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much of its distinctive excellence, were of such a nature that they claimed to be final, and could not possibly be discarded without a struggle and a convulsion. We must estimate the influence of these principles considered as a whole, and during the entire period of their operation. There are some poisons which, before they kill men, allay pain and diffuse a soothing sensation through the frame. We may recognise the hour of enjoyment they procure, but we must not separate it from the price at which it is purchased.
The extremely unfavourable influence the Catholic Church long exercised upon intellectual development had important moral consequences. Although moral progress does not necessarily depend upon intellectual progress it is materially affected by it, intellectual activity being the most important element in the growth of that great and complex organism which we call civilisation. The mediæval credulity had also a more direct moral influence in producing that indifference to truth, which is the most repulsive feature of so many Catholic writings. The very large part that must be assigned to deliberate forgeries in the early apologetic literature of the Church we have already seen; and no impartial reader can, I think, investigate the innumerable grotesque and lying legends that, during the whole course of the Middle Ages, were deliberately palmed upon mankind as undoubted facts, can follow the histories of the false decretals, and the discussions that were connected with them, or can observe the complete and absolute incapacity most Catholic historians have displayed, of conceiving any good thing in the ranks of their opponents, or of stating with common fairness any consideration that can tell against their cause, without acknowledging how serious and how inveterate has been the evil. There have, no doubt, been many noble individual exceptions. Yet it is, I believe, difficult to exaggerate the extent to which this moral defect exists in most of the ancient and very
much of the modern literature of Catholicism. It "2 and
is this which makes it so unspeakably repulsive to all independent and impartial thinkers, and has led a great German historian to declare, with much bitterness, that the phrase Christian veracity deserves to rank with the phrase Punic faith. But this absolute indifference to truth whenever falsehood could subserve the interests of the Church is
perfectly explicable, and was found in multitudes who, in other respects, exhibited the noblest virtue. An age which has ceased to value impartiality of judgment will soon cease to value accuracy of statement; and when credulity is inculcated as a virtue, falsehood will not long be stigmatised as a vice. When, too, men are firmly convinced that salvation can only be found within their Church, and that their Church can absolve from all guilt, they will speedily conclude that nothing can possibly be wrong which is beneficial to it. They exchange the love of truth for what they call the love of the truth. They regard morals as derived from and subordinate to theology, and they regulate all their statements, not by the standard of veracity, but by the interests of their creed.
Another important moral consequence of the monastic system was the great prominence given to pecuniary compensations for crime. It had been at first one of the broad distinctions between Paganism and Christianity, that, while the rites of the former were for the most part unconnected with moral dispositions, Christianity made purity of heart an essential element of all its worship. Among the Pagans a few faint efforts had, it is true, been made in this direction. An old precept or law, which is referred to by Cicero, and which was strongly reiterated by Apollonius of Tyana, and the Pythagoreans, declared that “no impious man should dare to appease the anger of the divinities by gifts ; oracles are said to have more than once proclaimed that the
Leg. ii. 9. See, too, Philost. 2 • Impius ne audeto placare Apoll. Tyan. i. 11. donis iram Deorum.'— Cicero, De
hecatombs of noble oxen with gilded horns that were offered up ostentatiously by the rich, were less pleasing to the gods than the wreaths of flowers and the modest and reverential worship of the poor. In general, however, in the Pagan world, the service of the temple had little or no connection with morals, and the change which Christianity effected in this respect was one of its most important benefits to mankind. It was natural, however, and perhaps inevitable, that in the course of time, and under the action of very various causes, the old Pagan sentiment should revive, and even with an increased intensity. In no respect had the Christians been more nobly distinguished than by their charity. It was not surprising that the Fathers, while exerting all their eloquence to stimulate this virtue
especially during the calamities that accompanied the dissolution of the Empire—should have dilated in extremely strong terms upon the spiritual benefits the donor would receive for his gift. It is also not surprising that this selfish calculation should gradually, and among hard and ignorant men, have absorbed all other motives. A curious legend, which is related by a writer of the seventh century, illustrates the kind of feeling that had arisen. The Christian bishop Synesius succeeded in converting a Pagan named Evagrius, who for a long time, however, felt doubts about the passage, “He who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.' On his conversion, and in obedience to this verse, he gave Synesius three hundred pieces of gold to be distributed among the poor; but he exacted from the bishop, as the representative of Christ, a promissory note, engaging that he should be repaid in the future world. Many years later, Evagrius, being on his death-bed, commanded his sons, when they buried him, to place the note in his hand, and to do so without informing Synesius. His
There are three or four instances of this related by Porphyry, De Abstin. Carnis, lib. ii.
