The Freethinker's Text Book, Part II.
Annie Besant

Part 5 out of 6

he is condemned to death" (Levitique, par Cahen, p. 143; ed. 1855).
Thus Jephthah devoted to the Lord "whatsoever cometh out of the doors of
my house to meet me," and, his daughter being the one who came, he "did
with her according to his vow" (Judges xi. 30-40).

Kalisch, in his Commentary on the Old Testament, gives us an exhaustive
essay on "Human Sacrifices among the Hebrews," endeavouring, as far as
possible, to defend his people from the charge of offering such
sacrifices to Jehovah by reducing instances of it to a minimum. He says,
however: "Yet we have at least two clear and unquestionable instances of
human sacrifices offered to Jehovah. The first is the immolation of
Jephthah's daughter." He then analyses the account, pointing out that it
was clearly a sacrifice to _Jehovah_, and that Jephthah's "intention of
sacrificing his daughter was publicly known for two full months; no
priest, no prophet, no elder, no magistrate interfered, or even
remonstrated." Even further: "The event gave rise to a popular custom
annually observed by the maidens of Israel; Jephthah's deed evidently
met with universal approbation; it was regarded as praiseworthy piety;
and indeed he could not have ventured to make his vow, had not human
victims offered to Jehovah been deemed particularly meritorious in his
time; otherwise he must have apprehended to provoke by it the wrath of
God, rather than procure his assistance. Nothing can be clearer or more
decided.... The fact stands indisputable that human sacrifices offered
to Jehovah were possible among the Hebrews long after the time of Moses,
without meeting a check or censure from the teachers and leaders of the
nation--a fact for which the sad political confusion that prevailed in
the period of the Judges is insufficient to account" (Leviticus, Part
I., pp. 383-385; ed. 1867). Kalisch further points out that the vow of
Jephthah promises a _human_ sacrifice; the Hebrew expression signifies
"_whoever_ comes forth" (see p. 383), and "the Hebrew words, in fact,
absolutely exclude any animal whatever; they admit none but a human
being, who alone can be described as going out of the house to meet
somebody; for, though the restrictive usage of the East binds girls
generally to the seclusion of the house, it seems to have been a common
custom for Hebrew women to proceed and meet returning conquerors with
music and rejoicing; and the sacrifice of one animal, an extremely poor
offering after a most signal and most important success, would certainly
not have been promised by a previous vow solemnly pronounced" (Ibid, pp.
385, 386). Our commentator justly adds: "From the tenour of the
narrative it is manifest that the deed was no isolated case, but that
human sacrifices were on emergencies of peculiar moment habitually
offered to God, and expected to secure his aid. One instance like that
of Jephthah not only justifies, but necessitates, the influence of a
general custom. Pious men slaughtered human victims not to Moloch, nor
to any other foreign deity, but to the national God Jehovah" (Ibid, p.
390). "The second recorded instance of human sacrifices killed in honour
of Jehovah forms a remarkable incident in the life of David" (Ibid, p.
390). We read in 2 Sam. xxi. that God said that a famine then prevailing
was on account of Saul and of his bloody house; that David desired to
make an "atonement;" that seven men of Saul's family were hanged "in the
hill _before the Lord_;" that then they were buried, with Saul and
Jonathan, "and, _after that_, God was intreated for the land." "It
particularly concerns us to observe that the whole matter was, in the
first instance, referred to Jehovah; that David was plainly informed of
the intention of the Gibeonites of 'hanging up' the seven persons
'before Jehovah' as an 'atonement;' that he willingly surrendered them
for that atrocity; that he evidently expected from that act a cessation
of the famine; and that this calamity is reported to have really
disappeared in consequence of the offering" (Ibid, p. 392). Kalisch, in
his anxiety to diminish as far as possible the evidence that human
sacrifices were enjoined by the law, urges that the passage in Leviticus
(xxvii. 29) merely implies that "everything so devoted shall be
destroyed. The extirpation of the men, as a rule heathen enemies in
Canaan, or Hebrew idolaters, is indeed referred to a command of Jehovah,
but it is not intended as a _sacrifice_ to him" (Ibid, p. 409). Surely
this verges on quibbling, and is not even then borne out by the context.
Leviticus xxvii. deals entirely with private "singular vows," and the
"devoting" (_Cherem_) of "man and beast and of the field of his
possession," is not the judicial devoting to destruction of an
idolatrous city or individual, but a special voluntary offering from a
pious worshipper. Besides, even if such judicial duties were "the rule,"
what of the exceptions? There are several indications of the practice of
human sacrifice to Jehovah beyond the two related by Kalisch (the
command to sacrifice Isaac is in itself a consecration by God of the
abomination); the curious account of Aaron's death--whose garments are
taken off and put on his son, and who thereupon dies at the top of the
mount, having walked up there for that purpose, clearly indicates that
he did not die a natural death (Numbers xx. 23-28). Many think that "the
fire from the Lord" which devoured Nadab and Abihu (Lev. x. 1-5) denotes
the sacrifice "before the Lord" of the offending priests. Kalisch demurs
to these latter charges, and to some other additional ones, but says:
"It is, therefore, undoubted that human sacrifices were offered by the
Hebrews from the earliest times up to the Babylonian period, both in
honour of Jehovah and of heathen deities, not only by depraved
idolaters, but sometimes even by pious servants of God; they probably
ceased to be presented to Jehovah not much before they ceased to be
presented at all" (Leviticus, part i., p. 396). We cannot here omit to
notice the command of God in Exodus xxii. 29, 30: "The first-born of thy
sons shalt thou give to me. Likewise thou shalt do with thine oxen and
with thy sheep," etc. As against this we read a command in chap. xiii.
13, "All the first-born of man among thy children thou shalt redeem."
Here, as in many other instances, we get contradictory commands, best
explained by the fact that the Pentateuch is the work of many hands.
Kalisch says: "It is impossible to deny that the first-born sons were
frequently sacrificed, not only by idolatrous Israelites, in honour of
foreign gods, as Moloch and Baal, but by pious men in honour of Jehovah;
but the Pentateuch, the embodiment of the more enlightened and advanced
creed of the Hebrews, distinctly commanded the redemption of the
first-born" (Ibid, p. 404). Kalisch--we may point out--considers the
Pentateuch in its present form as post Babylonian, and regards it as a
reforming agent in the Jewish community.

In Numbers v. 12-31 we find the command to practise the brutal and
superstitious custom of the ordeal, the endorsement of the whole ordeal
system of the Middle Ages. Deuteronomy xiii. is entirely devoted to
commands of murder, and is the indulgence given beforehand to every
persecuting priest. The prophet whom God uses to prove his people, is to
be put to death for being God's instrument; anyone who tries to turn
people aside from God is to be stoned, and the hand of the nearest and
dearest is to be "first upon him to put him to death;" any city which
becomes idolatrous is to be destroyed, the inhabitants and the cattle
are to be slain, and everything else is to be burnt. Deuteronomy xvii.
2-7 is to the same effect. These commands have also borne abundant
fruit. Who can reckon the millions of human lives that have been spilt
in obedience to them? The slaughter of the Midianites, of the people of
Jericho, Ai, Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, and of many another city,
marking with blood each step of the people of God, who smote "all the
souls that were" in each, and "let none remain"--all these are but as
the first-fruits of the great harvest of human slaughter, reaped for the
glory of God. Right through the "sacred volume" runs the scarlet river,
staining every page; when its record closes, the Church takes it up, and
the river rolls on down the centuries; let the Inquisition tell over its
victims; let Spain reckon her murdered ones, 31,912 burnt alive in that
one land alone; let the Netherlands speak of their slain sons and
daughters; let France and Italy swell the tale; nor let England and
Scotland be forgotten, nor the blood-roll of Ireland be missed; Catholic
murdering Arian; Arian slaying Catholic; Romanist burning Protestant;
Protestant hanging Romanist. The names of those who obey God's command
may be changed, but they all do the same accursed work, spreading
religion everywhere with fire and sword; nor does the harm confine
itself to Jews and Christians only, for Mahomet, the prophet of Arabia,
catches up the teaching of Moses and re-echoes it, and the Moslem
follows on the inspired path, and stains it once again with human blood.
A God, a Bible, a priesthood--how have they ruined the world; how fair
and bright might earth have been had there been no teachers of religion!

"How powerless were the mightiest monarch's arm,
Vain his loud threat and impotent his frown!
How ludicrous the priest's dogmatic roar!
The weight of his exterminating curse
How light! and his affected charity,
To suit the pressure of the changing times,
What palpable deceit! but for thy aid,
Religion! but for thee, prolific fiend,
Who peoplest earth with demons, hell with men,
And heaven with slaves!
Thou taintest all thou look'st upon......."

--("Queen Mab," by P.B. Shelley; can. 6. Collected works, p. 12, edition

Deuteronomy xxi. 10-14 instructs the Hebrew that if, after victory, he
sees a beautiful woman and desires her, he may take her, and if later,
"thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she
will," to starvation, to misery, what matter, after God's chosen is
satisfied. Deut. xxiii. 2 punishes a man for that which is no fault of
his, his illegitimate birth. We have omitted many absurd precepts found
in this Mosaic code, and have only chosen those which are grossly
immoral, and can be defended by no kind of reasoning as to "defective,"
or "imperfect" morality, "suited to a nation in a low stage of

These laws not only fall short of a perfect morality, but they are
distinctly and foully immoral, and tend directly to the brutalisation of
the nation which should live under them. It is true that there is much
pure morality in this code, and some refined feeling here and there.
These jewels are curiously out of place in their surroundings. Imagine a
people so savage as to need laws permitting all the abominations
referred to above, and yet so cultivated as to be capable of
appreciating the beauty of: "If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee
lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him; thou shalt
surely help him" (Exodus xxiii. 5). It is time that it should be
publicly acknowledged that the so-called Mosaic code is literally a
mosaic of scattered fragments of legislation, of various ages, and
various stages of civilisation, put together a few hundred years before
Christ. At present, the whole code lies on the shoulders of
Christianity, and is fairly pleaded against it by the Freethinker.

It is not necessary to speak here against the practical morality of Old
Testament saints; the very names of Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
Joshua, Samuel, David, etc., bring before the mind's eye a list of
crimes so foul, so cowardly, so bloody, that no enumeration of them can
be needed. Of them, we may fairly say with Virgil:--

"Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa."

Turning to the New Testament morality, we may attack it in various ways:
we may argue that the better part of it is not new, and therefore cannot
be regarded as especially inspired, or that it leaves out of account
many virtues necessary to the well-being of families and states; or we
may contend that much of it is harmful, and much of it impracticable.

The better part is that which is NON-ORIGINAL. All that is fair and
beautiful in Christian morality had been taught in the world ages before
Christ was born. Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tsze, Mencius, Zoroaster, Manu,
taught the noble human morality found in some of the teaching ascribed
to Christ (throughout this Section the morality put into Christ's mouth
in the New Testament will be treated as his).

Christ taught the duty of returning good for evil. Buddha said: "A man
who foolishly does me wrong I will return to him the protection of my
ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall go
from me" ("Anthology," by Moncure D. Conway, page 240). In the Buddhist
Dhammapada we read: "Let a man overcome anger by love; let him overcome
evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by
truth" (Ibid, p. 307). Again: "Hatred does not cease by hatred at any
time; hatred ceases by love; this is an old rule" (Ibid, p. 131).
Lao-Tsze says: "The good I would meet with goodness. The not good I
would meet with goodness also. The faithful I would meet with faith. The
not faithful I would meet with faith also. Virtue is faithful.
Recompense injury with kindness" (Ibid, p. 365). Confucius struck a yet
higher and truer note: "Some one said, 'What do you say concerning the
principle that injury should be recompensed with kindness?' The Sage
replied, 'With what, then, will you recompense kindness? Recompense
kindness with kindness, and injury with justice'" (Ibid, p. 6). Manu
places "returning good for evil" in his tenfold system of duties; in his
code also we find: "By forgiveness of injuries the learned are purified"
(Ibid, p. 311). The "golden rule" is as old as the generous and just
heart. The Saboean Book of the Law taught: "Let none of you treat his
brother in a way which he himself would dislike" (Ibid, p. 7).
"Tsze-Kung asked, 'Is there one word which may serve as a rule for one's
whole life?' Confucius answered, 'Is not reciprocity such a word? What
you do not wish done to yourself, do not to others. When you are
labouring for others let it be with the same zeal as if it were for
yourself'" (Ibid, pp. 6, 7).

