THE State has felt the necessity of protecting the accused against the tyranny of prejudice by granting in certain cases in her courts a change of venue.
When the presumption of guilt is very strong, and the passions of the people are intensely excited, it is scarcely to be expected that an impartial judgment can be reached. Wisely therefore, and justly, under such circumstances, provision is made for removing the trial from the heated locality to another, where men can calmly weigh the evidence, and without fear or favor render a fair decision.
Unhappily this is not the case, nor in the nature of things can be, in crises of national and ecclesiastical history.
The trial as regards the original actors must take place on the spot, and without delay, and the judgment is pronounced at once. An appeal, it is true, goes to posterity, but it cannot save the victims of the hour. Their principles and motives and honor may be vindicated in time to come, but the reversal of judgment cannot redress their wrongs. They perish under the cruel hand of the tyrant, or by the madness of the people. If ever there was such a condition of things in human affairs, when passion prevailed over reason, and truth and falsehood were confused, and good and bad men were in popular estimation exchanged, the one for the other, it was in the sixteenth century, when Western Europe broke away from the restraints which had held the nations bound in mind and conscience for centuries. The rebound which took place was not the joyous and innocent exhibition of freedom, which the animal presents when released from the stall and the stable, but the reckless license which the oppressed captives show, when they rise in their might and overpower their keepers, and burst open their prison doors. Two sets of forces were in operation gradually preparing for this outbreak, unless relief were afforded. There were forces from within the body politic, which were growing in strength, and which were making themselves seen and felt as they seethed and hissed, seeking vent; there were forces from without, [3/4] which combined to keep up the repression, if not with increased pressure, since that were scarcely possible, still with all their might. At length the crisis came, when the internal fires burst through the ribs of the mountain which held them in, and all was wild confusion. Protest after protest had fallen unheeded on the ears of the Papacy; instead of the correction and amendment which were demanded there came increased corruption and worse scandals. When the skies were from time to time bright with promise that reform was at hand, the clouds quickly gathered again and the gloom became deeper than it was before. At length patience was exhausted, and, when the occasion was given, the pent-up passions of the nations burst forth with irrepressible violence. These considerations account for much which took place in the sixteenth century, and has since taken place, and still exists as an influence in giving direction to popular opinion, and shaping the judgment of those from whom we would expect better things than bigotry and prejudice and narrowness. Still we must bear with this and be patient. Truth is mighty and will ultimately prevail. The history of the Reformation Period is yet to be written. What is now called history is largely fiction; the standard authorities, it is not too much to say, have been imposed upon, or deceived themselves, and have given us often fancies for facts, and have made persons and events appear as they would have them, not as they really were. The misrepresentations, not, of course, always intentional, of these standard writers have been distilled into the pages of inferior authors and school-books and popular literature, until the minds of the people have become saturated with error and misconception and prejudice in regard to the Middle Ages and the events of the sixteenth century.
