And yet, the invaluable tension which in this part of Christendom existed between the secular Church and monasticism has unhappily almost disappeared, and of the blessing which it established there is scarcely a trace left. Not only has monasticism become subject to the Church and is everywhere bent under its yoke, but the secular spirit has in a special degree invaded the monasteries. Greek and oriental monks are now, as a rule, the instruments of the lowest and worst functions of the Church, of the worship of pictures and relics, of the crassest superstition and the most imbecile sorcery. Exceptions are not wanting, and it is still to the monks that we must pin our hopes of a better future; but it is not easy to see how a Church is to be reformed which, teach what it will, is content with its adherents finding the Christian faith in the observance of certain ceremonies, and Christian morality in keeping fast-days correctly.
As to our last question: What modifications did the Gospel undergo in this Church and how did it hold its own? Well, in the first place, I do not expect to be contradicted if I answer that this official ecclesiasticism with its priests and its cult, with all its vessels, saints, vestments, pictures and amulets, with its ordinances of fasting and its festivals, has absolutely nothing to do with the religion of Christ. It is the religion of the ancient world, tacked on to certain conceptions in the Gospel; or, rather, it is the ancient religion with the Gospel absorbed into it. The religious moods which are here produced, or which turn towards this kind of religion are, in so far as they can still be called religious at all, of a class lower than Christian. But neither have its traditionalism and its “orthodoxy” much in common with the Gospel; they, too, were not derived from it and cannot be traced back to it. Correct doctrine, reverence, obedience, the shudderings of awe, may be valuable and edifying things; they may avail to bind and restrain the individual, especially when they draw him into the community of a stable society; but they have nothing to do with the Gospel, as long as they fail to touch the individual at the point where freedom lies, and inner decision for or against God. In contrast with this, monasticism, in its resolve to serve God by an ascetic and contemplative life, contains an incomparably more valuable element, because sayings of Christ, eve a though applied in a one-sided and limited way, are nevertheless taken as a standard, and the possibility of an independent inner life being kindled is not so far removed.