Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

and how also to remedie the same, for the advancement of his glory, gave the understanding of this excellent art or science of printing, whereby three singular commodities at one time came to the world. First, the price of all bookes diminished. Secondly, the speedy helpe of reading more furthered. And thirdly, the plentie of all good authors enlarged: according as Aprutinus doth truely report :

Imprimit ille die, quantum non scribitur anno.

The presse in one day will doe in printing,
That none in one yeere can doe in writing.

By reason whereof, as printing of bookes ministered matter of reading, so reading brought learning, learning shewed light, by the brightnesse whereof blind ignorance was suppressed, errour detected, and finally Gods glory, with truth of his word advanced. - And thus much for the worthie commendation of printing.

mission, when he occupieth it not, leave it for a time to some other person. Also that the person to whom it was committed for the term of life, under the foresaid conditions, deliver it to another the term of his life. And so be it delivered and committed from person to person, man or woman, as long as the book endureth.”—Writings of Wickliffe, p. 122—1831.

4 Commendation of printing.] These remarks on the benefits derived from the invention of printing, doubtless, upon the whole, are well founded. It cannot be denied, that the progress of the Reformation, and the efficacy of Christian truth, was expedited surprisingly by that discovery, and by the revival of letters. Still it must not be forgotten that these were weapons, to the use of which the Protestant hand alone was not privileged. Accordingly we find, that ere long the Roman Catholics resorted to the same armoury ; and often, not without considerable success. Sir Edwin Sandys, in his Europe Speculum, or a Survey of the State of Religion in the Western parts of the World, has treated this subject at some length. He enumerates certain means, whereby, in the early stages of the Reformation, the Protestants, through their learning, abilities, and zeal, gained great advantages over the opposite party; for instance, by their superiority in preaching, in writing and disputation, in the education of youth, in the dedication of life and fortune to the furtherance of their sacred cause: but he also shows, how, in every case, the Roman Catholics speedily learnt the same lesson, entered into competition with their adversaries, and often with so much industry and skill, and, occasionally with such peculiar advantages and help, as not unfrequently to have rendered the palm doubtful, and, in his opinion, at times to have enabled particular individuals even to bear away the prize. The whole of Sir Edwin's discussion (as indeed is true of the entire work) well deserves the student's careful perusal, and attentive consideration; and, but for its extent, I should gladly have transferred it to these pages. I must content

a

myself, however, with borrowing a portion of what he says, merely on the preaching and the writing (or printing) department; that particular topic indeed which belongs more especially to the subject now before us.

“The papacy seems to me very diligently to have considered by what means chiefly their adverse part hath grown so fast beyond either their own expectation, or the fear of their enemies, as in less than an age to have won perhaps a moiety of their empire from them; and those very means to have themselves resolved thenceforward to apply in strong practice on their side also; that so as by a counter-mine, they may either blow up the mines of their adversaries, or at least wise give them stop from any further proceeding : like a politic general, who holdeth it the greatest wisdom to out-go his enemy in his own devices; and the greatest valour, to beat him at his own weapons.

“The first and chief means whereby the reformers of religion did prevail in all places, was their singular assiduity and dexterity in preaching, especially in great cities and palaces of princes (a trade at that time grown clean in a manner out of use and request); whereby the people, being ravished with the admiration and love of that light which so brightly shined unto them, as men with the sun, who are newly drawn from a dungeon, did readily follow those who carried so fair a lamp before them.

“Hereto may be added their publishing of treatises of virtue and piety, of spiritual exercises and devotion; which engendered a firm persuasion in the minds of men, that the soil must needs be pure, sound, and good, from whence 80 sweet, so wholesome, and so heavenly fruits have proceeded.

