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ST. AUGUSTINE (354-430)
F all the Fathers of the Latin Church,” says Villemain,
“ Saint Augustine manifested the most imagination in theo.
logy ; the most eloquence, and even sensibility, in scholasticism." Born at Tagasta, in Numidia, he studied Greek, rhetoric and philosophy, at Carthage and Madaura, while his mother, Monica, a devout Christian, instructed him in religion. He taught grammar and rhetoric, and in 384 became professor of rhetoric and philosophy at Milan. His career up to this time had been one of immorality, but, affected by the sermons of Saint Ambrose, he became devoutly religious, joined the Church, and was thenceforth a preacher and writer of the highest ability among the early theologians. His reputation as an eloquent preacher was very great. His life, as preacher and author, was passed in Africa, where he died at Hippo in 430, during the siege of that city by the Vandals.
THE LORD'S PRAYER [The following is the opening portion of a sermon by Saint Augustine, on the subject of “The Lord's Prayer," which he analyzes throughout in the manner here presented. It is an excellent example of his oratorical method.]
The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, hath taught us a prayer ; and though He be the Lord himself, as ye have heard and repeated in the Creed, the only Son of God, yet He would not be alone. He is the Only Son, and yet would not be alone; He hath vouchsafed to have brethren. For to whom doth He say, Say, our Father, which art in Heaven?” Whom did He wish us to call our Father, save His own Father ! Did He grudge us this? Parents sometimes, when they have gotten one, two, or three children, fear to give birth to any more, lest they reduce the rest to beggary. But because the inheritance which He
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546)
THE FATHER OF THE REFORMATION
N the year 1521, when Martin Luther agreed to attend the
diet (or national assembly) of the German Empire at Worms,
with the safe-conduct of the Emperor Charles V. in his pocket, his friends did their best to dissuade him from entering that city. Luther's reply is significant of the indomitable character of the man: “ Were there as many devils in Worms as tiles upon the roofs of the houses, still would I enter.” Fortunately for Luther, Charles was a man of honor, and although Luther defended his position and refused to retract, he was permitted to leave Worms—though the emperor decreed that he should be seized as soon as his safe-conduct had expired. But before that happened he was safely concealed in the solitary castle of Wartburg, under guard of a party of friendly knights. When he left that place of refuge the peril had passed away.
Luther was a man of strong zeal and intrepidity. His being called to Worms was due, not to his attacks upon the priesthood, but to his denial of the authority of the pope, whom he had assailed with all the fierce invective and vituperation which were common in the controversies of that age. A provocation of this kind the Church was not likely to let pass, and Luther's visit to Worms was attended with imminent peril. He met it fearlessly, disdainful of death or danger in face of the mission of his life.
DEFENCE BEFORE THE DIET AT WORMS
[The charge against Luther was that he had written and disseminated false doctrines and virulent attacks on the Church, the priesthood, and the pope, and he was summoned to Worms with the demand that he should retract his heretical writings. He defended himself with tact and prudence, but with no yielding.]
Most SERENE EMPEROR, ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCES, GRACIOUS LORDS :
In obedience to your commands given me yesterday, I stand here, beseeching you, as God is merciful, so to deign mercifully to listen to this cause ; which is, as I believe, the cause of justice and of truth. through inexperience, I should fail to apply to any his proper title, or offend in any way against the manners of courts, I entreat you to pardon. me as one not conversant with courts, but rather with the cells of monks, and claiming no other merit than that of having spoken and written with that simplicity of mind which regards nothing but the glory of God and the pure instruction of the people of Christ.
Two questions have been proposed to me : Whether I acknowledge the books which are published in my name, and whether I am determined. to defend or disposed to recall them. To the first of these I have given a direct answer, in which I shall ever persist, that these books are mine and published by me, except in so far as they may have been altered or interpolated by the craft or officiousness of rivals. To the other I am now about to reply ; and I must first entreat your Majesty and your Highnesses to deign to consider that my books are not all of the same description. For there are some in which I have treated the piety of faith and morals with simplicity so evangelical that my very adversaries confess them to be profitable and harmless, and deserving the perusal of a Christian. Even the pope's bull, fierce and cruel as it is, admits some of my books to be innocent; though even those, with a monstrous perversity of judgment, it includes in the same sentence. If, then, I should think of retracting these, should I not stand alone in my condemnation of that truth which is acknowledged by the unanimous confession of all, whether friends or foes ?
