Church Theology And Free Inquiry In The Twelfth Century -- By: Seth Sweetser

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 017:65 (Jan 1860)
Article: Church Theology And Free Inquiry In The Twelfth Century
Author: Seth Sweetser


Church Theology And Free Inquiry In The Twelfth Century

Rev. Seth Sweetser

It is often the fact that the qualities which mark a particular period in history are seen vividly portrayed in the lives of prominent individuals. The complexion of an age is the result of great moral causes, which are working widely and effectively upon the public mind. A revolutionary idea reaches its dominant energy by slow accretions and by a gradual widening of the sphere of its influence. It agitates many minds. Some men of congenial temperament it awakens; it sets them in motion. At first they are only subjects of a general movement. They identify themselves with it, they go before it, become leaders; and while they themselves are formed by the age, they assume the direction and, through the moral and intellectual force which circumstances have imperatively demanded, give the direction to the movement upon which they were thrown, and shape it after their own pleasure. Cromwell did not originate the historic epoch of which he was the life. He was called up by the political convulsions which shook Great Britain; the spirit of the times gave the direction to his imperious will, till that will seized the reins, and the whole train of events followed his resistless dictation. This representation of an era in a man, this impression of a man upon his age, so that the times produce the individual, and the individual moulds the times, is a fact observable in all marked periods.

It has been often asserted that Abelard and Bernard were the representatives of two great conflicting movements of the days in which they lived. This is undoubtedly true; while it is also true that neither of them were in such a sense master spirits as to accomplish and settle, for their own age, a character which was distinctively their work. Society did not, in their lives, reach a crisis. There is no historic epoch of which either of them were artificers. Things were in a transition state. Intense agitations, bold innovations, rebellion against authority, were dominant on one side; and, on the other, aspirations and advances, a determined and irresistible progress towards an ascendency which had been the ambition of a previous age, and was the triumph of the next. Abelard was the champion of freedom; Bernard, the champion of authority. Neither of them originated the movements with which they were identified; neither of them lived to see the full development of the ideas and doctrines which they advocated.

After the fall of the old Roman empire, there was no concentration of power like it. It was a mighty shadow in the past, the magnificent embodiment of regal supremacy, the summit of a dominion upon which the eager eyes of the ambitious potentates were fixed as the mod...

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