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THE FIRST DAYS OF CHRISTIANITY.
To illustrate more clearly the folly of the attempt to convert the Roman empire, if the apostles were not under the immediate influence of supernatural power, let us suppose that St. Peter, on his arrival at Rome, meets with Seneca, the Roman philosopher, with whom he holds a conference on the vast project which he meditated. The supposition is neither violent nor unnatural, since they were contemporaries; especially as there are yet extant some epistolary fragments, which, though they are not considered genuine, were once believed to have passed between Seneca and St. Paul: however, his closer connection with the church will justify me in substituting the prince of the apostles. Struck with the singular appearance of an individual attired in simple garb, supported by a staff, and this (let us add) surmounted with a crucifix, contrasted with the fire which his humble exterior could not conceal, Seneca inquires of St. Peter what is the object of his mission, and what the purport of the symbol which he bears? The apostle replies, that the object is to achieve the conquest of the Roman empire, to overturn its religion and the dominion of its gods. Astonished at such wild pretentions, the philosopher asks him whose worship does he intend to substitute in their place? The apostle answers: "the worship of a man born in Judea, who chose me for his companion, and shared with me his confidence and power; who wrought many miracles, but was at length sacrificed to the jealousy of his own people, and that of the Roman proconsul." The philosopher surprised at the incongruous climax of infamy with which he closes the relation of the virtues and miracles of the Redeemer (for the resurrection he derided,) exclaims, "Folly!" However, his curiosity prompts him to extend his interrogatories, and to inquire by what power he is to accoplish his mighty project. "By the power of him," replies St. Peter, "whose cross I bear." Confounded still more that he should thus boast of the secret virtue of a symbol which to him, appeared a badge of infamy and shame, he wonders why the apostle should rely on the power of one who was not able to save himself by descending from the ignominious cross on which he was suspended. He, therefore, endeavours to dissuade him from his purpose, by pointing out its folly and its danger. He exhibits to him, in proud array, all the arguments which learned reason could suggest, supported by the most pompous names of Greece, or of his own country; and triumphantly inquires of the apostle what he can allege in reply. St. Peter, with an air of abstraction, which intense attention to a single object creates, and which may wear the appearance of folly, heeds not his arguments; but reflecting on the words of the prophet: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject,"-simply replies, "my speech is not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the spirit and power (pointing to the cross) of this symbol of redemption." He presses him again, and again St. Peter repeats the same "foolishness" with which he first reproached him. The philosopher, astonished at the man equally obstinate and
ignorant, tells him that a religion which has no reason to support it ought to be suppressed, and that he himself will invoke the powers of the state to check the odious superstition. Thinking to frighten the apostle by this denunciation, Seneca is impatient to know what he can oppose to the vengeance of the emperors. Saint Peter meekly replies, "Patience." Here the philosopher, imagining that such a passive and unresisting disposition but ill accorded with those schemes of conquest which he first avowed, tells him-"In that case, then, your reign shall be short, and your religion shall be extinguished in your blood." The apostle intrepidly replies: "You may shed my blood, it is true, but my religion you cannot extinguish, since that blood which you threaten to spill shall become the seed from which my religion shall spring forth with fresh vigour." Whether the philosopher was prepared to comprehend the mysterious answer which time had fully revealed to Tertullian, it is difficult to conjecture. But, compassionating such inflexible obstinacy, he calls to mind the liberal policy of Rome, and, by a proposal founded on that policy, makes one last effort to consult for the safety of the apostle. "Forbear," he tells him, "a little, and cease to disturb the repose of the empire, until Tiberius shall ascertain from Pilate, the proconsul, whether Christ was such a character as you represent. And if so, the emperor may condescend to enrol him among the gods, in consequence of the piety with which he lived, and the patience with which he died." Here the apostle's zeal, impatient of farther discussion, takes fire at the ignominious proposal, and breaks forth into a prophetic view of the future glories of his church. "You mistake the true object of my mission. I come not to capitulate but to conquer. The Man-God who was crucified disdains a place among the licentious crowd of divinities which disgrace the Pantheon. Nothing less than exclusive homage shall satisfy him; nor will he be content while a single idol is worshipped throughout the empire. You may stir up the vengeance of the emperors and the fury of the people. You may array a host of your philosophers against me and my religion. The