Page images

soon yielded to the exertions of the missionaries, and the harsher features of their origin were insensibly softened under the mild influence of the gospel. Death or slavery was no longer the fate of the conquered Britons : by their submission they were incorporated with the victors, and their lives and property were protected by the equity of their Christian conquerors. The humane idea, that by baptism all men became brethren, contributed to meliorate the condition of slavery, and scattered the seeds of that liberality which gradually undermined, and at length abolished so odious an institution.' Very gradually indeed! These seeds, though sown in no barren soil, were long in maturing; and the topic would scarcely have been touched by Mr. Lingard, had he recollected that the vestiges of this odious institution are to be traced among his brethren the monks, to the very dawn of the Reformation.

Other instances of the success of the gospel, in this period, very conspicuous in Mr. Liugard's eyes, are, to our unpurged vision, somewhat equivocal. In the clerical and monastic establishments, the most sublime of the gospel virtues were carefully practised; even kings descended from their thrones, and exchanged the sceptre for the cowl.' From this passage, the disciples of Mr. Lingard may, not improbably, be led to infer, that, in a certain volume, there exists some specific precept by which kings, in order to attain to the most sublime of the christian virtues, are required to exchange a' sceptre for a cowl.” In that volume we discern a very different spirit. We see the great sovereigns of the chosen people, David and Solomon, Jehosaphat and Josiah, administering judgment and justice, fighting the battles of their country, and actively employed in the various duties of their station to the very close of intellect or life. * Three and twenty Saxon kings, however, and sixty queens and children of kings, were revered as saints by our ancestors. What were the requirements to constitute that species of regal sanctity which excluded Alfred from the catalogue, we stay not to examine. Yet we are far from blaming the voluntary retirement of many Saxon princes; but surely, to descend from one of the thrones of the heptarchy, in the decline of health and spirits, is no such heroic act as to call forth extravagant commendation.--Mere satiety of power, united with the love of quiet incident to old age, has operated with equal force upon heathens :--and when the resolution was once taken, what retreat presented itself in a state of society so rude and turbulent, but the cloister? War and devotion were the two employments which then divided mankind. There were no liberal arts to relieve the irksome languor of declining age; no Salouian gardens to sooth the feelings of an abdicated monarch; no elegant retreat like that of St. Justus, in which, unfettered by VOL. VII. NO, XIII.


[ocr errors]

vows, yet secure from violence, between gentle occupation and calm devotion, he might wait his translation to a better life. The cowl alone was the condition of being admitted within the sacred walls, and to this last and lowest degradation of the regal character, the aged penitent was invited as an atonement for a life of violence and bloodshed. These remarks, though applied to a distant age, are not unseasonable at present. Monastic establishments are olce more formed and fostered amongst ourselves. The same extravagant ideas of merit in voluntary abdication of the world are propagated, in derogation of the great satisfaction for sin: perverse and factitious virtues have been substituted for those of nature and scripture, which, as far as they extend, have rendered the practice of the most important duties of society impossible; have extinguished the mutual charities of life, and yainly taught men to believe, that the farther they recede from the commerce of mankind, the nearer they approach to God.

On the subject of celibacy, we meet with all the sophistry and misrepresentation, which were to be expected from so artful and intrepid a controvertist. ... In this statement, however, he has not failed to avail himself of some mistakes into which Hume and other modern historians have been betrayed by their inattention to the canons of the Saxon church. These writers, we frankly admit, have, in defiance of all original evidence, asserted that the restriction of celibacy was first attempted to be imposed upon the clergy in the tenth century. The authority of Bede, and of the earlier councils, are decisive in referring the restriction to a much higher antiquity. But in making this concession, the cause of Protestantism sustains no injury.

The practice of the Saxon church we repeat, is no authority to us: yet even on this ground we are willing to meet the author, and to shew that, even when the church of Rome, availing itself of the prostrate state of human reason in the ninth and tenth centuries, was making rapid advances to that spiritual tyranny which was perfected in the thirteenth, human nature and the spirit of Saxon independence triumphed over these absurd and unscriptural restraints. In Northumbria it is certain, that for many generations ecclesiastics did actually marry, and a canon, relating to the clergy of that kingdom, applied by the author, without any appearance of scandal, to concubines, really proves to every one acquainted with the language, that it was intended to prevent the repudiation of lawful wives. Lif preose chenau foflere g oppe nime. anabe ma sit. “That is, (says he) if a priest forsake his concubine.' When it is in an Englishman's choice to give up his skill or his honesty, it is usually understood that he will abandon the former. Nir. Lingard is certainly not unacquainted with the Saxon

language. language. What then must be the conclusion when we assure our readers that his interpretation of the word cpen has no other authority to support it than the opprobrious use of the modern quean, and that in no passage which we have ever met with, has it any other meaning than a queen or wife! In the Gothic gospels, where the word first appears, it is used in the same honourable sense : and it occurs repeatedly on Runic tombs commemorating married couples. Wormii Monumenta Danica, l. 2. pp. 112213.

But our persevering ecclesiastic proceeds to argue in favour of elerical celibacy on higher grounds. From the gospel and the epistles of St. Paul, the first Christians had learned to form an exalted sense of the merit of chastity and continency. In all they were revered. From ecclesiastics they were expected. To the latter were supposed more particularly to belong, that voluntary renunciation of sensual pleasure, and that readiness to forsake parents, wife and children for the love of Christ, which the Saviour of mankind required in the more perfect of his disciples, and this idea was strengthened by the reasoning of the apostle, who had observed, that while the married man was necessarily solicitous for the things of this world, the unmarried was at liberty to turn his whole attention to the service of God.'

