Obrazy na stronie

that she should be content, as he was, "to ride upon an


It is needless to add, that the friars at length became as rottenness to the bones of the Roman catholic church; that, by the time of Erasmus and Luther, they were the butt at which every dissolute idler, on every tavern bench, discharged his shaft, hitting the establishment, and religion itself, through their sides; that they were exhibited in pothouse pictures as foxes preaching, with the neck of a stolen goose peeping out of the hood behind; as wolves giving absolutions, with a sheep muffled up in their cloaks; as apes sitting by a sick man's bed, with a crucifix in one hand, and with the other in the sufferer's fob.t Still the disaffecttion which this ridicule both indicated and promoted, was in some degree neutralised. There was, something, after all, in the constitution of such an order as the friars, which gratified the feelings of the people, and which led to their .continued toleration, if not to their aggrandisement. They were, for the most part, men of themselves; they were the democratic portion of the church. It no doubt flattered the vanity of the peasant or mechanic, to see his own flesh and blood bearding the first-born of Egypt with whom he was brought into contact, or rather collision, in the members of the old and orthodox abbeys; nor would it be less grateful perhaps, to an unlettered man to hear the clerk of his own

*Milton, i. 80. Prose Works, Burnett's ed. Bishop Jewel argues the question more practically than Milton; and, allowing that there are many who would teach Christ for Christ's sake, looks onward to posterity, and asks of fathers, whether their own zeal will cause them to "keep their children at school until four and twenty years old, at their own charges, that in the end they may live in glorious poverty? that they may live poorly and naked, like the prophets and the apostles?" and he foretells that the event would be a lapse into ignorance -Serm. on Ps. lxix. 9.

† Erasm. Colloq. Franciscani.



name, and of his own breeding, starting and maintaining with vast pertinacity theological subleties, which had little other merit, to be sure, than that of being in opposition to received opinions, and an assertion of the right of every man to think for himself, however ill he might be qualified for doing so to advantage.

Then, again the pope was a tower of strength to the mendicant orders. They were the men of his right hand; and it may be observed, that when the Reformation came on, which was, amidst other and nobler interests concerned, a struggle in the first instance between the king and the pope for the mastery, the smaller monasteries (which were those of the friars) were the first confiscated by Henry; for he considered them the barracks from which his most inveterate enemies issued to the contest, prepared to maintain the cause of their sovereign lord the pope against any and every antagonist. Lastly, it is not to be forgotten, that the cloak of the friar was the refuge for a class of men who would now be supported by parish relief, and though in both cases the idle might often be enabled hereby to enter into the labours of others, yet often again assistance would be thus administered to the blameless sufferer, and the load of life on the whole be lightened to the poor.

Such were some of the circumstances that still upheld the mendicants even in the days of their degeneracy, when the spirit was gone that had urged them indeed to enthusiastic extravagances and puerile superstitions, but which was respected because it was thought to be sincere; and when little remained behind but a caput mortuum of unmeaning forms of devotion, and crafty contrivances for gain.




It has been already observed that the distance of England from Italy, which had helped to deliver our borders from the political tyranny of imperial Rome, served also to protect the liberties of our church from the spiritual thraldom of papal Rome. The inhabitants of this island, entirely cut off from the rest of the world, were happily abandoned to their own devices. They were themselves the best judges of their own wants, and of the institutions which were suited to their own habits and circumstances; and though some time might elapse whilst they were thus groping out their way, which might have been saved by accepting foreign guidance, and though some rude traces of their slow and tentative progress towards their end might even afterwards appear in the results of their labours, still it was most desirable in the establishment of a church that it should gradually adapt itself in its growth and formation to the wants, the wishes, and the actual condition of the country. The least of all seeds was then most likely to become the greatest of trees, when it was left to thrive alone (occulto velut arbor ævo); when its roots were quietly suffered to feel for the soil that fed them best, and its branches to stretch out their arms towards the quarter of the heavens which proved the most genial. The spirit of Christianity itself, at its first appearance, invited this forbearance on the part of those amongst whom it came, not meddling



bodily with the civil or political rights of the nations it visited, and leaving their laws and forms of government, in their letter at least, just what it found them.

Thus in England the church and state for a long time grew up together; the pope occasionally interfering, though generally on invitation, and scarcely ever in a manner to disturb the harmony of the system. In Saxon times, we find the prelate and the king friends and fellow-workers together the one teaching the people, the other taking an interest in his office, and making provision for its permanent continuance. The same good understanding which subsisted between the bishop and the sovereign, subsisted also between the priest and the noble: here, again, the one communicated a knowledge of God's laws to the inhabitants of the manor, the other encouraged the good work, and secured a similar benefit to his estate for ever by a fixed endowment; for in those days there was a belief that the foundations of a state were best laid in religion, and that persons were better subjects and better citizens in proportion as they were better men. Did difficulties present themselves in questions ecclesiastical; were obstacles to be removed, or improvements to be made, or observances to be enforced, the nation had that within itself which usually supplied the remedy. Matters were transacted within the four seas. Civil interpositions, e. g. whether of the king or the great council, protected the persons and estates of the clergy, determined the union or dissolution of dioceses, directed the recovery of tithes; defined and punished sacrilege, prescribed and limited the right of sanctuary, insisted upon the observance of the Sabbath, and fined for the contempt of it.* Were the laws to be administered?


* Leges Inæ, 1. Aluredi, 23, 24. Edmundi, 57. Edgari, 62. Bede's Eccl. Hist. 178. 291. See also Sharon Turner's Anglo-Saxons, iii. 248. et seq.

there was the same intimate union maintained between clerical and secular interests. The bishop or his deputy (the missus episcopi) presided with the alderman in the county court, with the cent-grave in the hundred, with the townreeve in the borough, with the steward of the manor in each parish; and judicial decisions which thus proceeded from the temporal and spiritual authorities combined were received with a respect which neither party could have secured for them, if acting alone.* Meanwhile all collision of church and state was avoided, and a wholesome sympathy sprung up between them as they mutually shed an influenee on each other. William, however, was jealous of the clergy, and it must be confessed that Dunstan had. not done much to make them find favour in the eyes of a high-spirited monarch. Accordingly, a measure which he had already adopted in his Norman dominions he extended to England, and separated the civil and ecclesiastical courts. The remote consequences of this innovation were the reverse of what was intended; but its direct effect was to withdraw considerable power from the hands of the bishop; to diminish his income by the fines which fell to his share; and to withhold from him the opportunity of appearing to advantage before the people, who could not fail of drawing a comparison between him and the secular judges who sat with him; between the man of learning and the men of arms.t It was not till the end of the reign of Henry I. that the change began to make itself felt. Now, however, the clergy, no longer supported by the crown in the same degree as before, nor making common cause with the nobles, were unable to uphold the independence of the national church against the pope, who was waxing stronger every * Essay upon the Government of the Church of England, by George Reynolds, 27.

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+ Reynolds, 30.

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