Similar in nature to the vow of seclusion and silence, and equally incompatible with a fulfilment of the obligations of reason and humanity, was the vow of silent contemplation assumed by many of the religious orders. Meditation, abstractly considered, is neither a virtue nor a vice. It derives its merit or demerit from the objects on which it dwells, and the manner in which it employs its faculties. The mind receiving its impression from external objects, and their vividness and profundity being in proportion to the constancy with which they are contemplated, we as naturally become enlightened by what is true, expanded by what is liberal, and animated by what is pleasing, as we are misguided by what is erroneous, contracted by what is illiberal, and depressed by what is gloomy. Amid objects of reality, amid scenes of grandeur, where the subjects are the most numerous and varied, and where the faculties are awakened to their severest and most rigid scrutiny, is the great college in which the understanding is invigorated and improved; in which the fancy is ennobled and chastened; in which the mind acquires those maxims of wisdom, and that ascendency over impulse and illusion which enable it to act in conformity with the principles of happiness and of the human organism.
The process of meditation is the act of comparing facts, deducing conclusions, analyzing compounds, and tracing the chain of cause and effect. Knowledge is the material with which it works; and, in proportion to its accuracy and extent, will be the value and greatness of our elaborations.
But the processes of meditation are not adapted to the acquisition of knowledge. None are so absurd as to expect to obtain a knowledge of grammar, arithmetic, history, astronomy, or of the laws and properties of matter, by the mere exercise of the contemplative powers. To retire into solitude, and endeavor by the guess-work of meditation to acquire even a knowledge of the alphabet, would be as ridiculous as to attempt to make our feet perform the office of our hands. Not less absurd would it be, were we to immure ourselves in the gloom and silence of perpetual confinement, avoiding the objects of Nature and an intercourse with society, with the expectation that by such means, though we possessed the penetration of a Locke, the intellect of a Gibbon, or the versatility of a Voltaire, to acquire anything but profound ignorance; or any ideas but what were unnatural, distorted and misshapen.
To obtain knowledge we must exercise the perceptive faculties. The senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching are the only avenues by which knowledge can reach the mind. He whose observation has been the most comprehensive, and whose investigations have been the most thorough and accurate, is enabled to exercise the contemplative powers with the greatest pleasure and advantage. The distinct and graphic imagery of men, scenes, events, objects and their properties, with which he has stored his mind, will give correctness to his ideas, variety to his mental operations, comprehensiveness to his intellectual view, clearness to his judgment, and truth to his conclusions. Possessing the elements of correctness, he will also possess the elements of happiness and success. He is enabled to open the volume of Nature, and read, in her pages of rocks and stars, sublimer periods than the pen of superstition ever recorded. He stands perpetually in the vestibule of truth, opening on the fields of immensity, strewed with objects of reality, before the blaze of whose overpowering grandeur the throne and empire of fancy dwindle into insignificance. He is enabled to imbibe the fervor, inhale the inspiration, and enjoy the ecstatic delights which scientific truth alone can confer, and which in intensity and purity so far transcend the fanatic's wildest excitement. He is inducted into the secret by which science has achieved all her victories, and by which she has erected in such solid grace and grandeur those literary and philosophical structures which stand like imperishable columns amid the ruin of temples and kingdoms.
But the acquisition of these exalted attainments embraces the exercise of all the intellectual power on appropriate objects. The mental, like the corporeal powers, are various; they are differently organized and adapted to deal with objects of different natures; and, all require to be exercised judiciously, in order to be kept in a healthy tone. If any member of the body is disused, it will be deprived of its natural energy; if any faculty of the mind is disused, it will lose its natural strength. It is only when each faculty of mind and body is properly exercised that the health and vigor of the whole organism can be maintained. The physiological cause of the enervating effects of indolence, and the invigorating consequences of exercise, are found in those laws of the human organism, whereby the blood is increased in a member by exercise, and decreased by inertia, and a proportionable degree of strength imparted by one and, subtracted by the other. Now, the faculties employed in the process of meditation, comprehend but a small number of the mental powers; and if they are exclusively exercised, a superabundant volume of blood will be distributed to them, and they will absorb the aliment necessary for the subsistence of the others. The establishment of this inequality in the distribution of the blood will derange the harmonious condition of the cerebral organs; some will be overcharged, and either inflamed or constipated, and others impoverished or enervated. One class of the mental powers thus becoming over-excited, another class enfeebled, and a third paralyzed, the ideas which the mind, in this condition, is capable of elaborating, must necessarily be partial, defective, disjointed and grotesque; resembling those nightmares that flit in our sleep, or those monsters which are born without limbs, and marked with deformity and distortion. But when all the moral faculties are properly employed, they will all receive their appropriate nourishment and maintain their natural vigor. In consequence of a harmony, equality, unity and reciprocity of mental action, thus induced, all the powers will be preserved in healthy action—the perceptives in furnishing the mind with knowledge, memory in storing it up, order in classifying it, analogy in comparing it, judgment in deducing conclusions from it, taste in selecting what is most appropriate, fancy in adorning it; and all proceeding as naturally as the vital organ elaborates and vitalizes the blood, and the reproductive system transforms it into animal fluids and solids.
But the partial exercise of the mental faculties, embraced in the act of meditation, not only disproportionately develops the cerebral organs; but deranges those which it labors to keep in incessant activity. A period of rest after labor is indispensable to the maintenance of the health and vigor of the cerebral organs. Exercise increases the flow of blood to their parts; repose, by inducing the process of recuperation, not only restores their vigor but increases their healthy volume. The invigorating effect of sleep is derived from the profound slumber into which all the faculties are calmed, except those whose functions are destined to recuperate and vitalize the entire system. To labor to keep the meditative faculties in constant action is to interrupt the process of recuperation; and, consequently, to prevent them from becoming vitalized. The man who attempts to lift a weight beyond the capacity of his muscular vigor, may never afterward be enabled to raise the tenth part of what was within his former ability; and Sir Isaac Newton, whose powers of contemplation seemed almost superhuman, after he had enervated his facilities by impelling them to constant and excessive exercise, has furnished the world with an illustration of the imbecility it engendered, by his works on the prophecies.
But the principle of self-preservation inherent in the human mind, rebels against the destruction of its faculties. Habitually to exercise the contemplative faculties on one class of objects is a superhuman task. In spite of resistance the blood will pursue its natural course to the different organs of the brain, and by virtue of this fact, in conjunction with the natural condition of the system, instinct will prompt, thought intrude, emotion arise, appetite crave, passion yearn, distraction ensue; and under the external semblance of sanctity, a moral volcano will burn and heave. We may, by means of the theological subterfuge that the involuntary actions of the cerebral functions are the suggestion of impure and malignant fiends, apologize to our conscience for the intrusion of profane and worldly thoughts, but this device will not exorcise them. We shall find that in the effort to become automata, we are men; and that in the attempt to exercise one class of faculties and to concentrate: them perpetually on one class of objects, we have grappled with a giant, over whom, if we triumph it will be in our death-struggle.
It is impossible to think and feel by rule. Neither particular trains of thought, nor particular kinds of emotion are at the command of the will. Belief or unbelief, the sensations of contrition, of devotion, of hope, or any other sentiment or feeling can no moro be created by an act of volition, than can storms and earthquakes.. There is a secret power acting on the nervous system, over which the will has no control.
