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heinous sins.” A blind submission to the commands of the abbot, however absurd, or even criminal, they might seem, was the ruling principle, the first virtue of the Egyptian monks; and their patience was frequently exercised by the most extravagant trials. They were directed to remove an enormous rock; assiduously to water a barren staff, that was planted in the ground, till, at the end of three years, it should vegetate and blossom like a tree; to walk into a fiery furnace ; or to cast their infant into a deep pond; and several saints, or madmen, have been immortalized in monastic story, by their thoughtless and fearless obedience.* The freedom of the mind, the source of every generous and rational sentiment, was destroyed by the habits of credulity and submission ; and the monk, contracting the vices of a slave, devoutly followed the faith and passions of his ecclesiastical tyrant. The peace of the Eastern church was invaded by a swarm of fanatics, incapable of fear, or reason, or humanity; and the Imperial troops acknowledged, without shame, that they were much less apprehensive of an encounter with the fiercest Barbarians.”
Superstition has often framed and consecrated the fantastic garments of the monks: * but their apparent singularity sometimes proceeds from their uniform attachment to a simple and primitive model, which the revolutions of fashion have made ridiculous in the eyes of mankind. The father of the Benedictines expressly disclaims all idea of choice or merit; and soberly exhorts his disciples to adopt the coarse and convenient dress of the countries which they may inhabit.” The monastic habits of the ancients varied with the climate, and their mode of life; and they assumed, with the same indifference, the sheep-skin of the Egyptian peasants, or the cloak of the Grecian philosophers. They allowed themselves the use of linen in Egypt, where it was a cheap and domestic manufacture; but in the West, the rejected such an expensive article of foreign luxury.” It was the practice of the monks either to cut or shave their hair; they wrapped their heads in a cowl, to escape the sight of profane objects; their legs and feet were naked, except in the extreme cold of winter; and their slow and feeble steps were supported by a long staff. The aspect of a genuine anachoret was horrid and disgusting: every sensation that is offensive to man was thought acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned the salutary custom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing them with oil.”* The austere monks slept on the ground, on a hard mat, or a rough blanket; and the same bundle of alm-leaves served them as a seat in the day, and a pillow in the night. Their original cells were low, narrow huts, built of the slightest materials; which formed, by the regular distribution of the streets, a large and populous village, enclosing, within the common wall, a church, a hospital, perhaps a library, some necessary offices, a garden, and a fountain or reservoir of fresh water. Thirty or forty brethren composed a family of separate discipline and diet; and the great monasteries of Egypt consisted of thirty or forty families. Pleasure and guilt are synonymous terms in the language of the monks, and they discovered, by experience, that rigid fasts, and abstemious diet, are the most effectual preservatives against the impure desires of the flesh.” The rules of abstinence, which they imposed, or practised, were not uniform or perpetual: the cheerful festival of the Pentecost was balanced by the extraordinary mortification of Lent; the fervor of new monasteries was insensibly relaxed; and 42 See the Rule of Ferreolus, bishop of Usez (No. 31, in Cod. Regul part ii. p. 136), and of Isidore, bishop of Seville, (No. 13, in Cod. Regul part ii. p. 214). 43 Some partial indulgences were granted for the hands and feet “Totum autem corpus memo unguet misi, causã infirmitatis, nec lavabitur aquà nudo corpore, nisi languor perspicuus sit” (Regul. Pachom. xcii. part i. p. 78). 44 St. Jerom, in strong,but indiscreet, language, expresses the most important use of fasting and abstinence. “Non quod Deos universitatis Creator et loomi, nus, intestinorum nostrorum rugits, et inanitate ventiis, pulmonisque ardore delectetur, sed quod aliter pudicitia tuta esse non possit.” (Op.tom. i. p. 32, ad Eustochium.) See the twelfth and twenty-second Collations of Cassian, de Castitate and de Illusionibus Nocturmis. o
* The rule of Columbanus, so prevalent in the West, inflicts one hundred lashes for very slight offences (Cod. Iteg. part ii. p. 174). Before the time of Charlemagne, the abbots indulged themselves in mutilating their monks, or putting out their eyes; a punishment much less cruel than the tremendous vade in pace (the subterraneous dungeon or sepulchre) which was afterwards invented. See an admirable discourse of the learned Mabillon (CEuvres Posthumes, tom. ii. . 321–336), who, on this occasion, seems to be inspired by the genius of humanity. or such an effort, I can forgive his defence of the holy tear of Wendome (p. 361-399). * Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i. 12, 13, p. 53°, &c., Cassian. Institut. J. iv., c. 26, 27. “Praecipua ibi virtus et prima est obedientia.” Among the Verba seniorum (in Wit. Patrum, 1. v. p. 617), the fourteenth libel or discourse is on the subject of 5bedience; and the Jesuit Roswevde, who published that huge volume for the . of convents, has collected all the scattered passages in his two copious Andexes. * Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. iv. p. 161) has observed the scandalous valor of the Cappadocian monks, which was exemplified in the banishment of Chrysostom. * Cassian has simply, though copiously, described the monastic habit of Fgypt (Institut. l. i.), to which Sozomen (l. iii. c. 14) attributes such allegorical meaning and virtue. - - - - - - * Regul. Benedict. No. 55, in Cod Ruegl. partii. p. 51. •
* Athanasius (Vit. Ant. c.47) boasts of Antony's holy 1:orror of clean water, by which his feet were uncontaminated, except under dire necessity.— M.
