fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot succes. sively founded mine monasteries of men, and one of women: and the festival of Easter sometimes collected fifty thousand religious persons, who followed his angelic rule of discipline.” The stately and populous city of Oxyrinchus, the seat of Christian orthodoxy, had devoted the temples, the public edifices, and even the ramparts, to pious and charitable uses; and the bishop, who might preach in twelve churches, computed ten thousand females, and twenty thousand males, of the monastic profession.” The Egyptians, who gloried in this marvellous revolution, were disposed to hope, and to believe, that the number of the monks was equal to the remainder of the people; * and posterity might repeat the saying, which had formerly been applied to the sacred animals of the same country, That in Egypt it was less difficult to find a god than a man. Athanasius introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice of the monastic life; and a school of this new philosophy was opened by the disciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate to the holy threshold of the Vatican. The strange and savage appearance of these Egyptians excited, at first, horror and contempt, and, at length, applause and zealous imitation. The senators, and more especially the matrons, transformed their palaces and villas into religious houses; and the narrow institution of

sia: Vestals was eclipsed by the frequent monasteries, which,

were seated on the ruins of ancient temples, and in the

midst of the Roman forum.” Inflamed by the example of

Antony, a Syrian youth, whose name was Hilarion,” fixed his dreary abode on a sandy beach, between the sea and a morass, about seven miles from Gaza. The austere penance, in which he persisted forty-eight years, diffused a similar enthusiasm; and the holy man was followed by a train of

É. 104). M. de Tillemont doubts whether it was an isle ; but I may conclude, rom his own facts, that the primitive name was afterwards transferred to the great monastery of Bau or Pabau (Mém. Locles. tom. vii. pp. 678, 688). 13 See in the Codex Regularum (published by Lucas Holstenius, I ome, 1661) a preface of St. Jerom to his Latin version of the Rule of Pachomius, tom. i. p. 61. 14 IRufim. c. 5, in Vit. Patrum, p. 459. He calls it civitas ampla Valde et populosa, and reckons twelve churches. Strabo (l. xvii. p. 1166) and Ammianus (xxii. 16) have made honorable mention of Oxyrinchus, whose inhabitants adored a small fish in a magnificent temple. 13 Quanti populi habentur in urbibus, tantae paene habentur in desertis multitudines monachorum. Rufin. c. 7, in Vit. Patrum, p. 461. He congratulates the fertunate change. 10 The introduction of the monastic life into Rome and Italy is occasionally mentioned by Jerom, tom. i. pp. 119, 120, 199. 17 See the Life of Hilarion, by St. Jerom (tom, i. pp. 241,252). The stories of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus, by the same author, are admirably told : and the only defect of these pleasińg compositions is want of truth and commou sense.

