Page:Historical Works of Venerable Bede vol. 2.djvu/219

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predecessors, as was their bounden duty, by means of the holy priests and prophets; according to that saying of the holy Prophet Esaias, Isaiah, Iviii. 6. "To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free." By which example it behoves your Holiness also, in conjunction with our religious king, to cancel the irreligious and unrighteous deeds and writings of those who lived formerly, and to fix your eye on such things as may benefit this province, either according to God, or according to the flesh; lest, in these our times, either religion cease altogether, (together with the love and fear of Him who seeth into the heart,) or the number of our secular soldiers become lessened, and our borders be no longer defended from the inroads of the barbarians. For, disgraceful though it be to say it, so many estates have been received under the name of monasteries by those who know nothing whatever of the monastic life, as you yourselves know better than I, that the sons of the nobles, or of discharged soldiers, can find no place wherein to receive their possessions; and thus, having nothing to do, and not marrying, though past the age of puberty, they are held by no tie of continence; and therefore either go beyond the sea and abandon their country, which they ought to fight for; or, with still greater wickedness and impudence, not being bound to chastity, become addicted to luxury and fornication, and do not abstain even from the very virgins who are dedicated to God.

Lay monasteries§ 12. But others, who are laymen, and have no experience of the regular monastic life, nor any love for the same, commit a still greater scandal:—for they give money to the kings, and under pretence of erecting monasteries they acquire possessions, wherein the more freely to indulge their licentiousness; and procuring these by a royal edict to be assigned over to them in inheritance, they get the deed by which these privileges are confirmed, as if it were a matter worthy of God's notice, authenticated by the signatures of the bishops, abbots, and