Imágenes de páginas

plete abandonment of the world; but there is abundant evidence that a secular temper, and a love of earthly vanities, often followed the recluse to her cell, however she might attempt to conceal it beneath the foldings of her veil. The worldly, the ambitious, the sensual, the devout, the literary, the benevolent, might be found within the walls of the nunnery, as within the walls of the monastery; and the influence of the institute upon its professors in the one case, as in the other, and through them upon society in general, would vary accordingly.

Such is an outline of the character and effects of monasticism—a principle which constituted a leading element in what has been termed “the mediæval system.” It is worthy of a deeper consideration, and of a more philosophical and Christian method of inquiry into its nature and results than it has commonly received. It sprung out of mistaken views of the human mind and of the Christian religion, and was wholly opposed to the latter in spirit and practice. It is deeply affecting to think of the many earnest and pious men who were misled by such a system, and who vainly sought by its artificial expedients that deliverance from the power of sin, which can be obtained only by faith in the Redeemer, by contemplating Divine truth, by prayer for the Holy Spirit, and by the discharge of the manifold duties of social life. Yet does the record of this grcat mistake, with all the

erils which followed it, furnish us with a most important and invaluable lesson. “From the very nature of man, and of the Divine government on earth, when man is left to try all his inventions, the age of monasticism must, in all probability, one day have come. And had it not come when it did, we might now have been dreaming in the depths of its midnight. We may be grateful, then, as well as solemn, while contemplating the mistakes and consequent gloom of the past, and may thus become the more forbearing in the sweeping judgments we are apt to form of those who, with no bad intention, and in an age of but little light, and less experience, were left to lead the way in untried paths, which have since conducted to results so appalling and unforeseen.”* The failure of the monastic system to yield to the aspirant after holiness and peace the help he needs, should warn us against adopting any human devices for the accomplishment of an end so infinitely important, and induce us to cleave to the simple methods prescribed in the Bible-belief of the truth, self-watchfulness, and prayer.

Unsound in principle, the system yielded, as might be expected, a harvest of mischief, not only to pure and noble minds whom it misled, but to other minds whose indolence and vice it nourished, while to mankind at large, it exhibited, in many an instance, a most unlovely spectacle of religious pretensions allied with ir

• Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. i. p 312.

religious practice; and, at the same time, poured over the mass of society the contagion of a pernicious example. Yet, during an age of barbarism, it preserved the seeds of taste and art-during an age of misrule, it afforded a shelter for the oppressed—during an age of ignorance, it kept. alive some germs of learning and during an age of cruel selfishness it illumined the world by some kindly gleams of benevolence. By an overruling Power it was made to serve some useful purposes, for many centuries after its establishment; but when its corruption hail reached its height, and the better results it had once produced were neither felt nor needed, because a new state of things in the civilised world had come, it was smitten by the hand of Providence, and left to wither. In the control exerted over it for good, and in its destruction to such an extent, when it only produced evil, we see the wise and mighty hand of Providence, and are constrained to exclaim-. “ This also cometh from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."



FEUDALISM is a leading fact in the history of the middle ages. It is characteristic of the social condition of Europe at that time. We cannot at all understand the state of things which then prevailed, unless we have a distinct conception of feudalism. It was a system which wrought most extensively and vigorously. It produced an immense effect in the hour of its zenith; it created an influence which lingered long after its decline, and which has not yet spent all its force.

We shall attempt to trace the rise and progress of feudalism out of the mingled elements of Roman and barbarian society,


RISE OF FEUDALISM. W en the northern warriors subdued Europe, they divided the lands in the conquered terri. tories between the vanquished and themselves, not forgetting, however, to retain in most cases the lion's share. The Vandals seized upon all the best lands in Africa. The Visigoths and Burgundians, who settled in Spain and Gaul, took two-thirds of the territorial property ; but the Lombards, who descended upon Italy, more moderate in their desires, were content with a third part of the produce of the soil.

In the distribution of land among the victorious Franks, unequal shares were received by different parties, according to their rank or merit ; but the chief, or leader of the army, had not the power of supreme disposal, and did not, as some seem to suppose, divide among his followers the conquered lands, to be held on condition of their rendering him service. Too proud a spirit of independence reigned among those fierce warriors to admit of any such arrangement. Each soldier felt his individual importance, and, when an enemy was subdued, looked for the share of the spoil that might fall to him, not as a gift from his leader, but as his own indefeasible right. Nay, he watched with the greatest jealousy the claims of his sovereign, of which a proof is given in the following wellknown story. Clovis, king of the Franks, when plundering a church at Soissons of its rich utensils, appropriated to himself a splendid vase, over and above what fell to his share ; but one of his soldiers, dashing it in pieces with his battle-axe, exclaimed, “You shall have nothing here but what falls to you by lot.” The exist

« AnteriorContinuar »