by Rev. J.A. Wylie, LL.D.
Origin of the Papacy
The Papacy, next to Christianity, is the great FACT of the modern world. Of the two, the former, unhappily, has proved in some respects the more powerful spring in human affairs, and has acted the more public part on the stage of the world. Fully to trace the rise and development of this stupendous system, were to write a history of Western Europe. The decay of empires,--the extinction of religious systems,--the dissolution and renewal of society,--the rise of new States,--the change of manners, customs, and laws,--the policy of courts,--the wars of kings,--the decay and revival of letters, of philosophy and of arts,--all connect themselves with the history of the Papacy, to whose growth they ministered, and whose destiny they helped to unfold. On so wide a field of investigation neither our time nor our limits permit us to enter. Let it suffice that we indicate, in general terms, the main causes that contributed to the rise of this tremendous Power, and the successive stages that marked the course of its portentous development.
The first rise of the Papacy is undoubtedly to be sought for in the corruption of human nature. Christianity, though pure in itself, was committed to the keeping of imperfect beings. The age, too, was imperfect, and abounded with causes tending to corrupt whatever was simple, and materialize whatever was spiritual. Society was pervaded on all sides with sensuous and material influences. These absolutely unfitted the age for relishing, and especially for retaining, truth in its abstract form, and for perceiving the beauty and grandeur of a purely spiritual economy. The symbolic worship of the Jew, heaven-appointed, had taught him to associate religious truth with visible rites, and to attribute considerably more importance to the observance of the outward ceremony than to the cultivation of the inward habit, or the performance of the mental act. Greece, too, with all its generous sensibilities, its strong emotions, and its quick perception and keen relish of the beautiful, was a singularly gross and materialized land. Its voluptuous poetry and sensuous mythology had unfitted the intellect of its people for appreciating the true grandeur of a simple and spiritual system. Italy, again, was the land of gods and of arms. The former was a type of human passions; and the latter, though lightened by occasional gleams of heroic virtue and patriotism, exerted, on the whole, a degrading and brutalizing effect upon the character and genius of the people, withdrawing them from efforts of pure mind, and from the contemplation of the abstract and the spiritual. It was in this complex corruption,--the degeneracy of the individual and the degeneracy of society, owing to the unspiritualizing influences then powerfully at work in the Jewish, the Grecian, and the Roman worlds,--that the main danger of Christianity consisted; and in this element it encountered an antagonist a thousand times more formidable than the sword of Rome. Amid these impure matters did the Papacy germinate, though not till a subsequent age did it appear above ground. The corruption took a different form, according to the prevailing systems and the predominating tastes of the various countries. The Jew brought with him into the Church the ideas of the synagogue, and attempted to graft the institutions of Moses upon the doctrines of Christ; the Greek, unable all at once to unlearn the lessons and cast off the yoke of the Academy, attempted to form an alliance between the simplicity of the gospel and his own subtile and highly imaginative philosophy; while the Roman, loath to think that the heaven of his gods should be swept away as the creation of an unbridled fancy, recoiled from the change, as we would from the dissolution of the material heavens; and, though he embraced Christianity, he still clung to the forms and shadows of a polytheism in the truth and reality of which he could no longer believe. Thus the Jew, the Greek, the Roman, were alike in that they corrupted the simplicity of the gospel; but they differed in that each corrupted it after his own fashion. Minds there were of a more vigorous cast originally, or more largely endowed with the Spirit's grace, who were able to take a more tenacious grasp of truth, and to appreciate more highly her spirituality and simplicity; but as regards the majority of converts, especially towards the end of the first century and the beginning of the second, it is undeniable that they felt, in all their magnitude, the difficulties now enumerated.
The new ideas had a painful conflict to maintain with the old. The world had taken a mighty step in advance. It had accomplished a transition from the symbolic to the spiritual,--from the fables, allegories, and myths, which a false philosophy and a sensuous poetry had invented to amuse its infancy, to the clear, definite, and spiritual ideas which Christianity had provided for the exercise of its manhood. But it seemed as if the transition was too great. There was a felt inability in the human mind, as yet, to look with open face upon TRUTH; and men were fain to interpose the veil of symbol between themselves and the glory of that Majestic Form. It was seen that the world could not pass by a single step from infancy to manhood,--that the Creator had imposed certain laws upon the growth of the species, as on that of the individual,--upon the development of the social, as on that of the personal mind; and that these laws could not be violated. It was seen, in short, that so vast a reformation could not be made; it must grow. So much had been foreshadowed, we apprehend, by those parables of the Saviour which were intended as illustrative of the nature of the gospel kingdom and the manner of its progress: "The kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation;" "It is like a grain of mustard-seed, the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree;" "It is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." Not in a single day was the master idea of Christianity to displace the old systems, and inaugurate itself in their room. It was to progress in obedience to the law which regulates the growth of all great changes. First, the seed had to be deposited in the bosom of society; next, a process of germination had to ensue; the early and the latter rains of the Pagan and the Papal persecutions had to water it; and it was not till after ages of silent growth, during which society was to be penetrated and leavened by the quickening spirit of the gospel, that Christianity would begin her universal and triumphant reign.
But as yet the time was not come for a pure spiritual Christianity to attain dominion upon the earth. The infantile state of society forbade it. As, in the early ages, men had not been able to retain, even when communicated to them, the knowledge of one self-existent, independent, and eternal Being, so now they were unable to retain, even when made known to them, the pure spiritual worship of that Being. From this it might have been inferred, though prophecy had been silent on the point, that the world had yet a cycle of progress to pass through ere it should reach its manhood; that an era was before it, during which it would be misled by grievous errors, and endure, in consequence, grievous sufferings, before it could attain the faculty of broad, independent, clear, spiritual conception, and become able to think without the help of allegory, and to worship without the aid of symbol. This reconciles us to the fact of the great apostacy, so stumbling at first view. Contemplated in this light, it is seen to be a necessary step in the world's progress towards its high destinies, and a necessary preparation for the full unfolding of God's plans towards the human family.
The recovery of the world from the depth into which the Fall has plunged it, is both a slow and a laborious process. The instrumentality which God has ordained for its elevation is knowledge. Great truths are discovered, one after one; they are opinion first,--they become the basis of action next; and thus society is lifted up, by slow degrees, to the platform where the Creator has ordained it shall ultimately stand. A great principle, once discovered, can never be lost; and thus the progress of the world is steadily onward. Truth may not be immediately operative. To recur to the Saviour's figure, it may be the seed sown in the earth. It may be confined to a single bosom, or to a single book, or to a single school; but it is part of the constitution of things; it is agreeable to the nature of God, and in harmony with his government; and so it cannot perish. Proofs begin to gather around it; events fall out which throw light upon it: the martyr dies for it; society suffers by neglecting to shape its course in conformity with it; other minds begin to embrace it; and after reaching a certain stage, its adherents increase in geometrical progression: at last the whole of society is leavened; and thus the world is lifted a stage higher, never again to be let down. The stage, we say, once fully secured, is never altogether lost; for the truth, in fighting its way, has left behind it so many monuments of its power, in the shape of the errors and sufferings, as well as of the emancipation, of mankind, that it becomes a great landmark in the progress of our race. It attains in the social mind all the clearness and certainty of an axiom. The history of the world, when read aright, is not so much a record of the follies and wickedness of mankind, as it is a series of moral demonstrations,--a slow process of experimental and convincing proof,--in reference to great principles, and that on a scale so large, that the whole world may see it, and understand it, and come to act upon it. Society can be saved not otherwise than as the individual is saved: it must be convinced of sin; its mind must be enlightened; its will renewed; it must be brought to embrace and act upon truth; and when in this way it has been sanctified, society shall enter upon its rest.
This we take to be the true theory of the world's progress. There is first an objective revelation of truth; there is second a subjective revelation of it. The objective revelation is the work of God alone; the subjective revelation, that is, the reception of it by society, is the work of God and man combined. The first may be done in a day or an hour; the second is the slow operation of an age. Thus human progression takes the form of a series of grand epochs, in which the world is suddenly thrown forward in its course, and then again suddenly stands still, or appears to retrograde. The first is known, in ordinary speech, as reformation or revolution; the second is termed re-action. There is, however, in point of fact, no retrogression: what we mistake for retrogression is only society settling down, after the sun-light burst of newly-revealed truth is over, to study, to believe, and to apply the principles which have just come into its possession. This is a work of time, often of many ages; and not unfrequently does it go on amid the confusion and conflict occasioned by the opposition offered to the new ideas by the old errors. Among the epochs of the past,--the grand objective revelations,--we may instance, as the more influential ones, the primeval Revelation, the Mosaic Economy, the Christian Era, and the Reformation. Each of these advanced the world a stage, from which it never altogether fell back into its former condition: society always made good its advance. Nevertheless, each of these epochs was followed by a re-action, which was just society struggling to lay hold upon the principles made known to it, thoroughly to incorporate them with its own structure, and so to make ready for a new and higher step.
The world progresses much as the tide rises on the beach. Society in progress presents as sublime and fearful a spectacle as the ocean in a storm. As the mountain billow, crested with foam, swells huge and dark against the horizon, and comes rolling along in thunder, it threatens not only to flood the beach, but to submerge the land; but its mighty force is arrested and dissolved on its sandy barrier: the waters retire within the ocean's bed, as if they had received a counter-stroke from the earth. One would think that the ocean had spent its power in that one effort; but it is not so. The resistless energies of the great deep recruit themselves in an instant: another mountain wave is seen advancing; another cataract of foaming waters is poured along the beach; and now the level of the tide stands higher than before. Thus, by a series of alternate flows and ebbs does the ocean fill its shores. This natural phenomenon is but the emblem of the manner in which society advances. After some great epoch, the new ideas seem to lose ground,--the waters are diminished; but gradually the limit between the new ideas and the old prejudices comes to be adjusted, and then it is found that the advantage is on the side of truth, and that the general level of society stands perceptibly higher. Meanwhile, preparation is being made for a new conquest. The regenerative instrumentalities with which the Creator has endowed the world, by the truths which He has communicated, are silently at work at the bottom of society. Another mighty wave appears upon its agitated surface; and, rolling onwards in irresistible power against the dry land of superstition, it adds a new domain to the empire of Truth.
But while it is true that the world has been steadily progressive, and that each successive epoch has placed society on a higher platform than that which went before it, it is at the same time a fact, that the development of superstition has kept equal pace with the development of truth. From the very beginning the two have been the counterparts of each other, and so will it be, doubtless, while they exist together upon the earth. In the early ages idolatry was unsophisticated in its creed and simple in its forms, just as the truths then known were few and simple. Under the Jewish economy, when truth became embodied in a system of doctrines with an appointed ritual, then, too, idolatry provided its system of metaphysical subtleties to ensnare the mind, and its splendid ceremonial to dazzle the senses. Under the Christian dispensation, when truth has attained its amplest development, in form at least, if not as yet in degree, idolatry is also more fully developed than in any preceding era. Papal idolatry is a more subtle, complicated, malignant, and perfected system than Pagan idolatry was. This equal development is inevitable in the nature of the case. The discovery of any one truth necessitates the invention of the opposite error. In proportion as truth multiplies its points of assault, error must necessarily multiply its points of defence. The extension of the one line infers the extension of the other also. Nevertheless there is an essential difference betwixt the two developments. Every new truth is the addition of another impregnable position to the one side; whereas every new error is but the addition of another untenable point to the other, which only weakens the defence. Truth is immortal, because agreeable to the laws by which the universe is governed; and therefore, the more it is extended, the more numerous are the points on which it can lean for support upon God's government; the more that error is extended, the more numerous the points in which it comes into collision and conflict with that government. Thus the one develops into strength, the other into weakness. And thus, too, the full development of the one is the harbinger of its triumph,--the full development of the other is the precursor of its downfall.
Idolatry at the first was one, and necessarily so, for it drew its existence from the same springs which were seated in the depth of the early ages. But, though one originally, in process of time it took different forms, and was known by different names, in the several countries. The Magian philosophy had long prevailed in the East; in the West had arisen the polytheism of Rome; while in Greece, forming the link between Asia and Europe, and combining the contemplative and subtile character of the Eastern idolatries with the grossness and latitudinarianism of those of the West, there flourished a highly imaginative but sensuous mythology. As these idolatries were one in their essence, so they were one in their tendency; and the tendency of all was, to draw away the heart from God, to hem in the vision of man by objects of sense, and to create a strong disrelish for the contemplation of a spiritual Being, and a strong incapacity for the apprehension and retention of spiritual and abstract truth. These idolatries had long since passed their prime; but the powerful bent they had given to the human mind still existed. It was only by a slow process of counteraction that that evil bias could be overcome. So long had these superstitions brooded over the earth, and so largely had they impregnated the soil with their evil principles, that their eradication could not be looked for but by a long and painful conflict on the part of Christianity. It was to be expected, that after the first flush of the gospel's triumph there would come a recoil; that the ancient idolatries, recovering from their panic, would rally their forces, and appear again, not in any of their old forms,--for neither does superstition nor the gospel ever revive under exactly its old organization,--but under a new form adapted to the state of the world, and the character of the new antagonist now to be confronted; and that Satan would make a last, and, of course, unexampled struggle, before surrendering to Christ the empire of the world. It was to be expected also, in the coming conflict, that all these idolatries would combine into one phalanx. It was extremely probable that the animosities and rivalships which had hitherto kept them apart would cease; that the schools and sects into which they had been divided would coalesce; that, recognising in Christianity an antagonist that was alike the foe of them all, the common danger would make them feel their common brotherhood; and thus, that all these false systems would come to be united into one comprehensive and enormous system, containing within itself all the principles of hostility, and all the elements of strength, formerly scattered throughout them all; and that in this combined and united form would they do battle with the Truth.
It was not long till symptoms began to appear of such a move on the part of Satan,--of such a resuscitation of the ancient Paganisms. The shadow began to go back on the dial of Time. The spiritual began to lose ground before the symbolic and the mythological. The various idolatries which had formerly covered the wide space which the gospel now occupied,--subjugated, but not utterly exterminated,--began to pay court to Christianity. They professed, as the handmaids, to do homage to the Mistress; but their design in this insidious friendship was not to aid her in her glorious mission, but to borrow her help, and so reign in her room. Well they knew that they had been overtaken by that decrepitude which, sooner or later, overtakes all that is sprung of earth; but they thought to draw fresh vitality from the living side of Christianity, and so rid themselves of the burden of their anility. The Magian religion wooed her in the East; Paganism paid court to her in the West: Judaism, too, esteeming, doubtless, that it had a better right than either, put in its claim to be recognized. Each brought her something of its own, which, it pretended, was necessary to the perfection of Christianity. Judaism brought her dead symbols; the Magian and Greek philosophies brought her refined and subtile, but dead speculations and doctrines; and the Paganism of Rome brought her dead divinities. On all hands was she tempted to part with the substance, and to embrace again the shadow. Thus did the old idolatries muster under the banner of Christianity. They rallied in her support,--so they professed; but, in reality, to unite their arms for her overthrow.
Two things might have been expected to happen. First, that the rising corruption would reach its maturest proportion in that country where external influences most favoured its development; and second, that when developed, it would exhibit the master traits and leading peculiarities of each of the ancient paganisms. Both these anticipations were exactly realised. It was not in Chaldea, nor in Egypt, the seats of the Magian philosophy, nor was it in Greece, that Popery arose, for these countries now retained little besides the traditions of their former power. It was in the soil of the Seven Hills, amid the trophies of unnumbered victories, the symbols of universal empire, and the gorgeous rites of a polluting polytheism, that Romanism, velut arbor oevo, grew up. By a law similar to that which guides the seed to the spot best fitted for its germination, did the modern Paganism strike its roots in the soil which the ancient Paganism had most largely impregnated with its influences and tendencies. The surrounding heresies were speedily overshadowed and dwarfed. The Gnostic, and other errors, declined in the proportion in which Romanism waxed in stature, its mighty trunk drawing to itself all those corrupt influences which would otherwise have afforded nourishment to them. In process of time they disappeared, though rather through a process of absorption than of extinction. The result presents us with a sort of Pantheism,--the only sort of Pantheism that is real,--in which the expiring idolatries returned into the bosom of their parent divinity, and had their existence prolonged in its existence.
The Papacy is a new Babel, in which the old redoubtable idolatries are the builders. It is a spiritual Pantheon, in which the local and vagrant superstitions find again a centre and a home. It is a grand mausoleum, in which the corpses of the defunct Paganisms, like the mummied monks of Kreutzberg, are laid out in ghastly pomp, while their disembodied spirits still live in the Papacy, and govern the world from their grave. Analyse Popery, and you will find all these ancient systems existing in it. The Magian philosophy flourishes anew under the monastic system; for in the conventual life of Rome we find the contemplative moods and the ascetic habits which so largely prevailed in Egypt and over all the East; and here, too, we find the fundamental principle of that philosophy, namely, that the flesh is the seat of evil, and, consequently, that it becomes a duty to weaken and mortify the body. In Popery we find the predominating traits of the Grecian philosophy, more especially in the subtile casuistry of the Popish schools, combined with a sensuous ritual, the celebration of which is often accompanied, as in Greece of old, with gross licentiousness. And last of all, there is palpably present in Popery the polytheism of ancient Rome, in the gods and goddesses which, under the title of saints, fill up the calendar and crowd the temples of the Romish Church. Here, then, all the old idolatries live over again. There is nothing new about them but the organization, which is more perfect and complete than ever. To add one other illustration to those already given, the Papacy is a gigantic realization of our Lord's parable. The Roman empire, on the introduction of Christianity, was swept and garnished; the unclean spirit which inhabited it had been driven out of it; but the demon had never wandered far from the region of the Seven Hills; and finding no rest, he returned, bringing with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, which took possession of their old abode, and made its last state worse than its first. The name of Popery, truly, is Legion! "There are many Antichrists," said the apostle John; for in his days the various systems of error had not been combined into one. But the Roman apostacy acquired ultimately the dominion, and, marshalling the other heresies beneath its banner, gave its own name to the motley host, and became known as the Antichrist of prophecy and of history.
Popery, then, we hold to be an after-growth of Paganism, whose deadly wound, dealt by the spiritual sword of Christianity, was healed. Its oracles had been silenced, its shrines demolished, and its gods consigned to oblivion; but the deep corruption of the human race, not yet cured by the promised effusion of the Spirit upon all flesh, revived it anew, and, under a Christian mask, reared other temples in its honour, built it another Pantheon, and replenished it with other gods, which, in fact, were but the ancient divinities under new names. All idolatries, in whatever age or country they have existed, are to be viewed but as successive developments of the one grand apostacy. That apostacy was commenced in Eden, and consummated at Rome. It had its rise in the plucking of the forbidden fruit; and it attained its acme in the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome,--Christ's Vicar on earth. The hope that he would "be as God," led man to commit the first sin; and that sin was perfected when the Pope "exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." Popery is but the natural development of this great original transgression. It is just the early idolatries ripened and perfected. It is manifestly an enormous expansion of the same intensely malignant and fearfully destructive principle which these idolatries contained. The ancient Chaldean worshipping the sun,--the Greek deifying the powers of nature,--and the Roman exalting the race of primeval men into gods, are but varied manifestations of the same evil principle, namely, the utter alienation of the heart from God,--its proneness to hide itself amid the darkness of its own corrupt imaginations, and to become a god unto itself. That principle received the most fearful development which appears possible on earth, in the Mystery of Iniquity which came to be seated on the Seven Hills; for therein man deified himself, became God, nay, arrogated powers which lifted him high above God. Popery is the last, the most matured, the most subtle, the most skilfully contriven, and the most essentially diabolical form of idolatry which the world ever saw, or which, there is reason to believe, it ever will see. It is the ne plus ultra of man's wickedness, and the chef d'oeuvre of Satan's cunning and malignity. It is the greatest calamity, next to the Fall, which ever befell the human family. Farther away from God the world could not exist at all. The cement that holds society together, already greatly weakened, would be altogether destroyed, and the social fabric would instantly fall in ruins.
Having thus indicated the origin of Romanism, we shall attempt in the three following chapters to trace its rise and progress.
Rise and Progress of Ecclesiastical Supremacy
The first pastors of the Roman Church aspired to no rank above their brethren. The labours in which they occupied themselves were the same as those of the ordinary ministers of the gospel. As pastors, they watched with affectionate fidelity over their flock; and, when occasion offered, they added to the duties of the pastorate the labours of the evangelist. All of them were eminent for their piety; and some of them to the graces of the Christian added the accomplishments of the scholar. Clemens of Rome may be cited as an instance. He was the most distinguished Christian writer, after the apostles, of the first century. Even after the gospel had found entrance within the walls of Rome, Paganism maintained its ground amongst the villages of the Campagna. Accordingly, it became the first care of the pastors of the metropolis to plant the faith and found churches in the neighbouring towns. They were led to embark in this undertaking, not from the worldly and ambitious views which began, in course of time, to actuate their successors, but from that pure zeal for the diffusion of Christianity for which these early ages were distinguished. It was natural that churches founded in these circumstances should cherish a peculiar veneration for the men to whose pious labours they owed their existence; and it was equally natural that they should apply to them for advice in all cases of difficulty. That advice was at first purely paternal, and implied neither superiority on the part of the person who gave it, nor dependence on the part of those to whom it was given. But in process of time, when the Episcopate at Rome came to be held by men of worldly spirit,--lovers of the pre-eminence,--the homage, at first voluntarily rendered by equals to their equal,--was exacted as a right; and the advice, at first simply fraternal, took the form of a command, and was delivered in a tone of authority. These beginnings of assumption were small; but they were beginnings, and power is cumulative. It is the law of its nature to grow, at a continually accelerating rate, which, though slow at the outset, becomes fearfully rapid towards the end. And thus the pastors of Rome, at first by imperceptible degrees, and at last by enormous strides, reached their fatal pre-eminence.
Such was the state of matters in the first century, during which the authority of the presbyter or bishop--for these two titles were employed in primitive times to distinguish the same office and the same order of men--did not extend beyond the limits of the congregation to which they ministered. But in the second century another element began to operate. In that age it became customary to regulate the consideration and rank which the bishops of the Christian Church enjoyed, by that of the city in which they resided. It is easy to see the influence and dignity which would thence accrue to the bishops of Rome, and the prospects of grandeur and power which would thus open to the aspiring prelates who now occupied that see. Rome was the mistress of the world. During ages of conquest her dominion had been gradually extending, till at last it had become universal and supreme; and now she exercised a mysterious and potent charm over the nations. Her laws were received, and her sway submitted to, throughout the whole civilized earth. The first Rome was herein the type of the second Rome; and if the spectacle which she exhibited of a centralized and universal despotism did not suggest to the aspiring prelates of the capital the first ideas of a spiritual empire alike centralized and universal, there is no question that it contributed most material aid towards the attainment of such an object,--an object which, we know, they had early proposed, and which they had begun with great vigor, steadiness, and craft, to prosecute. It acted as a secret but powerful stimulant upon the minds of the Roman bishops themselves, and it operated with all the force of a spell upon the imaginations of those over whom they now began to arrogate power. Herein we discover one of the grand springs of the Papacy. As the free states that formerly existed in the world had rendered up their wealth, their independence, and their deities, to form one colossal empire, why, asked the bishops of Rome, should not the various churches throughout the world surrender their individuality and their powers of self-government to the metropolitan see, in order to form one mighty Catholic Church? Why should not Christian Rome be the fountain of law and of faith to the world, as Pagan Rome had been? Why should not the symbol of unity presented to the world in the secular empire be realized in the real unity of a Christian empire? If the occupant of the temporal throne had been a king of kings, why should not the occupant of the spiritual chair be a bishop of bishops? That the bishops of Rome reasoned in this way is a historical fact. The Council of Chalcedon established the superiority of the Roman see on this very ground. "The fathers," say they, "justly conferred the dignity on the throne of the presbyter of Rome, because that was the imperial city." The mission of the gospel is to unite all nations into one family. Satan presented the world with a mighty counterfeit of this union, when he united all nations under the despotism of Rome, that thus, by counterfeiting, he might defeat the reality.
The rise of Provincial Ecclesiastical Councils wrought in the same way. The Greeks, copying the model of their Amphictyonic Council, were the first to adopt the plan of assembling the deputies of the churches of a whole province to deliberate on affairs of consequence. The plan in a short time was received throughout the whole empire. The Greeks called such assemblies Synods; the Latins termed them Councils, and styled their laws or resolutions Canons. In order to temper the deliberations and to execute the resolutions of the assembly, it was requisite that one should be chosen as president; and the dignity was usually conferred on the presbyter of greatest weight for his piety and wisdom. That the tranquillity of the Church might not be disturbed by annual elections, the person raised by the suffrages of his brethren to the presidential chair was continued in it for life. He was regarded only as the first among equals; but the title of Bishop began now to acquire a new significance, and to raise itself above the humble appellation of Presbyter. The election to the office of perpetual president fell not unfrequently upon the bishop of the metropolitan city; and thus the equality that reigned among the pastors of the primitive Church came to be still farther disturbed.
The fourth century found the primitive simplicity of the Church, as regards the form of her government, but little encroached upon. If we except the perpetual president of the Provincial Synod, a rank of equal honour and a title of equal dignity were enjoyed by all the pastors or bishops of the Church. But this century brought great changes along with it, and paved the way for still greater changes in the centuries that followed it. Under Constantine the empire was divided into four prefectures, these four prefectures into dioceses, and the dioceses into provinces. In making this arrangement, the State acted within its own province; but it stepped out of it altogether when it began, as it now did, to fashion the Church upon the model of the Empire. The ecclesiastical and civil arrangements were made, as nearly as possible, to correspond. Pious emperors believed that, in assimilating the two, they were doing both the State and the Church a service,--and the imperial wishes were powerfully seconded and formally sanctioned by ambitious prelates and intriguing councils. The new arrangements, impressed by a human policy upon the Church, became every day more marked, as did likewise the gradation of rank amongst the pastors.
Bishop rose above bishop, not according to the eminence of his virtue or the fame of his learning, but according to the rank of the city in which his charge lay. The chief city of a province gave the title of METROPOLITAN, and likewise of Primate, to its bishop. The metropolis of a diocese conferred on its pastor the dignity of EXARCH. Over the exarchs were placed four presidents or patriarchs, corresponding to the four praetorian prefects created by Constantine. But it is probable that the title of Patriarch, which is of Jewish origin, was at first common to all bishops, and gradually came to be employed as a term of dignity and eminence. The first distinct recognition of the order occurs in the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381. At that time we find but three of these great dignitaries in existence,--the Bishops of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria; but a fourth was now added. The Council, taking into consideration that Constantinople was the residence of the Emperor, decreed "that the Bishop of Constantinople should have the prerogative, next after the Bishop of Rome, because his city was called New Rome." In the following century the Council of Chalcedon declared the bishops of the two cities on a level as regarded their spiritual rank. But the practice of old Rome was more powerful than the decree of the fathers. Despite the rising grandeur of her formidable rival, the city on the Tiber continued to be the one city of the earth, and her pastor to hold the foremost place among the patriarchs of the Christian world. In no long time wars broke out between these four spiritual potentates. The primates of Alexandria and Antioch threw themselves for protection upon the patriarch of the west; and the concessions they made as the price of the succour which was extended to them tended still more to enhance the importance of the Roman see.
This gradation of rank necessarily led to a gradation of jurisdiction and power. First came the Bishop, who exercised authority in his parish, and to whom the individual members of his flock were accountable. Next came the Metropolitan, who administered the ecclesiastical affairs of the province, exercised superintendence over all its bishops, convened them in synods, and, assisted by them, heard and determined all questions touching religion which arose within the limits of his jurisdiction. He possessed, moreover, the privilege of having his consent asked to the ordination of bishops within his province. Next came the Exarchs or Patriarchs, who exercised authority over the metropolitans of the diocese, and held diocesan synods, in which all matters pertaining to the welfare of the Church in the diocese were deliberated upon and adjudicated. There needed but one step more to complete this gradation of rank and authority,--a primacy among the exarchs. In due time an arch-Patriarch arose. As might have been foreseen, the seat of the prince of the patriarchs was Rome. A gradation which aimed at making the civil and ecclesiastical arrangements exactly to correspond, and which fixed the chief seats of the two authorities at the same places, made it inevitable that the primate of all Christendom should appear nowhere but at the metropolis of the Roman world. It was now seen what a tower of strength was Rome. Her prestige alone had lifted her bishop from the humble rank of presbyter to the pre-eminent dignity of arch-patriarch; and in this she gave the world a pledge of the future dominion and grandeur of her popes.
A gradation of rank and titles, however suitable to the genius and conducive to the ends of a temporal monarchy, consorts but ill with the character and objects of a spiritual kingdom: in fact, it forms a positive and powerful obstruction to the development of the one and the attainment of the other. It is only as a spiritual agent that the Church can be serviceable to society: she can make the task of government easy only by eradicating the passions of the human heart. A sound policy would have dictated the necessity of preserving intact the spiritual element, seeing the Church is powerful in proportion as she is spiritual. With a most infatuated persistency, the very opposite policy was pursued. Religion was robbed of her rights as a co-ordinate power. She was bound round with the trappings of state; the spiritual was enchained, the carnal had free scope given it, and then the Church was asked to do her office as a spiritual institute! A defunct organization, she was required to impart life!
