Books, Censure of

Books, Censure Of.

A studious life was strongly enforced upon the clergy by the ancient fathers, and enjoined by various canons of the earlier councils. In many early writers the study of the Holy Scriptures is urged upon the clergy as being of primary obligation, and the foundation on which all the superstructure of a more general and extensive learning was to be raised. Certain canons also required that in their most vacant hours, the times of eating and drinking, some portion of Scripture should be read to them — partly to exclude trifling and unnecessary discourse, and partly to afford them proper themes and subjects for edifying discourse and meditation.

Next to the Scriptures the study of the best ecclesiastical writers was recommended as most profitable and appropriate to the clerical office, the first place in such writings, however, being assigned to the canons of the Church. These were always reckoned of the greatest use and importance, as containing a summary account, not only of the Church's discipline and doctrine and government, but also rules of life and moral practiceon which account it was ordered that the canons should be read over at a man's ordination; and again, the Council of Toledo required the clergy to make them a part of their constant study, together with the Holy Scriptures. The canons were then a sort of directory for the pastoral care, and they had this advantage over any private directory, that they were the public voice and authorized rule of the Church.

With regard to other books and writings there was considerable restriction. Some of the canons forbade a bishop to read heathen authors; nor would they allow him to read heretical books, otherwise than as a matter of duty, i.e. unless there was occasion to refute them, or to caution others against the poison of them. The prohibition did not, however, extend to cases, where the, study of heathen literature might be advantageous to the cause of Christian truth. St. Jerome observes that both the Greek and Latin historians are of great use as well to explain as to confirm the truth of the prophecies of Daniel. St. Augustine says of the writings of heathen philosophers, that as they said many things wiwich were true, both concerning God and the Son of God, they were in that respect very serviceable in refuting the vanities of the Gentiles. The fathers and ancient writers of the Church were, in fact, for the most part, well versed in the classical or heathen literature.

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