( Originally Published 1906 )[an error occurred while processing this directive]
OF the early Fathers, the most learned were probably St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Origen, and St. Jerome. The erudition of the first of these is not exhibited in the Paedagogue so often or so clearly as it is in the Exhortation to the Heathen, and in the Stromata or Tapestry Work. It is perhaps natural that in order to win the heathen, St. Clement should have been at pains to prove that he was thoroughly acquainted with their greatest writers, appreciative even of their literature, since the best way of winning men to something esteemed higher is to value highly that which they already have. No man gains his opponent by underrating his position. When in his opening pages he tells the story of the Pythie Grasshopper, he shows himself as a literary man ; his ability does not evaporate wholly even in translation, as he tells us that " Eunomos was playing the lyre in the summer time ; it was when the grasshoppers, warmed by the sun, were chirping beneath the leaves." All through this exhortation, though his purpose is to wean the Pagans from mythology, his knowledge of classical literature is intimate and extensive. Dr. Kaye remarks of it : " The work bespeaks a familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures and with profane literature,"—interesting testimony that the con-junction of the two was possible and actual. It is a different matter when we come to the Stromata, a treatise not addressed to the heathen, but designed to be a treasure-house of traditional wisdom, a tower of strength against the increasing Gnostic heresy.
"This work of mine," he writes, ". . . is not artfully constructed for display,1 but my memoranda are stored up against old age, as a remedy against forgetfulness,—truly an image and outline of those vigorous and animated discourses which I was privileged to hear, and of blessed and truly remarkable men." These were certainly Pantaenus, and possibly Tatian and Theodotus, of whom St. Clement further remarks that they had preserved "the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy Apostles."
More than once he dwells on the fact that his aim is "a preservation of the truth " ; 1 and he explicitly says that he will not eschew classical literature : "Let a man milk the sheep's milk if he need sustenance : let him shear the wool if he need clothing. And in this way let me produce the fruit of Greek erudition." And again he writes : "Like farmers who irrigate the land beforehand, so we also water with the liquid stream of Greek learning what in it is earthy." And once more : "The Stromata will contain the truth mixed up in dogmas of philosophy or rather covered over and hidden, as the edible part of the nut in the shell."
It is not only for illustration and exposition that St. Clement draws from the classics : he definitely proclaims the lawfulness of mundane wisdom. Human arts, he declares, come from God as really as the revelation of divine truth : moreover he remembered, what some thinkers have forgotten with deplorable results, that philosophy is the handmaid of theology. He devotes a whole chapter to the benefit of culture, and he commits himself to the following statement, which is a hard nut, for those who maintain the carelessness of the Christians about learning, to crack : "As we say that a man can be a believer without learning, so also we assert that it is impossible for a man without learning to comprehend the things which are declared in the faith." 1 He elaborates this idea of the essentialness to en-lightened faith of knowledge in a subsequent chapter when he says: 2 "Some who think them-selves naturally gifted do not wish to touch either philosophy or logic ; nay more, they do not wish to learn natural science. They demand bare faith alone, as if they wished, without bestowing any care on the vine, straightway to gather clusters from the first." It may be an interesting proof of St. Clement's broadmindedness that he cared to maintain that every kind of philosophy " contains some germ of truth"; though in endeavouring to explain Christ's words, " All that came before Me were thieves and robbers," he admits that perhaps the devil stole philosophy ; but he argues that the " Lord did not prevent him," and, further, that this "gift was not hurtful." 3 It was even beneficial : " There is thus in philosophy, though stolen as the fire by Prometheus, a slender spark, capable of being fanned into flame, a trace of wisdom, and an impulse from God."
These, certainly, are not the words of a man who undervalued knowledge, or prohibited its acquisition. Like Tertullian later on, St. Clement maintains that the Greek philosophers borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures ; but that is rather a defence of than an attack on Greek learning).
