The Christians Attitude To Roman Learning And Education
( Originally Published 1906 )
AFTER the establishment of public schools in the Roman Empire their multiplication and their success was almost marvellous. As Dr. Bigg and M. Boissier have pointed out, education followed the triumphant Roman general with an almost miraculous certainty. In the first days of Christianity this fact was of comparatively small moment, not because the schools did not exist, for Vespasian appears to have been the founder of the Auditoria or Imperial Schools, but because, for the most part, Christians in the first century were not drawn from what we should call the upper and middle classes. It is a mistake, of course, to suppose that the whole of the early Christians were illiterate : there is not only the famous instance to the contrary, St. Paul, who was a philosopher and also a linguist,—" I thank God I speak with tongues more than you all,"—but there is that remark of his to the Corinthian Church,1 "Ye see . . . that not many wise men after the flesh . . . are called," which implies surely that if few of the Christians were learned yet some were, for otherwise the word is meaning-less. Moreover, St. Paul is not the solitary Christian of some education and position whose name has come down to us from the earliest times. St. Jerome2 claims that "St. John was of noble birth," though the Gospels do not suggest it, unless we find some such implication in his mother's request for his eventual precedence of the rest : there were Nicodemus, "a ruler of the Jews" ; Joseph of Arimathaea, "an honourable counsellor"; Barnabas "the Levite," who sold his land and laid its price at the apostles' feet ; Cornelius "the centurion"; the Ethiopian eunuch, treasurer to Queen Candace; Erastus, "the chamberlain" (or treasurer) "of the city"; and others. Also St. Paul implies, in the last chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians, that already there were Christians among those who were "of Caesar's household."
Still, these people of education and social or official position were, without doubt, more the exception than the rule ; and besides that, the first converts to Christianity were adults, beyond school age, before they embraced the new faith. Consequently, at first no collision occurred between the Christians and the public schools : simply because they did not come into touch. Later on, as St. Cyril's efforts show clearly, as late indeed as the fourth century, a skilled Christian teacher could carry on his labours without, apparently, so much as thinking of secular instruction. But though one here or there might overlook or lay aside the difficulty, the problem of accommodating secular education and the Christian faith was bound eventually to present itself for solution. It is quite evident that as time passed on the struggle between the new Church and the Roman Empire grew more bitter, and the distinct sphere, the isolation of the Church, became more and more marked. St. Irenaeus wrote : " The Church has been planted as the Paradise in this world" ; Tertullian, writing a little later than St. Irenaeus, observed : "Many and great are the Churches. Yet all is that one first Church which is from the Apostles, and one whence all are derived."
Tertullian's attitude to pagan learning and teaching is very important to the student of the history of education. M. Compayré gives this learned man short shrift : "Tertullian rejected all pagan teaching ; he saw nothing in classical culture but a robbery of God ; a step towards the false and arrogant wisdom of the older philosophers." Perhaps it is just as well (before turning to Tertullian himself in order to discover how far his sweeping charge is justified by his writings) to consider what were the circumstances which would meet a Christian child on his entry into an ordinary Roman school about that time (150—230 A.D.). M. Boissier has described these in a short paragraph, a translation of which is appended : 2 " All the schools were pagan. Not only were all the ceremonies of the official faith —and more specially the festivals of Minerva, who was the patroness of masters and pupils—celebrated at regular intervals in the schools, but the children were taught reading out of books saturated with the old mythology. There the Christian child made his first acquaintance with the deities of Olympus. He ran the danger of imbibing ideas clean contrary to those which he had received at home. The fables he had learned to detest in his own home were explained, elucidated, held up to his admiration every day by his Masters. Was it right to put him thus into two schools of thought. What could be done that he might be educated like everyone else, and yet not run the risk of losing his faith ? "
This difficulty was very real when Christianity had spread to the educated classes. Nor was it confined to those of school age, By the time of Tertullian the conflict between ordinary adult Christians and the circumstances of their daily life was keenly felt : if not, why should he have suggested to the martyrs, shut up in prison awaiting the end, that they should count among the blessings of that imprisonment the fact that 1 " you have no occasion to look on strange gods, you do not run against their images ; you have no part in heathen holidays, even by mere bodily mingling in them ; you are not annoyed by the foul fumes of idolatrous solemnities ; you are not pained by the noise of the public shows, nor by the atrocity or madness or immodesty of their celebrants." Tertullian's boastful reference to the spread of Christianity is well known : " We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you; cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum, — we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods" (Apologeticus, chap. xxxvii.).
In his treatise On Idolatry, Tertullian touches on the question of the lawfulness of allowing Christians to share in pagan learning and teaching. In the ninth chapter he treats of "Professions of some kinds allied to idolatry. Of Astrology in particular." After condemning entirely astrology and those who profess it, he turns in the next chapter to " Schoolmasters and their difficulties." Under this head he deals with schoolmasters " and all other professors of literature." Obviously, he is speaking of the professors and teachers in the pagan schools, because he mentions the necessity under which they labour of perpetually handling and teaching pagan mythology : " We must not doubt that they are in affinity with manifold idolatry : first, in that it is necessary for them to preach the gods of the nations, to express their names, genealogies, honourable distinctions, all and singular ; further, to observe the solemnities and festivals of the same, as of them by whose means they compute their revenues. . . . The very first payment of every pupil he consecrates both to the honour and to the name of Minerva . . . the school is honoured on the appointed holy-days. The same thing takes place on an idol's birthday ; every pomp of the devil is frequented."
Such an indictment as this of Tertullian would seem to carry with it as a necessary conclusion the impossibility of Christian membership of schools. But almost at once he remembers the arguments on the other side : "We know it may be said, 'If teaching literature is not lawful to God's servants, neither will learning be likewise' ; and 'How would one be trained unto ordinary human intelligence, or unto any sense or action whatever, since literature is the means of training for all life ? How do we repudiate secular studies, without which divine studies cannot be pursued ? "
No one will deny that these difficulties are real. M. Compayré, with his sweeping judgment, "Tertullian rejected all pagan teaching," would lead us to suppose that the Father cared nothing for these arguments. As a matter of fact, from what follows we are forced to think that Tertullian felt that there was material truth in the suggestion that "literature is the means of training for all life." Probably it did not come home to him with the intense meaning which it seems to have had for the greater teachers of the Italian Renaissance, for Vittorino da Feltre, for Vergerius and Pope Pius II.: at the same time he did realise that when Christianity had once spread to the higher social grades of the community, to scholars and to officials, then the problems of secular and spiritual teaching had become inseparably interwoven. Of the ignorant, of those whose instruction began and ended with the simple arts, barely attained, of reading and writing, it was no truer then than it is now that " literature is the means of training for all life." But Christianity was no longer confined to those classes, it was no longer the possession of an ignorant society brilliantly adorned by a solitary Nicodemus here and St. Paul there. And for the children of the educated classes, it was as true then as it is now that "literature," with its content of historical truth, of philosophic speculation, of melodious expression and shining imagination, " is the means of training for all life " : the means, if it be properly handled. The problem before Tertullian, the problem before every conscientious teacher is, how shall it be handled so that the maximum of training is obtained ? Tertullian says, " Let us see (or consider), "then, the necessity of literary erudition." He is not disposed to shirk the matter ; he declares that it is necessary : the necessity partly cannot be admitted, partly cannot be avoided. His solution of the problem will not satisfy modern thinkers, it is only a makeshift ; but the point is that Tertullian did not, as Compayré says he did, "reject all pagan teaching"; he declares that for some people, at any rate, literary training is essential. His solution is quaint in the extreme : Christians may not teach literature, but they may learn it. Yet he has his reasons, two in number, for the seemingly illogical conclusion:
(1) " If a believer teach literature, while he is teaching doubtless he commends, while he delivers he affirms, while he recalls he bears testimony to the praises of idols interspersed therein. . . . But when a believer learns these things, if he is already capable of understanding what idolatry is, he neither receives nor allows them ; much more if he is not yet capable."