If Christ taught humility, we read from Lao-Tsze: "I have three precious
things which I hold fast and prize--Compassion, Economy, Humility. Being
compassionate, I can therefore be brave. Being economical, I can
therefore be liberal. Not daring to take precedence of the world, I can
therefore become chief among the perfect ones. In the present day men
give up compassion, and cultivate only courage. They give up economy and
aim only at liberality. They give up the last place, and seek only the
first. It is their death" (Ibid, p. 216). Lao-Tsze says again: "By
undivided attention to the passion-nature and tenderness it is possible
to be a little child. By putting away impurity from the hidden eye of
the heart, it is possible to be without spot. There is a purity and
quietude by which we may rule the whole world. To keep tenderness, I
pronounce strength.... The fact that the weak can conquer the strong and
the tender the hard, is known to all the world; yet none carry it out in
practice. The reason of heaven does not strive, yet conquers well; does
not call, yet things come of their own accord; is slack, yet plans well"
(Ibid, pp. 323, 324). Again: "The sage ... puts himself last, and yet is
first; abandons himself, and yet is preserved. Is not this through
having no selfishness? Hereby he preserves self-interest intact. He is
not self-displaying, and therefore he shines. He is not self-approving,
and therefore he is distinguished. He is not self-praising, and
therefore he has merit. He is not self-exalting, and therefore he stands
high; and inasmuch as he does not strive, no one in all the world
strives with him. That ancient saying, 'He that humbles himself shall be
preserved entire'--oh, it is no vain utterance" (Ibid, pp. 327, 328).

Jesus is said to be pre-eminent as a moral teacher because he directed
his teaching to the improvement of the heart, knowing that from a good
heart a good life would flow; in Manu's code we read: "Action, either
mental, verbal, or corporeal, bears good or evil fruit as itself is good
or evil ... of that threefold action be it known in the world that the
heart is the instigator" (Ibid, p. 4). Buddha said: "It is the heart of
love and faith accompanying good actions which spreads, as it were, a
beneficent shade from the world of men to the world of angels" (Ibid, p.
234). Jesus reminded the people that the ceremonial duties of religion
were small compared with "the weightier matters of the law, justice,
mercy, and truth;" Manu wrote: "To a man contaminated by sensuality,
neither the Vedas, nor liberality, nor sacrifices, nor observances, nor
pious austerities will procure felicity. A wise man must faithfully
discharge his moral duties, even though he dares not constantly perform
the ceremonies of religion. He will fall very low if he performs
ceremonial acts only, and fails to discharge his moral duties" (Ibid, p.
3). Exactly parallel to a saying of Jesus is one in the Saboean Book of
the Law: "Adhere so firmly to the truth that your yea shall be yea, and
your nay, nay" (Ibid, p. 7).

In urging that all great moral duties were taught by pre-Christian
thinkers, we do not mean that Christ took his moral sayings from the
books of these great Eastern teachers; there was no necessity that he
should go so far in search of them, for in the teachings of the Rabbis
of his nation he found all of which he stood in need. Many of these
teachings have been preserved in the more modern Talmud, grains of wheat
amid much chaff, the moral thoughts of some of the purest Jewish minds.
"Take the Talmud and study it, and then judge from what uninspired
source Jesus drew much of his highest teaching. 'Whoso looketh on the
wife of another with a lustful eye, is considered as if he had committed
adultery'--(Kalah). 'With what measure we mete, we shall be measured
again'--(Johanan). 'What thou wouldst not like to be done to thyself, do
not to others; this is the fundamental law'--(Hillel). 'If he be
admonished to take the splinter out of his eye, he would answer, Take
the beam out of thine own'--(Tarphon). 'Imitate God in his goodness. Be
towards thy fellow-creatures as he is towards the whole creation. Clothe
the naked; heal the sick; comfort the afflicted; be a brother to the
children of thy Father.' The whole parable of the houses built on the
rock and on the sand is taken out of the Talmud, and such instances of
quotation might be indefinitely multiplied" ("On Inspiration;" by Annie
Besant; Scott Series, p. 20). From these founts Jesus drew his morality,
and spoke as Jew to Jews, out of the Jewish teachings. To point out
these facts is by no means to disparage the nobler part of Christian
morality. It is rather to elevate Humanity by showing that pure thoughts
and gracious words are human, not divine; that the so-called
"inspiration" is in all races cultivated to a certain point, and not in
one alone; that morality is a fair blossom of earth, not a
heaven-transplanted exotic, and grows naturally out of the rich soil of
the loving human heart and the noble human brain.

What nobler or grander moral teachings can be found anywhere than
breathe through the following passages, taken from the "bibles of all
nations" so ably collected for us by Mr. Corway in the "Sacred
Anthology" quoted from above? "Let a man continually take pleasure in
truth, in justice, in laudable practices and in purity; let him keep in
subjection his speech, his arm, and his appetites. Wealth and pleasures
repugnant to law, let him shun; and even lawful acts which may cause
pain, or be offensive to mankind. Let him not have nimble hands,
restless feet, or voluble eyes; let him not be flippant in his speech,
nor intelligent in doing mischief. Let him walk in the path of good men"
(Manu, p. 7). "He who neglecteth the duties of this life is unfit for
this, much less for any higher world" ("Bhagavat Gita," p. 26). "Charity
is the free gift of anything not injurious. If no benefit is intended,
or the gift is harmful, it is not charity. There must also be the desire
to assist, or to show gratitude. It is not charity when gifts are given
from other considerations, as when animals are fed that they may be
used, or presents given by lovers to bind affection, or to slaves to
stimulate labour. It is found where man, seeking to diffuse happiness
among all men--those he loves, and those he loves not--digs canals and
pools, makes roads, bridges, and seats, and plants trees for shade. It
is found where, from compassion for the miserable and the poor, who have
none to help them, a man erects resting-places for wanderers, and
drinking-fountains, or provides food, raiment, medicine for the needy,
not selecting one more than another. This is true charity, and bears
much fruit" ("Katha Chari," pp. 219, 220). "Never will I seek, nor
receive, private individual salvation--never enter into final peace
alone; but for ever, and everywhere, will I live and strive for the
universal redemption of every creature throughout the world" (Kwan-yin,
p. 233). "All men have in themselves the feelings of mercy and pity, of
shame and hatred of vice. It is for each one by culture to let these
feelings grow, or to let them wither. They are part of the organisation
of men, as much as the limbs or senses, and may be trained as well. The
mountain Nicon-chau naturally brings forth beautiful trees. Even when
the trunks are cut down, young shoots will constantly rise up. If cattle
are allowed to feed there, the mountain looks bare. Shall we say, then,
that bareness is natural to the mountain? So the lower passions are let
loose to eat down the nobler growths of reverence and love in the heart
of man; shall we, therefore, say that there are no such feelings in his
heart at all? Under the quiet peaceful airs of morning and evening the
shoots tend to grow again. Humanity is the heart of man; justice is the
path of man. To know heaven is to develop the principle of our higher
nature" (Mencius, pp. 275, 276). "The first requisite in the pursuit of
virtue is, that the learner think of his own improvement, and do not act
from a regard to (the admiration of) others" ("The She-King," p. 286).
"Benevolence, justice, fidelity, and truth, and to delight in virtue
without weariness, constitute divine nobility" (Mencius, p. 339).
"Virtue is a service man owes himself; and though there were no heaven,
nor any God to rule the world, it were not less the binding law of life.
It is man's privilege to know the right and follow it. Betray and
prosecute me, brother men! Pour out your rage on me, O malignant devils!
Smile, or watch my agony with cold disdain, ye blissful gods! Earth,
hell, heaven, combine your might to crush me--I will still hold fast by
this inheritance! My strength is nothing--time can shake and cripple it;
my youth is transient--already grief has withered up my days; my
heart--alas! it seems well nigh broken now! Anguish may crush it
utterly, and life may fail; but even so my soul, that has not tripped,
shall triumph, and dying, give the lie to soulless destiny, that dares
to boast itself man's master" ("Ramayana," pp. 340, 341). What Christian
apostle left behind him the records of such words as those of Confucius,
boldly spoken to a king: "Ke K'ang, distressed about the number of
thieves in his kingdom, inquired of Confucius how he might do away with
them? The sage said, 'If you, sir, were not covetous, the people would
not steal, though you should pay them for it.' Ke K'ang asked, 'What do
you say about killing the unprincipled for the good of the principled?'
Confucius said, 'In carrying out your government, why use killing at
all? Let the rulers desire what is good, and the people will be good.
The grass must bend when the wind blows across it.' How can men who
cannot rectify themselves, rectify others?" ("Analects of Confucius," p.

In "The Wheel of the Law," by Henry Alabaster, we find some most
interesting information on the moral teaching of Buddhism, and the
following quotation is taken from one of the Sutras: "On a certain
occasion the Lord Buddha led a number of his disciples to a village of
the Kalamachou, where his wisdom and merit and holiness were known. And
the Kalamachou assembled, and did homage to him and said, 'Many priests
and Brahmins have at different times visited us, and explained their
religious tenets, declaring them to be excellent, but each abused the
tenets of every one else, whereupon we are in doubt as to whose religion
is right and whose wrong; but we have heard that the Lord Buddha teaches
an excellent religion, and we beg that we may be freed from doubt, and
learn the truth.' And the Lord Buddha answered, 'You were right to
doubt, for it was a doubtful matter. I say unto all of you, Do not
believe in what ye have heard; that is, when you have heard anyone say
this is especially good or extremely bad; do not reason with yourselves
that if it had not been true, it would not have been asserted, and so
believe in its truth. Neither have faith in traditions, because they
have been handed down for many generations and in many places. Do not
believe in anything because it is rumoured and spoken of by many; do not
think that it is a proof of its truth. Do not believe merely because the
written statement of some old sage is produced; do not be sure that the
writing has ever been revised by the said sage, or can be relied on. Do
not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that because an idea is
extraordinary it must have been implanted by a Dewa, or some wonderful
being. Do not believe in guesses, that is, assuming some thing at
haphazard as a starting-point, draw your conclusions from it; reckoning
your two and your three and your four before you have fixed your number
one. Do not believe because you think there is analogy, that is, a
suitability in things and occurrences, such as believing that there must
be walls of the world, because you see water in a basin, or that Mount
Meru must exist because you have seen the reflection of trees: or that
there must be a creating God because houses and towns have builders....
Do not believe merely on the authority of your teachers and masters, or
believe and practise merely because they believe and practise. I tell
you all, you must of your own selves know that 'this is evil this is
punishable, this is censured by wise men, belief in this will bring no
advantage to one, but will cause sorrow.' And when you know this, then
eschew it. I say to all you dwellers in this village, answer me this.
Lopho, that is covetousness, Thoso, that is anger and savageness, and
Moho, that is ignorance and folly--when any or all of these arise in the
hearts of men, is the result beneficial or the reverse?' And they
answered, 'It is not beneficial, O Lord!' Then the Lord continued,
'Covetous, passionate, and ignorant men destroy life and steal, and
commit adultery, and tell lies, and incite others to follow their
example, is it not so?' And they answered, 'It is as the Lord says.' And
he continued, 'Covetousness, passion, ignorance, the destruction of
life, theft, adultery, and lying, are these good or bad, right or wrong?
Do wise men praise or blame them? Are they not unprofitable, and causes
of sorrow?' And they replied, 'It is as the Lord has spoken.' And the
Lord said, 'For this I said to you, do not believe merely because you
have heard, but when of your own consciousness you know a thing to be
evil, abstain from it.' And then the Lord taught of that which is good,
saying, 'If any of you know of yourselves that anything is good and not
evil, praised by wise men, advantageous, and productive of happiness,
then act abundantly according to your belief. Now I ask you, Alopho,
absence of covetousness, Athoso, absence of passion, Amoho, absence of
folly, are these profitable or not?' And they answered, 'Profitable.'
The Lord continued, 'Men who are not covetous, or passionate, or
foolish, will not destroy life, nor steal, nor commit adultery, nor tell
lies; is it not so?' And they answered, 'It is as the Lord says.' Then
the Lord asked, 'Is freedom from covetousness, passion, and folly, from
destruction of life, theft, adultery, and lying, good or bad, right or
wrong, praised or blamed by wise men, profitable, and tending to
happiness or not?' And they replied, 'It is good, right, praised by the
wise, profitable, and tending to happiness.' And the Lord said, 'For
this I taught you, not to believe merely because you have heard, but
when you believed of your own consciousness, then to act accordingly and
abundantly'" (pp. 35-38). In this wise fashion did Buddha found his
morality, basing it on utility, the true measure of right and wrong.
Buddhism has its Five Commandments, certainly equal in value to the Ten
Commandments of Jews and Christians:--

"First. Thou shall abstain from destroying or causing the destruction of
any living thing.

"Second. Thou shalt abstain from acquiring or keeping, by fraud or
violence, the property of another.

"Third. Thou shalt abstain from those who are not proper objects for thy

"Fourth. Thou shalt abstain from deceiving others either by word or

"Fifth. Thou shalt abstain from intoxication" (Ibid, p. 57).

From Dr. Muir's translations of "religious and moral sentiments,"
already quoted from, we might fill page after page with purest morality.
"Let a man be virtuous even while yet a youth; for life is transitory.
If duty is performed, a good name will be obtained, as well as
happiness, here and after death" ("Mahabharata," xii., 6538, p. 22).
"Deluded by avarice, anger, fear, a man does not understand himself. He
plumes himself upon his high birth, contemning those who are not
well-born; and overcome by the pride of wealth, he reviles the poor. He
calls others fools, and does not look to himself. He blames the faults
of others, but does not govern himself. When the wise and the foolish,
the rich and the poor, the noble and the ignoble, the proud and the
humble, have departed to the cemetery and all sleep there, their
troubles are at an end, and their bodies are stripped of flesh, little
else than bones, united by tendons--other men then perceive no
difference between them, whereby they could recognise a distinction of
birth or of form. Seeing that all sleep, deposited together in the
earth, why do men foolishly seek to treat each other injuriously? He
who, after bearing this admonition, acts in conformity therewith from
his birth onwards, shall attain the highest blessedness" (Ibid, xi. 116,
p. 23).

