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and writing a still rarer accomplishment; every landed proprietor was a mere soldier; and being expert and strong by the daily use of arms, was eager for an opportunity of showing his prowess. Nor was such opportunity ever wanting; for, when not employed in expeditions against a public enemy, he was commonly engaged in some petty enterprise at home, prompted by pride avarice, or revenge. Hence feuds, as, indeed, the term itself imports, were the peculiar characteristic of feudal power; vice and idleness were perpetually engendering animosities; gross ignorance disabled the different parties from adjusting them by the address of argument and fair reason; brutal obstinacy rendered them hereditary; and the son who succeeded to his father's estate succeeded also to his quarrels.
While such was the ready aid which the political system of the times administered to the gloomy reign of mental darkness and disorder, the gross misconduct of the church was still more instrumental in promoting the same direful effect. Although nothing is more clear than that, through the whole of this desolate period, God never left himself without a witness of the truth, the purity, and the power of the genuine doctrines of Christianity; although nothing is more clear than that, even in the deepest midnight of this desolate period, a few honest, zealous, and conscientious ecclesiastics, and even laymen, are to be met with who sedulously and manfully opposed themselves to the general corruption of their contemporaries, it is equally clear, that the great mass of the priesthood assumed the sacred habit for the mere purpose of indulging more effectually in the worst and most licentious passions and appetites; and surpassed all the rest of the community in the irregularity and scandal of their lives. Many of them were prosessed infidels, and exclaimed openly to each other, “Quantas divitias nobis peperit hæc Christi fabula !”—“ What wealth does this fiction of Christ obtain for us!” A sentiment generally ascribed to the free-thinking genius of Leo X., but which, whether ever uttered by him or not, was in frequent use long before his era ; while nearly all concurred in the well-known motto that "ignorance is the mother of devotion."
In truth, it requires no ordinary stock of temper to wade through the scenes of abominable filth and barefaced hypocrisy which characterize the holy fathers of the church, as they were impiously denominated, at the period immediately before us. Crusades, indeed, had long been in use for the extirpation of infidelity, and there were occasional triumphs of the Cross over the Crescent; but, like most other pretensions to ecclesiastical zeal and devo. tion, even these had for the most part been perverted to the sinister purposes of avarice, temporal authority, or revenge; while plenary indulgences and remissions of sin, for given periods of time, or, in other words, formal licenses to live a life of unrestrained debauchery, and gratify every libidinous appetite and inclination for the term specified, had, during the existence of many crusades, been openly granted at the Vatican, as well as distributed for this purpose by its commissaries, all over Europe, to every one who would either consent to join the sacred standard in person or hire a substitute to fight for him. And similar indulgences were continued after their cessation, and were notoriously bought and sold at a settled or market-price.
This was strikingly exemplified during the papacy of Urban II. in the year 1100; while it is admitied by the warmest advocates of the Vatican that the famous fabric of St. Peter's church at Rome was paid for under Leo X. out of the same resources; which they venture to urge, indeed, in justification of the measure ;* as though crimes could change their nature by the end for which they are perpetrated.
One of the fittest instruments for this traffic of abomination was the noto. rious Dominican inquisitor John Tetzel, who, true to his own trade, led so abandoned a life of debauchery that he was at length condemned to death by the emperor Maximilian for the crime of adultery, accompanied with very atrocious circumstances; and was saved from undergoing the punishment
* See Dupin, book ii. ch. i.; as also Roscoe's Life of Leo X. vol. ill. p. 150.
with great difficulty. He had the effrontery to boast that he had saved more souls from hell by his indulgences, than ever St. Peter had converted to Christianity by his preaching.
This juggler in iniquity, however, was at times himself out-juggled by others; and the following instance of his being overreached, as gravely related by Sechendorf, will show that the mummery of his trading was as ridiculously absurd as it was grossly nefarious. A man of some rank at Leipsic, who was disgusted with his villany, and determined to be even with him, applied to him for information whether he could grant absolution for a sin of a particular kind intended to be perpetrated, but to be kept a secret till the time. Tetzel replied boldly that he could readily do so, provided the payment were made equal to it. The bargain was instantly struck, the money paid down; and the diploma of absolution signed, sealed, and delivered in due form. The purchaser, thus empowered, waited quietly till Tetzel, having collected from Leipsic and its neighbourhood all the money he was able to lay hold of, set off for his home richly freighted. The man of absolution followed him right speedily ; overtook him on the road; plundered him of the whole of his fraudulent gain, and, having beaten him soundly at the same time over the shoulders, produced his patent of absolution, avowed that this was the sin he had purchased leave to comunit, and sent him back to Leipsic to tell his own story.
