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almost all their knight-errants of monkish valour are triedand from which they take refuge by plunging head over ears into cold water; and all the other strange conflicts with dæmons, who seem to have a peculiar spite against this especial virtue. We dread the general effect of these writings on the minds of young men, aye, and young women too; for we have no doubt that the beauty and simplicity with which a few at least of these very unequal biographies are composed — the singular skill with which every thing which is is depreciated, and every thing which has been is painted in the most captivating light—the consummate artifice with which the love of novelty is disguised under a passion for ancient and neglected truth-will obtain some female readers. We dread it because throughout these writings the minds of the pure of both sexes, and especially of that which is purest by nature and by education, by innate modesty and tender maternal watchfulness, are forced to dwell on thoughts which recur frequently enough, without being thus fostered by being moulded up inseparably with religious meditation. The true safeguard of youthful manners is the sensitive delicacy which restricts from tampering with such subjects; the strong will which dismisses them at once, and concentres itself on other subjects, on the business of life, on intellectual pursuits, or even on sports or exercises : but here, by this one conflict being represented as the great business of life, as the main object of spiritual ambition, no escape is left open; it does not naturally recur, but is hourly and momentarily recalled; the virtue we have no doubt is often
6 See some small but clever tracts, called Modern Hagiology, in the first of which, p. 10, et seq., are some significant extracts (such as we hardly dare venture), and some sensible observations on the language of these stern asserters of the strictness of what they call Catholic morals. As this writer says, 'a saint, according to --- teaching, is plainly a person of no ordinary degree of natural viciousness, and of unusual and almost preternatural violence of animal passions. His sanctity consists mainly in the curious and far-fetched ingenuity of the torments by which he contrives to keep himself within the bounds of decency.' The example is that of St. Cuthbert, a bishop, who, when he went to hold holy conrersation with the abbess St. Ebba, took the precaution to cool himself every night by standing up to his neck in the water, or in the chilly air!'
rendered absolutely unattainable by the incessant care for its attainment.
This— almost beyond their perilous tampering with truth, and endangering of all faith, by demanding belief in the most puerile miracles, as though they were Holy Writ, or at least insinuating that there is no gradation in the sin of unbeliefand we must add a most melancholy hardness and intolerance —will confine the influence of these new hagiologists to a few, and those the younger readers, who will hereafter become wiser.
There is a passage in the Life of St. Gilbert,' which, profane and uninitiated as we are, we read with a shudder. The author is speaking of certain dreams which determine the saint absolutely to forbid himself the sight of a woman. After an allusion, to our feelings most irreverent, to the Virgin Mary, he goes still further ; with, as usual, either a real or a studied ignorance of the meaning of the Bible. “He who was infinitely more sinless by grace, even by nature impeccable, because he was the Lord from heaven, he has allowed it to be recorded that his disciples wondered that he talked with a woman.' That his disciples did not wonder at his talking with a woman, but at his talking with a woman of Samaria, what simple reader of the gospel will fail to perceive? (John iv. 27; compare verse 9). How many other passages in our Lord's life utterly refute this false monastic view of his character! Who are said to have ministered to him ?'
We must add one or two extracts,—but they shall be passages of the more harmless sort.
Holy virginity is no less a portion of Christianity than holy penitence; and the denial of the virtue of the one most certainly impairs the full belief in the other.--Life of St. Gilbert, p. 49.
The reader may not be prepared for the proof of this axiomfor the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins lie close together in the Creed’!! Again:
They who deny the merit of virginity leave out a portion of Christian morals. . . . The Bible--this writer acknowledges - says nothing about monks and nuns; but it says a great deal about prayer, and about taking up the cross. It is quite true that the cross has sanctified domestic affections, by raising marriage to a dignity which it never possessed before; and yet human affections are terrible things; love is as strong and insatiable as death ; and how hard is it to love as though we loved not; and to weep, as though we wept not; and to laugh, as though we laughed not! Happy are they to whom human affections are not all joy; the mother has her cross as well as the nun, and it will be blessed to her. Happy they who have to tend the sick bed of a parent or a friend ; they need seek no further, they have their cross. Yet happiest of all is she who is marked out for ever from the world, whose slightest action assumes the character of adoration, because she is bound by a vow to her heavenly spouse, as an earthly bride is bound by the nuptial vow to her earthly lord.
For ourselves we rest content with the Christian perfection of the Bible. According to the plain principles of that book, we believe that the most enskyed and sainted nun'in Shakspeare's beautiful words) is as far below, in true Christian perfection, we will say the mother of St. Augustine, or the wife who sucked the poison from her husband's wound, even, in due proportion, as he who went into the wilderness to him who went about doing good.' Who will compare the “ fugitive and cloistered virtue of the recluse with that of the sister of charity ? Yet will the virginity of the latter weigh in the Evangelic balance one grain in comparison with her charity ?
