HENRY V. AND GREGORY'S SUCCESSORS
Having thus given a consecutive history of the Crusades, which has led us on to the end of the thirteenth century, we must now return for a little to the point where we left off, and gather up the threads of our general history.
The long and wasting wars occasioned by the dispute between Gregory and Henry as to the right of investiture, utterly failed to bring that question to anything like a settlement. The successors of Gregory, deeply imbued with his spirit, endeavored by every means to carry out his scheme. On the other hand, the new king Henry V. was equally determined to oppose the papal demands, and also to recover all that his crown had lost by the spiritual tyranny of the popes. He invested bishops with the ring and crosier as his ancestors had done, and compelled the prelates of Germany to consecrate them. Anathemas and excommunications without number from popes and councils were fulminated against the rebellious Emperor, but he allowed them to roll peacefully over him. Thus the contest was continued, though with less bloodshed than in Gregory's time.
In the year 1115 "the Great Countess" Matilda of Tuscany died. Before her death, she had made over to the Roman See her vast possessions. The deed which she executed was entirely contrary to feudal law, but in full accordance with pontifical law. Thus a fresh subject of strife between the popes and the emperors sprang from this donation. Had the pope been allowed to take peaceable possession of her estates, he would have been like a king in Italy. But, however devoted the great woman was to the church of Rome and sincere in her gift, the deed was contrary to law and never fully took effect, although it ultimately contributed much to the temporal power of the popes. But details need not be given. The world was growing weary of the history of popes and antipopes, with factions, perjuries, and hypocrisies; of the monotony of bloodshed and devastation, which had lasted over half a century. All hearts yearned after peace, says one, and the love of battle had become extinct on both sides; the flame of civil and religious discord, which was kindled by Gregory and fanned by his successors, had been quenched in the floods of calamity. After many efforts peace was ratified between the pope's legates and the Emperor, in the year 1122, on the following conditions.
The pope Calixtus, though an inflexible asserter of the papal claims, seeing the general eagerness for peace, gave instructions to his legates to convoke a general council of all the bishops and clergy of France and Germany at Mentz, for the purpose of taking into consideration the reestablishment of concord between the Holy See and the Empire. When this celebrated treary was reduced into form and had received the golden seal of the empire, the assembly adjourned from Mentz to a spacious meadow near the city of Worms. Here unnumbered multitudes assembled to witness the exchange of the ratified copies of the treaty which was to bring back civil and religious peace to all Europe. The ceremony concluded, according to the custom of the times, with a solemn mass and Te Deum by the Cardinal-bishop of Ostia, during which the legate communicated with the Emperor, and in the name of the Pope imparted the kiss of peace.
This treaty has been received from that day until now as the fundamental assertion of the papal and imperial rights. Its stipulations were these:—
"The Emperor gives up to God, to St. Peter, and to the catholic church, the right of investiture by Ring and Crosier; he grants to the clergy throughout the empire the right of free election; he restores to the church of Rome, to all other churches and nobles, the possessions and feudal sovereignties which have been seized during the wars in his father's time and his own, those in his possession immediately, and he promises his influence to obtain restitution of those not in his possession. He grants peace to the pope and to all his partisans, and pledges himself to protect, whenever he shall be thereto summoned, the church of Rome in all things."
The pope granted on his part, that all elections of bishops and abbots should take place in the presence of the Emperor or his commissioners, only without bribery and violence, with an appeal in cases of contested elections to the metropolitan and provincial bishops. The bishop elect in Germany was to receive, by the touch of the scepter, all the temporal rights, principalities, and possessions of the See, excepting those which were held immediately of the See of Rome; and faithfully discharge to the Emperor all duties incident to those principalities. In all other parts of the empire the royalties were to be granted to the bishop consecrated within six months. The pope grants peace to the Emperor and his adherents, and promises aid and assistance on all lawful occasions."
So ended the contest which had wasted Germany by a civil war for fifty years, and Italy by the most disastrous invasions. And a moment's reflection, on the adjustment of the quarrel and the slight concessions on either side, will show the awful iniquity of those who prolonged the struggle. But neither Calixtus nor Henry long survived the Concordat of Worms. The pope died in 1124, and the Emperor in 1125.
It will not be necessary to say much more on the events of this century. The great features by which it is marked are the crusades and their results, which we have already examined. But it may be well to notice briefly two or three remarkable men that appeared at this time, whose names are familiar amongst us to this day, and whose histories conduct us to the secrets and depths of the cloister. Besides, we learn more of the general state of religion, literature, and manners, from such individual histories than from mere abstract statements.
