Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

A Discoverie of the true Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued, and brought under obedience of the Crown of England, until the beginning of His Majesty's happy reign;" and in 1615, The first Report of Cases in Law, adjudged in the King's Courts in Ireland,to which is prefixed an animated Preface dedicatorie,” addressed to his patron, The Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, containing a vindication of the law and its professors from several charges. A specimen of the author's prose composition, from this Preface, which is more quotable than his “ Discoverie," may not be unacceptable to our readers.

“The law (says he) is a fortress for the weak to retire unto, a sanctuary for the oppressed to flie unto: it restraineth the boldness of the insolent, it tieth with manacles the hands of the potent, and, like Orpheus' harp, or Noah's ark, it charmeth the fierceness of the lyon and the tiger, so as the poor lamb may lie in safety by them."

He draws the following sketch of the dignity of the office of Lord Chancellor, and of the qualities essential to sustain it, which he applies, in a highly complimentary strain, to his patron.

“ Briefly, what can there be more done to the man whom the king will honor? Is he not ad latus principis, to attend him? Is he not auricularius principis, to advise bim? Doth not the king make him a conduit of his wisdom, when he useth his voice and tongue to declare his royal pleasure ? And doth he not make him an organ of his goodness, when he trusteth him with his mercy and conscience, in sweetning the bitter waters of Summum jus, and in mitigating the rigour of the law unto his people? In a word, doth he not represent reverentiam principis, in the power and authority of his office? and do not the people fear and honor the king even in the gravity and dignity of his person? And are not all these honors made more honorable, and exceedingly raised in true estimation and value, when the same are enjoyed in a most famous and flourishing commonwealth, and do proceed as sun-beames from the most religious, learned, wise, the most renowned and excellent king of the world? If then the greatest honors do of right belong to the greatest virtues, (for what is honor but a reflection and reward of virtue?) how virtuous a person must he be, with what gifts and graces, with what abilities and ornaments, both of art and nature, must he be endowed, who can worthily supply that great and honourable office ?

" Assuredly, besides the natural faculties and powers of his mind, which he ought to have in great perfection, and besides the outward comeliness and dignity of his person, for Gratior est pulchro veniens è corpore virtus, f. Sapientia hominis lucet in vultu ejus, saith Solomon, he must be furnished with all learning that hath any relation to the public good; divinity, law, policy, morality, and especial

eloquence to impart and communicate all the rest. He must withall have a long and universal experience in all the affairs of the commonwealth: he must be accomplished and absolute in all points of gravity, constancy, wisdome, temperance, courage, justice, piety, integrity, and all other virtues fit for magistracy and governement; yet so as the same be seasoned and tempered with affability, gentlenesse, humanity, courtesy, howbeit without descending or diminishing himself, but still retaining his dignity, state, and honor. Briefly, he must be a person of such virtue and worthiness, as his life may be a censure, and his example a mirror for all other magistrates. These are the excellencies and perfections wherewith that great officer must be qualified and adorned : and this idea have I conceived of him, not out of mine owne imagination or weak discourse of reason, but out of an humble observation of your lordship, in whom not only those abilities and virtues before expressed, but many other graces and ornaments do shine so brightly, as the weakest judgement may collect out of the same a most excellent pattern of a most excellent chancellor."

This is the first book of Irish Reports printed in the course of the four hundred years during which the laws of England had been administered in Ireland. Sir John Davies also wrote The Question concerning Impositions, Tonnage, Poundage, 8c. fully stated and argued,dedicated to James the First; and “ an Abridgement of Sir Edward Coke's Reports," by John Davies, was most probably by our author.

Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum ad Dn. M. Ortuinum Gratium

Nova et accurata editio-Francofurti ad Mænum.Anno 1643.

The work before us is valuable, not only for its intrinsic merit as a literary composition, but for its historical importance, as exhibiting a lively impression of the state of society and opinions, at a time when Europe was rapidly approaching one of its most important convulsions,—when many great and virtuous spirits were moving in various courses, all leading to the improvement and emancipation of man—and when events pregnant with the most weighty influence on the future state of the world were as yet only in dim and doubtful anticipation.

In protestant countries, the Reformation, as actually effected by Luther and his immediate associates, is justly regarded with so much veneration, for having torn asunder the bonds in which superstitious tyranny had long held the human mind, that unqualified eulogy generally supersedes all doubt or inquiry. We give all the praise to a few principal actors, very little quarter to those who chose to be neuter, and none at all to their opponents.-We single out one band as the embodied spirits of resistance to tyranny over conscience, and consider all the rest of the world as its supporters. We forgive all the bloodshed, anarchy, and bigotted cruelty on both sides, into which the Reformation and its consequences plunged Europe for one hundred and fifty years. We overlook the havoc it occasioned amongst the proudest works of art, its intolerance and petty tyrannies; and we forget all the generous but less ardent spirits in the church, who were building up the cause of reform on the durable basis of intellectual improvement, who wished for reform without dogmatism, and were prepared to bridle the extravagancies of papal power, without bowing their necks to other, perhaps more ignoble, yokes.

