Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

or the Sibylline oracles to the Roman pontifices, which nobody else was to know.

No sooner had Christianity spread itself over the world, but superstition mixed and grew up along with it; a weed natural to human soil, complexionally inherent in the weaker sex, and adventitious to most of our own.

Vast multitudes of all nations withdrew from the world ; renounced human society and all commerce with their own species; abandoned the cities and villages for the solitude of woods, deserts and caves ; under a false notion of pleasing God better, by such devotion and mortification. But all this was at first pure and simple superstition; no mixture of avarice and craft in it, no tincture of politic and worldly advantage : their known poverty and perpetual austerities wholly quit them of that suspicion.- But how did popery manage this foible of mankind to its lucre and interest ? Under a pretence of a like retirement from the world in a life of prayer and contemplation, they began their monasteries, abbeys, nunneries, &c. which by degrees so vastly multiplied, that, instead of their first pretence of retreating from the world, the very world was filled with them ; instead of the old heremitical poverty, they had drained the riches of kingdoms, had engrossed the fattest of the lands; nay, had appropriated and devoured the very ministerial wages, the bread and sustenance of the parochial clergy; who were impoverished, made vile and contemptible, to feed these vassals of the popes in their laziness and luxury.

In the early ages of the gospel, there was a high and just veneration for the sepulchres and remains of holy men, for the memorials of them in statue or picture, for the places of their abode; and especially for the land of Palestine, which the patriarchs, the prophets, the Son of God and His apostles, had made sacred by their birth and habitation. This at first was within due bounds; but superstition was soon engrafted on it and grew to excess: the remains and relics were supposed to work miracles ; the images had not value only, but worship and adoration ; long journeys were taken, to the great detriment of families, to visit holy places, and kiss the footsteps of saints and martyrs.- These bigotries, though even then reprehended by the best fathers of those ages, were yet without any mixture of craft and knavery. But popery soon saw, that here was a proper fund, to be improved and managed to great advantage. Instead of coercion and restraint, they advised, encouraged, commanded those supersti

1

tions, with such scandalous kanndela, such abominable traffic, as even paganism would blush at. All the graves and catacombs were exhausted to furnish relics : not a bone, not the least scrap of raiment of any saint, that was not removed into the holy wardrobe to raise money to the showers. Where the monuments were dubious and blended, the names and bodies of pagan

slaves were taken into the church calendar and treasury: disputes and quarrels arose among the numerous pretenders to one and the same relic, which could never be decided ; but the victory was various and alternate, according to the fruitful inventions and ingenious lies of the contending impostors. Even statues and pictures of the same saint were made to rival each other: and the Blessed Virgin, like Juno Lucina and Juno Sospita, had as many numina' and specific powers, as she had pictures and statues; one celebrated for one virtue, another for another. No piety was thought acceptable, no life religiously spent, without a pilgrimage to some foreign saint; where vows and rich offerings must be paid at the shrine. But, above all, the endeavour to gain the Holy Land' by driving out the Saracens was the most promising project, the very masterpiece of popery. What arts were used, or what not used, to inveigle the princes and nobility of Europe into that romantic expedition ! Every hour of grief or sickness, every hour of mirth and wine, were a snare and trepan to them. If in any of those softer moments they once rashly took the cross on their garments, the vow was irrevocable: to break it was thought attended with all misfortunes in this world, and damnation in the other. In the mean time salvation, like soldier's pay, was promised and insured to all that embarked : the heavenly Jerusalem to be their certain acquisition, though they failed and perished in fighting for the earthly.--Now while the world by these artifices was made mad and infatuate ; while princes abandoned their own realms, and left the regency in weak or treacherous hands; while for several generations all Europe was exhausted of its strength and its wealth, and the remainder overrun with superstition and leprosy; the contrivers of all this were not wanting to their own interest. It was then in the absence of so many kings, and the distracted condition at home, that popery made its most plentiful harvest : then cities with their large territories were extorted out of the owners' hands, and made the patri

As many numina.] See Index, under Walsingham. our Lady of.
Holy Land.] See Index, under Crusade.

mony of the church : then investitures, faculties, dispensations, bulls, the whole shop and warehouse of profit and power, were extended and exerted over all persons and employments: then, in a word, was mankind enslaved, and popery trod upon the necks of princes. And well was it for Palestine that the Saracens kept possession of it. If popery had succeeded in its attempt on that country, what a new revenue from pilgrimages ! what an inexhaustible store of religious merchandise ! Every stone there would have been a sacred relique. If we may guess from some histories, the very soil' would have been dug up and exported by this time ; and customers invited to the purchase by a new legend of miracles. Not a church in Europe would have been counted

. holy; not a palace or seat lucky or prosperous; not an estate, not a field or close, fertile to the owner; that had not some of the holy earth to bless and to sanctify it.

When the empire was first Christian, though the bishops of Rome had no more under their inspection than the suburbicarian regions; yet the great city imperial, the metropolis of the Western world, gave them a just pre-eminence above those of inferior and municipal towns. And so, those of Constantinople

1

The very soil.] At times there seems to have been a wild spirit extensively prevalent, which hardly admits even of a representation like this being regarded as mere rant and rodomontade.

