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THE SILVER LINE OF
THE papal monarchy is now established. The court of France and the papacy are united. Rome is now dissevered from the East, and become the centre of influence over the entire West. But having traced the dark lines of the apostasy of Latin Christianity from the beginning of the fourth to the beginning of the ninth century, we will now turn for a little and endeavour to trace the silver line of God’s sovereign grace in those who separated from her communion during the same period. If Satan was active in corrupting the outward church, God was active in gathering out His own from the corrupt mass, and strengthening them as His own special witnesses. From the days of Augustine, the noble witness for His grace against Pelagianism in Western Christendom, down to the Reformation, a line of faithful witnesses may be traced who testified against the idolatry and tyranny of Rome, and preached salvation through faith in Christ Jesus without works of merit.108108 See E. B. Elliott’s Horæ Apocalypticæ, vol. 2: p. 219.
Besides multitudes who were nourished in private, both in convents and families, on the simple truth of the gospel, we would briefly notice some of the most prominent who form an important link in the great chain of witnesses, especially as connected with the history of the church in Europe.
THE NESTORIANS AND
The rise of the Nestorians in the fifth century and their great missionary zeal have been already mentioned. At their head stood a bishop, known by the title of Patriarch of Babylon. His residence was originally at Seleucia. From Persia, it is said, they carried the gospel to the North, the East, and the South. In the sixth century they preached the gospel with great success to the Huns, the Indians, the Medes, and the Elamites: on the coast of Malabar, and the isles of the ocean, great numbers were converted. Following the course of trade, the missionaries made their way from India to China, and penetrated across the deserts to its northern frontier. In 1625 a stone was discovered by the Jesuits near Singapore, which bears a long inscription, partly Syriac and partly Chinese, recording the names of missionaries who had laboured in China, and the history of Christianity in that country from the year 636 -781. But the propagation of Christianity, it is thought, awakened the jealousy of the State, and, after witnessing the success of the gospel, and experiencing persecution, they probably were exterminated, or fled, about the close of the eighth century. The Nestorians were patronised by some of the Persian kings, and under the reign of the caliphs they were protected and prospered greatly. They assumed the designation of Chaldean Christians, or Assyrians, and still exist under that name.109109 See Faiths of the World, vol. 2: p. 527, J. C. Robertson, vol. 2: p. 163.
The doctrines, character, and history of the Paulicians have been subjects of great controversy; but they have not been allowed to speak for themselves to posterity. The Catholics carefully destroyed their writings, and we know them only through the reports of bitter enemies who brand them as heretics, and as the ancestors of the protestant reformers. On the other hand, some protestant writers accept the pedigree, and assert that they were the maintainers of a purely scriptural Christianity, which may have appeared to the papacy as heretical. This latter circumstance, from what we have already shown, will be easily believed. The most grievous corruptions, both in the doctrine and the worship of the Catholic Church, had been not only admitted, but also enforced, long before the rise of the Paulicians. Neither the spirit nor the simplicity of the gospel remained; hence, scriptural Christianity must have appeared to the image-worshippers as a heresy.
Passing over many individual names from the time of St. Augustine, who were worthy witnesses of the truth, we will come at once and inquire into:
THE ORIGIN OF THE
PAULICIANS A.D. 653
The Gnostics, who had been so numerous and powerful during the early days of Christianity, were now an obscure remnant, chiefly confined to the villages along the borders of the Euphrates. The all-powerful Catholics had driven them from the capitals of the East and the West, and the remains of their different sects passed under the general and odious name of the Manicheans.
In this region, at the village of Mananalis, near Samosata, lived about the year 653 one Constantine, whom the Roman writers describe as descended from a Manichean family. Soon after the Saracens’ conquest of Syria, an Armenian deacon, who was returning from captivity among the Saracens, became the guest of Constantine. In acknowledgment of his hospitality the deacon made him a present of a manuscript, containing the four Gospels and the fourteen Epistles of St. Paul. This was indeed a rare gift, as the scriptures were already concealed from the laity. The study of these sacred books produced a complete revolution in his religious principles, and in the whole subsequent course of his life. Some say he had been trained in Gnosticism, others, that he was a member of the Greek established church; but, however this may have been, those books now became his only study and the rule of his faith and practice.
Constantine now thought of forming a new sect, or rather, of restoring apostolic Christianity. He renounced and cast away his Manichean books, say his enemies; he abjured Manicheism, and made it a law to his followers not to read any other books whatsoever, but the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament. This may have given their enemies a pretext for charging them with rejecting the Old Testament and the two Epistles of St. Peter. But it is more than probable that they did not possess these portions of the word of God, it is to be feared however, from their peculiar attachment and devotion to the writings and character of St. Paul, that other scriptures were neglected.
It is generally agreed that the word Paulician is formed from the name of the great apostle of the Gentiles. Constantine and his disciples represented Paul’s fellow labourers, Silvanus, Timothy, Titus, and Tychicus, and, as their congregations sprang up in different places, were called after the names of the apostolic churches. It is difficult to see, in this “innocent allegory,” as it has been termed, how the Catholics could have been so grievously offended with the Paulicians, or could have found a pretext for hunting them down with fire and sword. Yet so they did, as we shall presently see. Their unpardonable sin was their separation from the State church; their testimony against superstition and apostasy, their reviving the memory of a pure primitive Christianity.