The most celebrated of these men is the famous St. Bernard. He is considered the brightest representative of the Roman Catholic religion which the church had seen since the days of Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory. For half a century he appears before us the leading and governing head of Christendom — the oracle of all Europe. The popes are lost sight of in the brighter light of the abbot. "He is the center," says one of his biographers, "around whom gather the great events of christian history, from whose mind flow forth the impulses which animate and guide Latin Christendom, towards whom converge the religious thoughts of men. He rules alike the monastic world, the councils of temporal sovereigns, and the intellectual developments of the age. He is believed by an admiring age to have confuted Abelard himself, and to have repressed the more dangerous doctrines of Arnold of Brescia." To those who have read his life this picture will not appear overdrawn. But as throwing light on those times we would first notice his training.
Bernard was born of noble parentage in Burgundy. His father, Tesselin, was a knight of great bravery and piety, according to the ideas of religion prevalent at that time. His mother, Alith, was likewise of high birth, and a model of devotion and charity. Bernard, their third son, was born at Fontaines, near Dijon, in 1091. From his infancy he was thoughtful and devoted to religion and study. His pious mother died while he was yet a youth, leaving six sons and one daughter. He was then left free to choose his occupation for life. What shall it be? He had no great choice; it must either be a fighting knight or a fasting and praying monk. He resolved at length to retire from the world and devote himself to the monastic state. At the age of twenty-three he entered the monastery of Citeaux.
When his family first heard of his resolution, they were much opposed. His father, Tesselin, and his two brothers, Guido and Gerard, were following the great Duke of Burgundy to his wars, as military noblemen. But such was the force of Bernard's character that he influenced his brothers one after the other, and his sister also, to take the vow; and the whole family in a short time disappeared within the walls of the convent.
As monastic Christianity or enthusiasm, in the theory of the Roman church, was at this time the only real Christian perfection, we will present the reader of the nineteenth century with a few particulars of the system, that he may be able to judge for himself of the extreme blindness of even true believers such as Bernard, and of the awful perversion of the sacred name of Christianity. Were the proofs not unquestionable, the facts could not now be believed. The renunciation of the world, solitude, asceticism, stern mortification, was preached as almost the only safe path to heaven. The supposed merits of monks, not the finished work of Christ, was the ground of admittance by St. Peter into the realms of glow. Hence it was that, the more sincere the monk, the more he inflicted on himself every kind of torture and misery. This was the deception: "The more remote from man, the nearer to God; holiness was measured by suffering; all human sympathies, all social feelings, all ties of kindred, all affections, were to be torn up by the roots from the groaning spirit; pain and prayer, prayer and pain, were to be the sole, stirring, unwearying occupations of a saintly life."
Surely this is the masterpiece of Satan, the deepest delusion of the counsels of hell. Let thy holy Bible be thy guide, dear reader; and rest assured that all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are, not only wil! be, but are saved, and that all who truly believe will be careful to maintain good works, in virtue of the divine nature and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Stephen Harding, an Englishman, originally from Sherborne in Dorsetshire, was the abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Citeaux. He followed St. Benedict's rule, with additional severities. They had but one common meal a day, and had been twelve hours at work before they received it. They never tasted meat, fish, or eggs, and milk only rarely.
It was usual when anyone wished to become a monk at Citeaux, says Bernard's biographer, to make him wait for four days before he was taken to the chapter in presence of the assembled convent. After this he prostrated himself before the lectern, and was asked by the abbot what he wanted. He replied, "God's mercy and yours." The abbot bade him rise, and expounded to him the severity of the rule, and inquired of his intentions again; and, if he answered he wished to keep it all, the abbot said, "May God who hath begun a good work in thee Himself accomplish it." This ceremony was repeated three days, and after the third he passed from the guesthouse to the cells of the novices, and then at once began the year of probation.
The following was the ordinary routine in the monastery during Bernard's year. At two in the morning the great bell was rung, and the monks immediately arose from their hard couches, and hastened along the dark cloisters in solemn silence to the church. A single small lamp, suspended from the roof, gave a glimmering light, just sufficient to show them their way through the building. After prayer, or divine service, they retired, and after a brief repose rose again for matins, which took them about two hours; then other services, partly regulated by the season of the year — summer or winter; but they were employed in various religious exercises till nine, when they went forth to work in the fields. At two they dined; at night-fall they assembled to vespers; at six or eight, according to the season, they finished the day with compline, and passed at once to the dormitory.
But however severe we may think these practices and austerities to have been, they were far from satisfying the zeal and spirit of self-mortification of Bernard. He spent his time in solitude and study. Time given to sleep he regarded as lost, and was wont to compare sleep and death, holding that sleepers may be regarded as dead among men, even as the dead are asleep before God. He diligently read the scriptures; he strove to work out his own conception of perfect and angelic religion. He had so absolutely withdrawn his senses from communion with the outer world that they seemed dead to all outward impressions: his eyes could not tell him whether his chamber was ceiled or not, whether it had one window or three. Of the scanty food which he took, his unconscious taste had lost all perception whether it was nauseous or wholesome. He drank oil but could not tell it from water. And yet this deluded man, though we doubt not he was already saved through grace, was doing all this for salvation; and still, as a matter of course, he was not satisfied. He spoke of himself as but in his noviciate; others might have attained, he had but begun his sanctification.