The condition under which alone it appears possible for both Church and State to preserve their independence and vigour, is not incorporation, but co-ordination. God created society as he created man at the beginning, not ONE, but TWAIN. There is a secular body and there is a spiritual body upon the earth. We must accept the fact, and deal with it in such a way as will allow of the great ends being gained which God intended to serve by ordaining this order of things. If we attempt to incorporate the two,--the common error hitherto,--we contradict the design of God, by making one what he created twain. All former attempts at amalgamation have ended in the dominancy of the one principle, the subserviency of the other, and the corruption and injury of both. If, on the other hand, we aim at effecting a total disseverance, we not less really violate the constitution of society, and arrive at the same issue as before: we virtually banish the one principle, and install the other in undivided and absolute supremacy. Co-ordination is the only solution of which the problem admits; and it is the true solution, just because it is an acceptance of the fact as God has ordained it. It declares that society is neither matter solely nor spirit solely, but both; that, therefore, there is the secular jurisdiction and the spiritual jurisdiction; that these two have distinct characters, distinct objects, and distinct spheres; and that each in its own sphere is independent, and can claim from the other a recognition of its independence. Had the constitution of society been understood, and the principle of co-ordination recognised, the Papacy could not have arisen. But, unhappily, the State drew the Church into conformity first, which ended inevitably in incorporation; and this, again, in the dominancy of the spiritual over the secular element, as will always be the case in the long run, the spiritual being the stronger. The crime met a righteous punishment; for the State, which had begun by enslaving the Church, was itself enslaved in the end by that very arrogance and ambition which it had taught the Church to cherish. But we pursue our melancholy story of the decline of Christianity and the rise of the Papacy.
Rome had the art to turn all things to her advantage. There was nothing that fell out that did not minister to her growth, and help onward the accomplishment of her vast designs;--the rivalship of sects, the jealousies of churchmen, the intrigues of courts, the growth of ignorance and superstition find the triumph of barbarian arms. It seemed as if the natural operation of events was suspended in her case, and that what to other systems wrought nought but evil, to her brought only good. The great shocks by which powerful empires were broken in pieces, and the face of the world changed, left the Church unscathed. While other systems and confederations were falling into ruin, she continued steadily to advance. From the mighty wreck of the empire she uprose in all the vigour of youth. She had shared in its grandeur, but she did not share in its fall. She saw the barbaric flood from the north overwhelm southern Europe; but from her lofty seat on the Seven Hills she looked securely down on the deluge that rolled beneath her. She saw the crescent, hitherto triumphant, cease to be victorious the moment it approached the confines of her special and sacred territory. The same arms that had overthrown other countries only contributed to her grandeur. The Saracens brought to an end the patriarchate of Alexandria and of Antioch; thus leaving the see of Rome, more especially after the breach with Constantinople, undisputed mistress of the west. What could be concluded from so many events, whose issues to the Papacy were so opposite from their bearing on all besides, but that, while other states were left to their fate, Rome was defended by an invisible arm? Instinct she must be with a divine life, otherwise how could she survive so many disasters? No wonder that the blinded nations mistook her for a god, and prostrated themselves in adoration. We cannot write the history of the period; but we may be permitted to point out the general bearing of the occurrences which we have classified as above, upon the development of the Papacy.
The disputes which arose in the churches of the east favored the pretensions of the Roman Church, and helped to pave her way to universal domination. Desirous to silence an opponent by citing the opinion of the western Church, the eastern clergy not unfrequently submitted questions at issue among themselves to the judgment of the Roman bishop. Every such application was registered by Rome as a proof of superior authority on her part, and of submission on the part of the east. The germinating superstition of the times,--owing principally to the prevalence of the Platonic philosophy, from the subtile disquisitions and specious reasonings of which Christianity suffered far more than she did from the persecuting edicts of emperors and pro-consuls,--likewise aided the advance of the Papacy. This superstition, which was in truth, as we have already explained, nothing but the revived Paganism of a former age, continued to increase from an early part of the third century and onward. The simplicity of the Christian faith began to be corrupted by novel and heathenish opinions, and the worship of the Church to be burdened by ridiculous and idolatrous ceremonies. When the Church exchanged the catacombs for the magnificent edifices which the wealth, the policy, and sometimes the piety of princes erected, she exchanged also the simplicity of life and purity of faith, of which so many affecting memorials remain to our day, for the accommodating spirit of the schools, and the easy manners of the court.
Already, in the fourth century, we find images introduced into churches, the bones of martyrs hawked about as relics, the tombs of saints become the resort of pilgrims, and monks and hermits swarming in the various countries. We find the pagan festivals, slightly disguised, adopted into the Christian worship; the homage offered anciently to the gods transferred to the martyrs; the Lord's Supper dispensed sometimes at funerals; the not improbable origin of masses; and the churches filled with the blaze of lamps and tapers, the smoke of incense, the perfume of flowers, and the goodly show of gorgeous robes, crosiers, mitres, and gold and silver vases; reminding one of the not unsimilar spectacles which might be witnessed in the pagan temples. "The religion of Constantine," remarks Gibbon, "achieved in less than a century the final conquest of the Roman empire; but the victors themselves were insensibly subdued by the arts of their vanquished rivals." And as it had fared with the worship of the Church, so had it fared with her government. First, the people were excluded from all share in the administration of affairs; next, the rights and privileges of the presbyters were invaded; while the bishops, who had usurped the powers of both people and presbyters, contended with one another respecting the limits of their respective jurisdictions, and imitated, in their manner of living, the state and magnificence of princes.
At last the Church elected her chief bishop in the midst of tumults and fearful slaughter. "Hence it came to pass," says Mosheim, that at the conclusion of this century there remained no more than a mere shadow of the ancient government of the Church." Notwithstanding that the Church contained every man of the age who was distinguished for erudition and eloquence, we look in vain for any really serious attempt to check this career of spiritual infatuation. There was one moment peculiarly critical, inasmuch as it offered signal opportunities of retrieving the errors of the past, and preventing the more tremendous errors of the future. Galled by the yoke of ceremonies, the Christian people began to evince a desire to return to the simplicity of early times. There needed only a powerful voice to call that feeling into action. Many eyes were already turned to one whose commanding eloquence and venerable piety made him the most conspicuous person of his times. The destiny of ages hung on the decision of Augustine. Had he declared for reform, the history of the Papacy might have been cut short; the ambition of a Hildebrand and a Clement, the bigotry and despotism of a Philip and a Ferdinand, the fanaticism and cruelties of a Dominic, and the carnage of a St. Bartholomew, might never have existed. But the Bishop of Hippo, alas! hesitated,--gave his voice in favour of the growing superstition. All was lost. The history of the Church becomes from that hour little better than the history of superstition, hypocrisy, knavery, and blood. Poisonous plants thrive best amid corruption; and thus the young Papacy drew nutriment from the follies and superstitions of the age.
The time was now come when the empire should fall. Hosts of barbarians from the deserts of the north were already assembled on its frontier. The distracted State, threatened with destruction, leant for aid upon the arm of the Church, whose infancy it had first attempted to crush, and next condescended to shelter. Thus the decline of the imperial accelerated the rise of the spiritual power. In the year 378 came the law of Gratian and Valentinian II., empowering the metropolitans to judge the inferior clergy, and empowering the Bishop of Rome (Pope Damasus), either in Person or by deputy, to judge the metropolitans. An appeal might be carried from the tribunal of the metropolitan to the Roman bishop, but from the judgment of the pontiff there was no appeal; his sentence was final. This law was addressed to the praetorian prefects of Gaul and Italy, and thus it included the whole western empire, for the latter prefect exercised jurisdiction over western Illyricum and Africa, as well as over Italy. Thus did the Roman bishop acquire legal jurisdiction over all the western clergy. When the bishops applied to the Pope in doubtful cases, his letters conveying the desired advice were styled Decretal Epistles; and to these decretals the Roman canonists came afterwards to attach as much importance as to the Holy Scriptures. In order to the due publication and enforcement of these decrees, bishops were appointed to represent the Pope in the various countries; and it became customary to ordain no bishops without the sanction of these papal vicars. The jurisdiction thus conferred on the Roman bishop over the west was submitted to with reluctance: it received only a partial submission from the churches of Africa, and was successfully resisted for some considerable time by those of Britain and Ireland.
The edict of Gratian and Valentinian II., which was coincident, as respects the date of its promulgation and the powers which it conferred, with the decree of a synod of Italian bishops, forms a marked epoch in the growth of the ecclesiastical supremacy. Up till this time the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome had been exercised within the somewhat narrow limits of the civil prefect. His direct power extended only over the vicarage of Rome or the ten suburban provinces. However, within this territory his authority was of a more absolute kind than that which the exarchs of the east exercised within their dioceses. The latter functionaries could ordain only their metropolitans, whereas the Roman prelate possessed the right to ordain every bishop within the limits of his jurisdiction. Thus, if his authority was less extensive than that of the oriental patriarch, it was already of a more solid kind. But now it underwent a sudden and vast enlargement. By the edict of the Emperor, and the sanction of the Italian bishops, the Roman prelate took his place at the head of the western clergy. A post so distinguished, though conferring as yet, on the whole, but a nominal authority, must have offered vast facilities for acquiring real and substantial power. When was it that the occupants of Peter's chair lacked either the capacity to comprehend or the tact to improve the advantages of their position? Ambition and genius have ever alike seemed intuitive to them. Lifted thus to the supremacy of the west by royal favour and clerical subserviency,--twin elevatory powers at all stages of the rise of this terrible despotism,--the pontiff began to arrogate all the prerogatives which ecclesiastical law confers upon patriarchs, and to exercise them in an arbitrary and irresponsible manner. He obtruded his interference in the ordination of all bishops, even those of humblest rank; thus passing by, and virtually ignoring, the rights of metropolitans. He encouraged appeals to his see, in the well-founded hope of drawing into his own hands the management of all affairs. He convoked synods, but rather to display the magnificence and power of Peter's see, than to benefit by the counsel of his brethren in difficult cases. Usurping the legislative as well as the judicial functions of the Church, he dictated to his secretary whatever he believed, or pretended to believe, to be right and fitting in matters pertaining to the Church; and the decretal, to which all submitted, was equally authoritative with the canons of councils, and finally with the commandments of Holy Scripture. Thus did the occupant of the fisherman's chair craftily weave the intricate web of his tyrannical and blasphemous power over all the churches and clergy of the west.
Another well-marked stage in the rise of the ecclesiastical supremacy is A.D. 445. In that year came the memorable edict of Valentinian III. and Theodosius II., in which the Roman pontiff was styled the "Director of all Christendom," and the bishops and universal clergy were commanded to obey him as their ruler. It is believed that the decree was issued on the application of Pope Leo. Amongst other advantages enjoyed by the pontiff was that of ready access to the Court, and thus he sometimes became the prompter of the imperial policy. The suggestions noted down by his secretary, submitted to the Emperor, and approved of by him, were ushered into the world with the customary forms and the full authority of an imperial edict. "Henceforth," that is, from the publication of the decree we have just noted, "the power of the Roman bishops," says Ranke, "advanced beneath the protection of the Emperor himself." At about the distance of a century from the decree of Theodosius came the celebrated letter of Justinian to the Pope, in which the Emperor still farther enlarged the prerogatives which previous edicts had conferred upon the Bishop of Rome.
These imperial recognitions of a rank which the councils of the Church had previously conferred, tended greatly, as may easily be conceived, to consolidate and advance the arrogant assumptions of the Roman bishop. They gave solidity to his power, by investing him with a positive and legal jurisdiction. The code of Justinian, which had been published a few years before this time, was now the law of western Europe. Its influence, too, was favourable to the growth of the ecclesiastical supremacy. Contemporarily with the publication of Justinian's code, was the rise of the Benedictine order. In the course of a century the Benedictines had spread themselves over the west, preaching everywhere the doctrine of implicit submission to the see of Rome. Last of all came the edict of the Emperor Phocas, in A.D. 606, constituting Boniface III. Universal Bishop. This was the last in a series of edicts which had for their object to make the Bishop of Rome "Lord over God's heritage." In so infamous a cause no one was so worthy to perform the crowning act as the tyrannical and brutal Phocas. It was the hand of a murderer which placed upon the brow of Boniface the mitre of a universal episcopate.
The ecclesiastical supremacy had now a legal existence, but it must become real also. So vast a power, extending over so many interests, and over such a multitude of persons, and covering so large a portion of the globe, no imperial fiat could create; it must grow. Planted by councils, buttressed by edicts, with a congenial element of vitality and increase in the thickening superstition of the times, it henceforward made rapid progress. It throve so well, in fact, and shot up into such portentous height, that before all was over, the authority that had evoked it would fain have bidden it away, but could not; like the necromancer who forgets his spell, and is unable to lay the spirit he has raised. The suckling in the cradle to which the State offered its breasts could never surely grow into the hydra that was to strangle the empire! Power, when once it has begun to grow, enlarges its volume like the rolling river, and accelerates its speed like the falling avalanche. On a sudden all things become favourable to it. At every turn, it finds, ready-made to its hand, helps to speed it onward. Its faults, be they ever so great, never lack apologists; and its excellencies, however small they be, always find willing and eloquent panegyrists. Its wealth converts enemies into friends; the timid grow courageous in its cause; and the indifferent and lukewarm find a hundred reasons for being active and zealous in its service. The cause of Rome was the rising cause, and therefore it enjoyed all these advantages, and many more besides.
With a dexterity and skill which have never elsewhere been equalled, the Vatican could manufacture, out of materials the most heterogeneous and unpromising, props and defences of its ill-gotten supremacy. The incautious admission of an opponent, the exaggerated and high-flown language of a eulogist, were alike accepted by Rome as formal and measured acknowledgments of her right. The hyperbolical and sycophantish terms in which a prelate sued for protection, or a heretic implored forgiveness, were registered as documentary proofs of the prerogatives and powers of the Roman see. The sectary was encouraged or put down, just as it suited the policy of the pontiffs; and the shield of the vanquished heretic Rome hung up as a trophy of her prowess. Monarchs were incited to quarrel with one another: Rome stood by till the conflict was ended; and then, siding with the stronger party, she divided the spoils with the victor. The clergy even, who might naturally have been supposed to be averse to the rise of such a domination, were conciliated by being taught to find their own dignity in that of the Roman see, and to share with the pontiff dominion over the laity. By these, and an hundred other arts, which triumphantly vindicate to the Roman pontiffs an unquestionable supremacy in knavery and hypocrisy, it came to pass, that in process of time, the one Bishop of Rome had absorbed all the bishops of the west. There was but one huge episcopate, with its head upon the Seven Hills; while its hundred limbs, like these of the giant Briareus of classic mythology, were stretched out over Europe, forming a monster of so anomalous and nondescript a character, that nowhere shall we find a figure adequately to depict it, save among the inspired hieroglyphics of the Apocalypse, where it is portrayed under the symbol of a beast, of lamb-like mien but dragon-ferocity.
At last the empire of the west was dissolved. The seat which had been occupied so long by the master of the world was now empty. This had been noted beforehand in prophecy as the instant sign of the coming of Antichrist, that is, of his full revelation; for, as we have already seen, the Mystery of Iniquity was operative in the apostles' days. "He who now letteth will let," said Paul, alluding to the imperial power, which, so long as it existed, was an effectual obstruction to the papal supremacy,--"he who now letteth will let, till he be taken out of the way; and then shall that Wicked be revealed." The overthrow of the empire contributed most materially towards the elevation of the Bishop of Rome; for, first, it took the Caesars out of the way. "A secret hand," says De Maistre, "chased the emperors from the Eternal City, to give it to the head of the Eternal Church." Second, It compelled the bishops of Rome, now deprived of the imperial influence which had hitherto helped them so mightily in their struggles for pre-eminence, to fall back on another element, and that an element which constitutes the very essence of the Papacy, and on which is founded the whole complex fabric of the spiritual and temporal domination of the popes. The rank of Rome, as the seat of government and the metropolis of the world, had lifted her bishop to a proud preeminence above his peers. But Rome was the head of empire no longer: the prestige of her name, which in all ages has struck the imagination so powerfully, and through the imagination captivated the judgment, she still retained; for by no change could she become bereft of her immortal memories: but the subject nations no longer called her Mother and Ruler. With Rome would have fallen her bishop, had he not, as if by anticipation of the crisis, reserved till this hour the masterstroke of his policy. He now boldly cast himself upon an element of much greater strength than that of which the political convulsions of the times had deprived him, namely, that the Bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, and, in virtue of being so, is Christ's Vicar on earth. In making this claim, the Roman pontiffs vaulted at once over the throne of kings to the seat of gods: Rome became once more the mistress of the world, and her popes the rulers of the earth.
The principle had been tacitly adopted by many of the clergy, and more especially by the bishops of Rome, before this time; but now it was formally and openly advanced, as the basis of a claim of authority over all churches and bishops, and ultimately of dominion over sovereigns. Of this we adduce the following testimonies. In the middle of the fifth century, we find the fundamental dogma of the Papacy, that the Church is founded on Peter, and that the popes are his representatives, proclaimed by the papal legate in the midst of the Council of Chalcedon, and virtually sanctioned by the silence of the fathers who were sitting in judgment on the case of Dioscorus. "For these causes," said the legate, "Leo, archbishop of Old Rome, doth by us and by the Synod, with the authority of St. Peter, who is the rock and foundation of the Church, and the ground of faith, depose him (Dioscorus) from his episcopal dignity." We find the fathers of the same council hailing with acclamation the voice of Leo as the voice of Peter. A shout followed the reading of the Pope's letter:--"Peter speaks in Leo." As a farther proof that the Popes had now shifted their dignity from an imperial to a pontifical foundation, we may instance the case of Hilary, the successor of Leo, who accepted from the Terragonese bishop, as a title to which he had unquestionable right, the appellation "Vicar of Peter, to whom, since the resurrection of Christ, belonged the keys of the kingdom." In a spirit of equal arrogance, we find Pope Gelasius, bishop of Rome from A.D. 492 to 496, asserting that it became kings to learn their duty from bishops, but especially from the "Vicar of the blessed Peter." We find the same Pope asserting, in a Roman council, A.D. 495, that to the see of Rome belonged the primacy, in virtue of Christ's own delegation; and that from the authority of the keys there was excepted none living, but only (mark how modest Rome then was!) the dead. The council in which these lofty claims were put forth concluded its session with a shout of acclamation to Gelasius, "In thee we behold Christ's Vicar."
In the violent contention which raged between Symmachus and Laurentius, both of whom had been elected to the pontificate on the same day, we are furnished with another proof that at the beginning of the sixth century not only was this lofty prerogative claimed by the popes, but that it was generally acquiesced in by the clergy. We find the council convoked by Theodoric demurring to investigate the charges alleged against Pope Symmachus, on the grounds set forth by his apologist Ennodius, which were, "that the Pope, as God's Vicar, was the judge of all, and could himself be judged by no one." "In this apology," remarks Mosheim, "the reader will perceive that the foundations of that enormous power which the popes of Rome afterwards acquired were now laid." Thus did the pontiffs, providing timeously against the changes and revolutions of the future, place the fabric of the primacy upon foundations that should be immoveable for all time. The primacy had been promulgated by synodical decrees, ratified by imperial edicts; but the pontiffs perceived that what synods and emperors had given, synods and emperors might take away. The enactments of both, therefore, were discarded, and the Divine right was put in their room, as the only basis of power which neither lapse of years nor change of circumstances could overthrow. Rome was henceforward indestructible.
"Dum domus Aeneae capitoli immobile saxum
Accolet, imperiumque Romanus pater habebit."
Thus was accomplished in the destinies of the Papacy a change of so vast a character, that the imagination can with difficulty realize it. Quickened with a new life, Rome returned from her grave to exercise universal dominion a second time. The element of power which was lost when the empire fell was at best of an extraneous kind: it was influence reflected from without upon Rome,--foreign in its character and earthly in its source. But the element on which she now cast herself was of a nature analogous to the Papacy, and so, incorporating with it, that element became its life. It made Rome self-existent and invincible,--invincible to every principle save one, and that principle was to remain in abeyance for a full thousand years. The day of Luther was yet afar off. It was this element that gave to Rome the superhuman power she wielded over the world. It was this which enabled her to plant or to pluck up its kingdoms, to bind monarchs to her chariot-wheel, to throw reason and intellect into chains, and to restore once more the dominion of the pagan night. In so subtle a device we can discover a deeper policy and a more consummate craft than that of man. It was Rome's invisible director that counselled so bold a step. This step was as successful as bold. It opened a new career to the ambition of Rome, and revealed to her, though yet at a great distance, and with many an intervening change and struggle, that seat of godlike power to which she was ultimately to attain, and towards which she now began, with slow and painful steps, to climb. Most marvellous and astonishing it truly was, that at a time when Rome was placed in most imminent jeopardy, and society itself was perishing around her, she should lay the foundations of her power, and by her prompt interposition save herself and the world from the dissolution to which both appeared to be tending. Her adherents in all ages have seen in this nothing less than a proof, alike incontrovertible and marvellous, of her Divinity. The Cardinal Baronius speaks the sentiments of all Roman Catholics when he breaks out in the following impassioned strain, in reference to a supposed grant of the kingdom of Hungary, by Stephen, to the Roman see:--"It fell out, by a wonderful providence of God, that at the very time when the Romish Church might appear ready to fall and perish, even then distant kings approach the apostolic see, which they acknowledge and venerate as the only temple of the universe,--the sanctuary of piety, the pillar of truth, the immoveable rock. Behold kings, not from the east, as of old they came to the cradle of Christ, but from the north: led by faith, they humbly approach the cottage of the fisher, the Church of Rome herself offering not only gifts out of their treasures, but bringing even kingdoms to her, and asking kingdoms from her."
Thus have we traced the history of the Papacy, from its rise in primitive times, to its formal though but partial development in the sixth century. Aided by the various influences we have enumerated,--the prestige and rank of Rome,--the institution of the order, first of metropolitan, and next of patriarch,--the edicts of emperors,--the reference of disputed questions by other Churches to the Bishop of Rome,--and, most of all, the pretence that the occupant of the Roman see was the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ,--together with that crafty, astute, and persevering policy which enabled the Roman bishops to make the most of apparent concessions to them of preeminence and authority,--the pastors of Rome were now supreme over the great body of the clergy of the west; and thus the ecclesiastical supremacy was attained. They were now in a fair way, too, of becoming the superiors of kings, for there was no usurpation of prerogative, no exercise of dominion, temporal or spiritual, which the claim now put forth by the Roman bishop to be Christ's Vicar would not cover. We are now to follow the several steps by which the Papacy gradually rose to the height of power in which we find it shortly before the breaking out of the Reformation.
Rise and Progress of the Temporal Sovereignty
Over the abyss in which the Roman empire of the west had been engulphed there now floated the portentous form of the Papacy. If the idolatrous nations, in their victorious march from the Upper Danube to southern Europe, had not brought the gods of their ancestors along with them, they were not on that account the less pagan. Their conversion to Christianity was merely nominal. Ignorant of its doctrines, destitute of its spirit, and captivated by its splendid ceremonial, they were scarcely conscious of any change, when they transferred to the saints of the Roman Church the worship they had been accustomed to pay to their Scandinavian deities. The process by which these nations, from being pagan, became Christian, may be adequately likened to the contrivance by which the statue of Jupiter at Rome was converted from the representative of the prince of pagan deities to the representative of the prince of Christian apostles, namely, by the substitution of the two keys for the thunderbolt. After the same manner the newly arrived nations were taught to wear the outward badges of the Christian faith, but at heart they were as much pagan as before. Most of the new tribes became professors of the Arian faith. In this heresy were involved the barbarians which occupied Italy, Africa, Spain, and Gaul; and the Popes were obliged to exercise the utmost circumspection and management, in order to surmount the perils and profit by the advantages presented by the new order of things. The convulsions, combinations, and heresies of the times, formed a maze so intricate and dangerous, that no power less wary and sagacious than the papal could have threaded its way with safety through it. The bark of Peter was now navigating a sea full of rocks and maelstroms, and had to shape its course,
And more endangered, than when Argo passed
Through Bosphorus, betwixt the justling rocks,
Or when Ulysses on the larboard shunn'd
Charybdis, and by the other Whirlpool steer'd."
In A.D. 496, an event took place destined to exercise a momentous influence on the fate of the Papacy and of Europe. In that year Clovis, king of the Franks, in fulfilment of a vow made on the field of Tolbiac, where he was victorious over the Allemanni, was baptized at Rheims. "On the memorable day," observes Gibbon, "when Clovis descended from the baptismal font, he alone in the Christian world deserved the name and prerogatives of a catholic king." Rome hailed the auspicious event as a token of a long series of similar triumphs; and she rewarded the devotion of Clovis by bestowing upon him the title,-which he has transmitted downward through 1400 years to his successors the kings of France,-of Eldest Son of the Church. During the course of the sixth century, others of the barbarian kings,-the Burgundians of southern Gaul and Savoy, the Bavarians, the Visigoths of Spain, the Suevi of Portugal, and the Anglo-Saxons of Britain,-presented themselves before the apostolic throne as its spiritual vassals. Thus, the dominion which their swords had taken away, their superstition restored to Rome. The various nations who were now masters of the western empire found in the Papacy, and nowhere else, to use Muller's words, "a point of union." The sagacious measures of pope Gregory the Great contributed at this juncture material assistance to the rising Papacy. The barbarian kings being now submissive to the Roman faith, Gregory exerted himself, with a large measure of success, to establish it as a law throughout their kingdoms, that the metropolitan should receive the sanction of the pontiff. For this end it now became the practice to send from Rome a pallium to the metropolitan, in token of investiture; and without the pall he could not lawfully enter on the exercise of his functions. The zeal of Boniface, the apostle of Germany a century later, completed what Pope Gregory had commenced. This man, a Briton by birth, travelled throughout Germany and Gaul, preaching profound submission to Peter and his representative the Roman bishop; and he succeeded in inducing the German and Frank bishops to take the vow he himself had taken of implicit obedience to the Roman see. Henceforward, without the pallium no metropolitan entered upon the duties of his office. How much this tended to consolidate the spiritual supremacy, and to pave the way for the temporal usurpations of the popes, it is not difficult to perceive.
In the seventh century, we find a prevalent disposition among the princes of the west to submit themselves implicitly, in all matters that pertained to religion, to the Roman see. In their pagan state they had been accustomed to undertake no affair of consequence without the advice and consent of their priests, by whom they were held in the most degrading vassalage; and after their conversion they transferred this implicit obedience to the Roman clergy, who most willingly accepted the implied superiority and power, and used every means to improve and extend their influence. "It was the sturdy shoulders of these children of the idolatrous north," remarks Dr. D'Aubigné, "that succeeded in placing on the supreme throne of Christendom a pastor of the banks of the Tiber." The people venerated the clergy, and the clergy were bound to implicit obedience to the pontiff. By this time, too, the unity of the Church, not in the Scriptural, but Romish sense,-not as consisting in one baptism, one faith, one hope; but as consisting in one outward body governed by a visible head, the Roman pontiff,-had established itself in the minds of men. The term POPE or FATHER, originally a divine, and next an imperial title, formerly given to all bishops, now came to be restricted to the Bishop of Rome, according to the saying afterwards employed by Gregory VII., that there was but one pope in the world. The overthrow of the Ostrogoths and Vandals about this time, by the arms of Belisarius, contributed also to the expansion of the Papacy. The former had established themselves in Italy, and the latter in Sardinia and Corsica; and their near presence enabled them to overawe the popedom; but their extirpation by the victorious general of Justinian rid the Pope of these formidable neighbours, and tended to the authority as well as the security of the Roman see.
But it was in the eighth century that the most considerable addition was made to the temporal power of the popes. A singular combination of dangers at that period threatened the very existence of the Papacy. The iconoclast disputes, then raging with extreme violence, had engendered a deep and lasting variance between the Roman see and the emperors of the east. The Arian kings of Lombardy, intent on the conquest of all Italy, were brandishing their swords before the very gates of Rome; while in the west, the Saracens, who had overrun Africa and conquered Spain, were arrived at the passes of the Pyrenees, and threatened to enter Italy and plant the crescent on the Seven Hills. Pressed on all sides, the Pope turned his eyes to France. He wrote to the mayor of the palace, and so framed the terms of his letter, that Peter, with all the saints, supplicated the Gallic soldier to hasten to the rescue of his chosen city, and of that church where his bones reposed. The succour was not more earnestly craved than it was cordially and promptly granted. The bold Pepin had just seated himself on the throne of the pusillanimous Childeric, and needed the papal confirmation of his usurped dignity. Bargaining for this, he girded on the sword, crossed the Alps, defeated the Lombards, and, wresting from them the cities they had taken from the Greek emperor, he laid the keys of the conquered towns upon the altar of St. Peter. This was in the year 755; and by this act was laid the foundation of the temporal power of the popes.
