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religion was concerned, all reasoning and speculation invariably produced the most pernicious results. They taught them that the religious virtue of a man consists not in the knowledge he obtains, but in the measure of faith he manifests; and, consequently, that what they had to do was to avoid, carefully to avoid, looking at boih sides of the religious teaching they heard, and rigidly to adhere with all their mind, and soul, and strength unto what was taught them by their pastors in the church or chapel supported by their parents. It may be granted that the more intelligent and advanced thinkers in our Churches
repudiate such narrow and mistaken views, and are ready to concede that every religious question should be left open for fair discussion ; but, at the same time, we cannot be blind to the fact, that candid inquiry, and close critical examination, are as much repudiated by the majority of religious men as ever; nor do we find them to be a whit more willing to recognise the authority of the intellect in settling religious problems. If we were to canvass the congregations, there are excellent reasons for believing that as many as nineteen-twentieths would vote, that all religious matters lie beyond the sphere of ordinary reason ; that the intellect has no command over, and no authority to deal with them; and that, instead of men demanding that dogmas should be proved, they must first accept them as unquestionably true, and then pray to God to reveal their meaning. Thus the right of the intellect is totally repudiated ; the power of reason is set wholly aside, and men are asked to believe what they cannot either understand or harmonise with the remaining facts and phenomena of the universe.
The evils connected with this mode of treating the matter are manifold, and cannot be too deeply deplored. Apart altogether from the pernicious influence of such teaching upon those who are held to be religious, we discover that the so-called "irreligious," solely because of these misrepresentations, are induced to believe religion itself to be nothing short of a delusion. They hear the reason insulted and the intellect treated contemptuously, and knowing how unleserved is such treatment, they turn hastily away in disgust from the men who utter such absurdities. But it happens most unfortunately that, because these men have spoken as religious men, because they are popularly recognised as religious, the more liberal-minded conclude that he who is religious must entertain the same ideas, and speak in the same language of the reason-must repudiate intellectual freedom, and be the sworn enemy of everything that bears the mark of independent thought, and hence they conclude to have nothing at all to do with religious matters. There are thousands who have been thus led to speak contemptuously of everything pertaining to religion ; not that in their hearts or lives they are opposed to that which properly pertains to religion, but simply because they have been falsely instructed in relation to its constituent parts, and hence they go about mocking against that which in their lives they realise they are religious in their deeds, but are opposed to all religious teaching.
To all men who are thus disposed our advice is, that it will be well for them to remember that he who misrepresents reason may misrepresent religion
that he who treats the intellect with injustice may be equally unjust in his treatment of religion. Why do they believe their ideas of religion any more than accept their ideas of reason? Why suppose that the clergy and mission-men know all about religion, when we know that they are so grossly ignorant in matters pertaining to the intellect? Thé fact is, that liberal men have confounded two things, which aré radically distinct from each other--religion itself, and men's ideas about religion; and because of this,
thousands who are really and nobly religious, would think scorn to be thus denominated.
We may, without difficulty, discover many illustrations of our meaning, in the mode of dealing with art and science. For instance, Mr. Ruskin is a great teacher in the world of art, and has written various works intended to revolutionise our artistic ideas. But there are thousands who utterly repudiate his theories, and who are at daggers drawn with him about the first principles of beauty in painting, sculpture, and architecture. Will they be justified in repudiating art altogether because of the false ideas he has promulgated relating to some of its features? They act more wisely in remembering that art stands by itself, that beauty enjoys an independent existence, while his books are but the expression of his thoughts about the beautiful. So with the books of priests ; they furnish us with the thoughts of men about religion, and if we discover that they are in error, we have still to inquire what is the truth pertaining to it. We hold that the religious sentiment is as permanent as humanity, and that no false theory can destroy the thing itself; and thus, while anxious to expose the errors into which men have fallen, we should be equally anxious not to ridicule religion itself because of their errors and weaknesses. The theories and teaching common among the Egyptians and Greeks about the planets were all wrong, but still the stars shone on in beauty and glory. They were waiting for their revelator, and as it was with them, it has been with all that we really know; so, also, will it be with religion.
P. W. P.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.- XVI.
THE EARLY FRANCISCANS AND THEIR WORK.
The thirteenth century must be regarded as one of the most important epochs in the history of modern civilization. The Crusades were rapidly destroying the old feudalism, and creating a commercial and municipal system in its place. Large numbers of cities and commercial communities were being called into existence, out of which were to spring vast social changes. Hitherto the part of the people in history had been merely to toil, to suffer in silence, and to die; but at the beginning of the thirteenth century the popular element began to make itself felt. There was growing up in men's minds a feeling that the people had rights, and that these rights should be recognised. In the cities this spirit of liberty first made its appearance, and there it rapidly grew and strengthened. It was but natural, therefore, that to them the oppressed serf should look for aid and shelter, and equally natural that the old feudal nobility should regard them with unappeasable hate. So, while on the one hand, we find the barons carrying on a perpetual petty warfare against all towns, waylaying the merchants and caravans, and sometimes even attacking the cities themselves; so, on the other, we see serfs, desirous to abandon their serfdom, those, too, who were oppressed and fled from tyranny, the outcast and the outlawed, all flying to the city as a place of refuge.
