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narch circulated it among the clergy of France, by whom it was generally read and approved. Photius mentions St. Dionysius as "a disciple of St. Paul, powerful and sublime in oratory, but greater in contemplation." In 860, the works of St. Dionysius were translated from the Greek into the Latin language, by the order of Charles the Bald.
The writings of St. John Climachus, the last of the Greek, and of St. Bernard, the last of the Latin fathers, abound with mystical elevation, and it never appears to more advantage than in the writings of the latter.
V.—Christian Mysticism During The Middle Ages.
In the middle age, mystical theology soon fell into the hands of the scholastic divines, particularly the two St. Victors, Hugo and Richard, St. Thomas of Aquin, and Albert the Great. But, while it was discussed by these writers with the accuracy and refinement of scholars, it was expressed, in a more free and devotional manner, by some of their contemporaries. Among these, St. Bonaventure, Taulerus, Rusbrock, Dionysius the Carthusian, are particularly distinguished. To Taulerus, the mystical writers are particularly partial, and it is observable, that he is always mentioned, by Luther, in terms of the highest commendation. "If you wish," says Luther, in a letter to Saplatinus, (torn 1, p. 23) "to read antient and pure theology in your native German, purchase the works of Taulerus, the Dominican monk; no where, either in the Latin or in the German language, is more pure or more spiritual theology to be found."
A little before the time of which we are now speaking, some errors, from which the worst consequences clearly followed, were introduced into mysticism by a sect, called Bogards.
Two of their errors may be thought to deserve a particular mention; the first, that a person may, in this life, acquire so high a state of perfection, as to become absolutely impeccable, and incapable of advancing farther in virtue; the second, that, in this state of perfection, prayer is unnecessary. Their errors were condemned in 1311, at the general council of Vienne, at which Pope Clement the Fifth presided in person.
Taulerus wrote against the Bogards: he was highly celebrated for his extensive and profound learning. Rusbrock, on the contrary, was perfectly ignorant of the science of the schools; and many of the most objectionable passages, in the writings of the mystics, are taken from his works. Some passages of this description were objected, both to Taulerus and Rusbrock, by Gersen, the celebrated chancellor of Paris. In Harphius, a Franciscan friar of Mechlin, they met with an able advocate.
Among the writers of these times, the mystics are proud to mention, in their list, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Catherine of Genoa, and the blessed Angela of Foligna.
VI.—Modern Roman Catholic Mystical Writers.
The modern Roman Catholic school of mysticism opens with St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa. All spiritualists agree, that no mystic writer appears to have been more highly gifted, or to have used more accurate language, than St. Theresa: her works are written with great fire and in an excellent taste; they abound with judicious remarks, and the best Spanish writers inform us, that the style of them is most elegant and correct.
The work of St. Francis of Sales, on the love of God, has, of all mystical writings, been the most read. "He paints in it," says the author of the lives of the saints, "his own soul. He describes the feeling sentiments of divine love, its state of fervor, of dryness, of trials, suffering, and darkness: in explaining which, he calls in philosophy to his assistance. He writes on this sublime subject, what he had learned by his own experience. Some parts of the book are only to be understood by those who have gone through these states; yet, the author has ever been admired for the performance. The general of the Carthusians had written to him, upon his introduction to a devout life, advising him to write no more, because nothing could equal that book: but, seeing this, he bade him never cease writing; and James I. was so delighted with the book, that he expressed a great desire to see the author." Those who wish to read the celebrated work of St. Francis of Sales, should procure the edition of it by Father Bignon. The edition, published at Lyons, in 1628, by Drobet, was adulterated; and, on the complaint of the brother of the author, was suppressed by the order of Lewis XIII. A correct and true edition of the work was printed, at Lyons, by Courcellys, in 1629; but the faulty edition, with its additions and interpolations, has been often reprinted, which makes it the more desirable to procure the edition of Father Bignon.