It is impossible, owing to lack of space, to indicate even briefly the vast erudition of this early Father as it is shown in the Stromata. But enough has been said here (and in an earlier chapter of his Paedagogue) to prove that he was a staunch supporter of learning and education. At least one hundred and fifty years separate the period of his greatest activity from that which saw St. Jerome's work. Moreover, Clement was a Greek Father, living for the most part in Alexandria, belonging always to the Eastern Church ; St. Jerome was a Latin, born near one of the greatest cities in Italy. He was indeed the first Latin Churchman greatly distinguished for learning. The beginnings of the Christian Church were committed to the hands of the Greeks : Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople,—all these great Eastern dioceses and the country under their rule had produced learned thinkers and teachers in the early centuries. Rome, it should also be remembered, was not celebrated for the learning of its leaders so soon as the Church of North-West or Pro-consular Africa was; Tertullian, and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, both belonged to the African Church as distinguished from that of Rome ; while the other early Latin Father who attracted notice by his learning, St. Irenaeus, ruled the Church of Lyons. It was not indeed till the time of Jerome that the See of Rome became powerful ; he and it sprang into notice it might almost be said together, for he was made secretary of that Council which was called at Rome in 382 A.D. as a rival to the Council of Constantinople of the previous year. Clement of Alexandria, the learned Greek Father, wrote the Stromata to preserve Apostolic teaching. Jerome, the learned Latin, found his lines cast in the days when the Church was distracted by the claims of rival bishops to the same sees, and rent by heresies and schisms. When he sat in the Roman Council as its secretary, he witnessed the strife between representatives of the Apollinarian heresy—based in its beginning on Plato's psychology —and Epiphanius, the learned Bishop of Salamina in Cyprus. This man was profoundly learned in the heresies of the Church ; Jerome tells us "he wrote books Against all Heresies." He routed the Eastern bishops, exposed their fallacies, and refuted their conclusions. At last, worsted in argument, the Apollinarians agreed to sign a document, which Jerome was required to draw up, embodying the orthodox doctrine of the Church. Though St. Jerome was afterwards accused by the Apollinarians of altering the document when they had signed it, and though this Council of Rome failed of its purpose in superseding the Council of Constantinople, yet the Bishop of Rome, Damasus, had learned to appreciate the rare abilities and learning of Jerome, who by this time had travelled extensively, and was acquainted with the Churches of Rome, Antioch, and Constantinople, as well as with the monastic retreats of the desert of Chalcis in Syria. Damasus offered him the Secretaryship of the Roman See ; and Jerome remained in that position for three years, till 385, when he resigned his post in order to found that monastery at Bethlehem of which he writes in the letter to Pammachius, quoted in the previous chapter. If Rome had not yet produced a Christian scholar of notable learning, Jerome, at any rate, found some of the raw materials of erudition there, notably the library which Damasus had built, near to Pompey's Theatre, to receive the archives of the Latin Church.
It is not in the least surprising that the Bishop of Rome should have desired to enlist St. Jerome in the band of Roman Christians ; for his learning and his varied experiences marked him out from the common run of men. As a youth he had been a pupil of Aelius Donatus, whom Dr. Sandys suspects to have been " deficient in knowledge and judgment, and far too fond of allegorising interpretations," but who nevertheless was famous as a teacher at the end of the fourth century, and who wrote a grammar which, either in its original condition or as the basis of later grammars, maintained a position in the mediaeval schools, and even lingered on to modern times. Readers of Rabelais will remember that Master Tubal Holofernes made Gargantua study " Donatus' Latin Grammar." While at Rome, Jerome became acquainted with the works of the Greek philosophers, and as we learn from the twenty-second Letter, addressed to Eustochium, he was at great pains to collect a library : " When I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome."
The curriculum of the Roman schools of the fourth century closely resembled Quintilian's scheme for the education of an orator ; Jerome attained celebrity on account both of his erudition and eloquence. During his sojourn in Trier he turned his attention to theology. When he returned to Aquileia, he embraced the ascetic life, and in the year 374 he retired to the desert of Chalcis after a period of doubt concerning his future life, as we gather from a letter, bearing the date 374, to Theodosius, a Syrian anchorite. It is well known that Jerome was the favourite Father of the great Erasmus. Readers of their letters cannot but be struck by a tie between them which appears in one of the letters written from Antioch, where St. Jerome says : " My poor body, weak even when well, has been shattered by frequent illnesses."
