Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

the British,) then will the state of the nation be more wretched than ever, unless England should no longer hesitate about the adoption of a step to which every native Icelander looks forward as the greatest blessing that can befal his country, and which to England herself would be productive of various advantages, the taking possession of Iceland and holding it among her dependencies.

In this opinion Sir G. Mackenzie, differing as he does from Mr. Hooker concerning the revolution, entirely coincides, being convinced that the only effectual mode of relieving the Icelanders,

is to annex the island to the British dominions. Fish and oil, · he says, might immediately be obtained to any amount; the quan

tity of hides and tallow might soon become considerable; and roads, which increased industry might soon provide, would render the exportation of sulphur an important branch of trade. But it is not to the commercial interests of Great Britain that we would appeal. A people whose history is more innocent than that of any other nation under heaven, inhabiting the most forlorn of all countries, poor but yet contented, and amid their privations, cultivated by letters to a degree which might make wealthier countries ashamed, are at this moment exposed to the severest sufferings of want, because they are dependent upon Denmark, and Denmark is at war with Great Britain. Their industry is suspended, because it is rendered useless; the revenues which supported their schools are cut off, and unless some speedy and effectual relief be afforded there is less danger of their falling into barbarism, than of their extinction as a people : for they labour under all the diseases which are produced by unwholesome diet; and of the children a very small proportion live through their infancy for want of proper food.

To remedy these evils nothing more is required than to take them under the protection of Great Britain, and let them govern themselves. A tenderness toward the court of Copenhagen is all that can prevent this, and how has that court deserved it at our hands ? Is it for its edicts denouncing death against any of its subjects who shall be detected in trading with England ? for its execution of the burning decrees ? for its treatment of Romana and of those Spaniards who, being less fortunate than their noble leader, are still lying in Danish prisons ? Is it for its assent to the treaty of Tilsit, or its share in the armed neutralities? Or must we go back to those old obligations in the days of the Vikingr, of which Mr. Jorgensen has so happily reminded us, and through respect to the memory of Sweyn and Canute, give as little offence as possible to their successors ?

If ever there was a country deserving the admiration and gratitude of the world, it is Great Britain at this momentous time. And if the historian whose task it may be to record her struggles and her

triumphs,

triumphs, should be destined to relate, that while she stood forward alone against the most formidable tyranny which ever yet assailed the liberties of mankind, her rulers found leisure to think of the distresses of a forlorn and suffering people, and to provide for their welfare, without one selfish view—they who shall peruse the tale, will feel such an act as neither the least memorable nor the least glorious of those which will render her the light and the example of all ages to come.

Art. IV. The Antiquities of the Saxon Church. By the Rev.

John Lingard. Two Vols. 8vo. Newcastle. THIS is the work of a catholic priest, a man not unequal to his

1 undertaking either in intelligence or research, - but abounding in all that professional bigotry, which, after being suppressed in this country for a season by fear and caution, is now directing its attacks against the protestant world with a confidence excited by the possession of independence and the hope of power.

Ever since the appearance of Mr. Gibbon's great work, it has become a kind of fashion to decline the plain path of argumentation, and to make history an insidious channel for the conveyance of controverted principles. The style of the present volume proves our author's intimate acquaintance with the history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and his sagacity has unquestionably suggested to him the adoption of a manner so attractive in itself, and so well adapted to the indolence and levity of modern reading. Under another form, it is really a controversial work. It was manifestly not the author's object to give a simple narrative of the Anglo-Saxon church, which during the whole of this period was unquestionably more or less dependant upon Roine; but to exalt the character of Augustine and his followers, to sink that of the primitive British churches, to prove the marriage of the secular priests a mere usurpation, to extol the monks and their patrons, to identify the most extravagant tenets of his own establishment with the doctrines of the Saxon church, and finally, to insult and vilify the church of England, and the most venerable of her prelates, for their departure from the faith and discipline of their ancestors. This plan, at once bold and crafty, which is carried on with little art or disguise, will suggest a few reflections.

