« PreviousContinue »
KANKE'S HISTORY OF THE POPES.*
[edinburgh Review, October, 1S40.]
It is hardly necessary for us to say, that this Is an excellent book excellenily translated. The original work of Professor Ranke is known and esteemed wherever German literature is studied; and has been found interesting even in a most inaccurate and dishonest French version. It is, indeed, the work of a mind fitted both for minute researches and for large speculations. It is written also in an admirable spirit, equally remote from levity and bigotry; serious and earnest, yet tolerant and impartial. It is, therefore, with the greatest pleasure that we now see it take its place among the English classics. Of the translation we need only say, that it is such as might be expected from the skill, the taste, and the scrupulous integrity of the accomplished la«Jy, who, as an interpreter between the mind of Germany and the mind of Britain, has already deserved so well of both countries.
The subject of this Hook has always appeared to us singularly interesting. How it was that Protestanism did so much, yet did no more—how it was that the Church of Rome, having lost a large part of Europe, not only ceased to lose, but actually regained nearly half of what she had lust—is certainly a most curious and important question; and on this question Professor Ranke has thrown far more light than any other person who has written on it.
There is not, and there never was, on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic. Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs.- That line we trace back in an unbroken seriesJYora the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century, to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic uf Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Tapacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique; but full of me and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is
• The Eteltsuitiecl end Poli'ieal Ilitlnre of the Papee of ti.nnc. during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. By I.empold Rakkk, Prnfesaor in the University of Berlin: Translated from Ihe German, by Sarah AisTM. J vols. 8vo. London. 1840. Vol.. III.—5'
still sending forth to the furthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin; and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated her for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extend over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn—countries which, a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her community are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all the other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments, and of all the ecclesiastical establishments, that now exist in the world; and we feel-no assurance that she-is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain—before the Frank had passed the Rhine—when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch—when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins or St. Paul's.
We often hear it said that the world is constantly becoming more and more enlightened, and that this enlightening must be favourable to Protestantism, and unfavourable to Catholicism. We wish that we could think so. But we see great reason to doubt whether this be n well-founded expectation. We see that during the last two hundred and fifty years, the human mind has been in the highest degree activethat it has made great advances in ever} branch of natural philosophy—that it has pro' duced innumerable inventions tending to promote the convenience of life—that medicine, surgery, chemistry, engineering, have been very greatly improved—that government, police, and law have been improved, though not quite to the same extent. Yet we see that, ■luring these two hundred and fifty years, Pro testantism has made no conquests worth speak ing of. Nay, we believe that, as far as there has been a change, that change has been in favour of the Church of Rome. We cannot, therefore, feel confident that the progress of knowledge will necessarily be fatnl to at,|, tem which has, to say the least. Mood jw« ground in spite of the immense progress which knowledge has made since the days of Queen Elizabeth.
Indeed, the argument which we' are considering seems to us to be founded on an entire mistake. There are branches of knowledge, with respect to which the law of the human mind is progress. In mathematics, when once a proposition has been demonstrated, it is never afterwards contested. Every fresh story is as solid a basis for a new superstructure as the original foundation was.' Here, therefore, there is a constant addition to the stock of truth. In the inductive sciences again, the law is progress. Every day furnishes new facts, and thus brings theory nearer and nearer to perfection. There is no chance that either in the purely demonstrative, or in the purely experimental sciences, the world will ever go back or even remain stationary. Nobody ever heard of a reaction against Taylor's theorem, or of a reaction against Harvey's doctrine of the circulation of the blood.'
But with theology the case is very different. As respects natural religion—revelation being for the present altogether left out of the question—it is not easy to see that a philosopher of the present day is more favourably situated than Thales or Simonides. He has before him just the same evidences of design in the structure of the universe which the early Greeks had. We say just the same; for the discoveries of modern astronomers and anatomists have really added nothing to the force of that argument which a reflecting mind finds in every beast, bird, insect, fish, leaf, flower, and shell. The reasoning by which Socrates, in Xenophon's hearing, confuted the little atheist Aristodemus, is exactly the reasoning of Paley's "Natural Theology." Socrates makes precisely the same use of the statues of Polyoletus and the pictures of Zeuxis, which Paley makes of the watch. As to the other great question—the question, what becomes of man after death—we do not see that a highly educated European, left to his unassisted reason, is more likely to be in the right than a Blackfoot Indian. Not a single one of the many sciences in which we surpass the Blackfoot Indians, throws the smallest light on the state of the soul after the animal life is extinct. In truth, all the philosophers, ancient and modern, who have attempted, without the help of revelation to prove the immortality of man, from Plato down to Franklin, appear to us to have failed deplorably.