two or three thousand anachorets, whenever he visited the innumerable monasteries of Palestine. The fame of Basil” is immortal in the monastic history of the East. With a mind that had tasted the learning and eloquence of Athens; with an ambition scarcely to be satisfied with the archbishopric of Caesarea, Basil retired to a savage solitude in Pontus; and deigned, for a while, to give laws to the spiritual colonies which he profusely scattered along the coast of the Black Sea. In the West, Martin of Tours,” a soldier, a hermit, a bishop, and a saint, established the monasteries of Gaul; two thousand of his disciples followed him to the grave; and his eloquent historian challenges the deserts of Thebais to produce, in a more favorable climate, a champion of equal virtue. The progress of the monks was not less rapid, or universal, than that of Christianity itself. Every province, and, at last, every city, of the empire, was filled with their increasing multitudes; and the bleak and barren isles, from Lerins to Lipari, that arise out of the Tuscan Sea, were chosen by the anachorets for the place of their voluntary exile. An easy and perpetual intercourse by sea and land connected the provinces of the Roman world; and the life of Hilarion displays the facility with which an indigent hermit of Palestine might traverse Egypt, embark for Sicily, escape to Epirus, and finally settle in the Island of Cyprus.” The Latin Christians embraced the religious institutions of Rome. The pilgrims, who visited Jerusalem, eagerly copied, in the most distant climates of the earth, the faithful model of the monastic life. The disciples of Antony spread themselves beyond the tropic, over the Christian empire of AEthiopia.” The monastery of Banchor,” in Flintshire, which contained above two thousand brethren, dispersed a numerous colony among the Barbarians of Ireland; * and Iona, one of the Hebrides, which was planted by the Irish monks, diffused over the northern regions a doubtful ray of science and superstition.” These unhappy exiles from social life were impelled by the dark and implacable genius of superstition. Their mutual resolution was supported by the example of millions, of either sex, of cvery age, and of every rank; and each proselyte, who entered the gates of a monastery, was persuaded that he trod the steep and thorny path of eternal happiness.” But the operation of these religious motives was variously determined by the temper and situation of mankind. Reason might subdue, or passion might suspend, their influence: but they acted most forcibly on the infirm minds of children and females; they were strengthened by secret remorse, or accidental misfortune; and they might derive some aid from the temporal considerations of vanity or interest. It was naturally supposed, that the pious and humble monks, who had renounced the world to accomplish the work of their salvation, were the best qualified for the spiritual government of the Christians. The reluctant hermit was torn from his cell, and seated, amidst the acclamations of the people, on the episcopal throne: the monasteries of Egypt, of Gaul, and of the East; supplied a regular succession of saints and bishops; and ambition soon discovered the secret road which led to the possession of wealth and honors.” The popular monks, whose reputation was connected with the fame and success of the order, assiduously labored to multiply the number of their fellow-captives. They insinuated themselves into noble and opulent families; and the specious arts of flattery and seduction were employed to secure those proselytes who might bestow wealth or dignity on the monastic profession. The indignant father bewailed the loss, perhaps, of an only son; * the credulous maid was betrayed by vanity to violate the laws of nature; and the matron aspired to imaginary perfection, by renouncing the virtues of domestic life. Paula yielded to the persuasive eloquence of Jerom; * and the profane title of mother-in-law of God” tempted that illustrious widow to consecrate, the virginity of her daughter Eustochium. By the advice, and in the company, of her spiritual guide, Paula abandoned Rome and her infant son; retired to the holy village of Bethlem; founded a hospital and four monasteries; and acquired, by her alms and penance, an eminent and conspicuous station in the Catholic church. Such rare and illustrious penitents were celebrated as the glory and example of their age; but the monasteries were filled by a crowd of obscure and abject plebeians,” who gained in the cloister much more than they had sacrificed in the world. Peasants, slaves, and mechanics, might escape from poverty and contempt, to a safe and honorable profession; whose apparent hardships are mitigated by custom, by popular applause, and by the secret relaxation of discipline.” The subjects of Rome, whose persons and fortunes were made responsible for unequal and exorbitant tributes, retired from the oppression of the Imperial government; and the pusillanimous youth preferred the penance of a monastic, to the dangers of a military, life. The affrighted provincials of every rank, who fled before the Barbarians, found shelter and subsistence: whole legions were buried in these religious sanctuaries; and the same cause, which relieved the distress of individuals, impaired the strength and fortitude of the empire.” The monastic profession of the ancients * was an act of voluntary devotion. The inconstant fanatic was threatened with the eternal vengeance of the God whom he deserted; but the doors of the monastery were still open for repentance. Those monks, whose conscience was fortified by reason or passion, were at liberty to resume the character of men and citizens; and even the spouses of Christ might accept the legal embraces of an earthly lover.” The examples of scandal, and the progress of superstition, suggested the propriety of more forcible restraints. After a sufficient trial, the fidelity of the novice was secured by a solemn and lo vow; and his irrevocable engagement was ratified y the laws of the church and state. A guilty fugitive was pursued, arrested, and restored to his perpetual prison; and the interposition of the magistrate oppressed the freedom and the merit, which had alleviated, in some degree, the abject slavery of the monastic discipline.” The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts, were determined by an inflexible rule,” or a capricious superior: the slightest offences were corrected by disgrace or confinement, extraordinary fasts, or bloody flagellation ; and disobedience, murmur, or delay, were ranked in the catalogue of the most

13 His original retreat was in a small village on the banks of the Iris, not far from Neo-Căsarea. The ten or twelve years of his monastic life were disturbed ty jong and frequent avocations. Some critics have disputed the authenticity of his Ascetic rules; but the external evidence is weighty, and they can only prove that it is the work of a real or affected enthusiast. See Tillemont, Mém. Eccles. tom. ix. pp. 636-644. Helyot, Hist, des Ordres Monastiques, tom. i. pp. 175–181. 15 see ilis life, and the three Dialogues by Sulpicius Severus, who asserts (Dialog. i. 16) that the booksellers of Rome were delighted with the quick and ready sale of his popular work. . . . . 20°When IIilarion sailed from Paraetonium to Cape Pachynus, he offered to pay his passage with a book of the Gospels. Posthumian, a Gallie monk, Who joivisited Egypt, found a merchant ship bound from Alexandria to Marseilles, and performed thé voyage in thirty days (Sulp. Sever. Iłialog. i. 1), Athanasius, who addressed his Life of St. Antony to the foreign monks, was obliged to hasten the composition, that it might be ready for the sailing of the fleets (tom ii. p. 451). ' . ~~~~ - - £i See Jerom (tom. i. p. 126), Assemanni, Bibliot. Orient...toms, iv., p. 92, pp." so and o Choo History of Æthiopia, pp. 29–31. The Abyssinian monks adhere very strictly to the primitive institution. 22 Camden's Britannia, wol. i. pp. 666, 667. . .

