Century XII, Chapter VI


General State of the Church in this Century.

THIS may, in a great measure, be collected so faras the Latin church is concerned, from the copious account, which has been given of Bernard. Of the Greek church hardly any thing occurs which properly falls within the design of this history. Superstition, idolatry, frivolous contentions, and metaphysical niceties, attended with a lamentable want of true piety and virtue, form almost the whole of the religious phenomena in the east.

In this chaos of the church, I can only mention a few facts and circumstances, which may throw some lights"

* Vol. ii. p. 1170

on its general state; and they shall be such as have not been considered in the history of Bernard, nor directly relate to the waldenses, whose affairs commenced in the latter part of this century, but will deserve a distinct narration.

Just at the close of the foregoing century, pope Urban held a synod of one hundred and fifty bishops, in order to promote the crusades, and exhorted the christian world to concur in supporting the same cause. He died in the year 1099, and Jerusalem was taken by the crusaders in the same year.* The pale of the visible church was extended by the conquests of the western warriors, and several episcopal sees were again formed in regions, whence the light of the gospel had first arisen to bless mankind. But these were of short duration; and, what is much more material to be observed, while they continued, they gave no evidence, that I can find, of the spirit of true religion. This is a circumstance which throws a very unpleasing shade on the whole character of the fanatical war, which at that time agitated both Europe and Asia. I have exculpated the western christians from the charge of positive injustice in undertaking it; in every other light it deserves much of the asperity of the censure, with which modern authors in general agree to treat it. Among a thousand evils which it produced, or at least encouraged, this was one, namely, that indulgences were now diffused by the popes through Europe, for the purpose of promoting what they called the holy war. These had indeed been sold before by the inferior dignitaries of the church, who, for money, remitted the penalties imposed on trangressors: they had not, however, pretended to abolish the punishments, which await the wicked in a future state. This impiety was reserved to the pope himself, who dared to usurp the authority, which belongs to God alone. The corruption having once taken place, remained and even increased from age to age, till the time of the reforma

* Baronius, cent. xii.

tion. It is needless to say, how subversive of all piety and virtue this practice must have been. That the romanists did really promote this impious traffic, is but too evident from their own writers.* Hence the strict propriety of St. Paul's representation of the man


evinced; hence, the characters of those, who opposed the power and doctrine of popery in those times, receive the most ample vindication, and hence the merit of the reformation itself may, in a great measure, be appreciated. I only add, that the whole discipline of the church was now dissolved, and men, who had means to purchase a licence to sin, were emboldened to let loose the reins of vice, and follow at large, their own desires and imaginations.

Nor were these evils compensated by some other circumstances, which tended to promote the revival of learning in this age. Gratian, a native of Tuscany and a monk of Bologna, made the famous collection of canon laws, and published them in 1151. His work was much facilitated by the discovery of the pandect of the emperor Justinian, which took place in 1137.J Ecclesiastical causes were henceforward tried by the canon law. The degrees of bachelor, licentiate, and doctor, degrees mentioned by no writer before the time of Gratian, were instituted by pope Eugenius HI. the disciple of Bernard, to encourage the study of this science. But they were soon after introduced at Paris by Peter Lombard, who was called the master of the sentences, and were bestowed on students of divinity, as well as of law. For Lombard was supposed to have performed the same service to divinity, which Gratian his contemporary had done to law. Paris and Bologna, the former in divinity, and the latter in law, were now looked on as the greatest

* See Mosheim, cent. xii. p. 595. Qu. edit Morinus, Simon, and Mabillon, are the popish authors, who are not ashamed to vindicate this system of iniquity.

t 2 Thess. ii.

i Mosheim, cent. xii. p. 567. Bower's Lives of Popes, vol. vi. p. 69. Du Pin, cent. xii. chap. xvii.

seminaries in Europe. In this revival of learning, our own island also bore a part. The university of Oxford, which had been founded in the time of Alfred, and had suffered much From the ravages of the Danes, came to a considerable degree of eminence in this century. The learning, as well as the impiety of the continent, passed into England, and we shall shortly see a dreadful instance of the effects of both appearing in the university last mentioned. For while the real word of God was generally neglected, and the salutary doctrine of the gospel was buried in darkness, the literary improvements of the times might sharpen the intellectual faculties, but could produce no benign effects on the manners of mankind. To finish the brief detail of the progress of learning, 1 shall add, that Cambridge had begun to be a seminary of learning, some little time after Oxford, but in that view had been quite oppressed by the incursions of the Danes. It revived, however, in some degree about the year 1109, when Gislebcrt, with three other monks, was sent by the abbot of Croyland to his manor of (Tottenham, near Cambridge. These monks went every day to Cambridge, where they hired a barn, as a convenient place for public lectures. One read grammar in the morning, a second read logic at one o'clock, and a third, at three in the afternoon, gave lectures on rhetoric from Tully and Quintilian. Gislebert himself preached on Sundays and other holidays. The barn was soon found insufficient to contain the. auditors; and, therefore, accommodations were provided for the labours of these men in different parts of the town. Such is the account which Peter of Blois gives of the infant state of learning in the university of Cambridge.

