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Page 9, line 9 from the top, for “ Reginal,” read “Reginald.”
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TEXT-BOOK OF POPERY.
State of Religion and Morals in Europe at the commencement of the Sixteenth
Century – Rise of the Reformation — Luther's Appeal to a Council — His Condemnation by Leo X. — Diet of Worms — Adrian VI. and the Diet of Nuremburg — The Hundred Grievances — Clement VII.- Diet of Augsburg—Expectation of a Council – Peace of Nuremburg—Paul III. - A Council summoned — Its Postponement - Commission of Cardinals to inquire into Abuses — Their Report — Convocation of a Council at Trent-Its Suspension — Diet of Spire — Re-assembly of the Council at Trent.
The state of religion and morals in Europe, in the fifteenth century and at the commencement of the sixteenth, was truly deplorable. In the general depravation of manners that prevailed, the ecclesiastics, even of the highest order, largely participated. The murmurs and complaints of all Christendom, frequently and unequivocally expressed, verify this fact beyond the possibility of contradiction. It is also confirmed by the reluctant admissions of the parties themselves.
History bears ample testimony to the truth of these remarks. The writers of the period above mentioned agree in confessing that gross immorality and cruel oppression distinguished the priesthood, and justly exposed it to the contempt and hatred of the community. A volume might be compiled from the statements of unexceptionable witnesses, who possessed personal knowledge of the facts which they relate. From such sources we learn that the forced celibacy of the priests had produced among them unbridled and shameless licentiousness, concubinage being generally practised; that they had contrived to obtain possession of so much wealth that in Germany more than one-half of the national property
was in their hands; that by their fees and exactions, often wrung from the people by vile imposture, they impoverished every Christian country, while they refused to share the burden of taxation; that they claimed exemption from the jurisdiction of the laity, and could therefore commit crime with comparative impunity, in which they were further indulged by the easy terms on which pardons or dispensations could be procured at Rome; that the venality of the pontifical court was so notorious that the sale of offices was open and public; that the detestable traffic in indulgences gave rise to the most scandalous impositions, and legalized every species of avarice and fraud; that by reservations, appeals, expectative graces, annates, &c., * the popes had subdued to their will the whole hierarchy, leaving to the bishops little more than the shadow of power, and exalting above them the monastic orders, their sworn and faithful vassals; and that those same pontiffs, so far from being examples of virtue and religion, were generally destitute of both, and too frequently patterns of the most horrible vices.t
* By “reservations” the pope “ reserved” to himself the right of presentation to certain benefices, to the exclusion of the patron. “ Expectative graces’' were mandates to bestow benefices on the persons named in them when the first vacancy should occur. “Annates” were payments to the papal treasury of the first year's income of a living.
† Vide Brown's Fasciculus Rerum Expetendarum et Fugiendarum, passim : Von der Hardt's Historia Literaria Reformationis, Part iii.: Bulla Diaboli, quá paterne Papam suum admonet, atque instruit quomodo gerere se debeat in regenda Romana Curia, et toto terrarum orbe—a rare tract, without name, date, or place, but evidently the production of the early part of the sixteenth century: Antilogia Papæ : hoc est, de corrupto Ecclesiæ statu, et totius cleri Papistici perversitate, scripta aliquot veterum authorum, &c. Basilee, 1555. Referring to this period, Bellarmine says, “ Nulla in moribus disciplina, nulla in sacris literis eruditio, nulla in rebus divinis reverentia, nulla propemodum jam erat religio.” Opera, tom. vi. col. 296. Edit. Colon. 1617, quoted by Gerdesius, in his “ Historia Evang. Renovati,” tom. i. p. 25. Edit. Groningæ, 1744. The English reader may consult Bower's Lives of the Popes; Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., cent. 16. sect. i. chap. i.; Robertson's Charles V., book ii.; and Gieseler's Text Book of Ecclesiastical History, translated from the German by Francis Cunningham, (Philadelphia, 1836,) vol. iii. pp. 256—286.
