Imágenes de páginas

St. Peter himself, and held like canonical' scripture. Neither the Catholic faith, nor the four Evangelists, could avail those who rejected them, this being a sin which was never to be remitted. Christ had bestowed upon the Pope, when he spake as such, the same? infallibility which resided in himself. And were he utterly to neglect his duty, and by his misconduct drag down innumerable souls to Hell with him, there to be eternally tormented, no mortal man might : presume to reprove him for his faults. Even this monstrous proposition has been advanced, that although the Catholic Faith teaches all virtue to be good, and all vice evil; nevertheless, if the Pope, through error, should enjoin vices to be committed, and prohibit virtues, the Church would be bound to believe that vices were good, and virtues evil, and would sin in conscience were it to believe otherwise. He could change the nature of things, and make injustice justice. Nor was it possible that he should be amenable to any secular power, for he had been called God by Constantine, and God was not to be judged by man: under God, the salvation of all the faithful 6 depended on him, and the commentators even gave him the blasphemous appellation of our' Lord God the Pope! It was disputed in the schools, whether he could not abrogate what the Apostles had enjoined, determine an opinion contrary to theirs, and add a new article to the creed; whether he did not, as God, participate both natures with Christ; and whether he were not more merciful than Christ, inasmuch as he delivered souls from the pains of purgatory, whereas we did not read that this had ever been done by our Saviour. Lastly, it was affirmed, that he might do things unlawful, and thus could do more than God!

All this was certain, because the Church was infallible. 1 Decreta, Par. i. Dis. 19. ff. 19. Theses of the Jesuits at Clermont, quoted by Poulis in the Preface to his History of Popish Treasons and Usurpations. • Decreta, P. i. Dist. 40. ff. 44. This was maintained by the Patriarch of Antioch at the Council of Constance. L'Enfant, vol. i. 201, 2. * South's Sermons, (Oxford edition,) vol. i. p. 115. Bellarmine, De Pontifico Romano, quoted. Foulis, 31. Barrow, vol. vi. 230. 5 Decreta, Par, i. Dis. 96. ff. 107. Paris, 1518. Decreta, Par. i. Dis. 40. ff. 41. 7 Foulis, Hist, of Popish Treasons, etc.

Extra, Joh. xxii. Tit. 14. de verborum significat, cap. iv. cum inter nonnullos. Gloss. sect. Declaramus, prope finem. The reader who refers to Foulis, will see why he has been thus minute in his quotation. The passage is found in ten editions of the Canons, which he had examined, four of them published after Gregory XIII. had corrected the Canon Law. * Barrow, vol. vi. p. 5.

[ocr errors]

P. 29.

Where this infallibility resided, the Romanists have differed among themselves, some vesting it in the Pope, others requiring the concurrence of a General Council. Infallible, however, it was determined that the Roman Catholic Church must be, and thus the key-stone was put to this prodigious structure of imposture and wickedness.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]



The corrupt lives of the Clergy provoked inquiry into their doctrines. Reformers arose, who found followers in the Alpine and Pyrenean countries, where the truth of better ages had been preserved; and the scattered but numerous relics of various heretical sects, which, though subdued, still secretly existed, fraternized with them. Agreeing in their detestation of Romish tyranny, they disregarded lesser differences; and their assimilated opinions assumed a systematic form, wherein the general principles of the Reformation are distinctly to be traced, and the germs also of those schisms, which so lamentably impeded and disgraced its progress. They taught that the Pope was the head of all errors: that the Romish Church is that Woman who is described in the Apocalypse, as sitting on the Beast, arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold and precious stones, having the golden cup of her filthiness in her hand, and upon her forehead written, “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” The book itself explained, that the seven heads of her beast, were the seven mountains

upon which her seat was placed, a designation manifestly betokening Rome. They declared against all the abuses of the Church, and condemned most of its ceremonies, comprehending what was innocent and useful in the same proscription with what was superstitious and injurious. Because the Monks deceived the people, they proclaimed that Monkery was a stinking carrion, and monasteries an evil. Because the churches were profusely adorned, they would have stripped them bare. Because the doctrine of merits was preposterous, they maintained the not less preposterous tenet, that the best works of man are sinful in themselves. And because the Clergy arrogated a monstrous power, they were for a levelling system, which in its

direct and certain consequences, extended from religious to political opinions.