Erasmus—who once wrote : "My constitution, even when at its best, cannot bear vigils or fastings or any discomforts. I fall ill from time to time even here, where I live so luxuriously, what should I do among the hardships of conventual life ? " —could, if anyone were able, sympathise with St. Jerome's physical sufferings.
While St. Jerome remained in the state of doubt, comforting himself between fastings and night-long vigils by reading Cicero and Plautus, he fell one night, when he was so wasted by fever that his funeral preparations were begun, into a vision. The story is well known: he dreamed that he had already come to judgment : " Suddenly I was caught up in the spirit and dragged before the judgment-seat of the Judge ;l and here the light was so bright, and those who stood around were so radiant, that I cast myself upon the ground and did not dare to look up. Asked who and what I was, I replied, ' I am a Christian.' But he who presided said : ' Thou liest, thou art a follower of Cicero and not of Christ : for " where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also." Instantly I became dumb." Coming to from his agony of suffering, and slowly recovering health, Jerome, who once, going to Jerusalem, carried a copy of Plato with him that he might not waste his time, resolved to eschew from that hour the study of the classics. Yet he is a noteworthy instance of the truth, pro-claimed by every great teacher, that the early days of life determine the course of the after years. Though, with a view to perfecting his knowledge of theology, St. Jerome now devoted himself to a study of Hebrew ; and though, during his visit to Constantinople in 380, with a similar purpose, he completed, with the help of St. Gregory
Nazianzen, his study of Greek, he could not banish from his heart and mind those old studies in the great writers which had filled his student years. Writing in his later life — the precise date is uncertain — to Sabianus, a deeply erring deacon, Jerome cries aloud, as he casts about for words of sufficient reprobation :1 Oh for the sea of Tully's eloquence ! Oh for the impetuous current of the invective of Demosthenes ! "
By the natural energy of his temperament (in his first extant letter he writes of "inactivity acting like rust upon the intellect "), by his inborn ability, by his youthful training, which developed intellect, judgment, and taste, by all his varied experience of men and letters, St. Jerome was rendered incapable of condemning or abandoning altogether the intellectual life. Nor would other men allow him to hide his light under a bushel. Bishop Damasus seized upon him, took advice upon his own reading, urged him on to that Latin translation of the Scriptures, so sorely needed by the Latin Church of the fourth century, honoured throughout Catholic Christendom as the Vulgate ; and probably to the translation of the Psalter, which as the Roman Psalter was used by the Latin Church till 1566, when it was abandoned for the Gallican Psalter except in the Vatican Church, Milan Cathedral, and St. Mark's at Venice.
Another of St. Jerome's contemporaries, Sulpitius Severus, recognised his supreme ability ; for in the eighth chapter of his Dialogues he speaks of " the merit due to him on account of his faith, and the possession of many virtues ; he is 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 . . . he is, in fact, read the whole world over."
Such was the man whom Damasus made Secretary to the Roman See. But he only retained the position for three years, retiring in 385 to Bethlehem, where he founded a monastery in the following year. It is particularly interesting to the student of the History of Education to learn that here St. Jerome found the impossibility of keeping his resolution to forego all reading of the classics. He gathered round his monastic cell a school of boys ; and these he instructed in Grammar, —and we know how comprehensive that subject was,—specially in his old friend Plautus, in Terence, and above them all in " Roman Virgil."
And possibly in the closing paragraph of his Lives of Illustrious Men the sympathetic reader may discern the influence of a scholarly, literary spirit which, as in a later age it inspired our own Milton to hope that he might eventually write something which his countrymen "would not willingly let die," impelled St. Jerome to take some pride in his own writings : "I, Jerome, son of Eusebius . . . up to the present year, that is, the fourteenth of the Emperor Theodosius, have written the following." A long list of works ensues, and then come the closing words, " many others . . . which are not yet finished, and which I am still at work upon." It is difficult—only those who have tried know how difficult — for any critic, except those few who are naturally allied to the Batrachians, to divest himself of his prejudices. But it seems incredible that any student of St. Jerome's life and letters, not hopelessly biassed by a dislike to Christianity in any and every form, should fail to see in him one of those conscientious wrestlers who live in perpetual inward strife ; the scholar at handgrips with the theologian, the intellect rising up against the conscience, and the conscience against the intellect. To class him among the opponents of learning and education seems ludicrously inept.