(2) " It is easier, too, for the pupil not to attend, than for the master not to frequent, the rest of the defilements incident to the schools from public and scholastic solemnities."
The difficulty, which does not seem to present itself to Tertullian's mind, is the common case of a learner coming so to love his subject that he desires to teach it. Among the children of Christian and cultivated parents there were bound to be some of that particular intellectual turn which desires to teach. What of them ? When Tertullian was writing, the famous school of Alexandria was already founded, that school of whose teachers Father Magevny, St.J., writes : " They could descant upon the charms of Homer and Virgil, and rout the fallacies of Plato with the same dexterity and grace with which they interpreted a chapter of Genesis, or taught the youngest of their children to make the sign of the cross. And to their everlasting credit be it said, that they were the first who brought the wisdom of the pagan to the steps of the altar, and made it kneel down and adore."
When Origen left Alexandria he went to Caesarea and started a similar school there. Christian schools were founded in the course of time at Jerusalem, Edessa, and Antioch, at Rome, Athens, and Carthage.
But this is not the point of view which occurred to Tertullian. Educated himself in an Imperial school, anxious to teach and lead by his writings rather than as a pedagogue, he concerns himself with the question, How far may a Christian use the pagan schools ? A further proof that it is not true to say of Tertullian that he "rejected all pagan teaching," may be found in the forty-seventh chapter of his Apology for the Christians. There he advances the singular claim that the Greek Christian Education in Me First Centuries, by Rev. Eugene Magevny, St.J., pp. 32, 33, and Latin writers are only plagiarists from the Hebrew :
"What poet or sophist has not drunk at the fountain of the prophets? Thence, accordingly, the philosophers watered their arid minds, so that it is the things they have from us which bring us into comparison with them . . . if they fell upon anything in the collection of sacred scriptures which displeased them in their own peculiar style of research, they perverted it to serve their purposes ; for they had no adequate faith in their divinity to keep them from changing them, nor had they any sufficient understanding of them either, as being still at the time under veil,—even obscure to the Jews themselves, whose peculiar possessions they seemed to be."
He goes on to declare that the pagans will cap the idea of the Christian Day of Judgment with the tribunal of Minos ; Paradise with the Elysian Fields, and so forth ; and once more he asks : " Whence is it, I pray you, that you have all this, so like us, in the poets and philosophers? The reason simply is, that they are taken from one religion." No one can truly affirm that Tertullian rejects the substance of all this teaching; instead, he claims a Christian, and therefore, in his view, a solid foundation for it : "If they are taken from our sacred things, as being of earlier date, then ours are the truer, and have higher claims upon belief, since even their imitations find faith among you."
As Tertullian is one of the learned defenders of the Christians against their persecutors, it seems in place to draw attention to an interesting suggestion made by M. Boissier concerning the influence of the persecutions on Christian learning. In an appendix to his first volume he considers the question of the reality and extent of the persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire ; and in the course of his inquiry he makes the following remarks :1 "Christian literature . . . seemed predestined, by its source and its prejudices, to remain in a narrow circle. Timid, distrustful as it was bound to be, cut off from the main stream of human life, hostile to the idolatry which shocked it, the danger arose that Christianity would produce nothing but treatises on mysticism or polemical pamphlets. . . . Persecution drove it into other channels : it was forced to associate with men of the world in order to overcome them ; it was obliged to choose de-fenders who could command attention. Instead of obscure devotees and solitary theologians, it sought, at the bar and in the schools, for rhetoricians, philosophers, and lawyers. These men, men of affairs and of the world, brought Christianity into the full light of day, and forced it into the public arena. They realised that if they would be understood, they must use the language of the people to whom they spoke. They found it natural and lawful to fight their enemies with those enemies' weapons, they summoned philosophy and rhetoric to the defence of their threatened cause ; and thus that mingling of ancient thought and new doctrine, which otherwise must have required time and labour, was suddenly accomplished. When once the example was set with such marvellous brilliancy, Christian literature hesitated less and less to make use of the resources of antiquity ; and since it had noble ideas to put into these empty moulds, it produced, from the first, treatises markedly superior to those of the pagan sophists and rhetoricians who, for the most part, had already exhausted their matter." This suggestion, brief as it is, opens up an interesting line of thought, which continued study of the Christian Apologists would surely justify.
The official religion of Imperial Rome was pre-eminently and essentially ritualistic ; its rites and ceremonies were woven with singular intimacy into daily life ; it is hardly too much to say that every secular action and event brought with it some remembrance of the gods in prayer, or sacrifice, or festal decoration. No doubt there was much formalism in all this : the special danger of ritual lies in the fact that a portion of the worshippers may have never learned, or may have forgotten its meaning, so that at last it degenerates to them into mere show ; while its intensification and illumination of meaning is the source of its special value to those who are incessantly reminiscent. Its use or abuse rests on the presence or absence of the same qualities, namely, understanding and remembrance.
In so vast and polyglot a community as that covered by Roman citizenship, many had never learned, many had forgotten the intricacies of the symbolism they watched. Since so much of it was purely formal to many of them, they felt all the more on that account the futility, as it seemed to them, of that Christian rigidity which would not throw on Jove's altar the few grains of incense, or utter a formula which had never had, or at best had ceased to have, any definite meaning to many of them. What the rigorist has always called, will always call, the heart's sinful ac-quiescence, is whitewashed by the man of the world under the attractive name of savoir faire. A few tactful, or perhaps fortunate, souls in all ages appear, at any rate, to find some way out of this impasse. Tertullian was of the rigorists, and stern among those. Yet just because he is so severe, just because he denounces in his various treatises most of the views and practices which held Roman society together, the fact that he is so tender as he is to education and learning is in itself a most remarkable testimony to his sense of their all-importance.
When in the De Spectaculis he utterly condemns the public games which were the most eagerly defended and achieved of Roman practices, "The condition of faith, the reasons of the truth, the laws of Christian discipline, which forbid, among other sins of the world, the pleasures of the public shows" ;1 when he proclaimed in the treatise ad Martyras,2 to a world sunk in pleasure and self indulgence, that "virtue is built up by hardships, as by voluptuous indulgence it is overthrown " ; when in the treatise On Idolatry he condemns the artificers, idol-makers, and the subsidiary craftsmen who "furnish the adjuncts" of idolatry,3 and astrologers ; when he declares that "no art, no profession, no trade which administers either to equipping or forming idols can be free from the title of idolatry"; when in an age of overdressing he traced back "female ornamentation" 1 to "the angels who had fallen"; when writing to his wife he dared to prefer the celibate to the married state ; 2 when in these and numerous other particulars he tilted right at the most honoured customs or the most cherished beliefs of the ordinary Roman citizen,—we cannot but be struck by the fact that his condemnation of pagan literature is so mild, and by the permission to study it which he grants to Christian children. Far from Compayré's statement being true, that " Tertullian rejected all pagan teaching," it seems that an expurgated form of pagan education and learning was the one exception he made in a sweeping condemnation of Roman ways. It is not surprising : Tertullian was a man of unusual natural ability ; his erudition was remarkable. He had, in fact, too many brains and too much learning to mistake or underrate their value. When Christianity was put upon its trial, he was far too sensible of the advantages its defence would derive from learning and rhetoric to cast away such essential weapons. His sectarian rigour prevented his approving everything that pagan learning contained ; his wisdom and penetration prevented him from rejecting such portions of it as could be forced into the service of religion. Very possibly he had an axe to grind, most people have : the day has not yet dawned when education and learning shall be purged from self-seeking throughout the civilised world.
