Beacon Lights of History, Volume 3, Part 2
John Lord

Part 4 out of 6

which they could understand, and a few preachers arose who appealed
to conscience and reason,--like Latimer and Ridley, and Hooper and
Taylor; but most of them were formal and cold. There must have
been great religious apathy, or else these reforms would have
excited more opposition on the part of the clergy, who generally
acquiesced in the changes. But the Reformation thus far was
official; it was not popular. It repressed vice and superstition,
but kindled no great enthusiasm. It was necessary for the English
reformers and sincere Protestants to go through a great trial; to
be persecuted, to submit to martyrdom for the sake of their
opinions. The school of heroes and saints has ever been among
blazing fires and scaffolds. It was martyrdom which first gave
form and power to early Christianity. The first chapter in the
history of the early Church is the torments of the martyrs. The
English Reformation had no great dignity or life until the funeral
pyres were lighted. Men had placidly accepted new opinions, and
had Bibles to instruct them; but it was to be seen how far they
would make sacrifices to maintain them.

This test was afforded by the accession of Mary, daughter of
Catharine the Spaniard,--an affectionate and kind-hearted woman
enough in ordinary times, but a fiend of bigotry, like Catherine
de' Medicis, when called upon to suppress the Reformation, although
on her accession she declared that she would force no man's
conscience. But the first thing she does is to restore the popish
bishops,--for so they were called then by historians; and the next
thing she does is to restore the Mass, and the third to shut up
Cranmer and Latimer in the Tower, attaint and execute them, with
sundry others like Ridley and Hooper, as well as those great nobles
who favored the claims of the Lady Jane Grey and the religious
reforms of Edward VI. She reconciles herself with Rome, and
accepts its legate at her court; she receives Spanish spies and
Jesuit confessors; she marries the son of Charles V., afterwards
Philip II.; she executes the Lady Jane Grey; she keeps the
strictest watch on the Princess Elizabeth, who learns in her
retirement the art of dissimulation and lying; she forms an
alliance with Spain; she makes Cardinal Pole Archbishop of
Canterbury; she gives almost unlimited power to Gardiner and
Bonner, who begin a series of diabolical persecutions, burning such
people as John Rogers, Sanders, Doctor Taylor of Hadley, William
Hunter, and Stephen Harwood, ferreting out all suspected of heresy,
and confining them in the foulest jails,--burning even little
children. Mary even takes measures to introduce the Inquisition
and restore the monasteries. Everywhere are scaffolds and
burnings. In three years nearly three hundred people were burned
alive, often with green wood,--a small number compared with those
who were executed and assassinated in France, about this time, by
Catherine de' Medicis, the Guises, and Charles IX.

In those dreadful persecutions which began with the accession of
Mary, it was impossible that Cranmer should escape. In spite of
his dignity, rank, age, and services, he could hope for no favor or
indulgence from that morose woman in whose sapless bosom no
compassion for the Protestants ever found admission, and still less
from those cruel, mercenary, bigoted prelates whom she selected for
her ministers. It was not customary in that age for the Churchmen
to spare heretics, whether high or low. Would it forgive him who
had overturned the consecrated altars, displaced the ritual of a
thousand years, and revolted from the authority of the supreme head
of the Christian world? Would Mary suffer him to pass unpunished
who had displaced her mother from the nuptial bed, and pronounced
her own birth to be stained with an ignominious blot, and who had
exalted a rival to the throne? And Gardiner and Bonner, too, those
bigoted prelates and ministers who would have sent to the flames an
unoffending woman if she denied the authority of the Pope, were not
the men to suffer him to escape who had not only overturned the
papal power in England, but had deprived them of their sees and
sent them to the Tower. No matter how decent the forms of law or
respectful the agents of the crown, Cranmer had not the shadow of a
hope; and hence he was certainly weak to say the least, to trust to
any deceitful promises made to him. What his enemies were bent
upon was his recantation, as preliminary to his execution; and he
should have been firm, both for his cause, and because his
martyrdom was sure. In an evil hour he listened to the voice of
the seducer. Both life and dignities were promised if he would
recant. "Confounded, heart-broken, old," the love of life and the
fear of death were stronger for a time than the power of conscience
or dignity of character. Six several times was he induced to
recant the doctrines he had preached, and profess an allegiance
which could only be a solemn mockery.

True, Cranmer came to himself; he perceived that he was mocked, and
felt both grief and shame in view of his apostasy. His last hours
were glorious. Never did a good man more splendidly redeem his
memory from shame. Being permitted to address the people before
his execution,--with the hope on the part of his tormentors that he
would publicly confirm his recantation,--he first supplicated the
mercy and forgiveness of Almighty God, and concluded his speech
with these memorable words: "And now I come to the great thing that
troubleth my conscience more than anything I ever did or said, even
the setting forth of writings contrary to the truth, which I now
renounce and refuse,--those things written with my own hand
contrary to the truth I thought in my heart, and writ for fear of
death and to save my life. And forasmuch as my hand offended in
writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be
punished; for if I come to the fire, it shall first be burned. As
for the Pope, I denounce him as Christ's enemy and Antichrist, with
all his false doctrines." Then he was carried away, and a great
multitude ran after him, exhorting him, while time was, to remember
himself. "Coming to the stake," says the Catholic eye-witness,
"with a cheerful countenance and willing mind, he took off his
garments in haste and stood upright in his shirt. Fire being
applied, he stretched forth his right hand and thrust it into the
flame, before the fire came to any other part of his body; when his
hand was to be seen sensibly burning, he cried with a loud voice,
'This hand hath offended."'

Thus died Cranmer, in the sixty-seventh year of his age, after
presiding over the Church of England above twenty years, and having
bequeathed a legacy to his countrymen of which they continue to be
proud. He had not the intrepidity of Latimer; he was supple to
Henry VIII.; he was weak in his recantation; he was not an original
genius,--but he was a man of great breadth of views, conciliating
wise, temperate in reform, and discharged his great trust with
conscientious adherence to the truth as he understood it; the
friend of Calvin, and revered by the Protestant world.

Queen Mary reigned, fortunately, but five years, and the
persecutions she encouraged and indorsed proved the seed of a
higher morality and a loftier religious life.

"For thus spake aged Latimer:
I tarry by the stake,
Not trusting in my own weak heart,
But for the Saviour's sake.
Why speak of life or death to me,
Whose days are but a span?
Our crown is yonder,--Ridley, see!
Be strong and play the man!
God helping, such a torch this day
We'll light on English land,
That Rome, with all her cardinals,
Shall never quench the brand!"

The triumphs of Gardiner and Bonner too were short. Mary died with
a bruised heart and a crushed ambition. On her death, and the
accession of her sister Elizabeth, exiles returned from Geneva and
Frankfort to advocate more radical changes in government and
doctrine. Popular enthusiasm was kindled, never afterwards to be

The great ideas of the Reformation began now to agitate the mind of
England,--not so much the logical doctrines of Calvin as the
emancipating ideas of Luther. The Renaissance had begun, and the
two movements were incorporated,--the religious one of Germany and
the Pagan one of Italy, both favoring liberality of mind, a freer
style of literature, restless inquiries, enterprise, the revival of
learning and art, an intense spirit of progress, and disgust for
the Dark Ages and all the dogmas of scholasticism. With this
spirit of progress and moderate Protestantism Elizabeth herself,
the best educated woman in England, warmly sympathized, as did also
the illustrious men she drew to her court, to whom she gave the
great offices of state. I cannot call her age a religious one: it
was a merry one, cheerful, inquiring, untrammelled in thought, bold
in speculation, eloquent, honest, fervid, courageous, hostile to
the Papacy and all the bigots of Europe. It was still rough,
coarse, sensual; when money was scarce and industries in their
infancy, and material civilization not very attractive. But it was
a great age, glorious, intellectual, brilliant; with such statesmen
as Burleigh and Walsingham to head off treason and conspiracy; when
great poets arose, like Jonson and Spenser and Shakspeare; and
philosophers, like Bacon and Sir Thomas Browne, and lawyers, like
Nicholas Bacon and Coke; and elegant courtiers, like Sidney and
Raleigh and Essex; men of wit, men of enterprise, who would explore
distant seas and colonize new countries; yea, great preachers, like
Jeremy Taylor and Hall; and great theologians, like Hooker and
Chillingworth,--giving polish and, dignity to an uncouth language,
and planting religious truth in the minds of men.

Elizabeth, with such a constellation around her, had no great
difficulty in re-establishing Protestantism and giving it a new
impetus, although she adhered to liturgies and pomps, and loved
processions and fetes and banquets and balls and expensive
dresses,--a worldly woman, but progressive and enlightened.

In the religious reforms of that age you see the work of princes
and statesmen still, rather than any great insurrection of human
intelligence or any great religious revival, although the germs of
it were springing up through the popular preachers and the
influence of Genevan reformers. Calvin's writings were potent, and
John Knox was on his way to Scotland.

I pass by rapidly the reforms of Elizabeth's reign, effected by the
Queen and her ministers and the convocation of Protestant bishops
and clergy and learned men in the universities. Oxford and
Cambridge were then in their glory,--crowded with poor students
from all parts of England, who came to study Greek and Latin and
read theology, not to ride horses and row boats, to put on
dandified airs and sneer at lectures, running away to London to
attend theatres and flirt with girls and drink champagne, beggaring
their fathers and ruining their own expectations and their health.
In a very short time after the accession of Elizabeth, which was
hailed generally as a very auspicious event, things were restored
to nearly the state in which they were left by Cranmer in the
preceding reign. This was not done by direct authority of the
Queen, but by acts of Parliament. Even Henry VIII. ruled through
the Parliament, only it was his tool and instrument. Elizabeth
consulted its wishes as the representation of the nation, for she
aimed to rule by the affections of her people. But she recommended
the Parliament to conciliatory measures; to avoid extremes; to drop
offensive epithets, like "papist" and "heretic;" to go as far as
the wants of the nation required, and no farther. Though a zealous
Protestant, she seemed to have no great animosities. Her
particular aversion was Bonner,--the violent, blood-thirsty,
narrow-minded Bishop of London, who was deprived of his see and
shut up in the Tower, put out of harm's way, not cruelly treated,--
he was not even deprived of his good dinners. She appointed, as
her prerogative allowed, a very gentle, moderate, broad, kind-
hearted man to be Archbishop of Canterbury,--Parker, who had been
chaplain to her mother, and who was highly esteemed by Burleigh and
Nicholas Bacon, her most influential ministers. Parliament
confirmed the old act, passed during the reign of Henry VIII.,
making the sovereign the head of the English Church, although the
title of "supreme head" was left out in the oath of allegiance, to
conciliate the Catholic party. To execute this supremacy, the
Court of High Commission was established,--afterwards so abused by
Charles I. The Church Service was modified, and the Act of
Uniformity was passed by Parliament, after considerable debate.
The changes were all made in the spirit of moderation, and few
suffered beyond a deprivation of their sees or livings for refusing
to take the oath of supremacy.

Then followed the Thirty-nine Articles, setting forth the creed of
the Established Church,--substantially the creed which Cranmer had
made,--and a new translation of the Bible, and the regulation of
ecclesiastical courts.

But whatever was done was in good taste,--marked by good sense and
moderation,--to preserve decency and decorum, and repress all
extremes of superstition and license. The clergy preached in a
black gown and Genevan bands, using the surplice only in the
liturgy; we see no lace or millinery. The churches were stripped
of images, the pulpits became high and prominent, the altars were
changed to communion-tables without candles and symbols. There was
not much account made of singing, for the lyric version of the
Psalms was execrable. For the first time since Chrysostom and
Gregory Nazianzen, preaching became the chief duty of the
clergyman; and his sermons were long, for the people were greedy of
instruction, and were not critical of artistic merits. Among other
things of note, the exiles were recalled, who brought back with
them the learning of the Continent and the theology of Geneva, and
an intense hatred for all the old forms of superstition,--images,
crucifixes, lighted candles, Catholic vestments,--and a supreme
regard for the authority of the Scriptures, rather than the
authority of the Church.

