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AUTHOR OF “HERBERT TRESHAM,” AND “AGNES DE TRACY."
“Thou gettest fables none ytold from mee :
For Paule, that writeth unto Timothee,
CHAUCER. The Parsone's Prologue.
DEIGHTONS, CAMBRIDGE; RIVINGTONS, LONDON.
There is, perhaps, hardly any subject which has recently occupied a larger share of the attention of Churchmen, than the possibility and expediency of a revival of the Monastick System. Hints have been dropped, and papers circulated, recommending a return to it: but the former have been, for the most part, vague, and the latter have entirely confined themselves to generalities. The following tale is intended, as well to set forth the advantages, and all but necessity, of the re-introduction of monasteries, as to suggest certain practical details connected with their establishment and subsequent working.
It is put forth on the part of the writer with feelings of the greatest diffidence; not because he entertains
any doubt as to the truth or reality of the views he has advocated, but from a sense of his own inadequacy to support them as they ought to be supported, and from a fear that his having undertaken such an office may be regarded as presumptuous.
The recommendation of a re-adoption of the system must, of course, proceed from our spiritual fathers, before it is seriously taken up by the inferior clergy or laity. Nor must we shut our eyes to the fact, that however much monasteries were the boast of the unreformed, and might be so of the reformed, Anglican Church, any step taken towards restoring them would, by some, be regarded with suspicion, by others, viewed with the greatest aversion. So intimately are they, in the minds of most, connected with the corruptions of Romanism, that it will be a matter of great difficulty to make the contrary clear. Though we may again and again quote the universal testimony of the early Church in favour of the monastick life, though monasteries abound in those Churches which view Rome with as much dislike as does the most bigoted Protestant, though we may bring forward passages in which Divines of all classes, in our own Church, have spoken of their re-introduction as a desirable thing, from Bramhall and Thorndike down to Latimer and Burnet, the prejudice against them will be as obstinate, the outcry as clamourous, as ever.
A positive recommendation from the highest authority in the Church will doubtless, in time, overcome opposition ; till then, it may, perhaps, be
allowable to endeavour to show its unreasonableness, and to point out some of the many advantages which a revival of the old system would bring with it. It seems also allowable to consider some of those matters of detail, such as the question of vows, and the connexion of religious houses with the parochial system, which must some day be settled, and on which there is a difference of opinion, even between those who agree on the main subject. The writer desires to assume no higher a tone in discussing these topicks than is consistent with that obedience which a priest owes to his superiors, and that deference which he is desirous of evincing towards his brethren; and the conversational form in which his pages are thrown, may sufficiently show that he has no desire either to dictate or to dogmatize.
While he can only wish that some more able hand had undertaken the task, he trusts that, if he shall not have succeeded in benefiting the cause it was his wish to support, he will, at least, escape being one of those injudicious advocates, who by their folly sometimes defeat or delay a scheme involving the interests which they thought to serve.
The points on which the following pages chiefly insist are these :
That the Dissolution of monasteries under Henry