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companions were the mutual guards and spies of each other's actions; and, after their return, they were condemned to forget, or, at least, to suppress, whatever they had seen or heard in the world. Strangers, who professed the orthodox faith, were hospitably entertained in a separate apartment; but their dangerous conversation was restricted to some chosen elders of approved discretion and fidelity. Except in their presence, the monastic slave might not receive the visits of his friends or kindred ; and it was deemed highly meritorious, if he afflicted a tender sister, or an aged parent, by the obstinate refusal of a word or look.” The monks themselves passed their lives, without personal attachments, among a crowd which had been formed by accident, and was detained, in the same prison, by force or prejudice. Recluse fanatics have few ideas or sentiments to communicate : a special license of the abbot regulated the time and duration of their familiar visits; and, at their silent meals, they were enveloped in their cowls, inaccessible, and almost invisible, to each other.” Study is the resource of solitude: but education had not prepared and qualified for any liberal studies the mechanics and peasants who filled the monastic communities. They might work: but the vanity of spiritual perfection was tempted to disdain the exercise of manual labor; and the industry must be faint and languid, which is not excited by the sense of personal interest. According to their faith and zeal, they might employ the day, which they passed in their cells, either in vocal or mental prayer: they assembled in the evening, and they were awakened in the night, for the public worship of the monastery. The precise moment was determined by the stars, which are seldom clouded in the serene sky of Egypt; and a rustic horn, or trumpet, the signal of devotion, twice interrupted the vast silence of the desert." Even sleep, the last refuge of the unhappy, was rigorously measured : the vacant hours of the monk heavily rolled along, without business or pleasure; and, before the close of each day, he had repeatedly accused the tedious progress of the sun." In
Bo Pior, an Egyptian monk, allowed his sister to see him ; but he shut his eyes during the whole visit. See Wit. Patrum, l. iii. p. 504. Many such examples might be added. * The 7th, 8th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 34th, 57th. 60th, 86th, and 95th articles of the Tule of Pachomius, impose most intolerable laws of silence and mortification. ° The diurnal and nocturnal prayers of the monks are copiously discussed by Cassian, in the third and fourth looks of his Institutions, and lie constantly prefers the liturgy, which an angel had dictated to the monasteries of Tebennae. * Cassian, from his own experience, describes the accdia, or listlessness of
this comfortless state, superstition still pursued and tor. mented her wretched votaries.” The repose which they had sought in the cloister was disturbed by a tardy repentance, profane doubts, and guilty desires; and, while they considered each natural impulse as an unpardonable sin, they perpetually trembled on the edge of a flaming and bottomless abyss. From the painful struggles of disease and despair, these unhappy victims were sometimes relieved by madness or death; and, in the sixth century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem for a small portion of the austere penitents, who were deprived of their senses.” Their visions, before they attained this extreme and acknowledged term of frenzy, have afforded ample materials of supernatural history. It was their firm persuasion, that the air, which they breathed, was peopled with invisible enemies; with innumerable demons, who watched every occasion, and assumed every form, to terrify, and above all to tempt, their unguarded virtue. The imagination, and even the senses, were deceived by the illusions of distempered fanaticism; and the hermit, whose midnight prayer was oppressed by involuntary slumber, might easily confound the phantoms of horror or delight, which had occupied his sleeping and his waking dreams.” The monks were divided into two classes: the Coenobites, who lived under a common and regular discipline; and the Anachorets, who indulged their unsocial, independent fanaticism.” . The most devout, or the most ambitious, of the spiritual brethren, renounced the convent, as they had renounced the world. The fervent monasteries of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, were surrounded by a Laura,” a distant circle of solitary cells; and the extravagant penance of Hermits was stimulated by applause and emulation." They sunk under the painful weight of crosses and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined by collars, bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves of massy and rigid iron. All superfluous encumbrance of dress they contemptuously cast away; and some savage saints of both sexes have been admired, whose naked bodies were only covered by their long hair. They aspired to reduce themselves to the rude and miserable state in which the human brute is scarcely distinguishable above his kindred animals: and the numerous sect of Anachorets derived their name from their humble practice of grazing in the fields of Mesopotamia with the common herd.” They often usurped the den of some wild beast whom they affected to resemble; they buried themselves in some gloomy cavern, which art or nature had scooped out of the rock; and the marble quarries of Thebais are still inscribed with the monuments of their penance.” The most perfect Hermits are supposed to have passed many days without food, many nights without sleep, and many years without speaking; and glorious was the man (I abuse that name) who contrived any cell, or seat, of a peculiar construction, which might expose him, in the most inconvenient posture, to the inclemency of the seasons. Among these heroes of the monastic life, the name and genius of Simeon Stylites” have been immortalized by the singular invention of an aérial penance. At the age of thirteen, the young Syrian deserted the profession of a shepherd, and threw himself into an austere monastery. After a long and painful novitiate, in which Simeon was repeatedly saved from pious suicide, he established his residence on a mountain, about thirty or forty miles to the east of Antioch. Within the space of a mandra, or circle of stones, to which he had attached himself by a ponderous chain, he ascended a column, which was successively raised from the height of nine, to that of sixty, feet from the ground.” In this last and lofty station, the Syrian Anachoret resisted the heat of thirty summers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exercise instructed him to maintain his dangerous situation without fear or giddiness, and successively to assume the different postures of devotion. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his outstretched arms in the figure of a cross; but his most familiar practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet; and a curious spectator, after numbering twelve hundred and forty-four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account. The progress of an ulcer in his thigh so might shorten, but it could not disturb, this celestial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without descending from his column. A prince, who should capriciously inflict such tortures, would be deemed a tyrant: but it would surpass the power of a tyrant to impose a long and miserable existence on the reluctant victims of his cruelty. This voluntary martyrdom must have gradually destroyed the sensibility both of the mind and body; nor can it be presumed that the fanatics, who torment themselves, are susceptible of any lively affection from the rest of mankind. A cruel, unfeeling temper has distinguished the monks of every age and country: their stern indifference, which is seldom mollified by personal friendship, is inflamed by religious hatred ; and their merciless zeal has strenuously administered the holy office of the Inquisition. The monastic saints, who excite only the contempt and pity of a philosopher, were respected, and almost adored, by the prince and people. Successive crowds of pilgrims from Gaul and India saluted the divine pillar of Simeon: the tribes of Saracens disputed in arms the honor of his benediction; the queens of Arabia and Persia gratefully confessed his supernatural virtue; and the angelic Hermit was consulted by the younger Theodosius, in the most important concerns of the church and state. His remains were transported from the mountain of Telenissa, by a solemn procession of the patriarch, the master-general of the East, six bishops, twenty-one counts or tribunes, and six thousand soldiers; and Antioch revered his bones, as her glorious ornament and impregnable defence. The fame of the apostles and martyrs was gradually eclipsed by these recent and popular Anachorets; the Christian world fell prostrate before their shrines; and the miracles ascribed to their relics exceeded, at least in number and duration, the spiritual exploits of their lives. But the golden legend of their lives” was embellished by the artful credulity of their interested brethren; and a believing age was easily persuaded, that the slightest caprice of an Egyptian or a Syrian monk had been sufficient to interrupt the eternal laws of the universe. The favorites of Heaven were accustomed to cure inveterate diseases with a touch, a word, or a distant message: and to expel the most obstinate demons from the souls or bodies which they possessed. They familiarly accosted, or imperiously commanded, the