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THE TEMPLARS' PRECEPTORY.
“ Ioine thou vnto the crosse ;
Beare it of loue's desire;
That took it vp for hire.
That Christ did die for thee,
Crosse-bearing friends to be.
If thou desire to goe,
The High Way to Mount Caluarie. 1598.
HREE miles from where I write, in a district
renowned for its picturesque beauty, on the
summit of a precipitous hill, stands a ruined Preceptory of the Knights Templar. The site was admirably chosen. On two sides the base of the hill is swept by broad, rapid rivers, which, flowing from far-sundered sources, here effect a junction, and engirdle the fortress with a watery wall. To the south is the ocean, into which these confluent stream s discharge themselves, forming a fair haven generally filled with shipping. To the north is a rich well-timbered country, broken into hill and dale; and likened at times by admiring tourists to the scenery of Devon, in England; to the Trosachs, in Scotland; or, to the County of Wicklow, in Ireland. A winding pathway, gemmed on each side, all the spring and summer through, with wild flowers, leads through a thick copse up the hill; and, through the vistas among the trees, the climber may catch glimpses of the rivers beneath him, with the trim pleasure-boat or the heavy barge moving by; or, further off, he will see the smoke and spires of the populous town of —; or, yet more in the distance, the blue waters of the ocean, with the sun-glint resting on the canvas of some passing vessel, white as the seamew's wing. The ruins, when he reaches them, are extensive, covering a considerable part of the top of the hill. Numerous heaps, entwined with bramble and covered with moss, give the outlines of a large irregular quadrangle. Within this ballium, are the remains of the chapel, cloisters, refectory, kitchen, and dormitories, used by the Templars. The vaulted arching of the refectory, which formed the floor of the dormitories, is yet standing; and the view obtained from it of town, harbour, and ocean is exceedingly fine. I cannot gaze over the prospect without unconsciously going back some seven centuries, re-peopling the ruins with their old inhabitants, reviewing mentally the story of the (so-called) Holy Wars, and thinking how often the Templar Knights must have looked down hence with anxiety, as they watched the signals of the shipping that had come to bear them away to conflicts with the Paynim for the Holy Sepulchre.
It is a favourite haunt of mine, this ruined Preceptory. When jaded and oppressed, what so delightful
as, on a bright summer's day, to sit among the silent walls—one's only companion the mountain bee, murmuring in the bell of the fox-glove-with stillness around, save when the whirring of wings denotes that some wild bird is startled by the intruder! What better employment, too, than the perusal here of some favourite author; or, taking out a sketch-book, to attempt the delineation of the scenery; or, laying both aside, to muse history connected with the ruins, and read its moral as interpreted by the Word of God!
About the close of the eleventh century, Peter of Amiens, called The Hermit, awoke in all Christendom a fanatical desire to deliver Palestine from the Moslems by force of arms.
The burden of his wild harangues was “The Cross! Come and take up the Cross !” From country to country he passed, from city to city-nay, from street to street-and evermore that cry was on his lips, “Take up
the Cross! Come and take up the Cross!” The summons, like a fire-signal, ran through Europe. It penetrated the narrowest by-lane of the crowded city. It reached the remotest nook of the sequestered country. It was heard on the lips of the young; it was babbled by the tongue of the elders. assembly, at Piacenza in Italy, Peter preached to 30,000 laymen and more than 4,000 of the clergy. The first Crusade* numbered 300,000 men.
A corruption of Croisade, i.e., The War of the Cross.
But what a mockery was this of Christianity! What an unrighteous mode of recovering the domains of the Prince of Peace! What forgetfulness it showed of His own words, “The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them !"
! The Crusaders took the sword, and they perished with the sword. Cruelty, lust, and rapine marked their steps. The Cross, under which they fought, looked down upon deeds of wickedness, unparalleled among the Mohammedans, whom these professedly Christian pilgrims came to subdue.
The Crusaders knew not the Gospel. Its mild, merciful, hallowing precepts had not been heard by them, and could not therefore have been obeyed. The wars for the Holy Sepulchre were the offspring of Popery, and in their lineaments they resembled their blood-thirsty mother. The tocsin was sounded by a monk; and well did he keep the vows of a creed, that has ever been a persecuting one. The ruling principles were the same as ever. It mattered not what deeds were done, if only the end were gained. The invaders might wade in blood, and find there the way to heaven. Crimes too horrible to speak of might be perpetrated; but they could not be imputed to him for condemnation, who was willing to shed his blood in behalf of Jerusalem.
Cruel as were these wars, and full of defects as were the individuals engaged in them, something may be said in extenuation. The spirit of the time shaped them. The power of superstition lent them a fostering hand. There was something heroic in the indomitable purpose, that brought up men from a far country to peril life and limb on a foreign strand. There was sincerity in their vows. They sacrificed for The Cross (as they understood it) home and friends, the security of their own land, their hope of attaining grey hairs, and a quiet rest in the graveyard of their native hamlet when life was done. They abandoned all these, willingly and unrepiningly.
Their enemies, moreover, 'were regarded not so much their own, as rather those of The Cross they had taken up for their banner. They hated them for the dishonour they were doing to the city where their Master had died, and especially to the tomb wherein His body had lain. It was not the subjection of the Paynim hosts they coveted, but their extermination. By their conquest, the Crusaders did not aspire to an extension of dominion, but to the recovery of land, that should be in the hands of Christians—land, the very
dust of which was sacred; for it was consecrated by His foot-prints, who for their sakes left a throne of glory to die a death of shame.
And there was a blending of the Pilgrim and Soldier in the character of these earnest-hearted men, which, when we look away from their sinfulness, invests them with a higher degree of interest. If an individual devoted himself to The Cross, he straightway made preparation to proceed to the country whither his vows bound him to go. home no longer. Its dear enchanting links must be broken, and severed they were unflinchingly. The land of his birth no more limited his conceptions.