The Rise of Christendom- Summary and Conclusions

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And now to bring these inquiries for the present to
a term. Let me invite the reader to recall, in one rapid
survey, the course of events in our European world
since the conquests of the Arabians, from the seventh to
the ninth century. In the ninth century the prevalence
of the creed of Islam, from the Indus to the Straits of
Gibraltar, is the great, the imposing, the never-to-be-
forgotten fact in the history of our culture. The next
century is the darkest of all the ages : we can know little
or nothing of what was occurring in our world, except
from the slight deposit of fact contained in later
chronicles. It may, perhaps, be regarded on the whole
as an age of repose. The Arabians were advancing
in culture, and the Western world was slowly recover-
ing from its long dismay. The beginning of the age
is marked in literature by the production of the great
Chronicle of Al Tabari at Bagdad, and its close by
the infancy of the Hebrew language and literature at
The eleventh century shows us again the world in
strong commotion. The Turkish hosts, fresh cham-
pions of the religion of Allah and His Apostle, are the
terror of the Koman Empire in the East as the Nor-
mans in the West. When we arrive at the last decade
of this age, we stand at the greatest epoch in European
PAGE  471
history since the rise of Islam. It is the epoch of
those expeditions to the East commonly called the
Crusades, or Sacred Wars.
Now there is a considerable mediaeval literature
relating to the first of these wars, which should be
closely and much more critically examined than hitherto
it has been. But I may, in closing, offer upon this
subject a few general observations. In the first place,
this literature partly belongs to the synagogues, partly
to the cloisters of the great Orders, and partly to the
Arabians. All, therefore, who were concerned in the
making of our mediaeval culture were interested in this
event, and have recorded their impressions of it. It is
from a comparison of these impressions that we can
alone hope to approach the actual occurrence. For
the facts have been, as usual, enveloped in interested
With regard to the Jews, it may be said generally
that their historic memory begins with that war, and
their impressions have been written down as if with
pens dipped in blood. The synagogues in Germany
were attacked by the rabble of the host, and the de-
votees of the Law were massacred, or they themselves
chose death rather than life under circumstances that
cannot now be thought of without horror and profound
pity. These things have been written down in the
language of the Bible, and in the style of the Bible,
by men of the same Rabbinical class with those who
produced the Biblical writings, and who were well
aware that the lamentations of psalmists and prophets
were the expression of hearts that had sufi"ered sorely
in that terrible time. It was the time when the people
seemed forsaken of the Eternal.
If my argument in these pages has borne hardly
472 PAGE  
against the Orders, I am the more glad to state my
own opinion that they had no share, direct or indirect,
in these atrocities. The monks, as nsual, represent
one of their fraternity as the prime lever of the whole
movement. Yet the tale about Peter the Hermit of
Amiens is not only grossly improbable in itself, it
stands in contradiction with other statements of the
Papal writers. This has been noticed by M. de Mon-
talembert, the great fautor and defender of the monks,
who deprives Peter of the credit of the origination, and
is disposed to assign the same to Urban II. The
utterances, however, which have been put in the mouth
of that Pope, were in all probability coolly written
down more than a century after the event.
Of the work written in a Basilian cloister and as-
cribed to the Princess Anna Comnena, all that need
here be said is that it was written at some time after
1 148, and probably long after, when the liberty taken
with her name and house was not likely to be censured.
Similarly the work ascribed to Zonaras was written in
the cloisters of Mount Athos at some undefined time
after 11 18. The Chronicle of Glycas, which ends at
the same year, was written in the fifteenth century.
There is a mass of writing, equally dubious in date,
from the Latin cloisters. Curious, for example, is the
story of the Chronicle of Monte Cassino, ascribed to
Leo of Ostia and Peter the Deacon in the twelfth cen-
tury. About 1439 Ambrose Traversarius is said to
have made an epitome of it, and in 1 5 1 3 this epitome
is edited at Venice by another monk of the Order as
if it were the genuine work of Leo. Yet another monk
of Monte Casino alters and mutilates the same MS.,
and edits it at Naples in 16 16. What can be said for
the genuineness of the longer Chronicle in the face
PAGE  473
of facts like these ? Another epitome, for the period
496-857, has been designated by Wattenbach a "por-
tentous Chronicle." The same epithet may perhaps
be applied to a mass of other writing from the same
page, including the " History " from the pens of
anonymi of Monte Cassino, covering the periods 1000-
1212, looo-i 154. When we arrive at the handwriting
of the period 1 191-98, 1209, we have still no con-
temporary writer. Now, if no men were from that
sacred height looking on the events of 1096, we may
well despair of discovering a monk in any part of the
world who was.