Such are a few of the moral teachings current in the East before the
time of Christ. Since that period, these non-Christian nations have gone
on in their paths, and many a gem of pure morality might be culled from
their later writings, but we have only here presented teachings that
were pre-Christian, so as to prove how little need there was for a God
to become incarnate to teach morality to the world. "Revealed morality"
has nothing grander to say than this earth-born morality, nothing
sublimer comes from Judaea than comes from Hindustan and from China. Just
as the symbolism of Christianity comes from nature, and is common to
many creeds, so does the morality of Christianity flow from nature, and
is common to many faiths; when nations attain to a certain stage of
civilisation, and inherit a certain amount of culture, they also develop
a morality proportionate to the point they have reached, because
morality is necessary to the stability of States, and utility formulates
the code of moral laws. Christianity can no longer stand on a pinnacle
as the sole possessor of a pure and high morality. The pedestal she has
occupied is built out of the bricks of ignorance, and her apostles and
her master must take rank among their brethren of every age and clime.

It is a serious fault in Christian morality that it has so many
OMISSIONS in it. It is full of exhortations to bear, to suffer, to be
patient; it sorely lacks appeals to patriotism, to courage, to
self-respect. "The heroes of Paganism exemplified the heroism of
enterprise. Patriotism, chivalrous deeds of valour, high-souled
aspirations after glory, stern justice taking its course in their hands,
while natural feeling was held in abeyance--this was the line in which
they shone. Our blessed Lord illustrated all virtues indeed, but most
especially the passive ones. His heroism took its colouring from
endurance. Women, though inferior to men in enterprise, usually come out
better than men in suffering; and it is always to be remembered that our
blessed Lord held his humanity, not of the stronger, but of the weaker
sex" ("Thoughts on Personal Religion," by Dean Goulburn, vol. ii., p.
99; ed. 1866). What is this but to say, in polite language, that Jesus
was very effeminate? The Christian religion has all the vices of
slavery, and encourages submission to evil instead of resistance to it;
it has in it the pathetic beauty of the meekness of the bruised and
beaten wife still loving the injurer, of the slave forgiving the
slave-driver, but it is a beauty which perpetuates the wrong of which it
is born. Better, far better, both for oppressor and for oppressed, is
resistance to cruelty than submission to it; submission encourages the
wrong-doer where resistance would check him, and Christianity fails in
that it omits to value strong men and true patriots, rebels against
authority which is unjust. Rome taught its citizens to reverence
themselves, to love their country, to maintain freedom: the Roman would
die gladly for his mother-country, and deemed his duty as a citizen the
foremost of his obligations. The love of country, and the sense of
service owed to the State, is the grandest and sublimest virtue of the
Pagan world. All felt it, from the highest to the lowest: at Thermopylae
the Spartans died gladly for the land they covered with their bodies,
faithful unto death to the duty entrusted to them by their country; men
and women equally felt the paramount claim of the State, and mothers
gave their sons to death rather than that they should fail in duty
there. The Roman was taught to value the Republic above its officers; to
resist the highest if he grasped at unfair supremacy; to maintain
inviolate the rights and the liberties of the people. Christianity
undermined all these manly virtues; it preached obedience to "the powers
that be," whether they were good or bad; it upheld the authority of a
Nero as "ordained of God," and pronounced damnation on those who
resisted him; and so it paved the way for the despotism of the Middle
Ages, by crushing out the manhood of the nations, and fashioning them
into Oriental slaves. Little wonder that kings embraced Christianity,
and forced it on their subjects, for it placed the nations bound at
their footstools, and endorsed the tyranny of man with the authority of
God. Throughout the New Testament what word is there of patriotism? The
citizenship is in heaven. What incitement to heroism? Resist not the
power. What appeal to self-reverence? In my flesh dwelleth no good
thing. What cry against injustice and oppression? Honour the king, and
give obedience to the froward. Christianity makes a paradise for tyrants
and a hell for the oppressed.

Intertwined with the evil of omissions of duty is the direct injury of
CARES. "I say unto you that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall
smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any
man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy
cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him
twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of
thee turn not thou away" (Matt. v. 39-42). The surface meaning of these
words is undeniable; they are the amplification of the command, "resist
not evil." What effect would obedience to these injunctions have upon a
State? None committing an assault would be punished; every unjust suit
would succeed; every forced concession would be endorsed; every beggar
would live in luxury; every borrower would spend at will. Nay more;
those who did wrong would be rewarded, and would be thus encouraged to
go on in their evil ways. Meanwhile, the man who was insulted would be
again struck; the poor man who had lost one thing would lose two; the
hard-working, frugal labourer would have to support the beggar and the
borrower out of the fruits of his toil. Such is Christ's code of civil
laws: he is deliberately abrogating the Mosaic code, "an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth," and is replacing it by his own. If the Mosaic
law is to be taken literally--as it was--that which is to replace it
must also be taken literally, or else one code would be abolished, and
there would be none to succeed it, so that the State would be left in a
condition of lawlessness. Suppose, however, that we allow that the
passage is to be taken metaphorically, what then? A metaphor must mean
_something_: what does this metaphor mean? It can scarcely signify the
exact opposite of what it intimates, and yet the exact opposite is true
morality. Only a system of taking Christ's words "contrariwise" can make
them useful as civil rules, and even "oriental exaggeration" can
scarcely be credited with saying the diametrically contrary of its real
meaning. But it is urged that, if all men were Christians, then this
teaching would be right, and Christ was bound to give a perfect
morality. That is to say, if people were different to what they are,
this teaching of Christ would not be injurious because--it would be
unneeded! If there were no robbers, and no assaulters, and no borrowers,
then the morality of the Sermon on the Mount would be most harmless.
High praise, truly, for a legislator that his laws would not be
injurious when they were no longer needed. Christ should have remembered
that the "law is made for sinners," and that such a law as he gives here
is a direct encouragement to sin.

We can scarcely wonder that, inculcating a course of conduct which must
inevitably lead to poverty, Christ should hold up a state of poverty as
desirable. We read in Matthew v. 3, "Blessed are the poor _in spirit_"
and it is contended that it is poverty only of spirit which Christ
blesses; if so, he blesses the source of much wretchedness, for
poor-spirited people get trampled down, and are a misery to themselves
and a burden to those about them. If, however, we turn to Luke vi. 20,
we find the declaration: "Blessed are ye poor," addressed directly to
his Apostles, who were anything but poor in spirit (Luke ix. 46, and
xxii. 24); and we find it, further, joined with the announcement,
"blessed are ye that hunger now," and followed by the curses: "Woe unto
you that are rich ... woe unto you that are full." If "hunger" means
"hunger after righteousness," the antithesis "full" must also mean "full
of righteousness," a state on which Christ would surely not pronounce a
woe. Mr. Bradlaugh well draws out the various thoughts in these most
unfortunate sayings: "Is poverty of spirit the chief amongst virtues,
that Jesus gives it the prime place in his teaching? Is poverty of
spirit a virtue at all? Surely not. Manliness of spirit, honesty of
spirit, fulness of rightful purpose, these are virtues; but poverty of
spirit is a crime. When men are poor in spirit, then do the proud and
haughty in spirit oppress and trample upon them, but when men are true
in spirit and determined (as true men should be) to resist and prevent
evil, wrong, and injustice whenever they can, then is there greater
opportunity for happiness here, and no lesser fitness for the enjoyment
of future happiness, in some may be heaven, hereafter. Are you poor in
spirit, and are you smitten; in such case what did Jesus teach? 'Unto
him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other' (Luke vi.
29). It were better far to teach that 'he who courts oppression shares
the crime.' Rather say, if smitten once, take careful measures to
prevent a future smiting. I have heard men preach passive resistance,
but this teaches actual invitation of injury, a course degrading in the
extreme ... the poverty of spirit principle is enforced to the fullest
conceivable extent--'Him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take
thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee, and of him that
taketh away thy goods ask them not again' (Luke vi. 29, 30). Poverty of
person is the only possible sequence to this extraordinary manifestation
of poverty of spirit. Poverty of person is attended with many
unpleasantnesses; and if Jesus knew that poverty of goods would result
from his teaching, we might expect some notice of this. And so there
is--as if he wished to keep the poor content through their lives with
poverty, he says, 'Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God'
(Luke vi. 20) ... Poor in spirit and poor in pocket. With no courage to
work for food, or money to purchase it, we might well expect to find the
man who held these doctrines with empty stomach also; and what does
Jesus teach? 'Blessed are ye that hunger now, for ye shall be filled'
... Craven in spirit, with an empty purse and hungry mouth--what next?
The man who has not manliness enough to prevent wrong, will probably
bemoan his hard fate, and cry bitterly that so sore are the misfortunes
he endures. And what does Jesus teach? 'Blessed are ye that weep now,
for ye shall laugh' (Luke vi. 21) ... Jesus teaches that the poor, the
hungry, and the wretched shall be blessed. This is not so. The blessing
only comes when they have ceased to be poor, hungry, and wretched.
Contentment under poverty, hunger, and misery is high treason, not to
yourself alone but to your fellows. These three, like foul diseases,
spread quickly wherever humanity is stagnant and content with wrong"
("What Did Jesus Teach?" pp. 1-3).

But Jesus did more than panegyrise poverty; he gave still more exact
directions to his disciples as to how poverty should be attained. Matt.
vi. 25-34 is as mischievous a passage as has been penned by any
moralist. "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye
shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on." It is said
that "take no thought" means, "be not over anxious;" if this be so, why
does Christ emphasise it by quoting birds and lilies as examples,
things, which, literally, take _no_ thought? the argument is: birds do
not store food in barns, yet God feeds them. You are more valuable than
the birds. God will take equal care of you if you follow the birds'
example. The lilies spin no raiment, yet God clothes them. So shall he
clothe you, if you follow their example. The passage has no meaning, the
illustrations no appositeness, unless Christ means that _no_ thought is
to be taken for the future. He makes the argument still stronger: "the
Gentiles seek" meat, drink, and clothing. But God, your Father, knows
your need for all these things. Therefore, "seek ye first the kingdom of
God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take, therefore, no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take
thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof." If Christ only meant the common-place advice, "do not be
over-anxious," he then lays the most absurd stress on it, and speaks in
the most exaggerated way. Sensible Gentiles do not worry themselves by
over-anxiety, after they have taken for the morrow's needs all the care
they can; but they do not act like birds or like lilies, for they know
that many a bird starves in a hard winter because it is not capable of
gathering and storing food into barns, and that many a garbless lily is
shrivelled up by the cold east wind. They notice that though men and
women are "much better than" birds and lilies, yet God does not always
feed and clothe them; that, on the contrary, many a poor creature dies
of starvation and of winter's bitter cold; when our daily papers record
no inquests on those who die from want, because none but God takes
thought for them, then it will be time enough for us to cease from
preparing for the morrow, and to trust that "heavenly Father" who at
present "knoweth that" we "have need of these things," and, knowing,
lets so many of his children starve for lack of them.

The true meaning of Christ is plainly shown by his injunctions to the
twelve apostles and to the seventy when he sent them on a journey: "Take
nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, nor
money; neither have two coats apiece" (Luke ix. 3); and: "Carry neither
purse, nor scrip, nor shoes ... in the same house remain, eating and
drinking such things as they give" (Ibid, x. 4, 7). The same spirit
breathes in his injunction to the young man: "Go and sell that thou
hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and
come and follow me" (Matt. xix. 21). The fact is that Jesus held the
ascetic doctrine, that poverty was, in itself, meritorious; and, in
common with many sects, he regarded the highest life as the life of the
mendicant teacher. His doctrine of poverty passed on into the Church
that bears his name, and one of the three vows taken by those who aspire
to lead "the angelic life" is the vow of poverty. The mendicant friars
of the Middle Ages, the "sturdy beggars," are the lineal descendants of
the Eastern mendicants, and are the fruits of the morality taught by
Christ. On this point, as on many others, the morality of the Epistles
is far higher than that of the Gospels, and the common-sense and
righteous law, "that if any would not work neither should he eat" is,
however, incompatible with Christ's admiration for mendicancy, a far
more wholesome and salutary kind of moral teaching than that which we
have been considering.

