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a Greek word, signifying, a person living alone. For the same purpose of pious retirement, others, particularly in times of persecution, retired to inaccessible mountains or lonely deserts. Of these, the first whose name has reached us, is St. Paul, usually called the first hermit. In the 250th year of the Christian æra, he retired to the Upper Egypt; and, having attained his 113th year, died in 341. About the same time, St. Anthony, after spending many years in perfect solitude, permitted a numerous body of men to live in community with him, and to lead, under his direction, a life of piety and manual labour, sanctified by prayer.
St. Pachomius was the first, who composed a written rule for the conduct of monks. The communities under his direction inhabited the desert of Tabenne, a small island in the Nile, between the town of Girge and the ancient Thebes. Thirty or forty of them occupied one house ; thirty or forty houses composed a monastery, and the desert of Tabenne contained about thirteen monasteries. A dean was placed over every ten monks; every house had its superior, every monastery its abbot, and a general director superintended all. Every Sunday, all the monks of the monastery met at its common oratory: and, at Easter, the monks of all the communities, sometimes amounting to 50,000, assembled in one body, for its celebration. It sometimes happened, that, after passing several years of a monastic life, a monk, aiming at higher perfection, retired, with that view, to a stricter solitude. This divided the monks into two classes, the Coenobites, who lived in community, and the Anchorites, who lived in separate cells. Each separate cell was sometimes bounded by a small inclosure; their general precinct was called a Laura. With such establishments, Ægypt and Libya abounded. The number of these monastic establishments was very great : almost all of them were destroyed by the Saracens: the few, which remain, are described by Father Sicard, (Missions du Levant, tom. II. pa. 29–79, tom. v. pa. 122 -200.)
Such was the origin of the monastic state.—Nothing in sacred biography, is more interesting than the accounts of its founders, and their most eminent disciples. These were written by their contemporaries, and have been translated into almost every modern language. Every Roman-catholic recollects with pleasure, the exquisite delight, with which, when he was at school, he perused the Lives of the Venerable Fathers of the Desert, the name assigned to them by the Roman-catholic church, as they are written by Arnaud d'Andilly in his Vies des Pères du désert 3 ool. 8vo. or 2 vol. 4to: by Villefore, iu his Vies des Saints Pères des déserts d'Orient et d'Occident, 5 vol. 12mo.: by Rossweide, in his Histoires des Vies des Pères des déserts, 1 vol. fol. by the late Doctor Challoner, in his Lives of the Fathers of the desert, I vol. 8vo. and by Mr. Alban Butler, in his Lives of the Saints, of which a stereotype edition, in twelve volumes octavo, with elegant engravings has lately appeared.
Similar establishments of inonastic communities, but much fewer in number, were established for the female sex.
ST. ATHANASIus introduced the MONASTIC STATE INTO THE WEST.
III. 1. About two hundred years after its introduction, St. B2NEDICT, an Italian monk, framed his religious rule for the government of a convent at Mount Cassino, between Rome and Naples, over which he presided. It was formed on that of St. Pachomius, and contained the same division of time, for prayer and manual labour : the same silence and the same solitude: but there was some relaxation in the article of diet. St. Pachomius allowed his disciples twelve ounces of biscuit, to be taken by them at two repasts; one, early in the afternoon; the other, late in the evening, with an occasional, but not a very frequent allowance of cheese, fruit, herbs and small dried fish. Meat was expressly forbidden by St. Benedict, to be served to his disciples except in serious illness. They were indulged by him, with a daily allowance of half a pint of wine : which bis
disciples exchanged, in the northern climates, for a proportional allowance of strong beer or cyder. His rule was embraced by all the monks of the West.