SILVANUS AT CIBOSSA
Constantine, who styled himself Silvanus, addressed his first appeals to the inhabitants of a place called Cibossa in Armenia, whom he styled Macedonians. “I am Silvanus,” he said, “you are Macedonians.” There he fixed his residence and laboured with untiring energy for nearly thirty years; he made many converts, both from the Catholic Church, and the Zoroastrian religion. At length, the sect having become sufficiently considerable to attract attention, the matter was reported to the Emperor, and an edict was issued A.D. 684 against Constantine and the Paulician congregations. The execution of the decree was entrusted to an officer of the imperial court, named Simeon. He had orders to put the teacher to death, and to distribute his followers among the clergy and in monasteries, with a view to their being reclaimed. The government, no doubt, ordered as directed by the church; as in the case of Ahab, “whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.” (1 Kings 21:25) But the Lord is above all, and He can make the wrath of man to praise Him.
Simeon placed Constantine —the chief object of the priests’ revenge —before a large number of his companions, and commanded them to stone him. They refused, and, instead of obeying, all dropped the stones with which they were armed, excepting one young man; and a stone from the hand of that heartless youth —his own adopted son Justus, killed Constantine. This ungrateful apostate has been extolled by the enemies of the Paulicians, as another David who with a stone slew another Goliath —the giant of heresy. But from the stoning of Constantine, as from the stoning of Stephen, a new leader was raised up in the person of his imperial murderer. Impressions were made on Simeon’s mind by what he had seen and heard that he could not shake off. He entered into conversation with some of the sectaries, and the result was that he became their convert. He returned to the imperial court, but after spending three years at Constantinople in great uneasiness of mind, he fled, leaving all his property behind him, and took up his abode at Cibossa, where, under the name of Titus, he became the successor of Constantine Sylvanus.
About five years after the martyrdom of Constantine, the same renegade Justus betrayed the Paulicians. He knew, like the traitor of old, the habits and movements of the community, and also where he would be rewarded for his treachery. He went to the bishop of Colonia, and reported the revival and spread of the so-called heresy. The bishop communicated his information to the Emperor Justinian II, and, in consequence, Simeon, and a large number of his followers were burnt to death on one large funeral pile. The cruel Justinian vainly thought to extinguish the name and memory of the Paulicians in a single conflagration, but the blood of the martyrs seemed only to multiply their numbers and strength. A succession of teachers and congregations arose from their ashes. The new sect spread over all the adjacent regions, Asia Minor, Pontus, the borders of Armenia and to the westward of the Euphrates. They bore, during many successive reigns, with Christian patience, the intolerant wrath of the rulers through the instigation of the priests. But the prize for cruelty, as one observes, must doubtless be awarded to the sanguinary devotion of Theodora, who restored the images to the Oriental church.
ANOTHER JEZEBEL IN POWER A.D. 842
After the death of the Emperor Theophilas, his widow Theodora governed as regent during the minority of her son. Her concealed attachment to idolatry was well known to the priesthood, and no sooner was Theophilus dead than she applied herself to the complete accomplishment of her great object. When the way was clear, a solemn festival was appointed for the restoration of images. “The whole clergy of Constantinople, and all who could flock in from the neighbourhood, met in and before the palace of the archbishop, and marched in procession with crosses, torches, and incense, to the church of St. Sophia. There the Empress and her infant son Michael met them. They made the circuit of the church, with their burning torches, paying homage to every statue and picture, which had been carefully restored, never again to be effaced till the days of later, more terrible Iconoclasts, the Ottoman Turks.”110110 Latin Christianity, vol. 2: p. 202.
After so triumphant a re-establishment of images, the victorious party no doubt thought the right time was come to propose and endeavour to secure another triumph; they now urged the Empress to undertake the entire suppression of the Paulicians. They had preached against images, relics, and the rotten wood of the cross. They were not fit to live. The Catholics gained their object! An edict was issued under the regency of Theodora, which decreed that the Paulicians should be exterminated by fire and sword, or brought back to the Greek Church. But, they refused all attempts which were made to gain them, and the fiery demon of persecution was let loose among them. Her inquisitors explored the cities and mountains of the lesser Asia, and executed their commission in the cruelest manner. The numbers of the sect, and the severity of the persecution, may be judged by the multitudes who were slain by the sword, beheaded, drowned, or consumed in the flames. It is affirmed by both civil and ecclesiastical historians, that, in a short reign, one hundred thousand Paulicians were put to death. Was there ever a more genuine daughter of Jezebel? She had not even an Ahab to stir up to do this cruel work, but with her own hand, as it was —alas! a woman’s hand —by her own decree, she slaughtered one hundred thousand of God’s saints, re-established the worship of idols, and nourished with royal favour the idolatrous priests of Rome.111111 We do not mean to affirm that all who were slain by Theodora, as Paulicians were true Christians. We cannot judge the heart; but they professed to be and willingly died as martyrs.
