere trifle, is nothing in comparison of the reckless ardour with which these biblical expositors pursued their favourite system. But the wisdom of the Church was not misled by this impetuous zeal. The Church had listened humbly to the written and to the unwritten revelation of God; she had heard at one time grace magnified so as almost to exclude justice; at another, justice so as almost to exclude grace. In one place nothing was proclaimed but the foreknowledge of God; in another, nothing but the freedom of man. She dispensed this revelation as she received it, and imparted a philosophy which was exact and perfect only in its character of not pretending to have exact and perfect knowledge. The Church, indeed, positively forbid men to say that it is not the body and blood of Christ, that men are not justified by faith, that there will be no reward for works; but she was so far positive only for this reason, that Christ had said it was his body and his blood ; that St. Paul had said that men are justified by faith; that our
1 Plato, Conviv.
Lord had said he who giveth a cup of cold water “shall in no wise lose his reward ;” and that St. James had said, “ faith without works is dead.” It was not for the holy and faithful guardian to whom were confided the souls of men, to promise them a less ambiguous and limited view of the scheme of God's mercy; it was for men in the pride of their hearts to call this a delivery and a retraction of the Gospel, to be dissatisfied with the articles of faith thus separated and disjointed, till they had connected them together by a chain of their own invention, and had moulded them into a complete theory; that is, till they had framed a new Gospel, and had founded a new Church, bearing the name either of a man or of a nation. The doctors of the Church encouraged learning and research, thinking with Plato, that he alone deserves the name of man who contemplates what he sees.! They who served the Church, quæ domus est semper habita doctrinæ, were required to promote the diffusion of the knowledge of God; and hence the persecution raised by Julian in that early age, and revived by the disciples of the modern philosophy in Ireland since the separation, depriving the faithful of the means of instruction, has been always regarded by them as the most destructive of all systems which have been employed against her. They lamented, indeed, the fatality which seems to accompany the study of the sciences, observing that even Pliny, in the beginning of his Natural History, does away with Providence and the immortality of the soul; but they were directed to encourage all sound learning, though it was chiefly with a view to lead men to prepare for that day, when the soul will find itself equally possessed of knowledge and love, and when the one will be no impediment to the other; arriving, as Socrates said, at that circle where it clearly beholds justice, temperance, and knowledge ; not such as are generated, nor such as may be possessed, by one man or another, but that which is the essence of knowledge. Meanwhile, there was no curiosity, as Tertullian said, after Jesus Christ, nor inquiry after the Gospel. “Let men seek one end, than which there was nothing more simple,” said St. Augustine, “and let us seek it in simplicity of heart.”
“ Be still, and know that I am God ;” not 1 Plato, Cratylus : άνθρωπος, from αναθρών & όπωπεν. : Phædrus.
after the stillness of indolence, but after the stillness of thought, that we may escape from place and time, for these phantasms prevent our beholding that constant unity. “ Loca offerunt quid amemus, tempora subripiunt quod amamus, et relinquunt in anima turbas phantasmatum, quibus in aliud atque aliud cupiditas incitetur. Ita fit inquietus et ærumnosus animus. Vocatur ergo ad otium:” as St. Bernard says, “ peace and not glory is to be our object; to be at peace with God, at peace with men, at peace with ourselves.” But these souls being turned aside from human pleasures to divine, in their enthusiasm escaped the notice of the world ; for after having once had a glimpse, though but for a moment, of the essence of beauty and all perfection, recalling to mind that reality, they acquired wings ; and having
acquired them, they endeavoured to fly upwards; but not being able to do so, like a bird looking upwards and despising the things below, they seemed to be mad: but of all enthusiasms, this was the best, and from the best source.
These reflections should lead men of wisdom and candour among the moderns to confess that their previous jealousy of the authority of the Church was unfounded. You are for maintaining the freedom of inquiry, and the right of private judgment. But as you pursue these delusive objects, “urbem philosophiæ, mihi crede, proditis, dum castella defenditis;" for while you argue in favour of a freedom and a right which God has denied to your present condition, you betray that true religion which alone can enable
you in this life to approach to the attainment of that right and freedom. As philosophers, men should be among the first to admit the advantage; as Christians, they will perceive the necessity of imposing a restraint on the rash curiosity of those subtle minds which would never rest, destroying their own conceptions, and distracting the faith of others, in attempting to bring down the mysteries of the Deity to the sphere of finite comprehension. Out of this one path, where were the bounds imposed to the natural freedom of the human mind? For let not the precautions of an injudicious police, in an age of simplicity, be identified with the philosophy of the Christian Church. And
1 De Vera Reli . 65.
2 In festo omnium sanctor. v.
was not the act of submission to faith the surest safeguard which men could possess of their own freedom? Look at the writings of those who have renounced that submission. Are their minds free? Do they exercise that much-prized right of judgment? Are there no passions, no interests, no mean party-views, to which their reasoning is enslaved? Watch their course from their statement of historical events, even to their translation of the text of the holy Scriptures. Was it in exercising this freedom, and even the right of private judgment, if words are to bear their meaning, which made men translate the û of the 27th verse of the xith chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, by“ and ?” No; God alone is free. Therefore is it well said by St. Augustine, “ Hæc voluntas libera tanto erit liberior quanto sanior, tanto autem sanior, quanto divinæ misericordiæ gratiæque subjectior." In answering the objections of men who opposed themselves, the Church instructed her ministers to make use, like St. Paul, of the weapons of philosophy. Those who were for simplifying the scheme and form of religion, were referred to the book of nature, where a most complicated machinery is made subservient to that life which we can conceive might have cost but a bare fiat. Both in nature and in revelation the problem seems to have been, first to lay down general laws, and then to pursue the solution in strict obedience to those laws. Difficulties in religion there were undoubtedly, but it was not for man to condemn his Creator for placing him in a state where he could not see all things. “ This is a hard saying,” said the shallow Jews; and God was not pleased to make it plainer. Perhaps, in this life, a more clear knowledge would be incompatible with that degree of love and piety which God vouchsafes to men on earth ; so then astonishment was the beginning and end of religion, as well as of the philosophy of the sage. God was born in the flesh, had a virgin for his mother, hung upon a cross, and is present in veiled majesty on every altar of the Church. No one professing the religion of chivalry felt any necessity for his being able to comprehend these facts; no one thought that the difficulties which surround men would be removed by his undertaking, like some profane modern Germans, to
1 Epist. 157, 8.