Page images
PDF
EPUB

and still flourishes there ; the Dukes of Medina Sidonia being the eldest branch thereof. His mother, like the women of many of the noble families of Spain, was a devotee, and ere yet the boy was beyond the tender years of infancy, he was taught to rigorously observe the fast-days of the Church, and made to undergo penance at a time when bis immature mind could scarcely have been capable of conceiving the nature of a sin. It is a noteworthy fact, as showing the influences under which Dominic was brought up, that all his brothers became either priests or monks;--his very name of Dominic was given to him in honour of the “ holy abbot” of Silos. He never knew what the word childhood meant; none of those bright and joyous hours which come to most of us amidst the cares and anxieties of our manhood, when we remember our youth's golden prime, when life was a holiday, and we knew naught but happiness-none of those could ever have come to Dominic, for none such he ever knew. From his earliest years he was taught to consider amusement sinful; and ere yet he had emerged from the years of boyhood, he was, under the tuition of the archpriest of Gumiel, who was his preceptor, made to employ his time in prayer and serious reading. Life had no sunshine for this man, and if we find in him a saturnine cast of character, shall we wonder? No; and if we are compelled to condemn his actions in after-life, let us, at least, recollect this -- that the influences which had been brought to bear upon him in the earlier time were not such as would assist in widening his sphere of vision, or would give him a true theory of life. course, it was but the natural result of this man's youthful training that he should in due course enter the Church, and at the age of twenty-eight we find him accepting a canonry among the canons regular of St. Austin, in the diocese of Osma. Here he was soon distinguished by his extraordinary asceticism ; so great were the severities which be caused himself to undergo, that he was reduced to a state of sheer exhaustion, and the bishop ras compelled to take measures for making him abate some portion of his severities in order to save his life. In this mode of life he spent some years, until his bishop, being deputed by Alphonso of Castile to go on an embassy into France, he took Dominic with him. This led to the visit of Dominic to the City of Toulouse, where, it appears, he and the bishop lodged in the house of one of the Waldensian heretics. All the fanatic zeal of Dominic was roused by this contact with heresy, and he besought the Pope to allow him to undertake the duty of quelling the heretical opinions prevalent in Languedoc, and, with the Pope's consent, he became one of the Papal missionaries who undertook that impossible task,

It would appear that it was in a spirit of love that Dominic undertook this work, a work for which scarcely any man could have been less fitted. Brought up, as we have seen, from the earliest age in an unquestioning faith in all that the Church taught; nerer heving had any doubts himself, how could he be capable of arguing with those who had doubted, or able to understand their mental condition ? His non-success in converting the heretics of Languedoc seems to have filled him with as much astonishment as mental disquietude ; he had no conception of the possibility of a state of mind in which men were willing to choose rather damnation than salvation, and this was what it appeared to him these heretics were doing. Not being able to conceive how men could doubt the authority of the Church, being incapable of arrogating to himself the right to judge of the truth or falsity of her teachings, he could not comprehend how other men could do this. The effect of this, coupled with the constant rejection of the salvation he offered them at the hands of the

65

Church, is easily understood from love his feeling would turn to hatred. At first, he looked upon them as mistaken men, who needed only to have the truth preached to them, to recognise the error of their ways; but finding that, although he zealously preached, they still remained in their heresy, he took for obstinacy on their parts, what was, in fact, the result of his incapacity to convince.

The spirit in which he commenced his work, is shown by the celebrated rebuke he administered to the Papal Legates wlio had been sent into Languedoc to put down the heresy by gentle measures, and whom Dominic met on their way back to Rome arrayed in all the pomp of their office. He asked them of their success, and learning that they had been on a fruitless mission, he said :-"It is not by the display of pomp and power, cavalcades of “ retainers and richly houselee palireys, by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics “win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by

austerity and by holiness, of seeming it is true, but yet seeming holiness. “ Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real

sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth." This is what he now undertook to do, and when he found that he too failed, it is not won erful that he should begin to think other means necessary; if he sought to use them, at least it was not for his own aggrandisement, a thing which cannot be said for others concerned. The fact is he commenced this work in a spirit of fanaticism, capable of love and forgiveness on the one hand, and of hatred and malignity on the other, both surpassing our ordinary experience of men. So we find that when he undertook to preach the Pope's ban of excommunication in Languedoc, he did it thoroughly-calling upon all who desired salvation to abstain from any communication whatsoever with the heretics, to drive them from off their lands, and confiscate their property ; while in the case of converts, the penances which he enjoined were of the cruelest kind. And yet he is the man, of whom we are credibly informed that, when appealed to to rescue from the Moors a woman's brother who had been taken by pirates and made a slave, she having appealed to him to do this on the ground that she feared his apostacy and the consequent loss of his soul, “I have neither gold nor silver,' was his answer, “but offer me to the Moor in exchange for your brother ; 'I am willing to become a slave in his stead.' This, however, she was not willing to do-but, as Butler piously observes, Dominic's charity was not the less before God. Other instances of a similar charity are related of this man, who has descended to posterity with the evil reputation of having been the cruelest of mankind. It has been said of him, even, that he is the only man who possessed no single virtue. This, however, is a totally false view of Dominic. He was not a villian, but a fanatic; in his character we find the usual paradoxes of fanaticism, kindliness, and cruelty, an earnest desire for the eternal welfare of the heretics he would put to death, something which looks very like religion, and actions which bcspeak the spirit of the fiend.