A similar condition of things followed our American Revolution. In the earlier decades of our national history it was next to impossible to obtain an impartial record of those times. The cry, "This is a great and glorious country, and we are a great people," prevailed over every other voice, and mutual panegyric and admiration alone were read in our newspapers and popular histories, and were heard from our platforms and lecture-halls. We may be exceptional in our experience, but we do not think that we are, when we recall such recollections of our youth as these. We were taught--that is in the books we learned at school and read at home, the conversation to which we habitually listened, the influences which fell upon us from the society in which we lived and moved--these taught us that in the struggle for independence with the mother country in 1776, our country was altogether right, and England was altogether wrong; that nothing could with justice be [4/5] said for the King, and nothing against the colonies. Moreover, our feeling was, when a boy, that our ancestors in that happy generation were all models of virtue and excellence, with one sad and conspicuous exception in the person of Benedict Arnold; while on the other hand the Britons, and worse than they, the Tories, were tyrants and abettors of tyranny and outrage and cruelty. Our education--not designedly, of course, it was the natural outcome of our political and social history--was one-sided in this respect. The same line of remark will apply to the subject under discussion, the religious revolution of the sixteenth century, and, had we been questioned when at college touching that period, we would, taking our impressions from our school-books, and later on from Mosheim and D'Aubigne and Hume, have represented the Western Patriarchate as totally corrupt, the Middle Ages as absolutely dark, and the reformers as uniformly pure, good men, and their cause without limitation the cause of righteousness and truth. In earlier days than these we are speaking of we well remember the dread which we secretly felt but did not confess, when we were taken by the hand into a Romish Church, on some grand occasion, lest we should be seized and shut up in a dungeon, or condemned to the tortures of the Inquisition. We mention these facts in our own experience, because we are persuaded that they echo the recollections of many, and because they help to explain the condition of the popular mind in regard to the religious movement of the sixteenth century. The people are not to blame for this misconception and prejudice. They cannot, if they would, have access to correct and authentic information touching these times. Scarcely more than twenty years have elapsed since an approach to a fair treatment of the Reformation in England has been made by writers who have had access to the public archives and publications of private societies. Fox's Book of Martyrs, Hume, Fuller, Soames, and kindred writers and their statements, dribbling down into our school histories, have formed the opinions of thousands from childhood; and these opinions, thus early gained, have grown and strengthened with advancing years until they have become the passionate convictions of their manhood, and they are, all unconscious to themselves that it is so, fierce partisans, full of misconception and prejudice, and deaf to the voice of reason and the appeal for justice. The time will come--it is not yet, and may not be for many a long day--when this tyranny of ignorance and prejudice will pass away, and then our posterity will read with wonder the records of a period about which we refused or were reluctant to be correctly informed. The publications of the Camden Society and of the State Paper and Record [5/6] Offices, the preparation of such works as Hook's Archbishops of Canterbury, Stubbs' edition of Mosheim, Maitland's Dark Ages and Reformation, Blunt's Reformation, and Dixon's Ecclesiastical History of England give promise of better things in store for us in the future. As we write, we can imagine the surprise, perhaps the indignation, of some who will read these remarks and blame us for even suggesting that any review is necessary as regards the judgment which has already been pronounced upon the acts and persons of the sixteenth century. Well, all we can say in reply is, that we are content to abide our time, and meanwhile be patient under the severe criticism which is heaped upon us, praying GOD to bless those that curse, and open their eyes to see the truth.
One of the disastrous effects of the violence which accompanied the Reformation--and, be it observed, this violence was the direct result of the long-continued usurpations and tyranny of the Papacy--was to wish to sweep all that was old away and substitute something entirely new in its place. Whatever existed was Popish, and must be abolished. Men did not stop long to inquire whether an institution, a dogma, an opinion, a practice, was good and right; it was enough to know that it belonged to the old regime, and the cry was, "Down with it," and "Away with it;" destruction, revolution were wholesale. Some limitation was put upon this tendency in England by its insular position and extreme removal from Italy, as the Ultima Thule then in the West of the Patriarchate of Rome. Her heavy hand had been burdensome, but it had not been so cruelly felt by the English as on the Continent, and consequently the reaction was not so severe and sweeping in its effects. By the mercy of GOD the spinal cord of the Body of CHRIST was not severed in England. The sacred ministry in its organic relation to the DIVINE HEAD was not cut asunder, and the