« AnteriorContinuar »
are propagating regarding austerities are really most extraordinary. For example, St. Gundleus, the Welsh hermit, built a church,
“And there he began an abstinent and saintly life; bis dress a hair cloth ; his drink water; bis bread of barley mixed with wood ashes. He rose at midnight and plunged into cold water; and by day he laboured for his livelihood."-p. 7.
St. Gundleus seems to have indulged himself in clean water for his drink. Not so St. Guthlake and St. Bettelin, of whom we are told that
Knowing that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, they lived on barley bread and muddy water, with great abstinence.”—p. 65.
However, whether it was the food or the drink, was of little moment. The muddy water was fully as “ impressive" as the barley bread mixed with ashes; namely, whenever the secret was suffered to escape.
But this is trifling compared with St. Neot's performances, who almost lived in a well that was near his hermitage.
“ In the monastery of Glastonbury he had learnt the mode of self-discipline by which St. Patrick bad attained his saintly eminence, and now in his hermitage he almost rivalled him in austerities. Every morning St. Patrick repeated the Psalter through from end to end, with the hymns and canticles, and two hundred prayers. Every day he celebrated mass, and every hour he drew the holy sign across his breast one hundred times; in the first watch of the night he sung a hundred psalms, and knelt two hundred times upon the ground; and at cockcrow he stood in water, until he said his prayers. Similarly each morning went St. Neot's orisons to heaven from out of his holy well; alike in summer and in the deep winter's cold, bare to bis waist, he too each day repeated the Psalter through."-St. Neot, p. 101. Which must have taken, at a very moderate computation, above four hours—to say nothing of the hymns, canticles, and the two hundred prayers. Why persons should compel themselves to repeat the whole psalter every day, one fails to discover in these books. The authors evidently wish to encourage the Romish notion, that there is something meritorious and expiatory in repeating the same words, crossings, or genuflexions, a certain number of times. Thus they tell of St. Wulstan, that
“Every day at each verse of the Seven Psalms, he bent the knee, and the same at the 119th Psalm at night
Every day he visited the eighteen altars that were in the old Church, bowing seven times before each."-p. 11.
No doubt, this everlasting system of bowing must have been very effective and impressive. For truly it was a “hard life,” to say nothing of his bed; which we are told, “ was the church floor or a narrow board--a book or the altar steps, his pillow,” (ibid.) Rather a strange example--going deliberately to sleep in church—for a saint to set, and one which “ordinary Christians" would not think it creditable to imitate.
But is it not wonderful these authors do not perceive how utterly worthless all such performances must be, when they are thus made matters of exhibition and display? In the extraordinary specimen of aquatic piety, which they describe, in the course of a story told in support of the doctrine of purgatory, it is plain that concealment does not seem to have been even attempted.
“ He had a more private place of residence assigned him in that monastery, where he might apply himself to the service of his Creator in continual prayer.
And as that place lay on the bank of the river, he was wont often to go into the same to do
penance in his body, and many times to dip quite under the water, and to continue saying psalms or prayers in the same as long as he could endure it, standing still sometimes up to the middle, and sometimes to the neck in water; and when he went out from thence ashore, he never took off his cold and frozen garments till they grew warm and dry on his body. And when in the winter the half-broken pieces of ice were swimming about him, which he had himself broken to make room to stand or dip himself in the river, those who beheld it would say, It is wonderful, brother Drithelm, [for so he was called,] that you are able to endure such violent cold;' he simply answered, for he was a man of much simplicity and indifferent wit, • I have seen greater cold.' (referring to his vision of Purgatory.] And when they said, ' It is strange that you will endure such austerity ;' he replied, ' I have seen more austerity.' Thus be continued, through an indefatigable desire of heavenly bliss, to subdue his aged body with daily fasting, till the day of his being called away; and he forwarded the salvation of many by his words and example.”-Št. Wilfrid, p. 187.
However, it is a question of secondary importance, whether men are now persuaded to adopt these austerities, for love of singularity, or pure fanaticism, or a wish to gain influence, or popularity, or power, or to attract notice, or without any very clearly defined motive at all.
This inquiry has to do, not with the motives by which men may be induced to take up Mr. Newman's system, but with the system itself
. And to recall one's steps from this rambling digression, the question is asked again and again, what must be the effects of Mr. Newman's teaching on the subject of Holy Virginity? It is impossible to read such a passage as the following, without feelings of bewilderment almost approaching to disgust :
" Sometimes in the same place persons of both sexes, men and virgins, under the government of one spiritual father, or one spiritual mother, armed with the sword of the Spirit, did erercise the combats of chastity against the powers of darkness, enemies thereto."-St. Ebba, p. 108.