Whether we read in the historic epic poem of
William of Apulia, who probably writes at Bari, or
in the Chronicle of Lupus of the same town, or in
the romantic pages of William of Jumiege, William
of Malmesbury, or Orderic Vitalis, or Fulcherius of
Chartres, it is with the result of convincing ourselves
that these men wrote at a great distance from their
objects, and much nearer to the time of Matthew Paris
than to that of the first Crusade. Some of them write
as good Latin as that of the monks who pretend to be
eye-witnesses of the deeds of Charles the Great, or of
the state of the world in the fifth century. It is one
of the facts which betray them.
William of Tyre is supposed to lay down his pen in
the year 1184. And the weak inference is drawn that
he must have died soon after. He may have been
Chancellor of King Amalarich and Bishop of Tyre, but
the unfortunate fact is that no more is known of his
extraction, the date of his birth and death, than in the
case of any other member of his Order. The like may
be said of his continuator, Bernard the Treasurer, who
is supposed to lay down his pen in the year 1275, some
page 474
sixteen years later than the Benedictines of St. Albans.
But there are other important indications of the true
epoch of the chroniclers of the first Crusade.
The Arabians apparently do not take pen in hand to
record that event until the thirteenth century ; and
their touch is not firm until they have advanced some
decades beyond the capture of their Holy City, Ailia,
called by the monks Hierosolyma, or Jerusalem. Moses
Maimonides is said to have been born about forty years
after the taking of that city, and perhaps during that
interval the vivid descriptions in poetic and oracular
form of the great event which stamped upon the brows
of the Rabbin the expression of the man of sorrows,
had been written down and had been recited in the
synagogues. It must be repeated that the life of
Maimonides, c. 1 139-1205, is the strongest datum that
we possess, and constitutes at present the most certain
clue by which we shall be enabled to extricate our-
selves from the labyrinthine paths of medieeval historj''.
Now the author of the Gesta Dei — or as Gibbon pre-
ferred, Diciboli per Francos — is said to have been
Guibert, Abbot of St. Mary, at Nogent-sous-Conci.
Whenever the writer lived, he saw a certain corre-
spondence between the events of the war in Syria and
descriptions in the book of Ezekiel, which he freely
cites as prophecies. If the book could not have been
known in the cloisters until some time long after
Maimonides' time, and it appears certain that it could
not have been so known, then the writer of the Gesta,
with his colleagues in the Orders, may fairly be placed
about the middle of the fourteenth century. This
result coincides with the result of all our previous
I leave the reader to examine for himself the works
PAGE  475
written by Spanish Rabbins in the sixteenth or seven-
teenth centuries, the Chronicles of R. Joseph, the Sceptre
of Judah, and the Valley of Baca. The Rabbins had
but scant materials in the Hebrew language. They
have had recourse to the monastic sources, and have
been deceived by fables respecting the existence of
Jews so early as the sixth century in Europe. When
they come to the persecutions at Granada, c. 1066-
1070, they have some indistinct traditional particulars,
handed down in the synagogues. Only when they
come to the year 1096 do they begin to give details,
which throw a flood of light upon the meaning of the
Book of Esther, and upon that infinitely pathetic
elegiac strain which we hear equally in the songs of
the Korachites and in those of the Rabbinical poets,
the forerunners or contemporaries of Maimonides. A
voice sounds still from the Biblical page, pleading with
us no longer for mere cold justice, but for love towards
a people who have indeed borne the chief burden of
the sin and sorrow of that awful time.
The more attentively we study the facts relating to
the beginning of the Chronicle literature in general, so
far as they have yet been ascertained, the state of
libraries, the extreme paucity of readers at the close
of the fourteenth century, the more difficult it will be
to admit that, for the two or three centuries following
the first Crusade, we have anything more than a system
of romantic fiction, based on dim reminiscences of
actual historic events. Only in the fourteenth century
is the Church emerging out of obscurity to be described
by poet and philosopher, her exact origin unknown to
the men of science.
And now let us use the privilege of imagination, so
habitually misused by the men of the Middle Ages, and,
page 476
annihilating a space of more than 800 years, take our
position by the bank of the Thames, on the spot
where Westminster Abbey now stands, it is
the time of the Norman Conquest. We are on Thorney.
No West Monastery has yet been heard of, nor has the
legend of St. Peter or St. Paul yet been borne to any part
of the British Isles. Perhaps the huts of a few salmon-
fishers are about us, and in the distance we may see a
straggling line of thatched houses marking the Strand.
It is about the year 1070, when for the first time we
view men of Oriental aspect, dress, and language at
the Norman court ; they are the Jewish financiers.
But there are no Eabbins to be seen, and no monks.