The history of Iconoclasm has been remarkable for female influence. Helena was the first to suggest and encourage veneration for relics; Irene was the restorer of image-worship when threatened with destruction; and now Theodora not only re-establishes the idolatry, which her husband had endeavoured to suppress, but persecutes the true worshippers. Surely that woman Jezebel —symbol of the dominant church in the dark ages —has her antitype in these three women, especially the last two. The likeness is too striking to be questioned. But the whole system of Catholicism breathes the fearful spirit, and is characterised by the dark features of Jezebel’s character. The word of the Lord cannot be broken. “There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.” This is the type. The antitype is, “I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” (1 Kings 21:25; Revelation 2:20, 21)
ROME’S ADMIRATION OF
Nicolas I, who became pope of Rome in 858, highly commends, by letter, the conduct of the superstitious and cruel Theodora. He especially admires and approves her implicit obedience to the Roman See. “She resolved,” he says, “to bring the Paulicians to the true faith, or cut them all off root and branch. Pursuant to that resolution, she sent noblemen and magistrates into the different provinces of the empire; and by them some of those unhappy wretches were crucified, some put to the sword, and some thrown into the sea and drowned.” Nicolas at the same time observes, that the heretics, experiencing in her all the resolution and vigour of a man, could scarcely believe her to be a woman. Indeed the blinding power of an idolatrous superstition had changed in Theodora (as it did in our queen, “the bloody Mary”) the tender and compassionate heart of a woman into that of a merciless and bloodthirsty tyrant. From the pope’s own words, it is perfectly evident that the Roman See had chiefly to do with the slaughter of the Paulicians. After telling her that the heretics dreaded, and at the same time admired, her resolution and steadiness in maintaining the purity of the catholic faith, he adds, “and why so, but because you followed the directions of the Apostolic See?”112112Milner, vol. 2: p. 498.
It is difficult to believe that the professed vicar of Christ, and the shepherd of His sheep, could ever have put on record such sayings. But so he was permitted, and thus they have come down to us as the true witness of the established antichristian tyranny of Rome in the ninth century.
THE PAULICIANS REBEL
AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT
Like certain of the Albigenses, Hussites of Bohemia, and Calvinists of France, the Paulicians of Armenia and the adjacent provinces determined on more decided resistance to their persecutors. This was their sad failure, and the sad fruit of listening to the suggestions of Satan. For nearly two hundred years they had suffered as Christians, adorning the gospel by a life of faith and patience. So far as we have the means of judging, they seem to have maintained the truth through a long course of suffering, in the noble though passive spirit of conformity to Christ. But faith and patience failed at length, and they openly rebelled against the government. It happened in this way:
CARBEAS, an officer of high rank in the imperial service, on hearing that his father had been impaled by the catholic inquisitors, renounced his allegiance to the empire, and, with five thousand companions, sought a refuge among the Saracens. The Caliph gladly welcomed the deserters, and gave them leave to settle within his territory. Carbeas built and fortified the city of Tephrice, which became the headquarters of the Paulicians. They naturally flocked to this new home, and sought an asylum from the imperial laws. They soon became a powerful community. Under the command of Carbeas, war was waged with the empire, and maintained with various successes for more than thirty years; but as details would be more depressing than interesting, we forbear.
THE PAULICIAINS IN EUROPE
About the middle of the eighth century Constantine, surnamed Copronymus, either as a favour or as a punishment, transplanted a great number of Paulicians into Thrace, an outpost of the empire; and there they acted as a religious mission. By this emigration their doctrines were introduced and diffused in Europe. They seem to have laboured with great success amongst the Bulgarians. It was in order to guard the infant church of Bulgaria, that Peter of Sicily, about the year 870, addressed to the archbishop of the Bulgarians a tract warning him against the infection of the Paulicians. This document is the chief source of information as to the sect. In the tenth century the Emperor John Zimisces conducted another great migration to the valleys of Mount Haemus. Their history after this period is European. They were favoured with a free toleration in the land of their exile, which greatly softened their condition and strengthened their community. From these Bulgarian settlements their way was opened into Western Europe. Many native Bulgarians associated with them; hence the name of Bulgarians, in a coarse or corrupted form, is one of the appellations of hatred, which clung to the Paulicians in all quarters.
As to the subsequent religious history of these interesting people historians are greatly divided. Nothing is known of them but from the writings of their enemies; therefore, in common justice, we are bound to suspend our belief of their statements. One thing however is certain; they protested against the saint and image-worship of the Catholics, and the legitimacy of the priesthood by which idolatry was upheld. They also protested against many things in the doctrines, the discipline, and the assumed authority of the Church of Rome. The catholic writers usually speak of them as Manicheans —the most odious of all heretics. But there are some protestant writers, who have examined with great care all that can throw light on their history, and have come to the conclusion, that they were guiltless of the heresies imputed to them, and maintain that they were the true and faithful witnesses of Christ and His truth during a very dark period of the middle ages.113113For a careful inquiry and details, see Horæ Apocalypticæ, vol. 2:249 - 344, 5th edition.
We now turn to our general history.
RELIGIOUS WARS OF CHARLEMAGNE FROM ABOUT 771 - 814
Ecclesiastical history, so-called, from the time of Pepin, is so interwoven with the history of the Frankish kings, and the disgraceful intrigues of the popes, that we must further, though briefly, trace the course of events which have an important bearing on the character of popery and the history of the church.
The rising power of Charlemagne, the younger son of Pepin, was watched by the occupants of St Peter’s chair with the greatest possible interest, and skillfully used by them for the accomplishment of their ambitious designs. Pope Hadrian I and Leo III, both able men, filled the papal throne during the long reign of Charles, and succeeded in greatly aggrandising, through what he called his religious wars, the Roman See.
A quarrel between Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and pope Hadrian led to a war with France, which ended in the complete overthrow of the Lombard kingdom in Italy. This was the result of the grand scheme of the papacy, and brought about by the unprincipled and treacherous policy of the pontiff. Charles was son-in-law to Desiderius; but after one year’s wedlock he divorced Hermingard, the Lombard’s daughter, and immediately married Hildegard, a lady of a noble Swabian house. The insulted father, on receiving back his repudiated daughter, naturally sought for redress from the pope, the head of the church, of which Charles was so dutiful a son. But although the church, when it suited its own purposes, had asserted in the strongest terms the sanctity of the marriage bond, its open violation in this instance was passed quietly over; the pope refused to interfere.