The state of the atmosphere, the sanity of the system, the unconscious power of imbibed principles, the recollections of the past, the circumstances of the present, and the prospects of the future, all like unseen spirits stir the soul's depths with ideas and passions, always involuntary, and sometimes as abruptly as an electrical flash. To attempt to subject the laws by which ideas and emotions are created to the power of the will, so that they may be conjured and shaped by its mandates, is to war, not only against the constitution of the human mind, but against the powers and elements of Nature.
Let us consider the character and products of the mind which the monastic vow of silent contemplation is calculated to create.
When liberal education has disciplined the intellectual powers, and study has enriched the mind with the facts and principles of science and literature, a philosopher may find in solitude an influence congenial to his high pursuits; and with his scientific instruments enlarging his field of vision, he may discover new secrets in the realms of Nature, and come forth from retirement a more useful member and a brighter ornament of society. But if with distinguished abilities, and the valuable results of an erudite industry, he should maintain perpetual silence, and continue for life in a secluded abode, he would be of no benefit to mankind, and neither win nor deserve the homage which they accord to scientific benefactors.
But the monks were very far from being philosophers. They were in general exceedingly illiterate. Some of their orders actually interdicted as profane any attempt to cultivate the intellectual powers, or to acquire either scientific or literary information. Filled with abject and obscene pilgrims, with slaves who knew of nothing but manual labor, with mechanics whose scanty wages had precluded the possibility of a rudimental education, with soldiers who had no knowledge but that of war, and who had fled before the victorious barbarian into obscurity for safety, it could not be expected that the monasteries with such material, imprisoned in solitude, deprived of social communion, enervated in mental capacity, and restricted in the exercise of their intellectual powers, could ever give birth to philosophers, or to anything but mental imbecility and moral monstrosities.
It has been alleged in favor of monastic institutions that they have originated and were sustained from a pious intention of affording the devout an asylum, where, secluded from the distractions of life, and occupied in silent contemplation on death and judgment, they might fit themselves for the society of God and angels. That such a motive has at times mingled with the causes which have induced individuals to assume the monastic vow, is undoubtedly true; but had it been in every instance the only incentive it would not have made the act less irrational, unnatural and pernicious. Such a plea, in fact, would only prove that monastic piety was identical with Pagan piety. Long before the origin of Christianity, religious orders existed in India, which sought by means of the destruction of all corporeality and intellectual activity, an incorporation with the nature of God, and the realization of a state of perfect happiness.
But an act may be absurd and pernicious, while its motive is pure; and it is always absurd when its objects are imaginary, and pernicious when they are in violation of the dictate of reason. The monastic vows and regulations were ill calculated to make men either happy, enlightened, or useful. Encaverned in solitude, the monks could not become extensively acquainted with the objects of Nature; preserving perpetual silence, they could not materially enlarge each others' information; exercising but one class of the mental organs, they could not form the numerous order of conceptions perfected only by the review of all the faculties. Isolated from human contiguity, walled up in a dungeon, or incarcerated in a monastic cell, the mind overtasked with labor, broken down by fatigue, prostrated yet urged to action, one class of the faculties paralyzed, another inflamed to frenzy, and all concentrated in silent contemplation on terrible and incomprehensible subjects, partial or complete insanity would ensue; incongruity would become tasteful, exaggerations natural, impossibilities credible, shadows realities, and visions, fiends, and angels take possession of the mind. The productions of such a mind, being a transcript of its impressions, would present nothing as real or symmetrical; but everything as disfigured, indistinct, shadowy, inharmoniously blended, or superlatively gigantic. Misshapen dwarfs, huge giants, beings that were neither men, nor beasts, nor birds, nor fishes, nor angels, nor demons, but an incongruous mixture of them all, would be its natural offspring. Men with birds' wings, beasts with human heads, women with fishes' scales, and animals variously compounded of the limbs, claws, and beaks, all in violation of the natural order of Nature, and incompatible with the laws of life, would spring in horrible profusion from the distorted imagination of the monks.
All ideas of proportion, adaptation and utility would be transgressed in their creations. They might regale credulity with an account of cities fifteen hundred miles high, with asses reproving prophets, with snakes conversing with women, with immaterial beings fluttering on ponderable pinions, and with angels whose heads reached the stars, but whose forms were so hugely disproportioned, that while one foot rested on an insignificant portion of the isle of Patmos, the other would rest on a like portion of the Mediterranean sea. The scenery, caught from the gloom of forests, caves or cloisters, would naturally wear an infernal aspect, where there would be shape, but no symmetry; color but no contrast nor harmony; where immaterial beings would be represented as tormented with the flames and suffocating effects of liquid brimstone; where they would shriek and groan without vocal organs, war and wound with material swords, and where corporeality and incorporeality would be compounded in every variety and degree of inconsistency. If in the intervals of the monk's gloomy ravings he should attempt a more cheerful picture, the scene which he would probably portray might glitter with gold and gems where they would be of no service; but it would be pervaded by an awfulness which would be depressing, and by a splendor which would be terrifying. The music might be loud enough to shake Nature to its foundation, but it would naturally be monotonous, perhaps consisting of one tone and one song, eternally sung by beings without throats, assisted by the trumpets and harps invented by mortals; and had pianos, fiddles and accordians been early enough invented, they too, would probably have chimed In the grand chorus. Beside the music of the operatic troupe, the other recreations would probably be so incompatible with the principles of human enjoyment, and make the monk's very heaven so awfully repulsive, that common sense would prudently shrink from partaking of its glory. Thus the conceptions of virtue and of vice, of perfect happiness and of perfect misery, of metaphysical and of theological dogmas, formed by the distempered brains of hermits and monks, while they might be awfully effulgent or in-supportably horrible, would be conflicting in their parts, inconsistent with pure ideas of men, of phantoms, or of things; and such a strange commingling of incongruities as might remind reflections of the huts and palaces of Christian Rome, which are constructed of the tombs, alters, temples and palaces of Pagan Rome.
What reason would naturally deduce from the character of the monastic vows and rules, is amply confirmed by the facts of history. Housed with silent, ignorant and gloomy companions, the monks contemplated not the realities of truth, but the fictions of a distempered fancy; and while they scorned the first as profane, they trembled before the second as a dread reality. Conceiving the deity as a monarch, they thought of him as a tyrant; and believing their nature depraved, they punished themselves as criminals. As they imagined freedom of thought sinful, they acquired the temper of a slave; and as they were incapable of reasoning themselves, they accepted as truth whatever their ecclesiastical tyrants dictated. Impressed with the fancy that demons had taken possession of their bodies, they attempted to dislodge them by making their abode as uncomfortable as possible.
