Imágenes de páginas

then been enacted; for the writ de comburendo, or for their burning by the secular arm, was not enacted till the reign of Henry the Fourth. Wickliffe, therefore, though much harassed, could not be tried for his life, and he was suffered to quietly die in his bed, in his beloved village of Lutterworth. Forty years after, as is well known, his ashes were dug up, by a decree of the Council of Constance, and ignominiously burned, the relics being thrown into the river Avon. Wickliffe translated the Bible into the vulgar tongue, a very wonderful work for a single individual in that age; but as few, comparatively speaking, could then read, and as the art of printing had not been at that time discovered, the boon was not of that benefit which he had fondly desired, Nor was it in religion alone that the mind made

progress at this period. Poetry was successfully cultivated by several, such as James the First of Scotland, who for many years was a prisoner at Windsor; Gower, and more especially Chaucer, whose works will ever be popular, as containing just and varied views of human life and character, as well as the most delightfully graphic delineations of manners as then prevailing Chaucer and Wickliffe are said to have been at one period of their lives very intimate. Their several writings were very instrumental in fixing our language; they abound far less with obsolete words than might have been expected. The fourteenth century may well be termed the


of inventions; for three of the greatest, those which have been the most powerful for good or evil to mankind, were made during this period, Printing, Gunpowder, and the Mariner's Compass. Each has exercised, and appears destined yet to exercise a mighty influence on human affairs. Printing, the noblest, because the most directly intellectual of the three, is of almost boundless importance; the treasures of thought hithertu locked up were dispersed, the scantiest streams now swelled forth, filled every channel, and irrigated the parched land till it became a pool; manuscripts of the classics, mouldering in the worm-eaten oaken presses of the monasteries, once more saw the light, and, by the aid of the press, their contents became generally known. A stimulus was given to literature such as never before was experienced; the Bible, literally a sealed book, was made public, and great was the joy. În connection with its reappearance, an amusing inci. dent is related in the life of Faust, the Dr. Faustus of vulgar tradition: Going to Paris, in the exercise of his vocation,

[ocr errors][merged small]

he began to circulate copies of the Bible from his own press. As he sold these much cheaper than manuscript versions, the scriveners began to be alarmed, fearing that their occupation was gone; but when they found that Faust could multiply his copies to equal any demand, and that the characters in each were precisely similar, they raised the cry

of heresy and magic, asserted that the whole was effected by diabolical agency, and that the red letters in the title

page, were traced in the blood wherewith he had signed the compact delivering his soul to Satan. The affair was investigated by the Parliament of Paris, who, superior to popular superstition, honourably dismissed the printer, and left him free to defeat the monopoly his adversaries had hitherto enjoyed. The first English printer was William Caxton, whose press was set up in the Chapter house of Westminster Abbey, and the first book supposed to have been printed in England was a small thin folio on the


of Chess. The dreadful conflicts of the Roses occurring about this period, must have exercised a very depressing influence on the infant art here, but it flourished in Holland and Germany, and the peaceable reign of Henry the Seventh was very favourable to its development in England. It was not, however, till the reign of Elizabeth that its resources were fully appreciated, and put into constant requisition. The court aspired to literary reputation, the undying words of Sydney, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Bacon, were made familiar through the press; whilst, on the other hand, complete employment was given to it by the fierce and implacable controversies between the Puritans and Episcopalians. The Bible also, which had now become a common household book, was sent forth in edition after edition. A new translation called “the Bishop's Bible," because the bench of bishops had in it the principal share, appeared under royal authority; the Puritans publishing at the same time the version made by the reformers at Geneva, and which they judged the more faithful of the two.

The invention of printing, with the consequent distribution of the Bible, uaturally introduces allusion to the Reformation. As far as England is concerned in this signal event, the unbridled passions of Henry the Eighth seem to have been the proximate cause.

There must have been, however, a deep and strong under current, or the surface of the water could not have been moved so greatly. The King's disappointment with regard to the dispensation from Rome, annulling his marriage with Catharine, caused his long pent up

[ocr errors]

wrath to explode, and he at once proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Anglican Church, retaining also the title of “ Defender of the Faith,” which a preceding Pope had conferred upon him for his reply to Luther. A subservient Parliament, at once, recognized the Monarch's claims, and pronounced the papal claims to dominion spiritual or otherwise, over the English hierarchy, as null and void. The thunders of the Vatican were directed towards the recusant Sovereign, and his subjects were absolved from their allegiance; but unsupported by the temporal arm, they were powerless ; they irritated, but did not alarm. Henry was anxious still to maintain a reputation for orthodoxy, yet made it high treason to deny his supremacy. Hence he burned both protestants and catholics, the first as heretics, and the last as traitors, and not un frequently they were carried in pairs, the papist and the lollard to be consumed at the same stake, the catholic complaining that the heaviest part of his punishment was the companionship to which he was doomed. Henry was a capricious tyrant. Even Burnet reckons him among the bad kings, but not as one of the worst. The Reformation advanced or was retarded according to his humour, but Cranmer was its steady friend, though compelled to a temporizing policy. The king continued to be steadily his friend, and more than once by the exercise of his prerogative shielded him from the malice of very powerful enemies. Cranmer was a man of generally good intentions and of a placable temper. It was said of him, my Lord of Canterbury an ill turn,


make him ever your friend.” His one great fault, great for one in his situation, was timidity. This caused many unworthy compliances, and at length his recantation; but he nobly redeemed all by the closing, through dreadful scenes, of his life.