Rome was reckoning on good service from the great Charles, and could not afford to risk his displeasure. Not a word was said against the conduct of the dissolute monarch. Desiderius at length resented the bitter insult of Charles and the wicked connivance of Hadrian; he appeared at the head of his troops in papal Italy; he besieged, stormed, and spread devastation everywhere, and threatened the pope in his capital.
HADRIAN SENDS FOR CHARLEMAGNE
The pope now sent messages in the utmost haste to entreat immediate help from Charles; at the same time diligently superintending in person the military preparations for the defence of the city and the security of its treasures. And, according to an old strategy of Rome, Hadrian sent three bishops to overawe the king and to threaten him with excommunication if he dared to violate the property of the church. The pope thus gained time; and Charles, with his usual rapidity, assembled his forces, crossed the Alps, and laid siege to Pavia. During the siege, which continued several months, Charles paid a visit to the pope in great state, and was received with every honour. Nobles, senators and citizens, hailed him as patrician of Rome and the dutiful son of the church, who had so speedily obeyed the summons of his spiritual father, and had come to deliver them from the hated and dreaded Lombards. When the holy season was over, Charles and his officers returned to the army.
Pavia at length fell. Desiderius, successor of the great and wise Luitprand, was dethroned, and took refuge in a monastery —the usual asylum of dethroned kings; his valiant son, Adelchis, fled to Constantinople; and thus expired the kingdom of the Lombards, the deadly enemies of the Italians, and the great hindrance to the papal aggression. The way was now clear for the conqueror to give the pope a kingdom, not on paper merely, like his father Pepin, but in cities, provinces, and revenues. And so he did, and thereby ratified the munificent gift of his father. As lord by conquest, Charlemagne presented to the successors of St. Peter, by an absolute and perpetual grant, the kingdom of Lombardy; some say, the whole of Italy. At the same time Charles claimed the royal title, and exercised a kind of sovereignty over all Italy and even over Rome itself. But the pope, being now secure in the possession of the territory, could well afford to allow all royal honours to his great benefactor.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF
THE ROMAN PONTIFFS A.D. 775
The pope was now a temporal prince. The long looked for and sighed for day was come; the fond dream of centuries was realised. The successors of St. Peter are proclaimed sovereign pontiffs and the lords of the city and territories of Rome. The last link of the shadowy vassalage and subserviency to the Greek empire is broken forever, and Rome has again become the acknowledged capital of the West.
The great Pope Hadrian at once assumes the power, privileges, and language of a temporal sovereign to whom fealty is due. Murmurs from Ravenna and the East were speedily silenced; and Rome reigned supreme. The pope’s language even to Charlemagne is that of an equal: “As your men,” he said, “are not allowed to come to Rome without your permission and special letter, so my men must not be allowed to appear at the court of France without the same credentials from me.” He claimed the same allegiance from the Italians, which the subjects of Charlemagne owed to him. “The administration of justice was in the pope’s name; not only the ecclesiastical dues, and the rents of estates forming part of the patrimony of St. Peter, the civil revenue likewise came into his treasury… Hadrian, with the power, assumed the magnificence of a great potentate . . .Rome, with the increase of the papal revenues, began to resume more of her ancient splendour.”
THE GREAT EPOCH IN
THE ANNALS OF POPERY
As the empire of Charlemagne is in a peculiar manner connected with the history of the church, and forms the great epoch in the annals of the Roman See, it demands a fuller consideration. Roman Catholicism was just about as much indebted to that great prince, as Mahometanism was to the great Arab prophet and his successors. “The Saxon wars of Charlemagne,” says Milman, “which added almost the whole of Germany to his dominions, were avowedly religious wars. If Boniface was the Christian, Charlemagne was the Mahometan, apostle of the gospel. The declared object of his invasions was the extinction of heathenism, subjection to the Christian faith, or extermination. Baptism was the sign of subjugation and fealty; the Saxons accepted or threw it off according as they were in a state of submission or revolt. These wars were inevitable; they were but the continuance of the great strife waged for centuries from the barbarous North and East against the civilised South and West; only that the Roman and Christian population, now invigorated by the large infusion of Teutonic blood, instead of awaiting aggression, had become the aggressor. The tide of conquest was rolling back; the subjects of the Western kingdoms, of the Western empire, instead of waiting to see their homes overrun by hordes of fierce invaders, now boldly marched into the heart of their enemies’ country, penetrated their forests, crossed their morasses, and planted their feudal courts of justice, their churches, and their monasteries in the most remote and savage regions, up to the Elbe and the shores of the Baltic.”
The Saxons were divided into three leading tribes, the Ostphalians, the Westphalians, and the Angarians. Each clan, according to old Teutonic usage, consisted of nobles, freemen, and slaves; but at times the whole nation met in a great-armed convention. The Saxons scorned and detested the Romanised Franks, and the Franks held the Saxons to be barbarians and heathens. For three and thirty years the powerful Charles was engaged in subduing these wild Saxon hordes. “The tract of country inhabited by these tribes,” says Greenwood, “comprehended the whole of the modern circle of Westphalia, and the greater portion of that of lower Saxony, extended from the Lippe to the Weser and the Elbe; bordering to the Northward upon the kindred Jutes, Angles, and Danes; and to the Eastward of Sclavic origin, who had gradually advanced upon the more ancient Teutonic races of Eastern Germany.” But we must limit ourselves chiefly to the religious aspect of these wars; still, it is interesting at this moment to study these ancient records, as we have just witnessed the conclusion of the great war of 1870 - 71 between the descendants of the Franks and Germans of antiquity.