The errors of the Bogards have been mentioned: the present is the place for mentioning the errors of the quietists. They were a modification of the errors of the Bogards. The patriarch of them was Michael de Molinos: his errors were condemned by Innocent XI. in 1680. Quietism was a modification of the errors of Molinos; it was justly charged on the writings of Madame de Guyon; and certainly some expressions, used by Fenelon, are tinged with it.#
* The controversy to which this gave rise is mentioned, at some length, in the Life of Fenelon, by Mr. Butler.
Mystical writers, subsequent to St. Francis of Sales, may be divided into those who preceded, and those who were subsequent to, the disputes in which Fenelon was engaged. The most eminent of the former are Father Surin and Cardinal Bona. In the disputes of quietism, both Bossuet and Fenelon appealed to the writings of Father Surin, and each pronounced them to be free from reproach. They were first printed with the formal approbation of Bossuet. They consist principally of his Fondemens de la Vie Spiritue/le, 1 vol. 8vo. both of them edited by Father Bignon; and of his Letters in 2 vols. \1mo. In the first of them, he mentions, that one of the most sublime contemplatives, whom he ever knew, was a journeyman in a working trade, with whom he happened to travel in a French diligence; and who afterwards, as we find from Boudon's Letters, became a laybrother amongst the Capuchins. The mystical writings of Cardinal Bona deserve the highest praise for the accuracy of their doctrine, their affecting piety, extreme erudition, and exquisite Latinity. It may be doubted, whether, since the days of the younger Pliny, any Latin author has written in verse or prose with greater elegance. Yet it may be questioned, whether the subject is treated in any work so perspicuously, (though with
freat brevity,) as in the Catechisme de Therfoe, contenant toute la doctrine necessaire pour la vie Spirituelle; Bruxelles, 1675.
The disputes between Bossuet and Fenelon brought mysticism into disrepute. Contemplative writers, subsequent to that time, have cautiously abstained from entering into any detailed account of the gifts of contemplative prayer, and seem to confine themselves to exhortations and habitual recollection of the presence of God; humility, self-denial, retirement and detachment from worldly objects; and to moving descriptions of the blessings which the peace of God confers on those who en
Of this description of writers, but long anterior in time to the period of which we are now speaking, is the author of " the Imitation of Christ." "That," says Fontenelle, "is the most excellent book which ever came from the hand of man, the gospel being of divine original." This is the highest eulogium that any work has received, and its justice is universally admitted. Valart founds an argument against the claim of Thomasa-Kempis to be its author, on the supposed inequality of the acknowledged works of that writer, which, he says, are extremely flat: but the justice of this censure was denied by the late Mr. Alban Butler, the author of the lives of the saints: he always spoke in terms of the highest commendation of the treatise of Thomas-a-Kempis, de vera Compimctione and de Tribus Tabernacu/is.
The doctrine of this celebrated book, in a more modern
dress, but with much of the beautiful simplicity of the original, is elegantly expanded by Father Neuveville, in his "Morale de I'Evangile, 4 vols. Svo.; by Father Gonnelieu, in his Pratique de la vie Interieure, \ vol. 8vo., U Exercise de la vie Interieure, 1 vol. 8vo. and the translation, into French, of the Imitation of Christ, 1 vol. 8vo.; by Father Lombez, in his Traitt sur la Paix Interieure, 1 vol. X'Umo.; and in La vraie et solide Ptete de St. Francis de Sales, 1 vol. 8vo."
