Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume VI/Prolegomena/Character and Influence of Jerome
VI.—Character and Influence of Jerome.
This Introduction must be concluded with a few words on the character and influence of Jerome, which are taken from the article upon him in the Dictionary of Christian Biography. He was vain and unable to bear rivals, extremely sensitive as to the estimation in which he was held by his contemporaries, and especially by the Bishops; passionate and resentful, but at times becoming suddenly placable; scornful and violent in controversy; kind to the weak and the poor; respectful in his dealings with women; entirely without avarice; extraordinarily diligent in work, and nobly tenacious of the main objects to which he devoted his life. There was, however, something of monkish cowardice in his asceticism, and his influence was not felt by the strong.
His influence grew through his life and increased after his death. If we may use a scriptural phrase which has sometimes been applied to such influence, “He lived and reigned for a thousand years.” His writings contain the whole spirit of the Church of the Middle Ages, its monasticism, its contrast of sacred things with profane, its credulity and superstition, its value for relics, its subjection to hierarchical authority, its dread of heresy, its passion for pilgrimages. To the society which was thus in a great measure formed by him, his Bible was the greatest boon which could have been given. But he founded no school and had no inspiring power; there was no courage or width of view in his spiritual legacy such as could break through the fatal circle of bondage to received authority which was closing round mankind. As Thierry says in the last words of his work on St. Jerome, “There is no continuation of his work; a few more letters of Augustin and Paulinus, and night falls over the West.”