THE SWORD OF CHARLEMAGNE
The professed object of Charlemagne was to establish Christianity in the remote parts of Germany, but it must ever be regretted that he used such violent means to accomplish his end. Thousands were forced into the waters of baptism to escape a cruel death. The sword or baptism was the conqueror’s terms. A law was enacted which denounced the penalty of death against the refusal of baptism. He could offer no terms of peace; enter into no treaty, of which baptism should not be the principal condition. Conversion or extermination was the watchword of the Franks. And though the old religion might sit loosely enough on the conscience of the Saxon, he could see nothing better in the new; for to his mind baptism was identified with slavery, and Christianity with subjugation to a foreign yoke. To submit to baptism was to renounce, not only his old religion, but also his personal freedom.
With such anti-Christian, such inhuman, feelings the war was carried on, as we have said, for thirty-three years. At the head of his superior armies, he oppressed the savage tribes who were incapable of confederating for their common safety; and he never did, it is said, encounter an equal antagonist in numbers, discipline, or arms. But after a struggle of incalculable bloodshed, and of almost unexampled obstinacy and duration, the numbers, the discipline, and the valour of the Franks prevailed at length over the undisciplined and desultory efforts of the Saxons. “The remnant of thirty campaigns of undistinguished slaughter,” says Greenwood, “and wholesale expatriation, accepted baptism, and became permanently incorporated with the empire of the Franks and Christianity. Abbeys, monasteries, and religious houses of all descriptions sprang up in every part of the conquered territory, and the new churches were supplied with ministers from the school of Boniface —a school which admitted no distinction between the law of Christ and the law of Rome.”
Baptism was the only security and pledge of peace, which the Franks would accept for the submission of the Saxons. And thus it was —how sad and humbling to relate! —when the conquest was complete, and the carnage over, the priests entered the field. Their office was to baptise the vanquished. Thousands of the barbarians were thus forced, at the point of the sword, into what the priests called the regenerating waters of baptism. But to the Saxons their baptism meant neither more nor less than the renunciation of their religion and their liberty. The consequence was, that no sooner were the armies of Charles withdrawn, than the indefatigable Saxons rose again, and burst through the encroaching limits of the empire, ravaging as they went. In their burning rage and bitter revenge they hewed down crosses, burnt churches, destroyed monasteries, slaughtered their inmates, respected neither age nor sex, until the whole country seemed wrapped in flames and deluged with blood. Such revolts, it is said, were often provoked by the insolent language, and still more by the offensive demeanour of the missionary monks, and the severe avarice with which they exacted their tithes. But such outbursts, on the part of the Saxons, were followed by a fresh invasion and a merciless slaughter by the Franks, until tribe after tribe yielded to the conquering arms of Charlemagne. On one occasion, after a severe revolt, Charles massacred 4,500 brave warriors in cold blood who had surrendered. This cruel and cowardly abuse of power leaves a dark, an indelible stain on his history, which no apology can ever remove. Even the sceptic historian alludes to it in a most truthful and touching way. “In a day of equal retribution,” he says, “the sons of his brother Carloman, the Merovingian prince of Aquitaine, and the four thousand five hundred Saxons who were beheaded on the same spot, would have something to allege against the justice and humanity of Charlemagne. His treatment of the vanquished Saxons was an abuse of the right of conquest.”
THE EVIL INFLUENCE OF
THE POPE’S MISSIONARIES
Sad as it is to reflect on the fearful slaughter of the Saxons, and the forced baptism of the helpless remnant, our sadness is infinitely increased when we find that the professed messengers of mercy were the great movers in these long and exterminating wars. In place of being the merciful missionaries of the gospel of peace, they were in reality the cruel emissaries of the papacy —of the power of darkness: Charlemagne was, no doubt, to a great extent deceived and urged on by the priests.
Under the avowed object of cementing the union between Church and State, for the temporal and spiritual benefit of mankind, and for the enduring strength of the imperial government, the artful priests saw the way opening for their own temporal greatness and the more absolute sovereignty of Rome. And so it happened, as all history affirms. They very soon gained a position of worldly greatness over the conquered people and their lands. An entire change takes place just at this time in the outward condition of the clergy, and indeed in society generally. Ancient history disappears, we are told, at the death of Pepin, and mediaeval life begins. His son —the last of barbaric kings and the first of feudal monarchs, inaugurates a new state of society. But it is with ecclesiastical history we have to do, and here, again, we prefer giving a few extracts from the Dean —so often referred to —who will not be accused of unnecessary severity, but whose testimony is of the very highest integrity.
“The subjugation of the land appeared complete before Charlemagne founded successively his great religious colonies, the eight bishoprics of Minden, Seligenstadt, Verden, Bremen, Munster, Hildesheim, Osnaburg, and Paderborn. These, with many richly endowed monasteries like Hersfuld, became the separate centres from which Christianity and civilisation spread in expanding circles. But though these were military as well as religious settlements, the ecclesiastics were the only foreigners. The more faithful and trustworthy Saxon chieftains, who gave the security of seemingly sincere conversion to Christianity, were raised into counts: thus the profession of Christianity was the sole test of fealty.
