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of a Benedict. It is to the social causes we have above alluded to, as well as to the less mystical character of Western religion, that must be attributed the practical character so early assumed by the cænobitic fraternities of Gaul and Italy. The men who founded them had in many cases fled not so much out of the world, as away from the world, and pursued, when beyond the reach of interruption, schemes of civilization and philanthropy of which their contemporaries were not worthy? But of more weight than the restraints of national character or of a forbidding climate were the guardian counsels and moderation of such men as Ambrose and Augustine;
1 The mountains of Switzerland seem to have abounded in hermits, holding no intercourse with the barbarians, but yet doubtless acting in some measure as forerunners of the more active missionaries. Thus in the life of St Gall we read of persons who were probably remnants of a Church scattered by Teutonic inroads. Something too was done by them towards cultivating the land and clearing the woods, the practical spirit of the West shewing itself in strong contradistinction to Eastern asceticism.
? See for instance Augustine's letter (Ep. 48) to the monks of Capraria, already referred to: “Si quam operam vestram mater Ecclesia desideraverit, nec elatione avida suscipiatis nec blandiente desidia respuatis, &c. * * Memineritis nullum locum esse, ubi non possit laqueos tendere qui timet ne revolemus ad Deum ; et inimicum omnium bonorum cujus captivi fuimus judicemus, nullamque nobis esse perfectam requiem cogitemus, donec transeat iniquitas, et in judicium justitia convertatur. * * Ipsa est enim actio recti itineris, quæ oculos semper habet ad Dominum, quoniam ipse evellet de laqueo pedes. Talis actio nec frangitur negotio, nec frigida est otio, nec turbulenta nec marcida est; nec audax nec fugax; nec præceps nec jacens. Hæc agite, et Deus pacis erit vobiscum.”
who, while they were well aware of the causes which turned the minds of men to retirement and contemplation, and ever sought to protect their disciples against the seducing influences of worldly pride, were equally conscious of the no less fatal power of false humility. They were skilled to trace, through the seeming subjugation of the flesh, that unconquerable haughtiness of soul, which placed the severity of monastic discipline above the purest faith, and taught the meanest anchorite to look down upon the most dignified of churchmen. It was in no small measure owing to the temperate zeal of these fathers that the monastic system flourished in the purity it subsequently for a time maintained in the Western world, and that the public mind in Gaul and Italy was prepared for the benefits it received from the foundations of Cassian and Benedict. For assuredly it is no violation of the spirituality of Protestantism to look with admiration on the less extravagant form assumed by the monasticism of the West before it sunk under accumulated corruptions; and an impartial observer, not forgetting the difference in social relations during the fifth and the sixteenth centuries, may find as much to praise among the monks of the former period as he may to censure among those of the latter. That separation of the contemplative and the active principles in religion, which twelve centuries later was nominal and unmeaning because answering to no spiritual or intellectual requirement of the age, was true in theory and productive of noble results amid all the turmoil of barbarian inroads. It symbolized-imperfectly, it is true, but evidently to all men-that prominent virtue of exalted Christianity, by which independently and in spite of all outward action the seed once sown in the heart is preserved from pernicious influences, and fostered into full productiveness. It stood forward a type of the immutability of a faith, which, while empires rose and sunk and the very foundations of society were overturned, remained unmoved, teaching the same great axioms to the unlettered Goth which it had inculcated on the philosophic Greek.
We have enlarged on the progress of monastic influence, not so much as considering it to have been a distinct branch of clerical action during its earlier career, but rather with a view to the time when, in spite of its many inherent vices, it was not only incorporated with the Church, but became one of the principal supports of Christianity itself. The next chronological division of our subject will present to us monasticism engaged in its more memorable and peculiar work, transmitting to future more worthy recipients the intellectual trophies of preceding generations. We shall see in the organization of the monkish fraternities by the great Benedict their gradual separation from the laity, and shall be able with more strictness to include them within our peculiar province.
We have thus investigated the moral and intellectual influence of the clergy on their followers, from the period when the principles learnt in humiliation came to be practised among the seductions of exaltation to that
when they stood prepared by a long contact with the world to act more effectually on the Teutonic nations. We must now turn to view their action on the political condition of the Roman Empire during the period of its final annihilation in the West and of its decrepitude in the East.
Later ecclesiastical historians have frequently placed in a strong light the deleterious action on the clerical body of a state-system long exposed to so many corrupting influences; but they appear scarcely to have bestowed sufficient attention on the reciprocal operation of the Church in checking or remedying abuses and postponing the approaching downfall of the Imperial polity. Wholly to deny any such action would be to imagine that the principles of Christian Truth, which had operated with so much power on the social framework of the community, were unavailing in a more public sphere.
It is unquestionably true that the indefiniteness of the union between Church and State during the reign of Constantine was productive of evil consequences in so far as it offered to the priesthood almost irresistible temptations to forget primitive purity in employing their spiritual authority for mere worldly purposes : but at the same time we must remember in how many cases the clerical power thus acquired stood opposed to that of the state as mitigating the severity and injustice of an arbitrary government. It would have been surprising if, at a period when no one worthy of the title of statesman
assisted at the Imperial Councils, the exaltation of Christianity had taken place so as to preserve the necessary distinction between the influence of the clergy on their leading disciples as individuals and as rulers. We have already alluded to the moral authority possessed by the prelates over Constantine himself in matters ecclesiastical, and proof is not wanting that, not at the Capital alone but in every province of the Empire, the civil officers paid, even in the exercise of their ordinary functions, a tacit respect to the injunctions and reprimands of their spiritual guides. Without referring to such more splendid examples as the excommunication of Theodosius by Ambrose, or the successful intercession of the Bishop Flavianus with the same Emperor in behalf of the offending citizens of Antioch, we may content ourselves with the positive injunctions of two great Councils* in Spain and Gaul at the commencement of the fourth century, by one of which the civil functionary was prohibited from entering the church during the continuance of his office, and by the other was so far subject to episcopal authority as to be liable to instant excommunication if he failed to carry out on the judgment-seat the principles which in private he professed. Although such interference must have been often brought into play unwarrantably, yet, if we remember into how deep degradation the Roman administration had fallen
* The Councils of Elvira (Can. 56. ap. Routh. Rell. Sac. iv. 269. ed. 2.] (A. D 305) and Arles (Can. 7. ibid. 308.] (A.D. 314). See Neander's Church History. Vol. 111. p. 200 (Ed. Bohn).