During the seventh century the deep night of the Dark Ages[i][ii] covered the world. The corruptions of Greek and Roman Catholicism increased; their bitter controversies continued; and their permanent separation and hostility were foreshadowed. Mohammedanism, less idolatrous and corrupt than Greek Catholicism, arose in Arabia, conquered Palestine, Syria, Persia, Egypt and North Africa, and threatened Constantinople. The vigorous Roman Catholicism effected the ecclesiastical conquest of England, and reduced Spain to still humbler submission, and inaugurated a systematic persecution of the Jews in Spain. Wales, Ireland and Scotland remained ecclesiastically independent of Rome. Irish and Frankish missionaries labored with considerable success among the Germans. The Paulicians arose in Armenia and Asia Minor.
It is said that in 603 the Bishops (or Elders) of Wales held two conferences with Augustine, the envoy of Pope Gregory I., but were deterred by the haughtiness of the monk from submitting to the authority of Rome, and would not unite with him in proselyting the heathen Saxons; and, in accordance with his threat, thousands of the Welsh professors of Christianity were slain, a few years afterwards, by the Saxons. Theodore, a Greek monk of Tarsus, in Cilicia, was “consecrated” by Pope Vitalian, in 668, to be “Archbishop of Canterbury,” and retained the “primacy” of England till his death in 690. He diffused Greek learning over England, and has been called “the father of Anglo-Saxon literature;” and he energetically organized the Anglican episcopate, so that the latest and most approved English Episcopalian writers frankly admit that he is, “the father of their diocesan organization”—that “the church of England, as we know it today, is the work, so far as its outer form is concerned, of Theodore;” and that “the Church of England, perhaps more directly than any other church in Europe, is the daughter of the Church of Rome.”
As the Monophysitic controversy, as to whether in Christ there are two natures or only one, lasted a hundred years; so it was continued for fifty years, from 630 to 680, in the Monothelitic controversy, as to whether there are in the one person of Christ two wills for the two natures, or only one will for the two natures. “There was a confusion in the use of the term will; the one party employing it as equivalent to that which manifests the person; the other as meaning that which manifests the nature. The Sixth General Council of Constantinople, in 680, decided in favor of the Roman view of Two Wills, declaring a moral unity by the subordination of the human to the Divine. The sum of these Christological controversies is as follows: Christ is perfect God and perfect man; one Person, two natures; with two wills, or modes of manifestation. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (said the Greek ‘Church’), and from the Son (said the Latin ‘Church’).
The Quinisextan Council of Constantinople (supplementary to the Fifth and Sixth Councils), in 692, allowed the marriage of priests, declared the equality of Constantinople and Rome, and is the great authority with the Greek “Church”; but has always been rejected by the Latin “Church;” and has thus for thirteen centuries been “a perpetual apple of discord” between these two anti-christian communions.
The first pseudo-Christian systematic persecution of the Jews occurred in Spain during this century. In the course of sixty years eight councils were held against them. The Jews were forbidden to act, or speak, or even think, against the Christian faith. Deprivation of civil rights, scourging, imprisonment, confiscation, banishment, slavery and mutilation were decreed against these most industrious and thrifty of the Spanish population. It is said that ninety thousand were thus forced to submit to a pretended baptism; and multitudes fled into France.
“The seventh century of Christianity,” says Milman, “beheld a new religious revolution, only inferior in the extent of its religious and social influence to Christianity itself. In an obscure district of a country esteemed by the civilized world as beyond its boundaries, a savage, desert and almost inaccessible region, suddenly arose an antagonistic religion (Mohammedanism) which was to reduce the followers of Zoroaster to a few scattered communities, to invade India, and tread under foot the ancient Brahmanism, as well as the more wide-spread Buddhism, even beyond the Ganges; to wrest her most ancient and venerable provinces from (a corrupted nominal) Christianity; to subjugate by degrees the whole of her Eastern dominions, and Roman Africa from Egypt to the Straits of Gibraltar; to assail Europe at its western extremity; to possess the greater part of Spain, and even to advance to the banks of the Loire; more than ever to make the elder Rome tremble for her security, and finally to establish itself in triumph within the new Rome of Constantine (Constantinople). Asiatic ‘Christianity’ sank more and more into obscurity. It dragged on its existence within the Mohammedan empire as a contemptuously tolerated religion; in the Byzantine empire it had still strength to give birth to new controversies—that of Iconoclasm, and even still later that concerning the Divine light. Yet its aggressive vigor had entirely departed, and it was happy to be allowed inglorious repose, to take no part in that great war waged by the two powers, now the only two active, dominant powers, which contested the dominion of the world—Mohammedanism and Latin ‘Christianity.’ “From the ninth to the thirteenth century the Mohammedans may be said to have been the enlightened teachers of barbarous Europe; and then Mohammedanism sank back into its primeval barbarism.” Mohammed was born at Mecca, Arabia, about the year 570 A. D.; began preaching his religion in 610; fled from Mecca to Medina in 622; and died in 682. He had effected the conquest of Arabia, and was about to send a powerful array into Syria, when he died. He was a descendant of Ishmael, and was related to the Korashites, the hereditary guardians of the irregular cubical building in Mecca called the Kaaba, which, long before Mohammed’s time, was the central shrine of Arabian idolatry. This building contained in its northeast corner, about five feet above the ground, a black stone, an irregular oval, seven inches in diameter, of volcanic basalt, sprinkled with colored crystals, (supposed to have been an aerolite, but) claimed to have been brought from Heaven by the angel Gabriel and given to Ishmael; said at first to have been white, but now blackened by the kisses of sinful mortals. Pilgrimages to Mecca, and traveling around the Kaaba, and kissing the black stone, are among the most solemn duties enjoined by Mohammed upon his followers. Though claiming to be a monotheist, he thus accommodated his religion to the previous idolatry of Arabia. He restricted ordinary Mohammedans to four wives;[iii][iv] but allowed chieftains as many as they wished; and the estimate of the number of his own wives varies from thirteen to twenty-five. His first wife, Kadijah, was a wealthy widow; and his favorite wife, Ayesha, was a beautiful girl but nine years old when he married her, he being fifty-three years of age. He was subject to epileptic fits from his childhood, and was, in all probability, a partially insane religious fanatic, or mono-maniac. He says that he never knew how to read or write. He pretended that his fits were interviews with the angel Gabriel; and the so-called revelations that he dictated were recorded and preserved by others and, after his death, gathered into a book called the Koran—the Mohammedan Bible. Mohammed was a licentious, ambitious and vindictive man; and his religion was a strange compound of truth and error, of Judaism, Rabbinism, Christianity, Heathenism and Fatalism. The most of the Arabs were heathens; but many Jews and professed Christians had gradually settled in Arabia. Mohammed’s first wife’s cousin, Waraka, originally a Jew, and subsequently a professor of Christianity, was the first man on record to translate parts of the Old and New Testaments into Arabic, and he gave Mohammed much information in regard to the Scriptures. Mohammed admitted that the Old and New Testaments were divinely inspired, but had become corrupted; that numerous prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, had preceded him, and that Jesus was the greatest before him, but not the Son of God. He claimed that he himself was the last and greatest of the prophets—the Paraclete, or Comforter, predicted by Jesus in John 14:16; pretending that the genuine word in that passage was, not parakletos, but periklutos, the praised or renowned, equivalent to Mohammed in Arabic. His leading doctrine was, “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.” He taught the utter dependence of all creatures upon the one, almighty, eternal, infinite, spiritual Creator; but he did not teach the loving, fatherly relationship and communion of God with His creatures. Though professing to teach the doctrines of the absolute predestination of all things,[v][vi] he certainly, inconsistently taught the doctrine of salvation