A year has elapsed since Bernard entered Citeaux. His probation is ended; he now makes his profession. This ceremony was performed with great solemnity, and surrounded with all that could impart to it awe and majesty. The novice was called into the chapter, and, before all, made disposal of any worldly goods he might possess. His head was shorn, and his hair burnt by the sacristan in a piscina used for this purpose. Going to the steps of the presbytery, he then read the form of profession, made over at the sign of the cross, and, inclining his body, approached the altar. He placed the profession on the right-hand side of it, which he kissed, again bent his body, and retired to the steps. The abbot, standing on the other side of the altar, removed from it the parchment, while the novice on his hands and knees implored pardon, repeating three times the words, "Receive me, O Lord." The whole convent answered with "Gloria Patri," and the cantor began the Psalm, "Have mercy on me, O God," which was sung through by the two choirs alternately. The novice then humbled himself at the abbot's feet, and afterwards did the same before the prior, and successively before all the brotherhood — even before the sick if there were any. Towards the end of the Psalm, the abbot, bearing his crosier, approached the novice and made him rise. A cowl was blessed and sprinkled with holy water, and the abbot, removing from the novice his secular garments, replaced them with the monastic dress. The "Credo" was said, the novice had become a monk, and took his place in the choir.
The arrival of Bernard, of his kindred, and his followers, at Citeaux, proved a turning-point in its history. The popularity of the small monastery was raised, and its dormitories were crowded. It soon became necessary to look out for the means of founding another. Bernard was selected by Stephen, the general of the Cistercian communities of France, as the head of the community. Twelve monks and their young abbot — representing the Lord and His apostles — were assembled in the church. Stephen placed a cross in Bernard's hands, who solemnly at the head of his small band, walked forth from Citeaux. After travelling northward for nearly ninety miles, they came to a valley in Champagne, called the Valley of Wormwood, but which now exchanged its name for that of Clairvaux — the Bright Valley. It was a barren solitude; for a time the hardships which the little community had to bear were excessive. A rude fabric to shelter them from wind, rain, heat, and cold, was raised with their own hands: — they were obliged to live on beech-leaves, nuts, roots, intermixed with coarse grain, until the Lord in mercy supplied their need from the compassion of the neighbouring peasants. Of course the supplies of money and corn were attributed to the miraculous intervention of St. Bernard, his piety, his prayers, and his prophetic visions. But the good Lord had pity and saved these poor deluded men from actual death by starvation.
William of Champeaux, bishop of Chalons, hearing that the life of Bernard was in danger from the extreme rigor of his mortifications, succeeded in getting him away from Clairvaux for twelve months; and, compelling him to take proper food and rest, he saved him from a slow but certain suicide. In later years Bernard expressed disapprobation of such excess in mortification as that by which he had weakened his own body and impaired his own strength.
After this period, according to his biographers, the fame and influence of Bernard spread rapidly and widely. His health had suffered so much from ascetic practices that he could no longer labor in the field with his brethren for their daily subsistence; but he labored with his pen, and his preaching retained all its impressive solemnity and persuasive eloquence. His pale face, macerated form, and bodily weakness, contrasted strangely with his powerful voice, his gushing flow of language, and the burning fervor of his pathetic appeals. When it was known that he was to preach in any given place, wives hurried away their husbands, mothers withdrew their sons, friends their friends, from the resistless power of the saintly abbot, lest they should renounce the world for the cloister. His reputation as a preacher and a writer soon spread over the whole of Christendom, and all the world began to ascribe the impression he produced to a divine power, and to endow him with the gift of working miracles.
The "Bright Valley" was soon beset by candidates for admission; the number of its inmates rapidly rose to seven hundred; and the number of monasteries founded by Bernard himself amounted to one hundred and sixty. These were scattered over France, Italy, Germany, England, Spain; indeed over every country in the West. And, as might be expected, all looked back with superstitious reverence and affection to their founder. Clairvaux thus became a free and open court to which all might appeal without cost; and from which, it is said, all retired without dissatisfaction, whether justified or condemned. He knew how to address himself to persons of every class in a style most suited to their understanding, and thus exercised an immense influence over all kinds of men. His wondering disciples vied with each other in publishing abroad the wonders wrought by his hand or his prayers, until his every act became a miracle and his every word a prophecy. The Gospels contain not such countless miracles as the life of Bernard. He healed diseases by his touch, the bread which he blessed produced supernatural effects, and a blind man received his sight by standing on the same spot where the holy man had stood!
To those who are at all acquainted with the spirit and temper of the medieval age, these groundless beliefs will excite no surprise; but to those who are only familiar with our own time it must appear strange that any one was found weak enough to believe them. And were it not for their historical value we should not think them worth transcribing. But they show, as nothing else can, the modes of thought and the measure of man's mental development at the time; and on this ground we can understand and explain why such foolish tales and absurd fictions were received as the present revelation of God. The result was, as Satan designed, even in the case of true Christians, that the word of God, which is the only standard of faith and practice, was completely set aside and the deceivers' lies believed. Good man and talented as Bernard must have been, he was deeply imbued with the superstitious credulity of his age. He believed with others that God had performed miracles by him. But all men in the twelfth century, and for several ages, both before and after, believed in miracles, visions, revelations, and the interference of both good and evil angels with sublunary things.