day shall come when that religion shall triumph over the powers of the earth; when my successors shall be seated on the throne of Tiberius, and the signet of Peterthe humble fisherman who now stands before you-shall obscure the lustre of the diadem of the Caesars. The powers of the earth, it is true, jealous of their reign, shall endeavour to drown them in the tide of persecution. But though the fears of their people may imagine them for a moment buried in the deep, like a prophet whose name is familiar in the story of my country, they shall again appear unhurt, from out the bosom of the waters. You boast of your Pantheon, as the proudest monument of Roman power and Roman genius, which have been exhausted to make it a fit residence for the majesty of your gods; yet the residence of your gods is only fit for the servants of Christ, to whose images they shall one day give place; and to whose virtues the Pantheon shall be consecrated, to be preserved to posterity as a monument of the impiety and fall of your religion, and of the sanctity and triumphs of mine. And
to show you still more the influence of my religion in expanding the human mind, and imparting to it the virtue of its own omnipotence, the genius of a future artist, inspired by the sublimity of the religion which you despise, shall lift your Pantheon to the clouds, where that object, so colossal in your eyes, shall be seated in humble but just proportion, forming only the dome of the majestic temple which shall be inscribed to my memory, and consecrated to the worship of the God whom I adore."-Mc Hale.
"THE LAZY MONKS."
From the New-York Freeman's Journal.
BURNET'S ACCOUNT OF THE MONKS, AND THE STATE OF THE MONASTERIES AT THE TIME OF THE REFORMATION.
"St. Athanasius relates the saying of St. Anthony, that the Devil hated all Christians, but that above all he could not endure Monks."-Digby-Mores Catholici.
If ever there was a set of men who have earned our Lord's blessing upon those who should have "evil spoken of them untruly for his sake," it is the old Monks; a goodly part of "the great conspiracy against truth" which has been remarked upon as characterising the history of the last three hundred years, having fallen upon their devoted heads. With very many even among Catholics, the only idea of "good done" as connected with their names, is the having preserved some musty old MSS. from destruction during the "dark" ages. It is true, the new class of historians who have employed themselves of late days in digging away the "mountain of a lye" which the so-called reformers, and their abettors, made out to pile on the head of truth, have commenced to mete out to them a scanty share of justice; and men are beginning to find out that they were not mere drones in the hive of western civilization. In truth, to regard them in only one point of view, the effects wrought in a few short years by the good Trappists at Mt. Mellerary in Ireland, are but a miniature edition of their old labours in "folio." "Our author," says Charles Butler, in his account of the life and writings of his venerable uncle, “ was not so warm on any subject as the calumnies against the religious of the middle ages: he considered the civilization of Europe to be owing to them. When they were charged with idleness, he used to remark the immense tracts of land, which from the rudest state of nature, they converted to a high state of husbandry, in the Hercynian wood, the forests of Champagne and Burgundy, the morasses of Holland, and the fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. When ignorance was imputed to them, he used to ask what author of antiquity
had reached us, for whose works we were not indebted to the Monks? He could less endure that they should be considered as instruments of absolute power to enslave the people: when this was intimated, he observed that, during the period which immediately followed the extinction of the Carlovingian dynasty, when the feudal law absolutely triumphed over monarchy, the people were wholly left to themselves, and must have sunk into an absolute state of barbarism, if it had not been for the religious establishments. These, he said, softened the manners of the conquerors, afforded refuge to the vanquished, preserved an intercourse between nations; and when the feudal chiefs rose to the rank of monarchs, stood as a rampart between them and the people. He often pointed out that rich tract of country, which extends from St. Omers to Liege, as a standing refutation of those who asserted that convents and monasteries were inimical to the populousness of a country: he observed that the whole income of the smaller houses, and two-thirds of the revenue of the greater houses, were constantly spent within twenty miles around their precincts: that their lands were universally let at low rents: that every abbey had a school for the instruction of its tenants, and that no human institution was so well calculated to promote the arts of painting, architecture and sculpture, works in iron and bronze, and other workmanship, as abbeys or monasteries, and their appendages. Thus,' he used to say, 'though the country in view was originally a marsh, and has for more than a century wholly survived its commerce, it is the most populous country in Europe; and presents on the face of it as great a display of public and private strength, wealth and affluence, as can be found in any part of the world.'"