There is a letter of his, written to Magnus, a Roman orator, in defence of quotations from "secular literature." In this, not at all in any supposed spirit of Christian depreciation, but in the true scholar spirit, St. Jerome exalts other Christian writers at his own expense : " Read these and you will find that I am a mere tyro in learning, and, that as my wits have long lain fallow, I can barely recall as in a dream what I have learned as a boy." These words carry no suggestion that he deems ignorance meritorious.
St. Jerome, in his letter, goes on to argue that "in Moses and in the prophets there are passages cited from Gentile books, and that Solomon proposed questions to the philosophers of Tyre and answered others put to him by them. In the commencement of the Book of Proverbs he charges us to understand prudent maxims and shrewd adages, parables and obscure discourse, the words of the wise and their dark sayings ; all of which belong by right to the sphere of the dialectician and the philosopher."
Even if modem scholarship and research should prove that Solomon was not the author of the Book of Proverbs, this discovery would not vitiate Jerome's argument. The constant quotations from it by St. Paul, and its place among the Canonical Scriptures, prove its general acceptance by the Christian Church, and that is all that is essential to St. Jerome's effective use of it.
St. Jerome also mentions the three well-known instances of St. Paul's quotations from the classics—from Epimenides, Menander, and Aratus ; he cites the numerous works of learning produced by members of the Eastern Churches ; adding, "All these writers so frequently interweave in their books the doctrines and maxims of the philosophers that you might easily be at a loss which to admire most, their secular erudition or their knowledge of the Scriptures."
When he turns his attention to his own Church, the' Latin, the poverty of the land is laid bare ; but even here St. Jerome can point to the erudition of Tertullian ; the "knowledge of all history," the " splendid rhetoric and argument " of Cyprian ; and the " ability as a writer" of a contemporary bishop, Hilary.
Then, in the closing paragraph of this letter, he writes the following decisive words : "You must not adopt the mistaken opinion that while in dealing with the Gentiles one may appeal to their literature, in all other discussions one ought to ignore it ; for almost all the books of these writers—except those who, like Epicurus, are no scholars — are extremely full of erudition and philosophy."
Besides the intentional defence which he makes from time to time of secular learning, there are chance sentences scattered up and down the letters which betray the habits and standpoint of the scholar. For instance, in Letter CVIII. he writes, "Self-confidence is the worst of teachers." Again in Letter CXXI. we have a proof of the minute care he thought essential in composition. Writing to Lucinius concerning some MSSt. of his own works which he was sending to this rich Spaniard, Jerome says : " As for my poor works, which from no merit of theirs, but simply from your own kindness you say that you desire to have ; I have given them to your servants to transcribe, I have seen the paper-copies made by them, and I have repeatedly ordered them to correct them by a diligent comparison with the originals."
Writing to Laeta concerning her infant daughter Paula, Jerome says : "Let her treasures be not silks or gems, but manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures ; and in these let her think less of gilding and Babylonian parchment and arabesque patterns, than of correctness and accurate punctuation." This is not an isolated instance. In his Preface to the Book of Job, Jerome writes : "Let those who will keep the old books with their gold and silver letters on purple skins, or, to follow the ordinary phrase, in 'uncial characters,' loads of writing rather than manuscripts, if only they will leave for me and mine our poor pages and copies which are less remarkable for beauty than for accuracy."
It is idle to argue that Jerome is in these cases speaking either of the Scriptures or of theological works ; the spirit of scholarly toil, the love of absolute accuracy, the painstaking search for truth are the same whether applied to sacred or profane learning.
Perhaps this is a suitable place to argue that some of the Christians at least held that there is a knowledge which is not attained in the ordinary way of intellectual achievement ; Lactantius, e.g., clearly regards "the truth that is the secret of the Most High God" as extra-rational, a matter of special revelation : "The truth that is the secret of the Most High God who created all things cannot be attained by our own ability and perceptions." And again, "The truth is revealed from heaven to us who have received the mystery of true religion."
