|The Early Church, from Ignatius to Augustine|
|by George Hodges|
|An engaging introduction to the history of the early church from its emergence in the Mediterranean world dominated by Rome until the fall of Rome in the age of Augustine. Relates the story of Christianity's struggle for life during the early days of persecution; the defence of the faith against prejudice, heresy, and rivalry; the Arian debate; the rise of monasticism in the east and in the west; and the influence of Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Augustine. Ages 14-18 |
MONASTICISM IN THE WEST: MARTIN, CASSIAN AND JEROME
I. EAST AND WEST
 THE statement that "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," is based on racial
differences. Some of these are superficial, and find expression in the extraordinary contrasts between the
Oriental and the Occidental ways of doing things. But others are temperamental. The East is the land of
meditation, where men think for the joy of thinking, and do not require that their thoughts shall tend toward
any concrete conclusion. The West is the land of action.
The meditative man desires to withdraw from the world. He seeks a place of quiet where he may escape the
manifold distractions of common life; he subordinates the body to the spirit; he dreams of an ideal state for
which this present life is a preparation or probation. He believes in a "world-renouncing ethic," whose
formula is "We live to die."
The active man desires to use and control the world. His happiness is to immerse himself in
 affairs. He is forever busy with investigation, and with the problem of applying the results of investigation
to the conditions of life. He takes the planet as it stands, and is glad that he is a citizen of it; he would
make the most of all his opportunities. He believes in a "world-affirming ethic," whose formula is "We live to
It is easy to exaggerate the contrast between the mind of the East and the mind of the West. Human nature
laughs at generalizations. Two great religions of the East have contradicted the doctrine that we live to die.
Confucius said nothing about the gods, Moses said nothing about the life to come. These religions, in the
heart of the East, concerned themselves with the present life. The teachings of Confucius were as practical as
the teachings of Franklin. The historians, the poets and the prophets of Judaism agreed that the rewards and
punishments of God are to be looked for in this world, and appear in health and in sickness, in prosperity and
Indeed, the East and the West have twice met already. They met in Greek philosophy, where the Stoics regarded
the world from the point of view which we consider characteristically Eastern, and their neighbors the
Epicureans regarded life from the point of view which seems to us distinctively Western. They met also in the
Chris-  tian religion, whose essential adjectives are the words "spiritual" and "social." Jesus taught a love of God
which includes all that is Oriental in its renunciation of the world, and a love of man which in its
affirmation of the world includes all that is Occidental.
The contrast, however, between the East and the West is real and abiding. It is true that the difference
between the monastic ideal of Basil and the monastic ideal of Benedict is surprisingly slight. Basil is as
practical as Benedict, and makes quite as much of the life of action: he sets his monks to till the ground and
to apply themselves to reading and writing. The fact remains, however, that Eastern monasticism and Western
monasticism took different roads, and have had a very different history: largely because the Eastern monks
were Orientals and the Western monks were Occidentals. The racial differences appeared.
Eastern monasticism renounced the world: at first by way of protest, then by way of frank despair. At first
the Eastern monks came back occasionally to express their opinion of the world. They swarmed out of the
deserts into the streets of the cities in which the bishops were sitting in council, and denounced heretics
and sinners. Sometimes they were in the right; more often, in
 the wrong. Their monastic seclusion had made them ignorant fanatics. But gradually they ceased to take even an
occasional part in the affairs of the world. They turned their backs upon it in despair. They shut themselves
up behind their high stone was and let the world go by. In the monotony of their regulated life there was no
place for individual expression. Their annals no longer showed great names. They were connected with the
church only by the fact that the bishops were selected from their brotherhood. But the bishops came from the
monasteries unacquainted with the life of the lay world, and unfitted to take any influential part in it. Far
from continuing the original protest, they were submissive servants of the state.
In Western monasticism, on the other hand, the monks developed the institution by the continual assertion of
individuality. Their history is filled with the names of those who were leaders of their generation. And these
leaders, for the most part, showed their leadership by their defiance of uniformity. The monks contended with
the bishops, perpetuating the initial protest against the conventionality and secularity of the church. They
contended among themselves, and thereby made their history a series of notable reforms, each of which made the
 higher and wider than before. And they controlled the world. They had such part in it that no history of
Europe can be adequately written without including them.
