August Neander.

Memorials of Christian life in the early and middle ages. Including his Light in dark places. online

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slept enough, let him be compelled to get up. When he
suÖ'ers unjustly, let him be silent. Let him fear the superior
of the convent as a master, and love him as a father,"

Yet with all his strictness of discipline, a spirit of paternal
love animated the abbot, and hence, as we see from his life,
so many were attached to his person. He always kept this
end in view, so to train the monks that this punctilious
arrangement should not become dead and mechanical, — that
this strict discipline should not be an insupportable burden,
but become a second nature, and that everything should be
easy to them through the spirit of love and resignation.
*' If the monks learn the humility of Christ, his yoke will be
easy, his burden will be light. Heart-humility is the repose
of a soul wearied by its conflict with corrupt inclinations, its
inward pain ; it is its only refuge from so many evils, and the
more completely it collects itself into this state from perpetual
distraction with outward vanities, so much more entire is its
repose, and it is refreshed within, so that even the bitter is
sweet, and what before was too hard and too heavy for it, now
becomes light and easy."

Columban's instructions to the monks show an endeavour
to bring divine things close to their minds, and if we see
how easily those who had to gain their daily bread by hard
labour, — how easily, under the endurance of daily toil and
earthly anxieties, they would forget the higher objects of the
mind and heart, so mucli more worthy of honour must that
man appeal' who sought to operate on these men by the
power of Christianity, that in the midst of their conflict with
their native rudeness they might regard the highest interests
of the inner man as most important for themselves and
others, and to avail themselves of that daily conflict as a
means of exercising self-denial, resignation to God, and
unconditional trust in him. One time, after laying the foun-


(lation of the convent of Fontaines, Columban saw sixty
monks toiling with hoes to loosen the soil, in order to pre-
jiare it for the futui-e sowing, while only a small quantity of
I)rovisions to satisfy the hunger and thirst occasioned by this
severe labour was in the magazine of the convent. How
much was implied here ! Here we see the power of faith,
which can remove mountains. Others would have lost all
pleasure and power for labour under such great difficulties
and gloomy prospects, but Columban's strong faith inspired
those who v/ere under him with courage and power. The
monks would experience that faith multiplies what a man
has, and can create means where they are wanting, since it
fills the heart of man with courage, power, and joy ; as, on
the contrary, unbelieving despondency lessens the gifts of
God, since it weakens power, makes earthly wants doubly
felt, and when the soul is given up to this feeling, it sinks
down to earth, and adds anxiety for the future to the desti-
tution of the present moment.

Some passages from Columban's instructions for his monks
wiU bring before us his deep Christian feeling, and his endea-
vour to excite the same in them. Speaking against idle
subtleties respecting the Trinity, he says : " Who can speak
of the essence of God ? How he is everywhere present and
invisible, or how he fills heaven and earth and all creatures,
according to those words, ' Do not I fill heaven and earth ?
saith the Lord?' (Jer. xxiii. 24.) The universe is full of
the Spirit of the Lord. ' Heaven is my thi'one and earth
is my footstool.' God, therefore, is everywhere in his whole
infinity; everywhere altogether nigh, according to his own
testimony of himself. ' Am I not a God at hand, saith the
Lord, and not a God afar ofi"?' We therefore seek after
God not as one who is far from us, since we can apprehend
him in our own inward souls : for he dwells in us as the soul
in the body, if we are not dead in the service of sin. If we
are susceptible of this, that he is in us, then we are truly
made alive by him as his living members. 'In him,' says
the apostle, ' we live, and move, and have our being.' Wlio
shall search out the Most High according to this his unutter-
able and inconceivable essence? Who shall fathom the
depths of the Godhead ? AVho shall boast that he knows the
infinite God, who fills and suiTounds all things, who pene-


trates all tilings, and is exalted above all, — whom no man
has seen as he is ? Let no one then venture to inquire into
the unsearchable essence of God ; only believe simply but
firmly that God is and will be what he was, since he is the
imchangeable God. God is perceived by the pious faith of a
pure heart, and not by an impure heart and vain discourse.
^\j-t thou disposed to investigate the Unutterable with thy
subtleties? then wisdom will be further from thee than it
was (Eccles, vii. 24). Dost thou, on the contrary, apprehend
him by faith ? then wisdom will stand before thy doors.
Wherefore we must implore the omnipresent invisible God
himself that the fear joined with faith, and the love which
cannot fail, may remain in us ; that fear of God which joined
with love will make us wise in all points ; and piety com-
mands us to be silent respecting the Unutterable." Of the
happiness of those who possess vital Christianity, he says :
•' Who, in truth, is more happy than he whose death is life,
whose life is Christ, whose reward is the Saviour ; to whom
heaven lowers itself, to whom Paradise stands open, for
M'hom hell is closed, whose father is God, whose attendants
are the angels." In the eighth instruction he says: "It
becomes travellers to hasten homewards ; they have cares
as long as they are on their travels, but rest in their native
country. Let us, then, who are travelling, hasten to our
native country, for our whole life is like a day's journey. The
first thing for us is, to love nothing here below, but to love
only what is above ; to long only after that which is above ;
to think only of that ; to seek only our fatherland above,
— there, where our Father is. Here, on earth, we have
not our fatherland, because our Father is in heaven."
Of love as the soul of the Christian life, he says: "What
has the law of God prescribed more carefully, more fre-
(juently, than love ? And yet you seldom find a person
who properly loves. What excuse can we offer? Can we
say that it is something laborious and difficult? Love is
no labour; it is rather something sweet, something salutarj-,
something healthful for the heart. If the heart is not dis-
eased with sin, tlien its health is love. lie who fulfils the law
with the ardom- of love, has eternal life ; as John says : ' We
know that we have passed from death unto life, because we
love the brcthi-eu. He that loveth not his brother abideth in


death. He that hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye
know that no mui'derer hath eternal life abiding in him.'
"We must, therefore, do nothing but love, or vre can expect
nothing but punishment. May our gracious Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, om- God, the Creator of peace and love, imbue us
with this love, which is the fulfilling of the law." Also in his
exhortations and lessons for his scholars and friends, contain-
ing small poems, Columban expresses his ardent love of
Christ. " Let no one," he there says, " live to himself, but
let eveiy one live only to Christ. If thou truly lovest
Christ, then seek not thy own, but the honour of Christ.
Love not thyself nor the world, but Christ alone."

Columban requires of the true monk, that he should unite
steadfastness and power with gentleness and humility, in the
conflict for truth and righteousness against the high and
mighty ones of the world — that he should be ready to contend
for what is essential — that he should be humble towards those
who are cast down,*" but honestly oppose the highminded —
that he should be bold in the cause of truth — that he should
show himself obliging and compliant towards the good, but
invincible in conflict with the wicked.

In this spirit Columban acted in contending for Christian
freedom and Christian moral discipline. By his zeal for
«trict discipline, and against the irregularities which had
spread among the Prankish churches, and by his frankness,
he necessarily made himself many enemies among persons
of influence, both ecclesiastics and laymen, M'ho gladly
availed themselves of an opportunity to get rid of so trouble-
some a person. Columban had brought with him several
peculiar usages from the Irish church, which difiered widely
from those of the Romish church, which had been univer-
sally adoj^ted in those parts. As his convents in the forests
formed a secluded wliole unconnected with others, he wished
to follow the practices of his fathers, and not to submit to the
prevalent practice of the church. He might, indeed, have
conceded certain external things, not of any importance in
themselves, for the sake of seeming what was more essential ;
but it was an object of some importance to him to place
himself in opposition to an arrogant ecclesiastical authority,
which refused to acknowledge the rights of Christian liberty,
* Humilis dejectis, rectus erectis.


and aimed, by its enactments, to force an uniformity in out-
ward things. His enemies gladly availed themselves of this
departure from the prevailing church usages, to excite a
prejudice against him. Columban by no means Avished to
introduce all the usages relating to divine worship which
lie had brought from Ireland, though he believed they were
preferable ; all he desired was that he should be at liberty
to follow his own method with the convents under his

With Christian frankness, subjecting himself to no human
authority in matters of religion, he addressed a letter to the
bishop of Home, Gregory the Great. He called on him not
to bind himself by the authority of the earlier Koman
bishops, but to examine freely, and to adopt whatever he
found to be best : " In such a matter," he MTote to him, " you
must not dej^end merely on j-our humility, or the dignity of
the person, which often deceives. In such inquiries, perhaps
a living dog is better than a dead lion (Eccles. ix. 4). Living
saints may improve what had not been improved by a
greater than themselves in a former age." Gregory, in a case
which required a free examination of the truth, was not
justified in a humility which would not permit him to sub-
mit the enactments of his predecessors to a fresh exami-
nation. At a later period, Columban wrote to the Roman
bishop Boniface IV., saying that as they were connected
with one another by unity of faith, since they agreed in
believing with the heart, and confessing with the mouth,
one Father in heaven, of whom are all things, and one
Redeemer the Son of God, through whom are all things,
and one Holy Spirit, in whom are all things, — he hoped it
might be granted to him and his associates, without injury
to the peace of the church, to continue in their own usages ;
as in former times, Polycarp, bishop of SmjTua, and Anicetus,
bishop of Rome, without injury to the faith, separated from
one another with uninterrupted love, and each one adhered
to the customs he had received.

About the year 602, a Frankish synod was held to delibe-
rate on this matter, and Columban addressed an epistle to it,
full of zeal for the welfare of the church. As, partly owing
to political disturbances in the kingdom of the Franks, and
partly to the remissness of the bishops, who had involved

446 MISSIONS or the middle ages.

themselves too much in worldly concerns, the salutary-
institution of provincial s}-nods had been for a long time
neo-lected, Columban thanked God that the disputes with
him had led to summoning such a synod, and he prayed God
to grant that they might on this occasion be occupied with
more important things relative to faith and practice. On
this occasion he asserted, with all respect to his opponents,
the great truth that if they did not evince by their lives that
they had heard the voice of the true Shepherd, and follow
him, they coidd not expect that those words which they
uttered only as hirelings could meet with obedience.

He justly remarks (and it is a sentiment that ought to be
laid to heart in all similar cases) that if all professed
Christians were united to one another by the fellowship of
love and the unity of the evangelical disposition, all disputes
might easily be settled. "The diversity of practices and
usages has certainly much injured the peace of the church ;
but if we only made haste to expel the poison of pride, envy,
and vain ambition, by the exercise of true humility, accord-
ing to the doctrine and example of our Lord, who said,
' Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart,' we shoiüd
love another as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all
our hearts — since the humble cannot quarrel — since the truth
will soon be known by those who seek to know which is
most correct, with the same determination and the same
anxiety after a knowledge of the truth — since no one is con-
quered excepting error, and no one glories in himself, but
only in the Lord."' He closes his letter with these words :
' ' Li order that we may mutually love one another without
hjjjocrisy, let us contemplate closely the commands of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and if we understand them, strive to
fulfil them, so that thi-ough his teaching the whole church
may strive towards the heavenly in a glow of holy zeal.
May his undeserved grace vouchsafe to us that we may
all renounce the world and love him alone, and seek after
him with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Lastly, O
father, pray for us, even as we, though persons of little
account, pray for you, and regard us not as those who are
strangers to you ; for we are members of one body, whether
we are Gauls, or Britons, or Irish, or of whatever other
nation. May we, out of all nations, rejoice in the faith


and knowledge of the Son of God, and hasten to become
a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness
of Christ, in "which we mutually improve one another, care
and pray for each other, and finally rule and rejoice with
one another !"

An attack from another quarter led to important conse-
quences for Columban. He was held in great respect by
Thierry II., the king of Burgundy, where his convents were
situated. He availed himself of this, to administer reproof
to the king on account of his voluptuous life, and to urge
him to a better coui'se. But his influence on this side
came into collision with the policy of the powerful grand-
mother of this prince, Brunehault — and she laid a plan, with
the nobles and prelates, to whom Columban's proximity
had long been otfensive, to drive him away. It was not
Columban's manner to evade the machinations that were
formed against him. In accordance with his maxim " to be
bold in the cause of truth, and unconquerable by evil," he met
the plot with unbending firmness. At last, after five-and-
twenty years of activity,' he was banished from the country
in the year 610. Orders were at first given that he should
be sent back to Ireland, but peculiar circumstances prevented
their execution. In his journeying through France, he met
with many consolatory proofs that God was with him.
"WTien he had arrived with his followers at the city of Nantes,
and was occupied with meditating in his cell, a beggar
came before it. Columban caused the last measure of meal
in his stores to be given to the hungry man. The two follow-
ing days he was obliged to contend with want himself, and
continued joyful in faith and hope, when suddenly some one
knocked at the door, and it was the servant of a pious female
of the city, whom she had sent with a considerable supply
of com and wine for him. From Nantes he wrote an epistle
full of paternal love to the monks he had left behind in
France, in which he exhorted them to unity and humility :
" It were better," he wrote to them, " that you should not be
together if you have not the same likings and dislikes." He
represents God as addressing the proud self-righteous soul :
'' Since thou hast allowed thyself to be seduced by thy holi-
ness to pride, now descend, and count thyself among sinners ;
for what is done in pride is of no value with me." Of a


monk, "Waldolin, who was much beloved by him. he writes on
the contrary : " God bless him I he is humble ; give him a
kiss, which in my haste I was prevented from doing."
Columban then withdrew into Switzerland, near Tuggen and
Pregentia (Bregenz), where he laboured several years for
the conversion of the Suevi and Alemanni. Afterwards he
went to Italv. and established in the vicinity of the Apennines
the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he found rest for the
last years of his life.

Still he was active to the last, in order to compose an
ecclesiastical division which had existed in Italy from ancient
times. The Emperor Justinian, who, by his indiscreet and
despotic interference in church affairs, by his strong inclina-
tion to exercise his imperial power in making theologians
instead of faithfully fulfilling the duties of his office, had
caused such great disorders in the Greek Church, had also
allowed himself to be moved, by the intrigues of a troublesome
theological court-faction, publicly to brand as heretical the
memory of three great Syrian fathers of the chm-ch (Theo-
dorus, Theodoret. and Ibas), and the vacillating, weak-minded
Roman bishop, Vigilius, had allowed. himself to be compelled
to favour the foolish undertaking of the emperor. As the
later Roman bishops followed the decision of their predeces-
sor, a division of the church in Italy was the consequence ; for
several churches of eminence in Istria and the Venetian ter-
ritory disapproved of this decision. Many accusations against
the orthodoxy of the Roman Church were occasioned by it.
Columban now WTote a very respectful, but at the same time
verA' frank epistle to Pope Boniface TV., in which he required
from him an imprejudiced examination of this affair, and
pressed upon him to take measures for restoring the peace of
the church. '• "Watch," he writes to the pope, '"first of all
over the faith, and then to command the works of faith, and
to root out vices ; for your vigilance will be the salvation of
many, as on the contrary your indifference will be the ruin of
many. Our concern here is not persons, but the truth. As
in virtue of the dignity of your church you are held in great
honour, you need to take greater care not to lessen your dig-
nity by any aberration ; for the power will remain with you
as long as you are in the right way. He is a true key-bearer
of the kingdom of hea\en, who by true knowledge opens it to



the worthy and shuts it against the unworthy. He who acts
in an opposite manner, can neither open nor shut. Since from
a certain pride you arrogate to yourselves greater authority
and power in divine things, you may knoAv that your power
will be so much less in the Lord, although you only indulge
these thoughts in your hearts ; for the unity of faith in the
whole world produces everywhere the unity of spiritual power;
so that everywhere liberty is given by all to truth, and the
entrance must be refused to error in the same manner by all."
Then follows a beautiful exhortation which applies to so many
divisions which arise from laying greater stress on subordi-
nate differences than on unity in the essentials of faith, and
thus the bond of love was broken. '' Therefore quickly return
to unity, beloved brethren, and do not prolong old controver-
sies ; but rather be silent, and consign these controversies to
everlasting oblivion. "When anything is doubtful, reserve it
for the decision of God. But what is clear, or what man can
judge, decide justly upon it without respect of persons.
Mutually acknowledge one another, that there may be joy in
heaven and earth over your peace and union. I know not
how a Christian can quarrel respecting the foith with other
Christians. Whatever the orthodox Christian who rightly
praises the Lord may say, the other will say Amen, because
both believe in the same and love the same."