by outward works, such as formal prayers, fastings, alms, lustrations, festivals, pilgrimages, the subjugation of infidels and the extermination of idolaters; that prayer will carry a man half-way to God, and fasting will bring him to the door of His palace, and alms will gain him admittance. He enjoined circumcision and the observance of Friday as the Sabbath. The fundamental feature of Christianity—man’s indispensable need of salvation by the mediation of a spotless and almighty redeemer—was entirely omitted from the teaching of Mohammed. He taught that there are degrees of reward in Heaven and of punishment in hell, according to the actions of each person in this world; that, at the last day, a mighty balance will be poised by the angel Gabriel, and each human being will separately be tried by it, his good deeds being put in one scale, and his bad deeds in the other, and an atom or grain of mustard seed will suffice to turn the balance and decide the destiny of the person. Like other founders of false religions, Mohammed described, in the fullest and grossest manner, the horrors of hell and the joys of Heaven; and he placed, among the latter, each believer’s possession of seventy-two black-eyed maidens, of ravishing beauty and perpetual youth. “Under the shade of the scimitar,” said he, to encourage his deluded soldiers, “is the gate of ; hell is behind you if you flee, and before you if you fall.” The alternative of the Koran or death was offered to idolaters; but Jews and Christians might, by tribute, purchase a limited toleration. Spirituous liquors, swine’s flesh, gambling and picture-making were strictly prohibited by Mohammed; and he copied into his system many of the moral precepts of the Bible. No religion was ever less original. Mohammedanism is a cosmopolitan, Christless, perverted, bastard, unspiritual Judaism, and, in many respects, bears a striking resemblance to Papal Babylon and her daughters. The Koran, says Gibbon, is an “endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept and declamation, which seldom excites a sentiment or idea, which sometimes crawls in the dust, and is sometimes lost in the clouds. The Divine attributes exalt the fancy of the Arabian missionary; but his loftiest strains must yield to the sublime simplicity of the book of Job, composed in a remote age, in the same country, and in the same language.” Mohammed suffered great pain in his last moments, and his last words were: “The Lord destroy the Jews and Christians! O God! pardon my sins. Yes, I come among my fellow-citizens on high.” Two hundred million human beings today, it is estimated, base their eternal salvation on the intercession of this vindictive, licentious and deluded sinner. Of this number about one hundred millions are found in southern and western Asia and in Turkey in Europe; and about a hundred millions are found in Africa, composing one-half of the estimated population of that Grand Division of the globe; so that Mohammedanism may be fitly called the religion of the Dark Continent. Its chief training theological school is the University of Cairo, with its ten thousand missionary students from all parts of the Mohammedan world. “In winning the inferior races, and training them to a fervent worship of its own and a certain low level of culture, it has shown an aptness, skill and zeal quite in advance of any ‘Christian’ missions. Its bleak monotheism,[vii][viii] its lifeless morality, its somber fatalism, its intolerant fanaticism, its gorgeous luxury, and its extreme profligacy, have contributed to its missionary success. Science it treats with ignorant scorn. The arts of modern life it takes at second hand, choosing always those of mere luxury, or else mere destruction. And so it has no hold upon the future, only the memory of a bloody and stormy past. While it may be an advance on heathenism, it is an advance which seems almost to exclude the further advance of Christianity. In substituting Mohammed for Christ—a principle similar to that of all false religions—it is of course essentially antichristian.” “In thirteen distinct places in the Koran, Mohammed expressly disclaims the power of working miracles. He commanded his army in person in eight general engagements, and undertook, by himself or his lieutenants, fifty military enterprises. From the success of Mohammedanism no inference whatever can be justly drawn to the prejudice of Christianity. For what are we comparing? A Galilean peasant, accompanied by a few fishermen, without natural force, power or support, prevailing against the prejudices, learning, hierarchy, philosophy and authority of the Roman Empire in its most polished period—with a conquering chieftain, at the head of his army, bearing down opposition by military triumphs, in the darkest ages and countries of the world.”—Wm. Paley.
The Paulicians arose in Armenia in the latter part of the seventh century, and were probably so called because they especially emphasized the great spiritual principles enunciated by the Apostle Paul. The accounts of them transmitted to us (their own books having been burned) were written two hundred years afterward by their inveterate Catholic enemies; and Gibbon well remarks that, “as they cannot plead for themselves, our candid criticism will magnify the good, and abate or suspect the evil, reported of them.” Their enemies accused them of being Manicheans; but this was denied by them. It is said that many of them were anti-Judaizing Gnostics, maintaining the eternal existence and evil of matter, and that the visible world was fashioned by an inferior evil deity, born of darkness and fire, whom they called the Demiurge (a Platonic term meaning world-creator), and that the Old Testament was the work of the Demiurge, and was therefore to be rejected; that the Demiurge was constantly drawing from the higher world human souls that had been created by the supreme God, and was imprisoning them in material bodies, but that every human soul was enlightened by the Spirit of God, and was able to attain eternal life. Of the New Testament, they received the gospels and the epistles of Paul. The Paulician movement seems to have been an extreme dualistic reaction against the extreme Judaistic corruptions of the Catholic ‘Churches’—a peremptory abandonment of the innumerable superstitious doctrines and ceremonies of human invention, and an earnest though imperfect desire to return to the simple purity of apostolic doctrine and practice, even though the Divine origin of the material creation and of the Old Testament should have to be relinquished—a preliminary excessive Protestantism arising in the East eight hundred years before the dawn of the Western Protestant Reformation. Paul did not reject, but powerfully maintained, the Divine origin both of the material creation and of the Old Testament; and those professing to follow him should not have been led, by any amount or extent of Catholic corruptions, into such anti-Pauline rationalistic extremes. The Paulicians utterly rejected the worship of saints and relics and images and the cross, and the magical power of external forms, particularly the sacraments, and the odious despotism of an avaricious and corrupt clergy. They are said to have rejected all outward ordinances. Even their enemies admitted the strict morality of their lives. Their ministers, to whom they gave not even the title of Elders, traveled and preached very much, though they worked at some secular employment for a livelihood. Their two most famous preachers were Constantine in the seventh and Sergius in the ninth century, the first of whom suffered martyrdom, and the second assassination. The Greek Catholic emperors greatly persecuted them, especially in the ninth century, the Empress Theodora, it is said, putting to death, with dreadful tortures, a hundred thousand of them. A renewal of persecutions in the eleventh century drove them into Southern Europe, where, with some modifications of doctrine, they were known as Bogomiles or Bulgarians in Turkey, Patarenes in Italy, Cathari in Germany, and Albigenses in France; the Waldenses in Northern Italy and the Wyckliffites in England were spiritual and anti-sacerdotal, like the Paulicians, but less extreme and more Biblical. Some people, calling themselves Paulicians, are still found in Turkey. It can hardly be doubted that there were numerous Christians among the ancient Paulicians, and that, as in the case of the Apostle Paul, slanderous reports have been made of their doctrine (Rom. 3:8). The seventh century was, to be sure, a period of gross darkness; but, to the present writer, it is utterly inconsistent and incredible that the Paulicians, as a body, implicitly accepted and highly esteemed the writings of the Apostle Paul, and at the same time utterly rejected the Old Testament Scriptures, which he so greatly honored as the oracles of God. But it may well be believed that they thoroughly, and often even violently, opposed that total perversion of the Old Testament, that substitution of the law for the gospel, which is the characteristic of all false religions, and which the Apostle Paul is especially distinguished for denouncing.