The three outstanding names of the monastic movement in the West are St. Martin, St. John Cassian,
and St. Jerome. Each promoted the new life in his own way: Martin by his example, Cassian by teaching the West
the methods of the East, Jerome by a propaganda which amazed and startled the society of Rome.
The disciple and biographer of St. Martin, Sulpicius Severus, begins his book with a preface addressed to his
friend Desiderius to whom he entrusts it. I had determined, he says, to keep this little treatise private. I
am sending it to you because you have asked me for it so many times, but on the understanding that you will
not show it to anybody else: remember, you promised me that. At the same time, I have my fears that in spite
of my entreaty and your promise you will nevertheless publish it. If you do, please ask the readers to pay
more attention to the facts which are here related than to the imperfect language in which they are set forth;
remind them that the
 kingdom of God consists not of eloquence, but of faith, and that the gospel was preached not by orators, but
by fishermen. Or, better still, when you publish the book, erase my name from the title-page, that the book
may proclaim its subject-matter, while it tells nothing of the author.
Thus we are made acquainted with the pleasant and modest person whose account of St. Martin is the only
considerable source of information concerning him.
Martin was the son of pagan parents, in Pannonia, where his father was a military tribune. In his early
childhood he was attracted toward the Christian Church,—so much so that when he was but twelve years of
age, he made up his mind to be a hermit. This intention his father hindered, and three years later, upon the
occasion of an edict which required that the sons of veterans should be enrolled for military service, he sent
him, much against young Martin's will, into the army. There Martin tried to follow his vocation by changing
places with his servant, whose boots he insisted upon cleaning. It was evident to all his associates that the
warfare in which this soldier was concerned was directed not against the Goths, but against the devil. To this
statement Sulpicius adds that all his companions marvellously loved him.
 Then one day in the midst of a fierce winter, when there was much suffering among the poor, Martin met at the
gate of Amiens a shivering beggar. Thereupon he took off his military cloak, cut it into two pieces with his
sword, and put one half upon the beggar's back. That night in a dream Christ appeared to Martin wearing the
half of the severed cloak and saying to a multitude of angels, "Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed
me with this robe." In consequence of this dream Martin was baptized, being then about twenty years of age.
Presently, when the commander of the army reviewed the troops on the eve of a battle with the barbarians,
Martin took the opportunity to ask that he might be relieved of his military duties in order to devote himself
to the religious life. "I am the soldier of Christ," he said, "it is not lawful for me to fight." When the
commander, naturally enough, accused him of cowardice, he offered to go into the battle on the morrow, wholly
unarmed and without the protection of shield or helmet, at the head of the army, if after that he might be
dismissed. That night the barbarians decided that the odds were too much against them, and the next day they
surrendered. And Martin was set free.
Entering thus upon a life devoted to religion,
 Martin found that his new career offered him quite as many opportunities for adventure as the old. Once, in
the Alps, he was attacked by robbers, and was in peril of his life. One of the robbers had his axe uplifted to
strike Martin, when another stopped him. This kindly brigand Martin converted. "Who are you?" said the
brigand. "I am a Christian," said Martin.—"Are you not afraid?"—"I have never been more sure of my
safety in my life. But I am afraid for you: you are in danger of everlasting damnation." Sulpicius had the
story from a hermit, whom he found to be the converted robber himself.
Once as he prayed, the place where Martin was kneeling was filled with a glory of purple light, and there
appeared one crowned with gold and clad in a royal robe. And the vision said, "Martin, I am the Lord Christ,
at last descended out of heaven to earth, and manifested first of all to you." And Martin, instructed by long
experience, at first kept silence, till the vision said again, "Martin, do you not believe?" To which the
saint replied, "The Lord Jesus never promised to return in purple, with a crown upon his head. Where are the
prints of the nails?" At the sound of these words the defeated devil vanished.
Martin suffered much from many enemies, natural and supernatural.