After having manacled their limbs with the heaviest chains, and lacerated their bodies in the most horrible manner, they were surprised at finding that they had not yet destroyed their constitutional principles and appetites; and regarding themselves still as objects of divine wrath, they trembled as if a fiery and bottomless pit yawned at their feet. While they labored by monastic rules and exercises to fit themselves for the society of God and angels, they rendered themselves unfit for the society of human beings. The perceptive powers uninformed, and inflamed by disease, furnishing nothing but extravagant and perverted ideas, and the fancy combining them only into monstrous and hideous shapes, the mind became perpetually filled with the most horrible images. The superabundant volume of blood consequent on overwrought excitement, distending the blood vessels of the visual and auditory organs, and causing them unnaturally to press against these organs, gave a vivid distinctness to the impressions, and so brought out the mental perspective as to give the complexion and distinctness of reality. In consequence of the condition of mind thus induced, the sights and sounds conceived by fancy were recognized as real by the perceptive organs. The senses thus recognizing visions as realities, the life of the recluse was doomed to become an incessant struggle, not only with real disease, but with imaginary demons. Less refined in their mythology than the Pagans, who regarded the earth, air and water as peopled with genii, naiads and fairies, they conceived them inhabited by malignant fiends.
The monks often fancied that they saw the misshapen forms of demons, and heard their diabolical whispers. Too illiterate or obtuse to account for natural phenomena, they supposed that they had a hand in regulating the operations of Nature; and, too unacquainted with the habits of the brute creation to understand their mechanical capacity, they regarded the contrivances of animals as the undoubted fruit of a nocturnal adventure of the infernal inhabitants. They often conceived that they saw His Satanic Majesty, with all his distinguishing appendages, such as his cloven foot, his sooty aspect, his peculiar horns, and sulphurous odor. Although his visitations were most formidable in the shape of a woman, yet they frequently had the uncommon fortitude of sustaining long conversations with him.
The more pious a monk was, the more frequently he was honored with the company of demons. This fact is not surprising, for it is certain that the more successfully he warred against nature and himself, the more diseased would become his brain, the more extravagant his conceptions, the more discordant his imagination, the more susceptible his senses to false impressions, the more frequent and terrible would apparitions appear, and the better he would be suited for the company of fiends and spirits. If in the vigorous and wholesome bustle of life, the visual organs may recognize images which have no real existence, the auditory, sounds which are imaginary, and the olfactory, odors which are the mere products of fancy, how much more vividly would analogous deceptions be likely to occur in the minds of monks and anchorites, whose condition was replete with causes calculated to create, them. Such was the melancholy condition of those monks, who, aspiring after superhuman sanctification, had with sincerity of purpose assumed the monastic obligation; But there were others who, more ambitious of fame than of internal purity, had assumed the same obligations. Professedly despising pleasure and fortune, but secretly laboring to acquire their possession, they manufactured with more facility diabolical apparitions, than those which spontaneously sprang from the overwrought brain of the sincere.
Sanctification having become the passport to worldly honors, and its degree orthodoxly estimated by the degrees of personal familiarity with the Devil, the aspiring were too frail to resist the temptation of increasing their celebrity by multiplying the number of satanic visits; and as they could draw on an inexhaustible mine of conscienceless inventions, and deliberately adorn them with the terrific and interesting incidents of romance, they far outstripped the reputation of the sincere, and with greater facility obtained the emoluments of ecclesiastical sinecures. The sense of touch not being equally susceptible of false impressions with the other senses, while the sincere might see demons and hear their voices, they could not so well recognize them by means of contact. But the hypocritical, untrammeled by this limitation, would create by their inventive faculties any number of personal encounters and terrific battles with the armies of the infernal regions.
Although the monks sometimes relate how completely they vanquished the Devil by their eloquence and the ingenuity of their arguments, yet they oftener tell how valorously they triumphed over him after a desperate struggle with his superhuman strength; and not seldom, how alone and single-handed they encountered him in command of a battalion of fiends, inflicting on the spiritual bodies of the demons such deep gashes, and cutting up their impalpable substances in such a horrible manner that, wounded, bleeding and demoralized, they retreated in wild disorder. As the monkish cell, like the human brain, could accommodate any number of devils, it was as convenient a hall of audience in which to receive His Satanic Majesty, as it was an area for the scientific manoeuvering of his legions. The crown of sanctification being awarded to the most unscrupulous inventor of pious fictions, a hypocrite was encouraged to labor to outrival the fame of an antagonist by the boldness of his assertions, the extravagance of his fables, and the incredibleness of his fabrications. Under such circumstances we are not astonished to find that some claimed to have obtained a perfection in holiness that enabled them to see the Devil anywhere, and to look upon hell at any time.
Even at the period of the Reformation, the popular belief recognized the Devil and his imps as often visible. Martin Luther, while engaged in translating the Bible, conceived that he saw the Devil enter his study, for the purpose of embarrassing him in the execution of his useful design. Annoyed at this unceremonious and impertinent intrusion, he threw at His Satanic Majesty an inkstand, which, passing through the dusky form and striking the wall beyond, left a stain which is visible to this day.
The profound homage won by the monks from ignorance and superstition, gave such credit to their extravagant productions, that history has sometimes been led into the error of recording them as real events; and the craft or credulity of the church in incorporating them in her devotional books has so deepened and perpetuated reverence for them, that, even at the present day, they continue still to govern in a measure the superstition, and to contaminate the creed and ritual of reformed churches.
It has been alleged, with apparent plausibility, in favor of monastic institutions, that they were during the middle ages the protectors of learning. But, unfortunately, this noble virtue can be justly claimed for only a few of them; and for that few in but a limited sense. Some of the inmates being unfit for more remunerative employment were subjected to the drudgery of copying manuscript; sometimes the task was imposed on others as a penance. The aged and infirm of the Benedictine monks were thus employed; and, as the multiplication of manuscripts is the most efficient mode of preserving what is written on the perishable material of paper and parchment, these monks have contributed to the preservation of learning. But inveterate prejudice, obstinate bigotry, gross ignorance, and abject servitude were ill qualified to render correct versions, while they were well adapted to the perpetration of fraud and corruption. Transcribing manuscripts, not to produce accurate copies, but to consume time or do penance, and governed by the misleading principles of their order, it is not as likely that the monks would furnish authentic and reliable transcripts, as that they would mar them with errors, embellish them with fancies, and interpolate them with forgeries and wilful corruptions.
