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But as to Bernard and Peter; there are two passages in this letter of Peter which I must add to those already given.
“ After this, you adduce some very strange and unheard-of charges, -insomuch that we hesitate to answer, through mere astonishment. You blame us, and say that we are just like secular persons, because we have castles, towns, peasants, servants, and handmaids, and (worse still) revenues arising from tolls; and we accept property of almost every such kind without distinction, hold it unlawfully, and defend it by all sorts of means against those who attack it. You add, that on this account, laying aside our monastic character, we assume that of lawyers, accuse and are accused, produce witnesses from our own body, are concerned (contrary to the apostle's injunction) in judicial proceedings, and cannot therefore be fit for the kingdom of heaven.
“ It would be proper for you who make these charges to substantiate them by some written authority, to which we must yield, and not let them rest on your bare assertion, by which we are not greatly moved. For thus the law requires, that he who accuses any one should prove his charge, sice the burthen of proof always lies on the accuser. Nevertheless, we will here act contrary to this judicial method, and, sparing you, whom we know to be unable to prove your case, we will prove our own in the following manner :
“We know, indeed, that “ the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein ;' but, beside this, we read elsewhere in the same Psalms, . The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth hath he given to the children of men.' It is plain, then, that both the heaven and the earth are the Lord's; but that he has given the earth unto men for a time, that, if they use it well, they may, after the earth, attain unto heaven,* and that what was his by sovereign power, may become man's through his benignity. By which most merciful benignity and most benign mercy, though he hath poised with three fingers the bulk
of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance,'t he nevertheless accepts that same earth, and those earthly gifts, from those same men to whom he had given them, and (if I may so speak) allows the kingdom of heaven to be bought at his own expense. Nor does he thence seek profit for himself, but the salvation of man, and esteems that his own gain. Hence it is, that, while he orders that meat should be given to the hungry, and drink to the thirsty, he previously creates bread in the corn, wine in the grape, and loads the trees with fruit, and the animals with offspring. The very water, for a cup of which given to the needy he has declared that a reward is laid up, he makes to rise from springs, and flow through all the rivers. And, in a word, all the things with regard to which he rewards the goodwill of those who give them, he does himself, first of all, give to those givers. Hence the church of God, grounding its right as well on the Old Testament as on the New, receives all things that are offered, not to her, but to God, as bis representative ; and thence charitably maintains those of her members who are in want, and have no property of their own in the world; as clerks, and monks, or paupers, or whomsoever she knows to suffer the need of such things. Mouks, therefore, (for at present we speak of them only) receive all the offerings of the faithful, whether in moveable or immoveable property; and repay the donors by a perpetual course of prayer, fasting, and good works. But as it is respecting the acceptance of immoveable property that we are now called in question, I will at present answer to that point.
" Post terram mererentur et cælum, et quæ sua erant ex potestate, hominum fierent ex ipsius benignitate.” I believe that I give the true sense of the author, that is, the true sense of mereor-as commonly used by writers of the dark ageswhich is (as I think I could shew by a good many examples, which some criticisms that I have seen have led me to notice, but which it would be out of place here to transcribe,) to arrive at, or obtain, or come to the possession of, some honour or benefit, without reference to personal desert, or what a protestant would understand to be referred to in the popish doctrine of merit. Indeed, whoever understands Peter as aflirming that none but those who have merited heaven sball obtain it, must understand that none do obtain the carth until they have previously merited it. And this is, in fact, true, according to his use of the word, and his meaning.
† Douay vers. Isa. xl. 12, “ Appendit tribus digitis molem terræ."-Vulg.
“ In the first place, then, we plead our rule. For, in treating of the reception of
, perhaps, object, that without the help of all these things, monks
“ Having shewn that it is impossible, I will shew that it would be indecent. Does it not appear indecent-yes, most indecent—that monks, who are directed always to keep in the cloister, devoting themselves most intensely to silence, prayer, reading, and meditation, and the other precepts of the rule and services of the church, should throw up all these things for vulgar and rustic labour ? that those who, like the fine linen of the tabernacle, should adorn its interior by their value and their fine texture, (that is, by the subtle contemplation of heavenly things) should, like hair-cloth on the outside, have to bear the wind and rain, and all the storms,-that is, too great occupation in worldly affairs drawing them away from internal things?
“ And since this, as I have said, is proved to be both indecent and impossible, you must of necessity allow monks some other means of maintaining their order above absolute want; and indeed, if you refuse your permission, we shall nevertheless, relying on the authority of the saint, continue our practice. You have just heard that St. Gregory allowed these things to monks; now observe that he gave them; for thus we read in his life:- When Gregory came to have the full power of disposing of his property, he built six monasteries in Sicily, and stocked them with a sufficient number of monks, to whom he gave as much landed property as might provide a daily maintenance to those who were there serving God.' And of si. Maur we read :— The next day St. Maur went to see and take possession of the royal estate which the king had given to the monastery.' And again—' At the same time, Lothaire, coming to Angers, sent word to the man of God that he wished to come to the monastery. And when the man of God returned an answer that he might come, he set out with a few attendants. And when he had come there, he gave to that place an estate belonging to the royal property, called Blazon; and there, also, by royal authority, he gave the town called Longus-campus.' We find,
# Cap. lviii.
too, that almost all the things which you think that monks ought not to have, were possessed by St. Columban and many other holy monks, whose merits God attested by many and great miracles, and whom the church solemnly commemorates.