Then, again, all the great enigmas which perplex the natural theologian are the same in all ages. The ingenuity of a people just eme-iging from barbarism is quite sufficient to propound them. The wisdom of Locke or Clarke is quite unable to solve them. It is a mistake to imagine that subtle speculations touchinglheDivineattributes.the origin of evil, the necessity of human actions, the foundation of moral obligation, imply any high degree of intellectual culture. Such speculations, on the contrary, are in a peculiar manner the delight of intelligent children and of half-civilix»d men. The number of hoys is not small
who, at fourteen, have thought enough p» these questions to be fully entitled to the praise which Voltaire gives to Zadig, "II en savait cc qu'on en a su dans tous les figes, e'est-ii-dire, fort peu de chose." The book of Job shows, that long before letters and arts were known to Ionia, these vexing questions were debated with no common skill and eloquence, under the tents of the Idumean Emirs; nor has human reason, in the course of three thousand years, discovered any satisfactory solution of the riddles which perplexed Eliphai and Zophar.
Natural theology, then, is not a progressiva science. That knowledge of our origin and of our destiny which we derive from revelation, is indeed of very different clearness, and very different importance. But-neither is revealed religion of the nature of a progressive science. All Divine truth is, according to the doctrine of the Protestant churches, recorded in certain books. It is equally open to all who in any age can read those books; r.or can all the discoveries of all the philosophers in the world add a single verse to any of these books. It is plain, therefore, that in divinity there cannot be a progress analogous to that which is constantly taking place in pharmacy, geology, and navigation. A Christian of the fifth century with a Bible is on a par with a Christian of the nineteenth century with a Bible, candour and natural acuteness being, of course, supposed equal. It matters not at all that the compass, printing, gunpowder, steam, gas, vaccination, and a thousand other discoveries and inventions which were unknown in the fifth century are familiar to the nineteenth. None of these discoveries and inventions have the smallest bearing on the question whether man is justified by faith alone, or whether the invocation of saints is an orthodox practice. It seems to us, therefore, that we have no security for the future against the prevalence of any theological error that has ever prevailed in time past among Christian men. We are confident that the world will nev?r go back to the solar system of Ptolemy; nor is our confidence in the least shaken by the circumstance that even so great a man as Bacon rejected the theory of Galileo with scorn; for Bacon had not all the means of arriving at a sound conclusion which are within our reach, and which secure people, who would not have been worthy to mend his pens, from falling into his mistakes. But we are very differently affected when we reflect that Sir Thomas More was ready to die for the doctrine of transubstantiation. He was a man of eminent talents. He had all the information on the subject that we have, or that, while the world lasts, any human being will have. The text "This is my body," was in his New Testament as it is in ours.
The absurdity of the literal interpretation was as great and as obvious in the sixteenth century as it is now. No progress that science has made or will make can add to what seems to us the overwhelming force of the argument against the real presence. We art therefore unable to understand why what Sir Thomas More believed respectingtransnbstaatiation may not be believed to the end of time by men equal in abilities and honesty to Sir Thomas More. But Sir Thomas More is one of the choice specimens of human wisdom and virtue, and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test will stand any lest. The prophesies of Brothers and the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe sink to trifles in the comparison. One reserration, indeed, must be made. The books and traditions of a sect may contain, mingled With propositions strictly theological, other propositions purporting to rest on the same authority which relate to physics. If new discoveries should throw discredit on the physical propositions, the theological propositions, unless they can be separated from the physical propositions, will, share in their discredit. In this way, undoubtedly, the progress of science may indirectly serve the cause of religious truth. The Hindoo mythology, for example, is bound up with a most absurd geography. Every young Brahmin, therefore, who learns geography in our colleges, learns to smile at the Hindoo mythology. If Catholicism has not suffered to an equal degree from the Papal decision that the sun goes round the earth, this is because all intelligent Catholics now hold, with Pascal, that in deciding the point at all the Church exceeded her powers, and was, therefore, justly left destitute of that supernatural assistance which, in the exercise of her legitimate functions, the promise of her Founder authorized her to expect.