The dogma of rewards and punishments as taught by Christ is fatal to all
reality of virtue. To do right from hope of heaven: to avoid wrong for
fear of hell: such virtue is only skin-deep, and will not stand rough
usage. True virtue does right because it _is_ right, and therefore
beneficial, and not from hope of a personal reward, or from dread of a
personal punishment, hereafter. Christianity is the apotheosis of
selfishness, gilded over with piety; self is the pivot on which all
turns: "What shall it _profit_ a man if he gain the whole world, and
lose _his own_ soul?" (Mark viii. 36). "He that receiveth a prophet in
the name of a prophet _shall receive a prophet's reward_; and he that
receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man _shall receive
a righteous man's reward_. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of
these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple,
verily I say unto you, he _shall in nowise lose his reward_" (Matt. x.
41, 42). "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, _him will I
confess also_ before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall
deny me before men, _him will I also deny_ before my Father which is in
heaven" (Ibid, 32, 33). "Pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy
Father, which seeth in secret, _shall reward thee_ openly" (Ibid, vi.
6). "We have forsaken all and followed thee: _what shall we have
therefore_?... When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory,
_ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones_" (Matt. xix. 27, 28). The
passages might be multiplied; but these are sufficient to show the
thorough selfishness inculcated. All is done with an eye to personal
gain in the future; even the cold water is to be given, not because the
"little one" is thirsty and needs it, but for the reward promised
therefore to the giver. Pure, generous love is excluded: there is a
taint of selfishness in every gift.

The thought of Heaven is also injurious to human welfare, because men
learn to disregard earth for the sake of "the glory to be revealed."
People whose "citizenship is in heaven," make but sorry citizens of
earth, for they regard this world as "no continuing city," while they
"seek one to come." Hence, as all history shows us, they are apt to
despise this world while dreaming about another, to trouble little about
earth's wrongs while thinking of the mansions in the skies; to acquiesce
in any assertion that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," and to
trouble themselves but little as to the means of improving it. From this
line of thought follows the long list of monasteries and nunneries,
wherein people "separate" themselves from this world in order to
"prepare" for another. All this evil flows directly from the Christian
morality which teaches that all hopes, efforts, and aims should be
turned towards laying up treasures in heaven, where also the heart
should be. One need scarcely add a word of reprobation as to the
horrible doctrine of eternal torture, although that, too, is part of the
teaching of Christ. The whole conscience of civilised mankind is so
turning against that shameful and cruel dogma, that it is only now
believed among the illiterate and uncultured of the Christians, and soon
will be too savage even for them. It has, however, hardened the hearts
of many in days gone by, and has made the burning of heretics seem an
appropriate act of faith, since men only began on earth the roasting
which God was to continue to all eternity.

The morality of Christ is also faulty because it shares in the
persecuting spirit of the Mosaic code. The disciples are told:
"Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart
out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily, I
say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and
Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city" (Matt. x. 14, 15).
Christ proclaims openly: "Think not that I am come to send peace on
earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man
at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be
they of his own household" (Ibid, 34-36). To a man whom he calls to
follow him, and who asks to be allowed first to bury his father, Christ
gives the brutal reply: "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and
preach the kingdom of God" (Luke x. 60). Another time he says: "If any
man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and
children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he
cannot be my disciple" (Ibid, xiv. 26). A religion that destroys the
home, that introduces discord into the family, that bids its votaries
hate all else save Christ, acts as a disintegrating force in human life,
and cannot be too strongly opposed.

Neither must we forget the teaching of Christ regarding marriage. He
deliberately places virginity above marriage, and counsels
self-mutilation to those capable of making the sacrifice. "All men
cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given ... there be
eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's
sake. _He that is able to receive it, let him receive it_" (Matt. xix.
11, 12). Following this, 1 Cor. vii. teaches the superiority of an
unmarried state, and threatens "trouble in the flesh" to those who
marry. And in Rev. xiv. 1-4, we find, following the Lamb, with special
privileges, 144,000 who "were not defiled with women; for they are
virgins." This coarse and insulting way of regarding women, as though
they existed merely to be the safety-valves of men's passions, and that
the best men were above the temptation of loving them, has been the
source of unnumbered evils. To this saying of Christ are due the
self-mutilations of many, such as Origen, and the destruction of myriads
of human lives in celibacy; monks and nuns innumerable owe to this evil
teaching their shrivelled lives and withered hearts. For centuries the
leaders of Christian thought spoke of women as of a necessary evil, and
the greatest saints of the Church are those who despised women the most.
The subjection of women in Western lands is wholly due to Christianity.
Among the Teutons women were honoured, and held a noble and dignified
place in the tribe; Christianity brought with it the evil Eastern habit
of regarding women as intended for the toys and drudges of man, and
intensified it with a special spite against them, as the daughters of
Eve, who was first "deceived." Strangely different to the *general
Eastern feeling and showing a truer and nobler view of life, is the
precept of Manu: "Where women are honoured, there the deities are
pleased; but where they are dishonoured, there all religious acts become
fruitless" ("Anthology," p. 310).

Evil also is the teaching that repentance is higher than purity: "joy
shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenth, _more than_ over ninety
and nine just persons which need no repentance" (Luke xv. 7, 10). The
fatted calf is slain for the prodigal son, who returns home after he has
wasted all his substance; and to the laborious elder son, during the
many years of his service, the father never gave even a kid that he
might make merry with his friends (Ibid, 29). What is all this but
putting a premium upon immorality, and instructing people that the more
they sin, the more joyous will be their welcome whenever they may choose
to reform, and, like the prodigal, think to mend their broken fortunes
by repentance?

Thoroughly immoral is the teaching contained in the two parables in Luke
xvi. In the one, a steward who has wasted his master's goods, is
commended because he went and bribed his employer's debtors to assist
him, by suggesting to them that they should cheat his master by altering
the amount of the bills they owed him. In the other, the parable of the
rich man and Lazarus, the evil moral is taught that riches are in
themselves deserving of punishment, and poverty of reward. The rich man
is in hell simply because he was rich, and the poor man in Abraham's
bosom simply because he was poor; it can scarcely add, one may remark,
to the pleasure of heaven for the Lazaruses all to look at the Diveses,
and be unable to reach them, even to give them a single drop of water.

Thus whether we see that the nobler part of the Christian morality is
pre-Christian, and is neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Hindu, nor
Buddhist, but is simply human, and belongs to the race and not to one
creed. Whether we note the omissions in its code, making it insufficient
for human guidance; whether we mark its errors, mistakes, and injurious
teachings; whichever point of view we take from which to consider it, we
find in it nothing to distinguish it above other moral codes, or to
prevent it from being classed among other moralities, as being a mixture
of good and bad, and, therefore, not to be taken as an, unerring guide,
being like them, all FALLIBLE.

* * * * *


* * * * *


Bhagavat Gita, in Anthology...406
Bradlaugh, The Bible: what it is...397
" What Did Jesus Teach?...414
Buddha, in Anthology...403, 405
" Wheel of the Law...408

Cahen, Levitique...398
Colenso, Pentateuch and Book of Joshua...396
Confucius, in Anthology...403, 404, 408

Dante, Inferno...403
Dhammapada, in Anthology...403

Gouldburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion...411

Kalisch, Leviticus...399, 400, 401
Katha-Chari, in Anthology...407
Kwan-yin, in Anthology...407

Lao-Tsze, in Anthology...403, 404

Mahabharata, in Muir...410
Manu, in Anthology...404, 405, 406, 419
Mencius, in Anthology...407

Prayer Book, Art. vi. vii....395

Ramayana, in Anthology...407

Sabaean Book of the Law, in Anthology...404, 405
Shelley, Queen Mab...402
She-King, in Anthology...407
Statutes, 9 and 10 William III. cap. 32...395

Talmud, quoted by Besant...405

* * * * *


Christian morality, compared with others...403
" degrading to women...419
" immoral towards sin...419
" non-original...403
" non-resistant...412
" omissions in...411
" paved way for despotism...412
" persecuting in spirit...418
" sanctions mendicancy...416
" selfish...417
" what included in...395

Heaven and Hell, harm done by belief in...417
Heroism of Paganism...412
Human sacrifice, sanctioned by God...398
" among Jews...398

Marriage, teaching of Christ concerning...419
Morality of great Pagan teachers...406
" compared with that of Christ...403
Murder of blasphemer, sanctioned by God...397
" heretics...401

Ordeal, sanctioned by God...401

Poverty inculcated by Christ...414
Prostitution, sanctioned by God...402

Religion, evil of...402

Sale of daughter sanctioned by God...396
" thief...396
Slaves, beaten to death...396
Slavery, sanctioned by God...396, 397

Unthrift taught by Christ...415
Utility the test of morality...411
" religion according to Buddha...408

Value of Christianity to tyrants...412

Witches, number of killed...397
Witch-murder, sanctioned by God...397


This section does not pretend, within the short limits of some fifty
pages, to give even a complete summary of Christian history. It proposes
only to draw up an impeachment against Christianity from the facts of
its history which occurred in the day of its power, from the time of
Constantine, up to the time of the Reformation. If it be urged that
Christianity was corrupt during this period, and ought not therefore to
be judged by it, we can only reply that, corrupt or not, it is the only
Christianity there was, and if only bad fruit is brought forth, it is
fair to conclude that the tree which bears nothing else is also bad. If
the bishops, and clergy, and missionaries were ignorant, sensual,
tyrannical, and superstitious, they are none the less the
representatives of Christianity, and if these are not true Christians,
_where are the true Christians_ from A.D. 324 to A.D. 1,500?

We propose, in this section, to practically condense the dark side of
Mosheim's "Ecclesiastical History," as translated from the Latin by Dr.
A. Maclaine (ed. 1847), only adding, here and there, extracts from other
writers; all extracts, therefore, except where otherwise specified, will
be taken from this valuable history, a history which, perhaps from its
size and dryness, is not nearly so much studied by Freethinkers as it
should be; its special worth for our object is that Dr. Mosheim is a
sincere Christian, and cannot, therefore, be supposed to strain any
point unduly against the religion to which he himself belongs.

During the second and third centuries the Christians appear to have
grown in power and influence, and their faith, made up out of many older
creeds and forming a kind of eclectic religion, gradually spread
throughout the Roman empire, and became a factor in political problems.
In the struggles between the opposing Roman emperors, A.D. 310-324, the
weight of the Christian influence was thrown on the side of Constantine,
his rivals being strongly opposed to Christianity; Maximin Galerius was
a bitter persecutor, and his successor, Maximin, trod in his steps in
A.D. 312, and 313, Maxentius was defeated by Constantine, and Maximin by
Licinius, and in A.D. 312 Constantine and Licinius granted liberty of
worship to the Christians; in the following year, according to Mosheim,
or in A.D. 314 according to Eusebius, a second edict was issued from
Milan, by the two emperors, which granted "to the Christians and to all,
the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish ...
that no freedom at all shall be refused to Christians, to follow or to
keep their observances or worship; but that to each one power be granted
to devote his mind to that worship which he may think adapted to
himself" (Eusebius, "Eccles. Hist." p. 431). Licinius, however, renewed
the war against Constantine, who immediately embraced Christianity, thus
securing to himself the sympathy and assistance of the faith which now
for the first time saw its votary on the imperial throne of the world,
and Licinius, by allying himself with Paganism, and persecuting the
Christians, drove them entirely over to Constantine, and was finally
defeated and dethroned, A.D. 324. From that date Christianity was
supreme, and became the established religion of the State. Dr. Draper
regards the conversion of Constantine from the point of view taken
above. He says: "It had now become evident that the Christians
constituted a powerful party in the State, animated with indignation at
the atrocities they had suffered, and determined to endure them no
longer. After the abdication of Diocletian (A.D. 305), Constantine, one
of the competitors for the purple, perceiving the advantages that would
accrue to him from such a policy, put himself forth as the head of the
Christian party. This gave him, in every part of the empire, men and
women ready to encounter fire and sword in his behalf; it gave him
unwavering adherents in every legion of the armies. In a decisive
battle, near the Milvian bridge, victory crowned his schemes. The death
of Maximin, and subsequently that of Licinius, removed all obstacles. He
ascended the throne of the Caesars--the first Christian emperor. Place,
profit, power--these were in view of whoever now joined the conquering
sect. Crowds of worldly persons, who cared nothing about its religious
ideas, became its warmest supporters. Pagans at heart, their influence
was soon manifested in the Paganisation of Christianity that forthwith
ensued. The emperor, no better than they, did nothing to check their
proceedings. But he did not personally conform to the ceremonial
requirements of the Church until the close of his evil life, A.D. 337"
("History of the Conflict between Religion and Science," p. 39; ed.
1875). Constantine, in fact, was not baptised until a few days before
his death.

The character of the first Christian emperor is not one which strikes us
with admiration. As emperor he sank into "a cruel and dissolute monarch,
corrupted by his fortune, or raised by conquest above the necessity of
dissimulation ... the old age of Constantine was disgraced by the
opposite yet reconcilable vices of rapaciousness and prodigality"
(Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," vol. ii., p. 347). He was as effeminate as
he was vicious. "He is represented with false hair of various colours,
laboriously arranged by the skilful artists of the time; a diadem of a
new and more expensive fashion; a profusion of gems and pearls, of
collars and bracelets, and a variegated flowing robe of silk, most
curiously embroidered with flowers of gold." To his other vices he added
most bloodthirsty cruelty. He strangled Licinius, after defeating him;
murdered his own son Crispus, his nephew Licinius, and his wife Fausta,
together with a number of others. It must indeed have needed an
efficacious baptism to wash away his crimes; and "future tyrants were
encouraged to believe that the innocent blood which they might shed in a
long reign would instantly be washed away in the waters of regeneration"
(Ibid, pp. 471, 472).