The gifts thus bestowed by Pepin were confirmed by his yet more distinguished son Charlemagne. The Lombards had again become troublesome to the Pope; in fact, they were besieging him in his city of Rome. The pontiff again supplicated the aid of France; and Charlemagne, in answer to his prayer, entered Italy at the head of his army. Defeating the Lombards, he visited the Pope in his capital; and so profound was his deference for the see of Rome, that he kissed the steps of St. Peter as he ascended, and, at the interview that followed, ratified and enlarged the donations of his father Pepin to the Church. A second time Charlemagne appeared in the Eternal City. The factions that now reigned in Rome threatened to put an end, by their violence, to the authority of the pontiff; and the third time did France interpose to save the Papacy from apparent destruction. Charlemagne, says Machiavelli, decreed, "that his Holiness, being God's Vicar, could not be subject to the judgment of man." Charlemagne was now master of nearly all the Romano-Germanic nations of the west; and, as a recompense for these repeated succours, the Pope (Leo III.), on Christmas eve, A.D. 800, placed upon the head of the French king the crown of the western empire.
In this act the Pontiff displayed his power not less than his gratitude. As one who had crowns and kingdoms at his disposal, we behold him selecting the son of Pepin, and placing upon his brow the imperial diadem.. In this light at least have the partisans of Rome regarded the act. They have "generally maintained," says Mosheim, "that Leo. III., by a divine right, vested in him as Bishop of Rome, transported the western empire from the Greeks to the Franks." "Whereas formerly," says Machiavelli, in his History of Florence, "the popes were confirmed by the emperors, the emperor now, in his election, was to be beholden to the pope; by which means the power and dignity of the empire declined, and the Church began to advance, and by these steps to usurp upon the authority of temporal princes." One thing at least is clear, that great advantages accrued to both parties from this proceeding. It added new lustre to the dignity of Charlemagne, and gave the title to him who already possessed the power; while, on the other hand, it greatly enlarged the temporal possessions of the Church, and secured a powerful friend and protector to the Pope in the person of the Emperor. Thus the perils which had threatened to destroy the Papacy tended ultimately to consolidate it; and thus did Rome, skilled to profit alike by the weakness and the strength of monarchs, steadily pursue that profound scheme of policy, the object of which was to chain kings, priests, and people, to the pontifical chair. Henceforward the Pope takes his place among the monarchs of the earth. First the Vandals and Ostrogoths, and now the Lombards, had fallen before him. Their territories were given to the Church, and formed the patrimony of St. Peter; and the haughty pastor by whom these powers had been supplanted, unaware that prophecy had pointed very significantly to the fact, and marked it as a noted stage in the rise of Antichrist, now appeared in the glories of the triple crown.
While the Papacy was laboriously building up its external defences, conciliating princes, contracting alliances with powerful monarchs, and intriguing to acquire in its own right temporal sovereignty, let us mark the growth of that superstition in which lay the life and strength of the Popedom. These two,-the inward principle and the outward development,-we find ever advancing pari passu. By the time the barbarians arrived in southern Europe, Christianity had been grossly corrupted. It lacked, as a consequence, the power to dispel the ignorance or to purify the morals of those whom the convulsions of the times brought into contact with it. As they issued from their native forests, so were they received within the pale of the Church,-uninstructed, unreformed, unchristianized. The only change the Christianity of the age exacted had respect to the names of those divinities in whose honour the invading nations continued to celebrate the same rites, slightly modified, which they had been accustomed to pay to their Druidical and Scandinavian idols. It follows that the term Christendom is simply a geographical expression. The nations that inhabit western Europe have not till this hour been evangelized, if we except the partial enlightenment of the Reformation. The barbarism of the times had extinguished the light of philosophy and of letters. No polite study, no elegant art, no useful science, helped to tame the fierceness, refine the manners, or expand the intellect, of these nations. The clergy, wallowing in wealth, and abandoning themselves to dissolute pleasures, were grossly and shamefully ignorant, and unable to compose the homilies which they recited in the presence of the people. The genius of Charlemagne saw and bewailed these evils; but neither his power nor his munificence,-and both were largely employed,-could avail to reform these gross abuses. The singular infelicity of the times rendered all his attempts at reformation abortive. If we except a few individuals, belonging chiefly to Ireland and Britain, where the enlightened and beneficent patronage of Alfred the Great maintained a better order of things, no illustrious names illumined the darkness of that barbarous night. Till partially restored by the Saracens in the tenth century, learning and science were unknown in the west.
The state of matters as regards religion was even more deplorable. We have already seen the height to which superstition had risen in the fourth century. We will search in vain, amid the ignorance, the follies, the vices, of the eighth and ninth centuries, for the early purity of the gospel, the simple grandeur of its worship, or the attractive virtues of its first confessors. A general dissolution of manners characterized the age: the corruption had infected all classes, not excepting even the clergy, who, instead of being examples of virtue, were notorious for their impieties and vices. In the same proportion in which they declined in piety and learning, did they increase in riches and influence. A notion now began to be propagated, that crimes might be expiated by donations to the Church at the moment of death. This proved a fertile source of wealth to the clergy. Rich legacies and ample donations of lands and houses flowed in upon the churches and monasteries, the gifts of men who hoped by these generous deeds, performed at the expense of their heirs, to obliterate the sins of a lifetime, and purchase salvation for their souls. By and by, bequests on a yet larger scale began to be made. It was at this time customary for princes to distribute munificent gifts among their followers, partly as the reward of past services, and partly with a view to secure their support in future.
The great credit which the clergy enjoyed with the people made it a matter of the last importance to secure their influence. Whole provinces, with their cities, castles, and fortresses, were not unfrequently bestowed upon them; and over the domains so bestowed they were permitted to exercise sovereign jurisdiction. Raised thus to the rank of temporal princes, they vied with dukes and sovereigns in the splendour of their court and the number of their retinue. They raised armies, imposed taxes, waged bloody wars, and by their ceaseless intrigues and boundless ambition plunged Europe into interminable broils and conflicts. Those men who were bound by their sacred calling to preach to the world the vanity of human grandeur, furnished in their own persons the most scandalous examples of worldly pride and ambition. To fulfil their sublime mission as ministers of Christ,-to instruct the ignorant, reclaim the wandering, succour the distressed, and console the dying,-formed no part of their care. These duties were forsaken for the more tempting paths of pleasure and wealth, the intrigues of courts, and the tumults of camps. A crafty priesthood, moreover, made it an inviolable rule, that property gifted to the Church should be regarded as the property of God, and be held for ever inalienable. Henceforward to touch it was sacrilege; and whoever adventured on so bold an act was destined to experience the full measure of the Church's vengeance. The natural law which limits the growth of bodies corporate was set aside by this kind of spiritual entail; and the wealth of the Church, and, by consequence, her power, grew to be enormous.
The evils of the time were LEGION; but all flowed from one colossal error: the cardinal truth of Christianity, that salvation is of grace, was completely obscured. By the most plausible pretexts and the most subtle devices was man led away from God, and taught to centre all his hopes in himself. Faith was overthrown, and works were put in its room. The sacrifice of Christ was neglected, and man became his own saviour. We trace the operation of this grand error in the superstitious and burdensome rites in which all holiness now began to be placed. Sanctification was no longer sought in a pure heart and a mind enlightened by divine truth, but in certain external rites, which were seldom either important or dignified. To nourish the passions and mortify the body was now the grand secret of holiness. Pilgrimages were undertaken, and their merits were regulated by the length and the perils of the way, and the renown of the shrine visited. Penances were imposed, fasts were enjoined; and in proportion to the severity of the suffering and the rigour of the abstinence, was the efficacy of the act to atone for sin, and recommend to the favour of God. A mind debased by ignorance, and not unfrequently by vice, and a body emaciated by flagellations and fastings, was a sure sign of eminent sanctity. Piety no longer consisted in love to God and obedience to his will, but in the observance of the most frivolous ceremonies, to which there attached an extraordinary value and a mysterious influence. To endow a convent or erect a cathedral was among the most illustrious deeds which one could perform. To possess a finger or a toe of a saint was a rare privilege; and the owner of so inestimable a treasure derived therefrom unspeakably more benefit than could possibly accrue from the possession of any moral or spiritual excellence, however exalted. Relics so precious were sought for with a perseverance and a zeal that set all difficulties at defiance; and what was so eagerly sought was in most cases happily found. The caves of Egypt, the sands of Libya, and the deserts of Syria, were ransacked. The bones of dead men, and, if history may be credited, of the lower animals, were exhumed, were hawked over Christendom, and purchased at a high rate. They were worn as amulets, or enshrined in cabinets of silver and gold; and, being placed in cathedrals, were exhibited at stated times to the devout. To abandon society, with the obligations it imposes and the duties it exacts, and to consume life in the midst of filth, indolence, and vice, was accounted an effort of uncommon holiness. To shirk the plough and the loom, and mount the wallet of the beggar,-to abscond from the ranks of honest industry, and fleece the labouring classes in predatory bands or as single sorners,-was to be heroically self-denied and virtuous. Such holy men were rather unpleasantly common; for the west, as formerly the east, now began to swarm with monks and hermits. Such of the pagan sophists as lived to witness the rise of this superstition, no less amazed than indignant, pointed the keen shafts of their powerful satire against that filthy race, which had renounced the beautiful mythology of Greece and the martial gods of Rome, to fall prostrate before the bones and mouldering relics of the dead.
So wretched did man's condition become, so soon as he turned away from God, and sought salvation in himself. In the same hour in which he forsook the light he lost his liberty. When he surrendered his faith he parted with his peace. From that moment his life became barren of all good, because he strove to produce by an effort of his will, what God had ordained to spring only from love. Hope, too, forsook the breast, in which she found no solid footing, and a "doubtsome faith," the result partly of scepticism and partly of indifference, took her place. The overmastering force of evil desires began now to be felt; and man found his own strength but a feeble substitute for the grace of God. Having taken upon himself the burden of his own salvation, he laboured, in a round of mortifying and painful acts, to accomplish a task utterly beyond his power. His success was far indeed from being in proportion to his efforts. But in this lay one of the deep artifices of Popery. That system employed the defilement of guilt, the slavery of fear, the thrall of sensuality, to complete its conquest over man. Having put out his eyes, Popery led man away to grind in her prison-house. The perfection of error is the perfection of slavery; and man surrendered himself without a struggle to the dominion of this tyrant. It was not till Truth came at the Reformation, that his prison-doors were opened, and that the bondman was loosed and led forth.
But the master corruption of the age was image-worship. Blinded by error, and grown carnal in their imaginations, men saw not the true glory of the sanctuary, and sought to beautify it with the fictitious splendour of statues and pictures. The promise, "Lo, I am with you," was forgotten; and when the worshipper ceased to realize the presence of a spiritual Being, the hearer of his prayer, he strove to stimulate his flagging devotion by corporeal representations. The churches, already polluted with relics, began now to be disgraced with images. Pictures of the saints and the martyrs covered the walls, while the vestibules and niches were occupied with statues of Christ and the apostles. These were first introduced under pretext of doing honour to those whom they represented; but the feeling, by a natural and unavoidable process, rapidly degenerated into worship. This was a master-stroke of the enemy. In no other way could he so effectually have withdrawn the contemplation of man from the region of the spiritual, and defaced, and ultimately destroyed in his mind, all true conceptions of the invisible Jehovah. It trained man, even in his devotions, to think only of what he saw; and from thinking only of what he sees, the step is an easy one to believe only in what he sees. It brought man from the heavens, and chained him to the earth. The rise of image-worship was the return of the ancient idolatry. The body ecclesiastic had ceased to be Christian, and had become pagan. The Church, planted by the labours of the apostles, and watered by the blood of martyrs, had disappeared; and an idolatrous and polytheistic institute had been substituted in its room. There was not less cause than formerly for the lament, "I planted thee a noble vine; how then art thou become the degenerate plant of a strange vine?"
We enter at greater length on the subject of image-worship, because it forms an important branch of the idolatry of Rome, and because it is intimately connected with the rise of the temporal sovereignty. It was in the east that this superstition first arose, but it was in the west that it found its most zealous patrons and champions; and none discovered greater ardour in this evil cause than the popes of Rome. Its rise was as early as its progress was gradual. "The first notice," says Gibbon, "of the use of pictures is in the censure of the Council of Illiberis, three hundred years after the Christian era." "The first introduction of a symbolic worship," continues the historian, "was in the veneration of the cross and of relics. . . . . But a memorial more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is a faithful copy of his person and features, delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. . . . . By a slow though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy; the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint, and the pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic Church. . . . . The use, and even the worship, of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century." From this time the idolatry rapidly increased. Writing of the seventh century, we find Gibbon stating that "the throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs, and saints, and angels." In this Gibbon is confirmed by the testimony of Mosheim, who states that "in this age, (i. e. the seventh century), they who were called Christians worshipped the wooden cross, the images of saints, and bones of men, they know not whom."
A century later, the famous dispute between the eastern emperors and the western popes had broken out. The Christians of the east, alarmed by the magnitude of the abuse, and stung by the reproaches of the Jews, and the railleries-all the more severe that they were merited-of the Mussulmans, who now reigned at Damascus, strove to effect a partial reformation. Their wishes were powerfully seconded by the Emperor Leo, III., who proscribed by edict the worship of images, and ordered the churches to be cleansed. These proceedings roused the ire of the reigning pontiff, Gregory II. The eloquence of the monks was evoked, and the thunders of excommunication were hurled against the imperial iconoclast; and Leo was pronounced an apostate, because he worshipped as the apostles and primitive Christians had worshipped, and because he sought to lead back his people to the same scriptural model. When it was found that the spiritual artillery had failed to take effect, earthly weapons were employed. Italy was excited to revolt, and a contest was commenced, which was continued for a hundred and twenty years. The Italians were absolved by the pontiff from their allegiance to the Emperor, and the revenue of Italy ceased to be sent to Constantinople. To chastise these rebellious proceedings, Leo despatched his fleet to the coast of Italy; but the Italians, inspired by fanaticism and rebellion, made a desperate resistance, and after a vast loss of life, and the ravage of several of the fairest provinces of the empire, the expedition was forced to return without having accomplished its object.
The quarrel was taken up by successive emperors on the one side and successive popes on the other, and prosecuted with unabated violence and various success. Councils were convoked to give judgment in the matter. The Council of Constantinople, A.D. 754, summoned by Constantine Copronymus, condemned the worship, and also the use, of images. The Council of Nice, in Bithynia, A.D. 786, known as the second Nicene Council, convoked by the fair but flagitious Irene, the widow and murderess of Leo IV., reversed the sentence of the Council of Constantinople, and restored the worship of images. Leo V. condemned these idols to a second exile, but they were recalled by the Empress Theodora, A.D. 842, never more to be expelled from the east, till they and their worshippers were extirpated together in the fourteenth century by the sword of the Turks. Rome and Italy yielded in this matter the most profound submission to the Popes, who showed themselves throughout the zealous and truculent defenders of image-worship. The churches of France, Germany, England, and Spain, held a middle course. They condemned the adoration of images, but they adopted the perilous course of tolerating them in their churches as "the memorials of faith and history." Of these sentiments was Charlemagne, who endeavoured, but in vain, to stem the torrent of superstition. The unanimous decree of the Council which he assembled at Frankfort, A.D. 794, could not counteract the influence arising from the example and authority of the pontiff. Charlemagne found that the power which had enabled him to become master of all the western nations, was not sufficient to enable him to cope successfully with the rising superstition of the age. The cause of image-worship continued silently to progress, and it speedily attained in the west, as it had already done in the east, a universal triumph.
Though the quarrel, as regards the main point in dispute, had the same issue, both in the east and in the west, it led nevertheless to a final separation between the two churches. It directly contributed, as we have already said, to lay the foundation of the Pope's temporal sovereignty. In the heat of the conflict, the Italian provinces were torn from the emperor, and their government was virtually assumed by the pontiffs. "In that schism," says Gibbon, "the Romans had tasted of freedom, and the popes of sovereignty." "Rome raised her throne," to use D'Aubigné's words, "between two revolts." On the one side Italy threw off the yoke of the eastern emperors; on the other, France discarded her ancient dynasty, and both revolts were zealously encouraged and formally sanctioned by the popes. It is difficult to say which of the two,-the Greek schism or the Gallic usurpation,-contributed most to elevate the Papacy to temporal sovereignty.
Such is the real origin of the Pope's power. According to his own claim, it is of heaven; but history refuses to let the claim pass current, and points unequivocally to a different quarter as the source of his prerogative. Of the two branches of his power,-the sacerdotal and the regal,-it is hard to determine which is the most disreputable and infamous in its beginnings. His mitre he had from the murderer Phocas; his crown from the usurper Pepin. A spotless and noble lineage forsooth! The pontifical trunk has one stem rooted rankly in blood, and the other foully grafted on rebellion. As a priest, the Pope is qualified to minister in the ensanguined temples of Moloch; as a sovereign, his title is indisputable to act the satrap under the arch-rebel and "anarch old." No one can glance a moment at the contour of his character, as seen in history, without feeling that the hideous likeness on which he gazes is that of the Antichrist. Every line of his visage, every passage of his history, is full of antagonism, is the very counterpart of that of the Saviour. "All these things will I give thee," said the tempter to Christ in the wilderness, "if thou wilt fall down and worship me." "Get thee hence, Satan," was the reply. The fiend returned after three hundred years, and, leading the pontiff to the summit of the Roman hill, showed him "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them." "All these," said he, "will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." No second denial awaited the tempter: instantly the knee was bent, and the pontiff raised his head crowned with the tiara. Twice has Christianity been crowned in bitter derision and mockery of her character. Once with a crown of thorns by the blasphemers of Caiaphas' hall; and now again with the tiara, in the person of the pontiff. Never did she demean herself with such divine dignity as when the thorns girt her brow; but, ah! the burning shame of the tiara.
It is further worthy of notice, that at the same time, and to a great degree by the same acts, did the bishops of Rome establish the worship of images, and consolidate their own jurisdiction as temporal sovereigns. These two form analogous stages in the career of the Papacy. They manifest an equal decline and advance,-a decline in the spiritual, and an advance in the secular element. By the first, Rome perfected the corruption of her worship; by the second, she perfected the corruption of her government. There was a meetness, therefore, in the two being attained at the same period. These two constitute the leading branches of the Romish apostacy,-idolatry and tyranny. These are the two arms of the apostacy,-SUPERSTITION and the SWORD: both arms were now grown; and thus Rome was equipped for her terrible mission. Her inglorious task was to bow down the world in ignominious thraldom, and her two-edged sword made it equally easy to enslave the mind and to tyrannize over the body. Her idolatry was to display itself in yet grosser forms, and her political power was to be vastly enlarged by new accessions of dominion and influence; but the world had now a fair specimen of the leading principles and organization of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome was to be a temple of idols, not a sanctuary of truth; a hierarchy, not a brotherhood. Were we called upon to fix on a period when Rome completed her transition from Christianity to Paganism, we would fix on this era. Henceforward she did not deserve to be regarded in any sense as a Church. She was not simply a corrupt Church; she was a pagan institute. The symbols of the Apocalypse had now found their verification in the corruptions of Europe: the temple had been measured; the outer court and the city had been given over to the Gentiles; and the Church was restricted to the select company which ministered at the altar within.
Into this sad condition had the Roman Church now come. She had begun in the spirit and been made perfect in the flesh. The spiritual she had renounced, as containing neither truth, nor beauty, nor power. An impassable gulph now divided her from the form not less than from the spirit of the early Church. She stood before the world as the legitimate successor of those systems of error and idolatry which in former ages had burdened the earth and affronted heaven. Her members kneeled before idols, and her head wore an earthly crown. She "had left heaven and its spheres of light, to mingle in the vulgar interests of citizens and princes." An hundred and twenty years (the period of the iconoclast disputes) had God striven with the men of the western Church, as he strove with the antediluvians in the days of Noah, when the ark was a-building; but his waiting had been in vain; and henceforward Rome was to pursue her career without let or hinderance. The spirit had ceased to strive with her. The Gothic scourge, sent to turn her from those dumb idols, had failed to induce repentance or reformation. Righteously, therefore, was she given over to the dominion of grosser delusions, to the commission of more aggravated crimes, and to the infliction, at last, of an unspeakably tremendous doom.
Rise and Progress of the Temporal Supremacy
We left the Papacy, at the opening of the ninth century, reposing beneath the shadow of the Carlovingian monarchy. One grand stage in its progress had been accomplished. The battle for the temporal sovereignty had been fought and won. A crowned priest now sat upon the Seven Hills. From this time another and far mightier object began to occupy the ambition and exercise the genius of Rome. To occupy a seat overshadowed by the loftier throne of the emperors would not satisfy the vast ambition of the pontiffs, and accordingly there was now commenced the struggle for the temporal supremacy.
There was an obvious incompatibility between the lofty spiritual powers claimed by the pontiffs, and their subordination to secular authority; nevertheless, at this time, and for some ages afterwards, the popes were subject to the emperors. Charlemagne was lord paramount of Rome, and the territories of the Church were a fief of the Emperor. The son of Pepin wore the imperial diadem, and, in the words of Ranke, "performed unequivocal acts of sovereign authority in the dominions conferred on St. Peter." Nevertheless, he had received the empire in a way which left it undecided whether he owed it more to his own merit or to the pontiff's favour, and whether he held it solely in virtue of his own right, and not also, in good degree, as the gift of Leo. The Pope was nominally subject to the Emperor, but in many vital points the first was last; and he who now wrote himself "a servant of servants," was fulfilling in a bad sense what our Lord intended in a good,--"Whosoever will be the greatest among you, let him be the servant of all." The popes had not yet advanced a direct and formal claim to dispose of crowns and kingdoms, but the germ of such a claim was contained, first, in the acts which they now performed. They had already taken it upon them to sanction the transference of the crown of France from the Merovingian to the Carlovingian family. And on what principle had they done so? Why did the Pope, rather than any other prince, profess to give validity to Pepin's right to the throne of France? Why, seeing, as a temporal ruler, he was the least powerful and independent sovereign in Europe, did he, of all men, interpose his prerogative in the matter? The principle on which he proceeded was plainly this,--that in virtue of his spiritual character he was superior to earthly dignities, and had been vested in the power of controlling and disposing of such dignities. The same principle is yet more clearly involved in the bestowal of the imperial dignity on Charlemagne. That the popes themselves held this principle to be implied in these proceedings, though as yet they kept the claim in the background, is plain from the fact that, at an after period, and in more favourable circumstances, they founded on these acts in proof of the dependence of the emperors, and their own right to confer the empire. It was the usual manner of the Papacy to perform acts which, as they appeared to contain no principles hostile to the rights of society or the prerogatives of princes, were permitted to pass unchallenged at the time; but the Popes took care afterwards to improve them, by founding upon them the most extravagant and ambitious claims. In nothing have the plausibility and artifice of the system and its patrons been more plainly shown.
But, second, the principle on which the whole system of the popes was founded, virtually implied their supremacy over kings as well as over priests. They claimed to be the successors of Peter and the vicars of Christ. But Christ is Lord of the world as well as Head of the Church. He is a King of kings; and the popes aimed at exhibiting on earth an exact model or representation of Christ's government in heaven; and accordingly they strove to reduce monarchs to the rank of their vassals, and assume into their own hands the management of all the affairs of earth. If their claim was a just one,--if they were indeed the vicars of Christ and the vicegerents of God, as they affirmed,--there were plainly no bounds to their authority, either in temporal or spiritual matters. The symbol which to pontifical rhetoric has alone seemed worthy to shadow forth the more than mortal magnificence of the popes is the sun, which, they tell us, the Creator has set in the heavens as the representative of the pontifical authority; while the moon, shining with borrowed splendour, has formed the humble symbolization of the secular power. According to their theory, there was strictly but one ruler on earth,--the Pope. In him all authority was centred. From him all rule and jurisdiction emanated. From him kings received their crowns, and priests their mitres. To him all were accountable, while he was accountable to no one save God alone. The pontiffs, we say, judged it premature to startle the world as yet by an undisguised and open avowal of this claim: they accounted it sufficient, meanwhile, to embody its fundamental principles in the decrees of councils and in the pontifical acts, and allow them to lie dormant there, in the hope that a better age would arrive, when it would be possible to avow in plain terms, and enforce by direct acts, a claim which they had put forth only inferentially as yet. But to make good this claim was the grand object of Rome from the beginning; and this object she steadily pursued through a variety of fortune and a succession of centuries. The vastness of the object was equalled by the ability and perseverance with which it was prosecuted. The policy of Rome was profound, subtle, patient, unscrupulous, and audacious. And as she has had no rival as respects the greatness of the prize and the qualities with which she has contended for it, so neither has she had a rival in the dazzling success with which at last her contest was crowned.
With Charlemagne expired the military genius and political sagacity which had founded the empire. His power now passed into hands too feeble to save the state from convulsions or the empire from dissolution. Quarrels and disputes arose among the inheritors of his dominions. The popes were called in, and asked to employ their paternal authority and ghostly wisdom in the settlement of these differences. With a well-feigned coyness, but real delight at having found so plausible a pretext for advancing their own pretensions, they undertook the task, and executed it to such good purpose, that while they took care of the interests of their clients, they very considerably promoted their own. Hitherto the pontiff bad been raised to his dignity by the suffrages of the bishops, accompanied by the acclamation of the Roman people and the ratification of the emperor. For till the imperial consent had been signified, the newly-elected pontiff could not be legally consecrated. But this badge of subordination, if not of servitude, the popes resolved no longer to wear. Was it to be endured that the vicegerent of God should reign only by the sufferance of the French emperor? Must that authority which came direct from the great apostle be countersigned by a mere dignitary of earth? These ambitious projects the popes had found it prudent to repress hitherto; but now the sword of Charlemagne was in the dust, and they could deal as they listed with the puppets who had stood up in his room. A course of policy was adopted, consisting of alternate cajolery and browbeating, in which the emperors had decidedly the worst of it. Their privilege of giving a valid and legal right to the tiara was wrested from them; and the popes manoeuvred so successfully as to keep the imperial prerogative in abeyance till the times of Otho the Great. Inimitable adroitness did the Papacy display in turning to account the troubles of the times. Like a knowing trader at a commercial crisis with plenty of ready cash in hand, the popes did such an amount of business in Peter's name, that they vastly increased the credit and revenues of his see. So wisely did they lay out their available stock of influence, that their house now became, and for some time afterwards continued to be, the first establishment in Europe. Of the many bidders for a share in the trade of the great Fisherman, none were admitted into the concern but such as brought with them, in some shape or other, good solid capital; and thus the business went on every day improving. Monarchs were aided, but on all such occasions the popes took care that the chair of Peter should receive in return sevenfold what it gave.
The posterity of Charlemagne at this time contested with one another, in a sanguinary war, their rights to the throne of their illustrious father. By large presents, and yet larger promises, Charles the Bald was fortunate enough to engage the reigning pontiff, John VIII., in his interests. From that moment the contest was no longer doubtful. Charles was proclaimed Emperor by the Pope in A.D. 876. A service so important deserved to be suitably acknowledged. The monarch's gratitude for his throne was embodied in an act, by which he surrendered for himself and his successors all right of interfering in the election to the pontifical chair. Henceforward, till the middle of the tenth century, the imperial sanction was dispensed with, and the pontiffs mounted the chair of Peter without acknowledging in the matter either king or kaisir. In this the pontificate had achieved a great victory over the empire. Nor was this the only advantage which the pontiffs gained in that struggle with the imperial power into which they had been temptingly drawn by the unsettled character of the times. In the case of Charles the Bald the Pope had nominated the Emperor. The same act was repeated in the case of his successors, Carloman and Charles the Gross. It was continued in the contests for the empire which followed the reigns of these princes. The candidate who was rich enough to offer the largest bribe, or powerful enough to appear with an army at the gates of Rome, was invariably crowned emperor in the Vatican. Thus, as the State dissolved, the Church waxed in strength. What the one lost the other drew to herself. The popes did not trouble the world with any formal statement of their principles on the head of the supremacy; they were content to embody them in acts. They were wise enough to know, that the speediest way of getting the world to acknowledge theoretic truth is to familiarize it with its practical applications,--to ask its approval of it, not as a theory, but as a fact. Thus the popes, by a bold course of dexterous management, and of audacious but successful aggression, laboured to weave the doctrine of the supremacy into the general policy of Europe. But for the rise, in the tenth century, of a new power superior to the Franks, Rome would now have reached the summit of her wishes.
No weapon was too base for the use of Rome. Her hand grasped with equal avidity the forged document and the hired dagger. Both were sanctified in her service. In the beginning of the ninth century came the decretals of Isidore. These professed to be a collection of the decrees and rescripts of the early councils and popes, the object of their infamous author, who is unknown, being to show that the see of Rome possessed from the very beginning all the prerogatives with which the intrigues of eight centuries had invested it. Their style was so barbarous, and their anachronisms and solecisms were so flagrant, that in no age but the most ignorant could they have escaped detection for a single hour. Rome, nevertheless, infallibly decreed the truth of what is now universally acknowledged to be false. These decretals supported her pretensions, and that with her decided the question of their authenticity or spuriousness. There are few who have earned so well the honours of canonization as this unknown forger. For ages the decretals possessed the authority of precedents, and furnished Rome with appropriate weapons in her contests with bishops and kings.