While such was the literary honesty of the religious orders, and such likely to be the character of their manuscripts, the ignorance and superstition of the age favored rather than obstructed the perpetration of any pious fraud they might contemplate. A few facts will illustrate the incredible ignorance of the Catholic clergy during the dark ages. A Jew, converted to Christianity but not to truth, having persuaded the Emperor Maximilian that the Hebrew works, the Old Testament excepted, were all of pernicious tendency, the latter, at the horrible revelation, ordered them to to be burnt. The learned Reuchlen earnestly remonstrated against the imperial decree, and succeeded in having its execution postponed until the matter of the allegation could be critically examined. A controversy of ten years ensued. So grossly ignorant were the clergy that not one of them with whom Reuchlen debated had ever seen a Greek Testament, and as for the Hebrew Bible, they denounced its alphabetical characters as the diabolical invention of some profane sorcerer. So obstinate was their opposition to Hebrew literature that they declared their readiness to support their cause at the point of the sword. Neither the Pope nor the cardinals having sufficient learning to decide on the merits of the question, the former was induced to appoint as umpire the archbishop of Spires, whose decision happily rescued oriental literature from the flames of the stake. Pope Sylvester II., whose literary attainments were superior to those of the clergy of his age, was regarded as a magician who held unhallowed converse with infernal demons. St. Augustin, who was ignorant of the Greek tongue, and whose learning was sufficiently superficial to prepare him for canonization, pronounced the doctrine of the antipodes a blasphemous heresy; and Pope Zachariah degraded a friar for indorsing it, and excommunicated all Catholics who should believe it. The patriarch Cyrille declared that neither he, nor the Vandal clergy, nor the African clergy understood the Latin language. St. Hilary asserts from his personal knowledge that but few of the prelates in the ten provinces of Asia preserved the knowledge of the true god. (Hilar, de Synodis. c. 63, p. 1186). It might reasonably be supposed that the ecclesiastical councils, composed of the most influential bishops, priests and abbots, would comprehend among their members many distinguished scholars, yet according to the authority of Pope Gregory II., the councils at his time were composed of men, not only ignorant of letters, but of the scriptures. According to the testimony of Sabinus, bishop of Heraclea, the Nicene bishops were "a set of illiterate, simple creatures that understood nothing," and Cassian charges the Egyptian monks of having ignorantly preached Epicurean Paganism as the gospel of Christ. Among the crowd of slaves, soldiers, lords and priests that thronged the convents, the sign of the cross, the sign of ignorance, was a general mode of executing contracts, as all could make it, though few could write their names.
That the literary progress of the church has not kept pace with the progress of the world, will be attested by a few extracts from a work written by William Hogan, formerly a Catholic priest of Philadelphia, comprising an essay entitled, "A Synopsis of Popery, as it was and as it is," and another entitled, "Auricular Confession and Popish Nunneries," published at Hartford, by Silas Andrew and Son, in 1850—a work that may be profitably consulted by parents who educate their daughters at nunnery schools, and by gentlemen who contemplate forming matrimonial alliances with ladies who have been accomplished at such institutions. Speaking of the ecclesiastical canons the author says: "These canons are inaccessible to the majority of the American people, even of theologians, and with the purport or meaning of them none but those who have been educated Catholic priests have much or any acquaintance. He who argues with Catholic priests must have had his education with them, he must be of them and from among them. He must know from experience that they will stop at no falsehood where the good of the church is concerned; he must know that they will scruple at no forgery when they desire to establish any point of doctrine, fundamentally or not fundamentally, which is not taught by the church; he must be aware that it is a standing rule with the Popish priests, in all their controversies with Protestants, to admit nothing and deny everything, and that if still driven into difficulty they will have recourse to the archives of the church, where they keep piles of decretals, canons, receipts, bulls, excommunications and interdicts, ready for all such emergencies, some of them dated from 300 to 1000 years before they were written or thought of, showing more clearly than perhaps anything else the extreme ignorance of mankind between the third and ninth century, when these forgeries were palmed on the world." (Synopsis, p. 9, 10). Again, he observes: "The majority of Catholics in this country know nothing of the religion which they profess, and for which they are willing to fight, contend, and shed the blood of their fellow beings. I am not even hazarding an assertion when I say there is not one of them that has read the gospel through, or that knows any more about the religion he professes than he does about the Koran of Mohammed. He is told by the priest that Christ established a church on earth; that it is infallible, and that he must submit implicitly to what its popes, priests and bishops teach, under pain of 'damnation.' This is all the great mass of Catholics know of religion; this is all they are required to learn; and hence it is that these people are unacquainted with the pretensions of the Pope, the intrigues of the Jesuits, and the imposition practised on them by their bishops and priests." (Synopsis, p. 29). Speaking of the theological education of the priests, he says: "During the four years I spent in the college of Maynooth, they (the scriptures) formed no portion of the education of the students. It is my firm conviction, that out of the large number of students there for the ministry, there was not one who read the gospels through, nor even portions of them, except such as are found in detached passages, in works of controversy between Catholics and Protestants. Until I went to college I scarcely ever heard of a Bible. I know not of one in any parish of Munster, except it may be a Latin one, which each priest may or may not have, as he pleases. But I studied closely the holy fathers of the church; so did most of the students. We were taught to rely upon them as our sole guide in morals, and the only correct interpreters of the Bible. A right of private judgment was entirely denied us, and represented as the source of multifarious errors. The Bible, in fact, we had no veneration for. It was, in truth, but a dead letter in the college; it was a sealed book to us, though there were not an equal number of students who were obliged to study more closely the sayings, the sophistry, the metaphysics and mystic doctrines of those raving dreamers called holy fathers; many of whom, if now living would be deemed mad, and dealt with accordingly." (Auric. Confess., vol. 1, p. 79, 80).
But to return to the consideration of the monks. The pen of transcribers, so generally ignorant, and so grossly superstitious, could not render authentic manuscripts even when actuated by the best intention; and when we recollect that the task which required the exercise of an enlightened and vigorous intellect was devolved on the most diseased and infirm of the religious orders, the impossibility of its effectual performance will appear without a doubt. As ignorance could not transcribe masterly, so superstition would pervert intentionally. Conscience paralyzed by bigotry, and the love of truth supplanted by a careful regard to the interests of the church, the copyists would esteem it a Christian duty to omit such parts of a manuscript as militated against the truth of their religion; to corrupt such parts as might by perversion be made to administer to its support; and to interpolate such parts with occurrences and apparent incidental allusions to events, the omission of which was fatal to its credibility; and thus by a system of typographical frauds, deliberate falsehoods and artful perversions, contrive to make it appear that all Jewish and Pagan literature concurred in establishing Catholicism.
The classics, unlike the canonical scriptures, have been subjected to the purifying process of rigid criticism, and the monkish corruptions which once perverted the meaning, are in a great measure eradicated from modern editions. Had the New Testament been subjected to a similar ordeal, such for instance as the learned Strauss, in his Life of Christ, instituted, Infidels might have fewer objections to the gospels, and the credit of these sacred books be far better sustained than it has been by voluminous commentaries, declamatory sermons and conflicting polemical works, defending the grossest frauds and the boldest interpolations.
The bigotry or fear of the church, which induced it to corrupt the works of ancient authors, led it also to wage an exterminating war against those profane productions which it could not satisfactorily answer. For this purpose the secular power was invoked, and laws were framed prescribing the severest penalty for those who should read or possess a Pagan production. The persecution against philosophers and their libraries was carried on with such pious insanity that besides its causing piles of manuscripts to be destroyed, men of letters burned their elegant libraries, lest some volume contained in them should jeopardize their lives. Young Chrysostom, happening once to find a proscribed volume, gave himself up for lost. St. Jerome, in order to deter his readers from perusing any of the heathen authors, declared he had been scourged by an angel for reading the productions of Virgil. The Orthodox Theodosius, in the destruction of the Alexandrian library, consigned to the flames the literary treasures of antiquity. The bare thought of the existence of works which baffled the talent and learning of the church to refute, irritated the sensitive piety of the monks beyond endurance. They pursued the masterly productions of Celsus and Porphery with an unscrupulousness which seemed to indicate that the annihilation of them was indispensable to the existence of Christianity. After malice had ferreted every crevice where a proscribed volume could be secreted, and vengance had not left a vestige of any of them remaining, except what was quoted or perverted in the works of Christian apologists, the Church boasted that God had not left a work of hostile literature in existence. With not less blasphemy and bigotry has the same absurdity been echoed by dishonest, ignorant theologians of all ages. So wide and unsparing was the monkish war against classic literature, that it has left no work in existence belonging to the period of Christ; and hence where knowledge is the most needed the historian finds the least; and where the facts might be expected to be the most abundant and of the clearest description, the wildest and most ridiculous fancies are presented. The necessity for this destruction proves the power of the works destroyed, and the alarm and weakness of the faith that destroyed them.