“Now though the opinions of the papacy, and of a great part of the reformed religion, be as opposite herein well nigh as heat and cold, or as light and darkness; the one approving no devotions severed from the understanding, the other thinking the understanding to be a means often rather to divert or dazzle the devotion than to direct and cherish it; and for preaching, in like sort, the French Protestants making it an essential and chief part of the service of God; whereas the Romanists make the mass only a work of duty, and the going to a sermon but a matter of convenience, and such as is left free to men's pleasures and opportunities, without imputation or sin :-yet, in regard of the great sway, which they have learned by their loss, that these carry in the drawing of men's minds and affections, they have endeavoured in all places, in both these kinds, to equal, yea and surmount their adversaries. For although in multitude of preachers they greatly come short, being an exercise wherein the secular priests list not to distemper their brains much, but commend it in a manner wholly to the regulars and friers; and these, thinking the country capacities too blockish, or otherwise not worth the bestowing of so great cost on, do employ themselves wholly in cities, and other places of greater resort; all which they take great care to have competently furnished; yet, in the choice of them whom they send out to preach, in the diligence and pains which they take in their sermons, in the ornaments of eloquence, and grace of action, in their show of piety and reverence towards God, of zeal towards his truth, of love towards his people; which even with their tears they can often testify;—they match their adversaries in their best, and in the rest do far exceed them. But herein the Jesuits do carry the bell from all other; having obtained the commendation, and working the effect of as perfect orators as these times do yield. . . Wonderful is the

a

reputation which redounds thereby to their order, and exceeding the advantage which to their side it giveth.

For their books of prayer and piety, all countries are full of them at this day, in their own language : both to stop in part the out-cry of their adversaries against them, for imprisoning the people wholly in those dark devotions; and especially to win the love of the world unto them by this more inward and lively show of true sanctity and godliness. Yea, herein they conceive themselves to have so surpassed their opposites, that they forbear not to reproach unto them their poverty, weakness, and coldness in that kind, as being forced to take the Catholics' books to supply themselves therein.

“A third course that much advantaged the Protestants' proceedings was the admirable pains those first Reformers undertook and performed, in translating the Scriptures forthwith into all languages; in illustrating all parts thereof with ample comments; in addressing institutions of Christian religion; in deducing large histories of the church from the foundation to their present times; in furnishing all common places of divinity with abundance of matter; in exact discussing of all controverted questions; and lastly, in speedy reply to all contrary writings;—the greatest part of these labours tending to the justifying of their own doctrine, and to the discovery of the corruption and rottenness of the other ; that they might overbear those with the streams of the evidence of reason, by the strength of whose power they complained to be overborne. But now, there is scarce any one of these kinds of writings (save the translating of the Bible into vulgar languages), wherein the Romanists have not already, or are not like very shortly, either to equal, or to exceed their adversaries : in multitude of works, as being more of them that apply to those studies ; in diligence, as having much more opportunities of helps and leisure; in exactness, as coming after them, and reaping the fruits of their travails, though, in the truth, they come short, and in ingenuity (ingenuousness), being truth's companion. But as for the controversies themselves, the main matter of all, therein their industry is at this day (A.D. 1599) “incomparable ; having so altered the tenures of them, refined the states, subtilized the distinctions, sharpened their own proofs, devised certain, and resolved on other answers or evasions for all their adversaries' arguments, allegations, and replies : yea, they have differences to divert their strongest oppositions, interpretations, to elude the plainest texts in the world, circumstances and considerations to enforce their own silliest conjectures ; yea, reasons to infuse life into their deadest absurdities; as in particular, a very just case in school learning to justify their popes' grants of many score thousands of years of pardon :—so that in affiance of this furniture, and of their promptness of speech and wit, which by continual exercise they aspire to perfect, they dare enter into combat even with the best of their oppugners, and will not doubt but either to entangle him so in the snares of their own quirks, or at least wise so to avoid and put off his blows with the manifold words of their multiplied distinctions, that an ordinary auditor shall never conceive them to be vanquished, and a favourable one shall report them vanquishers.” P. 83, &c. edit. 1673.

[ocr errors]

CHAUCER AND GOWER.