These men, mostly learned and pious, were not contented with the
restoration as effected by Elizabeth's reformers,--they wanted
greater simplicity of worship and a more definite and logical
creed; and they made a good deal of trouble, being very
conscientious and somewhat narrow and intolerant. So that, after
the re-establishment of Protestantism, the religious history of the
reign is chiefly concerned with the quarrels and animosities within
the Church, particularly about vestments and modes of worship,--
things unessential, minute, technical,--which led to great acerbity
on both sides, and to some persecution; for these quarrels provoked
the Queen and her ministers, who wanted peace and uniformity. To
the Government it seemed strange and absurd for these returned
exiles to make such a fuss about a few externals; to these
intensified Protestants it seemed harsh and cruel that Government
should insist on such a rigid uniformity, and punish them for not
doing as they were bidden by the bishops.

So they separated from the Established Church, and became what were
called Nonconformists,--having not only disgust of the decent
ritualism of the Church, but great wrath for the bishops and
hierarchy and spiritual courts. They also disapproved of the holy
days which the Church retained, and the prayers and the cathedral
style of worship, the use of the cross in baptism, godfathers and
godmothers, the confirmation of children, kneeling at the
sacrament, bowing at the name of Jesus, the ring in marriage, the
surplice, the divine right of bishops, and some other things which
reminded them of Rome, for which they had absolute detestation,
seeing in the old Catholic Church nothing but abominations and
usurpations, no religion at all, only superstition and anti-
Christian government and doctrine,--the reign of the beast, the
mystic Babylon, the scarlet mother revelling in the sorceries of
ancient Paganism. These terrible animosities against even the
shadows and resemblances of what was called Popery were increased
and intensified by the persecution and massacres which the
Catholics about this time were committing on the Protestants in
France and Germany and the Low Countries, and which filled the
people of England,--especially the middle and lower classes, with
fear, alarm, anger, and detestation.

I will not enter upon the dissensions which so early crept into the
English Church, and led to a separation or a schism, whatever name
it goes by,--to most people in these times not very interesting or
edifying, because they were not based on any great ideas of
universal application, and seeming to such minds as Bacon and
Parker and Jewell rather narrow and frivolous.

The great Puritan controversy would have no dignity if it were
confined to vestments and robes and forms of worship, and hatred of
ceremonies and holy days, and other matters which seemed to lean to
Romanism. But the grandeur and the permanence of the movement were
in a return to the faith of the primitive Church and a purer
national morality, and to the unrestricted study of the Bible, and
the exaltation of preaching and Christian instruction over forms
and liturgies and antiphonal chants; above all, the exaltation of
reason and learning in the interpretation of revealed truth, and
the education of the people in all matters which concern their
temporal or religious interests, so that a true and rapid progress
was inaugurated in civilization itself, which has peculiarly marked
all Protestant countries having religious liberty. Underneath all
these apparently insignificant squabbles and dissensions there were
two things of immense historical importance: first, a spirit of
intolerance on the part of government and of church dignitaries,--
the State allied with the Church forcing uniformity with their
decrees, and severely punishing those who did not accept them,--in
matters beyond all worldly authority; and, secondly, a rising
spirit of religious liberty, determined to assert its glorious
rights at any cost or hazard, and especially defended by the most
religious and earnest part of the clergy, who were becoming
Calvinistic in their creed, and were pushing the ideas of the
Reformation to their utmost logical sequence. This spirit was
suppressed during the reign of Elizabeth, out of general respect
and love for her as a Queen, and the external dangers to which the
realm was exposed from Spain and France, which diverted the
national mind. But it burst out fiercely in the next reigns, under
James and Charles, about the beginning of the seventeenth century.
And this is the last development of the Reformation in England to
which I can allude,--the great Puritan contest for liberty of
worship, running, when opposed unjustly and cruelly, into a contest
for civil liberty; that is, the right to change forms and
institutions of civil government, even to the dethronement of
kings, when it was the expressed and declared will of the people,
in whom was vested the ultimate source of sovereignty.

But here I must be brief. I tread on familiar ground, made
familiar by all our literature, especially by the most brilliant
writer of modern times, though not the greatest philosopher: I mean
that great artist and word-painter Macaulay, whose chief excellence
is in making clear and interesting and vivid, by a world of
illustration and practical good-sense and marvellous erudition,
what was obvious to his own objective mind, and obvious also to
most other enlightened people not much interested in metaphysical
disquisitions. No man more than he does justice to the love of
liberty which absolutely burned in the souls of the Puritans,--that
glorious party which produced Milton and Cromwell, and Hampden and
Bunyan, and Owen and Calamy, and Baxter and Howe.

The chief peculiarity of those Puritans--once called
Nonconformists, afterwards Presbyterians and Independents--was
their reception of the creed of John Calvin, the clearest and most
logical intellect that the Reformation produced, though not the
broadest; who reigned as a religious dictator at Geneva and in the
Reformed churches of France, and who gave to John Knox the
positivism and sternness and rigidity which he succeeded in
impressing upon the churches of Scotland. And the peculiar
doctrines which marked Calvin and his disciples were those deduced
from the majesty of God and the comparative littleness of man,
leading to and bound up with the impotence of the will, human
dependence, the necessity of Divine grace,--Augustinian in spirit,
but going beyond Augustine in the subtlety of metaphysical
distinctions and dissertations on free-will election, and
predestination,--unfathomable, but exceedingly attractive subjects
to the divines of the seventeenth century, creating a metaphysical
divinity, a theology of the brain rather than of the heart, a
brilliant series of logical and metaphysical deductions from
established truths, demanding to be received with the same
unhesitating obedience as the truths, or Bible declarations, from
which they are deduced. The greatness of human reason was never
more forcibly shown than in these deductions; but they were carried
so far as to insult reason itself and mock the consciousness of
mankind; so that mankind rebelled against the very force of the
highest reasonings of the human intellect, because they pushed
logical sequence into absurdity, or to dreadful conclusions:
Decretum quidem horribile fateor, said the great master himself.

The Puritans were trained in this theology, which developed the
loftiest virtues and the severest self-constraints; making them
both heroes and visionaries, always conscientious and sometimes
repulsive; fitting them for gigantic tasks and unworthy squabbles;
driving them to the Bible, and then to acrimonious discussions;
creating fears almost mediaeval; leading them to technical
observation of religious duties, and transforming the most genial
and affectionate people under the sun into austere saints, with
whom the most ascetic of monks would have had but little sympathy.

I will not dwell on those peculiarities which Macaulay ridicules
and Taine repeats,--the hatred of theatres and assemblies and
symbolic festivals and bell-ringings, the rejection of the
beautiful, the elongated features, the cropped hair, the unadorned
garments, the proscription of innocent pleasures, the nasal voice,
the cant phrases, the rigid decorums, the strict discipline,--
these, doubtless exaggerated, were more than balanced by the
observance of the Sabbath, family prayers, temperate habits, fervor
of religious zeal, strict morality, allegiance to duty, and the
perpetual recognition of God Almighty as the sovereign of this
world, to whom we are responsible for all our acts and even our
thoughts. They formed a noble material on which every emancipating
idea could work; men trained by persecutions to self-sacrifice and
humble duties,--making good soldiers, good farmers, good workmen in
every department, honest and sturdy, patient and self-reliant,
devoted to their families though not demonstrative of affection;
keeping the Sunday as a day of worship rather than rest or
recreation, cherishing as the dearest and most sacred of all
privileges the right to worship God according to the dictates of
conscience enlightened by the Bible, and willing to fight, even
amid the greatest privations and sacrifices, to maintain this
sacred right and transmit it to their children. Such were the men
who fought the battles of civil liberty under Cromwell, and
colonized the most sterile of all American lands, making the dreary
wilderness to blossom with roses, and sending out the shoots of
their civilization to conserve more fruitful and favored sections
of the great continent which God gave them, to try new experiments
in liberty and education.

I need not enumerate the different sects into which these Puritans
were divided, so soon as they felt they had the right to interpret
Scripture for themselves. Nor would I detail the various and cruel
persecutions to which these sects were subjected by the government
and the ecclesiastical tribunals, until they rose in indignation
and despair, and rebelled against the throne, and made war on the
King, and cut off his head; all of which they did from fear and for
self-defence as well as from vengeance and wrath.

Nor can I describe the counter reformation, the great reaction
which succeeded to the violence of the revolution. The English
reformation was not consummated until constitutional liberty was
heralded by the reign of William and Mary, when the nation became
almost unanimously Protestant, with perfect toleration of religions
opinions, although the fervor of the Puritans had passed away
forever, leaving a residuum of deep-seated popular antipathy to all
the institutions of Romanism and all the ideas of the Middle Ages.
The English reformation began with princes, and ended with the
agitations of the people. The German reformation began with the
people, and ended in the wars of princes. But both movements were
sublime, since they showed the force of religious ideas. Civil
liberty is only one of the sequences which exalt the character and
dignity of man amid the seductions and impediments of a gilded
material life.


Todd's Life of Cranmer; Strype's Life of Cranmer; Wood's Annals of
the Oxford University; Burnet's English Reformation; Doctor
Lingard's History of England; Macaulay's Essays; Fuller's Church
History; Gilpin's Life of Cranmer; Original Letters to Cromwell;
Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury; Butler's Book of the
Roman Catholic Church; Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical biography;
Turner's Henry VIII.; Froude's History of England; Fox's Life of
Latimer; Turner's Reign of Mary.


A.D. 1491-1556


Next to the Protestant Reformation itself, the most memorable moral
movement in the history of modern times was the counter-reformation
in the Roman Catholic Church, finally effected, in no slight
degree, by the Jesuits. But it has not the grandeur or historical
significance of the great insurrection of human intelligence which
was headed by Luther. It was a revival of the pietism of the
Middle Ages, with an external reform of manners. It was not
revolutionary; it did not cast off the authority of the popes, nor
disband the monasteries, nor reform religious worship: it rather
tended to strengthen the power of the popes, to revive monastic
life, and to perpetuate the forms of worship which the Middle Ages
had established. No doubt a new religions life was kindled, and
many of the flagrant abuses of the papal empire were redressed, and
the lives of the clergy made more decent, in accordance with the
revival of intelligence. Nor did it disdain literature or art, or
any form of modern civilization, but sought to combine progress
with old ideas; it was an effort to adapt the Roman theocracy to
changing circumstances, and was marked by expediency rather than
right, by zeal rather than a profound philosophy.

This movement took place among the Latin races,--the Italians,
French, and Spaniards,--having no hold on the Teutonic races except
in Austria, as much Slavonic as German. It worked on a poor
material, morally considered; among peoples who have not been
distinguished for stamina of character, earnestness, contemplative
habits, and moral elevation,--peoples long enslaved, frivolous in
their pleasures, superstitious, indolent, fond of fetes,
spectacles, pictures, and Pagan reminiscences.

The doctrine of justification by faith was not unknown, even in
Italy. It was embraced by many distinguished men. Contarini, an
illustrious Venetian, wrote a treatise on it, which Cardinal Pole
admired. Folengo ascribed justification to grace alone; and
Vittoria Colonna, the friend of Michael Angelo, took a deep
interest in these theological inquiries. But the doctrine did not
spread; it was not understood by the people,--it was a speculation
among scholars and doctors, which gave no alarm to the Pope. There
was even an attempt at internal reform under Paul III. of the
illustrious family of the Farnese, successor of Leo X. and Clement
VII., the two renowned Medicean popes. He made cardinals of
Contarini, Caraffa, Sadoleto, Pole, Giberto,--all imbued with
reformative doctrines, and very religious; and these good men
prepared a plan of reform and submitted it to the Pope, which
ended, however, only in new monastic orders.