Columban died in his seventy-second year, or a little older,
after having, in the course of an active and very laborious life,
scattered the seeds of Christian knowledsre in France, Switzor-
land, and Italy, and, by the scholars whom he left behind him,
made provision for its still wider propagation in succeeding

3. Gallus, the Apostle of Switzerland.

Among the scholars whom Columban brought with him from
Ireland to France, Gallus was one of the most distinguished.
He was descended from a respectable Irisli family, and was
early intrusted by his j)ious parents to Columban to be edu-
cated for the service of the kingdom of God. Columban, who,
as we have remarked above, was a zealous student of the
Scriptures, deeply imbued the mind of youth with a love for
acquaintance with the sacred volume. He knew how to dis-
course from the Scriptures with simplicitv and fervour, and to

2 G

450 MISSIONS or ihz ioddu: ag^zs.

apply the word tx) the hearts of men. "When Columban with
his associates met with a hospitable reception from pious per-
sons, and after laving down his luggage wished to have some
portion of Scripture read, he called on his ^vourite scholar,
Gallus, to perform this office, and at the same time to explain
what was read. T\lien they took up their residence among
the ruins of the ancient castle of Bregenz, they met with an
old dilapidated chapel which they resolved to consecrate for
Christian worship, and in which they constructed their cells-
Sut they foimd in that chapel three gilded images of idols
which the pagans worshipped as tutelary divinities. As
Gallus, during his residence in the Prankish territory, had
made himself weU acquainted with the German language,
Columban permitted him to preach the gospel to a numerous
multitude who had flocked together to witness the consecra-
tion. It is indeed a true saying of Luther's, " It is God's
work alone to banish idols from the human heart : whatever
cümes from without, is a farce. "' J£ men are deprived of some
of their idols, they will manufacture others. But when the
preaching of divine grace opens a way to the heart, it will
facilitate if the sensible impression to which idolatrv cleaves
be taken away. Thus Gallus confirmed the impression that
his discourse made, by dashing in pieces the images before the
eyes of the wild pagan multitude, and thus giving them ocu-
lar demonstration of the nothingness and weakness of their
false gods.

At this place the monks occupied themselves with gardening
and planting fruit-trees. Gmllus wove nets and attended to
fishing. His success was so great that he not only supplied
the other monks with fish, but also entertained strangers, and
often made presents to the people.*

* A similar account is giren of Bishop Wilfred, who preached the
gospel in Sussex towards the close of the serenth centurv. When he first
came there, a famine prevailed : the sea and the rivers were foil of fish : but
the people only knew how to catch eels. He was obhg-ed to instruct
them m fishing. He collected all the nets: his people used them in the
right manner, and caught three hundred fishes of different kinds. One
hundred of these he kept for his own people, a hundred he gave to the
owners of the net, and the remaining hundred to the poor. Bt this means
he won the love of the people; and as they were so much indebted to him
for their tempordl welfare, they listened to him more wiiiin^iy when he
discoursed of heavenly things.


WluM» (licy ncro cxpollcd from tliis rci^rion, ninl iho y\l)l)(»(,
Coluiubiui was jjrocecdiiij; to Italy, (iallus was j)ri.«vi'iitt'il
froui fbllowinjjf him by illnoKH — und thm cinnnnHtaiUM' proved
a ^rcat bli'.ssiiijj; to the pcoplr aiiioiifr uli(»in tiny liad been
ii'.sidiii^; Cor otlirrwiso (iallus would liavo not bi-cn lo tluin
what he actually became. OalluH bcinp; thuH hit ix hind
betook hiniHolf witli his fiHl»in|^-nets to a priest named
WiUimar, who lived in an old eastle, and had alreadv received
him hospitably with the Abbot (.'olumban, and had asHijriu'd
them their residences. After he had been reslore-d to health

Online LibraryAugust NeanderMemorials of Christian life in the early and middle ages. Including his Light in dark places. → online text (page 45 of 54)