Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

account for every thing in the Christian history by natural principles : no one felt at a loss when “ the difficulties” of his religion were objected to him. To state such an objection was to refute it. God and the book of nature, and the heart, had taught men in these ages that ignorance and reverence belong to their present condition ; that astonishment was to be the end of all their wisdom ; that astonishment is still the criterion of true philosophy, pála yap φιλοσόφου τούτο το πάθος, το θαυμάζειν' ου γάρ άλλη αρχή φιλοσοφίας ή αύτη.

In the very beginning of this research, we said that the religion of chivalry was a religion of motives. « Tout cela n'est compté pour rien sans la foi,” said one of the accusers of Jacques Molay, when the latter had concluded an eloquent statement of the heroic virtues of the order of the Temple. The reply of the grand-master shewed a deeper wisdom. “ Sans la foi,” he answered, “rien de tout cela ne peut se supporter.” Even Socrates recognised this principle of the Church, saying, “ Some one will ask what we mean by affirming that they who do justice must also be just, and they who act wisely must be wise. The mistake of the objector lies in supposing that it is with virtue and wisdom as with arts, in the execution of which all consists; but it is not so here. In these things it is not the same in whatever way they are done, but things are done justly and wisely, first, if he who does them knows what he does; 2dly, if he does it from choice; 3dly, if with firmness and perseverance.” So in religion, chivalry was taught that actions were only worthy if done for the love of God. Again, with respect to the good or evil of all these practices, religion conveyed its lesson almost in the very words of the same philosopher, saying, " the question is not, whether this or that action, this or that opinion, be holy, but what is that holiness through which all holy actions and opinions are holy ;2 learn what that is, and then looking upon it and using it as a standard, whatever you or any person may do in accordance with it, I may pronounce holy, and whatever is contrary to it must be unholy.” Chivalry was taught that this standard was charity. The sophists of this age hold that nothing is of such importance as the interests of society and the affairs of human life, and at the same time | Plato, Theætetus.

: Plato, Euthyphro.

And yet,

they ridicule the opinion that God condescends to be watchful over them. Here we have a striking contrast with the ancient philosophy, and with the religion of chivalry. “Who,” says Socrates, “that enjoys any sublimity of thought, and can contemplate all time and all substance, can possibly fancy that there is any thing great in human life?'1

“ it is not possible that a just man, striving as far as possible to be virtuous, should ever be neglected by the gods."2 I need not add that this expresses what was taught by religion. Again, “ human virtue is not of the body, but of the soul.”3 Could the modern sophists say that? What do they care about the soul, so that a man acts honestly? We may conclude of these men, who are the loudest in reviling chivalry and its religion, ουδέν έστι των καλουμένων φιλοσόφων αφιλοσοφώτερον. And here let us mark the wisdom and the tenderness of the religion of chivalry, in not disdaining to derive aid from the philosophy of the ancients, and in cherishing hopes respecting their eternal destiny. St. Augustine, we know, ascribed his first love of wisdom to having read the Hortensius of Cicero, which made Petrarch exclaim, “O virum ineffabilem dignumque quem Cicero ipse pro rostris laudet, cuique publice grates agat, quod inter tam multos ingratos unus velit esse gratissimus."4 “I love Cicero,” cries Petrarch, and “Cicerones pueri amant inter se; neque enim vereor ne parum Christianus sim si Ciceronianus fuero. Nihil enim contra Christum Cicero loquitur. Et si quid forte contra Christi doctrinam loqueretur, id unum est quod nec Ciceroni, nec Aristoteli crederem nec Platoni.” 5 So said Clemens Alexandrinus, “ As boys fear hobgoblins, many fear the Greek philosophy, as if it would lead them astray; but if they have faith, that is, truth, they may never fear." æternum non commovebitur justus,” cried David.6 Greek philosophy," he says, prepares

“ the mind to receive the faith, and upon it truth builds up wisdom."?

St. Augustine says, “ that Plato and his followers, could they now live, paucis mutatis verbis atque sententiis Christiani fierent,” as most of the Platonicians have become.8

“ Before

- In - The

2 Ibid. x.

1 Plato de Repub. vi.
3 Aristotle, Ethics, i. 13.
5 Epist. xii. 10.
7 Ibid. vii. 3.

4 Famil. Epist. ii. 9.
6 Stromat. vi. 10.
8 De Vera Relig. 7.

"1

Christ,” says Clemens, “philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for justice, but now it is useful to piety, for God is the author of all good.

