Page images
PDF
EPUB

was the year in which the death of Pope Innocent the Eighth occasioned the vacancy in the Papal chair, which was filled by the appointment of the infamous Borgia, under the title of Alexander the Sixth. This man was not the worst that ever lived, for bad as he was, he was surpassed in wickedness by his own hideous son, whom he idolised and made an Archbishop and a Cardinal. It was asserted that Alexander purchased the Papacy by bribing the Holy College, with whom the appointment rested. It may be doubted whether he bought his power, but there can be no question that he sold it. It was in allusion to his double simony that the couplet was written

“He sells the keys, the altar, Christ himself :

By right he sells what he has bought with pelf."

The extent to which this Pope carried the crimes and corruptions of the Romish Church, did very much to prepare men's minds for those great changes from which the timid amongst them might have shrunk if the abuses of the Papacy had been less gross in their character, although they might have been equally detrimental to real religion in their consequences. The year in which the death of Innocent made way for Alexander, found Martin Luther a mere child, eight years old, living in the poor home of his pious parents. His mother was striving hard, as best she knew how in that season of her spiritual twilight, to train up

her child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Her religious counsel was enforced by the example of her home, in frugality and contentment-in diligence and devoutness. To the end of his life the great Reformer had reason to gratefully acknowledge the wise teaching and the holy influence of bis mother exercised in those days of his childhood and poverty. His history furnishes no exception to the rule, that you rarely find a man with great beauty of Christ-like character, without also finding that a woman's plastic band had much to do with the moulding of his nature into the image of Divine holiness. In that same year 1491, Ignatius Loyola, the future founder of the Jesuits, was born in an old baronial castle, in the province of Biscay, and under the shadow of the Pyrenees. These two boys, born within eight years of each other, grew up to be the two foremost men in the world, changing the current of its destinies, and proving to be, the one the stoutest foe, and the other—the most successful defender the Church of Rome ever had. The comments made by different historians on the fact, that the birth of Loyola was so nearly coincident with that of Luther, afford another illustration of the strangely different way in which the same event is contemplated by different individuals. It is true, that beauty is rather in the eye which sees than in the object which is seen. Papal historians tell us, that the Founder of the Jesuits was born so soon after the first of the Reformers, in obedience to the law by which Nature provides an antidote to every poison, and grows in each climate medicinal herbs specially adapted to the pestilences most prevalent there. But we,-remembering how the Jesuit order turned the hosts of Antichrist from their early flight,-checked the course of the Reformation,-and made its chariot wheels drag heavily, are much more disposed to say, that the advent of Loyola so quickly followed the entrance of Luther into the world, in proof of the old saying, that

“Wherever Christians have their house of prayer,

The devil always builds a chapel there."

The Spanish boy, growing into manhood, became a courtly knight, full of the spirit of chivalry, and daring in all soldierly deeds, but by no means free from all the vices most rife in the camp and on the battle-field. Presently, there came Affliction, that great wonder-worker, who has wrought some of the most thorough and momentous changes which have ever taken place in human character. Loyola was wounded at the siege of Pampeluna, and carried home to his father's castle. This was in 1521, a year as memorable in the history of Luther as it was in that of the founder of the Jesuits. About the time that Loyola was fighting so bravely against the French besiegers of the metropolis of Navarre, the great Reformer was displaying a more sanctified heroism in a far holier cause. He was invited to the Diet of Worms, through the Elector of Saxony, by the new Emperor, Charles the Fifth, on whose friendly interference the Court of Rome seems to have rested its last hopes for the suppression of the doctrines of the Reformation. It was then Luther uttered those oft-quoted words which have shamed so many soldiers of the cross out of their cowardice, and inspired so many threatened servants of Christ to face their duties and forget all dangers. Faint-hearted friends told him he would be burnt to powder at Worms, as surely as John Huss had been at Constance. "If,” said he, “they were to kindle a fire that should reach to the sky between Wittemberg and Worms, I would still appear there in the name of the Lord.” Little did Luther dream of the beneficial power that brave utterance would be in the world centuries after he had entered into his rest.

Very great is the blessing which many a good man has conferred upon the world by some brief saying which, being a wise word spoken in season, has remained amongst the treasures of successive generations—“an apple of gold in a picture of silver.” What perpetual service to the cause of becoming humility, is rendered by Sir Isaac Newton's lowly confession of the littleness of his knowledge when compared with the vastness of the undiscovered secrets of Nature! How much has fidelity to evangelical doctrine been helped by Paul's memorable avowal of the one great theme on which he insisted—“We preach Christ and Him crucified !” The influence exercised by these and similar sayings, illustrates and confirms the Scripture declaration, The

power of life and death is in the tongue.” It shows us what force for good or for evil there is even in our words. Though our sphere be very narrow, and what we say seem of far less moment, yet we do well to set a watch over our lips, for the feeblest amongst us may utter words which will beget consequences that shall outlast Time itself. We do all of us under-rate the importance of what falls from our lips, for we forget the Lord has said, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Experience fully warrants the apostle's warning, that a man's religion is vain if it do not teach him to use his tongue wisely.

The latter part of the year 1521, Luther spent in the castle of Wartburg, in almost perfect concealment, rendered necessary by the wrath of his adversaries. While he was in that solitude-battling with doubts-translating the Word of God into the language of his fatherland, and longing to be again amidst the scenes and struggles of the busy world, Loyola lay in the Pyrenean castle wasted and well-nigh worn out with pain, and deformed beyond all hopes of restoration. His broken leg had been ill-set, and was broken again that it might be re-set. Even now a piece of bone protruded near the knee, and rather than bear the unsightliness he would have it cut off. His attendants fainted at the bare sight of the excruciating surgery, but he who suffered it all mocked at the agony, and for the sake of a comely limb, went through it without a murmur.

66 This * Sir James Stephen's Essays.

frightful sacrifice at the shrine of Comeliness was offered in vain. Her votary was long confined to his couch, oppressed by the sad conviction that whether the lute should breathe & summons to the gaillard, or the trumpet ring out an alarm to the battle, the sound would be but a mockery to him.”* Painful conjecture speedily ripened into still more painful certainty. The erewhile handsome soldier was incurably a cripple, and all the fond hopes inspired by the spirit of chivalry which had so smitten him, were doomed to utter disappointment. He tried to while away the weary hours of close confinement, and bodily pain and heart sickness, by reading. They brought him the “Lives of the Saints," and as he read fresh hopes dawned upon him, and a new ambition was enkindled in his breast. He got glimpses of work which even a deformed and disappointed warrior might do, and thereby make his life worth possessing. He would be a soldier of the Cross. He would emulate the holy men whose deeds he had been reading. He would give himself to the glory of God in the service of the Church, and exchange his sword of steel for that ethereal weapon wielded in the strife of opinions, and in the conflict with heresy and wickedness. Out of that resolve born of affliction, there ultimately sprung the order of the Jesuits, the stoutest champions of the Church of Rome, against the assaults of the Reformers--its most obedient bond-slaves and its most daring ambassadors to the very ends of the earth.

After many wanderings and discouragements, Loyola went to Paris in 1528. He laboured there for six long years, and at the end of that time could count six adherents. In August, 1534, he went with his few companions,—the sole fruit of six years' toil, into the Chapel of Montmartre,

« PreviousContinue »