We are now, however, far enough removed from these scenes to view the matter coolly, and it certainly will not be inconsistent with a high estimation for the bold leaders of the cause which prospered, sometimes to interest ourselves in the character and fortunes of those whose endeavours miscarried. The flagrant abuses which had crept into the church had long dissolved the spells which bound the minds of mankind in veneration of its authority; poets had made its ignorance and vices their theme; satirists and novelists had held up its most active supporters to ridicule ; religion, morality, and devotion, were ideas which had long ceased to be associated with the character of a true son of the church. The question was only, who should head and direct the spirit of the age, and on the solution of it was to depend the religious destiny of Europe for many centuries.

The Reformation, in fact, fell into the hands of persons who imparted little of a liberal or mild, little in fact of a Christian, spirit of charity and forbearance to the new opinions. The good which has resulted has doubtless been incalculable, but much of that good belongs necessarily to the mere change, however or by whomsoever effected. The tyranny of Rome could not be broken by any one without establishing an important precedent, and impressing an indelible lesson on the world. Even if a new despotism were fated to be erected on its ruins, it would bear on its front its own condemnation. Any controversy is in itself good, for it awakens intellect and scatters instruction--but that these great and undeniable blessings were accompanied by as many mischiefs as could well be the fruit of any reformation, must also be admitted, While the Protestants built up their system of amendment, they deferred to a far distant period all prospect of it among those who would not, or who were so circumstanced that they could not, separate from

the church. Hosts of enlightened minds, who had long been moving in the silent path of regeneration, and enlightening the world by their lives and writings, were discouraged, or crushed in the collision; mutual charity and forbearance made no progress; the Protestants read in the scriptures, still more strongly than the Catholics, the language of intolerance; they employed licensers for the press, and executioners for heresy; they freed their followers from ceremonial bondage, to make them the slaves of doctrinal tyranny.

By these means, the Reformation assumed too much the character of a war between the violent dogmatists on both sides, and too little of what it ought to have been, a triumph of learning over ignorance, and an assertion of the sacred rights of free inquiry and private judgement on the part of the enlightened of all opinions. Its mildest and most dignified form, undoubtedly is that which it assumed in England, and there, principally, because it was not the work of individuals. The state, for purposes which we do not need or desire to examine here, took the necessary reform into its own hands. It retained much of the dignity and impressive character of the church.-It restrained the Vandalizing spirit of wanton zeal.-It, in short, made a reform, not a destruction, of the existing church establishment.

There were other persons under whose direction the work of reform might have fallen, who would not have accomplished so speedy and total a separation as the German leaders effected, but who would have founded their reform on, perhaps, a more enduring basis, and would certainly have clothed it with a more comely form.-But these men, one after another, revolted from the violent contest in which it was sought to plunge them, and swelled the ranks and increased the influence of the very church, whose power they had been long silently, but securely, undermining.

This was peculiarly the case in Italy, where the prospect had been for some time most promising, but was now entirely blighted. But for the German storm, the literary spirit which the patronage of the Medici had inspired, the habitual resistance of the Venetians to the arts and power of the Roman see, the commercial freedom and independence of Genoa, the philosophic spirit of the professors of Padua, and various other literary institutions, must have soon established, beyond the control of the church, a free and impartial press. The people would soon have been as habituated to bold controversy and discussion of the most important religious questions, as they had long been to a free canvass of the lives and professions of their priests and monks.

The history of the early efforts made for church reform in

Italy is one almost untried. We know little of the principles of the Savanarolas and other reputed heretics of the fifteenth century. We have indeed some brief accounts of attempts made after the breaking out of the Lutheran reformation; these, however, were almost exclusively produced by German books and missionaries. But there were efforts in the cause of reformation at a much earlier period, and we conceive it not difficult to show, that a very enlarged and liberal spirit of independent inquiry, fostered by political causes and an ardent love for literary enterprise, had taken deep root in Italy. It was in fact from their intercourse with that country that the most distinguished characters beyond the Alps imbibed their spirit of knowledge and independence, till the convulsions of Germany dissolved the intercourse, and disposed the court of Rome to stifle that freedom of speculation which had flourished in her very gates. The same disposition to bold investigation is observable among the Italian reformers, who subsequently received the German missionaries; and it is not a little remarkable, that almost all those who sought an asylum in foreign countries from the persecutions directed against them at home, were men of much more enlarged views, and much more inclined to give to others the indulgence which they claimed for themselves, than the Protestants of Geneva and Germany.

Such reformers, formed in the bosom of Italian taste, and united in ties of friendship with the many illustrious characters whom the age could boast, would not have enlisted among the destroyers of the beautiful--they would rather have associated religion with the sublimest powers of the imagination, and the noblest qualifications of man, than studiously have divested it of such attractions—they would have granted to others what they asked for themselves and certainly, if they had thrown off the golden fetters of Rome, they would not have suffered themselves to be bound by the ignoble chains of the tabernacle.

Ulrich Von Hutten (the principal, if not the sole, author of the volume before us) is one of the most interesting of the characters who were busy in various ways, promoting the same cause, before the master spirit had appeared, and given one direction to the efforts of those who rallied round the standard of reform. A poet, a scholar, a gentleman, and a soldier, he united the almost expiring virtue of chivalrous honour and generosity, with the acquirements of the first scholars of the age, and that love and successful cultivation of polite literature, which was then almost unknown in Germany. "Glowing with honest indignation at the stupidity, ignorance, and knavery, of most of the ministers and supporters of the church, his pen was constantly employed in covering them with ridicule. While, however, he carried on the most destructive warfare against the es

« ПредишнаНапред »