Such was the man in whom Innocent III, saw a fit instrument to rouse the sleeping energies of the Church, and initiate an era of spiritual terrorism. From the earliest times of the hierarchical establishment, the theory of the Church had been, that the priest was the only person who was authorised to preach and teach the people. With the growth of episcopal dignity and wealth, however, the priesthood shirked this duty. Thus, throughout those Middle Ages, the Church never spoke to her children by the voice of the preacher, but only in rites and ceremonies. Dominic was the first to recognise the necessity to provide something in the shape of an appeal to the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

intelligence of the people. The strength of the various heresies lay in the fact, that they had a large body of preachers, who were ever speaking to listening crowds, and enforcing their doctrines. In the facts, that crowds were ready to listen to this preaching ; that men were no longer satisfied with mere ceremonies; and that they demanded, and responded to, an intellectual appeal, we see proof of an altogether new age having commenced. Men were no longer to be led by the nose as asses are.' Dominic had the acuteness to see this, and sought to provide a remedy in the shape of an Order of preaching Friars, who should travel among the people and preach to them the doctrines of the Church, even in the same way as the followers of Waldus were wont to preach his heresy to them. We shall see a different working out of this idea in the case of St. Francis of Assissi. Dominic, however, from his experiences in Languedoc, felt that this alone would not be sufficient ; that other means were necessary for the suppression of heresy, and, moreover, that by a spiritual police to be established in the shape of his itinerant monks heresy might be nipped in the bud. In the cruelties of the Albigensian Crusade Doininic took but a very small part; nay, seems to have felt that the crusaders themselves were almost worse than the heretics ; he was governed by what he took for a religious motive in desiring the punishment of heresy, they by a desire to glut themselves with plunder and pelf at the expense of the heretics. And so to confound the brutal crusaders under Montfort, with Dominic the fanatic, would be to do the latter great injusticc; and it is but justice to him to remember this distinction between him and them.

JAS. L. GOODING.

CHARITY AND THE CLAIMS OF THE POOR.

A LECTURE BY THE EDITOR,

(Continued from p. 174.) THE working man has yet to learn the lesson of self-sacrifice. He has suffered by constraint, but has not yet learned how to undertake the pain of self-denial in order to achieve a great object; when he does that his emancipation is certain. For instance, how much we hear about the pressure of low wages and the unfair share of profit paid by the capitalist to the skilled labourer. Say that all the statements are true; what then? Will redress come through the mere recital of the grievance, or can it only come as a consequence of the working classes meeting the man of money with Capital to compete with him upon level ground ? The labourer's strike for an advance of wages, and gain nothing but misery; if they provided Capital, before striking, their cause would triumph—and they can do this by stopping the tap. We enter a firm in which two thousand skilled labourers are employed at very low wages. Say that, in order to improve their condition, they all resolve that through the next ten years they will abstain from beer and gin, in order, for the purpose of securing justice, to lay the money by. If we suppose the average wages to be thirty shillings a-week, we can also say that the average gin and beer expenditure is four shillings. This is too low a figure for representing the fact of what is actually spent, but I keep to this sum in order to avoid captious objections. Such a weekly sum regularly saved through ten years will, adding interest, amount to One hundred and twenty-fivc pounds, or, for the whole body, to Two hundred and fifty thousand

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

pounds. When that amount has been saved, we may suppose them again to ask for an increase of wages, which the masters refuse. The strike comes, but without starvation for those who have struck. A few weeks pass by, and, much to the masters' astonishment, without any hungry men finding their way back to beg for employment, as well as without any piteous appeals being made to the “brother workmen of England." The employers, becoming more and more confused by the new state of afairs, convene a meeting, to which a deputation of working men is invited. The question is asked by one of the masters, how they can live so long without work, and then the whole matter is so far explained that the power of the men becomes apparent. They are no longer beggars and starving men, but beings who are strong enough to obtain justice. If the masters refuse to pay what is fair, then the men may either purchase the factory, or found one for themselves with two hundred thousand pounds of their own Capital; and, as a co-operating body, share the profits.

