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So too all asking of the suffrages of the saints, all addresses to the Cross calculated to encourage superstition, that is, in which any value is attributed to the material wood, in which it is used otherwise than in the Epistles of St Paul, namely, as a figure of speech by which we ever and only understand Him that hung upon it; all these have been equally refused a place.
Nor is it only poems containing positive error which I have counted inadmissible; but I have not willingly given room to any which breathe a spirit foreign to that tone of piety which the English Church desires to cherish in her children; for I have always felt that compositions of this character may be far more hurtful, may do far more to rob her of the affections, and ultimately of the allegiance, of her children, than those in which error and opposition to her teaching take a more definite and tangible shape. Nor surely can there be a more serious mistake, than to suppose that we have really "adapted" such works to the use of her members, when we have lopped off here and there a few offensive excrescences, while that far more potent, because far subtler and more impalpable, element of a life which is not her life remains interfused through the whole.
Having thus in a manner become responsible for all which appears in this volume, I may be permitted to
observe, that I do not thereby imply that there may not be in it, here and there, though very rarely indeed, a phrase which will claim the interpretation of charity. The reader will in such a case remember how unfair it is to try the theological language of the middle ages by the greater strictness and accuracy which the struggles of the Reformation rendered necessary. Thus, for us at this day to talk of any "merits " save those of Christ, after all that the Reformation has won for us, would involve a conscious and a deliberate falling away from a sole and exclusive reliance upon his work. But it was a different thing once, and such language might quite be used by one who had implicitly an entire affiance on the work of Christ for him as the ultimate ground of his hope; and who only waited to have the truth, which with some confusion he held and lived by, put before him in accurate form, to embrace it henceforth and for ever, not only with heart, as he had done already, but with the understanding as well.
Nor yet do I mean to affirm that there may not have found admission here one or two poems which some, whom I should greatly have desired altogether to have carried with me in my selection, may not wish had been away. It is indeed one of the mischiefs which Rome has entailed upon the whole Western Church, even upon those portions of it now delivered
from her tyranny, that she has rendered suspicious so much, which, but for her, none could have thought other than profitable and edifying. She has compelled those, who before everything else would be true to God's word, oftentimes to act in the spirit of Hezekiah, when he said "Nehushtan to the very "sign of salvation" *—to the brazen serpent itself. Yet granting that the superstitious, and therefore profane, hands which she has laid on so much, must oftentimes make it our wisdom, and indeed our duty, that we abridge ourselves of our rightful liberty in many things which otherwise and but for her we might have freely and profitably used, there is still a limit to these self-denials: and unless we are determined to set such a limit, there is no point of bareness and nakedness in all of imaginative and symbolic in worship and service, which we might not reach; even as some Reformed Churches, which have not shewn the mingled moderation and firmness, that have in these matters so wonderfully characterized our own, have undoubtedly made themselves much poorer than was need.
Of course, those who consider that the whole medieval theology is to be ignored and placed under banthat nothing is to be learned from it, or nothing but harm-those I must expect to disapprove, not merely * Σύμβολον σωτηρίας, Wisd. xvi.
of a small matter or two in the volume, but of it altogether; for the very idea of the book rests on the assumption that it is worth our while to know what the feelings of these ages were-what the Church was doing during a thousand years of her existence ;-on the assumption also that the voices in which men uttered then the deepest things of their hearts, will be voices in which we may also utter and embody the deepest things of our own. For myself, I cannot but feel that we are untrue to our position as a Church, that is, as an historic body, and above all to our position as members of a Protestant Church, when we thus wish to dissever, as far as we may, the links of our historic connexion with the past. We should better realize that position, if we looked at those Middle Ages with the expectation (which the facts would abundantly justify), of finding the two Churches, which at the Reformation. disengaged themselves from one another, in the bosom of the Church which was then-if we looked at those ages, not seeking (as sometimes is done, I cannot but feel most unfairly, in regard to earlier times) to claim them as Protestant, but as little conceding that they were Romanist. It were truer to say that in Romanism we have the residuum of the middle age Church and theology, the lees, after all, or well nigh all, the wine was drained away. But in the medieval Church we
have the wine and the lees together-the truth and the error-the false observance, and yet at the same time the divine truth which should one day be fatal to it, side by side. Good were it for us to look at those ages, tracing gladly, as Luther so loved to do, the footsteps of the Reformers before the Reformation; and feeling that it is our duty, that it is the duty of each successive .age of the Church, as not to accept the past in the gross, so neither in the gross to reject it; since rather by our position as the present representatives of that eternal body, we are bound to recognize ourselves as the rightful inheritors of all which is good and true that ever has been done or said within it. Nor is this all: but if our position mean anything, we are bound also to believe that to us, having the Word and the Spirit, the power has been given to distinguish things which differ, that the sharp sword of judgment has been placed in our hands, whereby to sunder between the holy and profane,—that such a breath of the Almighty is now and evermore breathing over his Church, as shall enable it, boldly and with entire trust that He will winnow for it, to exclaim, "What is the chaff to the wheat?" Surely it is our duty to believe that to us, that to each generation which humbly and earnestly seeks, will be given that enlightening Spirit, by whose aid it shall be enabled to read aright the past