 He was reviled by those who felt that his holy life was a criticism upon themselves. Sulpicius says, "Some of
his calumniators, although very few, some of his maligners, I say, were reported to be bishops!" The
biographer is reluctant to recall the names of any of these injurious ecclesiastics.
"I shall deem it sufficient," he says, "that, if any of them reads this account and perceives that he is
himself pointed at, he may have the grace to blush. But if, on the other hand, he shows anger, he will, by
that very fact, own that he is among those spoken of, though all the time perhaps I may have been thinking of
some other person."
This enmity of officials was the natural result of Martin's increasing influence. He was beginning to disturb
the conscience of the contented church. He was exhibiting in his life of renunciation an ideal which
contrasted sharply with the lax and secular religion of the time. It was an ideal which devout souls
recognized and which they desired to follow. Sulpicius says that when he visited Martin, the saint continually
insisted that the allurements of the world and all secular burdens are to be abandoned that one may be free
and unencumbered in serving the Lord Jesus. Sulpicius abandoned them. Paulinus of Nola, a great nobleman,
forsook his splendid house and his fair estate on the Garonne, and the pleasant society in which
 he lived, to follow Martin into the solitude of the woods. It made a profound sensation in the Roman world.
Many others undertook the ascetic life.
Martin was thus the Antony of the West, the pioneer of an unorganized monasticism, attracting men by the
fascination of his holy life, but leaving them for the most part to use such spiritual methods as they
pleased. His settlement near Poictiers, in 360, almost coincident with the monastic life of Basil and Gregory,
was probably the first monastery in Europe. The Life of Martin which Sulpicius wrote became a kind of monastic
gospel, like the Life of Antony written by Athanasius. It was read everywhere. It was the most popular book of
the fourth century.
Martin was like Antony in his belief that he was visited by devils; whom, however, he encountered without
fear. He had even a kindly feeling for the chief of the devils, to whom he once ventured to promise salvation,
if he would but repent him of his sins.
The people of Tours called Martin from his prayers and meditations to be their bishop. They had to deceive him
to get him from his monastery. One of them pretended that his wife was desperately ill, and begged him to come
and visit her. Then they all crowded about him, and he was made
 bishop in spite of himself. He went on foot about his vast diocese, preaching from town to town, contending
with paganism, destroying idols, converting the heathen, and everywhere winning the love and reverence of men.
He was the evangelist of France; the apostle to the Gauls.
He never ceased to be a monk. Two miles out of Tours, beside the river Loire, he found a retreat so secret and
retired that he was able to hide himself in it. It was like the glen of Annesi as described by Basil. "On one
side it was surrounded by a precipitous rock of a lofty mountain, while the Loire had shut in the rest of the
plain by a bay extending back for a little distance; and the place could be approached only by a single
passage, and that a very narrow one." But even in this concealment he was discovered. Young men, like-minded
with him, found him out, and settled near him in caves of the overhanging mountain, till there were eighty of
them, meeting daily for prayer and having their meals in common, clothed in garments of camel's hair.
Once Martin appeared at the court of the emperor Maximus, to intercede for the Priscillianists. These were
gentle, enthusiastic and mistaken persons who had fallen into a heresy concerning which we are informed only
by references in the writings of their enemies. The descriptions
 sound like a sort of gnosticism. The Priscillianists were educated and even literary persons, and some of them
were rich. They were attacked by two neighboring bishops, regarding whose bad character even the orthodox
accounts agree. These bishops gathered a council of their brethren and condemned the heretics. They appealed
to the emperor, and the emperor was about to confirm the condemnation when Martin appeared. He had no
inclination toward the errors of the Priscillianists, but he knew that their lives were innocent and holy. In
response to his intercession the emperor promised to set them free. Hardly was the saint's back turned,
however, when the angry bishops persuaded the emperor and he had Priscillian beheaded, with six of his
companions. The event is memorable as the first formal handing over of a condemned heretic to a secular court
for punishment. It was the beginning of a long series of shameful tragedies.