It was then that Ignatius Loyola appeared upon the stage, when
Luther was in the midst of his victories, and when new ideas were
shaking the pontifical throne. The desponding successor of the
Gregorys and the Clements knew not where to look for aid in that
crisis of peril and revolution. The monastic orders composed his
regular army, but they had become so corrupted that they had lost
the reverence of the people. The venerable Benedictines had
ceased to be men of prayer and contemplation as in the times of
Bernard and Anselm, and were revelling in their enormous wealth.
The cloisters of Cluniacs and Cistercians--branches of the
Benedictines--were filled with idle and dissolute monks. The
famous Dominicans and Franciscans, who had rallied to the defence
of the Papacy three centuries before,--those missionary orders that
had filled the best pulpits and the highest chairs of philosophy in
the scholastic age,--had become inexhaustible subjects of sarcasm
and mockery, for they were peddling relics and indulgences, and
quarrelling among themselves. They were hated as inquisitors,
despised as scholastics, and deserted as preachers; the roads and
taverns were filled with them. Erasmus laughed at them, Luther
abused them, and the Pope reproached them. No hope from such men
as these, although they had once been renowned for their missions,
their zeal, their learning, and their preaching.

At this crisis Loyola and his companions volunteered their
services, and offered to go wherever the Pope should send them, as
preachers, or missionaries, or teachers, instantly, without
discussion, conditions, or rewards. So the Pope accepted them,
made them a new religions Order; and they did what the Mendicant
Friars had done three hundred years before,--they fanned a new
spirit, and rapidly spread over Europe, over all the countries to
which Catholic adventurers had penetrated, and became the most
efficient allies that the popes ever had.

This was in 1540, six years after the foundation of the Society of
Jesus had been laid on the Mount of Martyrs, in the vicinity of
Paris, during the pontificate of Paul III. Don Inigo Lopez de
Recalde Loyola, a Spaniard of noble blood and breeding, at first a
page at the court of King Ferdinand, then a brave and chivalrous
soldier, was wounded at the siege of Pampeluna. During a slow
convalescence, having read all the romances he could find, he took
up the "Lives of the Saints," and became fired with religious zeal.
He immediately forsook the pursuit of arms, and betook himself
barefooted to a pilgrimage. He served the sick in hospitals; he
dwelt alone in a cavern, practising austerities; he went as a
beggar on foot to Rome and to the Holy Land, and returned at the
age of thirty-three to begin a course of study. It was while
completing his studies at Paris that he conceived and formed the
"Society of Jesus."

From that time we date the counter-reformation. In fifty years
more a wonderful change took place in the Catholic Church, wrought
chiefly by the Jesuits. Yea, in sixteen years from that eventful
night--when far above the star-lit city the enthusiastic Loyola had
bound his six companions with irrevocable vows--he had established
his Society in the confidence and affection of Catholic Europe,
against the voice of universities, the fears of monarchs, and the
jealousy of the other monastic orders. In sixteen years, this
ridiculed and wandering Spanish zealot had risen to a condition of
great influence and dignity, second only in power to the Pope
himself; animating the councils of the Vatican, moving the minds of
kings, controlling the souls of a numerous fraternity, and making
his influence felt in every corner of the world. Before the
remembrance of his passionate eloquence, his eyes of fire, and his
countenance of seraphic piety had passed away from the minds of his
own generation, his disciples "had planted their missionary
stations among Peruvian mines, in the marts of the African slave-
trade, among the islands of the Indian Ocean, on the coasts of
Hindustan, in the cities of Japan and China, in the recesses of
Canadian forests, amid the wilds of the Rocky Mountains." They had
the most important chairs in the universities; they were the
confessors of monarchs and men of rank; they had the control of the
schools of Italy, France, Austria, and Spain; and they had become
the most eloquent, learned, and fashionable preachers in all
Catholic countries. They had grown to be a great institution,--an
organization instinct with life, a mechanism endued with energy and
will; forming a body which could outwatch Argus with his hundred
eyes, and outwork Briareus with his hundred arms; they had twenty
thousand eyes open upon every cabinet, every palace, and every
private family in Catholic Europe, and twenty thousand arms
extended over the necks of every sovereign and all their subjects,
--a mighty moral and spiritual power, irresponsible, irresistible,
omnipresent, connected intimately with the education, the learning,
and the religion of the age; yea, the prime agents in political
affairs, the prop alike of absolute monarchies and of the papal
throne, whose interests they made identical. This association,
instinct with one will and for one purpose, has been beautifully
likened by Doctor Williams to the chariot in the Prophet's vision:
"The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; wherever the
living creatures went, the wheels went with them; wherever those
stood, these stood: when the living creatures were lifted up, the
wheels were lifted up over against them; and their wings were full
of eyes round about, and they were so high that they were dreadful.
So of the institution of Ignatius,--one soul swayed the vast mass;
and every pin and every cog in the machinery consented with its
whole power to every movement of the one central conscience."

Luther moved Europe by ideas which emancipated the millions, and
set in motion a progress which is the glory of our age; Loyola
invented an agency which arrested this progress, and led the
Catholic world back again into the subjections and despotisms of
the Middle Ages, retaining however the fear of God and of Hell,
which are the extremes of human motive.

What is the secret of such a wonderful success? Two things: first,
the extraordinary virtues, abilities, and zeal of the early
Jesuits; and, secondly, their wonderful machinery in adapting means
to an end.

The history of society shows that no body of men ever obtained a
wide-spread ascendancy, never secured general respect, unless they
deserved it. Industry produces its fruits; learning and piety have
their natural results. Even in the moral world natural law asserts
its supremacy. Hypocrisy and fraud ultimately will be detected; no
enduring reputation is built upon a lie; sincerity and earnestness
will call out respect, even from foes; learning and virtue are
lights which are not hid under a bushel. Enthusiasm creates
enthusiasm; a lofty life will be seen and honored. Nor do people
intrust their dearest interests except to those whom they
venerate,--and venerate because their virtues shine like the face
of a goddess. We yield to those only whom we esteem wiser than
ourselves. Moses controlled the Israelites because they venerated
his wisdom and courage; Paul had the confidence of the infant
churches because they saw his labors; Bernard swayed his darkened
age by the moral power of learning and sanctity. The mature
judgments of centuries never have reversed the judgments which past
ages gave in reference to their master minds. All the pedants and
sophists of Europe cannot whitewash Frederic II. or Henry VIII.
No man in Athens was more truly venerated than Socrates when
he mocked his judges. Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, appeared to
contemporaries, as they appear to us. Even Hildebrand did not
juggle himself into his theocratic chair. Washington deserved all
the reverence he enjoyed; and Bonaparte himself was worthy of the
honors he received, so long as he was true to the interests of

So of the Jesuits,--there is no mystery in their success; the same
causes would produce the same results again. When Catholic Europe
saw men born to wealth and rank voluntarily parting with their
goods and honors; devoting themselves to religious duties, often in
a humble sphere; spending their days in schools and hospitals;
wandering as preachers and missionaries amid privations and in
fatigue; encountering perils and dangers and hardships with fresh
and ever-sustained enthusiasm; and finally yielding up their lives
as martyrs, to proclaim salvation to idolatrous savages,--it knew
them to be heroic, and believed them to be sincere, and honored
them in consequence. When parents saw that the Jesuits entered
heart and soul into the work of education, winning their pupils'
hearts by kindness, watching their moods, directing their minds
into congenial studies, and inspiring them with generous
sentiments, they did not stop to pry into their motives; and
universities, when they discovered the superior culture of educated
Jesuits, outstripping all their associates in learning, and
shedding a light by their genius and erudition, very naturally
appointed them to the highest chairs; and even the people, when
they saw that the Jesuits were not stained by vulgar vices, but
were hard-working; devoted to their labors, earnest, and eloquent,
put themselves under their teachings; and especially when they
added gentlemanly manners, good taste, and agreeable conversation
to their unimpeachable morality and religious fervor, they made
these men their confessors as well as preachers. Their lives stood
out in glorious contrast with those of the old monks and the
regular clergy, in an age of infidel levities, when the Italian
renaissance was bearing its worst fruits, and men were going back
to Pagan antiquity for their pleasures and opinions.

That the early Jesuits blazed with virtues and learning and piety
has never been denied, although these things have been poetically
exaggerated. The world was astonished at their intrepidity, zeal,
and devotion. They were not at first intriguing, or ambitious, or
covetous. They loved their Society; but they loved still more what
they thought was the glory of God. Ad majoram Dei gloriam was the
motto which was emblazoned on their standard when they went forth
as Christian warriors to overcome the heresies of Christendom and
the superstitions of idolaters. "The Jesuit missionary," says
Stephen, "with his breviary under his arm, his beads at his girdle,
and his crucifix in his hands, went forth without fear, to
encounter the most dreaded dangers. Martyrdom was nothing to him;
he knew that the altar which might stream with his blood, and the
mound which might be raised over his remains, would become a
cherished object of his fame and an expressive emblem of the power
of his religion." "If I die," said Xavier, when about to visit the
cannibal Island of Del Moro, "who knows but what all may receive
the Gospel, since it is most certain it has ever fructified more
abundantly in the field of Paganism by the blood of martyrs than by
the labors of missionaries,"--a sublime truth, revealed to him in
his whole course of protracted martyrdom and active philanthropy,
especially in those last hours when, on the Island of Sanshan, he
expired, exclaiming, as his fading eyes rested on the crucifix, In
te Domine speravi, non confundar in eternum. "In perils, in
fastings, in fatigues, was the life of this remarkable man passed,
in order to convert the heathen world; and in ten years he had
traversed a tract of more than twice the circumference of the
earth, preaching, disputing, and baptizing, until seventy thousand
converts, it is said, were the fruits of his mission."* " My
companion," said the fearless Marquette, when exploring the
prairies of the Western wilderness, "is an envoy of France to
discover new countries, and I am an ambassador of God to enlighten
them with the Gospel." Lalemant, when pierced with the arrows of
the Iroquois, rejoiced that his martyrdom would induce others to
follow his example. The missions of the early Jesuits extorted
praises from Baxter and panegyric from Liebnitz.

* I am inclined to think that this statement is exaggerated; or, if
true, that conversion was merely nominal. In any event, his labors
were vast.

And not less remarkable than these missionaries were those who
labored in other spheres. Loyola himself, though visionary and
monastic, had no higher wish than to infuse piety into the Catholic
Church, and to strengthen the hands of him whom he regarded as
God's vicegerent. Somehow or other he succeeded in securing the
absolute veneration of his companions, so much so that the sainted
Xavier always wrote to him on his knees. His "Spiritual Exercises"
has ever remained the great text-book of the Jesuits,--a compend of
fasts and penances, of visions and of ecstasies; rivalling Saint
Theresa herself in the rhapsodies of an exalted piety, showing the
chivalric and romantic ardor of a Spanish nobleman directed into
the channel of devotion to an invisible Lord. See this wounded
soldier at the siege of Pampeluna, going through all the
experiences of a Syriac monk in his Manresan cave, and then turning
his steps to Paris to acquire a university education; associating
only with the pious and the learned, drawing to him such gifted men
as Faber and Xavier, Salmeron and Lainez, Borgia and Bobadilla, and
inspiring them with his ideas and his fervor; living afterwards, at
Venice, with Caraffa (the future Paul IV.) in the closest intimacy,
preaching at Vicenza, and forming a new monastic code, as full of
genius and originality as it was of practical wisdom, which became
the foundation of a system of government never surpassed in the
power of its mechanism to bind the minds and wills of men. Loyola
was a most extraordinary man in the practical turn he gave to
religious rhapsodies; creating a legislation for his Society which
made it the most potent religious organization in the world. All
his companions were remarkable likewise for different traits and
excellences, which yet were made to combine in sustaining the unity
of this moral mechanism. Lainez had even a more comprehensive mind
than Loyola. It was he who matured the Jesuit Constitution, and
afterwards controlled the Council of Trent,--a convocation which
settled the creed of the Catholic Church, especially in regard to
justification, and which extolled the merits of Christ, but
attributed justification to good works in a different sense from
that understood and taught by Luther.