It appears, in fact, to be a sort of argumentum ad verecundiam. Transubstantiation, we are told, was the authorized doctrine of this period; it was the religion of Odo and Duustan, and of all the pious and learned men who then adorned the cloisters and cathedrals of England. On this assumed fact the author descants so

triumphantly, triumphantly, and with so much self-complacency, that out of tenderness to his feelings we are for the present disposed to concede it to him:-be it then, that transubstantiation was the faith of our Saxon ancestors. Who were they? A set of pirates just emerging from barbarism, and scarcely capable of comprehending their own wretched systems. Yes, it is to the faith and practice of such an age that we are to be recalled,—to give in exchange for the cloudy sophistry of Scotus the luminous metaphysics of Locke, Clarke and Paley, and in a period when all the operations of intellect have been analized with an exactness, and carried to a perfection, unknown in former ages, to resign our understandings to the authority of dreaming priests who were hardly acquainted with the first principles of scientific reason.

Equally unimportant is it to us whether the marriages of the Saxon clergy were canonical or not:--they were natural and necessary, and therefore scriptural. But married or unmarried, why are the secular clergy of the church of Rome itself, to be for ever sunk in the comparison with their cloistered brethren? Why are the frozen and torpid virtues of the one to be preferred to the active and laborious exertions of the other? To the zeal and well-directed endeavours of many of these men we are willing to pay every tribute of applause. Unintelligible as their public ministrations are to the generality; in private instruction and admonition, in constant and vigilant inspection of their flocks, the secular clergy of that church have, in many instances, been a pattern, and perhaps a reproach to ourselves. They have done the work of evangelists—they have been instant in season and out of season : but these virtues have descended upon them in succession from an higher antiquity, and from a' purer fountain than the institutes of Gregory or Benedict. Take the monastic life in its most favourable aspect; its abstractions and mortifications, its watchings, meditations, together with its everlasting round of tiresome formis-what is it but a waste of devotion, a solitary and self-chosen path? Surely, unless the members of that church were given up to a reprobate taste in religion, some portion of their applause would be transferred to men whom they might justly commend—to the humble and devout Fenelon, to the intrepid and heroic Belsunce, and to the confessors and martyrs of the Gallican church during its last awful trial. We have been provoked by the petulance of the author to express a warmth to which we have not been accustomed and we would challenge a comparison between the meddling and secular spirit, the pride and cruelty of his heroes Odo and Dunstan, not merely with the seculars of his own church, but with the learning and moderation of Parker, or the sanctity of Secker and Porteus, each of whom he insults. Could any thing short of the rancour and bigotry of his

church

[graphic]

'had been accustomed to enliven the solemnity of their worship by the merriment of the table. The victims which had bled on the altars of the gods, furnished the principal materials of the feast, and the praises of their warriors were mingled with the hymns chaunted in honour of the divinity. Totally to have abolished this practice, might have alienated their minds from a religion which forbade the most favourite of their amusements.' So thought and acted the Chinese missionaries, and so will ever think and act the propagators of a religion like that of Rome. But when the apostles and first preachers of the word went forth in the power of the spirit' to convert the world, we find nothing of this compromise and conciliation, this medley of christian worship with

the elegant mythology, the captivating songs and dances' which constituted the great attractions of the heathen ritual. Had Paul and Barnabas acted upon these principles, the offence of the cross would in one sense have ceased, and the churches of the first century exhibited what these men have again and again been challenged to produce,' a gay religion, full of pomp and gold. The doctrine of Jesus would have found a ready reception at Corinth or at Antioch, and the grove of Daphne have exhibited an edifying spectacle of easy and accommodating christianity. Compared to the puritanism, with which this writer has branded the morality of Dr. Henry, how gentle in his language in speaking of the Saxon worship and manners! Their acts of idolatry are termed ' solemnities of worship,' their brutal intemperance heightened, like every species of excess, by its combination with religion,

the merriment of the table;' while the hymns chaunted to their idols are expressly said to be addressed to the divinity.' To the flexibility, however, of Gregory, in permitting this incongruous union, we are indebted for all the outrages on decency which take place in the religious festivals of the common people, and of which one of the evils was, that, in the seventeenth century, they produced a recoil of manners more hateful and mischievous than themselves.

But where is the wonder, if in the conception of this writer, the conduct of missions admit of such a latitude, when the principle itself is radically defective ? " The rulers,' he says, “ of the barbarous nations had proved themselves not insensible to the truths of the gospel, and the influence of their example had been recently demonstrated in the conversion of the Franks, the Visigoths and the Suevi. Hence, the first object of the missionaries, Roman, Gallic, or Scottish, was invariably the same, to obtain the patronage of the prince : his favour ensured, his opposition prevented their success. In the primitive church, christianity prevailed against the powers of the world, and those excellent men who are, in our

days,

« PreviousContinue »