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A Key To The Knowledge Of Church History by John Henry Blunt

CHAPTER X The Church of the Middle Ages


[Sidenote: Foundation of the temporal power of the Popedom.]

The temporal power of the Popes gradually increased after the ninth century, when part of the territory since known as the States of the Church was bestowed on them by Pepin, whose son, the famous Emperor Charlemagne, confirmed the donation. The change thus wrought in the position of the Popes, who to their spiritual office of Bishop now added the temporal one of sovereign, was productive of a corresponding change in the claims they made upon the submission of the rest of Christendom, and these altered claims first assumed a definite form in the eleventh century.

Section 1. The Supremacy of the Popes.

[Sidenote: Papal claims to spiritual supremacy.]

The Bishops of Rome had at first limited their ideas of universal supremacy to spiritual things: it was as Universal Bishop that they desired to be honoured and obeyed, and we have seen in the preceding chapter that a certain priority seemed to accrue to them by force of {101} circumstances. Rome had come to be regarded as the Mother of the Churches, much as Jerusalem was in the first ages of Christianity, and appeals for advice and help were at first voluntarily made to the learning and piety of the Bishops of Rome. [Sidenote: Further claims to temporal authority.] Later, instead of advisers they claimed to be absolute judges in ecclesiastical matters, and when the temporal possessions of the Popedom made the chair of St. Peter an object of ambition to covetous, designing men, the character of Bishop was too often merged in that of Prince, and spiritual power ceased to satisfy those who thought it their duty or their interest to enforce what was in fact an Universal Sovereignty.

[Sidenote: Plausibleness and actual advantages of Papal supremacy.]

It is not difficult to understand that the idea of one Visible Head and Centre of Christendom would appear to have much to recommend it; nor even that the power of the Popes was in reality the source of many blessings in the lawless state in which European society found itself for many centuries after the fall of the Roman empire. An authority which could reduce rebellious subjects to obedience, overawe refractory nobles, or check the tyranny of an irresponsible sovereign, could hardly fail to be productive of some good effects when wielded by disinterested men, and with singleness of purpose. [Sidenote: Its corruptions and dangers.] But in the hands of worldly-minded and ambitious prelates, such as too many of the Popes undoubtedly were, this usurped prerogative of interference in the affairs of foreign states became an engine of mighty evil, and in the course of time it was felt to be such an intolerable yoke by the people of Europe that continued submission to it became impossible.


[Sidenote: What the Reformation really was.]

The Reformation was in fact a casting off of an unjustifiable usurpation in temporal as well as in spiritual things, and a violent reaction against that course of events which, from the eighth century downwards, had been tending to reduce the different sovereigns of Western Christendom to the rank of vassals of the Roman See.

Section 2. Some account of the Popes of the Middle Ages.

A clearer view of the rise and results of papal supremacy may perhaps be gained by entering into a somewhat more detailed account of such Popes as from various causes occupy conspicuous places in the history of the Roman Church. [Sidenote: St. Leo the Great, and the first |papal aggression.|] In order to do this effectually, it will be necessary to go back a little farther than the date at the head of the chapter, to the time of St. Leo the Great (A.D.440-A.D.461), whose claim to interfere between St. Hilary, Bishop of Arles, and Chelidonius, Bishop of Besancon, may be looked upon as the first |papal aggression| of which history gives us an example. Chelidonius had been deposed by a General Council of the Church of France under the presidency of Hilary, and so deeply did the French Bishops resent the unjust attempts of Leo to set aside their decision, that the Bishop of Rome found an appeal to the secular power necessary for the purpose of enforcing his claim to exercise jurisdiction over a foreign Church. But even the authority of Valentinian III., Emperor of the West, did not succeed in obliging Hilary to cede the liberties of the Church of France, and it is a significant fact that the Bishop of {103} Arles is reverenced as a saint by the whole Western Church, although his sense of what was due to his position as a member of the French episcopate would not suffer him to yield his just rights, in order to obtain a reconciliation with one so personally worthy of esteem and honour as St. Leo.

