תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER I.

History of the Romish Church, during the Eighteenth Century.

The continued attacks of the Protestants upon the church of Rome had forced the outworks, and weakened the barriers of that establishment: but it still presented a bold front to its assailants, and numbered among its votaries the major part of the inhabitants of Europe. Its greatness was impaired, but not subverted ; and it had an imposing, if not a very formidable aspect. The pope's power of interdiction and excommunication had ceased to fill nations with dismay. Some of the potentates of his communion addressed him in a tone which many of his predecessors would not have endured ; harassed him with various pretensions, and encroached upon that authority which he deemed legitimate and even divine. Notwithstanding these assaults, he retained some degree of power and a considerable portion of influence, and was supported in the dignity of supreme pontiff by the greatest princes of the continent.

The prelate who occupied this high station at the commencement of that century of which we are now treating, was Clement XI. or John Francis Albani, who, having acquired reputation by his skill in the management of affairs, and being also of a spirited character, had been unanimously chosen by the conclave at a time when the political horizon of Europe threatened a storm. He rejected the offered tiara with a greater appearance of sincerity than that which an English divine usually displays when he says, on the offer of a bishopric, nolo episcopari; but his scruples and objections were removed by the arguments, representations, and importunities of the cardinals.

He made a good beginning of administration. He redressed some grievances, discountenanced vice and criminality of every kind, performed acts of beneficence, gave an example of devotional regularity, and filled vacant offices and preferments with men of merit. He then directed his attention to politics, and testified a desire of preventing a war between the king of France and the emperor, on the subject of the Spanish succession. He wrote a letter to each of those princes, exhorting them to accommodate all disputes without rushing into hostilities. They received his advice with professions of respect for his character, but did not suffer it to regulate their conduct. Ambition still inflamed the aged Louis : his thirst of dominion still urged him to send forth his legions, and wantonly (for a lust of power was no sufficient motive) to shed the blood of his unoffending fellow-creatures. Leopold professed an equal regard for religion, but was equally uninfluenced by justice or humanity.

With respect to the religious principles of these royal sons of the church, we may observe, that they were not animated by true piety, or a genuine spirit of religion. They may have believed the doctrines of Christianity ; or, perhaps, they merely affected to give credit to the faith which they found established in their dominions. They attended mass with decorous regularity, witnessed ceremonial observances with a serious and devout aspect, and promoted among their subjects a religious uniformity. But they did not endeavour, like true Christians, to correct their evil propensities, amend their hearts, or reform their lives. They did not study to preserve “ peace “ upon earth ;” they did not cherish “ good-will “ towards men.” Their religion (in the language applied by a respectable historian * to William the Conqueror) “ prompted them to endow monasteries, “ but at the same time allowed them to pillage

1

a George lord Lyttelton.

kingdoms: it threw them on their knees before a “ relic or a cross, but suffered them unrestrained to “ trample upon the liberties and the rights of “ mankind."

We have no concern with the war into which the rival princes entered, as it is unconnected with the history of the church. It arose from temporal motives, and referred to grand political objects. Both princes promised that, if the war should extend to Italy, the papal territories should remain uninjured and unmolested: but this promise was violated, on the part of Leopold, by the irruption of an Austrian detachment into the province of Ferrara. Clement having bitterly complained of this conduct, the troops retired : but, as they again encroached, he ordered an army to be levied. Louis, and his grandson the new king of Spain, earnestly requested his holiness to enter into an alliance with them, promising great advantages not only to the holy see, but to the pontiff himself, as the price of his condescension. He had no wish to take part with either of the contending families, and therefore refused to accede to the confederacy. A report was propagated of his assent to the offered terms; and it derived strength from the appearance of the duke of Berwick at Rome; but that nobleman was merely sent from France by the royal exile, James II., to congratulate Albani on his elevation to the papal throne.

Unable to check the rage of war, the pope soothed his anxiety, and gratified his religious zeal, by promoting the diffusion of the catholic faith. He even expressed a wish that he could visit the remotest parts of the globe for that pious and salutary purpose, and affected to lainent his inability of accomplishing his desire. Contracting his views, he contented himself with sending legates into various regions, particularly into Persia, India, and China, to support and extend the interests of Christianity : but the success of these heralds of the Gospel did not correspond with the wishes of the religious world.

We are informed, however, that his entreaties and expostulations procured, for the catholics of Thrace, Armenia, and Syria, a respite from Mohammedan persecution, and an allowance of the free exercise of their religion. This freedom, however, was occasionally interrupted and disturbed by the brutality of furious infidels, and the animosity of barbarian zealots,

The legate upon whom he chiefly depended, for the success of the eastern mission, was Maillard de Tournon, who was ready to encounter every danger in the cause of Christianity. This missionary visited India and China with a weak and declining frame, but with a heart full of pious zeal. He introduced himself to the Chinese emperor at Pekin; was politely received, and complimented with various presents; and was gratified with permission to preach the Gospel, and expound the doctrines of the catholic faith, The imperial potentate, however, did not mean that this permission should so far operate, as to authorise the legate and his associates to oppose the prevalence of popular institutions and ceremonies, sanctioned by long practice. Unwilling to make any concessions to the prejudices of paganism, Tournon loudly exclaimed against the idolatrous usages of the Chinese, and sharply reproved the ministers of state and of religion, for suffering the continuance of such de grading absurdities. By this freedom he gave great offence to the court; and he was even accused of treason against the emperor. Defying the odium which he considered as unmerited, he proceeded in his pious career, until he was banished from the capital, in 1707, and sent to the island of Macao, where he was imprisoned with five of his fellowmissionaries. Admiring his undaunted zeal, the pope elevated him to the dignity of a cardinal; an honor which he declared he would not accept, if he should

Guarnacci, Vit. et Res Gest. Pontificum Romanorum et Cardinalium, usque ad Clementem XII. tom. ii. p. 7.

be expected to relinquish his mission; for he was prepared to suffer every inconvenience, and undergo every species of persecution, in the discharge of Christian duties. When the governor of the Philippine islands offered to facilitate his escape, he peremptorily refused to quit his prison. He died, not without suspicion of poison, after he had been confined above three years. The mission was continued after his death ; but it did not promise to be successful, as the prejudices of the Chinese were too firmly fixed to be easily eradicated C.

Clement, in the mean time, continued to observe, with an anxious eye, the commotions of Europe. When the emperor had proclaimed his son (the archduke Charles) king of Spain, his holiness refused to acknowlege the young prince in that capacity. A new invasion of Ferrara followed; but the Austrians did not venture to make a conquest of that territory, as Leopold was unwilling to inflict any serious injury on the pontiff. As soon as Joseph became emperor, hę manifested a stronger inclination than his father had evinced, to thwart and harass the head of the church. He restricted the papal authority in point of presentation to benefices; seised Comacchio, and claimed Parma and Placentia as imperial fiefs. His troops levied contributions in the ecclesiastical state, and alarmed the timid inhabitants. At length, however, he consented to an accommodation 4, and ceased to be a refractory son of the church.

A revival of the contest between the Jansenists and the Jesuits had for some time conspired with politics and war to disturb the tranquillity of the court of Rome M. Du-Pin had published, in 1703, a Case of Conscience, in which (according to the pope's letter to the king of France) various errors

° Guarnacci, Vit. Pontif. et Cardin. tom. ii. p. 143, 144. d In the year 1708.

e For an account of the rise of this controversy, and of the doctrines propagated by Jansenius, see Dr. Mosheim's fifth volume, cent. xvii. sect. ii. part i. chap. i.

« הקודםהמשך »