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assigned a just proportion to what you yourself allow, to have been eminently praiseworthy and venerable? Should you not have bestowed some pages on the edifying holiness of St. Neot; the monastic sanctity and extensive learning of Bredfirth, the monk of Ramsay; the extensive erudition of Bede; and the royal virtues and piety of Alfred?
On themes like these, how much did justice call upon you to dwell! But, how little do you say upon them!
Permit me, before I close this letter, to notice a great, but I am sure an unintentional misrepresentation contained in your present chapter*. You eulogize the primate Theodore, for prohibiting divorce for any other cause than that which is allowed by the gospel. Here, you evidently allude to the council held at Hereford in 673, at which Theodore presided t. It does not allow, or even mention divorce; but enjoins, that "no one "should forsake his wife,"-(that is, should cease "to cohabit with her), -unless, as the gospel "teaches, for fornication; and that, if any one "should have expelled his wife, joined to him in "lawful matrimony, he should marry no other, but "remain as he was, or be reconciled to her."
* Page 84.
+ Wilk. Conc. vol. 1, p. 41.
CHARGES AGAINST THE MONKS OF WITHHOLDING KNOWLEDGE, AND OF A DISPOSITION
IN this letter I shall consider the principal charges, which you bring against the roman-catholic church, in the seventh chapter of your work. What respects the claim of the popes to temporal power, I shall make the subject of a future letter.
Charges against the Monks of withholding Knowledge, and of a Disposition to immoderate Severity.
You begin this chapter by intimating, that, “if "St. Dunstan had been succeeded by similar talents "and temper, and England had remained undis"turbed by invasions, the priesthood might have "obtained as complete an ascendancy as in antient Egypt, or in Tibet, founded upon deceit, and upheld by uncommunicated knowledge, and im"moderate severity." On these expressions I long paused in silent wonder.
I must attribute them to that hurry of composition, which sometimes leads even the ablest writers into inaccuracy. If, for a moment, you had looked into the stores of your own mind,-and ampler few possess,--you would have seen, that, in the
middle ages, pope succeeded pope, with talents and temper similar to Dunstan's, yet, that, throughout the whole of this period, the eternal city, so far from being subjected to any Egyptiac or Tibetian ascendancy of priesthood, was the most free, and the most enlightened portion of Christendom.
But, in your account of monkish literature and government, how could the words, "uncommuni"cated knowledge and immoderate severity," have fallen from your pen? Were not monasteries the only schools? Was not knowledge most liberally communicated in them *?
As to your charge against the monks, of "immo"derate severity," I must observe, that the passage, which I have just cited from your work, is the first, in which I have found this charge, or any thing like it, made or insinuated; and that, after seriously revolving all I have read on monastic transactions, I cannot bring to my recollection even a single fact which supports it. To the general mildness of their government, M. Mallét, a celebrated protestant historian †, bears strong testimony. "The monks," he says, "softened by their instructions the fero"cious manners of the people, and opposed their "credit to the despotism of the nobility, who knew "no other occupation than war, and grievously oppressed their neighbours: on this account, the government of the monks was preferred to theirs. "The people sought them for judges; it was an
* Historical Memoirs of the English, Irish and Scottish Catholics, c. xvi. s. 2.
+ Histoire des Suisses ou Helvétiens, tome 1, p. 105.
"usual saying, that it was better to be governed
by a bishop's crosier, than a monarch's sceptre." -I wish you to consider this passage; and, what is more important, to reflect, what your own extensive reading must suggest to you upon the subject. Surely you will then think that there is no foundation for your charge. Have I not brought, in my "Historical Memoirs," ample testimony to the services rendered by the monks to education and literature?
One reflection permit me to suggest to you. No one knows better than yourself the impediments which existed, in the middle ages, to the expansion of genius, and the acquisition of knowledge. Supposing that you had lived in that period, with all the mental endowments which you have received from nature, is it quite certain that you would have possessed a better or purer religion; more literary merit, or greater consistency, than the best men or best writers of those times? That you would have excelled Anselm, in holiness; Bede, in agiography; the author of the Alexandreis,-(to whom we owe the celebrated line,
"Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens evitare Charybdim,")
in poetry; Thomas Aquinas, in theology; Matthew Paris, or Matthew of Westminster, in history; or Roger Bacon, in philosophy ?-Respect yourself then in those, whom you might have resembled, if you had lived in their inauspicious ages; and show that blindness to their faults, and that kindness to their virtues, to which, if you had lived
in their times, you would have been entitled from Without their preservation of the language and writings of Greece and Rome, and, (what is of greater consequence), without their transmission to you of the sacred writings, which contain the sacred word of God, you would not have been what you are. Which is it most fitting they should receive from you,-GRATITUDE or SARCASMS?
IN considering the unhappy contests in the middle ages, between the popes and the sovereigns, on the subject of investitures, we shall find ample ground for repelling the undistinguishing and unqualified censure, which the conduct of the former has received from modern writers.
It gives me pleasure to find you are not to be classed among these.-In the chapter under consideration, you often do justice to the pope: some things however in it call for observation.
You are aware, that, in the early ages of the church, bishops were elected at a congregation of the clergy and laity of the diocese; that one, or more, of the neighbouring bishops presided at the election; that the whole congregation joined in it; that the bishop consecrated; that, from the reign of Constantine the Great, the body of the people began to be wholly excluded; that the bishops and clergy retained their influence; that it insensibly declined, so that the monarchs usurped to themselves the exclusive right of nominating to vacant