[Sidenote: Papal claims strengthened and extended by St. Gregory]

The good and wise St. Gregory the Great (A.D.590-A.D.604), though he strenuously disclaimed for himself, and denied to others, the right of assuming the title of |Universal Bishop,| appears to have had very strong ideas respecting the authority which he conceived to belong to the successors of St. Peter, whilst his talents and holiness gave him an extensive influence over his contemporaries. [Sidenote: and Hadrian I.] Succeeding Popes laid claim to more extended powers, especially Hadrian I. (A.D.772-A.D.793), who first advanced the doctrine that the whole Christian Church was subject to the see of Rome. [Sidenote: Rise of the temporal power of the Popes under Leo III.] His successor, Leo III. (A.D.795-A.D.816), having crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West, A.D.800, received from that monarch the sovereignty of Rome, and thus became a temporal prince as well as a Bishop, and about the same time there began to appear certain forged canons (or Church laws), professing to be ancient decrees collected by St. Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, and having for their object to give primitive sanction to Roman Supremacy. [Sidenote: |Pseudo-Isidore| Decretals] These |Pseudo-Isidore| Decretals, as they were afterwards called, were frequently appealed to, apparently in good faith, by subsequent Popes; and their genuineness was generally believed in, almost without question, until the time of the Reformation in {104} the sixteenth century. By about the middle of the ninth century these decretals were made use of to settle ecclesiastical questions, and Nicholas I. (A.D.858-A.D.867) laid great stress upon them when the liberties of the French Church were again defended by Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, in a very similar case to that in which St. Hilary had offered opposition to St. Leo. [Sidenote: Hincmar's opposition to papal claims.] Hincmar's zeal in opposing the usurpations of the Roman see had some little success during the episcopate of Hadrian II. (A.D.867-A.D.872), but its effects passed away when John VIII. (A.D.872-A.D.882) espoused the cause of Charles the Bald, and thus enlisted the interests of the crown on his side.

The troubles and disorders consequent on the breaking up of the great empire of Charlemagne, had had a very injurious effect on morals and religion; and unworthy persons, to whom the temporal possessions of the Popes had by this time become an object of ambition, took advantage of the depressed state of the Church to seize upon the bishopric of Rome either for themselves or for others in whom they had an interest. [Sidenote: Unspirituality caused by temporal power.] Hence the history of the papacy during the next century and a half is full of dreary records of corruption and wickedness. The elevation of John XII. to the papal throne at the age of eighteen (A.D.955), and his evil life, called forth the interference of the Emperor Otho the Great, who deposed him and elected Leo VIII. (A.D.963-A.D.965) in his stead. [Sidenote: Interference of Emperors of the West.] From this time the emperors frequently interfered to check the continual disputes between Popes and anti-Popes, which often ended in the murder of one of the rivals. Silvester II. (Gerbert) (A.D.999-A.D.1003), {105} who was made Pope through the influence of Otho III., was prevented by death from carrying out the reforms he meditated, and at length, in A.D.1046, the Emperor Henry III. was called upon to decide between three claimants to the papal throne. He settled the question by appointing a German, Clement II. (A.D.1046-A.D.1047), after the synod of Sutri had put aside the claims of the original disputants. Henry thus took the election of the Popes entirely out of the hands of the Clergy of Rome, with whom it had hitherto nominally rested, and appropriated it to himself. [Sidenote: This interference unjustifiable.] This was an undoubted usurpation on the part of the secular power, though Henry seems to have been in earnest in his endeavours to check the simony which had been so disgracefully prevalent in the papal elections, and to appoint Bishops who might be worthy of their position. [Sidenote: Hildebrand's influence.] [Sidenote: Overthrow of secular interference.] Leo IX. (A.D.1048-A.D.1054) and his successor, Victor II. (A.D.1055-A.D.1057), aided and influenced by the famous Hildebrand (afterwards Gregory VII.), succeeded in effecting considerable reforms in religion and morals, and were very zealous in discouraging simoniacal appointments to offices in the Church, but a gradual and increasing resistance was growing up against the imperial encroachments, and after the death of Henry, Pope Nicholas II. (A.D.1059-A.D.1061) was enabled to obtain a decree that the election of the Popes should, for the future, rest with the Roman Cardinals, subject to the consent of the Roman Clergy and people, and with some vague reference to the emperor's wishes.