Martin indignantly protested, and at first refused to hold communion with the offending bishops. In order,
however, to save the lives of some of the lesser members of the sect, he felt it necessary to yield. He
attended a synod of bishops, and he dined at the table of the emperor. It is said that when the wine was
passed to him, and he was expected to pass it to the emperor, he gave
 it to his chaplain, thus declaring that the humblest priest is above the proudest prince. So, at least, the
incident was interpreted in a day when the church was contending with the state for the mastery of the world.
As for the bishops, St. Martin declared that if God would forgive him for sitting with them in that synod, he
would never attend another. He was of the mind of St. Gregory of Nazianzus regarding ecclesiastical
"No one ever saw him enraged or excited," says Sulpicius, "or lamenting or laughing; he was always one and the
same, displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance. Never was there a feeling in his heart
except piety, peace and tender mercy." The cape which he wore—capella—became one of the
most precious possessions of the kings of France, and the sanctuary which was built to contain it was called
Capella, hence our word chapel. The position of his memorial day in the church calendar gives to the most
beautiful weeks of autumn the name of St. Martin's Summer.
When Martin died, in the year 400, John Cassian was completing the second of two long visits to the
monasteries of Egypt. Cassian was a man
 of the West, probably of Gaul. His well-to-do parents had given him an excellent education, which had so
filled his memory with the words of the classic authors that they frequently came in between him and the
sacred page. He could not read the accounts of the battles and heroes of the books of Kings and Chronicles
without remembering Homer, and with the verses of the Psalms he heard the choruses of Æschylus.
He was still young, however, when the passion for the ascetic life possessed him. There being then no
monasteries in his native land, he made his way to the East, a pioneer of those who, long after, out of the
same country, journeyed as pilgrims or crusaders to the Christian shrines of Palestine. He settled among monks
in Bethlehem. But Cassian had a hungry mind. He was not content to say his prayers and save his soul. He would
be not a monk only, but a student of monasticism. He made himself familiar, accordingly, with the monastic
methods first of Bethlehem, and then of Syria, and asked permission to visit the famous communities of Egypt.
Leave for such a journey was given on the condition of a speedy return, and Cassian and his friend Germanus
started on their voyage of discovery.
They landed on the Delta of the Nile, and proceeded immediately to visit the holy hermits who
 had their dwelling in the salt marshes. They interviewed old Chæremon, now past his hundredth year, who had
prayed so continuously that he could no longer stand up straight, but went upon his hands and knees. He
preached to the young visitors on Perfection and on the Protection of God; and on these sermons, as on all the
other discourses which they heard, they took notes. The Abbot Pinufius preached on the Marks of Satisfaction.
The Abbot John told them how having been a hermit he had left that solitary life and entered a community in
order to practise the virtues of subjection and obedience. The Abbot Abraham instructed them on Mortification.
The pilgrims were now so heartily enjoying themselves, and were finding their visit so profitable, that they
reflected with much regret upon the pledge which they had given to return to Bethlehem after a few weeks. They
consulted the Abbot Joseph, who explained to them the Obligation of Promises. The explanation was so
satisfactory that they continued on their travels and did not return to Bethlehem till after seven years.
Even then, they remained but a short time among the brethren, being again permitted by them to go to Egypt,
where they continued their monastic explorations. They now visited the
 Nitrian Valley, in the Libyan desert, northwest of Cairo, a place filled with monasteries. Dr. Butler, who
visited the district in 1883, found four of these groups of buildings still standing and inhabited. They were
all constructed on the same plan, and the general appearance of them to-day probably differs little from what
Cassian found. Each is described as "a veritable fortress, standing about one hundred and fifty yards square,
with blind, lofty walls rising sheer out of the sand. Each monastery has also, either detached or not, a large
keep, or tower, standing four-square, and approached only by a drawbridge. The tower contains the library,
storerooms for the vestments and sacred vessels, cellars for oil and corn, and many strange holes and
hiding-places for the monks in the last resort, if their citadel should be taken by the enemy. Within the
monastery are enclosed one principal and one or two smaller court-yards, around which stand the cells of the
monks, domestic buildings, such as the mill-room, the oven, the refectory, and the like, and the churches."
