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life.' It rests not only upon an earnest view of life
upon the instinctive struggle after perfect dominion of the spirit over the flesh, reason over sense, the supernatural over the natural, after the highest grade of holiness and an undisturbed communion of the soul with God; but also upon a morbid depreciation of the body, the family, the state, and the divinely established social order of the world. It recognizes the world, indeed, as a creature of God, and the family and property as divine institutions, in opposition to the Gnostic Manichaean asceticism, which ascribes matter, as such, to an evil principle. But it makes a distinction between two grades of morality: a common and lower grade, democratic, so to speak, which moves in the natural ordinances of God; and a higher, extraordinary, aristocratic grade, which lies beyond them, and is attended with special merit. It places the great problem of Christianity not in the transformation, but in the abandonment, of the world. It is an extreme unworldliness, over against the worldliness of the mass of the visible church in union with the state. It demands entire renunciation, not only of sin, but also of property and of marriage, which are lawful in themselves, ordained by God himself, and indispensable to the continuance and welfare of the human race. The poverty of the individual, however, does not exclude the possession of common property; and it is well known that some monastic orders, especially the Benedictines, have in course of time grown very rich. The Cenobite institution requires also absolute obedience to the will of the superior, as the visible representative of Christ. As obedience to orders and sacrifice of self is the first duty of the soldier and the condition of military success and renown, so also in this Christian war against the spiritual enemy, the flesh, the world, and the devil. Monks are not allowed
rule. So in the Pythagoreans, Stoics, Cynics, and Neo-Platonists, ascetics and philosophers are the same.
1'Αποστολικός βίος, και των αγγέλων βίος, vita angelica ; after an unwarranted application of Christ's word respecting the sexless life of the angels (Matt. xxii. 30), which is not presented here as a model for imitation, but only mentioned as an argument against the Sadducees.
to have a will of their own. To them may be applied the lines of Tennyson :
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die. Voluntary poverty, voluntary celibacy, and absolute obedience, form the three monastic vows, as they are called, and are supposed to constitute a higher virtue and to secure a higher reward in heaven.
But this threefold self-denial is only the negative side of the matter, and a means to an end. It places man beyond the reach of the temptations connected with earthly possessions, married life, and independent will, and facilitates his progress towards heaven. The positive aspect of monasticism is unreserved surrender of the whole man, with all bis time and strength, to God, though, as we have said, not within, but without the sphere of society and the order of nature. This devoted life is employed in continual prayer, meditation, fasting, and castigation of the body. Some votaries went so far as to reject all bodily employment for its interference with devotion. But in general a moderate union of spiritual exercises with scientific studies, or with such manual labor as agriculture, basket-making, weaving, for their own living and the support of the poor, was held not only lawful but wholesome for monks.
It was a proverb, that a laborious monk was beset by only one devil; an idle one, by a legion.
With all the austerities and rigors of asceticism, the monastic life had its spiritual joys and irresistible charms for noble, contemplative, and heaven-aspiring souls, who fled from the turmoil and vain show of the city as a prison, and turned the solitude into a paradise of freedom and sweet communion with God and his saints; while to others the same solitude became a fruitful nursery of idleness, despondency, and the most perilous temptations and ultimate ruin.
Compare the truthful remark of Yves de Chartres, of the twelfth century, Ep. 192 (quoted by Montalembert): “Non beatum faciunt usa hominem secreta syl
MONASTICISM AND THE BIBLE. Monasticism, therefore, clairns to be the highest and purest form of Christian piety and virtue, and the surest way to heaven. Then we should think it must be pre-eminently commended in the Bible, and actually exhibited in the life of Christ and the apostles. But just in this biblical support it falls short.
The advocates of it uniformly refer, first, to the examples of Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist; but these stand on the legal level of the Old Testament, and are to be looked upon as extraordinary personages of an extraordinary age; and though they may be regarded as types of a partial anchoretism (not of cloister life), still they are nowhere commended to our innitation in this particular, but rather in their influence upon the world.
The next appeal is to a few isolated passages of the New Testament, which do not, indeed, in their literal sense, require the renunciation of property and marriage, yet seem to recommend it as a special, exceptional form of piety for those Christians who strive aster higher perfection.?
varum, casumina montium, si secum non habet solitudinem mentis, sabbatum cordis, tranquillitatem conscientiae, ascensiones in corde, sine quibus omnem solitudinem comitantur mentis acedia, curiositas, vana gloria, periculosae tentationum procellae.”