The effect of the monastic system on the people generally in the dark ages must account for their readiness to believe anything a monk said, especially about good or evil, heaven or hell. The silvery peals of the convent bells were constantly reminding the warlike lord and his vassals, of the heavenly occupation of the monks; which, to their superstitious minds, must have had a great effect. And we cannot wonder. There in the lonely valley, the solitudes of nature, stood the holy monastery. The prince, the peasant, and the pauper, may knock at its gates and find a shelter within its hallowed walls. Peace is promised in this life to all who enter, and heaven hereafter. The chorus-song of vigils and matins during the night must have appealed to the religious feelings of all around, and filled them with most holy awe and reverence for the unearthly people. Hence the monastery was looked upon as the gate of heaven, and all its inmates as the servants of the Most High. It was no doubt a great mercy at that time to the poor, and to the people generally, especially during the reign of feudalism.
But before leaving the subject of the monasteries, having looked at them under the generalship of Bernard, it may be well to notice what they had become before his day, and what they were afterwards. Most of the old monasteries had become wealthy and suffered from the natural consequences. Some had altogether relaxed their discipline, had long renounced poverty, and disregarded their vow of obedience to the abbot or prior. They had fertilized their immediate territory; and, as though they had now but to enjoy the fruits of their toil, they sank to indolent repose, and idleness brought its ten thousand other sins. Milman speaks of monasticism as tracing the same cycle in all ages. This is so truly and so graphically described that we quote the passage entire. But we must add that he leaves out in this paragraph the fearful immoralities, dissensions, and insubordination, which were always the consequences of wealth.
"Now the wilderness, the utter solitude, the utmost poverty, the contest with the stubborn forest and unwholesome morass, the most exalted piety, the devotion which had not hours enough during the day and night for its exercise, the rule which could not be enforced too strictly, the strongly competing asceticism, the inventive self-discipline, the inexhaustible emulous ingenuity of self-torture, the boastful servility of obedience: then the fame for piety, the lavish offerings of the faithful, the grants of the repentant lord, the endowments of the remorseful king — the opulence, the power, the magnificence. The wattled hut, the rock-hewn hermitage, is now the stately cloister; the lowly church of wood, the lofty and gorgeous abbey; the wild forest of heath, the pleasant and umbrageous grove; the marsh, a domain of intermingling meadows and cornfields; the brawling stream or mountain torrent, a succession of quiet tanks or pools, fattening innumerable fish. The superior, once a man bowed to the earth with humility, care-worn, pale, emaciated, with a coarse habit bound with a cord, with naked feet, is become an abbot on his curvetting palfrey, in rich attire, with his silver cross borne before him, travelling to take his place amid the lordliest of the realm."
A new order, a new institution, grew up under the hand of Bernard. Clairvaux was the commencement of a new era in the history of monasticism. Men of all ranks were attracted to the Cistercian order, notwithstanding the noted strictness of its discipline; and numbers of monasteries sprang up in the deserts after the pattern of Clairvaux. But all the power of Bernard could not prevent the most bitter jealousies and unseemly dissensions arising between the monks of the new and of the old orders, especially with the once celebrated monastery of Cluny, which had trained Hildebrand for the papal throne.
A great schism in the church, caused by two unprincipled popes, was the occasion of St. Bernard being drawn reluctantly from his peaceful seclusion, and plunged at once into the affairs of the world. But, as an example of what was a common occurrence in connection with papal elections, we will give a few particulars. The reader will see and judge for himself of papal infallibility. Alas! few of the popes were outwardly decent.
When Pope Honorius II. was dying, but before he had breathed his last, Cardinal Peter Leonis, a grandson of a Jewish usurer, made a bold effort to mount the chair of St. Peter. But the dying pontiff being brought to the window and shown to the people as still alive, Peter and his friends retired for the moment. Another party, determined to exclude Peter, and watching till the poor pope did die, at once proclaimed Cardinal Gregory supreme pontiff of the Christian world under the name of Innocent II. The party of Peter all the same time went through the form of election with their pope, dressed him in the proper pontificals, and declared that he, under the title of Anacletus II., was the authentic vicar of Christ.
Rome, the scene of endless strife and warfare, was now filled with two armies of ferocious partisans. Devastation and bloodshed followed rapidly on their spiritual threats and curses. Anacletus, it is said, at the head of a mercenary band, began the attack by laying siege to the church of St. Peter. He forced his way into the sanctuary, carried off the gold crucifix, and all the treasure in gold and silver and precious stones. These riches led numbers to side with him. Besides the was rich and could afford to pay for followers. He assailed and despoiled the churches of the capital one after another. Innocent was soon convinced that Rome, in the present state of public feeling, could be no safe place for him. He determined to fly. His person was in danger. It was with great difficulty that he and his friends escaped in two galleys, and safely reached the port of Pisa. From thence they repaired to France, and were received with open arms by the communities of Cluny and Clairvaux.
