« НазадПродовжити »
possibly arise from the attempts at representing the Deity, gross and reprehensible as they are, which are still so common in Roman-Catholic countries. What my opinion is concerning the existence, and what speculations I have sometimes entertained concerning the agency of spirits, good or evil, was stated to you in our first conversation, when I little suspected with whom I was conversing. In treating the monkish devil as a mere mythological personage, I have done no disservice to religion. I had once an intention of displaying that whole system of fable in some poems: your friend Erasmus would have been pleased with the design, I think; and, had we been contemporaries, would have encouraged me to execute it, supposing it could have been done with safety.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Had you lived in his days, I know no person who would have savoured more strongly of the frying-pan, as that beast Bishop Nix used to say, than yourself.
MONTESINOS. That must have depended upon circumstances. Had it been my fortune to have associated with Bilney, or Tindal and Frith, I might have partaken their zeal and their fate. On the
other hand, had I been acquainted with you and Cuthbert Tonstal, it is not less likely that I should have received the stamp of your opinions. Even the mere difference of age might have decided whether I should have died at the stake to promote the Reformation, or have exerted myself as you did in opposing it. You yourself, had you been twenty years younger, would have been a reformer. In youth we are for pressing forward toward some distant benefit, which is imaginary, and perhaps unattainable : years bring with them experience and warning, and as we advance in life the apprehension of evil becomes stronger than the hope of good. The Reformation brought with it so much evil and so much good,..such monstrous corruptions existed on the one part, and such perilous consequences were certainly foreseen on the other,.. that I do not wonder at the fiery intolerance which was displayed on both sides.
SIR THOMAS MORE. It were a vain speculation to inquire whether the benefits might have been attained without the evils of that long and dreadful process. Such an assumption would be absurd, even as the subject of a political romance. For if men were in a state of morals and knowledge which made them capable of conducting such a revo
lution unerringly, they would attempt no alteration, because it would be palpable that none was needed. Convulsions of this kind are the consequence and the punishment of our errors and our vices : it is seldom that they prove the remedy for them. The very qualities which enable men to acquire power in distempered times render them, for the most part, unfit to be trusted with it. The work which requires a calm, thoughtful and virtuous spirit, can never be performed by the crafty, the turbulent and the audacious.
MONTESINOS. The result of our Reformation is of such transcendant good, that it has been well purchased. We have gained by it a scriptural religion; a system of belief which bears inquiry; and an ecclesiastical establishment, which is not merely in all respects consistent with the general good, but eminently and essentially conducive to it.
SIR THOMAS MORE. The present good is certain : but the end of a process must be seen before an opinion can be pronounced upon its result. The Reformation is not yet three hundred years old : and you will allow that it is in no very hopeful way in the country where it originated. Look at it throughout Protestant Germany; you will find it starved by the state, betrayed by its own ministers, and losing ground every day to the old religion on one hand, and the new irreligion on the other.
MONTESINOS. Thank God! there is no disposition in the British government to starve it, nor is it likely here to be betrayed by those who are engaged in its service.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Three centuries have not elapsed since that Establishment; was settled upon its present basis: an Establishment positively good, and comparatively excellent; if not the best that might be conceived, incomparably the best that the world has ever yet seen: and one of its advantages is, that it is capable of admitting without danger or inconvenience all the improvement which it requires. Yet during the short time of its existence (for short the time is in the
history of human institutions) it has been subverted once, and was preserved from a second overthrow only by a political revolution, which has shaken the foundation of civil obedience. You must not wonder then if we, who foresaw this tendency in part, withstood to the utmost of our power so perilous a change.
MONTESINOS. I have never confounded such men as yourself and Tonstal with Gardiner, Bonner, and the pack of hell-hounds whom they hallooed to the chase.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Bonner was a monster of barbarity; Stephen Gardiner a time-serving politician, with a hard head and a harder heart. Some of the rest were as you describe them, dogs of the Devil's own pack. For myself, and those who acted upon views and feelings which accorded with mine, our acts of persecution are, like Cranmer's, not less to be pitied than condemned. Both are incapable of defence, but the same considerations which must be allowed to explain his conduct, will in some degree extenuate ours. We clearly discerned the consequences of those perilous errors, political as well as religious, which, springing up with the Reformation, accompanied its course, disgraced its