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have been men mighty in those Scriptures, whereof, indeed, it is the essence, most patiently investigated, and most skilfully and scrupulously expressed; this wrought so effectually, that "now" (says an authority of the second year of Elizabeth, quoted by Strype) " a young child of ten years old can tell more of his duty towards God and man than a man of their bringing up can do in sixty or eighty years. Nay, of the Scriptures even the more learned clergy knew very little, the universities being taken up with popes' laws and schoolmen. Indeed, it was difficult to meet with a copy of the Bible, or of any other profitable book of divinity in these seats of learning, so successfully had the friars bought them all up; and students, we are told, in the reign of Edward III. actually withdrew from them in consequence, and returned to their own homes;† nor does the study of the Scriptures appear to have had a chance against Scotus and Aquinas till Dean Colet established it at Oxford; and, about the same time, George Stafford, at Cambridge, by lectures on the books of Holy Writ. The people at large, if possible, fared worse. They were debarred from all knowledge of their Bibles, either by the language in which they were written (for copies of Wickliffe's translation were scarce), or, if not, by the price at which they were sold; the cost of Wickliffe's New Testament, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, being four marks and forty pence, a sum equal to 27. 16s. 3d. of present money.§ Thus the multi
* Strype's Annals, 87.
+ Strype's Cranmer, 169. Fox's Acts and Mon. i. 538. Ed. 1631-32. Wordsworth's Eccl. Biog. i. 287.
Knight's Life of Dean Colet, authority the new system of
Wordsworth's Eccl. Biog. i. 306. 47. 53. 56. Erasmus supported by his theology, and defended his friend Colet at Cambridge. § Eccl. Biog. i. 286, note.
IGNORANCE OF THE PEOPLE.
tude knew just so much of Scripture history, as the miracle plays taught them, and little more. To these burlesque and indecent caricatures of Holy Writ (though it is fair to say not so intended) the idle and the dissipated were the first to resort, as to fairs and revels, with which festivities, indeed, they ranked, so that, had they been better worth attention, it is probable that an attendance upon them would not have conduced much to edification. The Sabbath was rather a day of sports and pastimes than of devotion and instruction; of dancing, shooting with the bow, and practising with the buckler;* nor were these, it may be well imagined, the most culpable of its occupations. The churches were profaned. In the top of one of the pinnacles of St. Paul's in London was Lollard's tower, the prison, and often the grave of the saints. In the arches of the same cathedral were the ecclesiastical courts, of which the balance was not always the balance of the sanctuary, though in the sanctuary it was held. In the spacious nave was the exchange for the merchants (for Sir Thomas Gresham had not yet lived to remove the reproach), and the scene of all the brawlings of the horse-fair.† ments of money were made at the font; and the crypt, or under-ground chapel, in which the early mass was said, was the trysting-place of the nightly revellers of either sex.‡
* Latimer's Sermons, i. 177.
+ Shakspeare, Second Part of Henry IV. act. i. scene 2.
"Fal. Where's Bardolph?
Page. He's gone into Smithfield to buy your worship a horse.
“Fal. I bought him in Paul's, and he'll buy me a horse in Smithfield."
See also Strype's Annals, 227.
Ibid. 227, and Queen Elizabeth's "Proclamation made for the reverend usage of all churches and churchyards," given in Strype's Life of Grindal, 56.
Nor were such abuses as these confined to London. The house of God, as it should seem from the homily "On the right Use of the Church," was too generally the place of rendezvous for such as loved greetings in the market place, had tales to tell, or business to transact; and the devotions of the day were suffered to drag on like Pharaoh's chariots with the wheels off, whilst many of the congregation were more profitably employed (as they thought) in the discussion of farm or merchandize, as they paced to and fro along its aisles. It is to these and similar acts of irreverence that the canons have respect in the directions they give to churchwardens and questmen-directions which a change in the manners of the times has rendered obsolete and almost unintelligible; and it may be reasonably supposed, that in the ordering of our church ceremonies, and in the composition of our church service itself, the principle of fully and fervently occupying all who were within the walls in their devotions was studiously kept in sight by the reformers; and that the sacrifice of prayer and praise should no longer be considered the exclusive office of the priest, as it had been too much in papal times, the people looking on, but that every member should be called upon at intervals, and those of short and frequent recurrence, the whole service through, to testify, by lifting up his voice in confession or response, that he, too, had a lively interest in the common work before them, of besetting God, as it were, in a round (so the quaint old Fuller expresses it), and not suffering him to depart till he had blessed them-hæc vis grata Deo." The saints' days and holidays, again, were numerous, even to the hinderance of a harvest, and to the certain and perpetual encouragement of riot and revelry throughout the country. Taverns and ale-houses, little better than brothels,
*See Canon s, xviii. xix.
+Strype's Cranmer, 56, and Latimer.
NATIONAL MANNERS AND SUFERSTITIONS.
with their dishonest games of cards, dice, backgammon, tennis, foot-ball, quoits, drained the pockets of their votaries, and sent them to rob on the highway. So says Sir Thomas More, who might, perhaps, have excepted the more athletic sports here enumerated from his anathema, and thereby have rendered it more effective.* The due punishment of the culprits was rendered difficult by the places of refuge afforded them in the precints of religious houses, which were the thieves' paradise;† and though felons of all kinds could here claim sanctuary, even for life, so that they would actually sally forth by night to rob or slay, and return before day-break to their asylum within the rules with impunity, yet to the poor persecuted Lollard was the gate of mercy closed, and he might be legally pursued even unto the horns of the altar. The friar, meanwhile, went on with his mumpsimus. His most constant hearers (so profitable was his teaching) were at a loss to distinguish between the deadly sins and the ten commandments;§ of which latter, indeed, as of the articles of the belief in English, the people were entirely ignorant, being wholly given to superstitions.|| They hastened to the churches for holy water, of which the devil was said to be afraid, before a thunder-storm;¶ fled to St. Rooke in time of pestilence; in an ague, to St. Pernel, or master John Shorne; being Welshmen, and disposed to take a purse, they besought the help of Darvel Gathorne; if a wife were weary of her husband, she betook herself to St. Uncumber,** they repaired to the wise woman to recover what they had lost, or to be recruited from a sickness; and addicted themselves with all their might to magic, sorcery,
* Utopia, ed. 24mo. 73.
+ Wordsworth's Eccl. Biog. i. 271. § Latimer, ii. 65.
Eccl. Biog. i. 166.
+ Latimer's Serm. i. 176.
|| Latimer, ii. 189.
** Eccl. Biog. i. 166.
charms, and the black art.* The grossest pretensions which indulgences could advance were swallowed; and not strained at. Relics, carrying imposture on their very face, ("lies," in the language of Scripture,) were kissed with pious credulity. Pilgrimages were undertaken in the spirit of the company in the Canterbury Tales, or of Ogygius in his journey to our lady of Walsingham;t and yet were reckoned acts that would be accounted to the parties for righteousness: and, whilst no man brought his gift to the altar of his Saviour in Canterbury cathedral throughout a whole year, offerings were made at the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket in the same place, and during the same period, to the amount of nearly a thousand pounds.
No wonder that in these ages of darkness doctrines not found in the word of God, but of which we have seen that the germ existed even in the Saxon church, should have shot up with vigour like the gourd of Jonah in the night; or that, in the absence of Scripture to speak for itself, the religion of Rome (as Latimer observes) should have passed for it.‡
*Latimer's Serm. ii. 24. 199.
† Erasmus, Peregrinatio Religionis Ergo. Latimer, Serm. ii. 45.