Imágenes de páginas

but it is not all that we have the right to expect in times like ours from a Catholic historian of the Protestant reformation. It is far too little and too superficial to enable us to explain that event. These reformers had all been reared in the external communion of the Catholic Church, and were many of them priests who had served at her altar. Whence came it that they were capable of such baseness and iniquity? Whence came it that their baseness and iniquity were capable of detaching nearly half of Europe from the faith in which they had been reared, and of founding a party which for three hundred years has been able to dispute the dominion of the world with Catholicity? Here is a grave problem to be solved, and which M. Audin does not solve, or furnish us the ineans of solving.

Indeed, taking the reformation as M. Audin leaves it, it must have been an impossible event,-an event which never happened, because it never could have happened. We can find in his pages no sufficient reason for it, no adequate means of effecting it. The reformers were inadequate to the work ascribed to them; all the elements of success were against them. Authority, tradition, learning, culture, talent, habit, manners, customs, all were against them. They were worsted in argument by their Catholic opponents; they had no clearly defined system of doctrine, no wellconcerted plan of action; they were unable to agree among themselves, were torn by intestine divisions, were compelled to blush at the licentiousness and impurity of their disciples, and rendered ridiculous by their continual variations and self-contradictions. There was nothing in their speculations or opinions calculated to impose upon the understanding of a moderately instructed Catholic, or in their practice to win the affections of a single really Catholic heart. Their preaching and writings were fitted only to shock sincere and earnest Catholics, or to disgust and repel them. How then could they succeed? Yet succeed they did. They baffled princes and nobles, kings and Cæsars, popes and cardinals, bishops and doctors, and gained over the multitude in more than a third part of Europe. How

a explain this fact? By the depravity of the reformers? But that depravity itself needs accounting for; and, moreover, on what principle explain its tremendous power? We know that evil naturally triumphs over good, but how can evil joined to weakness triumph over virtue joined to strength, and that even supernatural strength?

VOL. X-30

It is clear to the philosophical historian that we cannot explain the Protestant reformation by the baseness, the iniquity, the corruption, or the ability of the reformers themselves. No result of such magnitude could have been brought about by some scores of apostate priests and renegade monks. The reform must have sprung from deeper, broader, and mightier causes. It must have already been prepared in the public mind and heart, and Luther can be regarded only as its leading representative, not as its author or founder. He simply gave expression to what was already a general thought or sentiment. Without the preëxistence and prevalence of that thought or sentiment, he and his associates would, with all their efforts, hardly have produced a momentary ripple on the surface of European society. There must have been a preparation earlier even than that effected by the quarrels of the schoolmen and the humanists, and the labors of those whom Protestants call “the Reformers before the Reformation,” such as Reuchlin, Erasmus, and Ulrich von Hutten. Some of the humanists became Protestants indeed, but the more distinguished leaders and the bulk of the party, as M. Audin proves, remained faithful to the communion of the church. The Greek language never fell under the anathema of the church ; she had always accepted it, and consecrated it by using it in cel. ebrating throughout the East her sacred mysteries. It was the official language of the Greek Church before the Greek schism, and is used now in celebrating mass by the United or Catholic Greeks, as well as by the schismatic. Latin is not, and never was, the only official language of the church. How then could Reuchlin, by insisting on its study, favor the Protestant movement?* What was it that pointed the wit of Erasmus, that Voltaire of the sixteenth century, and enabled him to cover the monks with ridicule, and to destroy their character in the public estimation? What was it that rendered effective the dull, filthy, and disgusting Epistolæ Virorum Obscurorum of Ulrich von Hutten? The public must have been previously prepared for these, as well as for the reformers themselves.

* Reuchlin also was the great patron of Hebrew. The study of Hebrew, however, meant in his mind not so much the study of the Hebrew language as intercourse with the Jews and study of the Jewish writings, which were antichristian in their doctrine and tendencies. It is not impossible, moreover, that the Jews and the occult heretics of the time had a very good understanding with one another. Were not the viri obscuri of Ulrich von Hutten so called, to intimate to the initiated a relationship to the secret heretical organizations?

Nothing is more unphilosophical than to ascribe great events, whether good or bad, to petty causes. The effect cannot exceed the cause, any more than the stream can rise higher than the fountain. There must have been operating in the sixteenth century some cause of the Protestant reformation adequate to its production,-equal in magnitude to the effect produced. What was it? In our judgment, while the magnitude of the reformation is not overrated, we are too apt to overrate the magnitude of the work done by the reforiners. It is a mistake to suppose that Protestantism in any of its essential features was a product of the sixteenth century. That century was by no means as Catholic in its beginning as is commonly imagined. Luther found, he did not create or introduce, his Protestantism. Protestantism, if analyzed, may be reduced to four elements :- 1. The rejection of the papacy; 2. The rejection of the Christian priesthood or sacerdotal order; 3. The denial of all dogmatic theology; and 4. The adoption of religion as a niere sentiment of the heart, called by some love, by others faith. We do not, of course, pretend that all Protestants go the full length of these four elements, but these four elements embrace all of Protestantism. Luther did not formally reject all dogmatic theology, but he did reject the papacy and the Christian priesthood; for his principal

, spite was directed against the pope, and he maintained, as the great body of Protestants do now, that under the New Law every believer is a priest and a king. His doctrine of justification by faith alone is the virtual rejection of dogmatic theology; for it is with him the essential element of the Gospel, and faith in his sense is simply a sentiment of the heart. Some Protestants go further, much further, in the developments of Protestantism, than Luther and his brother reformers went, but none of them go further than the four elements we have specified, and these elements may therefore be said, though not embraced by all Protestants, to embrace all Protestantism.

