Page images
PDF
EPUB

tiation 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 test. The prophesies of Brothers and the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe sink to trifles in the comparison. One reservation, 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 inactive or speculative ursuits, well-read scholars, expert logicians, een "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 cuuming 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 wild. est 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

Goethe's scoffing fiend,

“bleibt stets von gleichem schlag, Undist so wunderlich als wie am ersten 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 the 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 Oe 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 stately 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 Roman empire, were still rude and imperfect, The sweet Tuscan, the rich and energetic English, were abandoned to artisans and shepherds. 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 the 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 were elsewhere regarded. No Norman or Breton ever saw a Mussulman, except to give and receive blows on some Syrian field of battle, but

the people of the rich countries which lay who

and a future state, man, in the language of der the Pyrenees lived in habits of courteous

and profitable intercourse with the Moorish

kingdoms of Spain, and gave a hospitable wel- narrowly saved her, proceeded to revise and

come to skilful teachers and mathematicians, who, in the schools of Cordova and Granada,

great European family. Rome, in the mean time, warned by that fearful danger from which the exterminating swords of her crusaders had

to strengthen her whole system of polity. As

had become versed in all the learning of the this period were instituted the order of Francis Arabians. The Greek, still preserving, in the the order of Dominic, the tribunal of the Inqui midst of political degradation, the ready wit}sition. The new spiritual police was every

and the inquiring spirit of his fathers, still able where.

No alley in a great city, no hamlet on

to read the most perfect of human composi- a remote mountain, was unvisited by the beg

tions, 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 theolog —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 Languedoc. The clergy of the Catholic Church were regarded with loathing and contempt. “Wiler 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 Rome. 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. Rome 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, destroyed the Albigensian heresy; and with that heresy the prosperity, the civilization, the literature, the national existence, of what was once be most opulent and enlightened part of the

ging 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 utter 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 then came the second great rising up of the human intellect against the spiritual domination of Rome. During the two generations which sollowed the Albigensian crusade, the power of the Papacy had been at 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 and political skill in the attempt to defend the rights of the civil power against the encroachments of the Charch. 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. 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, stern, 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 rage and terror. “Thus,” sang the great Florentine poet, “was Christ in the person of his vicar, a second time seized by ruffians, a se. cond 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 Avignon, 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

* Purgatorio, wr. 87. ****

The secular authority, long unduly. 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 Wickliffe. began 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 from the Lower Danube were often seen in the fairs 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 less perilons than at the crisis which preceded the Albigensian crusade. But this danger also passed by. The civil power gave its strenuous support to the Church; 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 genius 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 had 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 with 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 tribumals 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 derout people. The new the logy spread with a rapidity never known

munion with the Head of the Church, were before.

o All ranks, all varieties of character, joined the ranks of the innovators. Sove. reigns impatient to appropriate to themselves the prerogatives of the Pope—nobles desirous to share the plunder of abbeys—suitors exas. perated by the extortions of the Roman Camera -patriots impatient of a foreign rule—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, Würtemberg, 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 in the south. The temper of Italy and Spain was widely difserent 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 honour 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 at 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 anything in common with that of the religious or political Protestants of the north.

Spain again was, with respect to the Catholic Church, in a situation very different from that of the Teutonic nations. Italy was, in fact, a part of the empire of Charles W.; and the court of Rome was, on many important occasions, his tool. He had not, therefore, like the distant princes of the north, a strong selfish motive for attacking the Papacy. In fact, the very measures which provoked the Sovereign of England to renounce all connection with Rome, were dictated by the Sovereign of Spain. The feelings of the Spanish people concurred with the interest of the Spanish government. The attachment of the Castilian to the faith of his ancestors was peculiarly strong and ardent. With that faith were inseparably bound up the institutions, the independence, and the glory of his country. Between the day when the last

Gothic king was vanquished on the banks of.