In such monasteries, and in the retreats of hermits, Cassian and his friend were privileged to listen to the
discourses of holy men, which they
 recorded as they had done among the monks of the Delta. The Abbot Serenus, who spoke of Inconstancy of Mind
and of Spiritual Wickedness, taught them that the way to holiness is beset by continual temptation; and the
teaching was confirmed by Serapion, who instructed them in the "Eight Principal Faults" of the monastic life:
gluttony, fornication, covetousness, anger, dejection, vain-glory and pride,—being in large part the
sins to escape which the monks had fled into the desert,—together with a new sin which they found
waiting for them there, the sin called "accidie," meaning literally "without care," "without interest," the
sin of religious indifference. It overtook them in the midst of their prayers and fastings, this desperate
question as to the value of it all. They wearied of their holy living; for the moment, they hated it. They
described this fault, in the phrase of a psalm, as "the sickness that destroyeth in the noonday." The sun of
the African desert beat upon their heads, and their hearts failed within them. All their painful life of
renunciation and devotion seemed a wicked folly.
After these profitable travels Cassian went to Constantinople, where he found Chrysostom undergoing
persecution. He took the side of the saint, by whom he was presently ordained; and
 it was he who carried to Rome the letter of the faithful, describing the scandalous manner in which Chrysostom
had been deposed and exiled. From Rome he went to the neighborhood of Marseilles, and there in the midst of a
dense, primeval forest he established two monasteries, one for men and one for women. These he organized
according to the patterns which he had studied in the East.
At Marseilles, he wrote the two books which gave him a place in the history of monasticism in the West
corresponding to the place of St. Basil in the history of monasticism in the East. He found monastic
enthusiasm and a passion for the ascetic life; and he found men, inspired by the examples of Martin, of Hilary
of Poictiers and of Paulinus of Nola, living solitary or in communities engaged in prayer. But all this was
informal, unconnected and without regulation.
Cassian's "institutes," describing the life which the monks lived in Egypt, brought the experience of the East
to the service of the West. He gave a detailed account of the dress of the monks, their sheepskins and
goatskins, their hoods and girdles, even their shoes. He explained how they arranged and kept their hours of
prayer. He called attention to the reverence and serenity of their devotions. "When the psalm is ended," he
said, "they do not hurry at once to kneel down, as some
 of us do in this country, who, before the psalm is fairly ended, make haste to prostrate themselves for
prayer, in their hurry to finish the service as quickly as possible." He glorified the obedience of the Abbot
John, who at the command of a superior stuck a dry stick into the ground, and for the space of a whole year
watered it twice a day with water which he drew from the river two miles distant; and the obedience of the
Abbot Patermucius, who having brought with him into the desert his little boy of eight, carried him in his
arms to the river, as Abraham had conducted Isaac to the mountain, and, being so ordered, threw him in; whom
the brethren, we are glad to learn, pulled safely out.
These "Institutes" St. Benedict afterwards made the basis of his famous Rule, declaring his purpose not to
improve on Cassian, but to adapt his plans to the actual level of ordinary human nature. Thus they underlie
to-day the order of the monastic life wherever it is practised in the West. Cassian's "Conferences," also
called "Collations," being the notes which he took of the sermons of the holy brethren, Benedict arranged to
have read daily in his monasteries, page by page. In the late afternoon, after the day's work was done,
Benedict's monks sat in the cloister while one read aloud the discourses which Cassian had
 collected, and the supper of fruit which followed was called the collation, from the reading.
The pilgrimage of Cassian was not a unique experience. Others were taking similar journeys of holy adventure.
The biographer of St. Martin gives an account of a French monk, Postumianus, who sailed to Carthage to worship
at the tomb of Cyprian, and then, being driven by a contrary wind upon a barren coast of Africa, found a
hermit in a desert, who, he says, served him a truly luxurious breakfast, "consisting of the half of a barley
cake." Thence he went to Alexandria where he found monks and bishops debating disgracefully over the writings
of Origen. No sight, however, interested him more than the spectacle of a monk of Bethlehem, who, says the
traveller, "is always occupied in reading, always at his books with his whole heart; he takes no rest day or
night: he is perpetually either reading or writing something." This monk was St. Jerome.