Bernard zealously espoused the cause of Innocent. His zeal drew him from his den. He traveled from sovereign to sovereign, from count to count, from monastery to monastery, until he could boast that Innocent was acknowledged by the Kings of France, England, Spain, the Amperor Lothaire, the more powerful clergy, and the religious communities throughout these countries. The powerful Duke Roger of Sicily alone adhered to Anacletus, which prevented Innocent returning to Rome. But death came to the relief of all parties. Anacletus died in his impregnable fortress of St. Angelo, in January 1138, having defied all his enemies for eight years. Innocent returned to Rome in May with Bernard by his side, and was duly acknowledged as supreme pontiff.
Innocent, now undisputed master of Rome, assembled at the Lateran a general council. Never had Rome or any other city of Christendom beheld one so numerously attended. A thousand bishops and countless ecclesiastical dignitaries were present. The speeches and the decrees image forth the Christianity of the times. The feudal authority of the pope was the great subject. He declared that, "Inasmuch as Rome is the metropolis of the world, from which all earthly power flows, so likewise the pontifical throne is the source of all ecclesiastical authority and dignity; and that every such office or dignity is to be received at the hands of the Roman pontiff as a fief of the Roman See, and held of him as the great spiritual liege lord."
As usual on such occasions, Innocent annulled all the decrees of his adversary Anacletus. He was consigned to the realms of Satan, and the prelates who had received schismatic consecration were degraded. They were summoned to appear before the revengeful pope. He assailed them with indignant reproaches, wrenched their crosiers out of their hands, stripped the pails from their shoulders, and took from them their episcopal rings. After this, as if to consummate the vilest hypocrisy, the "Truce of God" — a cessation of private feuds and conflicts — in its fullest extent was re-enacted. But the canon which most interests us in that celebrated council was directed against a class of men, who before long will force themselves on our notice. "We expel from the church as heretics those who, under the semblance of religion, condemn the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the baptism of infants, the priesthood," etc. This anathema, and those against whom it was hurled, are like the faint streaks of the dawn of the great struggle for religious liberty which resulted in the glorious Reformation.
The remainder of this wretched man's life was almost entirely spent in war, notwithstanding his re-enacting the "Truce of God." He actually headed, and led on an armed force against Roger of Sicily, the friend of Anacletus; but he fell as a prisoner of war into the hands of the Normans. Awestruck with their holy captive, they bowed before him, obtained his blessing, and sent him home. Such was the superstition of the king, such the awful iniquity of the pope. But his life was ebbing fast, and soon he must stand before the tribunal of the Judge of all the earth.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2Co 5:10.)
On the 24th of September, 1143, the pontiff breathed his last, amid the turmoil of popular revolution and strife; and Celestine II. reigned in his stead.
Before the death of Innocent, Bernard was called away from his peaceful retirement at Clairvaux, to make war against a new enemy of the church in the person of Peter Abelard. This new conflict arose out of the intellectual movements of the age, and marks a distinct epoch in the history of the church, of literature, of spiritual and of civil freedom. We will briefly notice what led to it.
Most of our readers are aware that the learning which had been accumulated in the Latin and Greek languages was almost entirely destroyed by the barbarians in the fifth century. What is called the literature of the ancients was almost wholly lost when the barbarous nations were established on the ruins of the Roman empire. For fully five hundred years gross ignorance prevailed. Any knowledge that remained was confined to the ecclesiastics; and they, during that period, were forbidden to study or copy secular learning. Nevertheless some of the monks, especially of the Benedictine order, collected and copied ancient manuscripts; and, says Hallam, "It is never to be forgotten that but for them the records of that very literature would have perished. If they had been less tenacious of their Latin liturgy, of the vulgate translation of scripture, and of the authority of the Fathers, it is very doubtful whether less superstition would have grown up; but we cannot hesitate to pronounce that all grammatical learning would have been laid aside. But among them, though instances of gross ignorance were exceedingly frequent, the necessity of preserving the Latin language, in which the scriptures, the canons, and other authorities of the church, and the regular liturgies were written, and in which alone the correspondence of their hierarchy could be conducted, kept flowing, in the worst seasons, a slender but living stream."