A quarter of a century elapses, and the terror of the
Turk penetrates even to these shores. Many Normans,
eager for the fray, re-cross the Straits to join their
brethren in what may have been a war of the Cross,
but was by no means a war of the Crucifix. News
reach the island of the slaughter of the Jews, and of
the calamities of the host in Hungary. Some three
years of suspense and anxiety follow, until the Holy
City is taken. At last the tide has turned, the
Orientals have been driven back and defeated on their
own ground. But another quarter of a century elapses
before the great commercial city of Tyre falls.
Meantime the Jews are thriving on the war, are
acquiring great wealth, and exposing themselves to
odium, partly on that ground, partly because they are
akin to Ishmaelites, and follow exclusive customs. It
has been the unhappy fate of the people to rise with
the fall of the Gentiles, and to find a root of bitterness
in the very sources of their own prosperity. There
were among them, moreover, men of inflated ambition,
who aimed at realisins: the romantic dream of a Davidic
Page. 477
kingdom. A few years after the fall of Tyre, we hear
of Messiahs starting up in France, in Spain, in Persia.
Wandering Rabbins begin to arrive in London. E.
Ben Ezra is here, a little later than the middle of the
century, writing a poetical treatise in praise of the
Sabbath. Like another Ulysses, he roams from city
to city, from Toledo to Rome and Mantua, and again
to Tiberias. He and his brethren doubtless pass in the
East for faithful followers of the Prophet and the
Koran. If we can trust Benjamin of Toledo, there
were but a few hundreds of the sons of Jacob in the
whole of Syria during this age.
The coming of the Rabbins prepared for the coming
of the monks, just as the unpopularity of the Jews in
general paved the way for the success of the Church
polemic against the whole race. How is it possible to
think of the monks in London, or any part of the
island, until they had the Dogma and the Legend to
proclaim, which was at the same time a proclamation
of war on the part of the Abbots against the Rabbins ?
We hear of the Abbot of Rievaulx writing his ecclesi-
astical romance about King Edward the Confessor in
the year 1163, a date that must be taken with great
latitude for correction. We hear of the enigmatic De
Diceto as Dean of St. Paul's about forty years later.
On the whole, the provisional conclusion may be
adopted that the Benedictines came hither during the
latter half of the century, and that St. Peter and St.
Paul became tutelar saints of the Thames a few years
later than they became tutelars of the Tiber. Then
it was that the cloud of fable began to envelop the
origins of English history, and that our country became
a holy land, sanctified by the footsteps of St. Joseph of
Arimathea and the Apostolic pair.
Page 478
The beginnings of Oxford and Cambridge can be
hardly discovered at the close of the twelfth century ;
and certainly, until those schools were founded, little
or nothing could have been heard in this island con-
cerning the Christian theory of the past. There were
the dramatic ceremonies centering upon the Mass ;
there was the Missal, with its lessons, gospels, and
epistles ; there was little more. It requires an effort
of imagination to conceive the paucity of Bibles through
the whole period from the first Benedictine foundations
down to the dissolution of the monasteries. Lindisfarne,
for example, has been made the object of the special
investigations of Mr. Eaine. The tradition runs that
the Priory was erected about 1094, and that the island
became holy ground. It is probable that the date
must be lowered by about a century.
But Mr. Raine has shown that the little library of
the Priory could at no period boast of a classical author,
a Chronicle, or even one of the numerous treatises
ascribed to the Venerable Bede ; and that it is a
positive fact, from the year 14 16 to the dissolution, the
monks were frequently, and in fact generally, without
a Bible. Nothing more was necessary than the Service-
books. On Holy Island, then, as conveniently as on
any other monastic ground in the island, the line may
be drawn between the luxuriance of the dream-world
to which St. Cuthbert and Bseda belong, and the hard
prosaic fact of the origins. To such fact we must
adjust our intelligence, by such fact we must correct
our fancies, if we are ever to see clearly into the
beginnings of English history.
Suppose then that we stand in the dawn of Christian
light in England, from the last decades of the twelfth
century. The Pontifical tradition invites us to follow
page  479
the steps of an English monk, who quits the island to
assume the direction of the Order — that is, of the
Catholic world. Suppose that we visit on our way
the cloisters of Cluny, Citeaux, and Claremont. We
may find there great enthusiasm, great hopes of military
glory in the East, and of spiritual victories in the
West, but dense general ignorance of everything literary
except the contents of the Service-book. Arriving at
Monte Cassino, we find ourselves in a strong fortress,
the seat of Christian orthodoxy, guarded by the sword
of temporal power. We find the gaze of the monks
set toward Rome, where a conflict is beginning between
them and the Senate and people. Many of the frater-
nity are stirring up the maritime cities to furnish the
material for the Oriental war. x\t the Greek cloister
of Grotta Ferrata, dependent on Monte Cassino, the
monks are perhaps busy, conjointly with their Latin
brethren, in devising their ambitious literary scheme.