‘Charlemagne, in Christian history, commands a more important station even than for his subjugation of Germany to the gospel, on account of his complete organisation, if not foundation, of the high feudal hierarchy in a great part of Europe. Throughout the Western empire was, it may he said, constitutionally established this double aristocracy, ecclesiastical and civil. Everywhere the higher clergy and the nobles, and so downwards through the different gradations of society, even of the same rank, and liable to many of the same duties, of equal, in some cases of co-ordinate, authority. Each district had its bishop and its count; the dioceses and the counties were mostly of the same extent.’
‘Charlemagne himself was no less prodigal than weaker kings of immunities and grants of property to churches and monasteries. With his queen Hildegard, he endows the church of St. Martin, in Tours, with lands in Italy. His grants to St. Denys, to Lorch, to Fulda, to Prum, more particularly to Hersfuld, and many Italian abbeys, appear among the acts of his reign.’
‘Nor were these estates always obtained from the king or the nobles. The stewards of the poor were sometimes the spoilers of the poor. Even under Charlemagne there are complaints against the usurpation of property by bishops and abbots, as against counts and laymen. They compelled the poor free man to sell his property, or forced him to serve in the army, and that on permanent duty, and so to leave his land either without owner, with all the chances that he might not return, or to commit it to the custody of those who remained at home in quiet, and seized every opportunity of entering into possession. No “Naboth’s vineyard” escaped their watchful avarice.’
‘In their fiefs the bishop or abbot exercised all the rights of a feudal chieftain… Thus the hierarchy, now a feudal institution, parallel to and co-ordinate with the temporal feudal aristocracy, aspired to enjoy, and actually before long did enjoy, the dignity, the wealth, the power, of suzerain lords. Bishops and abbots had the independence and privileges of inalienable fiefs; and at the same time began either sullenly to contest, or haughtily to refuse, those payments, or acknowledgments of vassalage, which sometimes weighed heavily on other lands. During the reign of Charlemagne this theory of spiritual immunity slumbered, or rather had not quickened into life. It was boldly announced —so rapid was its growth —in the strife with his son, Louis the Pious. It was then asserted by the hierarchy, that all property given to the church, to the poor, to the saints, to God Himself —such were the specious phrases —was given absolutely, irrevocably, with no reserve. The king might have power over the knights’ fees; over those of the church he had none whatever. Such claims were impious, sacrilegious, and implied forfeiture of eternal life. The clergy and their estates belonged to another realm, to another commonwealth; they were entirely, absolutely, independent of the civil power.”114114Latin Christianity, vol. 2: p. 286.
THE FEUDAL HIERARCHICAL SYSTEM
For centuries the papal cry to each succeeding monarch had been, “Give, give; endow, endow; and the blessed Peter shall surely send you victory over your enemies, prosperity in this world, and a place near himself in heaven.” This cry was in a great measure answered about the beginning of the ninth century. The above extracts will give the reader some idea of the spoils, which came to the clergy from the victories of Charles in Germany. It was chiefly out of these thirty-three years of internecine war, that the great feudal hierarchical system arose. Innumerable thousands were slain to make room for the bishops and abbots —an ecclesiastical aristocracy. Up rose the princely palaces of these great ecclesiastics all over the conquered land: but their foundations were laid in cruelty, injustice, and blood.
Though more than a thousand years have passed away since the great patron of the church died, the palaces still live and are thickly planted all over Europe. But the heart sickens at the thought of the origin of these avowed palaces of peace, especially if we bear in mind the true character of the gospel, and that the ministers of Christ should ever seek to manifest the spirit of the meek and lowly Jesus. The souls, not the property, of men should be their object. “We seek not yours, but you” should be their motto; going forth taking nothing of the Gentiles. But the example of Christ had been long forgotten. The church sank to the level and spirit of the world when Constantine united her to the State. This was her great fall, from which her painful inconsistency flows. The love of the world, of absolute power, of universal dominion, then took possession of her whole being. Misled by Satan, on whose throne (Rev. 2) she sits, the shameless iniquity of her course can only be accounted for on the ground of his blinding power. All means, in her sight, were justifiable which had for their object the advancement of the Roman See.
THE LORD’S CARE FOR HIS OWN
The Lord had, no doubt, His many hidden ones, even in the darkest times, as in Thyatira: “But unto you I say, [and unto] the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” One thing, and only one, was to occupy the faithful after the apostasy had set in —the ascended Saviour, the Man in the glory. And to all such the sweet promise is, “And I will give him the Morning Star.” But the outward or mere professing church, as allied to the State, was corrupt to the very core, and sunk, and blinded, and hardened, in the most unblushing wickedness; for the concentration of every form of evil was to be found in the chair of St Peter. Even as to the religious wars Charlemagne himself stands before us guiltless, compared with Hadrian.
We must remember that Charles was a barbaric king, though the greatest perhaps in European history with the exception of Alexander and Cæsar; so that we can understand his object in seeking to unite and consolidate a great empire; but he was ignorant and superstitious as to divine things, though the religious element was strong in his mind. On this the pope acted, and led him to believe that a strong and wealthy church would make a strong and wealthy State; and that if he would please heaven and gain eternal life, the harmonious union of Church and State must be the basis of all his governmental schemes. He personally loved Hadrian, readily obeyed his call, yielded to his counsels, and wept when he heard of his death; which took place on the 26th of December is the year 795, after the unusually long pontificate of twenty-three years and upwards. He might sometimes see the pope’s real object under the greatest artifice; but, strong in his own self-reliant power, he could allow such things to pass without these feelings of distrust and jealousy, which would have been engendered in a feebler mind. Not given to change, he made a good friend.
