« PrécédentContinuer »
route; and having issued a new code of laws for his Italian subjects, which might prevent the recurrence of those disturbances between the Romans and Lombards, previously so incessant, he reached France toward the close of the year.
In thus tracing out the relations between Charlemagne and the papacy, we have glanced at some of those frauds and falsehoods by which " the man of sin" has succeeded in attaining wealth and power. The same system of forgery and deceit was afterwards employed with equal success, in changing the mere proprietorship of those vast estates granted by Charlemagne into an independent sovereignty. Who can avoid contrasting
this shameful history, in which the most sacred names and the most holy things were prostituted to the most selfish purposes and dishonest practices, with the history of Him who was harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners Who, “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich'
Who counted it “ more blessed to give than to receive ?" Yet these men, who shrank from no crime in order to gratify their own ambitious and avaricious designs, professed to be His servants and vicegerents, to be acting under his iminediate and infallible guidance, and to be consulting his sole glory. Or, contrast the course of these men with that of the apostle whose representatives and successors they professed themselves
“ holy, to be. The one lesson taught by his life may be expressed in his own words, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” It would be difficult to imagine any contrast more striking and complete than that between Christ and these his pretended vicars, or Peter and his professed successors.
Yet even from this narrative of impiety and fraud we may learn some useful lessons. Nowhere else are we taught more emphatically the forbearance and long-suffering of God. If sin be in every case that abominable thing which he hates, it must be specially hateful to him when committed by those who minister at his altars, and who profess that in thus acting they are fulfilling his commands and seeking his honour. God is thus made to appear the patron of and the partaker in their sins. And this system of fraud has continued for ages, during which these impious men have arrogated to themselves the Divine name and authority, and claimed that reverence and submission which are due to God alone. Yet God has not awakened his thunders, has not answered them by fire, has not consumed them with the breath of his mouth, nor destroyed them with the brightness of his coming." Truly he is “long-suffering and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy."
But since we know from the sure word of prophecy that a terrible consummation must be reached at last, since we are assured that He will ultimately come forth and avenge himself upon those who have thus polluted the high places of the church, prostituted his holy name to their dishonest purposes, and, in the garb, and under the profession, of sanctity, pursued their unholy designs, let us beware not to trespass upon his forbearance, and take warning lest “because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily,” our hearts should be fully set in us "to do evil.”
THE PERSONAL CHARACTER, HISTORY, AND INFLU
ENCE OF CHARLEMAGNE.
Difficulty of fairly judging the private character of public men
-Efforts of Charlemagne for self-culture-The means he adopted for its attainment - Alcuin - Eginhardt - Other learned men patronised by Charlemagne-The Schola Palatina-Charlemagne's attainments in general knowledge Influence of the royal example - Patronage of obscure youths-Multiplication of books-Renarks on the beneficial influence of this-Cultivation of music, Introduction of the Roman style of architecture-Description of the royal palaces and farms- Promotion of commercial enterpriseEmbassy to Persia-Manufactures-Attempts the formation of a ship canal through central Europe-Dress and daily life-Ridicules the foppery of his courtiers-Hoax played upon the Greek ambassadors-Rigid economy of time
Moral character-Personal appearance-Death. We have now sketched the public life of Charlemagne, and viewed him as a warrior, as a legislator, and in his relations with the papal church. The king has hitherto engaged all our attention—we have yet to see the man. The career of the monarch is not always a correct index to the character of the individual. National policy often compels him to appear before us under an aspect which does not really belong to him, and to conceal thoughts and feelings to which, in a private station, he would give free expression. The influence of circumstances will sometimes invest him with
an air of greatness, and prompt him to acts of excellence, when he is in reality neither great nor excellent; just as an insignificant building, placed on a commanding elevation, and gleaming in the rays of the rising or setting sun, will often excite admiration which it does not deserve ; its position and circumstances at once blinding us to its defects, and surrounding it with an extrinsic magnificence. If we would truly estimate the character of those raised above us, and occupying the high places of the earth, we must approach them and examine their conduct when divested of the glare and glitter of royalty. We shall therefore in this chapter collect from the scanty records of the age, such facts as seem fitted to illustrate the private and personal character and history of Charlemagne. They will show that the man no less than the monarch is deserving of the epithet-great.
First in importance, as illustrative of his character, and as re-acting upon it, were his efforts after self-education. He threw the same intense and indomitable energy into this as into everything else that he attempted. Those who remember the efforts of their childhood in learning to write, “what labour dire it was and weary woe,” will believe this, since Eginhardt, his affectionate and admiring biographer, says that, “late in life, he tried to learn the art of writing, but the preposterous attempt succeeded but badly, being commenced at too advanced an age to succeed.” As a conse