Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

“ him all due respect; but likewise, conceiving the

greatest hopes from his improvements in the “ method of study, they generally contributed to “his expenses ; so that he was enabled to lay out, “ within the compass of two years, no less than

2,000 l. (an immense sum for those times),“ in collecting curious authors; making trials of “ various kinds; and in the construction of dif“ ferent instruments, for the improvement of useful “ knowledge.” He was master of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages ; deeply versed in all branches of mathematics; in the sciences of optics, geography, astronomy, and chemistry. The composition, and effects, of gunpowder, were probably discovered by him. He certainly made great discoveries in chemistry. He had enemies : but, he had many powerful friends, and he was patronised by every pope of his time.—The patronage, which he received from his countrymen, has been mentioned. A nation, in which there was so much science on one side, and so much patronage of science on the other, could not have been generally unlearned. It must be added, that, while Roger Bacon was employed in the manner we have mentioned, John Holywood, or Johannes de Sacrobosco, as he is sometimes called,—(for whose birth Nithisdale, Yorkshire, Durham, and Dublin, contend),—was considerably extending the boundaries of science. He acquired from the Moors in Spain, and communicated both to England and France, the system of circulating decimals,—the uttermost limit of pure arithmetic.

In fact, so far, at the time of which we are speaking, had the spirit of literary ardour proceeded, and so widely was it circulated, that, in every southern, and several northern states of Europe, there was an irresistible tendency to a new and better order of things. For a time, the religious controversies, which then began to disturb the world, rather retarded than accelerated, the march of science, and the general improvement of the human mind.

CHAP. II.

THE PRELIMINARIES OF THE REFORMATION.

The diffusion of learning, and the mental activity, which it occasioned, paved the way for the reformation. That there was much ignorance, and many superstitious practices, in the catholic churches; that there was much dissoluteness in the lower, and much luxury in the higher ranks, of the clergy;that the pretensions of the ecclesiastical body in general, and particularly the claims of the see of Rome, were exorbitant, every well-informed and candid catholic may allow. They are described in the strongest colours, by Bossuet, in the first pages of his Variations.—They had never been unobserved by the wise or the good. The increase of information, and the new spirit of inquiry, which it produced, now made them every day, more and more

felt; and the discussions, at the councils of Constance, and Basil, forcibly called the attention of the public to them.

The chapter,--perhaps the most interesting in his works, --in which Mr. Gibbon gives an account of the Paulicians, shews, that there had long existed, in a numerous portion of christians, an anxious wish to simplify both the religious creed, and the religious observances of the times; and several protestant writers have laboured to prove, that they would have been satisfied with a moderate reform. A different opinion is, however, maintained by Mosheim.-.“ Before the reformation,” to use his own words*, “there lay concealed, in almost every

part of Europe, particularly in Bohemia, Moravia, “ Switzerland and Germany, many persons, who " adhered tenaciously to the following doctrines, so which the Waldenses, Wickliffites, and Hussites, .“ had maintained; some, in a disguised, and “ others, in a more open and public manner :46 That the kingdom of Christ was an assembly of

true, and real saints ; and ought, therefore, to or be inaccessible to the wicked, and unrighteous; “ and also exempt from all those institutious, which “ human prudence suggests, to oppose the progress “ of iniquity, or to correct and reform transgres“ sions." From these principles, they inferred, that, “ all things ought to be in common among “ the faithful ; that, taking interest for the loan of

money ; tythes, and tribute, ought to be entirely

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Cent, xvi. c. 3. 8 2. 5.

gone farther

o abolished ; that, in the kingdom of Christ, civil

magistrates were absolutely useless; and that " God still continued to reveal his will to chosen persons.” Some writers have

;

and have pretended, that, among the maintainers of these opinions, something of the jacobinical doctrines of liberty and equality, is discoverable. It must, no doubt, be admitted, that the celebrated distich of the English Lollards, " When Adam delv'd, and Eva

span, " Where was then the gentleman ?”— has something of a jacobinical sound.

It may be added, that the principle was, not only avowed, but carried into practice, by the Jacquerie, in France. This, no one, who has read the Conjuration d'Etienne Marcel contre l'autorité royal par Monsieur Maudet, (1 vol. 8vo. Paris, 1815), a very curious, and interesting work,- will be disposed to controvert.

Whatever may have been the principles of the persons, to whom we have just alluded, it is at least certain, that they produced a considerable degree of ferment.

“ The minds of men,” says cardinal Julian, in a letter to Pope Eugenius the fourth, are big with expectation of what measures “ will be taken; and are ripe for something tragical. “ I see the axe is at the root : the tree begins to “ bend : and instead of propping it, whilst we may,

we hasten its fall.” The whole of this letter,-a copious extract from which is given by Bossuet, in the first pages of his Variations,-is inserted in the

[blocks in formation]

works of Æneas Sylvius, afterwards pope, under the name of Pius the second. It is a remarkable monument of political foresight, and deserves the perusal of the reader. *

CHAP. III.

HENRY THE EIGHTH.

COMMENCEMENT OF THE REFORMATION.

1517

Whilst the general spirit of the public was in the state, we have described, a circumstance took place, which immediately led to the reformation.—Pope Leo the tenth published a General Indulgence, and employed several persons to preach and distribute it, among the faithful.

The charge of doing this, in the electorate of Saxony, he committed to Albert, archbishop of Mentz and Magdeburgh. This prelate employed on the occasion, John Tetzel, a dominican friar, ignorant, and insolent but possessing no small

[ocr errors]

• The Commentaire du Chevalier Folard sur Polybe, pub. lished in 1727, contains the following prediction, equally remarkable, of the French Revolution :-* A conspiracy is . “ actually forming in Europe, by means at once so subtle “and efficacious, that I am sorry not to have come into “ the world 30 years later, to witness its result. It must be * confessed, that the Sovereigns of Europe wear very bad “ spectacles. The proofs of it are mathematical, if there

ever such proofs were, of a conspiracy,”

« ÖncekiDevam »