Visiting Rome, we witness a riot among the people,
caused by the arrival of the new Pope, and a Cardinal
is assailed with blows. Leaving our countrymen to
persecute the people with curses bitter and dire, and
with an interdict, we turn southward, and find the
King of Naples and Sicily actively hostile against the
Order. Suppose that we tarry in those regions for a
few years, long enough to hear more futile curses
launched against the king, and then withdrawn, and
to receive the news of the expulsion of our countryman
from Rome, and his death at Agriganum.
Then we hear of the setting up of a number of rival
Popes. Intrigues against the liberties of England
come to our knowledge ; we hear of the flight of the
chieftain of the ecclesiastical soldiery to the Continent,
presently of his return and his sanguinary death on
page 48o
the floor of the minster at Canterbury. A few years
later, and the Emperor Frederic besieges Rome. The
Pope, in the disguise of a cook, flees to Venice and
hides himself in that city. The next Pope is also cast
out from Rome ; his faction lose their eyes, and he
flees to Verona. Four others rapidly follow, all ardent
for the Oriental war, and determined upon making
Rome the seat of a new empire. They are especially
bent upon securing the alliance of Genoa and Pisa.
In the last years of the century we are in Spain,
studying in the Rabbinical schools of Cordova and
Toledo. We hear perhaps of the rising fame of the
elder Kimchi of Narbonne, who is yet a young man.
AVe hear much of Maimonides, and, travelling to Cairo,
find him at the head of his school, in the ripeness
of age and faculty. We have reached the centre of
the orthodoxy that is elder than the Christian. We
make the pilgrimage to Mecca, and find ourselves at
last at the eldest of all the seats of orthodoxy from
which Europe has been influenced. A few years later
we hear of the death of Maimonides, yet a few years
more of the death of Innocent III. at Perugia in the
midst of CiTisading business. So have afiairs taken
the form of a great revolution. A new spiritual
empire has been created, the world has been launched
upon a new course.
During the course of these travels we have paid
visits to Syria, and have seen that land become the
sink and gutter of all the vices of Europe, as the
monks of the cloisters of England unite with those of
Tyre in bearing witness. The clergy and people are
given over to luxury, the whole land is sordid with
crime and uncleanness, the whole world tottering be-
neath the burden of its sins. The Patriarch is living
page  481
in open adultery. Murderers, thieves, and the off-
scouring of mankind arrive in the guise of pilgrims,
escaping from justice in their native lands, and return
no better than they came. But amidst all this out-
break of human folly and wickedness, the one mind
and spirit of the Bishops and Abbots is clearly dis-
cernible pervading the ranks of their army, and set
upon establishing strongholds of their power, no matter
at what cost of human life and human virtue, alike in
East and West.
The argument of these pages has been that the
Roman Church came into being as the rival of the
greater Church of Islam, and was borne to power
upon a passionate current of anti-Semitic feeling which
set in from the time of the conquests of the Turks.
Had we been present in the Holy City on the 3rd
October 1187, when Saladin entered to the sound of
trumpets, we might have listened to an eloquent ora-
tion from the lips of a doctor of Islam which would
have convinced us of the truth of that proposition.
Mohammed Ibn Saki read a lesson from the Koran,
and thus addressed the assembly : —
"Praised be Allah, who hath exalted Islam by His
favour, hath cast down the many gods by His power,
rules the world after His will, divides benefits by the
measure of our thanks, casts down the unbelieving by
their craft, gives power to princes in His justice, pro-
mises the future life to them that fear Him. He com-
mands, and none gainsayeth ; He fulfils His counsels,
and there is no delay ! Allah, whom I praise, gave to
His elect the victory and purified His house, that was
full of the filth of idolatry. He is the one only God
without associates, the Eternal who begetteth not nor
was begotten.
Page 482
" Mohammed, His Servant and Apostle, who in one
night journeyed from Medina to the Holy City and
ascended into heaven, cast down idolatry, and put lies
to shame. For it is blasphemy to call the son of
Mariam a god ; yea, he himself will not deny that he
is but the Servant of Allah. Ye had the greatest
happiness ; ye have delivered the dwelling of the Pro-
phets, the home of revelation, the goal of the pil-
grimage of the saints. Because of this conquest the
gates of heaven opened, beams of light pierced to the
deepest abysses, angels rejoiced, the powers of heaven
prayed for you, the prophets and apostles of Allah
wept tears of joy. Preserve this blessing of the Lord
by the fear of the Lord ! Beware of evil passions, dis-
obedience, and sloth ; beware lest the devil and unbelief
glide into your hearts.
