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time, that picture of convenience, neatness, and broad, honest enjoyment, the kitchen of an English inn. It was of spacious dimensions, hung round with copper and tin vessels highly polished, and decorated here and there with a Christmas green. Hams, tongues, and flitches of bacon, were suspended from the ceiling ; a smoke-jack made its ceaseless clacking beside the fireplace, and a clock ticked in one corner, a well-scoured deal table extended along one side of the kitchen, with a cold round of beef, and other hearty viands, upon it, over which two foaming tankards of ale seemed mounting guard. Travellers of inferior order were preparing to attack this stout repast, while others sat smoking and gossiping over their ale on two high-backed oaken seats beside the fire. Trim housemaids were hurrying backwards and forwards under the directions of a fresh, bustling landlady ; but still seizing an occasional moment to exchange a merry word, and have a rallying laugh, with the group round the fire.
EDWARD MIALL. “ THERE is nothing new under the sun.” The most grotesque whims of the day are but old follies brought from the lumberroom of forgetfulness, and polished up for the present occasion. All things born of the human mind have lived before_lived and, to outward seeming, died--but, sharing the immortality of the source from which they spring, perished only in the forms of their manifestation to reappear in some other guise. The volume of to-day is but a revised edition of that of yesterday. The thought which shoots up within us, and which we welcome as the exclusive product of our own intellect, is but the development of some seed dropped casually into our souls from plants which, long since, perhaps, flourished, blossomed, and decayed. Man's mind is a soil, which, whilst it slightly modifies, never essentially changes those principles the germs of which are sometimes of set purpose, sometimes by accident, cast into it. Every age has its prototype—every heresy a progenitor, in whose likeness it is born. No ! " There is nothing new under the sun.”
Avoid politics," is the cant of no inconsiderable a section of the religious world. “ That path is thickly strown with snaresventure not into it! The charms which line it, the pleasures which are to be found in it, the ends to which it conducts, however fair, are fallacious. Apples of Sodom, tempting to the eyes, but bitter to the taste, are the only fruit which Christian men can look to gather from that roadside. “Let the dead bury their dead !' Worldly minds may heed worldly things. The cultivation of that inner life which is the breath of God, demands abstraction from the noise and turmoil of political contention. Shun it as you would shun enchanted ground !”
Ay! the soul of the monk is in the counsel—the same selfish pietism, the same cross-legged indolence of will, the same dreamy meditativeness, the same preference of ease to conquest, the same spiritual voluptuousness, which in earlier days sought refuge from the temptations and distractions of worldly business, in the solitude of the desert, or the cloister of the monastery. One sees in fancy the shaven crown, the cowl, the girdle, and the beads of bygone times. Fancy, however, greatly deceives us. Look again! the dress is modern, precise, professional—the air authoritative, the gait officially majestic, and all outward appearances betoken one moving in a select and genteel circle of acquaintances. You would not, at first sight, take such to be the present type of old monasticism—but, in good sooth, it is nothing more nor less.
There is a sphere of duties and responsibilities, of things waiting to be done, of consequences claiming to be undone, of opportunities for good, of temptations to evil, and of useful exercise to every sentiment and affection of a noble, philanthropic, and heaven-born nature—a sphere which men have designated “political.” Have we not sometimes explored it, noted its main features, and glanced at its claims ? Is there not therein, we make bold to inquire, much work for embodied Christianity to do? mistakes to be rectified ? thick jungles in which cruelty and rapacity hide themselves, to be cut down ? broad wastes to be redeemed ? noxious swamps to be drained ? pure and beneficent principles to be introduced ? and rampant evils, the scourges of human peace, to be taken by the throat and destroyed? Who is to do this? If men claiming to have the mind of God are to shun this region, and leave it to the rank reproduction of its own vices, what hope is there of amelioration. Thousands are dying in consequence of the pestilential atmosphere which it exhales. What ! is no Christian man to care for them ? no interceding priest to swing aloft the censer of fragrant truth, that the desolating plague may be stayed !
Out upon the sentimental pietism of these times, which ever, like an ailing gentlewoman, stays within doors, counts its own sighs, feels its own pulse, and nurses itself with an anxious and peevish care into a delicacy which makes its own life a burden ! This outcast world of ours is not to be reclaimed by such boudoir agency; it needs something more manly, more heroic. Give us, O give us, instead of this queasy, lack-a-daisical, self-indulgent spirit, the faith, which, seeing great dangers to be encountered for the sake of great good to be achieved, can sally forth in all weathers, and bear its message of truth into all quarters, more intent upon
the fulfilment of its mission, than upon escape from the perils to which it must needs expose itself ! As, where contagious fever reigns, a courageous will may venture unhurt, when shrinking timidity would have imbibed the poison, so may a resolute Christianity pass safely on its errands of love through a polluted moral atmosphere, which would be all but fatal to susceptible and nervous quietists.
