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We ask impartiality from the historian, not as a man, but as a writer. We have no right to go beyond his words as they stand. But we have every right to demand that the writer shall not take for granted certain fundamental principles that give their own interpretation to all the facts he may bring forward ; that he shall not insinuate his own party feeling along with his description of the facts, by that rhetorical process which results, according to Cicero, in building up living flesh and blood round dry bones; and, that he shall not group his facts after the manner of a special pleader, so that true facts by an artificial order lead up to a false conclusion. Of course, the old idea of history, which Quintilian said is written for narration and not for proof, long since passed away. We are now only too thankful when the moral of an historical work, to use Mr. Lea's happy phrase, “is not obtruded upon us.” But we also desire not to be cheated into accepting as true what is only the result of a juggling arrangement of facts. Gibbon wrote more volumes than Mr. Lea on a subject scarcely more vast; and from beginning to end there is neither break nor halt in his skilful and concealed argumentation against the divine origin of Christianity. Mr. Lea, with his heaviness of style and absence of rhetorical niovement, is certainly not a Gibbon; it remains to be seen whether in his anxiety to convey a moral he has not followed the illegitimate method of the more brilliant writer. He says himself, “ I have not paused to moralize, but I have missed my aim if the events narrated are not so presented as to teach their appropriate lesson." So much morality and so many lessons have been drawn from the Middle Ages and the Inquisition for the special benefit of Catholics that we may well look closely into the state of mind of our new teacher.
The non-Catholic student of history is equally interested with ourselves in this examination if he sincerely desires to know the truth in the matter; or if, as Schiller puts it in words which men of science love to quote in their own controversies,-he prefers truth to his system. Let him remove for a moment from his mind the ever present phantom of the Church of Rome ; for that Church is so living that she is sure to awaken either violent hatred or enthusiasm—even when there is question of ages considered dark. It is an undoubtedly dark legate of the Abyssinian Church-of which no one has any great knowledge and for which consequently no one feels any great degree of love or hatred—that claims his attention. He comes with much semi-barbaric strangeness and ceremony to complain of the injustice of historians. Neither Gibbon nor Mr. Lea can refuse to hear him on this score. But some victim of negrophobia will say to this representative of the
Ethiopic Church : “Why should I listen to you? It is plain upon your face that you represent an odious institution. How else comes it that
brethren are so black?" The Ethiop, in the name of his Church, simply desires to prove in the language of the spouse of the Canticles-1 am black but beautiful—and he answers with many an apologetic salaam-Do not consider me that I am brown, because the sun hath altered my color.'
The anti-Ethiop retorts—“Well, if your faith is not the cause of the black skins among you, at any rate you behaved very badly in the time of King Theodore, when so enlightened a nation as England had to send out its army to whip you into submission. It is clear your Church is an enemy of civilization. And then I have a choice set of nasty anecdotes about you and the Italians, with its continuance to modern times.'
The oriental, imperturbable as is his race, bows low once more and protests that the Abouna and his assistant bishops ought not to be held responsible for fighting that began in English calicoes and African slaves and elephants' teeth. He even goes on to say, with a pathos that should move to thought every lover of truth : “ Not all the children of the Abyssinian Church are worthy representatives of her faith; for, indeed,—the sons of my mother have fought against me." In fact, the dark-skinned legate might well protest that the historian should follow out the late Mr. Bagehot's clever turn of thought, and remember that there is a “connective tissue” of civilization, based in “ Physics and Politics” quite as much as in religion ; and, he who desires to know the truth concerning the part played by a religious faith or a church in any period of the world's history, must carefully seek out what is really owing to its action on the age, and not lay to its charge results which it could not be expected to prevent or change. Keeping this view of the case steadily before us, we may profitably examine Mr. Lea's impartiality and competency as an historian.
It is comforting to notice that the Church for him is usually .“ It," and only on exciting occasions “She." Too often, from beginning to end of some pretended historical study, the Church is nothing less than a horrid and preternatural harridan exercising her cruelty and her witchcraft through all the ages. This view, it is true, is in its way a direct testimony to the one and continuous personality of the Church, constituted, as all Catholics hold, by the ever present assistance of the same one Holy Spirit of
i Canticles, i, 4, 5.
2 Mr. Lea's phrase of the Church's legislation "compelling the chastity" of its “ ministers," i.,
3 As in chapter on The Stake, i , 536.
God. To them she is the mighty mother whom Christ has loved -a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.
The enemies of the Catholic Church who have consciously acknowledged this personality, are forced to attribute it to some spirit of evil; and for this reason the Church was so long stigmatized by them as the anti-Christ. It is curious to note, now that men of science have rejected both Christ and the devil, how all unconsciously they continue to acknowledge this personality of the Church, persevering on the same from age to age, in their bitterest attacks against her. It is this we wished to express by the word
mythology," finding it best exemplified, in this “ scientific" phase, in a work of the late Prof. Draper that-professedly in behalf of science-deals largely with the same period which has occupied the leisure of Mr. Lea.