The wealth of the Christian churches was considerable during the third
century, and the bishops and clergy lived in much pomp and luxury.
"Though several [bishops] yet continued to exhibit to the world
illustrious examples of primitive piety and Christian virtue, yet many
were sunk in luxury and voluptuousness, puffed up with vanity,
arrogance, and ambition, possessed with a spirit of contention and
discord, and addicted to many other vices that cast an undeserved
reproach upon the holy religion of which they were the unworthy
professors and ministers. This is testified in such an ample manner by
the repeated complaints of many of the most respectable writers of this
age, that truth will not permit us to spread the veil which we should
otherwise be desirous to cast over such enormities among an order so
sacred.... The example of the bishops was ambitiously imitated by the
presbyters, who, neglecting the sacred duties of their station,
abandoned themselves to the indolence and delicacy of an effeminate and
luxurious life. The deacons, beholding the presbyters deserting thus
their functions, boldly usurped their rights and privileges; and the
effects of a corrupt ambition were spread through every rank of the
sacred order" (p. 73). During this century also we find much scandal
caused by the pretended celibacy of the clergy, for the
people--regarding celibacy as purer than marriage, and considering that
"they, who took wives, were of all others the most subject to the
influence of malignant demons"--urged their clergy to remain celibate,
"and many of the sacred order, especially in Africa, consented to
satisfy the desires of the people, and endeavoured to do this in such a
manner as not to offer an entire violence to their own inclinations. For
this purpose, they formed connections with those women who had made vows
of perpetual chastity; and it was an ordinary thing for an ecclesiastic
to admit one of these fair saints to the participation of his bed, but
still under the most solemn declarations, that nothing passed in this
commerce that was contrary to the rules of chastity and virtue" (p. 73).
Such was the morality of the clergy as early as the third century!

The doctrine of the Church in these primitive times was as confused as
its morality was impure. In the first century (during which we really
know nothing of the Christian Church), Dr. Mosheim, in dealing with
"divisions and heresies," points to the false teachers mentioned in the
New Testament, and the rise of the Gnostic heresy. Gnosticism (from
[Greek: gnosis] knowledge), a system compounded of Christianity and
Oriental philosophy, long divided the Church with the doctrines known as
orthodox. The Gnostics believed in the existence of the two opposing
principles of good and evil, the latter being by many considered as the
creator of the world. They held that from the Supreme God emanated a
number of AEons--generally put at thirty; (see throughout "Irenaeus
Against Heresies")--and some maintained that one of these, Christ,
descended on the man Jesus at his baptism, and left him again just
before his passion; others that Jesus had not a real, but only an
apparent, body of flesh. The Gnostic philosophy had many forms and many
interdivisions; but most of the "heresies" of the first centuries were
branches of this one tree: it rose into prominence, it is said, about
the time of Adrian, and among its early leaders were Marcion, Basilides,
and Valentinus. In addition to the various Gnostic theories, there was a
deep mark of division between the Jewish and the Gentile Christians; the
former developed into the sects, of Nazarenes and Ebionites, but were
naturally never very powerful in the Church. In the second century, as
the Christians become more visible, their dissensions are also more
clearly marked; and it is important to observe that there is no period
in the history of Christianity wherein those who laid claim to the name
"Christian" were agreed amongst themselves as to what Christianity was.
Gnosticism we see now divided into two main branches, Asiatic and
Egyptian. The Asiatic believed that, in addition to the two principles
of good and evil, there was a third being, a mixture of both, the
Demiurgus, the creator, whose son Jesus was; they maintained that the
body of Jesus was only apparent; they enforced the severest discipline
against the body, which was evil, in that it was material; and marriage,
flesh, and wine were forbidden. The Elcesaites were a judaising branch
of this Asiatic Gnosticism; Saturninus of Antioch, Ardo of Syria, and
Marcion of Pontus headed the movement, and after them Lucan, Severus,
Blastes, Apelles, and Bardesanes formed new sects. Tatian (see ante, pp.
259, 260) had many followers called Tatianists, and in connection with
him and his doctrines we hear of the Eucratites, Hydroparastates (the
water-drinkers), and Apotactites. The Eucratites appear to have been in
existence before Tatian professed Gnosticism, but he so increased their
influence as to be sometimes regarded as their founder. The Egyptian
Gnostics were less ascetic, and mostly favoured the idea that Jesus had
a real body on which the AEon descended and joined himself thereunto.
They regarded him as born naturally of Joseph and Mary. Basilides, and
Valentinus headed the Egyptians, and then we have as sub-divisions the
Carpocratians, Ptolemaites, Secundians, Heracleonites, Marcosians,
Adamites, Cainites, Sethites, Florinians, Ophites, Artemonites, and
Hermogenists; in addition to these we have the Monarchians or
Patripassians, who maintained that there was but one God, and that the
Father suffered (whence this name) in the person of Christ. This long
list may be closed with the Montanists, a sect joined by Tertullian (see
his account of the orthodox after he became a Montanist, ante, p. 225);
they held that Montanes, their founder, was the Paraclete promised by
Christ, missioned to complete the Christian code; he forbade second
marriages, the reception into the Church of those who had been
excommunicated for grievous sin, and inculcated the sternest asceticism.
He opposed all learning as anti-Christian, a doctrine which was rapidly
spreading among Christians, and which seems, indeed, to have been an
integral part of the religion from its very beginning (Matt. xi. 25, 1
Cor. i. 26, 27). In the third century the heretic camp received a new
light in the person of Manes, or Manichaeus, a Persian magus; he appears
to have been a man of great learning, a physician, an astronomer, a
philosopher. He taught the old Persian creed tinctured with
Christianity, Christ being identical with Mithras (see ante, p. 362),
and having come upon earth in an apparent body only to deliver mankind.
Manes was the paraclete sent to complete his teaching; the body was
evil, and only by long struggle and mortification could man be delivered
from it, and reach final blessedness. Those who desired to lead the
highest life, _the elect_, abstained from flesh, eggs, milk, fish, wine,
and all intoxicating drink, and remained in the strictest celibacy; they
were to live on bread, herbs, pulse, and melons, and deny themselves
every comfort and every gratification (see pp. 80-82). The Hieracites in
Egypt were closely allied with the Manichaeans. The Novatians differed
from the orthodox only in their refusal to receive again into the Church
any who had committed grievous crimes, or who had lapsed during
persecution. The Arabians denied the immortality of the soul,
maintaining that it died with the body, and that body and soul together
would be revivified by God. The controversies on the persons of the
Godhead now increased in intensity. Noctus of Smyrna maintained the
doctrine of the Patripassians, that God was one and indivisible, and
suffered to redeem mankind; Sabellius also taught that God was one, but
that Jesus was a man, to whom was united a "certain energy only,
proceeding from the Supreme Parent" (p. 83). He also denied the separate
personality of the Holy Ghost. Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch,
taught a cognate doctrine, and founded the sect of the Paulians or
Paulianists, and was consequently degraded from his office. Thus we see
that the history of the Church, before it came to power, is a mass of
quarrels and divisions, varied by ignorance and licentiousness. If we
exclude Origen, whose writings contain much that is valuable, the works
produced by Christian writers in these centuries might be thrown into
the sea, and the world would be none the poorer for the loss.


Constantine attained undisputed and sole authority A.D. 324, and in the
year 325 he summoned the first general council, that of Nicea, or Nice,
which condemned the errors of Arius, and declared Christ to be of the
same substance as the Father. This council has given its name to the
"Nicene Creed," although that creed, as now recited, differs somewhat
from the creed issued at Nice, and received its present form at the
Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381. During the reign of Constantine,
the Church grew swiftly in power and influence, a growth much aided by
the penal laws passed against Paganism. The moment Christianity was able
to seize the sword, it wielded it remorselessly, and cut its way to
supremacy in the Roman world. Bribes and penalties shared together in
the work of conversion. "The hopes of wealth and honours, the example of
an emperor, his exhortations, his irresistible smiles, diffused
conviction among the venal and obsequious crowds which usually fill the
apartments of a palace. The cities, which signalised a forward zeal by
the voluntary destruction of their temples, were distinguished by
municipal privileges and rewarded with popular donatives; and the new
capital of the East gloried in the singular advantage that
Constantinople was never profaned by the worship of idols. As the lower
ranks of society are governed by imitation, the conversion of those who
possessed any eminence of birth, of power, or of riches, was soon
followed by dependent multitudes. The salvation of the common people was
purchased at an easy rate, if it be true, that, in one year, twelve
thousand men were baptised at Rome, besides a proportionable number of
women and children; and that a white garment, with twenty pieces of
gold, had been promised by the emperor to every convert" (Gibbon's
"Decline and Fall," vol. ii. pp. 472, 473). With Constantine began the
ruinous system of dowering the Church with State funds. The emperor
directed the treasurers of the province of Carthage to pay over to the
bishop of that district L18,000 sterling, and to honour his further
drafts. Constantine also gave his subjects permission to bequeath their
fortunes to the Church, and scattered public money among the bishops
with a lavish hand. The three sons of Constantine followed in his steps,
"continuing to abrogate and efface the ancient superstitions of the
Romans, and other idolatrous nations, and to accelerate the progress of
the Christian religion throughout the empire. This zeal was no doubt,
laudable; its end was excellent; but, in the means used to accomplish
it, there were many things worthy of blame" (p. 88). Julian succeded to
part of the empire in A.D. 360, and to sole authority in A.D. 361. He
was educated as a Christian, but reverted to philosophic Paganism, and
during his short reign he revoked the special privileges granted to
Christianity, and placed all creeds on the most perfect civil equality.
Julian's dislike of Christianity, and his philosophic writings directed
against it, have gained for him, from Christian writers, the title of
"the Apostate." The emperors who succeeded were, however, all Christian,
and used their best endeavours to destroy Paganism. Christianity spread
apace; "multitudes were drawn into the profession of Christianity, not
by the power of conviction and argument, but by the prospect of gain,
and the fear of punishment" (p. 102). "The zeal and diligence with which
Constantine and his successors exerted themselves in the cause of
Christianity, and in extending the limits of the Church, prevent our
surprise at the number of barbarous and uncivilised nations, which
received the Gospel" (p. 90); and Dr. Mosheim admits that: "There is no
doubt but that the victories of Constantine the Great, the fear of
punishment, and the desire of pleasing this mighty conqueror and his
imperial successors, were the weighty arguments that moved whole
nations, as well as particular persons, to embrace Christianity" (p.
91). Fraud, as well as force and favour, lent its aid to the progress of
"the Gospel." We hear of the "imprudent methods employed to allure the
different nations to embrace the Gospel" (p. 98): "disgraceful" would be
a fitter term whereby to designate them, for Dr. Mosheim speaks of "the
endless frauds of those odious impostors, who were so far destitute of
all principles, as to enrich themselves by the ignorance and errors of
the people. Rumours were artfully spread abroad of prodigies and
miracles to be seen in certain places (a trick often practised by the
heathen priests), and the design of these reports was to draw the
populace, in multitudes, to these places, and to impose upon their
credulity ... Nor was this all; certain tombs were falsely given out for
the sepulchres of saints and confessors. The list of the saints was
augmented by fictitious names, and even robbers were converted into
martyrs. Some buried the bones of dead men in certain retired places,
and then affirmed that they were divinely admonished, by a dream, that
the body of some friend of God lay there. Many, especially of the monks,
travelled through the different provinces; and not only sold, with most
frontless impudence, their fictitious relics, but also deceived the eyes
of the multitude with ludicrous combats with evil spirits or genii. A
whole volume would be requisite to contain an enumeration of the various
frauds which artful knaves practised, with success, to delude the
ignorant, when true religion was almost entirely superseded by horrid
superstition" (p. 98). When to all these weapons we add the forgeries
everywhere circulated (see ante, pp. 240-243), we can understand how
rapidly Christianity spread, and how "the faithful" were rendered
pliable to those whose interests lay in deceiving them. During this
century flourished some of the greatest fathers of the Church,
pre-eminent among whom we note Ambrose, of Milan, Augustine, of Hippo,
and the great ecclesiastical doctor, Jerome. Already, in this century,
we find clear traces of the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, and "when a
new pontiff was to be elected by the suffrages of the presbyters and the
people, the city of Rome was generally agitated with dissensions,
tumults, and cabals, whose consequences were often deplorable and fatal"
(p. 94). By a decree of the Council of Constantinople, the bishop of
that city was given precedence next after the Roman prelate, and the
jealousy which arose between the bishops of the two imperial cities
fomented the disputes which ended, finally, in the separation of the
Eastern and Western Churches. Of the officers of the Church in this
century we read that: "The bishops, on the one hand, contended with each
other, in the most scandalous manner, concerning the extent of their
respective jurisdictions, while, on the other, they trampled upon the
rights of the people, violated the privileges of the inferior ministers,
and imitated, in their conduct, and in their manner of living, the
arrogance, voluptuousness, and luxury of magistrates and princes" (pp.
95, 96).

