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But, indeed, Sir William evidently contradicts himself in his researches at Herculaneum. He there notices six different strata of lava, and between each a considerable stratum of vegetable earth. Now, as that city was destroyed by an eruption at the beginning of the Christian æra, (anno 79,) the vegetable earth must have been formed in less than 1000 years.
However, the conclusion to be drawn from these observations, is, that they afford no means to ascertain the antiquity of the earth. Indeed, all attempts to derive the formation of the earth from natural causes, will be found as defective as they are presumptive. The mind finds no rational solution to the great enquiry, but by having recourse to a self-existent, effective first cause, to an intelligent being to the Deity himself. From every information which we can derive from history, it has confessedly been the prevailing opinion among all nations, that the earth originated from a chaos. The Hindoo account of Brama is evidently typical of an expression in the Mosaic account, “The Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters."
The τοας χμιον χαος of the Greeks, conveys the same idea of the earth being in a rude indigested mazs, before order commenced, and the design of the Deity was fulfilled by the introduction of the animal and vegetable creation. It would perhaps have been as well if the philosophers of Greece and former ages had here put a stop to their enquiries, instead of indulging in conjectures about the origin of chaos, and the inexplicable nature of a first cause. How much more natural and significant than all such logical doubts, arrogant assumptions, delusive definitions, and metaphysical subtleties, is the simple answer of the poor illiterate Arab, to the question how he knew that there is a God: “In the same manner,” said he, " that I am able to tell by the print impressed on the sand, whether it was a man or a beast that had passed that way.'
The idea of atoms floating in infinite space, and by chance or necessity producing the earth, is too absurd to deserve a moment's serious consideration; the power attributed to the atoms, and the numerous intelligent beings which were afterwards introduced as conducing to the completion of the great work of Creation, show that these heathen philosophers found matter of itself insufficient to form such a beautiful variety as is every where exhibited throughout nature, and, therefore, were obliged to have recourse to mind or intelligence, and consider the world not the effect of chance or necessity, but of design. Their minds were unable to comprehend the existence of one self-existent, eternal cause--the Deity, and from him alone derive all matter and motion, all the order, variety, and beauty, in the universe. It has been asserted, that the eternity of the Deity must be admitted from the unchangeableness of His nature, and the impartial exercise of His attributes. Then, to say that the material world, which is ever changing, being a succession of cause and effect, is eternal also, is an evident contradiction. Instead of supposing only one, or even two first causes, it is allowing an almost infinite number; for every vegetable, from the tallest tree to the smallest plant,-every animal, from the elephant to the minutest animalcula,-must then be a first cause in its kind, eternally existing, and reproducing itself in endless succession.
HAVE MONASTIC INSTITUTIONS BEEN PRODUCTIVE OF MORE
BENEFIT OR INJURY TO MANKIND?
The gentleman who opened the question in favor of monastic institutions, commenced his remarks by adverting to the lamentable state of literature, after the extinction of the Western Empire. It was observed that, indeed, before the invasion of the barbarians, Roman literature had degenerated. It had attained its height about the age of Augustus ; * and that the next generation, in attempting to improve on perfection, grasped at too much, and altogether failed of accomplishing its object. Cicero's eloquence did not satisfy the Emperor Trajan; Cato the Elder was, with him, a greater orator; Ennius surpassed Virgil; and even the names of Homer and Plato excited his disgustt: and we can easily understand that the taste of a despot was not likely to be disputed by the sycophantic poets who surrounded him, and that public taste did not long survive that of the emperor. The genius of Rome was not indeed dead; Tacitus wrote long after the Augustan age, and Juvenal vindicates these later times from the charge of want of energy; yet, it must be allowed, that no writer after Augustus can compare with those of his time, and that public taste was far less pure than it had been.
The inroads of the barbarians changed the process of decay” for active destruction; and learning, already tottering, * Ælius Spartian, in Adrian.
+ Speaking of oratory, Cicero says—" Yet in this very art, in which we have advanced from the most imperfect beginnings to the highest excellence, we may, as in all human things, soon expect to see symptoms of decrepitude, and the process of decay."- Cicero. Tusculam.
was hurled by these fierce invaders into the depths of destruction. Silken couches and baths, magnificent houses and sumptuous feasts, which the Romans indulged in, found favor with the conquerors; they quickly comprehended their use, and appropriated them for their pleasure; but enjoyments of the mind met a far different fate, and books of the most in valuable merit were not esteemed, but for the use of the parchment on which they were written. Neither were the Romans now much inclined to their old pursuits, “ Living in the midst of their triumphant invaders, condemned to listen to their rude speech, and to form their organs to its sounds, few had leisure and fewer inclination to cultivate studies, which those barbarians had no taste to admire; but which they were rather led to despise, as they had not taught those by whom they were cultivated to defend their altars and their homes."*
This state of things, which continued, with but very little interruption, for several centuries, must, in the course of time, have destroyed all vestiges of learning : the Latin and Greek languages would haye been erased from the memory of man; and if, in modern times, by some rare chance, a volume of antient learning should survive, its meaning would remain unknown, as an Egyptian hieroglyphic, and serve no purpose, but to furnish one more proof to proud science, that, if she has acquired much, yet still more glorious things lie hidden from her view. · It was not, however, the fate of learning to be buried in the ruins of Rome: it found refuge in the walls of monasteries, which were then first formed. The works of the most approved authors were securely kept, and diligently studied, by many of the monks; they were the only learned men of the middle ages, monastic institutions the only receptacles for learning, -and on this account alone, it was assumed, that such institutions must be considered as highly beneficial to Europe.