Tertullian is reckoned among the Latin Fathers. It is interesting to turn from him to a younger contemporary of his among the Greek Fathers, Origen, of whom Dr. Sandys observes that "he was the first great scholar among the Greek Fathers." The sale of his library has been mentioned and accounted for in Chapter IV. It is worth while to note that Dr. Sandys speaks of this library as collected mainly by his own labour : "With his own hand he supplied himself with transcripts of the Greek classics, but sold them for a small sum in order to be enabled to teach others without receiving remuneration."
St. Jerome speaks of Origen as follows: "He was so assiduous in the study of Holy Scriptures, that, contrary to the spirit of his time and of his people, he learned the Hebrew language since I have given a list of his works . . . I pass this by now, not failing, however, to make mention of his immortal genius : how that he understood dialectics, as well as geometry, arithmetic, music, grammar, and rhetoric ; and taught all the schools of philosophers, in such wise that he had also diligent students in secular literature, and lectured to them daily ; and the ,crowds which flocked to him were marvellous. These he received in the hope that through the instrumentality of his secular literature he might establish them in the faith of Christ."
If this account of St. Jerome implies that, in the opinion of Origen, secular literature did not rank absolutely first, yet it shows that he valued it at a high rate.
Since it was the end and aim of the early Christians to lead " an uncorrupt life," they cannot reasonably be expected to give the first place to culture. That, however, is quite a different thing from despising and neglecting the classics, or from putting obstacles in the way of education. The critics of the Christians are refuted if the Fathers are proved to be willing to use the classics as instruments in the development of the Christian life. It is easy to prove this true of many of them, and certainly of Origen.
His life was a stormy one ; but it is not necessary to go into the details of the persecution in 216 A.D., under the Emperor Caracalla, which drove him from the Catechetical School of Alexandria ; nor into the lamentable controversy begun by Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, concerning the validity of the Priest's Orders conferred on Origen by Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus, bishop of Caesarea.
The happiest years of his long and troubled life were probably those which he spent at Alexandria in close friendship with one Ambrose, who, being wealthy, furnished Origen with the appliances for research ; and those which he spent after 231 A.D. at Caesarea, where he taught in the Christian school, which appears to have added to the ordinary catechetical instruction, courses in secular learning. It was here that Origen taught the two Cappadocian brothers, Athenodorus and Theodore. The latter is known in Christian history as St. Gregory Thaumaturgus.
From a letter addressed to the latter we may gather the truth of St. Jerome's remark, that he taught his pupils the various branches of learning common in the public schools " in the hope that, through the instrumentality of this secular literature, he might establish them in the faith of Christ."
The opening paragraph of Origen's letter to Gregory runs as follows : " Greeting in God, my most excellent sir, and venerable son Gregory, from Origen. A natural readiness of comprehension, as you well know, may, if practice be added, contribute somewhat to the contingent end, if I may so call it, of that which anyone wishes to practise. Thus, your natural good parts might make of you a finished Roman lawyer or a Greek philosopher, so to speak, of one of the schools in high reputation. But I am anxious that you should devote all the strength of your natural good parts to Christianity for your end ; and, in order to do this, I wish to ask you to extract from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and from geometry and astronomy what will serve to explain the sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the sons of the philosophers are wont to say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric and astronomy, as fellow - helpers to philosophy, we may say about philosophy itself in relation to Christianity."
No doubt secular learning is not here regarded as an end in itself; but it certainly is not condemned nor shunned.
Like St. Clement of Alexandria, Gregory Thaumaturgus had been a wanderer from one seat of learning to another, passing from Alexandria to Athens, thence to Berytus, the famous law school of the early centuries, till, coming at last to Caesarea in Palestine, he found, in the teaching of Origen, what he sought. He had resided for five years in Caesarea, and had then returned to his native place, Neoca esarea (in Cappadocia), when Origen addressed this letter to him. He still hesitated to take the bishopric of his city, which was urged upon him by Phaedimus, bishop of Amasea but finally, by a stratagem, he was induced to accept the office. It is not from Origen's own writings that we discover so clearly his attitude to profane learning, as from the Oration and Panegyric ad-dressed to him by this Gregory the Wonder-worker, when the latter was leaving Caesarea in Palestine to return to Caesarea in Cappadocia. This document will repay the study which any student of education may bestow on it. Its value lies in the fact that it is not the testimony of later writers, necessarily hearsay, like the remarks of Eusebius or St. Jerome, but of a man who was taught by Origen for "many years," as the superscription of the Panegyric informs us. It is a short treatise, containing seventeen chapters. It is as well to remember that though he was not consecrated a bishop till some five or six years later, he was at the time of the delivery of his oration a Christian convert.
Gregory first proclaims his unfitness to pronounce the oration because he is unused to such duties, and "less apt by nature to cultivate successfully this graceful and truly Grecian art"; and also because he has abandoned for eight years the practice of oratory to devote himself to the study of Roman law. Lest anyone should fancy that he despises secular culture, it should be said that in this opening chapter he speaks of "those admirable men who have embraced the noble study of philosophy, and who care less for beauty of language and elegance of expression." But though he believes that the matter rather than the form of thought is the care of philosophers, he is careful to add, "Not indeed, in my opinion, that they do not desire, but rather that they do greatly desire, to clothe the noble and accurate results of their thinking in noble and comely language." That Gregory was a careful scholar the following passage shows : "If one aims at readiness of speech and beauty of discourse, he will get at them by no other discipline than the study of words and their constant practice." That he was no ascetic, tabooing the elegancies of life, we may gather from the closing words of chapter i.: " As our words are nothing else than a kind of imagery of the dispositions of our mind, we should allow those who have the gift of speech, like some good artists alike skilled to the utmost in their art and liberally furnished in the matter of colours, to possess the liberty of painting their word-pictures, not simply of a uniform complexion, but also of various descriptions and of richest beauty in the abundant mixture of flowers, without let or hindrance."
Urged on to his task by gratitude, Gregory essays to speak of "one who has indeed the semblance and repute of being a man, but who seems, to those who are able to contemplate the greatness of his intellectual calibre, to be endowed with powers nobler and well-nigh divine." Gregory goes on to declare that he has no intention of speaking of Origen's birth or bodily training, of his strength or beauty, but of "that which is most godlike in the man," i.e., as it turns out, of his wisdom, great abilities, and knowledge.
In the fifth chapter, Gregory gives a brief account of his boyhood in his pagan home, and of his travels, after his father's death, always guided, in his opinion, by "that holy angel of God who fed me from my youth " ; till leaving Berytus, which city at that time we seemed most bent on reaching," he came to Caesarea in Palestine, and fell into the hands of Origen.