I know, indeed, that many will call this proposal dreamy, but it is nothing of the sort, and, moreover, it represents the only sound principle of progress. It rests upon the great doctrine of self-sacrifice, through which to achieve victory; and the working man who will not act upon that principle does not deserve comfort. Self-sacrifice lies at the foundation of everything noble and honourable in England. Through acting upon its dictates they who compose the middle classes rose from their serfdom. Every fortune now belonging to the denounced moneyed men rests upon industry, selfdenial, and caution; and it is impossible to conceive any just reason for the working man being set free from the conditions of progress and elevation which were so rigorously imposed upon others. As I have already urged, our life is governed by certain definite laws, which we cannot control or suspend, and this one, which regulates the conditions of elevation, is as absolute as the rest. To win comfort the right sort of seed must be sown; to achieve justice strength must be developed. The working man who depends upon the moral justice of his claims relies upon a bending reed. It should not be so; but it is so, and in dealing with men we must take them as they

They will not give one shilling for a job if they can get it done for sixpence. What should be paid is left as a matter for the sentimentalist ; as a rule the “

practical man never pays a shilling when he could be served for sixpence.' If he did the world would call him a fool. And, living in such a state of society, the working man is bound, by every claim of duty, country, child, and self, to take such steps as will lead to the establishment of what is practically just. Everything short of that will prove but a vexation and weariness of the spirit. He will never be treated justly until he has made himself strong enough to resist wrong, and to cause the iniquity to recoil upon the iniquitous. Others will tell him to rely upon the justice of his cause, but I bid him rely only upon his power to render its justice irresistible.

It must, however, be conceded that, as the working classes are now situated-ignorant and under the tutelage of Custom-there is but little chance of their adopting such a course as that I have indicated, and hence the necessity of considering what can be done in order to put them in the way to better thoughts and habits. What should the good man do for them ? thousands

among the rich and powerful who are heartily desirous of rendering practical assistance ; but in what way are they to act so as to achieve the object they have at heart ? On one hand it is urged, that the

are.

There are

[ocr errors]

best thing they can do is to promote the spread of practical education ; while, on the other, there is an increasing cry for aid to be given to Charitable Institutions. It is unnecessary to do more than discuss these opposite methods; and there is little reason for believing that any others will be proposed. If the latter should receive our support, then the fruits of good they have produced ought to be made a little more manifest than they have hitherto been ; my own convictions are in favour of the former. We do not need more charity but more justice; and, if the working classes were properly educated there would be less demand for charitable donations. Not, however, to prejudge the question, I turn to consider these benevolent societiesof course excluding the class which provide for the wants of the sick, the blind, and others who suffer physically, and for whom, including the orphan, it were well if all subscribed with greater liberality; although there are errors in the management, even of these, which need correcting.

The greatest evil of these charitable institutions lies, not in the amount of hypocrisy, self-complacency, and delusion which they generate among the rich and the official class, but in the improvidence and carelessness which, almost as a necessary consequence of their methods of giving, they create among the poor. It has been wisely provided in Nature that there shall be certain appreciable rewards attached to the performance of our duties, and certain punishments inflicted if we neglect them. These laws being the institutions of God operating in Nature, are the most perfect we can conceive of, and, consequently, there is no wisdom in labouring, as the charitable societies do, to set them aside. A man is punished by Nature who takes no care for to-morrow, but these societies step in, saying, " We will turn “ aside the punishment by providing for your wants." "Very kind too,” says the dullard, who thinks that all pain and suffering is an unmixed evil. But is it so ? That punishment was directed to wise ends which are never reached if its pains are turned aside. The victim of mistaken kindness is deprived of the strength he should have gained. He who has been thus provided for to-day, will think less about taking care to provide for the morrow; he becomes willing to put his trust in the chapter of accidents, feeling that in a charitable land men will not fail to supply his wants. Thus, by hurrying to turn aside the wise punishment of natural law, although so well-intentioned, these men do their best to blot out the manhood and independence of the victim, for he cannot be otherwise designated than as a victim.

In this way a race of charity-hunters is produced. There are thousands in this metropolis who live upon alms, who know every place where coals and blankets, where bread and similar things are to be obtained, and who visit the institutions in the regular way to share the plunder. I remember reading the evidence of a clergyman, in which he stated that it had been the custom in his church to distribute, among poor women who attended, various sums raised for charitable purposes, and there was a goodly number of "pious

poor women,” who attended on “Sacrament Sunday" and, of course, had the gifts. He changed the order of bestowing alms, having resolved to give only to the sick ; but when he told this to his poor communicants they were in high dudgeon, and speedily quitted his church to attend another where something would be given away. They were but the representatives of a class, and of a class whose numbers are increased by the modern method of mechanical charity. Many of them boast to others of their success, and thus induce their neighbours to aid them in their schemes to lie and misrepresent the true state of their case, when the official visitor comes round. Thus they

[ocr errors]

the ss

66

« EelmineJätka »