Mr. William Jones, a very conscientious historian, does not doubt that the Paulicians were “the genuine successors of the Christians of the first two centuries,” sealing their testimony with their blood; and he quotes, in reference especially to their pastors, the following touching lines of the poet Colton:
“Thrice hail, ye faithful shepherds of the fold,
Some of the Paulicians, or at least some who bore that name, took refuge from Catholic persecutions with the Saracens, or Mohammedans, and, in alliance with the latter, waged war with their merciless Greek enemies—a “warring after the flesh,” and with “carnal weapons,” utterly condemned by the Apostle Paul and by Christ (Rom. 12:14-21; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-18; Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).
Eighth Century.—The eighth century may be said to close the First Watch, and to advance into the Second Watch of the Night of the Dark Ages. The Mohammedans, or Saracens, after conquering Spain and southern France, were repulsed with immense slaughter by Charles Martel at Tours, in France, A. D. 732, just one hundred years after the death of Mohammed, and were driven back into Spain. Pepin the Short, the son of Charles Mattel (encouraged by Pope Zachary, in order to increase the papal influence over France), dethroned, in 752, Chilperic III., the last of the Merovingian kings of France, and assumed the French crown, thus founding the Carlovingian dynasty, the champions of Roman Catholicism. The Exarchate of Ravenna, with its inseparable dependency of the Pentapolis, in Central Italy, having belonged to the Eastern Roman Empire since the time of Justinian, was, in 751, conquered by Astolphus, king of the Lombards, who also threatened Rome. Pope Stephen III. addressed a letter to Pepin, pretendedly “in the name and person of the Apostle Peter himself,” and urged him, under the penalty of eternal damnation if he refused, and upon the promise of if he consented, to undertake the defeat of Astolphus and the deliverance of Rome. Pepin complied and succeeded, and, as he says, “for the remission of his sins and the salvation of his soul,” conferred on the Roman Pontiff the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Pentapolis, A. D. 754, and this grant was confirmed and enlarged by Pepin’s son and successor, Charlemagne. The donation of Pepin founded the temporal power of the pope, which lasted eleven hundred and fifteen years, until, in 1870, at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war, Napoleon III. withdrew all his soldiers from Italy, and Victor Emmanuel II. took possession of Rome. “The mutual obligations of the popes and the Carlovingian family,” says Gibbon, “form the important link of ancient and modern, of civil and ecclesiastical, history.” Charlemagne reigned forty-six years (768-814). He made the first and last successful attempt to consolidate the Teutonic and Roman races in one great empire. December 25th, A. D. 800, Pope Leo III. crowned and anointed him in Rome, as Caesar Augustus, the Emperor of the Romans. He reigned in France, in Spain as far as the Ebro, in Germany, in Hungary, and in the greatest part of Italy. His dominion was called the “Holy Roman Empire,” because allied with the pope, and, with varying boundaries, lasted a thousand and six years, until, in 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte compelled Francis of Austria to abdicate the title, and himself claimed, by his own military prowess, to be the true successor of Charlemagne.
The Saracenic invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire, the rising power of the Frankish Empire, the conquest by the latter of the kingdom of Lombardy and of the exarchate of Ravenna, and the iconoclasm of the Greek emperors (to be spoken of presently), produced, in the eighth century, the final severance of Rome and Constantinople, of Latin and Greek “Christianity,” and allied the pope with the new Empire of the West, which he now perforce acknowledged as his “lord and judge”—designing, however, just as soon as possible, to assert both temporal and spiritual supremacy over the new Roman Empire, as well as over all the remainder of the world.
Charlemagne, the pope’s new lord, whose figure stands at one end, as that of Constantine, a similar churchman, stands at the other end, of the stately porch of “St. Peter’s” at Rome, was an illiterate barbarian, though a professed patron of learning, a very licentious and ambitious man, a vigorous ruler and a bloody warrior. He had nine wives or concubines, and a number of dissolute daughters; he fought, in thirty-three bloody campaigns, during as many years, with the Saxons, Bohemians and Huns, professedly to civilize and Christianize them, compelling thousands of them to be baptized or to suffer death. He once slew forty-five hundred Saxon prisoners in cold blood; and finally effected the conquest of the Saxons by deporting ten thousand families, one-third of their entire population, and settling them in France. He was, says Milman, “the Mohammedan Apostle of the Gospel.” He is said to have restored 3,700 “church” buildings; and he ordered tithes to be paid to the “clergy.”
For a hundred years Irish and Frankish monks had been laboring as “missionaries” in Germany; but he who is known in history as “the Apostle of Germany,” and of whom even Smith’s recent and elaborate “Dictionary of Christian Biography” remarks that, “since the days of the great Apostle of the Gentiles no missionary of the gospel has been more eminent in labors, in perils, in self-devotion, in tenacity and elasticity of purpose,” was the English Saxon, Winfried, who, after having been made a ‘Bishop’ by the pope, assumed the name of Boniface, by which he is generally known. He resolved to preach among his Saxon kindred in Germany, whom he could address in his and their mother-tongue, and to convert them from paganism to Roman Catholicism. In 718 he went to Rome and took “a stringent oath of fealty to the pope ;” and, “with undoubting faith in the Roman Pontiff,” “with a large stock of relics,” with the powerful protection of Charles Martel, and with a considerable “retinue of monks and nuns,” he set out on his missionary tour through Germany. He had great apparent success. He baptized thousands, and destroyed great numbers of heathen temples, and erected so-called “church” buildings in their stead; but when he visited his converts again he found them about as Pagan as ever. The well-informed and candid Lutheran historian, Mosheim, remarks: “This eminent prelate was an apostle of modern fashion, and had, in many respects, departed from the excellent model exhibited in the conduct and ministry of the primitive and true Apostles. Besides his zeal for the glory and authority of the Roman Pontiff, which equaled, if it did not surpass, his zeal for the service of Christ and the propagation of His religion, many other things, unworthy of a true Christian minister, are laid to his charge. In combating the Pagan superstitions he did not always use those arms with which the ancient heralds of the gospel gained such victories in behalf of the truth; but often employed violence and terror, and sometimes artifice and fraud, in order to multiply the number of Christians. His epistles, moreover, discover an imperious and arrogant temper, a cunning and insidious turn of mind, an excessive zeal for increasing the honors and pretensions of the sacerdotal order, and a profound ignorance of many things of which the knowledge was absolutely necessary in an apostle, and particularly of the true nature and genius of the Christian religion. He bound the new German “Church” to Rome more firmly, says Gieseler, than the English was. “During the eighth century,” says Mr. H. B. Smith, “Rome, France, Germany and England came into an alliance which determined the course and progress of history for another seven hundred and fifty years, to the era of the Reformation.” It is related of Boniface that when, in 755, he was assailed by a band of Pagan Saxons, he forbade his few attendants from fighting: “he betook himself to the refuge of spiritual defense, taking (that is) the relics of saints which he always had with him ;”[ix][x] and its this last refuge, of course, failed him, he and his company were slain. Such was the mournful end of one considered by many the greatest missionary since the days of the Apostles.