Origen, too, dwells on the necessity of spirit understanding spirit : "To see and to be seen is a property of bodies ; to know and to be known an attribute of intellectual beings . . . whatever among bodily natures is called seeing and being seen, is termed between the Father and the Son a knowing and being known, by means of the power of knowledge, not by the frailness of sight ... what else is seeing God in heart but, according to our exposition as above, understanding and knowing Him in the mind."
Words are clumsy means of expressing meta-physical views, whether they are handled by a Christian or a non-Christian. But lest Lactantius and Origen should be thought to draw too clear a line between intellectual and spiritual knowledge, it should be remembered that in the same treatises from which the above passages are taken Lactantius wrote : "I thus briefly define the sum of this knowledge, that neither is any religion to be undertaken without wisdom, nor any wisdom to be approved without religion"; and Origen wrote : " The intellect is sharpened by exercises of learning, and the powers implanted within it for intelligent purposes are called forth ; and it is rendered capable of greater intellectual efforts, not being increased by bodily additions, but carefully polished by learned exercises."
The Christian Fathers, at any rate, busied themselves with the problems of life and mind ; they may not have solved them, but they neither neglected nor shirked them.
It is. time to turn to another aspect of St. Jerome's work, a side which differentiates him from the other Christian Fathers, namely, his care for the spiritual and intellectual welfare of women. It is often claimed for Christianity that among its other boons to mankind, it altered for the better the position of women and slaves. The first of these changes came slowly at first, it is hardly too much to say imperceptibly. We can scarcely forget that though St. Paul is often dismissed as if he only condemned women to silence and forbade them to teach, yet he seems to imply that his " dearly beloved son " Timothy had learned much from two women : " The unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice."
As the centuries passed on, the responsibility and influence of Christian women, and specially of Christian mothers, was recognised increasingly. The name of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, will occur to everyone ; that of Nonna, the saintly and carefully educated mother of St. Gregory Nazianzen, is less well known.
St. Gregory also bears witness to the virtues of St. Basil's mother Emmelia, and to the thoroughness of his upbringing at Rome, due, at any rate in part, to her : "Who has not known Emmelia, whose name was a forecast of what she became, or else whose life was an exemplification of her name. For she had a right to the name which implies gracefulness, and occupied, to speak concisely, the same place among women as her husband among men." 1 "When sufficiently trained at home, as he" (Basil) "ought, to fall short in no form of excellence, and not be surpassed by the busy bee, which gathers what is most useful from every flower, he set out for the city of Caesarea, to take his place at the schools there."
This last sentence is interesting as showing that the Christians still valued the early home education which the Romans, among whom they lived, were tending to abandon and depreciate.
St. Basil himself acknowledges his debt to his grandmother : "I was brought up by my grand-mother, beloved woman ! . I mean the celebrated Macrina, who taught me the words of the most blessed Gregory, which, as far as memory had preserved down to her own day, she cherished herself, while she fashioned and formed me, while yet a child, upon the doctrines of piety."
But it is in studying the life and work of St. Jerome that the student of early Christianity is struck first with the growing importance attached to the education of women. The impulse was given not by Jerome, however, but by Athanasius. Horrified at the corruption of Roman aristocratic life, he preached asceticism in the home of self-indulgence and corruption ; and, preaching it, won listeners and at last followers. One of the most distinguished of these was Marcella, a widow, rich, of high rank, and, according to St. Jerome, " distinguished for her beauty."
St. Jerome records a greater wonder than her beauty : "In a slander-loving community such as Rome . . . detraction assailed the upright, and strove to defile even the pure and clean. In such an atmosphere it is hard to escape from the breath of calumny . . . who ever heard a slander of Marcella that deserved the least credit ? "2 This Marcella made her palace on Mount Aventine a meeting-place for Christians, and built an Oratory in it. Her house became the centre of women's work, most of the members of her society being ladies of the highest Roman rank. It was she who welcomed Jerome to her house when he first came to Rome as Secretary of the Roman Council Associated with her was her brother Pammachius, several Roman senators of high rank, and a sister of St. Ambrose of Milan.
There were Asella, Marcella's sister, whom Jerome salutes as " illustrious model Albina, their mother ; Marcellina and Felicitas ; there were Furia, whom Jerome addresses as "my daughter in Christ," and her sister-in-law, Blaesilla, of whom he says that she "fulfilled in a short time of life a long time of virtue": these and other names of women, devoted to good works, live in the pages of Jerome's letters. But above them all, in spite of the voices of envy and detraction and malice, he esteemed Paula and Eustochium, "who, whatever the world may think, are always mine in Christ."