The French power was declining; that of the Germans had not yet risen. The pontifical influence was, on the whole, the predominating element in Europe; and the popes, having now no superior, and freed from all restraint, began to use the ample license which the times afforded them, for purposes so infamous, that they transcend description, and well-nigh belief. With the tenth century commence the dark annals of the Papacy. The popes, although wholly devoted to selfish and ambitious pursuits, had found it prudent hitherto to maintain the semblance of piety; but now even that pretence was laid aside. Thanks to Rome, the world was now prepared to see the mask thrown off. Europe had reached a pitch of ignorance and superstition, and the Papacy a height of insolence and truculence, which enabled the popes to defy with impunity the fear of man and the power of God. Not only were the forms of religion contemned; the ordinary decencies of manhood were flagrantly outraged. We dare not pollute our page with such things as the pontiffs of this age practised in the face of Rome and the world. The palaces of the worst emperors, the groves of pagan worship, saw nothing so foul as the orgies of the Vatican. Men sat in the chair of Peter, whose consciences were loaded with perjuries and adulteries, and whose hands were stained with murders; and claimed, as the vicars of Christ, a right to govern the Church and the world.
The intrigues, the fraud, the violence, that now raged at Rome, may be conceived of from the fact, that from the death of Benedict IV., A.D. 903, to the elevation of John XII., A.D. 956,--an interval of only fifty-three years,--not fewer than thirteen popes held successively the pontificate. The attempt were vain to pursue these fleeting pontifical phantoms. Their brief but flagitious career was ended most commonly by the lingering horrors of the dungeon, or the quick despatch of the poignard. It is enough to mention the names of a John the Twelfth, a Boniface the Seventh, a John the Twenty-third, a Sixtus the Fourth, an Alexander the Sixth (Borgia), a Julius the Second. These names stand associated with crimes of enormous magnitude. This list by no means exhausts the goodly band of pontifical villains. Simony, the good-will of a prostitute, or the dagger of an assassin, opened their way to the pontifical throne; and the use they made of their power formed a worthy sequel to the infamous means by which they had obtained it. In the chair of Peter, the pontiffs of this and succeeding eras revelled in impiety, perjury, lewdness, sacrilege, sorcery, robbery, and blood; thus converting the palace of the apostle into an unfathomable sink of abomination and filth. "A mass of moral impurity," says Edgar, "might be collected from the Roman hierarchy, sufficient to crowd the pages of folios, and glut all the demons of pollution and malevolence." The age, too, was scandalized by frequent and flagrant schisms. These divided the nations of Christendom, engendered sanguinary wars, and unhinged society itself.
For half a century rival pontifical thrones stood at Rome and Avignon; and Europe was doomed daily to listen to the dreadful vollies of spiritual thunder which the rival infallibilities, Urban and Clement, ever and anon launched at one another, and which, in almost one continuous and stunning roar, reverberated between the Tiber and the Rhone. There is no need to darken the horrors of the time by the fable (if fable it be) of a female pope, who is said about this time to have filled St. Peter's chair. The traditionary Pope Joan is found, perhaps, in the sister-prostitutes, the well-known Marozia and Theodora, who now governed Rome. Their influence, founded on their wealth, their beauty, and their intrigues, enabled them to place on the pontifical throne whom they would; and not unfrequently they promoted, without a blush, their paramours to the holy chair. Such were the dark transactions of the period, and such the scones that signalized the advent of the Papacy to temporal power. The revels of Ahasuerus and Haman were concluded with the bloody decree which delivered over a whole nation to the sword. The yet guiltier revels of the Papacy were, in like manner, followed in due time by ages of proscription and slaughter.
In tracing the rise of the temporal supremacy, we are now brought to the middle of the tenth century. Otho the Great appears upon the stage. With a vigorous hand did these German conquerors grasp the imperial diadem which the degenerate descendants of Charlemagne were no longer either worthy to wear or able to defend. Otho found the Papacy running a career of crime, and in some danger of perishing in its own corruption. He interposed his sword, and averted its otherwise inevitable fate. It did not suit the designs of the German emperors that the Papacy should suffer a premature extinction. It might be turned, they were not slow to perceive, to great account in the way of consolidating and extending their own imperial dignity, and therefore they strove to reform, not destroy, Rome. They rescued the chair of Peter from its worst foes, its occupants. They deposed several popes notorious for their vices, and exalted others of purer morals to the pontifical dignity. Thus the Papacy had found a new master; for Otho and his descendants were as much the liege lords of the popedom as the monarchs of the Carlovingian line had been. The popes were now obliged to surrender the powers they had usurped during the time that the imperial sceptre was in the feeble hands of the last of the posterity of Charlemagne. In particular, the rights of which Charles the Bald had been stripped were now given back. The emperors again nominated the pope.
When a vacancy occurred in the chair of St. Peter, envoys from Rome announced the fact at the court of the emperor, and waited the signification of his will respecting a successor. This substantial right of interfering when a new pope was to be elected, which the emperors possessed, was very inadequately balanced by the empty and nominal power enjoyed by the popes, of placing the imperial crown on the emperor's head. "The prince elected in the German Diet," says Gibbon, "acquired from that instant the subject kingdoms of Italy and Rome; but he might not legally assume the titles of Emperor and Augustus, till he had received the crown from the hands of the Roman pontiff," --a sanction that could be withheld with difficulty so long as the emperor was master of Rome and her popes. But the intimate union now existing between the empire and the pontificate was productive of reciprocal advantages, and tended greatly to consolidate and extend the power of both. The rise of the French monarchy had been owing in no small degree to the favourable dispositions which the kings of France discovered towards the Church. The western Goths and Burgundians were sunk in Arianism; the Franks, from the beginning, had been truly Catholic; and the popes did all they could to foster the growth of a power which, from similarity of creed, as well as from motives of policy, was so likely to become their surest ally. The miraculous succours vouchsafed to the arms of the French resolve themselves, without doubt, into the material aids given by the popes and their agents to a people in whose success they felt a deep interest. Hence the legend, according to which St. Martin, in the form of a hind, discovered to Clovis the ford over the Vienne; and hence also that other fable which asserts that St. Hillary preceded the Frank armies in a column of fire. The St. Martin and the St. Hillary of these legends were doubtless some bishop, or other ecclesiastic, who rendered important services to the Frank monarch and his army, on the ground that, with the triumph of their arms was identified the progress of the Church.
The same influence was vigorously exerted, from the same motive, in behalf of the German power. Monks and priests preceded the imperial arms, especially in the east and north of Germany; and the annexation of these countries to the empire is to be attributed fully as much to the zeal of the ecclesiastics as to the valour of the soldiers. Nor did the German chiefs show that they were either unable to appreciate or unwilling to reward these important services. They lavished unbounded wealth upon the clergy, their policy being to bind thereby this important class to their interests. No one was more distinguished for his munificence in this respect than Henry II. This monarch created numerous rich benefices; but the rigour with which he insisted upon his right to nominate to the livings he had endowed betrayed the motives that prompted this great liberality. Abbots and bishops were exalted to the rank of barons and dukes, and invested with jurisdiction over extensive territories. "The bishoprics of Germany," says Gibbon, "were made equal in extent and privilege, superior in wealth and population, to the most ample states of the military order." "Baronial, and even ducal rights," says Ranke, "were held in Germany by the bishops and abbots of the empire, not within their own possessions only, but even beyond them. Ecclesiastical estates were no longer described as situated in certain counties, but these counties were described as situated in the bishopricks. In upper Italy, nearly all the cities were governed by the viscounts of their bishops." Military service was exacted of these ecclesiastical barons, in return for the possessions which they held; and not unfrequently did bishops appear at the head of their armed vassals, with lance in hand and harness on their backs. They were, moreover, addicted to the chase, of which the Germans in all ages have been passionately fond, and for which their vast forests have afforded ample scope. "Rude as the Germans of the middle ages were," observes Dunham, "to see a successor of St. Peter hallooing after his dogs certainly struck them as incongruous. Yet the bishops, in virtue of their fiefs, were compelled to send their vassals to the field; and no doubt they considered as somewhat inconsistent, a system which commanded them to kill men, but not beasts."
The acquisition of wealth formed an important element in the growth of the Papacy. The Roman law did not permit lands to be held on mortmain; nevertheless the emperors winked at the possession by the Church of immoveable possessions, whose revenues furnished stipends to her pastors and alms to her poor. No sooner did Constantine embrace Christianity, than an imperial edict invested the Church with a legal right to what she had possessed hitherto by tolerance only. Neither under the empire, nor under any of the ten kingdoms into which the empire was ultimately divided, did the Church ever obtain a territorial establishment; but the ample liberality, first of the Christian emperors, and next of the barbarian kings, did more than supply the want of a general provision. For ages, wealth had been flowing in upon the Church in a torrent; and now, from being the poorest she had become the wealthiest corporation in Europe. A race of princes had succeeded to the fishermen of Galilee; and the opulent nobles and citizens of the empire represented that society whose first bonds had been cemented in the catacombs under the city. Under the Carlovingian family, and the Saxon line of emperors, "many churches possessed seven or eight thousand mansi," says Hallam. "One with but two thousand passed for only indifferently rich.
This vast opulence represented the accumulations and hoardings of many ages, and had been acquired by innumerable, and sometimes not very honourable, means. When a wealthy man entered a monastery, his estate was thrown into the common treasury of the brotherhood. When the son of a rich man took the cowl, he recommended himself to the Church by a donation of land. To die without leaving a portion of one's worldly goods to the priesthood came to be rare, and was regarded as a fraud upon the Church. The monks sometimes supplemented the incomes of their houses by intromitting with the funds of charities placed under their control. The wealthy sinner, when about to depart, expressed his penitence in a well-filled bag of gold, or in a certain number of broad acres; and the ravening baron was compelled to disgorge, with abundant interest, on the bed of death, the spoliations of church-property of which he had been guilty during his lifetime. The fiefs of the nobility, who had beggared themselves by profligacy, or in the epidemic folly of the crusades, were not unfrequently brought into the market; and, being offered at a cheap rate, the Church, which had abundance of ready money at her command, became the purchaser, and so augmented her possessions. It is but fair to state also, that the clergy helped, in that age, to add to the wealth and beauty of the country, by the cultivation of tracts of waste lands which were frequently gifted to them. The Church found additional sources of revenue in the exemption from taxes; though not from military service, which her lands enjoyed, and in the institution of tithes, which, in imitation of the Jewish law, was originated about the sixth century, formed the main topic of the sermons of the eighth, and finally obtained a civil sanction in the ninth, under Charlemagne. But, not content with these varied facilities of getting rapidly and enormously rich, the monks betook themselves to forging charters,--an exploit which their knowledge of writing enabled them to achieve, and which the ignorance of the age rendered of very difficult detection. "They did nearly enjoy," says Hallam, "one half of England, and, I believe, a greater proportion in some countries of Europe." This wealth was far beyond the measure of their own enjoyment, and they had no families to whom they might bequeath it. Such rapacity, then, does seem as unnatural as it was enormous. But, in truth, the Church had fallen as entirely under the dominion of an unreasonable and uncontrollable passion as the miser; she was, in fact, a corporate miser. This vast wealth, it may easily be apprehended, inflamed her insolence and advanced her power.
The power of the Church became greater every day,--not its power as a Church, but as a confederation,--and might well excite alarm as to the future. Here was a body of men placed under one head, bound together by a community of interest and feeling, superior in intelligence, and therefore in influence, to the rest of the empire, enormously rich, and exercising civil jurisdiction over extensive tracts and vast populations. It was impossible to contemplate without misgivings, so numerous and compact a phalanx. It must have struck every one, that upon the moderation and fidelity of its members must depend the repose of the empire and the world in time to come. The emperors, secure, as they imagined themselves, in the possession of the supremacy, saw without alarm the rise of this formidable body. They looked upon it as one of the main props of their power, and felicitated themselves not a little in having been so fortunate as to entrench their prerogative behind so firm a bulwark. The appointment to all ecclesiastical benefices was in the emperor's hands; and in augmenting the wealth and grandeur of the clergy, they doubted not that they were consolidating their own authority. It required no prophet to divine, that so long as the imperial sceptre continued to be grasped by a strong hand and guided by a firm mind, which it had been since it came into the possession of the German race, no danger would arise; but that the moment this ceased to be the case, the pontificate, already almost on a level with the empire, would obtain the mastery. Rome had been often baulked in her grand enterprise; but now her accommodating, patient, and persevering policy was about to receive its reward. The hour was near when her grandest hopes and her loftiest pretensions were to be realized,--when the throne of God's vicegerent was to display itself in its fullest proportions, and be seen towering in proud supremacy above all the other thrones of earth.
The emergency that might have been foreseen had arisen. We behold on the throne of the empire a child, Henry IV. and in the chair of St. Peter, the astute Hildebrand. We find the empire torn by insurrections and tumults, whilst the Papacy is guided by the clear and bold genius of Gregory VII. Savoy had the honour to give birth to this man. He was the son of a carpenter, and comprehended from the first the true destiny of the Papacy, and the height to which its essential principles, vigorously maintained and fearlessly carried out, would exalt the popedom. To emancipate the pontificate from the authority of the empire, and to establish a visible theocracy with the vicar of Christ at its head, became the one grand object of his life. He brought to the execution of his task a profound genius, a firm will, a fearless courage, and a pliant policy,--a quality in which the popes have seldom been deficient. From the moment that he chid Leo IX. for accepting the tiara from the hands of the secular power, his spirit had governed Rome. At length, in A.D. 1073, he ascended the pontifical throne in person. "No sooner was this man made Pope," says Du Pin, "but he formed a design of becoming lord, spiritual and temporal, over the whole earth; the supreme judge and determiner of all affairs, both ecclesiastical and civil; the distributer of all manner of graces, of what kind soever; the disposer not only of archbishopricks, bishopricks, and other ecclesiastical benefices, but also of kingdoms, states, and the revenues of particular persons. To bring about this resolution, he made use of the ecclesiastical authority and the spiritual sword."
The times were favourable in no ordinary degree. The empire of Germany was enfeebled by the disaffection of the barons; France was ruled by an infant sovereign, without capacity or inclination for affairs of state; England had just been conquered by the Normans; Spain was distracted by the Moors; and Italy was parcelled out amongst a multitude of petty princes. Everywhere faction was rife throughout Europe, and a strong government existed nowhere. The time invited him, and straightway Gregory set about his high attempt. His first care was to assemble a Council, in which he pronounced the marriage of priests unlawful. He next sent his legates throughout the various countries of Europe, to compel bishops and all ecclesiastics to put away their wives. Having thus dissevered the ties which connected the clergy with the world, and given them but one object for which to live, namely, the exaltation of the hierarchy, Gregory rekindled, with all the ardour and vehemence characteristic of the man, the war between the throne and the mitre. The object at which Gregory VII. aimed was twofold:--1. To render the election to the pontifical chair independent of the emperors; and, 2. To resume the empire as a fief of the Church, and to establish his dominion over the kings and kingdoms of the earth. His first step towards the accomplishment of these vast designs was, as we have shown, to enact clerical celibacy. His second was to forbid all ecclesiastics to receive investiture at the hands of the secular power. In this decree he laid the foundation of the complete emancipation of the Church from the State; but half a century of wars and bloodshed was required to conduct the first enterprise, that of the investitures, to a successful issue; while a hundred and fifty years more of similar convulsions had to be gone through before the second, that of universal domination, was attained.
Let us here pause to review the rise of the war of investitures which now broke out, and which "during two centuries distracted the Christian world, and deluged a great portion of Italy with blood." In the primitive age the pastors of the Roman Church were elected by the people. When we come down to those times, still early, when the office of bishop began to take precedence of that of presbyter, we find the election to the episcopate effected by the joint suffrages of the clergy and people of the city or diocese. After the fourth century, when a regular gradation of offices or hierarchy was set up, the bishop chosen by the clergy and people had to be approved of by his metropolitan, as the metropolitan by his primate. It does not appear that the emperors interfered at all in these elections, farther than to signify their acceptance or rejection of the persons chosen to the very highest sees,--the patriarchates of Rome and Constantinople. In this their example was followed by the Gothic and Lombard kings of Italy. The people retained their influence in the election of their pastors and bishops down till a comparatively late period. We find popular election in existence in the end of the fourth century. A canon of the third Council of Carthage, in A.D. 397, decrees that no clergyman shall be ordained who has not been examined by the bishop and approved of by the suffrages of the people. Even at the middle of the sixth century popular election had not disappeared from the Church. We find the third Council of Orleans, held in A.D. 538, regulating by canon the election and ordination of metropolitans and bishops. As regarded the metropolitan, the Council enacted that he should be chosen by the bishops of the province, with the consent of the clergy and people of the city, "it being fitting," say the fathers, "that he who is to preside over all should be chosen by all." And, as respected bishops, it was decreed that they should be ordained by the metropolitan, and chosen by the clergy and people. "The people fully preserved their elective rights at Milan," observes Hallam, "in the eleventh century; and traces of their concurrence may be found in France and Germany in the next age." From the people the right passed to the sovereigns, who found a plausible pretext for granting investitures of bishops, in the vast temporalities attached to their sees. These possessions, which had originated mostly in royal gifts, were viewed somewhat in the light of fiefs, for which it was but reasonable that the tenant should do homage to the lord paramount. Hence the ceremony introduced by Charlemagne of putting the ring and crosier into the hands of the newly consecrated bishop.
The bishops of Rome, like their brethren, were at first chosen by popular election. In process of time, the consent of the emperor was used to ratify the choice of the people. This prerogative came into the possession of Charlemagne along with the imperial crown, and was exercised by his posterity,--if we except the last of his descendants, during whose feeble reigns the prerogative which the imperial hands had let fall was caught up by the Roman populace. This right came next into the possession of the Saxon emperors, and was exercised by some of the race of Otho in a more absolute manner than it had ever been by either Greek or Carlovingian monarch. Henry III., impatient to put down the scandal of three rival popes, assembled a council at Sutri, which deposed all three, placed Henry's friend, the Bishop of Bamberg (Clement II.), in Peter's chair, and added this substantial boon, that henceforward the imperial throne should possess the entire nomination of the popes, without the intervention of clergy or laity. But what the magnanimity of Henry III. had gained came to be lost by the tender age and irresolute spirit of his son Henry IV. Nicolas II., in 1059, wrested the prerogative from the emperors, to place it, not in the people, but in a new body, which presents us with the origin of the conclave of cardinals. According to the pontifical decree, the seven cardinal bishops holding sees in the neighbourhood of Rome were henceforward to choose the pope. A vague recognition of some undefinable right possessed by the emperors and the people in the election was made in the decree, but it amounted in reality to little more than a permission to both to be present on the occasion, and to signify their acquiescence in what they had no power to prevent. The real author of this, and of similar measures, was Hildebrand, who was content meanwhile to wield, in the humble rank of a Roman archdeacon, the destinies of the Papacy, and to hide in the monk's garb that dauntless and comprehensive genius which in a few years was to govern Europe. Hildebrand in no long time took the quarrel into his own hands.
He ascended the pontifical throne, as we have already stated, in 1073, under the style of Gregory VII. He comprehended the Emperor's position with regard to the princes of Germany better than the Emperor himself did, and shaped his measures accordingly. He began by promulgating the decree against lay investitures, to which we have already adverted. He saw the advantage of having the barons on his side. He knew that they were impatient and envious of the power of Henry, who was at once weak and tyrannical; and he found it no difficult matter to gain them over to the papal interests,--first, by the decree of the Pope, which declared Germany an electoral monarchy; and, second, by the influence which the barons were still permitted to retain in the election of bishops. For although Gregory had deprived the Emperor of the right of investiture, and in doing so had broken the bond that held together the civil and spiritual institutions, as Ranke remarks, and declared a revolution, he did not claim the direct nomination of the bishops, but referred the choice to the chapters, over which the higher German nobility exercised very considerable influence. Thus the Pope had the aristocratic interests on his side in the conflict. Henry, reckless as impotent, proceeded to give mortal offence to his great antagonist. Hastily assembling a number of bishops and other vassals at Worms, he procured a sentence deposing Gregory from the Popedom. He mistook the man and the times.
Gregory, receiving the tidings with derision, assembled a council in the Lateran palace, and solemnly excommunicated Henry, annulled his right to the kingdoms of Germany and Italy, and absolved his subjects from their allegiance. Henry's recklessness was succeeded by panic. He felt that the spell of the pontifical curse was upon him; that his nobles, and bishops, and subjects, were fleeing from him or conspiring against him; and in prostration of spirit he resolved to beg in person the clemency of the Pope. He crossed the Alps in the depth of winter, and, arriving at the gates of the castle of Canossa, where the Pope was residing at the time, shut up with his firm adherent and reputed paramour the Countess Matilda, he stood, during three days, exposed to the rigours of the season, with his feet bare, his head uncovered, and a piece of coarse woollen cloth thrown over his person, and forming his only covering. On the fourth day he obtained an audience of the pontiff; and though the lordly Gregory was pleased to absolve him from the excommunication, he straitly charged him not to resume his royal rank and functions till the meeting of the Congress which had been appointed to try him. But the pontiff was humbled in his turn. Henry rebelling a second time, a furious war broke out between the monarch and the pontiff. The armies of the Emperor passed the Alps, besieged Rome, and Gregory, being obliged to flee, ended his days in exile at Salerno, bequeathing as a legacy to his successors the conflict in which he had been engaged, and to Europe the wars and tumults into which his ambition had plunged it.
Gregory was gone, but his principle survived. He had left the mantle of his ambition, and, to a large extent, of his genius also, to his successors, Urban II. and Paschal II. Urban maintained the contest in the very spirit of Gregory; the opposition of Paschal may deserve to be accounted as partaking of a higher character. A conviction that it was utterly incongruous in a layman to give admission to a spiritual office, seems to have mainly animated him in prosecuting the contest. He actually signed an agreement with Henry V. in 1110, whereby all the lands and possessions held by the Church in fief were to be given back to the Emperor, on condition that the Emperor should surrender the right of investiture. The prelates and bishops of Paschal's court, who saw little attractive in the episcopate save the temporalities, believed that their infallible master had gone mad, and raised such a clamour, that the pontiff was obliged to desist from his design. At length, in 1122, the contention was ended by a compromise between Henry and Calixtus II. According to this compact, the election of bishops was to be free, their investiture was to belong solely to ecclesiastical functionaries, while the Emperor was to induct them into their temporalities, not by the crozier and ring, as before, but by the sceptre.
It is not improbable that the sovereigns and barons of the age believed that this concordat left the substantial power in the election of bishops still in their own hands. With our clearer light it is not difficult to see that the advantage greatly preponderated in favour of the Church. It extricated the spiritual element from the control of the secular. It was a solemn ratification of the principle of spiritual independence, which, in the case of a church spurning co-ordinate jurisdiction, and claiming both swords, was sure speedily and inevitably to grow into spiritual supremacy. The temporalities might come in some cases to be lost; but in that age the risk was small; and granting that it was realized, the loss would be more than counterbalanced by the greatly enlarged spiritual action which was now secured to the Church. The election of bishops, in which the emperors had ceased to interfere, was now devolved, not upon the laity and clergy, whose suffrages had been deemed essential in former times, but upon the chapters of cathedral churches, which tended to enlarge the power of the pontiff and the higher clergy. In this way was the conflict carried on. The extent of supremacy involved in the principle that the Pope is Christ's Vicar, had been fully and boldly propounded to the world by Gregory; and, what was more, had been all but realized. Rome had tasted of dominion over kings, and was never to rest till she had securely seated herself in the lofty seat which she had been permitted for so brief a season to occupy, and which she only, as she believed, had a right to possess, or could worthily and usefully fill. The popes had to sustain many humiliations and defeats; nevertheless, their policy continued to be progressively triumphant. The power of the empire gradually sank, and that of the pontificate steadily advanced. All the great events of the age contributed to the power of the popedom. The ecclesiastical element was universally diffused, entered into all movements, and turned to its own purposes all enterprises.
There never perhaps was an age which was so completely ecclesiastical and so little spiritual. Spain was reclaimed from Islamism, Prussia was rescued from Paganism, and both submitted to the authority of the Roman pontiff. The crusades broke out, and, being religious enterprises, they tended to the predominance of the ecclesiastical element, and silently moulded the minds and the habits of men to submission to the Church. Moreover, they tended to exhaust the resources and break the spirit of kingdoms, and rendered it easier for Rome to carry out her scheme of aggrandizement. The same effect attended the wars and convulsions which disturbed Europe, and which grew out of the struggles of Rome for dominion. These weakened the secular, but left the vigour of the spiritual element unimpaired. The deepening ignorance of the masses was exceedingly favourable to the pretensions of Rome. It formed a basis of power, not only over them, but, through them, over kings. Add to all this, that of the two principles between which this great contest was waged, the secular was divided, whereas the spiritual was one. The kings had various interests, and frequently pursued conflicting lines of policy. The most perfect organization and union reigned in the ranks of the Papacy. The clergy in all countries were thoroughly devoted to the papal see, and obeyed as one man the behests which came from the chair of St. Peter. It is also to be borne in mind, that in this conflict the emperors could contend with but secular weapons; whereas the popes, while they by no means disdained the aid of armies, fought with those yet more formidable weapons which the power of superstition furnished them with. Is it wonderful that with these advantages they triumphed in the contest,--that every successive age found Rome growing in influence and dominion,--and that at last her chief was seen seated, god-like, on the Seven Hills, with the nations, tribes, and languages of the Roman world prostrate at his feet? "After long centuries of confusion," says Ranke,--"after other centuries of often doubtful strife,--the independence of the Roman see, and that of its essential principle, was finally attained. In effect, the position of the popes was at this moment most exalted; the clergy were wholly in their hands. It is worthy of remark, that the most firm-minded pontiffs of this period,--Gregory VII. for example,--were Benedictines. By the introduction of celibacy, they converted the whole body of the secular clergy into a kind of monastic order.
The universal bishopric now claimed by the popes bears a certain resemblance to the power of an abbot of Cluny, who was the only abbot of his order; in like manner, these pontiffs aspired to be the only bishops of the assembled Church. They interfered, without scruple, in the administration of every diocese, and even compared their legates with the pro-consuls of ancient Rome! While this closely-knit body, so compact in itself, yet so widely extended through all lands,--influencing all by its large possessions, and controlling every relation of life by its ministry,--was concentrating its mighty force under the obedience of one chief, the temporal powers were crumbling into ruin. Already, in the beginning of the twelfth century, the Provost Gerohus ventured to say, 'It will at last come to this, that the golden image of the empire shall be shaken to dust; every great monarchy shall be divided into tetrarchates, and then only will the Church stand free and untrammelled beneath the protection of her crowned high priest.'" Thus did Rome seize the golden moment when the iron of the German race, like that of the Carlovingian before it, had become mixed with miry clay, to complete her work of five centuries. She had watched and waited for ages; she had flattered the proud and insulted the humble; bowed to the strong and trampled upon the weak; she had awed men with terrors that were false, and excited them with hopes that were delusive; she had stimulated their passions and destroyed their souls; she had schemed, and plotted, and intrigued, with a cunning, and a malignity, and a success, which hell itself might have envied, and which certainly it never surpassed; and now her grand object was within her reach,--was attained. She had triumphed over the empire; she was lord paramount of Europe; nations were her footstool; and from her lofty seat she showed herself to the wondering tribes of earth, encompassed by the splendour, possessing the attributes, and wielding the power, not of earthly monarchs, but of the Eternal Majesty.
Accordingly, we are now arrived at the golden age of the Papacy. In A.D. 1197, Innocent ascended the papal chair. It was the fortune of this man, on whose shoulders had fallen the mantle of Lucifer, to reap all that the popes his predecessors had sowed in alternate triumphs and defeats. The traditions and principles of the papal policy descended to him matured and perfected. The man, too, was equal to the hour. He had the art to veil a genius as aspiring as that of Gregory VII. under designs less avowedly temporal and worldly. He affected to wield only a spiritual sceptre; but he held it over monarchs and kingdoms, as well as over priests and churches. "Though I cannot judge of the right to a fief," wrote he to the kings of France and England, "yet it is my province to judge where sin is committed, and my duty to prevent all public scandals." So lofty were his notions of the spiritual prerogative, and so much did he regard temporal rule as its inseparable concomitant, that he disdained to hold it by a formal claim. He exercised an omnipotent sway over mind, and left it to govern the bodies and goods of men. We find De Maistre comparing the Catholic Church in the days of Charlemagne to an ellipse, with St. Peter in one of the foci, and the Emperor in the other. But now, in the days of Innocent, the Church, or rather the European system, from being an ellipse, had become a circle. The two foci were gone. There was but one governing point,--the centre; and in that centre stood Peter's chair.
The pontificate of Innocent was one continued and unclouded display of the superhuman glory of the popedom. From a height to which no mortal had before been able to climb, and which the strongest intellect becomes giddy when it contemplates, he regulated all the affairs of this lower world. His comprehensive scheme of government took in alike the greatest affairs of the greatest kingdoms, and the most private concerns of the humblest individual. We find him teaching the kings of France their duty, dictating to the emperors their policy, and at the same time adjudicating in the case of a citizen of Pisa who had mortgaged his estate, and to whom Innocent, by spiritual censures, compelled the creditor to make restitution of the goods on receiving payment of the money; and writing to the Bishop of Ferentino, giving his decision in the case of a simple maiden for whose hand two lovers contended. Thus the thunder of Rome broke alike over the heads of puissant kings and humble citizens.