This reservation affects not at all the truth of our proposition, that divinity, properly so called, is not a progressive science. A very common knowledge of history, a very little observation of life, will suffice to prove that no learning, no sagacity, affords a security against the greatest errors on subjects relating to the invisible world. Bayle and Chillingworth, two of the most skeptical of mankind, turned Catholics from sincere conviction. Johnson, incredulous on all other points, was a ready believer in miracles and apparitions. He would not believe in Ossian, but he believed in the second sight. He would not believe in the earthquake of Lisbon, but he believed in the Cock Lane Ghost.
For these reasons we have ceased to wonder at any vagaries of superstition. We have seen men, not of mean intellect or neglected education, but qualified by their talents and acquirements to attain eminence either in active or speculative pursuits, well-read scholars, expert logicians, keen observers of life and manners, prophesying, interpreting, talking unknown tongues, working miraculous cures, coming down with messages from God to the Houses of Commons. We have seen an old woman, with no talents beyond the cunning of a fortune-teller, and With the education of a scullion, exalted into a prophetess, and surrounded by tens of thousands of devoted followers, many of whom were, in station and knowledge, immeasurably her superiors; and all this in the nineteenth century, and all this in London. Yet why not? For of the dealings of God with man no more has been revealed to the nineteenth century
than to the first, or to London than to the wildest parish in the Hebrides. It is true that, in those things which concern this life and this world, man constantly becomes wiser. But it is no less true that, as respects a higher power and a future state, man, in the language of Goethe's scoffing fiend,
"bleibt alets von gleichem achlag, ttnd ist so wmiderlich all win am ennen tag."
The history of Catholicism strikingly illustrates these observations. During the last seven centuries the public mind of Europe has made constant progress in every department of secular knowledge. But in religion we can trace no constant progress. The ecclesiastical history of that long period is the history of movement to and fro. Four times since tha authority of the Church of Rome was established in Western Christendom has the human intellect risen up against her yoke. Twice she remained completely victorious. Twice she came forth from the conflict bearing the marks of cruel wounds, but with the principle of life still strong within her. When we reflect on the tremendous assaults which she has survived, we find it difficult to conceive in what way she is to perish.
The first of these insurrections broke out in the region where the beautiful language of Ui was spoken. That country, singularly favoured by nature, was, in the twelfth century, the most flourishing and civilized part of Western Europe. It was in nowise a part of France. It had a distinct political existence, a distinct national character, distinct usages, and a distinct speech. The soil was fruitful and well cultivated; and amidst the cornfields and vineyards arose many rich cities, each of which was a little republic; and many stalely castles, each of which contained a miniature of an imperial court It was there that the spirit of chivalry first laid aside its terrors, first took a humane and graceful form, first appeared as the inseparable associate of art and literature, of courtesy and love. The other vernacular dialects which, since the fifth century, had sprung up in the ancient provinces of the Koman empire, were still rude and imperfect. The sweet Tuscan, the rich and energetic English, were abandoned to artisans and sheaherds. No clerk had ever condescended to use such barbarous jargon for the teaching of science, for the recording of great events, or for the painting of life and manners. But the language of Provence was already the language of the learned and polite, and was employed by numerous writers, studious of all tne arts of composition and versification.
A literature rich in ballads, in war-songs, in satire, and, above all, in amatory poetry, amused the leisure of the knights and ladies whose fortified mansions adorned the banks of the Rhone and Garonne. With civilization had come freedom of thought. Use had taken away the horror with which misbelievers wers elsewhere regarded. No Norman or Breton ever saw a Mussulman, except to give and receive blows on some Syrian field of battle. Una the people of the rich countries wUich la,y v,«. tier the Pyrenees lived in habits of courteous and profitable intercourse with the Moorish kingdoms of Spain, and gave a hospitable welcome to skilful teachers and mathematicians, who, in the schools of Cordova and Granada, had become versed in nil the learning of the Arabians. The-Greek, still preserving, in the midst .of political degradation, the ready wit and the inquiring spirit of his fathers, still able to read the most perfect of human compositions, still speaking the most powerful and flexible of human languages, brought to the marts of Narbonne and Toulouse, together with the drugs and silks of remote climates, bold and subtle theories, long unknown to the ignorant and credulous West. The Paulician theology —a theology in which, as it should seem, many of the doctrines of the modern Calvinists were mingled with some doctrines derived from the ancient Manichees,—spread rapidly through Provence and I.anguedoc. The clergy of the Catholic Church were regarded with loathing and contempt. "Viler than a priest,"—"I would as soon be a priest,"—became proverbial expressions. The Papacy lost all authority with all classes, from the great feudal princes down to the cultivators of the soil.