If we turn immediately to the Vatican itself, and observe the personal conduct of the direct successors to the chair of St. Peter, and of the sacred col. lege by which they were surrounded, what is the picture which is unfolded to us? We behold pope fighting against pope, cardinals, in a multiplicity of instances, against cardinals ;* the former occasionally deposed, and the latter still more frequently strangled. We behold Leo X., when only an infant of seven years old, made abbot of the rich benefice of Fonte-dolce; a few years afterward holding not less than twenty benefices equally rich and valuable at the same time; and nominated to the grave and venerable college of cardinals at the age of thirteen. We behold Alexander VI., a near predecessor of Leo X., living incestuously with his own daughter, the loose but beautiful and accomplished Lucretia Borgia, a common prostitute to her father and two brothers; and we behold one of the brothers assassinating the other, and shortly afterward her legitimate husband, in the precincts of the apostolic palace, and upon the threshold of St. Peter's church, from a jealousy of their superior pretensions to her Tavour.f While, to close the whole, for it is disgusting to wade in such a slough of moral filth, we behold the council of Lateran inveighing with all its authority against the scandalous lives of . many of its own ministers, who, not satisfied with living in a state of concubinage themselves, consented to receive the wages of iniquity, and sell licenses to the laity for the grant of a like indulgence. I
But it may, perhaps, be said, that in these instances the soft and enervating power of an Italian climate, and the licentious habits which so peculiarly characterized the decline of the Roman empire, and which to the period before us had never been altogether eradicated, laid a foundation for vices which would not otherwise have been exhibited. Let us then direct our attention to a climate of another kind; let us turn to the hardy and proverbially virtuous inhabitants of Scotland, and proverbially virtuous, too, from the very nature of the climate itself: what was the effect of ignorance and papal superstition amid the corruption of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries upon the physical temperance and chastity of the Highlands? The following is Dr. M.Crie's account in his Life of John Knox, and which he supports by sufficient authorities :
“ The corruptions by which the Christian religion was universally de
Roscoe, vol. ii. p. 104.
† [b. vol. i. Subjoined Dissertations, p. 8–11. Quia verò in quibusdam regionibuis nonnulli jnrisdictionem habentes, pecuniarios quæstus & concubinariis percipere non erubescuni, patientes eos in iali fæditale sordescere, sub pæna maledictionis æternæ præcipimus, ne deinceps sub pacio, compositione aut spe alterius quæstas, talia quovis modo tolerent, aut dissimulent.-S. S. Concil. tom. xiv. p. 302.
praved, before the Reformation, had grown to a greater height in Scotland ihan in any other nation within the pale of the western church. Superstition and religious imposture, in their grossest sorms, gained an easy admission among a rude and ignorant people. By means of these the clergy attained to an exorbitant degree of opulence and power; which were accompanied, as they always have been, with the corruption of their order, and of the whole system of religion. The full half of the wealth of the nation belonged to the clergy; and the greater part of this was in the hands of a few of their number, who had the command of the whole body. Avarice, ambition, and the love of secular pomp reigned among the superior orders. Bishops and ibbots rivalled the first nobility in magnificence, and preceded them in honours. They were privy-counsellors and lords of session as well as of parliament, and had long engrossed the principal offices of state. A vacant bishopric or abbacy called forth powerful competitors, who contended for it as for a principality or petty kingdom: it was obtained by similar arts, and not unfrequently taken possession of by the same weapons. Inferior benefices were openly put to sale or bestowed on the illiterate and unworthy ministers of courtiers; on dice-players, strolling bards, and bastards of bishops. -There was not such a thing known as for a bishop to preach:-the practice was even gone into desuetude among all the secular clergy, and wholly devolved on the mendicant monks, who employed it for the most mercenary purposes.
“The lives of the clergy, exempted from secular jurisdiction, and corrupted by wealth and idleness, were become a scandal to religion, and an outrage on decency. While they professed chastity, and prohibited, under the severest penalties, any of the ecclesiastical order from contracting lawful wedlock, the bishops set the example of the most shameless profligacy before the inferior clergy ; avowedly kept their harlots; provided their natural sons with benefices, and gave their daughters in marriage to the sons of the nobility and principal gentry; many of whom were so mean as to contaminate the blood of their families by such base alliances for the sake of the rich dowries which they brought.