The laudable passion for intellectual improvement was strong in this century. In the room of the fathers succeeded the schoolmen, whose theology was founded by Peter Lombard. A metaphysical subtilty pervaded their investigations, and they were idolized by the ignorant, among whom should be ranked the nobility of that age, almost as much as the plebeians. The human mind, however, by exercise recovered a new tone and vigor; but learning could not communicate grace, nor even enable men to see the folly of enslaving themselves to the popedom. The influence of the bishop of Rome grew prodigious: the emperors of Germany trembled under the rod; and some of the bravest and wisest of the English princes were found unequal to a contest with the hierarchy. But to dwell on these scenes, would be to forsake the path of church history.

Where Then was the church of Christ, and what was its condition? In the general appearance of national religion she was not to be discovered. God had, however, his Secret Ones. There might be, and probably there were, in vulgar life, various persons too poor and too insignificant to be regarded in history, who feared God and served him in the gospel of his son, but whom an humble station in society secured from persecution. There were also here and there some of the recluse, who practised something better than superstition. The story of Bernard has given us an illustrious instance. In the west, we have seen also the state of the cathari, who formed religious societies among themselves. These increased exceedingly, and assuming a new name much better known in the latter part of the century,* were exposed to the unrighteous indignation of the then reigning powers, both in church and state. The account of this persecution will demand our particular attention, when we come to the next century. Thus the church of Christ had a real existence in the west, and shone as a light in a dark place. In the east it is extremely difficult to discover the least vestiges of genuine piety. It is probable, however, that the church existed among the remains of the paulicians. For in the year 1118, Alexius Comnenus, who hud zealously persecuted this people in the latter end of the foregoing century, burned a supposed manichce, who was


charged with maintaining all the absurdities of Manes. We have the account from the female historian, his own daughter Anna Comnena, who every where idolizes the character of her father.* The supposed heretic, however, it ought te be known, rejected the worship of images as idolatry;f a circumstance, which, at least affords a strong presumption in favour of his christian character. The reader is hence lead to believe it not improbable, that there were even then some relics of a church of God in the east. If he complain that the evidence is scanty, I can only lament, that history affords no more. And if he recollect the account given of the cathari in the memoirs of Bernard, and consider them as properly belonging to this place, he will see, that the prophecy of Christ concerning his church, " that the gates of hell should never prevail against it," had its real completion even in the dark times which we are reviewing.

It is, however, no small consolation to the mind of a true believer, that the most disastrous, as well as the most glorious scenes of the church, are predicted in scripture. The evidence of prophecy constantly accompanies the light of history, and " behold I have told you before," is the voice of our Saviour, which we hear in every age. In a council held at London in 1108, in the reign of our Henry I. a decree was issued against clerks, who should cohabit with women.}: This council did not mean to give an attestation to the truth of the prophecy of St. Paul, concerning the apostacy of the latter days, one circumstance of which was the prohibition of marriage^, but they fulfilled the prophecy in the clearest manner. The voices of natural conscience and of common sense were, however, by no means altogether silenced during this gloomy season. Fluentius, bishop of Florence||, taught publicly, that antichrist was born, and come into the world; on which account pope Paschal II. held a council there

* Anna Comnena, b. xv. f Baron- cent. xii.

4 Baron- cent. xii. § 1 Tim. iv.

|| See bp. Newton on the Prophecies, voL iii. p. 167.

in the year 1105, reprimanded the bishop, and enjoined him silence on that subject. Even Bernard himself inveighed so strongly against the popes and the clergy, that nothing but the obstinate prejudices of education prevented him from seeing the whole truth in this matter. It was natural for men, who reverenced the scriptures, and who compared what they read of antichrist, with what they saw in the church of Rome, to express some suspicions, that the prophecy was then fulfilling, though the glare of fictitious holiness, which covered the popedom, prevented them from beholding their object with perspicuity.

Our own island was rapidly advancing all this century into a state of deplorable subjection to the Roman see. Men of solid understanding, like our Henry II. lamented, struggled, and resisted, but with little effect. They felt the temporal oppression of ecclesiastical tyranny, while they were perfectly regardless of their own spiritual misery, and even aided the court of Rome in the persecution of real christians. That same Henry II. who made so firm a stand against papal en. croachments in civil matters, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, joined with the French king in persecuting the cathari of Toulouse, who were injuriously denominated arians;* and, while he abused and perverted one of the finest understandings by a life of ambition, and lewdness, and by supporting idolatrous - religion, he himself was exposed to the severest sufferings from the papal usurpations. One instance of his barbarity will deserve to be distinctly related.

