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repeated.* Several charters of manumission, avowedly proceeding from religious motives, are cited by antiquarian writers. Slowly did the great curse of slavery yield to the influence of Christian principles; but its eventual extinction is to be ascribed solely to that spirit of humanity and justice, which Christianity alone could kindle.
Examples of individual purity and benevolence might be adduced, in contrast with the wide-spreading corruption already noticed. The lives of the saints, though pervaded by a thick cloud of superstition, do, nevertheless, reveal some traits of moral excellence. Christianity, in spite of the manifold corruptions which had gathered around it, exerted a renewing power over the minds of some. And it is very beautiful to catch, amidst the deep gloom of that period, glimpses of sincere piety, however faint. In the cloisters of the monastery, and in the more active scenes of religious life, might be found spirits who were partakers of a better nature than comes from earth. They had been born from above. They could not escape injury from the tainted atmosphere which filled the entire region around them. They often betrayed signs of feebleness, the moral pulse was low and faint; but life continued, till, raised above the unhealthy element they breathed, they entered those purer regions to which they aspired, and there felt the quickening influences of the presence of
* Robertson's View of the State of Europe, Note xx.
God, and were united to “ the spirits of just men made perfect.”
Before closing this brief survey of the influence of the church on the social condition of Europe, it will be proper to notice two institutions—The right of sanctuary, and The truce of God—which had their origin from that source, and which produced incalculably great and beneficial effects in an age of oppression and violence. The precincts of a church afforded refuge to the fugitive. Had laws been firmly established and equitably administered, such a privilege would have proved little else than a bounty upon crime, and such, at a later period, it became: but at a time when the innocent were often falsely accused, and the weak were generally oppressed, the place of sanctuary, like the Jewish city of refuge, afforded a shelter to those who, otherwise, would have been crushed by the hand of injustice or revenge. Rushing through the tliickets of the forest, towards the church or the monastery, which stood in the bosoni of the valley, or on the brow of the hill, the victim of savage cruelty rejoiced in the protection there afforded ; and one can imagine him lifting the huge knocker of the gate, of which a specimen remains to this day on the door of Durham cathedral, and, with a palpitating heart, entering the portal under the conviction of perfect safety. There can be no doubt that this right was often abused; but still it may be fairly concluded, that, in many instances, it yielded protection to those who deserved it. The other custom we mentioned, The truce of God, was of unquestionable and still more decided advantage. The prelates of the middle ages often endeavoured to repress those private feuds which were among the most prevalent evils of the time. They availed themselves of seasons of public calamity to prevail upon the barons, who were ever waging war with each other, to form treaties of peace. But, at length, they were able to establish a permanent law, which secured a periodical and frequent interval of quietude in those troublous times. It was enacted in Aquitain, A.D. 1041, that from vespers on Wednesday evening, till the hour of dawn on Monday morning, no one should dare to assault his enemy without incurring the dreaded penalty of excommunication.* The law was soon afterwards extended to other countries; and in England, also, it was observed the time of the truce being altered to the Ember days, Advent, Lent, the vigils and festivals of Christ, the virgin Mary, the apostles, and all saints, and every Sunday, reckoning from the hour of nine on Saturday evening to the dawn of light on Monday morning of This was a welcome boon, and many would anxiously anticipate, and joyfully hail, the appointed time of vespers, when the authority of the church threw around them a defence more impregnable than the walls of a castle, and they could lie down and sleep in peace.
LITERATURE AND ART. Next to the moral condition of mankind, their intellectual state is the most interesting subject of inquiry. The dark ages form a kind of parenthesis in the history of the human mind in Europe. A long and brilliant period of intellectual cultivation and energy preceded them; and an era, in many respects, of still higher attainment and of richer promise has followed. The night which comes between two such days seems very gloomy, yet is there much truth in the observation, “that there was always a faint twilight, like that auspicious gleam, which, in a summer's night, fills up the interval between the setting and the rising sun.”* Nor should it be forgotten, that before the commencement of the medieval period, there had been a great decline in sound learning; and that the nations of Europe, whose ignorance we deplore, were, for the most part, the descendants not of the classic nations of antiquity, but of the rude barbarians of the north.
Whatever measure of intellectual cultivation may have relieved the prevailing darkness, it emanated from the church. To men of the ecclesiastical profession we are indebted for the preservation of ancient literature; and they were almost the only authors who wrote during the period. The church afforded an asylum for the studious; and, in those times, quiet
* Harris, Phil. Eng.
and reflective minds would naturally seek refuge in its bosom. It is difficult, even after much inquiry, to form a definite and accurate idea of the literary aspect of Europe in the dark ages; and next to impossible to convey, in the short space which we can here allot to it, a correct impression of the result of such inquiries. The seventh century may be fixed on as the nadir of the human mind.* Faint traces of the spirit of literature cheer the subsequent space of five hundred years, after which a very considerable revival of learning took place. General remarks as to the state of literature in Europe, during the whole of this period, are likely to mislead, because the state of one country and of one century materially differed from another. The spirit of literature may be said to have migrated from land to land; now visiting the shores of Ireland and England, then passing over to France and Germany, and touching upon Italy, till there, in its classic form, it found a congenial home. Ireland and England were, probably, much in advance of their contemporaries, in the seventh and eighth centuries, but afterwards declined. France revived in the ninth, and went on progressing during the following ages; and, towards the latter part of the tenth century, Germany possessed many learned churchmen. In Italy, signs of improvement are perceptible in the - eleventh century, but classical literature did not flourish there till the fifteenth. #See Hallam, Introd.to Lito of Europe, vol. i.