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of the universities, or the ignorance and superstition against which the Church was ever victoriously contending, and which must be considered rather as the legacies of former still unhappier times, than as debts against God and men incurred by those times themselves. Nevertheless, there is one especial glory of which the Middle Ages can never be deprived, and which outbalances all the evils we have mentioned above, and throws all succeeding times into the shade. That especial glory lay in this, that, to use the words of the Bishop of Poitiers in a recent sermon on a Mediæval Saint-"In spite of immense disorders, which are punished with immense misfortunes, the Christian principle was still in a marked manner the principle of all; and in the foundation of this principle it was always possible for order to be re-established.” * The Bishop had previously pointed out the still higher privileges of certain centuries, and those by no means the best; and as his eloquent remarks are very much to our purpose, we will give them at length :
If we go back (he says) to the second half of the fourteenth, and to the beginning of the fifteenth century, we shall find by the side of great crimes and great misfortunes, so much, alas ! like our own, both great virtues and great resources, which, at the present day, we are without. Human nature, fullen nature, was no better then ; but religion and the Gospel doctrine had a wider empire over the souls of men and over people. There were then, both for the souls of men and for peoples, opportunities and means of resurrection, which it is of the utmost importance for us to recover. First, then, let us speak of the souls of men. The immense advantage which formier generations had over ourselves was the reverence with which they kept their baptism ; in other words, the reverence with which they kept the faith,-that faith which is the first root of grace, as grace is the root and germ of glory. In these days, as in those, life was often troubled and stormy; the tempest of the passions was violent and terrible. But when all else was shipwrecked, the faith remained as a plank of salvation ; and from faith, before long, there sprang forth prayer, and from prayer penance-austere penance, generous penance, penance fruitful in inspirations and works of holiness. Never let us forget, my brethren, faith is the foundation laid in us by baptism. +
Again, contrasting our own times with the Middle Ages, he says:
The great obstacle, my dear brethren, to the salvation of the men of our day, was pointed out by the Council of the Vatican from its very first opening, at the very head of its first doctrinal decree. Yes, that which at the
*“Shall France perish ?" Richardson & Son. P. 35.
+ Ibid. p. 29. VOL. XIX.-NO, XXXVIII. [New Series.]
present day is multiplying the number of souls that are lost—let me speak plainly-which is peopling hell more than at any other time, is that system, far too widely spread, of rationalism or naturalism, which, placing itself in radical and absolute opposition to the Christian religion, in so far as it is a revealed institution, employs all its force to exclude Christ, our only Master and Saviour, from the minds of men, as well as from the life and morals of the peoples of the earth, in order to set up what is called the reign of pure reason, or of pure nature. Now, wherever the breath of naturalism has passed, there the Christian life has withered even down to its roots; has been destroyed down to its foundations. There we see utter barrenness in the order of salvation. Scribe virum istum sterilem—“ Write that man barren." *
Yes, with all their faults the Middle Ages were not barren. They were, so to speak, the mighty womb from which has sprung that civilization of Christendom which in our own day is tottering to its fall; Christendom itself, as Christendom, having already passed away, while the present age has given birth to nothing which can take its place. In the Middle Ages Christ still reigned as King; nor were sciences, arts, politics, so far as these were in existence, no, nor even governments, although these may have been often in rebellion, divorced from religion and the Church. In the Middle Ages the leaders of thought—the educators of peoples-were men of God, most of them theologians, and theology was enthroned as the queen and mistress of all science. "The most remarkable men in the fourteenth century,” says Victor Cousin, and his remark throws great light upon what we are saying, "were all mystics." The education of the Christian world was in the hands of the Church. The arbitrators of the destinies of nations and of Europe were sometimes saints. What a contrast to this nineteenth century in which we live! Let us picture for ourselves for a moment what the world would be now, how enormous would be the gain, if, instead of M. Thiers, M. Gambetta, or Count von Bismarck, or, until lately, Napoleon III., and Cavour, such a man as S. Bernard guided the politics of Europe,-a man who looked at every question in the light of God, and not in that of mere human expediency, or of international commerce. Were such a man to rise up in the world at the present day, the world would refuse to be guided by his counsels; nay, such a man has arisen. five-and-twenty years Pius IX., Christ's own Vicar, has been trying to govern the world for Christ, and according to His laws; and not only has the world refused to listen to his counsels, but while Italy has dethroned him from his temporal princedom—the last witness to Christ's Kingship left upon the
* “Shall France perish ?” Richardson & Son. Pp. 30, 31.
earth, all the nations of the earth have stood by in silence with folded hands, and suffered the abomination of desolation to enter into the Holy City, and almost into the Holy Place. Such an act of treason would have been simply impossible in the Middle Ages; for “except, perhaps, during the momentary triumph of popular tribunes,” says the Bishop of Poitiers, "Rome, even in the absence of her Pontiff-kings, ceased not to be the independent capital of Jesus Christ, the free and sovereign city of the States of the Church. The providential work of God and of centuries was not, therefore, touched; the keystone of European Christendom still remained. The treason of which we ourselves are witnesses, of which we ourselves are for the most part guilty, had not then been committed.”* Later on he says, that when the sun, that is the Apostolic See, and the moon, that is the Roman Church, shall be no longer able to give their light, then the stars, that is the nations, will fall from heaven, and that will be the end. So again, side by side with the many undoubted evils of the Middle Ages, there were redeeming features which do not exist now, resources and blessings of which we have been long deprived. “Habits of faith," to quote again the words of the great French Bishop, "existed then to which we are strangers. How different, too, the times, compared with our own, when, the combat over (as at the battle of Poitiers), the conquerors and the conquered sat down together to the evening meal, asking a blessing before they began, and ending with returning thanks to God; and when on the morrow, at the break of day, a day which was not even Sunday, the conquerors and tlie conquered, before they parted, stood devoutly side by side, while Mass was being celebrated on the very field where on the eve the battle had been fought!” Even in these days of rifled cannon and breech-loading guns and improved ambulances, we might learn a lesson from those old Christian times.
