« PreviousContinue »
It stands upon
may be attributed the early formation of a character, which was destined by Providence to exhibit wonderful powers amid the chequered scenes of an eventful life. To this prince we are indebted for many of our valuable institutions; and although his early predilections inclined him towards Rome, yet his writings, while they furnish the AngloSaxon student with the purest specimens of our ancient language, present us also with the sentiments of a sincere Christian.
Monasteries had been occasionally founded in England after Wilfrid had established the one at Hexham; but it was through the instrumentality of Dunstan that they had become general :
He was, in fact, the father of English monachism, a venerable institution' that long nobly patronised both arts and literature. It had, however, a fatal tendency to nurture idleness, fanaticism, imposture, and hypocrisy. These inherent evils of the system, joined to its close alliance with a hostile foreign power, made even thinking and honourable men admit its overthrow to be desirable. While the wealth accumulated by it during ages of popularity, effectually secured the concurrence of those mercenary spirits who view political support, and every thing besides within their power, as mere instruments of private gain. Thus, the extraordinary success of the system that Dunstan planted, proved eventually the mainspring of its ruin; and his zeal, that so many generations had admired, came to be represented as a national misfortune and disgrace. There can be no doubt, however, that Dunstan, though fanatical and ambitious, was able and sincere. Nor can it be denied, that the Benedictine order has amply merited respectful consideration. far higher ground than that heterogeneous mass of friars, and of discordant monastic sects, which gradually overspread the papal reign.--Pp. 178, 179.
At the present day, a loud outcry is often made against church-rates, as if they were an imposition rendered necessary by the refusal of the receivers of tythes to apply a third, or a fourth part of their tythes for the purpose of defraying the current expenses of a parish. Such an assumption is completely groundless; no portion of tythes was ever applied to this purpose, as is evident from the payment of church-shot being considered perfectly distinct from tythes. We find, among other ecclesiastical enactments made in the reign of Edmund, the grandson of Alfred, there was one for enjoining the payment of tythes, church-shot, and alms-fee.
It is not easy to determine the exact nature of this last payment; hence it has been considered as identical with the plough-arms mentioned in Edward the Elder's treaty with Godrun.
Practically, the decision of euch a question is of no great importance in modern times; not so the repeated legislative mention of assessments for ecclesiastical purposes, independently of tythes. From such notices, it is plain that the church-rates of after ages are not the mere creatures of some ancient unwritten prescription, but the legitimate successors of more than one formal assessment, constitutionally imposed by the national legislature. It is remarkable, however, that Edmund has not provided civil penalties against defaulters ; bis legislature merely sanctions their excommunication. Another of his laws enjoins every bishop to repair God's house at his own see, and to admonish the king of due provision for churches generally. This looks like another evidence that tythes were not regarded as the sole fund for the maintaining public worship.
In other constitutions, Edmund legislates against blood-shedding, perjury, magical arts, and violation of sanctuary.- Pp. 180, 181.
This century was rendered important by various occurrences; but for an account of them we must refer our readers to Mr. Soames' interesting pages; wherein are related at full the chief events of the life of Dunstan, and the measures which were brought about by that extraordinary
It will then be seen, that even at this late period of AngloSaxon history, the discipline of the English Church was widely different from that of Rome; and the historian who is desirous of discovering their identity, must for that purpose have recourse to Anglo-Norman chronicles. For however decidedly the encroachments of Rome were, they progressed very gradually; and we challenge the Roman hierarchy to prove that the Church of these realms was not once perfectly independent of any other, even after the mission of Augustin ; and that the subsequent authority which was discarded at the Reformation, was not an usurpation of the papal see.
Our claims to independence are powerfully strengthened by the Menology, or Calendar of the Anglo-Saxons. That calendar exactly corresponds with the calendar of our Church; and as it is not swelled by the enrolment of foreign saints, we conclude that it belonged exclusively to this country, and that the Church in which that calendar was used, was strictly national, and consequently independent of Ronie.