In this century is the first instance of the burning alive of a heretic,
and it was Spain who lighted that first pile. Theodosius, of all the
emperors of this age, was the bitterest persecutor of the heretic sects.
"The orthodox emperor considered every heretic as a rebel against the
supreme powers of heaven and of earth; and each of those powers might
exercise their peculiar jurisdiction over the soul and body of the
guilty.... In the space of fifteen years [A.D. 380-394], he promulgated
at least fifteen severe edicts against the heretics; more especially
against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity; and to deprive
them of every hope of escape, he sternly enacted, that if any laws or
rescripts should be alleged in their favour, the judges should consider
them as the illegal productions either of fraud or forgery.... The
heretical teachers ... were exposed to the heavy penalties of exile and
confiscation, if they presumed to preach the doctrine, or to practise
the rites of their _accursed_ sects.... Their religious meetings,
whether public or secret, by day or by night, in cities or in the
country, were equally proscribed by the edicts of Theodosius: and the
building or ground, which had been used for that illegal purpose, was
forfeited to the imperial domain. It was supposed, that the error of the
heretics could proceed only from the obstinate temper of their minds;
and that such a temper was a fit object of censure and punishment....
The sectaries were gradually disqualified for the possession of
honourable or lucrative employments; and Theodosius was satisfied with
his own justice, when he decreed, that as the Eunonians distinguished
the nature of the Son from that of the Father, they should be incapable
of making their wills, or of receiving any advantages from testamentary
donations" (Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," vol. iii. pp. 412, 413).

One important event of this century must not be omitted, the dispersion
of the great Alexandrine library, collected by the Ptolemies. In the
siege of Alexandria by Julius Caesar, the Philadelphian library in the
museum, containing some 400,000 volumes, had been burned; but there
still remained the "daughter library" in the Serapion, containing about
300,000 books. During the episcopate of Theophilus, predecessor of
Cyril, a riot took place between the Christians and the Pagans, and the
latter "held the Serapion as their head-quarters. Such were the disorder
and bloodshed that the emperor had to interfere. He despatched a
rescript to Alexandria, enjoining the bishop, Theophilus, to destroy the
Serapion; and the great library, which had been collected by the
Ptolemies, and had escaped the fire of Julius Caesar, was by that fanatic
dispersed" ("Conflict of Religion and Science," p. 54), A.D. 389. To
Christian bigotry it is that we owe the loss of these rich treasures of

Heresies grew and strengthened during this fourth century. Chief leader
in the heretic camp was Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria; he asserted
that the Son, although begotten of the Father before the creation of
aught else, was not "of the same substance" as the Father, but only "of
like substance;" a vast number of the Christians embraced his
definition, and thus began the long struggle between the Arians and the
Catholics. Arius also "took the ground that there was a time when, from
the very nature of sonship, the Son did not exist, and a time at which
he commenced to be, asserting that it is the necessary condition of the
filial relation that a father must be older than his son. But this
assertion evidently denied the co-eternity of the three persons of the
Trinity; it suggested a subordination or inequality among them, and
indeed implied a time when the Trinity did not exist. Hereupon the
bishop, who had been the successful competitor against Arius [for the
episcopate], displayed his rhetorical powers in public debates on the
question, and, the strife spreading, the Jews and Pagans, who formed a
very large portion of the population of Alexandria, amused themselves
with theatrical representations of the contest on the stage--the point
of their burlesques being the equality of age of the Father and his Son"
(Ibid, p. 53). Gibbon quotes an amusing passage to show how widely
spread was the interest in the subject debated between the rival
parties: "This city is full of mechanics and slaves, who are all of them
profound theologians, and preach in the shops and in the streets. If you
desire a man to change a piece of silver, he informs you wherein the Son
differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf, you are told,
by way of reply, that the Son is inferior to the Father; and if you
inquire whether the bath is ready, the answer is, that the Son was made
out of nothing" (Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," vol. iii. p. 402). Arius
maintained that "the _Logos_ was a dependent and spontaneous production,
created from nothing by the will of the Father. The Son, by whom all
things were made, had been begotten before all worlds, and the longest
of the astronomical periods could be compared only as a fleeting moment
to the extent of his duration; yet this duration was not infinite, and
there _had_ been a time which preceded the ineffable generation of the
_Logos_.... He governed the universe in obedience to the will of his
Father and Monarch" (Ibid, pp. 18,19). The "Nicene creed" of the
Prayer-book consists of the creed promulgated by the Council of Nice,
with the anathema at the end omitted, and with the addition of some
phrases joined to it at the Council at Constantinople, and the insertion
of the Filioque. At the Council of Nice, Arius was condemned and
banished, to the triumph of his great opponent, Athanasius; but he was
recalled in A.D. 330, obtained the banishment of Athanasius in A.D. 335,
and died suddenly, under very suspicious circumstances, in A.D. 336.
Throughout this century the struggle proceeded furiously, each party in
turn getting the upper hand, as the emperor of the time inclined towards
Catholicism or towards Arianism, and each persecuting the adherents of
the other. Among Arian subdivisions we find Semi-Arians, Eusebians,
Aetians, Eunomians, Acasians, Psathyrians, etc. Then we have the
Apollinarians, who maintained that Christ had no human soul, the
divinity supplying its place; the Marcellians, who taught that a divine
emanation descended on Christ. Allied to the Manichaean heresy were the
Priscillians, the Saccophori, the Solitaries, and many others; and, in
addition, the Messalians or Euchites, the Luciferians, the Origenists,
the Antidicomarianites, and the Collyridians. A quarrel about the
consecration of a bishop gave rise to fierce struggles not connected
with the doctrine, so much as with the discipline of the Church. The
Bishops of Numidia were angered by not having been called to the
consecration of Caecilianus Bishop of Carthage, and, assembling together,
they elected and consecrated a rival bishop to that see, and declared
Caecilianus incompetent for the episcopal office. Donatus, Bishop of Casa
Nigra, was the foremost of these Numidian malcontents, and from him the
sect of Donatists took its name; they denied the orders of those
ordained by Caecilianus, and hence the validity of the Sacraments
administered by them. Excommunicated themselves, "they boldly
excommunicated the rest of mankind who had embraced the impious party of
Caecilianus, and of the traditors, from whom he derived his pretended
ordination. They asserted with confidence, and almost with exultation,
that the apostolical succession was interrupted, that _all_ the bishops
of Europe and Asia were infected by the contagion of guilt and schism,
and that the prerogatives of the Catholic Church were confined to the
chosen portion of the African believers, who alone had preserved
inviolate the integrity of their faith and discipline. This rigid theory
was supported by the most uncharitable conduct. Whenever they acquired a
proselyte, even from the distant provinces of the east, they carefully
repeated the sacred rites of baptism and ordination; as they rejected
the validity of those which he had already received from the hands of
heretics or of schismatics" (Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," vol. iii. pp.
5, 6). A number of Donatists, known as Circumcelliones, "maintained
their cause by the force of arms, and overrunning all Africa, filled
that province with slaughter and rapine, and committed the most enormous
acts of perfidy and cruelty against the followers of Caecilianus" (p.
109). To complete the darkly terrible picture of the Church in the
fourth century, we need only note the various orders of fanatical monks,
filthy in their habits, densely ignorant, hopelessly superstitious,
amongst whom may be numbered the travelling mendicants called
Sarabaites. "Many of the Coenobites were chargeable with vicious and
scandalous practices. This order, however, was not so universally
corrupt as that of the Sarabaites, who were, for the most part,
profligates of the most abandoned kind" (p. 102). The pen wearies over
the list of scandals of these early Christian ages; we can but sketch
the outline here; let the student fill the picture in, and he will find
even blacker shades needed to darken it enough.


This century sees the destruction of the Roman Empire of the West, and
the rise into importance of the great Gothic monarchies. The Christian
emperors of the East put down paganism with a strong hand, conferring
state offices on Christians only, and forbidding pagan ceremonies
[unless under Christian names]. The sons of Constantine had pronounced
the penalty of death and confiscation against any who sacrificed to the
old gods; and Theodosius, in A.D. 390, had forbidden, under heavy
penalties, all pagan rites. This work of repression was rigorously
carried on. Clovis, king of the Franks, embraced Christianity, finding
its profession "of great use to him, both in confirming and enlarging
his empire" (p. 117); and many of the barbarous tribes were "converted
to the faith" by means of pretended miracles, "pious frauds ... very
commonly practised in Gaul and in Spain at this time, in order to
captivate, with more facility, the minds of a rude and barbarous people,
who were scarcely susceptible of a rational conviction" (pp. 117, 118).
The supremacy of the see of Rome advanced with rapid strides during this
century. The people depending, in their superstitious ignorance, on the
clergy, and the clergy on the bishops, it became the interest of the
savage kings to be on friendly terms with the latter, and to increase
their influence; and as the bishops, in their turn, leant upon the
central authority of Rome, the power of the pontiff rapidly increased.
This power was still further augmented by the struggles for supremacy
among the Eastern bishops, for by favouring sometimes one and sometimes
another, he fostered the habit of looking to Rome for aid. In the East,
five "patriarchs" were raised over the rest of the bishops, the
Patriarch of Constantinople standing at their head. Thus, East and West
drifted ever more apart. Mosheim speaks of "the ambitious quarrels and
the bitter animosities that rose among the patriarchs themselves, and
which produced the most bloody wars, and the most detestable and horrid
crimes. The Patriarch of Constantinople distinguished himself in these
odious contests. Elated with the favour and proximity of the Imperial
Court, he cast a haughty eye on all sides, where any objects were to be
found on which he might exercise his lordly ambition. On the one hand,
he reduced under his jurisdiction the Patriarchs of Alexandria and
Antioch, as prelates only of the second order; and on the other, he
invaded the diocese of the Roman Pontiff, and spoiled him of several
provinces. The two former prelates, though they struggled with vehemence
and raised considerable tumults by their opposition, yet they struggled
ineffectually, both for want of strength, and likewise on account of a
variety of unfavourable circumstances. But the Roman Pontiff, far
superior to them in wealth and power, contended also with more vigour
and obstinacy; and, in his turn, gave a deadly wound to the usurped
supremacy of the Byzantine Patriarch. The attentive inquirer into the
affairs of the Church, from this period, will find, in the events now
mentioned, the principal source of those most scandalous and deplorable
dissensions which divided first the Eastern Church into various sects,
and afterwards separated it entirely from that of the West. He will find
that these ignominious schisms flowed chiefly from the unchristian
contentions for dominion and supremacy which reigned among those who set
themselves up for the fathers and defenders of the Church" (p. 123).

Learning during this century fell lower and lower, in spite of the
schools established and fostered by the emperors, and while knowledge
diminished, vice increased. "The vices of the clergy were now carried to
the most enormous lengths; and all the writers of this century, whose
probity and virtue render them worthy of credit, are unanimous in their
accounts of the luxury, arrogance, avarice, and voluptuousness of the
sacerdotal orders. The bishops, particularly those of the first rank,
created various delegates or ministers, who managed for them the affairs
of their dioceses, and a sort of courts were gradually formed, where
these pompous ecclesiastics gave audience, and received the homage of a
cringing multitude" (p. 123). Superstition performed its maddest freak
in the Stylites, men "who stood motionless on the tops of pillars;" the
original maniac being one Simon, a Syrian, who actually spent
thirty-seven years of his life on pillars, the last of which was forty
cubits high. Another of the same class spent sixty-eight years in this
useful manner (see pp. 128, 129, and _note_). The Agapae were abolished,
and auricular confession was established, during this century.

Among the bishops of this century, one name deserves an immortality of
infamy. It is that of Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria. Under his rule took
place the terrible murder of Hypatia, that pure and beautiful Platonic
teacher, who was dragged by a fanatic mob, headed by Peter the Reader,
into the great church of Alexandria, and tortured to death on the steps
of the high altar. Cyril's "hold upon the audiences of the giddy city
[Alexandria] was, however, much weakened by Hypatia, the daughter of
Theon, the mathematician, who not only distinguished herself by her
expositions of the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle, but also by her
comments on the writings of Apollonius and other geometers. Each day,
before her academy, stood a long train of chariots; her lecture-room was
crowded with the wealth and fashion of Alexandria.... Hypatia and Cyril!
Philosophy and bigotry. They cannot exist together. So Cyril felt, and
on that feeling he acted. As Hypatia repaired to her academy, she was
assaulted by Cyril's mob--a mob of many monks. Stripped naked in the
street, she was dragged into a church, and there killed by the club of
Peter the Reader [A.D. 415]. The corpse was cut to pieces, the flesh was
scraped from the bones with shells, and the remnants cast into a fire.
For this frightful crime Cyril was never called to account. It seemed to
be admitted that the end sanctified the means" (Draper's "Conflict
between Religion and Science," p. 55).