1 So Jerome, Ep. 49, ad Paulinum, where he adduces, besides Elijah and John, Isaiah, also, and the sons of the prophets as the fathers of monasticism; and in his Vita Pauli, where, however, he more correctly designates Paul of Thebes and Anthony as the first hermits, properly so called, in distinction from the prophets. Comp. also Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., Lib. I. c. 19: Tautns dè this åplotns pilogoφίας ήρξατο, ώς τινες λέγουσιν, Ηλίας ο προφήτης και Ιωάννης ο βαπτιστής. This appeal to the example of Elijah and John the Baptist has become traditional with the Catholic writers on the subject. Alban Butler says, under Jan. 15, in the life of Paul of Thebes : “ Elias and John the Baptist sanctified the deserts, and Jesus Christ himself was a model of the eremitical state during his forty days' fast in the wilderness ; neither is it to be questioned but the Holy Ghost conducted the saint of this day (Paul of Thebes) into the desert, and was to him an instructor there."
2 Hence called consilia evangelica, in distinction from mandata divina ; after I Cor. vii. 25, where Paul does certainly make a similar distinction. The consilium and volum paupertatis is based on Matt. xix. 21 ; the votum castitatis, on 1 Cor.
Finally, as respects the spirit of the monastic life, reference is sometimes made even to the poverty of Christ and his apostles, to the silent, contemplative Mary in contrast with the busy, practical Martha, and to the voluntary community of goods in the first Christian church in Jerusalem.
But this monastic interpretation of primitive Christianity mistakes a few incidental points of outward resemblance for essential identity; measures the spirit of Christianity by some isolated passages, instead of explaining the latter from the former; and is, upon the whole, a miserable emaciation and caricature. The gospel makes upon all men virtually the same moral demand, and knows no distinction of a religion for the masses and another for the few.
Jesus, the model for all believers, was neither a cenobite, nor an anchoret, nor an ascetic of any kind, but the perfect pattern-man for universal imitation. There is not a trace of monkish austerity and ascetic rigor in his life or precepts, but in all his acts and words a wonderful harmony of freedom and purity, of the most comprehensive charity, and spotless holiness. He retired to the mountains and into solitude, but only temporarily and for the purpose of renew. ing his strength for active work. Amidst the society of his disciples of both sexes, with kindred and friends in Cana and Bethany, at the table of publicans and sinners, and in intercourse with all classes of the people, he kept himself unspotted from the world, and transfigured the world into the kingdom of God. His poverty and celibacy have nothing to do with asceticism, but represent, the one the condescension of his redeeming love, the other his ideal uniqueness and his absolutely peculiar relation to the whole church, which alone is fit and worthy to be his bride. No single daughter of Eve could have been an equal partner of the Saviour of mankind, and the representative head of the new creation.
vii. 8, 25, 38-40. For the votum obedientiae no particular text is quoted. The theory appears substantially as early as in Origen, and was in him not merely a personal opinion, but the reflex of a very widely-sprea:l practice.
The example of the sister of Lazarus proves only that the contemplative life may dwell in the same house with the practical, and with the other sex, but justifies no separation from the social ties.
The life of the apostles and primitive Christians in general was anything but a hermit life; else had not the gospel spread so quickly to all the cities of the Roman world. Peter was married, and travelled with his wife as a missionary. Paul assumes one marriage of the clergy as the rule; and notwithstanding his subjective and relative preference for celibacy in the then oppressed condition of the church, he is the most zealous advocate of evangelical freedom, in opposition to all legal bondage and anxious asceticism.
Monasticism, therefore, in any case, is not the normal form of evangelical religion. It is an abnormal phenomenon, a humanly devised service of God, and not rarely a sad enervation and repulsive distortion of the Christianity of the Bible. And it is to be estimated, therefore, not by the extent of its self-denial, nor by its outward acts of selfdiscipline (which may all be found in heathenism, Judaism, Mohammedanism, as well), but by the Christian spirit of humility and love to God and man which animated it. For humility is the groundwork and love the all-ruling principle of the Christian life, and the distinctive characteristic of the Christian religion. Without love the severest self-punishment and the utmost abandonment of the world are worthless before God.
LightS AND SHADES OF Monastic Life. The contrast between pure and normal Bible Christianity and abnormal monastic Christianity, will appear more fully if we enter into a closer examination of the latter as it actually appeared in the ancient church.
The extraordinary rapidity with which this world-forsaking form of piety spread, bears witness to a bigh degree of self
1 Compare Col. ii. 16 - 23.
• Compare I Cor. xiii. 1-3.