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THE “HISTORY OF THE WALDENSES,” “ LECTURES ON THE APOCALYPSE,"
“ BIBLICAL CYCLOPÆDIA,” ETC. ETC.
LECTURE LVI I.
Retrospect—Corrupt state of the church of Rome, from the ninth to
the fourteenth century-Illustrated by quotations from Catholic writers. On the profligacy of the Clergy, from St. Bernard Cardinal Cusanus—Nicholas of Clemangis— Marsilius of Padua -the Cardinal of Lorraine - Ambassador of the Duke of Bavaria—Charles IX. King of France.— Intolerable arrogance of the Popes, from Augustin Steuchus— Politianus, &c.— Their Blasphemy, by Cardinal Baronius--Raynaldus-Faulus Jovius, &c.— Their Dispensations, by John Gerson- Decretals of Gregory VII.-Prostitution of Ecclesiastical Functions—Simony-Deposition of Princes—Claim to Infallibility, g'c.
In the preceding course of Lectures I have briefly narrated the sanguinary proceedings of the court of Rome towards the various sects which, from time to time, had risen up to bear their testimony against its numerous corruptions and manifold abuses, and more especially, the sects of the Albigenses and Waldenses, whose history I deemed it expedient to prosecute, without intermission, to the end of the seventeenth century, at which time the total dispersion of the churches of their communion, in Piedmont, by the armies of Louis XIV., may be said to have extinguished the light which for so many centuries had shone throughout those favoured valleys and the south of France. In the present course we shall have to trace the conflict betwixt
truth and error, light and darkness, the kingdom of Christ and the man of sin, in various other countries, our own among the rest; and to lay a proper foundation for it, I shall occupy the present lecture with an attempt to sketch a view of the state of Christendom at that particular juncture when a reformation began to dawn upon the benighted nations of Europe.
I have often had occasion, in the course of these lectures, to remind my hearers of the divine simplicity which characterized the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, as instituted by him and his apostles, recommended by their sermons, exemplified in their conduct, and enjoined upon his disciples in their writings. We have seen the various steps by which a departure from this ancient order of things took place, and what professed to be the church of Christ became framed according to the platform and model of secular empires. Our forefathers beheld an almost innumerable class of dignitaries, or church officers, elevated by pompous titles, ecclesiastical canons, honours, pre-eminences, and privileges, upheld by the riches and splendour of the world, and the whole depending on a sovereign high-priest, who had impiously usurped the place of the Lord Jesus Christ, lifted up himself above the whole church, as its rightful monarch, claiming the prerogatives of Deity-one whose words must be laws, and his laws oracles; who assumed to reign, not only over the external actions of men, but to lord it over their souls and consciences also, demanding implicit obedience and subjection to whatever he dictated.
In this motley compound of things secular and sacred, this heterogeneous mixture of worldly pomp and grandeur with the humbling doctrine of the cross, they found something very foreign to the scriptural representation of the church of Jesus Christ; and the more thinking part of them could not but call to mind the Saviour's own words to his disciples before he left the earth : “ The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors : but it shall not be so among you; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve."* To the pastors, elders, or bishops, of such a community,
• Luke, xxii. 25, 26.
CORRUPT STATE OF THE CHURCH OF ROME.
the apostle Peter would never have said, “ Feed the flock of God which is among you—not as being lords over God's heritage.”* From such a corrupt state of things, it was but too manifest that the spirit of the world had got full possession of the church, and had blinded their eyes so as to make them forget what pastors or bishops were in their first institution, and what they ought to be. The greater part of the bishops were become lords, properly so called, and some of them had even become sovereign princes. It would not be very easy under such a constitution of things to watch over the flock, much less to repel the doctrines, customs, and maxims, which have a tendency to favour or advance that lordly domination.
Covetousness and ambition generally go hand in hand: they nourish and mutually sustain one another. Our forefathers consequently saw them reigning together among ecclesiastics during a long tract of time; and great and loud were the complaints to which they gave rise. In fact, the avarice of the court of Rome became proverbial, insomuch that the clergy were reproached with an insatiable greediness of heaping up riches. Of this, indeed, the immense treasure they amassed, the care and caution which they exercised to hinder an alienation and procure an increase, are a sufficient proof. “ They feed on the sins of my people,” said St. Bernard, who lived in the twelfth century,– “ that is to say, they require money for their sins, without making any other account of the sinners. Which of the clergy may you not observe far more careful to empty the purses of those who sit under them than to destroy their vices ?”—“ An ungovernable appetite of those lands that are annexed to the churches,” said Cardinal Cusanus, “engrosses the hearts of the aspiring bishops, so that we see them do that openly after their promotion which they secretly coveted before. All their care is for things temporal, while they are unconcerned about what is spiritual. But this was not contemplated by the emperors; they little thought that the spiritual affairs of men would be engulphed in the temporal, when they gave those possessions to the churches.”+
* 1 Peter v. 3. + Bernard in Cant. Serm. 77. Nichol. Cusan. lib. jii. de Concord. Cath, c. 29.