Mr. Lea devotes his first, and what for many will be the principal, chapter of his work, to the Church's position “as the twelfth century drew to a close.” On the one hand, he declares that "the vicissitudes of one hundred and fifty years, skilfully improved, had rendered it the mistress of Christendom." Of her priests he says, "over soul and conscience their empire was complete." There had been "created a spiritual despotism which placed all things within reach of him who could wield it.” “The papal mandate, just or unjust, reasonable or unreasonable, was to be received and implicitly obeyed, for there was no appeal from the representative of St. Peter.” “The destiny of all men lay in the hands which could administer or withhold the sacraments essential to salvation.” “The Church militant was an army encamped on the soil of Christendom, with its outposts everywhere, subject to the most efficient discipline, animated with a common purpose, every soldier” (Mr. Lea by this means only the members of the clergy)“ panoplied with inviolability and armed with the tremendous weapons which slew the soul.” “That (the Pope] was supreme over all the earth-over pagans and infidels as well as over Christians—was legally proved and universally taught by the mediæval doctors."? On the other hand, “if the Church, by sundering itself completely from the laity, had acquired the services of a militia devoted wholly to itself, it had thereby created an antagonism between itself and the people. Practically, the whole body of Christians no longer constituted the Church ; that body was divided into two essentially distinct classes, the shepherds and the sheep; and the lambs were often apt to think, not unreasonably, that they were tended only to be shorn."
1 Ephesians, V., 24, 27.
? It would be curious to know what Mr. Lea imagines Innocent III. to have meant by “pronouncing himself to be the God of Pharaoh." The Vulgate Bible (Exodus, vii., 1) has- The Lord said to Moses : Behold, I have appointed thee the God of Pharaoh-surely no great usurpation of the place of the divinity.
This, put forward in an initial statement of principles to be received by the reader and for which no real proof is offered, seems wonderfully like the old Protestantism; not to say that no Catholic would admit the truth of a single one of these propositions. They can be disproved from the very mediæval doctors Mr. Lea so confidently quotes. But there is worse yet to come, not once or by the way, but everywhere and to the end. His entire book is to speak of the modes “ in which the supreme jurisdiction of Rome worked inestimable evil throughout Christendom.” And when finally he has fully entered on his own particular subject, he declares, in a most general and sweeping proposition, that the Church“ has always held the toleration of others to be persecution of itself;” and “the Church was responsible for the enactment of the ferocious laws punishing heresy with death.":
It is already plain that Mr. Lea holds a brief against the Roman Catholic Church of all ages. From her history during the Middle Ages he is to furnish the material for a studied attack all along the line; first, against her divine origin and her character as the Church of Christ;' secondly, against the part she has played in the civilization of the world; and finally, to throw upon her the opprobrium of religious intolerance and persecution exercised by her as a Church, all to be burned into the anti-Catholic imagination by the most lurid accumulation of facts possible.
The merely apparent fairness of certain general propositions scattered through the work cannot soften this judgment of it as a whole. That the Church was pushed on in her evil courses by the spirit of the age does not do away with the charges against her. If there is a divine assistance guarding her from age to age, she cannot thus utterly fall away, even though many of her children may cease to be guided by her spirit. That the net result of all the selfish grasping and deliberate cruelty charged upon her was in sum total an advantage to the world and civilization, can also in no wise clear the Church from the fundamental accusations brought against her. Mr. Lea cannot suppose the human instruments in which the Church's authority was centred, to have foreseen the good likely to result from the evil he so exaggerates. With his hatred of even martyred Jesuits,' he cannot reasonably find them predecessors who, with miraculous foresight, thus insisted on doing evil that good might come.
1 See especially the Decretal of Innocent III., Per venerabilem (A.D. 1202), with the comments of all canonists on iv., 17, Qui filii sint legitimi, under which title this stands as c. 13; also theologians on Boniface VIII. (c. 4, iii , 20, in 6).
? i., 1, 2, 4, 5, 18, 135, 536.
3 The last chapter but one of his entire work (iii., 550–615) is a disquisition on Intellect and Faith. Into this he has introduced a polemical tract on the Immaculate Conception! The choice mess he has made of it would be beneath contempt, did it not show so clearly Mr. Lea's starting point in his researches, namely, that the Catholic intellect has no rights which non-Catholics are bound to respect.
But Mr. Lea's whole position as against the Church is so strange and, at first sight, contradictory, that it is worth while examining whether it is not aimed against the divinity of the Christian religion itself. When giving a rapid glance at the attitude of the Church from the beginning toward persecution, he finds that, “in simplicity of teaching," St. James, representing "the Ebionitic section of the Church, agreed with the Pauline branch !" This at once discloses a system that does away with all inspiration of the New Testament, even as held by the most advanced Protestants. But Mr. Lea finds in the New Testament itself “the seed scattered which was to bear so abounding a harvest of wrong and misery. St. Paul will listen to no deviation from the strictness of his teachings—But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed' (Galat., i. 8); and he boasts of delivering unto Satan Hymenaeus and Alexander, ‘that they may learn not to blaspheme' (1 Tim., i. 20). How this spirit increased as time wore on, may be seen in the apocalyptic threats with which the backsliders and heretics of the seven churches are assailed (Rev., ii., iii.)."
It is some consolation to find that Mr. Lea essentially identifies the Church of the Middle Ages with that of St. Paul and St. John, though he leaves us uncertain concerning St. James and “the Ebionitic section.” We can henceforth hear with equanimity that "the process went on with accelerating rapidity;"_“Tertullian shrieks" to Quintilla;—"the Donatist heresy with its deplorable results arose on the question of the eligibility of an individual bishop;”—“when Eutyches, in his zeal against the doctrines of Nestorius, was led to confuse in some degree the double nature of Christ, thinking that he was only defending the dogmas of his friend, St. Cyril, he sud denly found himself convicted of a heresy as damnable as Nestorianism;" "he was not able to grasp the subtle distinction between substantia and subsistentia, a fatal failing, which proved the ruin of thousands;" and, finally, “those who held commanding positions in the Church and could enforce their opinions, were necessarily orthodox; those who were weaker became heterodox, and the distinction between the faithful and the heretic became year by year more marked.” After all this it is no wonder that Mr. Lea gives us many
"a curious commentary on theological perversity,” or what he considers "the heated wranglings over questions scarce appreciable by
i ii., 567.