Paulist Fathers.

Catholic world online

. (page 59 of 136)
Online LibraryPaulist FathersCatholic world → online text (page 59 of 136)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tam.' "

Neither, need it hardly be said, has he
set the hideous pollutions of that civil-
ization fully before us: that is render-
ed impossible by its very hideousness.
Let those who recoil from the horrors
of what he has said — but a faint out-
line of the miserable truth, though
traced with singular artistic form and
beanty — ^bear in mind the while the
words of the inspired prophecy, ^' All
natioDS have drunk of the wine of her
fornication, and the kings of the earth
have conmiitted fornication with her^
^Her sins have reached unto

heaven, and the Lord shall reward
her iniquities'* — ^"In her was found
the blood of prophets, and saints, and
of all that were slain upon the earth.''
The crimes, as well as the civilization
of a thousand years, were accumulated .

at Home, and both were swept away
together by that overwhelming flood of
fierce barbarians. Little were it
worthy of Christians to nioum over a
civilization into whose very heart-
strings such unutterable pollution was
intertwined; especially as it was re*
moved, not like Babylon of old, to
leave behind it nothing but desolation,
but to make room for that kingdom of
God which was to be enthroned upon
its ruins ; for such was the purpose of
God, that the very centre of Christen-
dom, the very seat of the throne of
Christ upon earth, on which he would
visibly sit in the person of his Vicar,
was there to be established, whence
the throne of the Cassars and the
golden house of Nero had been swept
away in headlong ruin. '' I saw a
new heaven and a new earth, for the
first heaven and the first earth was
gone. And I heard a great voice
from the throne saying, < Behold the
tabernacle of God with men, and he
will dwell with them. And they shall
be his people, and God himself shall
be their God. And God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes.'"
" And he that sat on the throne said,
* Behold, I make all things new.' **
The full accomplishment of these
words we expect, in faith and hope,
when '< death shall be no more, nor
mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow
shall be any more; for the former
things are passed away ;" yet, surely,
whatever more glorious accomplish-
ment is yet to come, it were blindness
not to see how far they are already
fulfilled in the substitution of Chris-
tendom for the civilized pagan world,
the setting up the throne of the Vicar
of Christ upon the ruins of the palace
of the Caesars.

First among the causes of that hid-
eous accumulated mixture of blood
and filth in which heathen civilization
was drowned, Mr. Allies most justly
places the institution of slavery as it
was at Rome, because by this the
springs of human life were tainted-
It is certain that during all the long
years of the duration of the Roman

Digitized by VjOOQIC


The Formation of Christendom.

empire, there waa among its heathen
population no one human being, who
lived beyond the earliest childhood,
who was not polluted, and whose very
oul was not scarred and branded, by
the marks of that hideous moral pesti-
lence. We say " its heathen popula-
tion," because great as must have been
the evil it wrought upon ordinary
Christians, we doubt not tliat there
were those who gathered honey out of
corruption, and whose justice, charity,
and purity came out from that furnace
of temptation with a brightness which
nothing but the most fiery trial could
have given to them* From slavery
the whole of Roman society received
its form. Our author most truly
says, " The spirit of slavery is never
limited to the slave ; it saturates the
atmosphere which the freeman
breathes together with the slave ;
passes into his nature, and corrupts
it" This miserable truth can never
be too often impressed upon men, be-
cause, unhappily, there are still advo-
cates of slavery who think that they
apologize for it if they can prove, as
they think, that the slave is happy.
As well might they argue that the in-
troduction of the plague into London
would be no calamity, if the man who
brought it la upon him entered the
city dancing and shouting. In ancient
Italy slaves replaced the hardy rustics,
that ^prisca gens mortalium'* who,
though doubtless far less virtuous than
they appeared in the fevered dreams
of men sick of the vices of Rome in
the last days of the republic, were still
among the best specimens of heathen
life. Wherever slavery extends, la-
bor becomes dishonorable as the badge
of servitude, a few masters languish
in bloated luxury, but the nation it-
self grows constantly poorer, as an
ever-increasing proportion of its popu-
lation has to be maintained in indo-
lence. At Rome slaves were the only
domestic servants, and after a time
the only manufacturers. And yet
even this is nothing compared to the
evils of a state of society in which the
jgreat majority of womoa as welt as of

men arc the absolute property of their
masters. Horrible as was this state
of things, it offered so many gratifica-
tions to the corrupt natures of tliose
whose hands held the power of the
world, and without whose consent
it could not be abolished,, that it would
have seemed to any one who had ever
witnessed the life of a wealthy Roman
noble no less than madness to imagine
that any man would ever willi^ly
surrender them.

As a matter of fact, so far was this
state of society from holding out any
hope of its own amendment, whether
sudden or gradual, that, as our author
remarks —

" Of all the minds which have lefb
a record of themselves, from Cicero to
Tacitus, there is not one who does not
look upon the world's course as a rapid
descent. They feel an immense moral
corruption breaking in on all sides,
which wealth, convenience of life, and
prosperity only enhance. They have
no hope for humanity, for they have no
faith m it, nor in any power encom-
passing and directing it."

Faithless and hopeless they were ;
but whatever this world could give
they had in abundance :

" In the time of heathenism the
world of sense which surrounded man
flattered and caressed all his natural
powers, and solicited an answer from
them ; and in return he flung himself
greedily upon that world, and trlM to
exhaust its treasures. Glory, wealth,
and pleasure intoxicated his heart
with their dreams ; he crowned him-
self with the earth's flowers, and drank
in the air's perfume ; and in one ob-
ject or another, in one after another,
he sought enjoyment and satisfaction.
The world had nothing more to give
him ; nor will the latest growth of civ*
ilization surpass the profusion with
which the earth poured forth its gifts
to those who consented to seek on the
earth alone their home and their re-
ward ; though, indeed, they were the
few, to whom the many were sacrificed.
The Roman noble, with the pleasures
of a vai\quished world at his feet,

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Tke Formation of CkrUtenlom.


with men and women from the fairest
climes of the earth to do his bidding-—
men who, though slaves, had learnt
all the arts and letters of Greece, and
were ready to use them for the benefit
of their lords ; and women, the most
beautiful and accomplished of their
sex^ who were yet the property of
these same lords — ^the Boman noble,
as to material and even intellectual
enjoyment, stood on a vantage-ground
which never again man can hope to
occupy, however —

^Throngb the as:es an increasing pnrpose rnns.
And the thoughts of men are widen d with the
proceM of the isana/

^ Caesar and Pompey, LucuUus and
Hortensius, and the fellows of their
order, were orators, statesmen, jurists,
and legislators, generals, men of liter-
ature, and luxurious nobles at the
same time; and they were this be-
cause they could use the minds as well
as the bodies of others at their pleas-
ure. Not in this direction was an ad-
Tance possible" (p. 159).

Our author draws with great skill
and vigor a picture of the moral soci-
ety of the heathen world, and of the
beliefs upon which the practice of the
heathen rested. Into these we have
no room to follow him* At the end
of this lecture he shows what sights
they were which met the eyes of a
stranger coming from the east in the
days of Nero — an execution in which
four hundred men, women, and chil-
dren were marched through the streets
of Borne to the cross, because their
master had been killed by one of his
slaves. In all such cases the Roman
law required that every slave in the
house, hcrwever innocent, however
young or however old — man, woman,
or child — should be put to death.
Thence the stranger passed to a scene
of debauchery such as the world has
never imagined, in the gardens close
to the Pantheon. This stranger —

" Why has he come to Rome, and
what is he doing there? Poor, un-
known, a foreigner in dress, language,
and demeanor, he is come from a dis-
tant province, small in extent, but the

most despised and the most disliked (^
Rome's hundred provinces, to found
in Rome itself a society, and one, too,
far more extensive than this great
Roman empire, since it is to embrace
all nations ; far more lasting, since it
is to endure for ever. He is come to
found a society, by means of which
all that he sees around him, from the
emperor to the slave, shall be changed**
(p. 101).

What madness can have inspired
such a hope, or what miracle, real or
simulated, could fulfil it ? And that,
not in the golden age of pastoral sim-
plicity, in which men looked for won-
ders with an uncritical eye, but '* amid
the dregs of Itomulus," when all the
world seemed to have fallen together
into the " sere and yellow leaf." *

^ He has two things within him, for
want of which sdtsiety was perishing
and man unhappy: a certain know-
ledge of God as the Creator, Ruler,
Judge, and Rewarder of men; and
of man's soul made afler the image
and likeness of this Grod. This Grod
he has seen, touched, and handbd
upon earth ; has been an eye-witness o£^
his majesty, has received his message,
and bears his commisaion. Bat
whence had this despised foreigner
received the double knowledge of God
and of the soul, so miserably lost (as
we have seen) to this brilliant Roman

*' In the latter years of Augustus,
when the foundations of the imperial
rule had been laid, and the structure
mainly raised by his practical wisdom,
there had dwelt a poor family in a
small town of evil repute, not far from
the lake of the remote province where
this fisherman plied his trade. It con-
sisted of an elderly man, a youthful
wife, and one young child. The man
gained his livelihood as a carpenter,
and the child worked with him. Com-
plete obscurity rested upon this house-
hold till the child grew to the age of
thirty years" (p. 104).

Then follows in few words the his-
tory of his life, death, and resurrec-
tion. These things the fisherman had

Digitized by VjOOQIC


The FormaHon of Christendom,

seen, and in this was the power which
was to substitute a new life for the
corrupt civilisation of a world.

The details of the comparison
which follows we maj leave to be con-
sidered when the work is continued.
They are drawn out with great spirit^
thoughtfulness, and artistic beauty.
For the comparison of the two sys-
tems in an individual, Mr. Allies se-
lects on the one side Cicero, on the
other St Augustine. An able review-
er has maintained that ^ Marcus Au-
relius was the person to compare with
St Augustine.** Mr. Allies has given
his reasons for not selecting either
Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus in the
defective reli^ous system of both.
There were, however, other grounds
which seem to us even stronger. To
test what heathenism can do, it was
necessary that the example selected
should, as a chemist would say, pre-
sent not '^a trace" of any other influ-
ence. Now this was impossible in the
days of Epictetus or Aurelius. Chris-
tianity had then been taught and pro-
fessed publicly and without restraint
for many years, with only occasional
bursts of persecution since Nero first
declared war upon it Its theology,
indeed, was fully known only to the
faithful, but its moral code was pub-
licly professed. The Christian teach-
ers came before the people as philos-
ophers. It is absolutely certain that
all the great Stoics, and especially the
emperor, must often and oflen have
heard of the great moral and religious
principles laid down by the Christian
teachers, however imperfect was his
knowledge of their religious practices.
But we have already had occasion to
^remark that men are driven, whether
*they will or no, to approve and admit
these great principles when they are
only publicly stated and maintained,
although certain not to have discover-
ed them by their unassisted reason.
We cannot, therefore, but regard the
religious and moral maxims of the
later Stoics as an imperfect reflection
of the full light of Christianity, like
the moonlight illuminating without

warming, but still taking such hold of
the minds which have once embraced
them, that they could never be forgot*
ten. The life and practice of the
imperial philosopher, we have every
reason to believe, was, for a man
without the faith and the sacraments,
wonderfully hig^. Far be it from us
to depreciate it, for whatever there
was in it that was really good we
know resulted from that grace which
is given even beyond the bounds of
the Church. But our knowledge of
details is most meagre, while Cicero
we know probably more familiarly
than any great man in whose intimacy
we hare not lived. The thoughts
and speculations which approved
themselves to the deliberate judgment
of Marcus Aurelius, these we know,
and in many respects they are won-
derful. Of his life we know little
more than he chose publicly to exhibit
to his subjects. The failings of Cice-
ro were petty and degrading; but if
he had been firmly seated on the
throne of the Ceesars, and if we had
possessed no more exact details of his
life than we do of the life of Marcus
Aurelius, we much doubt whether we
should have been aware of them.
Merivale says: << The high standard
by which we claim to judge him is in
itself the fullest acknowledgment of
his transcendent merits ; for, undoubt-
edly, had he not placed himself on a
higher level than the statesmen and
sages of his day, we should pass over
many of his weaknesses in silence,
and allow his pretensions to our re-
gard to pass almost unchallenged.
But we demand a nearer approach to
the perfection of human wisdom and
virtue in one who sought to approve
himself as the greatest of their teach-
ers." He was condemned indeed by
his heathen countrymen, but their cen-
sure was rather of his greatness than
his goodness, and they would probably
have been even more severe had he
attained what he did not even aim at
— Christian humility.

Considering these things, and espe-
cially that Cicero belong^ almost to

Digitized by VjOOQIC

The FarmaJtion of Ohristendam,


the last generation, which was wholly
oninflaeiiced by the reflected light of
Christiaiiityy and in which, therefore,
we can to a considerable degree meas-
ore the real effects of heathen philos-
ophy, we venture to think that Mr.
Allies has judged well in comparing
him as the model heathen with St. Au-
gustine as the model Christian. The
oompariBim is drawn with a masterly

On the whole, however, we incline
to think that the two last lectures are
of the greatest practical value, espe-
cially at the present crisis. The salt
by which Christianity acts upon the
woiid seems to be martyrdom and
holy virginity. Both of them have
been always in operation since the
days of John the Baptist. But there
are periods of comparative stillness in
which martyrdom is hardly seen, or
at least only at the ontposte of the
Christian host At such times, it is
by holy virginity that the Church acts
most directly and most powerfully
upon the world. This was the case
in the Roman empire as soon as per-
seeution relaxed.

Our^ author says :

** A grea^ Christian writer [St. Chry-
sostom], who stood between the old
pagan world and the new society
which was taking* its place, and who
was equally familiar with both, made,
near the end of the fourth century,
the following observation : ' The
Greeks had some few men, though it
was but few, among them, who, by
the force of philosophy, came to de-
spise riches ; and some, too, who
coold control the irascible part of
man ; but the flower of virginity was
nowhere to be found among them.
Here they always gave precedence to
us, confessing that to succeed in such
a thing was to be superior to nature
and more than man. Hence their
profound admiration for the whole
Christian people. The C*hristian host
derived its chief lustre from this por-
tion of its ranks.' And, again, he
notes the existence, in his time, of
three different sentiments respecting

this institution. < The Jews,' he says,
' turn with abhorrence from the beauty
of virginity ; which indeed is no won-
der, since they treated with dishonor
the very Son of the Virgin himself.
The Greeks, however, admire it, and
look np to it with astonishment, but
the Church of Grod alone cultivates
it.' After fifleen hundred yearfa we
find the said sentiments in three great
classes of the world. The pagan na-
tions, among whom Catholic mission-
aries go forth, reproduce the admira-
tion of Greek and Latin pagans;
they reverence that which they have
not strength to follow, and are often
drawn by its exhibition into the fold.
But there are nations who likewise
reproduce the Jewish abhorrence of
the virginal life. And as the Jews
worshipped the unity of the Godhead, •
like the Christians, and so seemed to
be far nearer to them than pagan idol-
aters, and yet turned with loathing
from this product of Christian life,
so those nations might seem, from the
large portions of Christian doctrine
which they still hold, to be nearer to
Christianity than the Hindoo and the
Chinese ; and yet their contempt and
dislike for the virginal life and its
wonderful institutions seems to tell
another tale. But now, as fifteen hun-
dred years ago, whether those outside
admire or abhor, the Church alone
cultivates the virginal life. Now, as
then, it is her glory and her strength,
the mark of her Lonl, and the stand-
ard of his power, the most special
sign of his presence and operation. < If,'
says the same writer, ^ you take away
its seemliness and its continuity of de-
votion, you cut the very sinews of the
virginal estate ; so when it is possess-
ed together with the best conduct of
life, you have in it the root and sup-
port of all good things : just as a most
fruitftil soil nurtures a root, so a good
conduct bears the fruits of virginity.-
Or, to speak with greater truth, the
crucified life is at once both its root
and its fruit' " (p. 382).

We must conclude by expressing
our deliberate conviction that no study-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Scdnts of the JDesert.

can be more important at the present
day than that of the change from hea-
then civilization to Christendom, the
means by which it was brought about,
and the effects which it produced.
For in our day, most eminently, the
Protestant falling away is producing
its fruits in restoring throughout aU
Europe more and more of the special
characteristics of heathen society.
We have not room at present to offer
any proofs of this, but we would beg
every reader to observe for himself,
and we are confident that his experi-
ence will confirm what we say. Nor
is it only Catholics that are aware of
this tendency. A thoughtful writer
in the Saturday RevieWy six months
back, devoted a whole article to trace

the points of resemblance between an
educated English Protestant of our
day and a heathen of cultivated mind.
Those who feel disposed at once to
regard the idea as an insult are proba-
bly judging of heathen civilization
by Nero and Domitian. IVIr. Allies's
book will at least dispel this delusion.
In fact, it is only too obvious that
there is, even in our own day, no want
of plausibility in w^hat is at the bottom
only revived heathenism ; and in con-
sequence of this remarkable resem-
blance, nothing could be more strictly
practical at the present moment than
any studies which show us the old
heathen civilization as it really was,
in its attractive as well as its repul-
sive qualities.