Indignation against spiritual tyranny and imposture, uncompromising sincerity, and intrepid zeal, made them formidable to the hierarchy. Their numbers rapidly increased, for both the truth and the errors which they taught, rendered them popular, while they commanded respect by the purity and even austerity of their lives. The Papal Church was seriously endangered, and a religious revolution might perhaps have been effected, which would have produced more evil than good, because Europe was not ripe for it, if a counter and stronger spirit of enthusiasm had not been called forth in its defence. The person by whom this signal service was rendered to the Papacy, was the son of a rich 'merchant at Assissi: he was called by his acquaintance Francesco, because of his familiar knowledge of the French tongue, which was at that time a rare accomplishment for an Italian; and Hercules is not better known in classical fable, than he became in Romish mythology, by the name of St. Francis. In his youth, it is certain, that he was actuated by delirious piety; but the web of his history is interwoven with such inextricable falsehoods, that it is not possible to decide whether, in riper years, he became madman or impostor ; nor whether at last he was the accomplice of his associates, or the victim. Having infected a few kindred spirits with his first enthusiasm, he obtained the Pope's consent to institute an order of Friars Minorite; so, in his humility, he called them; they are better known by the name of Franciscans, after their founder, in honour of whom they have likewise given themselves the modest appellation of the Seraphic Order,—having in their blasphemous fables installed him above the Seraphim, upon the throne from which Lucifer fell!

Previous attempts had been made to enlist, in the service of the Papal Church, some of those fervent spirits, whose united hostility all its strength would have been insufficient to withstand; but these had been attended with little effect, and projects of this kind were discouraged, as rather injurious than hopeful, till Francis presented himself. His entire devotion to the Pope, ... his ardent adoration of the Virgin Mary, as the great Goddess of the Romish faith, ... the strangeness, and

perhaps the very extravagance, of the institute which he proposed, obtained a favourable acceptance for his 'proposals. Reclusion for the purpose of religious meditation, was the object of the earlier religious orders; his followers were to go into the streets and highways to exhort the people. The Monks were justly reproached for luxury, and had become invidious for their wealth; the Friars were bound to the severest rule of life; they went barefoot, and renounced, not only for themselves individually, but collectively also, all possessions whatever, trusting to daily charity for their daily bread. It was objected to him that no community, established upon such a principle, could subsist without a miracle: he referred to the lilies in the text, for scriptural authority; to the birds, for an example; and the marvellous increase of the order was soon admitted as full proof of the inspiration of its founder. In less than ten years, the delegates alone to its General Chapter exceeded five thousand in number; and by an enumeration in the early part of the eighteenth century, when the Reformation must have diminished their amount at least one-third, it was found that even then there were 28,000 Franciscan nuns in 900 nunneries, and 115,000 Franciscan friars in 7000 convents; besides very many nunneries, which, being under the immediate jurisdiction of the Ordinary, and not of the order, were not included in the returns.

The rival order of St. Dominic was instituted nearly at the same time, for the same purpose, and upon the same principle. The temper of its founder engaged it in the bloody service of extirpating the Albigenses by fire and sword:... in this work both orders co-operated, and though they soon began cordially to hate each other, they were both equally zealous in serving the Papal Church, and in persecuting its enemies. The tide of popular opinion was effectually turned by their exertions; but in process of time they became the opprobrium and scandal of the church which they had preserved: the opportunities which their manner of life afforded, made their vices notorious; and the falsehoods which they fabricated in rivalry of each other, were in a spirit of blasphemous impiety, beyond all former example, as it is almost beyond belief. The wildest romance contains nothing more extravagant than the legends of St. Dominic: and even these were outdone by the more atrocious effrontery of the Fran

« AnteriorContinuar »