Surely, then, we must admit, that although the Middle Ages may have been very far from perfect, they were nevertheless far more truly admirable, because more Christian than our own times; and that, if the Scripture prophecies are to be fulfilled, the ages yet to come will be still less Christian, nay, at the end, utterly apostate from Christ. Yet with all this, and although the ages have decreased and still are decreasing in Christianity, the Church has never ceased, and never will cease, to increase in wisdom and in grace, in unity and in strength. Nay, even during those three years and a half of the Church's Passion, in the time of Antichrist, which will
* “Shall France perish ?” Richardson & Son. P. 38.
correspond to the Triduum of her Lord's Passion, when iniquity shall abound, and the charity of many shall grow cold; when all the glory of the king's daughter shall be from within,-even then the manifestation of her wisdom and
grace will be greater than ever to those who believe, because concentrated, so to speak, into her last words upon the Cross, before dying for ever to this earth of sin, and rising to meet her Lord on the great Resurrection morning of the world.
Still, there is a difficulty, but it is a difficulty which, when solved, will throw light, we think, upon the whole question, and by showing the relation in which the Middle Ages stand to the Church, will fix the position which they hold in the philosophy of Church history. No one, we believe, can look closely into the history of the Church, and not perceive how, while in later ages her influence upon the world and upon mankind has been gradually decreasing, there was a time when, although often rudely broken off and interrupted, this influence gradually increased and expanded, until at last it was almost exalted into sovereignty. There was once a time, now, alas! no more, when the outward growth of the Church's wisdom and grace, and the progress of the world and of mankind in Christian virtue, Christian learning, Christian science, Christian art, Christian civilization, went hand-inhand together. It is therefore very important for us to discover when this happy marriage of the eternal and the temporal, the spiritual and material, was dissolved, and the world refused to allow itself to be any longer fashioned and shaped in her own Christlike mould. Surely such a crisis in the Church's life must not only mark an epoch in her history, but also, by setting a limit to the Church's, until then, ever-growing influence over the world, serve to show that the ages in which her highest influence was exerted must occupy a central position in the philosophy of her history,-central, not necessarily, or so much in the order of time, although this, too, may well be, as in relation to the action of the Church upon the world, and even, in some respect, to the Church's own outward growth in wisdom, which, as we have seen, will never cease to increase as long as she remains on earth. For if the Church's influence over the world and the progress of the world under that influence gradually increased up to a certain point, after which they began to decrease, owing to the wickedness, and pride, and unbelief, and stubbornness of the hearts of men, it will hardly be rash to conclude that this influence and progress were originally meant by God to go on continually increasing as long as the Church should remain in the world. From this follow two conclusions. The first is, that
as the interruption of which we speak is due to man, and not to God, the ages of decrease must be regarded as altogether abnormal, and out of harmony with the plans of God, although, no doubt, He will know, as He always does, how to get His own glory out of them, and out of evil to bring forth good. The second is, that the period during which the Church's influence was most felt and recognized by the world must form, in a certain sense, a central point in her history, up to which everything led, and from the removal or destruction of which all the after-evils of the world have proceeded. Now if we ask ourselves where in the history of the Church this central period is to be placed, we answer, without hesitation, that it must be particularly placed during those centuries of the Middle Ages which witnessed alike the meridian glory of the temporal power of the Holy See and the general recognition of Christ's kingship over the earth. of this central period
. Of the culminating point was the Pontificate of Innocent III., in which the harvest sown by S. Gregory VII. was reaped and garnered. This is that central period to which all the previous history of the Church had led; the destruction of the old Pagan Empire of Rome and her victory over it, the throne of the Cæsars giving way to S. Peter's throne; the invasion of the Barbarians, and their conversion, by which the many natural gifts of the Teutonic races were poured into the service of the Church; the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire, that magnificent erection of the Holy Roman Church, into which she wished to pour all that was good and noble in the empire of old Rome, after having first sanctified it in herself, and of which it has been well said, that “into it all the life of the ancient world was gathered, and out of it all the life of the modern world arose.”* This, also, is that central period after which there set in almost immediately the continuous and everincreasing decline of the influence of the Holy See and the Church upon the temporal destinies of the world, which before that period had been separated only fitfully and at intervals from the beneficent guidance and control of both the one and the other. Not all the deadly persecutions of “Babylon tho Great, the mother of the fornications and abominations of the carth, drunk with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus”; not all the invasions of Goths and Vandals, who swept before them the civilization of the old world; not all the poison of the earlier soul-destroying heresies; not the sword and fire of the false prophet Mahomet, the ministers of God's anger to the Churches of the East; not even tho
* Bryce, “Holy Roman Empire.''