23 All that learning can extract from the rubbish of the dark ages is copiously stated by Archbishop Usher in his Britannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates, cap. xvi. pp. 425–503. 24 This small, though not barren, spot, Iona, Hy, or Columbkill, only two miles in length, and one mile in breadth, has been distinguished, 1. By the monastery of St. Columbia, founded A. D. 566; whose abbot exercised an extraordinary jurisdiction over the bishops of Caledonia, 2. By a classic library, which fforded some hopes of an entire Livy ; and, 3, By the tombs of sixty kings, cots, Irish, and Norwegians, who reposed in holy ground. See Usher (pp. 311, 360-370) and Buchanan (Rer. Scot. 1. ii. p. 15, edit. §o. - 23 Chrysostom (in the first tome of the Benedictine edition) has consecrated three books to the praise and defence of the monastic life. He is encouraged, by the example of the ark, to presume that none but the elect (the monks) can possibly be saved (l. i. pp. 55, 56). Elsewhere, indeed, he becomes more merciful (l. iii. pp. 83, 84), and allows different degrees of glory, like the sun, moon, and stars. In his lively comparison of a king and a monk (l. iii. pp. 116–121), he sup- poses (what is hardly fair) that the king will be more sparingly rewarded, and & more rigorously punished. * Thomassin (Discipline de l’Elgise, tom. i. pp. 1426-1460) and Mabillon (CEuvres Postlumes, tom, ii. pp. 115–158). The monks were gradually adopted as a part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. . -- . . .3

27 Dr. Middleton (vol. i. p. 110) liberally censures the conduct and writings of Chrysostom, one of the most eloquent and successful advocates for the mol...stic life. * Jerom's devout ladies form a very considerable portion of his works: the particular treatise, which he styles the Epitaph of Paula (tom. i. pp. 169-192), is an elaborate and extrayagant panegyric. The exordium is ridiculously turgid : “If all the members of my body were changed into tongues, and if all imy limbs resounded with a human voice, yet should I be incapable,” &c. 29 Socrus Del esse coepisti (Jerom, tom. i. p. 140, ad, Eustochium). Rufinus (in Hieronym. Op. tom. iv. p. 223), who was justly. scandalized, asks his adversary, from what Pagan poet he had stolen an expression so impious and absurd, 30 Nunc autom veniunt perimque ad lanc professionien) servitutis, Dei, et.ex conditione serviii. vel etiam libérati, vel propter hoc a Tominis liberati, Siye liberandi; et ex vitā rusticaná, et ex opificum , exercitatione, et, plebeio labore. Augustin, de Oper. Monach. c. 22, ap. Thomassin, Discipline de Eglise, tom. iii. , Tói. The Egyptian, who blamel Arsenius, owned that he led a more ‘9. ortable life as a monk than as a shepherd. See Tillemont, Mém. Eccles. tomii. p. 679. x1 ;P, pominican friar (Voyages du P. Labat, tom. i. p. 10), who lodged at Cadiz in a convent of his brethren, sool, understood that their repose was never jo. rupted by nocturnal devotion; “quoiqu'on ue laisse pas de Sonnor pour l’edifi. eation du peuple.”

* See a very sensible preface of Lucas Holstenius to the Codex Regularum. The emperors attempted to support the obligation of public and private duties; but the feeble dikes were swept away by the torrent of superstition ; and Justinian surpassed the most sanguine wishes of the monks (Thomassin, tom. i. p. 1782– 1799, and Bingham, 1. vii. c. 3, p. 253)."

*The monastic institutions, particularly those of Egypt, about the year 400, are described by four curious and devout travellers ; Rūsinus (Vit. Patrum, l. ii. iii. pp. 424–536), Posthumian (Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i.). Palladius (Hist. Lausiac. in Wit. Patrum, pp. 709-863), and Cassian (see in tom. vii. Bibliothec. Max. Patrum, his four first books of Institutes, and the twenty-four Collations or Conferences).

* The example of Malchus (Jerom, tom. i. p. 256), and the design of Cassian and his friend (Collation. xxiv. 1), are incontestable proofs of their freedom ; which is elegantly described by Erasmus in his Life of St. Jerom. See Chardon, Hist, des Sacremens, tom. vi. pp. 270–300.

*See the Laws of Justinian (Novel. cxxiii. No. 42), and of Lewis the Pious (in the Historians of France, tom. vi. p. 427), and the actual jurisprudence of France, in Denissart (Decisions, &c., tom. iv. p. 855, &c.).

* The ancient Codex Regularum, collected by Benedict Anianinus, the reformer of the monks in the beginning of the ninth century, and published in the seventeenth, by Lucas Holstenius, contains thirty different rules for men and women. Of these, seven were composed in Egypt, one in the Fast, one in Cappadocia, one in Italy, one in Africa, four in Spain, eight in Gaul, or France, and one in England.

* The emperor Valens, in particular, promulgates a law contra, ignaviae quosdam sectatores, qui desertis civitatum muneribus, captant solitudines ac secreta, to: *. o cum coetibus monachorum congregantur, Cod. Theod. l. xii.

... i. leg. 63.-G. - - - -

« ForrigeFortsett »