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markable than that which had been effected in its forms. To trace this worse deterioration, it will be necessary to look back upon the earlier
of the Church. Britain has the credit or discredit (whichever it may be deemed) of having given birth to Pelagius, the most remarkable man of whom Wales can boast, and the most reasonable of all those men whom the ancient Church has branded with the note of heresy. He erred, indeed, in denying that there is an original taint in human nature, • a radical infirmity, . an innate and congenital disease, ... to the existence whereof the heart of every one, who dares to look into his own, bears unwilling but unerring testimony; a perilous error this, and the less venial, because it implies a want of that humility which is the foundation of wisdom, as well as of Christian virtue. But he vindicated the goodness of God, by asserting the free-will of man ; and he judged more sanely of the Creator than his triumphant antagonist, St. Augustine,' who, retaining too much of the philosophy which he had learnt in the Manichean school, infected with it the whole Church during many centuries, and afterwards divided both the Protestant and the Catholic world. Augustine is too eminent a man to be named without respect; but of all those ambitious spirits, who have adulterated the pure doctrines of revelation with their own opinions, he perhaps is the one who has produced the widest and the most injurious effects.
Augustine was victorious in the controversy: his indeed was the commanding intellect of that age. ... The opinions of Pelagius were condemned, but it was not possible to suppress them; and the errors of both soon became so curiously blended, that it would be difficult to say which predominated in the preposterous consequences to which their union led. From the African theologue, more than from any other teacher, the notion of the absolute wickedness of human nature was derived ; and the tenet of two hostile principles in man, which had led to such extravagancies among the Eastern Christians, was established in the Western Church. Through the British heresiarch, the more
1"When Pelagius had puddled the stream,” says Jeremy Taylor, “St. Austin waz so angry, that he stamped and disturbed it more.” (Vol. ix. 396.) “ Whoever shall think himself bound to believe all that this excellent man wrote, will not only find it impossible he should, but will have reason to say, that zeal against an error is not always the best instrument to find out truth.” (Vol. ix. p. 390.)
reasonable opinion, that the actions of good men were meritorious in themselves, obtained. Cassian, whose collations were the great fount of monastic legislation in Europe, held that modified scheme, which has been called the Semi-Pelagian. But with him, and with the Monks, the opinion ceased to be reasonable: the extremes were made to meet: and the practical consequences, deduced from the Monkish doctrine of merits, coalesced perfectly with the Manichean principle, which had now taken root in the corruptions of Christianity.
The Romish Church did with the religion of the Roman world, what Rome itself had done with the kingdoms and nations over whom it extended its dominion ; it subdued and assimilated them : and as the conquered people were in most parts raised in civilization by their conquerors, so of the ceremonies which the Church borrowed from Paganism, some were spiritualized, and others ennobled by the adoption. Even idolatry was, in some degree, purified; and gained in sentiment, more than it lost in the degradation of the arts.
But it was otherwise when Christianity combined with the philosophy of the Orientals. Dualism, among the early Persians first, and afterwards by Manes, (the most creative of enthusiasts or impostors,) had been wrought into a wild imaginative scheme of allegorical mythology. The Christians, when it crept into their creed, were more in earnest; and they founded upon it a system as terrible in practice, as it was monstrous in theory. They believed that the war of the Two Principles existed in every individual, manifesting itself in the struggle between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh therefore was a mortal enemy, whom it behoved the spirit, as it valued its own salvation, to curb and subdue by unremitting severity, and to chastise as a vicious and incorrigible slave, always mutinous and ready to rebel.
The consequences of this persuasion brought into full view the weakness and the strength of human nature. In some respects, they degraded it below the beasts ; in others, they elevated it almost above humanity. They produced at the same time, and in the same persons, the most intense selfishness and the most astonishing self-sacrifice, ... so strangely were the noblest feelings and the vilest superstition blended in this cor
rupt and marvellous mixture of revealed truth and the devices of man's insane imagination. The dearest and holiest ties of nature and society were set at nought, by those who believed that the way to
their own salvation was to take upon themselves the obligations of a monastic life. They regarded it as a merit to renounce all intercourse with their nearest friends and kin; and being by profession dead to the world, rendered themselves, by a moral suicide, dead in reality to its duties and affections. For the sake of saving their own souls, or of attaining a higher seat in the kingdom of Heaven, they sacrificed, without compunction, the feelings, and as far as depended upon them, the welfare and happiness of wife, parent, or child : yet when the conversion of others was to be promoted, these very persons were ready to encounter any danger, and to offer up their lives with exultation as martyrs. The triumph of the will over the body was indeed complete; but it triumphed over the reason also; and enthusiasts, in order to obtain Heaven, spent their lives, not in doing good to others, but in inflicting the greatest possible quantity of discomfort and actual suffering upon themselves.
