« PreviousContinue »
But there is a singular likeness in the expression of St. Paul to that of a passage in St. Luke's Gospel, which may perhaps lead us to a more definite sense
έσται γάρ ανάγκη μεγάλη επί Tņs yñs (ch. xxi. 23). This is part of the awful prophecy, in which the destruction of Jerusalem and the second coming of the Messiah are mingled up in terrific and almost inseparable images. There can be no doubt that this second coming of Christ was perpetually present to the minds of the first Christians : the Apostles themselves were but slowly emancipated from this primary Jewish conception of the immediate and visible kingdom of the Messiah. St. Paul was obliged to allay the terrors of his disciples, who had inferred from his ordinary preaching that it was clearly and inevitably at hand (2 Thess. ii. 2). Certain signs were to precede that coming, and the believer is reminded that to God time is nothing. But still the images are left in the thoughts of the believer in all their unmitigated terrors; and they were renewed, or renewed themselves, at every period of peril or of persecution. Even as our Lord mingled up, or allowed to remain mingled, those fearful predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem with the images which shadowed forth the Last Day, so his apostles blended the uncertainty of life—its peculiar uncertainty to those who at any time might become objects of persecution—with the final consummation in the second coming of the Lord. Awe was perhaps not always precise and distinct in the language in which this truth was expressed :-it was still less so in the interpretation of that language by the hearer. But it was quite enough to justify the expression, the present distress, the ŽVEOT@av úváyknv, at least during the apostolic age. With this view the words for the time is short' (is drawing closely in), ότι ο καιρός συνεσταλμένος το λοιπόν έστιν, and the whole of the verses from the 29th to the 38th, trapáryel ydp tò oxrua toll KÓGUOU TOútov, not fully rendered by the fashion of this world passeth away,' remarkably coincide.
It is not, then, the preoccupation alone of the marriage state which might divert either husband or wife from religious
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
exemplary husband but the exemplary parent; his family seems a matter of course. He is to be one that ruleth
Chrysostom's commentary on this passage is in these words, in loc. t. iv. p. 387. ed. Sιν.: τίνος ένεκεν και τον τοιούτον είς μέσον παράγει : επιστομίζει τους αιρετικούς, τους τον γάμον διαβάλλοντας, δεικνύς ότι το πράγμα ουκ έστιν εναγές, αλλ' ούτω τίμιον ως μετ' αυτού δύνασθαι και επί άγιον αναβαίνειν θρόνον. He proceels to condemn sorerely second marriages.
well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.' 3
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 sur
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 whererer there is a body of clergy who have no families to govern, there is a body eminently incapacitated from guiding the Church of God; albeit it might be wise and morciful in a bishop not to ordain any missionary or evangelist for heathen lards who had a wife and family to care for.'-Abstract Principles of Revealed Religion,
prised 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.
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