Aside from the personal gifts and qualities of the early Jesuits,
they would not have so marvellously succeeded had it not been for
their remarkable constitution,--that which bound the members of the
Society together, and gave to it a peculiar unity and force. The
most marked thing about it was the unbounded and unhesitating
obedience required of every member to superiors, and of these
superiors to the General of the Order,--so that there was but one
will. This law of obedience is, as every one knows, one of the
fundamental principles of all the monastic orders from the earliest
times, enforced by Benedict as well as Basil. Still there was a
difference in the vow of obedience. The head of a monastery in the
Middle Ages was almost supreme. The Lord Abbot was obedient only
to the Pope, and he sought the interests of his monastery rather
than those of the Pope. But Loyola exacted obedience to the
General of the Order so absolutely that a Jesuit became a slave.
This may seem a harsh epithet; there is nothing gained by using
offensive words, but Protestant writers have almost universally
made these charges. From their interpretation of the constitutions
of Loyola and Lainez and Aquaviva, a member of the Society had no
will of his own; he did not belong to himself, he belonged to his
General,--as in the time of Abraham a child belonged to his father
and a wife to her husband; nay, even still more completely. He
could not write or receive a letter that was not read by his
Superior. When he entered the order, he was obliged to give away
his property, but could not give it to his relatives.* When he
made confession, he was obliged to tell his most intimate and
sacred secrets. He could not aspire to any higher rank than that
he held; he had no right to be ambitious, or seek his own
individual interests; he was merged body and soul into the Society;
he was only a pin in the machinery; he was bound to obey even his
own servant, if required by his Superior; he was less than a
private soldier in an army; he was a piece of wax to be moulded as
the Superior directed,--and the Superior, in his turn, was a piece
of wax in the hands of the Provincial, and he again in the hands of
the General. "There were many gradations in rank, but every rank
was a gradation in slavery." The Jesuit is accused of having no
individual conscience. He was bound to do what he was told, right
or wrong; nothing was right and nothing was wrong except as the
Society pronounced. The General stood in the place of God. That
man was the happiest who was most mechanical. Every novice had a
monitor, and every monitor was a spy.** So strict was the rule of
Loyola, that he kept Francis Borgia, Duke of Gandia, three years
out of the Society, because he refused to renounce all intercourse
with his family.***

* Ranke.

** Steinmetz, i. p. 252.

*** Nicolini, p. 35.

The Jesuit was obliged to make all natural ties subordinate to the
will of the General. And this General was a king more absolute
than any worldly monarch, because he reigned over the minds of his
subjects. His kingdom was an imperium in imperio; he was chosen
for life and was responsible to no one, although he ruled for the
benefit of the Catholic Church. In one sense a General of the
Jesuits resembled the prime minister of an absolute monarch,--say
such a man as Richelieu, with unfettered power in the cause of
absolutism; and he ruled like Richelieu, through his spies, making
his subordinates tools and instruments. The General appointed the
presidents of colleges and of the religious houses; he admitted or
dismissed, dispensed or punished, at his pleasure. There was no
complaint; all obeyed his orders, and saw in him the representative
of Divine Providence. Complaint was sin; resistance was ruin. It
is hard for us to understand how any man could be brought
voluntarily to submit to such a despotism. But the novice entering
the order had to go through terrible discipline,--to be a servant,
anything; to live according to rigid rules, so that his spirit was
broken by mechanical duties. He had to learn the virtues of
obedience before he could be fully enrolled in the Society. He was
drilled for years by spiritual sergeants more rigorously than a
soldier in Napoleon's army: hence the efficiency of the body; it
was a spiritual army of the highest disciplined troops. Loyola had
been a soldier; he knew what military discipline could do,--how
impotent an army is without it, what an awful power it is with
discipline, and the severer the better. The best soldier of a
modern army is he who has become an unconscious piece of machinery;
and it was this unreflecting, unconditional obedience which made
the Society so efficient, and the General himself, who controlled
it, such an awful power for good or for evil. I am only speaking
of the organization, the machinery, the regime, of the Jesuits, not
of their character, not of their virtues or vices. This
organization is to be spoken of as we speak of the discipline of an
army,--wise or unwise, as it reached its end. The original aim of
the Jesuits was the restoration of the Papal Church to its ancient
power; and for one hundred years, as I think, the restoration of
morals, higher education, greater zeal in preaching: in short, a
reformation within the Church. Jesuitism was, of course, opposed
to Protestantism; it hated the Protestants; it hated their
religions creed and their emancipating and progressive spirit; it
hated religious liberty.

I need not dwell on other things which made this religious order so
successful,--not merely their virtues and their mechanism, but
their adaptation to the changing spirit of the times. They threw
away the old dresses of monastic life; they quitted the cloister
and places of meditation; they were preachers as well as scholars;
they accommodated themselves to the circumstances of the times;
they wore the ordinary dress of gentlemen; they remained men of the
world, of fine manners and cultivated speech; there was nothing
ascetic or repulsive about them, out in the world; they were all
things to all men, like politicians, in order to accomplish their
ends; they never were lazy, or profligate or luxurious. If their
Order became enriched, they as individuals remained poor. The
inferior members were not even ambitious; like good soldiers, they
thought of nothing but the work assigned to them. Their pride and
glory were the prosperity of their Order,--an intense esprit de
corps, never equalled by any body of men. This, of course, while
it gave them efficiency, made them narrow. They could see the
needle on the barn-door,--they could not see the door itself.
Hence there could be no agreement with them, no argument with them,
except on ordinary matters; they were as zealous as Saul, seeking
to make proselytes. They yielded nothing except in order to win;
they never compromised their Order in their cause. Their fidelity
to their head was marvellous; and so long as they confined
themselves to the work of making people better, I think they
deserved praise. I do not like their military organization, but I
should have no more right to abuse it than the organization of some
Protestant sects. That is a matter of government; all sects and
all parties, Catholic and Protestant, have a right to choose their
own government to carry out their ends, even as military generals
have a right to organize their forces in their own way. The
history of the Jesuits shows this,--that an organization of forces,
or what we call discipline or government, is a great thing. A
church without a government is a poor affair, so far as efficiency
is concerned. All churches have something to learn from the
Jesuits in the way of discipline. John Wesley learned something;
the Independents learned very little.

But there is another side to the Jesuits. We have seen why they
succeeded; we have to inquire how they failed. If history speaks
of the virtues of the early members, and the wonderful mechanism of
their Order, and their great success in consequence, it also speaks
of the errors they committed, by which they lost the confidence
they had gained. From being the most popular of all the adherents
of the papal power, and of the ideas of the Dark Ages, they became
the most unpopular; they became so odious that the Pope was
obliged, by the pressure of public opinion and of the Bourbon
courts of Europe, to suppress their Order. The fall of the Jesuits
was as significant as their rise. I need not dwell on that fall,
which is one of the best known facts of history.

Why did the Jesuits become unpopular and lose their influence?

They gained the confidence of Catholic countries because they
deserved it, and they lost that confidence because they deserved to
lose it,--in other words, because they degenerated; and this seems
to be the history of all institutions. It is strange, it is
passing strange, that human societies and governments and
institutions should degenerate as soon as they become rich and
powerful; but such, is the fact,--a sad commentary on the doctrine
of a necessary progress of the race, or the natural tendency to
good, which so many cherish, but than which nothing can be more
false, as proved by experience and the Scriptures. Why were the
antediluvians swept away? Why could not those races retain their
primitive revelation? Why did the descendants of Noah become
almost idolaters before he was dead? Why did the great Persian
Empire become as effeminate as the empires it had supplanted? Why
did the Jewish nation steadily retrograde after David? Why did not
civilization and Christianity save the Roman world? Why did
Christianity itself become corrupted in four centuries? Why did
not the Middle Ages preserve the evangelical doctrines of Augustine
and Jerome and Chrysostom and Ambrose? Why did the light of the
glorious Reformation of Luther nearly go out in the German cities
and universities? Why did the fervor of the Puritans burn out in
England in one hundred years? Why have the doctrines of the
Pilgrim Fathers become unfashionable in those parts of New England
where they seemed to have taken the deepest root? Why have so many
of the descendants of the disciples of George Fox become so liberal
and advanced as to be enamoured of silk dresses and laces and
diamonds and the ritualism of Episcopal churches? Is it an
improvement to give up a simple life and lofty religious
enthusiasm for materialistic enjoyments and epicurean display?
Is there a true advance in a university, when it exchanges its
theological teachings and its preparation of poor students for
the Gospel Ministry, for Schools of Technology and boat-clubs and
accommodations for the sons of the rich and worldly?

Now the Society of Jesus went through just such a transformation as
has taken place, almost within the memory of living men, in the
life and habits and ideas of the people of Boston and Philadelphia
and in the teachings of their universities. Some may boldly say,
"Why not? This change indicates progress." But this progress is
exactly similar to that progress which the Jesuits made in the
magnificence of their churches, in the wealth they had hoarded in
their colleges, in the fashionable character of their professors
and confessors and preachers, in the adaptation of their doctrines
to the taste of the rich and powerful, in the elegance and
arrogance and worldliness of their dignitaries. Father La Chaise
was an elegant and most polished man of the world, and travelled in
a coach with six horses. If he had not been such a man, he would
not have been selected by Louis XIV. for his confidential and
influential confessor. The change which took place among the
Jesuits arose from the same causes as the change which has taken
place among Methodists and Quakers and Puritans. This change I
would not fiercely condemn, for some think it is progress. But is
it progress in that religious life which early marked these people;
or a progress towards worldly and epicurean habits which they arose
to resist and combat? The early Jesuits were perhaps fanatical,
strict, ascetic, religious, and narrow. They sought by self-
denying labors and earnest exhortations, like Savonarola at
Florence, to take the Church out of the hands of the Devil; and the
people reverenced them, as they always have reverenced martyrs and
missionaries. The later Jesuits sought to enjoy their wealth and
power and social position. They became--as rich and prosperous
people generally become--proud, ambitious, avaricious, and worldly.
They were as elegant, as scholarly, and as luxurious as the Fellows
of Oxford University, and the occupants of stalls in the English
cathedrals,--that is all: as worldly as the professors of Yale and
Cambridge may become in half-a-century, if rich widows and brewers
and bankers without children shall some day make those universities
as well endowed as Jesuit colleges were in the eighteenth century.
That is the old story of our fallen humanity. I would no more
abuse the Jesuits because they became confessors to the great, and
went into mercantile speculations, than I would rich and favored
clergymen in Protestant countries, who prefer ten per cent for
their money in California mines to four per cent in national

But the prosperity which the Jesuits had earned during their first
century of existence excited only envy, and destroyed the reverence
of the people; it had not made them odious, detestable. It was the
means they adopted to perpetuate their influence, after early
virtues had passed away, which caused enlightened Catholic Europe
to mistrust them, and the Protestants absolutely to hate and vilify

From the very first, the Society was distinguished for the esprit
de corps of its members. Of all things which they loved best it
was the power and glory of the Society,--just as Oxford Fellows
love the prestige of their university. And this power and
influence the Jesuits determined to preserve at all hazards and by
any means; when virtues fled, they must find something else with
which to bolster themselves up: they must not part with their
power; the question was, how should they keep it? First, they are
accused of having adopted the doctrine of expediency,--that the end
justifies the means. They did not invent this sophistry,--it is as
old as our humanity. Abraham used it when he told lies to the King
of Egypt, to save the honor of his wife; Caesar accepted it, when
he vindicated imperialism as the only way to save the Roman Empire
from anarchy; most politicians resort to it when they wish to gain
their ends. Politicians have ever been as unscrupulous as the
Jesuits, in adopting expediency rather than eternal right. It has
been a primal law of government; it lies at the basis of English
encroachments in India, and of the treatment of the aborigines in
this country by our government. There is nothing new in the
doctrine of expediency.