Among these monks there must have been every variety of mind: some, no doubt, coarse, sluggish and mechanical; others, refined, active, inquiring, which could not be confined within the barriers of the established catholic doctrine, or submit to the power of the sacerdotal order. So it was; so it proved to be. The Reformer, the Protestant, sprang from the monastic order. There were many premature Luthers. In every insurrection, it has been said, whether religious or more philosophical, against the dominant dogmatic system, a monk was the leader, and there had been three or four of these insurrections before the time of Abelard. Gotschalk in the ninth century was scourged and imprisoned for his stubborn confidence in what was called predestinarianism. John Scot Erigena, a most learned monk from Ireland or the Scottish islands, was invited by Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, to oppose Gotschalk; but he alarmed the church no less than his antagonist, by appealing to a new power above catholic authority, human reason. He was a strong rationalist, but speculated largely in scholastic theology. Under the censure of the church he fled to England, and found a refuge, it is said, in Alfred's new university of Oxford.
During the latter part of eleventh century we meet with the famous names of Lanfranc, Anselm, and Berengar. A fresh impulse was given to intellectual activity by the labors of these and other eminent teachers. It was about this time that the old cathedral schools developed into seminaries of general learning, and these became the parents of our modern universities. This intellectual activity, following a long apathy, became so extremely attractive that thousands crowded to the lectures, and, like men long debarred from the tree of knowledge, too eagerly embraced what they heard. But it was a reaction against the dogmatic authority of the church, which taught men that it was henceforth possible to reason and inquire.
Peter Abelard was the most audacious, and by far the most popular, of all the lecturers on dialectics — professedly the science or art of discriminating truth from error by human reason. This remarkable man was born in 1079, near Nantes, in Brittany. His father, Berengar, was lord of the castle of Le Pallet, and although Peter was his eldest son, he early preferred "the conflicts of disputation to the trophies of arms," and, resigning the family inheritance of his brothers, betook himself to the life of a scholar. He was first a pupil of Rosellin, then of William archdeacon of Paris, and also of Ariselm, theological lecturer of Laon. But the long and extraordinary history of this man we need not follow. It is a history of victories, crimes, and misfortunes. He was at once the representative and the victim of that scholastic theology which endangered the power and the constitution of the Roman church. He was the first instance of a man professing the science of theology without being a priest. Wherever he went, thousands of enthusiastic scholars surrounded his chair. "Crowds," says Bernard's biographer, "amounting to thousands, crossed high mountains and broad seas, and endured every inconvenience of life, to enjoy the privilege of hearing Abelard lecture." "His eloquence," says another, "was so fascinating, that the listener found himself irresistibly carried away by the stream; and if an opponent was hardy enough to stand up against him, the acuteness of his logic was as infallible as the torrent of his oratory had been, and in every combat he carried away the prize."
Abelard wrote, as well as lectured, on many important subjects; but he was most unsound on the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. And yet in all Europe no champion of truth and orthodoxy could be found to meet in single combat this giant of heresy. Bernard of Clairvaux was at length appealed to. A letter from William, Abbot of St. Thierry, drew him from his cloister. The saint and the logician met at Sens in 1140. The King of France was present, with a great number of bishops and ecclesiastics. Abelard was surrounded with his disciples; Bernard with two or three monks. The one addressed the reason of the few; the other inflamed the hearts and passions of all classes. The one was supported by admirers; the ether by worshippers. The one had been denounced as a heretic; the other had the reputation of being the most holy man of his age, above kings, prelates, and even the pope. Under such circumstances Abelard had no chance. He soon felt the power that was against him; and, before the incriminated passages were all read, he rose up and said, to the astonishment of all present, "I refuse to hear more, or answer any questions; I appeal to Rome;" and left the assembly.
It is said by some, in explanation of this unexpected conduct, that the ranks of hostile faces which he saw before him, not only quenched his enthusiasm but made him feel that his life was in danger. Hearing that a report of the council had reached Rome, and that he was condemned by the pope, he applied in his distress to the "venerable" Peter of Cluny, who, from pity for his misfortunes, gave him an asylum in his monastery, though he was opposed to his doctrines.
We may just notice in passing, that the well-known story of the sufferings of his beautiful Eloisa gave birth to a new idea of woman's place in society, without which no true civilization could have taken place. Up to this period the church had avowedly looked with disdain on woman, because she had been first in the transgression. But the touching story of the misfortunes of Eloisa led to the elevation of woman to her proper place in the social circle.
The fallen and broken-hearted Abelard, after spending about two years in the solitudes of Cluny, receiving many kindnesses from its charitable abbot, and satisfying his ecclesiastical judges with the humility of his repentance, ended his agitated life in the year 1142. His principles lived in many of his disciples; one deserves a special notice.
Although Arnold passed as a disciple and a faithful follower of Abelard, it is evident from all we can gather that he was a man of another order. There is reason to believe that he was a sincere Christian, and possessed many of the elements of a reformer, though in an age unripe for reformation. Besides he was too political — too great an admirer of the old Roman Republic — to be used of God in laying a solid foundation for the reformation of His church. He was honored with martyrdom, but it was more for his advocacy of civil liberty than for his preaching subjection to Christ and the word of God. Nevertheless he commands our respect and gratitude, as an early sower of the seeds of the great Reformation.