Every one acquainted with the history (especially the county history of Huntingtonshire and such parts) of England, must know how well they performed the duty of "land makers" for that country, and Cobbett (not to speak of other authors) has abundantly shown that she gained nothing by the change, when she took from their offices as landlords and guardians of the poor.
Germany gives her evidence upon the subject, in an old saying (a sort of proof which, as De Maistre remarks, never deceives, as being the fruit of popular experience) that "it is good to live under the shadow of the cross."
But some one may say, they had become very corrupt, and were necessarily and justly destroyed. Even Protestant historians (Heylin may be mentioned as one) have shown that their alleged corruptness were the excuse for, not the cause of, their overthrow; and Cobbett's list of their incomes and the persons to whom they were transferred, throws more light upon the springs of lay zeal for purity of doctrine, than many a large book, and may help to explain why the "Book of Common Prayer," and decrees for reformation, came from the houses of Parliament rather than from the Convocation or Universities.
The following extracts are interesting, as showing that low as was the character for historical accuracy at the time that Burnet wrote his famous history of the "great change" in England, his perversions of truth were not even VOL. 2.
then allowed to pass entirely unnoticed by Protestants. They are made from a scarce book, which was published soon after the appearance of the History by the learned Henry Wharton, under the assumed name of Anthony Harmer, entitled "A specimen of some errors and defects in the History of the Reformation in the Church of England, &c." The name "specimen is given to it, as he states in his preface, in that, though he had read the whole, he had been able to examine the truth of but a small portion of the work. The name of Wharton is a sufficient guarantee for the accuracy of his statements. Though he died at the early age of 31, "he was," says Dibdin, "one of the most extraordinary men of his times." His interesting private journal, which Dr. D'Oyly has published in the appendix to his Life of Archbishop Sancroft (to whom Wharton was chaplain,) as well as his "Angli Sacra," shows how deeply he had studied the ecclesiastical antiquities of his country, and Cave is said to have owed more to his assistance in his great work, the "Historia Litteraria," than he was willing to own. The following excerpta are the only ones in the volume bearing upon the particular point we are considering—all are given as they stand in the book, first the text of Burnet, and then the comment of Wharton. The references are made of course to the first Edition
-p. 22, line 10-15.
"The Monks being thus settled, gave themselves up to idleness and pleasure, having in their hands the chief encouragements of learning, and yet do nothing towards it, but on the contrary, decrying and disparaging it all they could."-Burnet.
"This is a very hard censure to pass upon a whole order of men, who were once very honourable, but always serviceable in the Church. On the contrary, after they were thus settled (viz. by Dunstan, Ethelwald, and Oswald, in the reign of Edgar) they set themselves in with great industry to restore learning, and root out universal ignorance which had then prevailed in England: and effectually performed it, insomuch, as whereas before that time scarce any secular Priest could read or write a Latin Epistle; within a few years (as Elfric, a learned disciple of Ethelwald boasted) the face of things was so changed by the endeavours of Dunstan, and his master Ethelwald, that learning was generally restored, and began to flourish. At that time and long after the monasteries were the schools and nurseries of almost the whole clergy, as well secular as regular, for the Universities (if there were any) were then very mean societies; and the whole learning of the nation was then in a manner confined to their cloisters. As the Universities increased they gradually decreased, yet they still retained and cultivated learning. . . . . . Long, however, before the Reformation, the Monks and seculars began to recover their ancient credit, and had made great progress in the restoration of learning: they had all along brought up their novices in learning, every great Monastery having for that purpose a peculiar College in one of the Universities: and even to the time of their dissolution they continued to bring up great numbers of children at school