dying injunction was observed, and three days afterwards he appeared to Synesius in a dream, told him that the debt had been paid, and ordered him to go to the tomb, where he would find a written receipt. Synesius did as he was commanded, and, the grave being opened, the promissory note was found in the hand of the dead man, with an endorsement declaring that the debt had been paid by Christ. The note, it was said, was long after preserved as a relic in the church of Cyrene."
The kind of feeling which this legend displays was soon turned with tenfold force into the channel of monastic life. A law of Constantine accorded, and several later laws enlarged, the power of bequests to ecclesiastics. Ecclesiastical property was at the same time exonerated from the public burdens, and this measure not only directly assisted its increase, but had also an important indirect influence; for, when taxation was heavy, many laymen ceded the ownership of their estates to the monasteries, with a secret condition that they should, as vassals, receive the revenues unburdened by taxation, and subject only to a slight payment to the monks as to their feudal lords. The monks were regarded as the trustees of the poor, and also as themselves typical poor, and all the promises that applied to those who gave to the poor applied, it was said, to the benefactors of the monasteries. The monastic chapel also contained the relics of saints or sacred images of miraculous power, and throngs of worship
Moschus, Pratum Spirituale jeté comme une insulte aux pauvres (Rosweyde), cap. cxcv. M. Wallon et accepté comme une aumône par quotes from the Life of St.-Jean Jésus Christ.'-— Hist. de l'Esclavage, I'Aumônier an even stranger event tome iii. p. 397. which happened to St. Peter Telo- I may mention here that the Dearius. Pour repousser les im- ancient Gauls were said to have portunités des pauvres, il leur jetait been accustomed to lend money on des pierres. Un jour, n'en trou- the condition of its being repaid to vant pas sous la main, il leur jeta the lender in the next life.—(Val. un pain à la tête. Il tomba malade Maximus, lib. ii. cap. vi. § 10.) et eut une vision. Ses mérites 2 Muratori, Antich. Italiane, étaient comptés : d'un côté étaient diss. lxvii. tous ses crimes, de l'autre ce pain
pers were attracted by the miracles, and desired to place themselves under the protection, of the saint. It is no exaggeration to say that to give money to the priests was for several centuries the first article of the moral code. Political minds may have felt the importance of aggrandising a pacific and industrious class in the centre of a disorganised society, and family affection may have predisposed many in favour of institutions which contained at least one member of most families; but in the overwhelming majority of cases the motive was simple superstition. In seasons of sickness, of danger, of sorrow, or of remorse, whenever the fear or the conscience of the worshipper was awakened, he hastened to parcbase with money the favour of a saint. Above all, in the hour of death, when the terrors of the future world loomed darkly upon his mind, he saw in a gift or legacy to the monks a sure means of effacing the most monstrous crimes, and securing his ultimate happiness. A rich man was soon scarcely deemed a Christian if he did not leave a portion of his property to the Church, and the charters of innumerable monasteries in every part of Europe attest the vast tracts of land that were ceded by will to the monks, “for the benefit of the soul' of the testator.1
It has been observed by a great historian that we may trace three distinct phases in the early history of the Church. In the first period religion was a question of morals; in the second period, which culminated in the fifth century, it had become a question of orthodoxy; in the third period, which dates from the seventh century, it was a question of muniticence to monasteries. The despotism of Catholicism, and
See, on the causes of the wealth tiellement consisté dans l'enseigneof the monasteries, two admirable ment moral; elle avoit exercé les dissertations by Muratori,
cours et les âmes par la recherche italiane, lxvii., lxviii.; Hallam’s de ce qui étoit vraiment beau, vraiMiddle Ages, ch. vii. part i. ment honnête. Au cinquième siècle
2 • Lors de l'établissement du on l'avoit surtout attachée à l'orchristianisme la religion avoit essen- thodoxie, au septième on l'avoit ré