Thirty men and women, who were Germans, appeared in England in the year 1159, and were afterwards brought before a council of the clergy at Oxford. Gerard their teacher, a man of learning, said, that they were christians, and believed the doctrine of the apostles. They expressed an abhorrence of the doctrine of purgatory, of prayers for the dead, and of" the invocation of saints. Henry, in conjunction with

* Hoveden, p. 327.

the council, ordered them to be branded with a hot iron on the forehead, to be whipped through Oxford, to have their clothes cut short by their girdles, and to be turned into the open fields; and he likewise forbade any person, under severe penalties, to shelter or relieve them. As it was the depth of winter, they all lost their- lives through cold and hunger.* They had made one female convert in England, who, through fear of similar punishment, recanted. The whole number of the Germans remained, however, patient, serene, and composed, repeating " Blessed are those, who are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Their teacher Gerard, that he might be distinguished from the rest, had an additional stigma on his chin.

What a darkness must at that time have filled this island! A wise and sagacious king, a renowned university, the whole body of the clergy and laity, all united in expelling Christ from their coasts! Brief as is the account of the martyrs, it is sufficiently evident that they were the martyrs of Christ. Driven most probably from home by the rage of persecution, they had brought the light and power of the gospel with them into England; and so totally senseless and corrupt was our nation, that none received it. It deserves to be noticed, that England was afterwards for a long time exposed to suffer more severely, than most other nations, from the exactions of the popedom.

Mr. Berington observes, on occasion of this story, that none but a hero or a madman was at that time qualified to be a reformer. But a true reformer need not to be either the one or the other. A man of understanding, who fears God, and speaks the words of soberness, if influenced by the spirit of God, is fitted to reform mankind.

The contention between king Henry and Becket is well known. I have nothing to say of it, except that the whole affair is foreign to my purpose. There is no

* Neubrig. Brompt. Collect. See Henry's Hist. of Eng. vol. iii. p. 240.

evidence that a spirit of true religion influenced either the king or the archbishop.

Antichrist, indeed, reigned calm and victorious throughout Europe. Nevertheless, even in Italy itself, some suspicions of his existence appeared. Joachim, abbot of Calabria, was a man renowned for learning and piety, and perhaps very deservedly. This man asserted that antichrist was born in the Roman state, and would be exalted to the apostolic see.* Our king Richard I. being at Messina in Sicily, going upon his expedition to the holy land, sent for this Joachim, and with much satisfaction heard him explain the book of the Revelation, and discourse of antichrist. Mr. Berington gives a ludicrous account of this interview between the king and the abbot; and observes, that the " bishops who were present, and Richard, and Joachim, were equally intelligent in the mysteries of the evangelist with any othet interpreters from thatday."f This gentleman is a lively, agreeable writer, and has exerted a capacity, learning, and industry, to which I have been obliged on several occasions. But the rude treatment of any part of the word of God deserves to be rebuked, whether he, who is guilty of it, be a roman catholic or a protestant, or a sceptic in religion. I doubt not but some of his readers, who never examined the subject with the least attention, will be gratified with the pleasantry of his remark. But let them be told, that part of the apocalypse is very intelligible, even at present; and that all of it will probably be so before the end of time. And is not all scripture said to be profitable?J It behooved not a man professing christianity, to throw out innuendos, which might have been expected only from an avowed infidel. Has the author ever examined with care, the writings of expositors on the apocalypse? Did he ever attend to Mr. Mede's elaborate and learned works on the subject? Did Sir Isaac Newton's observations on the apocalypse ever fall into his hands? or, to come to

* Hoveden, p. 681. Collier's Ecc. Hist. b. vi. p. 401.
t Hist. of Henry II. &c. p. 375. t 1 Tim iii. \fi

latter times, has he ever studied the works of bishop Newton, bishop Hurd, or the late bishop Halifax? Let him attend to any one of these, and having digested his scheme, let him then say, with a sneer if he can, that our ignorant king Richard L was as intelligent an expositor as he.

If this same Richard had been as earnest m studying the scriptures, as he was in conducting his romantic expedition into the holy land, by comparing the apocalyptic prophecies with the treatment which he himself received from the pope, he might have understood that the bishop of Rome was antichrist. For, in a bull dated 1197, Innocent III. declared, that it was not fit, that any man should be invested with authority, who did not revere and obey the holy see. In another bull, addressed to Richard, he told him, that if he opposed the execution of the decrees of the apostolic see, he would soon convince him, how hard it was to kick against the pricks. In another bull, he declared, that he would not endure the least contempt of himself, or of God, whose place he held on earth, but would punish every disobedience without delay, and without respect of persons; and would convince the whole world, that he was determined to act like a sovereign.* The " lionhearted" Richard obeyed his decrees, and gave up his opposition, in the cause which he had contested. Innocent, indeed, reigned in England with a power little less than despotic. This was the pope, who confirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation in the grossest sense, who reduced the two succeeding princes John and Henry III. into a state of the lowest vassalage to himself, and who enriched his creatures with the treasures of England, almost entirely at pleasure.

' Gems Chronicle. See Henry's 3d, vol. of Hist. of Eng.