Зображення сторінки
[blocks in formation]

Origin, Progress, and Effects of the Monastic Life-Conversion of

the Barbarians to Christianity and Arianism--Prosecution of the
Vandals in Africa Extinction of Arianism among the Bar-

The indissoluble connexion of civil and ecclesiastical affairs has compelled and encouraged me to relate the progress, the persecutions, the establishment, the divisions, the final triumph, and the gradual corruption of Christianity. I have purposely delayed the consideration of two religious events, interesting in the study of human nature, and important in the decline and fall of the Roman empire : I. The institution of the monastic life ;? and, II. The conversion of the northern Barbarians.

I. Prosperity and peace introduced the distinction of the 1. THE MON. vulgar and the Ascetic Christians. The loose and imperfect origin of the practice of religion satisfied the conscience of the multitude. The prince or magistrate, the soldier or merchant, reconciled their fervent zeal, and implicit faith, with the exercise of their profession, the pursuit of their interest, and the indulgence of their passions ; but the Ascetics, who obeyed and abused the rigid precepts of the gospel, were inspired by the savage enthusiasm which represents man as a criminal and God as a tyrant. They seriously renounced the business, and the pleasures, of the age; abjured the use of wine, of flesh, and of marriage ; chastised their body, mortified their affections, and embraced a life of misery, as the price of eternal happiness. In the reign of Con

1 The origin of the monastic institution has been laboriously discussed by Tho. massin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 1419-1426) and Helyot (Hist. des Ordres Monastiques, tom. I. p. 1-66). These authors are very learned and tolerably honest, and their difference of opinion shews the subject in its full extent. Yet the cautious Protestant, who distrusts any popish guides, may consult the seventh book of Bingham's Christian Antiquities. (For sources as to the origin of Monasticism, and for modern works, see Appendix 3.]

. See Euseb. Demonstrat. Evangel. (1. i. p. 20, 21, edit. Græc. Rob. Stephani, Paris, 1545). In his Ecclesiastical History, published twelve years after the Demonstration, Eusebius (L. ii. C. 17) asserts the Christianity of the Therapeutæ ; but he appears ignorant that a similar institution was actually revived in Egypt. (Cp. above, vol. ii. p. 60, n. 163.]

stantine, the Ascetics fled from a profane and degenerate world, to perpetual solitude, or religious society. Like the first Christians of Jerusalem, they resigned the use, or the property, of their temporal possessions ; established regular communities of the same sex, and a similar disposition; and assumed the names of Hermits, Monks, and Anachorets, expressive of their lonely retreat in a natural or artificial desert. They soon acquired the respect of the world, which they despised ; and the loudest applause was bestowed on this Divine PHILOSOPHY, 4 which surpassed, without the aid of science or reason, the laborious virtues of the Grecian schools. The monks might indeed contend with the Stoics in the contempt of fortune, of pain, and of death; the Pythagorean silence and submission were revived in their servile discipline; and they disdained, as firmly as the Cynics themselves, all the forms and decencies of civil society. But the votaries of this Divine Philosophy aspired to imitate a purer and more perfect model. They trod in the footsteps of the prophets, who had retired to the desert;5 and they restored the devout and contemplative life, which had been instituted by the Essenians, in Palestine and Egypt. The philosophic eye of Pliny had surveyed with astonishment a solitary people, who dwelt among the palm-trees near the Dead Sea ; who subsisted without money, who were propagated without women; and who derived from the disgust and repentance of mankind a perpetual supply of voluntary associates.

3. Cassian (Collat. xvii. 5 [Migne, vol. xlix. P. 1095]) claims this origin for the institution of the Cænobites which gradually decayed till it was restored by Antony and his disciples.

• Ωφελιμώτατον γάρ τι χρήμα εις ανθρώπους ελθούσα Θεού ή τοιαύτη φιλοσοφία. These are the expressive words of Sozomen, who copiously and agreeably describes (1. i. C. 12, 13, 14) the origin and progress of this monkish philosophy (see Suicer. Thesaur. Eccles. tom. ii. P: 1441). Some modern writers, Lipsius (tom. iv. p. 448, Manuduct. ad Philosoph. S'oic. iii. 13) and la Mothe le Vayer (tom. ix, de la Vertu des Payens, p. 228-262), have compared the Carmelites to the Pythagoreans, and the Cynics to the Capucins.

5 The Carmelites derive their pedigree, in regular succession, from the prophet Elijah (see the Theses of Beziers, A.D. 1682, in Bayle's Nouvelles de la République des Lettres, Oeuvres, tom. i. p. 82, &c. and the prolix irony of the Ordres Monastiques, an anonymous work, tom. i. p. 1-433. Berlin, 1751). Rome and the inquisition of Spain silenced the profane criticism of the Jesuits of Flanders (Helyot, Hist. des Ordres Monastiques, tom. i. p. 282-300), and the statue of Elijah, the Carmelite, has been erected in the church of St. Peter (Voyages du P. Labat, tom. iii. p. 87).