“ And now, to add another argument to what we have premised,-who will not think it more right, more expedient, more useful, that every one of those various things which have been specified should be in the hands of those whom the order which they have assumed, and the monastic vow which they have made, bind to a lawful use and possession of them, than of those who, through negligence, and being under the influence of less strict obligation, not merely despise the trouble of good management, but also from an undue love of the things themselves, and by ill management of them, bring on their own destruction ? For as we see commonly, and in almost every case, as long as they are held by secular persons, they are dealt with in a secular manner ; but when the property in them is transferred to the religious, (if they are such, not in name only, but in fact,) then by the religious they will be religiously dealt with. And, for instance, let me specify some things:-Suppose a castle is given to monks, it immediately ceases to be a castle, and becomes an oratory; nor does any one after that fight against corporeal enemies, in a corporeal army, but is employed in repelling spiritual enemies, by spiritual weapons. And thus it comes to pass, that what was before fighting for the devil, now begins to fight for Christ; and what was before a den of thieves, is made a house of prayer. The same argument may be used as to peasants, servants, and handmaids ; and by it we may most excellently prove that monks have a legitimate right to possess them. For everybody sees how secular masters rule over their peasants, servants, and handmaids; for they are not satisfied with their accustomed and due service, but always unmercifully claim their persons with their property, and their property with their persons. Hence it is, that, beside the accustomed payments, they three or four times in the year, or as often as they please, spoil them of their goods; they oppress them with innumerable claims of service; they lay upon them grievous and insupportable burthens. Hence they force many to leave their native soil, and fly to foreign parts, and (what is worse) their very persons, which Christ bath redeemed with so rich a price even his own blood—they are not afraid to sell for one so mean, that is, for money. Now, monks, though they may have such possessions, do not possess them in the same way, but very differently; for they employ only the lawful and due services of the peasants to procure the conveniences of life. They harass them with no exactions, they impose no intolerable burthens, and if they see them in want, they maintain them at their own expense. They have servants and handmaids, not as servants and handmaids, but as brothers and sisters; and, receiving from them reasonable service according to their ability, take care in return that they shall suffer no want or injury; so that they are (to use the words of the apostle) as having nothing, yet possessing all things. By the authorities and arguments which I have adduced, therefore, it is, I think, clear, even to the blind, that monks may not only lawfully possess such things, but even more lawfully than laymen. And why are we to be prohibited from receiving the proceeds of tolls, when it is acknowledged that the princes of this world hold them lawfully? Or, is it thought unlawful for them to possess what the apostle directs their subjects to pay to them-tribyte to whom tribute, custom to whom custom'? Truly we consider that to be lawful which is done all over the world without reproof from the church of God, which passes by no unrighteousness : nobody is excommunicated, nobody is even called in question for it. And since, without the contradiction of any one, they receive them as they do their other rights, why may they not, in like manner, give them to churches and monasteries of God? Why may not monks rightly receive these from them as well as other things ? If you ob ject that St. Matthew, being called by the Lord from the receipt of custom, did not afterwards return to it, as an unrighteous calling, while Peter and the other apostles, who were fishermen, after being in like manner called, were found afterwards fishing, whereby they proved the lawfulness of that occupation, we reply that this does not in any way help your argument, or weaken ours, for we are not defending violent exactions, such as Matthew relinquished, but just, customary, payments, which the church receives.”
