« VorigeDoorgaan »
“ciple, and, sanctifying the most atrocious and “ cursed actions, had the misery of mankind for “ their end.” In a former page* you remark, that “ to the servile part of the community the
gospel was indeed tidings of great joy; fre“quently they were emancipated, either in the “ first fervor of the owner's conversion, or as an “ act of atonement, and meritorious charity, at “ death.” For these expressions, I most sincerely thank you : but I«must entreat you to keep in mind, that the conversions you speak of, and which you describe to have been attended with so many spiritual and so many temporal blessings, were conversions effected by roman-catholic missionaries to the roman-catholic faith.—Can such a faith deserve a harsh word ?
THE ANGLO-SAXON CHURCH ST. DUNSTAN.
SIR, AN attentive perusal of what doctor Lingard has written in his Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, and of what the same author, and Mr. Sharon Turner, have said in their respective histories of England,--and an examination of all the authorities adduced by them,-have convinced me, that St. Dunstan is entitled to the praise of true religion, probity, and talent. Such was the opinion of every writer, whose works have reached us, from the time in which St. Dunstan lived, till the æra of the Reformation. Then, without the discovery of a single new fact, that could justify a change of opinion, St. Dunstan became an object of the most contumelious abuse; since that time, it has been always on the increase :-you now describe him as a perfect monster. Differing from you in this regard, I request your particular attention to this letter. I shall mention in it,-1. The early years of St. Dunstan :-11. His conduct towards king Edwin :--III. His conduct towards king Edgar: -IV. His enforcing the celibacy of the clergy v. His introduction of the Benedictine monks in the room of the secular canons:And vi. His miracles.
Early Years of St. Dunstan. His family was noble: all historians agree, that his education was suitable to his birth; that his proficiency, both in sacred and profane literature, was great ; that he was eminently skilled in the elegant arts of music, painting, engraving, and working in metals; and that his knowledge, and exemplary conduct, made him universally respected and beloved, and destined him, in public opinion, to the highest dignities, and most important employments. While he was thus rapidly advancing to distinction, he fell into disgrace at court, and was visited by a long illness. In the serious hours of a protracted convalescence, he determined to embrace a religious life; and, sometime after his recovery, received the order of priesthood, and, with it, the monastic habit. He was attached to the parish church of Glastonbury; still, he lived in retirement, and devoted, in an obscure and humble cell, all the time which his parochial duties left at his disposal, to prayer and penitential austerities. He distributed his own fortune, and a considerable property which had been bequeathed to him, between his church and the poor. His virtues attracted the attention of Edmund, his sovereign : the monarch conferred on him the royal palace and manor of Glastonbury, and appointed him abbot of the adjoining convent of Benedictine monks. Edred, the brother and successor of Edmund, showed him the same favour. Edred was succeeded by Edwin, a dissolute youth, then in his fourteenth year.
Such was the early life of Dunstan., Modern writers profess to discover in it strong indications of hypocrisy, ambition and turbulence. To me, these are invisible, unless it be certain that a person, who retires in his youth from the dignities and gaudes of the world, spends many years in privacy and humble occupations, and afterwards attains great dignities in the church, must necessarily hence have been in his youth hypocritical, ambitious, and turbulent.
The Conduct of St. Dunstan towards King Edwin.
At the time of which we are now writing, two women, Ethelgiva, and Elgiva her daughter, frequented the monarch's court.
“ The former, says an antient writer, was of high rank, but
silly. She followed the king every where, and
endeavoured, by familiar and shameful blandish“ments, to induce him to unite himself to her,
or to her daughter, by the tie of marriage. “ Shameful to relate, each submitted to the mo“ narch's will.” Decency compels us to suppress the rest of the scandalous narrative. On the day of his coronation, the monarch, the clergy, and the nobility, assembled, as was customary on this occasion, at a sumptuous feast. In the midst of some serious discourse, the monarch suddenly rose from the table, and hurried into an adjoining apartment. There, Ethelgiva and Elgiva awaited him. The assembled ecclesiastics and nobles felt themselves insulted; they expressed their indignation by a general murmur; and unanimously commanded Dunstan and Kinsey, a prelate of royal blood, to repair to the apartment, and bring back the monarch, willing or unwilling, to his seat. Kinsey and Dunstan found the sovereign in a situation, which it would be offensive to our readers to describe, and his royal crown on the floor. The monarch was unwilling to quit the scene of infamy. Dunstan strongly represented to him the consequences of his conduct ; dragged him from the embraces of the women; placed the crown upon his head; and returned with him to the banquet *. It is surprising that the conduct of Dunstan, on this occasion, should be the subject of modern blame. The monarch had outraged decency, the clergy and nobles were irritated ; and the worst consequences might have followed. Dunstan brought.back the unwise youth to the assembly, and thus stifled the discontent.
But his conduct was resented, both by the king and Ethelgiva. He was banished from the court, confined to his monastery, and threatened with personal violence. Then, with the permission of the earl of Flanders, he retired to the monastery of St. Peter at Ghent; but Edwin and Ethelgiva pursued their vengeance against him. His two
* See Lingard's Hist. vol. I, note (A), 2. 543.