lions and serpents of the desert; infused vegetation into a sapless trunk; suspended iron on the surface of the water; passed the Nile on the back of a crocodile, and refreshed themselves in a fiery furnace. These extravagant tales, which display the fiction, without the genius, of poetry, have seriously affected the reason, the faith, and the morals, of the Christians. Their credulity debased and vitiated the faculties of the mind; they corrupted the evidence of history; and superstition gradually extinguished the hostile light of philosophy and science. Every mode of religious worship which had been practised by the saints, every mysterious doctrine which they believed, was fortified by the sanction of divine revelation, and all the manly virtues were oppressed by the servile and pusillanimous reign of the monks. If it be possible to measure the interval between the philosophic writings of Cicero and the sacred legend of Theodoret, between the character of Cato and that of Simeon, we may appreciate the memorable revolution which was accomplished in the Roman empire within a period of five hundred years. II. The progress of Christianity has been marked by two
mind and body, to which a monk was exposed, when he sighed to find himself alone. Saepiusque egreditur et ingreditur cellam, et Solem velut ad occasum tardius properantem crebrius intuetur (Institut. x. 1.). * The temptations and sufferings of Stagirius were communicated by that unfortunate youth to his friend St. Chrysostom. See Middleton's Works, vol. i. pp. 107-110. Something similar introduces the life of every saint; and the famous Inigo, or Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits (vide d'Inigo de Guiposcoa, tom. i. pp. 29–38), may serve as a memorable example. 63 Fleury, Hist. Ecclesiastique, tom. vii. p. 46. I have read somewhere, in the Vitae Patrum, but I cannot recover the place, that several, I believe many, of the monks, who did not reveal their temptations to the abbot, became guilty of suicide. * See the seventh and eighth Collations of Cassian, who gravely examines, why the demons were grown less active and numerous since the time of St. Antony. Rosweyde's copious index to the Vitae Patrum will point out a variety of infernal scenes. The devils were most formidable in a female shape. * For the distinction of the Caenobites and the Hermits, especially in Egypt, see Jerom (tom. i. p. 45, ad Rusticum), the first Dialogue of Sulpicius Severus, IRufinus (c. 22, in Wit. Patrum, l. ii. p. 478), Palladius (c. 7, 69, in Vit. Patrum, 1. viii. p. 712, 758), and, above all, the eighteenth and nineteenth Collations of Cassian. hese writers, who compare the common and solitary life, reveal the abuse and danger of the latter.
66 Suicer. Thesaur. Ecclesiast. tom. ii. pp. 205, 218. Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. pp. 1501. 1502) gives a good account of these cells. When Gerasimus founded his monastery in the wilderness of Jordan, it was accompanied by a Laura of seventy cells. oi Theodoret, in a large volume (the Philotheus in Vit. Patrum, l. ix. o: 793– 863), has eollected the lives and miracles of thirty Anachorets. Evagrius (l. i. c. 12) more briefly celebrates the monks and hermits of Palestine. 83 Sozomen, 1. vi. c. 33. The great St. Ephrem composed a panegyric on these Bórkot, or grazing monks (Tillemont, Mém. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 292). 69 The F. Sicard (Missions du Levant, tom. ii. pp. 217–233) examined the caverns of the Lower Thebais with wonder and devotion. The inscriptions are in the old Syriac character, which was used by the Christians of Abyssinia. 7" See Theodoret (in Vit. Patrum, l. ix. pp. ‘...} Antony (in Vit. Patrum, 1. i. pp. 170–177), Cosmas (in Asseman. Bibliot. Oriental. tom. i. pp. 239-253). Evagrius (l. i. c. 13, 14), and Tillemont (Mém. Eccles. tom. xv. pp. 347–392).
7. The narrow circumference of two cubits, or three feet, which Evagrius as: signs for the summit of the column, is inconsistent with reason, with facts, and with the rules of architecture. The people who saw it from below might be easily deceived.
*I must not conceal a piece of ancient scandal concerning the origin of this ulcer. It has been reported that the Devil, assuming an angelic form, invited him to ascend, like Elijah, into a fiery chariot. The saint too hastily raised his foot, and Satan seized the moment of inflicting this chastisement on his vanity,
78 I know not how to select or specify the miracles contained in the Vitae Patrum of Rosweyde, as the number very much exceeds the thousand pages of that voluminous work. An elegant specimen may be found in the Dialogues of Sul: §. Severus, and his Life of St. Martin. He reveres the monks of Egypt ; yet e insults them with the remark, that they never raised the dead; whereas the bishop of Tours had restored three dead men to life.