Arnold was born at Brescia in Lombardy — probably about the year 1105. At an early period in his history he separated himself from the secular clergy, embraced the monastic life, and began to preach unsparingly against the corruptions of both the clergy and the monks. He seems to have been possessed of an inward conviction that he had a divine commission to preach against the pride, luxury, and immorality of the priesthood, from the pope himself down to the lowest rank in the church; and to this mission he boldly and fearlessly devoted all his strength. Possessed, according to all accounts, of the most vigorous and awakening style of address, combined with an eloquence which was singularly copious and flowing, he mightily moved the masses wherever he preached. "His words," says Bernard, "are smoother than oil and sharper than swords." His great idea was, the complete separation of Church and State. The old papal edifice — the hierarchy, which had been rising into such vast proportions ever since the days of Constantine, and which, under Gregory VII., aspired to govern the whole world, and to bind all the nations of the earth as so many fiefs of St. Peter — he boldly maintained should be utterly demolished and swept from the face of the earth. He used as his text, what many have done since, though not knowing its spiritual import, "My kingdom is not of this world." Ministers of the gospel, he argued, should have no power but for the spiritual government of the flock of Christ, and no riches but the tithes and the free-will offerings of the faithful. The immense evils and discords that arose in the church, he affirmed, were mainly owing to the vast riches of the pontiffs, bishops, and priests.
While there was a great deal of truth in much that he said, he blended, in the most painful way, his love of old Roman liberty and the lowly religion of Jesus — the rigid monk and the fierce Republican. "If poverty was of Christ," he would exclaim, "if poverty was of His apostles, if the only real living likenesses of the apostles and of Christ were the fasting, toiling, barely-clad monks, with their cheeks sunk with the famine, their eyes on the ground, how far from the apostles, how far from Christ, were those princely bishops, those lordly abbots, with their furred mantles of scarlet and purple, who ride forth on their curvetting palfreys, with their golden bits, their silver spurs, and holding their courts like kings? ' Consistently with this, he also taught the people "that the temporal sovereign is the proper fountain of honor, of wealth, of power, and to that fountain should revert all the possessions of the church, the estates of the monasteries, the royalties of the popes and the bishops."
To these new and dangerous doctrines the people of Brescia listened with the greatest ardor. He unfolded to them the dark pages of ecclesiastical history, over which we have just been travelling. The whole city was in a state of the greatest excitement. Nor can we wonder at the enthusiasm of the populace, when they heard that the riches of the clergy should return to the laity, and that, in future, their pastors were to be supported by the voluntary contributions of their flocks. He would be a bold preacher who dared to arouse the people to fanaticism with such appeals and proposals in the nineteenth century: what must he have been in the twelfth, in the midst of darkness, ignorance and superstition? Such a man was the premature reformer of Brescia; and, being a stern monk of blameless life, unquestioned as to his orthodoxy, and having full sympathy with popular religion, his power was resistless. The great object of his efforts was the complete overthrow of sacerdotal power — the temporal supremacy of the pope. He thus dared to lay his hand on the great papal scheme of universal dominion, and for a moment it tottered to its base. The pope was driven from his throne, the Republic proclaimed, the standard of liberty raised, the separation of the spiritual and temporal powers published, and the government of priests abolished. But the enthusiasm of the citizens was evanescent, without unity, and of short duration. The soil was not yet prepared for the growth of liberty. The iniquity of the anti-christian system was not yet full. Jezebel's thirst was not yet quenched with the blood of the saints of God. Millions more must perish before she receives her deadly wound. This we shall soon see.
Arnold was no longer safe in Italy. The resentment of the clergy he found to be stronger and deeper far than the favor of the populace. He escaped beyond the Alps, and ultimately found a safe and hospitable shelter in Zurich. There the forerunner of the famous Zwingle was allowed for a time to lecture, and the simple people long retained the spirit of his doctrines. But such a man must not be allowed to live anywhere. Bernard was watching his every movement. He urged the pope to extreme measures; he wrote angrily to those who gave him a shelter, warning them to beware of the fatal infection of heresy. He sharply rebuked the diocesan bishop of Zurich for protecting him. "Why," he says, "have you not long since driven Arnold away? He who consorts with the suspected becomes liable to suspicion; he who favors one under the papal excommunication contravenes the pope and even the Lord God Himself. Now therefore that you know your man, drive him from among you; or, better still, chain him down, that he may do no more mischief."
After various fortunes, such as are common to that class of men, and such as we need not here trace, Arnold returned to Rome. Here he was allowed to remain for some time because of the feebleness of the pontiff and the troubled state of the city; but when Pope Adrian ascended the throne of St. Peter, the days of Arnold were numbered.
The new pope was an Englishman of great ability; and the only one, it is said, that ever sat on the papal throne. He was originally a monk of St. Albans, but obliged to leave his home because of the severity of his father. After travelling for some time on the continent, and studying divinity and canon law with great ardor and success, and rising from rank to rank in ecclesiastical orders, he was at length raised to the highest order of ecclesiastical greatness by the name of Adrian IV. His English name was Nicolas Breakspeare.
