« السابقةمتابعة »
resisting patience, they said, was the portion of the infant church only; but now that she was come to maturity, she ought to correct her children.*
Letter of Peter of Celles to St. Thomas of Canter
THE miseries of Rome were awful subjects of contemplation towards the close of the sixth century. By the removal of the seat of empire, and the successive loss of the provinces, the sources of public and private opulence were exhausted; the lofty tree, under whose shade, the nations of the earth had reposed, was deprived of its leaves and branches; and the sapless trunk was left to wither 'on the ground. Hence, curiosity and ambition no longer attracted the nations to the capital of the world; but, if chance or necessity directed the steps of a wandering stranger, he viewed with horror the vacancy and solitude of the city, and might. have been tempted to ask, Where is the senate, and where is the people? *
Yet, in this very sixth century, according to the report of a Nestorian traveller,
was successfully preached to the Bactrians, he Huns, the Persians, the Indians, the Pers-Armenians, the Medes, and the Elamites. The Barbaric churches, from the Gulf of Persia, to the Persian sea, were almost infinite. The coasts of Malabar and Choromandel, with the island of Ceylon, and even Bengal and Hindostan, were peopled with an increasing multitude of Christians. At Madras, the gospel was preached by St. Thomas; and at the end of the ninth century, his shrine in the neighbourhood was visited by the ambassadors of Alfred of England; and their return, with pearls and spices, rewarded the zeal of the British monarch.*
This was five hundred years before the Portuguese had discovered the passage to the cast by the Cape of Good Hope. Under the reign of the Caliphs, the Nestorian church was diffused from China to Jerusalem and Cyprus; and their numbers, with those of the Jacobites, were computed to surpass the Greek and Latin communities. In the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, the reign of the gospel and the church was extended over Bulgaria, Hungary, Bohemia, Saxony, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland, and Russia. Italy, Gaul, Greece, Britain, and Ireland, Saxon Chronicle, and Will. of Malmsb. + Hist. Hierosol.
land, had long before been converted.
coast of the Baltic, from Holstein to the Gulf of Finland, was not so early invaded under the standard of the cross. The reign of idolatry was not closed, until the conversion of Lithuania, in the fourteenth century. This conversion of the north, truth and candour must indeed acknowledge, says the historian,* imparted many temporal benefits, both to the old and the new Christians. The rudiments of humanity, arts, and sciences, were by this means introduced into the savage countries of the globe. They imbibed the free and generous spirit of the European republic; and gradually shared the light of knowledge, which arose on the western world.
The monasteries, as I have already said, however contributed materially to this improvement. They were, in rude ages, the respectable seminaries of learning, the refuge often of the unfortunate, and the asylums of the poor. They were, at all times, the hospitable roofs, where charity, prompted by religion, dispensed her alms. And scarce any of them are to be traced, where you will not find, that they were the support of the indigent and helpless; or, if nothing better, you
you will at least acknowledge them to have been a happy succedaneum for hospitals.
So early as the fourth century, indeed, I will confess, monks are complained of. This place, says a traveller of those times,* is filled, or rather defiled with men, who fly from the light. They call themselves monks, or solitaries, because they chuse to live alone, without any witnesses of their actions. They fear the gifts of fortune, from the apprehension of losing them; and lest they should be miserable, they embrace a life of voluntary wretchedness. How absurd is their choice! how perverse their understandings to dread the evils, without being able to support the blessings, of the human condition!
I join issue entirely with this traveller; and readily acknowledge, that celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, solitude, and the whole train of unqualified monkish virtues, are, in general, every where rejected by men of sense, because they can serve no valuable purpose. They neither advance a man's fortune in the world, nor render him a more useful member of society; neither qualify him for the entertainment of com