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FEMALE LIFE IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN TIMES. In most states of society, female life and character are sure indications of the domestic condition of a people. It was so with respect to Constantinople in the fourth century. The city was essentially Greek, and exhibited Grecian influence in everything; yet the depreciation of females, said to have prevailed in the Historical age of Greece, was not transmitted to this great descendant of the Grecian race; in fact, not being properly an European principle, it never took root among the Romans; it could not coexist with Christianity, and the influences of Christianity and of Rome were amalgamated in this new compound of Grecian civilization. Accordingly women have found a conspicuous place in the literature of the time. Our readers shall judge how far the portraiture is satisfactory ; but we must premise that, while our chief informant, St. Chrysostom, cannot surely be false, much of humble excellence might have escaped an eye that was ever scrutinizing the follies of the great, while his own pages show that there were individuals within his personal acquaintance who deserved even his highest commendation.
The personal charms of the ladies are described far more copiously than their mental gifts ; indeed the latter seem to have been in general overlaid by the care bestowed on their outward adornment. Our readers will recollect how decidedly Aristotle tells us that size is one of the virtues of a woman, . but this was not less a virtue in the times of which we are treating, and Gregory Nazianzen forcibly rebukes a kinsman who depreciated his wife only because she was too small. This important particular being assumed, more specific claims were requisite for admission among the belles of the metropolis. The eyes must be full, dark, liquid and rolling; the nose straight, and exquisitely chiselled, with nostrils perfectly proportioned; the teeth of: beautiful arrangement. Thus much was required from Nature; Art, too, was called upon. Painting the face, and dying the eyes with stibium, were appliances that few women could resist. It required the utmost tact to induce one's wife to relinquish them. “Should she be so addicted,” says Chrysostom, “ do not terrify her, do not threaten her; be persuasive and insinuating. Talk “at her by reflecting on neighbours who do the same, tell her she appears “less lovely when thus tampered with. Ask her if she wishes to look young, “and assure her this is the quickest way to look old. Then, finally, come “ down upon her with the warnings of Scripture. You may speak once and “again, and she is invincible, but never desist; be always amiable and bland, “but still persevere. It is worth putting every engine into motion ; if you “succeed, you will no more see lips stained with vermilion, a mouth like that 66 of a bear reeking with gore, nor eyebrows blackened as from a sooty kettle, “nor cheeks plastered like whited sepulchres.” Such is the Saint's exhortation. It shows that the dames of the eastern empire could, at least, make their independence recognized, and affords a striking contrast to the degraded state of their successors in modern times. It is curious, too, to remark how, under every change of circumstance, the fashion of painting the eyes has prevailed in these regions; and, indeed, with habits in many respects so dissimilar, their delicacy and pampered imbecility would have rendered them fit inhabitants of a harem. Their carly training was deplorably defective. Till the period of a very premature marriage, they lived in the deepest seclusion, and we scarcely discern a vestige of mental education. “Whence comes it," says Chrysoston, “ that the sex is so effeminate, but from their method of " rearing? it is the result of their seclusion, their idleness, their baths, their
“ unguents, the infinity of their perfumers, and their downy couches.” A watch was set upon their chambers, the approach even of relations was almost forbidden. It is to be supposed that in childhood they rarely attended the worship of the Church, by boys, we know, it was commonly neglected. But no precautions could avail to prevent the bride from catching distant glances at her intended partner; occasionally, from some lofty window, she peered after the unknown master of her happiness. This, however, was a felicity of which he seldom partook ; the courtship was conducted on his behalf; he was too much intent upon the hippodrome to give himself to such businesslike transactions. The affair was in the hands of his father and motherand innumerable matchmakers. The contract was properly made in the presence of ten witnesses; and by a singular provision, if a wife brought a large dowry, the husband was expected to meet it with a certain amount, which, in the event of her early death, might be claimed by her relations, a plausible method of preventing mercenary marriages, as many would fear to make shipwreck of their all on so uncertain a contingency.
The religious ceremony was performed a day before the civil contract. A bishop or priest joined the hands of the parties and pronounced a blessing ; but at home, not in the presence of the Church. Unquestionably the proceedings of the following day could not have harmonized with any ecclesiastical rite. Our readers need only call to mind the nuptial festivities of Pagan Greece, and they have a picture of those of Christian Constantinople. The seclusion of the bride for her whole previous life was frustrated in an hour. She came forth from her father's door in all the disfigurements of paint; and she, who had scarcely known that a world existed, was first received into it by hosts of drunken and lascivious men-refuse slaves, vagabonds, prostitutes. But, in truth, what she had gained was more than sufficient to compensate for the borrowed splendour which she lost. She had passed from the imprisoned seclusion of her youth to a freedom out of doors, and an authority at home, such as modern high life could scarcely excel.
