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acter and training of the mind,- that conscientiously pursued, they cannot fail to elevate and purify both teacher and taught; nay, that an ordinary recitation in an every-day study is itself an exercise and a lesson in morals. Mr. Mill says (p. 76): –
“ The moral or religious influence which an university can exercise, consists less in any express teaching, than in the pervading tone of the place. Whatever it teaches, it should teach as penetrated by a sense of duty; it should present all knowledge as chiefly a means to worthiness of life, given for the double purpose of making each of us practically useful to his fellow-creatures, and of elevating the character of the species itself; exalting and dignifying our nature. There is nothing which spreads more contagiously from teacher to pupil than elevation of sentiment. Often and often have students caught, from the living influence of a professor, a contempt for mean and selfish objects, and a noble ambition to leave the world better than they found it, which they have carried with them throughout life.”
ART. V. - SERVICES OF THE MONASTIC ORDERS.
Les Moines d'Occident depuis Saint Benoît jusqu'à Saint Bernard.
Par LE COMTE DE MONTALEMBERT. Paris et Lyon : Jacques Lecoffre et Cie.
Monk,” said Voltaire, “what is that profession of thine ? It is that of having none; of engaging thyself by an oath to be a slave and a fool, and to live at the expense of others.”
The strange contradiction to ordinary habits exhibited in the monastic life, the excesses and absurdities into which this contradiction was often pushed, and the striking contrast between the actual life of the monk and his theoretical and professed life, have made an easy and inviting subject for wit and ridicule. Monasticism has become a commonplace of satire. Monkish corruption and monkish ignorance have been made bywords. At the time of the Reformation, when the institution was suppressed throughout Protestant Christendom, it had
sunk into complete degeneracy, and the current impression of it then has colored all succeeding estimates of its character. It has thus come to be regarded by many as a patron of idlers, a nurse of ignorance or at least of unreasoning pedantry, a seminary of vice, and a burden upon society.
Yet, if this is its real character, we cannot but wonder at the long period during which this infliction was borne without attempt at removal. We see it already wide spread in the days when the edicts of Roman emperors were the law of the world, when Grecian philosophy flourished in the schools of Antioch and Alexandria, and gladiators fought in the amphitheatres of Rome. We see it passing unimpaired through the deluge of barbarism which overwhelmed so utterly all the other monuments of ancient power and wisdom, spreading over every country of Europe, and enduring through all the violence, disorders, and revolutions of the Middle Age. We find it under emperors and feudal lords, aristocracies and republics, under civilization and barbarism. It subsists unchallenged for more than ten centuries,-centuries not lacking in vicissitudes and storms; and we cannot but ask whether it has been judged aright. Could an institution, precluded by its cardinal principle from renewing its numbers from its own bosom, and therefore requiring constant accessions and support from without, have endured through so many centuries, and under such a variety of circumstances, if it was so mischievous, so profitless, or so absurd, as many would have us believe?
To vindicate the monastic institution from the charges laid against it, to display its great deeds, to restore the aureole to the brows of its forgotten heroes, is the object of the work cited at the head of this article, the third volume of which, after a long delay, has been recently published. Count Montalembert brings to the work an extensive and minute knowledge, a zeal amounting to enthusiasm, a fluent and animated style, and a somewhat too exuberant eloquence. Making use of the data contained in his narrative (which, however, as yet comes down only to the year 633), with other facts scattered in various works, commonly voluminous and not in the hands of the general reader, it is our aim to give a succinct account
of the services for which the world is indebted to the monastic orders.