But the Jesuits are accused of pushing this doctrine to its
remotest consequences, of being its most unhesitating defenders,--
so that jesuitism and expediency are popularly convertible terms.
They are accused too of perverting education, of abusing the
confessional, of corrupting moral and political philosophy, of
conforming to the inclinations of the great. They even went so far
as to inculcate mental reservation,--thus attacking truth in its
most sacred citadel, the conscience of mankind,--on which Pascal
was so severe. They made habit and bad example almost a sufficient
exculpation from crime. Perjury was allowable, if the perjured
were inwardly determined not to swear. They invented the notion of
probabilities, according to which a person might follow any opinion
he pleased, although he knew it to be wrong, provided authors of
reputation had defended that opinion. A man might fight a duel, if
by refusing to fight he would be stigmatized as a coward. They did
not openly justify murder, treachery, and falsehood, but they
excused the same, if plausible reasons could be urged. In their
missions they aimed at eclat; and hence merely nominal conversions
were accepted, because these swelled their numbers. They gave the
crucifix, which covered up all sins; they permitted their converts
to retain their ancient habits and customs. In order to be
popular, Robert de Nobili, it is said, traced his lineage to
Brahma; and one of their missionaries among the Indians told the
savages that Christ was a warrior who scalped women and children.
Anything for an outward success. Under their teachings it was seen
what a light affair it was to bear the yoke of Christ. So monarchs
retained in their service confessors who imposed such easy
obligations. So ordinary people resorted to the guidance of such
leaders, who made themselves agreeable. The Jesuit colleges were
filled with casuists. Their whole moral philosophy, if we may
believe Arnauld and Pascal, was a tissue of casuistry; truth was
obscured in order to secure popularity; even the most diabolical
persecution was justified if heretics stood in the way. Father Le
Tellier rejoiced in the slaughter of Saint Bartholomew, and Te
Deums were offered in the churches for the extinction of
Protestantism by any means. If it could be shown to be expedient,
the Jesuits excused the most outrageous crimes ever perpetrated on
this earth.

Again, the Jesuits are accused of riveting fetters on the human
mind in order to uphold their power, and to sustain the absolutism
of the popes and the absolutism of kings, to which they were
equally devoted. They taught in their schools the doctrine of
passive obedience; they aimed to subdue the will by rigid
discipline; they were hostile to bold and free inquiries; they were
afraid of science; they hated such men as Galileo, Pascal, and
Bacon; they detested the philosophers who prepared the way for the
French Revolution; they abominated the Protestant idea of private
judgment; they opposed the progress of human thought, and were
enemies alike of the Jansenist movement in the seventeenth century
and of the French Revolution in the eighteenth. They upheld the
absolutism of Louis XIV., and combated the English Revolution; they
sent their spies and agents to England to undermine the throne of
Elizabeth and build up the throne of Charles I. Every emancipating
idea, in politics and in religion, they detested. There were many
things in their system of education to be commended; they were good
classical scholars, and taught Greek and Latin admirably; they
cultivated the memory; they made study pleasing, but they did not
develop genius. The order never produced a great philosopher; the
energies of its members were concentrated in imposing a despotic

The Jesuits are accused further of political intrigues: this is a
common and notorious charge. They sought to control the cabinets
of Europe; they had their spies in every country. The intrigues of
Campion and Parsons in England aimed at the restoration of Catholic
monarchs. Mary of Scotland was a tool in their hands, and so was
Madame de Maintenon in France. La Chaise and Le Tellier were mere
politicians. The Jesuits became political priests; the history of
Europe the last three hundred years is full of their cabals. Their
political influence was directed to the persecution of Protestants
as well as infidels. They are accused of securing the revocation
of the Edict of Nantes,--one of the greatest crimes in the history
of modern times, which led to the expulsion of four hundred
thousand Protestants from France, and the execution of four hundred
thousand more. They incited the dragonnades of Louis XIV., who was
under their influence. They are accused of the assassination of
kings, of the fires of Smithfield, of the Gunpowder Plot, of the
cruelties inflicted by Alva, of the Thirty Years' War, of the
ferocities of the Guises, of inquisitions and massacres, of sundry
other political crimes, with what justice I do not know; but
certain it is they became objects of fear, and incurred the
hostilities of Catholic Europe, especially of all liberal thinkers,
and their downfall was demanded by the very courts of Europe. Why
did they lose their popularity? Why were they so distrusted and
hated? The fact that they WERE hated is most undoubted, and there
must have been cause for it. It is a fact that at one time they
were respected and honored, and deserved to be so: must there not
have been grave reasons for the universal change in public opinion
respecting them. The charges against them, to which I have
alluded, must have had foundation. They did not become idle,
gluttonous, ignorant, and sensual like the old monks: they became
greedy of power; and in order to retain it resorted to intrigues,
conspiracies, and persecutions. They corrupted philosophy and
morality, abused the confessional, privilege, adopted SUCCESS as
their watchword, without regard to the means; they are charged with
becoming worldly, ambitious, mercenary, unscrupulous, cruel; above
all, they sought to bind the minds of men with a despotic yoke, and
waged war against all liberalizing influences. They always were,
from first to last, narrow, pedantic, one-sided, legal, technical,
pharisaical. The best thing about them, in the days of their
declining power, was that they always opposed infidel sentiments.
They hated Voltaire and Rousseau and the Encyclopedists as much as
they did Luther and Calvin. They detested the principles of the
French Revolution, partly because those principles were godless,
partly because they were emancipating.

Of course, in such an infidel and revolutionary age as that of
Louis XV., when Voltaire was the oracle of Europe,--when from his
chateau near Geneva he controlled the mind of Europe, as Calvin did
two centuries earlier,--enemies would rise up, on all sides,
against the Jesuits. Their most powerful and bitter foe was a
woman,--the mistress of Louis XV., the infamous Madame de
Pompadour. She hated the Jesuits as Catharine de Medici hated the
Calvinists in the time of Charles IX.,--not because they were
friends of absolutism, not because they wrote casuistic books, not
because they opposed liberal principles, not because they were
spies and agents of Rome, not because they perverted education, not
because they were boastful and mercenary missionaries or cunning
intriguers in the courts of princes, not because they had marked
their course through Europe in a trail of blood, but because they
were hostile to her ascendency,--a woman who exercised about the
same influence in France as Jezebel did at the court of Ahab. I
respect the Jesuits for the stand they took against this woman: it
is the best thing in their history. But here they did not show
their usual worldly wisdom, and they failed. They were judicially
blinded. The instrument of their humiliation was a wicked woman.
So strange are the ways of Providence! He chose Esther to save the
Jewish nation, and a harlot to punish the Jesuits. She availed
herself of their mistakes.

It seems that the Superior of the Jesuits at Martinique failed; for
the Jesuits embarked in commercial speculations while officiating
as missionaries. The angry creditors of La Valette, the Jesuit
banker, demanded repayment from the Order. They refused to pay his
debts. The case was carried to the courts, and the highest
tribunal decided against them. That was not the worst. In the
course of the legal proceedings, the mysterious "rule" of the
Jesuits--that which was so carefully concealed from the public--was
demanded. Then all was revealed,--all that Pascal had accused them
of,--and the whole nation was indignant. A great storm was raised.
The Parliament of Paris decreed the constitution of the Society to
be fatal to all government. The King wished to save them, for he
knew that they were the best supporters of the throne of
absolutism. But he could not resist the pressure,--the torrent of
public opinion, the entreaties of his mistress, the arguments of
his ministers. He was compelled to demand from the Pope the
abrogation of their charter. Other monarchs did the same; all the
Bourbon courts in Europe, for the king of Portugal narrowly escaped
assassination from a fanatical Jesuit. Had the Jesuits consented
to a reform, they might not have fallen. But they would make no
concessions. Said Ricci, their General, Sint ut sunt, aut non
sint. The Pope--Clement XIV.--was obliged to part with his best
soldiers. Europe, Catholic Europe, demanded the sacrifice,--the
kings of Spain, of France, of Naples, of Portugal. Compulsus feci,
compulsus feci, exclaimed the broken-hearted Pope,--the feeble and
pious Ganganelli. So that in 1773, by a papal decree, the Order
was suppressed; 669 colleges were closed; 223 missions were
abandoned, and more than 22,000 members were dispersed. I do not
know what became of their property, which amounted to about two
hundred millions of dollars, in the various countries of Europe.

This seems to me to have been a clear case of religious
persecution, incited by jealous governments and the infidel or the
progressive spirit of the age, on the eve of the French Revolution.
It simply marks the hostilities which, for various reasons, they
had called out. I am inclined to think that their faults were
greatly exaggerated; but it is certain that so severe and high-
handed a measure would not have been taken by the Pope had it not
seemed to him necessary to preserve the peace of the Church. Had
they been innocent, the Pope would have lost his throne sooner than
commit so great a wrong on his most zealous servants. It is
impossible for a Protestant to tell how far they were guilty of the
charges preferred against them. I do not believe that their lives,
as a general thing, were a scandal sufficient to justify so
sweeping a measure; but their institution, their regime, their
organization, their constitution, were deemed hostile to liberty
and the progress of society. And if zealous governments--Catholic
princes themselves--should feel that the Jesuits were opposed to
the true progress of nations, how much more reason had Protestants
to distrust them, and to rejoice in their fall!

And it was not until the French Revolution and the empire of
Napoleon had passed away, not until the Bourbons had been restored
(in August, 1814), that the Order was re-established and again
protected by the Papal court. They have now regained their ancient
power, and seem to have the confidence of Catholic Europe. Some of
their most flourishing seminaries are in the United States. They
are certainly not a scandal in this country, although their spirit
and organization are still maintained: regarded with some mistrust
by the strong Protestants, as a matter of course, as such a
powerful organization naturally would be; hostile still to the
circulation of the Scriptures among the people and free inquiry and
private judgment,--in short, to all the ideas of the reformation.
But whatever they are, and however askance Protestants regard them,
they have in our country,--this land of unbounded religious
toleration,--the same right to their religion and their
ecclesiastical government that any other sects have; and if
Protestants would nullify their influence so far as disliked, they
must outshine them in virtues, in a religious life, in zeal, and in
devotion to the spiritual interests of the people. If the Jesuits
keep better schools than Protestants they will be patronized, and
if they command the respect of the Catholics for their virtues and
intelligence, whatever may be the machinery of their organization,
they will retain their power; and not until they interfere with
elections and Protestant schools, or teach dangerous doctrines of
public morality, has our Government any right to interfere with
them. They will stand or fall as they win the respect or excite
the wrath of enlightened nations. But the principles they are
supposed to defend,--expediency, casuistry, and hostility to free
inquiry and the circulation of the Scriptures in vernacular
languages,--these are just causes of complaint and of unrelenting
opposition among all those who accept the great ideas of the
Protestant Reformation, since they are antagonistic to what we deem
most precious in our institutions. So long as the contest shall
last between good and evil in this world, we have a right to
declaim against all encroachments on liberty and sound morality and
an evangelical piety from any quarter whatever, and we are recreant
to our duties unless we speak our minds. Hence, from the light I
have, I regard the Society of Jesus as a questionable institution,
unfortunately planted among us, but which we cannot help, and can
attack, if at all, only with the weapons of reason and truth.

And yet I am free to say that for my part I prefer even the Jesuit
discipline and doctrines, much as I dislike them, to the unblushing
infidelity which has lately been propagated by those who call
themselves savans,--and which seems to have reached and even
permeated many of the schools of science, the newspapers,
periodicals, clubs, and even pulpits of this materialistic though
progressive country. I make war on the slavery of the will and a
religion of formal technicalities; but I prefer these evils to a
godless rationalism and the extinction of the light of faith.


Secreta Monita; Steinmetz's History of the Jesuits; Ranke's History
of the Popes; Spiritual Exercises; Encyclopaedia Britannica;
Biographie Universelle; Fall of the Jesuits, by St. Priest; Lives
of Ignatius Loyola, Aquiviva, Lainez, Salmeron, Borgia, Xavier,
Bobadilla; Pascal's Provincial Letters; Bonhours' Cretineau;
Lingard's History of England; Tierney; Lettres Aedificantes; Jesuit
Missions; Memoires Secretes du Cardinal Dubois; Tanner's Societas
Jesu; Dodd's Church History.