One would be sorry, indeed, to believe such writing as this to be any worse than fanaticism. But what good or Christian meaning it can have, is inexplicable. Surely, if persons of both sexes congregate together to exercise the combats of chastity,” a man must be very enthusiastic indeed who expects anything but mischief to come of it. And that mischief did come of it, is admitted by these authors themselves. They talk, indeed, of “ the holy and beautiful theology of monastic vows, (St. Bega, p. 169,) and if we are to believe them,
"Monastic orders are the very life's blood of a church, monuments of true apostolic Christianity, the refuges of spirituality in the worst times, the nurseries of heroic bishops, the mothers rough-handed and great-bearted missionaries. A Church witbout monasteries is a body with its right arm paralyzed.”—St. Wilfrid, pp. 62, 63.
This is glowing language ; still they are obliged to own that now and then unpleasantnesses did occur.
"Some of the nuns of Watton, it is true, did become savage old maids instead of virgins of Christ."-St. Gilbert, p. 131.
And from what St. Adamnan told St. Ebba, of the state in which he found her monastery, " the holy and beautiful theology of monastic vows” seems to have had but little practical effect there.
“ You and many have need to redeem your sins by good works, and when they cease from the labour of temporal things, then to toil the more readily through the appetite of eternal goods; but very few indeed do so : I have but now visited and examined the whole monastery in order, I have inspected the cells and the beds, and I have found none out of the whole number, except yourself, occupied about the health of his soul; but all, men and women alike, are either slothfully asleep in bed, or watch in
order to sin. Nay, the very cells that were built for praying or reading are now turned into resorts for eating, drinking, talking, and other enticements. The virgius, too, dedicated to God, put off the reverence of their profession, and whenever they have time, take pains in weaving fine robes either to adorn themselves as brides, to the great peril of their monastic state, or to win the admiration of strangers."-St. Adamnan, p. 131.
This, too, was in the seventh century, in a monastery of which a canonized saint was the head. And yet the restoration of monkery seems one of the most favourite projects of this school.
But, besides the tendency to evil of this sort, consider how the superstitious exaltation of virginity tends to destroy right notions on other subjects. On charity, for instance.
“ The youthful Ebba was not allowed quietly to satisfy her thirst for holy virginity; the dazzling offers of the world must come and try her strength; the snare of seeking what is now-a-days called a more extended sphere of usefulness must tempt the simplicity of her self-renunciation. Alas! what a miserable, dwarfish standard of religious practice do these smooth words bring about among us now! The highest notion we are allowed to have of rank, wealth and mental powers is that they should be exercised to the full as means of influence for good ends. The world understands this and does not quarrel with the doctrine. But where is there about this teaching that foolishness in men's eyes which must ever mark the science of the Cross ? Selfabjection surely is the highest of all oblations: to forget the world or to hate it are far better than to work for it
. One is the taste of ordinary Christians : the other the object of the Saints."-St. Ebba, p. 109.
Just as if any one who had ever read the New Testament could be persuaded, that to labour to save human souls and relieve human misery is an inferior order of Christianity; or, that if men will be saints, they must close their eyes and ears against the sufferings and ignorance of the world, and either bury themselves in some solitary nook, far from the call of charity, or else congregate men and women together in some monastery to “exercise the combats of chastity.” But, really, it is useless to appeal to the Bible. Mr. Newman's theory of development makes novelty rather the proof of Catholicity. In his school, it is no small commendation of any form of piety, that (as George Herbert is reported to have said of the style of King James's orations) “it was utterly unknown to the ancients.”
Can anything be imagined more improper, than to induce a little girl of six years of age to make a vow of virginity, or, in fact, to suggest to her imagination such a subject at all ? And yet this is the conduct ascribed to St. German, who, having observed in the midst of the people, "a little girl about six years old,” without having previously known anything whatever about her, not even her name, but merely because he was struck with her countenance, and was, as the author profanely suggests, “endued with a prophetical spirit,” requested her " to open her mind to him, and confess whether she intended to adopt the holy life of a Virgin, and become one of the Spousesof Christ. 'She declared that such was her desire, and that she had cherished it for some time, [being then about six years and entreated him to add his sanction and benediction."-St. German, p. 140.
On this, we are told, he led her to the church, and had a very long service performed, during the whole of which he kept his hand on the child's head.
“ The following day German inquired of Genevieve whether she was still mindful of her late profession.”—p. 141. On which the author adds, in a note, without seeming in the remotest degree conscious of the monstrous nature of the conduct he is describing
* This seems decided proof that the child was very young." The story proceeds
“ Upon which, as if full of the Divine Spirit, she expressed her determination to cet up to it, and desired he would always remember her in his prayers.”
Of course the fable is to be propped up by the usual quantity of profaneness. And, therefore, German acts by“ a prophetical spirit," and the poor child is described as “ full of the Divine Spirit.”
“ While they were conversing, German beheld on the ground a copper coin with the impression of the cross upon it. The interposition of God was deemed manifest.” On this he took up the coin, and gave it to her, and desired her always to wear it round her neck : which gives the author occasion to remark," how early the practice prevailed among Christians of carrying at their neck some token of the mysteries of their religion,” a hint, probably, of the propriety of wearing the scapular, and other Romish charms. It is really high time for those who value the souls of their children, to consider, whether they choose to have such notions as these put into the heads of little girls of six years old.