The Italian republics he gathered under his own sceptre, and, binding them in leagues, cast them into the political scale, to counterpoise the empire. The kings of Castile and Portugal, as they hung on the perilous edge of battle, were separated by a single word from his legate. The king of Navarre held some castles of Richard's, which his power did not enable him to retake. The pontiff hinted at the spiritual thunder, and the castles were given up. Monarchs, intent only on a present advantage, failed to see that, by accepting the aid of such a power, they were the abettors of their own future vassalage. The King of France had offended the Pope by repudiating his wife and contracting a new marriage. An interdict fell upon the realm. The churches were closed, and the clergy forbore their offices to both the living and the dead. The submission of the powerful Philip Augustus illustrated the boundless spirit and appeased the immeasurable pride of Innocent. After this great victory, we name not those which he gained over the kings of Spain and England, the latter of whom he excommunicated, placing his kingdom under interdict, and compelling him to hold his crown and realm as the vassal of the Roman see. But the coronation of the Emperor Otho IV., and the varied and substantial concessions included in the oath which Otho took on that occasion, are worthy of being enumerated among the trophies of this mighty pope. The terror of his name extended to distant lands,--to Bohemia, to Hungary, to Norway. The pontifical thunder was heard rolling in even the latter northern region, where it smote a certain usurper of the name of Swero. As if all these labours had been too little, Innocent, from his seat on the Seven Hills, guided the progress of those destructive tempests which swept along the shores of Syria and the Straits of the Bosphorus. Constantinople fell before the crusaders, and the kings of Bulgaria and Armenia acknowledged the supremacy of Innocent.
"His legs bestrid the ocean; his reared arm
Crested the world; his voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends
And when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder. . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . In his livery
Walked crowns and crownets."
But the mightiest efforts of Innocent were reserved for the extirpation of heresy. He was the first to discover the danger to the popedom which lurked in the Scriptural faith, and in the mental liberty of the Albigenses and Waldenses. On them, therefore, and not on eastern schismatics or recalcitrating sovereigns, fell the full storm of the pontifical ire. Assembling his vassal kings, he pointed to the peaceful and thriving communities in the provinces of the Rhone, and inflamed the zeal and fury of the soldiers by holding out the promise of immense booty and unbounded indulgence. For a forty days' service a man might earn paradise, not to speak of the worldly spoil with which he was certain to return laden home. The poor Albigenses were crushed beneath an avalanche of murderous fanaticism and inappeasable rapacity. To Innocent history is indebted for one of her bloodiest pages,--the European crusades; and the world owes him thanks for its most infernal institution, the Inquisition. He had for his grand object to bestow an eternity of empire upon the papal throne; and, to accomplish this, he strove to inflict an eternity of thraldom upon the human mind. His darling aim was to make the chair of Peter equally stable and absolute with its fellow-seat in pandemonium.
The noon of the Papacy synchronises with the world's midnight. Innocent III. was emphatically the Prince of the Darkness. There was but one thing in the universe which he dreaded, and that was light. The most execrable shapes of night could not appal him;--these were congenial terrors: he knew they had no power to harm him or his. But the faintest glimmer of day on the horizon struck terror into his soul, and he contended ceaselessly against the light, with all the artillery of anathemas and arms. During the whole century of his pontificate the globe was seen reposing in deep shadow, girdled round with the chain of the papal power, and corruscated fearfully with the flashes of the pontifical thunder. Like a crowned demon, Innocent sat upon the Seven Hills, muffled up in the mantle of Lucifer, and governed earth as Satan governs hell. At a great distance below, realizing by anticipation the boldest vision of the great poet, were the crowned potentates and mitred hierarchies of the world over which he ruled, lying foundered and overthrown, like the spirits in the lake, in the same degrading and shameful vassalage. Princes laid their swords, and nations their treasures, at the foot of the pontifical throne, and bowed their necks to be trodden upon by its occupant. Innocent might say, as Caesar to the conquered queen of Egypt,--
"I'll take my leave."
And the subject nations might reply with Cleopatra,--
"And may, through all the world: 'tis yours; and we
Your scutcheons, and your signs of conquest, shall
Hang in what place you please."
The boast better became his mouth than it did the proud Assyrian who first uttered it. "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man. And my hand hath found, as a nest, the riches of the people; and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped."
Thus have we traced the course of the papal power, from its feeble rise in the second century, to its full development in the thirteenth. We have seen how the infant pontiff was suckled by the imperial wolf (for the fables of heathen mythology find their truest realization in the Papacy, and, from being myths, become vaticinations), and how, waxing strong on the pure milk of Paganism, he grew to manhood, and, being grown, discovered all the genuine pagan and vulpine qualities of the mother that nursed him,--the passion for images and the thirst for blood. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin; and the world has now found out that the beast of the Roman hill is but a wolf in sheep's clothing. How often have slaughter and carnage covered the fold which he professed to guard! Take it all in all, the story of the papal power is a dismal drama,--the gloomiest that darkens history! We look back upon the past; and, as we behold this terrible power growing continually bigger and darker, and casting fresh shadows, with every succeeding age, upon the liberty and religion of the world, till at last both came to be shrouded in impenetrable night, we are reminded of those tragedies and horrors with which the imagination of Milton has given grandeur to his song.
To nothing can we liken the progress of the Papacy, through the wastes of the Middle Ages to the universal domination of the thirteenth and succeeding centuries, save to the passage of the fiend from the gates of pandemonium to the sphere of the newly-created world. The old dragon of Paganism, broken loose from the abyss into which he had been cast, sallied forth in quest of the world of young Christianity, as Satan from with the like fiendish intent of marring and subjugating it. He had no "narrow frith" to cross; but he held his way with as cautious a step and as dauntless a front as his great prototype. His path, more especially in its first stages, was bestrewn with the wrecks of a perished world, and scourged by those tempests which attend the birth of new states. On this hand he shunned the whirlpool of the sinking empire, and on that guarded himself against the fiery blast of the Saracenic eruption. There he buffeted the waves of tumultuous revolutions, and here he planted his foot on the crude consistence of a young and rising state. Now "the strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud" hurried him aloft, and, "that fury stayed," he was anon "quenched in a boggy Syrtis." Now he was upborne on the shield of kings; and now his foot trode upon their necks. Now he hewed his way with the bloody brand; and now, in more crafty fashion, with the forged document. Sometimes he wore his own shape, and showed himself as Apollyon; but more frequently he hid the hideous lineaments of the destroyer beneath the fair semblance of an angel of light. Thus he maintained the struggle through the weary ages, till at last the thirteenth century saw
"His dark pavilion spread
Wide on the wasteful deep; with him enthroned
Sat sable vested night, eldest of things,
The consort of his reign; and by them stood
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
The scheme of Rome, viewed simply as an intellectual conception, is the most comprehensive and gigantic which the genius and ambition of man ever dared to entertain. There is a unity and vastness about it, which, apart from its moral aspect, compels our admiration, and awakens a feeling of mingled astonishment and terror. The depth of its essential principles, the boldness of the design, the wisdom and talent brought into play in achieving its realization, the perseverance and vigour with which it was prosecuted, and the marvellous success with which it was at last crowned, were all equal, and were all colossal. It is at once the grandest and the most iniquitous enterprise in which man ever embarked. But, as we have shown in our opening chapter, we ought not to regard it as a distinct and separate enterprise, springing from principles and contemplating aims peculiar to itself, but as the full development and consummation of man's original apostacy. The powers of man and the limits of the globe do not admit of that apostacy being carried higher; for had it been much extended, either in point of intensity or in point of duration, the human species would have perished. A corruption so universal and a tyranny so overwhelming would in due time have utterly depopulated the globe. In the domination of the Papacy we have a glimpse of what would have been the condition of the world had no scheme of salvation been provided for it. The history of the Papacy is the history of the rebellion of our race against Heaven.
Before dismissing this subject, let us glance a moment at another and different picture. What became of Truth in the midst of such monstrous errors? Where was a shelter found for the Church during storms so fearful? To understand this, we must leave the open plains and the wealthy cities of the empire, and retire to the solitude of the Alps. In primitive times the members of the then unfallen Church of Rome had found amid these mountains a shelter from persecution. He who built an ark for the one elect family of the antediluvian world had provided a retreat for the little company chosen to escape the mighty shipwreck of Christianity. God placed his Church aloft on the eternal hills, in the place prepared for her. Nature had enriched this abode with pine forests, and rich mountain pastures, and rivers which issue from the frozen jaws of the glacier, and made it strong as beautiful by a wall of peaks that pierce the clouds, and look down on earth from amidst the firmament's calm, white with everlasting snows. Here it is that we find the true apostolic Church. Here, far from the magnificence of Dom, the fragrance of incense, and the glitter of mitres, holy men of God fed the flock of Christ with the pure Word of Life. Ages of peace passed over them. The storms that shook the world, the errors that darkened it, did not approach their retreat.
Like the traveller, amid their own mountains they could mark the clouds gather and hear the thunders roll far below, while they enjoyed the uninterrupted sunshine of a pure gospel. An overruling Providence made the same events which brought trouble to the world to minister peace to them. Rome was entirely engrossed with her battles with the empire, and had no time to think of those who were bearing a testimony against her errors by the purity of their faith and the holiness of their lives. Besides, she could see danger only in the material power of the empire, and never dreamt the while that a spiritual power was springing up among the Alps, before which she was destined at last to fall. By and by these professors of primitive Christianity began to increase, and to spread themselves over the surrounding regions, to an extent that is but little known. Manufactures were established in the valley of the Rhone, and in those provinces of France which border on the Mediterranean or lie contiguous to the Pyrenees; as also in Lombardy and the towns of northern Italy. In fact, this region of Europe became in those ages the depot of the western world as regards arts and manufactures of all kinds. Villages grew into cities, new towns sprung up, and the population of the surrounding districts were insufficient to supply the looms and forges of these industrial hives. The pious mountaineers descended from their native Alps to find employment in the workshops of the plains, just as at this day we see the population of the Highlands crowding to Glasgow and Manchester, and other great manufacturing centres; and, as they brought their intelligence and steadiness along with them, they made admirable workmen. The workshop became a school, conversions went on, and the pure faith of the mountains extended itself over the plains, like the dawn, first seen on the hill-tops, but soon to descend and gladden the valley.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries manufactures and Christianity,--the loom and the Bible--went hand in hand, and promised to achieve the peaceful conquest of Europe, and rescue it from the hands of those pontifical and imperial barbarians who were doing their best to convert it into an unbroken expanse of solitudes and ruins. These manufacturing and Christian societies took possession of the whole of the Italian and French provinces adjoining the Alps. The valley of the Rhone swarmed with these busy and intelligent communities. They covered with population, industry, and wealth, the provinces of Dauphine, Provence, Languedoc, and, in short, all southern France. They were found in great numbers in Lombardy. Their factories, churches, and schools, were spread over all northern Italy. They planted their arts and their faith in the valley of the Rhine, so that a traveller might journey from Basle to Cologne, and sleep every night in the house of a Christian brother. In some of the dioceses in northern Italy there were not fewer than thirty of their churches with schools attached. These professors of an apostolic creed were noted for leading pure and peaceful lives, for the pains they took in the instruction of their families, for their readiness to benefit their neighbours both by good offices and religious counsel, for their gift of extempore prayer, and for the large extent to which their memories were stored with the Word of God. Many of them could recite entire epistles and gospels, and some of them had committed to memory the whole of the New Testament.
The region which they occupied formed a belt of country stretching on both sides of the Alps and the Pyrenees, from the sources of the Rhine to the Garonne and the Ebro, and from the Po and the Adriatic to the shores of the Mediterranean. Monarchs found that this was the most productive and the most easily governed part of their dominions. Amid the wars and feudalism that oppressed the rest of Europe, in which towns were falling into decay, and the population in some spots were becoming extinct, and little appeared to be left, especially in France, "but convents scattered here and there amid vast tracts of forest," this Populous tract, rich in the marvels of industry and the virtues of true religion, resembled a strip of verdure drawn across the wastes of the desert. Will it be believed that human hands rooted out this paradise, which a pure Christianity had created in the very heart of the desert of European Catholicism? Rome about this time had brought to an end her wars with the empire, and her popes were reposing, after their struggle of centuries, in the proud consciousness of undoubted supremacy. The light had been spreading unobserved, and the Reformation was on the point of being anticipated. The demon Innocent III. was the first to descry the streaks of day on the crest of the Alps. Horror-stricken, he started up, and began to thunder from his Pandemonium against a faith which had already subjugated provinces, and was threatening to dissolve the power of Rome in the very flush of her victory over the empire. In order to save the one half of Europe from perishing by heresy, it was decreed that the other half should perish by the sword. The monarchs of Europe dared not disobey a summons which was enforced by the most dreadful adjurations and threats. They assembled their vassals, and girded on the sword, not to repel an invader or to quell insurrection, but to extirpate those very men whose industry had enriched their realm, and whose virtue and loyalty formed the stay of their power.
Lest the work of vengeance should slacken, Rome held out dazzling bribes, equally compounded of paradise and gold. She could afford to be prodigal of both, for neither cost her anything. Paradise is always in her gift for those who will do her work, and the wealth of the heretic is the lawful plunder of the faithful. With such a bank, and permission to draw upon it to an unlimited amount, Rome had no motive, and certainly would have had no thanks, for any ill-judged economy. The fanatics who mustered for the crusade hated the person and loved the goods of the heretic. Onward they marched, to earn heaven by desolating earth. The work was three centuries a-doing. It was done effectually at last, however. "Neither sex, nor age, nor rank, have we spared," says the leader of the war against the Albigenses; "we have put all alike to the sword." The churches and the workshops, the Christianity and the industry, of the region, were swept away by this simoom of fanaticism. Before it was a garden, behind it a desert. All was silent now, where the solemn melody of praise and the busy hum of trade had before been so happily blent. Monarchs had drained their exchequers to desolate the wealthiest and fairest portion of their dominions; nevertheless they held themselves abundantly recompensed by the assurance which Rome gave them of crowns and kingdoms in paradise.
Foundation and Extent of the Supremacy
This is the favourable point for taking a view of the character of the Papacy,--its lofty pretensions and claims, and the foundation on which all these are based. The conflict waged by the seventh Gregory, and which ended in disaster to himself, but in triumph to his system, brings out in striking relief the essential principles, the guiding spirit, and the unvarying aims, of the popedom. When intelligently contemplated, the Papacy is seen to be a monarchy of a mixed kind, partly ecclesiastical and partly civil, founded professedly upon divine right, and claiming universal jurisdiction and dominion. The empire which Gregory VII. strove to erect was of this mixed kind; the dominion he arrogated and exercised extended directly or indirectly to all things temporal and spiritual; and this vast power he claimed jure divino. This it now becomes our business to show.
The Pope had now made himself absolute master in the Church. There was, in fact, but one bishop, and Christendom was his diocese. From this one man flowed all ecclesiastical honours, offices, acts, and jurisdiction. The pontiffs presided in all councils by their legates; they were the supreme arbiters in all controversies that arose respecting religion or church discipline. "Gregory VII.," remarks D'Aubigné, "claimed the same power over all the bishops and priests of Christendom that an abbot of Cluny exercises in the order in which he presides." And all this they claimed as the successor of St. Peter. But it is unnecessary to spend time on a point so universally admitted as that the popes now possessed ecclesiastical supremacy, and professed to hold it by divine right, that is, as the successors of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles. But the point to be demonstrated here is, that the popes, not content with being supreme rulers in the Church, and having all ecclesiastical persons and things subject to their absolute authority, claimed to be supreme in the State also; and, in the character of God's vicegerents presumed to dispose of crowns and kingdoms, and to interfere in all temporal affairs. The foundation of this power was laid when the popes claimed to be the successors of St. Peter and the vicars of Christ, which they did, as we have already shown, as early as the middle of the fifth century; but the universal and uncontrolled dominion implied in this claim they did not seek to wield till towards the times of Gregory VII., in the eleventh century. But that they did then arrogate this power in the most open and unblushing manner, does not admit of doubt or denial. There exists a vast body of proof to the effect that the popes of the eleventh and succeeding centuries attempted to prostrate beneath their feet the temporal as well as the spiritual power, and that they succeeded in their attempt. The history of Europe from the era of Hildebrand to that of Luther must be blotted out before the condemnatory evidence--for condemnatory of the Papacy it certainly is, as irreconcileably hostile to the liberties of nations and the rights of princes--can be annihilated or got rid of. It has put this claim into a great variety of forms, and attempted in every possible way to make it good. It taught this claim in its essential principles; and, when the character of the times permitted, it advanced it in plain and unmistakeable statements. It spent five centuries of intrigue in the effort to realize this claim, and five centuries more of wars and bloodshed in the effort to retain and consolidate it. It was promulgated from the doctor's chair, ratified by synodical acts, embodied in the instructions of nuncios, and thundered from the pontifical throne in the dreadful sentence of interdict by which monarchs were deposed, their crowns transferred to others, their subjects loosed from their allegiance, and their kingdoms not unfrequently ravaged with fire and sword.
Acts so monstrous may appear to be the mere wantonness of ambition, or the irresponsible doings of men in whom the lust of power had overborne every other consideration. The man who reasons in this way either does not understand the Papacy, or wilfully perverts the question. This was but the sober and logical action of the popedom; it was the fair working of the evil principles of the system, and no chance ebullition of the destructive passions of the man who had been placed at its head; and nothing is capable of a more complete and convincing demonstration. The foundation of our proof must of course be the constitution of the Papacy. As is the nature of the thing,--as are the elements and principles of which it is made up,--so inevitably must be the character and extent of its claims, and the nature of its action and influence. What, then, is the Papacy? Is it a purely spiritual society, or a purely secular society? It is neither. The Papacy is a mixed society: the secular element enters quite as largely into its constitution as does the spiritual. It is a compound of both elements in equal proportions; and, being so, must necessarily possess secular as well as spiritual jurisdiction, and be necessitated to adopt civil as well as ecclesiastical action. But how does it appear that the Church of Rome combines in one essence the secular and spiritual elements? for the point lies here. It appears from the fundamental axiom on which she rests. There are but a few links in the chain of her infernal logic; but these few links are of adamant; and they so bind up together, in one composite body, the two principles, the spiritual and the temporal, and, by consequence, the two jurisdictions, that the moment Rome attempts to cut in twain what her logic joins in one, she ceases to be the popedom. Her syllogism is indestructible if the minor proposition be but granted; and the minor proposition, be it remembered, is her fundamental axiom:
CHRIST IS THE VICAR OF GOD, AND, AS SUCH, POSSESSES HIS POWER; BUT THE POPE IS THE VICAR OF CHRIST;
THEREFORE THE POPE IS GOD'S VICAR, AND POSSESSES HIS POWER.
To Christ, as the Vicar of God, all power, spiritual and temporal, has been delegated. All spiritual power has been delegated to Him as Head of the Church; and all temporal power has been delegated to Him for the good of the Church. This power has been delegated a second time from Christ to the Pope. To the Pope all spiritual power has been delegated, as head of the Church, and God's vicegerent on earth; and all temporal power also, for the good of the Church. Such is the theory of the popedom. This conclusively establishes that the Papacy is of a mixed character. We but perplex ourselves when we think or speak of it simply as a religion. It contains the religious element, no doubt; but it is not a religion;--it is a scheme of domination of a mixed character, partly spiritual and partly temporal; and its jurisdiction must be of the same mixed kind with its constitution. To talk of the Popedom wielding a purely spiritual authority only, is to assert what her fundamental principles repudiate. These principles compel her to claim the temporal also. The two authorities grow out of the same fundamental axiom, and are so woven together in the system, and so indissolubly knit the one to the other, that the Papacy must part with both or none. The Popedom, then, stands alone. In genius, in constitution, and in prerogative, it is diverse from all other societies. The Church of Rome is a temporal monarchy as really as she is an ecclesiastic body; and in token of her hybrid character, her head, the Pope, displays the emblems of both jurisdictions,--the keys in the one hand, the sword in the other.
Pope Boniface VIII. was a much more logical expounder of the Papacy than those who now-a-days would persuade us that it is purely spiritual. In a bull "given at the palace of the Lateran, in the eighth year of his pontificate," and inserted in the body of the canon law, we find him claiming both jurisdictions in the broadest manner. "There is," says he, "one fold and one shepherd. The authority of that shepherd includes the two swords,--the spiritual and the temporal. So much are we taught by the words of the evangelist, 'Behold, here are two swords,' namely, in the Church. The Lord did not reply, It is too much, but, It is enough. Certainly he did not deny to Peter the temporal sword: he only commanded him to return it into its scabbard. Both, therefore, belong to the jurisdiction of the Church,--the spiritual sword and the secular. The one is to be wielded for the Church,--the other by the Church; the one is the sword of the priest,--the other is in the hand of the monarch, but at the command and sufferance of the priest. It behoves the one sword to be under the other,--the temporal authority to be subject to the spiritual power." Whatever may be thought of this pontifical gloss, there can be no question as to the comprehensive jurisdiction which Boniface founds upon the passage.
It cannot be argued, then, with the least amount of truth, or of plausibility even, that this claim was the result of a kind of accident,--that it originated solely in the ambition of an individual pope, and was foreign to the genius, or disallowed by the principles, of the Papacy. On the contrary, nothing is easier than to show that it is a most logical deduction from the fundamental elements of the system. It partakes not in the slightest degree of the accidental; nor was it a crotchet of Hildebrand, or a delusion of the age in which he lived; as is manifest from the fact, that its development was the work of five centuries, and the joint operation of many hundreds of minds who were successively employed upon it. It was the logical consequence of principles which had been engrafted in the Papacy, or rather, as we have just shown, which lie at the foundation of the whole system; and accordingly, it was steadily and systematically pursued through a succession of centuries, and engaged the genius and ambition of innumerable minds. As the seed bursts the clod and struggles into light, so we behold the principle of papal supremacy struggling for development through the slow centuries, and in its efforts overturning thrones and convulsing society. We can discover the supremacy in embryo as early as the fifth century, and can trace its logical development till the times of Hildebrand. We see it passing through the consecutive stages of the dogma, the synodical decree, the papal missive, and the interdict, which shook the thrones of monarchs, and laid their occupants prostrate in the dust. The gnarled oak, whose lofty stature and thick foliage darken the earth for roods around, is not more really a development of the acorn deposited in the soil centuries before, than were the arrogant pretensions and domineering acts of the Papacy in the age of Innocent the result of the principle deposited in the Papacy in the fifth century, that the Pope is Christ's vicar.
The Pope's absolute dominion over priests is not a more legitimate inference from this doctrine than is his dominion over kings. If the pontiffs have renounced the temporal supremacy, it is on one of two grounds,--either they are not Christ's vicars, or Christ is not a King of kings. But they have claimed all along, and do still claim, to be the vicars of Christ; and they have likewise held all along, and do still hold, that Christ is Head of the world as well as Head of the Church. The conclusion is inevitable, that it is not only over the Church that they bear rule, but over the world also; and that they have as good a right to dispose of crowns, and to meddle in the temporal affairs of kingdoms, as they have to bestow mitres, and to make laws in the Church. The one authority is as essential to the completeness of their assumed character as is the other.
The popes have understood the matter in this light from the beginning. Some writers of name are at present endeavouring to persuade the world that the pontiffs (some few excepted, who, they say, transgressed in this matter the bounds of Catholicism as well as of moderation) never claimed or exercised supremacy over princes; that this is not, and never was, a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church; and that she repudiates and condemns the opinion that the Pope has been invested with jurisdiction over temporal princes. But we cannot grant to Rome the sole right to interpret history, as her members grant to her the right to interpret the Bible. We can examine and judge for ourselves; and when we do so, we certainly find far more reason to admire the boldness than to confess the prudence of those who disclaim, on the part of Rome, this doctrine. The proofs to the contrary are far too plain and too numerous to permit of this disclaimer obtaining the least credit from any one, save those who are prepared to receive without scruple or inquiry all that popish writers may be pleased to assert in behalf of their Church. Popes, canonists, and councils have promulgated this tenet; and not only have they asserted that the power it implies rests on Divine right, but they have inculcated it as an article of belief on all who would preserve the faith and unity of the Church. "We," says Pope Boniface VIII., "declare, say, define, and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation, that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff. The one sword must be under the other; and the temporal authority must be subject to the spiritual power: hence, if the earthly power go astray, the spiritual shall judge it." These sentiments are re-echoed by Leo X. and his Council of Lateran. "We," says that pope, "with the approbation of the present holy council, do renew and approve that holy constitution." To that doctrine Baronius heartily subscribes: "There can be no doubt of it," says he, "but that the civil principality is subject to the sacerdotal, and that God hath made the political government subject to the dominion of the spiritual Church."
"He who reigneth on high," says Pius V., in his introduction to his bull against Queen Elizabeth, "to whom is given all power in heaven and in earth, hath committed the one holy Catholic Church, out of which there is no salvation, to one alone upon earth, that is, to Peter, the prince of apostles, and to the Roman pontiff, the successor of Peter, to be governed with a plenitude of power. This one he hath constituted prince over all nations, that he may pluck up, overthrow, disperse, destroy, plant, and rear." The Italian priest, therefore, thunders against the English monarch in the following style:--"We deprive the Queen of her pretended right to the kingdom, and of all dominion, dignity, and privilege whatsoever; and absolve all the nobles, subjects, and people of the kingdom, and whoever else have sworn to her, from their oath, and all duty whatsoever in regard of dominion, fidelity, and obedience."
"Snatch up, therefore, the two-edged sword of Divine power committed to thee," was the address of the Council of Lateran to Leo X., "and enjoin, command, and charge, that a universal peace and alliance, for at least ten years, be made among Christians; and to that bind kings in the fetters of the great King, and firmly fasten nobles with the iron manacles of censures; for to thee is given all power in heaven and in earth."
So speak the popes and councils of Rome. Here is not only the principle out of which the supremacy springs enunciated, but the claim itself advanced. Not in words only have they held this high tone; their deeds have been equally lofty. The supremacy was not permitted to remain a theory; it became a fact. For several centuries together we see the popes reigning over Europe, and demeaning themselves in every way as not only its spiritual, but also its temporal lords. We see them freely distributing immunities, titles, revenues, territories, as if all belonged to them; we see them sustaining themselves arbiters in all disputes, umpires in all quarrels, and judges in all causes; we see them giving provinces and crowns to their favourites, and constituting emperors; we see them imposing oaths of fidelity and vassalage on monarchs; and, in token, of the dependence of the one and the supremacy of the other, we see them exacting tribute for their kingdoms in the shape of Peter's pence; we see them raising wars and crusades, summoning princes and kings into the field, attiring them in their livery, the cross, and holding them but as lieutenants under them. In fine, how often have they deposed monarchs, and laid their kingdoms under interdict? History presents us with a list of not less than sixty-four emperors and kings deposed by the popes. But it is improper to despatch in a single sentence what occupies so large a space in history, and has been the cause of so much suffering, bloodshed, and war to Europe. Nothing can convey a better or truer picture of the insufferable arrogance and pride of the pontiffs than their own language on these occasions.
"For the dignity and defence of God's holy Church" says Gregory VII. (Hildebrand), "in the name of the omnipotent God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I depose from imperial and royal administration, Henry the king, the son of Henry, formerly emperor, who, too boldly and rashly, has laid hands on thy Church; and I absolve all Christians subject to the empire from that oath by which they were wont to plight their faith unto true kings; for it is right that he should be deprived of dignity who doth endeavour to diminish the majesty of the Church.
"Go to, therefore, most holy princes of the apostles, and what I said, by interposing your authority, confirm; that all men may now at length understand, if ye can bind and loose in heaven, that ye also can upon earth take away and give empires, kingdoms, and whatsoever mortals can have; for if ye can judge things belonging unto God, what is to be deemed concerning these inferior and profane things? And if it is your part to judge angels who govern proud princes, what becometh it you to do towards their servants? Let kings now, and all secular princes, learn by this man's example what ye can do in heaven, and in what esteem ye are with God; and let them henceforth fear to slight the commands of holy Church, but put forth suddenly this judgment, that all men may understand, that not casually, but by your means, this son of iniquity doth fall from his kingdom."
"We therefore," says Innocent IV. in the Council of Lyons (1245), when pronouncing sentence of excommunication upon the Emperor Frederick II., "having had previous and careful deliberation with our brethren and the holy council respecting the preceding and many other of his wicked miscarriages, do show, denounce, and accordingly deprive of all honour and dignity, the said prince, who hath rendered himself unworthy of empire and kingdoms, and of all honour and dignity; and who, for his sins, is cast away by God, that he should not reign nor command; and all who are bound by oath of allegiance we absolve from such oath for ever, firmly enjoining that none in future regard or obey him as emperor or king; and decreeing, that whoever yields him in these characters advice, assistance, or favours, shall immediately lie under the bond of excommunication."
The following bull of Sixtus V. (1585) against the King of Navarre and the Prince of Conde,--the two sons of wrath,--is conceived in the loftiest pontifical style. "The authority given to St. Peter and his successors by the immense power of the Eternal King, excels all the power of earthly princes; it passes uncontrollable sentence upon them all; and if it find any of them resisting the ordinance of God, it takes a more severe vengeance upon them, casting them down from their throne, however powerful they may be, and tumbling them to the lowest parts of the earth, as the ministers of aspiring Lucifer. We deprive them and their posterity of their dominions for ever. By the authority of these presents, we absolve and free all persons from their oath [of allegiance], and from all duty whatever relating to dominion, fealty, and obedience; and we charge and forbid all from presuming to obey them, or any of their admonitions, laws, or commands."
