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the old, or given rise to new obligations; and whether this progress
age, the subject of such exultation to some, and of such regret to others, towards a more complicated civilization, affecting all its opinions and the whole of its philosophy, has in any manner altered what we have just laid down as the source, and, if I may so speak, the very essence of the chivalrous system. We have it not in our power, consistently with honour and a love of truth and justice, to keep back from meeting the question, "Were these mighty changes necessary? Are we to honour or to disapprove of those who deem them to have been pernicious ?" This is a question which involves the duties of men to each other. Did there exist sufficient cause for giving up these principles of Christian unity, to the abandonment of which we must ascribe the present distracted state of the religious and social mind in Europe? There is a question which concerns the interest, and perhaps the very existence of nations. Are the authors of this great revolution to receive the sanction of our acquiescence in their measures ? That is one to which justice, unaffected by the lapse of time, demands an answer. Finally, the great question follows, so full of importance to each man in particular, and to society at large—May we rest the conduct of our lives, the guidance of our hearts, the fate of our souls, upon what antiquity deemed the essentials of religion and wisdom; or must we pass over to the side of the moderns, who deem them fallacious and insufficient?
It will of course be seen at once, from the nature and boundless extent of the subject, that nothing
can be intended in this place farther than to collect, in as few words as possible, what I may conceive to be the sum and the results, as it were, of preceding experience and inquiry. Unquestionably the subject might naturally give rise to an argument that would ill suit the light and careless character of these sheets; an argument with which my reader must not think me unacquainted, because I refrain from entering upon it here; an argument, however, which may be deemed by some reasoners useless and uncalled for in any place, because there is always a most satisfactory conclusion from a priori evidence that must determine the question; seeing that a revelation from God, once made, must be like its Divine Author im-. mutable; there can be no variation in its laws, no new discoveries to be hoped for by critics, and no field to occupy the speculations of the philosopher: but to meet objections, we must descend from the mountains of eternal truth to combat at their feet the party spirit, the prejudice, and the ignorance of men. To engage
any combat may perhaps ill suit with religion ; but I am no priest, I am but a temporal man, of whose passions, alas! as the Greek Poet says, “ there is no other old age except in death ;" and there is a bold presumption, a kind of vapouring insolence, a bad taste, a pedantry, and an inhumanity, in the attacks made upon the ancient wisdom, which kindle in the breast of the ordinary and vulgar men who love it, a spark of human zeal which they may be unable or unwilling to extinguish. Assuredly, however, it is not as a theologian that I wish to treat this subject, but merely in a natural and sim
ple manner, as one who presumes to have some slight acquaintance with letters and with history, and who is of opinion that their object is never so well obtained as when they are made instrumental in leading men to principles of union, and holiness, and love. Be it observed, then, that I do not presume to compromise a great question by assuming the office of its legitimate advocate, and that the wisdom of our fathers shall not be answerable for my weakness; and
; yet, albeit, most unworthy to rise in such a cause, to those men who are so fondly ready upon all occasions, to arm their tongue with contemptuous words against the religious character of the heroic age of our history, fain would I something say something indeed that will, I fear, sound ungracious to many ears; yet, as the Athenians once said when compelled to remind ungrateful Grecians of their services at Marathon, “ It shall be said not more for the sake of exculpating ourselves, than of bearing witness to the truth a.”
Beyond certain limits, indeed, I am fully aware, that men would do right in refusing to follow me upon the awful ground which will appear in view; but these limits I will not transgress. The remarks which I proceed to offer, are, for the most part, such as have been suggested in the course of my conversations with divers men of the Church, both at home and abroad : at home, in England, when I have often had the advantage of hearing some of the most noble clerks of the world dispute on questions of this kind,
with the learning of scholars, and the courtesy of gentlemen: and abroad, where I have often had occasion to observe the opinions of the clergy in great cities; I might particularly distinguish Liege and Cologne, Vienna, Padua, Lyons, and Paris, in which last I often met a most learned theologian of the Sorbonne, a worthy clerk, “as proved by his wordes and his werk;" and also in wild countries, amid mountains and forests, I have many a time discoursed, for the greater part of evenings together with wise monks and holy men, in different monasteries and religious houses, where I have been lodged during the course of my travels. Therefore, the reader will find nothing here but what has been said by many wise and learned holy men. In good truth, it is not the divine who is concerned in this argument; but it is the unlettered layman, who is apt to contract strangè unchristian prejudices on the ground of what he calls religion; and it is justly said “ Homine imperito nunquam quicquam injustius." It is the poet, and he who loves to wander with him through the fairy land of imagination and chivalry, that will be here interested; for upon the question at issue depends the innocence or guilt of many of their views. We know what sentence Plato passed upon the poets of Greece, for debasing the religion of their country, by blending it with fiction; and doubtless, if the objects of poetic veneration in these later times be, as it is loudly proclaimed by some, contrary to the eternal truth and holiness of God's
• Teren. Adelphi, i. 1.
Word, (little as a light age may be inclined to such a thought,) with the aid of no wing shall they be able to escape from the wrath of heaven. Speaking, however, in the strictest sense, the question which I now propose to institute belongs to history rather than to sacred science, although it may have been divines who have obliged the historian to reply, and who have furnished him with words necessary for the purpose; for be it remembered, the influence of the old spirit extended beyond the religious interests of mankind, and besides, there are cases in which even the most sacred and unapproachable doctrines force themselves on the page of history, on that page as well as on the mind of every man who is not ready to trust his highest interests to mere chance; and such are the events of that revolution which has, outwardly at least, divided Christendom-that gave rise to principles and opinions which pervaded the most various and important branches of knowledge, and which affect our view of history from the very rise of these European kingdoms. It is for the historian to decide how far, or with what explanations, the charges brought by certain learned men, since the 16th century, against the ancient faith and institutions of Europe, be just; whether, indeed, the men of former ages held the errors ascribed to them, because such errors are inseparably connected with the lives and actions of men, the immediate object of history. Undoubtedly too, it is for every man of honourable and feeling mind, who has the learning requisite, to examine first before he pleads guilty in the name of his fathers who