Изображения страниц

with merely classing the first book of Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity “among contributions to moral and political science.” Surely in any review, however cursory, more should have been said than this of a work which, in the judgment of so learned and impartial a writer as Hallam, marked an era in English literature.

Mr. Arnold's longest and best criticism is upon Milton's Paradise Lost. He is not wanting in admiration for the poet, holding with Johnson that whatever diminishes the reputation of Milton diminishes in some degree the honour of our country. He questions the fitness of the subject for an epic poem, without disputing the universal Christian interest which belongs to it, and its superiority in this respect to the subjects of the Iliad, neid, and Jerusalem Delivered. His criticism is sound, that the subject of an epic poem should admit of expansion and amplification, and that Milton's subject does not allow this liberty. Few critics will doubt that the episode of the revolt and war in heaven, however beautiful in itself, is the weak side of Paradise Lost. The images of the heavenly are all of earth and material ; in strong contrast to the Paradiso of the great Italian, who needed for his description of the heavenly state “only the three ideas of light, music, and motion.” We dissent from Mr. Arnold's view of the unscripturalness and inconsistency of Milton's conception of Satan. In Scripture the “archangel ruined" is no less an angel of light in semblance, than the father of lies in reality. Nor does Milton's image of a being consumed with selfishness and pride and dragging himself and others down to ruin rather than submit to the restraints of divine law inadequately represent the principle and essence of evil. We have as little sympathy as Mr. Arnold with Milton's peculiar theology; but we think it unfair to charge him with describing man as falling from his happy state, “in a sort of helpless predestined manner. The poet rises above the narrow system of Puritan doctrine in asserting the free action of the human will, as though, without that first truth of morality and religion, he could not justify the ways of God to man (cf. Paradise Lost, Book v. 230-245, viii. 635-643). If it be true that Eve is “a soft yielding fascinating being, who, with all her attractions, is in moral and intellectual things rather a hindrance than a help to her nobler consort,” the deep corruption of the female character when Milton lived, as well as his own domestic unhappiness, explains the defect. It required two centuries of social progress to bridge over the wide difference between the Eve of Milton and the ideal of the Princess.

Lastly, Mr. Arnold seems to waver between the authority of Anthony Wood and Roger Ascham, as to the effect of the Reformation npon learning in England. The destruction of the Mss. of the library of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester by Edward's commissioners, and the falling-off in the number of students at both Universities, are set against Roger Ascham's testimony to the state of things under Bonner and Gardiner.* The gist of the question hardly lies here. Plato,

“St John's stood in this state until those heavy times, and that grievous change, that chanced anno 1553, when more perfect scholars were dispersed from Aristotle, Tully, and Demosthenes might be as little fruitful to the student as medieval schoolmen. It was the principle which the reformers proclaimed of the right and duty of inquiry which unclasped the fetters of the mind ; not whether such or such authors should be taken as models, systematised, and servilely followed. In this sense, and in this alone, the Reformation acted upon thought and literature, and with little intention called into life that critical study of the Scriptures which is now so powerfully affecting every one of us.

[ocr errors]

V. The Missionary Life and Labours of Francis Xavier, takert from his

own Correspondence; with a Sketch of the general Results of Roman Catholic Missions among the Heathen. By Henry Venn, B.D., Prebendary of St. Paul's, Honorary Secretary of the Church Missionary Society. London: Longman and Co.

“It forms no part of the scope of these pages,” says Mr. Venn,“ to describe at length the successes of Protestant missions ;" yet such a work would have been far more worthy of the labour le has lavished on this. Notwithstanding “the taunts of the Romanist writers," the apostolic life and labours of Xavier would have been better used as an incentive to emulation than as the subject of more than three hundred pages of not very successful disparagement. Any preëminence which can be asserted for the cause which he has at heart, by a carping criticism of its rivals, affords at best but a sorry triumph. The fact is, that Mr. Venn's position, as secretary of the Church Missionary Society, effectually prevented him from having the smallest sympathy with the man whose missionary enterprise he has undertaken to record. His book is rather a critique than a biography. It is a statement of such facts only as he finds mentioned in Xavier's own letters, while he rejects in toto the authority of all previous biographies. As to the more modern compilations, he may probably be right; but it is surely hard measure with respect to Acosta's work, which was published just twenty-one years after Xavier's death, and that of Tursellinus, which appeared only twenty-three years later. The contradictions, however, between their narratives and Xavier's letters, their “ loose statements, and“ geographical mistakes,” have, it seems, destroyed all Mr. Venn's confidence in their “competency or fidelity;" an adoption of the sweeping critical canon which Dr. Colenso has applied to the Pentateuch, which was scarcely to be expected from such a quarter. Once apprised, however, of the system on which he has proceeded, his work is not undeserving of praise. Cold and almost unfriendly in tone, it