The Iconoclastic (or image-breaking) controversy lasted from 716 to 842. Both the Greek and the Roman Catholics had long been utterly sunk in the Pagan worship of images or pictures of Biblical personages. In the eighth and ninth centuries six Eastern Roman Emperors assembled councils and issued decrees against this degrading idolatry; but they could not change the hearts of their paganized subjects, and, therefore, they achieved only a temporary success. The monks, the ignorant and corrupt priestly rulers of the people, monopolized the manufacture of the images and accumulated wealth thereby. Seeing their craft in danger, they contended with all their might against the imperial decrees. They invented lying wonders in regard to the images, built up sophistical arguments, declared that a failure to worship images was worse than the vilest sins, and they succeeded in thus deluding and persuading the people until other emperors arose who seconded their efforts and again (A. D. 842) legalized the old idolatry. The popes of Rome zealously favored the worship of images all the time, and used their “accustomed policy by elevating the popular idolatrous feeling into a dogma of the faith.” The Germans, under Charlemagne, in the Council of Frankfort, A. D. 794, declared not against the use but against the worship of images, as idol-worship was the practice of the Pagans against whom they fought. This decision helped to restrain the pope’s championship of images until the death of Charlemagne.
A Greek monk, John of Damascus, in the civil employ of the Mohammedan caliph, was the ablest defender of image worship. He was said to have been “a child of light from his birth,” and was the most learned man in the East. He advocated the worship of images in three elegant orations, which were rapidly and widely distributed by the monks; and he declared that opposition to such worship was Manicheism, as representing matter as essentially evil. No wonder that the spiritual-minded Paulicians, who abominated idolatry, were stigmatized as Manicheans. And no wonder, either, that the spiritually blind and dead honored John Damascenus, the child of darkness, as “a child of light.” Mingling Aristotelianism, traditionalism and Pelagianism, he also wrote a summary of Greek Catholic theology, which was the standard of faith in that communion for a thousand years.
The clergy of this century were distinguished by their increasing wealth and power and pretensions, by their luxury, gluttony and licentiousness. “The true religion of Jesus,” says Mosheim, “was almost utterly unknown in this century, not only to the multitude in general, but also the doctors of the first rank and eminence in the ‘church’ and the consequences of this corrupt ignorance were fatal to the interests of virtue. All orders of men, regardless of the obligations of morality, of the duties of the gospel, and of the culture and improvement of their minds, rushed headlong with a perfect security into all sorts of wickedness, from the delusive hopes that, by external ceremonies, by donations to the clergy or the ‘church’, by the intercession and prayers of the saints, and the credit of the priests at the throne of God, they might easily obtain the remission of their enormities, and render the Deity propitious.”
The conflicts between the Mohammedans and the Greek Catholics in the eighth century operated to the deliverance of the Paulicians from much severe persecution.
Ninth Century.—The darkness overspreading nominal Christendom is further intensified during the ninth century—the century of the full establishment of the worship of images and relics, of the increase of ignorance and superstition and corruption, of monasticism and priestly and papal pretensions, of the Forged Papal Decrees and of the Papal Pornocracy, of the invention of the doctrine of transubstantiation, of the incursions of the Saracens and Northmen, and of the terrible persecution of the Paulicians.
“In the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries of the Christian era,” says Gibbon, “the reign of the gospel and of the church was extended over Bulgaria, Hungary, Bohemia, Saxony, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Russia. The triumphs of apostolic zeal were repeated in the iron age of Christianity; and the northern and eastern regions of Europe submitted to a religion more different in theory than in, practice from the worship of their native idols. The leaders of nations, who were saluted with the titles of kings and saints, held it lawful and pious to impose the Catholic faith on their subjects and neighbors. Yet truth and candor must acknowledge that the conversion of the North imparted many temporal benefits both to the old and the new Christians. The rage of war, inherent to the human species, could not be healed by the evangelic precepts of charity and peace; and the ambition of Catholic princes has renewed in every age the calamities of hostile contention. But the admission of the barbarians into the pale of civil and ecclesiastical society delivered Europe from the depredations, by sea and land, of the Normans, the Hungarians and the Russians, who learned to spare their brethren and cultivate their possessions. The establishment of law and order was promoted by the influence of the clergy; and the rudiments of art and science were introduced into the savage countries of the globe.” Mosheim says that “the pious missionaries were content with introducing an external profession of the true religion among their new proselytes; but it must be confessed that the doctrine they taught was far from being conformable to the pure and excellent rules of faith and practice laid down by our Divine Savior and his holy Apostles; for their religious system was corrupted by a variety of superstitious rites and a multitude of absurd inventions.”
Louis, surnamed the Pious, was the only surviving legitimate son of Charlemagne, and reigned over his father’s empire from 814 to 840. He vainly undertook a reformation of the corrupt “Church” and State. and destroyed the unity of his empire by successive partitions among his sons; and in 887 the empire was finally divided into the three great States of France, Germany and Italy.
The popes strove continually and successfully to decrease the power of the emperors and the “Bishops,” and to increase their own power. The feuds attending the dissolution of the Charlemagne monarchy favored these attempts. The ungodly ambition of the popes was further and very greatly favored by the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals—the grandest forgery of ancient or modern times; a compilation made about 850 by some Frankish ecclesiastic, from the Bible, from his own inventions, from patristic, monkish, papal, legal and historical writers (thirty-five, or one-third, of the Decretals, in reference to the acts of the first pretended popes, being the compiler’s invention), for the purpose of advancing the claims of sacerdotalism, sacramentalism and papalism—“to legitimate the authority of the priesthood, to make the church independent of secular control, and to vindicate the claims of Rome.” “Upon these spurious Decretals,” says Hallam, “was built the great fabric of papal supremacy over the different national churches—a fabric which has stood after its foundation crumbled beneath it; for no one has pretended to deny, for the last two centuries, that the imposture is too palpable for any but the most ignorant ages to credit.” The forgery is detected by the glaring anachronisms and monstrous ignorance of history; and yet the hypocritical sanctimoniousness of Rome pervades the work, “the whole being composed with an air of profound piety and reverence, a specious purity, and occasionally beauty, in the moral and religious tone,” says Milman. Nowhere was the work better known to have been a forgery than in Rome, and yet Pope Nicholas I. (858-867) and his successors unblushingly appealed to these fabrications to sustain their unparalleled pretensions to universal supremacy.