There are several reasons, which will, I hope, be apparent, for my quoting this
passage; but one of them is so important that I cannot help distinctly calling attention to it. It gives us a glimpse of one of those features of the dark ages which are the least known, and by
many most reluctantly acknowledged. It goes to shew that, at the darkest periods, the Christian church was the source and spring of civilization, the dispenser of what little comfort and security there was in the things of this world, and the quiet scriptural assertor of the rights of man. Whether, strictly speaking, the monks of the order of St. Benedict had a right to dispense with manual labour, I very much doubt, notwithstanding the abbot Peter's defence of them, which I quote principally to shew that he was not quite the person that he has been represented to be; but it was, and we ought gratefully to acknowledge that it is, a most happy thing for the world that they did not confine themselves to the possession of such small estates as they could cultivate with their own hands. Without at present entering into a subject which is extremely interesting, and for the illustration of which materials are very abundant, I may just observe that the extraordinary benefit which they conferred on society by colonizing waste places-places chosen because they were waste and solitary, and such as could be reclaimed only by the incessant labour of those who were willing to work hard and live hard-lands often given because they were not worth keeping-lands which, for a long while, left their cultivators half starved, and dependent on the charity of those who admired what we must too often call a fanatical zeal,-even the extraordinary benefit, I say, which they conferred on mankind by thus clearing and cultivating, was small in comparison with the advantages derived from them by society, after they had become large proprietors, landlords with more benevolence, and farmers with more intelligence and capital, than any others. One thing, however, is worthy of notice, as shewing that one eccentricity (I do not like to call it a fault, or even a folly, though it seems likely to be punished as a sin,) of the church is not peculiar to modern times, but at least as old as the beginning of the twelfth century,-namely, that these ecclesiastical landlords did not make so much of their property as they might have done, or as would have been made of it by the unprincipled and tyrannical laymen by whom they were surrounded, and too frequently robbed. I think we may infer, from Peter's way of alluding to their mode of dealing with their tenants, and those serfs over whom the law gave them so great a power, that though, in one sense, very careful of their property, they were not careful, or had not the wisdom, to make the most of it. I do not remember to have seen it assigned as a reason for taking away their property, but then (as philosophical historians say) we must consider the spirit of the age. The conservative power which offered the only opposition to brute force was an odd compound of elements. Beside some codes of laws, more or less comprehensive, and extending, with more or less influence, over larger or smaller districts, they had the Bible, and what was, or came to be, the canon law, and the testimony of history, a great deal of superstition, perhaps some religion, and certainly some (if but little) common sense and conscience, all and each of which would have been separately outraged by such a pretext; and they were so blended together, that barefaced and comparatively honest spoliation found it necessary to cut the knot with brute force. It was not merely that fire and sword did the work
more speedily and effectually, but men really had not learned how to meet the spirit of the age, as (could it be revived) it would now be met. People had not then learned that “the lands of the church, destined for the support of public servants, exhibited none of the characters of property. They were inalienable, because it would have been not less absurd for the priesthood to have exercised such anthority over these lands, than it would be for seamen to claim the property of a fleet which they manned, or soldiers that of a fortress they garrisoned."* This is a recent discovery; and indeed the illustration would not have held good in the dark ages, when soldiers and sailors
I must, however, add another extract from this letter of Peter's, concerning his rule, not merely to shew that he did not place all his religion in the punctilious and pharisaical observance of it, but as throwing light on the state and spirit of monastic institutions in his time, as well as the opinions of men concerning them.
“ You have said, 'St. Benedict framed his rule either with or without charity. But that he framed it without charity none of you will dare to affirm, and therefore you do not deny that he framed it with charity. Now, since the rule was framed by charity, it was not meant to be altered; and if not to be altered, then to be kept. Therefore you either act injuriously towards the saint by changing it, or you keep it by entire obedience. And to this we reply– It is clear that the rule was framed by charity, but it is not clear that on that account it is unalterable; nay, from its having been framed by charity, it follows that it may be altered. And to make this evident, let us inquire into what is the office of charity. And what is the office of charity? The one and single office of charity is to seek the salvation of men by all
Our Lord himself, the apostles, all the saints, cry aloud that this is its office. All holy scripture, as I have already repeatedly said, testifies that whatsoever it commands is just; and (what is a still greater argument) the Lord has declared that on it hang all the law and the prophets. This the apostle calls the fulfilling of the law, and the end of the commandment. Of this St. Augustine says, “If this one thing be wanting, all things are vain; if this only be present, all are complete.' of this, too, he says elsewhere, ' But the whole fruit is charity, without which, whatever else a man may have, he is nothing. And in another place, ' Have charity, and do what ye will.' And therefore, to promote the salvation of men, it doth what it will; and if it be lawful for it to do as it will, it was lawful for it to make a law, and lawful also to change it. Nor can it be said that any injury is done to the saint, for it is not altered by another; but by that whiclı, being shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit given to him, used him as an instrument for the composition of that rule. And since it envieth not, is not puffed up, doth not bebave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, those who are filled therewith know nothing of such things; and, being without envy, inflation, and ambition, they know not how to take offence. No injury, then, is done to the saint, for it made his rule according to the circumstances of that time, and when it saw it would be useful so to do, altered what it had itself made, retaining whatever it seemed proper to retain. And as it would be absurd to say that an injury was done to a notary, if he who dictated any document to him should choose afterwards, for some reason known perhaps to himself only, either by his own or another's hand, to alter what he had written, so it would be to say that St. Benedict is injuriously treated, if Charity either by him, if she had so pleased, or by any other whom she shall see fit to employ, should, on sufficient grounds, alter all or any of the things which she originally wrote by him."
• J extract this from a paper in the Congregational Magazine for June, p. 363, entitled, “ Are the Lands occupied by the Church of England the Property of its Members ? ” As this has, I believe, ever since its commencement, been consi. dered as the organ of the most educated part of the orthodox dissenters, the discussion of such a subject in its pages is worth notice on many accounts.