Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

cerned whether the rest of mankind waste their days in sorrow or shame ; people that are curst with riches ; and a mistake that nothing but riches can make them and theirs happy.” We hear of the dungeons and chains in the castles of chivalry ; but what tales of misery and of cruelty are unfolded before the legal tribunals of the moderns ! Search the annals of the poor in our great cities, and how often will you have to say with Jeremy Taylor, “ This is an uncharitableness next to the cruelties of savages, and at infinite distance from the mercies of the holy Jesus.” “ Zeal hath drowned charity,” says Hooker, “and skill meekness." You do not find the ancients accusing their contemporaries of this want of charity; they rather prophesied, saying with Albertus Magnus, that “the element of fire seems chosen for the instrument of final destruction, to punish the coldness of charity which in those last days shall reign in the aged and decrepit world.” But the moderns accuse their chivalrous ancestors of being over-zealous : and “What if they were all on fire and inflamed, if it was with them,” says Taylor, as Homer sings of the Sirian star, it shines finely, and brings fevers, splendour and zeal being the effects of their first grace,” are there not times when anger becomes charity and duty ? When Charilaus, King of Sparta, was commended for a gentle, a good, and a meek prince, his colleague said, “ Well, how can he be good who is not an enemy even to vicious

St. Augustine contrasts the Christian with the Stoical notion, and says, “ Denique in disciplina nostra non tam quæritur utrum pius animus irascatur, sed quare irascatur.” 1

Plato had said, that one thing to be learned to make up the harmony of virtue was μισείν & χρή μισείν.2 And, after all, it is a baseness and an infamy to apologise for any thing when we are recording the deeds and dispositions of our Christian chivalry, ανθρώποις γαρ διαλεγόμεθα, άλλ' ού θεοίς. Look at those poor dead figures on the tombs of knights, with the cross on their breast, and their armed hands raised up in prayer. Where shall we find as much religion, and honour, and dignity, among the living, as beam from that cold stone ? Is it for the kind of people who finger them with a vacant stare to name chi

persons ?

| De Civitate Dei, ix. 5.

2 De Legibus, ii.

[ocr errors]

valry? But the superstition of the knights is the subject of declamation. The Church was careful to cut off the branches of this crime,' though it may have been unable to pull up all the fibres of its roots, “ita sunt altæ stirpes stultitiæ.” “ In the faith which is infused,” says Father Lewis of Grenada, “there is not the medium which exists in moral virtues, as there is no medium in the love of God: the more we love, the more we believe in him ; but in human faith there is a medium, separating credulity from incredulity : and these two are vices, because it is a vice and a lightness of heart to believe too readily, as it is a vice not to believe

upon reasonable evidence.' In the third chapter of the Songe du Vergier, the clerk proves to the knight the sin and folly of astrology, divination, and necromancy. On being asked whether all knights and squires may continue their custom of wearing relics, or some writing and divine words about their neck, he replies as follows : “ Je vous respons, que si ils le font pour la très parfaicte fiance qu'ils ont à Dieu et à ses saints, adoncques ils le peuvent faire loisiblement ; mais si en portant telles reliques ils font ou pensent auscunes vanites, adoncques c'est chose illicite et damnable de porter telles reliques, selon monseigneur Saint Thomas.” Some

"2

1 For the zeal of the Church against superstition, see Art. 3. De la Censure de la Faculté de Théologie de l'Université de Paris, in 1398 ; St. Eloi, cap. ccxx. lib. de Vera Relig. c. lv.; the Penitential Canons, published by D'Achery, t. ii. Spicil.; the Sixth Council of Paris, in 829 ; Eadmeri Historiæ Novorum, iii. c. viii.; Boniface, Epist, 132. 182. M. de Marchangy remarks, that “all beneficial civilisation comes from the Church ;' and he contrasts her gentleness in combating the follies of men with the bitter zeal of human societies. “ The zeal of men is furious and devouring, because it is always mixed with passions and error: that of the Church is unimpassioned, patient, and eternal. The

Church had exposed the folly of superstition. The parliament of Toulouse, in the 15th century, in one year put to death more than 400 persons accused of magic.' Pierre Grégoire de Toulouse, lib. xxxiv.; Syntag. Juris Univ. cap xxi. no. 10. He might have appealed to James the First's proceedings against witches. For the condemnation of interpreting dreams, vide S. Greg. Nyss. de Opib. Homin. 13; De Sarisb. 11; Polycrat. 17. The diviners of dreams were excommunicated by bulls, councils, and synods. Wherever men abandoned the Church, they gave way to superstition in the proper sense of the word; that is, they had recourse to a faith which was not founded in Jesus Christ.

