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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 06 - Renaissance and Reformation
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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                which is titled Beacon Lights of History, Volume III,
                part 2: Renaissance and Reformation.  See E-Book#1499,
                The numbering of volumes in the earlier set reflected
                the order in which the lectures were given.  In the
                current (later) version, volumes were numbered to put
                the subjects in historical sequence.









The antiquity of Poetry
The greatness of Poets
Their influence on Civilization
The true poet one of the rarest of men
The pre-eminence of Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and Goethe
Characteristics of Dante
His precocity
His moral wisdom and great attainments
His terrible scorn and his isolation
State of society when Dante was born
His banishment
Guelphs and Ghibellines
Dante stimulated to his great task by an absorbing sentiment
Dante's passion for Beatrice analyzed
The worship of ideal qualities the foundation of lofty love.
The mystery of love
Its exalted realism
Dedication of Dante's life-labors to the departed Beatrice
The Divine Comedy; a study
The Inferno; its graphic pictures
Its connection with the ideas of the Middle Ages
The physical hell of Dante in its connection with the Mediaeval doctrine
  of Retribution
The Purgatorio; its moral wisdom
Origin of the doctrine of Purgatory
Its consolation amid the speculations of despair
The Paradiso
Its discussion of grand themes
The Divina Commedia makes an epoch in civilization
Dante's life an epic
His exalted character
His posthumous influence



The characteristics of the fourteenth century
Its great events and characters
State of society in England when Chaucer arose
His early life
His intimacy with John of Gaunt, the great Duke of Lancaster
His prosperity
His poetry
The Canterbury Tales
Their fidelity to Nature and to English life
Connection of his poetry with the formation of the English Language
The Pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales
Chaucer's views of women and of love
His description of popular sports and amusements
The preponderance of country life in the fourteenth century
Chaucer's description of popular superstitions
Of ecclesiastical abuses
His emancipation from the ideas of the Middle Ages
Peculiarities of his poetry
Chaucer's private life
The respect in which he was held
Influence of his poetry



Marco Polo
His travels
The geographical problems of the fourteenth century
Sought to be solved by Christopher Columbus
The difficulties he had to encounter
Regarded as a visionary man
His persistence
Influence of women in great enterprises
Columbus introduced to Queen Isabella
Excuses for his opponents
The Queen favors his projects
The first voyage of Columbus
Its dangers
Discovery of the Bahama Islands
Discovery of Cuba and Hispaniola
Columbus returns to Spain
The excitement and enthusiasm produced by his discoveries
His second voyage
Extravagant expectations of Columbus
Disasters of the colonists
Decline of the popularity of Columbus
His third voyage
His arrest and disgrace
His fourth voyage
His death
Greatness of his services
Results of his discoveries
The mines of Peru and Mexico
The effects on Europe of the rapid increase of the precious metals
True sources of national wealth
The destinies of America
Its true mission



The age of Savonarola
Revival of Classic Literature
Ecclesiastical corruptions
Religious apathy; awakened intelligence; infidel spirit
Youth of Savonarola
His piety
Begins to preach
His success at Florence
Peculiarities of his eloquence
Death of Lorenzo de' Medici
Savonarola as a political leader
Denunciation of tyranny
His influence in giving a constitution to the Florentines
Difficulties of Constitution-making
His method of teaching political science
Peculiarities of the new Rule
Its great wisdom
Savonarola as reformer
As moralist
Terrible denunciation of sin in high places
A prophet of woe
Contrast between Savonarola and Luther
The sermons of Savonarola
His marvellous eloquence
Its peculiarities
The enemies of Savonarola
Savonarola persecuted
His appeal to Europe
The people desert him
Months of torment
His martyrdom
His character
His posthumous influence



Michael Angelo as representative of reviving Art
Ennobling effects of Art when inspired by lofty sentiments
Brilliancy of Art in the sixteenth century
Early life of Michael Angelo
His aptitude for Art
Patronized by Lorenzo de' Medici
Sculpture later in its development than Architecture
The chief works of Michael Angelo as sculptor
The peculiarity of his sculptures
Michael Angelo as painter
History of painting in the Middle Ages
Da Vinci
The frescos of the Sistine Chapel
The Last Judgment
The cartoon of the battle of Pisa
The variety as well as moral grandeur of Michael Angelo's paintings
Ennobling influence of his works
His works as architect
St. Peter's Church
Revival of Roman and Grecian Architecture
Contrasted with Gothic Architecture
Michael Angelo rescues the beauties of Paganism
Not responsible for absurdities of the Renaissance
Greatness of Michael Angelo as a man
His industry, temperance, dignity of character, love of Art for Art's sake
His indifference to rewards and praises
His transcendent fame



