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of Christendom ? their admirable canons? their regulations for preserving the purity and integrity of faith ; for promoting, in every possible manner, both the spiritual and temporal welfare of mankind ?
-You mention some persons, whose conduct you deservedly censure : Why did you not also mention some, at least, of those holy men, whose heroic virtues you yourself cannot deny ?—You mention some ridiculous legends : Why are you wholly silent on the writings of the Gerberts, the Bernards, the Aquinases, the Gersens, the Bacons ? Why not mention Thomas à Kempis's golden volume ? or Thaulerus, of whom Luther, your patriarch, speaks in such lofty terms of praise ? Why conceal the many institutions for the redemption of captives, and for the conversion of barbarians, with which the catholic church abounded in the times, which you so much vituperate ? her various charitable institutions; her schools ? the countless exertions of individuals for these, and a hundred other purposes of christian piety or beneficence? Should not all and every one of these hold their due place in a work, which bears for its title “ the “ Book of the Church?” Where is that good taste, for which you are deservedly admired, when, turning aside from these pleasing and glorious themes,-from virtues that do honour to man, and the relations of which are so productive of useful and heroic deeds, you luxuriate in the descriptions of those scenes, which christianity laments, repudiates, and wishes to be forgotten ? But God never abandoned for a moment his church. Involve and involve again her disasters :-- Make the tares as abundant as you wish them to be thought, still there never was a time in which the faith of the church suffered corruption, or in which the promises of God to his church were not verified, by the richness and plenty of her harvests.
WE now reach the æra of the Reformation : to you, a subject of great joy: to me, a subject of deep regret. You dedicate your twelfth chapter to its commencement under Henry VIII.
It is one of the misfortunes of controversy, that charges, even of the most serious and offensive kind, may be conveyed in one line, or even by one word, while pages are necessary to refute them. With charges of this nature “ the Book of the Church” abounds in a greater degree than any other work I have ever met with ; they occur in your present chapter oftener than in any other. All, or even a considerable proportion of them, it is utterly im. possible for me to discuss; I am therefore obliged to confine myself to such of your general charges against us, as appear to me to require particular notice.
Has England been benefited by the reformation ? This is the subject of the letter, which I now have the honour to address you. I shall inquire whether she has gained by it,-1. In temporal happiness ;II. In spiritual wisdom ;-I11. Or in morals ? — iv. Whether the revival of letters was owing to the reformation, or materially promoted by it ? v. Whether the conduct of the religious orders called for the dissolution of the monasteries?
VI. Whether the church of Rome was negligent in remedying the abuses which crept into it?VII. And, whether roman-catholic historical writers of the former, or the present times, merit the indiscriminate and unqualified abuse, which, certainly, without any provocation, you pour upon them.
Has England gained by the Reformation in Temporal
Happiness? Twice, (if not thrice), did the roman-catholic religion rescue the inhabitants of England from paganism.
She instructed them in the divine truths of the gospel ; introduced civilization among them; was, after the Norman Conquest, their only protection against the oppressions of their conqueror; and, during a long subsequent period, their only defence against the tyranny of the barons. To her, you owe your magna charta, the important statute, de tallagio non concedendo, and several other statutes, regulations and forms, which are the groundwork and bulwark of your constitution. A numerous clergy instructed them in moral duty : numerous portions, both of men and women, whose institutes were holy, furnished the young with means of education, the old with comfortable retreats, and all with the opportunites of serving God, in honour and integrity. Throughout England the roman-catholic religion only was acknowledged, so that the reformation found the whole nation one flock under one shepherd. Almost
every village contained a church, to which the faithful, at stated hours, regularly flocked, for the celebration of the eternal sacrifices, for morning and evening prayer, and for exhortation and instruction. In a multitude of places, the silence of the night was interrupted by pious psalmody. Surely these circumstances were not only great religious, but great political blessings." England was covered with edifices raised by the sublimest science, and dedicated to the most noble and most salutary purposes ; commerce prospered; agriculture, literature, every useful and ornamental art and science was excellently cultivated, and was in a state of gradual improvement. The monarch was illustrious among the most illustrious potentates of Europe, and held the balance between its preponderating princes : his court was splendid; the treasury overflowed with wealth ; THERE WAS NO DEBT; and, (one fourth part of the tithes in every place being set apart for the maintenance of the poor *), THERE WAS NO POOR LAW.
Such was the temporal prosperity of England at the dawn of the reformation. Will it suffer on a comparison of it with the condition of England at any subsequent æra ? or even with its present ?
You have been severe on Becket; but if Becket had filled the see of Canterbury throughout the reign of Henry VIII, how many lives, probably, would have been spared ; how many noble and antient families saved; how much spoliation and sacrilege prevented !
* Burn's Justice of Peace, title “ Poor," sect. L. 1.