Imágenes de páginas

spiritual into a temporal authority. From Constantinople it passed into western Europe, first under the German emperors, then under the kings of England, France, and Spain. Henry IV., king of the Germans, whom St. Gregory VII

. excommunicated and deposed, Frederic Barbarossa, Louis of Bavaria, Henry Plantagenet and Edward III. of England, Philip the Fair of France, and Peter of Aragon, were at least incipient Protestants, as is evident from the sympathy

they call forth in every Protestant breast, and the fact that Protestantism honors their memory as its early sons and saints, and denounces as monsters of insolence and rapacious ambition the popes, their contemporaries, who sought to curb their licentiousness_and to repress their brutal tyranny. Yet neither in the East nor the West was Protestantism in principle asserted or defended from religious motives, or for religious reasons. The Byzantine emperors had no reference to the interests of religion; they sought only to enlarge their own power, and to make religion their tool for enslaving their subjects. It was not relig. ion that moved the emperors of the West, the kings of England, France, and Spain, to resist the sovereign pontiffs, and to seek to rob the church of her rights and her possessions. They did not seek to extend the empire of religion, and to bring all into subjection to the law of God; on the contrary, their precise, and to some extent even avowed object, was to restrict the province of religion, to enlarge that of the state, and to bring religion itself into subjection to the prince as an instrument of temporal tyranny. In the very nature of the case, even without supposing the truth of the church, if that were possible, their movement was irreligious; for it was against what they held to be religion, and avowedly in favor of the supremacy of the temporal order, which is the denial of religion, and in principle the assertion of atheism. Under any supposition possible, the whole movement was purely in behalf of the secular order for its own sake, and such a movement, we need not say, is not and cannot be called a religious movement. The best thing you can say of it is, that it is a purely secular movement, and the truest thing is, that it is a diabolical movement, instigated by the devil in his ceaseless warfare against the Eternal.

The history of the introduction and establish ment of Protestantism, in the sixteenth century, in what are now the Protestant nations of Europe, fully confirms the assertion that Protestantism has no religious character, properly so called. The contrast between its introduction and establishment in Catholic Europe, and the introduction and establishment of Christianity in the Roman empire and the pagan world, is a most striking proof of it. Christianity went forth poor, without staff or scrip in her hand; Protestantism stepped at once into the rich possessions of the Catholic churches and monasteries, and found itself provided with temples, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, founded and endowed by Catholic piety and charity ; Christianity had to make its way, not only against the old religion, but also against the corrupt nature of man, and the whole force of the temporal authority; Protestantism in every country where it gained a footing had the temporal authority and the corrupt nature of man on its side, as its unwavering supporters; Christianity had to encounter physical force, plunder, and murder; Protestantism wielded physical force, plundered, and murdered. The Christians suffered persecution from the old religion, whether Jewish or pagan; the Protestants persecuted the Catholic religion. The Christians demanded of the state the freedom of the Christian religion; the Protestants demanded the civil establishment of Protestantism, and the suppression, under the pains and penalties of high treason, of Catholicity. The apostles in propagating Christianity became martyrs themselves; the reformers in propagating Protestantism made martyrs of others. The apostles and their associates gained the world to Christ by their preaching and their virtues; the reformers gained the nations they did gain to the reformation by the sword, fines, confiscations, imprisonments, exile, death, -by their tyranny, persecution, vices, and crimes. What can better prove that Protestantism is not Christianity, is not religion, is purely an affair of the flesh, excited and strengthened by hell, and led on by ungodly rulers, bent on destroying Christianity, and reigning supreme over God and his Christ?

Of course we do not mean to be understood that Protestantism was actually concocted by civil rulers, or that the primary motive of its invention was to favor the temporal sovereign. After Satan, its authors were lawyers, courtiers, demagogues, dissolute priests, and apostate monks, and their motive was emancipation from the restraints of Catholicity, and the promotion of their own temporal interests and pleasures, their ambition, their cupidity, or their lusts. This end could not be gained without breaking the power of the church, and treating her as non avenue in all the affairs of this world,-a thing then not possible without the aid and the supremacy of the temporal power. But what we do really mean to assert is, that Protestantism made its way in the world only under the protection of temporal princes, by violence against Catholicity and Catholics, and that wherever it gained an establishment it gained it by the sword, civil or military. Luther was protected in his move

, ment against the church by the elector of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse, and indirectly even by Maximilian I., and his grandson, Charles V., emperors of Germany, whó wished to make use of him to force the pope to yield to the iniquitous demands they might have occasion to make. His cause triumphed only in those states whose princes supported it with their policy, their arms, and their penal enactments against Catholics. The reform in Switzerland gained an establishment only by first getting a control of the temporal government, and then using it to suppress by force the old religion, to imprison, banish, or massacre its adherents. In England it was introduced and forced upon a reluctant people by the arts and tyranny of the king or queen and parliament, and it was the same in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. All this is notorious, and may easily be collected from Protestant historians themselves, by any one who knows how to read.