An opportunity now presented itself to get rid of the bold reformer. The Emperor Barbarossa was on his way to receive from the hands of Adrian the imperial crown. He sent forward an embassy of three cardinals to meet the Emperor, and to request as the price of his coronation the surrender of Arnold of Brescia into his hands. To a man who thought so little of human life as Frederick, it seemed but a light thing indeed, and he compelled the friends of Arnold to deliver him up into the hands of the papal emissaries. No time was now to be lost, lest his friends should hear of it and attempt to rescue him. The church took upon itself the summary condemnation and execution of the rebel, without employing, as usual, the temporal sword. Before break of day the officer of the pope had imbrued his hands in the blood of his victim; his dead body was burned to ashes, and the remains cast into the Tiber, lest the people should collect and worship the relics of their martyred friend. The clergy triumphed in his death, but his memory lived in the minds of the Romans. "And in the ashes of Arnold's funeral pile," says Milman, "smouldered for centuries the fire, which was at length to blaze out in irresistible violence."
Bernard, the great antagonist of Abelard and of Arnold, had passed peacefully away at Clairvaux in the year 1153. The saint, the philosopher, and the reformer, are gone — gone to another world; gone to be judged, not by papal decrees, but by the throne of eternal righteousness and immaculate holiness. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the work which He finished for lost and guilty sinners, is the alone ground of pardon and acceptance in God's sight. There is no purgatory but the precious blood of His cross. But, what a mercy, that blood can make the vilest clean! "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Nothing short of the blood of Jesus can make a soul whiter than snow and fit for heaven. All other means are but a mockery, a delusion of Satan, which only deepens and perpetuates the guilt of the soul. "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin." Salvation is by faith alone without works of law. We must be grafted into the true vine before we can bear fruit to God. Christ is the only fruit-bearer; believers are branches. "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Apart from a true and living faith in Christ, there is no pardon, no salvation, no happiness, and no heaven; "but blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." (Ps 51:7,12; 1Jo 1:7; 2:6.)
We now return to our history, and first we would notice —
Were it not for a circumstance which we consider purely childish, the meeting between Adrian and Frederick might have been passed without a notice, so little does it concern the history of the church. But it concerns the history of the papacy, and we think it right to note everything which manifests its true spirit while in the Thyatiran period. Besides, the most trifling incident sometimes reveals the most deeply seated purpose, and betrays the most unyielding determination.
The ready grant of Arnold's blood had not removed from the dark mind of Adrian all suspicion as to Frederick's intentions. The negotiations, however, were at length satisfactory, and Adrian rode to the camp of Frederick. He was courteously received by some of the German nobles and conducted to the royal tent. The pope remained in his saddle, expecting the Emperor to come and hold his stirrup while he dismounted. But he waited in vain; Frederick made no advance, and the pope alighted without his assistance. This neglect of homage to the supreme pontiff was considered a great insult and indicative of hostilities. Most of the cardinals fled in alarm, but the intrepid Nicolas Breakspeare remained. Frederick pleaded ignorance of the custom; but the pope refused to be reconciled or give him the kiss of peace until he had humbled himself and gone through the ceremony. The haughty German said he must consult his nobles. A long discussion ensued. Adrian maintained that it had been the custom since the days of Constantine the Great, who held the stirrup for Pope Sylvester. This assertion was utterly false; as the first act of such homage had occurred about fifty years before by Conrad, the worthless and rebellious son of Henry IV. But that was a small matter to the papal party, if an emperor was to be humbled and the pope exalted. Alleged precedents were produced in order to prove that the practice had existed for eight hundred years; and consequently, "as the Emperor had declined the honors due to the apostles Peter and Paul, there could be no peace between the church and the empire till he had discharged that duty to the letter." Such was the blasphemous assumption of these wicked men. They urged their pretensions to the homage of mankind by representing themselves as in the place of the apostles — of Christ — of God Himself. As the evidence appeared in the pope's favor and Frederick did not mind much how it went, he allowed himself to be persuaded that the precedents were true, and that he ought to do homage to the pope. Accordingly on the following day, like a dutiful son of the church, the Emperor dismounted as Adrian approached, took his bridle in hand, and held his stirrup when he alighted. Outward amity was now restored, and the spiritual father and the obsequious son advanced towards the holy city and proceeded with the coronation.
After a reign of about four years, and, we may add, of ceaseless strife and bloodshed, Adrian died in 1159. He was preparing for the open declaration of war, and the excommunication of the Emperor, when death put an end to the conflict. So most of these men lived and so they died, at open war with the temporal power. Frederick Barbarossa is spoken of as the mightiest sovereign who had reigned in Europe since Charlemagne. He entered on the third Crusade, as we have seen, in 1189, and died, or was drowned, in the stream Saleph near Tarsus, in 1190.
Chapter 22 - The Encroachments of Rome in England A. D. 1162