Among the benefactors to humanity, none, perhaps, are entitled to a higher rank, than the disciples of St. Benedict. A celebrated Protestant historian, M. Mallet, in his Histoire des Suisses ou Helvetiens, (tom. 1. p. 105) expresses his opinion of the services rendered by them to society, in the following terms :
“ The christian clergy, like the druids of Gaul, were the only “ depositaries of knowledge; the only lawyers, physicians, as" tronomers, historians, notaries; the only persons, acquainted “ with the Belles-Lettres ; the only persons who could instruct " youth ;-except among them, profound ignorance reigned “ every where. The monks sostened, by their instructions, “ the ferocious manners of the people; and opposed their “ credit to the despotisni of the nobility, who knew no other “ occupation than war, and grievously oppressed their sub“ jects and inferiors. On this account, the government of “ the monks was preferred to theirs. The people sought them “ for judges: it was an usual saying, that it was better to be “ governed by a bishop's crosier, than a monarch's sceptre. « The monks were engaged in useful employments; they clear“ ed and cultivated desert and savage lands. We find that, in " many places, where those missionaries established themselves, “ agriculture, next to preaching, was their principal occupation. “ Where St. Gal built his church, he planted a garden and reared “ a flock of sheep: he recommended to his disciples to support " themselves by the labour of their hands. Was it possible that “ such men should not be venerated, both during their lives and * after their deaths ? Can, then, history reckon up such a supera“ bundance of men, who have devoted themselves to the welfare “ of their neighbours ? At a later period, the monks were cor“ rupted by riches and power : this is the common fate of men : “ but, at the time of which we are now speaking, they had never “ been other than respectable. The monastery of St. Gal had also " a school, which by degrees became famous; both laymen and
“ persons, who devoted themselves to the church, flocked to it “ in crowds; there, they copied; there, several precious works “ of ancient writers were discovered, which must have perished “ in the general confusion of barbarous ages, without these “ asylums, where religion still threw out some light. When we “ consider the profound ignorance of the nations, who-in“ vaded the Roman empire, and established themselves on its “ ruin, their exclusive passion for war, their contempt for the “ sciences, the arts, and even for writing, one perceives that “ every thing then concurred to produce in Europe, the barbarism “ which had reigned so long among the Celts, the Scandinavians “ and Sarmatians. What was it, which, in this æra of the “ Roman empire, preserved the human mind from being plunged “ into the darkness of the greatest barbarism, and from losing “ the last remains of Greek and Roman lore! For this blessing, “ mankind is indebted to the Christian religion. Nothing less " than the power of religion could subdue those barbarous pre“ judices, which carried the contempt of the sciences, even to “ writing. It was necessary that there should be a sacred book, “ which made the knowledge of writing indispensable :-a par“ ticular class, an order of informed men, bound to study and “ teach its contents.” It should be added that in every age and country, the Benedictine monks have rendered the greatest services to religion. Few nations can read the History of the first introduction of Christianity among them, without being sensible of their obligations to the Benedictine monks; their services' to literature have been equally great ; the shelves of libraries, to use Mr. Gibbon's strong expression, groan under the weight of Benedictine folios.
“ The world,” says a writer in the Quarterly Review, for the month of December, 1811, “ has never been so deeply indebted “ to any other body of men, as to this illustrious order ; but histo“ rians, when relativg the evil of which they were the occasion, have “ too frequently forgotten the good, which they produced. Even “ the commonest readers are familiar with the history of that arch“ miracle-monger St. Dunstan; while the most learned of our « countrymen scarcely remember the names of those admirable
" men, who went forth from England, and became the apostles “ of the north. Tinian and Juan Fernandez, are not more “ beautiful spots on the ocean, than Malmsbury and Lindisfarne, “ and Jarrow in the ages of our heptarchy: a community of pious “men, devoted to literature and to the useful arts, as well as to “ religion, seems, in those ages, like a green oasis, amid the de“ sert; like stars in a moonless night, they shine upon us with a « tranquil ray. If ever there was a man who could truly be called “ venerable, it is he, to whom that appellation is constantly fixed, “ Bede, whose life was past in instructing his own generation, and “ preparing records for posterity. In those days the church “ offered the only asylum from the evils to which every country " was exposed; amidst continual wars the church enjoyed peace; “ it was regarded as a sacred realm, by men, who, though they “ hated each other, believed and feared the same God. Abusea, “ as it was, by the worldly-minded and ambitious, and disgraced by " the artifices of the designing and the follies of the fanatic, it “ afforded a shelter to those, who were better than the world in “ their youth, or weary of it in their age; the-wise, as well as the 6 timid and the gentle, fled to this Goshen of God, which enjoyed '“ its own light, and calm amid darkuess and storms.”
III. 2. In consequence of the general devastation and confusion occasioned in Italy, by the Lombards, in Spain, by the Saracens, in France, by the civil wars among the descendants of Charlemagne, and in England, by the irruption of the Danes—the Benedictine monks fell from their original fervour into great disorder. St. Odo, restored it, with some modification, in his monastery at Cluni: and several monasteries adopted his reform. They were called the Congregation of Cluni; but, by degrees, the congregation of Cluni itself wanted reform; and the general decline of virtue and piety in the Benedictine order was so great, that, in the beginning of the eleventh century, it was difficult to find a single monastery, where even a faint likeness to the state, in which the order had been left by its original founder, was discoverable. But, towards the middle of the eleventh century, several eminent men arose in the Benedictine order, who endeavoured to restore it to its ancient purity; and while each of them