the voracious appetite of the Gauls could not imitate the patient and temperate virtue of the Egyptians.” The disciples of Antony and Pachomius were satisfied with their daily pittance,” of twelve ounces of bread, or rather biscuit,” which they divided into two frugal repasts, of the afternoon and of the evening. It was esteemed a merit, and almost a duty, to abstain from the boiled vegetables which were provided for the refectory; but the extraordinary bounty of the abbot sometimes indulged them with the luxury of cheese, fruit, salad, and the small dried fish of the Nile.” A more ample latitude of sea and river fish was gradually allowed or assumed; but the use of flesh was long confined to the sick or travellers; and when it gradually prevailed in the less rigid monasteries of Europe, a singular distinction was introduced; as if birds, whether wild or domestic, had been less profane than the grosser animals of the field. Water was the pure and innocent beverage of the primitive monks; and the founder of the Benedictines regrets the daily portion of half a pint of wine, which had been extorted from him by the intemperance of the age.” Such an allowance might be easily supplied by the vineyards of Italy; and his victorious disciples, who passed the Alps, the Rhine, and the Baltic, required, in the place of wine, an adequate compensation of strong beer or cider. The candidate who aspired to the virtue of evangelical poverty, abjured, at his first entrance into a regular com. munity, the idea, and even the name, of all separate or exclusive possession.” The brethren were supported by their manual labor; and the duty of labor was strenuously recommended as a penance, as an exercise, and as the most laudable means of securing their daily subsistence.” The garden and fields, which the industry of the monks had often rescued from the forest or the morass, were diligently cultivated by their hands. They performed, without reluctance, the menial offices of slaves and domestics; and the sevoral trades that were necessary to provide their habits, their utensils, and their lodging, were exercised within the precincts of the great monasteries. The monastic studies have tended, for the most part, to darken, rather than to dispel, the cloud of superstition. Yet the curiosity or zeal of some learned solitaries has cultivated the ecclesiastical, and even the profane, sciences; and posterity must gratefully acknowledge, that the monuments of Greek and Roman literature have been preserved and multiplied by their indefatigable pens.” But the more humble industry of the monks, especially in Egypt, was contented with the silent, sedentary occupation of making wooden sandals, or of twisting the leaves of the palm-tree into mats and baskets. The superfluous stock, which was not consumed in domestic use, suplied, by trade, the wants of the community: the boats of |. and the other monasteries of Thebais, descended the Nile as far as Alexandria; and, in a Christian market, the sanctity of the workmen might enhance the intrinsic value of the work. But the necessity of manual labor was insensibly superseded. The novice was tempted to bestow his fortune on the saints, in whose society he was resolved to spend the remainder of his life; and the pernicious indulgence of the laws permitted him to receive, for their use, any future accessions of legacy or inheritance.” Melania contributed her plate, three hundred pounds weight of silver; and Paula contracted an immense debt, for the relief of their favorite 51 Two great masters of ecclesiastical science, the P. Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, som. iii. pp. 1090-1139), and the P. Mabillon (Etude: Monastiques, tom. monks; who kindly imparted the merits of their prayers and penance to a rich and liberal sinner.” Time continually increased, and accidents could seldom diminish, the estates of the popular monasteries, which spread over the adjacent country and cities: and, in the first century of their institution, the infidel Zosimus has maliciously observed, that, for the benefit of the poor, the Christian monks had reduced a great part of mankind to a state of beggary.” As long as they maintained their original fervor, they alproved themselves, however, the faithful and benevolent stewards of the charity, which was intrusted to their care. But their discipline was corrupted by prosperity: they gradually assumed the pride of wealth, and at last indulged the luxury of expense. Their public luxury might be excused by the magnificence of religious worship, and the decent motive of erecting durable habitations for an immortal society. But every age of the church has accused the licentiousness of the degenerate monks; who no longer remembered the object of their institution, embraced the vain and sensual pleasures of the world, which they had renounced,” and scandalously abused the riches which had been acquired by the austere virtues of their founders.” Their natural descent, from such painful and dangerous virtue, to the common vices of humanity, will not, perhaps, excite much grief or indignation in the mind of a philosopher. | The lives of the primitive monks were consumed in penance and solitude; undrsturbed by the various occupations which fill the time, and exercise the faculties, of reasonable, active, and social beings. Whenever they were permitted to step beyond the precincts of the monastery, two jealous