[Sidenote: Hildebrand Pope.]

At length Hildebrand, the counsellor and support of {106} several preceding Popes, was himself called to the see of Rome under the title of Gregory VII. (A.D.1073-A.D.1083), and at once devoted the energies of his powerful mind to the work of reforming the Church. [Sidenote: His reforms] The two means on which he chiefly relied for accomplishing his object were the enforcing of celibacy on the Clergy, and the abolition of simony, under which head he included every species of lay investiture. [Sidenote: and their consequences.] The prosecution of his plans soon brought him into a violent dispute with the weak and wicked Emperor Henry IV., who was as eager to secure the right of bestowing upon Bishops the ring and pastoral staff, as well as of their sole appointment, and thus reduce them to the state of mere secular vassals, as Gregory was by the same means to secure their ecclesiastical obedience to the see of Rome, and their total independence of any civil power. [Sidenote: Result of the contest.] The contest lasted till the death of Gregory in exile, and was carried on by his successors, until during the popedom of Calixtus II. (A.D.1119-1124) a compromise was agreed upon by which the emperor left to each Church the free election of its Bishops, who were to receive the ring and staff from the altar, and the temporalties of their sees from the crown.

[Sidenote: Wars between Rome and Germany.]

This arrangement did not, however, bring peace between the Popes and the emperors, the Popes siding with the Guelphs in the long civil wars of the next two centuries, in opposition to the Ghibelline emperors. Hadrian IV. (A.D.1154-A.D.1159), or Nicholas Breakspear, the only English Pope, found it expedient to seek the assistance of the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, to aid him in quelling the insurrection headed by Arnold of {107} Brescia; but Alexander III. (A.D.1159-A.D.1181) came into fresh collision with Frederic, who was at length obliged to submit and beg for peace. [Sidenote: Climax of the papal power under Innocent III.] The minority of Frederic II. was favourable to the ambitious schemes of Pope Innocent III. (A.D.1198-A.D.1216), and under him the power of the popedom reached its greatest height. He laid both England and France under an interdict, placed on the imperial throne, and then deposed, Otho IV., and took measures for the suppression of the Albigenses, which eventually resolved themselves into the dreaded Inquisition. The old strife was continued by Gregory IX. (A.D.1227-A.D.1241), who excommunicated Frederic II., and the sentence was renewed by Innocent IV. (A.D.1243-A.D.1254). The treatment of the emperor by these successive Popes was something akin to a persecution, and was apparently occasioned by a feeling of opposition to any authority which conflicted with the claims of Rome, and by a hatred of the Ghibelline race.

[Sidenote: Decline of the temporal power of the Popes.]