Luther's predecessors
Corruptions of the Church
Luther the man for the work of reform
His peculiarities
His early piety
Enters a Monastery
His religious experience
Made Professor of Divinity at Wittenberg
The Pope in great need of money to complete St. Peter's
Indulgences; principles on which they were based
Luther, indignant, preaches Justification by Faith
His immense popularity
Grace the cardinal principle of the Reformation
The Reformation began as a religious movement
How the defence of Luther's doctrine led to the recognition
  of the supreme authority of the Scriptures
Public disputation at Leipsic between Luther and Eck
Connection between the advocacy of the Bible as a supreme
  authority and the right of private judgment
Religious liberty a sequence of private judgment
Connection between religious and civil liberty
Contrast between Leo I. and Luther
Luther as reformer
His boldness and popularity
He alarms Rome
His translation of the Bible, his hymns, and other works
Summoned by imperial authority to the Diet of Worms
His memorable defence
His immortal legacies
His death and character



Importance of the English Reformation
Cranmer its best exponent
What was effected during the reign of Henry VIII
Thomas Cromwell
Suppression of Monasteries
Their opposition to the revival of Learning
Their exceeding corruption
Their great wealth and its confiscation
Ecclesiastical courts
Sir Thomas More: his execution
Main feature of Henry VIII.'s anti-clerical measures
Fall of Cromwell
Rise of Cranmer
His characteristics
His wise moderation
His fortunate suggestions to Henry VIII
Made Archbishop of Canterbury
Difficulties of his position
Reforms made by the government, not by the people
Accession of Edward VI
Cranmer's Church reforms: open communion; abolition of
  the Mass; new English liturgy
Marriage among the clergy; the Forty-two Articles
Accession of Mary
Persecution of the Reformers
Reactionary measures
Arrest, weakness, and recantation of Cranmer
His noble death; his character
Death of Mary
Accession of Elizabeth, and return of exiles to England
The Elizabethan Age
Conservative reforms and conciliatory measures
The Thirty-nine Articles
Their doctrines and discipline
The great Puritan controversy
The Puritans represent the popular side of the Reformation
Their theology
Their moral discipline
Their connection with civil liberty
Summary of the English Reformation



The counter-reformation effected by the Jesuits
Picture of the times; theological doctrines
The Monastic Orders no longer available
Ignatius Loyola
His early life
Founds a new order of Monks
Wonderful spread of the Society of Jesus
Their efficient organization
Causes of success in general
Virtues and abilities of the early Jesuits
Their devotion and bravery
Jesuit Missions
Veneration for Loyola; his "Spiritual Exercises"
Singular obedience exacted of the members of the Society
Absolute power of the General of the Order
Voluntary submission of Jesuits to complete despotism
The Jesuits adapt themselves to the circumstances of society
Causes of the decline of their influence
Corruption of most human institutions
The Jesuits become rich and then corrupt
_Ésprit de corps_ of the Jesuits
Their doctrine of expediency
Their political intrigues
Persecution of the Protestants
The enemies they made
Madame de Pompadour
Suppression of the Order
Their return to power
Reasons why Protestants fear and dislike them



John Calvin's position
His early life and precocity
Becomes a leader of Protestants
Removes to Geneva
His habits and character
Temporary exile
Convention at Frankfort
Melancthon, Luther, Calvin, and Catholic doctrines
Return to Geneva, and marriage
Calvin compared with Luther
Calvin as a legislator
His reform
His views of the Eucharist
Excommunication, etc
His dislike of ceremonies and festivals
The simplicity of the worship of God
His ideas of church government
Absence of toleration
Church and State
Exaltation of preaching
Calvin as a theologian; his Institutes
His doctrine of Predestination
His general doctrines in harmony with Mediaeval theology
His views of sin and forgiveness; Calvinism
He exacts the same authority to logical deduction from admitted
  truths as to direct declarations of Scripture
Puritans led away by Calvin's intellectuality
His whole theology radiates from the doctrine of the majesty
  of God and the littleness of man
To him a personal God is everything
Defects of his system
Calvin an aristocrat
His intellectual qualities
His prodigious labors
His severe characteristics
His vast influence
His immortal fame