But it were endless to bring forward all that might be adduced on the point. The history of the middle ages abounds with instances of the exercise of this tremendous power, of the disgrace and disaster it entailed on monarchs, and the confusion and calamity it occasioned to nations. But instead of citing instances of these,--of which the history of Europe, not excepting that of our own country, is filled,--we think it of more consequence here to observe, that the most high-handed of these acts grew directly out of the fundamental principle of the Papacy,--that the Pope is Christ's vicar. If this be granted, the pontiff is as really the temporal as the spiritual chief of Europe; and in dethroning heretical kings, and laying rebellious kingdoms under interdict, he is simply exercising a power which Christ has lodged in his hands; he is doing what he is not only entitled, but bound to do. Nothing could display greater ignorance of the essential principles of the Papacy, or greater incompetence to deduce legitimate inferences from these principles, than to hold, as some do, that the supremacy was an accident, or had its origin in the ambition of Gregory, or in the superstitious and slavish character of the times. True, it was only at times that the Papacy dared to assert or to act upon this arrogant claim. In itself the claim is so monstrous, and so destructive of both the natural rights of men and the just prerogatives of princes, that the instinct of self-preservation overcame at times the slavish dictates of superstition, and princes and people united to oppose a despotism that threatened to crush both. When the state was strong the Papacy held its claims in abeyance; but when the sceptre came into feeble hands, that moment Rome advanced her lordly pretensions, and summoned both her ghostly terrors and her material resources to enforce them. She trampled with inexorable pride upon the dignity of princes; she violated without scruple the sanctity of oaths; she repaid former favours with insult; and treated with equal disdain the rights and the supplications of nations. Nothing, however exalted, nothing, however venerable, nothing, however sacred, was permitted to stand in her way to universal and supreme dominion. She became the lady of kingdoms. She was God's vicegerent, and could bind or loose, build up or pull down, as seemed good unto her. In disposing of the crowns of monarchs, she was disposing of but her own; and in assuming the supreme authority in their kingdoms, she was exercising a right inherent in her, and with which she could no more part than she could cease to be Rome.
Such is the principle viewed logically. The most arrogant acts of Gregory and Innocent did not exceed by a single hairbreadth the just limits of their power, judged according to the fundamental axiom out of which that power springs. But we are not to suppose that Romanists have all been of one mind respecting the nature and extent of the supremacy. On this, as on every other point, they have differed widely. By a curious but easily explained coincidence, the Romanist theory of the supremacy has been enlarged or contracted, according to the mutations which the supremacy itself, in its exercise upon the world, has undergone. The papal sceptre has been a sort of index-hand. Its motions, whether through a larger or a narrower space, have ever furnished an exact measure of the existing state of opinion in the schools on the subject in question. In fact, the risings and fallings of theory and practice on the head of the supremacy have been as coincident, both in time and space, as the turnings of the vane and the wind, or as the changes of the mercury and the atmosphere; furnishing an instructive specimen of that very peculiar infallibility which Rome possesses. We distinctly recognise three well-defined and different opinions, not to mention minute shades and variations, among Romish doctors on this important question. The first attributes temporal power to the Pope on the ground of express and formal delegation from God. We are, say they, Peter's representative, God's vicegerent, possessors of the two keys, and therefore the rulers of the world in both its spiritual and temporal affairs. This may be held, speaking generally, as the claim of the popes who lived from Gregory VII. to Pius V., as expressed in their bulls, and interpreted (little to the comfort of sovereigns) in their acts. They were the world's priest and monarch in one person. And, we repeat, this, which is the high ultra-montane theory, appears to us to be the most consistent opinion, strictly logical on Romanist principles, and, indeed, wholly impregnable if we but grant their postulate, that the Pope is Christ's vicar. Prior to the Reformation there was scarce a single dissentient from this view of the supremacy in the Romish Church, if we except the illustrious defenders of the "Gallican liberties." Theologians, canonists, and popes, with one voice claimed this prerogative. "The first opinion," says Bellarmine, when enumerating the views held respecting the Pope's temporal supremacy, "is, that the Pope has a most full power, jure divino, over the whole world, in both ecclesiastical and civil affairs." "This," he adds, "is the doctrine of Augustine Triumphus, Alvarus Pelagius, Hostiensis, Panormitanus, Sylvester, and others not a few." The same doctrine was taught by the "Angelical Doctor," as he is termed. Aquinas held, that "in the Pope is the top of both powers," and "by plain consequence asserting," says Barrow, "when any one is denounced excommunicate for apostacy, his subjects are immediately freed his dominion, and from their oaths of allegiance to him."
The second opinion is, that the Pope's immediate and direct jurisdiction extends to ecclesiastical matters only, but that he possesses a mediate and indirect authority over temporal affairs also. This opinion found its best expositor and its ablest champion in the redoubtable Cardinal Bellarmine. The Cardinal had sense to see, that the monstrous and colossal Janus, which turned a cleric or laic visage to the gazer, according to the side from which he viewed it,--which sat upon the seven hills, and was worshipped in the dark ages,--could no longer be borne by the world; and accordingly he set himself, with an adroitness and skill for which he had but little thanks from the reigning pontiff,--for the Cardinal narrowly escaped the Expurgatorius,--to show that the Pope had but one jurisdiction, the spiritual; and could exercise temporal authority only indirectly, that is, for the good of religion or the Church. The Pope, however, lost nothing, in point of fact, by the Cardinal's logic; for Bellarmine took care to teach, that that indirect temporal power would carry the pontiff as far, and enable him to do as much, as the direct temporal authority. This indirect temporal power, the Cardinal taught, was supreme, and could enable the Pope, for the welfare of the Church, to annul laws and depose sovereigns. This was dexterous management on the part of the Jesuit. He professed to part the enormous power which had before centred in Peter's chair, between the kings and the pope, giving the temporal to the former and the spiritual to the latter; but he took care that the lion's share should fall to the pontiff. It was a grand feat of legerdemain; for this division, made with such show of fairness, left the one party with not a particle more power, and the other with not a particle less, than before. Bellarmine had not broken or blunted the temporal sword; he had simply muffled it. He had left the pope brandishing in his hand the spiritual mace, with the temporal stiletto slung conveniently by his side, concealed by the folds of his pontificals. He could knock monarchs on the head with the spiritual bludgeon; and, having got them down, could despatch them with the secular poignard. What was there then in Bellarmine's theory to prevent the great spiritual freebooter of Rome doing as much business in his own peculiar line as before? Nothing.
But Bellarmine's opinion has become antiquated in its turn. The papal sceptre now describes a narrower political circle, and the opinions of the Romish doctors on the subject of the supremacy have undergone a corresponding limitation. A third opinion is that of those who hold the pope's indirect temporal power in its most mitigated and attenuated form,--in so very attenuated a form, indeed, that it is all but invisible; and accordingly the authors of this opinion take leave to deny that they grant to the pope any temporal power at all. There are the views propounded by Count de Maistre and Abbe Gosselin on the Continent, and by Dr. Wiseman in this country, and now generally received by all Roman Catholics. De Maistre strongly condemns the use of the term temporal supremacy to indicate the power which the popes claim over sovereigns; and maintains that it is in virtue of a power entirely and eminently spiritual that they believe themselves to be possessed of the right to excommunicate sovereigns guilty of certain crimes, without, however, any temporal encroachment, or any interference with their sovereignty. He instances the case of the present Pope, who is possessed of so little temporal power, that he is compelled to submit to the ridicule of the Roman citizens. De Maistre conveniently forgets that the question is not what the popes possess, but what they claim, either directly or by implication.
The matter is stated in almost precisely similar terms by Dr. Wiseman, in his "Lectures on the Doctrines and Practices of the Catholic Church." "The supremacy which I have described," says he, "is of a character purely spiritual, and has no connexion with the possession of any temporal jurisdiction. . . . Nor has this spiritual supremacy any relation to the wider sway once held by the pontiffs over the destinies of Europe. That the headship of the Church won naturally the highest weight and authority, in a social and political state, grounded on catholic principles, we cannot wonder. That power arose and disappeared with the institutions which produced or supported it, and forms no part of the doctrine hold by the Church regarding the papal supremacy." What sort of power, then, is it which these writers attribute to the Pope? A purely spiritual power, which, however, may, as they themselves admit, and must, as we shall show, carry very formidable temporal consequences in its train. A single term expresses the modern view of the supremacy, direction. It is not, according to this view, jurisdiction, but direction, which rightfully belongs to the pontiff. He sits upon the Seven Hills, not as the world's magistrate, but as the world's casuist. He is there to solve doubts and guide the consciences, not to coerce the bodies, of men. It is not as the dictator, but as the doctor of Europe that he occupies Peter's chair. But this is just Bellarmine's theory in a subtler form. The mode of action is changed, but that action in its result is the very same: we are led, in no long time, and by no very indirect path, to the full temporal supremacy. If the Pope be the director and judge of all consciences; if he be, as Romanists maintain, an infallible director and judge; must he not require submission to his judgment,--implicit submission,--seeing it is an infallible and supreme judgment? Suppose this infallible resolver had such a case of conscience as the following submitted to him,--it is no hypothetical case:--The Grand Duke of Tuscany solicits the papal see to direct his conscience as to whether it is lawful to permit his subjects to read the Word of God in the vernacular tongue, or to permit Protestant worship in the Italian language in his dominions; and he is told it is not.
The Pope does not send a single sbirri to Florence; he simply directs the ducal conscience. But the Grand Duke, as an obedient son of the church, feels himself bound to act on the advice of infallibility. Immediately the gens d'armes appear in the Protestant chapel, the Waldensian ministers are banished, and a count of the realm, along with others, whose only crime is attendance at Protestant worship, and reading the Word of God in Italian, are thrown into the Bargello or common prison. The sentence of excommunication thundered from Gaeta against the Romans was the precursor of the French cannon which the Jesuits of the cabinet of the Elysee sent to Rome. The excommunication was a purely spiritual act; but the gaps in the Roman wall, filled with gory masses of Roman and French corpses, had not much of a spiritual character. Laws favourable to toleration and Protestantism, the succession of Protestant sovereigns, and all other acts of the same kind, must be condemned by this supreme spiritual judge, as hostile to the interests of religion. Of course, every Catholic conscience throughout the world is directed by the judgment of the pontiff, and must feel bound to carry that judgment out to the best of his power. Were the Catholics of Ireland to propound such a case of casuistry as this to the papal see,--whether it is for the good of the Church in Ireland that a heretic like Queen Victoria should bear sway over that island,--who can doubt what the reply would be? Nor can it be doubted that Irish Catholic consciences would take the direction which infallibility indicated, if they thought they could do so to good purpose.
This autocrat of all consciences in and out of Christendom may disclaim all temporal power, and affect to be head of but a spiritual organization; but well he knows that, on the right and left of Peter's chair, as turnkey and hangman to the holy apostolic see, stand Naples and Austria. The knife of De Maistre, fine as its edge is, has but lopped off the branches of the tree of supremacy; the root is in the earth, fastened with a band of iron and brass. The artillery of Romanist logic plays harmlessly upon the fabric of the papal power. It veils it in clouds of smoke, but it does not throw down a single stone of the building. The spectator, because it is blotted from his sight, thinks it is demolished. Anon the smoke clears away, and it is seen standing unscathed, and strong as ever.
History is a great bar in the way of the reception of this theory, or rather of the general conclusion to which its authors seek to lead the public mind, namely, that the pontifical direction is not connected, either directly or consequentially, with temporal power; and that the popes simply pronounce judgment in abstract questions of right and wrong, leaving their award, as any other moral and religious body would do, to exercise its legitimate influence upon the opinion and action of the age. The reception of such a view of the supremacy as this is much impeded, we say, by the monuments of history. But what can be neither blotted out nor forgotten, it may be possible to explain away; and this is the task which De Maistre, and especially Gosselin and other modern Romanist writers, have imposed upon themselves. De Maistre admits, as it would be madness to deny, that the popes of a former age did depose sovereigns and loose subjects from their oath of allegiance; but to the amount to which these acts embodied temporal jurisdiction, or differed in their mode from direction, the adherents of the modern theory maintain that they grew out of the spirit and views of the middle ages, and that they were founded, not on divine right, but on public right, that is, on the general consent of the sovereigns and people of those days. Now, to this view of the subject there are many and insuperable objections. The popes themselves give quite a different account of the matter. When they pronounced sentence of excommunication on monarchs, in the middle ages, on what ground did they rest their acts? On the constitutional law of Europe? On rights made over to them by a convention, express or tacit, of sovereigns and people? No; but on the highest style of divine right. They gave and took away crowns, as the vicars of Christ and the holders of the keys. These popes did not act as casuists, but as rulers. They did not decide a point of morality, but a point of policy.
One can easily imagine the measureless indignation of Gregory or Innocent, had any one then dared to propound such a theory,--how quickly they would have smelt heresy in it, and summoned the pontifical thunders to purge out that heresy. Jurisdiction they did claim then, and on the theory of infallibility they claim it still; nor does it mend the matter though one should grant that that jurisdiction is of a spiritual nature, with the indirect temporal power attached; for, as we have already shown, this is but adding one step more to the logic, without adding even a step more to the process by which the act becomes thoroughly temporal. Nay, it does not mend the matter though we should drop the attached indirect temporal power, and retain only the spiritual jurisdiction. That jurisdiction is infallible and supreme, and extends to all things affecting religion, that is, the Church, the popes being the judges. We have had a modern proof how little this would avail to curb the excesses of pontifical ambition. We have seen the Pope, solely by the force of the spiritual jurisdiction, endeavouring to compel Piedmont to alter its laws, and to restore the lands to monasteries, and again extend to the clergy immunity from the secular tribuinals. Even De Maistre grants the right of excommunicating sovereigns guilty of great crimes.
But the Pope is to be the judge of what crimes do and do not merit this dreadful punishment; and the notions of pontiffs on this grave point are apt to differ from those of ordinary men. Innocent III. threatened to interrupt the succession to the throne of Hungary because his legate had been stopped in passing through that kingdom. Wherever duty is involved, there the Pope has the right to interfere. But what action is it that does not involve duty? There is nothing a man can do,--scarce anything he can leave undone,--in which the interests of religion are not more or less directly concerned, and in which the Pope has not a pretext for thrusting in his direction. He can prescribe the food a man is to eat, the person with whom he is to trade, the master whom he is to serve, or the menial whom he is to hire. One can marry only whom the priest pleases; and can send one's children to no school which the Pope has disallowed; he must be told how often to come to confession, and what proportion of his goods to give to the Church; above all, his conscience must be directed in the important matter of his last will and testament. He cannot bury his dead unless he is on good terms with the Church. Whether as a holder of the franchise, a municipal councillor, a judge, or a member of parliament, he must give an account of his stewardship to Rome. From his cradle to his grave he is under priestly direction. That direction is not tendered in the shape of advice, and so left to guide the man by its moral force: it is delivered as an infallible decision, the justice of which he dare not question, and to hesitate to obey which would be to peril his salvation. Thus, in every matter of life and business the Church comes in. But the Church can as thoroughly direct a whole kingdom as she can direct the individual man. The whole affairs of a nation, from the state secret down to the peasant's gossip, lie open before her eye. Her agents ramify everywhere, and can at a given signal commence simultaneously a system of opposition and agitation over the whole kingdom. Any decision in the cabinet, any law in the senate, unfriendly to the Church, is sure in this way to be met and crushed.
In directing national affairs, Rome has dropt the bold, blustering tone of Hildebrand: she now intimates her will in blander accents and politer phrase, but in a manner not less firm and irresistible than before. She has only to hint at withholding the sacraments, as the Archbishop Franzoni lately did to the minister Rosa, and the threat generally is successful. Governments cannot move a step but they are met by this tremendous spiritual check. They cannot make laws about education or about church lands,--they cannot regulate monasteries or take cognizance of the clergy,--they cannot extend civil privileges to their subjects, or conclude a treaty with foreign states,--without coming into collision with the Church. Every matter which they touch is Church, and before they can avoid her they must step out of the world. Under the plea of directing their consciences, their power, they find, is a nullity, and the real master of both themselves and their kingdom is the Bishop of Rome, or his cowled or scarlet-hatted representative at their court. Thus there is nothing of a temporal kind which is not drawn within the jurisdiction of the Pope's constructive empire; and the "purely spiritual power" is felt in practice to be an intolerable secular thraldom. Under Rome's scheme of infallible spiritual direction things sacred and civil are inseparably and hopelessly blended; and the attempt to separate the two would be as vain as the attempt to separate time from the beings that live in it, or space from the bodies it contains, or, as it is well expressed by a writer in the Edinburgh Review, to cut out Shylock's pound of flesh without spilling a drop of blood. The recent concordat between the Pope and the Spanish government shows what a powerful engine the "spiritual jurisdiction" is for the government of a nation in all its affairs, temporal and spiritual. That concordat puts both swords into the hands of Pius IX. as truly as ever Gregory VII. or Innocent III. held them. Let the reader mark its leading provisions, and see how it subjects the temporal to the spiritual power:--
"Art. 1 declares that the Roman Catholic religion, being the sole worship of the Spanish nation, to the exclusion of all others, shall be maintained for ever, with all the rights and prerogatives which it ought to enjoy, according to the law of God and the dispositions of the sacred canons.
"Art. 2 deposes that all instruction in universities, colleges, seminaries, and public or private schools, shall be conformable to Catholic doctrine; and that no impediment shall be put in the way of the bishops, &c. whose duty is to watch over the purity of doctrine and of manners, and over the religious education of youth, even in the public schools.
"Art. 3. The authorities to give every support to the bishops and other ministers in the exercise of their duties; and the government to support the bishops when called on, whether in opposing themselves to the malignity of men who seek to pervert the minds of the faithful and corrupt their morals, or in impeding the publication, introduction, and circulation of bad and dangerous books.'"
The 29th article provides for the establishment by the government of certain religious houses and congregations, specifying those of San Vicente Paul, San Felipe Neri, and "some other one of those approved by the Holy See;" the object being stated to be, that there may be always a sufficient number of ministers and evangelical labourers for home and foreign missions, &c., and also that they may serve as places of retirement for ecclesiastics, in order to perform spiritual exercises and other pious works.
Art. 30 refers to religious houses for women, in which those who are called to a contemplative life may follow their vocation, and others may follow that of assistance to the sick, education, and other pious and useful works; and directs the preservation of the institution of Daughters of Charity, under the direction of the clergy of San Vicente Paul, the government to endeavour to promote the same; religious houses in which education of children and other works of charity are added to a contemplative life also to be maintained; and, with respect to other orders, the bishops of the respective dioceses to propose the cases in which the admission and profession of noviciates should take place, and the exercises of education or of charity which should be established in them.
The 35th article declares that the government shall provide, by all suitable means, for the support of the religious houses, &c. for men; and that, with respect to those for women, all the unsold convent property is at once to be returned to the bishops in whose dioceses it is, as their representatives.
Here, then, is the supremacy, not as portrayed in the ingenious theories of De Maistre and Gosselin, but as it exists at this moment in fact. Stript of the sanctimonious phraseology with which it has always been the policy of Rome to veil her worst atrocities and her vilest tyrannies, the document just means that the Pope is the real sovereign of Spain, that his priests are to rule it as they list, and that the court at Madrid, and the other civil functionaries, are there merely to assist them. The first article of this concordat declares freedom of conscience eternally proscribed in the realm of Spain; the second decrees the extinction of knowledge and the perpetual reign of ignorance; the third takes the civil authorities bound and astricted to aid the clergy in searching for Bibles, hunting out missionaries, and burning converts; and the following articles grant license for the erection of sacerdotal stews, and the institution of clubs all over the country, the better to enable the clergy to coerce the citizens and beard the government. The concordat means this, and nothing else. It is as detestable and villanous an instrument as ever emanated from the gang of conspirators which has so long had its head-quarters on the Roman hill. It is meant to bind down the conscience and the manhood of Spain in everlasting slavery; and it shows that, despite all the recent exposures of these men,--despite all the disasters which have befallen them, and the yet more terrible disasters that lower over them,--their hearts are fully set upon their wickedness, and that they are resolved to present to the last a forehead of brass to the wrath of man and the bolts of heaven. This concordat has been shelved, meanwhile,--no thanks to the imbeciles who exchanged ratifications with Rome, but to the revolution which broke out at that moment in Portugal, and to the mutterings, not loud, but deep, which began to be heard in Spain itself, and which convinced its rulers that even a concordat with the Pope might be bought at too great a price.
Not in the high despotic countries of Italy and Spain only do we meet these lofty notions of the sacerdotal power: in constitutional and semi-Protestant Germany we find the bishops of the Church of Rome advancing the same exclusive and intolerant claims. The triumph of Austrian arms and of Austrian politics in the south of Germany has already made the Romish priesthood of that region predominant, and led them to aspire to the supremacy. Accordingly, demands utterly incompatible with any government, and especially constitutional and Protestant government, have been put forth by the bishops of the two Hesses, Wurtemberg, Nassau, Hamburg, Frankfort,--all Protestant States; and of Baden, a semi-Protestant State. The document in which these demands are contained is entitled, "The Assembled Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of the Haut-Rhin, to the several Governments." A copy has been sent over by our ambassador, Lord Cowley, and published by order of Parliament. Its leading claims are as follows:
"The repeal of all religious concessions made since March 1848.
"The free nomination to all ecclesiastical employments and benefices by the several bishops in their respective dioceses.
"The right of the bishops to subject their subordinates to a special examination, and to punish them according to the canon law.
"The abolition, in the exercise of the ecclesiastical penal jurisdiction, of the right of appeal to the secular tribunals. This shall extend from the simple remonstrance to the removal from office and the loss of emolument. Every attempt to appeal in these matters to the secular authority shall be looked upon as an act of disobedience to the legal authority of the Church, and shall be punished by excommunicatio latae sententiae.
"The establishment of seminaries for young boys.
"Episcopal sanction for the nomination of masters for religious education in the colleges and universities.
"Abolition of the right of placet of the secular authority as regards the publication of papal bulls, of briefs, and pastoral letters of the bishops to the members of the clergy.
Permission for the bishops to preach to the people in public, and to hold exercises for the instruction of priests.
"Permission to collect men and women for prayer, for contemplation, and for self-denial.
"The re-instatement of the bishops in the entire enjoyment of their ancient penal jurisdiction as against such of the members of the Church as shall manifest contempt for ecclesiastical ordinances.
"Free communication between the bishops and Rome.
"No interference of the secular power in questions of filling up the appointment to the chapter of canons.
"Independent administration of the property of the Church and of foundations."
Can any man peruse these two documents, appearing as they do at the same moment in widely-separated quarters of Europe, yet identical in their spirit and in the claims they put forth, and fail to see that the Papacy has plotted once more to seize upon the government of the world; and that its priests in all countries are working with dauntless audacity and amazing craft, on a given plan, to accomplish this grand object? In every country they insolently claim independence of the government and of the courts of law, with unlimited control of the schools. They would override all things, and be themselves controlled by no one. Rome, through her organs, bids Europe again crouch down beneath the infallibility. How strikingly also do these documents teach that Popery is as unchangeable in her character as in her creed. Amid the liberal ideas and constitutional governments of Germany she retains her exclusive and intolerant spirit, not less than amid the medieval opinions and barbaric despotism of Spain. The glacier in the heart of the Swiss valley lies eternally congealed in the midst of fruit, and flowers, and sunshine. In like manner, an eternal congelation holds fast the Papacy, let the world advance as it may. In the middle of the nineteenth century it starts up grizzly, ferocious, and bloodthirsty, as in the fifteenth. As a murderer from his grave, or a wild beast from his lair, so has it come back upon the world. The compilers of these documents breathe the very spirit of the men who, in former ages, covered Spain with inquisitions and Germany with stakes. They lack simply opportunity to revive, and even outdo, the worst tragedies of their predecessors. In Germany they attempt by a single stroke of the pen to sweep away all the guarantees which flowed from the treaty of Westphalia; and in southern Europe they strike down with the sabre the rights of conscience and the liberties of states. How long will princes and statesmen permit themselves to be misled by the wretched pretext that these men have a divine right to commit all these enormities and crimes,--that heaven has committed the human race into their hands,--and that neither the rights of man nor the prerogatives of God must come into competition with their sacerdotal will? How long is the world to be oppressed by a confederacy of fanatics and ruffians, who are only the abler to play the knave, that they rob under the mask of devotion, and tyrannize in the awful name of God?
But we have no need to go so far from home as to Spain and Germany, for an instance of "a purely spiritual jurisdiction" transmuting itself immediately and directly into temporal supremacy. Let us look across St. George's Channel. The British government, pitying the deep ignorance of the natives of Ireland, wisely resolve to erect a number of colleges in that dark land, in the hope of mitigating the wretchedness of its people. The priesthood discover that this scheme interferes with the Church, whose vested right in the ignorance of the natives it threatens to sweep away. The Pope does not throw down a single stone of any of these colleges. His interference takes a purely spiritual direction, but a direction that accomplishes his object quite as effectually as could be done by a physical intervention. He issues a bull, denouncing the Irish colleges as godless, and forbidding every good Catholic, as he values his salvation, to allow his child to enter them. This bull, given at the Quirinal, makes frustrate the intention of the Queen, and renders the colleges as completely useless to the Irish nation,--at least to that large portion of it for whose benefit they were specially intended,--as if an army had been sent to raze the obnoxious buildings, and not leave so much as one stone upon another. It matters wonderfully little whether we term the Pope the director of Ireland or the dictator of Ireland: while Ireland is Catholic, the pontiff is, and must be, its virtual sovereign. The British power is limited in that unhappy island to the work of imposing taxes,--imposing, not gathering, for the taxes are taken up by the priests and sent to Rome; while to us is left the duty of feeding a country which clerical rapacity and tyranny has made a country of beggars. Thus the Pope's yoke is not whit lighter that, instead of calling it temporal supremacy, we call it "spiritual jurisdiction," or even "spiritual direction." It would yield, we are disposed to think, wonderfully little consolation to the unhappy sovereign whose throne is struck from under him, and whose kingdom is plunged into contention and civil war, to be told that the Pope in this has acted, not by jurisdiction, but by direction; that he exercises this power, not as lord paramount of his realm, but as lord paramount of his conscience; that, in fact, it is his conscience, and not his territory, that he holds as a fief of the papal see; and that he is enduring this castigation from the pontifical ferula, not in his capacity of king, but in his capacity of Christian. The unhappy monarch, we say, would find but little solace in this nice distinction; and, even at the risk of adding to both his offence and his punishment, might denounce it as a wretched quibble.
These, then, are the two points between which the supremacy oscillates--direction and divine right. It never sinks lower than the former; it cannot rise higher than the latter. But it is important to bear in mind that, whether it stands at the one or at the other of these points, it is supremacy still. We have already indicated that the temporal and spiritual jurisdictions are co-ordinate. This, we believe, is the only rational, as it is undoubtedly the scriptural view of the subject. The liberties of society can be maintained only by maintaining the divinely-appointed equilibrium between the two. If we make the temporal preponderate, we have Erastianism, or the slavery of the Church. If we make the spiritual preponderate, we have Popery, or the slavery of the State. The popish element entered into the jurisdiction of the Church when spiritual independence was transmuted into spiritual supremacy. This happened about the sixth century, when the Bishop of Rome claimed to be Christ's vicar. From that time the popes began to interfere in temporal matters by direction; for it is curious to note, that the supremacy, as defined in the modern theory, has come back to its beginnings, to run, of course, the same career, should the state of the world permit. At the period of Gregory VII. it ceased to be direction, and became a jurisdiction, and so continued down till the Reformation. Since that time it has been slowly returning through the intermediate stages of indirect temporal power,--of purely spiritual jurisdiction,--to its original form of direction, at which it now stands. But the root of the matter is the claim to be Christ's vicar; and till that is torn up, the evil and malignant principle cannot be eradicated. The supremacy may change shapes; it may go into a nutshell, as some philosophers have held the whole universe may do; but it can develope itself as suddenly; and, let the world become favourable, it will speedily shoot up into its former colossal dimensions, overshadowing all earthly jurisdiction, and claiming equality with, if not supremacy above, divine authority.
We repeat, according to the modern theory, to go no higher, all Christendom holds its conscience as a fief of the Roman see; and we trust pontifical dignities will forgive the homely metaphor by which we seek to show them the extent of their own power. The governing power in the world is conscience, or whatever else may occupy its place; and he who governs it governs the world. But the pontiff is the infallible and supreme director of conscience. He sits above it, like the driver of a railway train behind his engine. An ingenious apologist might make out a case of limited powers in behalf of the latter, showing how little he has to do with either the course or velocity of the train. "He does not drag the train," might such say; "he has not power enough to move a single carriage; he but regulates the steam." Here is the Pope astride his famous ecclesiastical engine, with all the Catholic states of Europe dragging at his heels, and careering along at a great rate. Here is the Bourbon family-coach, which upset so recently, pitching its occupant in the mud, looking as new as it is possible for an old battered vehicle to do by the help of fresh tri-colour paint and varnish; here is the old imperial car which Austria picked up for a trifle when the Caesars had no longer any need for it,--here it is, blazoned with the bloody beak and iron talons of the double-headed eagle; here is the Spanish state-coach, hurtling along in the tawdry and tattered finery of its better days, its wheels worn to their spokes, and its motion made up of but a succession of jerks and bounds; here is the Neapolitan vehicle and the Tuscan vehicle, and others lumbering and crazy; and here, in front, is the famous engine St. Peter, snorting and puffing away; and here is Peter himself as engineer, with superstition for a propelling power, and excommunication for a steam-whistle, and tradition for spectacles, to enable him to keep on the rails of apostolic succession, and prevent his being bogged in heresy. It would be very wrong to say that he drags along this great train. No; he only turns the handle, to let on or shut off the steam; shovels in coals, manages the valves, blows his whistle at times with eldrich screech, and catches at his three-storied cap, which the wind blows off now and then. It is not jurisdiction, but direction, with which he favours the members of his tail: nevertheless, it moves where, when, and as fast as he pleases.