For six centuries, during the corruptions which attended the decline and the desolations which followed the fall of the Roman empire, the monastic system provided the only secure home for gentler natures, for devout spirits, for studious and inquiring minds. “Had not such retreats,” says Macaulay, “ been scattered here and there among the huts of a miserable peasantry and the castles of a ferocious aristocracy, European society would have consisted merely of beasts of burden and beasts of prey.” It is a beautiful and impressive picture that Whittier has drawn in his little poem, “ The Hermit of the Thebaid,” of the austere anchorite found in his solitude by a little child, and led back by his guidance to the world, to learn that the life of use and patient trust that is found in the home is more than the devotions of the recluse, that a man is more than a saint: and the lesson is full of instruction for us. But it was precisely because such homes and such a life could not be had in that period, that men took refuge in monasteries. “ There would be no need of monasteries,” said Chrysostom, "if the cities were Christian; but the cities are not Christian.” And be more than makes good his statement by the picture he draws of the revolting manners he had beheld in the great cities of the East. Society, after what was called the conversion of the empire, still maintained the institutions, the laws, and the manners of heathenism, and a considerable portion of the people were still avowedly pagan. So, through the first part of the middle ages, society in its customs and spirit was more barbarian and heathen than Christian. The choice was not between the Christian world and the monastery, but between the monastery and all the sufferings, trials, and debasing influence of a world practically pagan or barbarian. Even where true Christian homes could be had, there was no security in the enjoyment of their advantages. They were liable at any moment to be invaded and despoiled. They were privileges full of peril. Often he was happiest who had least to lose. From the invading hordes, from the host of military marauders and freebooters, tyrants and oppressors, the monastery alone,
fortified by the strong bulwarks of sanctity and superstition, gave safe protection. It was the refuge of the weak and the oppressed, the vanquished, the despoiled, and the houseless. In reading the annals of the barbarian age, we continually meet with instances of the victims of rapine, violence, and passion seeking sanctuary in the monastery as the only inviolable retreat. Whatever was most precious was in those days committed to the care of the monks, as for instance the charters of liberty wrested by the people from their despotic masters.
The overthrow of the Roman Empire by the invasion of the barbarians was necessary for the future of civilization and Christianity. By the conversion of the empire, a better image had been imprinted upon the metal; but the metal retained the same composition, and Christianity toiled in vain to purge it of its impurity. It could neither quicken nor renew the body of which it had gained possession. The process of decay had gone on so long, that the rottenness had reached the very bones. The old society must be rent asunder, limb from limb; particle from particle resolved back into its original elements; new life, fresh virtue, new principles of honor, purity, and independence, must be introduced and incorporated; and, from the seething mixture, as from a Medean caldron, came forth the new structure of society. The barbarians were still but barbarians, uncultured and lawless, with the ferocity and brutality of savages, their passions roused to the utmost intensity by the temptations and license of conquest. There was need not only of secure places of shelter from the storm, but that the new element should be tamed and softened ; that its heathen superstitions should be displaced by Christian beliefs ; that ignorance should be enlightened ; that customs should be moulded into correspondence with Christian ideas.
For the inestimable service of Christian missions, no less than for shelter to the imperilled germs of piety and culture, we are indebted to the monastic institution. The monks alone had at once the zeal, the organization, and the moral ascendency the work required. The more simple and less pretentious virtues of Christianity, the sweet graces of domestic fidelity, of gentleness and serenity in the common duties of
life, of purity and honesty and affectionate ministrations among their fellow-men, would have made little if any impression on the rude minds of the barbarians. They wanted more striking signs of holiness, vivid contrasts to their ordinary life, imposing spectacles to awe their rude imagination. The more excessive a man's austerities, the more indubitable the proof of his sincerity and of the power of the faith he taught. The remoter his life from that of ordinary mortals, the nearer would it seem to divinity, and the more likely to enjoy the special favor of God. If in personal qualities or in religious zeal some members of the secular clergy might equal the monks, yet it was hardly possible for them to reach an equal influence, and still more difficult to keep it. The simple priest or bishop stood alone, in great measure without support. Seen every day, he was likely to fall into contempt from mere familiarity: at least, the barbarians would despise his pious customs and unwarlike ways; and often he did not escape maltreatment and pillage at their hands. But it required great hardihood to attack a congregation of holy men within consecrated ground. The concentration of so many saints and 80 many sacred relics within the monastery's walls, hedged it round with a mysterious and awful sanctity, respected even by those who respected nothing else.
Again, the monks were pioneers of free labor and the modern industrial civilization. The ruinous taxation of the later empire, the repeated waves of invasion, the insecurity of property, and the cessation of industry which they caused, had rendered the greater part of Europe waste and desolate. Marshes were formed over whole districts. Wild and tangled forests covered hill and valley, interrupted only by the great watercourses, and inhabited only by wild beasts. Into these uncultivated tracts, into the deepest recesses of these gloomy solitudes, the monks penetrated in little bands, often even singly. They hewed down the dense woods, and erected their stately abbeys. The sagacious founder of the Benedictine Order had seen clearly, that the great danger in the path of monastic life lay in idleness, and had made constant manual or mental occupation, when not engaged in devotional exer