From the death of Innocent IV. the excessive power of the Popes may be said to decrease. Gregory X. (A.D.1271-A.D.1276) and the Emperor Rudolf of Hapsburg were good, earnest-minded men, who put an end to the long-standing feud between Rome and the empire, and after a succession of short pontificates, Boniface VIII. (A.D.1294-A.D.1303) usurped the papal throne in the place of the |hermit Pope,| Celestine V. [Sidenote: Interference of the King of France in papal affairs.] Boniface was a thoroughly bad and unscrupulous man, and at last died in a fit of disappointed rage at being taken prisoner by the troops of his equally unscrupulous enemy, Philip IV. of France, who had refused to acknowledge the {108} authority of the papal legate. Philip caused the death of Benedict XI. (A.D.1303-A.D.1304), whose honest goodness he feared, and then used his influence to procure the election of Clement V. (A.D.1303-A.D.1314), on condition of his pledging himself to aid in the French king's schemes to plunder and oppress the Church. Clement, having thus sold himself, was not allowed to leave France, and the papal court was fixed at Avignon. The Pope was now completely at the mercy of Philip, who robbed the Church at his will, and plundered and murdered the Knights Templars with the connivance of Clement. [Sidenote: The Popes at Avignon.] The sojourn of the Popes at Avignon (A.D.1305-A.D.1376) was a great blow to the temporal power of the papacy, and was often called by the Italians the Seventy Years' Captivity. Meanwhile the Popes were again plunged into contests with the German emperors: Louis of Bavaria was excommunicated, and his empire laid under an interdict, on account of his refusal to accept his dominions from John XXII. (A.D.1316-A.D.1334). The papal authority in Italy had become almost nominal except in Rome itself, and even there it was much weakened by the rebellion under Rienzi, A.D.1352. Pope Innocent VI. (A.D.1333-A.D.1362), soon after his election, sent a legate to Rome, with orders to reduce not only the city itself to obedience, but all that was then included in the States of the Church; and this having been successfully accomplished, the Popes began to think of returning to Rome. [Sidenote: The return to Rome.] The court at Avignon had become fearfully corrupt, and some of those who composed it, and loved its evils, were ready to oppose any change; but Urban V. (A.D.1362-A.D.1370), a really upright man, spent some of his episcopate at Rome, and his {109} successor, Gregory XI. (A.D.1370-A.D.1378) removed thither with his court two years before his death. The Cardinals however still clung to Avignon, and though, in compliance with the earnest wishes of the Roman people, they elected an Italian to be Pope under the name of Urban VI. (A.D.1378-A.D.1389), yet they were so offended at his zealous but indiscreet endeavours to reform the evils around him, that they declared him deposed, and set up an anti-Pope at Avignon. [Sidenote: The consequent schism.] The schism thus begun lasted nearly forty years (A.D.1378-A.D.1417), England, Germany, North Italy, Poland, and the Scandinavian kingdoms siding with the true Popes, while France, Scotland, Spain, and South Italy held with the anti-Popes. [Sidenote: Its results.] The troubles and corruptions of the Church now multiplied, Popes and anti-Popes alike made the acquisition of power and revenue their great object, and wickedness was left unrebuked both in Clergy and laity. A great impulse was given to the sale of indulgences or pardons, an evil practice which brought in large sums of money to the papal exchequer, and at the same time led to such abuses as probably to become a principal proximate cause of the Reformation.

[Sidenote: Council of Pisa.]

At length there was an universal longing for the cessation of the great schism in the Western Church, and a Council was held at Pisa, A.D.1409, where it was agreed by the Cardinals belonging to the two parties to depose both Pope and anti-Pope, and to elect another who took the name of Alexander V., with an understanding that he was at once to reform and pacify the Church. But neither Pope nor anti-Pope would resign, so that there were three claimants instead of two, and very soon after his {110} election Alexander V. died. John XXIII. (A.D.1410-A.D.1415) was elected in his place, but he proved to be thoroughly devoid of principle, and the Council of Pisa having proved unsuccessful in promoting unity or reformation, another was convoked at Constance, A.D.1414, under the presidency of the Emperor Sigismund I. [Sidenote: Council of Constance.] This Council was attended by the representatives of all the monarchs of the West, as well as by a very large number of Bishops and Clergy, and it was decreed that the three claimants to the papal throne should be deposed. John XXIII. was thrown into prison, and, after considerable delay, Martin V. (A.D.1417-A.D.1431) was chosen to succeed him. The Council shortly after broke up, without having done any thing towards the much desired reformation of the Church, although the English, French, and German deputies had been very earnest in their endeavours to advance some scheme of reform. [Sidenote: Council of Basle.] Another Council met at Basle, A.D.1431, whence it was transferred by Pope Eugenius IV. (A.D.1431-A.D.1447) first to Ferrara, and afterwards (A.D.1439) to Florence. This opportunity was also lost in a dispute between the Council and the Pope, and there seemed to be nothing more to hope for from Councils as a means of reformation.

[Sidenote: State of the papacy at the end of the fifteen century.]

Nor were the personal characters of the Popes who filled the see of Rome during the remainder of the century, such as to encourage any expectation that their influence would be employed to revive religion, or to encourage holy living. Worldliness and ambition, revenge and immorality, cast a deep shadow over the records of the papacy at this time, until the century closes with the reign of Alexander VI., or {111} Roderigo Borgia (A.D.1492-A.D.1503), who was elected by bribery, and whose shameless vice and cruelty brought greater scandals upon the Church than any of his predecessors had done.