Lord Bacon as portrayed by Macaulay
His great defects of character
Contrast made between the man and the philosopher
Bacon's youth and accomplishments
Enters Parliament
Seeks office
At the height of fortune and fame
His misfortunes
Consideration of charges against him
His counterbalancing merits
The exaltation by Macaulay of material life
Bacon made its exponent
But the aims of Bacon were higher
The true spirit of his philosophy
Deductive philosophies
His new method
Bacon's Works
Relations of his philosophy
Material science and knowledge
Comparison of knowledge with wisdom



A brilliant portent
The greatness of the sixteenth century
Artists, scholars, reformers, religious defenders
Maritime discoveries
Literary, ecclesiastical, political achievements
Youth of Galileo
His early discoveries
Genius for mathematics
Professor at Pisa
Ridicules the old philosophers; invents the thermometer
Compared with Kepler
Galileo teaches the doctrines of Copernicus
Gives offence by his railleries and mockeries
Theology and science
Astronomical knowledge of the Ancients
Utilization of science
Construction of the first telescope
Galileo's reward
His successive discoveries
His enemies
High scientific rank in Europe
Hostility of the Church
Galileo summoned before the Inquisition; his condemnation
  and admonition
His new offences
Summoned before a council of Cardinals
His humiliation
His recantations
Consideration of his position
Greatness of mind rather than character
His confinement at Arceti
Opposition to science
His melancholy old age and blindness
Visited by John Milton; comparison of the two, when blind
Consequence of Galileo's discoveries
Later results
Vastness of the universe
Grandeur of astronomical science



Galileo at Pisa
_After the painting by F. Roybet_.

Dante in Florence
_After the painting by Rafaeli Sorbi_.

The Canterbury Pilgrimage
_From the frieze by R.W.W. Sewell_.

Columbus at the Court of Spain
_After the painting by Vaczlav Brozik, Metropolitan Museum, New_

_From the statue by E. Pazzi, Uffizi Gallery, Florence_.

Michael Angelo in His Studio Visited by Pope Julius II
_After the painting by Haman_.

Luther Preaching at Wartburg
_After the painting by Hugo Vogel_.

Henry VIII. of England
_After the painting by Hans Holbein, Windsor Castle, England_.

Cranmer at the Traitor's Gate
_After the painting by Frederick Goodall_.

Madame de Pompadour
_After the painting by Fr. Boucher_.

John Calvin
_From a contemporaneous painting_.

Lord Francis Bacon
_After the painting by T. Van Somer_.

Galileo Galilei
_After the painting by J. Sustermans, Uffizi Gallery, Florence_.


       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1265-1321.


The first great genius who aroused his country from the torpor of the
Middle Ages was a poet. Poetry, then, was the first influence which
elevated the human mind amid the miseries of a gloomy period, if we may
except the schools of philosophy which flourished in the rising
universities. But poetry probably preceded all other forms of culture in
Europe, even as it preceded philosophy and art in Greece. The gay
Provencal singers were harbingers of Dante, even as unknown poets
prepared the way for Homer. And as Homer was the creator of Grecian
literature, so Dante, by his immortal comedy, gave the first great
impulse to Italian thought. Hence poets are great benefactors, and we
will not let them die in our memories or hearts. We crown them, when
alive, with laurels and praises; and when they die, we erect monuments
to their honor. They are dear to us, since their writings give
perpetual pleasure, and appeal to our loftiest sentiments. They appeal
not merely to consecrated ideas and feelings, but they strive to conform
to the principles of immortal art. Every great poet is as much an artist
as the sculptor or the painter; and art survives learning itself. Varro,
the most learned of the Romans, is forgotten, when Virgil is familiar to
every school-boy. Cicero himself would not have been immortal, if his
essays and orations had not conformed to the principles of art. Even an
historian who would live must be an artist, like Voltaire or Macaulay. A
cumbrous, or heavy, or pedantic historian will never be read, even if
his learning be praised by all the critics of Germany.