THE PAPAL FORGERY
But the kindness of Charlemagne only excited the cupidity and envy of the rapacious priests. Not content with their estates and tithes, they aspired to a position far above the lay-lords, and even above the monarch himself. Stimulated by past success, they now attempted by a daring forgery to accomplish the object of their secular ambition. A title to almost imperial power is now for the first time, after the lapse of 450 years, brought to light. By this original deed of gift it was discovered, that all which Pepin or Charlemagne had conferred on the Church of Rome was only an installment of the royal grant to the chair of St. Peter by the “pious emperor Constantine.”
As our main object throughout this period of the church’s history is to present the real character of the papal system, the means by which it reached its wonderful influence and power, and the secularising effects of the Church and State alliance, we copy the pope’s own letter from Greenwood. The reader will, no doubt, be surprised to find that any man with the smallest pretension to respectability —far less the head of the church —could ever have fabricated such a document, and that merely to gain more territory and power. But we must remember that Thyatira was characterised by “the depths of Satan,” and so has the papacy ever since she drew her first breath, and so must she be until she draws her last. Revelation 17, 18 describe both her character and her end.
“Considering,” says pope Hadrian, “that in the days of the blessed pontiff Sylvester, that most pious Emperor did, by his donation, exalt and enlarge the holy catholic and apostolic church of Rome, giving unto her supreme power over all the region of the West, so now we beseech you, that in this our own happy day, the same holy church may sprout forth and exult, and be ever more and more lifted up, so that all people who shall hear thereof may exclaim, ‘God save the king, and hear us in the day in which we call upon thee!’ For behold, in those days arose Constantine, the Christian Emperor, by whom God vouchsafed to give all things to His most holy church, the church of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles. All this, and many territories besides, which divers Emperors, patricians, and other God-fearing persons, had given to the blessed Peter and the holy Roman and apostolical church of God, for the benefit of their souls and the forgiveness of their sins, lying in the parts of Tuscany, Spoletum, Beneventum, Corsica, Savona —territories which were taken and kept by the impious nations of the Lombards, cause all this to be restored to us in these your days, according to the tenor of your several deeds of gift deposited in our archives of the Lateran. To that end we have directed our envoys to exhibit those deeds to you for your satisfaction; and in virtue of them we now call upon you to command the undiminished restitution of this patrimony of St. Peter into our hands; that by your conformity therewith the holy church of God may be put into full possession and enjoyment of its entire right; so that the prince of the apostles himself may intercede before the throne of the Almighty for long life to yourself and prosperity in all your undertakings.”
THE IGNORANCE AND
CREDULITY OF THE TIMES
So deep was the ignorance and credulity of those times, that the most absurd fables were received with great reverence by all classes. The cunning priests knew how to clothe their religious frauds with the most specious piety, and to blind both king and people. According to the legend, Constantine was healed of the leprosy by Pope Sylvester; and so penetrated with gratitude was the Emperor, that he resigned to the pope the free and perpetual sovereignty of Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the West; and resolved on founding a new capital for himself in the East.
The object of Hadrian in forging such a deed, and in writing such a letter, was no doubt to influence Charlemagne to imitate the alleged liberality of his great predecessor. If he merely put the popes in possession of the said donation of Constantine, he was only acting as his executor; if he aspired to be a spontaneous benefactor of the church, he must exceed the limits of the original deed of gift. But the depths of this forgery we have not yet fathomed. It went to prove that the Greek Emperors, all these centuries, had been guilty of usurpation, and robbing the patrimony of St. Peter; that the popes were justified in appropriating their territory, and in rebelling against their authority; that the gifts of Pepin and Charlemagne were nothing more than the restitution of a small portion of the just and lawful dominions originally granted to the chair of St. Peter; and that he, Charlemagne, must consider himself as debtor to God and His church, so long as a single item of the debt thus entailed upon him remained unpaid.
Such were some of the convenient effects of the document for the purposes of Hadrian at the time; but though it may have been productive of great advantages to the papacy both then and afterwards, the forgery has long since been exposed. With the revival of letters and liberty the fictitious deed was condemned, together with the False Decretals —the most audacious and elaborate of all pious frauds. Speaking of the Decretals, Milman observes, “They are now given up by all; not a voice is raised in their favour; the utmost that is done, by those who cannot suppress all regret at their exposure, is to palliate the guilt of the forger, to call in question or to weaken the influence which they had in their own day, and throughout the later history of Christianity.” 115115Milman, vol. 2: p. 875; Greenwood, book 6: chap. 3: p. 82.
THE FOUNDATIONS AND
EDIFICE OF POPERY
Such, alas! alas! were the foundations of the great papal edifice. We have been at some pains to see them laid; we are not mistaken. Were we to characterise the separate foundation stones, we might speak of them as the most extravagant pretensions, the most insulting arrogance, the most barefaced forgeries, the most openly avowed and even death defying love of idolatries, the most unscrupulous appropriation of stolen territory, the most unrelenting spirit of persecution, and, what may be said to be the topmost (as well as the foundation) stone, the most inordinate love of temporal sovereignty. But if we look inside the house, what do we find there? It is full of blasphemies, the worst kind of corruptions, and the concentration of all attractions for the flesh. (Rev. 18:12, 13) The very essentials of Christianity were either corrupted or rejected —such as sacrifice, ministry, and priesthood. The mass was substituted for the finished work of Christ; the dogmatic teaching of the church for the ministry of the Spirit of God; and the great ecclesiastical system of priesthood —or rather, priestcraft —for the common priesthood of all believers, yea, for that of Christ Himself.