The following popes flourished in the fifteenth century :BONIFACE IX.-A notorious trafficker in benefices, dispensations, &c. Died,
· It must not be forgotten, that with these abuses were connected the most awful corruptions in doctrine and worship. Human merit was trusted in, to the utter neglect of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fastings, penances, idle ceremonies, and the opus operatum of the sacraments, were substituted for sanctification by the influences of the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Mary and the saints had in great measure supplanted Jesus Christ, and robbed him of his honours. The Scriptures were studiously withheld from the people, and little studied by the priests, many of whom were, in fact, totally ignorant of the word of God. Worship was performed in Latin, which scarcely any understood. Incense perfumed the air; gold, and jewels, and magnificent pageantry, dazzled the eyes; melodious sounds of music fell upon the ear; but the mind was unenlightened, and the heart unimpressed. Faith had to do with little else than the “ lying wonders” by which
INNOCENT VII.-A man of similar character. Died, 1406.
perjury, and other crimes. ALEXANDER V.-Nothing good is reported of him. Died, 1410. John XXIII.-Deposed by the Council of Constance, May 29, 1415, for
simony, schism, scandalous living, &c. &c. MARTIN V.-It is said that he held it to be a mortal sin to keep faith with
heretics! Died, Feb. 20, 1431. EUGENIUS IV.- A sturdy opponent of reform. His quarrels with the
Council of Basle ended in his deposition by that body for alleged
simony, &c. Died, Feb. 23, 1447. NICHOLAS V.-His encouragement of learning and learned men, especially
the Greeks who fled from Constantinople when that city was taken by
the Turks, deserves very honourable record. Died, March 24, 1455. Calixtus III. He was a worn-out old man when elected, and did nothing
worthy of record. Died, Aug. 8, 1458. Pius II.-A time-serving politician. Died, Aug. 15, 1464.
Little is recorded of these popes, save Paul II.-Died, July 28, 1471. that they provided liberally for their Sixtus IV.—Died, Aug. 13, 1484. relatives, without being very scruINNOCENT VINI.Died, July 25, 1492. / pulous as to the means by which
(their purpose was effected. ALEXANDER VI.-Such a monster as the world has seldom, if ever, seen.
Murder, debauchery, and kindred crimes, were familiar to him. Having prepared poison for one of the cardinals, his intended victim was beforehand with him, and procured it to be administered to the Pope himself, Aug. 18, 1502 ; thus ridding the world of a nuisance which was no longer to be endured.
a system of impudent trickery was upheld; hope rested on the intercession of saints, the power of priestly absolution, and the efficacy of prayers for the dead; charity was reserved for those, and those only, who bowed the knee before the “man of sin.”
The progress of ignorance and superstition was not, however, altogether unresisted. The labours of our immortal Wicliffe* had excited much attention, and prepared the way for more successful efforts. John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, and their followers, diffused evangelical principles on the continent of Europe. Other reformers arose, in the very bosom of the Romish church, endeavouring, though vainly, to check the tide of corruption. Their aims were powerfully seconded by the revival of learning and the invention of the printing press, by which means a flood of light was poured on the enormities of the papacy, exposing to the astonished gaze of mankind the delusions which had so long bewitched them, and had ruined so many souls. The human mind awoke from slumber, and put on its strength, resolved to extricate itself from the degradation into which it had fallen. All Europe felt the necessity of reformation, and groaned with impatience under the galling yoke. Several ineffectual attempts at improvement were made. The Councils of Pisa, + Constance, I and Basle,|| boldly asserted their superiority to the Pope, and avowed their intention to effect a reform" in the head and members," as it used then to be expressed. Yet means were always found by successive pontiffs to evade the just demands of an indignant people. Corruptions and abuses were defended with such tenacity, and the intrigues of the Romish court were so successfully employed, that remonstrances, memorials, the requests of princes, the decrees of councils, and even the general voice of the church, were unavailing; Babylon “ would not be healed.”
In the year 1517, Luther commenced in Germany that
* The reader may consult Professor Vaughan's “ Life” of Wicliffe, and the selection from his “ Writings,” published by the Religious Tract Society.
These volumes furnish ample details of the life and opinions of that extraordinary man.
† A.D. 1409. I A.D 1414. || A.D. 1431. The histories of these Councils, by L'Enfant, contain very valuable information respecting the state of religion in the fifteenth century. :