The heresies of the last century were continued in this, and various new
ones arose. Chief among these was the heresy of Nestorius, a Bishop of
Constantinople, who distinguished so strongly between the two natures in
Christ as to make a double personality, and he regarded the Virgin Mary
as mother of _Christ_, but not mother of _God_. The Council of Ephesus
(A.D. 431) was called to decide the point, and was presided over by the
great antagonist of Nestorius, Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria. The matter
was settled very quickly. Church Councils vote on disputed points, and
the vote of the majority constitutes orthodoxy. The Council was held
before the arrival of the bishops who sympathised with Nestorius, and
thus, by the simple expedient of getting everything over before the
opponents arrived, it was settled for evermore that Christ is one person
with two natures. A heresy of the very opposite character was that of
Eutyches, abbot of the monastery in Constantinople. He maintained that
in Christ there was only one nature, "that of the incarnate word," and
his opinion was endorsed by a council called at Ephesus, A.D. 449; but
this decree was annulled by the Council of Chalcedon (reckoned the
fourth OEcumenical), A.D. 451, wherein it was again declared that Christ
had two natures in one person. It was at the Council of Ephesus, in A.D.
449, that Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople, was so beaten by the
other bishops that he died of his wounds, and the bishops who held with
him hid themselves under benches to get out of the way of their
infuriate brothers in Christ (see notes on pp. 136, 137). The
Theopaschites were a branch of the Eutychian heresy, and the
Monophysites were a cognate sect; from these arose the Acephali,
Anthropomorphites, Barsanuphites, and Esaianists. Not less important
than the heresy of Eutyches was that of Pelagius, a British monk, who
taught that man did not inherit original sin on account of Adam's fall,
but that each was born unspotted into the world, and was capable of
rising to the height of virtue by the exercise of his natural faculties.
The semi-Pelagians held that man could turn to God by his own strength,
but that divine grace was necessary to enable him to persevere.

One heretic of this period deserves a special word of record.
Vigilantius was a Gallic priest, remarkable for his eloquence and
learning, and he devoted himself to an effort to reform the Church in
Spain. "Among other things, he denied that the tombs and the bones of
the martyrs were to be honoured with any sort of homage or worship; and
therefore censured pilgrimages that were made to places that were
reputed holy. He turned into derision the prodigies which were said to
be wrought in the temples consecrated to martyrs, and condemned the
custom of performing vigils in them. He asserted, and indeed with
reason, that the custom of burning tapers at the tombs of the martyrs in
broad day, was imprudently borrowed from the ancient superstition of the
Pagans. He maintained, moreover, that prayers addressed to departed
saints were void of all efficacy; and treated with contempt fastings and
mortifications, the celibacy of the clergy, and the various austerities
of the monastic life. And finally he affirmed that the conduct of those
who, distributing their substance among the indigent, submitted to the
hardships of a voluntary poverty, or sent a part of their treasures to
Jerusalem for devout purposes, had nothing in it acceptable to the
Deity" (p. 129). Under these circumstances we can scarcely wonder that
Vigilantius was scouted as a heretic by all orthodox, lucre-loving
clerics. He is the forerunner of a long line of protesters against the
ever-growing strength and superstition of the Church.


The darkness deepens as we proceed. Christianity spread among the
barbarous tribes of the East and West, but "it must, however, be
acknowledged, that of these conversions, the greatest part were owing to
the liberality of the Christian princes, or to the fear of punishment,
rather than to the force of argument or to the love of truth. In Gaul,
the Jews were compelled by Childeric to receive the ordinance of
baptism; and the same despotic method of converting was practised in
Spain" (p. 141). "They required nothing of these barbarous people that
was difficult to be performed, or that laid any remarkable restraint
upon their appetites and passions. The principal injunctions they
imposed upon these rude proselytes were that they should get by heart
certain summaries of doctrine, and to pay the images of Christ and the
saints the same religious services which they had formerly offered to
the statues of the gods" (p. 142). Libraries were formed in many of the
monasteries, and schools were opened, but apparently only for those who
intended to enter the monastic life; these, however, did not flourish,
for many bishops showed "bitter aversion" towards "every sort of
learning and erudition, which they considered as pernicious to the
progress of piety" (p. 144). "Greek literature was almost everywhere
neglected.... Philosophy fared still worse than literature; for it was
entirely banished from all the seminaries which were under the
inspection and government of the ecclesiastical order" (Ibid). The
wealth of the Church grew apace. "The arts of a rapacious priesthood
were practised upon the ignorant devotion of the simple; and even the
remorse of the wicked was made an instrument of increasing the
ecclesiastical treasure. For an opinion was propagated with industry
among the people, that the remission of their sins was to be purchased
by their liberalities to the churches and monks" (p. 146). "The monastic
orders, in general, abounded with fanatics and profligates; the _latter_
were more numerous than the _former_ in the Western convents, while in
those of the East the fanatics were predominant" (ibid). It was in this
century (A.D. 529) that the great Benedictine rule was composed by
Benedict of Nursia. The Council of Constantinople, A.D. 553, is reckoned
as the fifth general Council. It is said to have condemned the doctrines
of Origen, thus summarised by Mosheim:--"1. That in the Trinity the
_Father_ is greater than the _Son_, and the _Son_ than the _Holy Ghost_.
2. The _pre-existence_ of souls, which Origen considered as sent into
mortal bodies for the punishment of sins committed in a former state of
being. 3. That the _soul_ of Christ was united to the _word_ before the
incarnation. 4. That the sun, moon, and stars, etc., were animated and
endowed with rational souls. 5. That after the resurrection all bodies
will be of a round figure. 6. That the torments of the damned will have
an end; and that as Christ had been crucified in this world to save
mankind, he is to be crucified in the next to save the devils" (p. 151,
note). Among the various notabilities of this age none are specially
worthy attention, save Brethius, Cassiodorus, Gregory the Great,
Benedict of Nursia, Gregory of Tours, and Isidore of Seville. The
heresies of former centuries continued during this, and several
unimportant additional sects sprang up. The Monophysites gained in
strength under Jacob, Bishop of Edessa, and became known as Jacobites,
and exist to this day in Abyssinia and America. Six small sects grew up
among the Monophysites and died away again, which held varying opinions
about the nature of the body of Christ We find also the Corrupticolae,
Agnoetae, Tritheists, Philoponists, Cononites, and Damianists, the four
last of which differed as to the nature of the Trinity. Thus was rent
into innumerable factions the supposed-to-be-indivisible Christianity,
and the most bloody persecutions disgraced the uppermost party of the


Many are the missionary enterprises of this century, and we find the
missionaries grasping at temporal power, and exercising a "princely
authority over the countries where their ministry had been successful"
(p. 157). Learning had almost vanished; "they, who distinguished
themselves most by their taste and genius, carried their studies little
farther than the works of Augustine and Gregory the Great; and it is of
scraps collected out of these two writers, and patched together without
much uniformity, that the best productions of this century are entirely
composed.... The schools which had been committed to the care and
inspection of the bishops, whose ignorance and indolence were now become
enormous, began to decline apace, and were in many places, fallen into
ruin. The bishops in general were so illiterate, that few of that body
were capable of composing the discourses which they delivered to the
people. Such of them as were not totally destitute of genius, composed
out of the writings of Augustine and Gregory a certain number of insipid
homilies, which they divided between themselves, and their stupid
colleagues, that they might not be obliged through incapacity to
discontinue preaching the doctrines of Christianity to their people" (p.
159). "The progress of vice among the subordinate rulers and ministers
of the Church was, at this time, truly deplorable.... In those very
places, that were consecrated to the advancement of piety and the
service of God, there was little else to be seen than ghostly ambition,
insatiable avarice, pious frauds, intolerable pride, and a supercilious
contempt of the natural rights of the people, with many other vices
still more enormous" (p. 161). The wealth of the Church increased
rapidly; it grew fat on the wages of sin. "Abandoned profligates, who
had passed their days in the most enormous pursuits, and whose guilty
consciences filled them with terror and remorse, were comforted with the
delusive hopes of obtaining pardon, and making atonement for their
crimes by leaving the greatest part of their fortune to some monastic
society. Multitudes, impelled by the unnatural dictates of a gloomy
superstition, deprived their children of fertile lands and rich
patrimonies in favour of the monks, by whose prayers they hoped to
render the Deity propitious" (p. 161). The only new sect of any
importance in this century is that of the Monothelites, later known as
Maronites; they taught that Christ had but one will, but the doctrine is
wrapped up in so many subtleties as to be almost incomprehensible. They
were condemned, in the sixth General Council, held at Constantinople,
A.D. 680. It was during this century that "Boniface V. enacted that
infamous law, by which the churches became places of refuge to all who
fled thither for protection; a law which procured a sort of impunity to
the most enormous crimes, and gave a loose rein to the licentiousness of
the most abandoned profligates" (p. 164). The effect of this law was
that the monasteries became the refuge of bandits and murderers, who
issued from them to plunder and to destroy, and paid for the security of
their persons by bestowing on their hosts a portion of the spoil they
had collected during their raids. Such were the civilizing and purifying
effects of Christianity.


Winfred, better known as Boniface, "the Apostle of Germany," is,
perhaps, the chief ecclesiastical figure of this century. He taught
Christianity right through Germany; was consecrated bishop in A.D. 723,
created archbishop in A.D. 738, and Primate of Germany and Belgium in
A.D. 746; in A.D. 755 he was murdered in Friesland, with fifty other
ecclesiastics. Much stress is laid upon his martyrdom by Christian
writers, but Boniface, after all, only received from the Frieslanders
the measure he had meted out to their brethren, and there seems no good
reason why Christian missionaries should claim a monopoly of the right
to kill. Mosheim allows that he "often employed violence and terror, and
sometimes artifice and fraud" (p. 169) in order to gain converts, and he
was supported by Charles Martel, the enemy of Friesland, and appeared
among the Germans as the friend and agent of their foes. A few years
later, Charlemagne spread Christianity among the Saxons with great
vigour. For "a war broke out, at this time, between Charlemagne and the
Saxons, which contributed much to the propagation of Christianity,
though not by the force of a rational persuasion. The Saxons were, at
this time, a numerous and formidable people, who inhabited a
considerable part of Germany, and were engaged in perpetual quarrels
with the Franks concerning their boundaries, and other matters of
complaint. Hence Charlemagne turned his armies against this powerful
nation, A.D. 772, with a design not only to subdue that spirit of revolt
with which they had so often troubled the empire, but also to abolish
their idolatrous worship, and engage them to embrace the Christian
religion. He hoped, by their conversion, to vanquish their obstinacy,
imagining that the divine precepts of the Gospel would assuage their
impetuous and restless passions, mitigate their ferocity, and induce
them to submit more tamely to the government of the Franks. These
projects were great in idea, but difficult in execution; accordingly,
the first attempt to convert the Saxons, after having subdued them, was
unsuccessful, because it was made without the aid of violence, or
threats, by the bishops and monks, whom the victor had left among that
conquered people, whose obstinate attachment to idolatry no arguments
nor exhortations could overcome. [Mark the _naivete_ of this
confession.] More forcible means were afterwards used to draw them into
the pale of the Church, in the wars which Charlemagne carried on in the
years 775, 776, and 780, against that valiant people, whose love of
liberty was excessive, and whose aversion to the restraints of
sacerdotal authority was inexpressible. During these wars their
attachment to the superstition of their ancestors was so warmly combated
by the allurements of reward, by the terror of punishment, and by the
imperious language of victory, that they suffered themselves to be
baptised, though with inward reluctance, by the missionaries, which the
emperor sent among them for that purpose" (p. 170). Rebellion broke out
once more, headed by the two most powerful Saxon chiefs, but they were
won over by Charlemagne, who persuaded them "to make a public and solemn
profession of Christianity, in the year 785, and to promise an adherence
to that divine religion for the rest of their days. To prevent, however,
the Saxons from renouncing a religion which they had embraced with
reluctance, several bishops were appointed to reside among them, schools
also were erected, and monasteries founded, that the means of
instruction might not be wanting. The same precautions were employed
among the Huns in Pannonia, to maintain in the profession of
Christianity that fierce people whom Charlemagne had converted to the
faith, when, exhausted and dejected by various defeats, they were no
longer able to make head against his victorious arms, and chose rather
to be Christians than slaves" (p. 170). The grateful Church canonized
Charlemagne, the brutal soldier who had so enlarged her borders; "not to
enter into a particular detail of his vices, whose number
counter-balanced that of his virtues, it is undeniably evident that his
ardent and ill-conducted zeal for the conversion of the Huns,
Frieslanders, and Saxons, was more animated by the suggestions of
ambition, than by a principle of true piety; and that his main view in
these religious exploits was to subdue the converted nations under his
dominion, and to tame them to his yoke, which they supported with
impatience, and shook off by frequent revolts. It is, moreover, well
known, that this boasted saint made no scruple of seeking the alliance
of the infidel Saracens, that he might be more effectually enabled to
crush the Greeks, notwithstanding their profession of the Christian
religion" (p. 171). Thus was Christianity spread by fire and sword, and
where-ever the cross passed it left its track in blood. While the
soldiers thus converted the heathen, "the clergy abandoned themselves to
their passions without moderation or restraint; they were distinguished
by their luxury, their gluttony, and their lust" (p. 173). To these
evils was added that of gross deception, for a bad clergy used bad
weapons; false miracles abounded in every direction; "the corrupt
discipline that then prevailed admitted of those fallacious stratagems,
which are very improperly called _pious_ frauds; nor did the heralds of
the gospel think it at all unlawful to terrify or to allure to the
profession of Christianity, by fictitious prodigies, those obdurate
hearts which they could not subdue by reason and argument" (p. 171). The
wealth of the Church increased year by year. "An opinion prevailed
universally at this time, though its authors are not known, that the
punishment which the righteous judge of the world has reserved for the
transgressions of the wicked, was to be prevented and annulled by
liberal donations to God, to the saints, to the churches and clergy. In
consequence of this notion, the great and opulent--who were, generally
speaking, the most remarkable for their flagitious and abominable
lives--offered, out of the abundance which they had received by
inheritance or acquired by rapine, rich donations to departed saints,
their ministers upon earth, and the keepers of the temples that were
erected in their honour, in order to avoid the sufferings and penalties
annexed by the priests to transgression in this life, and to escape the
misery denounced against the wicked in a future state. This new and
commodious method of making atonement for iniquity was the principal
source of those immense treasures which, from this period, began to flow
in upon the clergy, the churches, and monasteries, and continued to
enrich them through succeeding ages down to the present time" (p. 174).
Another source of wealth is to be found in the desire of the kings of
the various warring tribes to attach to themselves the bishop and clergy
in their dominions; by bestowing on these lands and dignities they
secured to themselves the aid which the Church officials had it in their
power to render, for not only could bishops bring to the support of
their suzerain the physical succour of armies, but they could also
launch against his enemies that terrible bolt of mediaeval times,
excommunication, which, "rendered formidable by ignorance, struck terror
into the boldest and most resolute hearts" (p. 174). In these latter
gifts we see the origin of the temporalities and titles attached to
episcopal sees and to cathedral chapters. During this century the power
of the Roman Pontiff swelled to an enormous degree, and his sway
extended into civil and political affairs: so supreme an authority had
he become that, in A.D. 751, the Frankish states of the realm--convoked
by Pepin to sanction his design of seizing on the French throne, then
occupied by Childeric III.--directed that an embassy should be sent to
the Pope Zachary, to ask whether it was not right that a weak monarch
should be dethroned; and on the answer of the Pope in the affirmative
being received, Childeric was dethroned without opposition, and Pepin
was crowned in his stead.