But at first Gregory and his brother were inclined to go to Berytus or back to their native place ; and in the sixth chapter he describes the efforts of Origen to retain them. For "many days" Origen pressed on them the claims of philosophy, "declaring that those only live a life truly worthy of reasonable creatures who aim at living an upright life, and who seek to know, first of all themselves, what manner of persons they are ; and then the things that are truly good, which man ought to strive after ; and then the things that are really evil, from which man ought to flee." If anyone still doubts that Origen had a very real regard for learning and philosophy, that doubt must surely be dissipated by Gregory's remark : "He asserted further that there could be no genuine piety towards the Lord of all in the man who despised this gift of philosophy,—a gift which man alone of all the creatures of the earth has been deemed honourable and worthy enough to possess, and one which every man whatsoever, be he wise or be he ignorant, reasonably embraces, who has not utterly lost the power of thought by some such distraction of mind. He asserted then, as I have said, that it was not possible (to speak correctly) for anyone to be truly pious who did not philosophise."
In an earlier chapter Gibbon's remark was quoted " It was not in this world that the primitive Christians were desirous of making themselves either agreeable or useful,"—a statement which is not borne out by Gregory's tribute to Origen's geniality, or by St. Gregory Nazianzen's encomiums on the friendliness of Basil, which was quoted before. 1 " The stimulus of friendship was also brought to bear upon us,—a stimulus, indeed, not easily withstood, but keen and most effective,—the argument of a kind and affectionate disposition, which showed itself benignantly in his words when he spoke to us and associated with us. For he did not aim merely at getting us round by any kind of reasoning ; but his desire was, with a benignant, and affectionate, and most benevolent mind, to save us, and make us partakers in the blessings that flow from philosophy, and most especially also in those other gifts which the Deity has bestowed on him above most men, or, as we may perhaps say, above all men of our own time, —I mean the power which teaches us piety." So writes St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ; and it seemed best to quote the entire passage, because it indicates that Origen cared for philosophy as a thing in itself, though his " most especial" end was the inculcation of piety. A remark occurs in this chapter which perhaps justifies a digression. Some men, smitten with an intense love of liberty, are inclined to argue that Christianity is a fetter. It is interesting to see that the essential freedom of the soul was recognised by the primitive Christians ; the Ego, the "I that is I indeed," the soul, the real self, or whatever men like to call the unanalysable, indefinable sense of personality from which no man can escape, was, to some of the primitive Christians, as little amenable to coercion as it is to the most ardent wearer of the cap of liberty. "For the soul is free," writes this Cappadocian of the third century, and cannot be coerced by any means, not even though we should confine it and keep guard over it in some secret prison-house. For wherever the intelligence is, there it is also of its own nature and by the first reason. And if it seems to you to be in a kind of prison-house, it is represented as there to you by a sort of second reason. But for all that it is by no means precluded from subsisting anywhere according to its own determination ; nay, rather it is both able to be, and is reasonably believed to be, there alone and altogether, wheresoever and in connection with what things soever those actions which are proper only to it are in operation."
Gregory Thaumaturgus is not an isolated believer in freedom : that fiery spirit Tertullian reminds the Christian confessors, shut up in" prison awaiting martyrdom, that " though the body is shut in, though the flesh is confined, all things are open to the spirit. In spirit then roam abroad ; in spirit walk abroad, not setting before you shady paths or long colonnades, but the way which leads to God.. . . The leg does not feel the chain when the mind is in the heavens. The mind compasses the whole man about, and whither it wills it carries him." It would seem as if the history of mankind suggests that liberty, like every other high and great gift, is the possession of those who are worthy of it : that of the resolute in heart, of the self-disciplined in all ages, whether it be a Marcus Aurelius, a Gregory, a Tertullian, or a Lovelace, it is eternally true that
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Returning from this digression to the seventh chapter, we may learn something of Origen's method and skill as a teacher. First of all, as chapter six has suggested, Origen was careful to win the wills of his pupils. Apparently he did not compass this task by holding out any false hopes of ease and enjoyment ; but by arguments concerning the essentialness of philosophy, and by personal kindness and charm. That being accomplished, he did not commit the common mistake of treating his pupils as if they were all of one pattern, but, as Gregory tells, he surveyed them, he gauged them thoroughly ; he did not content himself with a superficial examination of their qualities, but penetrated deeply, and "probed" what was "most inward" in them. Having thus ascertained, so far as he could, the natural bent of the young men, he endeavoured to eradicate anything in their minds which was harmful : Gregory uses the figure of gardening, and speaks of Origen's efforts to clear the soil, to turn it up, to irrigate it, to weed it. " And thorns and thistles and every kind of wild herb or plant which our mind (so unregulated and precipitate in its own action) yielded and produced in its uncultured luxuriance and native wildness, he cut out and thoroughly removed by the processes of refutation and prohibition ; sometimes assailing us in the genuine Socratic fashion, and again upsetting us by his argumentation whenever he saw us getting restive under him, like so many unbroken steeds, and springing out of the course and galloping madly at random until with a strange kind of persuasiveness and constraint he reduced us to a state of quietude under him by his discourse, which acted like a bridle in our mouths."
From this mixture of metaphors we may gather that Origen's pedagogic method owed something to Plato.
Lastly, when he had thus prepared the soil of their minds, Origen sowed the good seed of know-ledge. Though it is somewhat differently expressed, the method of this primitive Christian bears a striking resemblance in essentials to the most approved theories of modern pedagogy. The actual order of instruction, we gather from Gregory's description, was a progress from logic to physics, geometry, astronomy, ethics, and philology, a curriculum which seems ample enough to please any reformer. It should be remembered that Gregory spoke Greek by nature, and was acquainted with what he calls the Roman tongue, which he describes as a " magnificent sort of language, and one very aptly conformable to royal authority, but still difficult to me." If we put all this together, and consider the age in which he lived, we must admit that Gregory's education was more comprehensive than that of the majority of men nowadays.
After all this arduous preparation, Origen proceeded to instruct them "in theology and the devout character."
How arduous and thorough the preparation had been, we may learn from a remark in the thirteenth chapter : "He deemed it right for us to study philosophy in such wise, that we should read with utmost diligence all that has been written both by the philosophers and the poets of old, rejecting nothing and repudiating nothing (for indeed we did not yet possess the power of critical discernment), except only the productions of atheists, who, in their conceits, lapse from the general intelligence of man, and deny that there is either a god or a providence." This passage, with its palpable admiration for vast erudition and its appreciation of the necessary equipment of a critic, is a remarkable proof that some of the primitive Christians, at any rate, were as well qualified to grapple with mundane learning as their pagan neighbours who professed it.
It is not only in his relations with Gregory that we can observe Origen's regard for learning, for veracity in research, for patient and painstaking criticism. Africanus had written to him maintaining the spuriousness of the History of Susanna. Africanus based his contention mainly on the fact that a double play of words occurs in the Greek "prino-prisein and schino-schisein," a play impossible in Hebrew. Origen's answer shows his careful scholarship not less than that admirable quality, dry humour. He tells Africanus how he has applied to "not a few Jews" for a solution of the difficulty. These men answered that they were not acquainted with the Greek words in question, nor with the objects to which they referred. When Origen sent them specimens of the objects, they still persisted that they did not know their Hebrew names. Origen adds : i " This, then, being what the Hebrews said to whom I had recourse, and who were acquainted with the history, I am cautious of affirming whether or not there is any correspondence to this play of words in the Hebrew. - Your reason for affirming that there is not, you yourself probably know."
