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magnificent and costly architecture, with which they are filled; the works in marble, gold, silver, iron and bronze, with which they are ornamented ;—how much of these were anterior to LUTHER!
In England, Roger Bacon had meditated, and Chaucer had sung. Erasmus informs us, that learning triumphed in England, and that the "king and the queen, two cardinals, and almost "all the bishops, exerted themselves in promoting "and encouraging it." He mentions, " as emi"nently learned, Linacre, the king's physician; "Cuthbert Trunstal, master of the rolls; Sir "Thomas Moore, of the privy council; Pace, se"cretary of state; William Mountjoy, the queen's "chamberlain; John Colet, preacher to their ma"jesties;" and "as yet," says Erasmus, "I have "only mentioned the chief. The court abounds "with such eminent men, that it seems a seat of "the muses, and may vie with any school of philo"sophy, with Athens itself *." All this was anterior to the reformation: I beg leave to add, that Mary of England, Elizabeth, Mary of Scotland, Lady Jane Grey, and the three ladies Seymour, all of whom are celebrated for their learning and accomplishments, received their literary educations in catholic England. How many of the Elizabethan prelates, whose learning you extol, received their education under roman-catholic masters? Then, can it be denied, that the reformation found literature, science and art, diffused over all the southern, and most of the northern territories of Europe? * Ad Petrum Bembum, Basilea, an. 1518.
or that it was then in a very advanced state of cultivation? or that the ardour of the public, for instruction, was very high? or that there was a very strong and very general desire for instruction and improvement?
Surely the progress of it was rather retarded than promoted by the theological disputes, the animosities, the contentions, and the wars, which were occasioned by the reformation.
It is observable, that "Luther and Melancthon, to use the words of Mosheim*, seemed to set "out with a resolution to banish every species of "philosophy from the church." Luther wished that the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and thẻ other antient classics, should be consigned to the flames t. Stock, his disciple, opposed the teaching of the alphabet, lest the distractions, which study occasions, should withhold the mind from God‡: he founded, on this principle, a sect called Abecedarians. "At Strasburg," says Erasmus, in a letter to Melancthon §, "it is publicly taught, that no "science should be cultivated, and that no language,
except Hebrew, should be taught." I see no reason to suppose, that Luther changed the opinion expressed in the passage which I have cited: Melancthon certainly did, and published his Loci Communes, a philosophical work, greatly esteemed. From this time, letters were generally cultivated by
the reformers, and they deserved highly of literature; still, you must admit that the first advances were made by roman-catholics, and that the revival of letters was originally, if not principally, owing to them.
You will probably expect, that I should say something on the subject of the Biblical studies of the roman-catholics before the period of the reformation. I trust that you will agree with me, that, taking the circumstances of the times into consideration, they were pursued both with ardour and success. On this head, I beg leave to refer you to the second part of doctor Hody's "Scholastic His
tory of the Text and Versions of the Greek and "Latin Vulgate:" you will find it proves, beyond controversy, that there never was a time, even in the darkest ages, in which the study of the scriptures, in their original languages, was not cultivated and encouraged by the roman-catholic clergy. The works of the venerable Bede, of Grossetête, the bishop of Lincoln, and Roger Bacon, show how much they were encouraged in this country. No sooner was the typographic art discovered, than the catholic presses were employed in printing, in every size, from the fclio to the twenty-fourth, editions of the Old and New Testament. The labours of Lanfranc, whom you so much and so deservedly praise, in procuring correct copies both of the Old and New Testament, are mentioned by Baronius, Cave, Dupin, and Wetstein. Every roman-catholic acknowledges, with readiness, the transcendent merit of the London Polyglot; but it was preceded
by those of Complutum, Antwerp, and Paris. Will it be too much to require, of candid protestants, to admit, that without these, the London Polyglot would not have existed? The Complutensium Polyglot was begun in 1502, and the whole printed in 1517, long before the first dawn of the reformation.
You mention the translations of the Bible into English in terms, which must lead your readers to suppose, that the roman-catholic church discourages translations of it into vernacular languages. How very often, and how very erroneously, has this been charged upon the catholics! If you will do your present correspondent the favour, to look into his Essay on the Discipline of the Church of Rome, respecting the general perusal of the Scriptures "in the vulgar Tongue, by the Laity," you will find, that several translations into the German, several into the French, several into the Italian, and several into the Belgic tongue, had been printed, before publications of protestant versions in those languages appeared. In the "Garden of the Soul," the most popular catholic prayer-book, a new edition of which, with the formal approbation of doctor Poynter, has been recently published, romancatholics are recommended, (p. 203), "before they go to bed, to read a chapter in the scripture, or some spiritual book." I beg leave to add, that, at the revocation of the edict of Nantes, 50,000 copies of a French translation of the New Testament, were, at the recommendation of Bossuet, distributed among the converted protestants, by the * Butler's Works, vol. 4, essay ii. p. 191.
order of Louis XIV. Several years ago, I was furnished, by an English bookseller, with a list of twenty-three editions of the roman-catholic transla tion of the New, or of both the Old and New Testament; and many have been printed since that time. For several years past, the romancatholics have been censured, with great severity, for not encouraging, to the extent recommended, the promiscuous reading of the English Bible, by the laity, without note or comment. Are we not entitled to our opinion upon this subject? Has not experience justified our caution? Have not several eminent lights, of the protestant church, always condemned, do not several of them now condemn it? Have not many of the most respectable advocates, for the general distribution of Bibles, now declared a different opinion? Does not the disapprobation of it daily increase?
Whether the Conduct of the religious Orders justified the Dissolution of the Monasteries?
A PERSON, who would publish a true and full account of this important event, and state candidly in it, the advantages and disadvantages which, at the æra of the reformation, attended monastic establishments, would deserve well of the literary world. To the best of my power, I have attempted to do it in my "Historical Memoirs of the English,
* Vie de Bossuet, evêque de Meaux, par le cardinal de Bausset, ed. 1814, tome iv. p. 83.