Woman's most becoming position was when she appeared in all the dignity of the housewife, with her maids in silence spinning at her side ; but this is an exhibition of rare occurrence; far more frequently she is in tumult indoors or fashionable dissipation abroad. In one of her troubles she shared abundantly with inodern mistresses ; her servants were an everlasting grievance; and in the fourth century, thc troops of them retained by the wealthy inhabitants of Constantinople seem to us almost incredible, It was natural that an inexperienced bride should be charmed by the multitude of her maidens, but she little knew what it entailed. As they were property, their bodily ailments were matter of ceaseless solicitude ; but this would have been tolerable, and even things worse than this—the daily vexation in watching over the idle, controlling the mischievous, appeasing the quarrel. some, and correcting countless misdemeanours. Something still graver remains, and in such a swarm it was sure to occur ; at least one would be beautiful. The husband might be truly faithful, but who could brook such a collision ? here was the embarrassment of wealth; she must have multitudes of attendants, and it redounded to her fame that they should be handsome. In such a case it is not difficult to foresee the lengths to which unrestrained power and petulance might prompt her. Hear Chrysostom commenting on Ephesians, chap. iv. v. 31, “Let all clamour be put away." “ Above all things," says he, “let women hear this, for it treats of their " habitual practice. When they are exasperated with their damsels the " whole house re-echoes to the cry, and should the house adjoin the “street, every passenger overhears the screaming mistress and the « shrieking maid : What can be the matter !' bursts from every mouth. " " It is Mrs. So and So beating her maid.' What,” continues the preacher, "may she not beat her? I say not that, for she ought; but not continually, “nor immoderately, nor for household trifles, nor for negligent service merely. " But if she injures her own soul, then all men will approve, and not condemn, “the beating. Yes, if she will not improve, correct her with a rod and blows. " And what am I to do if she paints ? Forbid it. What, if she is given to “ drinking, talking, and scandal? Why how many ladies are the same! But “ many a mistress is so savage as to scourge till one whole day cannot efface “the stripes, and when the unhappy woman next appears in the bath, all this “ cruelty is disclosed. Now she is threatened with the dungeon, now assailed “ with ten thousand oaths and maledictions; first she is a witch, and then a “streetwalker, and next a -- ; for, in her foaming passion, a mistress “ withholds no insults. She strips her, and binds her to the bed-post, “summons her children to the spectacle, and bids her dotard spouse act the “part of the executioner. Ought these things to happen in the house of “ Christians ? Why,” he concludes, “why are you all blushing; or rather, “not all, but such as feel it applicable to themselves ?” We fear that this picture is not much overcoloured; the law had interposed to control the unlimited power of life and death, which masters could formerly exercise, but it had done nothing to repress such scenes as these. Constantine had published two edicts on the treatment of slaves; the first specifies the instrument of punishment which may be used with impunity by the master, even though to death-namely rods and thongs; the second provides more explicitly for this event, and declares that the death of the slave is not to be attributable to unjustifiable usage when inflicted by these means, because the master must be supposed to intend his reformation.
C. J. R.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.-XXXIII.
JOHN OF GOCH. BORN about the beginning of the fifteenth century, in the little town of Goch (then in the Duchy of Cleves, but now within the Rhine province of Prussia), John Pupper, who, according to the common usage of his age, was known as “ John of Goch ”—being so named from the place of his birth-may stand as our first example of the “unknown heroes” of the Reformation. Little is known of his outward life beyond the fact, that he lived and died a monk. In his writings, however, we find his intellectual history; and they are remarkable as showing how much of truth it was possible even for a monkish recluse of the fifteenth century to perceive. It is necessary to mention, in order to understand the sphere of this man's influence, that he was a preacher as well as a monk, and that Mechlin in Brabant, and Sluys in Flanders, appear to have been the chief scenes of his preaching. With no active hostility to the Church; on the contrary, with a belief in the possibility of the Church and Priesthood becoming great moral agencies and valuable aids to the religious enlightenment of the people, we find him quite content with his position as a Churchman; but, at the same time, not the less keenly alive to the distorted Christianity actually found in the Church of his time, and to the necessity of restoring it to what he conceived to be its native beauty. He was, in fact (so to speak), a latent Reformer ; a man who deplored the evil around him, and saw much of truth which the Church taught not. Nay, more, he hesitated not to speak his thoughts, but he did not apply thein, was not a logical man, so far as the connection between his inner perceptions and his outward action was concerned.
Are there not many like him ? Indeed, there are thousands to be found in the Churches of the present day, men who see far beyond the priestly systems they continue to support; men who listen contentedly to the
Reverend Obadiah Blindmole expatiating on the Mosaic Cosmogony, and · yet hesitate not to accept the entire science of Geology, and to teach it
to other men. Human Nature is illogical in such cases; and it is well it is so, otherwise every Calvinist would be a misanthrope, if not a criminal, and every "orthodox Christian ” would ignore reason and scientific truth. . Place men within the fetters of a false system, let logic lead to folly and to sin, and human Nature will burst the fetters, even though it may not acknowledge the fact to itself. In short, in spite of all that priests and theologians say, there is enough of goodness in men to cause them to play the sophist in behalf of truth and duty. It is honourable to human Nature that it cannot avoid being better than the creeds it professes. The blame of compelling it thus to stultify itself lies at the door of Priestcraft, which creates the discrepancy between what it teaches as religion and the perceptions of man's reason. Alas! its blame ends not here; it stultifies some, but makes others criminal.