Beside the destructive hostility of the monks to the formidable literary obstacles which embarrassed the vindication of their theological subtleties, their zeal led them to perpetrate the grossest forgeries in order to manufacture historical data in their favor. Prominent among the numerous instances of this disregard to truth, are the following passages conceded by all scholars to be entire fabrications. The passage in the works of Phlegon, in which he is made to speak of a total eclipse of the sun and a simultaneous earthquake; a passage in Macrobius, which represents the author as incidentally referring to the death of a son of his as having occurred in consequence of a jealous order issued by Herod for the massacre of all children under two years old; the Epistle of Lentulus, prefect of Judaea at the time of Christ, who is represented as describing the person and character of Christ, in a governmental despatch, which according to prefectorial custom was encumbent on him, in transmitting to Rome a report of all important events occurring within the limits of his jurisdiction; the legend of the Veronica handkerchief in which it is related how Abgarus, king of Edessa, sent ambassadors to Christ to solicit the favor of his portrait, and how wiping his face with a handkerchief, and thereby impressing his features on it, politely accommodated the legation; the Epistle of Pontius Pilate to the Emperor Tiberius, in which he is made to relate the alleged circumstances of the death and resurrection of Christ; the fabulous inscriptions on two fabulous columns, said to be situated near Tangiers, relating to a robber called Joshua, son of Nun; and all the passages found in Josephus in reference to Christ.
Origen, who wrote in the second century, complains that his own works had been altered; and the practice of this base species of dishonesty seems to have fearfully increased with the growth of the Church. The monk Jerome, in the fourth century, finding the versions of the scriptures which were received by the churches as authentic exceedingly conflicting, undertook to abate the scandal it caused, by compiling a Bible with genuine text. The product of this laborious exertion was, however, so unsatisfactory to the theological tastes of the churches, or to the results of their critical examinations, that but few of them adopted it. Although Jerome's labors were but imperfectly appreciated during his life, yet, as he had materially approximated toward furnishing a catholic desideratum, the Vulgate, which is a modification of his Bible, was declared by the Council of Trent, in 1546, to be "authentic in all lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, and no one shall presume to reject it under any pretense whatever." But in attempting to execute this decree startling fact became evident that the copies of the Vulgate, in consequence of the liberty which translators had taken with the text, essentially differed from one another; that each church believed in a different Bible; that it was impossible to determine which divine book was the least corrupted; and that as the Council, inspired by the Holy Ghost, had forgotten to designate which copy of the Vulgate was the genuine one, it only increased the confusion it had attempted to remedy. If disbelief in the Bible is infidelity, the greater number of the churches were actually in a situation which made them unconscious infidel conclaves. To relieve them from this perilous predicament, the Pope appointed a learned committee to prepare a Bible which should have genuine text. But the Bible elaborated by this committee, not according with the Pope's theological fancies or secret designs, was rejected. Pope Pius IV. next tried his hand at perfecting and correcting the scriptural text; but the task exceeding his learning and ingenuity, his efforts were alike unproductive of satisfactory results. He was followed by Pope Pius V., who also labored in vain. In 1590 Pope Sixtus V. made a Bible which his judgment or prejudice pronounced to be authentic. Determined that Christendom should be reduced to the alternative of accepting his version, or having none, he anathematized all who should alter its text or reject his authority. But Pope Clement VIII., not having the fear of his infallible predecessor's anathema before his eyes, made another Bible, and promulgated it from his throne as genuine and authoritative, amid a heavy storm of Vatican thunder, in which he consigned to the care of the Devil and his angels all who should presume to correct the work of his infallible hands. A year had, however, scarcely elapsed when he was obliged to correct its glaring inconsistencies himself; incurring the vengeance of his own anathemas. Notwithstanding an incessant tinkering for ages by the ablest theologians, to mend the numerous flaws in the Catholic word of God, every well-informed Romanist admits, that while all the previously received versions of the Vulgate are too grossly corrupted to be defended, the one in present use is far from being perfect. Cardinal Bellarmine, who was deeply versed in Biblical erudition, and who in life had obtained such an eminent degree of popularity for sanctity, that when he died a guard had to be placed over his corpse, to prevent the devout from robbing it of its garments—who wished to preserve or vend them as relics—declares that the most that can be said in favor of the received version is, that it is the best that has been made.
The authorized English version of the holy scriptures, known as James' Bible, is the product of forty-seven celebrated Biblical scholars, after three years' labor. The manuscripts from which they made their translations being exceedingly corrupted and discordant, the renderings consequently were so conflicting and irreconcilable on any principle of philological or exegetical criticism, that in order to effect any agreement, and prevent the production of as many Bibles as there were translators, they put the question concerning a disagreement to vote, and decided which was the correct rendering by the authority of a majority of suffrages. But this logic was not appreciated by Dr. Smith and Bishop Belson, to whose joint scrutiny the Bible thus manufactured was afterwards submitted, and they accordingly subjected it to a further process of purification.
While philological criticism, and investigations concerning the genuineness of the sacred text, have wrung from Catholics the reluctant concession that the Vulgate needs a revision, they have equally extorted from Protestants the unwilling admission that their version is corrupted with undoubted forgeries. The doxology at the conclusion of the Lord's prayer, the story of the pool of Bethsaida, the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and the story of the adulteress, are universally conceded by scholars to be wilful fabrications. The most distinguished among Biblical scholars go further. Bretschneider, the friend and confident of Joseph II. of Austria, rejects the Gospel of St. John. Dr. Lardner rejects the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of St. James, the Second Epistle of St. Peter, the Second Epistle of St. John, the Epistle of St. Jude, and the book of Revelations. Dr. Evanson rejects the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Gospel of St. Mark, the Gospel of St. Luke, the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Epistle to the Colossians, the Epistle to the Romans, the First Epistle of St. Peter and the First Epistle of St. John.
The Greek Testament comprehends 181,253 words, yet such is the number of mistakes, perversions, forgeries and interpolations in the existing manuscripts, that in comparing the documents together 130,000 various readings are detected; showing that the manuscripts from which the New Testament is translated, are not correct in one word out of six. These discrepancies, affecting the mere spelling of a word in some instances, and, in others, the sense of a passage, are of all degrees of importance.
In Tischendorf's New Testament, published by Tauchnitz, at Leipzig, in English, and for sale by the New York booksellers, we find the following: "But the Greek text of the apostolic writings, since its origin in the first century, has suffered many a mischance at the hands of those who have used and studied it.... The authorized version, like Luther's, was made from a Greek text which Erasmus in 1516, and Robert Stephens in 1550, had formed from manuscripts of later date than the tenth century.... Since the sixteenth century Greek manuscripts have been discovered, of far greater antiquity than those of Erasmus and Stephens; as well as others in Latin, Syriac, Coptic and Gothic, into which languages the sacred text was translated, between the second and fourth centuries.....Scholars are much divided in opinion as to the readings which most exactly convey the word of God." (Introduction, p. 1, 2).
