Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

verence for supposed relics, the multiplication of legends of the saints, &c. Those who speak of the perfection of the first three hundred years of the Church, are nearer the truth here, for at least true doctrine was not then enveloped in superstitions, which almost, nay in some cases quite, hid the deep realities from sight.

Nicholas I. was elected Pope in 858, and under him the Papal power increased immensely. From this time the Popes assumed authority over the Church at large to an extent unknown hitherto, as evidenced first by the arbitrary conduct of Nicholas towards Hincmar Archbishop of Rheims, and also by his endeavour to assert his authority in matters of dispute at Constantinople. The Forged Decretals were unknown to the Greek Church, therefore when Nicholas quoted them they met with scánt attention, his legates were treated with indignity, and the breach, which finally ended in a complete separation of the two Churches, grew wider, though the differences of this time were in a manner got over for a few years.

We must now pass on to the time of the first Crusades, but of this I will say but little, so many histories having been already written of this period, as well as romances like Sir Walter Scott's “Talisman,” and other historical works of fiction. The first idea of a Crusade against the Saracens in the Holy Land, was the result of a letter issued by Pope Sylvester II. in 1001, in behalf of the Christian pilgrims who were so badly treated in Palestine by the Mussulman rulers; but nothing of importance was the result until ninety-three years later, when Peter the Hermit preached the Crusade under the sanction of Pope Urban II. In 1096 the Pope “enforced the duty of joining the Holy War," and from this time all Western Europe, with the exception of Spain, took part in the enterprise.

Great changes resulted to the Church in England, from the conquest of the country by William of Normandy in 1066. Lanfranc, Abbot of Bec in Normandy, was made Archbishop of Canterbury, in place of Stigand, who was Archbishop at the time of the Conquest, and he with the other native Bishops having been deprived of their sees, with but one exception, the bishoprics were in the hands of the Normans. William, like Charlemagne, only heeded the Papal injunctions and commands when it suited his views to do so, and Lanfranc followed in the steps of his sovereign in this particular. A great deal was done by Lanfranc in the matter of reform. Churches were rebuilt which had fallen into ruin, and many sees were removed to more im

[blocks in formation]

portant towns, which had hitherto been established in insignificant places. “ Lanfranc was zealous for celibacy and monasticism." The former had not hitherto been a hard and fast rule amongst the English clergy, especially those of the rural districts.

Lanfranc died two years after William Rufus came to the throne, and was succeeded in the archbishopric by Anselm, who had been at Bec when Lanfranc was abbot there.

For a most interesting account of the life and times of S. Anselm, I beg to refer my readers to the volume published a few years since by the present Dean of S. Paul's. S. Anselm was Archbishop during the reigns of William II. and Henry I. He died in 1109.

During the previous two centuries Christianity had gradually been making its way into the Northern countries of Europe-Russia, Norway, Sweden, and even as far away as Iceland.

And now "past” history must pause here for a time, to be resumed from the time of the death of S. Anselm. As to the “present” what can we find that would answer now to what has been related in the foregoing pages ?

First, we have the controversy on images, revived not long since in the celebrated Exeter reredos and Denbigh reredos cases. Had Gregory the Great's ruling been always adhered to through past ages, many an image and sculpture destroyed at the time of the Commonwealth, might have been extant now perhaps, and the Exeter and Denbigh " cases" would have remained unknown.

The doctrine of Papal Infallibility brought forth within the last ten years or so, can be but the outcome of the Forged Decretals which gave such increasing power to the Popes from the time they were first promulgated. What claim of the kind can a Church have which thus has owed its world-wide powers to forgery and falsehood? And yet there are those now living, amongst the chief of her hierarchy, who have been heard to utter the strongest arguments against her, and but a few years after have joined her communion ! “ Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” are words we need to remember in these as in other matters.

The more we read of Church History the more we shall learn to separate truth from falsehood, and appreciate the efforts of those who have endeavoured to free our own Church of England from superstition. Finding fault is very easy work as we all know; the question is whether, if put to the test, we should in reality have done much better ourselves. I would quote a few words from a sermon preached four years ago by a living teacher.

“My brethren, the more I study the mind of the Church of Eng. land, the more she appears to me to be filled with the very mind of CHRIST ; the more my hope is strengthened that, if only my brethren, both the Clergy and Laity, will be patient, this branch of the Church shall stand as God's bulwark alike against infidelity and superstition, and witness for her LORD till He return in the glory of His Second Advent."

We may now treat of what gave rise to the Reformation, during the years which elapsed between the time of S. Anselm, and the first faint breath of the coming storm.