A. D. 1509-1564.


John Calvin was pre-eminently the theologian of the Reformation,
and stamped his genius on the thinking of his age,--equally an
authority with the Swiss, the Dutch, the Huguenots, and the
Puritans. His vast influence extends to our own times. His fame
as a benefactor of mind is immortal, although it cannot be said
that he is as much admired and extolled now as he was fifty years
ago. Nor was he ever a favorite with the English Church. He has
been even grossly misrepresented by theological opponents; but no
critic or historian has ever questioned his genius, his learning,
or his piety. No one denies that he has exerted a great influence
on Protestant countries. As a theologian he ranks with Saint
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,--maintaining essentially the same
views as those held by these great lights, and being distinguished
for the same logical power; reigning like them as an intellectual
dictator in the schools, but not so interesting as they were as
men. And he was more than a theologian; he was a reformer and
legislator, laying down rules of government, organizing church
discipline, and carrying on reforms in the worship of God,--second
only to Luther. His labors were prodigious as theologian,
commentator, and ecclesiastical legislator; and we are surprised
that a man with so feeble a body could have done so much work.

Calvin was born in Picardy in 1509,--the year that Henry VIII.
ascended the British throne, and the year that Luther began to
preach at Wittenberg. He was not a peasant's son, like Luther, but
belonged to what the world calls a good family. Intellectually he
was precocious, and received an excellent education at a college in
Paris, being destined for the law by his father, who sent him to
the University of Orleans and then to Bourges, where he studied
under eminent jurists, and made the acquaintance of many
distinguished men. His conversion took place about the year 1529,
when he was twenty; and this gave a new direction to his studies
and his life. He was a pale-faced young man, with sparkling eyes,
sedate and earnest beyond his years. He was twenty-three when he
published the books of Seneca on Clemency, with learned
commentaries. At the age of twenty-three he was in communion with
the reformers of Germany, and was acknowledged to be, even at that
early age, the head of the reform party in France. In 1533 he went
to Paris, then as always the centre of the national life, where the
new ideas were creating great commotion in scholarly and
ecclesiastical circles, and even in the court itself. Giving
offence to the doctors of the Sorbonne for his evangelical views as
to Justification, he was obliged to seek refuge with the Queen of
Navarre, whose castle at Pau was the resort of persecuted
reformers. After leading rather a fugitive life in different parts
of France, he retreated to Switzerland, and at twenty-six published
his celebrated "Institutes," which he dedicated to Francis I.,
hoping to convert him to the Protestant faith. After a short
residence in Italy, at the court of the Duchess of Ferrara, he took
up his abode at Geneva, and his great career began.

Geneva, a city of the Allobroges in the time of Caesar, possessed
at this time about twenty thousand inhabitants, and was a free
state, having a constitution somewhat like that of Florence when it
was under the control of Savonarola. It had rebelled against the
Duke of Savoy, who seems to have been in the fifteenth century its
patron ruler. The government of this little Savoyard state became
substantially like that which existed among the Swiss cantons. The
supreme power resided in the council of Two Hundred, which alone
had the power to make or abolish laws. There was a lesser council
of Sixty, for diplomatic objects only.

The first person who preached the reformed doctrines in Geneva was
the missionary Farel, a French nobleman, spiritual, romantic, and
zealous. He had great success, although he encountered much
opposition and wrath. But the reformed doctrines were already
established in Zurich, Berne, and Basle, chiefly through the
preaching of Ulrich Zwingli, and OEcolampadius. The apostolic
Farel welcomed with great cordiality the arrival of Calvin, then
already known as an extraordinary man, though only twenty-eight
years of age. He came to Geneva poor, and remained poor all his
life. All his property at his death amounted to only two hundred
dollars. As a minister in one of the churches, he soon began to
exert a marvellous influence. He must have been eloquent, for he
was received with enthusiasm. This was in 1536. But he soon met
with obstacles. He was worried by the Anabaptists; and even his
orthodoxy was impeached by one Coroli, who made much mischief, so
that Calvin was obliged to publish his Genevan Catechism in Latin.
He also offended many by his outspoken rebuke of sin, for he aimed
at a complete reformation of morals, like Latimer in London and
like Savonarola at Florence. He sought to reprove amusements which
were demoralizing, or thought to be so in their influence. The
passions of the people were excited, and the city was torn by
parties; and such was the reluctance to submit to the discipline of
the ministers that they refused to administer the sacraments. This
created such a ferment that the syndics expelled Calvin and Farel
from the city. They went at first to Berne, but the Bernese would
not receive them. They then retired to Basle, wearied, wet, and
hungry, and from Basle they went to Strasburg. It was in this city
that Calvin dwelt three years, spending his time in lecturing on
divinity, in making contributions to exegetical theology, in
perfecting his "Institutes," forming a close alliance with
Melancthon and other leading reformers. So pre-occupied was he
with his labors as a commentator of the Scriptures, that he even
contemplated withdrawing from the public service of religion.

Calvin was a scholar as well as theologian, and quiet labors in his
library were probably more congenial to his tastes than active
parochial duties. His highest life was amid his books, in serene
repose and lofty contemplation. At this time he had an extensive
correspondence, his advice being much sought for its wisdom and
moderation. His judgment was almost unerring, since he was never
led away by extravagances or enthusiasm: a cold, calm man even
among his friends and admirers. He had no passions; he was all
intellect. It would seem that in his exile he gave lectures on
divinity, being invited by the Council of Strasburg; and also
interested himself in reference to the Sacrament of the Lord's
Supper, which he would withhold from the unworthy. He lived
quietly in his retreat, and was much respected by the people of the
city where he dwelt.

In 1539 a convention was held at Frankfort, at which Calvin was
present as the envoy of the city of Strasburg. Here, for the first
time, he met Melancthon; but there was no close intimacy between
them until these two great men met in the following year at a Diet
which was summoned at Worms by the Emperor Charles V., in order to
produce concord between the Catholics and Protestants, and which
was afterwards removed to Ratisbon. Melancthon represented one
party, and Doctor Eck the other. Melancthon and Bucer were
inclined to peace; and Cardinal Contarini freely offered his hand,
agreeing with the reformers to adopt the idea of Justification as
his starting point, allowing that it proceeds from faith, without
any merit of our own; but, like Luther and Calvin, he opposed any
attempt at union which might compromise the truth, and had no faith
in the movement. Neither party, as it was to be expected, was
satisfied. The main subject of the dispute was in reference to the
Eucharist. Calvin denied the real presence of Christ in the
Sacrament, regarding it as a symbol,--though one of special divine
influence. But on this point the Catholics have ever been
uncompromising from the times of Berengar. Nor was Luther fully
emancipated from the Catholic doctrine, modifying without
essentially changing it. Calvin maintained that "This is my body"
meant that it signified "my body." In regard to original sin and
free-will, as represented by Augustine, there was no dispute; but
much difficulty attended the interpretation of the doctrine of
Justification. The greatest difficulty was in reference to the
doctrine of Transubstantiation, which was rejected by the reformers
because it had not the sanction of the Scriptures; and when it was
found that this caused insuperable difficulties about the Lord's
Supper, it was thought useless to proceed to other matters, like
confession, masses for the dead, and the withholding the cup from
the laity. There was not so great a difference between the
Catholic and Protestant theologians concerning the main body of
dogmatic divinity as is generally supposed. The fundamental
questions pertaining to God, the Trinity, the mission and divinity
of Christ, original sin, free-will, grace, predestination, had been
formulated by Thomas Aquinas with as much severity as by Calvin.
The great subjects at issue, in a strictly theological view, were
Justification and the Eucharist. Respecting free-will and
predestination, the Catholic theologians have never been agreed
among themselves,--some siding with Augustine, like Aquinas,
Bernard, and Anselm; and some with Pelagius, like Abelard and
Lainez the Jesuit at the Council of Trent (a council assembled by
the Pope, with the concurrence of Charles V. of Germany and Francis
I. of France), the decrees of which, against the authority of
Augustine in this matter, seem to be now the established faith of
the Roman Catholic Church.

After the Diet of Ratisbon, Calvin returned to Geneva, at the eager
desire of the people. The great Council summoned him to return;
every voice was raised for him. "Calvin, that learned and
righteous man," they said, "it is he whom we would have as the
minister of the Lord." Yet he did not willingly return; he
preferred his quiet life at Strasburg, but obeyed the voice of
conscience. On the 13th of September, 1541, he returned to his
penitent congregation, and was received by the whole city with
every demonstration of respect; and a cloth cloak was given him as
a present, which he seemed to need.

The same year he was married to a widow, Idelette de Burie, who was
a worthy, well-read, high-minded woman, with whom he lived happily
for nine years, until her death. She was superior to Luther's
wife, Catherine Bora, in culture and dignity, and was a helpmate
who never opposed her husband in the slightest matter, always
considering his interests. Esteem and friendship seem to have been
the basis of this union,--not passionate love, which Calvin did not
think much of. When his wife died it seems he mourned for her with
decent grief, but did not seek a second marriage, perhaps because
he was unable to support a wife on his small stipend as she would
wish and expect. He rather courted poverty, and refused reasonable
gratuities. His body was attenuated by fasting and study, like
that of Saint Bernard. When he was completing his "Institutes," he
passed days without eating and nights without sleeping. And as he
practised poverty he had a right to inculcate it. He kept no
servant, lived in a small tenement, and was always poorly clad. He
derived no profit from any of his books, and the only present he
ever consented to receive was a silver goblet from the Lord of
Varennes. Luther's stipend was four hundred and fifty florins, and
he too refused a yearly gift from the booksellers of four hundred
dollars, not wishing to receive a gratuity for his writings.
Calvin's salary was only fifty dollars a year, with a house, twelve
measures of corn and two pipes of wine; for tea and coffee were
then unknown in Europe, and wine seems to have been the usual
beverage, after water. He was pre-eminently a conscientious man,
not allowing his feelings to sway his judgment. He was sedate and
dignified and cheerful; though Bossuet accuses him of a surly
disposition,--un genre triste, un esprit chagrin. Though formal
and stern, women never shrank from familiar conversation with him
on the subject of religion. Though intolerant of error, he
cherished no personal animosities. Calvin was more refined than
Luther, and never like him gave vent to coarse expressions. He had
not Luther's physical strength, nor his versatility of genius; nor
as a reformer was he so violent. "Luther aroused; Calvin
tranquillized." The one stormed the great citadel of error, the
other furnished the weapons for holding it after it was taken. The
former was more popular; the latter appealed to a higher
intelligence. The Saxon reformer was more eloquent; the Swiss
reformer was more dialectical. The one advocated unity; the other
theocracy. Luther was broader; Calvin engrafted on his reforms the
Old Testament observances. The watchword of the one was Grace;
that of the other was Predestination. Luther cut knots; Calvin
made systems. Luther destroyed; Calvin legislated. His great
principle of government was aristocratic. He wished to see both
Church and State governed by a select few of able men. In all his
writings we see no trace of popular sovereignty. He interested
himself, like Savonarola, in political institutions, but would
separate the functions of the magistracy from those of the clergy;
and he clung to the notion of a theocratic government, like Jewish
legislators and the popes themselves. The idea of a theocracy was
the basis of Calvin's system of legislation, as it was that of Leo
I. He desired that the temporal power should rule, in the name of
God,--should be the arm by which spiritual principles should be
enforced. He did not object to the spiritual domination of the
popes, so far as it was in accordance with the word of God. He
wished to realize the grand idea which the Middle Ages sought for,
but sought for in vain,--that the Church must always remain the
mother of spiritual principles; but he objected to the exercise of
temporal power by churchmen, as well as to the interference of the
temporal power in matters purely spiritual,--virtually the doctrine
of Anselm and Becket. But, unlike Becket, Calvin would not screen
clergymen accused of crime from temporal tribunals; he rather
sought the humiliation of the clergy in temporal matters. He also
would destroy inequalities of rank, and do away with church
dignitaries, like bishops and deans and archdeacons; and he
instituted twice as many laymen as clergymen in ecclesiastical
assemblies. But he gave to the clergy the exclusive right to
excommunicate, and to regulate the administration of the
sacraments. He was himself a high-churchman in his spirit, both in
reference to the divine institution of the presbyterian form of
government and the ascendancy of the Church as a great power in the

Calvin exercised a great influence on the civil polity of Geneva,
although it was established before he came to the city. He
undertook to frame for the State a code of morals. He limited the
freedom of the citizens, and turned the old democratic constitution
into an oligarchy. The general assembly, which met twice a year,
nominated syndics, or judges; but nothing was proposed in the
general assembly which had not previously been considered in the
council of the Two Hundred; and nothing in the latter which had not
been brought before the council of Sixty; nor even in this, which
had not been approved by the lesser council. The four syndics,
with their council of sixteen, had power of life and death, and the
whole public business of the state was in their hands. The supreme
legislation was in the council of Two Hundred; which was much
influenced by ecclesiastics, or the consistory. If a man not
forbidden to take the Sacrament neglected to receive it, he was
condemned to banishment for a year. One was condemned to do public
penance if he omitted a Sunday service. The military garrison was
summoned to prayers twice a day. The judges punished severely all
profanity, as blasphemy. A mason was put in prison three days for
simply saying, when falling from a building, that it must be the
work of the Devil. A young girl who insulted her mother was
publicly punished and kept on bread-and-water; and a peasant-boy
who called his mother a devil was publicly whipped. A child who
struck his mother was beheaded; adultery was punished with death; a
woman was publicly scourged because she sang common songs to a
psalm-tune; and another because she dressed herself, in a frolic,
in man's attire. Brides were not allowed to wear wreaths in their
bonnets; gamblers were set in the pillory, and card-playing and
nine-pins were denounced as gambling. Heresy was punished with
death; and in sixty years one hundred and fifty people were
burned to death, in Geneva, for witchcraft. Legislation extended
to dress and private habits; many innocent amusements were
altogether suppressed; also holidays and theatrical exhibitions.
Excommunication was as much dreaded as in the Mediaeval church.