“ As for the heathen sages," says Roger Bacon, "since God has enlightened their minds in perceiving the truths of philosophy, it is manifest that their labour is not foreign from divine wisdom.”2 The Count of Stolberg pursues the same line of argument. Men of all orders had this feeling. Even the writers of the chivalrous romances are so charitable, that they always conduct their heathen hero to the waters of baptism ; and it is curious to mark the same solicitude dictating various arguments, according to the character of different men. Thus Clemens supposes that our Lord descended into hell to announce the Gospel to the heathen sages; for God could give salvation to all either here or elsewhere;

for his power

is

every where, and always worketh :3 and, in the ninth century, a priest of Mayence advanced boldly that Cicero and Virgil would not perish eternally, which gave rise to much discussion. The Church, while it inspires the most enlarged ideas of the divine goodness, warns the faithful from publicly agitating questions beyond the reach of human reason, and on which God has not been pleased to satisfy the curiosity of men. So far, however, one reflection may gested, that if men will not embrace the religion of chivalry, it is of infinite importance that they should form their minds from the heathen classics (I do not say philosophy, for this would almost conduct them to the sanctuary), rather than from the infidel writers of the present age, whose principles are opposed to the happiness and good order of the world. Is there any thing more to add ? only this once, the objector will return, and ask how is it possible that those ignorant knights, those iron men always in action, should have arrived at the wisdom and spirituality which you have ascribed to them? Alas, learned reader, the facts and examples are before you.

God had

mercy these honest, warm, and generous hearts, while the proudly learned were left alone with their learning. “Surgunt indocti et rapiunt cælos, et nos cum scientia nostra mergimur in infernum.” XIX. Having marked the wisdom, and humanity, and I Stromat. i. 5.

Opus Majus, ii. 5. 3 Stromat. vi. 6.

be sug

on

2

spiritual elevation of these men, I would now humbly advance with my reader to contemplate some affecting and sublime features in the religion itself which formed their character.

And is there love in heaven? And is there love
In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,
That may compassion of their evils move ?
There is: else much more wretched were the case
Of men than beasts. But, oh, th’ exceeding grace
Of highest God! that loves his creatures so,
And all his works with mercy doth embrace,

That blessed angels he sends to and fro,
To serve to wicked man, to serve his wicked foe.

How oft do they their silver bowers leave
To come to succour us, that succour want!
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
Against foul fiends to aid us militant !
They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant,

And all for love, and nothing for reward : Oh, why should heavenly God to men have such regard ?! This agrees with what is recorded of St. Michael and the angels, of an angel visiting the apostle in prison, of another troubling the pool of Siloam, of another quenching the flames which were to have devoured three martyrs, of another opposing the lion who was to destroy the prophet

, of another consoling Agar, of another conducting the servant of Abraham, of another protecting Jacob on his journey, of another delivering Lot from Sodom, that the an gels are spirits destined to serve those who are the heirs of salvation, that they tarry round about them that fear God, and bear them in their hands;" and with what is sung by the Church, “ Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in prælio: ut non pereamus in tremendo judicio.” Athenagoras, the early apologist of the Christians, after describing the faith of the Church concerning God and the Trinity, proceeds thus : “ Neither is this the end of what we profess concerning the divine essence, but we also believe that there exists a great number of angels and ministers of God, whom God the Maker of all things, by his word, has ordained in ranks, and hath marshalled, that these should govern and

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

moderate the elements, the heavens, the world, and all that it contains." ** Agit autem multa etiam per Angelos,” says St. Augustine.?

What Daniel of their thousands hath revealed

With finite number, infinite conceals.3 Our Saxon ancestors paid a particular reverence to St. Michael, as may be seen by referring to the ecclesiastical laws of King Ethelred, and to Sir Henry Spelman's Councils. Sozomen records that Constantine the Great built a church in his honour called Michaelion. The 29th of September has been dedicated to St. Michael and all Angels ever since the fifth century. Abraham prostrated himself before the angel whom he received in his tent. Daniel did the same before one whom he saw on the banks of the Tigris. God commanded th raelites to fear and respect the angel whom he sent to be their conductor to the promised land. St. Michael was the defender of the Jewish synagogue. The holy archangel has ever been honoured in the Christian Church as her guardian under God, and as the protector of the faithful. It was believed, that in the persecution of Antichrist he was to stand up in her defence, according to the prophecy of Daniel : “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people.” That he was not only the protector of the Church, but also of every faithful soul. The learned and the simple had views equally sublime respecting the angels. St. Augustine could say, "quisquis angelorum Deum diligit, certus sum quod me diligit.” And when the Maid of Orleans was asked whether St. Catherine and St. Marguerite hated the English? she replied, “Elles aiment ce que nostre Seigneur aime, et hayent ce que Dieu hait.” It was in this manner also that the devotion to the blessed Virgin was directed; her words at the marriagefeast in Cana being the rule, “quæcumque præceperit

. vobis, servate et facite.” The faithful on earth were thus joined in fellowship with the angels. Hence Dante says, “ As man is endowed with a triple soul, vegetable, animal,

[merged small][ocr errors]

Legatio pro Christianis.

? De Civ. Dei, vii. 30; vide etiam Holden Divinæ Fidei Analye. lib. ii. c. viii. p. 49.

3 Dante, Parad. xxix.

« PoprzedniaDalej »