« PreviousContinue »
a fact that cannot be accounted for, if he was regarded as the founder of that Church, and especially if he was then in that city. Yet in these epistles there are the salutations of a member to those Churches. In particular, Epaphras, Luke the beloved physician (Col. iv. 12, 14), and the saints of the household of Cæsar are mentioned (Phil. iv. 22). In 2 Tim. iv. 11, Paul expressly affirms that Luke only was with him—a declaration utterly irreconcilable with the supposition that Peter was then at Rome.”
If it were even certain that Peter had been at Rome, and had founded the Church there, it would still require to be proved that he was head and prince of the apostles, and against this assumption there are many and fatal objections. But what need is there to show how unsound is the second link of the supposition? The failure of the first is the failure of both. The New Testament clearly shows that the first link absolutely fails, so that the Papal supremacy, as founded upon Peter, falls to the ground, and the pretended history on which its claims rest is thus proved to be utterly worthless.
In the eighth century there appeared the famous Decretals of Isidore, the design of which was to support the paramount authority of the Romish See. “In this collection of pretended decrees of the Popes, the most ancient bishops, the contemporaries of Tacitus and Quintilian, spoke the barbarous Latin of the ninth century. The customs and constitutions of the Franks were gravely attributed to the Romans of the time of the emperors ; Popes quoted the Bible in the Latin translation of St. Jerome, who lived one, two, or three centuries after them; and Victor, Bishop of Rome in the year 192, wrote to Theophilus, who was Archbishop of Alexandria in 395 ! The impostor, who had forged this collection, strove to make ont that all the bishops derived their authority from the Bishop of Rome, who derived his immediately from Jesus Christ. Not only did he record all the successive conquests of the pontiffs, but he moreover carried them back to the remotest periods. The Popes were not ashamed to avail themselves of this despicable invention. As early as 865, Nicholas I. selected it as his armoury to combat princes and bishops. This shameless forgery was for ages the arsenal of Rome.”* Even at the close of the twelfth century, Pope Boniface III. is found strenuously claiming the subordination of all secular power to that of the Church on the ground of these Decretals. What are we to think of the infallibility of the Popes who could be imposed upon by these shameless forgeries, if they were imposed upon ; or, if they were not, of their morality in using them for their own purposes? And how evident it is that the Papal supremacy is wanting in true historical supports, since it has ever been so ready to avail itself of the spurious instead of the genuine — to build on the cloudland of fiction, rather than the rock of fact !
No improvement, moreover, seems to be made by the advocates of Popery in this respect. In “The Priest and the Huguenot," by Felix Bungener, an exceedingly intelligent French writer, and a writer who gives credit for any good qualities Papists may possess, it is shown that there is in modern days a systematic falsification of
facts in the interests of the system. After mentioning the attempt of one Abbé de Caveirac to soften down the horrors of the St. Bartholomew massacre, Rabaud, the Huguenot preacher, says :“If I had not a thousand other reasons for being persuaded that the Roman Church teaches error, its condemnation might be taken, in my opinion, from this frightful facility in lying. Not a month passes, not a week, that I am not obliged to take up my pen to combat the most absurd falsities ;” and be goes on to name several bishops who attempted to cast all possible aspersion on the characters of Luther, Calvin, and all the Reformers ; accused the Huguenots, or French Protestants, of undermining the principles of morality, authorizing debauchery and adultery, and befriending infidelity and sacrilege. “ So much for written lies. Elsewhere it is still worse. In the pulpit, in the schools, in families, in the confessional, everywhere that we cannot follow our enemies step by step, they scatter and perpetuate the most absurd prejudices. It is not the fault of the priests, if the people among whom we live, who can see and speak with us every day, who have but to keep their eyes open, in short, to see what we are, do not look upon us as a kind of monster, scarcely belonging to the human race !”. This was in the middle of the last century. “With certain exceptions,” says M. Bungener, “the old accusations go on their way in our own time, some just as they were formerly, others a little rejuvenated, but all, or almost all, more audacious than ever.” With such a proneness to fabricate facts for history, such a spirit of reckless and resolute falsification at work from age to age, what proportion of pure truth might we expect to find in the historical records of Popery? and what are we to think of the Divinity of a system which invokes the very genius of calumny and falsehood for its support, and with which fairness, justice, and truth, in dealing with opponents, are evidently not regarded in the light of virtues to be practised, but of weaknesses to be scorned ? The extreme credulity of Popish writers is equal to their falsehood. Our space will allow us but one example. M. Chavin de Malan published at Paris, in 1845, a “History of Monasticism.” In the life of