Reader, when you have surveyed in the light of divine revelation, the proper objects, structure, and functions of civil government, we would ask you with confidence whether all that fairly comes within this sphere, ought not to be a matter of deep and thoughtful interest, to those who care for the well-being of their fellow-men. Can he who “loves his neighbour as himself,” voluntarily exile himself from this region ? Ought not true religion to bestir itself here as actively, as systematically, as usefully, as elsewhere? Can we without cowardice and treachery lay aside any of the responsibilities of our position ? Does it become us to estrange ourselves from anything which affects human progress ? Let politics then have their due place in every Christian heart—not the highest, certainly, but one befitting their importance. Every sphere has its trials-politics as well as others; but they must be met and subdued rather than avoided ; for in this, as in other departments, a blessing is reserved for the man, not who escapes, but who “endures temptation.”
ENGLISH MONASTERIES IN THE REIGN OF
J. A. FROUDE. Many high interests in England had been injured by the Papal jurisdiction ; but none had suffered more vitally than those of the monastic establishments. These establishments had been injured, not by fines and exactions—for oppression of this kind had been terminated by the statutes of provisors—but because, except at rare and remote intervals, they had been left to themselves, without interference and without surveillance. They were deprived of those salutary checks which all human institutions require if they are to be saved from sliding into corruption. The religious houses, almost without exception, were not amenable to the authority of the bishops. The several societies acknowledged obedience only to the heads of their order, who resided abroad ; or to the pope, or to some papal delegate. Thus any regularly conducted visitation was all but impossible. The foreign superiors, who were forbidden by statute to receive for their services more than certain limited and reasonable fees, would not undertake a gratuitous labour; and the visitations, attempted with imperfect powers by the English archbishops, could be resisted successfully under pleas of exemption and obedience to the rules of the orders. Thus the abbeys had gone their own way, careless of the gathering indignation with which they were regarded by the people, and believing that in their position they held a sacred shield which would protect them for ever. In them, as throughout the catholic system, the sadness of the condition into which they had fallen, was enhanced by the contrast between the theory and the degenerate reality. Originally, and for many hundred years after their foundation, the regular clergy were the finest body of men of which mankind in their chequered history can boast. They lived to illustrate, in systematic simplicity, the universal law of sacrifice. In their three chief vows, of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they surrendered everything which makes life delightful. Their business on earth was to labour and to pray ; to labour for other men's bodies, to pray for other men's souls. Wealth flowed in upon them; the world, in its instinctive loyalty to greatness, laid its lands and its possessions at their feet; and for a time was seen the notable spectacle of property administered as a trust, from which the owners reaped no benefit, except increase of toil. The genius of the age expended its highest efforts to provide fitting tabernacles for the divine spirit which they enshrined ; and alike in village and city, the majestic houses of the Father of mankind and his especial servants, towered up in sovereign beauty, symbols of the civil supremacy of the church, and of the moral sublimity of life and character which had won the homage and the admiration of the Christian nations. Ever at the sacred gates sate Mercy, pouring out relief from a neverfailing store to the poor and the suffering ; ever within the sacred aisles the voices of holy men were pealing heavenwards, in intercession for the sins of mankind ; and influences so blessed were thought to exhale around those mysterious precincts, that the outcasts of society—the debtor, the felon, and the outlawgathered round the walls, as the sick men sought the shadow of the apostle, and lay there sheltered from the avenging hand till their sins were washed from off their souls. Through the storms of war and conquest the abbeys of the middle ages floated, like the ark upon the waves of the flood, inviolate in the midst of violence, through the awful reverence which surrounded them.
The soul of religion, however, had died out of the system for many generations before the Reformation. At the close of the fourteenth century, Wycliffe had cried that the rotting trunk cumbered the ground, and should be cut down. It had not been cut down; it had been allowed to stand for a hundred and fifty more years ; and now it was indeed plain that it could remain no longer. The boughs were bare, the stem was withered, the veins were choked with corruption ; the ancient life-tree of monasticism would blossom and bear fruit no more. Truth had sunk into superstition ; duty had died into routine ; and the monks, whose technical discipline was forgotten, and who were set free by their position from the discipline of ordinary duty, had travelled swiftly on the downhill road of human corruption.
History of England under Henry VIII.