But something in a somewhat more classic vein would doubtless be deemed more befitting the pure and lofty function of the pontiff. The Romanists have exalted their Father, as the Pagans did their Jove, into an empyrean, far above sublunary affairs. In that eternal calm he issues his infallible decisions, thinking, the while, no more of this little ball of earth, or of the angry passions that contend upon it, than if it had yet to be created. Or if at times the thought does cross the pontifical mind that there are such things in the world beneath him as cannon and sabres, and that these are often had recourse to to execute the determinations of infallibility, how can he help it? He must needs discharge his office as the world's spiritual director; he dare not refrain from pronouncing infallibly on those high questions of duty which are brought before him; and if others will have recourse to material weapons in carrying out his advice, he begs the world to understand that this is not his doing, and that he cannot be justly blamed for it. One cannot but wonder at the admirable distribution of parts among the innumerable actors by whom the play of the Papacy is carried on. From the stage-manager at Rome, to the lowest scene-shifter in Clonmel or Tipperary, each has his place, and keeps it too. When an unhappy monarch is so unfortunate as to incur the displeasure of mother church, the pontiff does not lay a finger upon him; he does not touch a hair of his head; no, not he; he only gives a wink to the bullies who, he knows, are not far off, and whose office it is to do the business; and thus the wretched farce goes.
THE CARDINAL'S OATH.
"I, ----------, cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, do promise and swear that, from this hour until my life's end, I will be faithful and obedient unto St. Peter, the Holy Apostolic Roman Church, and our Most Holy Lord the Pope and his successors, canonically and lawfully elected; that I will give no advice, consent, or assistance against the Pontifical Majesty and person; that I will never knowingly and advisedly, to their injury or disgrace, make public the counsels entrusted to me by themselves, or by messengers or letters (from them); also that I will give them any assistance in retaining, defending, and recovering the Roman Papacy and the Regalia of Peter, all my might and endeavour, so far as the rights and privileges of my order will allow it, and will defend against all, their Honour and state; that I will direct and defend, with due favour and honour, the legates and nuncios of the apostolic see, in the territories, churches, monasteries, and other benefices committed to my keeping; that I will cordially co-operate with them, and treat them with Honour in their coming, abiding, and returning; and that I will resist unto blood all persons whatsoever who shall attempt anything against them; that I will by every way, and by every means, strive to preserve, augment, and advance the rights, honours, privileges, the authority of the Holy Roman Bishop our Lord the Pope, and his before-mentioned successors; and that at whatever time anything shall be devised to their prejudice, which it is out of my power to hinder, as soon as I shall know that any steps or measures have been taken (in the matter), I will make it known to the same our Lord, or his before-mentioned successors, or to some other person by whose means it may be brought to their knowledge. "That I will keep and carry out, and cause others to keep and carry out, the rules of the Holy Fathers, the decrees, ordinances, dispensations, reservations, provisions, apostolical mandates, and constitutions, of the Holy Pontiff Sixtus, of happy memory, as to visiting the thresholds of the apostles, at certain prescribed times according to the tenor of that which I have just read through.
"That I will seek out and oppose (persecute and fight against?)* heretics, schismatics, against the same our Lord the Pope and his before-mentioned successors, with every possible effort. When sent for, from whatever cause, by the same our Most Holy Lord, and his before-mentioned successors, that I will set out to present myself before them, or, being hindered by a legitimate impediment, will send some one to make my excuses; and that I will pay them due reverence and obedience. That I will by no means sell, bestow away, or pledge, or give away in fee, or otherwise alienate, without the advice and knowledge of the Bishop of Rome, even with the consent of the said chapters, convents, churches, monasteries, and benefices, the possessions set apart for the maintenance of the churches, monasteries, and other benefices committed to my keeping, or in any way belonging to them. That I will for ever maintain the constitution of the blessed Pius V., which begins 'Admonet,' and is dated from Rome on the 4th of the calends of April, of the year of our Lord's incarnation 1567, and the second of his pontificate; together with the declarations of the holy pontiffs his successors, particularly of Pope Innocent IX., dated at Rome the day before the nones of November, of the year of our Lord's incarnation 1591, of the first of his pontificate, and of Clement VIII. of happy memory, dated at Rome on the 16th of the calends of March, in the year 1592, and the tenth of his pontificate, on the subject (in the matter) of not giving away in fee or alienating the cities and places of the Holy Roman Church.
Also, I promise and swear to keep for ever inviolate the decrees and incorporations made by the same Clement VIII. on the 26th day of June of the before-mentioned year 1592, on the 2d day of November 1592, and on the 19th of January and the 11th day of February 1698, in the matter of the city of Ferrara and the whole duchy thereof, as well as respecting all other cities whatsoever, and places recovered by him, and which fell in by the death of Alphonso, of happy memory, the last Duke of Ferrara, or otherwise to the Holy Roman Church and apostolic see. Also the decrees and incorporations made by Urban VIII. of happy memory, on the 12th day of May 1631, respecting the cities of Urbino, Eugubio, Carlii, Jorisempronium, of the whole duchy of Urbino, as well as in the matters of the cities of Pisauri, Sinogallia, S. Leo, the state of Monte Feltro, the vicariate of Mondovi, and of the other cities and places whatsoever recovered by and having devolved to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church by the death of Francis Maria, the last duke, or otherwise. Also the decree of incorporation made in Consistory on the 20th day of December 1660, by Alexander VII. of happy memory, in the matter of the duchy of Castri and the state of Roncilioni, and other places, lands, and properties sold to the Apostolic Chamber by Raimuntius, duke of Parma; and the constitution of the same Alexander VII. of happy memory, with the reason of, and allocation upon, the decree for incorporations of this kind, published on the 24th of January 1660, together with the confirmation, innovation, extension, and declaration of the other decrees and constitutions of the holy pontiffs, issued in prohibition of parting with them in fee; and in no way and at no time, either directly or indirectly, whatever cause, colour, or occasion, even of evident necessity or utility may present itself, to act against them or to give advice, counsel, or consent against them in any way; but, on the contrary, always and constantly to dissent from, oppose, and reveal every device and practice against them, whatever may come to my knowledge by myself or by any messenger, immediately to his Holiness, or his successors, lawfully entering, under the penalties (in case of neglect or disobedience) contained in the said constitutions, or any other heavier ones that it may seem fit to his Holiness and his before-mentioned successors (to inflict). . . . . I will not seek absolution from any of the foregoing articles, but reject it if it should be offered me (or in no way accept it when offered). So help me God and these most holy gospels."
*This double translation stands so in the Parliamentary Book: the original is omni conatu persecuturum et impugnaturum.
The Canon Law
It would be bad enough that a system of the character we have described should exist in the world, and that there should be a numerous class of men all animated by its spirit, and sworn to carry into effect its principles. But this is not the worst of it. The system has been converted into a code. It exists, not as a body of maxims or principles, though in that shape its influence would have been great: it exists as a body of laws, by which every Romish ecclesiastic is bound to act, and which he is appointed to administer. This is termed CANON LAW. The canon law is the slow growth of a multitude of ages. It reminds us of those coral islands in the great Pacific, the terror of the mariner, which myriads and myriads of insects laboured to raise from the bottom to the surface of the ocean. One race of these little builders took up the work where another race had left it; and thus the mass grew unseen in the dark and sullen deep, whether calm or storm prevailed on the surface. In like fashion, monks and popes innumerable, working in the depth of the dark ages, with the ceaseless and noiseless diligence, though not quite so innocently as the little artificers to which we have referred, produced at last the hideous formation known as the canon law. This code, then, is not the product of one large mind, like the Code Justinian or the Code Napoleon, but of innumerable minds, all working intently and laboriously through successive ages on this one object. The canon law is made up of the constitutions or canons of councils, the decrees of popes, and the traditions which have at any time received the pontifical sanction. As questions arose they were adjudicated upon; new emergencies produced new decisions; at last it came to pass that there was scarce a point of possible occurrence on which infallibility had not pronounced.
The machinery of the canon law, then, as may be easily imagined, has reached its highest possible perfection and its widest possible application. The statute-book of Rome, combining amazing flexibility with enormous power, like the most wonderful of all modern inventions, can regulate with equal ease the affairs of a kingdom and of a family. Like the elephant's trunk, it can crush an empire in its folds, or conduct the course of a petty intrigue,--fling a monarch from his throne, or plant the stake for the heretic. Like a net of steel forged by the Vulcan of the Vatican and his cunning artificers, the canon law encloses the whole of Catholic Christendom. A short discussion of this subject may not be without its interest at present, seeing Dr. Wiseman had the candour to tell us, that it is his intention to enclose Great Britain in this net, provided he meets with no obstruction, which he scarce thinks we will be so unreasonable as to offer. Seeing, then, it will not be Dr. Wiseman's fault if we have not a nearer acquaintance with canon law than we can boast at present, it may be worth while examining its structure, and endeavouring to ascertain our probable condition, once within this enclosure. Not that we intend to hold up to view all its monstrosities; the canon law is the entire Papacy viewed as a system of government: we can refer to but the more prominent points which bear upon the subject we are now discussing,--the supremacy; and these are precisely the points which have the closest connection with our own condition, should the agent of the pontiff in London be able to carry his intent into effect, and introduce the canon law, "the real and complete code of the Church," as he terms it. Here we shall do little more than quote the leading provisions of the code from the authorized books of Rome, leaving the canon law to commend itself to British notions of toleration and justice.
The false decretals of Isidore, already referred to, offered a worthy foundation for this fabric of unbearable tyranny. We pass, as not meriting particular notice, the earlier and minor compilations of Rheginon of Prum in the tenth century, Buchardus of Worms in the eleventh, and St. Ivo of Chartres in the twelfth. The first great collection of canons and decretals which the world was privileged to see was made by Gratian, a monk of Bologna, who about 1150 published his work entitled Decretum Gratiani. Pope Eugenius III. approved his work, which immediately became the highest authority in the western Church. The rapid growth of the papal tyranny soon superseded the Decretum Gratiani. Succeeding popes flung their decretals upon the world with a prodigality with which the diligence of compilers who gathered them up, and formed them into new codes, toiled to keep pace. Innocent III. and Honorius III. issued numerous rescripts and decrees, which Gregory IX. commissioned Raymond of Pennafort to collect and publish. This the Dominican did in 1234; and Gregory, in order to perfect this collection of infallible decisions, supplemented it with a goodly addition of his own. This is the more essential part of the canon law, and contains a copious system of jurisprudence, as well as rules for the government of the Church. But infallibility had not exhausted itself with these labours. Boniface VIII. in 1298 added a sixth part, which he named the Sext. A fresh batch of decretals was issued by Clement V. in 1313, under the title of Clementines. John XXII. in 1340 added the Extravagantes, so called because they extravagate, or straddle, outside the others. Succeeding pontiffs, down to Sixtus IV., added their extravagating articles, which came under the name of Extravagantes Communes. The government of the world was in some danger of being stopped by the very abundance of infallible law; and since the end of the fifteenth century nothing has been formally added to this already enormous code. We cannot say that this fabric of commingled assumption and fraud is finished even yet: it stands like the great Dom of Cologne, with the crane atop, ready to receive a new tier whenever infallibility shall begin again to build, or rather to arrange the materials it has been producing during the past four centuries.
While Rome exists, the canon law must continue to grow. Infallibility will always be speaking; and every new deliverance of the oracle is another statute added to canon law. The growth of all other bodies is regulated by great natural laws. The tower of Babel itself, had its builders been permitted to go on with it, must have stopped at the point where the attractive forces of earth and of the other planets balance each other; but where is the canon law to end? "This general supremacy," says Hallam, "effected by the Roman Church over mankind in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, derived material support from the promulgation of the canon law. The superiority of ecclesiastical to temporal power, or at least the absolute independence of the former, may be considered as a sort of key-note which regulates every passage in the canon law. It is expressly declared, that subjects owe no allegiance to an excommunicated lord, if after admonition he is not reconciled to the Church. And the rubric prefixed to the declaration of Frederick II.'s deposition in the Council of Lyons asserts that the Pope may dethrone the Emperor for lawful causes." "Legislation quailed," says Gavazzi, "before the new-born code of clerical command, which, in the slang of the dark ages, was called canon law. The principle which pollutes every page of this nefarious imposture is, that every human right, claim, property, franchise, or feeling, at variance with the predominance of the popedom, was ipso facto inimical to heaven and the God of eternal justice. In virtue of this preposterous prerogative, universal manhood became a priest's footstool; this planet a huge game-preserve for the Pope's individual shooting." We repeat, it is this law which Dr. Wiseman avows to be one main object of the papal aggression to introduce. Its establishment in Britain implies the utter prostration of all other authority. We have seen how it came into being. The next question is, What is it? Let us first hear the canon law on the subject of the spiritual and civil jurisdictions, and let us take note how it places the world under the dominion of one all-absorbing power,--a power which is not temporal certainly, neither is it purely spiritual, but which, for want of a better phrase, we may term pontifical.
"The constitutions of princes are not superior to ecclesiastical constitutions, but subordinate to them."
"The law of the emperors cannot dissolve the ecclesiastical law."
"Constitutions (civil, we presume) cannot contravene good manners and the decrees of the Roman prelates."
"Whatever belongs to priests cannot be usurped by kings."
"The tribunals of kings are subjected to the power of priests."
"All the ordinances of the apostolic seat are to be inviolably observed."
"The yoke which the holy chair imposes must be borne, although it may seem unbearable."
"The decretal epistles are to be ranked along with canonical scripture."
"The temporal power can neither loose nor bind the Pope."
"It does not belong to the Emperor to judge the actions of the Pope."
"The Emperor ought to obey, not command, the Pope."
Such is a specimen of the powers vested in the Pope by the canon law. It makes him the absolute master of kings, and places in his grasp all law and authority, so that he can annul and establish whatever he pleases. It is instructive also to observe, that this power he possesses through the spiritual supremacy; and, as confirmatory of what we have already stated respecting the direct and indirect temporal supremacy, that the two in their issues are identical, we may quote the following remarks of Reiffenstuel, in his textbook on the canon law, published at Rome in 1831:--"The supreme pontiff, or Pope, by virtue of the power immediately granted to him, can, in matters spiritual, and concerning the salvation of souls and the right government of the Church, make ecclesiastical constitutions for the whole Christian world. . . . . It must be confessed, notwithstanding, that the Pope, as vicar of Christ on earth, and universal pastor of his sheep, has indirectly (or in respect of the spiritual power granted to him by God, in order to the good government of the whole Church) a certain supreme power, for the good estate of the Church, if it be necessary, OF JUDGING AND DISPOSING OF ALL THE TEMPORAL GOODS OF ALL CHRISTIANS." But we pursue our quotations.
"We ordain that kings, and bishops, and nobles, who shall permit the decrees of the Bishop of Rome in anything to be violated, shall be accursed, and be for ever guilty before God as transgressors against the Catholic faith."
"The Bishop of Rome may excommunicate emperors and princes, depose them from their states, and assoil their subjects from their oath of obedience to them."
"The Bishop of Rome may be judged of none but of God only."
"If the Pope should become neglectful of his own salvation, and of that of other men, and so lost to all good that he draw down with himself innumerable people by heaps into hell, and plunge them with himself into eternal torments, yet no mortal man may presume to reprehend him, forasmuch as he is judge of all, and is judged of no one."
This surely is license enough; and should the pontiff complain that his limits are still too narrow, we should be glad to know how they could possibly be made larger. But let us hear the canon law on the power of the Pope to annul oaths, and release subjects from their allegiance.
"The Bishop of Rome has power to absolve from allegiance, obligation, bond of service, promise, and compact, the provinces, cities, and armies of kings that rebel against him, and also to loose their vassals and feudatories."
"The pontifical authority absolves some from their oath of allegiance."
"The bond of allegiance to an excommunicated man does not bind those who have come under it."
"An oath sworn against the good of the Church does not bind; because that is not an oath, but a perjury rather, which is taken against the Church's interests."
We may glance next at the doctrine of the canon law on the subject of clerical immunities.
"It is not lawful for laymen to impose taxes or subsidies upon the clergy. If laics encroach upon cleric immunities, they are, after admonition, to be excommunicated. But in times of great necessity, the clergy may grant assistance to the State, with permission of the Bishop of Rome."
"It is not lawful for a layman to sit in judgment upon a clergyman. Secular judges who dare, in the exercise of a damnable presumption, to compel priests to pay their debts, are to be restrained by spiritual censures."
"The man who takes the money of the Church is as guilty as he who commits homicide. He who seizes upon the lands of the Church is excommunicated, and must restore four-fold."
"The wealth of dioceses and abbacies must in nowise be alienated. It is not lawful for even the Pope himself to alienate the lands of the Church."
Should the Romish priesthood ever come to be a twentieth of the male population of Britain, as is well nigh the case in Italy and Spain, it is not difficult to imagine the comfortable state of society which must ensue with so numerous a body withdrawn from useful labour, exempt from public burdens, paying their debts only when they please, committing all sorts of wickedness uncontrolled by the ordinary tribunals, and plying vigorously the ghostly machinery of the confessional and purgatory to convey the nation's property into the treasury of their Church; and once there, there for ever. It is useless henceforth, unless to feed "holy men,"--the term by which Rome designates her consecrated bands of idle, ignorant, sorning monks, and vagabondising friars and priests. No wonder that Dr. Wiseman is so anxious to introduce the canon law, which brings with it so many sweets to the clergy.
There is but one other point on which we shall touch: What says the canon law respecting heresy? In the judgment of Rome we are heretics; and therefore it cannot but be interesting to enquire how we are likely to be dealt with should the canon law ever be established in Britain, and what means the agents of the Vatican would adopt to purge our realm from the taint of our heresy. There is no mistaking the means, whatever may be thought of them. The Church has two swords; and, in the case of heresy, the vigorous use of both, but especially the temporal, is strictly enjoined.
In the decretals of Gregory IX., a heretic is defined to be a man "who, in whatever way, or by whatever vain argument, is led away and dissents from the orthodox faith and Catholic religion which is professed by the Church of Rome." The circumstance of baptism and initiation into the Christian faith distinguishes the heretic from the infidel and the Jew. The fitting remedies for the cure of this evil are, according to the canon law, the following:--
It is commanded that archbishops and bishops, either personally, or by their archdeacons or other fit persons, go through and visit their dioceses once or twice every year, and inquire for heretics, and persons suspected of heresy. Princes, or other supreme power in the commonwealth, are to be admonished and required to purge their dominions from the filth of heresy.
This goodly work of purgation is to be conducted in the following manner:--
I. Excommunication. This sentence is to be pronounced not only on notorious heretics, and those suspected of heresy, but also on those who harbour, defend, or assist them, or who converse familiarly with them, or trade with them, or hold communion of any sort with them.
II. Proscription from all offices, ecclesiastical or civil,--from all public duties and private rights.
III. Confiscation of all their goods.
IV. The last punishment is DEATH; sometimes by the sword,--more commonly by fire.
Pope Honorius II., in his Decretals, speaks in a precisely similar style. Under the head De Hereticis we find him enumerating a variety of dissentients from Rome, and thus disposing of them:--"And all heretics, of both sexes and of every name, we damn to perpetual infamy; we declare hostility against them; we account them accursed, and their goods confiscated; nor can they ever enjoy their property, or their children succeed to their inheritance; inasmuch as they grievously offend against the Eternal as well as the temporal king." The decree goes on to declare, that as regards princes who have been required and admonished by the Church, and have neglected to purge their kingdoms from heretical pravity a year after admonition, their lands may be taken possession of by any Catholic power who shall undertake the labour of purging them from heresy.
We shall close these extracts from the code of Rome's jurisprudence with one tremendous canon.
"Temporal princes shall be reminded and exhorted, and, if need be, compelled by spiritual censures, to discharge every one of their functions; and that, as they would be accounted faithful, so, for the defence of the faith, they publicly make oath that they will endeavour, bona fide, with all their might, to extirpate from their territories all heretics marked by the Church; so that when any one is about to assume any authority, whether of a permanent kind or only temporary, he shall be held bound to confirm his title by this oath. And if a temporal prince, being required and admonished by the Church, shall neglect to purge his kingdom from this heretical pravity, the metropolitan and other provincial bishops shall bind him in the fetters of excommunication; and if he obstinately refuse to make satisfaction within the year, it shall be notified to the supreme pontiff, that then he may declare his subjects absolved from their allegiance, and bestow their lands upon good Catholics, who, the heretics being exterminated, may possess them unchallenged, and preserve them in the purity of the faith."
"Those are not to be accounted homicides who, fired with zeal for Mother Church, may have killed excommunicated persons."
We shall add to the above the episcopal oath of allegiance to the Pope. That oath contemplates the pontiff in both his characters of a temporal monarch and a spiritual sovereign; and, of consequence, the fealty to which the swearer binds himself is of the same complex character. It is taken not only by archbishops and bishops, but by all who receive any dignity of the Pope; in short, by the whole ruling hierarchy of the monarchy of Rome. It is "not only," says the learned annotator Catalani, "a profession of canonical obedience, but an oath of fealty, not unlike that which vassals took to their direct lord." We quote the oath only down to the famous clause enjoining the persecution of heretics:--
"I. N., elect of the church of N., from henceforward will be faithful and obedient to St. Peter the apostle, and to the holy Roman Church, and to our Lord the Lord N. Pope N., and to his successors, canonically coming in. I will neither advise, consent, or do anything that they may lose life or member, or that their persons may be seized, or hands anywise laid upon them, or any injuries offered to them, under any pretence whatsoever. The counsel which they shall intrust me withal, by themselves, their messengers, or letters, I will not knowingly reveal to any to their prejudice. I will help them to defend and keep the Roman Papacy, and the royalties of St. Peter, saving my order, against all men. The legate of the apostolic see, going and coming, I will honourably treat and help in his necessities. The rights, honours, privileges, and authority of the holy Roman Church, of our lord the Pope, and his foresaid successors, I will endeavour to preserve, defend, increase, and advance. I will not be in any council, action, or treaty, in which shall be plotted against our said lord, and the said Roman Church, anything to the hurt or prejudice of their persons, right, honour, state, or power; and if I shall know any such thing to be treated or agitated by any whatsoever, I will hinder it to my power; and, as soon as I can, will signify it to our said lord, or to some other, by whom it may come to his knowledge. The rules of the holy fathers, the apostolic decrees, ordinances, or disposals, reservations, provisions, and mandates, I will observe with all my might, and cause to be observed by others. Heretics, schismatics, and rebels to our said lord, or his foresaid successors, I will to my power persecute and oppose."
Such is a sample of Rome's infallible code. The canon law cannot cease to be venerated while hypocrisy and tyranny bear any value among men. It is by this law that Rome would govern the world, would the world let her; and it is by this law that she is desirous especially to govern Britain. This explains what Rome understands by a spiritual jurisdiction. She disclaims the temporal supremacy, and professes to reign only by direction; but we can now understand what a direction, acting according to canon law, and working through the machinery of the confessional, would speedily land us in. The moment the canon law is set up, the laws of Britain are overthrown, and the rights and liberties which they confer would henceforth be among the things that were. The government of the realm would become priestly, and the secular jurisdiction would be a mere appanage of the sacerdotal. Red hats and cowls would fill the offices of state and the halls of legislation, and would enact those marvels of political wisdom for which Spain and Italy are so justly renowned. A favoured class, combining the laziness of Turks with the rapacity of Algerines, would speedily spring up; and, to enable them to live in idleness, or in something worse, the "tale of bricks" would be doubled to the people. Malefactors of every class, instead of crossing the Atlantic, as now, would simply tie the Franciscan's rope round their middle, or throw the friar's cloak over their consecrated shoulders. The Bible would disappear as the most pestiferous of books, and the good old cause of ignorance would triumph. A purification of our island on a grand scale, from three centuries of heresy, would straightway be undertaken. As Protestants (the worst of all heretics) our lives would be of equal value with those of the wolf or the tiger; and it would be not less a virtue to destroy us, only the mode of despatch might not be so quick and merciful. The wolf would be shot down at once; the Protestant would be permitted to edify the Catholic by the prolongation of his dying agonies. Our Queen would have a twelvemonth's notice to make her peace with Rome, or abide the consequences. Should she disdain becoming a vassal of the Roman see, a crusade would be preached against her dominions, and every soldier in the army of the Holy League would be recompensed with the promise of paradise, and of as much of the wealth of heretical Albion as he could appropriate. These consequences would follow the introduction of the canon law, as certainly as darkness follows the setting of the sun. But these effects would not be realized in a day.
This tremendous tyranny would overtake the realm as night overtakes the earth. First, the Roman Catholics in Britain would be habituated to the government of this code; and it is to them only that Dr. Wiseman, making a virtue of necessity, proposes meanwhile to extend it. Having formed a colony governed by the code of Rome in the heart of a nation under the code of Britain, the agent of the Vatican would be able thus to inaugurate his system.. His imperium in imperio, once fairly set up, would be daily extending by conversions. A Jesuit's school here, a nunnery and cathedral there, would enlarge the sphere of the canon law, and fasten silently but tenaciously its manacles upon the community. Give Rome darkness enough, and she can do anything,--govern by canon law, with equal ease, a family or the globe. We must look fairly at the case. Let us suppose that this law is put in operation in Britain, though confined at first to members of the Romish Church. Well, then, we have a colony in the heart of the country actually released from their allegiance to the sovereign. They are the subjects of canon law, and that teaches unmistakeably the supremacy of the pontiff, and holds as null all authority that interferes with his; and especially does it ignore the authority of heretical sovereigns. Should these persons continue to obey the civil laws, they would do so simply because there is an army in the country. Their real rulers would be the priesthood, whom they dared not disobey, under peril of their eternal salvation. All their duties as citizens must be performed according to ghostly direction. Their votes at the poll must be given for the priest's nominee. They must speak and vote in Parliament for the interests of Rome, not of England. In the witness-box they must swear to or against the fact, as the interests of the Church may require. And as a false oath is no perjury, so killing is no murder, according to canon law, when heresy and heretics are to be purged out. Thus, every duty, from that of conducting a parliamentary opposition down to heading a street brawl, must be done with a view to the account to be rendered in the confessional. Allegiance to the Pope must override all other duties, spiritual and temporal. Popery, a deceiver to others, is a tyrant to its own.
Should we, then, permit the introduction of the canon law, the Greek who opened the gates to the Trojan horse will henceforward pass for a wise and honest man. We must not have our understandings insulted by being told that this law is meliorated. It is the code of an infallible Church, and not one jot or tittle of it can ever be changed. Rome and the canon law must stand or perish together. Besides, it is only twenty years since it was republished in Rome, under the very eye of the Pope, without one single blasphemy or atrocity lopped off. Nor must we listen to the assurance that the laws of Britain will protect us from the canon law. We may have perfect confidence in the strength of our fortress, though we do not permit the enemy to plant a battery beneath its walls. But the trust is false;--the law of Britain will not be a sufficient protection in the long run. Dr. Wiseman demands permission to erect a hierarchy in order that he may govern the members of his Church in England by canon law. We refuse to grant him leave, and the doctor raises the cry of persecution, and prefers a charge of intolerance, because we will not permit him to give full development to the code of his Church,--a code, be it remembered, which teaches that the Pope can annul the constitutions of princes,--that it is damnable presumption in a lay judge to compel an ecclesiastic to pay his debts,--and that it is no crime to swear a false oath against a heretic, or even to kill him, if the massacre of his character or his person can in anywise benefit the Church. The doctor, we say, even now raises the cry of persecution against us, because we will not permit him to put this code into effect by erecting the hierarchy; and many Protestants profess to see not a little force in his reasoning. But suppose we should grant leave to erect the hierarchy, and so help Dr. Wiseman to put the canon law into working gear; what would be his next demand? Why, that we should subject the laws of England to instant revision, so as to conform them to the canon law. "You allowed me," would the doctor say, "to introduce the canon law, and yet you forbid me to give it full development. Here it is perpetually checked and fettered by your enactments. I demand that these shall be rescinded in all points where they clash with canon law. You virtually pledged yourselves to this when you sanctioned the hierarchy. Why did you allow me to introduce this law, if you will not suffer me to work it? I insist on your implementing your pledge, otherwise I shall brand you as persecutors." The Protestants who gave way in the former instance will find it hard to make good their resistance here. In this manner point after point will be carried, and a despotism worse than that of Turkey, and growing by moments, will be established in the heart of this free country. All lets and hindrances in its path will crumble into dust before the insidious and persistent attacks of this conspiracy. Its agents will act with the celerity and combination of an army, while the leaders will remain invisible. It will attack in a form in which it cannot be repelled. It will use the Constitution to undermine the Constitution. It will basely take advantage of the privileges which liberty bestows, to overthrow liberty: and it will never rest content till the mighty Dagon of co-mingled blasphemy and tyranny known as canon law is enthroned above the ruins of British liberty and justice, and the neck of prince and peasant is bent in ignominious vassalage.