One would like to know the answer of Africanus to the concluding query.
It may be worth while to add that Origen was no unpractical devotee : he was alive to the ways of the world in which he lived. Writing to Africanus to refute one of the latter's arguments, he cites current Roman legal custom as if he were well acquainted with the political arrangements of his age.
Some account of St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen was given as a digression in a former chapter. The point dwelt on there was mainly their regard for learning. In this present consideration of the general attitude of prominent Christians, in the early centuries, to education, it is convenient to add some passages from St. Gregory's Orations which throw light on his conception of the teacher's function. One of these, from his Defence of his Flight to Pontus, refers to the difficulty of teaching. It is quite true that he is speaking of religious teaching ; but method does not altogether depend upon subject ; and, more-over, much learning not strictly religious seems to be implied in St. Gregory's view of sound teaching : " To me indeed it seems no slight task, and one requiring no little spiritual power, to give in due season to each his portion of the word, and to regulate with judgment the truth of our opinions, which are concerned with such subjects as the world or worlds, matter, soul, mind, intelligent natures, better or worse, providence which holds together and guides the universe, and seems in our experience of it to be governed according to some principle, but one which is at variance with those of earth and men."
If we weigh these words, they seem to involve a knowledge of metaphysics, ethics, physics, and, surely, political and social science, so far as, these were developed in St. Gregory's time. If the teacher were not conversant with the " government of men," how could he judge whether the "guidance of the universe " were or were not at variance with it ?
In this same oration there are remarks upon training souls which offer remarkable evidence of St. Gregory's wisdom as a teacher, and which are so applicable to the actual facts of almost any class of modern children, taken at random, that it is difficult sometimes to remember that they belong to the fourth century. He starts with the following warning :1 "But we upon whose efforts is staked the salvation of a soul . . . what a struggle ought ours to be, and how great skill do we require to treat, or to get men treated properly, and to change their life, and give up the clay to the spirit. For men and women, young and old, rich and poor, the sanguine and despondent, the sick and whole, rulers and ruled, the wise and ignorant, the cowardly and courageous, the wrathful and meek, the successful and failing, do not require the same instruction and encouragement."
Though Gregory is dealing here with the salvation of souls, yet, when we remember that he is the same learned Gregory of the University of Athens, the eulogist of Basil, and when we re-member the importance of character, the necessity of taking care that moral training shall have its share in education, then we are inclined to listen to his penetrating discourse on the different methods of influencing human beings ; and we are ready to believe, perhaps, that that which is said primarily of religious teaching may be not without value in those regions which we commonly call secular. Quotation of three paragraphs, without any comment, will suffice : every practical teacher will recognise in these words, facts and methods germane to his own experience.
P. 30: " As, then, the same medicine and the same food are not in every case administered to men's bodies, but a difference is made according to their degree of health or infirmity ; so also are souls treated with varying instructions and guidance. To this treatment witness is borne by those who have had experience of it. Some are led by doctrine, others trained by example ; some need the spur, others the curb ; some are sluggish and hard to rouse to the good, and must be stirred up by being smitten with the word ; others are immoderately fervent in spirit, with impulses difficult to restrain, like thoroughbred colts, who run wide of the turning- post ; and to improve them the word must have a restraining and checking influence."
P. 31: "Some are benefited by praise, others by blame, both being applied in season : while if out of season, or unreasonable, they are injurious ; some are set right by encouragement, others by rebuke ; some when taken to task in public, others when privately corrected. For some are wont to despise private admonitions, but are recalled to their senses by the condemnation of a number of people ; while others, who would grow reckless under reproof openly given, accept rebuke because it is in secret, and yield obedience in return for sympathy."
P. 32: "Upon some it is needful to keep a close watch, even in the minutest details ; because if they think they are unperceived (as they would contrive to be), they are puffed up with the idea of their own wisdom. Of others, it is better to take no notice, but seeing not to see, and hearing not to hear them, according to the proverb, that we may not drive them to despair, under the depressing influence of repeated reproofs, and at last to utter recklessness, when they have lost the sense of self-respect, the source of persuasiveness. In some cases we must even be angry without feeling angry, or treat them with a distance we do not feel, or manifest despair though we do not really despair of them, according to the needs of their nature. Others, again, we must treat with condescension and lowliness, aiding them readily to conceive a hope of better things. Some it is more advantageous to conquer —by others to be overcome, and to praise or deprecate, in one case wealth and power, in another poverty and failure."
The problems of education are curiously the same, whether the theorist be a Gregory, a Clement, an Ascham, a Mulcaster, a Locke, or a Herbart.
An event of great importance to Christian education occurred in the days of St. Basil and St. Gregory, namely, the promulgation in 362 A.D. of Julian's decree forbidding the Christians to teach rhetoric and grammar. Two imperial decrees, one of Constantine, one of Julian, closely affected Christian educational work, the first indirectly. Constantine the Great, with the concurrence of Licinius, issued at Milan in 313 a general declaration of tolerance. Though this did not affect the schools of the Christians directly, yet it proved the beginning of their great opportunity. The Imperial text of the edict is lost, but copies, differing slightly in detail, exist in the forty-eighth chapter of Lactantius' treatise on The Death of Persecutors, and in the fifth chapter of the tenth book of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. The edict provided that all men, including the Christians, should practise the religion which seemed best to them ; that all previous restrictions imposed upon the Christians should be rescinded ; that any places of assembly which had been purchased from them should be restored gratuitously ; and that any such acquired by gift should be restored and their price should not be demanded.
Constantine followed up this edict of general tolerance by opening the public schools to the Christians, who were now, if they could neglect Tertullian's prohibition, at liberty to teach as well as learn in them. It is not to be supposed that the public schools of the Empire became Christian institutions when Christianity was recognised as the official religion. The Fathers could not agree on this point, as the verdicts of SSt. Augustine and Chrysostom prove.
In 362, Julian the Apostate issued his famous decree forbidding Christian rhetoricians, grammarians, and sophists to teach in the schools. Ancient and modern historians concur in condemning this law Ammonius Marcellinus and Gregory Nazianzen are among the former ; Gibbon, Dr. Sandys, and Drane among the latter. "A just and severe; censure," says Gibbon,1 " has been inflicted on the law which prohibited the Christians from teaching the arts of grammar and rhetoric." The Christians, dropping their own previous doubts on the subject, combined together, under the leadership of their bishop, to resist Julian's law ; which was revoked eventually by the Emperor Valentinian. St. Gregory Nazianzen, who withstood Julian's attacks on the Christians in several orations, notably in the oration concerning his brother Cesarius and in the two against Julian, was indignant at this attempt to curtail Christian liberty in education : " I trust that everyone who cares for learning will take part in my indignation. I leave to others fortune, birth, and every other fancied good which can flatter the imagination of man. I value only science and letters, and regret no labour that I have spent in their acquisition. I have preferred, and shall ever prefer, learning to all earthly riches, and hold nothing dearer on earth, next to the joys of heaven and the hopes of eternity."