Jerome was born in Pannonia, the native land of Martin. The place of his birth was soon after destroyed by the
advancing barbarians, and his parents were killed. He was educated in Rome, where his Latin teacher was old
Ælius Donatus, whose grammar ("Ars Grammatica ") was taught
 in the schools for a thousand years. This was the schoolmaster whom Dante found conversing with Chrysostom in
Paradise. As Cassian remembered his Homer and Æschylus, so Jerome remembered his Cicero and Plautus. One time,
long after, he was carried in a dream before the Judgment Seat above. The judge said, "Who are you?" Jerome
replied, "I am a Christian." "No," said the judge, "you are a Ciceronian." And the angels were commanded to
beat him. He says that when he waked his shoulders were black and blue.
Jerome entered, like Tertullian and Augustine at Carthage, into the immoralities of Rome, and was never free,
in all his life, from the temptations of the flesh. But he was converted. He went at once into asceticism. At
Aquileia a group of friends gathered about him, and they lived together under discipline, saying their
prayers, and discussing religion. The affection which these men had for Jerome ought to be remembered over
against his later quarrels and controversies. It was said of him, indeed, that he never hesitated to sacrifice
a friend for an opinion; but he had at the same time a genius for friendship. He was mightily attractive to
these companions, as afterwards to many good women in Rome. They admired and loved him. Presently the group
set out together on a pilgrimage to the East. After
wan-  derings which brought them to Antioch, Jerome fell sick, and so continued for a year. Two of his friends died.
Recovering, and being now alone, he went into a neighboring desert, a refuge of monks and hermits, where he
stayed for five years. Here his austerities did but increase the sensual temptations which he was seeking to
escape. "I used to sit alone," says Jerome. "I had no companions but scorpions and wild beasts. Sackcloth
disfigured my limbs, and my skin from long neglect had grown as black as an Ethiopian's. Tears and groans were
every day my portion; and if drowsiness chanced to overcome my struggles against it, my bare bones, which
hardly held together, clashed against the ground. Yet how often in that vast solitude, in that savage
dwelling-place, parched by a burning sun, how often did I fancy myself among the pleasures of Rome!"
Nevertheless, he continued his studies. He gathered books about him. He called to him a company of pupils who
served him as amanuenses. He began to learn Hebrew, a knowledge in which he differed from almost all of his
Christian contemporaries. He wrote a life of Paul the Hermit, which presently took its place in the literature
of the day with the Life of Antony by Athanasius, and the Life of Martin by Sulpicius. In their old
 age, he says, when Paul was a hundred and thirteen and Antony was ninety, the younger hermit visited the
elder; and that day a raven, which for many years had brought Paul every morning half a loaf of bread, flew
gently down and laid a whole loaf before them. The two saints talked together. "Tell me," said Paul, "how
fares the human race? Are new homes springing up in the ancient cities? What government directs the world?"
Antony knew hardly more about it than Paul himself. When Paul died, leaving as his sole possession the tunic
which he had woven out of palm-leaves, two lions dug his grave. The lion which appears with Jerome in the
familiar pictures is a symbol of this desert life. It came to him one day holding up a wounded paw, out of
which the saint extracted a thorn.
"I beseech you, reader,"—so the Life of Paul ends,—"I beseech you, whoever you may be, to remember
Jerome the sinner. He, if God would give him his choice, would much sooner take Paul's tunic with his merits,
than the purple of kings with their punishments."
The troubles of the contending church followed the scholar even into the wilderness. The strife for succession
to the bishopric of Antioch, which engaged the attention of the Council of Constantinople under the presidency
of Gregory of
Nazi-  anzus, divided the monks, and Jerome found his peace perturbed by their debates. He went to Constantinople
where he studied for a time with Gregory, and translated some of the homilies of Origen. Thence he removed to
Rome, where he entered into the service of Pope Damasus. The Pope proposed questions, mostly on the
interpretation of Scripture, to which Jerome wrote learned and elaborate answers. Here he continued his study
of Origen, whom he followed in the collation of versions of the Septuagint, endeavoring to establish an
accurate text. Here he made the translation of the Psalms into Latin which was used in the services of the
Western Church for eleven centuries.