Poets are the great artists of language. They even create languages,
like Homer and Shakspeare. They are the ornaments of literature. But
they are more than ornaments. They are the sages whose sayings are
treasured up and valued and quoted from age to age, because of the
inspiration which is given to them,--an insight into the mysteries of
the soul and the secrets of life. A good song is never lost; a good poem
is never buried, like a system of philosophy, but has an inherent
vitality, like the melodies of the son of Jesse. Real poetry is
something, too, beyond elaborate versification, which is one of the
literary fashions, and passes away like other fashions unless redeemed
by something that arouses the soul, and elevates it, and appeals to the
consciousness of universal humanity. It is the poets who make
revelations, like prophets and sages of old; it is they who invest
history with interest, like Shakspeare and Racine, and preserve what is
most vital and valuable in it. They even adorn philosophy, like
Lucretius, when he speculated on the systems of the Ionian philosophers.
They certainly impress powerfully on the mind the truths of theology, as
Watts and Cowper and Wesley did in their noble lyrics. So that the most
rapt and imaginative of men, if artists, utilize the whole realm of
knowledge, and diffuse it, and perpetuate it in artistic forms. But real
poets are rare, even if there are many who glory in the jingle of
language and the structure of rhyme. Poetry, to live, must have a soul,
and it must combine rare things,--art, music, genius, original thought,
wisdom made still richer by learning, and, above all, a power of
appealing to inner sentiments, which all feel, yet are reluctant to
express. So choice are the gifts, so grand are the qualities, so varied
the attainments of truly great poets, that very few are born in a whole
generation and in nations that number twenty or forty millions of
people. They are the rarest of gifted men. Every nation can boast of its
illustrious lawyers, statesmen, physicians, and orators; but they can
point only to a few of their poets with pride. We can count on the
fingers of one of our hands all those worthy of poetic fame who now
live in this great country of intellectual and civilized men,--one for
every ten millions. How great the pre-eminence even of ordinary poets!
How very great the pre-eminence of those few whom all ages and
nations admire!

The critics assign to Dante a pre-eminence over most of those we call
immortal. Only two or three other poets in the whole realm of
literature, ancient or modern, dispute his throne. We compare him with
Homer and Shakspeare, and perhaps Goethe, alone. Civilization glories in
Virgil, Milton, Tasso, Racine, Pope, and Byron,--all immortal artists;
but it points to only four men concerning whose transcendent creative
power there is unanimity of judgment,--prodigies of genius, to whose
influence and fame we can assign no limits; stars of such surpassing
brilliancy that we can only gaze and wonder,--growing brighter and
brighter, too, with the progress of ages; so remarkable that no
barbarism will ever obscure their brightness, so original that all
imitation of them becomes impossible and absurd. So great is original
genius, directed by art and consecrated to lofty sentiments.

I have assumed the difficult task of presenting one of these great
lights. But I do not presume to analyze his great poem, or to point out
critically its excellencies. This would be beyond my powers, even if I
were an Italian. It takes a poet to reveal a poet. Nor is criticism
interesting to ordinary minds, even in the hands of masters. I should
make critics laugh if I were to attempt to dissect the Divine Comedy.
Although, in an English dress, it is known to most people who pretend to
be cultivated, yet it is not more read than the "Paradise Lost" or the
"Faerie Queene," being too deep and learned for some, and understood by
nobody without a tolerable acquaintance with the Middle Ages, which it
interprets,--the superstitions, the loves, the hatreds, the ideas of
ages which can never more return. All I can do--all that is safe for me
to attempt--is to show the circumstances and conditions in which it was
written, the sentiments which prompted it, its historical results, its
general scope and end, and whatever makes its author stand out to us as
a living man, bearing the sorrows and revelling in the joys of that high
life which gave to him extraordinary moral wisdom, and made him a
prophet and teacher to all generations. He was a man of sorrows, of
resentments, fierce and implacable, but whose "love was as transcendent
as his scorn,"--a man of vast experiences and intense convictions and
superhuman earnestness, despising the world which he sought to elevate,
living isolated in the midst of society, a wanderer and a sage,
meditating constantly on the grandest themes, lost in ecstatic reveries,
familiar with abstruse theories, versed in all the wisdom of his day
and in the history of the past, a believer in God and immortality, in
rewards and punishments, and perpetually soaring to comprehend the
mysteries of existence, and those ennobling truths which constitute the
joy and the hope of renovated and emancipated and glorified spirits in
the realms of eternal bliss. All this is history, and it is history
alone which I seek to teach,--the outward life of a great man, with
glimpses, if I can, of those visions of beauty and truth in which his
soul lived, and which visions and experiences constitute his peculiar
greatness. Dante was not so close an observer of human nature as
Shakspeare, nor so great a painter of human actions as Homer, nor so
learned a scholar as Milton; but his soul was more serious than
either,--he was deeper, more intense than they; while in pathos, in
earnestness, and in fiery emphasis he has been surpassed only by Hebrew
poets and prophets.

