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irreligious and anti-Christian tendency. As it was, the intelligence of the mode of life practised at Rome by the Cardinals, and by the Pope himself, darkening of course as it spread, reached every part of the Christian world, and thus, even if the lavish expenditure of Leo, in his gorgeous court and in his splendid designs for the embellishment of Rome, had not increased the burthen of ecclesiastical taxation throughout Christendom beyond endurance, his pontificate must greatly have loosened the hold of Popery on the general veneration.
The effects of all this on the Reformation are well known ; but the strong reaction which, with the other circumstances of the period, it produced in Italy and Rome itself, and the permanent influence of that strong reaction on the Papacy, have been traced with much less attention. Dr. Macrie, in his * History of the Reformation in Italy,' entered at some length, and with praiseworthy diligence, into part of the subject; but the controversial design of his volume, however able, was not consistent with a calm and comprehensive view of the whole bearings of this silent revolution in the character and policy of the Roman government. Christianity was too deeply rooted in the minds of men not to resist, and rally its dormant energies against the Epicurean or sceptical spirit of the age. Even during the reign of Leo an association was formed, comprehending some of the most distinguished and learned men of the times, for the purpose of re-awakening in their own minds and in those of others the fervour of Christian piety.
In the Transtevere, in the church of S. Silvestro and Dorotea, not far from the place where the Apostle Peter, according to the general belief, had his residence, and presided over the first assemblies of the Christians, they met for the purpose of divine worship, preaching, and spiritual exercises. Their numbers were from fifty to sixty. Among them were Contarini, Sadolet, Giberto, Caraffa, afterwards, or at the same time, Cardinals; Gaetano da Thiene, who was canonized; Lippomano, a religious writer of great reputation and influence, and some other men of note. Julian Bathi, the pastor of the church, was their bond of union. Some of these remarkable men met, some years later, in the Venetian territory, at that critical period the only secure re
treat for letters and for religion. Rome had been plunderedFlorence conquered— Milan was the constant scene of military operations. In some of the beautiful villas of the Venetian main land, belonging to the nobles or wealthy ecclesiastics of the republic, several of these Roman aristocratical methodists encountered exiles from Florence, on whom the preaching of Savonarola had produced deep and serious impressions, and Reginald Pole, then a fugitive from the jealousy of his kinsman, Henry VIII. The general tendency of these vigorous and well-instructed minds was no doubt Protestant. On the doctrine of justification by faith their sentiments were in close unison with those of the Reformers. If these men, the religious party of the Roman Catholic world, had not been terrified back into stern opponents of all change, by the excesses of the Protestants, and by the open contempt of their first and vital principle, the unity of the Church; if these men, Italians by birth, and respectable even in Italy for their learning, had obtained the guidance of the Papal policy; if they could have disentangled it from the intricacies of Italian, if not of European politics, and steadily pursued the religious interests of the Pontificate, a liberal and comprehensive system of Christian union might still perhaps have been framed. But the circumstances of the times frustrated all these splendid schemes. As the Reforming party became more strong, the Roman Catholic drew back in uncompromising hostility. Of these great and good men who now occupied the high ground of a powerful mediatorial party, some retreated with hasty but firm step within the pale, and lent all the vigour of their minds and the authority of their religious character to the reconstruction of the Papal power on its new and, if narrower, still majestic basis: others went onward with the stream; if they escaped beyond the Alps, they became, like Peter Martyr, distinguished supporters of Protestantism,-if they unhappily remained, they became victims of their free opinions, and fed the fires of the Inquisition : some, finally, like the Socini, went sounding on in the perilous depths, which the plummet of
human reason vainly strives to fathom, till they arrived at opinions repudiated with equal abhorrence by both the conflicting parties in Christendom.