thence in one month than many years can rear up again. For when the Boar of the Wood (Aper de Silva, Psalm lxxx. 13) had passed the seas, and fastened his foot again in England, not only the two fair groves of learning in England were either cut up by the root, or trodden down to the ground, and wholly went to wrack, but the young spring there, and every where else, was pitifully nipt and over-trodden by very beasts, and also the fairest standers of all were rooted up and cast into the fire, to the great weakening, even at this day, of Christ's Church in England, both for religion and learning” (The Schoolmaster, by R. Ascham: Upton's edition, 1743, pp. 177.179)

nevertheless affords evidence that the writer has tried to be just, and the failure must be attributed to the babits of thought which his position has imposed on him. The statements of fact are, so far as we can see, always to be relied on, and the style is marked by a certain scholarly sobriety of tone. The book, in short, gives us only the skeleton of the great Romish missionary; but the dry bones are all there, and are accurately arranged with anatomical precision. For every thing that gives fulness, warmth, or life to the human figure the reader must seek elsewhere.

Francis Xavier was born in 1506, at the castle of Xavier, in the Spanish province of Navarre. His family was of the highest nobility, but poor; and he endured considerable privation while studying at the University of Paris, where he graduated and delivered lectures on the Aristotelian philosophy. In the first of his letters which has been preserved, written at the age of twenty-nine, he speaks with the warmest gratitude of the exertions of Ignatius Loyola to extricate him, not only from his pecuniary straits, but from his “familiarity with men breathing out heresy." This seems a rather narrow foundation on which to build a claim for the influence on Xavier's future life of his “ early acquaintance with Protestant truth." At all events, it did not prevent him from being one of the seven who, on the feast of the Assumption 1534, founded the famous order of Jesus. It was not, however, till 1540 that they obtained ecclesiastical incorporation from Pope Paul III. The interval had enabled Xavier to obtain some celebrity for his voluntary austerities; and when John III., king of Portugal, proposed to intrust to the new order a mission to the Indies, Loyola, who had at first proposed to send two brethren who were both struck down by fever, finally consented to part with his friend. On the journey to Lisbon a man in his company was carried down by a torrent they were crossing, and was only saved by what Xavier calls “a manifest miracle.” Mr. Venn, on the contrary, considers that it was only “a providential deliverance;" a distinction eminently in keeping with his general tone. Either expression is open to criticism ; but it is surely unjust to blame Xavier because he used the language by which his own church expresses thankfulness for God's remarkable mercies, instead of that which would recommend itself to a Protestant. Xavier passed by the castle of his ancestors without stopping even to embrace the venerable mother whom he had not seen for sixteen years, and was never again to behold in this world. He rejected the prudent counsels by which his relatives would have arrested his departure ; and after spending ten impatient months in preparation, he at length, backed by all the authority of the King of Portugal, then the ruling power of the East, and strengthened by four papal briefs, set sail from Lisbon, in the vessel which carried the new viceroy, on the 7th April 1541, having just completed his thirty

After a weary voyage of eleven months they reached Goa, the capital of the Portuguese settlements in the East, and Xavier found himself forthwith engaged in labours not less arduous than any which

fifth year.


could have fallen to him among the heathen. In all ages, a cathedral town, a garrison town, and a seaport, have been the chosen seats of vice. Goa was all three; and the character of the population, consisting moreover mostly of men who were eager to make a rapid fortune, and who heartily despised the natives, was an insuperable obstacle to missionary success. Accordingly, after five months spent in preaching, catechising, hearing confessions, and visiting the sick, Xavier started for the pearl-fisheries east of Cape Comorin. To this population Christianity was not quite a novelty. Delivered from Saracen oppression by the arms of a previous viceroy, a Franciscan named Michael Vass had converted many of them. Xavier took with him some natives capable of acting as interpreters, and in the first place had the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ave Maria, and the Decalogue translated into their dialect. Then daily summoning them together by a bell, he recited these formularies till his hearers knew them by heart. On the Sunday he commented, through the medium of his interpreters, on the several articles of the Creed and Commandments