From time to time, illustrious men arose among the Anglo-Saxons, whose brilliant lives and talents shed gladdening beams over the surrounding darkness. One of these arose at the commencement of the eleventh century, in the person of Elfric :
Ilis was the prolific pen to which we owe a very large proportion of extant Anglo-Saxon literature. Through him yet resounds a voice from our ancient Church, upon many questions in theology. Upon one, the witness borne is important above measure. It has retorted, with force irresistible, that odious imputation of a rash and indefensible disregard for antiquity by which Romanists would fain cast obloquy upon the Reformation. Elfric brands indelibly with innovation, and in a vital point, the very principles which Cranmer found possessed of English pulpits. The venerable Anglo-Saxon thus convicts a party which claims exclusively his country's ancient faith, of an unconscious, but a perilous departure from it. He proves the teachers of a later period to have inculcated essential doctrines, even positively condemned by that honoured ancestry from whom the bulk of their endowments had descended.-Pp. 218, 219.
Elfric found the priesthood of his church slightly educated, and with a very limited access to books : he therefore translated from the works of the ancient Fathers forty homilies, and these being approved of, he afterwards prepared forty more. Elfric lived during the reigns of the Danish monarchs, and died only fifteen years before the Conquest.
We have endeavoured to give an outline of Mr. Soames' history of the Anglo-Saxon Church, but the nature of the subject renders an abstract necessarily very imperfect. Our author fully justifies the high opinion which we have long entertained of him, and we strongly recommend his work to the notice of all who are desirous of becoming acquainted with the early history of the Church of England.
In the full assurance that the history of the Anglo-Saxon Church will speedily reach a second edition, we would suggest the omission of the Saxon extracts, in the notes, as the translation is quite sufficient, and the smallness of the Saxon type renders it extremely difficult to avoid typographical inaccuracies. If, however, it is thought desirable to retain the Saxon, the use of Roman instead of Saxon letters would enable the compositor to attain greater accu
curacy. We have made these remarks after a careful perusal of the notes.
We shall conclude our notice of this interesting work with an extract on the Episcopacy of our Church :
As this venerable community, like other ancient churches, was happily connected with apostolic times by an episcopal polity, sufficient care impressed laical apprehensions with a due perception of this essential feature in religious discipline.
Opulence was, indeed, exhorted and allured abundantly to the foundation of churches, by the offer of patronage. But no trace appears of independent congregations, or of congregations federally connected. Every new church was considered as an additional member of that single religious body which, without episcopacy, must want its full integrity. Whenever a diocese, accordingly, lost its spiritual head, which is alike necessary for securing the apostolical succession of ministers, and for assimilating religious communities with primitive antiquity, all the more considerable inhabitants were convened. Both laity and clergy solemnly admitted a serious loss, for the speedy reparation of which they were equally concerned. Hence it was by their united suffrages that a successor was appointed to the vacant see. His original nomination might seem to have rested with the crown, and the popular duty to have been that of approval or rejection. Having been chosen, the bishop elect was presented to the prelates of the province for examination. He was now interrogated as to the soundness of his belief, and required to give a solemn pledge for the due performance of his episcopal duties. A profession of canonical obedience to his metropolitan, was also exacted from him. Of obedience to the Roman see, or of a belief in transubstantiation, there appears no mention in our earliest pontificals. Professions of such obedience and belief, are therefore palpable innovations. Their occurrence in later pontificals only, deservedly stamps them as interpolations. Formularies, thus interpolated, contrasted with more ancient records, afford invaluable evidence against allegations of antiquity advanced by a Romish advocate. The prelacy constituted a standing branch of the Saxon Witenagemot, or parliament. Legislative assemblies merely lay, were unknown to those who provided England with her envied constitution. It would be, indeed, a monstrous folly, as well as a gross injustice, to exclude from political deliberation that very class of considerable proprietors, in which alone information and morality are indispensable. On every meeting, accordingly, of the great national council, Anglo-Saxon archbishops, bishops, and abbots, were provided with appropriate places. Thus the civil polity of England was wisely established on a christian basis. The clerical estate has formed an integral member of it from the first. An English prelate's right to occupy the legislative seat that has descended to him from the long line of his predecessorg, is therefore founded on the moet venerable of national prescriptions. It is no privilege derived from that Norman policy which converted episcopal endowments into baronies. It is far more ancient than the Conqueror's time; being rooted amidst the very foundations of the monarchy.-Pp. 265-268.
Art. III.- A Discourse of Natural Theology, showing the Nature of
the Evidence and the Advantages of the Study. By Henry LORD BROUGHAM, F.R.S., and Member of the National Institute of France. London : Knight. 1835. 8vo. Pp. 296.
