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On the whole, I shall venture to observe, what, however, no reader will be prepared to receive, unless his mind has been seasoned with a degree of experimental religion, that the comments of Bede are far more solid and judicious than those of many modern, improperly called rational divines; though in the former the errors of fanciful allegory abound, in the latter an air of strict and accurate argumentation every where appear. The reason is, because the former, being poffeffed of the true meaning of the Apostle on the whole, supports and illustrates it throughout, though he fails in detached passages because of the desultory ebullitions of a vicious taste, which predominated in his time; the latter with “ semblance of worth, not substance,” are accurate and just in many particulars, but from their system of notions, which is extreinely opposite to that of St. Paul, mislead their readers altogether, in regard to the main drift of the argument. A
year before our presbyter's death, he wrote a letter to Egbert, archbishop of York, which deserves to be immortalized for the folid senfe, which it exhibits, a quality, with which Bede was very eminently endowed *.
“ Above all things,” says he, " avoid useless discourse, and apply yourself to the Holy Scriptures, especially the epistles to Timothy and Titus; to Gregory's pastoral care, and his homilies on the Gospel.-It is indecent for him, who is dedicated to the service of the Church, to give way to actions or discourse unsuitable to his character. Have always those about you, who may assist you in temptation: be not like some bishops, who love to have those about then, who love good cheer, and divert them with trifling and facetious conversation.
Your • Bede's Works, Paris edit. p. 46.
Your diocese is too large to allow you to go through the whole in a year ; therefore appoint presbyters, in each village, to instruct and administer the sacraments; and let them be ftudious, that every one of them may learn, by heart, the Creed and the Lord's prayer; and that if they do not understand Latin, they may repeat thein in their own tongue. I have translated them into English, for the benefit of ignorant presbyters. I am told, that there are many villages in our nation, in the mountainous parts, the inhabitants of which have never seen a bishop or paftor; and yet they are obliged to pay their dues to the bishop.
The beit means to reform our Church, is to increase the number of bishops: who sees not, how much more reasonable it is for numbers to share this burden? Gregory therefore directed Augustine to appoint twelve bishops to be under the archbishop of York, as their metropolitan. I wish you would fill up this number, with the assistance of the king of Northumberland*.”
“ I know it is not easy to find an empty place for the erection of a bishopric. You may choose some monastery for the purpose. In truth, there are many places, which have the name of monafteries without deserving it.”-He goes on to thew how, for thirty years past, the scandalous abuse of monasteries had prevailed, and how useless many of them were to church and state, as they preserved neither piety nor decency. He directs Egbert to see that his flock be instructed in christian faith and practice, and that they frequently attend on the comınunion. He finds fault with the excessive multiplication of monks, and expreffes his fears, left, in process of time, the state fhould be destitute of foldiers to repel an invasion. This last obfervation is of a piece with another at the close of his history, that many Northumbrians in his days, both nobles and private men, employed themselves and their children more in monastic vows than in the exercise of arms. " What effect this will have,” says he, “ the next generation will bear witnefs." It is no common instance of judgment in one who had always been a monk, to notice these evils *. How they happened to be fo very fashionable in our island, it is not hard to account for. Our ancestors were, doubtlefs, much indebted under God to the Roman See. Christianity, before the mifsions of Gregory, was very low in England. A real spirit of godliness, the fincere practice and true understanding of the Gospel, had been, through the bishops of Rome, introduced among barbarians. Even the benefits thence resulting to society must have been great. Gratitude and affection would naturally lead our ancestors, in those fuperftitious ages, to monaftic excesses. And if the evils, of which Bede complains, be strong proofs of the superstitious taste, they are also of the spirit of piety which fubfifted among them. While Bede lived, in no part of the world was godliness better understood and practised, than among our anceftors. In a synod held by Cuthbert, archbishop of Canterbury, about the middle of this century, at Cloveshoot, there were twelve prelates, with Ethelbald, king of the Mercians. The canons of this fynod would have done
* His name was Cedulph. Two years after Bede's death, he gave up his crown and lived twenty-two years in a monastery. His mind was most probably truly devout, though the spirit of the times led him into a degenerate method of Thewing it.
honour Even kings gave
themselves to retirements of this kind, and there want not instances, among the Saxon princess of pilgrimages to Rome of a religious nature.
Now Cliff, near Rochester. Warner.
honour to the purest times, and they seem to have been inspired by the genius of Bede. The clergy are directed to have fellowship with one another, to ferve God in one spirit of faith, hope, and charity, to pray for one another, to attend to the duties of the fabbath, and, in fine, the same things are repeated, which are to be found in Bede's letter to Egbert.
Let us not pride ourselves in a fancied superiority to our forefathers: a vanity of this fort seems to be the disease of the present age;-but men were not all without understanding in those dark seasons. The indiscriminating censures of Mosheim on whole centuries, seem to Thew more malignity than discernment. Bede alone knew more of true religion, both doctrinal and practical, than numbers of ecclesiastics put together at this day; which will clearly appear, if we do but free him from superstitious rubbish, and examine what he is internally.
C H A P. CHAP. II.
A , ,
Lambert, bishop of Maestricht, was murdered. He had succeeded Theodard, under whom he had been educated, and, for forty years, had adorned the Gospel by a life of piety and charity.
He had been seven years deprived of his See amidst A.D. the civil confufions of France, but had been re681. eftablished about the year 681. This prelate had
exerted himself with much zeal in his diocese, and laboured with success in the conversion of the pagans, who were in his neighbourhood. His patience, as well as his doctrine, had a falutary effect. It is not, however, in the power of the wifest and best of men, to restrain the tempers of their friends and relations. Two brothers, Gallus and Riold, were intolerably violent in plundering the church of Maestricht, and infesting the neighbourhood. Lainbert's relations, particularly two nephews, returned evil for evil, and flew them, much against the will of the bishop. Doubtless, the brothers ought to have applied to the civil magistrate, though justice was at that time very ill adıninistered in France. Dodo, a powerful baron of the neighbourhood, a relation of the robbers, was determined to revenge their deaths upon the bishop himself; and he attacked him with armed men at Leodium * upon the Meuse. Lambert, in his first agitation upon the news of their approach, seized a sword, but recollecting himself,
and • Now Liege. Fleury XLI. 16.