The second species of my publications is that in which I have inveighed against the papacy and the doctrine of the papists, as of men who by their iniquitous tenets and examples have desolated the Christian world, both with spiritual and temporal calamities. No man can deny or dissemble this. The sufferings and complaints of all men are my witnesses that, through the laws of the pope and the doctrines of men, the consciences of the faithful have been ensnared, tortured, and torn in pieces; while, at the same time, their property and substance have been devoured by an intolerable tyranny, and are still devoured without end and by degrading means; and that too, most of all, in this roble nation of Germany. Yet it is with them a perpetual statute, that the laws and doctrines of the pope be held erroneous and reprobate when they are contrary to the Gospel and the opinions of the Fathers.
If, then, I shall retract these books, I shall do no other than add
FRANCOIS FENELON (1651-1715)
THE MASTER OF FRENCH ELOQUENCE
RANCE has produced no more consummate master of the art of
graceful oratory than François de Salignac de la Motte Féne
lon, Archbishop de Cambray, to give him his full title. He shared with Bossuet and Bourdaloue the honor of being one of the three great orators of the classic age of Louis XIV. Though an ecclesiastic and a pulpit orator of the finest powers, as an author he occupied largely the secular field, producing a number of works, of which much the most famous is the admirable “Les Aventures de Télémaque,” still one of the most popular works in the French language. Appointed by Louis XIV. preceptor to his grandson, the Duke of Burgundy and heir to the throne, Fénelon wrote several works for the benefit of his pupil, one of them being “ Télémaque." This brought him into disgrace with Louis, who regarded it as a satire on his despotic rule. But Fénelon, though banished from court, made himself felt from his archbishopric of Cambray, and was honored for virtue and wisdom throughout Europe. La Bruyère says: "We feel the power and ascendency of his rare genius, whether he preaches without preparation, or pronounces a studied discourse, or explains his thoughts in conversation.” Mathews says of his eloquence : “What cultivated man needs to be told of the sweet persuasions that dwelt upon the tongue of the Swan of Cambray ?”
GOD REVEALED IN NATURE [From one of Fénelon's discourses we copy the following treatment of the ofthandled subject that the system of Nature yields indubitable evidence of the hand of a Creator. There is nothing original in his argument, but the subject is effectively handled.] 29
I cannot open my eyes without discovering the skill that everything in nature displays. A single glance enables me to perceive the hand that has made all things. Men accustomed to meditate upon abstract truths, and recur to first principles, recognize the Divinity by the idea of Him they find in their minds. But the more direct this road is, the more it is untrodden and neglected by common men, who follow their own imagination. It is so simple a demonstration, that from this very cause it escapes those minds incapable of a purely intellectual operation. And the more perfect this way of discovering the Supreme Being is, the fewer are the minds that can follow it. But there is another method less perfect, but more nearly adapted to the capacity of all. Those who exercise their reason the least, those who are the most affected by their senses, may, at a single glance, discover Him who is represented in all His works. The wisdom and power that God has manifested in everything He has made reflect the name as in a mirror of Him whom they have not been able to discover in their own minds. This is a popular philosophy addressed to the senses, which every one, without prejudice or passion, is capable of acquiring.
A man whose heart is entirely engaged in some grand concern might pass many days in a room, attending to his affairs, without seeing either the proportions of the room, the ornaments on the chimney, or the pictures that surrounded him. All these objects would be before his eyes, but he would not see them, and they would make no impression upon him. Thus it is that men live. Everything presents God to them, but they do not see Him. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him; and, nevertheless, the world has not known Him. They pass their lives without seeing this representation of the Deity, so completely do the fascinations of life obscure their vision. Saint Augustine says that the wonders of the universe are lowered in our estimation by their repetition. Cicero says the same thing : " Forced to view the same things every day, the mind as well as the eye is accustomed to them. It does not admire nor take any pains to discover the cause of events that it always observes to take place in just the same way; as if it were the novelty rather than the grandeur of a thing that should lead us to this investigation." But all nature shows the infinite skill of its author. I maintain that accident, that is, a blind and fortuitous succession of events, could never have produced all we see. It is well to adduce here one of the celebrated comparisons of the ancients.
Who would believe that the “Iliad” of Homer was not composed by the efforts of a great poet, but that the characters of the alphabet, being thrown confusedly together, an accidental stroke had placed the letters precisely in such relative positions as to produce verses so full of harmony