In regard to the worship of God, Calvin was opposed to splendid
churches, and to all ritualism. He retained psalm-singing, but
abolished the organ; he removed the altar, the crucifix, and
muniments from the churches, and closed them during the week-days,
unless the minister was present. He despised what we call art,
especially artistic music; nor did he have much respect for
artificial sermons, or the art of speaking. He himself preached ex
tempore, nor is there evidence that he ever wrote a sermon.

Respecting the Eucharist, Calvin took a middle course between
Luther and Zwingli,--believing neither in the actual presence of
Christ in the consecrated bread, nor regarding it as a mere symbol,
but a means by which divine grace is imparted; a mirror in which we
may contemplate Christ. Baptism he considered only as an
indication of divine grace, and not essential to salvation; thereby
differing from Luther and the Catholic church. Yet he was as
strenuous in maintaining these sacraments as a Catholic priest, and
made excommunication as fearful a weapon as it was in the Middle
Ages. For admission to the Lord's Supper, and thus to the
membership of the visible Church, it would seem that his
requirements were not rigid, but rather very simple, like those of
the primitive Christians,--namely, faith in God and faith in
Christ, without any subtile and metaphysical creeds, such as one
might expect from his inexorable theological deductions. But he
would resort to excommunication as a discipline, as the only weapon
which the Church could use to bind its members together, and which
had been used from the beginning; yet he would temper severity with
mildness and charity, since only God is able to judge the heart.
And herein he departed from the customs of the Middle Ages, and did
not regard the excommunicated as lost, but to be prayed for by the
faithful. No one, he maintained, should be judged as deserving
eternal death who was still in the hands of God. He made a broad
distinction between excommunication and anathema; the latter, he
maintained, should never, or very rarely, be pronounced, since it
takes away the hope of forgiveness, and consigns one to the wrath
of God and the power of Satan. He regarded the Sacrament of the
Lord's Supper as a means to help manifold infirmities,--as a time
of meditation for beholding Christ the crucified; as confirming
reconciliation with God; as a visible sign of the body of Christ,
recognizing his actual but spiritual presence. Luther recognized
the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist, while he rejected
transubstantiation and the idea of worshipping the consecrated
wafer as the real God. This difference in the opinion of the
reformers as to the Eucharist led to bitter quarrels and
controversies, and divided the Protestants. Calvin pursued a
middle and moderate course, and did much to harmonize the
Protestant churches. He always sought peace and moderation; and
his tranquillizing measures were not pleasant to the Catholics, who
wished to see divisions among their enemies.

Calvin had a great dislike of ceremonies, festivals, holidays, and
the like. For images he had an aversion amounting to horror.
Christmas was the only festival he retained. He was even
slanderously accused of wishing to abolish the Sabbath, the
observance of which he inculcated with the strictness of the
Puritans. He introduced congregational singing, but would not
allow the ear or the eye to be distracted. The music was simple,
dispensing with organs and instruments and all elaborate and
artistic display. It is needless to say that this severe
simplicity of worship has nearly passed away, but it cannot be
doubted that the changes which the reformers made produced the
deepest impression on the people in a fervent and religious age.
The psalms and hymns of the reformers were composed in times of
great religious excitement. Calvin was far behind Luther, who did
not separate the art of music from religion; but Calvin made a
divorce of art from public worship. Indeed, the Reformation was
not favorable to art in any form except in sacred poetry; it
declared those truths which save the soul, rather than sought those
arts which adorn civilization. Hence its churches were barren of
ornaments and symbols, and were cold and repulsive when the people
were not excited by religious truths. Nor did they favor eloquence
in the ordinary meaning of that word. Pulpit eloquence was simple,
direct, and without rhetorical devices; seeking effect not in
gestures and postures and modulated voice, but earnest appeals to
the heart and conscience. The great Catholic preachers of the
eighteenth century--like Bossuet and Bourdaloue and Massillon--
surpassed the Protestants as rhetoricians.

The simplicity which marked the worship of God as established by
Calvin was also a feature in his system of church government. He
dispensed with bishops, archdeacons, deans, and the like. In his
eyes every man who preached the word was a presbyter, or elder; and
every presbyter was a bishop. A deacon was an officer to take care
of the poor, not to preach. And it was necessary that a minister
should have a double call,--both an inward call and an outward
one,--or an election by the people in union with the clergy. Paul
and Barnabas set forth elders, but the people indicated their
approval by lifting up their hands. In the Presbyterianism which
Calvin instituted he maintained that the Church is represented by
the laity as well as by the clergy. He therefore gave the right of
excommunication to the congregation in conjunction with the clergy.
In the Lutheran Church, as in the Catholic, the right of
excommunication was vested in the clergy alone. But Calvin gave to
the clergy alone the right to administer the sacraments; nor would
he give to the Church any other power of punishment than exclusion
from the Lord's Supper, and excommunication. His organization of
the Church was aristocratic, placing the power in the hands of a
few men of approved wisdom and piety. He had no sympathy with
democracy, either civil or religious, and he formed a close union
between Church and State,--giving to the council the right to
choose elders and to confirm the election of ministers. As already
stated, he did not attempt to shield the clergy from the civil
tribunals. The consistory, which assembled once a week, was formed
of elders and preachers, and a messenger of the civil court
summoned before it the persons whose presence was required. No
such power as this would be tolerated in these times. But the
consistory could not itself inflict punishment; that was the
province of the civil government. The elders and clergy inflicted
no civil penalties, but simply determined what should be heard
before the spiritual and what before the civil tribunal. A syndic
presided in the spiritual assembly at first, but only as a church
elder. The elders were chosen from the council, and the election
was confirmed by the great council, the people, and preachers; so
that the Church was really in the hands of the State, which
appointed the clergy. It would thus seem that Church and State
were very much mixed up together by Calvin, who legislated in view
of the circumstances which surrounded him, and not for other times
or nations. This subordination of the Church to the State, which
was maintained by all the reformers, was established in opposition
to the custom of the Catholic Church, which sought to make the
State subservient to the Church. And the lay government of the
Church, which entered into the system of Calvin, was owing to the
fear that the clergy, when able to stand alone, might become proud
and ambitious; a fear which was grounded on the whole history of
the Church.

Although Calvin had an exalted idea of the spiritual dignity of the
Church, he allowed a very dangerous interference of the State in
ecclesiastical affairs, even while he would separate the functions
of the clergy from those of the magistrates. He allowed the State
to pronounce the final sentence on dogmatic questions, and hence
the power of the synod failed in Geneva. Moreover, the payment of
ministers by the State rather than by the people, as in this
country, was against the old Jewish custom, which Calvin so often
borrowed,--for the priests among the Jews were independent of the
kings. But Calvin wished to destroy caste among the clergy, and
consequently spiritual tyranny. In his legislation we see an
intense hostility to the Roman Catholic Church,--one of the
animating principles of the Reformers; and hence the Reformers, in
their hostility to Rome, went from Sylla into Charybdis. Calvin,
like all churchmen, exalted naturally the theocratic idea of the
old Jewish and Mediaeval Church, and yet practically put the Church
into the hands of laymen. In one sense he was a spiritual
dictator, and like Luther a sort of Protestant pope; and yet he
built up a system which was fatal to spiritual power such as had
existed among the Catholic priesthood. For their sacerdotal
spiritual power he would substitute a moral power, the result of
personal bearing and sanctity. It is amusing to hear some people
speak of Calvin as a ghostly spiritual father; but no man ever
fought sacerdotalism more earnestly than he. The logical sequence
of his ecclesiastical reforms was not the aristocratic and Erastian
Church of Scotland, but the Puritans in New England, who were
Independents and not Presbyterians.

Yet there is an inconsistency even in Calvin's regime; for he had
the zeal of the old Catholic Church in giving over to the civil
power those he wished to punish, as in the case of Servetus. He
even intruded into the circle of social life, and established a
temporal rather than a spiritual theocracy; and while he overthrew
the episcopal element, he made a distinction, not recognized in the
primitive church, between clergy and laity. As for religious
toleration, it did not exist in any country or in any church; there
was no such thing as true evangelical freedom. All the Reformers
attempted, as well as the Catholics, a compulsory unity of faith;
and this is an impossibility. The Reformers adopted a catechism,
or a theological system, which all communicants were required to
learn and accept. This is substantially the acceptance of what the
Church ordains. Creeds are perhaps a necessity in well-organized
ecclesiastical bodies, and are not unreasonable; but it should not
be forgotten that they are formulated doctrines made by men, on
what is supposed to be the meaning of the Scriptures, and are not
consistent with the right of private judgment when pushed out to
its ultimate logical consequence. When we remember how few men are
capable of interpreting Scripture for themselves, and how few are
disposed to exercise this right, we can see why the formulated
catechism proved useful in securing unity of belief; but when
Protestant divines insisted on the acceptance of the articles of
faith which they deduced from the Scriptures, they did not differ
materially from the Catholic clergy in persisting on the acceptance
of the authority of the Church as to matters of doctrine. Probably
a church organization is impossible without a formulated creed.
Such a creed has existed from the time of the Council of Nice, and
is not likely ever to be abandoned by any Christian Church in any
future age, although it may be modified and softened with the
advance of knowledge. However, it is difficult to conceive of the
unity of the Church as to faith, without a creed made obligatory on
all the members of a communion to accept, and it always has been
regarded as a useful and even necessary form of Christian
instruction for the people. Calvin himself attached great
importance to catechisms, and prepared one even for children.

He also put a great value on preaching, instead of the complicated
and imposing ritual of the Catholic service; and in most Protestant
churches from his day to ours preaching, or religious instruction,
has occupied the most prominent part of the church service; and it
must be conceded that while the Catholic service has often
degenerated into mere rites and ceremonies to aid a devotional
spirit, so the Protestant service has often become cold and
rationalistic,--and it is not easy to say which extreme is the

Thus far we have viewed Calvin in the light of a reformer and
legislator, but his influence as a theologian is more remarkable.
It is for his theology that he stands out as a prominent figure in
the history of the Church. As such he showed greater genius; as
such he is the most eminent of all the reformers; as such he
impressed his mind on the thinking of his own age and of succeeding
ages,--an original and immortal man. His system of divinity
embodied in his "Institutes" is remarkable for the radiation of the
general doctrines of the Church around one central principle, which
he defended with marvellous logical power. He was not a fencer
like Abelard, displaying wonderful dexterity in the use of
sophistries, overwhelming adversaries by wit and sarcasm; arrogant
and self-sufficient, and destroying rather than building up. He
did not deify the reason, like Erigina, nor throw himself on
authority like Bernard. He was not comprehensive like Augustine,
nor mystical like Bonaventura. He had the spiritual insight of
Anselm, and the dialectical acumen of Thomas Aquinas; acknowledging
no master but Christ, and implicitly receiving whatever the
Scriptures declared, he takes his original position neither from
natural reason nor from the authority of the church, but from the
word of God; and from declarations of Scripture, as he interprets
them, he draws sequences and conclusions with irresistible logic.
In an important sense he is one-sided, since he does not take
cognizance of other truths equally important. He is perfectly
fearless in pushing out to its most logical consequences whatever
truth he seizes upon; and hence he appears to many gifted and
learned critics to draw conclusions from accepted premises which
apparently conflict with consciousness or natural reason; and hence
there has ever been repugnance to many of his doctrines, because it
is impossible, it is said, to believe them.