What is called the Papal Pornocracy, or Rule of Adulterous Popes, extended from 881 to 936.
“Monasticism made rapid progress with the progress of the papacy, and led to greater reliance on external works. The celibacy of the clergy was enforced by new laws, and attended by new scandals.”
In 842 occurred the final establishment of image worship, along the Greek Catholics, by the decision of a council at Constantinople, commemorated ever since by what is called by those deluded idolaters “The Feast of Orthodoxy.”
To satisfy the enormous demand for miracle-working relics, the names and histories of “saints” were invented by a corrupt clergy, and the carcasses of these Catholic divinities were sought by fasting and prayer and perilous voyages, and by violence and theft; and even the “saints” clothes and furniture and the ground that they had touched were supposed to have virtue to heal all diseases of body and mind, and to defend their possessors against all assaults of Satan.
In 831 Paschasius Radbert, a French monk, published a book in which he promulgated and expounded his monstrous theory of transubstantiation that the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, after having been consecrated by the priest, became the actual body and blood of Christ, the same flesh in which He was born and died and rose; and not simply the commemorative emblems of Christ’s body and blood. This amazing innovation produced great opposition at first, but gradually gained ground, and was decreed as an article of faith by the Romish “Church,” at the instance of Pope Innocent III., in the fourth Lateran Council, A. D. 1215.
During the ninth century the Saracens conquered Crete, Cyprus, Corsica and Sicily, and ravaged the coasts of Italy and France. At various times from the eighth to the twelfth centuries the Northmen, or Norsemen, or Normans, or Danes, or Eastmen, or Vikings, or Sea-kings, from Denmark, Sweden and Norway, leaving their cold, sterile and overcrowded countries, became the terror and scourge of the British Isles and of the maritime and Mediterranean coasts of Europe. They were a warlike, vigorous and brilliant race; and large numbers of them, settling at various points, are said to have infused new life into the effete, priest-ridden populations of Europe. They discovered Iceland in 860, Greenland in 876, and the mainland of North America in 986, it is said. In 919 Charles the Simple, king of France, gave his daughter and the province of Normandy to Rollo, the leader of a band of Norse rovers, on the condition that the latter should make a profession of Christianity, which they readily did; and in another generation it is said that “they became among the most devout of the French nation.”
During the ninth century, through all the provinces of the Greek Empire, confiscation and capital punishment, with exquisite tortures, were inflicted upon the Paulicians, the Empress Theodora, in 845, putting to death a hundred thousand of them.
Gottschalk, a Saxon monk in a French monastery, where he was placed by his parents and kept against his will, studied intently the writings of Augustine, and became an enthusiastic believer in a double predestination—the predestination of the elect to salvation, and of the non-elect to damnation; while Augustine had simply maintained the doctrine of the preterition or passing-by of the non-elect as complementary to his doctrine of the predestination of the elect to salvation. In his doctrine of reprobation, or the absolute or unconditional predestination of the wicked to everlasting damnation, Gottschalk has been called the supple-reenter of Augustinianism and the anticipator of Calvinism; but he seems, like Calvin, to have shrunk from the blasphemy of attributing the cause of sin to God, and to have vacillated between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, the doctrine of the Divine permission and the Divine efficiency in reference to sin. For his joint heresy and contumacy, as they were called, he was inhumanly scourged and imprisoned for twenty years by his ecclesiastical superior, Hincmar, the Archbishop of Rheims, a haughty tyrant, and one of the chief advocates of the Forged Papal Decretals. He died in prison, without making any recantation—Hincmar denying him the final communion and burial in “consecrated” ground. Gottschalk was a trinitarian, and accused Hincmar of Sabellianism. John Scotus Erigena, one of the leading opponents of Gottschalk, identified religion with philosophy, and wandered off into Pelagianism, Origenism, rationalism, pantheism; and has been called “the father of medieval speculation, and the forerunner, by nearly a thousand years, of the newest forum of transcendental free thought, that is, of Emersonianism.
One of the chief scenes of relief in this dark century was the ministry of Claudius of Turin, in northwest Italy, 814-839. He was appointed to that bishopric by the Emperor Louis, in whose household he had ministered, by whom he was highly regarded, and by whose authority he was preserved from the rage of his enemies. He was an earnest and profound student of the writings of Paul and Augustine, and became a bold and powerful and uncompromising advocate of a pure spiritual Christianity. He denied the supremacy of the pope, and declared that Christ is the only Head of the church. He denounced, in the severest terms, the worship of the cross and of images and of relics and of any creature—proclaiming that God the Creator is the only proper object of worship. He zealously opposed the invocation of saints, the folly of pilgrimages, the evils of monasticism, and the meritoriousness of good works; and maintained that human nature is totally depraved, and hence that the whole of man’s salvation is by grace alone. He stirred up a large number of enemies, who would have destroyed him if they had dared.
I feel satisfied that Milman is correct in supposing that the scriptural views of Claudius of Turin lay concealed in the Piedmontese Alps to reappear in the Waldenses of the twelfth century.
Tenth Century.—The tenth century brings us to the dismal midnight of the Dark Ages in European “Christendom.” Politics, society, religion and morals were all adrift. Ignorance, superstition, relic worship, saint worship, Mariolatry, ceremonialism, sacerdotalism, papalism, covetousness, warfare, drunkenness and debauchery were almost universal. Few of the monks, and scarcely any one else, could read or write. Throughout so-called Christian Europe schools were well-nigh abolished; though this was the golden age of Arabic literature in Spain. The Papal Pornocracy continued. “Theodora, a wealthy Roman widow, with her two daughters, Theodora and Marozia, as beautiful and profligate as herself, were enabled to fill the papal chair with their paramours, their children, and their grandchildren.” Even Romanist writers admit these horrible facts, and call this the “Iron Age” of their “church.” The “Holy Roman Empire,” so-called, was revived by Otho I. of Germany (936-973), who, by the appointment of Bruno, and still more by that of the French monk Gerbert (Sylvester II.) to the papacy, in the room of the profligate priests of Italy, began a Teutonic reform of papal morals. The popes, all the while, made silent but sure progress towards realizing their claims for universal supremacy. Some of the Scandinavian and Sclavonian tribes were converted to Catholicism. “The completion of the first Christian Millennium,” says Mr. Philip Smith, “marks also the epoch at which Christianity had reached nearly all the nations of Europe; though its profession was only fully established in the course of three centuries more. We purposely say its ‘profession’ for we must still bear in mind the difference between the simple primitive preaching of the gospel to hearers who received it by the mind and heart, and its propagation by the power of the sword, by political alliances, or by marriages of Christian princesses with barbarian kings, who made their subjects follow their adoption of a new religion.” These rough methods of “conversion” were followed by the milder and more insinuating and persistent schemes of the Romanist monks.
