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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 every 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, f 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
* 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. Columba, founded A.D. 566, whose abbot exercised an extraordinary jurisdiction over the bishops of Caledonia. 2. By a classic library, which afforded some hopes of an entire Livy; and, 3. By the tombs of sixty kings, Scots, Irish, and Norwegians; who reposed in holy ground. See Usher (p. 311. 360— 370) and Buchanan (Ker. Scot. £ 2, p. 15, edit. Ruddiman). [The original accounts of Columba and his monastery are to be found in the Chron. Sax. A.d. 565, and in Bede's Ecc. Hist. 1 . iii. c. 4. (Bohn's I edit. p. 113, 114, 313.) Columbkill was a name, not of the island, but of the saint. (Ib. p. 248.) He has by some been confounded with his contemporary Columbanus, who founded the monasteries of Luxovium in Gaul, and of Bobium in Lombardy. Clinton, F. B. ii. 484.—Ed.]
+ 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 (1. 1, p. 55, 56). Elsewhere, indeed, he becomes more merciful, (1. 3, p. 83, 84) and allows different degrees of glory, like the sun, moon, and stars. In his lively comparison of a king and a monk, (1. 3, p. 116—121) he supposes (what is hardly fair) that the king will be more sparingly rewarded A.D. 370.] PROGRESS OP THE MONASTIC LIFE.
discovered the secret road which led to the possession of -wealth and honours.* The popular monks, whose reputation was connected with the fame and success of the order, assiduously laboured to multiply the number of their fellowcaptives. 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 ;t 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 Jerome ;J 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 Kome 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
and more rigorously punished. * Thomassin (Discipline
de l'Eglise, tom. i, p. 1426—1469) and Mabillon. (CEuvres Posthumes, tom. ii, p. 115—158.) The monks were gradually adopted as a part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. [This was the regular course of progressive management. Through successive ages, cathedral and monastery rose side by side; bishops, mitred abbots, and priors, acted in concert to rivet the chains of ignorance on the passive laity.—Ed.]
.f Dr. Middleton (vol. i, p. 110) liberally censures the conduct and writings of Chrysostom, one of the most eloquent and successful advocates for the monastic life.
+ Jerome's devout ladies form a very considerable portion of his works: the particular treatise which he styles the Epitaph of Paula (tom. i, p. 169—192) is an elaborate and extravagant panegyric. The exordium is ridiculously turgid :—" If all the members of my body were changed into tongues, and if all my limbs resounded with a human voice, yet should I be incapable," &c. [Such abuses were prohibited by the first statutes that regulated the organization of monasteries. Of a wedded pair, one could not embrace tho monastic life without the consent of the other. (Basil. Reg. maj. qu. 12.) A minor was not admitted without parental concurrence. (Ib. qu. 15. Cone. GaDgr. c. 16.) The owner's leave must be obtained, before a slave could join the fraternity. But the emperor Justinian removed these restraints, and allowed slaves, children, and wives, to be received into monasteries even against the will of masters, parents, and husbands. (Novell. 5, c. 2. Cod. Just. 1. 1, tom. iii, leg. 53. 55.)—Guizot.] § Socrus Dei esse ccepisti
(Jerome, tom, i, p. 140, ad Eustochium). Rufinus (in Hieronym. Op, 116
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 than they had sacrificed in the world. Peasants, slaves, and mechanics might escape from poverty and contempt to a safe and honourable profession; whose apparent hardships were mitigated by custom, by popular applause, and by the secret relaxation of disciplined The subjects of Koine, 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.J
The monastic profession of the ancients § was an act of
tom. iv. p. 223) who was justly scandalized, asks his adversary, From what Pagan poet he had stolen an expression so impious and absurd?