It would seem from his numerous biographies that he was remarkable from
a boy; that he was a youthful prodigy; that he was precocious, like
Cicero and Pascal; that he early made great attainments, giving
utterance to living thoughts and feelings, like Bacon, among boyish
companions; lisping in numbers, like Pope, before he could write prose;
different from all other boys, since no time can be fixed when he did
not think and feel like a person of maturer years. Born in Florence, of
the noble family of the Alighieri, in the year 1265, his early education
devolved upon his mother, his father having died while the boy was very
young. His mother's friend, Brunetto Latini, famous as statesman and
scholarly poet, was of great assistance in directing his tastes and
studies. As a mere youth he wrote sonnets, such as Sordello the
Troubadour would not disdain to own. He delights, as a boy, in those
inquiries which gave fame to Bonaventura. He has an intuitive contempt
for all quacks and pretenders. At Paris he maintains fourteen different
theses, propounded by learned men, on different subjects, and gains
universal admiration. He is early selected by his native city for
important offices, which he fills with honor. In wit he encounters no
superiors. He scorches courts by sarcasms which he can not restrain. He
offends the great by a superiority which he does not attempt to veil. He
affects no humility, for his nature is doubtless proud; he is even
offensively conscious and arrogant. When Florence is deliberating about
the choice of an ambassador to Rome, he playfully, yet still arrogantly,
exclaims: "If I remain behind, who goes? and if I go, who remains
behind?" His countenance, so austere and thoughtful, impresses all
beholders with a sort of inborn greatness; his lip, in Giotto's
portrait, is curled disdainfully, as if he lived among fools or knaves.
He is given to no youthful excesses; he lives simply and frugally. He
rarely speaks unless spoken to; he is absorbed apparently in thought.
Without a commanding physical person, he is a marked man to everybody,
even when he deems himself a stranger. Women gaze at him with wonder and
admiration, though he disdains their praises and avoids their
flatteries. Men make way for him as he passes them, unconsciously.
"Behold," said a group of ladies, as he walked slowly by them, "there is
a man who has visited hell!" To the close of his life he was a great
devourer of books, and digested their contents. His studies were as
various as they were profound. He was familiar with the ancient poets
and historians and philosophers; he was still better acquainted with the
abstruse speculations of the schoolmen. He delighted in universities and
scholastic retreats; from the cares and duties of public life he would
retire to solitary labors, and dignify his retirement by improving
studies. He did not live in a cell, like Jerome, or a cave, like
Mohammed; but no man was ever more indebted to solitude and meditation
than he for that insight and inspiration which communion with God and
great ideas alone can give.

And yet, though a recluse and student, he had great experiences with
life. He was born among the higher ranks of society. He inherited an
ample patrimony. He did not shrink from public affairs. He was
intensely patriotic, like Michael Angelo; he gave himself up to the
good of his country, like Savonarola. Florence was small, but it was
important; it was already a capital, and a centre of industry. He
represented its interests in various courts. He lived with princes and
nobles. He took an active part in all public matters and disputations;
he was even familiar with the intrigues of parties; he was a politician
as well as scholar. He entered into the contests between Popes and
Emperors respecting the independence of Italy. He was not conversant
with art, for the great sculptors and painters had not then arisen. The
age was still dark; the mariner's compass had not been invented,
chimneys had not been introduced, the comforts of life were few. Dames
of highest rank still spent their days over the distaff or in combing
flax. There were no grand structures but cathedral churches. Life was
laborious, dismal, and turbulent. Law and order did not reign in cities
or villages. The poor were oppressed by nobles. Commerce was small and
manufactures scarce. Men lived in dreary houses, without luxuries, on
coarse bread and fruit and vegetables. The crusades had not come to an
end. It was the age of bad popes and quarrelsome nobles, and lazy monks
and haughty bishops, and ignorant people, steeped in gloomy
superstitions, two hundred years before America was discovered, and two
hundred and fifty years before Michael Angelo erected the dome of
St. Peter's.

But there was faith in the world, and rough virtues, sincerity, and
earnestness of character, though life was dismal. Men believed in
immortality and in expiation for sin. The rising universities had gifted
scholars whose abstruse speculations have never been rivalled for
acuteness and severity of logic. There were bards and minstrels, and
chivalric knights and tournaments and tilts, and village _fêtes_ and
hospitable convents and gentle ladies,--gentle and lovely even in all
states of civilization, winning by their graces and inspiring men to
deeds of heroism and gallantry.

