Imatges de pÓgina

of Rome ought not to be preferred before others on account of the decrees of councils, but on account of what Christ said to Peter— Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build


church. The popes did not at first claim infallibility as the successors of an infallible apostle, but

Agatho said, in a public epistle in 680, that the church of Rome neither had erred, nor could err in any point, and that all its constitutions ought to be received as if they had been delivered by the divine voice of St Peter himself. Ennodius maintained, in the fifth century, that the Roman pontiff was "constituted judge in the place of God, which he filled as the vicegerent of the Most High!"

As real power and consequence increased, splendor and titles were proportionably multiplied and enhanced. The popes assumed the pomp of royalty. From the Pontifex Maximus of the heathen, they called themselves Pontiffs, and their office the Pontificate. The epithets of sovereign prelates, or priests, and bishop of bishops, were successively applied to them. The ceremony of kissing the pope's toe was introduced in imitation of the heathen custom of showing respect in that way to the Pontifex Maximus, who was generally the emperor. This civility, which was at first voluntary, was afterwards claimed as a right even from crowned heads. After his election, the pope was carried on men's shoulders, agreeably to the manner of the northern nations, when they had chosen a new chief or prince. Like other sovereigns, he made use of the plural number in speaking of himself. Other forms and titles, not only of royalty, but of divinity, first assumed by the princes of the East, and then adopted by the Roman emperors, were finally employed by the popes. They also excelled all their brethren in their riches and splendor, which rendered their office a high prize for ambition, and provoked great tumults, and even bloodshed sometimes, on the election of a new pope.

Notwithstanding these great powers, the popes were still regarded as the subjects of the emperors, and their election was not valid without the emperor's consent.

The temporal princes under whom the popes lived, employed them in embassies, when they thought proper. Even the power of summoning general councils was lodged in the imperial hands during the first five centuries, and other persons

besides the popes, as bishops and emperors, were accustomed to preside in them.





CHARLEMAGNE TO THE REFORMATION. ORIGINALLY the election of the Pope was not valid without the consent of the Emperor, but after several changes in the custom, Gregory VII. taking advantage of the disorders of the Empire, finally emancipated the see of Rome from this inark of subjection. In early times, the bishops of Rome were chosen by the people, as well as by the clergy, but Alexander III. established the sole right of election in the college of cardinals. The universal custom of the Popes changing their names upon their election began in 894, when Bocco di Porco, thinking his original name, which' signified. Hog's Snout, incompatible with his new dignity, changed it to Sergius.

It is not easy to say whether the spiritual or the temporal power of the Popes was the more extravagant, but the temporal power preceded the

spiritual, and laid the foundation for it without doubt. The first large accession was made from the spoils of the Lombards in Italy by Pepin, and afterwards by Charlemagne. In 1198, the Popes cbtained the sovereignty of Rome, the inhabitants of which had always hitherto acknowledged the Emperor as their temporal prince. From this time, the Pope was as properly independent as any prince in Europe.

After the thirteenth century, the wealth and revenues of the Pope received large additions, partly by the events of war, and partly by the munificence of kings and emperors. The Popes took advantage also of all the divisions in the families of temporal powers to aggrandize themselves. They dictated the choice of kings and emperors, and assumed the character of lords of the universe and arbiters of states and empires. The sovereigns who were refractory under their arbitrary power, they excommunicated from the church, absolving their subjects from allegiance to them, and forbidding the common rites of humanity to be paid them. Robert, King of France, not complying with the Pope's decree respecting the dissolution of his marriage, the Pope, for the first time, laid the whole kingdom under

ity, &c.

this interdict, forbidding all divine service, the use of the sacraments to the living, and of burial to the dead. The people terrified by this order, yielded such implicit obedience, that even the King's own domestics abandoned him, except two or three, and those threw to the dogs every thing that came from his table. No person even dared to eat out of any vessel which he had touched. The King, being reduced to this dismal state, was forced to yield, and cancel his marriage.

So fully was the temporal power of the Popes established, that they alone were thought to have the right of disposing of kingdoms; and they were as regularly applied to for that purpose, as the temporal courts for titles of nobil

It was in the eleventh century that the power of the Popes may be said to have been at its height. They then received the pompous titles of the masters of the world, and of universal fathers. They presided every where in the councils by their legates. They decided in all controversies concerning religion, or church discipline; and they maintained the pretended rights of the church against the usurpations of kings and princes.