vital functions of the Church were not essentially disturbed. While this was the case as regards fundamental principles, the shock of the great upheaval was felt throughout the kingdom, and the destructive, iconoclastic spirit, which was in the air, infected her people, and led to the rejection and loss of much, which all sober-minded persons have since deplored. We may esteem it our great misfortune that during the critical period of the Reformation the throne of England was occupied by a capricious, tyrannical sensualist, whose natural abilities were such as to render his unprincipled, vicious character more potent for evil. His will was law, and his pleasure the rule of action for those about him. None but sycophants and unprincipled men could long maintain themselves in his favor. He was surrounded largely by such [6/7] persons in his later years, and these are the years during which the Reformation passed through its earlier stages in England. It is very difficult to conceive a more hideous and repulsive character than that of Henry VIII. The worst Roman emperors were heathens; they are black figures on a dark ground. Henry VIII. is a black figure on a comparatively light ground. He was born in a Christian land, and reared and educated amid religious influences; nay more, as originally the second son, he was designed for the Priesthood, and hence his training until his brother's death was theological, and this original purpose influenced him, while a boy and youth, to continue the study of the Fathers and Schoolmen long after the occasion for such pursuits had passed away. Indeed, down to his latest years and death we find him addicted to religious disputation. This was the man and such were his surroundings at the time England broke away from the thraldom of Rome. If ever there was a case when the wrath of man was made to praise GOD, it was when the vices and self-will of Henry VIII. were overruled to sever the ecclesiastical connection of the National Church of England with the Patriarchate of Rome. His vices were the occasion, his self-will the instrument by which the release was accomplished. The most unworthy agents are often employed in the course of Divine Providence to effect the most beneficent results. Bent upon carrying out their own selfish ends, they are, all unconscious to themselves, in the drift of a mightier current, and are the while promoting objects they little dream of, and, indeed, were they aware of the effect of what they are doing, would often oppose with all their might. In this sense Henry VIII. is associated with the Reformation in England, and hence it may be seen how absurd is the charge that the English Church had its origin from Henry VIII. The English is an Apostolic or sub-Apostolic Church; it was brought with the rest of the West into ecclesiastical connection with the Patriarch of Rome, and submitted in part, never unreservedly, to his domination. In the sixteenth century, aided by the imperious self-will of her sovereign, which would brook no contradiction, when his bad passions were aroused, she withdrew from canonical and legal association with Rome (the connection was never organic), on the principle, distinctly and emphatically affirmed by both her convocations, "that the Bishop of Rome hath not by Divine right any more jurisdiction within the Realm of England than any other foreign Bishop," and she proceeded in succession in her lawful assemblies of Church and State to repeal the statutes, ecclesiastical and civil, which had placed her by voluntary enactment under the control of Rome. Then she was, in so far as her status in the Catholic Body [7/8] was concerned, where she was in the first ages of Christianity--a National Church furnished with all the Divine gifts in ministry and Sacraments necessary for her perpetuity. Henry VIII. was the instrument permitted by ALMIGHTY GOD to effect this blessed result, and probably to hasten its accomplishment, for, doubtless, had it not been for the occasion out of which Henry's revolt arose, the freedom of the English Church would have been postponed to a later date. Let us clearly and firmly grasp the relation which Henry VIII. sustains to the Reformation of the English Church; it is simply incidental; his vile passions, and selfishness, and unbending will were made use of by a higher power to bring about changes for the better. His co-operation was that of a thoroughly bad man lending himself for base purposes to do what proved to be a good work. The English Reformation passed through its first stage during the reign of Henry VIII. It witnessed the cutting of the cords which in canons and statutes bound England to Rome, and the earliest tentative efforts to correct errors in doctrine and practice in the ecclesiastical system. But there was one great change effected in the sweeping away of an institution not necessary to the Church, but which she had accepted, and nourished, and encouraged as an instrument for the accomplishment of wide-spread good, which naught else, so far as we can see, could have effected. In 1509, when Henry VIII. became King, England was dotted all over with splendid establishments, richly endowed with lands and money, and united by many ties with the domestic, social, and religious life of the people. These were the monasteries and nunneries. In 1547, when Henry VIII. died amid awful tokens of the Divine wrath, these were all gone, their grand buildings were roofless and in ruins, their princely revenues were in the royal coffers or the pockets of vile favorites, their lands were attached to the Crown or distributed among greedy parasites; only a small fraction of all this wealth was