"Allah hath chosen you, therefore sacrifice your-
selves joyfully for Him ; help Him, and He will help
you ; think of Him, and He will think of you ; show
Him good, and He will show it to you. Or do ye believe
that your sabres of steel, your fine horses, or your en-
durance has w^on the victory? Only with His help
can ye destroy the godless, cut off the shoots of the
unbelievers, and fall upon them as an easy prey. The
Holy War is your best service and your noblest custom.
But Thou, O Allah our Lord, preserve the Sultan, who
bows himself before Thy power and owns Thy benefits ;
preserve Thy sharp sword. Thy shining brow, the Pro-
tector and Defender of the true faith, the Victorious
Prince, the Centre of Thy faithful ones. Conqueror of
the Cross, Purifier of Thy holy house, surround him
with Thine angels, and exalt him for his deeds ! "
Of the time immediately following Gibbon has
written, that the pecuniary emolument of the Saladine
page  483
tithe must have tended to increase the interest of the
Popes in the recovery of Palestine. " Under Innocent
III., that young and ambitious priest, the successors of
St. Peter attained the full meridian of their greatness ;
and in a reign of eighteen years, 1 198-12 16, he exer-
cised a despotic command over the emperors and kings,
whom he raised and deposed ; over the nations, whom
an interdict of months or years deprived, for the offence
of their rulers, of the exercise of Christian worship.
In the Council of the Lateran he acted as the eccle-
siastical, almost as the temporal, sovereign of the East
and West, It was at the feet of his legate that John
of England surrendered his crown ; and Innocent may
boast of the two most signal triumphs over sense and
humanity, the establishment of Transubstantiation, and
the origin of the Inquisition."
Yet the judicious Hallam observes that, as Hilde-
brand, Gregory VII., appears the most usurping of
mankind till we read the history of Innocent III., so
Innocent III. is thrown into the shade by the superior
audacity of Boniface VIII. This pontiif, whose memory
is darkened by the accusation 01 fraud and violence,
celebrates in 1300 a centenary commemoration in
honour of St. Peter and St. Paul, dressed in imperial
robes, with the two swords borne before him. If the
precedent for this jubilee in 1200 be imaginary, as
Hallam admits, equally imaginary are a multitude of
acts ascribed to the time of Innocent HI.
The lives of the Popes during the thirteenth century
are in fact allegorical of the struggles of the great
Orders of monks and friars, and they may be fitly
perused in the light of the antiquities of Segni, Aquino,
and Monte Cassino. The striking legend of Boniface
VIII. , that " he came in like a fox, lived like a lion.
Page 484  
and died like a dog," is in fact symbolic of the first
age of the Papacy, as the ill name of Clement V. marks
the second in its seat at Avignon.
The story of the Rise of Christendom, as I have
endeavoured in these pages to discover it, is a story of
ambition and violence, disguised under the pretext of
self-devotion and philanthropy. In these late times,
the incessant declamation of the Papal advocates con-
cerning the necessity of the temporal power to the
Vicar of Christ, plainly reveal the instinct which has
governed the great Orders from the very beginning.
They meant to make the material world their own.
These magnificent abbeys, minsters, and cathedrals that
we see around us are monuments of the Christian
Empire which tell no lying tale. It is impossible to
connect them for a moment in our thought with the
Galilsean fishermen without an ironical smile. They
speak of human pride and luxury ; they witness to the
impoverishment of our kings and our people in the
interests of a self-elected class. They have been beauti-
fied by the hand of time, and the dark conditions of the
world under which they arose have been forgotten
by the multitude. But there can be no doubt that
these piles were erected, to the dismay of thoughtful
observers, upon the very ruins and wrecks of the free-
dom of mankind.
It is sometimes argued that the Cliurch once held to
the text, My kingdom is not of this ivorld, and that
the text is a judgment upon her pretensions to worldly
power. This argument was stated, with great wealth
of epigram and irony, in a sermon preached twenty
years ago before the University of Oxford by the
Regius Professor of Divinity, on the eve of the assem-
bling of the great Council in Rome. It seems to me
page  485
that the preacher — one of our most admirable philo-
sophers in the surplice — was in error when he fixed
that meaning on the text. For the Commentaries on
the Passion show that the Church means simply to
assert the celestial, the supernatural origin of the king-
dom. She would prefer, doubtless, to strike her foes
prostrate to the ground by the mere force of super-
natural terror ; and the material sword is a poor weapon
to employ in her service who has legions of angels at
her command, and who can wield the sword of the
Spirit. None the less the Vicar of Christ has claimed
the two swords from the beginning ; and we see, from
the exhortations of St. Bernard to the soldiers of the
Temple, that the Church at her origin had unsheathed
and was sharpening the temporal sword.