But though the Christians were bitterly opposed to Julian's law, yet their approbation of the attendance of Christian children in schools where paganism lingered was by no means universal. St. Chrysostom, for example, gives somewhat halting permission. He is weighing the relative advantages of the public and the monastic school : " If you have masters among you who can answer for the virtue of your children, I should be very far from advocating your sending them to a monastery ; on the contrary, I should strongly insist on their remaining where they are. But if no one can give such a guarantee, we ought not to send children to schools where they will learn vice before they learn science, and where, in acquiring learning of relatively small value, they will lose what is far more precious, their integrity of soul . . . the choice lies between two alternatives : a liberal education, which you may get by sending your children to the public schools ; or the salvation of their souls, which you secure by sending them to the monks. Which is to gain the day, science or the soul ? If you can unite both advantages, do so by all means ; but, if not, choose the most precious."
St. Chrysostom seems, when these words are read casually, to imply that it was not possible to secure a liberal education for children if they were sent into monastic schools. Though, speaking generally, this may have been true enough in his time, circumstances developed monastic learning in succeeding centuries. Under the Roman Empire, three kinds of schools existed : the imperial or municipal public schools, the episcopal or cathedral schools, and the monastic schools. The second of these arose out of the practice of the earliest bishops of the Church, whose habit it was to use their own houses as training grounds for priests. During the first three Christian centuries these episcopal houses tended to develop gradually into cathedral schools. Cardinal Newman writes as follows :1 "Scarcely had the new dispensation opened when, following the example of the schools of the Temple and of the Prophets under the old, St. John is recorded, over and above the public assemblies of the faithful, to have had about him a number of students whom he familiarly instructed ; and as time went on and power was given to the Church, this school for ecclesiastical learning was placed under the roof of the bishop."
Newman goes on to describe the seminary attached to the Lateran Church, the Pope's "first cathedral." The most interesting of his remarks to the student of education is this : "Strict as a monastic novitiate, it nevertheless included polite literature in its course ; and a library was attached to it for the use of the seminarists."
When the barbarians swept over the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Imperial schools, their allies the municipal schools and the episcopal schools, suffered almost total annihilation. The precise date of their destruction is not known definitely ; it is thought to be not later than the seventh century. Even so, we are not to think that no layman taught anywhere, only that the system was swept away. Ozonam writes :1 "In Italy, till the eleventh century, lay teachers pursued their course side by side with the ecclesiastical schools, as if to unite the end of the old Imperial system to the origin of that of the Universities."
The episcopal schools fared as badly, apparently, as the Imperial. Probably they were more conspicuous than the monastic schools. Of these latter, too, some were destroyed, and the rest, living in fear of attack, had not a little difficulty to preserve learning.
It is generally admitted that the practice of monasticism was of Oriental origin ; it is certainly older than Christianity. Before Christians adopted the monastic or coenobitic life, in the fulness of that system as we understand it, there were to be found among them anchorites, " withdrawers," men who lived solitary lives of piety and renunciation. After the establishment of monasteries, men, drawn and impelled to the lonely life, continued in that state.
It should be noticed, however, that so far as Christianity is concerned, John Cassian seems to claim priority for the coenobites. He is quoting the words of Abbot Piamun, and he says :I "So the system of the coenobites took its rise in the days of the preaching of the Apostles. For such was all that multitude of believers in Jerusalem, which is thus described in the Acts of the Apostles."
After quoting Acts iv. 32, ii. 45, iv. 34, 35, Cassian adds:" The whole Church, I say, was then such as now are those few who can be found with difficulty in coenobia." He goes on to say that with the spread of the faith, the first rigour of Christian renunciation was somewhat relaxed, and then those who "maintained the fervour of the Apostles began to live in rural and more sequestered spots, and there, in private and on their own account, to practise those things which they had learnt to have been ordered by the Apostles throughout the whole body of the Church in general ; and so that whole system of which we have spoken grew up."
It is obvious that the later of these communities more closely resembled what we are accustomed to think of as monasteries.
We should infer from St. Gregory's Panegyric on St. Basil that some rivalry existed between the coenobites and the anchorites. He writes : (§ 62) "Moreover he" (i.e. Basil) "reconciled most excellently, and united the solitary and the community life. These had been in 'many respects at variance and dissension, while neither of them was in absolute and unalloyed possession of good or evil: the one being more calm and settled, tending to union with God, yet not free from pride, inasmuch as its virtue lies beyond the means of testing or comparison ; the other, which is of more practical service, being not free from the tendency to turbulence. He founded cells for ascetics and hermits, but at no great distance from his coenobitic communities ; and instead of distinguishing and separating the one from the other, as if by some intervening wall, he brought them together and united them, in order that the contemplative spirit might not be cut off from society, nor the active life be uninfluenced by the contemplative, but that, like sea and land, by an interchange of their several gifts, they might unite in promoting the one object, the glory of God."
Readers of Jerome's Lives of Illustrious Men will notice that the chapters begin with a proper name, followed generally by a descriptive title, e.g. " John the Apostle " ; " Ignatius, third bishop of the Church of Antioch"; "Agrippa, a man of great learning"; " Tertullian the presbyter," and so forth. It is not till the eighty-eighth chapter that after the proper name comes the monastic title ; in that we read of " Anthony the monk." This man was born in 251, and lived to a great age, dying in 356. A life of St. Antony is attributed to St. Athanasius. Some critics have doubted its genuineness, but the translators of the Orations of St. Gregory Nazianzen, in the Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, following Cardinal Newman, pronounce it genuine. St. Antony, who by the way appears to have been opposed from his youth up to secular learning, gained followers in the devout life, and many monastic communities were founded in Egypt, and specially in the country about Thebes.
Gennadius, however, attributes the foundation of the Egyptian monasteries to St. Pachomius, who was born towards the close of the third century, and died in 348. Among this monk's disciples and followers, also mentioned by Gennadius, were Theodorus (314-367), the successor of Pachomius ; Oresiesis, "a man learned to perfection in Scripture " ; " Macarius . . . distinguished for his miracles and virtues " ; and Evagrius, of whom the historian of education is glad to learn that he was " educated in sacred and profane literature and distinguished, whom the book which is called The Lives of the Fathers mentions as a most continent and erudite man."1."' Among ninety-nine names, mostly those of bishops, only those of five monks find a place in Gennadius' Addendum to Jerome's Lives of Illustrious Men. Among St. Jerome's treatises is one entitled, The Life of Paulus, the First Hermit.
In the opening lines he discusses the question, " What monk was the first to give a signal example of the hermit life ? " This distinction, commonly given, as he says, to St. Antony, he claims for Paul of Thebes. He does not suggest, however, that Paul was anything but a "solitary."
In his Letters, St. Jerome seems to imply the superiority of monastic over the solitary life. He relates the circumstances by which the head of an Egyptian monastery led a young Greek to conquer temptation ; and he adds : " Had he been a solitary hermit, by whose aid could he have overcome the temptations that assailed him ? "
Lake Natron lies about midway between Alexandria and Memphis ; the valley in which it is situated is overshadowed by the Nitrian mountain. When St. Jerome visited Egypt a great church had been built on the top of this mountain, and climbing up the mountain sides, clustering round the church, were no less than fifty monasteries. Each of these institutions was ruled over by its own superior ; but the "rule" to which all submitted was, as Cassian tells us, identical ;1 over the superiors was an abbot, and the whole community recognised the Bishop of Heliopolis as their diocesan. It was in the year 385 that St. Jerome paid this famous visit ; the progress which had been made in about fifty years was therefore remarkable.