The clergy, during this century, became exceedingly wealthy and corrupt—possessing about half the landed property of Europe, and many of the ‘Bishops’ becoming dukes and nobles, and leading their armies to battle. The Feudal System was, in this century, thoroughly established in western Europe, making the tenure not only to property, but to offices, titles and ranks, hereditary; and mailed barons and surpliced priests ruled over the land. Louis V., the last of the Carlovingian dynasty, dying in France, Hugh Capet, making concessions to the Catholic authorities, and indorsed by the pope, seized the throne, which has ever since been filled by one of his descendants, except under the Bonapartes and the Republic.
In 964 was the first solemn “baptism” of a bell of the pope, the vain unscriptural ceremony taking place in “the Church of the Lateran” at Rome. The first instance on record of “the canonization of a saint” occurred in 993. Relics were greatly multiplied during this century. Among these Catholic fetishes are mentioned the blood, the shoes, and tear of Christ, a picture of Christ, crosses that fell from Heaven, a rib of Matthew, and hair of John the Baptist. The doctrines of purgatory, and transubstantiation, and the papal primacy, and traditionalism, and Semi-Pelagianism, were greatly enhanced in this midnight century. There was an increased reliance on outward and ceremonial works, and less trust reposed in the atoning mediation of the Lord Jesus. The great increase of corruption and the false interpretation of Revelation 20 created an almost universal expectation that the world would be destroyed in the year A. D. 1000; and the minds of wretched mortals were for a season overwhelmed with consternation and despair. Still, idleness and vice and crime increased; robberies and murders abounded; it is even said that cannibalism was resorted to. Many gave all their property or themselves to the “churches” or priests; many hastened to Palestine, where they supposed that Christ would descend from Heaven to judge the world; great numbers, when an eclipse occurred, fled for refuge to the deep caverns of the mountains. Multitudes would sleep nowhere but in the porches or within the shadow of the church buildings. The Catholic priests made great worldly gains out of these superstitious fears, which they diligently and successfully endeavored to excite during the last quarter of this century.
Dunstan, “Archbishop of Canterbury” (959-988), succeeded by his energy and imposture, notwithstanding great opposition, in establishing Benedictine monasteries throughout England.
During the tenth century the Paulicians, we are told, “emigrated from Bulgaria, and spread themselves throughout every province of Europe.”
The Northmen, Saracens and Hungarians made repeated depredations upon Catholic Europe during this century.
The world was so dead during the tenth century that there are said to have been not even any religious controversies nor any new religious sects or commotions.
Eleventh Century.—Only the faintest starlight of truth is seen in Catholic Europe during this century, appearing to us, as we peer through the thick darkness, chiefly in France and Northern Italy, and diligently sought to be extinguished by the Roman hierarchy. A few of God’s “hidden ones”’ were no doubt, in this obscure age, scattered through all the countries of Europe; but the accounts of them transmitted to us are exceedingly scanty and unsatisfactory. Their own statements and books were considered heretical, and were burned by the Romanists.
As Mystery Babylon occupies a large space in Scripture prophecy, so it does in Christian history. A delineation of the Masterpiece of Satan is necessary to give us a proper idea of the nature and extent of the sufferings of God’s people who were persecuted by the Second Beast. The eleventh was the century of Gothic architecture, of increased ritualism and sacerdotalism, of increased penances and pilgrimages, of money commutation for self-mortification, of the increased wealth and corruption of the priesthood, of almost universal auricular confession, of the granting of penitential indulgences to sin, of the firm establishment of a regular system of salvation by good works, of the dawn of scholasticism, of the final rupture of the Greek and Roman Catholic “Churches,” of the virtual culmination of the papal pretensions to universal monarchy, of papal war against the marriage of priests and against secular appointments to “church” offices, of the most remarkable scene in the Middle Ages—the deep humiliation of the German emperor, Henry IV., before Pope Gregory VII. at Canossa—and of the beginning of the Crusades, resulting in the conquest of Jerusalem by Latin “Christendom” from the Seljukian Turks.
As the world did not come to an end as people expected at the close of the tenth century, they supposed that it would continue for a long time to come, and they began erecting private and public buildings on a gigantic and permanent plan. The wealthy barons built their castles, and the wealthy priests their cathedrals, in the Gothic style of architecture. “The foundations were broad and deep, the walls of immense thickness, roofs steep and high to keep off the rain and snow, and there were square buttressed towers, even for the cathedral, to sustain it, and at the same time furnish it with military defense. The church-building was, in those days, not only used for public worship, but it was the town-hall, the market-place, the concert-room, the theater, the school, the news-room, and the vestry, all in one.”
The Scholastic Theology is generally reckoned to have begun with Anselm, “Archbishop of Canterbury” (1033-1109), and terminated with Eckhart of Germany (1250-1329), thus extending from about the middle of the eleventh to about the middle of the fourteenth century. It was an application of Aristotelian logic to the support of Catholic doctrines, and sublimation of theology into metaphysics. Beginning with Realism (the doctrine that universal ideas are real things), it ended in Nominalism (the doctrine that such ideas are only the names of things); and after weary, hair-splitting debates of three centuries, the system resulted in rationalism, skepticism and pantheism. “The Schoolmen,” says Taine, “seem to be marching, but are merely marking time.” They served, perhaps, to keep thought alive, and prepare the way for modern thought. The initial point of the debate was the denial (about 1050) by Berengar of Tours that the bread and wine in communion are changed into the real body and blood of Christ; Lanfranc and Anselm, of Canterbury, endeavored, in reply, to establish the doctrine of transubstantiation (that, while the sensible properties of the elements are not changed, their underlying “substance” is changed into the “substance” of Christ’s body). Twice was Berengar forced by the Catholic authorities to sign a recantation, which he twice revoked, “leaving a memory curiously mingled of veneration and abhorrence.” Under the influence of the Nominalism of William Occam, Martin Luther substituted for transubstantiation the doctrine of “consubstantiation” (that the body of Christ is actually, substantially present with the bread and wine); but, “as the logic of Protestantism became clear and self-consistent, this weak compromise faded quite away.” The Schoolman Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) is said to have been familiar with all the learning of his time; and his disciple, Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), in 2,000 folio pages, 600 topics, 3,000 articles and 15,000 arguments, made the most complete and authentic exposition of Catholic theology (Summa Theologiae).
In 1054 the Latin and the Greek Catholic “Churches” were finally sundered by the mutual excommunication of Pope Leo IX. and the Patriarch Michael.
The very learned French Pope, Sylvester II. (999-1003), had declared, when he was known as Gerbert, “Archbishop of Rheims,” that “the pope who does not hear the church is a heathen,” and that “God alone can justify;” but he changed his views on his accession to the papacy.
By a decree of Pope Nicholas II. (in 1059), the privilege of voting in the election of a pope, originally exercised by the ordinary clergy, and in the tenth century by the canons of cathedrals, was restricted “to the superior clergy of Rome and seven neighboring Bishops.”