Now all these elements were held in Christian Europe by vast multitudes, many of them in the external communion of the church, passing themselves off as Catholics, though in fact occult heretics, centuries before Luther was born. At no period was Christian Europe, in point of fact, as Catholic as first appearances indicate, and at no period were all the real heretics outside of the external communion of the church. Protestants cannot, indeed, maintain for their party or doctrines an apostolic origin, but they can trace their succession from the apostolic age. Through the Bohemian Brethren, Lollards, Beghards, Cathares, Patarins, Albigenses, Bulgarians, Paulicians, Manicheans, and Gnostics, they can ascend to the very times of the apostles. These sects were all of the same family, and were all essentially Protestant. They were all condemned, indeed, by the church, but by means of secret organizations and outward conformity to Catholicity they always contrived to maintain themselves to a fearful extent in her external communion, From the twelfth century to the sixteenth, Europe to the superficial observer was, save in the East, exclusively Catholíc; but in point of fact she was little more Catholic than now. Catholicity was indeed the official religion, but even in the thirteenth century, regarded by a modern school as the culminating point of the Ages of Faith, virtual Protestantism was hardly less rife than in the sixteenth, and there was, we verily believe, more real Catholicity in the seventeenth century than in either the fourteenth or the fifteenth. Whoever would explain the origin and causes of the Protestant reformation must study profoundly the heresies, political movements, and social changes of the last three centuries of the middle ages. They will find its origin and causes in these heresies, and in the growth of nationalism and royalism, or absolute monarchy, more especially in Germany, France, and England. These heresies, essentially Protestant, were then, it is true, openly professed by a smaller number than in the sixteenth century; but there is no lack of evidence that they were professed in a secret society, which spread over a large part of Europe, and to which belonged kings and emperors, princes and nobles, bishops and presbyters, courtiers and bards, lawyers and counsellors of popes and of monarchs,-nominally, sometimes ostentatiously, Catholic in public, before the church and the world, enjoying her honors, fattening on her revenues, and using their position to undermine the papal authority, and to render Catholicity odious. So were organized, and so acted, the formidable body of heretics known in history as Patarins, Cathares, or Albigenses, now conceded to have been Manicheans, and therefore a branch of the old Gnostic family, and whose abominable doctrines and abominable practices are still far in advance of the great body of modern Protestants.

We regard modern Protestanism as the lineal descendant of the Patarin or Albigensian heresy of the thirteenth century; in fact, as only a continuation, with various modifications, of ancient Gnosticism, which at different epochs showed itself openly, and at others concealed itself in the bosom of the church as an occult heresy, wearing the external garb of Catholicity, and speaking its language, though with a sense of its own, as in the Divina Commedia of Dante, the sonnets of Petrarca, the lays and roundelays of the troubadours of Provence, and the poems of the Ghibelline poets generally. It was obliged to conceal itself during the middle ages, because nationalism and royalism were too weak to permit them to set at defiance the public law and the Catholic organization of Europe. In the sixteenth century this ceased to be the case, and they could openly avow themselves. Through their own secret exertions, the natural -course of events, the efforts of the German emperors, and the sacrilegious attacks on the papacy in the person of Boniface VIII. by Philip the Fair of France, who appealed to the French nation and invoked the states-general to sustain him, nationalism, that is, gentilism, was revived, and royalism, or centralized monarchy, was introduced and consolidated. Royalism became independent, and the way was prepared for monarchy to become absolute. The emperor and the Ghibelline princes rendered Italy a scene of anarchy .and confusion, of rapine and bloodshed, and compelled the popes to seek security by deserting Rome and taking up their residence at Avignon. This brought the Roman court under French influence, filled the sacred college with French cardinals, and prepared the way for the great western schism, which greatly impaired the power of the Holy See, .depreciated the papacy in the popular estimation, and gave to nationalism and royalism the predominance throughout Christendom. We see this in the Council of Constance, where princes and their ambassadors play so distinguished a part, and where in the earlier sessions the_unheard-of anomaly is introduced of voting by nations. The papacy, it is true, was not without lustre under the pontificates of Martin V., Eugenius IV., Nicholas V., and Calixtus III.; but it never, till after the reformation, if even then, recovered its former splendor, and Julius II. is obliged to place himself as an Italian prince at the head of his troops, to defend the patrimony of St. Peter against the professedly Catholio invaders. Nationalisın was so strong and royalism so much

« AnteriorContinuar »