St. Gregory Nazianzen tells us that the great Athanasius retired "to the holy and divine homes of contemplation in Egypt," i.e. to the monasteries in the Thebaid.
In his Panegyric on St. Basil, St. Gregory relates that Basil founded a monastery " worthy of mention." As a matter of fact, he founded a number of monasteries in Pontus, in the N.-E. of Asia Minor. By the fourth century the Churches of this part of the world had lost their pristine virtues and order ; St. Basil laboured unceasingly to restore their candle-stick to its place, and Newman claims that "his monasteries became, in a short time, schools of that holy teaching which had been almost banished from the sees of Asia."
From the works of St. Jerome we can learn that the monastic principle spread quickly in the fourth century. In one of his letters, writing of Marcella, a Roman matron, he observes, "In those days" (i.e. 382 A.D.) "no highborn lady at Rome had made profession of the monastic life . . or had ventured . . publicly to call herself a nun."1." This seems to imply the existence of monasteries at Rome ; it is believed that the first monastery was founded there in 340 A.D.
In his Life of St. Hilarion, written in 390 A.D., Jerome writes : "Following his example, however, innumerable monasteries sprang up throughout the whole of Palestine, and all the monks flocked to him." Seven years later, writing to Pammachius (a Roman senator who had become a monk) to warn him not to be unduly proud of his own humility in taking such a step, Jerome says : "I, for my part, am building in this province a monastery and a hospice close by ; so that if Joseph and Mary chance to come to Bethlehem, they may not fail to find shelter and welcome. Indeed, the number of monks who flock here from all quarters of the world is so overwhelming that I can neither desist from my enterprise nor bear so great a burthen."
To the spread of monasteries in particular, and of Christianity in general, he refers incidentally in his letter to Laeta : "From India, from Persia, from Ethiopia we daily welcome monks in crowds. The Armenian bowman has laid aside his quiver, the Huns learn the Psalter, the chilly Scythians are warmed with the glow of the faith. The Getoe, ruddy and yellow-haired, carry tent-churches about with their armies, and perhaps their success in fighting against us may be due to the fact that they believe in the same religion."
And once more in a letter, bearing the date of 406 A.D., he writes : " You already build monasteries, and support in the various islands a large number of holy men."
St. Athanasius is thought to have introduced monastic principles into Gaul ; a monastery was founded in Trier in 336. This was followed in time by others founded by St. Martin of Tours, one at Ligugé in 360, another at Marmoutiers in 37 ; St. Honoratus founded the monastery of Lerins near Cannes in 405 ; while John Cassian founded that of St. Victor at Marseilles, mentions that travelling to Bethlehem he met St. Jerome, whom he describes as a man learned not only " in Latin and Greek, but also Hebrew to such a degree that no one dare venture to compare himself with him in all knowledge."
But even so excellent a person had enemies, and the " Gallic friend " with whom Sulpitius is carrying on these dialogues remarks of St. Jerome, that " some five years ago I read a certain book of his in which the whole tribe of our monks is most vehemently assaulted and reviled by him."
The Gaul, though he admits that this has annoyed others, pardons Jerome, remarking with admirable moderation that he is of opinion that Jerome had " made the remark rather about Eastern than about Western monks."
However this may be, the reorganisation of Gallic monasteries is attributed to the wisdom and capacity of Cassian, who, during his long sojourn in Egypt, had studied Christian monasteries in their ancient home.
Under the guidance of Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli, monasteries were multiplied throughout Italy. The most famous of them all, the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, founded in 529, lies outside the scope of this book. A study of St. Benedict's "rule" will convince anyone that his method allowed and encouraged all his monks to pursue learning. It is obvious that the primary intention of those who founded and fostered monasteries was, in the words of St. Gregory Nazianzen, quoted above, to promote "the one object, the glory of God." They were not, in their inception, schools of learning. But they endured when the Imperial, municipal and cathedral schools perished. Gradually the pursuit of learning gained something like equality with the pursuit of holiness ; and it is on this account that it seemed impossible to omit monasticism in a study of the Christian attitude to education. We are, many of us, too accustomed to judge it by its later exhibition of itself in decay ; but a study of it in its beginning and in its prime will surely bring us nearer to Dr. Sandys' view, when he writes that Cassian in his sequel to his Institutes is " dwelling on the ideal of the monastic life, and thus supplying that incentive towards intellectual studies which led to the monasteries of the West becoming the homes of learning and literature, and even of classical scholarship, in the Middle Ages."1 Of all the monasteries of which that was essentially true, the most distinguished is that of Monte Cassino. As the "rule" of St. Benedict was largely indebted to the account which John Cassian had left in his Conferences of the Egyptian monasteries, it is not an unfruitful task for the student of education to search in Cassian for "that incentive towards intellectual studies" of which Dr. Sandys speaks. We must not expect to find eulogies on learning, or definite curricula of instruction ; but we can find the work of preparation, the work of weaning humanity from what is worthless, the drawing of the will towards effort and renunciation, a stimulus inciting men "To scorn delights, and live laborious days" ; and all these things are parts of education, the necessary preparation for and concomitants of instruction and the pursuit of learning. The blossom and fruit are to be sought in the later years, which lie outside the limits of this book ; Cassian relates the share of those who are sowers of the harvest which others reap, a harvest not always accurately foreseen. The exposition of Abbot Moses (given by Cassian) of the " end or aim " of a monk, shows clearly that in the beginning of things learning qua learning was not included in it : "The end of our profession . . . is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven but the immediate aim or goal is purity of heart."
It is not difficult to see even so, taking the aim of monasticism as just that and no more, that the system might, almost must, have an educational effect. The age in which Christian monasticism established itself and spread was that of the disruption of the Roman Empire, of an empire which had strayed away from its old strenuous ideals, and had abandoned itself to physical indulgence, to pomp, idleness, corruption, and vice of many other kinds. Any system, therefore, whose aim was purity of heart, must tend to keep alive the smouldering embers of the old vanishing aims. No doubt the barbarians who swarmed down upon the emasculated Romans possessed many virtues of the rougher kinds. It was not to them, how-ever, for many a long day, that the world could look for any kind of education except that crudest variety, tending to self-preservation, which even savages enjoy. But these monastic communities, spreading more and more, kept alive, in the hearts of the comparatively few no doubt, a regard for the virtue which Rome's fall was imperilling, purity of heart. Moreover, the monastic rule preserved the belief expressed by Erasmus in a humanistic phrase—" The gods sell us all things for labour." Along no primrose path of ease did Cassian invite the intending monk to walk : "Our profession has its own goal and end, for which we undergo all sorts of toils, not merely without weariness, but actually with delight."
Readers of Montaigne's Essays will remember how he insists on the truth that " the mind which has no fixed aim comes to ruin." In the catalogue of his library the Fathers do not figure ; but the following sentence from Abbot Moses is simply an elaborated form of the aphorism quoted above : " The first thing, as I said, in all the arts and sciences is to have some goal, i.e. a mark for the mind, and constant mental purpose ; for unless a man keeps this before him with all diligence and persistence, he will never succeed in arriving at the ultimate aim and the gain which he desires."