But it has been my task to trace analogous violences
of the pen, which have too long escaped the notice of
the world. Far more mischief and suffering has been
caused by her misuse of this humble instrument.
Monkdom passed under the censure and condemnation
of the world some 400 years ago, yet the false theory
of history which was dictated to an army of scribes
and copyists still remains in our literature, still troubles
our imagination and our conscience. It is time to say
that the claim to the temporal power was from the
first founded on figments of the pen, and can now be
only maintained by appeals to obsolete forgeries. And
apart from that, the mere claim is in itself a proof that
the Church is a kingdom of this world. As the
preacher before the university observed, it were vain to
say that the ultimate objects of Christ's kingdom were
spiritual rather than worldly, because the test is, not
the nature of the objects, but the nature of the means.
If she uses force for this purpose — whether of the
Page 486
sword or the pen — and declares that she does this by
inherent right, the Chnrch is by her own profession a
power of this world.
Felicitously the preacher observed that the insist-
ance on this claim has in it " the spirit of longing for
what is lost which is so common a trait of human
nature — that desiderium and regret which magnifies
the past, even because it is past, and clings to it the
more because it can never return. When the temporal
power of Rome is over in fact, it just then exists most
rigidly and imperiously in speculation. The greater
intensity of it as a dogma compensates for the absence
of it as a possession." But the preacher did not see
that the Church was committed to this position, which
now seems so self-contradictory and suicidal, by her
original claim, not merely to have been coeeval with
the old Roman Empire, but to have been the Roman
Empire itself in its divine form.
Turning to the recent utterances of another admir-
able countryman, a Roman ecclesiastic, I find that he
still asserts the absolute independence of the Vicar of
Christ of any power under heaven. He relies upon a
History of the Pontiffs which I have shown to be un-
historical, and asserts that from 800 to 1800 the Vicars
of Christ exerted a true, proper, and complete sove-
reignty over the city of Rome ; that the anti-Christian
revolution of our own age crowned its sacrilege on
September 20, 1870, when by force and bloodshed it
usurped the sovereignty of the Vicar of Christ in the
Holy City. I must, on the contrary, with great respect
for the orator, but with great firmness, maintain, in the
light of the foregoing pages, that the Vicars of Christ
were the most violent usurpers of the rights of indivi-
duals, of peoples, of kings, of humanity itself, that our
page  487
world has ever seen ; that their ascent to power could
only have occurred during a long eclipse of truth and
justice, and that truth and justice have asserted them-
selves in their fall.
The same orator maintains that the history of civilisa-
tion is the history of Christianity, that the history of
Christianity is the histoiy of the Christian Church, that
the history of the Christian Church is the history of
the supreme Pontiffs, the greatest legislators and rulers
the world has ever seen. The substance of the last
two propositions cannot be disputed. But, with
regard to the first proposition, it seems to me that
the history of the mediseval Pontiffs is not the history
of civilisation, but part of the history of a great interrup-
tion in our Western culture, of which another part is
the history of the Caliphs and of the Oriental religions
which flourished under their rule. I know not how
any independent thinker can fail to concur with this
opinion when, for example, he turns over the pages
of Stobeeus' Florilegium, perhaps compiled in Justinian's
time, and glances back at the intellectual moniiments
of the shining thousand years which had elapsed
before the death of that emperor.
What have the Dogma and the Legend done for the
education of the world? What benefits have flowed
to humanity from the great Church organisations ?
It is impossible to discover any benefits that have not
been accidental to the system, nor due to the goodness
of individuals who have been enlisted in the service
of the Church. It is not the system which has made
civilisation, but civilisation which has softened and
gradually transformed the system. It has been common,
for example, to say that Christianity or the Bible has
made England great. On the contraiy, it is the vigour
page 488 
of English intellect and humanity which has been
constantly impressing itself on the spirit and teaching
of the Church from the time of the Eeformation. Since
the multitude became possessed of the Bible, they have
made the Bible echo their own sentiments, which have
become more and more humane. The interpretation
of the Bible changes with eveiy generation, and so
measures the progress of culture. But the attempt to
cling, from old habit and affection, to the mediaeval
literature, while it has been suffused with modern
meanings, has led at last to a great confusion of ideas.
Nominally we are Christians, but really we mean
humanity. The creed is still recited, though not an
article remains intact in general belief. The New
Testament is revered, yet none thinks of obeying its
plainest rules of conduct. There is little spirit of
persecution, because no dogma commands a hearty
assent. Experience is our master, and as experience
shows that the life of the rebel against the dogma
may be purer and nobler than that of its professional
supporter, a coldness toward all dogma has set in.
