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without leading to some such follies and ex

as have generally accompanied it. Many, again, may apprehend, that more formalism than faith would be produced, a pharisaic* demeanour, and an uncharitable spirit, rather than a Christian temper. And many, who have not these fears, may be withheld from giving any approbation to such an attempt, by their persuasion that our Church has provided all that is necessary for the instruction, the exercise, and the consolation of its members; and therefore they are contented, according to the old monk's rule, sinere res vadere sicut evadunt.

SIR THOMAS MORE.

There may, indeed, seem reason for apprehending that the new wheat which the husbandmen, whom you are for admitting into the field, would sow, would be in the proportion of a few grains to a handful of tares; at any rate, the field would stand in need of constant and careful weeding! But they who suppose that the ecclesiastical Establishment, in its present state, is competent to the duties expected from it, must have overlooked the great increase of population, for which no provision has been made, and the fearful changes of society, which, even more than that increase, render the corrective and conservative powers of religion above all things necessary. For that, and that alone, can preserve the social body from putrescence and dissolution.

* “For ought I see,” says South, “ though the Mosaical part of Judaism be abolished among Christians, the Pharisaical part of it never will."—Vol. i. p. 65.

89

COLLOQUY XI.

INFIDELITY.-CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT.

MONTESINOS.

Your last words, Sir Thomas, have left a weight upon my mind. Nothing but religion, you said, can preserve our social system from putrescence and dissolution. This I entirely believe; and therefore a melancholy and fearful apprehension comes over me when I contemplate the present state of the Christian world. Throughout Papal Christendom there has been substituted for Christianity a mass of corruptions which nauseates the understanding, and at which the reasonable heart revolts. And in reformed countries I see the Church abroad, for the most part, starved by the government, and betrayed by the clergy; and, at home, assailed by greater danger than has at any time threatened it since the accession of Elizabeth, when this nation was delivered from bondage. In comparing the age of Luther with the

present times, this great difference is to be observed, that Infidelity, which was rife enough during the former period, kept safely then under the wing of the Romish Church, and exerted itself to uphold the system of imposture with which it had coalesced, and by which it flourished. It is strong enough now to claim supremacy, and to struggle for it. At that time it consisted simply in the disbelief of religion; it now implies the hatred of it; and, while it is vehemently engaged against Popery on the continent, acts in alliance with Popery, with equal vehemence, against the ecclesiastical Establishment here.

SIR THOMAS MORE.

The difference is worthy of consideration, and its causes are easily to be traced. All men of learning in those days were, with very few exceptions, either monks or clergy; and they were not so many but that the Church and the Monasteries could provide for all. You have a numerous and rapidly increasing class of literary men, and a still more numerous one of

persons, who take their opinions from them with as implicit a faith, and as much prostration of intellect, as the simplest peasant exhibits to the wiliest priest. That a little learning is dangerous, is true enough to have past into a proverb; it is not less true that a very little suffices

for the stock in trade, upon which the scribes and scriveners of literature, who take upon themselves to direct the public, set up. Better education, humbler minds, sounder intellects, happier dispositions, nay, even a more fortunate position in society, might have enabled them to perceive the truth of religion, and to understand its paramount importance to the human race, to the community of which they form a part, and to their own happiness, temporal as well as eternal.

MONTESINOS. Of too many of them, indeed, may it be said, that ne* dubitare quidem sciunt, quibus omnia contemnere ac nescire satis est.

SIR THOMAS MORE.

Ignorance upon that subject is not to be admitted as an excuse, f or palliation, for those who have had the means and the opportunity of knowledge.

* D. Heinsius, in the letter in which he gives an account of Scaliger's death.

† “ As far as ignorance itself is excusable,” says Dean Sherlock, so far ignorance will excuse. But commonly ignorance itself is a great crime; and, when it is so, if men shall not be judged for the sins which they ignorantly commit, yet they shall be judged and condemned for their ignorance, as well as for their sins against knowledge."--On Judgement,

p. 307.

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