It is in Epistle CVIII., the famous letter to Eustochium, that we learn the details of Paula's descent, life, and works.
"If all the members of my body were to be converted into tongues, and if each of my limbs were to be gifted with a human voice, I could still do no justice to the virtues of the holy and venerable Paula. Noble in family, she was nobler still in holiness." With that panegyric, St. Jerome opens his letter of consolation to Eustochium on the death of her mother, Paula. The reproach, if it were one, of appealing only to the poor and illiterate, could no longer be urged against Christianity. Roman nobles, officials, and ladies of high rank were numbered among the devotees of the faith. Of Paula, St. Jerome goes on to write : " Of the stock of the Gracchi and descended from the Scipios, the heir and representative of that Paulus whose name she bore, the true and legitimate daughter of that Mattia Papyria who was mother to Africanus, she yet preferred Bethlehem" (i.e. St. Jerome's community there) "to Rome, and left her palace glittering with gold to dwell in a mud cabin."
Paula's husband, Toxotius, in "whose veins ran the noble blood of Aeneas and the Julii," died when she was thirty-five, leaving her with four daughters and a son.. Blaesilla, who married the brother of Furia, mentioned above ; Paulina, the wife of Pammachius the Roman Senator, who became a monk after her death ; Eustochium, the first highly born Roman lady who became a nun, and Rufina, were the daughters. The one son was named Toxotius, after his father. He married eventually Laeta ; their child was called Paula. It is concerning this child that St. Jerome wrote one of his letters upon the education of a girl. The other is addressed to Gaudentius concerning his daughter. M. Compayré speaks of these letters as "the' most, precious pedagogical documents of the early Christian centuries." But one point he hardly makes clear, namely, that these letters concern the education of girls who are to be nuns: they are accordingly, with their recommendations, of limited application. If this be remembered, the asceticism of the system will become intelligible, and we shall not condemn from one standpoint a plan which was drawn up from another. Let us turn then to these two letters, CVII. to Laeta, written in 403, and CXXVIII. to Gaudentius, dated 413.
The precepts of St. Jerome concerning the education of Paula may be divided into intellectual, moral, and physical.
He is interested even in the elements of intellectual instruction ; Paula is to be taught to read and write while she is still a tiny child : " Get for her a set of letters made of boxwood or of ivory and called each by its proper name. Let her play with these, so that even her play may teach her something. And not only make her grasp the right order of the letters and see that she forms their names into a rhyme, but constantly disarrange their order and put the last letters in the middle, and the middle ones at the beginning, that she may know them all by sight as well as by sound." Of course, St. Jerome's aim here is to discourage "parrot knowledge," from the outset of education.
Then follows his advice on teaching writing : "So soon as she begins to use the style upon the wax, and her hand is still faltering, either guide her soft fingers by laying your hand upon hers, or else have simple copies cut upon a tablet, so that her efforts confined within these limits may keep to the lines traced out for her, and not stray outside these." Good spelling is to follow reading and writing in this simple curriculum.
St. Jerome proceeds from these elements to the " training of memory." The words Laeta uses are not to be chosen by chance, they are to have a natural connection. Thus Jerome rests the strengthening of memory on association. It might interest the practical teacher to compare his views with those of Dr. Stout (Outlines of Psychology), as the latter directs us to study the concentration of attention as an aid to memory.
Three matters much debated by subsequent educationalists, St. Jerome mentions here : the legitimacy of prizes, the place of emulation, the necessity for making work pleasant. The legitimacy of prizes he does not even question : "Offer prizes for good spelling," he says, "and draw her onwards with little gifts, such as children of her age delight in."
His views on emulation are perhaps rather crude to us of a later generation, and seem strangely at variance with the general trend of his moral teaching : "Let her have companions in her lessons to excite emulation in her, that she may be stimulated when she sees them praised. You must not scold her if she is slow to learn, but must employ praise to excite her mind, so that she may be glad when she excels others, and sorry when she is excelled by them."