St. Francis of Assissi, selected for criticism by Sir James Stephen, the most astonishing prodigies are related. On the annual festival of St. Michael the Archangel, while Francis, and Leoni, a member of his order, were worshipping in a church on Mount Alvernia, on the arrival of the hour of the holy sacrifice, the body of St. Francis “slowly ascended heavenward. When it had reached the ordinary height of a man, the feet were embraced and bathed with tears by Leoni, who stood beneath. Gradually it mounted beyond the range of human vision; but even then his voice was heard in discourse with the invisible, and a bright radiance attested the presence of the Redeemer. He was made manifest to the eye of his enraptured worshipper in the form of a seraph, moving on rapid wings, though fastened to a cross; and when the whole scene passed away, it was found that, by radiations from this celestial figure, the body of Francis, like wax beneath the pressure of a seal, had acquired the sacred stigmata—that is, on either hand, and on either foot, marks exactly corresponding with the two opposite extremities of a rude iron nail; and on the side, a wound such as might have been inflicted by a spear. This stupendous event happened on the 17th of September, a day still consecrated by the Church to the perpetual commemoration of it. No Christian, therefore, may doubt it; for St. Thomas, and all other theologians, assure us, that to doubt a 'canonical fact, is rash, scandalous, and open to the just suspicion of heresy.". It seems there have been doubters of this prodigy, even among Papists; but it has been confirmed by the bulls of subsequent Popes, one of whom, Alexander IV., declared that he had with his own eyes seen and admired the stigmata; and this modern historian, writing in Paris in the middle of the nineteenth century, believes in the miracle as firmly as in any fact that ever transpired. St. Francis, moreover, was accustomed to gather congregations of doves, larks, and starlings, and address them as “dear sisters,” and “little brothers," and M. Chavin de Malan informs us, “ without apology as without doubt, that when Francis addressed his feathered congregation, they stretched out their necks to imbibe his precepts; that, at his bidding, the starlings ceased to chatter while he preached; that, in fulfilment of his predictions, the naughty larks died miserably; that a falcon announced to him in the mountains the hour of prayer, though with gentler voice and tardier summons when the saint was sick; that Jacoba was aroused to her devotions by her lamb with severe punctuality; that an ovicidal wolf, being rebuked by this ecclesiastical Orpheus for his carnivorous deeds, placed his paw in the hand of his monitor in pledge of his future good behaviour, and, like a wolf of honour, never more indulged himself in mutton. Yet M. Chavin de Malan is writing a learned and an eloquent history of the monastic orders ! Such be thy gods, O Oxford !” + M. Chavin de Malan is admirably consistent, however, for he protests against any exercise of human reasoning in examining the teachings of the Church, whether as to facts or doctrines. “ The most merciless of her cruelties affects him with no indignation, the silliest of her prodigies with no shame, the basest of her superstitions with no contempt. Her veriest dotage is venerable in his eyes. Even the atrocities of Innocent III. seem, to this all-extolling eulogist, but to augment the triumphs and the glories of his reign.” And as a large proportion of the history and biography of the Papacy has been written on this principle of laying reason to sleep, allowing unlimited licence to superstitious imagination, and accepting the authority of the Church for the most incredible nonsense, we may judge how little reliable, and how morally worthless, that history, on the whole, must be.
Whatever unfavourable conclusions as to the Papal system may be drawn from the considerations already mentioned, will hardly be modified by examining the quality of the history itself. We intende:1 giving a few representative specimens of the history of the Papacy. As from a tooth, or other fragment of a skeleton, a Cuvier or an Owen can describe the form and the babits of even extinct animals, so a fragment or two of the history of the Papal system may assist us in judging of the spirit in which it has been built up, and of its true character.
“Hildebrand, or Pope Gregory VII., was the incarnation of the # " Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography.” By Sir J. Stephen. Vol. I., rage 136.
of Sir J. Stephen's " Essays." Pago 143.
Papacy. He developed the system to a marvellous state of perfection. His predominant idea was to subject the world to the clergy, and the clergy to the Papacy; and with astonishing force of will he proceeded to work out his design. He had ruled the Papacy through the five Popes who preceded himself, and within a few weeks after his accession to the papal chair, this professed successor of a married apostle took steps to enforce the celibacy of the clergy. At his instance, a Council of the Lateran not only forbade the marriage of priests, but commanded every priest to put away his wife, and forbade laymen to be present at any sacred rites which wedded priests might presume to celebrate.
The bitter complaints and remonstrances of the sufferers, under this ruthless tearing asunder of the most sacred ties, were utterly disregarded. Obedience to the mandate was sternly enforced, and broken hearts pined and died away in silence.
