Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

messengers to the man of God, desiring him to come to her monastery, he went and stopped several days, in conversation with her, going out of the gates at nightfall and spending the bours of darkness in prayer, either up to his neck in the water, or in the chilly air.”-St. Ebba, pp. 113, 114.

What an extraordinary idea of religious intercourse between two canonized saints—a bishop and an abbess! And what notions of sanctity Mr. Newman's party must entertain! Nor is this the only passage of this character. In the life of St. Wilfrid we are informed that

“ He watched over his chastity as his main treasure, and was by an unusual grace preserved from pollution ; and to this end he chiefly mortified his thirst, and even in the heats of summer and during his long pedestrian visitations, he drank only a little phial of liquid daily. So through the day he kept down evil thoughts, and when night came on, to tame nature and to intimidate the dark angels, no matter how cold the winter, he washed his body all over with holy water, till this great austerity was forbidden him by Pope John. Thus, year after year, never desisting from his vigilance, did Wilfrid keep his virginity to the Lord. In vigil and in prayer, says Eddi the precentor, in reading and in fasting, who was ever like to him? Such was the private life of that busy bishop : so words sum up years, and cannot be realized unless they are dwelt upon, any more than that eternity by which they are repaid."-pp. 64, 65.

Here, then, is a bishop going on visitation; and not only a bishop, but a saint; one whose virtues soar into the heights of heroicity—one who worked miracles when living, and whose relics wrought miracles after his death. And yet, during the progress of his episcopal visitations, this saint and bishop is obliged, in order to preserve his chastity and keep down evil thoughts, to punish himself by day with the tortures of thirst, and at night to wash his body all over with holy water, in order “to tame nature and intimidate the dark angels." if such be Mr. Newman's notions of the purity of saints, what must be his standard for ordinary Christians !

What follows in the story is rather an interruption to this part of the subject, but it may as well be transcribed here, since it will serve as an additional illustration of the spirit of Mar-Prelacy, one has so continually to notice in the writers of this school.

“A bishop of York traversing his huge diocese on foot! Surely this in itself was preaching the gospel. Fasting and footsore, shivering in the winter's cold, yet bathing himself in chilly water when he came to his resting place at night ;' which “ fasting,” « shivering," and " bathing," it is to be supposed, were performed in public: otherwise they could hardly amount to “ preaching the gospel;" but this is a point which will require further notice as we proceed.

"fainting beneath the sun of midsummer, yet almost grudging to himself the little phial of liquid”the little phial,” as being “ in itself” “ preaching the gospel,” it may be supposed was solemnly carried before Wilfrid by a serving man, or by Eddi the precentor, “preaching in market-place; or on village green, or some central field amid a cluster of Saxon farms, behold the Bishop of York, move about these northern shires. He was not a peer of parliament, he had no fine linen, no purple save at a Lenten mass, no glittering equipage, (surprising !-and in the eighth century, too!] no liveried retainers : (what? not even one to carry the phial,] would it then be possible for those rude men of the north to respect him? Yes; in their rude way : they had faith, and haply they bowed more readily before him in that poor monkish guise than if he had played the palatine amongst them.”—Ibid.

Ah, Martin, Martin ! thou wilt be at thy old pranks still. For, true it is, the movement did spring from the Low Church party. And no less true is it, that the majority of its most active adherents have all along been collected from the same quarter. And this, perhaps, may go far to account for the Mar-Prelacy they are so prone to indulge in. Old associations are not easily got rid of. Early obliquities are not easily overcome. They would be churchmen; but, unfortunately, they can scarcely think or speak of a bishop, but, presently, their old propensities will steal upon them. If they could only be induced to try Wilfrid's cold-water regimen for a while, who knows but it might help them to “tame nature and keep “ down evil thoughts” ? and by and by they might even be able to see a real living bishop-to say nothing of the « purple," the “ glittering equipage," or the liveried retainers”

-without having their natural organs of destructiveness excited. At present, they furnish a melancholy, but instructive illustration, of the weakness of a theory to overcome the violence of nature. The voice of instinct will make itself heard; the force of pristine habits will break out, and mar the finest flights of high and holy churchmanship; they will be playing the Mar-Prelate still. Perfect as the transformation seems, the first mouse that runs across the floor will suffice to revive the forgotten appetite, and remind one, that, after all, the lady, gentle as she looks, is only a cat in masquerade. But this is a digression.

And yet the context is so very characteristic, that it seems better to go on with the quotation here, although it may not seem to bear directly on the point under consideration at present. The mixture of puerility and Romanizing in what follows is not more striking, than that pharisaical spirit of display, and which one sees all through these Lives of the English Saints. What the man is, is of little importance, unless he is seen. The penitents are, to be sure, most humble and given to concealment-at least, they are perpetually telling the public that they are. But, with all this talk of humility and concealment, nothing is more manifest than that they do really mean to be seen-and to allow their austerities to peep out through holes and rents in their humility, so as to be effective, and to produce an impression. Hear this author in a passage already quoted :

“A hard life-that is the impressive thing, when its secrets escape here and there, at this time and at that time, as they are sure to do, however humble and given to concealment the penitent may be."--St. Wilfrid, p. 207.

