Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/129

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community. When the impulse given by Francis was centralised, and subjected to the Papacy, it produced a rigid theology and those very men who had been the friends of the people came to be regarded as their greatest oppressors. Nothing could be in greater contrast than the joy with which we read the people of England welcomed the first friars, and the language with which Chaucer speaks of the wandering friar who was the pest of the neighbourhood. So it is with all the best efforts of men. There comes a time, when any particular mode of speaking the truth loses its force, and becomes a habit instead of being a spirit, and then it decays. No tongue spoke to Europe between the time of Francis and Luther, and the fate of these two men, between whom an instructive comparison might be drawn, marks the change that came over Europe in the interval. Francis gave an impulse which could be welcomed, for the Church was still a living body and could listen to a new voice. But Luther arose to speak to a Church which could find no place for him; and therefore his message to the world was not spoken with the gravity and dignity of peace and quietness, but had to be disfigured by the harsh blast of controversy, and tarnished by the tumult of the fray.