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know of them besides Him who alone ought to know, they will lie in safety."1 Augustine, too, abounds in passages savoring of the highest spirituality. Take, as a single example, his description of the Christian sacri fice: “Our heart when it rises to Him is His altar; the priest who intercedes for us is His Only-begotten; we sacrifice to Him bleeding victims when we contend for His truth even unto blood; to Him we offer the sweetest incense when we come before Him burning with holy and pious love; to Him we devote and surrender ourselves and His gifts in us. For He is the fountain of our happiness, He the end of all our desires. Being attached to Him, or rather let me say re-attached, for we had detached ourselves and lost hold of Him, being, I say, re-attached to Him, we tend towards Him by love, that we may rest in Him, and find our blessedness by attaining that end. For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God.”2 Despite the adverse tendencies of the age, truths such as these, faithfully incul. cated by many earnest teachers, must have borne much good fruit.
V. - MONASTICISM.
The most extraordinary development in the sphere of Christian life in this era was undoubtedly monasticism. History presents few examples of a more striking conjunction of extremes than we have here. Just as the Church came, on the one hand, into close alliance with the world, and was replenished with elegance and lux: ury, it hastened, on the other, into the most radical repudiation of the world and of the ordinary refinements and comforts of life. Over against the sumptuous prelate, clad in costly vestments, and officiating in a magnificent temple, we have the picture of the half-starved ascetic, clothed in sheepskin, and choosing such habita. tions as nature has appointed to the wild beasts. The origin of such a startling counterpart to a rich and prosperous Church may well claim special attention.
1 Ibid., üi.
2 De Civ. Dei, x. 3.
1. CAUSES. – In inquiring after the causes of Christian monasticism, we are met at once with the fact that monastic life had been widely cultivated before the Christian era. Brahmanism had fostered it in its most radical forms; Buddhism had given it extensive patronage; Judaism had found a place for it in the sects of the Essenes and the Therapeutæ; and even Hellenism had given, to some extent, an example of it in the school of Pythagoras. A glance at these developments cannot fail to suggest the thought that there was a common cause back of them, a cause contributing also to the rise of Christian monasticism. This cause may be defined as the painful consciousness of the alienation of the world, and of the individual in his natural state, from God. Men feeling this, as has been the case in every age not wholly wanting in vitality of religious sentiment, have experienced a powerful incentive to seek for some remedy. In the absence of a far-seeing spiritual philosophy, it was natural that they should resort to the remedy most immediately suggested by the conditions; that is, to an extraordinary renunciation of the world, and an extraordinary crucifixion of the natural
life. What was thus originated by a species of religious earnestness, custom and various accessory influences might combine to perpetuate.
There were, however, in addition to this general incentive, the following specific causes of the rise and spread of Christian monasticism in these centuries : (1) A bias carried over from the preceding period. Centuries of persecution by heathen authorities had caused many to associate the secular world with heathenism and with the evil powers which were supposed to be the patrons of heathenism. After the espousal of Christianity by the State, remnants of this feeling were still at hand; and since the partition-wall between the general Church and the world had been broken down, the inherited feeling of opposition to the latter sought satisfaction in a select and isolated station within the Church. (2) The contagion of heathen ideas. In combating Gnosticism and Manichæism, the Church had formally disowned the idea that matter is essentially evil, and its corollaries respecting the human body. What was combated, however, was so much in the atmosphere of the times, and maintained such prolonged contact with the Church, that it obtained a certain foothold within its borders, despite a formal and theoretical opposition. The body came practically to be regarded by many as a synonyme for the evil part of human nature, and the voluntary persecution of it was looked upon as the highest virtue. (3) A mistaken interpretation of biblical examples. The distinction between the Old and the New Testament order of things was not duly observed. Men of the wilderness, therefore, like Elijah and John the Baptist, were looked upon as models especially worthy of emulation. (4) An over-estimate of martyrdom and a thirst for some equivalent. Not only had martyrdom come to be regarded as a direct path to the glory of heaven: to a large degree it had become in fact a direct path to a cherished and glorified memory among men. Those filled with admiration for the martyrs, and emulous of their heroism, saw this path closed against them by the cessation of persecution. It only remained for them to exhibit their fortitude by the self-imposed trials of the ascetic life. (5) A reaction against the growing worldliness within the Church. (6) Various personal needs and desires. Some, no doubt, entered the monas
. tic life because they sincerely thirsted after fellowship with God, and expected to find in retirement from the world an effectual aid toward spiritual perfection. Some were moved by a desire to atone for serious guilt. Some were instigated by the mere force of example. With some there was no higher motive than a covetousness after the distinction and homage which were seen to accrue to various representatives of monastic rigors. (7) Habituation to the wilderness life into which indi. viduals had been driven by the later persecutions.
2. HISTORICAL OUTLINES.-Several stages, more or less clearly marked, may be distinguished in the history of monasticism: (1) The comparatively unorganized asceticism of the first three centuries, a life of superior abstinence which individuals assumed without being widely separated from the mass of Christians. (2) Anchoretism, or the hermit life, characterized by solitude and great austerity. (3) Cenobite, or cloister
life, nearly simultaneous in its rise with the preceding, but destined to a much more permanent and extensive appropriation within the bounds of Christendom. (4) The rise in the Latin Church of the great orders of the Middle Ages, — orders in which all the cloisters were subject to the same central authority. The Order of Clugny, and still more the Franciscans and the Dominicans, represent this stage.
The first of the hermits, whose name has come down to us, was the semi-mythical Paul of Thebes. Having entered the wilderness as a young man during the Decian persecution, he is said to have dwelt there, in a cave, for ninety years. Among the fabulous stories connected with his memory are the accounts of his having been fed daily by ravens, and of his death having been lamented by two lions, who also did him the honor to scratch him a grave in the sand. The founding of the hermit life, however, is not to be attributed to him so much as to the one who discovered his retreat, the renowned Anthony. If he was not the first of the hermits in point of time, he was still, as Jerome remarks, the first to excite a special zeal for the hermit life.
Anthony was born about 251, at Coma, on the border of the Thebaid. He belonged to a Christian Coptic family. His education was meagre, and seems to have stopped short of the Greek language and literature, at least not to have proceeded beyond the elements. The death of his parents in his eighteenth year devolved upon him the care of the inherited estate. But worldly business was distasteful to his meditative temper. As he heard in the services at church the command which