Imágenes de páginas

treated each other with the utmost barbarity. Tema poral sovereigis, united in interest with spiritual chiefs, or blinded by them, thought themselves at all times. obliged to partake of their fury. Princes seemed to hold the sword for the sole purpose of cutting the throats of victims pointed out by the priests, who influenced their minds. These blinded princes believed they served God, or laboured for the welfare of their kingdoms, by espousing all the passions of the priests, who were become the most arrogant, the most vindictive, the most covetous and the most flatigious of men*.

We shall not enter into a detail of all the quarrels which the Christian religion has produced t. We shall. merely observe, that they were continual, and have been frequently attended with consequences so deplor. able, that nations have had reason more than a hundred times every century, to regret the peaceful paganism, and tolerating idolatory of their ancestors. The gospel, or the glad tiding's, constantly gare the signal for the commission of crimes. THE CROSS WAS THE BANNER UNDER WHICH MADMEN ASSEMBLED TO GLUT THE EARTH WITH BLOOD. The will of Heaven was: understood by nobody; and the clergy disputed without end on the manner of explaining oracles, which the Deity had himself come to reveal to mortals. It was

* See Appendix IV,

+ Thcir disputes were endless, and from disputing they often fell into quarrels and seditions. The clergy and monks. who were the most zealous, broke forth into the greatest heats, and when the monks, above all others, espoused the quarrel, there were no methods too lawless or violent for them. Fleury.

always indispensible to take a side in the most unintel, ligible quarrels : neutrality was regarded as impiety. The party for which the prince declared, was always orthodor, and on that account believed it had a right to exterminate all others; the orthodox in the church were those who had the power to exile, imprison, and destroy their adversaries*.

The bishops, whom the puissance of an emperor had raised from the dust, soon became rebellious subjects; and, under pretence of maintaining their spiritual power, laboured to be independent of the sovereign, and even the laws of society. They maintained that princes themselves, being subjects of Christ, qught to be subjected to the jurisdiction of his representatives on earth. Thus the pretended successors of some fishermen of Judea, to whom Constantine, had stretched forth his hand, arrogated to themselves the right of reigning over kings; and in this way the kingdom of heaven served to conquer the kingdoms of the earth.

Hitherto the Christian sect, spread throughout the empire, had been governed by bishops or chiefs inde. pendent of each other, and perfectly equal as to jư. risdiction. This made the church an aristocratical republic; but its government soon became monarchial, and even despotical. The respect which was always entertained for Rome, the capital of the world, seemed to give a kind of superiority to the bishop or spiritual head of the Christians established there*. His brethren, therefore, frequently showed a deference to him, and occasionally consulted him. Nothing more was wanting to the ambition of the bishops of Rome, or to advance the right they arrogated of judging their brethren, and incite them to declare themselves the monarchs of the Christian church. A very apocryphal tradition had made St. Peter travel to Rome, and had also made this chief of the apostles establish his see in that city. The Roman bishop therefore pretended to have succeeded to the rights of Simon Peter, to whom Jesus in the gospel had entrusted more particularly the care of feeding his sheep. He accordingly assumed the pompous titles of successor of St. Peter, universal bishop, and vicar of Jesus Christ t. It is

* Lucifer Càlaritanus, then a most orthodox bishop, in several discourses addressed to the son of Constantine, did not scruple to tell the emperor himself that it was the duty of the orthodox to kill Constantius on account of his Arianism, which he called Idolatry; and for this he quoted Deut. xiii. 6. and 1 Maccab. i. 43, to v. 29 of c. ii. See Johnson's Answer to Hick's Constant. p. 56, &c.


* Several authors have denied, and with much reason, that St. Peter ever set a foot in Rome. In the Acts of the Aposțles no mention is made of this journey, unless we suppose that Luke has omitted to speak of St. Peter, who was a Nam zarine or Ebionite, for the purpose of attributing to St. Paul his master the conversion of the capital. See what has been said before of the squabbles of St. Paul with the Judaising apostles. If St. Peter had been at Rome, his gospel would have been forced to yield to that of the apostle of the gentiles, more accommodating to the heathens, as it dispensed with circumcision. It may therefore be presumed that St. Paul was the first pope.--Hist. des Papes, tome 1. Lettres et Mo, numens des Peres Apostoliques, par Abraham Ruchat, in 8vo, Leyde, 1738. Fr. Spanheim filii dessertat. iv. Ludg. Batav. 1679.

+ Besides, it was at Rome the most opulent Christians resided. The Romish church gave large charities to the true, these titles were often contested with him by the oriental bishops, too proud to bow willingly under the yoke of their brother; but by degrees, through dint of artifices, intrigues, and frequently violences, chose who enjoyed the see of Rome, ever prosecuting their project with ardour, succeeded in getting themselves acknowledged in the west as the heads of the Christian, church *.

Pliant and submissive at first to sovereigns, whose power they dreaded, they soon mounted on their shoulders; and trampled them under their feet, when they saw themselves certain of their power over the minds of devotees, rendered frantic by superstition. Then indeed they threw of the mask, gave to nations the signal of revolt, incited Christians to their mutual destruction, and precipitated kings from their thrones. To support their pride, they shed oceans of blood; they made weak princes the vile sport of their pas. sions, sometimes their victims and sometimes their executioners. Sovereigns, become their vassals, executed with fear and trembling the decrees Heaven pronounced against the enemies of the holy see, which had created itself the arbiter of faith. In fact, these

faithful in the provinces ; its bishop was the richest, and even in the time of the pagans, the Roman see was the object of the ambition and contests of the priests, who wrangled among themselves for the flock of Jesus.

* To such a pitch of grandeur had the clerical character reached about this period, that “the emperor Maximus . caused St. Martin with one of his priests to eat at the same table with him, and the empress bis wife served them with her own hands." - Fleury, p. 293.

inhuman pontiffs immolated to their God a thousand times more human victims than paganism had sacrificed to all its divinities.

After having succeeded in subduing the bishops, the head of the church, with a view to establish and preserve bis empire over the people, inundated the states of the princes attached to the sect, with a multitude of subaltern priests and monks, who acted as his spies, his emissaries, and the organs which he employed in making known his will at a distance, and serving his ambition. Thus nations were deluged with men useless or dangerous. Some, under pretext of attaining Christian perfection, astonished the vulgar with a kind of frantic life, denied themselves the common pleasures of existence, renounced the world, and languished in the recesses of a cloister, awaiting the death which their disagreeable life inust have rendered desirable. They imagined to please God by occupying themselves solely with prayers, sterile and extravagantmeditations, and rendering themselves the victims of a. destructive fanaticism. These fools, whom Christianity esteems, may be considered as the victims and martyrs of the higher clergy, who take care never to imitate them *.

* Christianity condemns suicide; yet we admire, as models of perfection, and as personages endowed with supernatural grace, men and women, who, by penitence and senseless austerities, evidently abridge their days. It is asserted, that the religious of La Trappe ended their lives in a few years, dying of phthysis. Is it then more criminal in one to kill himself at once, than to labour ten years at his own destruction ? If mankind were more consistent, they would perceive, that it is very ridiculous to condemn a suicide, and

« AnteriorContinuar »