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religion.” “The blind obedience which is destructive of national liberty is, he conceives, more firmly established in the northern kingdoms, by the entire and sole dependence of the clergy on the prince, without the interference of any spiritual superior as that of the Pope among the Catholics, than in the countries which remained Catholic.”
A Tour in Sweden.
THE RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF THE
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
SINCE the glory of God and the happiness of our fellow-creatures may be promoted by various means, by command or by example, according to the condition and disposition of each, the advantages of that institution are manifest, by which besides those who are engaged in active and everyday life, there are also found in the Church ascetic and contemplative men, who, abandoning the cares of life and trampling its pleasures underfoot, devote their whole being to the contemplation of the Deity, and the admiration of His works; or who, freed from personal concerns, apply themselves exclusively to watch and relieve the necessities of others, some by instructing the ignorant or erring; some by assisting the needy and afflicted. Nor is it the least among those marks which commend to us that Church, which alone has preserved the name and the badges of Catholicity, that we see her alone produce and cherish these illustrious examples of the eminent virtues and of the ascetic life.
Wherefore, I confess, that I have ardently admired the religious orders, and the pious confraternities, and the other similar admirable institutions ; for they are a sort of celestial soldiery upon earth, provided they are governed according to the institutes of the founders, and regulated by the Supreme Pontiff for the use of the universal Church. For what can be more glorious than to carry the light of truth to distant nations, through seas and fires and swords—to traffic in the salvation of souls aloneto forego the allurements of pleasure, and even the enjoyment of conversation and of social intercourse, in order to pursue, undisturbed, the contemplation of abstruse truths and divine meditation—to dedicate oneself to the education of youth in science and in virtue—to assist and console the wretched, the despairing, the lost, the captive, the condemned, the sick-in squalor, in chains, in distant lands—undeterred even by the fear of pestilence from the lavish exercise of these heavenly offices of charity! The man who knows not, or despises these things, has but a vulgar and plebeian conception of virtue; he foolishly measures the obligations of men toward their God by the perfunctory discharge of ordinary duties, and by that
frozen habit of life, devoid of zeal, and even of soul, which prevails commonly among men.
For it is not a counsel, as some persuade themselves, but a strict precept, to labor with every power
of soul and body, no matter in what condition of life we may be, for the attainment of Christian perfection, with which neither wedlock, nor children, nor public office, are incompatible (although they throw difficulties in the way), but it is only a counsel to select that state of life which is more free from earthly obstacles, upon which selection our Lord congratulated Magdalen. GOTTFRIED WILHELM VON LEIBNITZ,
The general principles and sacred obligation of Vows are plainly revealed in Holy Scripture. Not that their institution is recorded. The Law did not introduce them ; but they are incidentally spoken of. Jacob's vow is recorded in the annals of the earliest ages, as a religious ordinance in ordinary use, and in the Book of Job, which is identified with the most universal traditions of primeval revelation, vows are classed among the simplest acts of personal religion : “Thou shalt make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows." They are to be regarded, therefore, as one of the many religious practices of patriarchal times, which being subsequently embodied in the Law, and regulated by its enactments, were thus invested with a fresh and more binding authority.
Two classes of vows were recognized in the Mosaic Law,-vows of devotion and of abstinence. They were also distinguished as vows affirmative 12*