Perhaps no book has excited more general interest, or more intense curiosity, than this. For our own parts, we confess that we have never opened a volume with such haste, or devoured pages with so much voracious appetite, as we have brought to this extraordinary Essay; extraordinary, whether we consider the character and situation of the noble author, or the subject of his discourse, or the style of its execution! If there be one man to whom more than to any of his contemporaries the emphatic description, familiar to classical readers, “oux á Tuxùy árnp,"* may be truly applied, it is certainly the Lord Brougham and Vaux. When we consider how conspicuous a place he has vindicated to himself on the stage of the world by his brilliant talents, when we trace his laborious progress from comparative obscurity to the highest seat of rank,—when we witness the sleepless assiduity with which he plies his nightly task as a senator, and count the sundry vocations which challenge his attention as a chairman of public meetings, as a reviewer, as an author, and as an invisible lecturer, who has supplied his peripatetic agents with materials for their didactic exhibitions; we experience something analogous to the feeling by which the admiring pupils of the village schoolmaster were impressed, when
“Still the wonder grew, That one small head could carry all he knew.” The chair of the philosopher—the forum of the orator—the woolsack of the chancellor—the press of the author--the cabinet of the statesmanthe hustings of the rhetorician,-are all too little, it should seem, to satisfy the ambition, to occupy the time, to tire the perseverance, or to feed the intellects of our noble author ; and hence he makes his present excursion into the fields of divinity, and would fain occupy even the pulpit. Be it so. The first of Roman orators wrote a treatise, " De Naturâ Deorum ;” Lord Bacon has built an “ Architectura Scientiarum," and why is it denied to our ex-chancellor to write “ A Discourse of Natural Theology ?” The acquirements of an accom
• Longinus De Sub. $ 9.
plished lawyer are indeed manifold. “He must be more or less acquainted with the leading details of the mechanical arts and sciences ; of trade, commerce, and manufactures ; of the sister professions; even of the amusements of society," and of “constitutional history. His mind should be in a high state of health and discipline, capable of profound abstraction, of long and patient application ; in short, he should have such perfect control over his well-tempered faculties, that he may concentrate them upon any subject he chooses, passing rapidly from one to another of the most opposite character."* We would not be thought to entertain a desire to affix the name of Brougham to this overwrought picture of legal accomplishments; we may be permitted to add, it is hoped, that such multifarious knowledge seems hardly compatible with much depth of learning in any one branch of science, and might issue, probably, in sheer superficialness! Division of labour is equally necessary in literary as in mechanical pursuits; and consummate skill in any craft, whether of head or hand, is the reward only of undistracted attention and single practice. Is our illustrious author an exception to this rule ? Assuredly not. He has, doubtless, infinite versatility of talent-much acuteness of observation-copious power of words--brilliant genius,-and indomitable ambition ! Subtle in argument, vehement in zeal, rich in resources, plausible in statement, quick in reply, matchless in self-confidence, and cutting in sarcastic retort; he is, probably, the most formidable of parliamentary debaters. Sudden-impetuous-terrific; the flashes of his eloquence may well silence, though it often fails to convince his opponents. The calibre of his capacious mind we resume not accurately to measure ; nevertheless, ready as we are to pay all due homage to his talents, we feel as decided a reluctance to adopt him for our teacher in religion, as we do to follow him for a guide in politics. But it is more than time for the introduction of his volume to our readers. It is, in many respects, a remarkable production. Amongst its singularities, we number, in the first place, its dedication to Jobn Charles, Earl Spencer (late chancellor of the exchequer), who is said, by our author, to have “ devoted much of his time" to the study of natural theology, and to be "beyond most men sensible of the importance of such inquiries,” and to have “even formed the design of giving to the world his thoughts upon the subject." (Dedicat. p. 3.) Well, after this disclosure, our motto shall be, “ Nil admirari.” We will not impugn the propriety of our author's dedication of his labours to Earl Spencer; and whilst we intreat that modern Cincinnatus to answer to the call of his brother peer, we venture, with unaffected humility, to doubt the courteousness of our author, when he adds-
• See Warren's “ Popular and Practical Introduction to Law Studies.” London. 1835.