Page images
PDF
EPUB

thoughts—the conflict between the desire to please each other and perfect devotion to religion—but the anxieties likewise, the trembling of deep love for others rather than themselves, which then rendered the unmarried life the safer condition. It is not merely a carefulness on account of the ordinary trials and uncertainties of life from which the Apostle desires to keep. them free--but a peculiar carefulness, belonging to that especial time and to their peculiar circumstances. The trumpet may sound at any hour. The Christian soldier should be girt and ready, unincumbered with unnecessary ties; with no fears, no anxieties but for himself; no bonds to break but those of life. On the whole, in short, this is neither a general law of Christianity; nor even its perfect ideal, though attainable by few, an eminent and transcendant gift and privilege, which shows its first principles in their most full development. It is exceptional in time, place, person, circumstance. The merit is not intrinsic, but dependent on foreign and peculiar accidents. If marriage disqualifies in the slightest degree for greater usefulness—if marriage withdraws the mind from holiness—then it must be sacrificed, as the right hand or the right eye is to be sacrificed; but as the maimed man is not better than the whole, so celibacy in itself has neither superior dignity nor superior sanctity.

Who can point out any thing in the earliest Christian institutions which in any way secludes the virgins as a separate and higher class from Christian wives and Christian mothers; which distinguishes to his advantage the unmarried from the married apostle; which sets the unmarried Paul above the married Cephas ? - Compare the significant caution of the Apostle's expression with any passage taken at random from Basil, Ambrose, or any of the writers on these subjects in the fourth century; and who will fail to perceive that it is with them not merely the development (the favourite phrase) of a recognized principle, but a new element, predominating over and absorbing the opinions and feelings of our nature ? This is still more conclusive, if we observe certain positive and direct precepts of

St. Paul. Not merely are there several passages, where, if this notion was present to the Apostle's mind, either as a necessary part of Christianity, or as its highest aim and prerogative, it must have forced itself into his language-yet we have nothing of it. Not merely is he on such occasions profoundly silent, but his general precepts on the other side are clear and unambiguous. If we might suppose the Apostle to have contemplated in any quarter the peaceful and permanent establishment of the Gospel ; if anywhere he deliberately organized a Church with its ministry, and described the qualifications of a settled teacher, of a separate clergy; it is in that calm epistle to Titus, in which he consigns to him the establishment of the Church in Crete. Throughout this Epistle it is the Christian family which St. Paul seems to delight in surveying in all its blamelessness and harmony. But is either the Elder or the Bishop a being standing alone and above this household virtue? He is its very model and pattern. Desperate ingenuity may explain away any passage in Scripture ; but none can suffer greater violence than does that simple text, the bishop must be the husband of one wife,' when it is construed as meaning anything but that, in salutary contrast to the habits of a licentious time, he is to be a husband of unimpeachable purity, even as he is a man of unimpeachable sobriety. Nor is this a casual and isolated expression. In the fuller statement of the Epistle to Timothy-in what we may fairly consider to be St. Paul's abstract ideal of a bishop, there is not merely the same expressive silence as to the obligation, or even the excellence of celibacy, but again we find his marriage distinctly taken for granted (1 Tim. iii. 2). Here, again, not merely is he held up as the exemplary husband but the exemplary parent; his family seems a matter of course. He is to be one that ruleth

[ocr errors]

well his own house, having his children in subjection with all

[ocr errors]