The transition from the brilliant court, the affable manners, the Italian vivacity, the noble representation of Leo X., to the cold, grave, and repulsive homeliness of a foreigner and a Dutchman, was too violent to be allayed by the mild virtues and conscientious spirit of conciliation displayed by Adrian of Utrecht. Clement VII. succeeded, the most unfortunate—(so Mr. Ranke observes, using, no doubt accidentally, the same expression as Robertson)-as Leo was the most fortunate of pontiffs. A Medici could not but involve himself fatally and inextricably in Italian politics. With a dignified propriety of character, moderation in his expenditure, yet no want of regard for the majesty of the see; with great acquirements, both theological and, as far at least as regards the principles of mechanics and architecture, scientific; with no disinclination to patronize learning and the fine arts; with habits of business, and extraordinary address and penetration—Clement VII., in serener times, might have administered the Papal power with high reputation and enviable prosperity. But with all his profound insight into the political affairs of Europe, Clement does not seem to have comprehended the altered position of the Pope in relation to the great conflicting powers of Christendom. Continental Europe had, in effect, become divided into two great monarchies; and the Papal hand was not now strong enough to hold the balance between the vast empire of Charles V. and the more compact and vigorous kingdom of France. Instead of holding them asunder, and maintaining one as a check upon the other, he was crushed in the collision. Instead of preserving the independence of Italy by counteracting the predominance of the Spanish interest by the French, or at least by securing the liberties of the independent states, his temporizing policy could only cause the devastation of Italy by the successive armies of each potentate, the subjugation of all the free governments, and at length the plunder of
Rome and his own captivity. Clement was in like manner in perpetual embarrassment between the conflicting temporal and religious interests of the Papacy; he was constantly obliged to sacrifice one to the other, and thus as constantly weaken both. The extraordinary difficulty of this Pope's position, and the no less extraordinary versatility of his character, are exemplified by two events in his reign. By means of the army which had ravaged Rome, and insulted his own sacred person, he destroyed the liberties of his native Florence; and in the negotiations at Marseilles there is decisive evidence that he agreed with Francis to league with the Protestants of the North of Germany against his late intimate ally the Emperor. Clement VII. died, leaving the Vatican shorn of the allegiance of the northern kingdoms, of England, of considerable part of Germany, and some cantons of Switzerland ;—he died of mortification and anguish of mind, at beholding his nephews involved in a deadly quarrel for the sovereignty of Florence, obtained at the price of so much treachery and violence, and therefore so much debasement of the religious influence of the Papal See.
But the Roman Catholic Religion possessed within itself an inherent vitality, which all the false politics of the Popes could not counteract. It may, we think, be asserted, that there is something more congenial to the Southern nations of Europe in the imaginative creed and the splendid ceremonial of Popery, than in the severer and more reasoning system of Protestantism. It is an inveterate and almost immemorial habit of mind. A vast mass of the population of the Roman empire passed from Paganism into a half-paganized Christianity; they retained, as has often been shown—never better than by Mr. Blunt—the forms of the ancient superstition, but kindled into reviving energy by the spirit of the new faith. The Northern nations, even if we leave constitutional temperament out of the question, had received the faith of the Gospel at a much later period; they had retained less of their old religious practices; and, though converted to the barbarous Christianity of the Middle Ages, they had been converted by simple, poor,
and holy missionaries. Though no doubt the Catholic ceremonial was celebrated with much pomp in cities like Cologne and Mentz, yet among a poorer people it must in general have been less imposing; at all events, it had not been so completely ingrained into the habits and feelings as in Italy and other parts of the South by centuries of undisturbed usage.
However this may be, and the subject requires a more detailed and careful investigation, the convocation and the acts of the Council of Trent were at once a manifestation and a confirmation of the yet unshaken authority of the Roman See. If this famous council precluded, by its stern and irrevocable decrees, any conciliatory union with the Protestantsif it erected an impassable barrier between the two conflicting parties in Christendom-it consolidated Roman Catholic Europe by an indissoluble bond of union; it drew an impregnable wall around the more limited, but still extensive, dominion; it fixed a definite creed, which, still more perhaps than the indefinite authority of the Pope, united the confederacy of the Catholic powers; it established, in fact, a solemn recognition of certain clear and acknowledged points of doctrine, a kind of oath of allegiance to the unity of the Church and to the supremacy of Rome.
But the active and operative principle of Roman Catholic regeneration was that of association in the Religious Orders. Loyola, after all, was the most formidable antagonist of Luther. These orders have been called the standing militia of the See of Rome; nor was ever standing army more completely alienated from all civil interests, or more exclusively devoted to the service of the sovereign. That which in one sense was the weakness, the celibacy of all these orders, was in another the strength of Catholicism. Everything that was great, whether for good or for evil, was achieved by them,—the foreign missions, the education of the people, the Inquisition. Men could not have been found who, for a long continuance, would have executed the mandates of that fearful tribunal, unless they had been previously estranged from the common sympathies,