From The Month.



1. Abbot Antony said: Without
temptation there is no entrance possi-
ble into the kingdom. Take away
temptations, and no one is in the sav-
ing way*

2. Some one asked blessed Arseni-
us, " How is it that we, with all our
education and accomplishments, are
80 empty, and these Egyptian peas-
imts are so full ?"

He made answer: We have the
world's outward training, from which
nothing is learned ; but theirs is a
personal travail, and virtue is its fruit.

3. It was heard by some that Ab-
bot Agatho possessed the gift of dis-
•crimination. Therefore, to make trial
of his temper, they said to him, " We
are told that you are sensual and
haughty." He answered : That is just it.

They said again, "Are you not
that Agatho who has such a foul
tongue ?" He answered : I am he.

Then they said, "Are you not
Agatho the heretic?" He xnade an-
swer: No.

Then they asked him why he had
been patient of so much, yet would
not put up with this last. He an-
swered: By those I was but casting
on me evil ; but by this I should be
severiag me from God.

4. Holy Epiphftnius was asked
why the commandments are ten, and
the beatitudes nine. He answered:
The commandments are as many as
the plagues of Egypt ; but the beati-
tudes are a triple image of the Holy

5. It was told to Abbot Theodore,
that a certain brother had returned to
the world. He answered:' Marvel
not at this, but marvel rather that any
one comes out of it

6. The Abbot Sisoi said: Seek
God, and not his dwelling-place.

7. It is told of a certain senior^
that he wished to have a cucumber.
When he had got it, he hufig it up in
his sight, and would not touch it, lest
appetite should have the mastery of
him. Thus he did penance for his wish.

Digitized by VJ.OOQ IC

AU-HaOow Eve ; or, 7%* Test of Futurity.


From The Lamp.




Nett Year's Day is always a holi-
day. And well it is for the girls and
boys of a parish, of a district, . of a
connty, ay, of all Ireland, if it should
rise upon them in the glowing beauty
of a cloudless sun. Then, indeed, the
girls **are drest in all their best."
Many a new bright ribbon has been
purchased on the previous market-
day, and many a twist and turn the
congregation side of their bonnets has
had. A bow of new ribl^on, blue or
red, according to their complexion —
for these country girls are no more
fools in such a matter than their bet-
ters — ^has been held first to this side
of their bonnet, then to that; then the
long ends have been brought across
the top this way, then that way, tem-
porarily fastened with pins in the first
instance, until it is held at arm's-
length, with the head a little to one
side, to test the fi^al position. Their
petticoats have been swelled out by
numbers, not by crinoline, which as
yet was unknown, even to the higher
orders. But '< be this as it may," the
girls of the townlands of Rathcash,
Rathcashmore, and Shanvilla made no
contemptible turn-out upon the New
Year's day after Tom Murdock had re-
turned from Armagh. The boys, too,
were equally grand, according to
their style of dress. Some lanky, ^
thin-shanked fellows in loose trousers
and high-low boots ; while the well-
formed fellows, with plump calves and
fine ankles, turned out in their new
corderoy breeches, woolen stockings,
and pumps* I have confined myself
to their lower proportions, as in most
cases the coats and rests were much
of the same make, though perhaps dif-

ferent in color and material, while the
well-brushed " GaroUn^ hat was com-
mon to aU.

Conspicuous amongst the girls in
the district in which our story so-
journs, were, as a matter of course,
Winny Cavana and Kate Mulvey,
with some others of their neighbors
who have not been mentioned, and
who need not be.

Winny, since the little episode re-
specting her refusal of Tom Murdock,
and his subsequent departure, had led
a very quiet, meditative life. She
oould not help remarking to herself,
however, that she had somehow or

Online LibraryPaulist FathersCatholic world → online text (page 59 of 136)