The Early History Of Monasticism — From The Original Sources. -- By: Emerson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 001:4 (Nov 1844)
Article: The Early History Of Monasticism — From The Original Sources.
Author: Emerson


The Early History Of Monasticism

From The Original Sources.

Prof. Emerson

Life of St. Martin of Tours. From the Latin of Sulpitius Severus.

Continued from No. 3, p. 525.

[In the last two numbers of this work, an account has been given of the rise of monasticism in Egypt. The object of the present article is to exhibit its early development in the West, by giving the Life of its first distinguished example and patron.

Doubtless a strong tendency to the monastic life had existed in Europe, for a considerable period, before the time of Martin; but to what extent it had been pursued, we have not the means of determining. Only obscure traces remain in history, of a few who practised at least a partial retirement from social life.

The achievements of Martin were early a theme for the poet as well as the historian. Paulinus Petricordius, a Gallic poet, about the year 460, wrote six books of Latin hexameters, descriptive of the life and miracles of this saint, whose aid he frequently invokes in the progress of his poem. It is, however, little more

than an inflated attempt to embellish the facts presented by Severus, and possesses no independent authority. Fortunatus, bishop of Poictiers, (whose diseased eyes are said to have been cured through the agency of this departed worthy,) also commemorated his acts in a poem of four books. Though a work of some poetic merit, it is of no historic value, except as indicating the exalted fame of Martin in the last half of the sixth century, when the poem was written. Indeed the author, in his dedicatory epistle to pope Gregory, only professes to have given in verse what Severus had recorded in prose.

But little is known of the personal history of Sulpitius Severus, on whose authority the world must chiefly rely for the wonders he has recorded respecting one of the most remarkable men of his age, and the chief thaumaturgist that has ever appeared in Europe. It is singular, that a historian so universally admired for the elegance of his style, and so powerful a champion for the monks, should have none to record the incidents of his own life. He has frequently been confounded with a bishop of the same name who lived about two centuries later. The following are the principal facts on which we can rely, and are chiefly derived from his own writings and from the fourteen letters which his friend Paulinus of Nola addressed to him, and from the brief notice of him by Gennadius, about a century after his death.

Severus was of noble extract, a native of Aquitain Gaul, and early instructed by Phaebadius, bishop of Augen. Having devoted his youth to the study of eloquen...

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