45 Edacitas in Graecis gula est in Gallis natura (Dialog. i. c. 4, p. 521). Cassian fairly owns, that the perfect model of abstinence cannot be imitated in Gaul, on account of the aerum temperies, and the qualitas nostrae fragilitatis (Institut. iv. 11). Among the Western rules, that of Columbanus is the most austere; he had been educated amidst the poverty of Ireland, as rigid, perhaps, and inflexible as the abstentious virtue of Egypt. The rule of Isidore of Seville is the mildest ; on holidays he allows the use of flesh. 40 “Those who drink only water, and have no nutritious liquors, ought, at least to have a pound and a half (twenty-four ounces) of bread every day.” State of prisons, p. 40, by Mr. Howard. 4. See Cassian. Collat. l. ii. 19–21. The small loaves, or biscuit, of six ounces each, had obtained the name of Parimacia (Rosweyde, Onomasticon, p. 1045). Pachomius, however, allowed his monks some latitude in the quantity of their food; but he made them work in proportion as they ate (Pallad. in Hist. Lausiac. c. 38, 39, in Vit. Patrum, l, viii. pp. 736, 737). - - is see the banquet to which Cassian (Collation viii. 1) was invited by Serenus, an Igorptian abbot. -49 See the Rule of St. Benedict, No. 39, 40 (in Cod. Reg. part ii. pp. 41, .42). Licet. legamus vimum omnino monachorum non esse, sed quia nostristemporibus id monachis persuaderi non potest; he allows them a Roman hemina, a measure which may be ascertained from Arbuthnot's Tables. to Such expressions as my book, my cloak, my shoes (Cassian. Institut. l. iv. c. 13), were not less severely prohibited among the Western monks (Cod. Regul, part ii. pp. 174,235, 288); and the Rule of Columbanus punished them with six lashes. The ironical author of the Ordres Monastiques, who laughs at the foolish micety of modern convents, seems ignorant that the ancients were equally absurd.
i. pp. 116-155), have seriously examined the manual labor of the monks, which the former considers as a merit, and the latter as a duty. - : Miabilion (Etudes Monastiques, tom. i. pp. 47-55) has collected many outlous facts to justify the literary labors of his predecessors, both in the East and West. fooks were copied in the encient monasteries of Egypt (Cassion. Institut. l. iv. c. 12), and by the disciples of St. Martin (Sulp. Sever, in Vit, Martin, e. 7, p. 473). Cassiodorus inas allowed an ample scope for the studies of the monks; and we snail not be candalized, if their pens sometimes wandered from Chrysostom and Augustim to Homer and Virgil. - - 5. Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. pp. 118, 145, 146, 171-179) has examined the revolution of the civil, canon, and common law. Modern, France confirms the death which monks have inflicted on themselves, and justly deprives them of all right of inheritance. - - -
54 See Jerom (tom. i. pp. 176, 183). The monk Pambo made a sublime answer to Melania, who wished to specify the value of her gift: “Do you offer it to me, or to God 2 If to God, H E who suspends the mountains in a balance, need not be informed of the weight of your plate.” (Pallad. Hist. Lausiac. c. 10, in the Wit. Patrum, 1. viii. p. #;
55 To moxis Mépos rms yńs &kewoo avro, trpodaget roi petaðiðóval tróvrov Trøxots: rávras (&s eitrev) motoxois kataotija'avtes. Zosim. 1. v. p. 325. Yet the wealth, of the Eastern monks was far surpassed by the princely greatness of the Benedictimes. * The sixth general council (the Quinisext in Trullo, Canon xlvii. in Beveridge, tom. i. p. 213) restrains women from passing the night in a male, or men in a female, monastery. The seventh general council (the second Nicene, Canon xx. in Beveridge, tom. i. p. 325) prohibits the erection of double or promiscuous monasteries of both sexes ; but it appears from Balsamon, that the prohibition was not effectual. On the irregular pleasures and expenses of the clergy and monks, see Thomassin. tom. iii. pp. 1334–1368.
57 I have somewhere heard or read the frank confession of a Benedictime abbot: “My vow of poverty has given me a hundred thousand crowns a year; my vow of obedience has raised me to the rank of a sovereign prince.”—I forget the consequences of his vow of chastily. - - -