appropriated to its legitimate owner and custodian, the Church, in the formation and endowment of new sees. The Monastic system was the inheritance and growth of past ages. It came into active usefulness at the same time with the downfall of the Roman Empire, and the chaotic condition of Western Europe, when inundated with the successive waves of the Goths and Vandals and Huns. The condition of affairs was simply frightful. The ordinary restraints which hold men in check were no more. Every one did what seemed right in his own eyes; might made right. Creatures in human shape, worse than wild beasts, were in the high places of the earth. Civil rule, social order, the useful labors of the field and the shop had ceased to exist. Everywhere [8/9] were wild confusion, war, havoc, rapine, outrage, murder. It seemed as though all that was good, and pure, and useful must die out and be forever forgotten; then, at this juncture, the Church made use of men and women banded under rule and obedient to vows to deal with the gigantic evils which were threatening the extermination of the human race. It is not our purpose to sketch the history of monastic institutions. We merely wish to affirm that history shows that among the instrumentalities employed by Divine permission, and, we believe, by Divine sanction, to cure the evil of those dreadful times, naught proved more effective than the monks and nuns. In their associated life they were enabled to hold their own in the midst of ignorance and vice, and often active hostility. Thus planted in the dark places of the earth with the blessed Gospel in their hands, and inspiring reverence by their lives and works, they were the pioneers of civilisation; they taught the rude barbarians around them the useful arts in field, and shop, and home; they tamed them with holy lessons from GOD's Word, and baptised them and built them up, as far as their coarse natures would permit, in the spiritual life. They gave them often the first ideas of law and order. In a word, they were their benefactors in every sense, and the while they were sheltering the scanty remains, which survived the disorder which had prevailed for centuries, of ancient literature and art, and became the generous donors to whom we are largely indebted for the primary elements in our modern civilisation. At the opening of the sixteenth century the monks and nuns in England were very numerous. Their wealth, relatively speaking, was enormous; their influence was very great in Church and State; their representatives in the House of Lords exceeded in number the Archbishops and Bishops; their establishments vied in splendor with those of the grandest nobles; their conventual churches equalled in many cases, if they did not excel the cathedrals; their hospitality was liberal, and extended to the entertainment of the serf and the beggar as well as the gentry. Their ministries reached all classes, and through their landed estates, their schools, their libraries, their hospitals, they were brought into contact almost daily with the great mass of the people, especially the young and the poor. How far in their condition at this time they had outgrown their usefulness is a question for the philosophical historian to discuss. That they had become utterly useless and bad is an extreme view, as untenable as it would be to affirm that they were without blemish and indispensable to the good of society. In the later centuries there had been two causes which had operated with fatal effect to deprave the monastic [9/10] system and lower the tone and character of the conventual life. These were, first, the feudal system, which placed large classes of the community under the irresponsible control of their superiors; and, secondly, the exemption of Monasteries from episcopal control and placing them under the immediate jurisdiction of the Pope. The first cause led to the introduction into the monastic orders of both sexes of large numbers of persons who were entirely unfitted for the life. Unprincipled sovereigns and nobles and guardians of every social degree compelled their wards to become monks and nuns, that they might enjoy their honors or property, and thus these unhappy beings were consigned to a servitude worse than death, and in which it would be difficult for them to live without falling into habitual and deadly sin. The second cause was productive of evils even more disastrous than the former to the fair fame of the institution. It was the policy of the Popes to have, as far as they could create it, a constituency in every country immediately dependent upon themselves. This object they secured by the system of exemptions.
The Bishop of Rome, as Universal Pontiff, at his pleasure released individuals and communities from the control of their local superiors, and brought them under his own special jurisdiction, so that they were responsible alone to him. The effect of this freedom from the immediate supervision of those, who were over them in the LORD, was to engender carelessness of living and frequently frightful abuses and gross scandals. The power that could restrain was too far removed to be feared, and if it were invoked, the process of correction was too slow and uncertain to cure the evils. These causes, which had been at work for centuries at the time of which we are speaking, had been deteriorating monasticism in England, but they were not inherent in the system; they were influences exerted upon it by other systems extraneous to it and independent of it. There was another reason for the decline of the monastic orders in the later days-of their existence, and this became the immediate occasion of their fall.