The Lord’s Supper had been gradually changed from the simple remembrance of His love, and showing forth His death, to the idea of a sacrifice. Many superstitions were practiced with the consecrated bread, or rather wafers. The sacrifice was supposed to avail for the dead as well as for the living; hence the practice of giving it to the dead, and burying it with them. The soul-destroying doctrine of purgatory, which had been sanctioned by Gregory the Great, was now spreading far and wide. It appears to have specially taken root in the English church before the ninth century. But the deception is manifest, for there is no purgatory but the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son; as saith the apostle John, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Thank God, there is no limit to the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus His Son; all who have faith in that blood are whiter than snow —perfectly fitted for the presence of God. But the doctrine of purgatory struck at the very root of this foundation-truth, and became a powerful instrument in the hands of the priests for extorting money from the dying, and for securing large legacies to the church; but almost everything was now made subservient to these base objects. The truth of God, the work of Christ, the character of the church, the souls and bodies of men, were all readily sacrificed for the aggrandisement of the See of Rome, and for the aggrandisement of the clergy in subordination to the papal system.
The ungodly lives of those entrusted with the government of the church and the care of souls are also matters of bitter complaint with all honest historians, both then and now. But here it may be well to introduce one of good report —Mosheim —as a witness and confirmation of what we have said as to this period.
“In the East sinister designs, rancour, contentions, and strife were everywhere predominant. At Constantinople, or New Rome, those who were in favour at court were elevated to the patriarchal chairs, and upon losing that favour; a decree of the Emperor hurled them from their elevated station. In the West the bishops hung around the courts of princes, and indulged themselves in every species of voluptuousness: while the inferior clergy and the monks were sensual, and by the grossest vices corrupted the people whom they were sent to reform. The ignorance of the clergy in many places was so great, that few of them could read or write. Hence, whenever a letter was to be penned, or anything of importance was to be committed to writing, recourse was generally had to some one individual, whom common fame invested with certain dexterity in such matters…
“The bishops and the heads of monasteries held much real estate or landed property by feudal tenure; therefore, when a war broke out, they were summoned personally to the camp, attended by the number of soldiers which they were bound to furnish to their sovereign. Kings and princes, moreover, that they might be able to reward their servants and soldiers for their services, often seized upon consecrated property, and gave it to their dependants; in consequence, the priests and monks, before supported by it, sought relief for their necessities in committing any sort of crimes, and in contriving impostures.
“Few of those who were raised, about this time, to the highest stations in the church can be commended for their wisdom, learning, virtue, and other endowments proper for a bishop. The greater part of them, by their numerous vices, and all of them, by their arrogance and lust of power, entailed disgrace upon their memories. Between Leo IV, who died A.D. 855, and Benedict III, a woman who concealed her sex, and assumed the name of John, it is said, opened her way to the political throne by her learning and political genius, and governed the church for a time. She is commonly called the Papess Joanna. During the five subsequent centuries the witness to this extraordinary event are without number; nor did any one, prior to the Reformation by Luther, regard the thing as either incredible, or disgraceful to the church.
“All agree that in those dark days the state of Christianity was everywhere most deplorable; not only from amazing ignorance, the parent of superstition and moral debasement, but also from other causes… The sacred order, both in the East and in the West, were composed principally of men who were illiterate, stupid, and ignorant of everything pertaining to religion.
…What the Greek pontiffs were, the single example of Theophylact shows; who, as credible historians testify, made traffic of everything sacred, and cared for nothing but his hounds and his horses. But though the Greek patriarchs were very unworthy men, yet they possessed more dignity and virtue than the Roman pontiffs. That the history of the Roman bishops in this century is a history, not of men, but of monsters, a history of the most atrocious villanies and crimes, is acknowledged by all the best writers, those not excepted even who plead for pontifical authority…
“The essence of religion was thought, both by Greeks and Latins, to consist in the worship of images, in honouring departed saints, in searching for and preserving relics, and in enriching priests and monks. Scarcely an individual ventured to approach God until interest had been duly sought with images and saints. In getting relics together, and seeking after them, all the world was busy to insanity.” 116116 Mosheim’s History, vol. 3: p.p. 184, 272.
Nothing more, we think, need be said at present as to the nature —root and branch —of the papal system. In the mouth of at least three competent witnesses, all that we have said of Rome, from the beginning of the Thyatirian period, has been confirmed. And the half has not been told, especially on the subject of immorality. We could not transfer to our pages the open profligacy of the priests and monks. It is thought by some that the papacy fell to the deepest point of degradation in the ninth and tenth centuries. For many years the infamous Theodora and her two daughters, Marozia and Theodora, disposed of the papal tiara. Such was their power and evil influence, by means of their licentious lives, that they placed in the chair of St. Peter whom they would —men, wicked like themselves. Our pages would be defiled by an account of their open unblushing immoralities. Such has been the papal succession. Surely Jezebel was truly represented by these women, and in the influence they obtained over the popes and the city of Rome. But, alas! alas! Jezebel, with all her associations, corruptions, tyrannies, idolatries, and uses of the civil sword, has been too faithfully represented by popery from its very foundation.
[ END OF VOLUME 1 ]
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