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HISTORY, SO abounding in wonders, so full of strange sights and extraordinary changes, perhaps presents its master-marvel and its most singular transformation in the story here to be briefly told, the story of the papacy. That a minister of the kingdom not of this world should have seated himself among and above all the kings of this world; that a servant of the Prince whom imperial Rome put to death, and an officer of the Church which heathen Rome persecuted should have sat in the place of the Cæsars and ruled over the earth from Rome much in the spirit and with more than the might of heathen and imperial Rome; that one of the ministers appointed to proclaim and defend the Christian faith should have become its arch-concealer and its arch-corrupter; and that in the name and at the bidding of this professed servant of Christ more Christian blood should have been shed than all the professed foes of Christianity put together have poured forth; this surely is a sight of sights and a wonder of wonders. The story of the popedom has all manner of interest as a story of various fortunes and vast projects, of great perils and narrow escapes, of signal triumphs and signal reverses, of enormous mistakes and enormous sins. These things so striking wheresoever, howsoever and to whomsoever they happen have sevenfold impressiveness in the infallible guides of human faith, and in the consecrated keepers of Heaven's keys. The intensity of its worldly ambition, the profundity of its worldly policy, the magnitude of its worldly successes and its worldly reverses, of its worldly mistakes and its worldly transgressions, distinguishes the dynasty of the popes from all undisguised secular dynasties. Supreme and concentrated worldliness stands forth as the one great characteristic of the Roman See, of the kingdom of this world that calls itself a kingdom not of this world. The series of elderly single men who took new and high-sounding names when they began to reign, and who professed to manage the
affairs of Heaven here below, exhibited every tendency and experienced every vicissitude incident to the most vulgar royal race. The papal dynasty has had its full share of interregnums, disputed successions, insurrections, depositions and executions. The papal dynasty has yielded an average crop of good and bad, of weak and vigorous rulers, of men of worth and master-spirits, of fools, profligates, tyrants and monsters. Now and then in private life and personal character a Gregory, an Urban, a Clement, an Innocent, a Boniface, a Benedict, a Pius and a Celestine have been not unmeetly named; but as a body these loftily designated sovereigns of the Roman Church have by no means transcended in mercy, beneficence and godliness the Henries, Edwards, Charleses and Fredericks of this world. There has been no dearth of reckless Gregories, brawling Urbans, ruthless Clements, harmful Innocents, and Benedicts of anything but blessed memory; there has been more than one malefactor Boniface, more than one ungodly Pius and more than one earthly-minded Celestine.' This pretension to transcend, and this failure to reach ordinary human virtue, form the great peculiarity of the papal dynasty, and the chief strangeness of the papal story. The contemplation throughout its whole career of a power of such long duration and such various fortunes, of such pretensions and such performances, may serve to bring out the romance and unfold the philosophy of History, to widen intellectual vision and deepen spiritual conviction.
1 This contrast between papal names and papal character is very obvious; though I am not aware that it has been so exhaustively drawn out elsewhere. Theodoric à Niëm the historian of the Western Schism perpetually nicknames Urban VI. (1378-89) than whom a more bitter brawler never troubled the world, Turbanus or brawler, a piece I fear of scarcely lawful Latin, but a nickname applied by more than one historian to more than one Urban. Illyricus of Magdeburg in his treatise de Primatu Pape speaks of 'malefici Bonifacii.' On the other hand papal panegyrists have often congratulated popes on the happy expression of their character by their name. Gunther in his poem, de Gestis Frederici Enobarbi, speaks of Innocent II. (1130-43) as a pontiff who 'fetches a glorious name from an innocent life:'
'Nomen ab innocua ducit laudabile vita."'
Caspar Gebhardt in his Icones Imperatorum Romanorum, p. 418, thus apostrophises Innocent X. (1644-55) who offered his mediation to put an end to the Thirty Years' War and sent a legate to the congress of Münster, though he afterwards withdrew him, and had no part in the peace of Westphalia: Quis nocentia humano generi totque Divorum templis atque aris arma, stillantesque consanguineo cruore gladios condat, præter Innocentium ?'
THE PAPAL DRAMA.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE POPEDOM.
Popery is a double thing to deal with, and claims a twofold power, ecclesiastical and political, both usurped, and the one supporting the other.
MILTON, On True Religion, Heresy, Schism, and Toleration.
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH and the Roman Empire had their birth about the same time, and have borne throughout a singular relation to each other, whether of antagonism or alliance. The Son of God took the flesh to work out His Father's will on earth, when the heir of the first Cæsar had fully established the system of Julius, and gathered every civilised nation under one dominion. Every secular capacity, all the strength and splendour of this world-material enjoyment, despotic ambition, democratic aspiration-had summed themselves up in imperialism, just when every lofty longing and noble faculty of the soul found a divine quickening, a full expression and satisfaction in Christianity. The kingdom not of this world was set up in the world just as the kingdom of this world had attained its fullest, widest, and most glaring manifestation. The two great powers soon discovered and displayed their natural antagonism. The Roman Empire-the unwitting helper and unfolder of the Christian Church by the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Hebrew polity―erelong recognised an adversary in that world-renouncing and self-immolating society, and singled it out for destruction. After a combat of three centuries, the mightier power prevailed; the Empire held out its hand to the Church; imperialism accepted Christianity. When the two foes became friends, each had somewhat degenerated. The kingdom of this world was waxing weak; the kingdom not
of this world was losing power. The Church, enfeebled as ja divine ministrant, was becoming stronger as a secular society, and friendly connection with the Empire served to render the Church still more imperial. While her doctrines and worship lost much of their purity and simplicity, her rulers grew more lordly, and her system of government grew more Roman. The weakness of the falling Empire added to her worldly strength. Too feeble and corrupt to maintain itself in life, it had strength to impart its peculiarities to its nobler intimate. The dying Empire clung close to the Church and wrought transformingly upon her. Pagan Rome did not perish without imparting an idolatrous tincture to her vanquisher. Imperial Rome did not fall without bequeathing her spirit and power, her method and organisation, to her ally; and both at length reappeared with remarkable exactitude in papal Rome.
The dignity of the imperial city gave some prominence to the head of the Christian community there; and the fall of the Western Empire (476) left the Roman bishop the greatest personage in the chief city of the world. The barbarians beheld in the somewhat secularised Church the representative of the faith which most of them professed, and the representative of the empire for which they retained some reverence even while subverting it. She impressed them at once with a sense of her earthly majesty, with a feeling of her spiritual power. Of this twofold impression the Roman bishop had the chief benefit. The foremost dweller in the city of the Cæsars, he grew every day greater and more awful in the eyes of that shaken, smitten, and reeling world, of that dwindling and darkening Christendom. Both without and within the Church the gloom was thickening. The light of living genius and learning was altogether withholden; the light of ancient genius and learning was fast becoming hidden. The Word of God was getting more and more a sealed book. The Church was sinking from a company of faithful men into a body of priests. The Christian people were losing their right of choosing their pastors and reading the Scriptures, and the separation between them and the Christian ministry grew sharper and more glaring. As the clergy were becoming priests, the bishops were becoming lords. The soul had its direct access to God blocked up by a throng of mediators and a multitude of ceremonies. Worship was dwindling down into a pageant and performance. Fable was overlaying the doctrines