The most arrogant and audacious pope that ever lived (excepting Innocent III. and Boniface VIII.) was Hildebrand, who called himself Gregory VII., and was real master of Rome for thirty-seven years, the lord of five popes, Leo IX., Victor II., Stephen IX., Nicholas II. and Alexander II. (from 1048 to 1073), and then pope himself (from 1073 to 1085). He was an imperious, inflexible, cruel, unscrupulous politician, whose one unswerving purpose was to make the Pope of Rome the supreme ruler and arbiter of the human race. Notwithstanding the example of Peter, and the advice of Paul, and the horrible immoralities of a nominal celibacy, Gregory, in order to bind tine “clergy” absolutely to the pope, decreed that all the priests and Bishops who had wives should put them away, and that the single should not marry; and he inaugurated what is called the Controversy of Investitures, declaring that temporal princes should have no right to appoint to “church” offices—thus making the clergy wholly free from feudal obligation to their national sovereigns, and responsible to the pope alone (although the clergy were themselves large landed proprietors and civil magistrates). Henry IV., Emperor of Germany, refused to surrender the right of investiture, and took under his protection Bishops and counselors who had offended the pope, and was summoned by the latter to appear at Rome to answer for his conduct. The emperor, enraged, assembled a diet at Worms (in 1076), and declared Gregory deposed from the pontificate. The pope retaliated by excommunicating and dethroning Henry, and absolving his subjects from their allegiance to him. Papal supremacy being an integral idea of German “Christianity,” the Saxon princes declared, at a diet in Oppenheim, that, unless the sentence of excommunication were removed in twelve months, Henry should lose his crown. Subdued by the rebellion of his subjects and the course of the pope, the emperor, with his wife and infant child and one faithful attendant, undertook, in the midst of an unusually rigorous winter, the extremely difficult and dangerous passage over the awful precipices and ice-fields of the Alps, and finally presented himself before the Castle of Canossa, in Northern Italy, where the pope was comfortably housed with his devoted adherent, Matilda, the Countess of Tuscany. On a dreary winter morning, the ground being deeply covered with snow, the emperor was admitted within two of the three walls that girded the castle. Divested of all his royal robes, he was clad only in the thin white linen dress of the penitent, and barefooted and bareheaded, shivering and hungry, he thus humbly awaited for three days (January 25th, 26th and 27th, 1077) the pleasure of the stern pontiff to admit him to his presence. The pope at last received him, and granted him absolution only on the condition that Henry should appear at the time and place named by the pope, and answer the charges made against him; if his defense were satisfactory, he should receive his kingdom back from the hands of the pope—otherwise, he was peaceably to resign his kingdom forever. Henry’s humiliation and Gregory’s absolution were both dictated by mere policy. “Freed from the church’s curse, Henry quickly won back the strength he had lost. He overthrew in battle the rival (Rodolph) whom Gregory upheld. He swept his rebellious lands with sword and flame. He carried his victorious army to Rome, and was there crowned emperor by a rival pope. Gregory himself was only saved by his ferocious allies, Norman and Saracen, at cost of the devastation of half the capital—that broad belt of ruin which still covers the half-mile between the Coliseum and the Lateran gate. Then, hardly rescued from the popular wrath, he went away to die, defeated and heartbroken, at Salerno, with the almost despairing (the proudly bitter and Pharisaic) words on his lips: ‘I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile.’ Again excommunicated, Henry, twenty years later, vainly sought mercy from his own son, the unnatural champion of the ‘church;’ vainly asked shelter in a monastery; and died in want and forsaken, deprived even of the empty honor of a royal tomb.” Thus the pope was really triumphant at last.
“The great era of papal power covers two centuries and a half, beginning (about 1050) with Gregory VII., and ending with the Jubilee of Boniface VIII., A. D. 1299. We see, in the Roman Catholic Church, a body which, after a thousand years of various fortune, has reached at length a height of power, the like of which was never held in human hands, nor, it is likely, conceived in human thought, elsewhere. It is a power resting on the invisible foundations of conscience, conviction, and religious fear. To the popular belief, it holds literally the keys of Heaven and hell. It spans like an arch the dreadful gulf between the worlds seen and unseen. Its priesthood (professedly) rules by express Divine appointment; and its chief is addressed in language such as it seems impious to address to any other than to Almighty God. We see this ‘church’ in the person of its priesthood, present absolutely everywhere. It carries in its hand the threads that govern every province of human life. It offers or withholds, on its own terms, the soul’s peace on earth and its salvation in eternity. We see it, in the persons of its Pontiffs, maintaining conflict or alliance, on equal terms, with the powers of the world. We see it, in the person of its Religious Orders, penetrating to every nook and hamlet, ruling the popular passion and imagination no less than the counsel of courts by its imperious word. We see its matchless skill and power employed in the accumulation of enormous wealth. The terrors of a death-bed, the popular fear of the approaching Day of Judgment, the enthusiasm that equips the ranks of the Crusaders, and the disorders of their impoverished estates—all are skillfully wrought upon to fill the treasuries of the ‘church.’ It turns its doctrine of purgatory into a source of profit, and sets a fixed price on its masses for the dead. It makes a traffic of penance and indulgences. It seizes lands under forged charters and deeds, and claims the administration of intestate estates. It owns half the landed property of England, a nearly like proportion of France and Germany It profits even by the violence of robbers and plunderers. We see its pomp of priests, with chant and lighted taper and silver bell, striking the rude mind of barbaric ignorance with awe, as some holy spell or oracle. We see its Hermits, in their austere seclusion; its trains of Pilgrims, with bead and cockle-shell; its Palmers, journeying from shrine to shrine, and bearing the fragrant memory of the Holy Land; its barefoot Friars, sworn to beggary, and wrangling whether Jesus and His disciples held in common any goods at all. We see its secluded Abbey, its stately Cathedral, its statuary and painting, and its Universities, thronged by great armies of young men, as many as twenty thousand at once, it is said, in a single place. Lastly, we see its monstrous enginery of despotic power, exercised through Inquisition, Excommunication and Interdict. By its secret spies, by the ambush of its Confessional, it seeks to lay bare every private thought or chance breath of opinion hostile to its imperious claim. No husband, father, brother, is safe from the betrayal that may become the pious duty of sister, daughter, bride. No place of hiding is sufficiently close, or far enough away, to escape its ubiquitous, stealthy, masked police. No soldierly valor, no public service, no nobility of intellect, no purity of heart, is a defense from that most terrible of tribunals, which mocks the suspected heretic with a show of investigation, which wrenches his limbs on the rack or bursts his veins with the torturing wedge, and under a hideous mask of mercy—since the ‘church’ may shed no blood—delivers him over to the secular arm to be ‘dealt with gently’ as his flesh crackles and his blood simmers at the accursed stake. That is the Inquisition, the ‘church’s’ remedy for free thought. For simple disobedience, it has in its hand the threat of Excommunication. Shut out from all ‘church’ privilege; shunned like a leper by servants, family and friends; incapable of giving testimony, or of claiming any rights before a court; the very meats he has touched thrown away as pollution; a bier sometimes set at his door, and stones thrown in at his casement; his dead body cast out unburied—emperor, prince, priest or peasant, the excommunicated man is met every moment, at every hand, by the shadow of a Curse that is worse than death. The Interdict excommunicates a whole people for the guilt of a sovereign’s rebellion. No church may be opened, no bell tolled. The dead lie unburied; no pious rite can be performed but baptism of babes and absolution of the dying. The gloom of an awful Fear hangs over the silent street and the somber home; and not till the ‘church’s’ ban is taken off car the people be free front the ghastly apparitions of supernatural horror. Nay, more. The Interdict, in the last resort, ‘dissolved’ all law, annulled all privilege, abrogated all rights, rescinded all obligations, and reduced society to a chaos, until it should please the high priest of Rome to reinstate order on the terms most conducive to his own glory and the pecuniary profit of the chief and his agents. These are the ultima ratio, the final appeal of ecclesiastical sway. ‘From the moment these interdicts and excommunications had been tried,’ says Hallam, ‘the powers of the earth may be said to have existed only by sufferance.’—J. H. Allen, in Christian History.
