« PreviousContinue »
perfect works of nature. · For the conduct of these men (less vicious indeed than could have been expected) we have no apology to offer but the perversity of their rule: yet even the profligacy of later ages was more tolerable than the phrenzy and spiritual arrogance of the first. In the same proportion with which they have approximated to the world, they have resumed the human character; and with the exception just now hinted at, there never was less reason to complain of the monastic character than when it was most calumniated --when it had most widely deflected from its original and horrid austerity.
The following quotation, which we offer as a very favourable specimen of our author's manner, will exhibit a very different view of the subject.
• It is at the commencement of religious societies that their fervour is generally the most active. The Anglo-Saxon monks of the seventh century were men who had abandoned the world from the purest motives: they had embraced a life, in appearance at least, irksome and uninviting. Their devotions were long, their fasts frequent; their dieť coarse and scanty. For more than a century wine and beer were in the monastery of Lindisfarne excluded from the beverage of the monks, and the first mitigation of this severity was in favour of Ceolwulf, a royal novice,
During the three first centuries of the christian era, the more fervent among the followers of the gospel were distinguished by the name of Ascetes. They renounced all distracting employments, divided their time between the public worship and their private devotions, and endeavoured, by the assiduous practice of every virtue, to attain that subTime perfection which is delineated in the sacred writings. As long as the imperial throne was occupied by Pagan princes, the fear of persecution concurred with the sense of duty to invigorate their efforts, but when the sceptre had been transferred to the hands of Constantine and his successors, the austerity of the Christian character was insensibly relaxed, the influence of prosperity and dissipation prevailed over the severer maxims of the gospel, &c. The alarming change was observed and lamented by the most fervent of the faithful, who determined to retire from a scene so hateful to their zeal, and so dangerous to their virtue; and the vast and barren deserts of Thebais were soon covered with crowds of Anachorets, who under the guidance of the saints, Anthony and Pachomius, earned their scanty meals by the sweat of their brows, and by a constant repetition of prayers and fasts, edifred and astonished their less fervent brethren. Such was the origin of the monastic institute.'
We have already said that the present work is properly and purely controversial. To trace the writer through all his doublings, and examine the justice of his attacks on Protestant divines
and historians, would require a volume. One article, however, we must select, not only on account of its own importance, but of the peculiar sophistry with which it is treated by Mr. Lingard. The doctrine of the Real Presence, in opposition to an host of Protestants, he boldly maintains to have been held by the Saxon church. Here again we are compelled to assert our perfect indifference to the matter in controversy, farther than as a subject of speculation. Englishmen in the nineteenth century will scarcely lend their understandings to the cloudy metaphysics of Paschasius Radbert, Hincmar, Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus. But it is the triumph of the church of Rome to have acquired an empire over the understandings of men, which has compelled them to receive as an article of faith, a proposition that confounds all our ideas of identity, and establishes a test of faith contrary to that of every other miracle.— The Saxons, we are told, had been taught to despise the doubtful testimony of the senses, and listen to the more certain assurance of the inspired writings.' Doubtful testimony of the senses ! Every miracle wrought by Christ, by his apostles, and by the prophets before them, appealed directly to the senses, and to the senses alone. Had our Saviour, in his first miracle, conducted himself, as the church of Rome supposes him to have done in his last—had he said to the guests at Cana, Your wine is exhausted, but these water-pots contain a supply of more; it retains, indeed, all the accidents of water, wine nevertheless it is, drink and be exhilarated; or when he undertook to feed the fainting multitudes in the desert, had he taken up a clod, and dividing it to those around him, said, this is bread and this is fish; it retains indeed the accidents of earth, but eat, and ye shall be filled—what, we may ask, would such a mockery have produced ? In one of these miracles the conversion, in the other the multiplication of matter was perceptible, and could not fail to be perceived. Without this external transformation, the miracle of Bolsena itself would not suffice to render it credible. That a substance retaining the whiteness, friability, and other secondary qualities of bread, should by the pronunciation of a few words become flesh, is no more possible in the nature of things than that a similar process should elterthe relations of number or time. But the testimony of the senses is doubtful.' What then is certain ? And how, but through the medium of the senses do we arrive at the evidence of Scripture itself? If it be uncertain whether substances offered to our taste, smell and touch, and by them reported to be bread and wine, may nevertheless be a living body of flesh and blood, it must at least be equally dubious whether the book, which relates the institution of the Holy Communion be a non-entity, whether the evidences of Christianity be not an illusion, whether in short all human testi64
