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great Schism of the East, which left the morning land of light and life in the midnight darkness, and the utter barrenness of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, from Whom all life and light proceed; not the mighty struggle of the Christian empire against the Church, which, crushed and humbled, withdrew, after the fall of the House of Hohenstaufen, into the narrower sphere of its own Teutonic pride, had been able to stay the onward progress of the Church's march towards supremacy over the world; whereas, the central period of which we have spoken once reached, all is changed. The lesser persecutions of Christian kings, compared with those of either the Pagan or the Christian empire; the lesser slavery of the captivity of Avignon, compared with those of the Church's captivity in the Catacombs; the lesser evils of the Schism of the West, compared with those of the Schism of the East (for while the former had to do only with the persons of the Popes, the latter struck at the very root of the Papacy itself); the revived naturalism and paganism of the Renaissance, endowed, one would have thought, with less vigour to corrupt the hearts of man than when they had behind them the old Roman empire in its strength; these began a deadlier work of ruin for the Church's influence over the world than all the former evils together had ever been able to accomplish, although in themselves deadlier far; for the former evils had arisen from without or from misbelief, not, except perhaps in the case of Frederick II., from the now rapidly-growing tares of scepticism and unbelief.*
Then, although, as we have said, the Church's own outward growth never for a moment ceased, and although she was as strong, nay, stronger than ever to save the world, and crown it with the glory of Christian civilization, the antagonism between the world and the Church grew deeper and stronger ; nations began to grow jealous of the authority of the Holy See, and, misled by national prejudices, even. Councils and theologians began to frame a system of opposition to the Papacy. At Constance and at Basle the germ of Gallicanism arose, while even men like Gerson and Nicholas of Cusa, helped to nurse it into strength. The Holy See began to lose its prestige, and, as a natural consequence, the clergy became again corrupt. The work of S. Gregory VII. was undone. When the shepherds of the flock, the guardians of the public morals, had themselves turned aside into unhealthy pastures, what
* “We find,” says F. Dalyairns (Essay, p. xxviii.) “in the fourteenth century the beginning of a distinct revolt of the cultivated class against Christianity. They are already numerous enough to fill the sixth circle of Dante's Hell.”
could become of the people whom they led ? They began to forget, if we may here make use of the words of the Bishop of Poitiers, spoken of later times, the reverence due to their Baptism; they forgot to keep the faith which they had asked at their baptism of the Church of God, and which is "the root of grace, as grace is the root and germ of glory.” The wellsprings of their Baptism became closed up; the supernatural life could no longer flow; Christian faculties and dispositions were lost; the living waters ceased to leap up in sufficient abundance to fertilize Christendom; “ iniquity began to abound, and the charity of many to grow cold.” In other words, as the roots of faith began to decay and lose their hold on the hearts of nations, grace, which is the flower of faith, began gradually to grow dim and dull, and to lose the freshness and brightness of its colour, and then to wither away, blossoming indeed, as it ever will and must, in the souls of individuals, but no longer making the nations of Christendom to blossom like a many-tinted garden in the eyes of God. Then, as grace withered away, the morality of Christian nations became corrupt, because the only life-giving principle which could keep it pure and free from decay was gradually drying up, until at last, when, in the sixteenth century, an apostate monk raised the battle-cry against Christ's Vicar and Christ's Church, the Christian world, which had become barren and unfit to bear flowers and fruit to Christ, being over-sown far and wide with the devil's seed, became ripe for the devil's work, and half of Christendom fell away from God.*
“The great apostasy of the Reformation,” says F. Dalgairns, “could never have been successful if a terrible outbreak of worldliness had not sapped the first principles of Christian life among the nobility and gentry of England”; and what is true of England is also true, we think, of other nations of the Teutonic race generally ; and if what are called the Latin nations did not make such utter shipwreck at the same period, this is only because faith, the great principle of the Christian life, had a stronger hold upon their hearts.† From this great
* No one, we think, can fail to see the connection between the weakening of the Holy See by the systematic opposition of the Councils of Constance and Basle, supported as it was by national prejudices, and by the pretensions of the temporal power in regard to spiritual anthority, with the spirit of the Reformation, which led sovereigns to throw off the supremacy of Rome, and to usurp her power.
† The corruption of morals seems to have been quite as great in Italy and in France in the fourteenth century as in Germany and England ; probably it was even greater. In Italy especially, at a later period, the principles of the Renaissance took deeper root than elsewhere. What, then, could have
falling away Christendom has never recovered, and the influence of the Church over the temporal destinies of the world, and over the guidance of its civilization, has grown less and less. There is, however, no need for us to trace any further the sad history of its decline, or the connection between the revolt against spiritual authority in the sixteenth, and that against temporal authority, nay, the dissolution of all authority, at the close of the eighteenth century and in our own day; or, again, to point out how the anti-Christian Revolution, which is at present surging all around us, and loosening and dissolving all things, contains the germ of that spirit of utter lawlessness which is to culminate in the person of the “lawless one,” the great Anti-Christ at the latter day; for we see the result of the decline of the Church's influence in the sad fact that not even one Government in the world is now Christian; that there is not even one nation that, as a nation, is not apostate from Christ; while, since the temporal princedom of the Roman Pontiff has been taken from him, there is, as we said above, no longer even ono national witness left to Christ's kingship over the earth. Christendom has in some ceased to exist. Alas ! indeed the contrast between our own days and those of S. Gregory VII. or Innocent III.!