During the first century the profession of Christianity was so spiritual that there was no special reverence for any particular places, and pilgrimages to such places were unknown. This state of things also generally prevailed during the two succeeding centuries. In the fourth century, however, as the profession of Christianity became more outward and formal, and less spiritual, particular places, especially in Palestine, were reverenced, and pilgrimages to them inaugurated. These so-called pious journeys increased during the succeeding centuries, and continued although Jerusalem was taken by the Saracens in 637. The stream of pilgrims largely increased about the beginning of the eleventh century. It was thought that “a pilgrimage to Jerusalem expiated all sin; a bath in the Jordan was, as it were, a second baptism, and washed away all the evil of the former life; and the shirt worn by the pilgrim when he entered the Holy City was carefully laid by as his winding-sheet, and possessed, it was supposed, the power of transporting him to Heaven.” In 1076 the Seljukian Turks conquered Palestine, and treated the pilgrims with great insult and cruelty. These outrages, especially under the impassioned appeals of Peter the Hermit and Pope Urban II., roused Latin “Christendom” to revenge, and, during a period of about two hundred years (from 1096 to 1291), seven crusades, in which six millions of men were enlisted and two millions destroyed, were undertaken either to wrest Jerusalem from the hands of the Mohammedans or retain it in the hands of those called Christians. They were a series of the most insane, criminal and disastrous expeditions ever undertaken in the history of the human race; instigated by the popes of Rome (who promised to all engaging in them the pardon of all sin and the assurance of everlasting life), and fitly illustrating the infernal glories of universal papal supremacy. They greatly increased the wealth of the Roman clergy, and the power of the Pope of Rome; they greatly demoralized the nations of Europe, and degraded the profession of the Christian religion. They taught men to believe in the justice and piety of so-called religious wars; they were accompanied with the exhibition of every circumstance of vice and crime, and with diabolical massacres of Jews, Mohammedans and so-called heretics. The members of the First Crusade, in their march to Constantinople, slaughtered thousands of European Jews; and when on the 15th of July, 1099, they captured Jerusalem, they burned up all the Jews there alive in their synagogue, and massacred, during three days, seventy thousand Mohammedans, women and children, even infants, as well as men, so that the streets are said to have run with blood up to their horses’ knees, and the Mosque of Omar up to their saddle girths. The crusades infused into the mind of Catholic Europe a long indelible thirst for religious persecution. Among the benefits deduced by an overruling Providence from these great evils are recounted the deliverance of the Greek Catholic Empire from the Turks for three hundred and fifty years, the breaking up of the feudal system, the abolition of serfdom, the Supremacy of common law, and an interchange of thought and learning which ultimately resulted in the revival of letters and the Protestant Reformation.
In the eleventh century a nominal Christianity had been planted in all Europe except in the south of Spain, the north of Sweden, and in Prussia and Russia.
Many persons, called Cathari (the pure), appeared in Northern Italy, Germany and France, during this century, who entertained sentiments similar to those of the Paulicians. They were stigmatized by their enemies as Manicheans; but some of them, at, least, were only moderately, if at all, inclined to dualism. They earnestly opposed the manifold superstitions, idolatries and corruptions of the Catholics, and insisted upon the necessity of a pure, inward, spiritual religion. Especially in France did the Catholics put several of them to death, generally by burning.
[xi][xii] Says Prof. P. Schaff: “The Middle Ages, compared with ancient Christianity, which preceded, and with modern Christianity, which followed, are truly called the Dark Ages. The mediaeval light was indeed the borrowed star and moonlight of ecclesiastical tradition, rather than the clear sunlight from the inspired pages of the New Testament; but it was such light as the eyes of the nations in their ignorance could bear, and it never ceased to shine till it disappeared in the great daylight of the Reformation. Christ had His witnesses in all ages and countries, and those shine all the brighter who were surrounded by midnight darkness. The superficial, wholesale, national, nominal conversions (by the Roman Catholics) were conversions not to the primary Christianity of inspired Apostles, as laid down in the New Testament, but to the secondary Christianity of ecclesiastical tradition, as taught by the fathers, monks, and popes; they we baptisms by water than by fire and the Holy Spirit. The preceding instructions amounted to little or nothing; even the baptismal formula, mechanically recited in Latin was scarcely understood; some of the barbarian tribes were made to yield to baptism only by the sword of the conqueror. The Middle Age of Western Christendom resemble the period of the Judges in the history of Israel, when ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes.’ Might was right. It was the golden age of vice and crime, credulity and superstition. Men feared purgatory and hell, and made great sacrifices to gain Heaven by founding churches, convents, and charitable institutions. Great stress was laid on prayer and fasting, on acts of hospitality, charity and benevolence, and on pilgrimages to sacred places. And yet there was a frightful amount of immortality among the rules and the people and the clergy. It is said that every princely family of Italy in the tenth century was tainted with incestuous blood.” Roman Catholicism controlled all the departments of life from the cradle to the grave. The Paulicians, Petrobrusians, Henricians, Arnoldists, Waldenses and Albigenses contended earnestly against the horrible abominations of Catholicism.
[xiii][xiv] But he gives the husband the absolute, immediate, unquestioned power of divorce; so that many Mohammedans marry a new wife every year, and some almost every month, and all with the sanction of their most corrupt religion.
[xv][xvi] The Mohammedan principle, says Neander, derived sin and holiness alike from the Divine causality, and denied the distinction between a permission and an actual efficiency on the part of God. It is Mohammedanism, and not Christianity; it is the most wretched perversion of Scripture and the most awful imaginable blasphemy, to identify God with Satan, the source of holiness with the source of sin; to maintain that the Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of hosts, the Holy One of Israel, He whose nature is holy and reverend, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, who is the Father of lights, and in whom is no darkness at all, who does not tempt or seek to seduce man to maintain that the Holy Spirit, who is God, inspires sinful thoughts or purposes in any of his creatures. He foreknows, and permits, and controls all things, not instigating, but bending the wickedness of men and devils into that channel that shall enhance His own glory and His people’s good. The Divine Spirit is the author of all holiness and not the author of any unholiness. No Baptist, no Christian believes that God is the cause or author of sin.