The opening words of Abbot Piamun's Conference enforce the same principle with more elaboration of detail : " Whatever man, my children, is desirous to attain skill in any art, unless he gives himself up with the utmost pains and carefulness to the study of that system which he is anxious to learn, and observes the rules and orders of the best masters of that work or science, is indulging in a vain hope to reach by idle wishes any similarity to those whose pains and diligence he avoids copying. . . , Wherefore you should first hear how or whence the system and beginning of our order took its rise. For only then can a man at all effectually be trained in any art he may wish, and be urged on to practise it diligently when he has learnt the glory of its authors and founders." A close ally of strenuous effort and persistent labour is the practice of obedience, constantly enforced upon the monks.1 Cassian is considering the best way of training, and he recommends renunciation of riches, the practice of obedience, and a habit of work and toil. In Book IV. of the Institutes, Cassian insists again and again on the necessity for obedience. But perhaps the greatest service which monasteries performed for the future work of education was its condemnation of laziness, of lack of occupation. St. Benedict's aphorism, "Idleness is an enemy of the soul," is surely one of those mottoes which the great Erasmus would not have disdained to inscribe, with an ethical purpose, on some article of common use : " I have known a proverb inscribed upon a ring or a cup, sentences worth remembering painted on a door or a window." 3 Yet St. Jerome and St. John Cassian were before the wise Benedict in their insistence upon the moral fault of idleness.
" Always have some work on hand, that the devil may find you busy. . . . Make creels of reeds, or weave baskets out of pliant osiers. Hoe your ground ; mark out your garden into even plots. . . . Construct also hives for bees . . . and you may learn from the tiny creatures how to order a monastery and to discipline a kingdom. Twist lines, too, for catching fish, and copy books ; that your hand may earn your food, and your mind may be satisfied with reading." 1 This closing sentence should be noticed. The directors of monasteries found very soon that mere manual labour will not occupy the mind; and the reading of books, recommended by St. Jerome, became a duty enjoined by the Benedictine "rule," and this gradually led to the preservation of the works of the greater Fathers and of the more distinguished of Greek and Latin pagan authors. Had it not been for the reading, first commanded in monasteries as a protection against idleness, no one can tell how many more gaps we might have to deplore in the works of the " divine men of old time."
"In Egypt," St. Jerome adds, "the monasteries make it a rule to receive none who are not willing to work ; for they regard labour as necessary, not only for the support of the body, but also for the salvation of the soul."
It is in the tenth book of his Institutes, in that interesting treatise upon the sin of accidie and the methods of overcoming it, that Cassian writes most forcibly on the avoidance of laziness.
"Those who will not work are always restless, owing to the fault of idleness."
"And so taught by these examples, the Fathers in Egypt never allow monks, and especially the younger ones, to be idle, estimating the purpose of their hearts and their growth in patience and humility by their diligence in work."
"Whence this saying has been handed down from the old Fathers in Egypt : that a monk who works is attacked by one devil, but an idler is tormented by countless spirits."
Closely allied with these admonitions concerning idleness, are the arrangements which were made for reading at meals : "We have been informed that the plan, that while the brethren are eating, the holy lessons should be read in the coenobia, did not originate in the Egyptian system, but in the Cappadocian. And there is no doubt that they want to establish it not so much for the sake of the spiritual exercise as for the sake of putting a stop to unnecessary and idle conversation, and especially discussions, which so often arise at meals."
The definite end, clearly kept in view : the necessity for continued effort if skill is to be attained ; the practice of obedience, the saving efficacy of occupation,—all these points, dwelt on with elaboration over and over again, by Cassian, are the educational side of monasticism in primitive times. It is to be feared that they play too in-conspicuous a part now in our modern schemes for the welfare of education. This chapter has already stretched itself out to inordinate length, but it cannot be closed without some reference to St. Augustine's view of education and pagan learning.
He is generally quoted in support of the contentions of Symonds and Compayré, and, as everyone knows, certain passages in his Confessions are hostile to classical learning. It is indeed with something like regret that we find him, who as a boy could "weep the death of Dido which came of her love to Aeneas," who could tell us that when he was a youth the Scriptures seemed to him " undignified in comparison with Ciceronian dignity," losing his critical balance in later life till he felt compelled to renounce all pagan writings.
But it is less generally remembered that when Evodius asked St. Augustine who were the "spirits in prison" to whom Christ preached, he replied that he would fain believe they were the spirits of the great classical writers whose works he had studied in the schools, and whose eloquence he still admired. Further, M. Boissier asserts that if he quotes the classics less often than St. Jerome, he remembers them very often, and always with increasing affection, as the end of life grows nearer.
Perhaps one final quotation from Dr. Sandys History of Classical Learning may be made, to instance one more primitive Christian who managed to combine the new faith with a scholar's zeal. He is writing of Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350-428), and says he "is highly esteemed as a biblical expositor and a theological controversialist. His opposition to the allegorical method of interpretation is noticed by Photius. He prefers the grammatical and historical method which he had inherited from Chrysostom's master and his own, Diodorus of Antioch, and in the exegesis of the New Testament he shows the instincts of a scholar in noticing minor words which are often overlooked, in attending to niceties of grammar and punctuation, and in keenly discussing doubtful readings."
Hardly less interesting to the student of education than any of the foregoing is St. Paulinus of Nola, born in the city of Bordeaux in 353. He was the pupil of Ausonius, a professing Christian at any rate, who taught grammar and rhetoric in Bordeaux, until, in 364, he became the tutor of Gratian, the heir to the Imperial throne.
No space remains here to deal with St. Paulinus; but the student may be directed to the account of him given by M. Boissier in the second volume of La Fin du Paganisme. Nor should the quaint and beautiful life of him written by our own too-little-read poet, Henry Vaughan, be forgotten ; who in a burst of enthusiasm declares that he lived "in a golden age, when religion and learning kissed each other and equally flourished. So that he had the happiness to shine in an age that loved light, and to multiply his own by the light of others."
We may close this account of the attitude of the primitive Christians to learning by quotations from earlier critics than Symonds, Compayré, and Hallam, earlier, indeed, but perhaps at least equally well read.
Writing to Ladislas, King of Bohemia and Hungary, Aeneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius I I., observes : "As Basil allows, the poets and other authors of antiquity are saturated with the same faith, and for this reason deserve our study. . . . You will have no difficulty in quoting classical precedent for honouring them (i.e. the classic writers) as they deserve. Nay, the Fathers them-selves, Jerome, Augustine, and Cyprian, did not hesitate to draw illustrations from heathen poetry, and so sanctioned its study."
Milton in the Areopagitica writes : " The question was . . . controverted among the primitive doctors, but with great odds on that side which affirmed it both lawful and profitable ; as was then evidently perceived when Julian the Apostate and subtlest enemy to our faith made a decree forbidding Christians the study of heathen learning ; for, said he, they wound us with our own weapons, and with our own arts and sciences they overcome us."
In dealing with this question of the relation of the Fathers to learning, there is one consideration, not yet mentioned which should not be forgotten. Our own age differs in some respects materially from the first five centuries; as generation succeeds generation, the tide of speculation increases ; some words and phrases change their meaning ; definitions alter, and points of view shift. To us, spectators of, if not sharers in, so many varied lines of thought, the problem of the relation between so-called secular and divine philosophy cannot be embodied in phrases so clear cut, so mutually exclusive, as those of an age when, as Symonds puts it, "the creeds had to be defined"; consequently we may sometimes mistake for intolerance what was really a necessity of the age.