The danger to the hierarchy was indeed formidable. Only one transalpine nation had emerged from barbarism, and that nation had thrown off all respect for Home. Only one of the vernacular languages of Europe had yet been extensively employed for literary purposes, and that language was a machine in the hands of heretics. The geographical position of the sectaries made the danger peculiarly formidable. They occupied a central region communicating directly with France, with Italy, and with Spain. The provinces which were still untainted were separated from each other by this infected district. Under these circumstances, it seemed probable that a single generation would suffice to spread the reformed doctrine to Lisbon, to London, and to Naples. But this was not to be. Kome cried for help to the warriors of northern France. She appealed at once to their superstition and to their cupidity. To the devout believers she promised pardons as ample as those with which she had rewarded the deliverers of the holy Sepulchre. To the rapacious and profligate she offered the plunder of fertile plains and wealthy cities. Unhappily, the ingenious and polished inhabitants of the Languedocian provinces were far better qualified to enrich and embellish their country than to defend it. Eminent in the arts of peace, unrivalled in the "gay science," elevated above many vulgar superstitions, they wanted that iron courage, and that skill in martial exercises, which distinguished the chivalry of the region beyond the Loire, and were ill-fitted to face enemies, who, in every country from Ireland to Palestine, had been victorious against tenfold odds. A war.distinguished even among wars of religion by its merciless atrocity, deMroyed the Albigensian heresy; and with that heresy the prosperity, the civilization, the literature, the national existence, of what was once • Be most onulent and enlightened part of the I
great European family. Rome, in U.e mean time, warned by that fearful danger from which the exterminating swords of her crusaders had narrowly saved her, proceeded to revise and to strengthen her whole system of polity. Ai this period were instituted the order of Francis the order of Dominic, the tribunal of the Inqut sition. The new spiritual police was everywhere. No alley in a-great city, no hamlet on a remote mountain, was unvisited by the begging friar. The simple Catholic, who was content to be no wiser than his fathers, found, wherever he turned, a friendly voice to encourage him. The path of the heretic was beset by innumerable spies; and the Church, lately in danger of ulter subversion, now appeared to be impregnably fortified by the love, the reverence, and the terror of mankind.
A century and a half passed away, and Ihtn came the second great rising up of the human intellect against the spiritual domination of Home. During the two generations which followed the Albigensian crusade, the power of the Papacy had been al the height. Frederick II. —the ablest and most accomplished of the long line of German Caesars—had in vain exhausted all the resources of military anil political skill in the attempt to defend the rights of the civil power against the encroachments of the Church. The vengeance of the priesthood had pursued his house to the third generation. Manfred had perished on the field of battle; Conradin on the scaffold. Then a turn took place. Tlie secular authority, long unduly depressed, regained the ascendant with startling rapidity. The change is doubtless to be ascribed chiefly to the general disgust excited by the way in which the Church had abused its power and its success.
But something must be attributed to the character and situation of individuals. The man who bore the chief part in effecting this revolution was Philip IV. of France, surnamed the Beautiful—a despot by position, a despot by temperament, srern, implacable, and un scrupulous, equally prepared for violence and for chicanery, and surrounded by a devoted band of men of the sword, and of men of law. The fiercest and most high-minded of the Roman Pontiffs, while bestowing kingdoms, and citing great princes to his judgment-seat, was seized in his palace by armed men, and so foully outraged that he died mad with rag* and terror. "Thus," sang the great Florentine poet, "was Christ in the person of his vicar, a second time seized by ruffians, a second time mocked, a second time drenched with the vinegar and the gall."* The seat of the Papal court was carried beyond the Alps, and the Bishops of Rome became dependants of France. Then came the great schism of the West. Two Popes, each with a doubtful title, made all Europe ring with their mutual invectives and anathemas. Rome cried out against the corruptions of Avignon; and Avig* non, with equal justice, recriminated on Rome The plain Christian people, brought up in the belief that it was a sacred duty to be in com. ___
mnnion with the Head of the Church, were unable to discover, amidst conflicting testimonies and conflicting arguments, to which of the two worthless priests who were cursing and reviling each other, the headship of the Church rightfully belonged. It was nearly at this juncture that the voice of John Wickliflebegan to make itself heard. The public mind of England was soon stirred to its inmost depths; and the influence of the new doctrines was soon felt, even in the distant kingdom of Bohemia. In Bohemia, indeed, there had long been a predisposition to heresy. Merchants Irom the Lower Danube were often seen in the lairs of Prague; and the Lower Danube was peculiarly the seat of the Paulician theology. The Church, torn by schism, and fiercely assailed at once in England and the German empire, was in a situation scarcely fess perilous than at the crisis which preceded the Albigensian crusade.
