Sidor som bilder

periods of her history, under all political changes and social revolutions, in her schools of theological thought, in the spiritual life of her children from age to age, in the devotions of the Christian people,-throughout all and each, there has been, as in the life and teaching of her great Head, and because of His Headship, a deep, strong, constant, visible, majestic growth of the Church in wisdom and in grace before God and men, " by which the whole body, by joints and bands being supplied with nourishment, and knit together, groweth all unto the increase of God.” In a far other and higher sepse then, than the poet could dream of, it is true to say that,

“Through the ages one increasing purpose runs,

And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns," widened by the ever-expanding outward growth of revealed wisdom and grace, which, themselves perfect from the beginning, manifest themselves from age to age according to the necessities of the world for the education of mankind. We said just now that this was because of the Headship of the Church's Divine Founder; for if He be the head and she the body, then must His wisdom and grace flow over into her, and although manifested in her and by her, still ever remain His own. Thus, the outward growth of the Church's wisdom and grace is but the expansion of the Incarnation. Yet so little is this understood, so little are the legitimate consequences of the Incarnation realized, so imperfectly is the Scriptural plan of the Christian Church comprehended, that even clearsighted, in many respects Christian-minded men, like the late Dr. Arnold of Rugby, can tell us, that while it is right and just to bow down heart and soul and body to every image of Christ Crucified, to bow down before Holy Church and Holy Fathers is idolatry; as if Holy Church were not more


any image, being itself Christ's body, the Holy Fathers being the more honourable members of the same. Still, although the outward growth of the Church's wisdom and grace springs from Christ's Headship, yet so important is the stress laid upon it in Holy Scripture, that in almost every type or figure of the Church it forms the prominent feature; as, for instance, in the mustard-seed, which is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown up is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in the branches thereof; or, in the leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened; or, not to multiply examples, in the mystical building of which S. Paul speaks, and of which we are fellow-citizens with the saints and the domestics of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom we also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit.

Wo may perhaps have seemed to our readers to dwell over long on this point. But as our object in the present article is to prepare the way for a future article, in which we hope to speak of one phase, as it were, of the Church's outward growth in wisdom and grace, as shown forth in the development of her mystical and ascetical teaching during that most important period of her history, which is known under the name of the Middle Ages, we have wished to lay particular stress on the great general law of outward growth for two reasons : first, because although freely admitted and acted upon with regard to the Church's dogma, it has not, we venture to think, been sufficiently recognized as equally applicable to all the many ways in which the Church's development is carried on; and, secondly, because, more especially, it seems to us impossible to understand the spiritual life of any period of her history, without viewing it in relation to that earlier spirituality, out of which it sprang, and that later spirituality to which it leads. When the perfect harmony and beauty of proportion which attend the development of everything connected with the Church, from the highest dogma down even to minute points of ritual—each part interlacing and mutually influencing the other,--are clearly seen, we begin to realize more fully not only the beauty of holiness, but also the mystery of Godliness manifest in the flesh, begun in Christ's real body, and continued in His body mystical. Our souls and hearts and minds become enlarged to take in, at least, somewhat of the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all. We begin to perceive that in every age, and in all ages, it is not so much the Church that lives, and speaks, and acts and energizes, as Christ Who lives in her; and as we look into her face and listen to her words, and observe her actions, there happens to us what we read of as having happened to some, who, gazing upon the faces of certain of Christ's blessed Saints, have seen their human features melt away into those of their Heavenly Master; and what we have already alluded to as happening in the case of her doctrine, the outline of the Church's form seems to us to melt away into that of the Son of Man standing, as S. John saw Him stand, in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, that is the Seven Churches, while her features seem to be transfigured into that glorious face, which “is as the sun shineth in his power,”-so bright, so clear, so certain is the vision, that faith almost seems to have ceased to be the "evidence of things that appear not,” and to have become its own exceeding great reward. In like manner, and for the same reasons, that would indeed be a narrow, shallow, and false view of Mediæval spiritual life which should look at it as some mere transitory phenomenon, unconnected with the hidden life of Him who lived, and spoke and worked in the Church of those ages, as truly as when He went about Judea in the days of His flesh, uttering words of life, and working deeds of light; or even as unconnected with, and uninfluenced by the spiritual life of the ages that had gono before, or broken off from, and without influence upon the ages that were to follow in its turn. The spiritual life of the Middle Ages is only one period of that long spiritual life which took its rise in the upper chamber at Jerusalem, when the Infant Church lay in embryo waiting for the quickening of the Holy Ghost, and which will only end with the last hours of the Church Militant upon earth; and this spiritual life is again only one phase, so to speak, of the outward development of that wisdom and grace which she has inherited from our Lord; so that neither the one nor the other can be looked at alone, any more than the public ministry of our Lord can be looked at apart from the thirty years of His hidden life spent in preparation for it, or from His risen life which followed it; or, again, from all the effects of His whole life upon the destinies of the world.

