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parted ; all sacrilegious mysteries I detest Notwith-
standing, in how many most petty and contemptible
things is our curiosity daily tempted, and how often
we give way, who can recount ? How often do we
begin, as if we were tolerating people telling vain sto-

" Serm. 3, in Ps. 36, § 19- Apud Oxford Transl. of the Con-
fessions, p. 223. Nota.



ries, lest we offend the weak ; then, by degrees, we
take interest therein, &c."^ But St. German was to
refrain even from things in themselves lawful. His
wife Eustachia was now to become his sister. ^ How
fitly might he again say with St. Augustine, " Verily,
Thou enjoinest me contineney from the ' lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the ambition of the world.'
Thou enjoinest contineney from concubinage ; and for
wedlock itself, Thou hast counselled sometliing better
than what Thou hast permitted. And since Thou
gavest it, it was done, even before I became a dispenser
of Thy sacrament. But there yet live in my memory
the images of such things, as my ill custom there fixed ;
whicli haunt me strengtliless when I am awake."^
But more than this, there ai*e pleasures innocent, and
even elevating, wliich yet the Saint does not allow
himself to enjoy. They seem to belong to higher
natures than men have, and yet they are violently
appropriated by the world, and they lose much of their
real character by sinful and vain associations. But
even then they seem to act as a soothing and efficacious
remedy, like the essence which, though hidden in the
admixture of useless ingredients, still reveals its valu-
able properties often unknown to the recipient. They
teU to the unwary soul a tale of liigher things ; they
utter accents, and breathe combinations, imheard among
the realities of life. They say not whence they come,
yet when the distance has been measured, they are
beside the strait gate, and beckon of fomier acquaint-
ance. " The delights of the ear," might St. German
say with St. Augustine, " had firmly entangled and

' Confess. Oxf. Transl. p. 214, 215. = See ch. vi. ■' p. 205.


subdued me ; but Thou didst loosen and free me.
Now in those melodies which Thy words breathe soul
into, when sung with a sweet and attuned voice, I do
a little repose ; yet not so as to be held thereby, but
that I can disengage myself when I will. But with
the words which are their life, and whereby they find
admission into me, themselves seek in my aifections a
place of some estimation, and I can scarcely assign
them one suitable. For at one time I seem to myself
to give them more honour than is seemly, feeling our
minds to be more holily and fervently raised unto a
flame of devotion, by the holy Avords themselves, when
thus sung, than when not ; and that the several affec-
tions of our spirit, by a sweet variety, have their own
proper measures in the voice and singing, by some
hidden correspondence wherewith they are stirred up.
But this contentment of the flesh, to which the soul
must not be given over to be enervated, doth oft be-
guile me, the sense not so waiting upon reason, as
patiently to follow her ; but having been admitted
merely for her sake, it strives even to run before her,
and leave her. Thus, in these things I unawares sin,
but afterwards am aware of it."^

III. Language is so moulded upon the fashions
and customs of the world, that it appears often awk-
ward, and even profane, to introduce some of its ex-
pressions into serious subjects. Of this kind is the
word literary, which, as the usage of the day directs,
seems very inappropriate to hagiology ; and yet we
are at a loss to find any equivalent term which may
convey the idea intended, without doing injury to
clearness and simplicity. However, as religious men



have used sucli expi'essions as " Sacred Literature," on
the highest of all subjects, the same liberty may per-
haps here be excused, on a lower field of consideration.
It should seem, then, that Saints may be divided into
two classes ; — literary Saints, and Saints not literary.
Under the latter St. German ought to be ranked.
Saints are seldom illiterate, which is different from
not being literary ; accession of knowledge is almost
identical with growth in piety ; and whether it be de-
rived through books, or oral instruction, or meditation,
it is almost invariably in some degree connected with
holiness. It is supposed that this fact is very evident
throughout the middle ages. Nothing could sometimes
exceed the ignorance of men of the world, kings,
barons, knights, and the retinue of courts ; but monas-
teries, which then was a convertible term with abodes
of religion, were very generally the seats of learning.
The village which claimed the Abbot for its feudal
suzerain was, doubtless, better instructed than tliat
which lay at the foot of the baron's castle, nay, j)er-
haps than the castle itself. These were two distinct
currents passing along from generation to generation ;
the one cari-ying down to posterity an accumulated
treasure of knowledge, the other stranding an uncouth
conglomeration of heterogeneous gatherings. Here
were the Four Faculties of the human soul said to
have been defined and explained, by Anselm, the
Abbot of Bec,^ Passion or Propension, Will, Reason,
Intellect ; a Book of Sentences ; a Sum of Theology ;
the Bible. There were duels, witchcraft, gambling,
point of honour, patronage, game laws, primogeniture,
investitures, vassallage, constitutions. Knowledge is a

' Vita Guiberti Noving. lib. i. ch. xvii.


toy with the world ; they take it up or they throw it clown
as they please. The world is sometimes very learned,
nay, it sometimes tosses higher than religion, or at least
the umpires say so. But knowledge is the habitual food
of the godly ; it is healthy because, it is more equa-
ble ; it is digested all, because it is well proportioned
to the want ; and the godly have none of those phren-
zies which an intemperate feast of learning will pro-
duce. Still Saints need not be literary, any more than
they need be noble by birth, which has sometimes been
supposed of the Saints of certain ages. An occasional
writing, called forth by particular circumstances, or
documents composed in the course of study, merely to
impress things on the memory, and to serve for the
instruction of others, do not constitute a literary per-
son. St. German apparently was thus situated. He
was deeply learned, and was the teacher of great men.
He may have written and been read. Yet he certainly
was not a literary character. His merits are never in
ancient records connected with this qualification. No
one appealed to his writings, though many came to
consult him in person. At present, tliere is a vague
notion that writing is the great means of commanding
respect, and claiming a title to wisdom and judgment.
In the primitive ages, it seems men took a higher view
of wisdom ; they did not confound, as we do, the
faculty or the instrument, Avith the substance. It was
not necessary for things to be explicitly striking, to be
intrinsically valuable. A general tone, a habit, a con-
sistency of speech and action, proclaimed the Christian
AWsdom, more than a power of analysis, a perception 6f
analogies, and a command of rhetorical resources.
Can we doubt that a St. Polycarp would deserve confi-
dence where a Tertullian might be distrusted ? What

304 coxcLrsiON.

Avas that divine unction which filled the speech of
the blind Saint at Tyre, while he quoted and applied
the Holy Scriptures from memory, in the presence of
the assembled multitude, and which so thrilled the heart
of the historian, that he became eloquent in spite of
himself ? Surely this was something in itself higher and
more authoritative than the mere talent of writing,
though it has often been combined with it. But so it is ;
those on whom the choicest favours of God seem to be
bestowed are often unskilled in the arts of composition,
or even in the more general modes of communicating
theii* thoughts. A superficial observer may pass by, and
assume that diffidence is incapacity. But those that have
been near, may have remarked a Avonderful clear-sight-
edness, a facility in receiving knowledge, an elevation of
thought, a power of distinguishing perversion from
truth, an instinctive sense of the leaven of heresy, and
a sympathetic discernment of what is orthodox, moral
and holy, which have filled them with confusion at
their own acute dulness and logical shallowness. They
seemed to aim at nothing but God's will, and yet all
came. They seemed too humble to seek to influence
others, yet doubtless tliey did influence them already,
and would hereafter be prepared for any exertion which
it should please their Divine Master to order. Is it
not these that really lead the better part of mankind ?
Are they not the true incense of the Church, while
the more brilliant are but the showy censer which
distributes their fragrance ?

This is a consideration which applies in a special
manner to St. German, and at the same time ex-
plains how, after his death, the particular character
of his mind would have been forgotten or lost in
a general renown for Avisdom and sanctity, and amid


the more sensible and immediate tokens of his former
life, as displayed by the miracles which survived him.
For indeed writers have this privilege among many
others, that they obtain a definite existence in the
mind of posterity. There is a famous expression of
Sidonius Apollinaris, which, as it may not be passed
over in any life of St. German, furnishes also an appo-
site illustration of the foregoing remai-ks. St. Prosper
of Orleans had requested him to celebrate the praises
of St. Anian, who has been introduced to the reader in
the preceding narrative. He writes back : " You de-
sire me to extol the glory of the blessed Anian, that
most eminent and perfect bishop, equal to Lupus, and
not iinequal to German ; you wish that the minds of
the faithful may be impressed with the practice, vir-
tues, and gifts of so great a saint know then that I

had begun to write." It will be remarked that a kind
of superiority due to St. German seems here to be im-
plied ; since a Saint might be equal to St. Lupus, yet
still unequal to St. German. But the passage is rather
quoted for another purpose, namely, to indicate what
might be considered the three types of a Saint in the
fifth century in Gaul. And it is observable that none
of these come under the denomination of literary men.
There are indeed two letters of St. Lupus extant, wliich,
beside many other proofs, evince his superior attain-
ments. Yet neither he, nor St. Anian, nor St. German,
owe their reputation to any written productions. Their
merits had something of a sacramental nature, which
begat awe and silent reverence, and perhaps it would
have been almost a lowering of their exalted position,
had they moved in the ranks of Saints and Authors.
To understand which we have but to consider, how
painful to serious minds is the literary light, so to say,


ill which Paley, in his otherwise able work on St.
Paul's Epistles, places the inspired writings of that
Apostle. It is also conceivable that many may have
been deterred from reading Lowth's Book on the Pro-
phets, from the very object which it professes to aim
at. And is it not a fact, that the higher we ascend
in the contemplation of the different orders of in-
telligences, the less we expect as by instinct any of
those symbols or modes of external influence, which we
connect with associations of an inferior and more
earthly character ? The Apostles did write, yet we
dare not call theirs Avriting in the ordinary sense. The
Blessed Virgin on the other hand did not write ; we
think indeed we discover a passage or two of Holy
Scripture dictated by her, and perceive her influence
presiding over much more ; yet she must needs have
another as the medium of her thoughts. But further
still, if we may reverently appeal higher, in the person
of our divine Lord, so immeasurably above all that is
man, though both Man and God, do we not think that
it implies something derogatory to His nature, to attri-
bute to Him the use of any such channel of communi-
cation ? Is there not a silence and a mystery which
encircles Him and those nearest to Him, incompatible
with certain manifestations ? And does not the famous
letter to King Abgarus fail to commend itself in some
respects from this very circumstance ? One among
many instances of this veil thrown over the Humanity
of our blessed Lord, is the fact that no personal descrip-
tion has been left of Him, that depends upon any higher
authority than vague and uncertain traditions. And
then how little is known of those with whom this His
Humanity was especially connected ; His mother, St.
Mary Magdalen, to whom He appeared first after the


Resurrection, St. John who lay on His breast ! We
know a great deal more about St. Paul, than St. Peter ;
St. Paul saw the Lord in visions, St. Peter face to face.
And there was perhaps a propriety arising from this
same cause, in that St. Peter's preserved Epistles are
general, while those of St. Paul are also often private.
Now if this be true, it is certainly remarkable that with
an authentic and somewhat circumstantial account of
St. German's life extant, yet there should be a similar
mystery spread over his character. It has been already
observed, that no definite description has been left by
Constantius, either of his outwai'd appearance or of his
particular disposition and tone of mind ; nor has a sin-
gle sentence of any wi-iting of his come down to pos-
terity ; nay, but very shortly after his death, it should
seem nothing of the kind was forthcoming, though at
the same time he Avas known to have possessed all the
qualifications requisite. And what brings the parallel
of his life with that of His divine Master still nearer,
even the very facts of his career on earth were being
obscured in the wonderful and miraculous consequences
which followed upon his death ; so that he also needed
one that had " perfect understanding of all things from
the very first, to write unto Christian people in order,
that they might know the certainty of those things
wherein they had been instructed."

If then we were to compare St. German with any
Saints which had preceded him, we should not in a
general aspect liken him to any of the Saints who sus-
tained a literary fame, but rather with those sublime,
unearthly t}'pes, whose best description is, that they
were mystic roses from the Holy Wood that budded,
the fragrance of which spread far and wide, which yet
none could embody into ostensible form ; wliich lasted


ever the same, though none knew how it passed on
from generation — a St. Lawrence, a St. Nicolas, a St.
Anthony, a St. Martin I And there are more reasons
than this which seem to point out especially the second
of the Saints just mentioned, St. Nicolas, as a just sub-
ject of comparison, as will be seen by the following ex-
tract from the Roman Breviary. " St. Nicolas having
devoted his whole soul to God, undertook a journey to
Palestine, in oi'der to visit the holy places, and manifest
his veneration on the spot. When he had taken ship,
though it was fair weather and the sea was quiet, he
foretold to the sailors a dreadful tempest. The tempest
came, and the passengers were all in extreme danger,
but Nicolas prayed, and the tempest by miracle was
assuaged. He returned home to Patara, in Lycia, after
this journey, and gave the example of the most singular
holiness. By divine admonition he then came to Myra,
which was the metropolis of Lycia. Just at that time
the Bishop of the city had died, and the provincial
Bishops were consulting about the election of a succes-
sor. They also had received a divine intimation, urging
them to elect the first who on the morrow should enter
the Church in the morning and be called Nicolas.
They did not 'disregard the command, and Nicolas was
found on the morrow passing the doors of the Church,
and with the consent of all was created Bishop of Myra.
Li his P^piscopate he preserved that chastity which he
had always maintained, and was noted for his wisdom,
the frequency of his prayers, his vigils, abstinence, lib-
erality and hospitality, his mildness in exhorting, and
his severity in reproving."



52 line 26, for ashes, read wood-ashes.

54 note, after silice, read or cinere.

59 line 12, for six Bishops, read severi Bishops.

Gl lines 25 and 30, for Marmontier, read Marmoutier.

93 line 17, for Vignornia, read Vigornia.

95 line 9, for bealeous, read beauteous.

97 note, for Valerius, read I'alesius.

117 line 15, in some copies, for prteponerit, re^d pneponeret.
119 line 18, in some copies, for St. Jerome, read St. Sulpitius.
119 line 19, for tve know, read we learn.
126 line 30, in some copies, for Pelagius the Bishop, read Palladius

the Bishop.
132 note, for Mang, read Maug.
132 note, for Vaticam, read Vatican.

153 line 30, for m iAe present occasion, read ore the present occasion.
159 line 26, for !« <Aai account, read ow /Aai account.

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 33)