In the East, the Church was torn with dissensions, while the imperial
throne was rocking under the repeated attacks of the Turks--a tribe
descended from the Tartars--who entered Armenia, struggled with the
Saracens for dominion, subdued them partially, and then turned their
arms against the Greek empire. The great controversy of this century is
that on the worship of images, between the Iconoduli or Iconolatrae
(image worshippers), and the Iconomachi or Iconoclastae (image
breakers). The Emperor Bardanes, a supporter of the Monothelite heresy,
ordered that a picture representing the sixth general council should be
removed from the Church of St. Sophia, because that council had
condemned the Monothelites. Not content with doing this (A.D. 712),
Bardanes sent an order to Rome that all pictures and images of the same
nature should be removed from places of worship. Constantine, the Pope,
immediately set up six pictures, representing the six general councils,
in the porch of St. Peter's, and called a council at Rome, which
denounced the Emperor as an apostate. Bardanes was dethroned by a
revolution, but his successor, Leo, soon took up the quarrel. In A.D.
726, he issued an imperial edict commanding the removal of all images
from the churches and forbidding all image worship, save only those
representing the crucifixion of Christ. Pope Gregory I. excommunicated
the Emperor, and insurrections broke out all over the empire in
consequence; the Emperor retorted by calling a council at
Constantinople, which deposed the bishop of that city for his leanings
towards image worship, and put a supporter of the Emperor in his place.
The contest was carried on by Constantine, who succeeded his father,
Leo, in A.D. 741, and who, in A.D. 754, called a council, at
Constantinople--recognised by the Greek Church as the seventh general
council--which condemned the use and worship of images. Leo IV. (A.D.
775) issued penal laws against image worshippers, but he was poisoned by
Irene, his wife, in A.D. 780, and she entered into an alliance with Pope
Adrian, so that the Iconoduli became triumphant in their turn. While
this controversy raged, a second arose as to the procession of the Holy
Ghost. The creed of Constantinople (see ante, p. 434) ran--"I believe in
the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the
Father;" to this phrase the words, "and the Son," had been added in the
West, originally by some Spanish bishops; the Greeks protested against
an unauthorised addition being inserted into a creed promulgated by a
general council, and received by the universal Church as the symbol of
faith. Thus arose the celebrated controversy on the "Filioque," which
was one of the chief causes of the great schism between the Eastern and
Western Churches in the ninth century.

The Arian, Manichaean, Marcionite, and Monothelite heresies spread,
during this century, through the Greek Church, and, where the Arabians
ruled, the Nestorians and Monophysites also flourished. In the Latin
Church a phase of the Nestorian heresy made its way, under the name of
Adoptianism, a name given because its adherents regarded Christ, so far
as his manhood was concerned, as the Son of God by adoption only.


Christendom, during this century, as during the preceding one, was
threatened and harassed by the inroads of Mahommedan powers, and the
first gleams of returning light began to penetrate its thick
darkness--light proceeding from the Arabians and the Saracens, the
restorers of knowledge and of science. It is not here our duty to trace
that marvellous work of the revival of thought--thought which
Christianity had slain, but which, revived by Mahommedanism, was
destined to issue in the new birth of heretic philosophy. While this
work was proceeding among the Saracens, the Arabians, and the Moors,
Christendom went on its way, degraded, vicious, and superstitious; only
here and there an effort at learning was made, and some few went to the
Arabian schools, and returned with some tincture of knowledge. John
Scotus Erigena, a subtle and acute thinker, left behind him works which
have made some regard him as the founder of the _Realist_ school of the
middle ages, the school which followed Aristotle, in opposition to the
_Nominalists_, who held with Zeno and the Stoics. Erigena taught that
the soul would be re-absorbed into the divine spirit, from which it had
originally emanated; from God all things had come--to Him would they
ultimately return; God alone was eternal, and in the end nothing but God
would exist. Some of Erigena's works naturally fell under the
displeasure of the Church, and were duly burned: he was a philosopher,
and therefore dangerous.

While this slight effort at thought was thus frowned upon, vice made its
way unchecked and unrebuked by the authorities. "The impiety and
licentiousness of the greater part of the clergy arose, at this time, to
an enormous height, and stand upon record in the unanimous complaints of
the most candid and impartial writers of this century. In the East,
tumult, discord, conspiracies, and treason reigned uncontrolled, and all
things were carried by violence and force. These abuses appeared in many
things, but particularly in the election of the Patriarchs of
Constantinople.... In the western provinces, the bishops were become
voluptuous and effeminate to a very high degree. They passed their lives
amidst the splendour of courts, and the pleasures of a luxurious
indolence, which corrupted their taste, extinguished their zeal, and
rendered them incapable of performing the solemn duties of their
function; while the inferior clergy were sunk in licentiousness, minded
nothing but sensual gratifications, and infected with the most heinous
vices the flock whom it was the very business of their ministry to
preserve, or to deliver from the contagion of iniquity. Besides, the
ignorance of the sacred order was, in many places, so deplorable that
few of them could either read or write, and still fewer were capable of
expressing their wretched notions with any degree of method or
perspicuity" (p. 193). "Many other causes also contributed to dishonour
the Church, by introducing into it a corrupt ministry. A nobleman who,
through want of talents, activity, or courage, was rendered incapable of
appearing with dignity in the cabinet, or with honour in the field,
immediately turned his views towards the Church, aimed at a
distinguished place among its chiefs and rulers, and became, in
consequence, a contagious example of stupidity and vice to the inferior
clergy. The patrons of churches, in whom resided the right of election,
unwilling to submit their disorderly conduct to the keen censure of
zealous and upright pastors, industriously looked for the most abject,
ignorant, and worthless ecclesiastics, to whom they committed the cure
of souls" (p. 193). Of the Roman pontiffs, Mosheim says: "The greatest
part of them are only known by the flagitious actions that have
transmitted their names with infamy to our times" (p. 194). And "the
enormous vices that must have covered so many pontiffs with infamy in
the judgment of the wise, formed not the least obstacle to their
ambition in these memorable times, nor hindered them from extending
their influence and augmenting their authority both in church and state"
(p. 195). Among the vast mass of forgeries which gradually built up the
supremacy of the Roman see, the famous Isidorian Decretals deserve a
word of notice. They were issued about A.D. 845, and consisted of "about
one hundred pretended decrees of the early Popes, together with certain
spurious writings of other church dignitaries and acts of synods. This
forgery produced an immense extension of the papal power. It displaced
the old system of church government, divesting it of the republican
attributes it had possessed, and transforming it into an absolute
monarchy. It brought the bishops into subjection to Rome, and made the
pontiff the supreme judge of the clergy of the whole Christian world. It
prepared the way for the great attempt, subsequently made by Hildebrand,
to convert the states of Europe into a theocratic priest kingdom, with
the Pope at its head" (Draper's "Conflict of Religion and Science," p.
271). We note during this century a remarkable growth of saints.
Everyone wanted a saint through whom to approach God, and the supply
kept pace with the demand. "This preposterous multiplication of saints
was a new source of abuses and frauds. It was thought necessary to write
the lives of these celestial patrons, in order to procure for them the
veneration and confidence of a deluded multitude; and here lying wonders
were invented, and all the resources of forgery and fable exhausted to
celebrate exploits which had never been performed, and to perpetuate the
memory of holy persons who had never existed" (p. 200). The contest on
images still raged furiously, success being now on the one side, now on
the other; various councils were called by either party, until, in A.D.
879, a council at Constantinople, reckoned by the Greeks as the eighth
general council, sanctioned the worship of images, which thereafter
triumphed in the East. In the West, the opposition to image-worship
gradually died away. The _Filioque_ contest also continued hotly and
widened the breach between East and West yet more. The final separation
was not long delayed. The ever-increasing jealousy between Rome and
Constantinople had at last reached a height which made even nominal
union impossible, and the smouldering fire burst into sudden flame. In
A.D. 858 Photius was made Patriarch of Constantinople, by the Emperor
Michael, in the room of Ignatius, deprived and banished by that prince.
A council, held at Constantinople in A.D. 861, endorsed the appointment
of the emperor; but Ignatius appealed to Rome, and Pope Nicholas I.
readily took up his quarrel. A council was held at Rome, in A.D. 862, in
which the pontiff excommunicated Photius and his adherents. It was
answered by one at Constantinople, in A.D. 866, wherein Nicholas was
pronounced unworthy of his office and outside the pale of Christian
communion. Yet another council of Constantinople, A.D. 869, approved the
action of Basilius, the new emperor, who recalled Ignatius, and
imprisoned Photius. When Ignatius died, Photius was reinstated (A.D.
878), and he was acknowledged by the Roman pontiff, John VIII., at
another council of Constantinople, A.D. 879, on the understanding that
the jurisdiction over Bulgaria, claimed both by Pope and Patriarch,
should be definitely yielded to Rome. This, however, was not done; and
the Pope sent a legate to Constantinople, recalling his declaration in
favour of Photius. The legate, Marinus, was cast into prison; and when
he was later raised to the pontificate, he remembered the outrage, and
anew excommunicated Photius. A.D. 886 saw the fall and imprisonment of
Photius, and union might have been maintained but for the extravagant
demands of the Roman pontiff, who required the degradation of all
priests and bishops ordained by Photius. The Greeks indignantly refused,
and at last the great schism took place, which severed from each other
entirely the Eastern and the Western Churches.

The ancient heresy of the Paulicians had not yet died out, spite of
having suffered much persecution at Catholic hands, and under the
Emperors Michael and Leo, a fierce attack upon these unfortunate beings
took place. They were hunted down and executed without mercy, and at
last they turned upon their persecutors, and revenged themselves by
murdering the bishop, magistrates, and judges in Armenia, after which
they fled to the countries under Saracen rule. After a while, they
gradually returned to the Greek empire; but when the Empress Theodora
was regent, during her son's minority, she issued a stern decree against
them. "The decree was severe, but the cruelty with which it was put in
execution, by those who were sent into Armenia for that purpose, was
horrible beyond expression; for these ministers of wrath, after
confiscating the goods of above a hundred thousand of that miserable
people, put their possessors to death in the most barbarous manner, and
made them expire slowly in a variety of the most exquisite tortures" (p.

In addition to the heresies inherited from the previous centuries, three
new ones, important in their issues, arose to divide yet more the
divided indivisible Church. A monk, named Pascasius Radbert, wrote a
treatise (A.D. 831 and 845), in which he maintained that, at the
Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine became changed, by
consecration, into the body and blood of Christ, and that this body "was
the same body that was born of the Virgin, that suffered upon the cross,
and was raised from the dead" (p. 205). Charles the Bald bade Erigena
and Ratramn (or Bertramn) draw up the true doctrine of the Church, and
the long controversy began which is continued even in the present day.
The second great dispute arose on the question of predestination and
divine grace. Godeschalcus, an eminent Saxon monk, returning from Rome
in A.D. 847, resided for a space in Verona, where he spoke much on
predestination, affirming that God had, from all eternity, predestined
some to heaven and others to hell. He was condemned at a council held in
Mayence, A.D. 848, and in the following year, at another council, he was
again condemned, and was flogged until he burned, with his own hand, the
apology for his opinions he had presented at Mayence. The third great


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