But this danger also passed by. The civil power gave its strenuous support to the Cluirch; and the Church made some show of reforming itself. The council of Constance put an end to the schism. The whole Catholic world was again united under a single chief, and rules were laid down which seemed to make it improbable that the power of that chief would be grossly abused. The most distinguished teachers of the new doctrine were put to death. The English government put down the Lollards with merciless rigour; and, in the next generation, no trace of the second great revolt against the Papacy could be found, except among the rude population of the mountains of Bohemia.
Another century went by; and then began the third and the most memorable struggle for spiritual freedom. The times were changed. The great remains of Athenian and Roman (renins were studied by thousands. The Church had no longer a monopoly of learning. The powers of the modern languages had at length been developed. The invention of printing bad given new facilities to the intercourse of mind with mind. With such auspices commenced the great Reformation.
We will attempt to lay before our readers, in a short compass, what appears to us to be the real history of the contest, which began wiih the preaching of Luther against the indulgences, and which may, in one sense, be said to have been terminated, a hundred and thirty years later, by the treaty of Westphalia.
In the northern parts of Europe, the victory of Protestantism was rapid and decisive. The dominion of the Papacy was felt by the nations of Teutonic blood as the dominion of Italians, of foreigners, of men alien in language, manners, and intellectual constitution. The large jurisdiction exercised by the spiritual tribunals of Rome seemed to be a degrading badge of servitude. The sums which, under a thousand pretexts, were exacted by a distant court, were regarded both as a humiliating and as a ruinous tribute. The character of that court excited the scorn and disgust of a grave, earnest, sincere, and devout people. The new tli* dogy spread with a rapidity never known
before. All ranks, all varieties of character, joined the ranks of the innovators. Sovereigns impatient to appropriate to themselves the prerogatives of the Pope—nobles desirous to share the plunder of abbeys—suitors exasperated by the extortions of the Roman Camera —patriots impatient of a foreign rule1—good men scandalized by the corruptions of the Church—bad men desirous of the license inseparable from great moral revolutions—wise men eager in the pursuit of truth—weak men allured by the glitter of novelty—all were found on one side. Alone, among the northern nations, the Irish adhered to the ancient faith; and the cause of this seems to have been, that the national feeling which, in happier countries, was directed against Rome, was in Ireland directed against England. In fifty years from the day in which Luther publicly renounced communion with the Church of Rome, and burned the bull of Leo before the gates of Wittenberg, Protestantism attained its highest ascendency—an ascendency which it soon lost, and which it never regained. Hundreds, who could well remember Brother Martin a devout Catholic, lived to see the revolution of which he was the chief author, victorious in half the states of Europe. In England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Livonia, Prussia, Saxony, Hesse, Wurtemberg, the Palatinate, in several cantons of Switzerland, in the Northern Netherlands, the Reformation had completely triumphed; and in all the other countries on this side of the Alps and the Pyrenees, it seemed on the point of triumphing.
But while this mighty work was proceeding in the north of Europe, a revolution of a very different kind had taken place iu the south. The temper of Italy and Spain was widely different from that of Germany and England. As the national feeling of the Teutonic nations impelled them to throw off the Italian supremacy, so the national feeling of the Italians impelled them to resist any change which might deprive their country of the hoqpur and advantage of being the seat of the government of the Universal Church. It was in Italy that the tributes were spent, of which foreign nations so bitterly complained. It was to adorn Italy that the traffic in indulgences had been carried to that scandalous excess which had roused the indignation of Luther. There was among the Italians both much piety and much impiety; but with very few exceptions, neither the piety nor the impiety took the turn of Protestantism. The religious Italians desired a reform of morals and discipline, but not a reform of doctrine, and least of all a schism. The irreligious Italians simply disbelieved Christianity, without hating it. They looked al it as artists, or as statesmen; and so looking at it, they liked it better in the established form than in any other. It was to them what the Pagan worship was to Trajan and Pliny. Neither the spirit of Savanarola, nor that of Machiavelli, had any thing in common with that of the religious or political Protestants uf ute north.
Spain again was, with respect to the kathou.© Church, in a situation very different from Oa»x