Yes; just so. “ That is the impressive thing"-and, of course, as it is the plain duty of a saint to make an impression, and his “hard life" is, in fact, preaching the gospel, the penitent must not let his humility and love of concealment go too far; but leave some chinks and crannies in his concealment through which the secrets may escape, and the bystanders and passers-by may peep in and see his “hard life.”

Thus, though these writers tell us that St. Cuthbert's hermitage was 80 contrived, that he could see nothing but the sky and clouds, yet they afterwards mention that there was a window in it, through which the hermit might be seen and touched by those without. Of course the building of this window so very near the ground, and so very convenient for the passers by to take a peep, was only an accidental oversight-and the humble lover of concealment had no suspicion-not he! -that any one was peering in while he was engaged in his self-torinents and austerities! (St. Edelwald, pp. 49, 52, and 54.)

Thus, too, Wilfrid. An ordinary Christian, indeed, might have found ordinary and unsuspected methods of taming nature and keeping down evil thoughts; and if he fasted, he would most probably have recollected, that a high authority had commanded us when we fast, not to be like the hypocrites, who disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast, but to anoint the head, and wash the face, that we appear not unto men to fast. But what have ordinary Christians in common with saints, who are a sort of theatrical personages-always speaking and acting for effect, and so as to make an impression ? And Wilfrid was a saint, and it was necessary the world should know it'; so, in a delicate sort of a way, the secret must be suffered to escape, and the “ hard life" be guessed and whispered about and talked of. « That is the impressive thing.” So he must walk on foot, and footsore, from one end of his diocese to the other. He must have no glittering equipage; no coach and four, not even a quiet cabriolet. And then, too, if the weather should be ever so intolerably hot, not one drop must cool his lips, except what was to be got in the phial.” For, no doubt, people heard so everlastingly of this phial, that at last it came to be called "the phial.” And one can imagine how anxiously poor Eddi used to peep into the phial, to see if he could find a last, last drop, and how he would turn it upside down, while Wilfrid was fainting with thirst at some river's side; and then one can fancy how whole congregations had to be dismissed, because Wilfrid was so parched, and husky, and exhausted, that he really could not preach--and the wearisome pbial would be empty just at the critical moment when every body wanted it to be full; and then one can picture to one's self how grievously disappointed the poor people were who came for miles around to hear him, and how Eddi would comfort the favoured few, and send them home content with a sight of the phial;" just like the inan that went to hear Whitfield preach, and returned satisfied; for though he could not get near enough to hear what he said, he saw " his blessed wig." And then again at night, in the depth of winter, the ice in the wells and ponds had to be broken, and the water blessed and turned into holy water; and whole pailfulls had to be taken to his bed-chamber, and then such a splashing would be carried on, that folks could not refrain from asking Eddi what all this could mean? And then of course, the secret would escape, and Eddi could not avoid giving them a hint, that the good bishop was always obliged to perform these shiverings and bathings when going on visitation, just in order to “ keep down evil thoughts,” and “tame nature," and “ intimidate the dark angels.” And this was the “impressive thing !" But we must not forget, that all this time the author is waiting to go on with the next sentence.

* Surely if we have half a heart we can put before our eyes as if it were a reality, Wilfrid on foot, Wilfrid preaching, Wilfrid confirming, Wilfrid sitting on a wrought stone watching his comentarii, as Dante sat upon his stone and watched the superb duomo of Florence rise like an enchanted thing ; (or as people now-a-days watch the building of the new houses of Parliament;] Wilfrid listening to a new and awkward ehoir trying the Gregorian tones and keeping his patience, even when Eddi and Eona lost theirs, Wilfrid marching at the head of his clergy up the new aisles of Ripon, Wilfrid receiving the confession of St. Etheldreda, and what was THE FOUNTAIN OF ALL, Wilfrid kneeling with the pope's hands resting on his head and the archdeacon Boniface standing by."-pp. 65, 66.