Enthusiasm for it cannot be kindled ; yet the people
do not willingly hear it oppugned. In such a time
of lukewarmness the influence of true teachers, who
know that the study of facts must precede the forma-
tion of opinions, and that in the knowledge of the
facts that concern us lies our salvation, is enfeebled.
It may yet be long before we recover that simplicity
of thought about life and duty which was reached by
antiquity after long toil. But if it be asked, *' What,
in the decay of the meditcval ideas, will be the teaching
of the future 1 " acceptable answers may surely be
found, none the less pertinent and fresh because they
are ancient. What can be better than the intention
page 489
of the following : " Ariston said that of objects of
philosophic inquiry some concern us, with others we
are not concerned, and others are beyond us. Ethics
are our concern ; dialectics are not, because they do
not contribute to the improvement of life. The secrets
of nature are beyond us, it is impossible to know
them." Or than this : " To know God is difficult,
and to express Him impossible. For to signify that
which is bodiless by means of the body is impossible,
to apprehend the perfect by means of the imperfect is
not possible. Nor is it easy to associate the unseen to
that which is but of short duration. The one is for
ever, the other passes away : the one is in truth, the
other is but shadowed by phantasy. The weaker
differs as much from the stronger, and the less from
the more, as the mortal from the divine. The interval
between these darkens our vision of the fair and good.
By the eyes bodies are visible, and by the tongue things
seen are said ; but that which is bodiless, and in-
apparent, and most formless, and not composed of
matter, cannot possibly be apprehended by our senses.
I conceive, O Tat, I conceive what cannot be uttered,
and this is God."
Had the Orders, with whom we have been concerned
so much in these pages, been the true philosophers
and the true Stoics they professed to be, they would
have circulated such simple life -wisdom in the world
as current coin, and we should now be blessing their
memory instead of deploring the enormous waste of
human heart and brain which their effort to extirpate
that wisdom from the world has caused. And what
will be the future of the great teaching Orders of the
Church? It is impossible to contemplate them in this
day without interest and affection, partly because they
page 490   
link us to a distant time, partly because there have
been found in their ranks many of the very flower of
mankind. What records of unstinted devotion and
courage and patience in the cause of the Christian
Empire are to be found, e.g., in the annals of the great
Society of Jesus ! Who can think without admiration
of the extraordinary ardour with which these modern
Crusaders went on their missions to far-distant bar-
barians, that they might print the Dogma and the
Legend on those rude imaginations — nay, upon the
very marks of animals and the flowers of the field?
Yet their lives were no less vainly squandered than
those of the mediaeval enthusiasts.
How long will successive generations of rehgious
men be ordered, like so many forlorn hopes, to assault
the slowly recovering conscience of the world? For
surely no clear-sighted churchman can expect that the
Church will regain her old power and prestige, unless
the conditions of her rise were to recur. Were the
European states to exhaust one another in internecine
war, were the Orientals again to rush in upon us, the
organisation of the Church might enable her to triumph
again amidst the ruins of our culture. But absit omen,
none but fanatics could desire an event like this. On
the other hand, with the defeat of the claim to temporal
power, the Church must surely undergo a change in
her constitution. Her conscience also will awaken,
and she will confess that the claim deserved to fail
because it was from the first fraudulent and unjust.
Why should we acquiesce in the notion of the rigidity
and immobility of the Church ? It is not a fact, it is
no law of Nature. What art has done, art may undo.
Persistence in her great dogmatic dream has brought
her into collision with the facts of the world ; so
page  491
soon as she adjusts herself to the facts of the world
her dream will change. Were a new spirit to be
breathed upon the Orders, it would be as life from the
dead for the mass of mankind. Were the priesthood
to discern clearly that the founders did not build for
eternity, but for time, not with far-reaching views for
human good, but in short-sighted selfishness, they
might renounce their principles. They might resolve
to be philosophers in reality and in truth ; they might
call men to wisdom, virtue, and freedom with greater
joy than they have ever called them to servility ; they
might at last establish a spiritual empire founded
on truth and love. They might replace the forged
links with antiquity by a genuine connection ; they
might restore culture, and bring it to a nobler pitch
than ever antiquity knew.