2 Catechism, part ii. c. xxvii.

is Alikely

practices were observed which offended holy men. Thus Gerson, the honour of the Sorbonne, said of some,

“ Hæc omnia non aliud sunt quam vana religio :” these were expressly forbidden. Other opinions might be untrue, and yet the Church wisely did not interfere with national prejudices. “Though we should believe that St. James preached in Spain," says Fleury, “salvation is not endangered ; but directly to combat this opinion in certain places, and before certain persons, would be to scandalise them, and to offend eminently against charity.”] After all, the good knights were not so credulous and ignorant as those modern pedants would persuade us, who seem to think, that till their science was invented, forsooth Agamemnon could not tell how many legs he had, as Socrates says. The doubts and reasoning of Boamund respecting the vision of St. Andrew, to indicate the place where the holy lance was buried, in which he was joined by Arnulph and Tancred, might be cited in evidence. thing,” said the Norman prince, " that the blessed Andrew should appear to a man who is a frequenter of taverns, a trifler, and a saunterer in the markets. As for the place, who does not see that it was feigned? If a Christian had concealed the lance, why not have availed himself of the secret place of the altar ? If a Gentile or a Jew, why place it within the walls of a church? But if we are to suppose that it was there by accident, what historian relates that Pilate was ever at Antioch? for we know it was the lance of a soldier, and a soldier of Pilate ; and to omit this difficulty, am I to be told, that what many digging by day could not discover, has been found by one in the dark ? O rustic folly! O rustic credulity! Let the provincials trust in their iron, we in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ have conquered, and shall conquer." Mark how careful were the judges of the Maid of Orleans to convict her of superstition, and how she replied to their questions : “Interroguće qui aidoit plus, elle à l'estendart, ou l'estendart à elle ? Respond, 'que de la victoire de l’estendart ou d'elle, c'estoit à nostre Seigneur tout :' asked, “Si l'esperance d'avoir victoire estoit fondée en son esten

I Premier Discours sur l'Hist. Ecclés.
: De Repub. vii.

s

dard ou en elle.' Respond, il estoit fondé en nostre Seigneur, et non ailleurs." You smile at the indulgences which were given to the crusaders. Profane men, can you read the terms on which they were granted by Gregory VII. without trembling? “On condition that, applying himself to good works, and lamenting his past sins, he should make his body a pure temple for God.” " Without the spirit,” says St. Bernard, “the sacrament is taken to judgment, and the flesh profiteth nothing, and the letter killeth, and faith is dead."2 When a modern is for teaching a spiritual religion to the followers of antiquity, he not unfrequently resembles a sign-painter who would give advice to Raphael. The confidence of the faithful is confirmed by every investigation ; for truth requires no mystery, and it disdains a suspicious or faint-hearted advocate. No,” says St. Bernard, “ the race of Christians has never failed ; faith hath never departed from the world, nor charity from the Church. The rivers swelled, and the winds blew and beat against it, and it fell not, because it was founded on a rock ; therefore neither by the wordy eloquence of philosophers, nor by the cavils of heretics, nor by the swords of persecutors, hath it ever been, or can it ever be, separated from the charity of God which is in Christ Jesus.'

XXV. And now it is meet I let my reader rest, and leave him with the inspiring recollections of the heroic dead; that as the poet, who had beheld the sum and punishment of mortal crime, revived his fainting courage with the water of the Eunce, so there may be a reviving stream for him who has been doomed to explore the records of human weakness, that he too may return from the most holy wave regenerate,

[ocr errors]

E’en as new plants renewed with foliage new,
Pure and made apt for mounting to the stars.

Yes ! were it not for the beauty which meets the eye in every object, whose colour “nature's own sweet and cunning hand lays on,” he who now converses much with the dead would long to be with them. Nevertheless, while

1 Chronique et Procès de la Pucelle.
2 In Cantica Serm. 33.

3 Ibid. 79.

defending past ages, a disciple of the ancient wisdom has no desire to express his thoughts as one who is angry with men or with times ; nor, on the other hand, as one who is ready to flatter and to follow fortune. In our day, he need not dread much from the anger of other men. “ Causa enim manet eadem, quæ mutari nullo modo potest : temporis iniquitas atque invidia recessit, ut quod in tempore mali fuit, nihil obsit.” 1 Who formerly dared to say that the intellect of the house of Tudor was not competent to determine the religious views of all British subjects? Who now, at least before the Republic of Plato, dares to affirm that it was ? Who then had doubts of the veracity of Titus Oates ? Who now pretends to believe his evidence? Who then had scruples in affirming that the Pope was Antichrist, and that all our ancestors, “ for eight hundred years or more,” were

“ drowned in abominable idolatry ?” Who now would venture to express such an opinion, though every one is ready to swear to it as a fact, treating the legislator like à doating or insane person, who is to be humoured in his weakness? And besides, though there are men enough in the world, whose example, as William of Paris says,2 can disprove the Platonic notion that the human soul is a harmony, there are not wanting others, endued with great generosity of nature, who, like the woman of Samaria, are rather edified than offended on being reminded of their own faults.

Τοιούτον γάρ αι γενναϊαι ψυχαί υφ' ών έτεροι σκανδαλίζονται, υπό τούτων εκείναι Olop ouvrat. This is the remark of St. Chrysostom.

Still, it is hard to be compelled to leave these peaceful scenes for the sombre realities, the direful discords, of the modern world, which, notwithstanding all the gifts of nature and the offers of grace, can be compared most truly to that city of grief filled with the lost people ; or to that dark cave imagined by the sage, where men think there can be no safety, but where there is suspicion and eternal contention, where they either doze away years in sullen torpor, or else wander from side to side, hating and suspecting one another, and sigh and laugh and blaspheme in darkness and in chains.3 Alas! was it for these un

i Cicero

pro

A. Cluentio. 3 Plato de Repub. vii.

? Lib. de Anima, iii.

« PoprzedniaDalej »