In pursuance of this principle, practices not less extravagant than those of the Indian Yoguees, and more loathsome, were regarded as sure indications of sanctity. It was deemed meritorious to disfigure the body by neglect and filth, to extenuate it by fasting and watchfulness, to lacerate it with stripes, and to fret the wounds with cilices of horsehair. Linen was proscribed among the monastic orders; and the use of the warm bath, which, being not less conducive to health than to cleanliness, had become general in all the Roman provinces, ceased throughout Christendom, because, according to the morality of the monastic school, cleanliness itself was a luxury, and to procure it by pleasurable means was a positive sin. The fanatics in Europe did not, indeed, like their predecessors in Syria and Egypt, cast off all clothing, and by going on all-fours, reduce themselves to a likeness with beasts, as far as self-degradation could effect it, in form and appearance, as well as in their manner of life; but they devised other means of debasing themselves, almost as effectual. There were some Saints who never washed themselves, and made it a point of conscience never to disturb the
vermin, who were the proper accompaniments of such sanctity; in as far as they occasioned pain while burrowing, or at pasture, they were increasing the stock of the aspirant's merits, that treasure which he was desirous of laying up in Heaven; and he thought it unjust to deprive his little progeny of their present paradise,' seeing they had no other to expect! The act of eating they made an exercise of penance, by mingling whatever was most nauseous with their food; and it would literally sicken the reader, were the victories here to be related which they achieved over the reluctant stomach, and which, with other details of sanctimonious nastiness, are recorded in innumerable Roman Catholic books, for edification and example! They bound chains round the body, which eat into the flesh; or fastened graters upon the breast and back; or girded themselves with bandages of bristles intermixed with points of wire. Cases of horrid self-mutilation were sometimes discovered ; and many perished by a painful and lingering suicide, believing that, in the torments which they inflicted upon themselves, they were offering an acceptable sacrifice to their Creator. Some became famous for the number of their daily genuflections; others for immersing themselves to the neck in cold water during winter, while they recited the Psalter. The English Saint, Simon Stock, obtained his name and his saintship for passing many years in a hollow tree. St. Dominic, the Cuirassier, was distinguished for his iron dress, and for flogging himself, with a scourge in each hand, day and night; and the blessed Arnulph of Villars, in Brabant, immortalized himself by inventing, for his owņ use, an under-waistcoat of hedgehog-skins, of which it appears five were required for the back, six for the front and sides.
The strength of the will was manifested in these aberrations of reason, as prodigiously as strength of body is sometimes displayed in madness; nor can it be doubted, that these fanatics, amid their pain, derived pleasure as well from the pride of voluntary endurance, as from the anticipation of their reward in Heaven. The extremes of humiliation and debasement produced
1 This is related of no less a person than Bellarmine : Aikin's Gen. Biography.
? I have given an account of this Saint in the Quarterly Review, vol. xxii. p. 79. And the reader who is desirous of seeing another example, not less curious, of Roman Catholic superstition in its excess, is referred to the sketch of P. Joam d'Almeida's life, in my History of Brazil, vol. ii. 1. 681.
also a pride and self-sufficiency not less extravagant in their kind. They whose austerities were the most excessive, were regarded by the people as living Saints, and exhibited as such by other members of the community, who had the same belief, but not the same fervour; or who, not having the same sincerity, considered only in what manner the madness of their fellows might be turned to advantage.
There prevailed an opinion, industriously promoted by the priesthood, which was excellently adapted to this purpose. Heroic piety, such as that of the Saints, was not indispensable for salvation; the degree of faith and good works without which a soul could not be saved, must be at a standard which all mankind can reach. This was not to be denied. Here then was a large and accumulating fund of good works, which though supererogatory in the Saints, were nevertheless not to be lost. But indeed, if strictly considered, all human merits were in this predicament. Atonement having once been made for all, good works, in those who entitled themselves to the benefit of the covenant, were needful only as the evidence and fruits of a saving faith. There was however some use for them. The redemption, which had been purchased for fallen man, was from eternal punishment only; sin was not, therefore, to go unpunished, even in repentant sinners who had confessed and received absolution. The souls of baptized children, it was held, passed immediately to heaven ; but for all others, except the few who attained to eminent holiness in their lives, Purgatory was prepared; a place, according to the popular belief, so near the region of everlasting torments, though separated from it, that the same fire pervaded both; acting indeed to a different end, and in different degrees, but, even in its mildest effect, inflicting sufferings more intense than heart could think, or tongue express, and enduring for a length of time which was left fearfully indefinite. Happily for mankind, the authority of the Pope extended over this dreadful place. The works of supererogation were at his disposal, and this treasury was inexhaustible, because it contained an immeasurable and infinite store derived from the atonement. One drop of the Redeemer's blood being sufficient to redeem the whole human race, the rest which had been shed during the passion was given as a legacy, to be applied in mitigation of Purgatory,