In these pages St. Jerome seems to mingle two methods which have no essential connection. When he writes, "You must not scold her if she is slow to learn," the judicious teacher acquiesces, remembering Ascham's remarks, "I assure you there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit and encourage a will to learning, as praise"; and again, "I know by good experience that a child shall take more profit of two faults gently warned of than of four things rightly hit" (The Scole Master).
But when St. Jerome commends the use of emulation, we can only wonder why a Christian Father, so anxious generally to produce humility, should not: rather have taken up the position of Immanuel Kant : "We only excite envy in a child by telling him to compare his own work with the work of others. He ought rather to compare himself with a concept of his reason. For humility is really nothing else than the comparing of his own worth with the standard of moral perfection."
Those educators who have relied on emulation are, of course, sensible, as every practised teacher is, of the necessity of providing some stimulus or spur. Those who choose as the object of comparison the standard (whether intellectual or moral) rather than the classmates, are surely the most truly educational, and one might say, with all deference to the great Jerome, the most in harmony with the inner spirit of Christianity.
The theory of the primrose path begins early in education ; but there will still be some like the Abbé Galiani, who fancy that the wisest as well as the kindest training for children is that which accustoms them from the beginning to take the rough with the smooth :1 "My treatise on education is already finished : I prove that education is the same for man and beast. It comes down to these two principles, `learn to suffer injustice, learn to endure ennui. . . .' The rule is universally true ; all pleasant methods of teaching children are false and absurd ; it is not a matter of learning geography or geometry, it is a question of habituating one's self to work, that is to say, to the weariness of concentrating one's attention on a thing."
When Jerome insists that Lata shall choose for Paula " a master of approved years, life, and learning," the reader wonders if Locke remembered it as he urged Mr. Clarke to believe 2 "that the great work of a Governor is to fashion the Carriage, and form the Mind ; to settle in his Pupil good Habits and the Principles of Virtue and Wisdom; to give him [by little and little a View of Mankind, and work him into a Love and Imitation of what is excellent and praiseworthy and in the Prosecution of it, to give him Vigour, Activity, and Industry."
St. Jerome lays stress on another matter which has attracted the attention of all great writers on education, namely, the importance of the beginning.
Though the Abbé Galiani is alone perhaps in maintaining that "a child has received the most powerful part of its education by the time it is two years of age," yet Plato, Quintilian, Vittorino da Feltre, Mulcaster, Colet, Erasmus, Locke, J. St. Mill, Cardinal Manning, and Archbishop Temple are only some among the great men who have insisted on the all-importance of the early years. Erasmus, indeed, quotes St. Jerome's quotation in this letter from Horace: "Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness ? An unused jar long retains the taste and smell of that with which it is first filled."
When Jerome argues that "things must not be despised as of small account in the absence of which great results cannot be achieved. The very rudiments and first beginnings of knowledge sound differently in the mouth of an educated man and of an uneducated," he has probably in his mind those passages of Quintilian's Institutes where he protests against illiterate nurses or uncultured pedagogues. Later on in the letter, Jerome advises that Latta should learn Latin and Greek. It is interesting to remember that her grandmother Paula and her Aunt Blaesilla were both Hebrew scholars.
The account of the intellectual side of Paula's instruction may be closed with the Father's remark : "She must not therefore learn as a child what afterwards she will have to unlearn."
The modern pedagogue will have little fault to find with Jerome's advice on instruction so far as it goes, except perhaps with that which he gives concerning emulation. His precepts grow—to use Rousseau's favourite term — "monastic" when he turns to -moral and physical education. His re-marks on sumptuous dress, however, are not more scathing than Locke's on the same subject; and no one could accuse that chilly philosopher of undue regard for monastic tenets. Similarly, Jerome's observations in favour of plain food and against gluttons would have found favour in Locke's eyes. It is interesting, too, to notice that Jerome deprecates "long and immoderate fasts in which week is added to week, and even oil and apples are forbidden as food."
He does this on two grounds : first, because of youth, a child of tender years cannot fast ; and, secondly, because of the chance of subsequent failure. "We must take care that we do not after starting well fall half-way." St. Jerome does not elaborate this idea ; but surely it is a root principle, a most important element in moral education. An overstrained ideal, the "high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard," is perhaps if not as often, yet very frequently, as responsible for carelessness, despair, and surrender as an over low ideal is for lack of effort, supineness, and base self-content.