“ Through the blind devotion and munificence of princes and nobles, monasteries, those nurseries of superstition and idleness, had greatly multiplied in the nation; and though they had universally degenerated, and were notoriousiy become the haunts of lewdness and debauchery, it was deemed impious and sacrilegious to reduce their number, abridge their privileges, or alienate their funds.
“ The ignorance of the clergy respecting religion was as gross as the dissoluteness of their morals. Even bishops were not ashamed to confess that they were unacquainted with the canon of their faith, and had never read any part of the sacred Scriptures, except what they met with in their missals."
It is not, then, to be wondered at, that, under so repugnant and scandalizing a state of things, notwithstanding the darkness and deformity of the times, mankind should in every part of Europe be growing ripe for a change, and that the still small voice of the conscientious few, who exposed and resisted the corruption around them, should be working with a wholesome ferment amid the general mass; that that elastic power of the human mind, which, in our own day, we have seen in Spain, in Russia, in Germany, and may yet, perhaps, see in France,f rising with indignant recoil against the domestic or foreign tyranny by which it had been long bowed down, should be swelling, and labouring, and maturing to the same effect, in the case before us; co-operating with the intrepid voice of Wyckliff in our own country, and with the ashes of Huss and Jeremy of Prague, that were not in vain sprinkled over the guilty soil of Switzerland, and effecting that important revolution, which reason, religion, and common sense equally vilified and insulted, equally called aloud for and sanctioned. II. At this very period, in the year of our own era 1445, Constantinople, the
Life of John Knox, p. 14--20. * The prediction is fulilled. The passage was delivered, during the usurpation of Napoleon, in 1813
delight and glory of Constantine, who founded and named it after his own name; the metropolis of the eastern empire; the rival of ancient Rome; the seat of elgance, refinement, and luxury; the asylum of science upon its banishment from the west of Europe, by the savage incursions of the northern tribes; where the language of Homer, and Herodotus, and Plato, and Aristotle, and Sophocles, and Demosthenes, was still spoken as the common tongue, and their writings still studied and idolized,--fell prostrate before the haughty banners of the Turks; the most enterprising, but at the same time the rudest and most barbarous of all the Saracen powers. All Europe trembled at the intelligence, and an utter extinction was predicted to the little learning and virtue which were now begivning to glimmer in the midst of the general darkness.
The fear, however, was without foundation; and the very event which was apprehended, and with much reason, to be most fatal to the cause of true religion and science, proved most propitious to their promotion. Thus inscrutable are the ways of Providence, in a thousand instances, to the cal. culations of man, and thus triumphant the Divine government when it seems most trampled upon. The career of the Crescent, though it overran the most delightful provinces of the Greek empire, and spread to an enormous extent towards the East, did not, except in a few instances, advance farther in a north-western direction than the borders of 'Transylvania and Hungary ; while Italy, whose most renowned scholars had found an asylum at Constantinople, upon its general ravage by the Goths, now offered, in return, to the scholars of Constantinople an asylum from Turkish fury and oppression ; thus ena. bling the elegant and accomplished Greeks, a second time, to give letters to Europe; at this period to the modern world, as they had done iwo thousand years before to the ancient.
Several of the Italian governments had, indeed, for half a century, begun to feel the importance of literature and science, and, consequently, to offer protection and patronage to scholars of every description. Florence, Naples, and Ferrara are particularly entitled to this eulogy; and, in a somewhat inferior degree, Venice, Urbino, Mantua, and Milan. It was a growing spirit, and a growing patronage; till, at length, upon the introduction of Giovanni de' Medici, into the college of cardinals, in 1490, and more especially upon his election to the pontificate in 1513, Rome surpassed every other state in the splendid and extensive encouragement it afforded to wit aud wisdom of every kind (with the lamentable exception of that it ought chiefly to have prized), but especially to classical literature and the fine arts.