B. M. B.

« Do

It is well to learn that there is beauty and pleasure in every thing, and to multiply, in this way, our delightful associations with the things of the universe around us. It is a habit of mind favourable to moral progress, and to devotional feeling.-Dr. H. Ware, Jun.


No I.

It is very interesting to contemplate human nature, in the varying circumstances in which man is placed, and the consequent modification of his common nature. As viewed in different climes, and under differing forms of social life and government; as viewed either in savage or civilized life, we see, indeed, shades of difference, and interesting characteristics or peculiarities in this or that portion of humanity, but a common nature in all. Surely, it is satisfactory, that we can thus trace all to a common origin; see the same mighty hand of power and skill in all; and, as we exclaim, whether of the untutored Indian or polished European, “how fearfully and wonderfully made,” we cannot doubt that the Maker has great and gracious purposes involved in such an issue from his hands, and that he will not fail to accomplish them.

Though Christianity has not yet accomplished its mission of universal influence and rule, I cannot but think we have an evidence of its truth, and that such is its design and purpose, in the common nature of man. Striking as are some varieties of the human race, there is the same humanity in all; the same integral, essential nature and properties in all; and the great Maker of all may be said to have made his first Revelation of Himself and his will in the common heart of Humanity. That same great common Heart is at once a work of God, and a temple of God. It is a holy place wherein dwells that which speaks of divinity of creation, and divinity of purpose. It contains eloquent preachers and teachers which instruct in high and holy things, and prompt to thoughts and feelings which have no rest till they have found God, and abide with him; thus evincing that they originate in God. Passions lie folded up there in that small yet limitless treasure-house; passions that possess a vast capacity of good and evil, in their sway over the will and ways of man. There lie also instincts of emotion, of sympathy and affection, involving in their nature an infinity almost of weal and woe, of enjoyment and suffering; there lie impulses and energies, and enthusiasm which raise, which strengthen and ennoble man's intellectual powers; excite to the highest daring, and most heroic virtue, lead upward to the Saint and the Sage, the Philanthropist and the Martyr. In this same heart of man lies the “Witness of

[ocr errors]

Christian faith;" the ever existing testimony to the religion
of the Christian Prophet, while that heart remains what it
ever has been, what it now is. If this can be controverted,
the pretensions of Christianity are void; as a religion of such
pretensions must imply a direct appeal to such a heart; and,
in its spiritual and moral framing, must be in powerful and
perfect accordance with the properties of that heart.

may be objected, that these remarks seem to imply, that the heart is the whole of man; at least, all in his nature of any importance in the religious question. It is true, we do view religion as having most to do with those affections and passions of man which ever act powerfully upon the judgment and the will, give temper and tone to his moral and spiritual character, and constitute him, in fact, whatever he is individually and characteristically, towards his Maker or his fellow men. The human heart is one, the human head is many; man feels uniformly; all men essentially the same; but he reasons variedly, and changes hourly. He may

have devout affections, but not devout reason; as no conviction of his intellectual powers is otherwise than a present idea or conception, ever liable to change its relative position to the light of the mind, as the shadows of objects shift theirs in the light of the sun's progress. But without aiming at any curious or metaphysical inquiry, our meaning is, that Religion affects that primarily in man, which is the same in

his affections. And that the Religion of Jesus challenges our acceptance and obedience on this ground; namely, that it addresses human nature on the side most important to human virtue and happiness; and manifests its divine truth and excellence by its perfect accordance with his sympathies and sentiments; with his hopes and fears; and every passion most exciting to his soul, and most essential to his welfare. Though the intellectual man merely, seems, comparatively, little concerned in Christian teaching, new and important discoveries are made to his mind, and some grand doctrines revealed to him for his credence and faith. It is beautiful to observe how happily these doctrines, the Fatherhood of God, the pardon of Sin, of Heaven and Futurity, are fitted to give the mind of man, the trust, the “Confidence,” which is to form the “Substance,” of his Faith, realize to him those higher interests which certain instinctive passions of his nature seem to demand; and, without which, that nature and his place in God's creation is inexplicable; and also, without which he can never reach the satisfaction and happiness

all men,

« AnteriorContinuar »