the Xeres, and the day when Ferdinand and Isabella entered Granada in triumph, nearly eight hundred years had elapsed; and during those years the Spanish nation had been engaged in a desperate struggle against misbelievers. The crusades had been merely an episode in the history of other nations. The existence of Spain had been one long crusade. After fighting Mussulmans in the Old World, she began to fight heathens in the New. It was under the authority of a Papal bull that her children steered into unknown seas. It was under the standard of the cross that they marched fearlessly into the heart of great kingdoms. It was with the cry of “Saint James for Spain!” that they charged armies which outnumbered them a hundredfold. And men said that the Saint had heard the call, and had himself in arms, on a gray war-horse, led the onset before which the worshippers of false gods had given way. After the battle, every excess of rapacity or cruelty was sufficiently vindicated by the plea that the sufferers were unbaptized. Avarice stimulated zeal. Zeal consecrated avarice. Proselytes and gold mines were sought with equal ardour. In the very year in which the Saxons, maddened by the exactions of Rome, broke loose from her yoke, the Spaniards, under the authority of Rome, made themselves masters of the empire and of the treasures of Montezuma. Thus Catholicism, which, in the public mind of Northern Europe, was associated with spoliation and oppression, was, in the public mind of Spain, associated with liberty, victory, dominion, wealth, and glory. It is not, therefore, strange that the effect of the great outbreak of Protestantism in one part of Christendom should have been to produce an equally violent outbreak of Catholic zeal in another. Two reformations were pushed on at once with equal energy and effect—a reformation of doctrine in the North—a reformation of manners and discipline in the South. In the course of a single generation, the whole spirit of the Church of Rome underwent a change. From the halls of the Vatican to the most secluded hermitage of the Apennines, the great revival was everywhere felt and seen. All the institutions anciently devised for the propagation and defence of the faith, were furished up and made efficient. New engines of still more formidable power were construct

ed. Everywhere old religious communities were remodelled, and new religious communities called into existence. Within a year after the death of Leo, the order of Camaldoli was purified. The Capuchins restored the old Franciscan discipline—the midnight prayer |and the life of silence. The Barnabites and the society of Somasca devoted themselves to the relief and education of the poor. To the Theatine order a still higher interest belongs. Its great object was the same with that of our early Methodists—to supply the deficiencies of the parochial clergy. The Church of Rome, wiser than the Church of England, gave every countenance to the good work. The members of the new brotherhood preached to great multitudes in the streets and in the fields, prayed by the beds of the sick, and administered the last sacraments to the dying. Foremost among them in zeal and devotion was Gian Pietro Caraffa, afterwards Pope Paul the Fourth. In the convent of the Theatines at Venice, under the eye of Caraffa, a Spanish gentieman took up his abode, tended the poor in the hospitals, went about in rags, starved himself almost to death, and often sallied into the streets, mounted on stones, and, waving his hat to invite the passers-by, began to preach in a strange jargon of mingled Castilian and Tuscan. The Theatines were among the most zealous and rigid of men; but to this enthusiastic neophyte their discipline seemed lax, and their movements sluggish; for his own mind, naturally passionate and imaginative, had passed through a training which had given to all his peculiarities a morbid intensity and energy. In his early life he had been the very prototype of the hero of Cervantes. The single study of the young Hidalgo had been chivalrous romance; and his existence had been one gorgeous day-dream of princesses rescued and infidels subdued. He had chosen a Dulcinea, “no countess, no duchess” —these are his own words—"but one of far higher station;” and he flattered himself with the hope of laying at her feet the keys of Moor. ish castles and the jewelled turbans of Asiatic kings. In the midst of these visions of mantial glory and prosperous love, a severe wound stretched him on a bed of sickness. His constitution was shattered, and he was doomed to be a cripple for life. The palm of strength, grace, and skill in knightly exercises, was no longer for him. He could no longer hope to strike down gigantic soldans, or to find favour in the sight of beautiful women. A new vision then arose in his mind, and mingled itself with his old delusions in a manner which, to most Englishmen, must seem singular; but which those who know how close was the union be. tween religion and chivalry in Spain, will be at no loss to understand. He would still be a soldier—he would still be a knight-errant; but the soldier and knight-errant of the spouse of Christ. He would smite the Great Red Dragon. He would be the champion of the Woman clothed with the Sun. He would break the charm under which false prophets held the souls of men in bondage. #. restless spirit led him to the Syrian deserts, and to the chape