The principle on which the whole of Goch's teaching was based, was Love. God is love, and is thereby the source of all good. From His 'creative power human love emanates, which is the productive cause of all 'good. Man is, therefore, the created Love, which, having emanated from
God the everlasting and creative Love, will through love raise himself to • God again.' Divested of its theological form, this is the idea of Goch ; in it we see but a resuscitation of the teaching of Christ, the Eternal Truth whereon Christianity is based, and which is the gift, which, as a Religion, it made to humanity. The position of Goch may, therefore, be defined as that of a Christian within the Church of Priestcraft. Priestcraft had buried Christianity beneath the hierarchical system and a load of theological rubbish. Men did not ask regarding the earliest Christians, " What do they believe ?" for their lives were the witness of their faith; but they said of them, “See “ how these Christians love one another !” All this became changed with the triumph of Priestcraft. The law of love--which is the law of Christianity as taught by Christm-is liberty, but the Church had superseded this law, had denied liberty in all its forms, and so destroyed love.
We find that the distinguishing characteristics of the Reformers of the Sixteenth Century were their frequent appeals to Christian antiquity, and their constant repetition of the statement, that their object was to restore the early Church. In Goch's appeal from the dead principles of theology to the living principle of the early Church we see the same tendency as that which marked the Reformation. Alas! for us that the Reformation itself failed in restoring liberty and love; the Church of the Reformation has been as much “cabined, o cribbed, confined," as was the Roman Church, and love is not so much its characteristic as it is of the unreformed communion. In fact, the more we look at it, the more thoroughly we examine it, we shall find that the great boon secured by the Reformation was not so much a religious progress as intellectual freedom within a certain limit. The religious Reformation, as well as the complete assertion of liberty of thought, are things of the Future.
The truth perceived by Goch, and acted on by the early Christians, was never more than an intellectuality with any of the Reformers; although, doubtless, in that shape it moulded their principles and governed their actions. Goch is remarkable in this respect, too, that his reforming tendency was evinced in an attack on the spirit of the entire Church system, into the evils conriected with which he saw as deeply as either Wycliffe or Huss. Their greater importance arises from their activity, and their outspoken defiance of the authority of the Priesthood. They worked, he only thought and wrote. It must be allowed, however, that, while they boldly stormed the enemy's works, he did somewhat towards secretly undermining the citadel. The · Church, for instance, based itself on authority, but what says Goch? “What “a man says or writes is authentic, not because he who says it is great or “honourable, but because what he says is true. For it is Truth alone which “everywhere evinces its efficacy and invincible force, and gives authority to “all speakers.” Get this principle practically to influence men, and on what could the Church of Priestcraft base itself? We find this man, also, asserting the principle of religious liberty by insisting on his right to oppose and refute the Church Fathers with sounder arguments than those they used, “this,” he says, “ may not be agreeable to all, still no one ought to treat with contempt “ what is done from a love of truth.” He acknowledges, too, in many of his writings, the fallibility of the Church. In all this we perceive that, by his teachings, he flatly contradicted the mediæval principle of the Divine authority of the Church, and paved the way for the teaching of Luther.
It was the repetition of such truths, by John of Goch and others, which educated people into thinking differently than the Church had taught them, and, even within the body of the congregations, familiarised men's minds with reform principles. Knowing that this work was going on for a full century before Luther's time, we need no longer resort to the hypotheses of miracles and special providences to account for the rapidity of his success, or the extent of his work. The mine, in fact, was laid, and he applied the match. True, the courage which dared to do this was all his own, and in that lies the main source of his greatness. Christianity, said Goch, was the religion of liberty, and, if the Church is to be the manifestation of Christianity, then the same principle which reigns in Christianity must, also, reign in the Church. Luther said no more; but Goch lived too early, and wanted the energy and courage to become an active Reformer.
The great work of Goch, entitled A Treatise of the Four Errors, was that in which he attacked what appeared to him to be the religious aberrations of his age, and in it we are enabled to trace the deep feeling of a need for Reform which possessed him, as also the extent to which he foreshadowed the work accomplished in the after time. It is composed in the lively form of a dialogue, and the conversation is carried on between the Spirit, as the higher power which instructs; and the Soul, as the inferior, which receives the instruction. At the commencement of the dialogue, the Soul observes that she was evidently intended by the Creator for something great, and she therefore seeks instruction of the Spirit, in order to learn by what means she may, with the greatest degree of certainty, reach her exalted destination. To which the Spirit replies that the Soul is, doubtless, destined for the highest possible good, that it is proper the Soul should aspire with all zeal, after this; but, in order to attain this, the thing above all else indispensably necessary is the light of discretion in other words, the Soul must be guided in her aspirations by Reason : the result is, that the Soul and Spirit undertake to examine into the kind of errors which disturb the peace of Christians, and stand in the way of religious advance.