Section 3. The Monastic Orders.

Monastic orders, though not by any means an invention of the Middle Ages, may yet fairly be said to have attained their height, both of prosperity and of usefulness, during this period of Church History. [Sidenote: Early rise of monasticism.] We may trace the origin of Christian monastic life to very early times, when persecution drove many Christians to a life of loneliness and privation in desert places. The mode of life thus begun from necessity was afterwards continued from choice, and in the hope of more complete self-devotion to God's service; and the solitary hermits and anchorites of primitive ages became the forerunners of an elaborate system of religious communities of men and women.

[Sidenote: Later influences brought to bear on it.]

St. Basil, in the fourth century, brought monasticism into a more definite form, and St. Athanasius during the same century introduced it into Europe from the East. In the West the religious life spread and flourished under the fostering care of such men as St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, whilst by St. Benedict in the sixth century it was developed into the famous Benedictine rule, to which, with few exceptions, all the European monasteries conformed, and which was the parent of various minor orders or subdivisions.


[Sidenote: Beneficial results of monasticism.]

It is not easy to estimate the vast amount of good which the labours of the Benedictine monks conferred on the Church of the Middle Ages, good which has left many traces to the present day. Not only did they provide in a vast number of instances for the spiritual wants of the parishes in and near which they lived, as well as for the education of the young, both rich and poor, but they were also the philosophers, the authors, the artists, and the physicians, nay, even the farmers and the mechanics of Mediaeval times. They built cathedrals and churches, made roads and bridges, copied books when writing stood in the place of printing, and were in general the props and pioneers of civilization. Amongst the very large number of men who embraced the monastic life, it is no marvel that some were not all they professed to be, or that occasional causes for scandal arose, but the popular idea of the universal corruption of the inhabitants of the monasteries is unsupported by facts, and much of what helped to give rise to this false notion is traceable to the doings of the mendicant or preaching friars. These begging orders were offshoots from the regulars, and were but too often very unworthy representatives of the parent stock.

Section 4. The Crusades.

Amongst the events which stand out most distinctly in the history of the Church in the Middle Ages, the long series of warlike expeditions known as the {113} Crusades bear a prominent part, stretching out as they do from the end of the eleventh to nearly the end of the thirteenth centuries.

The empire of the Arabs had died out, but they had been succeeded in their schemes of conquest as well as in their adherence to the false faith of Mahomet, by the savage Turks, whose ferocity and hatred of Christianity were especially displayed in the ill-treatment of those Christians whose piety led them to visit the scenes of our Blessed Lord's Life and Death. [Sidenote: Cause of the Crusades.] The indignation excited in Europe by the stories of outrage and desecration which were from time to time brought back by pilgrims to the Holy Land, at length found an outlet and expression in the First Crusade, which was preached, A.D.1095, by Peter the Hermit, with the sanction both of the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople. This expedition resulted in the taking of the Holy City by the armies of the Cross (A.D.1099), and the establishment in it of a Christian sovereignty.

[Sidenote: Their transient results.]

The First Crusade was the only one which had any real success, and even this was a transient one, for less than ninety years afterwards (A.D.1187) Jerusalem was again taken by the Saracens, and has never since been a Christian power. But though the deliverance of the Holy Land from the yoke of the infidels was not accomplished by the Crusades, and though they caused much misery and bloodshed, and were stained by much lawlessness and plunder, yet the advance of the barbarous and anti-Christian influences of Mahometanism was checked, the Churches of Europe were saved from the soul-destroying apostasy which had over-run so large a portion of Asia, and the Crescent waned before the Cross.


[Sidenote: Reasons for their ill-success.]

Much of the ill success with which the Crusaders met during several of these expeditions, may be traced to jealousies and heart-burnings between the different princes and nobles who took part in them, whilst disagreements on a larger scale were amongst the evil fruits of the unhappy division between Eastern and Western Christendom. Latin Christians appear in too many instances to have made use of the opportunities afforded them to injure and oppress their weaker brethren of the Greek Church, even whilst marching against the common foe of both, and the Fourth Crusade (A.D.1203) was actually diverted from its legitimate purpose in order to conquer Constantinople, and establish a Latin Emperor, as well as a Latin Patriarch within its walls.