In one of those domestic revolutions which were so common in Italy Dante
was banished, and his property was confiscated; and he at the age of
thirty-five, about the year 1300, when Giotto was painting portraits,
was sent forth a wanderer and an exile, now poor and unimportant, to eat
the bread of strangers and climb other people's stairs; and so obnoxious
was he to the dominant party in his native city for his bitter spirit,
that he was destined never to return to his home and friends. His
ancestors, boasting of Roman descent, belonged to the patriotic
party,--the Guelphs, who had the ascendency in his early years,--that
party which defended the claims of the Popes against the Emperors of
Germany. But this party had its divisions and rival families,--those
that sided with the old feudal nobles who had once ruled the city, and
the new mercantile families that surpassed them in wealth and popular
favor. So, expelled by a fraction of his own party that had gained
power, Dante went over to the Ghibellines, and became an adherent of
imperial authority until he died.

It was in his wanderings from court to court and castle to castle and
convent to convent and university to university, that he acquired that
profound experience with men and the world which fitted him for his
great task. "Not as victorious knight on the field of Campaldino, not as
leader of the Guelph aristocracy at Florence, not as prior, not as
ambassador," but as a wanderer did he acquire his moral wisdom. He was a
striking example of the severe experiences to which nearly all great
benefactors have been subjected,--Abraham the exile, in the wilderness,
in Egypt, among Philistines, among robbers and barbaric chieftains; the
Prince Siddârtha, who founded Buddhism, in his wanderings among the
various Indian nations who bowed down to Brahma; and, still greater, the
Apostle Paul, in his protracted martyrdom among Pagan idolaters and
boastful philosophers, in Asia and in Europe. These and others may be
cited, who led a life of self-denial and reproach in order to spread the
truths which save mankind. We naturally call their lot hard, even though
they chose it; but it is the school of greatness. It was sad to see the
wisest and best man of his day,--a man of family, of culture, of wealth,
of learning, loving leisure, attached to his home and country,
accustomed to honor and independence,--doomed to exile, poverty,
neglect, and hatred, without those compensations which men of genius in
our time secure. But I would not attempt to excite pity for an outward
condition which developed the higher virtues,--for a thorny path which
led to the regions of eternal light. Dante may have walked in bitter
tears to Paradise, but after the fashion of saints and martyrs in all
ages of our world. He need but cast his eyes on that emblem which was
erected on every pinnacle of Mediaeval churches to symbolize passing
suffering with salvation infinite,--the great and august creed of the
age in which he lived, though now buried amid the triumphs of an
imposing material civilization whose end is the adoration of the majesty
of man rather than the majesty of God, the wonders of creation rather
than the greatness of the Creator.

But something more was required in order to write an immortal poem than
even native genius, great learning, and profound experience. The soul
must be stimulated to the work by an absorbing and ennobling passion.
This passion Dante had; and it is as memorable as the mortal loves of
Abélard and Héloïse, and infinitely more exalting, since it was
spiritual and immortal,--even the adoration of his lamented and
departed Beatrice.

I wish to dwell for a moment, perhaps longer than to some may seem
dignified, on this ideal or sentimental love. It may seem trivial and
unimportant to the eye of youth, or a man of the world, or a woman of
sensual nature, or to unthinking fools and butterflies; but it is
invested with dignity to one who meditates on the mysteries of the soul,
the wonders of our higher nature,--one of the things which arrest the
attention of philosophers.

It is recorded and attested, even by Dante himself, that at the early
age of nine he fell in love with Beatrice,--a little girl of one of his
neighbors,--and that he wrote to her sonnets as the mistress of his
devotion. How could he have written sonnets without an inspiration,
unless he felt sentiments higher than we associate with either boys or
girls? The boy was father of the man. "She appeared to me," says the
poet, "at a festival, dressed in that most noble and honorable color,
scarlet,--girded and ornamented in a manner suitable to her age; and
from that moment love ruled my soul. And after many days had passed, it
happened that, passing through the street, she turned her eyes to the
spot where I stood, and with ineffable courtesy she greeted me; and this
had such an effect on me that it seemed I had reached the furthest
limit of blessedness. I took refuge in the solitude of my chamber; and,
thinking over what had happened to me, I proposed to write a sonnet,
since I had already acquired the art of putting words into rhyme," This,
from his "Vita Nuova," his first work, relating to the "new life" which
this love awoke in his young soul.