Nor are these the only particulars in which the piety of Littlemore differs from the notions ordinary Christians have learned from the Holy Scriptures and the Church of England. The manner in which Wilfrid's conduct regarding Etheldreda and her husband is defended, will afford a sufficiently instructive example.
" It was mainly through Wilfrid's attestation that the Church came to know of the perpetual virginity of St. Etheldreda ; and some little of her history must be related here, to clear up what is rather intricate in Wilfrid's life. St. Etheldreda vas married to Egfrid in 660 or thereabouts, and desired to live with him a life of continence. The prince felt a scruple in denying this request ; but after some time had elapsed, seeing the reverence which St. Etheldreda had for Wilfrid, to whom she had given the land for his abbey at Hexham, Egfrid determined to use the bishop's influence in persuading the holy virgin to forego her purpose. He offered Wilfrid large presents in land and money, if he should succeed." How far Wilfrid dissembled with the king, or whether he dissembled at all, we cannot now ascertain : that he practised concealment is clear, and doubtless he thought it a duty in such a matter, and doubtless he was right : it would be presumptuous to apologize for his conduct; he is a canonized Saint in the Catholic Church. Of course, it is not pretended that the lives of the Saints do not afford us warnings by their infirmities, as well as examples by their graces. Only, where a matter is doubtful, it would be surely an awful pride not to speak reverently of those whom the discernment of the Church has canonized. The way in which the Fathers treat of the failings of the blessed Patriarchs should be our model."-Wilfrid, pp. 72, 73.
From this it appears, that the theory of white lies” is not so peculiar to the Romanists of the Sister Island, as has been commonly imagined. But what will Mr. Newman say to such morality as this ? Does he, too, think such disingenuous conduct can be justified, merely by saying that the dissembler was a canonized saint, and that it would be “an awful pride" to speak irreverently of such an one ? Of course, if he disapproved of such doctrine, he would not have permitted it to see the light; though, perhaps, he might have been expected to have brought a little more ingenuity to its justification. In his volume of University Sermons, in a note on the Sermon on Development, he says,
" it is not more than an hyperbole to say that, in certain cases a lie is the nearest approach to truth. This seems the meaning for instance of St. Clement, when he says · He [the Christian] both thinks and speaks the truth, unless when at any time, in the way of treatment, as a physician towards his patients, so for the welfare of the sick he will be false, or will tell a falsehood, as the sophists speak. For instance, the noble apostle circumcised Timothy, yet cried out and wrote circumcision availed not, &c.'-Strom. vii. 9. We are told that • God is not the son of man, that he should repent,' yet, It repented the Lord that he had made man. Univ. Sermons, p. 343.
It is hard to say, whether the profaneness of the latter part of this passage, or the immorality of the principle it is brought to justify, be the more shocking. But what sort of notion can Mr. Newman have of the nature of truth and falsehood ? “A lie the nearest approach to truth!” Really it reminds one of the old gentleman who used to say, that people complained he was always half a note out of tune; but, for his part, he was not a very good judge of music, but he thought that was coming pretty near the mark. And to touch, in passing, on another point. Some people are exceedingly sensitive when Mr. Newman's name is innocently handled, or his integrity questioned. The writer has already stated that he has always disliked allowing this discussion to be made a personal question. But, really, Mr. Newman's partisans would do well to ask themselves, what they would think or say, if they should find such a deliberate attempt to justify falsehood and disho. nesty in the columns of the Record.
The whole subject is in truth most painful and humiliating; and in its consequences it is impossible to calculate the amount of mischief the system propagated by this party, is likely to effect. Nor is it merely from the revulsion produced by their extravagancies and Romanizings, carrying the public headlong into the extremes of Latitudinarianism, and giving occasion for the enemies of Episcopacy and the Church of England to triumph, terrifying and disgusting serious and inquiring persons, setting the laity against the bishop, and the clergy against their congregations :—these are not all the evils to be apprehended ; but over and above all these, are the consequences resulting from the erroneous nature of their teaching regarding celibacy and mortifications. The former topic has been already touched on more than once, though not oftener than the extreme importance of the subject demands. For certainly it would be absurd to expect any other effects than such as one cannot bear to dwell on, if their notions are suffered to be instilled into the minds of children and young persons. And on the other hand, they are casting suspicion over persons of truly respectable character. While at the same time, their mode of caricaturing the habits of self-denial, and making them odious, by the pharisaical spirit of display with which they are connected, ou the one hand, and the fearfully erroneous doctrine of penance and expiation they are mixed up with, on the other, cannot but furnish the worldly and self-indulgent with plausible excuses for closing their hearts against the true and scriptural doctrine of the cross. Hard it is