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ashamed to confess that they were unacquainted with the canon of their faith, and had never read any part of the sacred Scriptures, except what they met with in their missals. The inferior clergy were, as might be expected, still worse.
The number of these, who engaged in the public instruction of the people, was very inconsiderable; and their discourses, which contained little else than fictitious reports of miracles, and prodigies, insipid fables, wretched quibbles, and illiterate jargon, deceived the multitude instead of instructing them. At an assembly of the clergy held at Valais, in Switzerland, before the Reformation, when mention was made of the Bible, only one of the priests had heard of such a book. The licentiousness of the clergy of all orders was proportioned to their ignorance. The greatest part of the bishops and canons passed their days in dissolute mirth and luxury, and squandered away, in the gratification of their lusts and passions, the wealth that had been set apart for religious and charitable purposes. The world swarmed with idle and voluptuous monks, who, like locusts, de voured the fruits of the earth, and filled the air with pestilential infection. The people imitated the manners of their superiors and instructors, and were ignorant, profligate, superstitious, and cruel. “Religion,” says Mosheim, “lay expiring under a motley and enormous heap of superstitious inventions, and had neither the courage nor the force to raise her head, or to display her native charms, to a darkened and deluded world." It seemed as if God had again abandoned the earth to the uncontrolled dominion of the prince of darkness; and after having caused the true light to shine, allowed it to be extinguished by the craft and the crimes of men. Degradation became so great, ignorance and barbarism so universal, that recovery seemed altogether hopeless, and reformation to be set at defiance. Charlemagne, in France, and Alfred the Great, in England, endeavoured to dispel this darkness, and gave their subjects a short glimpse of light and knowledge ; but the ignorance of the age was too powerful for their efforts and institutions. The darkness returned, and settled over Europe more thick and heavy than before.
It would be interesting to investigate the principal causes of the rise, progress, and completion of that monstrous system of superstition and willworship, which overspread the world under the name of Christianity. There was, doubtless, a
om ation of causes, which all contributed their share in promoting the same effect. One of these, which does not appear to have received that degree of attention which its importance demands, is this—the Scriptures never were in the hands of the body of the Christian people. In consequence of this circumstance, they obtained most of their knowledge of the divine will, through the medium of fallible men, whose weakness or cunning introduced innumerable errors. As soon as this boon was conferred on the people, ignorance and superstition began to give way: it will prove the destruction of spiritual tyranny wherever it is generally enjoyed; and the continuance of the gift in the possession of the common people must prove, under God, an insurmountable obstacle to the return of another age of darkness and barbarism.-Thomson and Orme.
53. Alexandria. ALEXANDRIA, one of the most celebrated cities of antiquity, and formerly the residence of the kings of Egypt, is situated on the shores of the Mediterranean, within twelve miles of the western branch of the Nile, with which it communis cates by means of a canal. It was taken by Alexander the Great at the time he conquered Egypt, 333 years before the commencement of the Christian æra, was called after his name, and rebuilt under the celebrated architect of the temple of Diana at Ephesus. It was divided into straight parallel streets, cutting one another at right angles. One great street, two thousand feet wide, ran through the whole length of the city, and was intersected by another of the same breadth, which formed a square at their junction half a league in circumference. In these two principal streets, the finest in the world, stood their marble palaces, temples, and public buildings, to the number of upwards of four thousand. Secured by an immense bay for shipping, Alexandria commanded all the trade from the East, by the way of the Red Sea, previous to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, and was the first mercantile city in the world, after the destruction of ancient Tyre. The royal palace and gardens, stretching along the shores of the Mediterranean, contained within their enclosure an asylum for learned men, a valuable museum, groves and buildings suited to the magnificence of the Grecian monarchy, and a temple, where the body of Alexander was deposited in a golden coffin. Ptolemy Soter, one of the captains of Alexander, seized on his Egyptian dominions after his death, and fixed the royal residence in this city, about three hundred and four years before Christ. This prince instituted an academy for the study of the sciences, and founded a public library, which afterwards received such accessions as to contain no less than seven hundred thousand volumes. With these advantages, and under the continued patronage of its sovereigns, Alexandria became one of the most distinguished seats of learning in the world, and preserved its celebrity till the year 650, when it was plundered of all its literary treasures by the barbarous hands of the Saracens. The standard of Mahomed was then planted on the walls of the capital, and the immense library ordered to be destroyed, lest it should prove
in jurious to the credit and reputation of the Koran. The books were sent to all the baths of the city, and served as fuel to beat them for six months. The prodigious namber of these volumes may be inferred from the time which was taken up in consuming them, and from the multitude of baths among which they were distributed, which are said to have been no less then forty thousand. Thus perished nearly all the most valuable writings of antiquity, and posterity has thereby suffered an irreparable loss. This famous city is now reduced to a population of twelve or fourteen thousand, and presents a scene of magnificent ruin and desolation. For the space of five or six miles, nothing is to be seen but the remains of marble sculptures, and whole mountains of shattered monuments of art, heaped one upon another higher than the houses. In 1798 Alexandria was taken by the French, under the command of Buonaparte. Three years afterwards it was surrendered to the English, and eventually restored to the Turks, the former masters, by a treaty of peace. Morris. Christ. Biog.
54. The Telescope.
SEVERAL useful inventions have had their rise in the United Provinces, particularly that of the spying-glass or telescope, one of the noblest the modern ages have to boast of; by means of which the wonders of the heavens are discovered to us, and astronomy brought to a degree of perfection, which it was impossible the ancients could ever think of, without the assistance of such an instrument. The invention indeed was rather owing to chance than thought; for it is said, that the children of a certain spectacle-maker at Middleburgh in Zealand, playing in their father's shop, happened to hold two glasses between their fingers, at some distance from each other, through which the weather-cock on the steeple appeared much bigger than ordinary, and as if it were very near them, but inverted. With this the children acquainted their father, who, being surprised at the singularity, bethought himself of fixing two glasses in brass circles, and placing them so, as to be drawn nearer or removed farther at pleasure; and by this means be found he could see distant objects more distinctly. This happened towards the beginning of the last century, but authors are divided about the name of the spectacle-maker, though it is generally said to be Zachary Jansen, who soon improved his discovery so far, as to present a telescope twelve inches long to prince Maurice of Nassau. In the year 1620, James Metius, brother of Adrian Metius, professor of the mathematics at Franeker, came to Middleburgh, where he bought telescopes of Jansen's sons, who had made them public; and yet Adrian has given his brother the honour of the inven