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anarchy. Yet what do we, who are living nearly a century Emergence

of liberty of after that time, find the event to be? Sectarian decomposi- thought tion, passing forward to its last extreme, is the process by which individual mental liberty is engendered and maintained. A grand and imposing religious unity implies tyranny to the individual; the increasing emergence of sects gives him increasing latitude of thought-with their utmost multiplication he gains his utmost liberty. In this respect, unity and liberty are in opposition; as the one diminishes, the other increases. The Reformation broke down unity; it gave liberty to masses of men grouped together in sufficient numbers to ensure their position; it is now invisibly but irresistibly making steps, never to be stayed until there is an absolute mental emancipation for man.

Great revolutions are not often accomplished without much suffering and many crimes. It might have been supposed before the event, perhaps it is supposed by many who are not privileged to live among the last results, that this decomposition of religious faith must be to the detriment of personal and practical piety. Yet America, in which, of all countries, the The Ameri.

can clergy. Reformation at the present moment has furthest advanced, should offer to thoughtful men much encouragement. Its cities are filled with churches built by voluntary gifts ; its clergy are voluntarily sustained, and are, in all directions, engaged in enterprises of piety, education, mercy. What a dif. ference between their private life and that of ecclesiastics before the Reformation ! Not, as in the old times, does the layman look

upon

them as the cormorants and curse of society; they are his faithful advisers, his honoured friends, under whose suggestion and supervision are instituted educational establishments, colleges, hospitals, whatever can be of benefit to men in this life, or secure for them happiness in the life to

come.

CHAPTER XXI.

DIGRESSION ON THE CONDITION OF ENGLAND AT THE

END OF THE AGE OF FAITH.

RESULTS PRODUCED BY THE AGE OF FAITH,

A

Results of RRIVED at the commencement of the Age of Reason, the Age of Faith,

we might profitably examine the social condition of those countries destined to become conspicuous in the new order of things. I have not space to present such an examination as extensively as it deserves, and must limit my remarks to that nation which, of all others, is most interesting to the readerthat England, which we picture to ourselves as foremost in civilization, her universities dating back for many centuries; her charters and laws, on which individual, and therefore social liberty rests, spoken of as the ancient privileges of the realm ;

her people a clear-headed race, lovers and stout defenders of The social freedom. During by far the greater part of the past period produced in she had been Catholic, but she had also been reformed—ever, England.

as she will always be, religious. A correct estimate of her national and individual life will point out to us all that had been done in the Age of Faith. From her condition we may gather what is the progress made by man when guided by such theological ideas as those which had been her rule of life.

The following paragraphs convey an instrụctive lesson : they dissipate some romantic errors; they are a verdict on.a political system from its practical results. What a contrast with the prodigious advancement within a few years when the Age of Reason had set in ! How strikingly are we reminded of the inconsequential, the fruitless actions of youth, and the deliberate, the durable undertakings of manhood !

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For many

of the facts I have now to mention the reader will find authorities in the works of Lord Macaulay and Mr. Froude on English history. My own reading in other directions satisfies me that the picture here offered represents the actual condition of things.

At the time of the suppression of the monasteries in England, Condition the influences which had been in operation for so many centuries pression of had come to an end. Had they endured for a thousand years teries. longer, they could have accomplished nothing more. The condition of human life shows what their uses and what their failures had been. There were forests extending over great districts; fens forty or fifty miles in length, reeking with miasm and fever, though round the walls of the abbeys there might be beautiful gardens, green lawns, shady walks, and many mur. muring streams. In trackless woods, where men should have been, herds of deer were straying; the sandy hills were alive with conies, the downs with flocks of bustard. The peasant's cabin was made of reeds or sticks plastered over with mud. His fire was chimneyless—often it was made of peat. In the objects and manner of his existence he was but a step above the industrious beaver who was building his dam in the adjacent stream. There were highwaymen on the roads, pirates on the rivers, vermin in abundance in the clothing and beds. The common food was pease, vetches, fern-roots, and even the bark of trees. There was no commerce to put off famine. Man was altogether at the mercy of the seasons. The population, sparse as it was, was perpetually thinned by pestilence and want. Nor was the state of the townsman better than that of the rustic; his bed was a bag of straw, with a fair round log for his pillow. If he was in easy circumstances, his clothing was of leather; if poor, a wisp of straw wrapped round his limbs kept off the cold. It was a melancholy social condition when nothing intervened between reed cabins in the fen, the miserable wigwams of villages, and the conspicuous walls of the castle and monastery. Well might they who lived in those times bewail the lot of the ague-stricken peasant, and point, not without indignation, to the troops of pilgrims, mendicants, pardoners, and ecclesiastics of every grade who hung round the