This was their great wealth. How hardly shall the rich man enter into the Kingdom of Heaven! The difficulty here suggested by our LORD besets the monk and nun, as well as the ordinary man and woman. Wealth begets luxury, and luxury weans away from GOD and lowers, often kills, the spiritual life. The monasteries had been growing richer and not better as the centuries advanced, and in 1534, when Henry VIII. had broken with the Pope and proclaimed himself the Supreme Head of the Church, they presented a splendid prey to invite the hand of the spoiler. Henry wanted money, and money was
within reach. All he had to do was to dissolve and rob the monasteries; their sole protector, the Pope, was driven from the realm; the Bishops who would have been in the normal condition of affairs their defenders, under the pernicious system of Rome had been superseded in that relation, and now the monks were absolutely defenceless against the rapacity and greed of their unscrupulous master the King. Through his vicegerent, Thomas Crumwell, he let loose upon them a pack of wolves, whose only object was to get all that they could. These unprincipled men were capable of any baseness: They deliberately invented lies against their victims, and then persecuted and ruined them on account of these very lies. When all these resources failed them, they were sure to catch their prey in the toils of constructive treason, manufactured out of oaths touching the King's Supremacy and marriages. There was no help. Wherever and whenever these miscreants willed to destroy a monastery and rifle its treasury, its doom was sealed. Happy was the abbot, if he was not hanged, drawn, and quartered; happy were the monks, if they were allowed to depart penniless into a world with which they were totally unacquainted. It must be remembered that the verdict rendered against these monasteries and their occupants was, and is, based upon an undefended case, and that the evidence adduced was often obtained under the stress of torture, and in every instance is furnished by their enemies. The Suppression of the Monasteries, a volume published by the Camden Society, is a work containing the letters and reports of the agents of Crumwell, and no better defence of the poor, maligned, persecuted monks and nuns is needed than this exposure of the vicegerent of the Supreme Head and his emissaries by their own hands. It is to be borne in mind that the monasteries which were reported to be untainted with vice in 1535, were charged with being full of iniquity within two years from that date, and that, too, when they had been threatened, and were on their guard, and in a sense open to the public eye. The process of accusation went on, until there was not a single religious house that was not indicted, convicted, and destroyed. The condemnation is too universal. It condemns itself. We are not contending that there were no bad monks or wanton nuns, or monasteries of ill repute condemned, and justly, for their misdoings; but we are maintaining that the popular opinion about the vice of the monasteries at the time of the Reformation is monstrously exaggerated, and, moreover, that it is not greater than can be brought home to any equally large class of the community. We are maintaining, and we do maintain, that monastic promises, when guarded, as they ought always to be, by [11/12] such provisions as we find in our Prayer Book protecting the Marriage Vows--are not to be taken unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of GOD--promote a life that is as near to the example and precepts of our Blessed LORD as it is possible for human infirmity to reach in this our present estate of temptation and sin. We would suggest that, if the same course was to be adopted in the treatment of the ministry of any religious body as has been for the last three hundred years pursued by Protestant writers toward the medieval monks and nuns, their case would not be much better than that of the Monastic Orders. Suppose we were to gather together all the instances of unworthy preachers in any denomination of Christians, and spread their alleged crimes before the public; suppose we were studiously to suppress all their virtuous deeds, and, whenever we had occasion to mention them, to call them vile names and heap upon them all manner of abuse, perhaps the poor unhappy monks and nuns of the sixteenth century would not, considering their relative numbers and the circumstances under which many of them became members of their orders, suffer in the comparison. Be this as it may, we need not excite ourselves by panic fears until we tremble in our shoes lest monasticism should return upon us, as it was of yore, and absorb our sons and daughters and desolate our homes, and leave but scanty material for the office of Holy Matrimony and the joys of wedded life.