Thus, according to Dante's own statement, was the seed of a never-ending
passion planted in his soul,--the small beginning, so insignificant to
cynical eyes, that it would almost seem preposterous to allude to it; as
if this fancy for a little girl in scarlet, and in a boy but nine years
of age, could ripen into anything worthy to be soberly mentioned by a
grave and earnest poet, in the full maturity of his genius,--worthy to
give direction to his lofty intellect, worthy to be the occasion of the
greatest poem the world has seen from Homer to modern times. Absurd!
ridiculous! Great rivers cannot rise from such a spring; tall trees
cannot grow from such a little acorn. Thus reasons the man who does not
take cognizance of the mighty mysteries of human life. If anything
tempted the boy to write sonnets to a little girl, it must have been the
chivalric element in society at that period, when even boys were
required to choose objects of devotion, and to whom they were to be
loyal, and whose honor they were bound to defend. But the grave poet, in
the decline of his life, makes this simple confession, as the beginning
of that sentiment which never afterwards departed from him, and which
inspired him to his grandest efforts.

But this youthful attachment was unfortunate. Beatrice did not return
his passion, and had no conception of its force, and perhaps was not
even worthy to call it forth. She may have been beautiful; she may have
been gifted; she may have been commonplace. It matters little whether
she was intellectual or not, beautiful or not. It was not the flesh and
blood he saw, but the image of beauty and loveliness which his own mind
created. He idealized the girl; she was to him all that he fancied. But
she never encouraged him; she denied his greetings, and even avoided his
society. At last she died, when he was twenty-seven, and left him--to
use his own expression--"to ruminate on death, and envy whomsoever
dies." To console himself, he read Boëthius, and religious philosophy
was ever afterwards his favorite study. Nor did serenity come, so deep
were his sentiments, so powerful was his imagination, until he had
formed an exalted purpose to write a poem in her honor, and worthy of
his love. "If it please Him through whom all things come," said Dante,
"that my life be spared, I hope to tell such things of her as never
before have been seen by any one."

Now what inspired so strange a purpose? Was it a Platonic sentiment,
like the love of Petrarch for Laura, or something that we cannot
explain, and yet real,--a mystery of the soul in its deepest cravings
and aspirations? And is love, among mortals generally, based on such a
foundation? Is it flesh and blood we love; is it the intellect; is it
the character; is it the soul; is it what is inherently interesting in
woman, and which everybody can see,--the real virtues of the heart and
charms of physical beauty? Or is it what we fancy in the object of our
adoration, what exists already in our own minds,--the archetypes of
eternal ideas of beauty and grace? And do all men worship these forms of
beauty which the imagination creates? Can any woman, or any man, seen
exactly as they are, incite a love which is kindred to worship? And is
any love worthy to be called love, if it does not inspire emotions which
prompt to self-sacrifice, labor, and lofty ends? Can a woman's smiles
incite to Herculean energies, and drive the willing worshipper to Aönian
heights, unless under these smiles are seen the light of life and the
blessedness of supernatural fervor? Is there, and can there be, a
perpetuity in mortal charms without the recognition or the supposition
of a moral beauty connected with them, which alone is pure and
imperishable, and which alone creates the sacred ecstasy that revels in
the enjoyment of what is divine, or what is supposed to be divine, not
in man, but in the conceptions of man,--the ever-blazing glories of
goodness or of truth which the excited soul doth see in the eyes and
expression of the adored image? It is these archetypes of divinity, real
or fancied, which give to love all that is enduring. Destroy these, take
away the real or fancied glories of the soul and mind, and the holy
flame soon burns out. No mortal love can last, no mortal love is
beautiful, unless the visions which the mind creates are not more or
less realized in the object of it, or when a person, either man or
woman, is not capable of seeing ideal perfections. The loves of savages
are the loves of brutes. The more exalted the character and the soul,
the greater is the capacity of love, and the deeper its fervor. It is
not the object of love which creates this fervor, but the mind which is
capable of investing it with glories. There could not have been such
intensity in Dante's love had he not been gifted with the power of
creating so lofty and beautiful an ideal; and it was this he
worshipped,--not the real Beatrice, but the angelic beauty he thought he
saw in her. Why could he not see the perfections he adored shining in
other women, who perhaps had a higher claim to them? Ah, that is the
mystery! And you cannot solve it any easier than you can tell why a
flower blooms or a seed germinates. And why was it that Dante, with his
great experience, could in later life see the qualities he adored in no
other woman than in the cold and unappreciative girl who avoided him?
Suppose she had become his wife, might he not have been disenchanted,
and his veneration been succeeded by a bitter disappointment? Yet, while
the delusion lasted, no other woman could have filled her place; in no
other woman could he have seen such charms; no other love could have
inspired his soul to make such labors.