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Church, to the nightly wassail and rioting drunkenness in the castle-hall, secure in its moats, its battlements, and its ward

The local pivots round which society revolved were the red-handed baron, familiar with scenes of outrage and deeds of blood, and the abbot, indulging in the extreme of luxury, magnificent in dress, exulting in his ambling palfrey, his hawk, his hounds. Rural life had but little improved since the time of Cæsar; in its physical aspect it was altogether neglected. As to the mechanic, how was it possible that he could exist where there were no windows made of glass, no, not of oiled paper, no workshop warmed by a fire? For the poor there was no physician; for the dying, the monk and his crucifix. The aim was to smooth the sufferer's passage to the next world, not to save him for this. Sanitary provisions there were none, except the paternoster and the ave. In the cities the pestilence walked unstayed, its triumphs numbered by the sounds of the death-crier in the streets or the knell for the soul that was passing away.

Our estimate of the influence of the system under which men were thus living as a regulator of their passions may at this point derive much exactness from incidents such as those offered by the history of syphilis and the usages of war. For

this purpose we may for a moment glance at the Continent. Moral state The attention of all Europe was suddenly arrested by a indicated

disease which broke out soon after the discovery of America. spread of syphilis,

It raged with particular violence in the French army commanded by Charles VIII. at the siege of Naples, A.D. 1495, and spread almost like an epidemic. It was syphilis. Though there have been medical authors who supposed that it was only an exacerbation of a malady known from antiquity, that opinion cannot be maintained after the learned researches of Astruc. That it was something recognized at the time as altogether new seems to be demonstrated by the accusations of different nations against each other of having given origin to it. Very soon, however, the truth appeared. It had been brought hy the sailors of Columbus from the West Indies. Its true character, and the conditions of its propagation, were fully established by Fernel.

by the

State of Morals.

225 Now, giving full weight to the fact that the virulence of a disease may be greatest at its first invasion, but remembering that there is nothing in the history of syphilis that would lead us to suppose it ever was, or indeed could be infectious, but only contagious, or communicated by direct contact from person to person; remembering also the special circumstances under which, in this disease, that contagion is imparted, the rapidity of its spread all over Europe is a significant illustration of the fearful immorality of the times. If contemporary authors are to be trusted, there was not a class, married or unmarried, clergy or laity, from the Holy Father, Leo X., to the beggar by the wayside, free from it. It swept over Europe, not as Asiatic cholera did, running along the great lines of trade, and leaving extensive tracts untouched, settling upon and devastating great cities here and there, while others had an immunity. The march of syphilis was equable, unbroken, universal, making good its ground from its point of appearance in the south-west, steadily and swiftly taking possession of the entire Continent, and offering an open manifestation and measure of the secret wickedness of society.

If thus the sins man practises in privacy became suddenly and accidentally exposed, that exposure showing how weak is the control that any system can exercise over human passions, we are brought to the same melancholy conclusion when we turn to those crimes that may be perpetrated in the face of day. The usages of war in the civil contests of the fifteenth century, And by the or in the religious conflicts of the sixteenth and seventeenth, wat are perfectly appalling; the annals of those evil days are full of wanton and objectless barbarities, refusal of quarter, murder in cold blood, killing of peasants. Invading armies burnt and destroyed everything in their way; the taking of plunder and ransom of prisoners were recognized sources of wealth. Prosperous countries were made “a sea of fire;" the horrible atrocities of the Spaniards in America were rivalled by those practised in Europe ; deliberate directions were given to make whole tracts "a desert.” Attempts had been made to introduce some amelioration into warfare again and again, either by forbidding hostilities at certain times, as was the object of the

usages of

;

VOL. II.

Q

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