It was not; therefore; without reason that the cities of the Middle Ages were built as close and compact as possible, and had high walls surrounding them to serve as a defence; this, of course, led to the streets being exceedimgly narrow, and to the free circulation of air being greatly impeded; thus causing those plagues and pestilences of which these cities so frequently became the scenes. Add to these facts this also, that the appeal of those who sought a refuge within the walls was seldom refused by the citizens, who were guided in this no less by their love of liberty than by a desire to strengthen their hands by the addition of numbers. These refugees, however, having no place assigned them in the social life of the cities, became a kind of floating vagabond population, finding only a precarious existence, and having their liome and lodging where they could find them. Community of misfortune led to this portion of the city populations congregating together; and thus it came about that those old cities had their St. Giles's even as modern London has. It was among this wretched portion of the population that the plague almost always made its appearance first, and committed the greatest havoc; nay, indeed, we may say that theirs was a chronic state of disease. The miserable state of this part of the municipal populations led to their becoming embruited, and, until St. Francis established his Order, with a view of ministering to their wretchedness, none had looked upon them with any feeling but that of disgust; the Church had neglected them, and bodily, mentally, and morally, they had sunk almost below the brute creation.
Established in the midst of these districts, seeking to re-animate the souls of their wretched inhabitants, teaching them that they, too, were men, ministering, also, to their physical wretchedness, we cannot but view these early Franciscans with pleasure, and acknowledge that they were doing a great work in the world. They met a want of the age. It has been well remarked that Franciscanism was the Wesleyanism of the Middle Ages, it sought to rouse into a religious life those whom the Church could not, or would not, reach, and it met with a like success. Wesley and his coadjutors were looked upon by the stately parsons of the Establishment as, to say the least, extremely vulgar persons; their earnestness was decried as fanaticism, and we will not be bound to show that there was not much of the fanatic spirit in it; but inasmuch as it created a spiritual life for a class who could not be moved by the courtly formalities and grand ceremonial of the Church, it was doing a good and very necessary work. The class it sought to move was vulgar, so, if need were, it would be vulgar too. Even so was it with this Franciscanism, and no candid mind will hesitate to acknowledge in these early Franciscans an agency of good, in that they roused to a sense of religion, and, therefore, to active thought, the masses of European society. On this account, though working ostensibly in the interests of the Church, they were also, to some extent at least, working in the cause of reform and progress.
The love borne to the Franciscans by the lower classes of society is easily explained. Their doctrine was democratic, at a time when democracy. was beginning to make itself felt as a social element. In an age when men were beginning to rebel against their poverty and wretchedness, St. Francis came to preach the holiness of poverty, to teach the down-trodden wretched serfs not only that they were men, but that they were actually better men than those who had lorded it over them so long. Nay, he did more, for he afforded them the means, by joining his Order, of escaping serfdom altogether. Mendicancy, which was beginning to be felt as a badge of disgrace, was enjoined as a religious duty, and the giving of the desired alms as a duty also. We shall not wonder, then, that thousands joined the ranks of the Mendicant Franciscans, nay, the wonder is that thousands more were not ready to join. "To the serf,” says Dean Milman, “inured to scanty fare, and not unfrequent famine, the rude "toil, and miserable lodging; and to the peasant, with his skin hard to
callousness, and his weather-beaten frame; the fast, the maceration, even the
Hagellation of the friar, if really religious (and to the religious these self“inflicted miseries were not without their gratification), must have been no "rigorous exchange; while the freedom to the serf, the power of wandering from “ the soil to which he was bound down, the being his own property, not that of
another, must have been a strong temptation. It is easy, therefore, to understand why Franciscanism became a popular institution with the lower orders both of the towns, from the actual benefits they derived from it, and of the peasantry, from the advantages it promised them. Their preaching in the vulgar tongue, the thoroughly human and practical character of the discourses they gave, the prominence given by them to the principle of love and brotherhood, and their ever ready exaltation of the Virgin Mary, were also among the things which recommended them to the age in which they appeared. In fact, St. Francis had struck a real chord of sympathy, and, by consequence, his followers soon swarmed through the various countries of Europe.