When mistakes in a manuscript arise, from the ignorance or incompetency of the copyist, they invalidate its authority; when they arise from his carelessness, they are proofs that he entertained no reverence for it; and when they occur from a deliberate intention on his part to corrupt and to interpolate it, they are demonstrations that he did not believe in its divine inspiration. That the religious orders did not believe in the divine inspiration of the holy scriptures, is as undeniable as it is that they deliberately and intentionally marred all the Biblical manuscripts that passed through their hands. The conviction is equally irresistible that those who sanction the corruptions of the sacred text by using them as authority, and those who defend them in defiance of the irrefragable proof of their spurious character, forfeit all claim to a reputation of common honesty.
There is another class of forgeries perpetrated for the good of the Church, to which I will briefly advert. Of this description is the Decretal Epistle of Constantine the Elder, addressed to Pope Sylvester—the foundation of the Pope's claim to temporal sovereignty; and also the Creed of Athanasius, forged two hundred years after his death, and which Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople, upon first reading, pronounced to be the work of a drunken man. All ranks of the Church seemed to have become infatuated with an ambition to be forgers. Pope Stephen II. forged a letter, and attributed its authorship to the spirit of St. Peter. In this document, according to Gibbon, "The apostle assures his adopted sons, the King, the clergy, and the nobles of France, that dead in the flesh, he is still active in the spirit; that they now hear and must obey the voice of the founder and guardian of the Roman Church; that the virgins, the saints, and all the host of heaven, unanimously urge the request, and will confess the obligation; that riches, victory and paradise will crown their pious enterprise, and that eternal damnation will be the penalty if they suffer his tomb, his temple, and his people to fall into the hands of the perfidious Saracens." (Dec. vol. v., chap, xlix., p. 26.) The evidences of similar frauds are numerous. All the letters and decretals of Clementine are spurious. But few of the numerous works ascribed to Pope Gregory the Great are genuine. The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is egregeously corrupted and interpolated; his second Epistle to the Corinthians, is so much mutilated that but a fragment of it remains; his autobiography, in which he is made to take a journey with St. Peter; and all his apostolic canons, are entire fabrications. The Apocalypse was rejected as spurious at the Council of Laodicea, by the seven churches to which it was addressed, and the sentence was almost universally confirmed by the churches of Christendom. Sirmund shows that the Nicene canons have been corrupted, altered, abridged, and forged to accommodate them to the designs of the church. (Tom. iv., p. 1-234). To establish a historical basis for some pious imposition, the the letters of bishops, decrees of councils, and bulls of Popes have been forged, distorted, marred, interpolated or destroyed. Volume after volume has been written and falsely attributed to the pen of some distinguished author, in order to obtain respect and authority for an absurd ecclesiastical claim or arbitrary usurpation. Without moral principle, and intent only on supporting the ambitious pretensions of the Pope, the religious orders, at the suggestion of interest, scrupled not to destroy the finest models of literary taste, and to perpetrate the most audacious forgeries. What could not militate against the credit of their dogmas, or obstruct the consummation of their designs, or what might, by an artful adulteration be made accessory to them, they might piously spare; but whatever was in its nature too inflexibly inimical to the success of them, they labored to annihilate. The unavoidable deduction from the existence of the monkish forgeries is, that every doctrine for which they have been fabricated to prove, is false; and that every doctrine and event for which they have been manufactured to disprove, is true. The mutilation and destruction of ancient authors by the religious orders is a positive admission that such works were fatal to their claims; the attempt to manufacture artificial proof by corrupting and interpolating them, is an acknowledgment that the successful vindication of their creed and pretensions required proof which did not exist; and the cargoes of their forgeries, each instance of which being a demonstration of these assertions, and consequently an undeniable objection to the validity of the authority upon which they rest their claims, show the vast amount of labor the monks have undergone to disprove their own doctrines, and destroy their own credibility.
In the revival of learning, inaugurated by profane genius, the monastic orders, which possessed the treasures of classic literature, took, in general, no active part. The literary fires which smouldered in their institutions cast but a sickly glare upon the darkness within, and the feeble rays could not be expected to penetrate the massive walls of these huge castles of ignorance. Resembling more a taper placed under a bushel than a light set upon a hill, they left the surrounding region enveloped in midnight gloom. The manuscripts transcribed or perverted by the monks were stowed away as useless rubbish. At length the holy charm which, for ages, had bound the church in stupid ignorance, was happily dissolved. Pope Nicholas V., catching a spark of the fire which burned in the breast of his lay associates, such as Cosmo Medici, his own, too, became ignited. Unconscious or regardless of the liberalizing tendency of classical literature, he became enthusiastic in its cause, and inaugurated a pursuit which has exposed the forgeries and legends of the Catholic Church to scorn and contempt. Whatever were his private views, his public example and assertions indicate that he had arrived at a firm conviction that the papal chair would not soon again be filled with another friend to the classics. Diligently improving the auspicious moment, he collected the dusky and mouldering manuscripts from the monasteries, while his coadjutors sent vessels to gather them from abroad. By the united labors of the Pope and his opulent laymen, respectable libraries were formed, and the world was enlightened by recovered versions of Xenophon, Diodorus, Polybius, Thuycidides and other eminent authors.
The apprehensions of Nicholas, suggested probably by his knowledge of the nature and past conduct of the church, were too well founded not to be confirmed by subsequent history. The Pagan authors of Greece and Rome, speaking in the clear tones of reason and philosophy, could not subserve the purposes of ecclesiastical fraud and intolerance. The dark conspiracy to deceive and enslave mankind, and the systematized measures to keep the world in ignorance, which constitutes a permanent feature of Catholic polity, could derive no aid from a liberal diffusion of Pagan erudition. Hence Leo X., who is ranked among the most generous of the pontifical patrons of the classics, prohibited the translation of them into the vernacular language.
But it may be alleged as an exception to the usual hatred manifested by the church to the cause of education, that the Pope did, at times, establish colleges and universities. This fact is undeniably true. Pope Six-tus IV. established several universities; but he required from each, for a charter, 10,000 ducats; and for each collegiate title and office, from 10,000 to 20,000 ducats, Pope Innocent III. also founded a university; but it was on condition that he received 50,000 scudi for its charter. He also very generously created twenty-six secretaryships, and a host of other offices, to assist the labors of education, but he sold appointments to them at very exorbitant prices. Pope Alexander VI. also founded a university, but it was in consideration of a magnificent bonus; and he even further displayed his magnanimity by nominating eighty writers of popish briefs, and selling the appointments at 850 scudi each. But after all what was the object of these institutions? Was it to advance the capacities of individual man? Was it to enlighten society at large? Not at all. Guisot says: "For the development of the clergy, for the instruction of the priesthood, she [the church] was actively alive; to promote these she had her schools, her colleges, and all other institutions which the deplorable state of society would permit. These schools and colleges, it is true, were all theological, and destined for the clergy; and, though from the intimacy between the civil and religious orders they could not but have some influence on the rest of the world, it was very slow and indirect." (Gen. Hist. Civ., Sect, vi., p. 132). Guizot might have added with truth, that even for her own clergy the church never tolerated an educational institution without receiving an exorbitant pecuniary consideration, nor appointed a professor, or any other officer, without receiving pay for it.