, and afterwards delivered an exhortation explaining the necessity of a Christian life. Then followed the baptism of such as he deemed sufficiently instructed. Xavier himself tells us, that he had baptised a whole village in one day till his hands failed him with fatigue. Mr. Venn points out the worldly advantages offered to the converts

, and that Xavier's ignorance of the native tongue inakes it only too probable that they were but insufficiently instructed, and reduces

, in his own opinion, the multitude of conversions " from something which sounded very grand to that which is very small." Doubtless great reductions must be made. Holding the Roman faith, Xavier bap. tised infant children with the eagerness of zeal ; of the mass of his older converts the Christianity, perhaps, was little more than nominal ; but enough will still remain to justify his fame. For the admission of converts to baptism in a very early stage of their novitiate, he might plead apostolical example (Acts ii. 41); and he openly avows, that he relies rather on the influence of character than of precept. Nor has any one ever alleged that he failed in this part of his duty. At one time defending the natives from Portuguese oppression, at another bringing succour to the Christians of Cape Co. morin, who had suffered from an inroad of the army which collected the tribute of the

King of Bisnaghur, he was always ready to spend and be spent. But his ardent spirit was already longing for fresh fields of labour. Armed with all the influence which the King of Portugal could give, it was for him to be the pioneer of Christianity, to lay the foundations on which others might build, and set an example of enterprise which had as yet been wanting to the church. For 8 moment it seemed that an opening would be made for him in Ceylon. The King of Jaffnapatam had massacred the Christian converts of the Isle of Manaar, and the viceroy fitted out an expedition against him. There was, as there always is in India, a pretender to the throne, who professed himself willing to embrace Christianity if the viceroy would espouse his cause. Xavier hoped much from this expedition

, which

Mr. Venn stigmatises as a relying on the arm of flesh, and an instigating of “a hostile and murderous expedition for the advancement of true religion.” If Cromwell had been obliged to resort to arms to stop the persecution of the Vaudois, would Mr. Venn have called that a hostile and murderous expedition? Surely the fact that men can only embrace Christianity at the risk of their lives is a hindrance to the Gospel, and Xavier might not unjustifiably desire its removal, even by force. His desires, however, were not destined to be granted. The expedition proved abortive, and he set sail for Malacca. During the next fifteen months he went the round of the Portuguese settlements. From Malacca to Amboyna, from Amboyna to the Moluccas, he spied out the land, summoning his brethren to his aid wherever he saw a promise of a fruitful field. He even passed on to the barbarous islands to the north of the Moluccas, where, save a doubtful tradition of a priest who had made many converts, and died among them, no Christian teacher had bitherto penetrated. Here he sojourned three months, and then returned by the same route to India. His ignorance of the native languages of course prevented him from making many converts. His tour was rather one of inspection, but it also enabled him to visit and confirm the existing Christian communities. Indeed, the hostile criticisms which have been passed on Xavier are almost all founded on the fundamental error of regarding him rather as a missionary than as a director of missions. Other less impetuous souls were better fitted for the slow toil of perfecting the Christian character. It was not for this that he had been chosen by Loyola, made papal nuncio, and almost the alter ego of the Portuguese monarch. His part was rather to make the first impression on the obdurate hearts of the heathen, to bring them by the spectacle of his zeal, courage, and self-denial, to submit themselves to teaching, to select the spots most favourable for the exertions of his followers; and by his letters to encourage their fainting souls, soothe them in their vexations, and guide them in their toils. In the discharge of these duties he now spent some months. But after eight years, the terrible truth had impressed itself on his mind, that any rapid and remarkable adoption of the Christian faith was not to be expected where the natives were brought in contact with European civilisation. Nothing could outweigh the effect produced by the contrast between the doctrine and practice of Christians. So convinced was he of this, that he even recommended the King of Portugal to hold his lay governors responsible for the failure of the missionaries. For himself

, he determined to seek a field as yet unvisited by Europeans. He handed over the government of his order in the East to Fathers Camerti and Gomez, and embarked for Japan.

The result of this enterprise certainly justified him in the above reasoning. Whatever the spirit of detraction may insinuate, a mission which after three generations numbered 37,000 converts, who mostly sealed their faith by the endurance of martyrdom, is a crown of glory to its founder. No doubt Xavier enjoyed some advantages. One Auger, a Japanese driven from his country, by what he himself

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »