EXCERPT from BOOK III
Influence of Popery on Government
To religion must we ever assign the foremost place among those beneficent agencies which the Creator has ordained to mould the character and determine the destinies of individuals and nations. She moves in her sphere on high, having no companion to share her place, and no rival to divide her influence. Nevertheless, there are secondary causes at work in moulding individual and national character, and amongst the most important of these we are to class government. Government, as regards its substance, though not its form, is an ordinance of God, intended, and eminently fitted, to conserve the order and promote the happiness of society. It is one of those things which must of necessity be a great blessing or a great curse. It will be the one or the other, according to its character; and its character will be mainly dependent upon the action of religion upon it. Wherever Christianity exists, she creates a standard of public morals, and purifies the whole tone of opinion and feeling. These soon come to influence the acts of the national administration, and to be embodied in the laws of the state; and as the stream can never rise higher than its source, so the morality of the law can never be higher than that to which Christianity has already elevated public sentiment and opinion. As is the Christianity of a country, so will be its laws and government. With a sound healthy Christianity, we will have wise laws, upright judges, independent and patriotic rulers, who will maintain the national honour, guard the public rights, and keep inviolate the homes and altars of a country. With the departure or corruption of religion will come the depression of public sentiment and morals; and the degeneracy rapidly extending to those who make and who execute the laws, there will soon be but too much reason to complain of the injustice of the one and the dishonesty of the other. The decay of religion has ever been signalized by the prostration of public principle, the betrayal of the national honour, the invasion of conscience, and the violation of the security and sanctity of the family. The decay of primitive Christianity and the rise of Popery were attended by all the evils we have now specified. The influence of the latter on law and government was of the most pernicious kind, and palpable as pernicious. As Popery waxed in strength, so did the corruption and oppression of government, till at last they grew to an intolerable height. The destruction which Popery works on individual character we have just had occasion to state; but in the department of government it has had more room to operate, and here it has left traces of its evil genius, if not more frightful, at least more palpable. This opens to us a new aspect of Popery.
Popery has corrupted government both in its theory and in its practice.
It has corrupted the theory of government. God has ordained twin powers in the moral firmament,--the civil and the ecclesiastical jurisdictions; and on the due maintenance of this duality depends the liberties of the world. As the organs of the individual are double, so those of society are double also. The same precaution which God has taken to preserve those bodily organs on which the existence of the individual so much depends, has he taken to preserve those essential to the wellbeing of society. If one is destroyed, the other remains. These two jurisdictions are distinct in their nature and in their objects. They occupy co-ordinate spheres, each being independent within its own province. This is a beautiful arrangement; it maintains an admirable harmony of forces; and so long as that balance remains undestroyed, the rights of society cannot be vitally or permanently injured. These two co-ordinate jurisdictions resemble two friendly and independent kingdoms, between whom a league offensive and defensive has been formed; so that whenever one is attacked and in danger of being overborne, the other hastens to its succour. The history of the world shows that civil liberty and ecclesiastical bondage cannot stand together, and that the converse of the proposition is true,--a people spiritually free cannot long remain politically enslaved. Thus has God provided a double safeguard for liberty. Driven from the one domain, she can retreat into the other. Expelled from the first ditch, she can make good her stand in the second. The outer rampart of civil independence may be demolished; she can maintain the battle, and, it may be, conquer, from the inner citadel. The present eventful period demonstrates not less clearly than preceding ones, that the two liberties are bound up together, and that they must fight and conquer, or sink and perish, together. But the modern Delilah found out wherein lay the great strength of the strong man. Popery confounded and incorporated the civil and the spiritual jurisdictions. This union, instead of bringing strength, as union generally does, brought weakness. It was a fatal blow aimed at the existence of both liberties. It put manacles upon the arm of both. Herein lay the great crime of Popery against the rights of society, and especially against the purity and efficiency of that order of government which God had ordained for the good of men. This act laid a foundation for the most monstrous usurpations and the most intolerable oppressions.
This error grew directly out of the fundamental principle of the Papacy. That principle is, that the Pope is the successor of the Prince of the Apostles, and the Vicar of Christ. In virtue of this assumed character, the pontiff claimed to wield on earth the whole of that jurisdiction which Christ possesses in heaven,--to stand at the head of the civil as well as of the spiritual estate,--and to be as really a king of kings as he was a bishop of bishops. From the moment this claim was advanced, all distinction between the two jurisdictions vanished, and a kind of government was set up in Europe which was neither secular nor spiritual, and which can be described only as a mongrel creation, in which the qualities of both were so mixed and jumbled, that while all the evil incident to both was carefully preserved, scarce an iota of the good was retained. This hybrid rule was of course styled government, but it had ceased to fulfil any one function of government, and it set itself systematically to oppose and defeat every end which a wise government strives to attain. This form of government was essentially, and to an enormous extent, irresponsible and arbitrary. For, first, it was a theocracy. God's vicegerent stood at the head of it. He was bound to render no reasons for what he did. He claimed to be an infallible ruler. He could plead divine authority for the most enormous of his usurpations and the most despotic of his acts. He had an infallible right to violate oaths, dethrone princes, and lay whole provinces waste. What would have been atrocious wickedness in another man, was in him the emanation of infallible wisdom and immaculate holiness. Against a power so irresponsible and tremendous it was in vain that conscience or reason opposed their force, or law its sanctions. These were met by an authority immeasurably superior to them all, at whose slightest touch their obligations and claims were annihilated. Reason and law it utterly ignored. 'The necessary co-relative of infallible authority is unquestioning obedience. It was the right of one to command,--the duty of all others to obey. He who presumed to scrutinize, or find fault, or resist, was taught that he was committing rebellion against God, and incurring certain and eternal damnation. A theocracy truly! It was the reign of the devil, baptized with the name of God.
But, in the second place, this scheme of government centralized all power in one man. This centralization is of the very nature of the Papacy. The vicegerent of God can have no equal; none can share his power; he must reign alone. It would be equally absurd to suppose that an infallible ruler could admit constitutional advisers, or take himself bound to follow their counsel. If the course they recommend is wrong, the infallible pontiff cannot follow it; and if it is right, infallibility surely does not need fallible prompters to tell him so: this, it is presumed, is the very course in which the pontiff would move if left to the guidance of his own supernatural instincts. The popes cannot admit, therefore, of a consulta, or popular assembly with judicial and legislative functions, such as those which in constitutional countries limit the prerogatives and divide the authority of the sovereign. In the hands of one man, then, all power under heaven came to be centred,--the legislative and the judicial, the temporal and the spiritual jurisdictions. The papal theory placed the fountain of law and authority on the Seven Hills, and there was not an edict passed nor an act done in wide Europe, but virtually the Pope was the doer of it. For ages as was the theory, so substantially was the fact. It would have been one of the greatest miracles the world ever saw if liberty had co-existed with this vast accumulation of power. Even in the hands of the wisest of men, fettered by constitutional checks, and bound to assign the reasons of his procedure, such overgrown power could scarce have failed to be abused; and if abused, the abuse could not be other than enormous; but in the hands of men who claimed to reign by divine delegation, and who on that ground sustained themselves as above the necessity of vindicating, or so much as explaining, their proceedings, and who claimed from men an implicit belief that even the most outrageous of their acts were founded on divine authority and embodied infallible wisdom, the abuse of this power far surpassed the measure of all former tyrannies. The despotism of an Alexander, a Nero, or a Napoleon, was liberty itself compared with the centralized despotism of the Papacy.
In the third place, the theory of the papal government necessarily and stringently excluded every particle of the democratic element. Its pretensions to infallibility and to a divine origin made it arrogate all power to itself, and utterly repudiate the claims of all others to participation or control. It abhorred the popular element, whether in the shape of constitutional chambers or constitutional advisers, or checks of any kind. The people were debarred from all share, direct or indirect, in the government. Their place was blind, unreasoning, implicit submission. Nor could the Papacy have admitted them to the smallest privilege of this sort without renouncing the fundamental principle on which it is built.
In the fourth place, though in one respect the most centralized of all tyrannies, the Papacy was in another the most diffused. The great primal Papacy occupied the Seven Hills, but it had power to multiply itself,--to reproduce its own image,--till Europe came to be studded and covered with minor Papacies. Each kingdom was a distinct Papacy on a small scale. This arrangement consummated the despotism of the papal rule, by making its sphere as wide as its rigour was intolerable. Had Rome not confounded the temporal and spiritual jurisdictions, matters would not have been so bad. Had the pontiffs confined their pretensions as divine rulers within the ecclesiastical domain, men might have enjoyed some measure of civil freedom, and that would have mitigated somewhat the iron yoke of ecclesiastical bondage; but all distinction between the provinces was obliterated; the pretensions of the Pope extended alike over both, not leaving an inch of ground on which liberty might plant her foot. Practically throughout Europe the two domains were confounded. If the Pope was the vicegerent of God, the kings were the vicegerents of the Pope, and, of course, the vicegerents of God at the distance of one remove. The same twofold character which the pontiff possessed, he permitted, for his own ends, every monarch under him to assume. They were kings by divine right,--accountable only to the Pope, as he to God. Thus did the Pope succeed in extending his sway far beyond the limits of the States of the Church. He reduced the whole of western Europe under the rule of the Papacy, by planting his system of government in each of its kingdoms, and by making its various kings dependents on the chair of Peter. There was not a single ruler, of whatever degree, from the monarch down to the petty subaltern, within the wide limits of the papal empire, who was not a limb of the Papacy, and who had not his place and his function assigned him in that vast and terrible organization which the popes set up for overawing and oppressing the world, and aggrandizing themselves. How religion was desecrated by this unhallowed connection between Church and State,--this monstrous blending of things civil and sacred,--we need not explain. Heaven was sought only to obtain earth; and religion was employed only to cover the basest practices, to palliate the most revolting crimes, and to vindicate the most enormous usurpations. The words of the poet are strikingly descriptive of a policy which, the more it pointed towards heaven, the more directly did it tend to hell.
"Quantum vertice ad auras
Aetherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendit."
But we dishonour religion by giving that holy name to what was so called within the Church of Rome. The piety of the times, as we have already shown, was essentially and undisguisedly paganism. Religion, appalled by these gigantic corruptions, which had only borrowed her name the more effectually to counterwork her purpose, had fled, to bury herself in the caves of the earth, or to find a shelter amid eternal snows and inaccessible cliffs. A vast theocracy wielded the destinies of Europe. A blind, irresponsible, and infallible despotism, issuing its decrees from behind a veil which mortal dared not lift, sat enthroned upon the rights and liberties, the conscience and the intellect, the souls and the bodies, of men. Such was the Papacy!--a monstrous compound of spiritual and temporal power,--of old idolatries and Christian forms,--of secret frauds and open force,--of roguery and simplicity,--of perfidies, hypocrisies and villanies of all sorts and degrees,--of priests and soldiers,--of knaves and fools,--of monks, friars, cardinals, kings, and popes,--of mountebanks of every kind, hypocrites of every class, and villains of every grade,--all banded together in one fearful conspiracy, to defy God and ruin man!
So deeply did Popery corrupt the theory of government. First of all, it confounded the two jurisdictions, and then set over them a head claiming to be divine and infallible, thus paving the way for encroachments to any extent on the conscience on the one hand, and on civil rights and liberties on the other. It enabled the sacerdotal autocrat to support his temporal usurpations by spiritual sanctions, and his spiritual domination by secular arms. And this form of government, moreover, necessarily implied the accumulation of all authority in the hands of one man, forming a centralized despotism such as had never before existed. It was also of the nature of this government that it absolutely excluded every iota of the constitutional or democratic element. Farther, being based on an element of a spiritual kind, it was not confined within political boundaries, but extended equally over all states, making Rome everywhere, and the world but one vast province, and its various governments but one irresponsible despotism.
These corruptions in the theory of government led necessarily and directly to grievous corruptions in its practice. In truth, the government of the Papacy,--the only government known for ages to Europe,--was but one enormous abuse. First, the Papacy, in self-defence, was compelled to retain its subjects in profound darkness. It knew that should light break in, its reign must terminate, seeing its pretensions were incapable of standing an hour's scrutiny. Obeying, therefore, the instincts of self-preservation, the Papacy was the great conservator of ignorance,--the uncompromising and truculent foe of knowledge. "Let there be light," was the first command issued by the Creator. "Let there be darkness," said Popery, when about to erect her dominion. The darkness fell fast enough, and deep enough. First, the great lights of revelation, kindled by God to keep piety and liberty alive on the earth, were extinguished. Next, classical learning was discouraged, and fell into disrepute. History, science, and every polite study, shared the same fate. They were denounced as wolves; and Rome, the mighty hunter, chased them from the earth. The arts perished. If painting, sculpture, and music survived, it was solely because Popery needed them for her own base purposes. But their cultivation, so far from tending to refine or elevate the general mind, powerfully contributed to enfeeble and pollute it. These arts were the handmaids of superstition, resembling beautiful captives bound to the chariot-wheel of some dark Ethiopic divinity. Thus the earth came a second time to be peopled by a race of barbarians. Italy herself became ignorant of letters.
The ancient polytheisms possessed no such cramping effect on the genius of man. Greece and Rome established schools, patronized learning, and encouraged efforts to excell. Of all superstitions, that of Popery has been found the most injurious to the human intellect. She found the world civilized, and she sunk it into barbarism. She found the mind of man grown to manhood comparatively, and she reduced it into second childhood. She polluted and emasculated it by her foul rites, and the singularly absurd, ridiculous, and childish doctrines which formed the scholastic theology, the only intellectual food of the middle ages. She was the enemy of science, as well as of the Bible. Some of its earliest and most brilliant discoveries she placed under anathema, and she rewarded with a dungeon some of its most illustrious pioneers. Had the Papacy had her will, our knowledge of the world would have been not a whit more extensive than was that of the ancients. The Atlantic would have lain to this day unploughed by keel; and America would still have been hid in the mysterious regions of the unexplored west. The great law of gravitation, which first certified to man the order and grandeur of the universe, would still have been undiscovered; and the whole furniture of the heavens, fixed in their crystalline spheres, would have been performing a diurnal revolution round our little earth. We would have been trembling at eclipses, and helpless before the power of disease and pestilence. We would still have been engrossed in the pursuits of alchemy and judicial astrology, discussing quidlibets and quodlibets, and, for our spiritual food, listening to the mendacious legends of the saints. We would have been moved to compassion by the example of St. Francis, who divided his cloak with the mendicant,--stimulated to zeal by the story of Anthony, who sailed to St. Petersburg on a millstone to convert the Russians,--fortified against temptation by the courage of St. Dunstan, who led Satan about with a pair of red-hot pincers, when he tempted him in the likeness of a fair lady,--exhorted against the fear of danger by the story of St. Denis, who carried his head half a dozen miles after it was separated from his body, and schooled into devotion by St. Anthony of Padua's mule, which, after three days' fasting, left his provender to worship the host.
Had the Papacy had her will, Milton would never have sung, Bacon and Locke would never have reasoned, the classic page of Erasmus and Buchanan would have remained unwritten, the steam-engine would still have been to be invented, and the age of mechanical marvels, which ennoble our cities, and give to man the dominion of the elements, would have been still to come. Our ships would have carried from our shores other products than those of our learning, our science, and our industry; and would have returned laden, not with those varied commodities with which distant countries abound, and of which ours is destitute, but with papal bulls, beads, crucifixes, indulgences, dispensations, and occasionally excommunications and interdicts. If our temporal wealth would have been less, our spiritual comforts would have been much greater. What rare and precious relics would have stocked our museums, sanctified our churches, enriched our homes, and protected our persons! We would have been able to boast of the legs, arms, toes, fingers, and skulls of great saints who flourished more than a thousand years ago, and eke the arms, fingers, and toes of saints who never flourished at all, but the virtue of whose relics is not a whit the less on that account. We would have possessed the pairings of their nails, the clippings of their beard, some locks of their hair, mayhap a tooth, or a rag of their raiment, or the thong with which they scourged themselves. We might have possessed one of the many hundred legs of Balaam's ass, a bit of the ark, or a nail from the true cross. In short, there would have been no end to the store of venerable lumber that might have enriched our island, but for our quarrel with Rome. True, we could not have had our science, to which nothing is impossible; nor our commerce, which encircles the globe. We could not have bored through mountains, or spanned mighty rivers and friths, or erected noble beacons amid the waves. We could not have bridged over the Atlantic, or brought India and China to our very doors, the products of whose climes stock our markets and lade our boards. Nothing, of all this would we have had; but we would have been more than compensated by the profitable trade we should have driven with Rome in the spiritual wares with which she has enriched all those nations who have trafficked with her.
For ages before the Reformation, the Church of Rome, with the wealth of western Europe at her command, did nothing for learning, beyond patronizing some of the fine arts mainly for her own ends. Since the sixteenth century, Rome has been obliged to alter her policy, not in reality, but in appearance. The Jesuits, finding that the human mind had escaped from its dungeon, ostentatiously took up a position in the van of the movement, that they might lead the nations back to their old prison. In those countries, such as Spain and Italy, into which the Reformation had not introduced letters, these zealous educators, the Jesuits, made no effort to disturb the primeval night. Ignorance is the mother of devotion, and they were unwilling to deprive the natives of so great a help to piety. But in other countries, such as Poland, where the Protestants had erected schools and colleges, the Jesuits dogged the steps of the Protestant teacher. They opened schools, and professed to teach, taking care, however, to convey the smallest amount of knowledge. They kept the youth studying the grammar of Alvar for ten or a dozen years, and learning almost nothing besides. The Augustan era of Polish literature and that of the Protestant ascendancy in Poland, were contemporaneous. When the Jesuits began to educate, literature began to decline; and the period of the Jesuit influence is the least intellectual and the least literary in the history of Poland. It has been the same in all other countries. The Roman Catholics kept Ireland as a preserve of ignorance for ages, and never thought of erecting school or college in it (Maynooth excepted), till the Protestants began to erect schools. And their teaching in the Irish schools is of such a kind as warrants us in saying, that the great outcry they have made is, not for liberty to educate, but for liberty not to educate. In St. Patrick's Roman Catholic school, Edinburgh, instances have been frequent of children four years at school, and yet unable to put two letters together, and of others who had been at school for ten years, and who could not read. The Jesuits build schools, and appoint schoolmasters, not to educate, but to lock up youth in prisons, miscalled schools, as a precaution against their being educated. But it is unnecessary to particularize. In all ages and in all countries the Papacy has leant upon ignorance. It has been one of the grand instruments by which it has ruled mankind. Its acme was the midnight of the world. Idolatry came in with a promise of knowledge,--"Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil;" but it perpetuated its reign through the fact of ignorance.
The Papacy employed to an unprecedented extent espionage in its system of government. Despotism is always base; and the Papacy, as the most despotic, has also been the basest of governments. Former tyrannies employed spies and laid snares, to discover their subjects' secrets or anticipate plots; but the Papacy had the merit of establishing a regular system, by which it took cognizance of thought, and made it as amenable to its tribunal as actions and words to other governments. This it accomplished by the machinery of the confessional. All were obliged to confess, These confessions were sent to Rome; so that there was not a thought or a purpose which was not known at head-quarters. This invested the Pope with omniscience. Not only did he know all that was done and spoken, but all that was thought, throughout his empire. From the Seven Hills he could see into every home and into every heart. Europe lay "naked and open" beneath his eye. What a tremendous power! Hitherto, under the most intolerable tyrannies, men's thoughts were free. Words the tyrant might punish; thoughts defied his power. But under the Papacy no man dared to think. He felt that the eye of Rome was looking into his bosom. She could drag him into the confessional, and compel him by the threat of eternal flames, to lay open his whole soul. From her eye nothing was hid. And to what purpose did she turn this knowledge of the secrets of men? To the purpose of strengthening her own dominion, and sinking her foundations so deep, that every attempt should be in vain to unsettle or raze them.
But again, the papal government effected the prostitution of the civil power to an enormous extent. The distinction between the functionaries of the Church and of the State was maintained, doubtless, during the middle ages. But civil government as distinct from spiritual government was scarcely known in these times. There was, in fact, during the dominancy of the Papacy but one government in Europe, as we have already shown,--a heterogeneous compound of temporal and spiritual authority, which took cognizance of all causes, and arrogated jurisdiction over all persons and all kingdoms. The Papacy was the uniting bond and the animating spirit of this system. But from this parent corruption, which we have already illustrated, there sprung innumerable lesser corruptions. One of these was the subjection and prostitution of the civil power to the ecclesiastical, and the perpetration of acts of tyranny in the State, in order to uphold a yet more odious tyranny in the Church. The Church of Rome felt that she could not reign by enlightening the conscience, and therefore she reigned by coercing it. Her union with the State enabled her to employ, as often as she would, the secular arm for the somewhat anomalous purpose of compelling obedience and enforcing belief. The policy of every government within the limits of the Roman Catholic Church was prompted by Rome, was papal in its essence, and insidiously managed for the interests of the Vatican. Not only were kings themselves the slaves of Rome, and not only did they feel that to rebel against her was to rebel against heaven; but they laboured to make their subjects her slaves also, feeling that a people bound in the fetters of the Church were thereby more amenable to regal authority. This supposed identification of their interests with that of Rome made them zealous supporters of her pretensions. They willingly give the force of law to her bulls; they lent the pageantry of state to her worship; well knowing that nothing awes the mind of the vulgar like state authority. The Pope and the King were the two divinities which the Europe of the dark ages adored. But further, not only did the vicious element of sacerdotalism infect the secular government, but that government was to a large degree administered by sacerdotal persons. Cardinals and priests were in innumerable instances the public ministers and secret advisers of monarchs. This was to some extent a matter of necessity, inasmuch as in that age the knowledge of letters and of business was confined almost entirely to ecclesiastics. But the practice was encouraged by Rome, who was able thus to penetrate the secrets and control the policy of governments. Thus all things, great and small, originated with the Papacy. The wars that convulsed Europe grew out of the intrigues of Rome. Princes were exalted to thrones, or hurled from them, according as it suited her interests. The wealth of the state was employed to debauch conscience, and the arm of its power to punish opinion.
If any of the governments recalcitrated, and refused to degrade themselves by doing the vile work of Rome, she speedily found means to reduce them to obedience. She knew the power of the superstition which she wielded; she knew that it placed in her hands the control of the masses, as well as of governments; and thus she could employ the people to overawe the throne, as well as the throne to oppress the people. She had but to issue her interdict, and the ties that bound subjects to their sovereign were dissolved, their oaths of allegiance annulled, and rebellion against their persons and government preached as a sacred duty; so that the unhappy prince had no alternative but to make his peace with Rome, or abdicate. At one time the Church of Rome has taught the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and at another she has propagated the opinion that the people are the source of sovereignty, as was done in France during the reign of Henry III., who joined the Protestants. So long as princes were submissive to the Romish see, their persons were sacred; the moment they revolted, their assassination was recommended as a holy service, and the crown of glory was held out to the murderer. Rome, to use her own phraseology, laid "the axe at the root of the evil tree," with orders "to cut it down." Herein lay the real supremacy of Rome,--not in her theoretic headship, which the kings of Europe acknowledged only at times, but in her actual headship, which was founded on the power of her all-pervading superstition. She filled Europe with darkness, and through that darkness became omnipotent. This made her the mistress of men's minds, and through that she became the mistress also of their bodies and their properties. When her voice sounded through the gloom, men heard it as if it had been the voice of God, trembled, and obeyed.
Another enormous abuse grew out of the sacerdotal government of Rome, namely, the maxim that princes are the constituted guardians of orthodoxy in their dominions, and are bound to employ their swords in the extirpation of heresy and heretics. This doctrine the Church of Rome wrote in blood in every country of Europe. A grievous perversion it was of the ends of civil government, and it led directly to persecution for conscience' sake. The Church of Rome has earned for herself unrivalled notoriety as a persecutor. Pagan Rome shed the blood of the saints, but papal Rome was drunk with the blood of the saints. We have already alluded to the numbers who, in the twelfth century, in central Europe, held the pure doctrines of the New Testament, and protested against the Church of Rome as the Antichrist of Scripture. These confessors abounded in the southern provinces of France, in the valley of the Rhine, in Lombardy, and in Bohemia. They occupied a belt of country of considerable breadth on both sides of the Alps, stretching from the mouths of the Po to those of the Garonne. They were as distinguished from their neighbours by the skill and industry with which they prosecuted arts and manufactures, as by their extraordinary acquaintance with the Scriptures, and the pure morality of their lives. The Reformation would have broken out in that century, or in the first half of the next, but for the violent and bloody measures of Rome. She saw the danger, she unsheathed the sword; nor did she return it to its scabbard till scarce a man remained to carry tidings of the catastrophe to posterity. The three centuries that preceded the Reformation were one continued massacre. The armed force of western Europe, led on by Rome, was employed to crush a peaceful and industrious, a virtuous and a loyal people, guiltless, but for the crime of refusing to bow the knee to the Dagon of the Seven Hills. Southern France became a perfect shambles. The Alps were swept with fire and sword. Bohemia and the Rhine were overwhelmed with armies, with dungeons, and with scaffolds. Three centuries of crimes, of wars, of bloodshed, at length completed their revolution, and Rome was able to announce that heresy was now exterminated,--drowned in blood. Crimes unparalleled! The French statesman would have said, folly unparalleled; and in sooth it was so. It was the flower of their subjects which these princes had destroyed. The towns they had converted into smoking ruins were the seats of trade and industry.
The men whose blood dyed the soil and the rivers of their land were the stay of order. The vast armaments and the successive wars maintained by these zealous vassals of Rome inferred enormous expense. This double damage,--the direct cost and the indirect loss,--drowned in debt and permanently crippled all the states of Europe. Philip II. of Spain, "a beast of priestly burden," is said to have declared to his son, a little before his death, that he had spent in enterprises of this sort no less a sum than five hundred and ninety-four millions of ducats. The millions that France lavished in these crusades, and the hundreds of thousands of virtuous and industrious citizens whom she banished from her territory, can never be accurately told; but one thing is manifest, that in these proceedings she sowed the seeds of the frightful calamities she has since endured, and is now enduring. "Nearly fifty thousand families," says Voltaire, writing of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, "within the space of three years, left the kingdom, and were afterwards followed by others, who introduced their arts, manufactures, and riches, among strangers. Almost all the north of Germany,--a country hitherto rude and void of industry,--received a new face, from the multitudes of refugees transplanted thither who peopled entire cities. Stuffs, lace, hats, stockings, formerly imported from France, were now made in these countries. A part of the suburbs of London was peopled entirely with French manufacturers in silk, others carried thither the art of making crystal in perfection, which was about this time lost in France. The gold which the refugees brought with them is still very frequently to be met with in Germany. Thus France lost about five hundred thousand inhabitants, a, prodigious quantity of specie, and, above all, the arts with which her enemies enriched themselves."
From that period dates the decline of France and Spain, and of all the Catholic kingdoms of Europe. Ever since have they been running a downward career in wealth, in morality, in social order, in military genius, in manufacturing skill, and commercial enterprise. The men who committed these follies and crimes went to their graves, little dreaming what a legacy of dire revolutions they had bequeathed to their successors. These revolutions have come. The men who sowed their seeds sleep in their marble tombs, unconscious of the earthquake's throes and the tempest's thunderings, which are now overturning thrones which their perfidy had disgraced, and desolating lands which their violence had watered with tears and blood. But their sons, who have served themselves heirs of their fathers sins, by a continuance in their father's superstitions, must witness and endure these dire calamities. These persecutors dug the grave of the Church at the same time they dug their own, in the abyss of socialism. Truth is immortal, and she returned from her tomb; but for them, alas! there is no resurrection. When we think that this violence on the part of Rome delayed the Reformation for three full centuries, or rather, shall we say, has added six centuries of darkness and suffering to the history of Europe, we wonder why God permitted those triumphs to such a power. But it becomes us to bear in mind that, but for these six centuries, we never should have known the true character of Popery; or rather we never should have known the fearful malignancy and bloodthirstiness of that principle of idolatry set up by Satan in the world, which appeared so tolerant in early times, and whose true character has been fully developed only in these latter days. Nor, but for this violence, should we ever have known the mighty power of God in bringing truth from her grave,--restoring Christianity anew by the preaching of Luther and his co-reformers, after its confessors, almost to a man, had been cut off.
We must here notice, however briefly, the INQUISITION. Not content with being able to wield the swords of the Catholic princes, the Church of Rome erected a tribunal of her own, that she might the more summarily and effectually wreak her vengeance upon heretics. This is a thoroughly ecclesiastical court, and forms, therefore, a correct illustration of the true spirit and genius of the Papacy. It was erected by the Pope, sanctioned by councils, has been all along supported and governed by ecclesiastical authority, was wrought solely for ecclesiastical ends, and managed by priests and friars. In all the countries in which it was set up,--and it was introduced into most of the countries of Europe,--it caused unspeakable terror. Its victims were apprehended commonly at midnight. The familiars of the Holy Office surrounded the door of the house, whispered the name of the tribunal on whose errand they had come, and the inmates, transfixed by the dreadful words, delivered up their dearest relatives without pity or remorse. The person apprehended was consigned to a dungeon, generally below ground; he knew not his accuser; he was not told even of what crime he was suspected; he was often desired to divine the cause of his apprehension; and when he refused to criminate himself, the most horrible tortures were employed to extort confession. He was not confronted with the witnesses against him; their depositions even were not read over to him: he was allowed no advocate; his friends trembled to come nigh the place of his confinement, and put on mourning for him, as for one already dead. He knew not his sentence even, till, led forth to the auto da fe, he read it for the first time in the terrific symbols on his dress, or in the dreadful preparations of pile and faggot for his execution.
It is St. Dominic whom the world has to thank for this dreadful tribunal. St. Dominic, whom the Church of Rome canonizes as a great saint, was a Spaniard by birth, and by disposition a fierce, cruel, bloodthirsty bigot. His mother is said to have "dreamed before his birth that she was with child of a whelp, carrying in his mouth a lighted torch, who should put the world in an uproar, and set it on fire." This man it was who first suggested to Pope Innocent III. the erection of such a tribunal for the extirpation of heresy; and, having given abundant proofs that his own genius lay much this way, he was appointed inquisitor-general, though it was not till after his death that the Holy Office was regularly organized. In the beginning of the thirteenth century did Innocent give forth the bull which "decreed the existence of this tribunal, to finish what the anathemas of popes, the sermons of fanatics, and the brand of crusaders, had left undone. Wherever the poor Albigenses and Waldenses fled, the Inquisition followed them; and in a few years it was set up not only in Italy, Spain, and Piedmont, but in France and Germany, Poland and Bohemia, and in course of time it extended as far as Syria and India.
The famous Inquisition at Goa is well known to every reader of Dr. Buchanan's "Christian Researches." Our own Mary is said to have contemplated the erection of the Inquisition in England, in order to aid her in her pious labours of purging the country of heresy by fire and sword. Spain, Portugal, and Italy were decimated by this tribunal. In an unhappy hour for her liberty and her commerce, Venice opened her gates to the familiars of the Holy Office. The sbirri and spies of the Inquisition swarmed on all sides. Stone walls were found to have ears and eyes. Secret denunciations poured in. Snares were sowed in the paths of citizens. Dark mistrust and suspicion banished the happiness of the hearth and the convivialities of the board; and the heaps of dead found in the canals, and seen on the public gibbets, told how well this secret tribunal did its work. If any commiserated the fate of the victim, that fate speedily became his own. If any doubted the justice of so cruel and summary a vengeance, he was sure to be himself ere long overtaken by it. Some deep pit became his prison, whose damp atmosphere froze his limbs, and whose mephitic vapours consumed his lungs; or a leaden furnace became his abode, where the powerful rays of a vertical sun, heightened by the nature of the prison, speedily brought on a burning fever or inflammation of the brain, and the wretched being, shut up in this terrible abode, ended his days as a raging madman, or sunk into heavy hopeless idiotcy. Such were the deaths reserved for the free and proud citizens of the Adriatic republic. Venice was unable to bear up under such a tyranny. Her ships disappeared from the ocean, and her merchants ceased to hold the first place on the bourse of the world.
But the country in which the Inquisition has reached its most flourishing estate is Spain. This tribunal was first introduced into Catalonia in 1232, and propagated over all Spain. It was re-established in greater pomp and terror in 1481 by Ferdinand and Isabella, chiefly for the spiritual good of the Jews, then numerous in Spain. The bull of Sixtus V. instituted a grand inquisitor-general and supreme council to preside over the working of the Holy Office; and under that bull commenced that system of juridical extermination which is said to have cost Spain upwards of five millions of her citizens, who either perished miserably in the dungeon, or expired amid the flames of the public auto da fe. The Jews were expelled, the Moors were reduced to submission, and the powers of the Holy Office were now put in requisition to purge the soil of Spain from the taint of Protestant pravity, both as regarded books and persons. In obedience to the behest of the Inquisition, Charles V. obtained from the University of Lorraine a list of heretical works. This list, printed in 1546, was the first Index Expurgatorius published in Spain, and the second in the world. In 1559, as Llorente informs us, was held the first auto da fe of Protestants at Valladolid. Men of learning were particularly obnoxious to suspicion. SANCHEZ, who enjoyed the reputation of being the first scholar of his age; LUIS DE LEON, an eloquent preacher and a distinguished Hebraist; MARIANA, the prince of Spanish historians,--were all summoned to its bar, and made to promise submission to its authority. But not only so;--princes of the royal blood, prelates of the highest rank, and men who had done good service to the cause of Rome, fell under its suspicion, and suffered in its dungeons. This tyranny endured till the period of the French invasion in 1808, when the Spanish Inquisition was abolished, to be restored on the accession of Ferdinand VII., who divided his time between the embroidering of petticoats and the worship of the Virgin.
It was under the reign of the Inquisition that the soul of Spain expired, and that a great power in arms and in arts, in literature and in commerce, fell from its high place into almost utter annihilation.
The author had once the fortune to be shown over a dismantled Inquisition,--one, too, famous in its day;--and as it illustrates this part of his subject, he may be permitted here to tell what fell under his own observation. In the summer of 1847 we found ourselves one fine day on the shores of the Leman. At our feet was the Rhone pouring its abundant but discoloured waters into the beautifully blue lake. The lake itself, moveless as a mirror, slept within its snow-white strand, and reflected on its placid bosom the goodly shadows of crag and mountain. Behind us, like two giants guarding the entrance to the lovely valley of the Rhone, rose the mighty Alps, the Dent de Midi and the Dent d'Oche, white with eternal snows. In front was the eastern bank of the lake, a magnificent bend, with a chord of a dozen miles, and offering to the eye, rocks, vineyards, villages, and mountains, forming a gorgeous picture of commingled loveliness and grandeur. The scene was one of perfect beauty, yet there was one dismal object in it. At about a mile's distance, almost surrounded by the waters of the lake, rose the Castle of Chillon. Its heavy architecture appeared still more dark and forbidding, from the gloomy recollections which it called up. It had been at once the palace and the Inquisition of the Dukes of Savoy, so celebrated in the persecuting annals of Rome; and here had many of the disciples of the early reformers endured imprisonment and torture.
We had an hour to spare, and resolved to pay a visit to the old Castle. We crossed the draw-bridge, and a small gratuity procured us entrance, and the services of a guide. We were first led down to Bonnivard's dungeon, "deep and old." There is here a sort of outer and inner dungeon; and in passing through the first, the light was so scant, that we had to grope our way over the uneven floor, which, like the landward wall, is formed of the living rock. Into this place had been crowded some hundreds of Jews; and we felt--for we could not be said to see--the little niche of rock on which they were seated one after one, and slaughtered for the good of the Church, which it was feared their heresy might infect. We passed on, and entered the more spacious dungeon of Bonnivard. It looked not unlike a chapel, with its groined roof and its central row of white pillars. The light was that of a deep twilight. We distinctly heard the ripple of the lake against the wall, which was on a level with the floor of the dungeon. At certain seasons of the year it is some feet above it. Two or three narrow slits, placed high in the wall, admitted the light, which had a greenish hue, from the reflection of the lake. This effect was rather heightened by the light breeze which kept flapping the broad leaf of some aquatic plant against the opening opposite the Martyr's Pillar. How sweet, we thought, must that ray have been to the Prior of St. Victor, and how often, during his imprisonment of six years, must his eyes have been turned towards it, as it streamed in from the waters and the mountains around his dungeon! We saw the iron ring still remaining in the pillar to which he was chained, and read on that pillar the names of Dryden and Byron, and others who had visited the place. The latter name recalled his own beautiful lines, descriptive of the place and its martyr:--
"Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar; for 'twas trod
Until his very steps leave left a trace,
Worn, as if the cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard! May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God."