Dens, in his "Systematic Theology" reasons thus: "Because forgers of money, and other disturbers of the State, are justly punished with death, therefore also are heretics, who are forgers of the faith, and, as experience shows, greatly disturb the State." ( Dens, 2, 88, 89 ). If this logic is sound, it is difficult to perceive how Popes, cardinals, monks and priests can avoid conceding justice the right of putting them to death, as by the universal testimony of history and the acknowledgment of the ablest Catholic authors, they have been forgers of the faith; and, as they have been greater forgers than Protestants, they may, according to their own logic, be more justly put to death. But this we should be sorry to witness.
The efforts of the church to manufacture evidence in support of gratuitous assumptions, which so clearly disproves what it asserts at every step; sinks its character and authority into such utter insignificance; and in proportion to the warmth of its zeal adds weight to the contempt it has earned, might be considered unworthy the notice of sober reason, and left to the crushing jeer of its own ludicrousness. Yet when its polluting finger presumes to touch the sacred page of history; when it would annihilate all historical authority by base interpolations, and load the shelves of libraries with its spurious trash, it has invaded a province sacred to the rights of the world; a province in which truth, reason, and human progress have a deep interest, and which must be protected against the intrusion of malignant feet.
From the monastic vows and regulations, we might be agreeably surprised if the literary productions of those who were governed by them were anything but models of absurdity and puerility. It would naturally be suspected that the ideas of the monks would be shaded by the gloom of their melancholy abode, contracted by the influence of their solitary confinement, and rendered misshapen by the habit of conversing exclusively with their own meditations; and that their literary productions would be rife with all the inventions to which bigotry and superstition could prompt, and with all the craft and unscrupulousness that could serve the purposes of unpolished and unnatural fraternities, isolated from society, absolved from the ties and obligations of humanity, and exclusively devoted to the defense and aggrandizement of an organization which aimed at monopolizing all secular rights, immunities and privileges, in order to command the dominion and luxuries of the world. This reasonable presumption we shall find too well confirmed for the credit of human nature, in those legends and theological disquisitions which have often puzzled the credulous, but much oftener curled the lips of the more enlightened into a smile of philosophical contempt. Palpably fictitious, rarely possessing the merit of ingenuity, and, in general, absolutely puerile, yet have the monkish legends been consecrated as divine in the Catholic Mass-book, enforced upon the acceptance of the obstinate by the terrors of the Inquisition, and sometimes mistaken by history for actual events.
This ludicrous mass consists in part of magnified and distorted events of true history, and in part of personages and details entirely spurious. It is elaborately ornamented, or degraded with circumstancial accounts of miracles which were never performed, with reports of debates which never took place, and with details of battles which were never fought. Faithful only in transcribing their own vitiated taste and unscrupulous conscience; and decorating their narratives with coarse scenes of blood and bigotry, of death and horror, of hell and demons, they have furnished a record of absurdities, of a depth of hypocrisy, of an audacity in fabrication, and of a total depravity in principle unparalleled in the history of deception and imposition. Had they, like Sir Thomas Moore, in his description of Eutopia, or no place, described a people which were no people, a city which was invisible, and a river which was waterless, they could scarcely have been less imaginary, though it must be conceded that they are less entertaining and instructive.
Passing over the polemical rubbish, the absurd topics of discussion and the ludicrous logic of the monastic orders, which would be too tedious for a reader of the nineteenth century, we will briefly allude to some of their amusing legends, which have been consecrated as sacred history in the devotional books of the church. The actual sufferings and deaths of the primitive Christians, they have grotesquely magnified, and invented fanciful modes of torture, which never could have entered the more cultivated brain of a Roman emperor.
According to the story of these visionists, when a Pagan female embraced Christianity, she was often compelled to decide whether she valued her virtue higher than she did her religion; and, when the inflexibility of her faith imperiled her innocence, a divine power always interposed, and miraculously rescued her from a dangerous predicament. The male converts were subjected to similar modes of ingenious torture, A young saint, in the passion of his first love, according to their authority, was once chained naked to a bed of flowers, and in this hapless and exposed condition, wontonly assaulted by a beautiful courtezan; but he saved his chastity by biting off his tongue, St. Cecilia made a vow of perpetual virginity, but her father disregarding the unnatural obligation, betrothed her to a prince. In spite of all remonstrances to the contrary, the marriage was on the eve of being consummated, when an angel interposed, and, after satisfactorily adjusting matters between the nuptial parties, rewarded the groom for the relinquishment of his bride, and the virgin for the obstinacy of her resolution, by crowning them both with wreaths of spiritual roses and lilies, culled from heaven's flower garden. Sometime after the eventful occurences of this wedding party, Amachius, a Roman prefect, commanded Cecilia to sacrifice to the gods. Her piety obliging her to disobey the royal injunction, it was determined that the majesty of the law should be vindicated by having her boiled three days and three nights in a pot of water. The coldness of divine grace however sufficiently impregnated her body to protect it from injury. As her piety had rendered her invulnerable to the effects of boiling water, the emperor ordered the executioner to try the virtue of a ponderous axe. Accordingly she was laid upon the block; the executioner gave her neck three scientific strokes, but perceiving her head still attached by its integuments, desisted from further effort convinced that the accomplishment of the task exceeded his constitutional vigor.
The miraculous feat of this saint in inventing music, a long time after all nations had acquired some proficiency, at least, in its principles, has often been the theme of pious historians, orators and poets. St. George slew a dragon ( a lizard ), which was about to swallow a king's daughter. St. Dennis walked two miles after his head had been cut off. St. John of God displayed so much whimsical zeal that he was supposed to be demented, and was placed in a lunatic asylum. St. Hubert went on a hunting excursion, and seeing a stag with a cross between its antlers, became converted by the vision into a bishop. He received a key from St. Peter, which is still preserved in St. Hubert's monastery, at Ardennes, and is regarded as an infallible remedy for the hydrophobia.
St. Patrick found a lost boy, whom the hogs had nearly devoured. On touching the mutilated frame with his holy hand, it recovered the lost flesh which had been digested by the swine, and stood before the saint perfectly proportioned in all its parts, and without a wound. This charitable saint once fed 1,400 persons on one cow, two stags, and two wild boars. Respecting, however, the rights of property, and perceiving that to be benevolent at another's expense was a suspicious species of morality, he so adroitly contrived the management of his miracle that the cow which had been eaten up by the people, and which belonged to a poor widow, was seen the next day well and hearty, and as comfortably grazing in her usual pastures as if nothing had happened. St. Xavier, while traversing the ocean, lost overboard a crucifix. On landing, a crab brought it in his claw, and reverently laid it at his feet. The Devil, assuming the shape of a charming woman, once made indelicate proposals to him. This piece of impudence so enraged the saint that he spit into His Satanic Majesty's angelic face. The Devil, being a gentleman, was so disgusted at this coarse vulgarity, that he ever afterward shunned Xavier's society. St. Anthony of Padua, after exhausting the strength of the Catholic arguments in favor of consubstantiation, in a debate with a heretic, finally converted his antagonist by an appeal to the understanding of a horse. Holding up the host before the animal, he addressed it thus: "In virtue and in the name of thy creator, I command thee, O horse to come, and with humility adore thy God." The horse, at the request of the saint, instantly left the corn which it was eating, advanced to the host and fell upon its knees before it.