No doubt of it. This was the fountain of all;" at least, if we are not convinced of it yet, Mr. Newman and his friends are not to blame. They have done what they can. But as to their notion of a saint, it is quite plain that these people imagine themselves of so much importance, that they think of little else, and really seem to believe that other people have nothing better to employ their minds. Nothing but Wilfrid here and Wilfrid there. And yet these men talk of their humility. And in this way Dr. Pusey, in the preface to one of the works he is editing just now, as his share in the process of Romanizing England, holds up as models of humility the example of St. Dominic, “ who ever prayed that his sins might not bring the vengeance of God on the towns where he preached ;” and St. Catherine of Sienna, who thought “all the chastisements of divine justice, which desolated the provinces in her time, to be the miserable effects of her unfaithfulness," (Surin, Preface, p. xix.) As if such ideas could ever find entertainment in themind of any mortal that was not puffed up with conceit and self-importance. Even Wilfrid's going on foot was theatrical; it was for an effect; it was part of the “ hard life," and " that's the impressive thing." For, surely, with such an enormous diocese to look after, this peripatetic fancy must have caused great delay, and waste of time, and useless expenditure of strength. And then, possibly, Eddi would sometimes venture to recommend a horse ; and folks would say to Eddi, “ Good gracious, how fond the bishop is of walking! And so, the “ secret” would escape, that this walking system was part of Wilfrid's plan for taming nature and keeping down evil thoughts. In the end, however, Wilfrid did get a horse. The reader shall see in what way. The author proceeds

" But we must think of another thing also,-- Wilfrid riding, riding up and down his diocese ; for this walking of Wilfrid's did not quite please St. Theodore ; not that it was too simple, but that it was too austere, and the life of such a man needed husbanding for the church's sake. Would that St. Theodore had always thought so ! But he was a simple man as well as a wise one, and he too, strange that it should be so, mistook Wilfrid, knew not what he was, and so lost him for a while." - Ibid.

“ Strange!" Why - strange ?” Is it not obvious from this history that St. Wilfrid was all his life quarrelling with all the canonized saints of his acquaintance? In one council this author reckons up five, all “ enemies ;" and sums up his account of the matter by saying" by whose helpful intercession may we be aided now in the forlornness of our fight.” p. 179,

Forlorn, indeed ! if we are reduced to the necessity of applying for such assistance. But to proceed with St. Theodore.

" However, at this time he thought nothing but wbat was true and good of Wilfrid, and he insisted--for he was archbishop of Canterbury-that his brother of York, who was but a bishop then, should have a horse to ride on during his longer journeys and more distant visitations. He knew this luxury pained Wilfrid; [i.c., Wilfrid lost some degree of celebrity and impressiveness by being mounted ; and impressiveness was, of course, the principal end of his “ hard life,"] so he made it up to him in the best way he could, for, to shew his veneration for the saint, he insisted upon lifting him upon horseback whenever he was near him to do so.”—Ibid.

From which we may gather, that St. Theodore was the stouter of the two. The author, however, seems to wish that this proceeding of Theodore had been established as a precedent:

" It would have been well for England if archbishops of Canterbury had always been of such a mind towards those who filled the throne of York. However we now behold Wilfrid making his visitation on horseback; for obedience is a greater thing to a saint than even his much-loved austerities." - Ibid.

One would be thankful to see some proofs of it.

« Taking a hardship away from a saint is like depriving a mother of one of her children, [or a pharisee of his phylacteries,] yet for holy obedience' sake, or the edification of a neighbour, a saint will postpone even a hardship."-pp. 66, 67.

And then he goes on to tell how Wilfrid rode along on his new horse :

“ A word here and a word there, a benediction and a prayer, the signed cross, and the holy look, a confession heard, and a mass said, and a sermon preached, and that endless accompaniment of Gregorian tones; verily the gospel went out from him as he rode.”—Ibid.

There is something in the style and wording of these passages so infinitely burlesque and preposterous, that if one did not know them to be actually and honestly extracted from Mr. Newman's Lives of the English Saints, it would be wholly incredible that they could have been written except for the purpose of turning his system into ridicule. Yet, amidst all this wretched childishness, there is a method, a purpose, a deep design to Romanize the church, and to recommend, by picturesque descriptions, a miserable superstition, where humility is but the veil to adorn pharisaical display, where everything is done in order to be seen of men, and the fundamental notions of Christian piety are so utterly perverted and reversed, that a Saint is one whose inward imaginations and habitual propensities would be intolerable, even to a well-regulated heathen.

Though Wilfrid, however, had “no glittering equipage” just then, his austerities gradually brought him both power and riches, and the author tells us how jealous Queen Ermenburga was

« When she saw how the good bishop was courted by high and low, how the nobles sought to him for counsel, how the court of abbots did obeisance to him, how the sons of princes and peers stood round him, proud to serve in such a service."-Ibid. p. 75. All which, one would have thought, was not very desirable to a truly mortified mind. But, be this as it may, it is self-evident that the writers of these Lives do constantly speak of admiration, and homage, and popularity, as the fruit and reward of asceticism, in such a manner as to demonstrate what is the real spirit of their moral and religious system, however unconscious they may be of it themselves. Observe how this writer speaks, and how clearly he confesses that mortifications and self-inflictions are a source of power to the ascetic.

« AnteriorContinuar »