Having now pointed out the central position of the period which, speaking roughly, witnessed the triumph of S. Gregory VII.'s great mission, in relation to the history of the
Saved Italy and France, at the Reformation, we do not say from Protestantism, for that is opposed both to the minds and hearts of the peoples of both nations, but from utter unbelief, except that the principle of faith was still more firmly rooted amongst them? Eren at the present day in Italy, where the mystery of iniquity is working so fearfully, what is it that keeps the vast majority of the people sound at heart, except their deep-rooted faith? So, too, with the clergy. Twenty years ago it was the fashion to speak of the corruption and unbelief of the Italian clergy ; yet how very lew—they are so few that they can be easily counte:-have given in to the false nationalism which is blighting their beautiful land. Surely it would have been far otherwise had unbelief been common, or corruption prevalent, and all the more so, as they have nothing to gain, in a human point of view, from remaining true to the IIoly Father. Contrast the ready compliance of so many of the bishops of England with the views and wishes of the King at the Reformation, with the attitude of the Italian Episcopate and clergy at the present crisis, and how much more favourable a light will the latter appear. (Sce upon this subject an article in this Review, July, 1869, on the
Suppression of the Religious Houses in Italy.", At pige xxii. of his Essay, F. Dalgairns points out that at the beginning of the fourteenth century the influence of the Church was sensibly growing less, and that simultaneously with the fierce attack of Europe on the Papacy of which the trcatment of Boniface VIII. by Philip the Fair was the beginning, there arose an undoubted outburst of sin, a marked progress in vice. He then proceeds to enlarge upon the well-nigh universal degeneracy of the times,
Church which both preceded and followed it, wo must now look more closely into the nature of that period itself, in order to see how, in almost every way, it deserves to be called “central." Speaking of the thirteenth century, a recent Church historian has said that in it “the clergy, both secular and regular, gave a splendid example of every virtue. Science and sanctity, that twofold crown of the priesthood, never shone more brightly; the whole world, led on by the powerful influence of the Papacy, was steadily advancing in the true path of Evangelical perfection; and to every true Christian this period must appear the most fruitful and wonderful in works of faith, charity, and devotedness."* Of the power and vigour of the Holy See during this period we need say but little; there are probably few at the present day who would contest it. And although we agree with F. Dalgairns in thinking that “even in the thirteenth century the Church was by no means omnipotent” (p. xxii.), we still hold that she then came as near to sovereignty over the world,-as nearly succeeded in making Christ's kingship over the earth a reality to the eyes as well as in the hearts of men, as she ever could or can do in a world, which, although God so loved it as to send His only-begotten Son to be its Saviour, has ever hated the Church, as it hated her Lord before her. Enough for us to say, that during this period the Vicar of Christ controlled the world by judging, and, when necessary, condemning Emperor and kings and peoples, and this too when Emperor and kings were mighty, and peoples headstrong; when men like Henry IV., Frederick Barbarossa, and Frederick II., of Germany, and Henry II. of England, reigned upon the earth. More than this, and because of this, we may say that never before this period, and never since, did the Christian nations of the earth form so completely one body, corporato and politic, knit together and animated by one policy, and that policy subservient to God's laws, and the interests of God's Church : so that the Common Father of the faithful could rule over them, as over the whole vast family of God. Never beforo nor siuco has there been a period, when the middle wall crected between nations by the spirit of false nationalisi has been so completely broken down, -when all the Christian nations formed so completely one family, in which Christ was all in all. The Vicar's of Christ controlled the world, and in
Darras, “ History of the Church," vol. iii. p. 420. The statement about the clergy must not be taken to imply that there were not, even in the thirteenth century, many abuses in particular places. The historian is taking a general view of the period.
them Christ Himself ruled and reigned. In all this, the period of which we are speaking stands alone; all the previous history of the world leads up to it; all the after-history of the world reflects its greatness; before it, the world saw nothing like it; as soon as it had passed away, the first shadowy signs of the world's apostasy, and reprobation appeared. It is thus, as it were, the centre of the thousand years during which Satan is bound, that he may no more seduce the nations, until they be finished, corresponding with the thousand years of the first resurrection, in which the Saints reign with Christ in glory, and, as patron Saints of the kingdoms of the earth, have power over the nations. * But, as whenever the Holy See is free to exercise its creative, life-giving, and providential influence over the world, all good things come together with it; so we need not be surprised to find that this perio<l also witnessed the happiest development of sanctity and science. “The episcopate of the Church,” says the last-mentioned writer, “ bound to the Papacy by the closest ties, formed but one solid body, communicating to the farthest extremities of the earth the influence of the Holy See. ..... The hierarchy of the Church, thus constituted in strength and power, was in a condition to act with vigour upon the society of the Middle Ages. This influence was outwardly displayed in the crusades against Islamism and the Albigensian heresy, and by the spread of the gospel among heathen nations; its inward working was seen in the wonderful development and spread of a spirit of faith and holiness; by the foundation of religious orders; by the intellectual movement which regenerated learning, established a new school of Christian art, and doited the world with universities. ... In its laws, habits, and manners, society seemed to aim solely at Christian perfection; and this tendency was displayed by prodigies of virtue and holiness in every rank and condition." (Vol. iii., 5th par., ch. x.) What the Christian world would have become had this happy period lasted, and civilization been allowed to developitself under the guidance and control of the Church and the supremo direction of the Holy See, we may gather in some measure
* In vol. ix. p. 72, Milman has some very severe remarks upon the worship of the Saints during the Middle Ages, apparently quite unconscious that his own words testify to the truth of our Lord's promise, as revealed to S. John.“ To him that overcometh will I give to sit on My throne, and I will give him power over the nations.” If for Christ to sit on His Father's throne slui His Father's power, then to sit on Christ's throne is to share in Christ's power. Surely no one, who fails to grasp the doctrine of the Incarnation in its fulness,--that is to say, that the Church is Christ's body,is able to write a history of Christianity.