Mystical devotion never prevailed much in England. The " Scale of Perfection" of Hylton, a Carthusian monk, merits attentive perusal. The " Sancta Sophia" of Father Baker, a Benedictine monk, in the abridgment given of it by Father Cressey, of the same order, and " Philotheus's Pilgrimage to Perfection," in a practice often days' solitude, Bruges 1668, were once popular among English Roman Catholics. The Sancta Sophia was severely animadverted upon by Dr. Stillingfleet, in his " Idolatry, practised by the church of Rome; Cressey replied to it, by his Answer to Part of Dr. Stillingfleet's Book, entitled " Idolatry practised by the Church of Rome; and his " Fanaticism, fanatically imputed to the Catholic Church by Dr. Stillingfleet." In answer to this work, Lord Chancellor Clarendon published a vindication of Dr. Stillingfleet, entitled " Animadversions on Mr. Cressey's book, entitled Fanaticism fanatically imputed, &c." Mr. Cressey answered by " An epistle apolbgetical of S. C. a person of honour, touching his vindication of Dr. Stillingfleet." To this, Dr. Stillingfleet replied, by his " Answer to Mr. Cressey's epistle apologetical, &c." All these controversial works are ably written, and deserve an attentive perusal: not so much, however, for their mystic lore, as for the important facts and observations which they communicate, respecting the grounds on which the penal laws, in the English code, against the Roman Catholics, can be best attacked or defended.
VII.—Mysticism, As It Is Found In The Writings Of The
MOST APPROVED ROMAN CATHOLIC AUTHORS.
At an early period of Christianity, three states of the Just were noticed by her writers: at a later period, they were distinguished into the Purgative, the Illuminative, and the Contemplative or Unitive. The first, which took its appellation from Aristotle's purgation of the passions, is supposed to comprehend those who have made their first advances in a spiritual life; who assiduously bewail their sins, are careful to avoid relapsing into them, endeavour to destroy their bad habits, and to extinguish their passions; who fast, watch, and pray, and are blessed with a contrite and humble heart. The second is supposed to include those who divest themselves of earthly affections, study to ac
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quire purity of heart, and a constant habit of virtue, the true light of the soul;—who assiduously meditate on the hfe and doctrines of Christ, and inflame themselves by it to the imitation of his virtues. Those are supposed to be arrived at the third state whose souls, thus illuminated, are dead to the world, are united to God, and enjoy his holy peace. Even in the Jirst stage of a spiritual life, the comfort which the soul experiences exceeds the joys of this world. With Bourdaloue, (Sur la choix mutuel de Dieu et de Fame religieuse,) the soul exclaims, "I have chosen God, and God has chosen me; this reflection is my support and strength; it will enable me to surmount every difficulty, to resist every temptation, to rise above every chagrin and disgust." From the moment in which this choice is made, the soul, according to the same eloquent preacher, (in his sermon for the feast of St. Mary Magdalen) " begins to enjoy a sweet tranquillity: conscience begins to experience the interior joy of pious hope and confidence in the mercies of God, and to feel the holy 'onction' of grace. In the midst of her penitential austerities, she comforts and strengthens herself by the thought, that she is making some satisfaction and atonement to God for her sins, that she is purifying her heart, and disposing it to receive the communications of heaven." This comfort and sensation of happiness must necessarily increase in proportion as the soul is illuminated, as the charms of virtue are unveiled to her, and her interior is filled with God. "Who can express," says Bourdaloue, " the secret delight which God bestows on a heart thus purified! how he delights her! what holy sentiments and transports he excites in her!" But when she lives for God alone, then, in the language of the spiritualists, God communicates himself to her, and her happiness, as far as happiness is attainable in this life, is complete. Here begins the contemplative or unitive state.
What in this state of union passes between God and the soul, the most eminent spiritualists acknowledge their inability to describe. All of them admit that the language and images by which they attempt to represent it, though they should be the best that industry and eloquence can supply, must fall short of what they wish to express. Still, for the edification and instruction of the faithful, of those particularly who may think themselves called to it, they attempt to describe it as far as language allows.
They inform us that, though it sometimes pleases Almighty God to elevate a soul at once to the sublimest contemplation, he generally leads her to it by the degrees we have mentioned. For each of them the soul disposes herself, by prayer, penance, and submission, to the divine will: the fear and love of God enter into each of them; and each has its vicissitudes of spi