“I am bold to say," affirms Richard Bristow, in his famous book Motives to the Catholic Faith, written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in the year 1574, “and prove it well I can, that whereas Christian people of those first ages are counted, as they were indeed, far more godly and more holy, and more devout than we, for no other cause it was, but only because they practised the things afore-named and such like, much more often, more religiouslie, and, as the heretics would have it falsely called and counted, much more superstitiously, than we do: more going a pilgrimage, more kissing of reliques and kneeling unto them, more crying out to saints, and all other things much more in those days than in these : and therefore, I say, people then were more devout and religious than now. Such going then a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, that S. Hierome sayeth of the holie places of our Saviour's nativitie, crosse, resurrection and ascension, 'ad quæ de toto orbe concurritur,' (in Isai. xix.); unto which holy places there is concourse of people out of all the world. Even the verie holie earth of our Saviour's sepulcher brought home by pilgrims, and given to their friends, and used to hang in their chamber, to save them from evil; yea, so reverenced that they would not keepe it in their chambers, but build churches to lay it in, for people at it to serve God, to come to it a pilgrimage, and that with following of great miracles; all which S. Augustine writeth of his owne time, being himselfe a partie therein. (De Civit. Dei, lib. xxii. cap. 8.)” fol. 53, 4. edit. 1599.

[ocr errors]

had a due deference paid them by the other bishops of the east, as βασιλεύτεροι άλλων, as presiding over a diocese the most numerous and the most potent. A fit regard always was and ought to be had to their advice, concurrence, and assistance; since their example must needs have the greatest influence on the peace of the whole church.—Now how did popery make use of this advantage of situation, to make spiritual Rome as much the empress

of the church as ever civil Rome had been of the state ? In long tract of time they reduced all under their power ; not by our Saviour's declaration, trà taúry rõ nétpą, “upon this rock I will build my church ;" as if that was the Tarpeian rock, and the cliff of the Roman capital: but by the subtlest arts of politic continued from age to age with indefatigable address; by sowing factions among all other bishops, and then promoting appeals to the arbitration of popes, who always decided for those that owned their authority ; by creating new bishops against those in possession, the event whereof was both ways the certain increase of papal power : for either the pope's new title prevailed; or the former bishop, after long charge and vexation, was content for quietness' sake to keep his own, as the gift of the pope' by an

??

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 As the gift of the pope.] “The wisdom of the court of Rome,” says Twisden shrewdly, “is to give, what it can neither sell, nor keep.Vindication, &c. p. 176.

Again, “Things done by princes of their own right, popes finding no means to stop, would, in former ages, as in later, by privilege continue unto them. Nicholaus Papa hoc domino meo privilegium, quod ex paterno jure susceperat, præbuit,' said the emperor's advocate. (Baronii Annal. ann. 1059. n. 22.) And the same pope, finding our kings to express one part of their office to be regere populum Domini et ecclesiam ejus,' wrote to Edward the Confessor, “Vobis et posteris vestris regibus Angliæ committimus advocationem ejusdem loci et omnium totius Angliæ ecclesiarum, et, ut, vice nostra, cum consilio episcoporum et abbatum constituatis ubique quæ justa sunt.' .... Besides, kings did many times ask as grants those things of the pope, which they well understood themselves to have the power of doing without him. Henry V. demanded of Martin V. five particulars ; to which the king's ambassadors, finding him not so ready to assent, told him ‘se in inandatis habere, ut coram eo profiteantur, regem in iis singulis jure suo usurum, utpote quæ non necessitatis, sed honoris causa petat ; et ut publicam de ea re coram universo cardinalium cætu protestationem interponant.' And to the same purpose there are sundry examples yet remaining on record (Rot. Parl. 17 Ed. iii. &c.), where the king, on petition of the Commons for redress in some things amiss of ecclesiastical cognisance, first chooses to write to the pope; but on his delay or failing to give satisfaction, doth either

[ocr errors]

after-act of confirmation. And as they then managed with the bishops, so in time they dealt with princes : fomented rebellions of their subjects; set brother up against brother in pretence to the crown; who was to own it when obtained as a donation from Rome: and the contract for it, that all the ecclesiastical dignities should be in the pope's collation. By these methods, continued through many successions, the result at last was, that he was the spiritual monarch of the universe, the acknowledged patron of all church preferments; that all bishops held their jurisdiction not from Christ but from him: that kings themselves were no kings, till accepted and confirmed by him: that they might be resisted, deposed, or murdered; if they did not govern by his dictates and directions: that he, as visible head of the church, was superior to general councils: that he, perhaps at first some ignorant monk, after he was once chosen pope, though without the suffrage either of clergy or people, by a mercenary conclave and nocturnal cabal of cardinals-a new order contrived by popery to depress and subdue the bishops - was immediately gifted with infallibility.-0 horrible profanation of a Divine attribute! O audacious and ridicu

a lous claim ; which though no pope can ever believe of himself; and the cardinals his electors, like the haruspices of old, may laugh at when they see each other; yet it is a useful pretence in the

way of politic, and of great moment among the adoring crowds to support and establish his usurped spiritual empire.

As the Christians in the first ages were all educated in the midst of paganism, and the most of them made converts out of it; so it could not be avoided, but that many must assume or transfer some pagan notions into the system of Christianity. Besides the One supreme God the pagans had vast numbers of inferior deities,

himself by statute redress the inconvenience, or commands the archbishop to see it done.Ibid. 17, 18. Twisden's Vindication, &c.

This valuable book, Twisden's Vindication, &c. written twenty years before the author's death, was not published till three years after it, and then came forth without a word of explanation or narrative from the editor. It is greatly to be regretted, that it is printed so incorrectly as to be not unfrequently quite unintelligible. It is much to be wished, therefore, if the family are in possession of any better manuscript and additional materials, that this should be known, and that the book should appear in a new edition, as well to the benefit of the public, as in justice to the memory of a very eminent and excellent person.—[This has been done under the editorial care of the learned Master of Jesus College, Cambridge.] Some particulars respecting Twisden may be found in Hasted's Hist. of Kent, vol. ii. 275, 6.

« ForrigeFortsæt »