In endeavouring, therefore, to form even an approximative estimate of the mystical teaching of the Middle Ages, it will be necessary for us not only to trace from the beginning, with as great clearness as may be consistent with brevity, the gradual development of this particular phase of the Church's wisdom and grace, and then to contrast the spirituality of the Middle Ages with that of later times; but alsoin order to forestall objections and prejudices which are sure to come bristling to the front in any inquiry into mediæval times—to try and discover the relation in which, as we conceive, the Middle Ages stand to the Church ; in other words, the position which they hold in what has been called the philosophy of Church history. The latter task alone will engage our attention in the present article. The Middle Ages have been often despised through ignorance of them, often idolized through admiration of their art, seldom understood. Yet undoubtedly they form a part of the Church's history which we ought to try and understand.

Speaking of this in his “Essay on the Spiritual Life of Mediæval England," Father Dalgairns considers, that to assume that the Middle Ages are the model times of Chris.

tianity, would, both historically and ecclesiastically, be a great error,

It matters little (he say:) what a man thinks about Medieval architecture, vestments, and embroidery ; but it does matter a good deal what principles a man holds, as to what may be called the philosophy of Church history. If he conceives the grand story of God's Church, as though it were a pyramid, the apex of which is formed by the Middle Ages, while modern Christendom is on the downward side, then his whole view of Christianity is wrong. The Church never grows old, and it has advantages in the nineteenth century which it had not in the thirteenth.


Now we believe we are in entire accordance with what Father Dalgairns here intends, though we are not sure we should naturally express our thought in altogether the same language. In the first place, from all we have said about the outward growth of the Church in wisdom and grace, it will be evident that we heartily agree with him in saying that the Church never grows old, and that it has advantages (although of a different kind) in the nineteenth century which it had not in the thirteenth. We hold, by the very necessity of our position, that although, as Father Dalgairns points out, always one in spirit amidst all outward differences of form, the Church will increase in wisdom and grace before God and men as the ages roll along, up to the very last moment of her sojourn upon earth, just as her Divine Lord and Head outwardly increased in wisdom, and age, and grace, up to the moment when His mortal life was clothed with immortality, and, perfected by suffering, was crowned with glory; for "both He that sancti. fieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Yet at the same time we think it is necessary to distinguish between the Church's own outward growth throughout all ages, and her effect upon the world and the ages themselves through which she passes. In the former there is no pause, no check, even for a moment; in the latter there is not only no constant uni. form progress and increase, but for centuries there may be a very serious retrogression and positive loss. Hence we said above, when speaking of the consequences of the Renaissance (and our remarks apply, of course, even more strongly to the

Reformation "'), that although much has been lost, and the development of true Christian civilization has been interrupted, yet the loss has been to the world, not to the Church, which simply goes forward in her calm majesty, and increases unto a perfect day. Keeping, then, in mind the important distinction between the Chureh's own outward growth and her influence upon the world in different centuries, and fully allowing that for her there can nover be such a state as old age, without in any way saying that the Middle Ages are the model time of Christianity-alas ! will there ever be a model time?-we still hold that in many very important respects our own times are vastly inferior to the Middle Ages. So, too, looking forward to the future, we cannot see how it can be doubted, thatexcept, perhaps, during that period of triumph for the Church, short or long, which saints such as S. Leonard of PortMaurizio have foretold, and which there seems to be a general consent among holy men that God will grant His Church before the last great persecution of Antichrist—the latter ages of the world will witness a still further retrogression and falling away from Christian principles, a still further falling back upon and nearer approach to the naturalism of old pagan times, all of which seems to be shadowed forth in Scripture under the siinilitude of the “ beast which was, and is not, and which shall yet come up out of the bottomless pit, and go unto destruction, one of whose heads was as it were slain to death, but whose death's wound was healed.” Otherwise, how are our Lord's words to be explained: “The Son of Man, when He cometh, shall He find, think ye, faith upon the earth?

We hardly think that this requires further proof; yet, so far as the past is concerned, if any one should feel inclined to deny the general superiority of Mediæval times over our own in the recognition of the Kingdom of God, and in the acceptance of Christ's faith and religion, as the life and light of the world, we would offer the following suggestions. We have not now to do with Mediæval architecture, vestments, and embroidery-although we may afterwards say a word or two about Mediæval art generally—but simply with the question whether or not the Middle Ages were more Christian than our own times; whether or not, the Church always going forward to perfection, there has been since Mediæval times a fearful falling away from belief in Christian principles in the world at large. Now, no doubt, there is a tendency in every age to exaggerate present evils, and to surround the past with a halo of glory; no doubt, also, the Middle Ages were full of evils, as, indeed, are all times, and we have no wish to close our eyes either to their number or their gravity. We have no intention of forgetting the wide-spread simony and incontinence amongst the clergy, the victory over which gavo to S. Gregory VII. his crown in heaven and his place among the saints; or their after recrudescence as one of the worst effects of the schism of the West, or the opposition of emperors and kings to the Vicar of Christ and the Church, or the thirst for blood, or the deeds of violence aud cruelty, or the rationalism and unbelief in some

« FöregåendeFortsätt »