No doubt Catholics sometimes fought and fought hard against Protestants, for there cannot well be war where there is only one party ; but they did so only in selfdefence. They were not, and from the nature of the case could not be, the aggressors. They were in legal possession, and had been for ages before the reformers were born, and could have no occasion to make war on Protestants, if Protestants made none on them. The Protestants were necessarily the first aggressors, and therefore responsible for

, all the errors and bloodshed which have followed. They were needy adventurers, intruders, who had and could have nothing save as they unjustly and illegally dispossessed Catholics. They could gain a footing in the world only by displacing those already in legal and rightful possession, by robbing Catholics and plundering the church. No other way was open to them; and this way they took. They began by assailing Catholics in their faith, which had also been their own, in which they had been reared, to which they were indebted for their science and learning, their culture and civilization, and which they had vowed and sworn to hold and to uphold even to death. They assailed it with falsehood and ridicule, even while professing to hold it, and to acknowledge the authority of the church; and as soon as they became powerful enough in any particular place, they appropriated the Catholic churches to their own use, suppressed by violence the Catholic service, and installed a profane service of their own concocting. They usurped the churches and monasteries, appropriated their revenues, forced the recognition of their innovations, proscribed the Catholic faith and worship, insulted, mobbed, plundered, imprisoned, exiled, or massacred those who would not curse their spiritual mother, and forsake the God of their fathers. What more serious aggression could be offered ? What less strange than that such frightful sacrilege, such brutal tyranny, such wholesale robbery and violence, should provoke resistance and drive Catholics to arms in defence of their faith, their church, their liberties, their possessions, their lives, and all that makes life worth possessing? Who can blame them? Who blames the traveller for resisting, even to death, the highwayman, who, with pistol in hand, bids him “stand and deliver"?

Certainly we do not pretend that Protestantism in the sixteenth century was all included in the assertion of the supremacy of the civil power, or the authority of princes over the church. To do so would be to take a very narrow and one-sided view of what by way of courtesy we call the reformation. The reformers certainly preached many heresies in opposition to Catholic doctrines, besides that of the independence of sovereigns, and the principal controversies of the time turned on these. But none of these heresies were new; they were all old, and ha

all been refuted by Catholic doctors and condemned by the church. The only novelty Protestantism could boast was that of reproducing and combining in one general heresy all the particular heresies which had hitherto appeared and been anathematized separately. But however much these heresies were insisted on by the reformers, they were not insisted on for their own sake, and were contended for at all only inasmuch as they tended to abase the spiritual and to exalt the temporal order—to enslave the spirit and give dominion to the flesh. There is not a single one of the so-called Protestant doctrines, in so far as it differs from the Catholic doctrine

VOL. X-28.

on the same subject, that does not depress the moral and religious order, diininish the authority of the spirit, supersede the necessity of good works, and enlarge the freedom and dominion of man's carnal nature. Such is undeniably the case with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the inamissibility of grace, the serf-will preached by Luther, and the priesthood or pontificate expressly claimed for each individual Christian by all the reformers

. Such, too, was the rejection of the sacraments, the denial of the merit of good works and almsdeeds, penance, fasts, and mortifications. The heresies were not valued for themselves, but for the end they favored ; and whoever examines them will find that the end they favor is in all cases the emancipation of the temporal order and the subjection of the spirit to the flesh, the soul to the body. It was this end, though probably not always—and with the mass perhaps seldom, if ever-clearly apprehended, yet in some manner apprehended, that lent the reformation its peculiar charm, and created that wild and frantic enthusiasm in its favor, which marked the great body of its promoters and adherents, and which for a time, like that of the Saracens, swept every thing before it.

No man can doubt this now, however it might have been doubted in the beginning. The reformation, in so far as it has had free scope, has been true to itself, and its variations have only served to place its real and essential character in a clearer light. Its history is its best commentary. In no instance has it deserted itself. Yet it has, at one time or another, abandoned all its special doctrines. The confession of Augsburg, drawn up by its authors, and approved by Luther, abandons not a few of the doctrines which Luther began by calling the church the whore of Babylon and the pope Antichrist for not holding, and in Melanchthon's apology for that confession, the reform, on most doctrinal points, is made to speak almost like a Christian. Refute any

a Protestant doctrine, save the denial of submission to authority, and you affect no one's Protestantism. The Protestant may abandon the doctrine refuted as indefensible, and strike it from the list of genuine Protestant doctrines; but he is no less, in fact he is even more, of a Protestant than before. Protestants have given up, one after another, all the points principally discussed in the outset between them and Catholics, but they are just as well satisfied with their Protestantisin as ever they were, and as ready to proclaim the transcendent merits of their glorious reforination. All this proves

« AnteriorContinuar »