Another writer is not content with elevating the unnatural state, but must depreciate those natural affections, to be “void of which,' we have high authority to believe, is no safe condition.
After casting our eyes on the holy rood, does it never occur to us to wonder how it can be possible to be saved in the midst of the endcarments of a family, and the joys of domestic life? God forbid that any one should deny the possibility !—but does it not at first sight require proof, that heaven can be won by a life spent in this quiet way?Life of St. Stephen Harding, p. 113.
We will tell this unhappy man that there is more true religion, more sense of God's goodness, more humble resignation to his chastening hand, from the sight of one living, or the grave of one dead child, than in years of fasting and flagellation.
We repeat that we have not the least apprehension of the
ultimate, or even the extensive success of these doctrines here; their only bad effect will be to make a few young men very miserable, very sour-tempered, and very arrogant; and, on the other hand, they may perhaps prevent some early and imprudent marriages.
But abroad, in the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church, murmurs both loud and deep are again heard against the law of celibacy. It is not only the priest Ronge, who has absolutely seceded from the Church of Rome, and appealed to the good sense and truthfulness of Germany against the seamless coat of our Lord, which, in the nineteenth century, the Archbishop of Treves thought fit to exhibit, and which, in the nineteenth century, was visited by above a million of worshippers. The clergy of Baden some years ago published a deliberate argument, to which a reply 8 was made by the late Professor Möhler, the author of the “Symbolik ;' a reply written with his usual ability and polemic skill. Even in his own Church, the arguments and authority of this distinguished logician have had little or no effect in suppressing these opinions : they are day after day gaining ground. But we may be sure that Möhler would be accepted by all moderate and learned Roman Catholic writers as in every respect qualified to do justice to his cause. Möhler's great argument is, that the Church has the right not merely to lay before those whom she exalts to the dignity of the priesthood, but to exact, as a qualification for that dignity, the highest ideal of Christianity. But this assumes the point at issue. If it be not the ideal of the Sacred Writings—if it be the ideal of a false philosophy not recognized by the Sacred Writings, but almost universally dominant in the intellectual world, into which Christianity passed almost immediately after its first complete publication-and if that false philosophy be now utterly discarded from the human mind—the conclusion is inevitable.
* Two German Professors at Bonn have published a curious tract on this seamless coat of Treves and the twenty other seamless coats, the history of which they have traced with true German perseverance and erudition. It is a calm disquisition in an excellent tone; its historico-theological learning relieved by quiet irony. It is somewhat amusing to find that the Infallible Gregory XVI. issued a Letter, assert. ing the authenticity of the seamless coat of Argenteuil, not remembering that the infallible Leo X. had asserted the authenticity of that of Treves: while other infallible pontiffs have given their approbation to the list of relies in the church of St. John Lateran, where there is a third. “Rom hat gesprochen,' say our Professors.
8 The tract is reprinted in Möhler's Gesammelte Schriften, band i. pp. 177-267. 9 We say two, because, though often quoted, the third (Rev. xiv. 4) is, to our judgement, clearly metaphorical: it is not physical pollution, but the pollution by idolatry which is meant. See Rosenmüller in loco, or the common Family Bible.
It may be assumed that the great ideal truth, which distinguishes any system, will pervade that system throughout; that if not objectively prominent in every part, it shall be found in its depths, wherever we sound them; that it will be, if not uniformly and explicitly, perpetually implied ; that it shall be not casually and incidentally noticed, but fill that place which becomes its importance; and, above all, must be in perfect harmony with the rest of the revelation. But for this principle, upon which the ideal dignity of celibacy rests, the monastics can refer only to two insulated and ambiguous passages in the whole New Testament.
This is the more remarkable, if it was not a new truth, of which the primary conception dawned, as it were, upon the world under the new dispensation. Notions absolutely uncongenial with the state of the human mind might, according to the customary dealings of Divine Providence, have been introduced with caution, if we may so say, bordering on timidity ; but this would hardly be the case with questions which might seem to await a solemn and indisputable decision from the new teacher of righteousness.
The great question of the superiority of the celibate and contemplative state over that of marriage and of active life—the philosophy or theology, whichever it may be called, which proscribed marriage, and exalted celibacy, as withdrawing the soul from the pollution of malignant matter,—had already made its way among the Jews both of Egypt and Palestine: it was the doctrine of the Essenes and Therapeutæ, who, even if we do not allow them to be the parents, were at least the types and the forerunners of Christian monachism.