[Sidenote: Good directly brought about by them.]

Still, whatever may have been the want of single-mindedness on the part of many of the professed soldiers of the Cross, whatever the amount of failure with regard to the immediate objects of the Crusades, it is clear that much good was brought about through them by God's Providence, not only in the check given to the encroachments of the unbelievers, but also more indirectly in the quenching of rising heresies, in the greater purity of life which in many cases accompanied the taking of the Cross, the weakening of the feudal system, the impulse given to learning and civilization. Earnestness and self-devotion such as were shown by Godfrey de Bouillon, St. Louis of France, and no doubt by many more amongst the Crusaders, were rewarded and blessed, though not in what might have seemed at first sight the only way of success.


Section 5. State of Religions Relief and Practice during the Middle Ages.

[Sidenote: Popular idea of the Middle Ages,]

There is a wide-spread notion that the Middle Ages were also |Dark Ages,| full of ignorance and superstition, with hardly a ray of knowledge or true religion to enlighten the gloom, and also that the Church was the great encourager of this state of things; indeed, that it was mainly due to the influence of the monks and of the Clergy generally.

[Sidenote: not founded in history.]

This belief is however quite unhistorical. No doubt there was abundance of ignorance as well as of superstition, its natural consequence, but there are ample means of accounting for both in the political condition of Europe at that time, nor is it needful to blame the Church for what was in fact due to the sins and errors of the world.

[Sidenote: Real causes of ignorance and vice in the Middle Ages.]

The confusion incident to the breaking up of the old Roman empire, and the occupation of its different provinces by less highly-civilized nations, had been followed by other disorders after the death of Charlemagne and the partition of his dominions; and the constant state of warfare and aggression in which most of the princes of that time lived, was not calculated to leave their subjects much leisure for intellectual culture. Besides this, we must take into account the crushing influence of the feudal system, which gave the nobles almost absolute power over their serfs or dependants, thus encouraging lawlessness on the one hand, and causing degradation on the other. The scarcity and costliness of books before the invention of printing was another {116} formidable obstacle to any universal spread of education, all which causes tended to bring learning into contempt amongst the restless barons and their followers, restricting it chiefly to the Clergy and the monks. Thus not only theology, but secular knowledge besides, found a home in the Church, which was at once the guardian and the channel of literature.

[Sidenote: No scarcity of the means of grace in Mediaeval times.]

There are also good grounds for believing that the provision made by the Church for the spiritual necessities of the people was not, at any rate, less abundant than is the case at the present day. Indeed, there is no doubt that both Churches and Clergy, and consequently opportunities for worship and instruction, were far more in proportion to the number and needs of the population than they can be said to be now in our own country, even after the persevering and liberal efforts of late years. [Sidenote: Difficulties respecting Services and Bibles on the vernacular,] If it is objected that the want of free access to the Holy Scriptures, and the use of the Latin tongue in the public services of the Church, were calculated largely to outweigh any advantages which the people of those days might possess, we may remember that those comparatively few who could read were just those who would have access to the necessarily rare copies then existing of the Word of God, and that to them also the Latin version would be more comprehensible than any other. Again, with regard to Latin services, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to translate the devotions of the Church into any of the slowly-forming dialects of the different European nations; whilst Latin was more universally spoken and understood than French is now, and was probably intelligible to a larger number of men and women during a {117} considerable portion of the Middle Ages than any one of the other languages used.

[Sidenote: but the wish for them not wholly disregarded.]