During the last twenty years it may seem at first
sight as if the bark of St. Peter had been deliberately
steered toward the breakers and the rocks. But we
can hardly ascribe such infatuation to the ruling spirits
in the Church. Either their policy is a mechanical
necessity, the result of her past history, or it is a policy
of calculation. If it be the latter, then the rulers of
the Church either contemplate a state of political
anarchy and the decay of culture, or they contemplate
changes in the Church organisation itself. Let us
hopefully assume the latter alternative. Were the
Pope, for example, to become in fact a subject of the
British Empire, he would prove a powerful defender
of our law and order. Gradually we should cease to
hear of his claims to an imperium m imperio, and
the Church under his rule, being in fact subject to
the state, would in time be so recognised in dogma.
Gradually also theology would be subordinated to
Page 492   
ethics, and the teaching influence of the Church would
be exerted in favour of science and humanity. Should
other ecclesiastical heads arise in other empires, the
results would then be analogous. It would be the
interest of the teachers to move with, no longer
against the current of the interests of their fellow-
The requirement of celibacy in the clergy would in
due course be dispensed with, and the gain would be
great to the strength and harmony of society and the
state. Slowly, in short, the clergy would be transformed
into a body of philosophers, mixing freely with all
classes of society, imparting the best knowledge, and
inculcating the noblest moral ideals of the time. They
would be a mighty leverage for good, they would no
longer be warring against principles that the most en-
lightened of mankind approve and love. Such in out-
line must be the form of our desires for the future, who
wish well both to the Church and to mankind. There
seems to be no reason why we should despair of their
realisation, so soon as the Church herself admits and
faces the facts of her historic origin.
Euripides, in some lines of great simplicity and
beauty, sings of the three virtues which all should be
taught to practise from childhood : to honour the
powers above, the parents that begat us, and the common
laws of our country. If we do these things, we shall
enjoy the fairest crown of glory for ever. The words
are equally adapted to our times as to his, they may
be applied to England and the Empire no less than to
Hellas. Church organisations were never needed to
teach these lessons, and it is because of the Church
organisations that they still remain untaught as the
elements of conduct, and that our moral condition is
page  493
confused and weak. We are a house divided against
So soon as the teaching classes recover a distinct
conception of virtue, which is but a name for the
essential strength of humanity, so soon as they see
clearly that the love of truth for truth's sake is the
highest object and the fairest result of culture, a great
reformation must set in. No nobler rule of teaching
can guide our schools and universities than the Sola
bona qucB honesta of the Stoics. In our time the old
universities have undergone great changes, and new
universities are being formed. If the teachers do their
duty, they will deliver the facts, and no longer the
dogma, concerning these past 1800 years of the world's
history. They will explain that the dogma has less
relevance to the terrestrial scene than the dogma had
to the celestial scene before the time of Galileo.
They will restore the broken continuity of culture, and
bring the world once more into communion with its
true spiritual masters.
With great interest I have perused the eloquent
sermon of Archbishop Ireland preached at Baltimore
on the occasion of the centenary celebration of Catholi-
cism in America. His text was from Ecclesiasticus iv.
2,2,, "For thy soul fight for justice," &c. The orator
hailed the "new century" with all the enthusiasm of
a philosopher and a philanthropist. Among his re-
markable sentences were these : —
"I love my age. I love its aspirations and its
resolves. I revel in its feats of valour, its industries
and its discoveries. I thank it for its many benefac-
tions to my fellow-men, to the people rather than the
princes and rulers. I seek no backward voyage across
the sea of time. I will ever press forward. I believe
Page 494
that God intends the present to be better than the
past, and the future to be better. We should live in
our age, know it, be in touch with it. Our work is in
the present, and not in the past. It will not do to
understand the thirteenth better than the nineteenth
There was much more to the same effect. But even
in America, and in this late nineteenth century, the
clergy must be unable to carry out the noble ideas of
intellectual and social reform sketched by the Arch-
bishop so long as they are fettered by the traditions
of that dark age which still casts its shadow on us all.
It is full freedom of conscience that the Church needs ;
and freedom of conscience she cannot gain until she
has sat in judgment upon the deeds of her founders,
and has renounced for ever the ideas which have failed
to save the world.
It is time to lay down my pen. I have shown that
the Church was founded in a time of darkness, wrath,
and dismay, and that the sole apology for the misdeeds
of her founders lies in the fact that it was a time when
violence alone prevailed on the earth. In these gentler
days it surely is not too much to hope that she may
resolve to turn down her falsified and iniquitous pages,
and begin the chronicle of a new era, inscribed with
the records of her endeavours in the cause of know-
ledge, of truth, of human love — records at the same
time of the admiration and gratitude of the world.
May these things be !
Page by   AdvancingRational Faith Academy  at

Formerly Professor of Classical Literature in New College, S.
Hampstead: Author of “Antiqua Mater: A Study of Christian Origins,” “The Rise of Christendom,” etc.
Watts & Co., 17, Johnson’s Court. Fleet St.

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