III. The Latin tongue was, at this time, so far revived as to become cultivated and understood in all its elegancies; and Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio, Trissino, Sanazzaro, Ariosto, and a bright galaxy of other writers, too extensive to be enumerated, had progressively given a character and almost a mature polish to modern Italian. But a knowledge of Greek, the mastertongue of the world, of Attic eloquence and refinement, was but very limited and imperfect, amid the best scholars of the day; and hence, as I have already observed, the fugitive scholars of Constantinople were hailed in almost every part of Italy and especially by the splendid and illustrious family of the Medici, first at Florence, and afterward at Rome. The directors, indeed, of the early studies of Leo X., or Giovanni de' Medici, as he was then called, were partly drawn from this well-spring of genuine taste and genius; Demetrius Chalcondyles and Petrus Ægineta, both native Greeks, being among the more prominent of his tutors. While, in the very first year of his election to the pontificate, he founded a Greek institute of great extent and magnificence in th centre of the apostolic see; gave a general invi
on to young and noble Greeks to quit their country, and take up their residence under his protection; purchased for the accommodation of these illustrious strangers the noble palace of the Cardinal of Sion, on the Esquilian hill, which he splendidly endowed as an academy; and, as far as their talents or education fitted them for the purpose, inducted them into the Roman church, and conferred upon them some of its highest dignities and distinctions.
IV. Nothing could occur more auspiciously to the zeal and splendour with which this munificent and sumptuous pontiff was prosecuting the revival of literature than the invention of PRINTING ;-that wonderful discovery which has since effected, and which is so well calculated to effect, the most important revolutions among mankind : the noblest art of man, next to the invention of letters ; the winged commerce of the mind; the impregnable breastplate of freedom. We may fairly call it an invention, even at the period here adverted to, since, though the same art, as well in the form of stereotype or wooden blocks, and of moveable type, had at this time been in use in China ever since the close of the ninth century, and was encouraged by the patronage of the emperor Teen Foh*, there is not the smallest ground for supposing, as there is in the case of the mariner's compass, that it was introduced into Europe from any communication with the Chinese empire. Strasburg has the honour of having given birth to this invention in the middle of the fifteenth century, at the very period when Constantinople sell prostrate before the standard of the Crescent. It was for some time kept a profound secret; but it was an art of far too much importance to remain concealed long; and was soon eagerly laid hold of by a variety of spirited and noble Italians, whom the fashion and ardour of the times had stimulated to try their respective powers in the generous contest for literary fame and distinction; and applied, upon an extensive scale, to a publication of correct and almost immaculate editions of the best Greek, Roman, and vernacular authors.
Among this excellent group, worthy of all praise and immortality, stands first in order of time, and foremost in that of merit, the well-known name of Aldo Manuzio, or Aldus Manutius Bassianus, the intimate friend of Erasmus, born at Bassiano, a village within the Roman territory, in the year 1447: he established his printing school at Venice ; invited all the scholars of the age to his assistance; and, in 1494, produced, as the first fruits of the Aldine press, the first Greek poem or Greek book that ever appeared in print, the Hero and Leander of Musæus; which was followed, not many years afterward, by an accurate edition of the entire works of Plato, at that time the most popular of all the Greek philosophers; introduced by an elegant copy of Greek verses composed by Marcus Musurus, one of the most learned Greeks of the day, who had carefully superintended the press, and justly complimentary to the talents and princely munificence of the head of the church: who, with a singular coincidence of facts, was at that very moment addressing a letter to Musurus, requesting his assistance in the formation of his Greek seminary at Rome. I need not add, that to Musurus, to Aldo, to Agostino Chisi, who also founded, and at Rome itself, a printing establishiment of great extent and celebrity, to scholars and artists of every description and country, his patronage, his high approbation, and his pecuniary aid, were dealt out to an extent, alia with a liberality, that no other age has ever witnessed either before or since.
Nor did he confine his attention to a restoration of the Greek and Roman languages, or an improvement of his vernacular tongue. Under his auspices a study of the oriental dialects, so necessary to a persect knowledge of the sacred writings, now first began to engage the attention of the learned. He invited ecclesiastics from Syria, Ethiopia, and other eastern countries. In order to carry this important object into due effect, he established a Syriac chair in the university of Bologna, and appointed the celebrated canon Teseo Ambrogio to be the first professor, who is said to have been acquainted with eighteen different languages, and to have delivered his instructions in the Syriac and Chaldee tongues with the fluency of a native. He patronised the Psalter of Agostino Giustiniani, published at Genoa in 1516, in four different languages; personally perused and superintended, as long as he lived, Pag. nini's translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew; and, to sum up the whole, gave every encouragement to that masterpiece of learning and labour,
* Morrison's Philological View of China, p. 27.