"I have learned by experience," says St. Jerome, " that the ass toiling along the highway makes for an inn when it is weary," a touch of humanity which, as his English Editor points out, recalls St. Francis' dying regret, "I have sinned against my brother the ass."
It is under the head of physical education that St. Jerome's requirements repel the modern teacher. He allows the use of the bath to children : " As, before children come to a robust age, abstinence is dangerous, and trying to their tender frames, let her have baths if she require them." But he distinctly forbids this hygienic necessity to a "virgin of full age." If St. Jerome had been impelled by the luxury and worse (than luxury) of the Roman women of his time to forbid Christians the use of the public baths, readers free from partisan bias might have understood and even appreciated his point of view. But it must be admitted that he regards dirt as a virtue. It is a pity, no doubt, and he is not alone in his view : the Church apparently has always numbered among its sons and daughters some extremists who think it meritorious when a Christian woman, in the words of St. Jerome, " by a deliberate squalor —makes haste to spoil her natural good looks."
St. Jerome had apparently forgotten the passage from Origen's De Principiis, which he had himself translated into Latin —" Our understanding .. . knows the Father of the world from the beauty of His works and the comeliness of His creatures."
Finally, in this scheme of Christian education, St. Jerome includes domesticity : "Let her learn how to spin wool, to hold the distaff, to put the basket in her lap, to turn the spinning-wheel, and to shape the yarn with her thumb."
The letter to Gaudentius concerning the education of his daughter Pacatula proceeds on similar lines to those of the Epistle to Lata ; but here and there recommendations are somewhat elaborated.
Lest anyone should think of St. Jerome as merely a grim ascetic interested in the training of nuns, the following passages may show that he had a touch of genuine love and comprehension of children, like Ascham, or Locke, or Pestalozzi. " How can you speak of self-control," he asks, " to a child who is eager for cakes, who babbles on her mother's knee, and to whom honey is sweeter than any words? Will she hear the deep things of the apostle when all her delight is in nursery tales ? Shall I urge her to obey her parents when with her chubby hand she beats her smiling mother ? "
The intellectual curriculum is rather more detailed in this letter: "Let her learn the alphabet, spelling, grammar, and syntax." Pacatula is to be rewarded like Paula; but Jerome adds in her case a recommendation which recalls Locke's advice about children who ask : "Give her what she asks for, but show her that those are most praised who ask for nothing." Locke, of course, would not agree with the first part of this advice, but he was extremely insistent on the wisdom of teaching children "not to ask," and more still, " not to crave."
In both these letters St. Jerome urges the importance of associates ; Locke himself, whose favourite thesis it was, could not speak more definitely. Pacatula is to be consigned, like Paula, like Locke's "young gentleman," to "one whose words will form her childish mind to the practice of virtue."
Again St. Jerome returns to the opportunities of the early years : " As water follows a finger drawn through the sand, so one of soft and tender years is pliable for good or evil ; she can be drawn in whatever direction you choose to guide her."
This letter avoids the tendency towards asceticism shown by the former, and so is perhaps more attractive to the modern mind ; but there is enough in both of them of interest to us of so different an age to justify Compayré's remark, that they are the "most precious pedagogical document of the first days of Christianity."
If the foregoing pages have not succeeded in showing that the Christians played a considerable, even a distinguished, part in education, nothing that can be said in the closing lines will do it. A question may be put in place of any further statement. When we reflect upon the chaos, the disruption, and the heterogeneity of conflicting races in these first Christian centuries ; when we contemplate the variety of other tasks which they had to fulfil (and when Mr. Symonds refers to the necessity of "making the creeds," those acquainted with the schisms and heresies which tore the Church asunder in these years will realise that, if his intention were sarcastic, he nevertheless pointed to a gigantic work attempted and performed), when we take all these circumstances into consideration, can we find any other community so hampered, so charged with responsibility, who, in a similar length of time, sowed educational seeds which brought forth a richer, more abundant, more valuable harvest than the society of the early Christians ?