6 Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 15. Gens sola, et in toto orbe præter ceteras mira, sine ulla feminå, omni venere abdicatâ, sine pecuniâ, socia palmarum. Ita per seculorum millia (incredibile dictu) gens æterna est in quâ nemo nascitur. Tam fæcunda illis aliorum vitæ pænitentia est. He places them just beyond the


Egypt, the fruitful parent of superstition, afforded the first Antony and example of the monastic life. Antony, an illiterate 8 youth of Egypt. A.D. the lower parts of Thebais, distributed his patrimony,' deserted his family and native home, and executed his monastic penance

with original and intrepid fanaticism. After a long and painful ! novitiate among the tombs and in a ruined tower, he boldly ad

vanced into the desert three days' journey to the eastward of the Nile; discovered a lonely spot, which possessed the advantages of shade and water; and fixed his last residence on Mount Colzim near the Red Sea, where an ancient monastery still preserves the name and memory of the saint. 10 The curious devotion of the Christians pursued him to the desert; and, when he was obliged to appear at Alexandria, in the face of mankind, he supported his fame with discretion and dignity. He enjoyed the friendship of Athanasius, whose doctrine he approved; and the Egyptian peasant respectfully declined a respectful invitation from the emperor Constantine. The venerable patriarch (for Antony attained the age of one hundred and five years) beheld the A.D. 251-956 numerous progeny which had been formed by his example and his lessons. The prolific colonies of monks multiplied with rapid increase on the sands of Libya, upon the rocks of Thebais, and in the cities of the Nile. To the south of Alexandria, the mountain, and adjacent desert, of Nitria were peopled by 5000 anachorets; and the traveller may still investigate the ruins of fifty monasteries,

noxious influence of the lake, and names Engaddi and Masada as the nearest towns. The Laura and monastery of St. Sabas could not be far distant from this place. See Reland. Palestin. tom. i. p. 295, tom. ii. p. 763, 874, 880, 890.

7 See Athanas. Op. tom. ii. p. 450-505 (cp. Migne, Patr. Gr., vol. xxvi. p. 835 sqq.) and the Vit. Patrum [ed. 1628), p. 26-74, with Rosweyde's Annotations. The former is the Greek original ; the latter a very ancient Latin version by Evagrius, the friend of St. Jerom.

8 Tpáupata per paleiv o'r nvéoxeto, Athanas. tom. ii. in Vit. St. Anton. p. 452 ; and the assertion of his total ignorance has been received by many of the ancients and moderns. But Tillemont (Mém. Ecclés. tom. vii. p. 666) shows, by some probable arguments, that Antony could read and write in the Coptic, his native tongue, and that he was only a stranger to the Greek letters. The philosopher Synesius (p. 51) acknowledges that the natural genius of Antony did not require the aid of learning.

9 Arura autem erant ei trecentæ uberes, 'et valde optima (Vit. Patr. I. i. p. 36). If the Arura be a square measure of an hundred Egyptian cubits (Rosweyde, Onomasticon ad Vit. Patrum, p. 1014, 1015) and the Egyptian cubit of all ages be equal to twenty-two English inches (Greaves, vol. i. p. 233), the arura will consist of about three-quarters of an English acre.

10 The description of the monastery is given by Jerom (tom. I. p. 248, 249, in Vit. Hilarion. [Migne, vol. xxiii. p. 45]) and the B. Sicard (Missions du Levant, tom. v. p. 122-200).' Their accounts cannot always be reconciled: the father painted from his fancy, and the Jesuit from his experience,

(Tabennisi founded c. A.D. 322)

which were planted in that barren soil by the disciples of Antony. 11 In the Upper Thebais, the vacant Island of Tabenne 12 was occupied by Pachomius, and fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot successively founded nine monasteries of men, and one of women; and the festival of Easter sometimes collected fifty thousand religious persons, who followed his angelic rule of discipline.18 The stately and populous city of Oxyrinchus, the seat of Christian orthodoxy, had devoted the temples, the public edifices, and even the ramparts, to pious and charitable uses ; and the bishop, who might preach in twelve churches, computed ten thousand females, and twenty thousand males, of the monastic profession.14 The Egyptians, who gloried in this marvellous revolution, were disposed to hope, and to believe, that the number of the monks was equal to the remainder of the people ; 15 and posterity might repeat the saying, which had formerly been applied to the sacred animals of the same country, That, in Egypt, it was less difficult to find a god than a man.