In general, Calvin does not essentially differ from the received
doctrines of the Church as defended by its greatest lights in all
ages. His peculiarity is not in making a digest of divinity,--
although he treated all the great subjects which have been
discussed from Athanasius to Aquinas. His "Institutes" may well be
called an exhaustive system of theology. There is no great
doctrine which he has not presented with singular clearness and
logical force. Yet it is not for a general system of divinity that
he is famous, but for making prominent a certain class of subjects,
among which he threw the whole force of his genius. In fact all
the great lights of the Church have been distinguished for the
discussion of particular doctrines to meet the exigencies of their
times. Thus Athanasius is identified with the Trinitarian
controversy, although he was a minister of theological knowledge in
general. Augustine directed his attention more particularly to the
refutation of Pelagian heresies and human Depravity. Luther's
great doctrine was Justification by Faith, although he took the
same ground as Augustine. It was the logical result of the
doctrines of Grace which he defended which led to the overthrow, in
half of Europe, of that extensive system of penance and self-
expiation which marked the Roman Catholic Church, and on which so
many glaring abuses were based. As Athanasius rendered a great
service to the Church by establishing the doctrine of the Trinity,
and Augustine a still greater service by the overthrow of
Pelagianism, so Luther undermined the papal pile of superstition by
showing eloquently,--what indeed had been shown before, the true
ground of justification. When we speak of Calvin, the great
subject of Predestination arises before our minds, although on this
subject he made no pretention to originality. Nor did he differ
materially from Augustine, or Gottschalk, or Thomas Aquinas before
him, or Pascal and Edwards after him. But no man ever presented
this complicated and mysterious subject so ably as be.

It is not for me to discuss this great topic. I simply wish to
present the subject historically,--to give Calvin's own views, and
the effect of his deductions on the theology of his age; and in
giving Calvin's views I must shelter myself under the wings of his
best biographer, Doctor Henry of Berlin, and quote the substance of
his exposition of the peculiar doctrines of the Swiss, or rather
French, theologian.

According to Henry, Calvin maintained that God, in his sovereign
will and for his own glory; elected one part of the human race to
everlasting life, and abandoned the other part to everlasting
death; that man, by the original transgression, lost the power
of free-will, except to do evil; that it is only by Divine Grace
that freedom to do good is recovered; but that this grace is
bestowed only on the elect, and elect not in consequence of the
foreknowledge of God, but by his absolute decree before the world
was made.

This is the substance of those peculiar doctrines which are called
Calvinism, and by many regarded as fundamental principles of
theology, to be received with the same unhesitating faith as the
declarations of Scripture from which those doctrines are deduced.
Augustine and Aquinas accepted substantially the same doctrines,
but they were not made so prominent in their systems, nor were they
so elaborately worked out.

The opponents of Calvin, including some of the brightest lights
which have shone in the English church,--such men as Jeremy Taylor,
Archbishop Whately, and Professor Mosley,--affirm that these
doctrines are not only opposed to free-will, but represent God as
arbitrarily dooming a large part of the human race to future and
endless punishment, withholding from them his grace, by which alone
they can turn from their sins, creating them only to destroy them:
not as the potter moulds the clay for vessels of honor and
dishonor, but moulding the clay in order to destroy the vessels he
has made, whether good or bad; which doctrine they affirm conflicts
with the views usually held out in the Scriptures of God as a God
of love, and also conflicts with all natural justice, and is
therefore one-sided and narrow.

The premises from which this doctrine is deduced are those
Scripture texts which have the authority of the Apostle Paul, such
as these: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the
foundation of the world;" "For whom he did foreknow he also did
predestinate;" "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated;" "He hath
mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth;"
"Hath not the potter power over his clay?" No one denies that from
these texts the Predestination of Calvin as well as Augustine--for
they both had similar views--is logically drawn. It has been
objected that both of these eminent theologians overlooked other
truths which go in parallel lines, and which would modify the
doctrine,--even as Scripture asserts in one place the great fact
that the will is free, and in another place that the will is
shackled. The Pelagian would push out the doctrine of free-will so
as to ignore the necessity of grace; and the Augustinian would push
out the doctrine of the servitude of the will into downright
fatalism. But these great logicians apparently shrink from the
conclusions to which their logic leads them. Both Augustine and
Calvin protest against fatalism, and both assert that the will is
so far free that the sinner acts without constraint; and
consequently the blame of his sins rests upon himself, and not upon
another. The doctrines of Calvin and Augustine logically pursued
would lead to the damnation of infants; yet, as a matter of fact,
neither maintained that to which their logic led. It is not in
human nature to believe such a thing, even if it may be
dogmatically asserted.

And then, in regard to sin: no one has ever disputed the fact that
sin is rampant in this world, and is deserving of punishment. But
theologians of the school of Augustine and Calvin, in view of the
fact, have assumed the premise--which indeed cannot be disputed--
that sin is against an infinite God. Hence, that sin against an
infinite God is itself infinite; and hence that, as sin deserves
punishment, an infinite sin deserves infinite punishment,--a
conclusion from which consciousness recoils, and which is nowhere
asserted in the Bible. It is a conclusion arrived at by
metaphysical reasoning, which has very little to do with practical
Christianity, and which, imposed as a dogma of belief, to be
accepted like plain declarations of Scripture, is an insult to the
human understanding. But this conclusion, involving the belief
that inherited sin IS INFINITE, and deserving of infinite
punishment, appals the mind. For relief from this terrible logic,
the theologian adduces the great fact that Christ made an atonement
for sin,--another cardinal declaration of the Scripture,--and that
believers in this atonement shall be saved. This Bible doctrine is
exceedingly comforting, and accounts in a measure for the
marvellous spread of Christianity. The wretched people of the old
Roman world heard the glad tidings that Christ died for them, as an
atonement for the sins of which they were conscious, and which had
chained them to despair. But another class of theologians deduced
from this premise, that, as Christ's death was an infinite
atonement for the sins of the world, so all men, and consequently
all sinners, would be saved. This was the ground of the original
Universalists, deduced from the doctrines which Augustine and
Calvin had formulated. But they overlooked the Scripture
declaration which Calvin never lost sight of, that salvation was
only for those who believed. Now inasmuch as a vast majority of
the human race, including infants, have not believed, it becomes a
logical conclusion that all who have not believed are lost. Logic
and consciousness then come into collision, and there is no relief
but in consigning these discrepancies to the realm of mystery.

I allude to these theological difficulties simply to show the
tyranny to which the mind and soul are subjected whenever
theological deductions are invested with the same authority as
belongs to original declarations of Scripture; and which, so far
from being systematized, do not even always apparently harmonize.
Almost any system of belief can be logically deduced from Scripture
texts. It should be the work of theologians to harmonize them and
show their general spirit and meaning, rather than to draw
conclusions from any particular class of subjects. Any system of
deductions from texts of Scripture which are offset by texts of
equal authority but apparently different meaning, is necessarily
one-sided and imperfect, and therefore narrow. That is exactly the
difficulty under which Calvin labored. He seems, to a large class
of Christians of great ability and conscientiousness, to be narrow
and one-sided, and is therefore no authority to them; not, be it
understood, in reference to the great fundamental doctrines of
Christianity, but in his views of Predestination and the subjects
interlinked with it. And it was the great error of attaching so
much importance to mere metaphysical divinity that led to such a
revulsion from his peculiar system in after times. It was the
great wisdom of the English reformers, like Cranmer, to leave all
those metaphysical questions open, as matters of comparatively
little consequence, and fall back on unquestioned doctrines of
primitive faith, that have given so great vitality to the English
Church, and made it so broad and catholic. The Puritans as a body,
more intellectual than the mass of the Episcopalians, were led away
by the imposing and entangling dialectics of the scholastic Calvin,
and came unfortunately to attach as much importance to such
subjects as free-will and predestination--questions most
complicated--as they did to "the weightier matters of the law;" and
when pushed by the logic of opponents to the "decretum horribile,"
have been compelled to fall back on the Catholic doctrine of
mysteries, as something which could never be explained or
comprehended, but which it is a Christian duty to accept as a
mystery. The Scriptures certainly speak of mysteries, like
regeneration; but it is one thing to marvel how a man can be born
again by the Spirit of God,--a fact we see every day,--and quite
another thing to make a mystery to be accepted as a matter of faith
of that which the Bible has nowhere distinctly affirmed, and which
is against all ideas of natural justice, and arrived at by a subtle
process of dialectical reasoning.

But it was natural for so great an intellectual giant as Calvin to
make his startling deductions from the great truths he meditated
upon with so much seriousness and earnestness. Only a very lofty
nature would have revelled as he did, and as Augustine did before
him and Pascal after him, in those great subjects which pertain to
God and his dispensations. All his meditations and formulated
doctrines radiate from the great and sublime idea of the majesty of
God and the comparative insignificance of man. And here he was not
so far apart from the great sages of antiquity, before salvation
was revealed by Christ. "Canst thou by searching find out God?"
"What is man that Thou art mindful of him?"

And here I would remark that theologians and philosophers have ever
been divided into two great schools,--those who have had a tendency
to exalt the dignity of man, and those who would absorb man in the
greatness of the Deity. These two schools have advocated doctrines
which, logically carried out to their ultimate sequences, would
produce a Grecian humanitarianism on the one hand, and a sort of
Bramanism on the other,--the one making man the arbiter of his own
destiny, independently of divine agency, and the other making the
Deity the only power of the universe. With one school, God as the
only controlling agency is a fiction, and man himself is infinite
in faculties; the other holds that God is everything and man is
nothing. The distinction between these two schools, both of which
have had great defenders, is fundamental,--such as that between
Augustine and Pelagius, between Bernard and Abelard, and between
Calvin and Lainez. Among those who have inclined to the doctrine
of the majesty of God and the littleness of man were the primitive
monks and the Indian theosophists, and the orthodox scholastics of
the Middle Ages,--all of whom were comparatively indifferent to
material pleasure and physical progress, and sought the salvation
of the soul and the favor of God beyond all temporal blessings. Of
the other class have been the Greek philosophers and the
rationalizing schoolmen and the modern lights of science.

Now Calvin was imbued with the lofty spirit of the Fathers of the
Church and the more religious and contemplative of the schoolmen
and the saints of the Middle Ages, when he attached but little
dignity to man unaided by divine grace, and was absorbed with the
idea of the sovereignty of God, in whose hands man is like clay in
the hands of the potter. This view of God pervaded the whole
spirit of his theology, making it both lofty and yet one-sided. To
him the chief end of man was to glorify God, not to develop his own
intellectual faculties, and still less to seek the pleasures and
excitements of the world. Man was a sinner before an infinite God,
and he could rise above the polluting influence of sin only by the
special favor of God and his divinely communicated grace. Man was
so great a sinner that he deserved an eternal punishment, only to
be rescued as a brand plucked from the fire, as one of the elect
before the world was made. The vast majority of men were left to
the uncovenanted mercies of Christ,--the redeemer, not of the race,
but of those who believed.

To Calvin therefore, as to the Puritans, the belief in a personal
God was everything; not a compulsory belief in the general
existence of a deity who, united with Nature, reveals himself to
our consciousness; not the God of the pantheist, visible in all the
wonders of Nature; not the God of the rationalist, who retires from
the universe which he has made, leaving it to the operation of
certain unchanging and universal laws: but the God whom Abraham and


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