This dungeon had its one captive, and the image of suffering it presented stood out definitely before us. The rooms above had their thousands, and were suggestive of crowds of victims, which passed before the mind without order or identity. Of their names few remain, though the instruments on which they were torn in pieces are still there. Emerging from the dayless gloom of the vault, we ascended to these rooms. We entered one spacious apartment, which evidently had been the "Hall of Torture;" for there, with the rust of some centuries upon it, stood the gaunt apparatus of the Inquisition. In the middle of the room was a massy beam reaching from floor to ceiling, with a strong pulley a-top. This was the corda, the queen of torments, as it has been called. The person who endured the corda had his hands tied behind his back; then a rope was attached to them, and a heavy iron weight was hung at his feet. When all was ready, the executioners suddenly hoisted him up to the ceiling by means of the rope, which passed through the pulley in the top of the beam: the arms were painfully wrenched backwards, and the weight of the body, increased by the weight attached to the feet, in most cases sufficed to tear the arms from the sockets. While thus suspended, the prisoner was sometimes whipped, or had a hot iron thrust into various parts of his body, his tormentors admonishing him all the while to speak the truth. If he refused to confess, he was suddenly let down, and received a severe jerk, which completed the dislocation. If he still refused to confess, he was remanded to his cell, had his joints set, and was brought out, as soon as able, to undergo the same torture over again. At each of the four corners of the room where this beam stood was a pulley fixed in the wall, showing that the apartment had also been fitted up for the torture of the veglia. The veglia resembled a smith's anvil, with a spike a-top, ending in an iron die. Through the pulleys at the four corners of the room ran four ropes. These were tied to the naked arms and legs of the sufferer, and twisted so as to cut to the bone. He was lifted up, and set down with his back bone exactly upon the die, which, as the whole weight of the person rested upon it, wrought by degrees into the bone. The torture, which was excruciating, was to last eleven hours, if the person did not sooner confess. These are but two of the seven tortures by which the Church of Rome proved, what certainly she could not prove by either Scripture or reason, that transubstantiation is true. The roof beneath which these enormities were committed was plastered over with the sign of the cross. In a small adjoining apartment we were shown a recess in the wall, with an oubliette or trap-door below it. In that recess, said the guide, stood an image of the Virgin. The prisoner accused of heresy was brought, and made to kneel upon the trap-door, and, in presence of the Virgin, to abjure his heresy. To prevent the possibility of apostacy, the moment he had made his confession the bolt was drawn, and the man lay a mangled corpse on the rock below. We had seen enough; and as we re-crossed the moat of the Castle of Chillon, the light seemed sweeter than ever, and we never in all our lives felt so thankful for the Reformation, which had vested us in the privilege of reading our Bible without having our limbs torn and our body mangled.
That religion, whose birth-place is heaven, and whose mission is love, should be propagated over the earth by means of racks and stakes, is utterly repugnant to all that we know of her and of her author. No; it was not Christianity, but its counterfeit, which the Inquisition was erected to promulgate. These were not priests, but demons; this was not a "Holy Office," but a DEN OF MURDER. Of the enormous crimes and the horrible cruelties there enacted, much is known; but, alas! that much is but an insignificant portion of the whole. When we take into account the countries to which the Inquisition extended, the length of time it flourished, and the countless thousands of every rank, and age, and sex, who entered its gates, and never more saw the light of day or heard the voice of friend,--the virgin whose youth and beauty were her only crime,--the rich man whose possessions were needed to swell the revenues of the Church,--the heretic, for whom are reserved the strongest racks and the hottest fires of the Holy Office,--the imagination is overwhelmed by the number of the victims, and the awful aggregate of their sufferings. Yet, though but a tithe of these horrors is known, enough has been disclosed to cover the Church of Rome with eternal infamy, and to convict her before the world as but an assemblage of miscreants and villains, banded together in the name of religion, to rob and murder their fellows. And while we have the Papacy, we must have, in one shape or other, the Inquisition. Errors so monstrous as those of Rome cannot be maintained but by coercion. Those who talk of separating between Popery and her screws and racks would disjoin what the laws of superstition have made eternally one. So long as the one exists, both will continue, like substance and shadow, to darken the earth. When the papal government was temporarily suspended in 1849 by the Roman Republic, the Inquisition was found in active operation, and it was restored the moment the Pope returned to Rome. The various horrors of the place,--its iron rings, its subterranean cells, its skeletons built up in the wall, its trap-doors, its kiln for burning bodies, with parts of humanity remaining still unconsumed,--were all exposed at the time. These partial disclosures may convince us, perhaps, that it is better that the veil which conceals the full horrors of the Inquisition should remain unlifted till that day when the graves shall give up their dead.
In fine, as regards the influence of Popery on government, it were easy to demonstrate, that the Papacy delayed the advent of representative and constitutional government for thirteen centuries. Superstition is the mother of despotism; Christianity is the parent of liberty. There is no truth which the past history of the world more abundantly establishes than this. It was through Christianity that the democratic element first came into the world. That principle was altogether unknown in the ancient governments, which were either autocracies, or, in a few instances, oligarchies. The people, as such, were excluded from all share and influence in the government. Christianity was the first to teach the essential equality of all men, and the first to erect a system of government in which the people were admitted to those rights, and to that share of influence, which are not only their due, but which nearly concern the safety and stability of the state. The state began to model its government after the example of the Church, borrowing the idea which she had been the first to promulgate in theory and exhibit in practice; and ere this time of day the world would have been filled with free and constitutional states, had not the Church, abandoning her own idea, begun to copy, in her government and organization, the order of the state. The issue was the erection of the Papacy. The papal government is the very antipodes of constitutional government: it centres all power in one man: it does so on the ground of divine right; and is therefore essentially and eternally antagonistic to the constitutional element. Its long dominancy in Europe formed the grand barrier to the progress of the popular element in society, and the erection of constitutional government in the world. With the Reformation the popular element revived. "Geneva," says one who is no friend to Christianity, "in submitting to Calvinism, became a popular state." In the proportion in which the various states of Europe received the Reformation did they become free; and in the proportion in which they have retained the Reformation have they retained their liberty. The cause of the dissolution of the old empires was their slavery. Society was divided into two classes,--nobles and slaves. Wealth and luxury in process of time exhausted the aristocracy; and as they could receive no infusion of fresh blood from the other classes, the state was at an end. But Christianity, by teaching that all men are immortal, and that there reigns among them an essential equality, has abolished slavery, has effected a free circulation among the various classes of the state, like that which maintains the salubrity of the air and ocean, and has thus conferred upon kingdoms the gift of terrestrial immortality.
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