Athanasius introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice of the monastic life; and a school of this new philosophy was opened by the disciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate to the holy threshold of the Vatican. The strange and savage appearance of these Egyptians excited, at first, horror and contempt, and at length applause and zealous imitation. The senators, and more especially the matrons, transformed their palaces and villas into religious houses ; and the narrow institution of six Vestals was eclipsed by the frequent monasteries, which were seated on the ruins of ancient temples, and in the

Propagation of the monastic life at Rome. A.D. 341

11 Jerom, tom. I. p. 146 (ep. 22), ad Eustochium. Hist. Lausiac. c. 7, in Vit. Patrum, p. 712. The P. Sicard (Missions du Levant, tom. ii. p. 29-79) visited, and bas described, this desert, which now contains four monasteries, and twenty or thirty monks. See D'Anville, Description de l'Egypte, p. 74.

12 Tabenne is a small island in the Nile, in the diocese of Tentyra or Dendera, between the modern town of Girge and the ruins of ancient Thebes (D'Anville, p. 194). M. de Tillemont doubts whether it was an isle ; but I may conclude, from his own facts, that the primitive name was afterwards transferred to the great monastery of Bau or Pabau (Phbôon] (Mém. Ecclés. tom. vii. p. 678, 688).

13 See in the Codex Regularum (published by Lucas Holstenius, Rome, 1661) a preface of St. Jerom to his Latin version of the Rule of Pachomius, tom. i. p. 61, (See Appendix 3.]

14 Rufin. c. 5, in Vit. Patrum, p. 459. He calls it, civitas ampla valde et populosa, and reckons twelve churches. Strabo (1. xvii. p. 1166 [c. , $ 40]) and Ammianus (xxii. 16) have made honourable mention of Oxyrinchus, whose inhabitants adored a small fish in a magnificent temple.

15 Quanti populi habentur in urbibus, tantae pæne habentur in desertis multitudines monachorum. Rufin. c. 7, in Vít. Patrum, p. 461. He congratulates the fortunate change.

Pontus. A.D.

į midst of the Roman Forum. 16 Inflamed by the example of - Antony, a Syrian youth, whose name was Hilarion, 17 fixed his Hilarton In

dreary abode on a sandy beach, between the sea and a morass, A.D. 328

about seven miles from Gaza. The austere penance, in which - he persisted forty-eight years, diffused a similar enthusiasm ; : and the holy man was followed by a train of two or three thousand

anachorets, whenever he visited the innumerable monasteries of Palestine. The fame of Basil 18 is immortal in the monastic Bastl in history of the East. With a mind that had tasted the learning 360 and eloquence of Athens, with an ambition scarcely to be satisfied by the archbishopric of Cæsarea, Basil retired to a savage solitude in Pontus ; and deigned, for a while, to give laws to the spiritual colonies which he profusely scattered along the coast of the Black Sea. In the West, Martin of Tours,19 a soldier, an hermit, Martin in a bishop, and a saint, established the monasteries of Gaul; two thousand of his disciples followed him to the grave; and his eloquent historian challenges the deserts of Thebais to produce, in a more favourable climate, a champion of equal virtue. The progress of the monks was not less rapid or universal than that of Christianity itself. Every province, and at last every city, of

the empire was filled with their increasing multitudes; and the i bleak and barren isles, from Lerins to Lipari, that arise out of

the Tuscan sea, were chosen by the anachorets, for the place of their voluntary exile. An easy and perpetual intercourse by sea

Gaul. A.D. 370

16 The introduction of the monastic life into Rome and Italy is occasionally mentioned by Jerom (tom. i. p. 119, 120, 199). [There is no reason to doubt Jerome's statement (ep. 127) that Marcella at Rome learned about the hermit Antony and the monk Pachomius from Athanasius. The Index of the Festal Letters states that Antony visited Alexandria, July 27, A.D. 337, and Athanasius must have heard about him on his return from the west at the end of the same year. The Vita Pachomii (see Appendix 3) states that Athanasius became acquainted with the institutions of Pachomius as early as A.D. 329. Hence he could describe the monasticism of Egypt to his friends at Rome during his visit in A.D. 341. Cp. Grützmacher, Pachomius, p. 56.]

17 See the life of Hilarion, by St. Jerom (tom. i. p. 241, 252 (Migne, vol. xxxiii. P. 30, 46]). The stories of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus, by the same author, are admirably told; and the only defect of these pleasing compositions is the want of truth and common sense.

18 His original retreat was in a small village on the banks of the Iris, not far from Neo-Cæsarea. The ten or twelve years of his monastic life were disturbed by long and frequent avocations. Some critics have disputed the authenticity of his Ascetic rules; but the external evidence is weighty, and they can only prove that it is the work of a real or affected enthusiast. See Tillemont, Mém. Ecclés. tom. ix. p. 636-644. Helyot, Hist. des Ordres Monastiques, tom. i. p. 175-181.

19 See his Life, and the three Dialogues by Sulpicius Severus, who asserts (Dialog. i. 16) that the booksellers of Rome were delighted with the quick and ready sale of his popular work.

« НазадПродовжити »