As the various languages of Europe became gradually developed, a desire naturally arose amongst those who spoke them for services in the vernacular; and this desire was not left altogether ungratified even long before the Reformation. Thus, in England, the Epistles and Gospels and the Litany were translated into the native language in the Services of the Church, and interlinear translations were made of many portions of the Mediaeval Prayer Books. Neither must we imagine that the translations of Holy Scripture put forth by the Reformers, or even that earlier version to which Wickliffe gave his name, were by any means the first efforts made to produce the Holy Bible in the vernacular. From Anglo-Saxon times downwards, we have traces of Bibles translated for the use of those who preferred such versions; and to the truth of this statement may be quoted the testimony of John Foxe, the |martyrologist,| who says, |If histories be well examined, we shall find, both before the Conquest and after, as well before John Wickliffe was born as since, the whole body of the Scriptures by sundry men translated into this our country tongue.|

[Sidenote: State of learning in the Middle Ages.]

The Mediaeval Church was, in reality, a great supporter of learning. Our two great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were not less flourishing during the Middle Ages than at present; and nearly all of the colleges and halls at both Universities were founded in those days {118} of supposed darkness. Nor was this care for literature confined to the Church in England; Universities of equal note were to be found abroad at Paris, Pavia, Bologna, Salamanca, and other places, whilst the Schoolmen, or professors, who taught in these seats of learning, and who numbered amongst themselves the most acute thinkers and reasoners of the time, such as St. Anselm, Peter Lombard, Albertus Magnus, and St. Thomas Aquinas, were all attached to some Religious Order. Enough of the results of their labours have come down to our days to show us that it is neither wise nor just to despise the mental work which they accomplished, even though their conclusions may not always be in accordance with our own.

It is not meant by what has been said above to infer that the Mediaeval Church was altogether free from blemishes, or to deny that these blemishes did, as time went on, increase to an extent which rendered reformation not only expedient but necessary. [Sidenote: The effects of Roman influence.] We have already seen that the supremacy claimed by the Popes over the whole Church was productive of great, though, by God's good Providence, not unmitigated, evil in a political point of view; and much of the error in faith or practice on the part of Christians of those days, seems traceable to the tendency on the part of Rome to crystallize opinions into dogmas, and then to impose those dogmas on the Church. Thus the |Romish doctrine concerning purgatory,| and the mechanism of |pardons,| or indulgences, grew out of the floating belief held by such holy men as St. Augustine, that the souls of the faithful would undergo some more perfect purification after death than is attainable in this world; while the elaborate system of invocations of, and devotions to, the Blessed {119} Virgin Mary and the saints, were built up out of a not only harmless but justifiable faith in the intercessions of the Saints for the Church on earth, and the wish to obtain a share in their prayers. So again, the denial of the cup to the laity, which was justly felt by many to be such a grievous privation, was the natural consequence of the over-refinements of the Roman Church respecting the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist.

[Sidenote: The right spirit in which to regard the Mediaeval Church.]

But whatever imperfections may have clung to the Visible Church in the Middle Ages, whether owing to external hindrances, or to the human frailties of her members, we have no right to doubt that she was still the one great instrument in God's Hands for the salvation of souls. Neither should we dwell so exclusively on what is often an exaggerated estimate of the extent and duration of these blemishes, as to ignore the zeal and self-devotion which grudged neither expense nor labour in the service of God and the adornment of His House and Worship, the charity which truly |cared for the poor,| the faith and holiness which shone forth in the public and private lives of such men as St. Ferdinand of Spain, St. Louis of France, and Rudolf of Hapsburg, Emperor of Germany, and were, doubtless, not wanting in the case of countless numbers of their fellow-Christians, whose names, little known and soon forgotten on earth, are for ever written in God's Book of Remembrance.

Especially the Cluniacs, founded by Berno, Abbot of Clugny, A.D.910, and the Cistercians, founded by Robert of Citeaux, A.D.1098, and rendered illustrious by St. Bernard, afterwards Abbot of Clairvaux (A.D.1113-A.D.1153).

The order of Franciscan Friars was founded by St. Francis of Assisi, A.D.1207, and that of the Dominicans by St. Dominic of Castile, A.D.1215. They were originally intended to supplement the real or supposed defects of the Clergy and the regular orders, and to aid in the suppression of heresy.

See |Key to the Prayer Book,| pp.1-8.

See |Key to the Bible,| pp.18-23.

The practice of communion in one kind made its way very slowly, especially in England, where it was perhaps never universal. A decree of the Council of Constance in A.D.1415 gave its first authoritative sanction.


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