We ought not thus to alarm ourselves, and then in our consternation abandon all sense of candor, fairness, and justice, and heap abuse indiscriminately upon a large class of Christian men and women without respect of persons, simply because they belonged to the class which we condemn. Henry VIII. and his minions had the excuse for their slanders and lies that they wished to make the monks and nuns odious in popular estimation, in order that they might more safely rob them. The present age has no such plea, and the suggestion that it is prudent to keep up the prejudice in order to protect ourselves against the revival of the system is as wicked as it is silly.
It is wicked, because it is doing evil that good may come, repeating and perpetuating a lie in order to promote what is supposed to be the cause of righteousness and truth; it is silly, because the conventual life of the Early and Middle Ages can no more be reproduced in this nineteenth century, among ourselves, than we can bring back the castle with its moat and drawbridge, the knight with his pages and armor, and. the state of society and condition of affairs which then existed and answered as cause to effect in producing the monastic system. All has [12/13] passed away never to return, and we may therefore safely do justice to the mediaeval monk and nun. It is time that we began at least to divest ourselves of rancor and ill-temper when we approach the subject.
We may, and we probably ought, to ask the question, Is the principle of monasticism, the absolute and life-long surrender of one's self to GOD in vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, wrong? Is it forbidden by Holy Scripture, and is it injurious either to the parties themselves or society at large? The answer to this question, if in the affirmative in either of its branches, settles the case. What is wrong in itself or pernicious in its effects must not be allowed. But if the answer is in the negative, then the whole subject is open to us, and we are free to discuss the expediency of suggesting and encouraging the creation of such orders of men and women, adapted to our times and circumstances, and qualified, as none others can be, to do work for GOD, which ought to be, and must be done. We simply propose to answer very briefly the inquiry, Are the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience forbidden by Holy Scripture, or are they of themselves injurious to the parties who take them, or do they of necessity exert a bad influence upon the community at large? Scripture certainly does not prohibit the taking of vows. It recognises them, both in the Old Testament and the New. It warns against rash, hasty, and improper vows. The Church, which rests upon Scripture as her charter, brings her children into her bosom with vows, summons them to her again in later years, and solemnly calls upon them to renew these vows. She provides for their union in holy wedlock with life-long vows; she ordains her clergy as Deacons, Priests, and Bishops with vows. Her system is a system of perpetual vows, and surely we need not press the question any further, Are vows forbidden in Holy Scripture? But, it will be said, the vows of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, and Orders are right and proper vows. This, of course, is true, and the inquiry, therefore, advances a step, and the question now is, are not the vows of poverty and celibacy and obedience right and proper vows? In themselves as describing states of life they must be, because they are recommended by Our LORD by example and by precept. We say in themselves, abstractly considered, for, be it observed, these vows are not, like the Baptismal vows, of universal obligation, which all without exception ought to take. They are to be guarded with extreme caution, with even greater securities against mistakes than those with which the Church surrounds the Marriage vows. About this there can be no dispute, the utmost care should be taken; but, when all has been done which in the nature of things can be done, is it lawful and right in the sight of GOD for men and women to take vows of perpetual obligation [13/14] binding themselves to GOD in lives of poverty, celibacy, and obedience? We affirm fearlessly that it is, not as the decision of our own poor, weak, miserable judgment, but, as we believe, as the counsel of our Blessed LORD, the teaching of the Apostles, and the practice of the Undivided Church of GOD. It may be said that Holy Scripture does not in so many words prescribe these vows; neither does it the vows of Baptism, Matrimony, or Holy Orders. The essence is in Scripture, the form is of ecclesiastical origin. Precisely the same is true of monastic vows; the counsels, to such as are able to receive them, are in the Gospels, their embodiment in promises to follow them while life lasts are framed and proposed by the Church. We are not urging that monasticism should be revived; we are merely pleading that, when women and men feel themselves called by the voice of GOD to surrender themselves unreservedly to Him, to do Him service, and when this call, heard and obeyed through influences operating upon the mind and conscience penetrates their being and makes them feel and know by experience that it is GOD's will with them that they should be His in a special sense to do His work, then we say that the Church ought to receive them and encourage them and bless them with her benediction; then we urge that the Bishops, as the leaders in GOD's Host, ought to be the first to welcome them, not as it were by stealth, as though they were ashamed of what they are doing, but openly in the light of day, as a glorious tribute to the power of CHRIST in drawing human hearts with passionate devotion to follow in His footsteps.