Jerome found the Roman world as he remembered it from the days of his youth. It was worse rather than better,
being given over to luxury and pride and pleasure. The rich were idle, cruel and sensual. Women vied with each
other in the costly splendor of their dress. Their lips were red with rouge, their faces white with gypsum,
their eye-brows black with antimony. But among them were good women. The Lady Marcella, who lived in a great
house on the Aventine Hill, remembered how Athanasius visited Rome, bringing with him two monks from the
valley of the Nile. They had mightily impressed her in her
 childhood. In her house Jerome had a Bible class of wives and daughters of the Roman aristocracy. Under his
instruction they studied even Hebrew. They made him their spiritual director, the keeper of their conscience.
He initiated them into the discipline of the ascetic life. The Lady Paula came, a great person in the social
world, and brought her daughters Blesilla and Eustochium. Jerome's influence was felt throughout the society
The new asceticism made immediate enemies. It was opposed instinctively by all who loved the pleasures of the
world. It was opposed also by those who found in its extremes a defiance of the revelation of the will of God
in human nature.
Helvidius attacked its insistence on the supreme sacredness of the unmarried life. He denied the doctrine,
cardinal to all ascetics, of the perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord. The brothers and sisters, he
said, of whom mention is made in the Gospels, were her children. Jerome vehemently denied this. He maintained
that holiness and the normal wedded state are antagonistic. Marriage means crying children, and clamoring
servants, and cooks and seamstresses, and anxiety about expense. The master comes home to dinner: the wife
flutters like a swallow all about the house to see that everything is in
 order, and the meal ready to' be served. "Tell me, I pray, where in all this is any thought of God?"
Jovinian had made trial of the ascetic life and had abandoned it. He had lived on bread and water, saying his
prayers; but he had changed his mind. He had come to perceive that the laws of nature are the laws of God, and
that the normal human life is acceptable with Him. In this spirit he had written books in which he declared
that "virginity, widowhood and marriage are themselves indifferent, being each alike pleasing to God," and
that "fasting and the thankful enjoyment of food are of equal moral validity." To these propositions, which to
us are common-places of religion, Jerome opposed himself with the fierceness of a garrison whose strong tower
is beset by the enemy. He went so far as to denounce marriage as a state of sin, and so scandalized sober
persons by his destructive enthusiasm that Augustine had to write a treatise on the Good of Marriage to
counteract his teaching. Jerome himself withdrew the more extreme statements of his position, and in a letter
to a friend excused himself by the significant statement that "it is one thing to argue, and another thing to
teach." Anything, he held, is fair in the battle of debate.
Vigilantius, like Jovinian, saw the increasing
 perils of asceticism. He felt that the life of religion was being corrupted by superstitious devotions,
especially the new honors which were being paid to the relics of the saints. He had the courage to oppose the
whole current of the Christian life as Jerome directed it, declaring that paganism and polytheism were being
invited back into the church. Jerome in reply called him Dormitantius, and said that he was talking in his
sleep, and snoring instead of arguing. He wished that he could deal with him as the blessed Paul dealt with
Ananias and Sapphira.
Jerome arraigned the whole world, lay and clerical. In an amazing letter to Eustochium he advised her as to
her companions. She must avoid the society of married women, especially those of rank and wealth, who wear
robes inwrought with threads of gold. She must have no intercourse with widows, who go abroad in capacious
litters, with red cloaks, looking for new husbands. "Let your companions be women pale and thin with fasting."
She must shun all men, especially clergymen, and more particularly such clergymen as "use perfume's freely,
and see that there are no creases in their shoes. Their curling hair shows traces of the tongs; their fingers
glisten with rings; they walk on tiptoe across a damp road, not to splash their feet."