to be verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper, that is, an union with him to be not only represented, but really and effectually communicated to the worthy receiver. If these right reverend divines,' he petulantly adds,“ have clear ideas on this subject, it must, I think, be confessed that they also possess the art of clothing them in obscure language.' We shall make no such admission. It was the peculiar merit of Archbishop Secker to have conveyed the profound and frequently obscure ideas of Bishop Butler, in the clearest and most intelligi ble style; andas to Bishop Porteus, we may appeal to the recollection of thousands, who are yet mourning his departure, whether his conceptions were not always luminous, and his power of expression such as required no second reflection to comprehend it. Neither is there any inconsistency in these two statements, but an inconsistency intended by both, namely, with the Church of Rome. On the principle of transubstantiation, the real body and blood of the Redeemer must equally be received by the believer and the infidel. But these great prelates evidently meant that in the communion the body and blood were (not really but) spiritually received by the true believer, and by him alone. At the firstinstitution of this ordinance, the apostles themselves could not have conceived that any thing more was intended. At that moment their master was eating, drinking, and speaking before them, and when they had received from him the sacred elements, accompanied with the words in question, nothing short of insanity could have persuaded them that they were eating that identical person, who, when the ceremony was ended, remained entire and unchanged in their sight.
Such are the principles, and such are a few of the misrepresentations of the work before us. To have noticed the whole, we must have stopped at every page. With respect to the composition, though the author is a mannerist, and a copyer of Gibbon, yet he is no servile copyer. He has simplified the style of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His knowledge of the Saxon language, though he has not always used it fairly, is very considerable, and the industry of his research into original authorities, is greatly to be commended.
We have now done with Mr. Lingard, but not wholly with the subject.
The proselyting spirit of the Church of Rome is now employed amongst us with a zeal and activity which meet with little counteraction but from the good sense and general information of the age. At the same time the bulky volumes of controversy which load the shelves of our public libraries, are become harmless on the one side and useless on the other. But well written, compact and
tangible volumes, like the present, are capable of no little mischief. The real merits of the question are comprehended by few; and he who is understood to have proved, that, in the first centuries of the Saxon æra, the doctrines and discipline of our national church were, with few exceptions, those of Rome, will also be understood to have, at least, authority and antiquity on his side. Meanwhile the unwary and uninformed will fail to perceive, that there is, properly speaking, no authority where there is no inspiration, and that while the Catholic refers to the dark ages, the religion of Protestants appeals to the authority of apostles, and to the antiquity of the first century.
While we are thus assailed from without, it is foolish to be squabbling about metaphysical and often unintelligible points of doctrine among ourselves. Let us unite to repel that enemy against whom Luther and Calvin were united. For this purpose some short, clear and popular refutation of the errors of the church of Rome would have great effect. Of this kind we have nothing at present. The old version of Jewell's apology would not be endured ; and no man of taste or modesty would undertake to transfuse into a modern translation the vigour and graces, the indignant declamation and heartfelt earnestness of the original. Both parties, we rejoice to say, have equal command of a free and unlicenced press; but in the mean time, we rejoice still more in the reflexion that the established clergy have the ear of nine-tenths of the people, and though they should ordinarily be employed on better things than routing Bellarmine and confounding Baronius;' yet clear and simple expositions of the scriptural principles of our own church, confronted with the errors and absurdities of Popery in places where the propagandists are at work, would be neither unseasonable nor ineffectual.
In the present circumstances of the country, we cannot suppress our apprehensions that the watchmen slumber while the city is threatened. Death has indeed recently deprived us of many able men; but a proper stimulus, we are convinced, might even yet bring forward others, with talents not inadequate to the task at which we hinted. Great emergencies produce great abilities: but in conmon prudence, something short of the actual establishment of a religion like that of Rome, ought to arouse us; and, while its ministers, after a concealment of more than two centuries, obtrude themselves on the public, and avow the wildest absurdities of the darkest ages, it surely concerns us to see that our countrymen are not deceived. The unread and almost unreadable volumes of our Reformers contain mines of precious materials, unwrought indeed, but capable of being moulded into symmetry
Their qualifications were pertinacious industry and laborious accumula