Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

gagement; and were characterised at first by rules of austerity and frugality, which speedily melted away before the influence of growing wealth. The two latter orders will be noticed again.

In this century many of the Popes showed themselves worthy successors of Gregory VII. Pascal rekindled the dissensions concerning investitures, A.D. 1102, by fresh excommunications against the Emperor Henry; whose rebellious son was afterwards absolved from his allegiance, and supported in his unnatural war against his father, by the same pontiff. Succeeding emperors, popes, and anti-popes, for there were repeatedly two contemporary claimants of St. Peter's chair, prolonged the calamities of this contest by temporal as well as spiritual arms; until it was at length adjusted, A.D. 1122, by a compromise. The right of election was relinquished by the emperor ; that of investiture, but by the sceptre, not by the ring and crosier, was conceded to him by the pope.

New schisms, commonly occasioned by turbulence of parties at Rome, divided the papacy; and the competitors were variously acknowledged by different kingdoms. New contests also arose between the Pope and the emperor, each eager to reduce the power of the other; in which the emperor was, according to custom, excommunicated and deposed. The King of England too, Henry II., received his allotment of the general humiliation. Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, having acceded, A.D. 1164, to certain rules, called the Constitutions of Clarendon, limiting some of the exorbitant privileges of the clergy, repented of his compliance, which he pronounced to have been grievously sinful ; and suspended himself from his ecclesiastical office, until he should receive absolution for his offence from the Pope. Violent contentions ensued; and Becket retired to France. An apparent reconciliation at length took place between the prelate and the King. The Archbishop returned to his see; and persisted in his former measures with inflexible arrogance. The King, then in Normandy, heard the account: and dropped bitter expressions of indignation. Four knights of his court listened, and departed. The King suspected their purpose; but the messenger whom he despatched in pursuit of them was too late. 1 The Archbishop was assassinated before the altar. Henry, in obedience to the mandate of the enraged pontiff, presented himself barefooted and prostrate before the shrine of Becket, now revered as a saint and martyr ; spent the day in fasting and prayer, and the night in watching by the holy reliques ; assembled the monks of the chapter; put a scourge into the hands of each; and received on his naked back the lashes which they successively inflicted. In several respects the authority of the church and the Pope increased in strength. A decree, in force at this day, was passed under Alexander III., excluding the Roman people from all power in the election of a pontiff, and vesting the right of voting exclusively in the cardinals. At the same time, spiritual wars were first declared against heretics. The right of nominating and canonizing saints was monopolized by the Pope. But his greatest and most pernicious accession of power was that of Indulgences. Various bishops had for some time augmented their revenues by selling to transgressors these remissions of ecclesiastical penalties. The politic popes discerned the advantage; assumed nearly the whole of the traffic to themselves; and extended it from the temporal chastisements of the

See the account in Hume's History of England.

church to the future punishments of purgatory and hell. By no other proof, perhaps, had the “ Man of Sin " been more conspicuously seen “sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself that he is God." This prerogative, first employed for the encouragement of the crusades, was vindicated by the blasphemous doctrine, now invented and improved in the next century, that the Roman pontiff was invested with a power of transferring to any person a portion of an immense treasure of superfluous merit, which the saints by their pious deeds had accumulated over and above what was requsite for their own salvation. So flagrant was the corruption of Christianity by the popes, that Saint Bernard, the great assertor of papal supremacy, not only directed the full tide of his eloquence, against many existing enormities of the see of Rome, but had his eyes so far opened as to obtain a glimpse of that fundamental truth, which lies at the root of the protestant faith. “ The popes,” said he, “call themselves the ministers of Christ ; and they serve antichrist. The Beast of the Revelations, to whom was given a mouth speaking blasphemies, and power to make war with the Saints, seizes the chair of St. Peter.1

When sins might thus be expiated by money, and superstitions of every kind were patronised; the vices of the clergy in general, as well as of the laity, advanced to a height of iniquity scarcely credible. Corruption so glaring in doctrine and in practice excited the indignant opposition of those whom it had not blinded. Multitudes now bore witness in behalf of genuine Christianity. Among these the Albigenses,

1 See Bishop Hurd's Introduction to the Study of the Prophecies, Sermon 7., and the note [s] subjoined to it.

so denominated from Albi, a town in France, or Vaudois, Vallenses, and Waldenses, from the vallies of Piedmont, which they occupied, and sometimes Leonists, from Peter, a man of zealous piety, a merchant of Lyons surnamed Valdo, in consequence of his exertions in their support, were the most conspicuous. They are said in part to have originated from the Paulicians, who, retiring into Thrace from the persecution of the Grecian emperors, proceeded through Bulgaria into Italy and the neighbouring parts of Europe. The Albigenses are loaded by many of their enemies with the imputation of Manichean and other abominable tenets. The truth probably is, that some of the sects into which they were subdivded, and others improperly classed with them by the church of Rome, which indiscriminately branded its opposers with the denomination of Albigenses, held with many just opinions others which were erroneous.

The grossest calumnies concerning their lives and conduct were eagerly spread throughout Europe. To their superior virtues, however, the attestations of their adversaries are afforded. Among their leading doctrines we find these particularly specified: that Scripture is the rule of faith and sufficient unto salvation : that the Scriptures ought to be open in the vulgar tongue to all : that there are only two sacraments : that Christ is the sole Mediator between God and man : that masses for the dead are absurd, and the worship of saints and the dead idolatry: that purgatory is a human invention: that monastic institutions, and the multiplicity of festivals and ceremonies, are injurious to religion ; that the marriage of the clergy is lawful and necessary: that the pope is entitled to no supremacy: that the church of Rome is the antichristian church described in the Revelations. The historian Thuanus, a Catholic, honestly discriminates between the doctrines which the Albigenses held and those which were falsely ascribed to them. And Mezeray, also a Catholic, decisively characterises them thus: “They had very nearly the same opinions as those persons who are now called Calvinists;" the usual term in France for Protestants. 1

i One writer against them says, “Sunt in moribus compositi et modesti : superbiam in vestibus non habent,” &c. — Another, “ Præter hæc quæ contra fidem religionemque nostram assumunt, in reliquis fermè puriorem quam cæteri Christiani vitam agunt. Non enim nisi coacti jurant ; raroque nomen Dei in vanum proferunt; promissaque sua bonâ fide implent," &c. · Another, “ In moribus et vitâ boni sunt; veraces in sermone; in caritate fraternâ unanimes.” Bishop Newton's Dissertations, vol. iii. pp. 174, 175., notes. - “ If a man,” says St. Bernard, “ love those who desire to love God and Jesus Christ; if he will neither curse, nor swear, nor act deceitfully, nor live in lewdness nor injustice, nor avenge himself of his enemies; they presently say, The man is a Vaudois ; he deserves to be punished.'Milner's History, vol. iii. p. 389. For additional testimonies, see ibid. pp. 453–456. edit. 1809.

In some of the northern and eastern parts of Asia, Christianity, though gradually declining in the face of Mahometan power, still retained, in the thirteenth

1 Bishop Newton's Dissertations, vol. iii. pp. 175. 177., and see the notes. Thirty Germans, men and women of this sect, probably forced into England by domestic persecution, were brought, A. D. 1159, before a council of the clergy at Oxford. In conjunction with the council, Henry II. ordered them, after being branded on the forehead and scourged, to be turned into the open fields (it was then the depth of winter); where every person being prohibited under severe penalties from sheltering them, they perished through cold and hunger.

« AnteriorContinua »