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to the imagination, but by the extensive knowledge of the Bible which the production of these plays must have imparted to those who listened to them, and by the way in which, incidentally, the most important religious truths are conveyed in the crude and rugged verse. Again and again, for instance, the entire dependence of all created things upon the Providence of Almighty God is declared and illustrated. Thus, the confession of God's Omnipotence, put into the mouth of Noah at the beginning of the play of " Noah and his Sons," contains a profession of belief in the Holy Trinity and in the work of the three Persons: it describes the creation of the world, the fall of Lucifer, the sin of our first parents, and their expulsion from Paradise. In the story of Abraham, too, the prayer of the patriarch with which it begins:—
"Adonai, thou God very,
gives a complete resume of the Bible history before t he days of Abraham, with the purpose of showing that all th1ngs are in the hands of God, and that complete obedience is due to Him by all creatures whom He has made.
The same teaching as to the entire dependence of the Christian for all things upon God's Providence appears in the address of the soul to its Maker in the " morality" of Mary Magdalene, printed by Mr. Sharpe from the Digby Manuscript collection of religious plays :—
"Anima: 'Sovereign Lord, I am bound to Thee;
When I was nought, Thou made me thus glorious;
When I stand in grace, Toon boldest me that tide;
When I fall, Thou raisest me mightily;
When I go well, Thou art my guide;
When I come, Thou receivest me most lovingly;
Thou hast anointed me with the oil of mercy
Thy benefits, Lord, be innumerable:
Wherefore laud endless to Thee I cry;
Recommending me to Thy endless power endurable.'"
The more these old plays which delighted our forefathers are examined, the more clear it becomes that, although undoubtedly unlearned and unread, the people in pre-Reformation days, with instruction such as is conveyed in these pious dramas, must have had a deeper insight into the Gospel narrative, and a more thorough knowledge of Bible history generally, not to speak of a comprehension of the great truths of religion, than the majority of men possess now in these days of boasted enlightenment. Some of the plays, as for example that representing St. Peter's fall, exhibit a depth of genuine feeling, of humble sorrow, for instance, on the part of St. Peter, and of loving-kindness on the part of our Lord, which must have come home to the hearts as well as to the minds of the beholders. At the same time, the lesson deduced by our Saviour from the apostle's fall, namely, the need of all learning by their own shortcomings to be merciful to the trespasses of others, must have impressed itself upon them with a force which would not easily have been forgotten.
In that most popular of all representations—that of Doomsday—"people learnt that before God there is no distinction of persons, and that each individual soul will be judged on its own merits, quite apart from any fictitious human distinctions of rank, wealth, or power." Thus, as types, appear a saved pope, emperor, king and queen, and amongst the damned we also find a pope, emperor, king and queen, justiciar and merchant." And the words of thankfulness uttered by the Pope that has obtained his crown betrays " no self-satisfaction at the attainment of salvation; on the contrary, the true ring of Christian humility betokens a due appreciation of God's unutterable holiness, and our unworthiness to stand before His face till the uttermost blemish left by sin has been wiped away" by the healing fires of Purgatory. No less clearly is the full doctrine of responsibility taught in the lament of the Pope, who is represented as having lost his soul by an evil life, and as being condemned to eternal punishment. The mere fact of a pope being so represented was in itself, when the Office was held in the highest regard, a lesson of the greatest importance in the teaching of the true principles of holiness. In a word, these mystery plays provided a most useful means of impressing upon the minds of all the facts of Bible history, the great truths of religion, and the chief Christian virtues. The people taught in such a school and the people who delighted in such representations, as our forefathers in pre-Reformation days unquestionably did, cannot, even from this point of view alone, be regarded as ignorant of scriptural or moral teaching.
To understand the attitude of men's minds to the ecclesiastical system on the eve of the great religious changes of the sixteenth century, some knowledge of the parochial life of Catholic England is necessary. Under present conditions, when unity has given place to diversity, and three centuries of continuous wrangling "over secret truths which most profoundly affect the heart and mind" have done much to coarsen and deaden our spiritual sense; when the religious mind of England manifests every shade of belief and unbelief without conscious reflection on the logical absurdity of the position, it is by no means easy torealise the influence of a state of affairs when all men, from the highest to the lowest, in every village and hamlet throughout the length and breadth of the land, had but one creed, worshipped their Maker in but one way, and were bound together with what most certainly were to them the real and practical ties of the Christian brotherhood. It is hardly possible to overestimate the effect of surroundings upon individual opinion, or the influence of a congenial atmosphere both on the growth and development of a spirit of religion and on the preservation of Christian morals and religious practices generally. When all, so far as religious faith is concerned, thought the same, and when all, so far as religious observance is concerned, did the same, the very atmosphere of unity was productive of that spirit of common brotherhood, which appears so plainly in the records of the period preceding the religious revolt of the sixteenth century. Those who will read below the surface and will examine for themselves into the social life of that time must admit, however much they feel bound to condemn the existing religious system, that it certainly maintained up to the very time of its overthrow a hold over the minds and hearts of the people at large, which nothing since has gained. Religion overflowed, as it were, into popular life, and helped to sanctify human interests, whilst the affection of the people was manifested in a thousand ways in regard to what we might now be inclined to consider the ecclesiastical domain. Whether for good or evil, religion in its highest and truest sense, at least as it was then understood, was to the English people as the bloom upon the choicest fruit. Whatever view may be taken as to advantage or disadvantage which came to the body politic, or to individuals, by the Reformation, it must be admitted that at least part of the price paid for the change was the destruction of the sense of corporate unity and common brotherhood, which was fostered by the religious unanimity of belief and practice in every village in the country, and which, as in the mainspring of its life, and the very central point of its being, centred in the Church with its rites and ceremonies.
A Venetian traveller at the beginning of the sixteenth century bears witness to the influence of religion upon the English people of that time. His opinion is all the more valuable, inasmuch as he appeals to the experience of his master, who was also the companion of his travels, to confirm his own impressions, and as he was fully alive to the weak points in the English character, of which he thus records his opinion: "The English are great lovers of themselves and of everything belonging to them; they think that there are no other men but themselves and no other world but England. Whenever they see a handsome foreigner they say that ' he looks like an Englishman,' or