“ Eight hundred years have since passed away. Amidst the wreck of laws, opinions, and institutions, this decree of Hildebrand rules the Latin Church in every land where sacrifices are still offered on her altars. Among us, but not of us, valuing their rights as citizens chiefly as instrumental to their powers as churchmen; ministers of love, to whom the heart of a husband and a father is an inscrutable mystery ; teachers of duties, the most sacred of which they may not practise ; compelled daily to gaze on the most polluted imagery of man's fallen heart, but denied the refuge of nature from a polluted imagination ; professors of a virtue of which, from the death of righteous Abel down to the birth of the fervent Peter, no solitary example is recorded in Holy Writ; excluded from that posthumous life in remote descendants, in the devout anticipation of which the patriarchs were enabled to walk meekly, but exultingly, with their God-the sacerdotal caste yet flourishes in every Christian land, the imperishable and gloomy monument both of that far-sighted genius which thus devised the means of Papal despotism, and of that shortsighted wisdom which proposed to itself that despotism as a legitimate and laudable end." *
The man who could be thus relentless towards the shepherds of the flock, was not likely to deal very tenderly with the wolves outside. He claimed, as by Divine right, universal obedience from kings and emperors, arrogantly declaring that they held their crowns under the Roman Pontiff as the supreme earthly power; and, without scruple or hesitation, he used every means at his command to render this obedience not a shadow but a reality, exacting tribute from the submissive, and dethroning or denouncing the refractory. He denied the right of earthly kings and rulers to appoint, as they had been accustomed to do, to any spiritual dignity, and transferred to the Pope alone a patronage and an influence more than sufficient to balance, within their own dominions, all the powers of all the monarchs of Christendom. These astounding claims, and the daring means he took to enforce them, brought him into conflict with Henry, the Emperor of Germany. The Pope cites the Emperor to appear before him, to answer charges of crimes committed against the Church. Henry replies by abjuring the Pope, and, by a Synod at Worms,
* “Essays," p. 24.
attempting to depose him. Hildebrand at once proceeds to interdict Henry the government of his realm, to absolve his subjects from their allegiance, and to lay upon him the terrible bond of the Papal anathema—a practical illustration of the doctrine held by some of the fathers, that every king was one of the "sheep” whom Peter had been commanded to feed, and one of the "things” which Peter had been empowered to bind.
The spell which the Pope's anathema and interdict had thrown around Henry was no shadow. In that age of superstition it was a mysterious and resistless power, against which the paralyzed emperor struggled in vain ; and at length this proud monarch of an empire is brought as an abject suppliant for his crown to the feet of the fisherman of Galilee ! The strange spectacle is thus graphically sketched by Sir J. Stephen :-" It was towards the end of January. The earth was covered with snow, and the mountain streams were arrested by the keen frost of the Apennines, when, clad in a thin penitential garment of white linen, and bare of foot, Henry, the descendant of so many kings, and the ruler of so many nations, ascended slowly and alone the rocky path which led to the outer gate of the fortress of Canossa.* With strange emotions of pity, of wonder, and of scorn, the assembled crowd gazed on his majestic form and noble features as, passing through the first and second gateway, he stood in the posture of humiliation before the third, which remained inexorably closed against his further progress. The rising sun found him there fasting, and there the setting sun left him, stiff with cold, faint with hunger, and devoured by shame and ill-suppressed resentment. A second day dawned, and wore tardily away, and closed, in a continuance of the same indignities, poured out on Europe at large, in the person of her chief, by the Vicar of the meek, the lowly, the compassionate Redeemer. A third day came, and, still irreverently trampling on the hereditary lord of the fairer half of the civilized world, Hildebrand once more compelled him to prolong till nightfall this profane and hollow parody on the real workings of a broken and a contrite heart.”
This outrage against humanity itself aroused indignation against the Pope on all hands. “Murmurs from Henry's inveterate enemies, and his own zealous adherents, upbraided Gregory as exhibiting rather the cruelty of a tyrant than the rigour of an apostle. But the endurance of the sufferer was the only measure of the inflexibility of the tormentor; nor was it till the unhappy monarch had burst away from the scene of his mental and bodily anguish, and sought shelter in a neighbouring convent, that the Pope, yielding at length to the instances of Matilda, would admit the degraded suppliant into his presence. It was the fourth day on which he had borne the humiliating garb of an affected penitent, and in that sordid raiment he drew near on his bare feet to the more than imperial majesty of the Church, and prostrated himself in more than servile deference before the diminutive and emaciated old man, from the terrible glance of whose countenance, we are told, the eye of every beholder recoiled as from the lightning. Hunger, cold, nakedness, and shame had, for
* Where Hildebrand was, at the time, the guest of Matilda, the Countess of Tuscany.