* Nunc autem veniunt plerumque ad hanc professionem servitutis Dei, et ex conditione servili, vel etiam liberati, vel propter hoc a Dominis liberati sive liberandi; et ex vita rusticana, et ex opificum exercitatione, et plebeio labore. Augustin. de Oper. Monach. c. 22, ap. Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom, iii, p. 1094. The Egyptian, who blamed Arsenius, owned that he led a more comfortable life as a monk, than as a shepherd. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom, xiv, p. 679.
+ A Dominican friar (Voyages du P. Labat, tom, i, p. 10) who lodged at Cadiz in a convent of his brethren, soon understood that their repose was never interrupted by nocturnal devotion : "quoiqu'on ne laisse pas de sonner pour l'ldification du peuple."
X 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 dykes 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. 7, c. 3, p. 253.) [A law of the emperor Valens was particularly directed "Contra ignavise quosdam sectatores, qui, desertis civitatum muneribus, captant solitudines ac secreta, et specie religionis, coetibus monachorum congregantur." (Cod. Theod. 1. 12, tit. 1, leg. 63.— Guizot.] [The laws, canons, and rules to which Guizot, in this and his preceding note, refers as palliatives of the evil, were not of long duration; the influence and perseverance of the priesthood, at no distant period, accomplished their abrogation.—E».] § The
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 perpetual vow; and his irrevocable engagement was ratified by 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 merit, which had alleviated, in some degree, the abject slavery of the monastic disciplined The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts, were determined by an inflexible rule,J 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 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 Egyp
monastic institutions, particularly those of Egypt, about the year 400, are detcribed by four curious and devout travellers; Rufinus, Vit. Patrum I 2, 3, p. 424—536), Posthumian (Sulp. Sever. Dialog. 1), Palladius, (Hist. Lausiac. in Vit. Patrum. p. 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 (Jerome, tom, i, p. 256), and the design of Cassian and his friend (Collation 24. 1) are incontestable proofs of "their freedom; which is elegantly described by Erasmus in his Life of St. Jerome. See Chardon (Hist, des Sacremens, tom, vi, p. 279— 300).
+ See the laws of Justinian (Novel. 123, No. 42), and of Lewis the Pious, (in the Historians of France, tom, vi, p. 427) and the actual jurisprudence ot France, in Denissart. (Decisions, &c. tom, iv, p. 855, &c.) J 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 East, one in Cappadocia, one in Italy, one in Atrica, four in Spain, eight in Gaul or France, and one in England. § The rule of Columbanus, so prevalent in the 118 FBEEDOM OP THE MH»D DESTEOYED. [CH. XXXVII.
tian 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.f
West, inflicts one hundred lashes for very slight offences. (Cod. Keg. part 2, 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 vv.de in pace (the subterraneous dungeon or sepulchre), which was afterwards invented. See an admirable discourse of the learned Mabillon (CEuvres Posthumes, tom, ii, p. 321—336), who, on this occasion, seems to be inspired by the genius ol humanity. For such an effort, I can forgive his defence of the holy tear of Veudome (p. 361—399).
* Sulp. Sever. Dialog. 1. 12, 13, p. 532, &c. Cassian. Institut. 1. 4, c. 26, 27. "Praicipua ibi virtus et prima est obedientia." Among the Verba Seniorum (in Vit. Patrum, 1. 5, p. 617) the fourteenth libel or discourse is on the subject of obedience; and the Jesuit Rosweyde, who published that huge volume for the use of convents, has collected all his scattered passages in his two copious indexes.
+ Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. iv, p. 161) has observed the scandalous valour of the Cappadocian monks, which was exemplified in the banishment of Chrysostom. [Not too dark are the colours in which Gibbon has here painted the process of destroying "the freedom of the mind, the source of every generous and rational sentiment." To the force of his description nothing can be added; but it may be remarked that the mischievous delusions, which he exposes and condemns, were not the offspring of religion, but the arts employed by its faithless and treacherous ministers. Before the introduction of the monastic expedient, society, as has been shown, had gradually lost its energetic tone. But when this engine was brought to bear, the work went on rapidly. The influence of this new movement was not confined to the cloister and the cell. The example of