St. Andrew being assaulted by the devil with an axe, and by a company of imps with clubs, called for assistance on St. John, who responded with a regiment of angels; and capturing the devils, chained them to the ground. At this exploit St. Andrew laughed. The Emperor Maximus, having cut St. Apia Tell into ten pieces, the angel Gabriel put him together again. This contest of disintegration and recomposition was carried on with much spirit between Maximus and Gabriel. Ten times a day for ten consecutive days was the saint cut into ten pieces by the malice of the one, and put together again by the anatomical skill of the other. St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of drunkards, whose festival was formerly celebrated by the devout with banqueting, hilarity and carousals, once, on a drunken frolic, divided his garments with a poor soldier. At night, in a dream, he beheld Christ wearing the identical garment he had given away. His mind became so impressed, probably deranged, that he turned Catholic. The face of this saint was so sanctimonious that it once paralyzed the arm of a robber, which was raised to give him a death blow. He wrought many miracles; could raise the dead to life. Clovis, after his Gothic victory, made him a rich donation; and as the hero's war steed was in the saint's stable, he proposed besides, to redeem it with the generous sum of 100 ducats, but the pious horse refused to move until the sum was doubled. St. Anthony saw a centaur in the desert. Finding the corpse of the hermit Paul in the wilderness, and being too much prostrated through fasting to bury it, two lions seeing his difficulty, politely offered their assistance; and after digging a grave and depositing in it the hermit's corpse, respectfully vanished away. St. Athanasius compliments him on account of his holy abhorence of clean water, and for not having suffered his feet to be contaminated with it except in cases of unavoidable necessity. ( Vet. Ant, c. 47 ), St. Palladus, seeing a hyena standing near his cave, addressing it, asked: "What's the matter?" "Holy father," replied the beast, "the odor of thy sanctity has reached me. I killed a sheep last night, and want to confess and get absolution." St. Beuno caused the earth to open and swallow a disappointed lover, who had cut off the head of his mistress for her having refused to marry him. He then, by saying mass over the remains of the unfortunate lady, caused her head and body to reunite, and life to reanimate her frame. St. Nepomuk, refusing to disclose the secret confessions of a queen, to her husband who suspected her of infidelity, was doomed to suffer death by drowning. This saint was canonized by Pope Innocent III., and his tomb is shown to this day. But unfortunately for the infallibility of His Holiness, it has been indisputably proved that no such person as St. Nepomuk ever existed. A priest once travelling along a solitary road, heard a most harmonious sound proceeding from a beehive. On approaching it he discovered that the bees were adoring the eucharist, and singing psalms to its honor. A monk residing at the monastery of Tebenoe was visited by an angel who dictated to him a liturgy. This divine work is preferred by the learned Cassion. St. Ambrose, piously inhuman, carefully instilled into the youthful minds of Theodosius and Gratian the spirit and maxims of religious persecution. He taught them that the worship of idols was a crime against God, and that an emperor is guilty of the crime he neglects to punish. All the intolerant laws and horrible religious butcheries which disgraced the administrations of these princes, and their successors, originated in their Catholic education. The same saint justified the conduct of a bishop who had been convicted by the court of setting fire to a Jewish Synagogue. (Tom, ii. Epistle xl. p. 946). St. Augustine, whose most conspicuous virtue was an uncompomising hatred of heretics, warmly commended the inhuman edicts of Honorius against the Donatists, which proscribed and banished several thousands of their priests, stripped them of their possessions, deprived their laymen of the rights of citizens, distracted the land with tumult and blood, and drove a large number of them to seek relief by invoking martyrdom. The inhuman saint rejoiced at the despair and madness which shortened the lives of these unfortunate persons, as it would hereafter lessen their torments in hell. St. Jerome justly denounced the disgraceful practice of the clergy in defrauding the natural heirs out of their inheritance, and vindicated the governmental edicts to obstruct this systematic plunder. But his brother monks recriminated; charged him with being the lover of Paula, of profanely bestowing on her the title of mother-in-law of God, of assigning himself the chief place in her will, of inducing her to abandon her infant son at Rome, of exercising an undue influence on her beautiful daughter, and of inducing the mother to consecrate her to perpetual virginity, so that he might encounter no obstacles in inheriting her immense possessions, in which was comprehended the city of Necropolis. To these charges he replied that he was merely the steward of the poor. With the fortune of Paula he built four monasteries. He was bitterly opposed to St Chrysostom, who boldly denounced the corruption and licentiousness of the clergy and imperial court. Readily and maliciously he coincided with the opinion of Theophilus, that Chrysostom had delivered his soul to the Devil to be adulterated; and when zeal in the cause of virtue had brought upon the head of Chrysostom the wrath of the emperor and the court, and he was incarcerated in a dungeon, these two lights of the church had the decency to regret that some punishment more adequate to his guilt was not inflicted. St. Cyril, of Alexandria, piously lusted after temporal power, and, as the patriotic Novitians obstructed his designs, he closed their churches, took forcible possession of their sacred utensils, plundered the dwelling of Theapentus, their bishop; and then seizing on the Jewish synagogue, drove the Jews from the city and pillaged their houses. The governor interposed; but five hundred armed monks surrounded him and attempted to murder him. Hypatia, a lady celebrated for her personal charms, unblemished character, and extraordinary literary acquirements, was, on account of her Novitian proclivities, assaulted by the holy forces of St. Cyril, dragged from her carriage, and punctured to death with tiles.
The enumeration of the fables of the monks, and of the atrocious acts of canonized saints, might be continued until it filled huge volumes; but well-informed Catholics will be thankful that this notice is so brief. The Missil, the Glories of Mary and other Catholic compendia, some of which consist of fifty folio volumes, will satisfy the more curious. The profound homage paid to the monks for supposed sanctity, and the inquisitorial terrors which were brought to bear in favor of their frauds, so blunted public perception to truth that the fictitious events and personages invented by one age were believed by the succeeding, until the church became the simple dupe of its own forgeries, and self-cursed by accepting, as matters of fact, the fables and impositions with which it had humbugged former ages. Meldegg, Catholic Professor of the Theological Faculty of Freiburg, affords the following testimony in favor of what has been stated: "The old breviary," says he, "crammed full of fictitious or much-colored anecdotes of saints, with passages of indecorous import, requires a thorough revision.... Some Masses are founded on stories not sufficiently proved, or palpably ficticious, as the Mass of the Lancea Christi, the Inventio Orusis, &c." The ludicrousness of the monastic vow of silent contemplation is visible in the misshapen ideas of the monks; its pernicious tendency, in the frauds, perversions, distortions and interpolation which it has led them to perpetrate; its bigotry, in the wide destruction of ancient literature to which it has incited them; its absurdness, in the puerile and contemptible productions which it has induced them to elaborate; and its immorality, in that coarseness and vulgarity in their literature, so offensive to a sense of propriety, and which sometimes makes an allusion to their works a matter of reluctance.
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