In illustration of this argument, it was mentioned, that, by the hostility shewn by the barbarians to books of every description, they had become so scarce, and the price of them had risen to so great a height, that, as we are informed by the venerable Bede, Aldfrid, king of Northumberland, gave
to Benedict Biscop, (a learned priest, who had travelled to Rome to collect MSS.,) a large landed estate, for one book only! And this being the case, how can we sufficiently testify our admiration at the library of Egbert, archbishop of York, who, in such times, had, amongst other authors, copies of Aristotle, Pliny, Cicero, Virgil, Statius, and Lucan ! Not only were books preserved, but also the languages in which they were written. Latin was used on all occasions; and there were few monasteries of importance without some of its inhabitants being able to read Greek Schools, too, were established where the elements of knowledge were taught; every abbey appointed one or more of its members to instruct such as chose to learn rhetoric, theology, physic, and civil and canon law. In the time of Henry the Second, we are told by Stephanides, (the chaplain, and afterwards the biographer, of Thomas à Becket,) that there were then schools in London, in which, he says, the scholars daily torquent enthymema; a highly classical expression, by the way, and proving clearly that Juvenal * was familiar to him.
* Berington's Literary History of the Middle Ages.
It was observed that females also received excellent educa. tions in the nunneries then established, in which they learned needle-work, confectionery, surgery, physic, (apothecaries at that time being very rare,) writing, drawing, &c.+ And with regard to the state of learning generally, several examples were brought forward; Abelard, Heloise, and St. Bernard, were quoted as examples of stupendous learning, the result of intense thought, and of unremitting studies. The instances of learning amongst our own countrymen were still more creditable to the monastic institutions: Friar Bacon was named as not only the most wonderful man of his age, but as a genius, with whom few of his successors can compare; for, whether we consider his learning, or his moral application of that learning to the government of his mind, he is alike to be admired : after travelling and perfecting himself in the languages, ancient and modern, this great man settled at Oxford, where he disbursed on experimental philosophy an enormous sum equal to 30,0001. modern money. The discoveries he made were proportionate to their cost. His knowledge of the exact length of the solar year, his expertness in the practical knowledge of optics, his solid precepts in medicine, his acquaintance with the mechanical powers; and, above all, his infinite humanity in concealing, by a species of anagram, that pestilential secret, the composition of gunpowder, which he had discovered, ought to raise him to a height in our opinions, far superior to that of most modern philosophers, who have erected monuments to their own abilities
curtum sermone rotato Torqueat enthymema.-SAT. VI. † Antiquarian Repertory, vol. iii. p. 43.
from the ruins of his vast erudition. The immense acquirements of John Duns Scotus too must challenge our wonder. The Chronological History of Gervase of Canterbury, also, is an evident proof of the learning, patience, and impartial correctness of its author. It must be almost unnecessary to name Robert of Gloucester, or Peter Langtoft; or, indeed, to bring forward
any other examples of Monkish learning, of which the instances already adduced are sufficient proof. With regard to the elegance of monastic studies, so much could not perhaps be advanced as to their learning. Occasionally, however, we find examples of elegant ideas expressed in pure Latin. William of Malmesbury, and Matthew Paris, are famous for the style of their compositions; and, in the light and fanciful verses of Alexander Nequam, there is much to be admired. * Some English compositions, also, remain monuments of the skill, which, in 1330, could produce lines more like modern English than those of Chaucer. +
Viewing the monastic institutions, with a design to ascertain the usefulness or disservice they were of, it was contended, that, by the practice of physic,—their knowledge of law,-their acquaintance with agriculture and gardening, and skill in architecture,-guided to useful purposes by the practical doctrines of Christianity,—they must be considered as the patrons of all Europe. War was the sole employment of the nobles and their armed vassals; knowledge, other than military, was considered degrading to any but monks; and, accordingly, monks only possessed that knowledge. However low these pursuits of the monks might be in the eyes of "grim barons,” it is perfectly clear that they were indispensable. However rude the knowledge of “olden times” may seem to us, yet it was of infinite importance then. If sickness was not then cured with the certainty of more modern times, yet the alle
* The following is a description of his school at St. Albans, of which he speaks with “ elegant affection:"
Hic locus ætatis nostræ primordia novit
+ This was in midst of month of May,
When birds sing on ilka spray,