We should have thought it extremely difficult if not impossible to trace the doctrine of : meriť to him who assured his disciples, that having done all, they were unprofitable servants, or to his apostle, who in a proposition, as humbling as it was universal, declared that all had sinned, and come short of the glory of God but the Church of Rome is possessed of a perverse nostrum for extracting the vilest. dross from the purest gold. The author's next assertion is equally remote from the truth. The precept of forsaking parents, wife and children for the love of Christ, was not, as he affirms, directed to the more perfect of his disciples; but it was the very condition on which mankind were permitted to become his disciples at all. Let the reader judge from the verse to which we are referred. If any man come to me, and hate not father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters; yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.'*

As little is the doctrine of clerical celibacy supported by another text, to which we are also referred. « There be some that have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.' In

We subjoin, for Mr. Lingard's behoof, the exposition of this passage given by a critic, who was but too partial to his own church, and may therefore obtain a hearing, which would be denied to a protestant bigot. Neque enim actus designatur, sed affectus animi isthæc omnia infra Christum ducentis et parati ea amittere, si salvå pietate retineri nequeant. Grotius in Lucam, xiv. 33.

G 2


other words, there were existing among the Jews at that time certain persons, who, from religious motives, lived in a state of voluntary chastity. We say voluntary chastity-which is confirmed by the words which immediately follow. He that is able to receive it let him receive it.' Our Saviour evidently leaves the option to every one, according to his conscience. To ecclesiastics, as such, it can by no interpretation be applied. A layman may have the gift of continency, a priest may not ;-let each therefore act accordingly.

The same answer may be given to the passage quoted from 1 Cor. vii. 32. It is incapable of the remotest application to the clergy

In times of calamity and persecution, the contracting of marriage might be inconvenient and imprudent. “I suppose, therefore,' says the apostle, 'that this is good for the present distress—I say that is good for a man so to be: but, and if thou marry thou hast not sinned; nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.' That is, such tender ties, under the distressful circumstances in which you are likely to be placed, will necessarily relax your fortitude, and endanger your fall. But this is said of the whole body of believers. Yet our author's inference is, that in the contemplation of St. Paul, the embarrassments of wedlock were hostile to the profession of a clergyman at all timeş.

In the next place, the advantages attending clerical celibacy are pleaded from the disinterested and unworldly character, which it has been supposed to produce. Had Augustine and his associates been involved in the embarrassment of marriage, they would never have torn themselves from their homes and country, and have devoted the best portion of their lives to the conversion of distant and unknown barbarians. Of such missionaries as Augustine the author has probably formed a just estimate. Policy and ambition are easily overborne by the force of domestic affection; yet has his walk of study been so exclusive that he has yet to learn that, within the last seven years, persons involved in the embarrassments of marriage have actually torn themselves from their homes, and devoted their lives to the conversion of nations more distant and people more barbarous than the Saxons of this island in the days of Augustine? Or can he have forgotten that an apostle, in whom his church claims an especial interest, carried about with him a wife, a sister, when engaged in the same work; and that his example was followed without scandal or scruple by others of his inspired brethren? Seriously, does he account the apostolical age of inferior attainments in religion? or conceive that the plan of Christian perfection was only partially disclosed by Christ and his apostles, and that it was reserved for the saints, the councils, and


the doctors of his church to finish what they left unaccomplished ? Whatever may be avowed, less than this can scarcely be inferred from their conduct and his arguments.

With such an inference the next assertion is perfectly consistent. The insinuation that a life of continency was above the power of man, was treated with the contempt which it deserved.' To this merited contempt then we are to consign the great apostle.

But if they cannot contain let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.' i Cor. vii. 12. To the same contempt is to be consigned a greater than the apostle who declared on this very subject. All cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. But this spirit of jesting with the most serious things stops short at a point little removed from blasphemy. Bale was a Protestant, a bishop, and a married man, and of him we are told that it is amusing to hear the reasons assigned for his anion with the faithful Dorothy. "Scelestissimi Antichristi characterem illicd abrasi, & ne deinceps in aliquo essem tam detestabilis bestiæ creatura, uxorem accepi Dorotheam fidelem, divinæ huic voci auscultans, qui se non continet nubat. Mr. Lingard is a priest, and we would in charity believe a Christian; but what Christian ever turned into derision a literal and conscientious act of obedience to the precept of an apostle ?

The most pleasing, or rather the least displeasing part of the work, is an account of the monastic institute. On this subject every Catholic writer dwells with an enthusiasm for which we are at a loss to account. The prevalence of religion, as it affects the character of families, or larger communities, is a delightful topic to the ecclesiastical historian. But to these men the precepts of the gospel appear to be weakened in proportion as they expand, to gain in force whatever they receive by contraction. In the history of mankind it is matter of experience that every attempt to divert the natural channel of the passions is mischievous : either they will have their own course, or they will bear every impediment before them while they force another for themselves. It is the business of genuine religion therefore, as the founders of Christianity well knew, to check and controul, but never to divert; to exalt, but not to attempt the suppression of these great springs of human action. The founders of the monastic institute, however, would be wiser than their masters. They laboured to produce a race of beings more than men, and they succeeded in producing one which was less. The first disciples of Anthony and Pachomius were self-degraded, stupid, groveling, illiterate fanatics, no more resembling the patient and manly sufferers for the Christian cause in the first three centuries, than the bungling productions of barbarous imitation resemble the fairest and most

G 3


« PreviousContinue »