 The letter is of much interest to the student of Roman manners in the fourth century, but it is easy to see
how the publication of it increased the hostility which was rising against the plain-speaking monk who wrote
it. The young men of Rome already hated the man who told the young women not to marry. The clergy hated him
whose austere life was a criticism upon their comfortable ways. When presently Blesilla died, and the rumor
went abroad that she had been killed by the monastic discipline to which she had subjected herself, there was
a riot at her funeral, and people cried, "The monks to the Tiber!" Then Pope Damasus came to the end of his
days, and in his death Jerome lost his strong protector. He had to leave the city. He betook himself to
Bethlehem, whither Paula and Eustochium followed him.
On the eve of his departure Jerome wrote a letter to the Lady Asella, defending himself against the slanders
of the city. They call me, he said, an infamous person, crafty and slippery and a liar. At first they said
that I was holy and humble and eloquent, and that I ought to be a bishop. Now the place is filled with gossip
about me and the holy Paula, "one who mourns and fasts, who is squalid with neglect, and almost blind with
weeping, whose delights are self-denials,
 and whose life a fast." "I thank my God that I am worthy of the hatred of the world."
Friends and disciples accompanied the pilgrims, and in Bethlehem they built monasteries, with Paula's money.
She presided over one, ruling a community of holy women; he presided over the other. And they maintained
together a guest-house for travellers, so that if Joseph and Mary came that way again there should be
hospitality for them at the inn.
Jerome was now forty-one years old, and had thirty-four years yet to live. He devoted himself to his
interrupted studies. He opened a school for the Bethlehem children, teaching them Greek and Latin. He took up
again the study of Hebrew. Every day Paula and Eustochium came over to the pleasant cave which he called the
"paradise of studies" and together they read the Bible and discoursed upon it. There it was that Postumianus
found him, "always at his books with his whole heart." There he kept the discipline of the monastic life,
wearing the brown habit of a hermit, and sweetening all his studies with his prayers.
He never succeeded in sweetening his temper. His wrath still broke out as of old against his critics and his
enemies, and against all heretics. He set an example which poisoned the whole
 stream of controversy down to very recent times. Nothing was too bad for him to say about those with whom he
disagreed. But he appreciated the peace of Bethlehem. "Here bread, and herbs grown with our own hands, and
milk, rural delicacies, afford us humble but wholesome food. Living thus, sleep does not overtake us in
prayer, satiety does not interfere. with study. In summer, the trees afford us shade. In autumn, the air is
cool, and the fallen leaves give us a quiet resting-place. In spring the field is clothed with flowers, and we
sing our songs the sweeter among the singing of the birds. When the winter is cold, and the snow comes, we
have no lack of wood, and I watch or sleep warm enough. Let Rome keep its crowds, let its arena be cruel, its
circus go wild, its theatre indulge in luxury, and—not to forget our friends—let the senate of
ladies exchange their daily visits. Our happiness is to cleave to the Lord, and to put our trust in the Lord
God." It is a pleasant picture, in happy contrast with the barren deserts in which Paul and Antony lived their
The chief fruit of these years of quiet and congenial study was the Latin translation of the Bible, called the
The Psalter, which Jerome had published in Rome, was translated from the Septuagint, and
 kept its place in the service of the church in spite of the Psalter which he now translated from the Hebrew;
as the Psalms of Coverdale remain to-day in the Book of Common Prayer, in spite of the new translations of
1611 and 1885. But the rest of Jerome's Bible superseded all existing versions. Throughout the Middle Ages all
European Christendom read the Scriptures in the words which he had written. For a great part of the Western
Church, his translation is the Bible to this day. The men who made the English Bible which we use had Jerome's
sentences by heart, and the cadences of them still sound in the sacred pages which we read and in the prayers
which we pray.
Toxotius, the son of Paula, and representative of her great Roman house, married the daughter of Albinus who
in his day was Pontifex Maximus in the persisting paganism in which he lived and died. But their little
daughter Paula was baptized a Christian. Jerome in his last years, advised that the letters of the alphabet be
written on separate pieces of ivory for the child to play with, that she might thus begin her education. A
pleasant legend, celebrated in Domenichino's famous picture, said that the last sacrament was administered to
Jerome by the hand of St. Augustine.
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