The insolence with which the Popes have acted in the height of their power is hardly credible. Gregory VII. obliged the Emperor Henry IV. whom he had excommunicated, and who applied for absolution, to wait three days before he would admit him; though both the Emperor, the Empress, and their child, waited barefoot in the depth of winter. On the fourth day he was admitted, and as a token of his repentance, he resigned his crown into the hands of the Pope, and confessed himself unworthy of the Empire, if ever he should oppose his will for the future: and he was not absolved without very mortifying conditions,

In the ninth century, we find the first seeds of the doctrine of the Popes' infallibility. They asserted that they could not be judged by any person for what they should do, and that their decrees ought to be preferred to those of the councils. Leo IX. declared that all difficult questions ought to be decided by the successors of St Peter, because that church never had erred from the faith, and would not to the end.

The schoolmen gave their influence to the support of this doctrine. But the faith of mankind in the infallibility of the Popes received a severe shock at the time

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of the great schism, which could only be settled by setting up a council above the Popes.

The growth of the papal power was luxuriant during the dark ages.

Princes were divested of all authority in religious matters. The decretal epistles were forged to support the pretensions of the Popes. The quarrels about the right of investiture, the custom of granting indulgences, the power of canonization, of calling and presiding in councils, the collecting of the canons of the church of Rome, the appropriation of the highest titles, even that of God, show very distinctly that they had lost all title to be called the succes. sors of St Peter, and had “introduced the vain insolence of the world into the church of Christ.”

There is no giving one character to a set of men so numerous and so various as the Popes bave been; but, in gen: eral, since they have become sovereign princes, they have had all the follies and vices of other sovereigns, and have spent their revenues in the same manner; more especially (as their power was short, and the office not hereditary) in enriching their families and dependents. At one period they were, for many successions, monsters of wickedness; using every art, and making no scruple even of murder, to gain their ends. A man more abandoned to vice of the most atrocious kinds than Alexander VI. was perhaps never known, and Leo X. the great patron of learning, was exceedingly debauched, and probably an atheist.

It must be acknowledged, however, that many of the Popes have been men who would have adorned any

station in life; being, in the worst times, patterns of virtue, and actuated by the best intentions in the world. But they never had power to reform their own courts, or to accomplish the other reformations they projected. However, time, and the diminution of their power, has at length done a great deal towards it; and as the bishops of Rome sink to the level of other bishops in the Christian church, they will probably acquire the virtues of their primitive ancestors; but then they will be no longer what we now call Popes.



To the preceding history of the clergy in general, and of the bishops and popes in particular, it may not be amiss to add a separate account of the councils, or assemblies of the bishops and clergy, which make a great figure in the history of the christian church. These assumed a most un. due authority, and have been one of the principal supports of the greatest corruptions of christian doctrine and discipline.

We find in the book of Acts, that when matters of considerable consequence occurred, all the apostles, or as many as conveniently could, assembled to consult about them, and their decrees were universally received in the christian church. It does not appear, however, that what they resolved on these occasions was directed by any immediate inspiration, for that would have superseded all reasoning and debates upon the subject, and consequently all difference of opinion. Whereas they appear to have debated among themselves, on some of these occasions, with a considerable degree of warmth. And though they conclude their advice to the Gentile christians about the observance of the Jewish ceremonies, with saying that it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, they probably only meant, that they were fully persuaded that the regulations which they prescribed were proper in themselves, and therefore agreeable to the mind and will of God; being conscious to them selves that they were under no improper bias. If they had been conscious of any particular illumination at that time, they would probably have mentioned it. Such, however, was the respect in which the apostles were held, that even their advices had the force of decrees, and in general were implicitly conformed to.

When the apostles were dead, it was natural for the bishops of particular churches to assemble on similar occasions; and though they could not have the authority of the apostles, that office becoming extinct with those who were first appointed to it, yet as there was no higher authority in the church, had they contented themselves with merely giving advice, and confined their decisions to matters of dis

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