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ri oil. Holy Sepulcore. Thence he wandered sicians, merchants, serving-men; in the hostile

b.ck to the Tartnest west, and astonished the

court of Sweden, in the old manor-houses of

convents of 3pain and the schools of France by | Cheshire, among the hovels of Connaught;

h.s penance and vigils. The same lively innagiiation which had beet, employed in picturing the tumult of unreal battles, and the charms of unreal queens, now peopled his solitude with saints and angels. scended to commune with him. He saw the Saviour face to face with the eye of flesh. Even those mysteries of religion which are the hardest trial of faith, were in his case palpable to sight. It is difficult to relate without a p-tying smile, that, in the sacrifice of the mass, he saw transubstantiation take place; and that, as he stood praying on the steps of St. Dominic, he saw the Trinity in Unity, and wept aloud with y and wonder. gnatius Loyola, who in the great Catholic reaction, bore the same share which Luther bore in the great Protestant movement. Dissatisfied with the system of the Theatines, the enthusiastic Spaniard turned his face towards Rome. Poor, obscure, without a patron, without recommendations, he entered the city where now two princely temples, rich with paintings and many-coloured marble, commemorate his great services to the Church; where his form stands sculptured in massive silver; where his bones, enshrined amidst jewels, are placed beneath the altar of God. His activity and zeal bore down all opposition; and under his rule the order of Jesuits began to exist, and grew rapidly to the full measure of its gigantic powers. With what vehemence, with what policy, with what exact discipline, with what dauntless courage, with what self-denial, with what forgetfulness of the dearest private ties, with what intense and stubborn devotion to a single end, with what unscrupulous laxity and versatility in the choice of means, the Jesuits fought the battles of their church, is written in every page of the annals of Europe during several generations. In the order of Jesus was concentrated the quintessence of the Catholic spirit; and the history of the order of Jesus is the history of the great Catholic reaction. That order possessed itself at once of all the strongholds which command the public mind —of the pulpit, of the press, of the confessional, of the academies. Wherever the Jesuit preached the church was too small for the audience. The name of Jesuit on a title-page secured the circulation of a book. It was in the ears of the Jesuit that the powerful, the noble, and the beautiful breathed the secret history of their lives. It was at the feet of the Jesuit that the youth of the higher and middle classes were brought up from the first rudiments to the courses of rhetoric and philosophy. Literature and science, lately associated with infidelity or with heresy, now became the allies of orthodoxy. Dominant in the south of Europe, the great order soon went forth conquering and to conquer. In spite of oceans and deserts, of hunger and pestilence, of spies and penal laws, of dungeons and racks, of gibbets and quarteringblocks, Jesuits were to be found under every

disguise, and in every country—scholars, phy

[ocr errors]

Such - was the celebrated

arguing, instructing, consoling, stealing away the hearts of the young, animating the courage of the timid, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying. Nor was it less their office to plot against the thrones and lives of apostate kings, to spread evil rumours, to raise tumults, to inflame civil wars, to arm the hand of the assassin. Inflexible in nothing but in their fidelity to the Church, they were equally ready to appeal in her cause to the spiritofloyalty and to the spirit of freedom. Extreme doctrines of obedience and extreme doctrines of liberty—the right of rulers tomisgovern the people, the right of every one of the people to plunge his knife in the heart of a bad ruler— were inculcated by the same man according as he addressed himself to the subject of Philip or the subject of Elizabeth. Some described these men as the most rigid, others as the most indulgent of spiritual directors. And both descriptions were correct. The truly devout listened with awe to the high and saintly morality of the Jesuit. The gay cavalier who had run his rival through the body, the srail beauty who had forgotten her marriage-vow, found in the Jesuit an easy well-bred man of the world, tolerant of the little irregularities of people of fashion. The confessor was strict or lax, according to the temper of the penitent. His first object was to drive no person out of the pale of the Church. Since there were bad people, it was better that they should be bad Catholics than bad Protestants. If a person was so unfortunate as to be a bravo, a libertine, or a gambler, that was no reason for making him a heretic too. The Old World was not wide enough for this strange activity. The Jesuits invaded all the countries which the great maritime discoveries of the preceding age had laid open to European enterprise. In the depths of the Peruvian mines, at the marts of the African slave-caravans, on the shores of the Spice Islands, in the observatories of China, they were to be found. They made converts in regions which neither avarice nor curiosity had tempted any of their countrymen to enter; and preached and disputed in tongues of which no other native of the West understood a word. The spirit which appeared so eminently in this order, animated, the whole Catholic world. The court of Rome itself was purified. During the generation which preceded the Reformation, that court had been a scandal to the Christian name. Its annals are black with treason, murder, and incest. Even its more respectable members were utterly unfit to be ministers of religion. They were men like Leo X.; men who, with the Latinity of the Augustan age, had acquired its atheistical and scoffing spirit. They regarded these Christian mysteries of which they were stewards, just as the Augur Cicero and the Pontifex Maximus Caesar regarded the Sibylline books and the pecking of the sacred chickens. Among thenselves they spoke of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the Trinity, in the same tone in

« PreviousContinue »