Were Lucifer to turn legislator, and indite a code of jurisprudence for the government of mankind, he would find the work done already to his hand in the canon canon law. Surveying the labours of his renowned servants with a smile of grim complacency,--sorely puzzled what to alter, where to amend, or how to enlarge with advantage,--unwilling to run the risk of doing worse what his predecessors had done better,--he would wisely forgo all thoughts of legislative and literary fame, and be content to let well alone. Instead of wasting the midnight oil over a new work, he would confine his labours to the more useful, if less ambitious, task of writing a recommendatory preface to the canon law.
That the Church of Rome Neither has Nor Can Change Her Principles on the Head of the Supremacy
We have shown in the foregoing chapter, that nothing in all past history is better authenticated than the fact that the Papacy has claimed supremacy over kings and kingdoms. We have also shown that this claim is a legitimate inference from the fundamental principles of the Papacy,--that these principles are of such a nature as to imply a Divine right, and that the arrogant claim based on these principles Rome has not only asserted, but succeeded in establishing. Her doctors have taught it, her casuists have defended it, her councils have ratified it, the papal bulls have been based upon it, and her popes have reduced it to practice, in the way of deposing monarchs, and transferring their kingdoms to others. "Seeing it hath been current among their divines of greatest vogue and authority," reasons Barrow, "the great masters of their school,--seeing by so large a consent and concurrence, during so long a time, it may pretend (much better than divers other points of great importance) to be confirmed by tradition or prescription,--why should it not be admitted for a doctrine of the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches? How can they who disavow this notion be the true sons of that mother, or faithful scholars of that mistress? How can they acknowledge any authority in that Church to be infallible, or certain, or obliging to assent. No man apprehending it false, seemeth capable, with good conscience, to hold communion with those who profess it; for, upon supposition of its falsehood, the Pope and his chief adherents are the teachers and abettors of the highest violation of Divine commands, and most enormous sins of usurpation, tyranny, imposture, perjury, rebellion, murder, rapine, and all the villanies complicated in the practical influence of this doctrine."
But does the fact, so clearly established from history, that the Church of Rome not only claimed, but succeeded in making good her claim, to universal supremacy, suggest no fears for the cause of public liberty in time to come? Has the Papacy renounced this claim? Has she confessed that it is a claim which she ought never to have made, and which she would not now make were she in the same circumstances? So far from this, it can be shown, that though Gosselin and other modern writers have attempted to apologise for the past usurpations of the Papacy, and to explain the grounds on which these acts were based, as being not so much definite principles as popular beliefs and concessions; and though they have written with the obvious intention of leading their readers to infer that the Papacy would not so act now were it placed in the same circumstances as before; yet it can be shown that the Papacy has not renounced this claim,--that it never can renounce it,--and that, were opportunity to offer, it would once more take upon itself the high prerogative of disposing of crowns and kingdoms. How does this appear? In the first place, if Rome has renounced this alleged right, let the deed of renunciation be produced. The fact is notorious, that she did depose monarchs. When or where has she confessed that in doing so she stopped out of her sphere, and was betrayed by a guilty ambition into an act of flagrant usurpation? The contrition must be as public as the crime is notorious. But there exists no such deed; and, in lieu of a public and formal renunciation, we cannot accept the explanations and apologies, the feeble and qualified denials, of modern writers. It is the interest of these writers to keep discreetly in the shade claims and pretensions which it would be dangerous meanwhile to avow. And even granting that these disavowals were more explicit than they are, and granting, too, that they were sincerely made, they carry no authority with them. They are merely private opinions, and do not bind the Church; and there is too much reason to believe that they would be repudiated by Rome whenever she found it safe or advantageous to do so. The case stands thus:--the Church of Rome, in violation of the principle of a co-ordinate jurisdiction in spiritual and civil affairs, and in violation of her own proper character and objects as a church, has claimed and exercised supremacy over kings and kingdoms; but she has not to this hour acknowledged that she erred in doing so, nor has she renounced the principles which led to that error; and so long as she maintains an attitude which is a virtual defence and justification of all her past pretensions, both in their theory and their practice, the common sense of mankind must hold that she is ready to repeat the same aggressions whenever the same occasions and opportunities shall occur.
It is also to be borne in mind, that though the Church of Rome is silent on her claims meanwhile, we are not warranted to take that silence for surrender. They are not claims renounced; they are simply claims not asserted. The foundation of these claims, and their desirableness, remain unchanged. Moreover, it is important to observe, that wherever the action of the Romish Church is restrained, it is restrained by a power from without, and not by any principle or power from within. Her prerogatives have sometimes been wrested from her, but never without the Church of Rome putting on record her solemn protest. She has declared that the authority of which she was deprived was rightfully hers, and that to forbid her to use it was an unrighteous interference with her just powers; which means, that she was purposed to reclaim these rights the moment she thought she could make the attempt with success. In those countries where she still bears sway, we find her giving effect to her pretensions to the very utmost which the liberty allowed her will permit; and it is certainly fair to infer, that were her liberty greater, her pretensions would be greater too, not in assumption only, but in practice also.
But, second, the Church of Rome cannot renounce this claim, because she is infallible. We shall afterwards prove that that Church does hold the doctrine of the infallibility, and that it is one of the fundamental principles on which her system is built. Meanwhile we assume it. Being infallible, she can never believe what is false, or practise what is wrong, and is therefore incapable in all time coming of renouncing any one doctrine she ever taught, or departing from any one claim she ever asserted. To say that such an opinion was taught as true ages ago, but is not now recognised as sound, or held to be obligatory, is perfectly allowable to Protestants, for they make no claim to infallibility. They may err, and they may own that their fathers have erred; for though they have an infallible standard,--the Word of God,--in which all the fundamental doctrines appertaining to salvation are so clearly taught, that there is no mistaking them on the part of any one who brings ordinary powers and ordinary candour, with a due reliance on the Spirit's promised aid, to their investigation, yet there are subordinate matters, especially points of administration, on which a longer study of the Word of God will throw clearer light. Protestants, therefore, may with perfect consistency amend their system, both in its theory and in its practice, and so bring it into nearer conformity with the great standard of truth. They have built up no wall of adamant behind them. Not so Rome. She is infallible; and, as such, must stand eternally on the ground she has taken up. It is a double thraldom which she has perpetrated: she has enslaved the human understanding, and she has enslaved herself. The dogma of infallibility, like a chain which mortal power cannot break, has tied her to the bulls of popes, and the decrees of councils and canonists; and it matters not how gross the error, how glaring the absurdity, or how manifest the contradiction, into which they may have fallen; the error is part of her infallibility, and must be maintained. The Church of Rome can never plead that she believed so and so, and acted agreeably thereto, six hundred years ago, but that she has since come to think differently on the point,--that a deeper knowledge of the Bible has corrected her views. Infallibility was infallibility six hundred years ago, as really as it is so to-day. Infallibility can never be either less or more. To an infallible Church it is all one whether her decisions were delivered yesterday or a thousand years ago. The decision of ten centuries since is as much a piece of infallibility as the decision of ten hours since. With Rome a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are but as a day.
Nor can the Church of Rome avail herself of the excuse, that such an opinion was held by her in the dark ages, when there was little knowledge of any sort in the world. There was infallibility in it, however, according to the Church of Rome. In those ages, that Church taught as infallible that the earth was stationary, while the sun rolled round it, and that the earth was not a globe, but an extended plain. The apology that this was before the birth of the modern astronomy, however satisfactory in the mouth of another, would in her mouth be a condemnation of her whole system. The ages were dark enough, no doubt; but infallibility then was still infallibility. Why, it is precisely at such times that we need infallibility. An infallibility that cannot see in the dark is not worth much. If it cannot speak till science has first spoken, but at the risk of falling into gross error, why, we think the world might do as well without as with infallibility. A prophet that restricts his vaticinations to what has already come to pass, possesses no great share of the prophetic gift. The beacon whose light cannot be seen but when the sun is above the horizon, will be but a sorry guide to the mariner; and that infallibility which cannot move a step without losing itself in a quagmire, except when science and history pioneer its way, is but ill fitted to govern the world. The infallibility has made three grand discoveries,--the first in the department of astronomy, the second in the department of geography, and the third in the department of theology. The first is, that the sun revolves round our earth; the second is, that the world is an extended plain; and the third and greatest is, that the Pope is God's vicar. If the Church of Rome be true, these three are all equally infallible truths.
To dwell a little longer on this infallibility, and the unchangeableness with which it endows the Church of Rome,--that Church is not only infallible as a church or society, but every separate article of her creed is infallible. In fact, Popery is just a bundle of infallible axioms, every one of which is as unalterably and everlastingly true as are the theorems of Euclid. How impossible that a creed of this character can be either amended or changed! Amended it cannot be, for it is already infallible; changed still less can it be, for to change infallible truth would be to embrace error. What would be thought of the mathematician who should affirm that geometry might be changed,--that though it was a truth when Euclid flourished, that the three angles of a triangle were together equal to two right angles, it does not follow that it is a truth now? Geometry is what Popery claims to be,--a system of infallible truths, and therefore eternally immutable. Between the trigonometrical survey of Britain in our own times, and those annual measurements of their fields which were wont to be undertaken by the early Egyptians on the reflux of the Nile, there is an intervening period of not less than forty centuries, and yet the two processes were based on the identical geometrical truths. The two angles at the base of an isosceles triangle were then equal to one another, and they are so still, and will be myriads of ages beyond the present moment, and myriads and myriads of miles away from the sphere of our globe. Popery claims for her truths an equally necessary, independent, universal, and eternal existence. When we talk of the one being changed, we talk not a whit more irrationally than when we talk of the other being changed. There is not a dogma in the bullarium which is not just as infallible a truth as any axiom of geometry. It follows that the canon law is as unchangeable as Euclid. The deposing power having been received by the Church as an infallible truth, must be an infallible truth still. Truth cannot be truth in one age and error in the next. The infallibility can never wax old. To this attribute has the Church of Rome linked herself: she must not shirk its conditions. Were she to confess that in any one instance she had ever adopted or practised error,--above all, were she to grant that she had erred in the great acts of her supremacy,--she would virtually surrender her whole cause into the hands of Protestants.
We find Cardinal Perron adopting this precise line of argument on a very memorable occasion. After the assassination of Henry IV. by the Jesuits, it was proposed, for the future security of government, to abjure the papal doctrine of deposing kings for heresy. When the three estates assembled in 1616, Cardinal Perron, as the organ of the rest of the Gallican clergy, addressed them on the subject. He argued, that were they to abjure the pope's right to depose heretical sovereigns, they would destroy the communion hitherto existing between them and other churches,--nay, even with the church of France before their own time: that seeing the popes had claimed and exercised this right, they could not take the proposed oath without acknowledging that the Pope and the whole Church had erred, both in faith and in things pertaining to salvation, and that for many ages the Catholic Church had perished from the earth: that they behoved to dig up the bones of a multitude of French doctors, even the bones of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, and burn them upon the altar, as Josiah burnt the bones of the false prophet. So reasoned the Cardinal; and we should like to see those who now attempt to deny the Pope's deposing power try to answer his arguments.
The infallibility is the iron hoop around the Church of Rome. In every variety of outward circumstances, and amid the most furious conflicts of discordant opinions, that Church is and must ever be the same. Change or amendment she can never know. She cannot repent, because she cannot err. Repentance and amendment are for the fallible only. Far more marvellous would it be to hear that she had changed than to hear that she had been destroyed. It will one day be told the world, and the nations will clap their hands at the news, that the Papacy has fallen; but it will never be told that the Papacy has repented. She will be destroyed, not amended.
But, in the third place, the Papacy cannot renounce this claim without denying its essential and fundamental principles. Between the dogma that the Pope is Christ's vicar and the claim of supremacy, there is, as we have shown, the most strict and logical connection. The latter is but the former transmuted into fact; and if the one is renounced, the other must go with it. On the assumption that the Pope is Christ's vicar is built the whole fabric of Popery. On this point, according to Bellarmine, hangs the whole of Christianity; and one of the latest expounders of the Papacy re-echoes this sentiment:--"Wanting the sovereign pontiff," says De Maistre, "Christianity wants its sole foundation." Anything, therefore, that would go to annihilate that assumption, would raze, as Bellarmine admits, the foundations of the whole system. The Papacy, then, has it in its choice to be the superior of kings or nothing. It has no middle path. Aut Caesar aut nullus. The Pope is Christ's vicar, and so lord of the earth and of all its empires, or his pretensions are unfounded, his religion a cheat, and himself an impostor.
It is necessary here to advert to the popular argument,--a miserable fallacy, no doubt, but one that possesses an influence that better reasons are sometimes found to want. The world is now so greatly changed that it is impossible not to believe that Popery also is changed. It is incredible that it should now think of enforcing its antiquated claims. We find this argument in the mouths of two classes of persons. It is urged by those who see that the only chance which the Papacy has of succeeding in its present criminal designs is to persuade the world that it is changed, and who accordingly report as true what they know to be false. And, second, it is employed by those who are ignorant of the character of Popery, and who conclude, that because all else is changed, this too has undergone a change. But the question is not, Is the world altered?--this all admit; but, Is the Papacy altered? A change in the one gives not the slightest ground to infer a change in the other. The Papacy itself makes no claim of the sort; it repudiates the imputation of change; glories in being the same in all ages; and with this agrees its nature, which shuts out the very idea of change, or rather makes change synonymous with destruction. It is nothing to prove that society is changed, though it is worth remembering that the essential elements of human nature are the same in all ages, and that the changes of which so much account is made lie mainly on the surface. The question is, Is the Papacy changed? It cannot be shown on any good ground that it is. And while the system continues the same, its influence, its mode of action, and its aims, will be identical, let the circumstances around it be what they may. It will mould the world to itself, but cannot be moulded by it.
Is not this a universal law, determining the development alike of things, of systems, and of men? Take a seed from the tomb of an Egyptian mummy, carry it into the latitude of Britain, and bury it ill the earth; the climate, and many other things, will all be different, but the seed is the same. Its incarceration of four thousand years has but suspended, not annihilated, its vital powers; and, being the same seed, it will grow up into the same plant; its leaf, and flower, and fruit, will all be the same they would have been on the banks of the Nile under the reign of the Pharaohs. Or let us suppose that the mummy, the companion of its long imprisonment, should start into life. The brown son of Egypt, on looking up, would find the world greatly changed;--the Pharaohs gone, the pyramids old, Memphis in ruins, empires become wrecks, which had not been born till long after his embalmment; but amid all these changes he would feel that he was the same man, and that his sleep of forty centuries had left his dispositions and habits wholly unchanged. Nay, will not the whole human race rise at the last day with the same moral tastes and dispositions with which they went to their graves, so that to the characters with which they died will link on the allotments to which they shall rise? The infallibility has stereotyped the Papacy, just as nature has stereotyped the seed, and death the characters of men; and, let it slumber for one century, or twenty centuries, it will awake with its old instincts. And while as a system it continues unchanged, its action on the world must necessarily be the same. It is not more accordant with the law of their natures that fire should burn and air ascend, than it is accordant with the nature of the Papacy that it should claim the supremacy, and so override the consciences of men and the laws of kingdoms.
Nay, so far is it from being a truth that Popery is growing a better thing, that the truth lies the other way: it is growing rapidly and progressively worse. So egregiously do the class to which we have referred miscalculate, and so little true acquaintance do they show with the system on which they so confidently pronounce, that those very influences on which the rely for rendering the Papacy milder in spirit, and more tolerant in policy, are the very influences which are communicating a more defined stamp to its bigotry and a keener edge to its malignity. By an inevitable consequence, the Papacy must retrograde as the world advances. The diffusion of letters, the growth of free institutions, above all, the prevalence of true religion, are hateful to the Papacy; they threaten its very existence, and necessarily rouse into violent action all its more intolerant qualities. The most cursory survey of its history for the past six centuries abundantly attests the truth of what we now say. It was not till arts and Christianity began to enlighten southern Europe in the twelfth century, that Rome unsheathed the sword. The Reformation came next, and was followed by a new outburst of ferocity and tyranny on the part of Rome. Thus, as the world grows better, the Papacy grows worse. The Papacy of the present day, so far from being set off by a comparison of the Papacy of the middle ages, rather suffers thereby; for of the two, the latter certainly was the more tolerant in its actings. No thanks to Rome for being tolerant, when there is nothing to tolerate. No thanks that her sword rusts in its scabbard, when there is no heretical blood to moisten it. But let a handful of Florentines open a chapel for Protestant worship, and the deadly marshes of the Maremme will soon read them the lesson of the Papacy's tolerance; or let a poor Roman presume to circulate the Word of God, and he will have time in the papal dungeons to acquaint himself with Rome's new-sprung liberality; or let the Queen's government build colleges in Ireland, to introduce a little useful knowledge into that model land of sacerdotal rule, and the anathemas which will instantly be hurled from every Popish altar on the other side of the Channel will furnish unmistakeable evidence as to the progress which the Church of Rome has recently made in the virtue of toleration. Assuredly Rome will not change so long as there are fools in the world to believe that she is changed.
At no former period, and by no former holder of the pontificate, was the primary principle of the Papacy more vigorously or unequivocally asserted, than it has been by the present pontiff. In his encyclical letter against the circulation of the Bible we find Pius IX. thus speaking:--"All who labour with you for the defence of the faith will have especially an eye to this, that they confirm, defend, and deeply fix in the minds of your faithful people that piety, veneration, and respect towards this supreme see of Peter, in which you, venerable brothers, so greatly excel. Let the faithful people remember that there here lives and presides, in the person of his successors, Peter, the prince of the apostles, whose dignity faileth not even in his unworthy heir. Let them remember that Christ the Lord hath placed in this chair of Peter the unshaken foundation of his Church; and that he gives to Peter himself the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and that he prayed, therefore, that his faith might fail not, and commanded him to confirm his brethren therein; so that the successor of St. Peter holds the primacy over the whole world, and is the true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church, and father and doctor of all Christians." There is not a false dogma or a persecuting principle which Rome ever taught or practised, which is not contained, avowedly or implicitly, in this declaration. The Pope herein sets no limits to his spiritual sway but those of the world,--of course excommunicating all who do not belong to his Church; and claims a character,--"true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church,"--which vests in him temporal dominion equally unbounded and supreme.
The popes do not now send their legates a latere to the court of London or of Paris, to summon monarchs to do homage to Peter or transient tribute to Rome. The Papacy is too sagacious needlessly to awaken the fears of princes, or to send its messengers on what, meanwhile, would be a very bootless errand. But has the Pope renounced these claims? We have shown a priori that he cannot, and with this agrees the fact that he has not: therefore he must, in all fairness, be held as still retaining, though not actually asserting, this claim. No conclusion is more certain than this, that the essential principles of the system being the same, they will, in the same circumstances, practice the same evils and mischiefs in future which they have done in the past. What has been may be. In the sixth century, had any one pointed out the bearing of these principles, affirming that they necessarily led to supremacy over kings, one might have been excused for doubting whether practically this result would follow. But the same excuse is signally awanting in the nineteenth century. The world has had dire experience of the fact; it knows what the Papacy is practically as well as theoretically. Moreover are not the modern chiefs of the Papacy as ambitious and as devoted to the aggrandizement of the Papacy as the pontiffs of the past? Is not universal dominion as tempting an object of ambition now as it was in the eleventh century? and, provided the popes can manage, either by craft or force, to persuade the world to submit to their rule, is any man so simple as to believe that they will not exercise it,--that they will modestly put aside the sceptre, and content themselves with the pastoral staff?
There is nothing in that dominion, on their own principles, which is inconsistent with their spiritual character; nay the possession of temporal authority is essential to the completeness of that character, and to the vigour of their spiritual administration. Is it not capable of being made to subserve as effectually as ever the authority and influence of the Church? In times like the present, pontiffs may affect to undervalue the temporal supremacy; they may talk piously of throwing off the cares of State, and giving themselves wholly to their spiritual duties; but let such prospects open before them as were presented to the Gregories and the Leos of the past, and we shall see how long this horror of the world's pomps and riches, and this love of meditation and prayer, will retain possession of their breasts. The present occupant of the pontifical chair talked in this way of his temporal sovereignty; but the moment he came to lose that sovereignty, instead of venting his joy at having got rid of his burden, he filled Europe with the most dolorous complaints and outcries, and fulminated from his retreat at Gaeta the bitterest execrations and the most dreadful anathamas against all who had been concerned in the act of stripping him of his sovereignty. So far was Pius from betaking himself to the spiritual solace for which he had so thirsted, that he plunged headlong into the darkest intrigues and conspiracies against the independence of Italy, and sent his messengers to every Catholic court in Europe, exhorting and supplicating these powers to take up arms and restore him to his capital. The result, as all the world knows, was, that the young liberties of Italy were quenched in blood, and the throne of the triple tyrant was again set up. "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep,"--so wrote they on the gates of Notre Dame;--"Pius IX. kills his."
Accordingly, the doctrine now maintained by the pontiff and the advocates of the Papacy in every part of Europe is, that the sacerdotal and temporal sovereignties cannot be disjoined, and that the union of the two, in the person of the Pope, is indispensable to the welfare of the Church and the independence of its supreme bishop. But if it be essential to the good of the Church and the independence of its head that the Pope should be sovereign of the Roman States, the conclusion is inevitable, that it is equally essential for these objects that he should possess the temporal supremacy. Will not the same good, but on a far larger scale, flow from the possession of the temporal supremacy that now flows from the temporal sovereignty? and will not the loss of the former expose the Papacy to similar and much greater inconveniences and dangers than those likely to arise from the loss of the latter? When we confound the distinction between things civil and sacred, or rather,--for the error of Rome properly lies here,--when we deny the co-ordinate jurisdiction of the two powers, and subordinate the temporal to the spiritual, there is no limit to the amount of temporal power which may not be possessed and exercised by spiritual functionaries. If to possess any degree of temporal jurisdiction conduce to the authority of ecclesiastical rulers and the good of the Church, then the more of this power the better. The temporal supremacy is a better thing than the temporal sovereignty, in proportion as it is a more powerful thing. Thus, every argument for the sovereignty of the Pope is a fortiori an argument for the supremacy of the Pope. Why does he cling to the temporal sovereignty, but that he may provide for the dignity of his person and office, maintain his court in befitting splendour from the revenue of St. Peter's patrimony, transact with kings on something like a footing of equality, keep his spies at foreign courts in the shape of legates and nuncios, and by these means check heresy, and advance the interests of the universal Church?
But as lord paramount of Europe, he will be able to accomplish all these ends much more completely than merely as sovereign of the Papal States. His spiritual thunder will possess far more terror when launched from a seat which rises in proud supremacy over thrones. The glory of his court, and the numbers of his returns, will be far more effectually provided for when able to subsidize all Europe, than when dependent simply on the limited and now beggared domains of the fisherman. With what vigour will he chastise rebellions nations, and reduce to obedience heretical sovereigns, when able to point against them the combined temporal and spiritual artillery! How completely will he purge out heresy, when at his powerful word every sword in Europe shall again leap from its scabbard! Will not bishops and cardinals be able to take high ground at foreign courts, when they can tell their sovereigns, "The Pope is as much your master as ours?" But this is but a tithe of the power and glory which the supremacy would confer upon the Church, and especially upon its head. To grasp the political power of Europe, and wield it in the dark, is the present object the Jesuits are striving to attain; and can any man doubt that, were the times favourable, they would exercise openly what they are now trying to wield by stealth? Never will the Papacy feel that it is in its proper place, or that it is in a position to carry out fully its peculiar mission, till, seated once more in absolute and unapproachable power upon the Seven Hills, it look down upon the kings of Europe as its vassals, and be worshipped by the nations as a God; and the turn that affairs are taking in the world appears to be forcing this upon the Papacy. A crisis has arrived in which, if the Church of Rome is to maintain herself, she must take higher ground than she has done since the Reformation. She has the alternative of becoming the head of Europe, or of being swept out of existence. A new era, such as neither the Pope nor his fathers have known, has dawned on the world. The French Revolution, after Napoleon had extinguished it in blood, as all men believed, has returned from its tomb, refreshed by its sleep of half a century, to do battle with the dynasties and hierarchies of Europe.
The first idea of the Papacy was to mount on the revolutionary wave, and be floated to the lofty seat it had formerly occupied. "Your Holiness has but one choice," Cicerovacchio is reported to have said to the Pope: "you may place yourself at the head of reform, or you will be dragged in the rear of revolution." The pontifical choice was fixed in favour of the former. Accordingly, the world was astonished by the unwonted sight of the mitre surmounted by the cap of liberty; the echoes of the Vatican were awakened by the strange sounds of "liberty and fraternity;" and the Papacy, wrinkled and hoar, was seen to coquette with the young revolution on the sacred soil of the Seven Hills. But nature had forbidden the banns; and no long time elapsed till it was discovered that the projected union was monstrous and impossible. The Church broke with the revolution; the harlot hastened to throw herself once more into the arms of her old Paramour the State; and now commenced the war of the Church with the democracy. It is plain that the issue of that war to the Papacy must be one of two things,--complete annihilation, or unbounded dominion. Rome must be all that she ever was, and more, or she must cease to be. Europe is not wide enough to hold both the old Papacy and the young Democracy; and one or other must go to the wall. Matters have gone too far to permit of the contest being ended by a truce or compromise; the battle must be fought out. If the Democracy shall triumph, a fearful retribution will be exercised on a Church which has proved herself to be essentially sanguinary and despotic; and if the Church shall overcome, the revolution will be cut up root and branch. It is not for victory, then, but for life, that both parties now fight. The gravity of the juncture, and the eminent peril in which the Papacy is placed, will probably spirit it on to some desperate attempt. Half-measures will not save it at such a crisis as this.
To retain only the traditions of its power, and to practise the comparatively tolerant policy which it has pursued for the past half-century, will no longer either suit its purpose, or be found compatible with its continued existence. It must become the living, dominant Papacy once more. In order that it may exist, it must reign. We may therefore expect to witness some combined and vigorous attempt on the part of Popery to recover its former dominion. It has studied the genius of every people; it has fathomed the policy of every government; it knows the principles of every sect, and school, and club,--the sentiments and feelings of almost every individual; and with its usual tact and ability, it is attempting to control and harmonize all these various and conflicting elements, so as to work out its own ends. To those frightened by revolutionary excesses the Church of Rome announces herself as the asylum of order. To those scared and shocked by the blasphemies of Socialist infidelity she exhibits herself as the ark of the faith. To monarchs whom the revolution has shaken upon their thrones she promises a new lease of power, provided they will be ruled by her. And as regards those fiery spirits whom her other arts cannot tame, she has in reserve the unanswerable and silencing arguments of the dungeon and the scaffold. Popery is the soul of that re-action that is now in progress on the Continent, though, with her usual cunning, she puts the State in the foreground. it was the Jesuits who instigated and planned the expedition to Rome. It was the Jesuits who plotted the dreadful massacres in Sicily, who have filled the dungeons of Naples with thousands of innocent citizens, who drove into exile every Roman favourable to liberty and opposed to the Pope, who closed the clubs and fettered the press of France, Tuscany, Germany, and Austria; and, in fine, it was the Jesuits of Vienna who crushed the nationalities and counselled the judicial murders of Hungary. History will lay all this blood to the door of the Papacy. It has all been shed in pursuance of a plan concocted by the Church,--now under the government of Jesuitism,--to recover her former ascendancy.
The common danger which in the late revolution threatened both Church and State, has made the two cling closely together. "I alone,"--so, in effect, said the Church to the State,--"can save you. In me, and no where else, are to be found the principles of order and the centre of union. The spiritual weapons which it is mine to wield are alone able to combat and subdue the infidel and atheistic principles which have produced the revolution. Lend me your aid now, and promise me your submission in time to come, and I will reduce the masses to your authority." This reasoning was omnipotent, and the bargain was struck. Accordingly there is not a court of Catholic Europe where the Jesuit influence is not at this moment supreme. And it is happening at present, as it has happened at all former periods of confusion, that in proportion as the State loses the Church acquires strength. Although its companion in trouble, the Church is acting at this moment as the State's superior. She extends to the civil powers the benefit of her matchless policy and her universal organization. So stands the case, then. It must force itself upon the conviction of all, that this relation of the Church to the State is fraught with tremendous danger to the independence of the secular authority and the liberties of the world. In no fairer train could matters be for realizing all that Rome aspires to. And soon would she realize her aim, were it not that the present era differs from all preceding ones, in that there is an antagonist force in existence in the shape of an infidel Democracy. These two tremendous forces,--Democracy and Catholicism,--poise one another; and neither can reign so long as both exist. But who can tell how soon the equilibrium may be destroyed? Should the balance preponderate in favour of the Catholic element,--should Popery succeed in bringing over from the infidel and democratic camp a sufficient number of converts to enable her to crush her antagonist,--the supremacy is again in her hands. With Democracy collapsed, with the State exhausted and owing its salvation to the Church, and with a priesthood burning to avenge the disasters and humiliations of three centuries, wo to Europe!--the darkest page of its history would be yet to be written.
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