Is it so that the Church has room for all kinds and sorts of societies, and guilds, and clubs, and lines of labor, save one, and that one the embodiment of our dear LORD'S Counsels to the few who in any age and generation are able to rise up and leave the world and follow Him? We cannot believe it. Ah but it is asked why cannot these eccentric people be content, as many are, to forego these vows and associations, and live by themselves and follow their bent on their own individual lines? The answer is, because they find help in these vows and associations, and, if they are not inherently wrong, why may they not place themselves under solemn pledges of self-consecration and live in community without hindrance or reproach, as well as their brethren, who, in the exercise of the same personal freedom, prefer the independence of their own homes and their own wills?
There is no question as to the excellence of these admirable souls, nor of the usefulness of their lives and the value of their works. Why should there be any comparison between them, and perhaps their less favored brethren and sisters, who live in community and under vows? [14/15] It is not well for man or woman to be alone. The application of this principle includes more than the married; it is satisfied when a common life is created, and they who share in it are members of a spiritual family. It has been suggested in the case of those in Holy Orders who take these vows, that they contravene their obligations already assumed. This, however, is an entire mistake. These vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience are not in conflict with the Ordinal--they simply carry the devotee further on in the same lines of self-consecration. It would be much more to the purpose to allege that, when a Bishop, Priest, or Deacon marries, he contravenes his Ordination vows, since the promises there made are not on the lines of the Ordinal, and yet we would contend most earnestly for the liberty of the Clergy in this respect. As regards the vow of obedience, the only possible conflict that could arise between a man's duty as a member of an order, subject to a head, and a Priest owing submission to a Bishop, would be avoided were the authorities of the Church in a friendly spirit to take the brotherhoods and sisterhoods under their care and legislate with loving wisdom for their welfare and protection.
It is to be greatly regretted that the married have seemed to speak and write as though these vows reflected upon their high, holy, and happy estate. This idea has been suggested, perhaps, and fostered by the title under which one of the vows has usually been named--chastity. This word, however, was not originally employed in a relative sense as implying that others were unchaste. It was used absolutely, committing simply those who took it to a pure life in thought, word, and deed.
It would be better, however, since misapprehension is likely to occur as regards this term, to substitute a perfectly innocent word in its place and call the vow that of Celibacy. There ought to be no antagonise between "the married in the LORD and the single for the LORD." If either provokes the other to jealousy, it is without excuse, since our Blessed LORD recognises both estates as excellent in themselves, and identifies Himself with both. Under the shelter of Holy Matrimony He became Incarnate and was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a member of the Holy Family He passed His youth and early manhood working at His reputed father's trade. At a marriage He entered upon His ministry and wrought His first miracle. The Blessed SPIRIT speaking by the Apostle employs the Marriage relation to set forth the deepest mystery of the kingdom of CHRIST, His union as the Bridegroom with the Church as His Bride. And at last in heaven the symbolism of Marriage is stamped with the seal of [15/16] eternity, as forming an important element of the beatific vision in the relation which the Redeemed will forever sustain to their LORD. Surely the married can ask for no more. Their estate is blessed, thrice blessed in the birth, ministry, and everlasting love of their Divine Master. Why should they begrudge their brethren and sisters their fair share of nearness to their LORD in life and estate? It will not do for the one to say hard things of the other. The sins of both are only too manifest. No vows will keep the heart and life pure; the scandals of monastic life are only equalled by the horrid disclosures of the divorce courts. We are to guard the two estates with all the care we can, and, realising that both have their high and holy mission to fulfil, pray GOD to bless them both and keep them pure and undefiled.