I think it not out of season, to couple also some mention here of Geffrey Chaucer, and John Gower.

Albeit the full certaintie of the time and death of these two, we cannot finde ; yet it appeareth in the prologue of Gowers worke intituled Confessio Amantis, that he finished it in the 16th. yeare of king Richard the second. In the ende of the viji, booke of the said treatise he declareth, that he was both sicke and olde, when he wrote it; whereby it may appeare, that he lived not long after. Notwithstanding, by certaine verses of the said maister Gower placed in the latter end of Chaucers workes both in Latine and English, it may seeme that he was alive at the beginning of the raigne of king Henry the iiii. and also by a booke which hee wrote to the same king Henry. By his sepulture within a chapell of the church of Saint Mary Overies, which was then a monastery, where he and his wife lie burid, it appeareth by his chaine and his garland of laurell, that he was both a knight, and florishing then in poetry. In the which place of his sepulture were made in his grave-stone 3. bookes, the first bearing the title Speculum Meditantis, The second, Vox Clamantis, The third, Confessio Amantis. Besides these, divers Chronicles and other workes moe he compiled.

Likewise as touching the time of Chaucer, by his owne workes in the end of his first booke of Troylus and Creseide it is manifest, that he and Gower were both of one time, although it seemeth that Gower was a great deale his ancient : both notably learned, as the barbarous rudenes of that time did give; both great friends together, and both in like kinde of study together occupied, so endeavouring themselves, and employing their time, that they excelling many other in study and exercise of good letters, did passe forth their lives here right worshipfully and godly to the worthy fame and commendation of their name. Chaucers workes be all printed in one volume, and therefore knowne to all men.

This I marvaile, to see the idle life of the priests and clergymen of that time, seeing these lay persons shewed themselves in these kinds of liberall studies so industrious and fruitfully occupied : but much more I marvaile to consider this, how that the bishops condemning and abolishing all maner of English bookes and treatises, which might bring the people to any light of knowledge, did yet authorises the workes of Chaucer to remaine still and to be occupied ; who (no doubt) saw in religion as much almost as even we doe now, and uttereth in his workes no lesse, and seemeth to be a right Wiclevian, or els was never any; and that all his workes almost, if they be throughly advised will testifie (albeit it be done in mirth and covertly) and especially the latter ende of his third booke of the Testament of love: for there purely he toucheth the highest matter, that is the communion : wherein except a man be altogether blind, he may espy him at the ful. Although in the same book (as in al other he useth to doe) under shadows covertly, as under a visour, he suborneth truth in such sort, as both privily she may profit the godly minded, and yet not be espied of the crafty adversary: and therefore the bishops belike, taking his works but for jestes, and toies, in condemning other bookes, yet permitted his bookes to be read.

So it pleased God to blind then the eies of them, for the more commodity of his people, to the intent that through the reading of his treatises, some fruit might redound thereof to his church, as no doubt it did to many. As also I am partly enformed of certaine which knew the parties, which to them reported, that by reading of Chaucers works, they were brought to the true knowledge of religion. And not unlike to be true. For to omit other partes of his volume, whereof some are more fabulous than other, what tale can be more plainly told than the tale of the ploughman? or what finger can point out more directly the pope with his prelats to be antichrist, than doth the poore Pellican reasoning against the greedy Griffon? under which hypotyposis

poesy, who is so blind that seeth not by the Pellican, the doctrine of Christ, and of the Lollards, to be defended against the church of Rome? Or who is so impudent that can deny that to be true, which the Pellican there affirmeth in describing the presumptuous pride of that pretensed church? Againe, what egge can be more like or fig unto another, than the wordes, properties and conditions of that ravening gripho resembleth the true image, that is, the nature and qualities, of that which we cal the church of Rome, in every point and degree? and therefore no great

5 Authorise.] See Stat. 34 and 35 Henry VIII. cap. i. § 7.

« ForrigeFortsæt »