The Church was literally in a Slough of Despond, and sinking deeper into the mire; her jewels and gold, of pure faith, holy worship, and truth, hidden from sight amidst the heap of superstitions, falsehood, and depravity, which surrounded her on all sides. Those who vehemently decry the Reformation, are just as much in the wrong as those who as vehemently uphold it. As is usual in a great stir about any matter, one or two people will go off in a tangent with their hobby and work new evil, in clearing away the old. So it was with the Reformation, The jewels were all but lost altogether, from the haste to clear away the rubbish, underneath which they were buried. Wickliffe struck the match and Luther and Calvin made the blaze, so to speak. But to return to earlier days than these. The increase in the number of monasteries, and the ignorance of the people, was greatly in favour of superstition and credulity. The monks kept all learning to the monasteries ; made the people believe that the monastic life was the highest and holiest (by no means always the case in those days) and kept up a constant feud with the secular clergy. Then came the revulsion against the monasteries, and “ down with them” was the popular cry, instead of " amend them.” . Of all the doctrines promulgated, the most indefensible perhaps, was that of indulgences; and the other of expiating crimes by building Churches, or other so called "good deeds” was scarcely second to it. All these simply added to the wealth and aggrandisement of the Pope and the clergy. What the lives of these last were at this time will scarcely bear investigation. Such were the pastors and teachers of the people, and such were their confessors and absolvers. Let people only look with impartiality on all the surroundings, and break down the hedge of prejudice, and haphazard acquired ideas, and they will see, that sad as it was that we should have lost much which we did lose by the Reformation, it was only marvellous that such a state of things as brought about the crisis of affairs, should not have swept everything away with the tide. Thanks be to God it did not, and it is a cause for thankfulness. I only ask my readers to search for themselves “ whether these things be 50," for I am more and more convinced that at the root of prejudice of every kind, whether Protestant or Catholic, ignorance will be found to lie.

1 Rev. G. H. Wilkinson.

From the time of the Norman Conquest in England, the prayers and offices of the Church were all said in Latin, so that “praying with the understanding" was a thing quite lost sight of in the Churches. The Bible was scarcely known even by the clergy, and as time went on was more and more jealously kept from the people by the monks, as defeating by its teaching the ends they had in view. Certain portions of chapters and Psalms were recited daily in Latin, and the people were taught the LORD's Prayer, and the Creed, also in Latin. These, with the “Lives of the Saints,” constituted the instruction of the congregation. Founded in many instances upon fact, the “Lives of the Saints" were highly embellished by fiction, until they became very little short of profane from their very absurdity. Then came the discovery of printing, and with it the first streak of light. Printing was first introduced into England in the reign of Edward IV. by Lord Rivers, who recommended Caxton, the printer, to the notice of the king. The dawn once begun brightened year by year, notwithstanding the clouds which often threatened to obscure the light again. In Germany the revulsion culminated in the person of Luther. The burden of the impositions of the Church was thrown off by him, only alas ! for the formation of a sect. In England, the Church struggled forth with her orders safe, her Sacraments untouched. Weatherbeaten though she was from the violence of the storm, she was able to shake herself free from the authority of the Pope and live again. Not so the Lutheran Sect. Luther was an outcast from the Roman Church; he had touched her in her most vulnerable points, and unable to obtain any support from those in ecclesiastical authority, he cut himself off altogether, forming, like Wesley of later date, a sect which he carried with him. Germany was too near Rome. England was beyond the reach of the Pope, so to speak. He could excommunicate, anathematise, but Henry VIII. could pay attention or not as be pleased, and he did not please. It was an age of fearful difficulties for the Church, but she pulled through this, again to be battered by the storm of Puritanism, in which perhaps she lost even more than in the actual Reformation, but still she lives, and will live, until her Bridegroom shall come to call her to the wedding.

If all Popes, Archbishops, and Monks, had been such as Gregory the Great, S. Ambrose, S. Augustine of Canterbury, S. Anselm, and Savonarola, doubtless the extent of the evil which caused the Reformation would never have been arrived at. Everywhere it was the same, and everywhere we see first one, and then the other great-man, rising above it, only to be scouted at and hunted down, because as of old.

men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” It is a sad picture, only equalled by that of the Church in the days of the Commonwealth. How much happier we are in these present times, can only be fully realized by taking in the past. In so doing we shall better understand perhaps also the deep-rooted prejudice in the English mind against anything approaching Roman doctrines and ideas, mistaken though we naturally think these prejudices to be. With patience, much of the jewels and gold lost, may be regained, if only we can prove by our conduct that it is real, not tinsel, and that the “Beauty of holiness” in services and Church adornments, is the outcome of the heart's true devotion, not the mere gratification of the senses, from love of art and attractive music. This, and this only, is what will win in the end, and remove the stigma of “outward show" so often fastened on those who love such things in the Churches nowa-days.

More reality—more religion in daily life is what all need who profess the highest devotion in outward acts. The greater the opportunity the greater the responsibility.

It was the state of society in Florence at that period which stirred Savonarola to his heart's depths. The Florentines flocked to hear him in crowds. The preacher's fervour, eloquence, and well chosen sentences pleased their ears. They loved to hear him, but the greater number loved pleasure too well to heed him! And is the condition of things very different now to what it was then ? Nay, has not one of our own Bishops not long since described society as no better now than in " the days of the Regency P" People flock to hear Canon this, or Dr. that, like the Florentines of old. His

« ZurückWeiter »