By way of illustration of the early progress of the Order, we may for a moment look at the establishment of the Franciscans in England. was the year 1224 when four poor Franciscan brothers reached London, to establish a mission there. On Cornhill their first settlement was made, where they housed themselves “in miserable cells so open to the wind and weather
that they were fain to fill up the interstices of the building with masses of
dry grass.” Within thirty years of that time, however, their monasteries in various localities numbered no less than 49, while the four poor brothers had multiplied to no less than 1200 and upwards. Their first convert seems to have been a person of some position, and the step he took (unprecedented in England) of leaving a wealthy home, and turning able-bodied beggar, was looked upon by his family as sheer madness. We are told, in the journal kept by the Friars, that on the new convert (whose name was brother Salomon) applying to his sister for an alms, she cursed him, but gave him a loaf of bread. He cared nothing for the curse, says the chronicler, but received the bread with joy. Brother Salomon, from the importance attached to him as the first English Franciscan, seems to have been the hero of numerous miracles, which, together with many others, are duly recorded in the veritable Franciscan Chronicles; but which, with saints', and monkish miracles, in general, demand a larger credence than is ours to give. Here, then, at their miserable tenements on Cornhill
, then a malarious and fever-stricken portion of the city, these four poor brothers, now five, and soon to be six, carried on their work of love. Amongst the dirt and wretchedness, poverty and disease, of the city, they went day by day, with kindly words, with food, with physics, themselves tending, as kindly nurses, to those that could not help themselves. Let us not be blinded to the moral beauty of this, by being reminded that these men were "fanatics," "emissaries of the Pope," "sturdy beggars,” or any other of the terms which “evangelical charity” is so ready to apply to anything at any time connected with Romanism. There was a moral greatness in those men, and a moral beauty in their lives, which, in spirit, it would be well if those who undertake 'to minister spiritual things' in these days would imitate. It is an illustration of the fact that Franciscanism embraced among its converts all classes, that, while their first convert was the scion of a wealthy house, their
nd was a serf, and, ere long, they numbered in their Order many of the nobility of that time. As we have seen, the Friars of the early time sought not alone to afford
* Hist, Lat. Christianity, vi. 362,
spiritual relief to the spiritually destitute, but also ministered to the physical ills of the poor and wretched inhabitants of the towns. No doubt as their ministrations took a wider range they often exercised their skill as physicians, and prescribed for the ailments of the ignorant rustics, in those days when medical aid was difficult to obtain, and when obtained of very little usethough that is a thing which some people say of it now-a-days. There is no doubt, in fact, that in accordance with the spirit of their foundation, and the instructions of their founder, the Friars sought to gain a knowledge of the herbs and simples which were useful in cases of ordinary disease; and the best medical science of that day scarce went beyond this. We find that Shakspere, in accordance with his usual custom of painting the distinctive characteristics of every character (even the most insignificant) that he touches, makes the friar in “Romeo and Juliet” to be acquainted with these things. In the speech of friar Lawrence we read :
“O meikle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones and their true qualities.
from true birth, stumbling on abuse.” Mr. Burton (the Editor of the Franciscan Records), calls attention to this, in support of his argument that the Franciscan Friars rendered great services to the physical sciences. This is a theory, however, which will not bear examination. It would be as near the truth to say that our grandmothers, who understood the virtues of herb-tea, and other old women's remedies,' were great physical philosophers. It is true he adduces Roger Bacon (who was a Franciscan Friar) in proof of his position; as well, however, might the Dominicans bring forward Savonarola (who belonged to their Order), to prove their love of religious freedom. Roger Bacon was as much an exception to the Franciscan Order in general, as Savonarola to the Dominican; and the proof of this is found in the ignorant charges of magic and sorcery brought against him by his brother monks, and the persecution he suffered at their hands. Roger Bacon, persecuted and imprisoned, was, in fact, the Franciscan verdict on natural science.
The Order of Francis within a few years of its establishment, became so popular that, on the one hand, it was found necessary to be somewhat chary of admitting all who were candidates for admission, and, on the other, to establish what was called the third Order of St. Francis, in which the vow of celibacy was dispensed with, and all who desired were allowed, by becoming members of this third Order, to connect themselves with, and further the objects of, the society. In this way large numbers of persons, nobles, citizens, even kings (as, for instance, St. Louis of France), joined the Order of Mendicants, being so, of course, only in name, but still bound by the tie of brotherhood with the begging and preaching Friars. It is easy to understand, therefore, that, inasınuch as wherever they might travel these Friars would find friends and hospitality, a large number of lazy idle vayabonds, whose only aim would be to live a jolly life doing nothing, and being well-fed at the expense of others, would soon be found among the Franciscan Friars. Indeed, so enticing was the prospect of such a life, that we find many other preaching and begging Orders growing up, until at last the Popes interfered to prevent the spread of an abuse which was likely to defeat the aim of the Papacy in permitting the establishment of the Mendicant Orders in the first instance,
JAS. L. GOODING.