« ZurückWeiter »
succeeded the Blessed Virgin. The real or imaginary saints of the Romish calendar occupy that place in the minds of ignorant worshippers which formerly was occupied by the crowd of heathen deities. The Virgin is still the general favourite, as was the principal female divinity, known under different names, in ancient times. But besides her, numerous other departed spirits, now as heretofore, have their respective votaries. Men put themselves under the tutelage of particular saints, or at least of dead persons passing for such, and these imaginary patrons inspire the Romanist with the same kind of confidence which his Pagan predecessor felt in reflecting upon his attendant genius, or favourite deity. Those who have happily been exempted from temptation to these impious follies may probably think them too contemptible for the notice of a sensible mind. But history refuses to sanction this confidence. Even Rachel, who must necessarily have been instructed in true religion by her husband Jacob, could not refrain from purloining her father's household gods when she left the home of her youth". Of the extent to which the mind of man is liable to be fascinated by a reliance upon canonised mediators advocating individual interests with the Great Supreme, let the gigantic triumphs of both Popery and Paganism bear witness. Nor can he who reasons impartially from either the past or the present aspect of human society, elude a conviction
Gen. xxxi. 19, 30.
that so long as men are surrounded by incentives to a trust in inferior mediators they will press their suits on these in preference to the Mighty God. The strongest minds, indeed, both in Romish and in heathen communities have ever risen superior to this wretched reliance upon beings, respecting whom no man knows whether they can help, or even hear the suppliant. But how thinly are these master-spirits scattered through the world! In every rank of life, from the royal palace to the peasant's hovel, the mind of man eagerly yields to the weaknesses by which it is naturally beset. Men who wear the crown have looked for blessings by the mediation of the Virgin, or in less favoured regions by that of some Heathen deity, with a confidence as miserably besotted as ever actuated the neglected child of ignorance and penury. He, therefore, who knows what is in man far better than man does himself, wisely charged his chosen people to root out from the promised land every monument of the superstitions by which it had been defiled'. In this, as in every other instance, let rulers hear the voice of inspiration. Let them learn from Holy Writ, that it is their bounden duty to remove from all places consecrated at the public expense to religious uses those visible objects of veneration, which, as long experience testifies, operate most injuriously upon the great mass of men in every station. No selection will accomplish the re
Deuteron. vii. 5. xii. 2, 3.
former's end. If the attempt be made, it will but open a door for the making of such reserves as are calculated to keep alive the exploded superstition, and to reinstate it, on any favourable occurrence, in all its pristine vigour. Such had proved the result of every measure hitherto adopted by the English Government for the removal of images. Many of these venerated objects were, indeed, no longer to be seen, but enough of them remained to feed the superstition still lurking in every corner of the land. Wisely and religiously, therefore, did the King's ministers at length determine upon removing from the people committed to their governance all incentives to idolatry. Nor, though the antiquary, and the man of taste may sometimes regret to see the graceful canopy deprived of the antique figure which once gave it life and meaning, will any judicious Christian find himself able to pass censure on a measure, indispensably requisite for the restoration of Englishmen to the Catholic faith in its native purity.
The mortification inflicted upon the zealous adherents to Romanism by the indiscriminate proscription of images was somewhat lightened by what was done in the highest quarter respecting Lent. The repudiation of tradition in matters of faith had pretty completely undermined the credit of that ancient fast. Men could find in Scripture neither any injunction to observe such a regular season of abstinence, nor much encouragement to expect spiritual blessings from
formal austerities of any kind. Hence both such as despised Romanism, and such as hated all restraints upon their usual indulgences, loudly condemned the folly and the tyranny of tying men down to particular kinds of food at particular seasons. This clamour appears to have rendered the administration apprehensive both lest a general licentiousness of manners should disgrace the Reformation, and lest an unusual demand for butcher's meat should injuriously diminish the national stock of cattle ; while at the same time it entailed ruin upon all who depended for a subsistence upon the fisheries. In order to prevent these imaginary evils, a royal proclamation was issued on the 16th of January, which, after premising that the King desired to see fasting, praying, and all other religious duties on the increase, enjoined the observance of Lent as usual. His Majesty, it was stated, wished it to be understood that intrinsically there was no difference between meats and days, but that, notwithstanding, he considered it important to continue the dietary restrictions anciently imposed by the English Church, in order that men should be reminded of subduing the flesh to the spirit; and likewise with a view to the advantage of persons engaged in the fish-trade, as well as to guard against an unusual slaughter of cattle in the breeding season. White meats, however, such as butter, eggs, and cheese, were still, as they had been in the late reign, to be deemed lawful food in Lent". But although
" Strype, Eccl. Mem. II. 129.
the people in general were thus constrained to observe that season in the accustomed way, little difficulty was made in granting royal licences, by which individuals during their whole lives were left at liberty to choose their own diet at all seasons; and in some cases these grantees were even allowed to entertain guests in their own way on days when their less favoured neighbours were interdicted from dealings with the butchers". Among the applications made at this time for such a licence was one from Roger Ascham, the
D“ In the year 1551, Jan. 10. a licence was granted to the Lord Admiral Clinton to eat flesh, cum quibuscunque cum eo ad suam mensam condescentibus, omnibus diebus jejunalibus quibuscunque : and all others that should eat at his table with him, on all fasting days whatsoever. Another licence under the King's seal, dated Feb. 24, 1551, was granted to John Samford, of the city of Gloucester, draper, that he, with two of his guests at his table, might eat flesh and white meats, during all the Lent, and all other fasting days in the year; and this licence was during his life. And the next Lent, viz. in the year 1552, a patent was granted to Gregory Railton, one of the clerks of the signet, to eat flesh with four in his company, during his life. Another licence for the Lord Treasurer, the Marquess of Winchester, and Elizabeth his wife, and to their family and friends, coming to the said Lord Marquess's house, not exceeding the number of twelve guests, during his and his wife's natural lives, in the times of Lent, and other fasting days; to eat flesh or white meats, notwithstanding the statute of abstinence from flesh; as the licence ran, dated March the 19th. And another, dated March 11, was granted to John a Lasco, superintendent of the church of strangers within the city of London, and to every one else whom he should invite to his table for society sake ; that to him, and every of them, during his life, in Lent, and other fasting times, it might be lawful to eat flesh and white meats freely, and without punishment, at their own will, any statute to the contrary notwithstanding." Ibid.