There is no doubt that the false Philosophy or Theologythe common parent of Gnosticism, of Monasticism, and of all the high notions on celibacy — was at least in its elements widely disseminated, and could not but be known to St. Paul ; yet not merely was it not admitted, but repudiated by him with remarkable vehemence. Forbidding to marry and abstinence from certain meats (1 Tim. iv. 3) is the distinctive mark of some sect, either already beginning to develop itself, or prophetically foreshown, as in direct antagonism to the Gospel. The Gnostic sects in the second century followed out these principles to extreme extravagance; some Encratites are said absolutely to have proscribed marriage, and to have abstained, with a Budhist aversion, from every kind of food which had had life. But with a higher wisdom Paul did not, like the later uninspired preachers of the Church, receive the philosophy and attempt to avoid the conclusions ; incorporate the primary doctrine of the Gnostics with the thoughts and feelings, and proscribe its excesses. There is a singular vacillation in some of the earlier local and particular councils condemning those who but carried out admitted principles to their legitimate consequences; now depreciating, now asserting, the dignity of marriage; establishing not merely different laws and a different discipline for the clergy and laity, but a different morality, a different estimate of moral excellence. And this was the first great silent and almost universal change which grew upon the spirit of Christianity; and it commended itself by some sympathies with the Christian heart, to which we cannot be surprised if that heart should yield with unsuspecting passion :-by its high self-abnegation ; its entire concentration of the soul on God; its terrors and its raptures; its communion with the invisible; even its detachment from a world in which happiness, security, as well as virtue in those dark and degenerate times, could only be found in seclusion. Yet was it directly opposed to that practical Catholic religion of our Lord and his Apostles, who did not promulgate Christianity for a sect, an order, a certain definite section of the human race; nor even reserved its high places for a few lonely contemplatives; but revealed a perpetual faith for all mankind—for mankind active, progressive, going through every phase of civilization; if not in continual advancement, yet constantly aiming at advancement.

3 Mr. H. Drummond, who is so strikingly right when he is right, thus comments on the text 1 Tim. iii. 2–5:—'Whence the judgement of God plainly is, that wherever there is a body of clergy who hare no families to govern, there is a body eminently incapacitated from guiding the Church of God; albeit it might be yise and merciful in a bishop not to ordain any missionary or evangelist for heathen lands who had a wifo and family to care for.'Abstract Principles of Revealed Religion,

p. 228.

The Scriptural—let us be permitted to use the word Pauline -ideas of evil and its antagonist Christian perfection, are widely different from those of monastic Christianity. In St. Paul the evil principle is moral degeneracy; in the other, the moral is blended up with some vague notion of physical corruption; the body itself, as formed of malignant matter of matter inherently antagonist to God—is irreclaimably corrupt. In the one system the aim is the suppression of the evil of our nature; in the other, it is the suppression of our nature itself. In one it is a sin, in the other absolute perfection, to be without natural affection. In the one, females make an important part of the mingled community; in the other, the line between the sexes, as if two hostile races which cannot approximate without pollution, is sternly drawn. In the one it is the purification in the other the proscription, the utter extinction of bodily emotion which is virtue. In the one it is the unlawful

-in the other it is the physical act of procreation of children, which is sin. Paul will keep his body under; Antony the hermit paralyse its functions. In the one case sanctification was possible; in the other, extirpation was absolutely necessary. The tenet in truth of the resurrection of the body, though that body was to be glorified in the Resurrection, might almost seem

a protest against this dualistic theory. Nor is it any answer that the monastic churches, who thus mingled foreign conceptions with the primitive doctrines of the Gospel, still retained that essential tenet of the faith; it was a necessary consequence of the fusion of two systems, that in many parts they should be irreconcilable and contradictory. The mystic Quietism, which in every age of the Church has been the extreme height to which this kind of Christianity has soared, and soared with such sublimity as to attract some of the noblest and purest of men, has been but the Platonic, and more mystic than the Platonic

—the Indian triumph of mind over matter; the absolute annihilation of the physical being.

We have never seen that Protest of the Baden clergy against which Möhler directed his laborious refutation ; but the Fribourg professors, who took the lead in the controversy, must not merely have been guilty of several errors as to dates and facts (which Möhler triumphantly adduces)—they must have argued their cause with feebleness bordering on treachery, if they abandoned the ground of the three first centuries without making a firm and decisive stand. They cannot, surely, have omitted the strong passages of Clement of Alexandria, which assert the fact of the marriage of the Apostles, and vindicate that of the clergy; the long line of married bishops which might be produced from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius alone, with some even from the later annals of Socrates and Sozomen : the direct admission of its legality by Athanasius (* Epist. ad Dracontium '); the absence of prohibitory terms even in Basil and Augustine. The assertion of Jerome that it was the universal practice in the East and Egypt, as well as at Rome, to ordain only unmarried clergy, or those who had ceased to exercise the privilege of husbands, must be qualified by a great number of known exceptions. In the West itself that which was first an usage, more or less rigidly observed, was first hardened into a law by Pope Siricius (A.D. 385). This decree was probably called forth by the progress of the opinions of Jovinian, who, as did Vigilantius, strove in vain

« PreviousContinue »