I would not be understood as declaring that married love must be
necessarily a disenchantment. I would not thus libel humanity, and
insult plain reason and experience. Many loves _are_ happy, and burn
brighter and brighter to the end; but it is because there are many who
are worthy of them, both men and women,--because the ideal, which the
mind created, _is_ realized to a greater or less degree, although the
loftier the archetype, the less seldom is it found. Nor is it necessary
that perfection should be found. A person may have faults which alienate
and disenchant, but with these there may be virtues so radiant that the
worship, though imperfect, remains,--a respect, on the whole, so great
that the soul is lifted to admiration. Who can love this perishable
form, unless one sees in it some traits which belong to superior and
immortal natures? And hence the sentiment, when pure, creates a sort of
companionship of beings robed in celestial light, and exorcises those
degrading passions which belong to earth. But Dante saw no imperfections
in Beatrice: perhaps he had no opportunity to see them. His own soul
was so filled with love, his mind soared to such exalted regions of
adoration, that when she passed away he saw her only in the beatified
state, in company with saints and angels; and he was wrapped in
ecstasies which knew no end,--the unbroken adoration of beauty, grace,
and truth, even of those eternal ideas on which Plato based all that is
certain, and all that is worth living for; that sublime realism without
which life is a failure, and this world is "a mockery, a delusion, and
a snare."

This is the history and exposition of that love for Beatrice with which
the whole spiritual life of Dante is identified, and without which the
"Divine Comedy" might not have been written. I may have given to it
disproportionate attention; and it is true I might have allegorized it,
and for love of a woman I might have substituted love for an art,--even
the art of poetry, in which his soul doubtless lived, even as Michael
Angelo, his greatest fellow-countryman, lived in the adoration of
beauty, grace, and majesty. Oh, happy and favored is the person who
lives in the enjoyment of an art! It may be humble; it may be grand. It
may be music; it may be painting, or sculpture, or architecture, or
poetry, or oratory, or landscape gardening, yea, even farming, or
needle-work, or house decoration,--anything which employs the higher
faculties of the mind, and brings order out of confusion, and takes one
from himself, from the drudgery of mechanical labors, even if it be no
higher than carving a mantelpiece or making a savory dish; for all these
things imply creation, alike the test and the reward of genius itself,
which almost every human being possesses, in some form or other, to a
greater or less degree,--one of the kindest gifts of Deity to man.

The great artist, kindled by his visions of imperishable loveliness in
the person of his departed Beatrice, now resolves to dedicate to her
honor his great life-labor,--even his immortal poem, which should be a
transcript of his thoughts, a mirror of his life, a record of his
sorrows, a painting of his experiences, a description of what he saw, a
digest of his great meditations, a thesaurus of the treasures of the
Mediaeval age, an exposition of its great and leading ideas in
philosophy and in religion. Every great man wishes to leave behind some
monument of his labors, to bless or instruct mankind. Any man without
some form of this noble ambition lives in vain, even if his monument be
no more than a cultivated farm rescued from wildness and sterility.

Now Dante's monument is "the marvellous, mystic, unfathomable song," in
which he sang his sorrows and his joys, revealed his visions, and
recorded the passions and sentiments of his age. It never can be
popular, because it is so difficult to be understood, and because its
leading ideas are not in harmony with those which are now received. I
doubt if anybody can delight in that poem, unless he sympathizes with
the ideas of the Middle Ages; or, at least, unless he is familiar with
them, and with the historical characters who lived in those turbulent
and gloomy times. There is more talk and pretension about that book than
any one that I know of. Like the "Faerie Queene" or the "Paradise Lost,"
it is a study rather than a recreation; one of those productions which
an educated person ought to read in the course of his life, and which if
he can read in the original, and has read, is apt to boast of,--like
climbing a lofty mountain, enjoyable to some with youth and vigor and
enthusiasm and love of nature, but a very toilsome thing to most people,
especially if old and short-winded and gouty.

In the year 1309 the first part of the "Divine Comedy," the _Inferno_,
was finished by Dante, at the age of forty-four, in the tenth year of
his pilgrimage, under the roof of the Marquis of Lunigiana; and it was
intrusted to the care of Fra Ilario, a monk living on the beautiful
Ligurian shores. As everybody knows, it is a vivid, graphic picture of
what was supposed to be the infernal regions, where great sinners are
punished with various torments forever and ever. It is interesting for
the excellence of the poetry, the brilliant analyses of characters, the
allusion to historical events, the bitter invectives, the intense
sarcasms, and the serious, earnest spirit which underlies the
descriptions. But there is very little of gentleness or compassion, in
view of the protracted torments of the sufferers. We stand aghast in
view of the miseries and monsters, furies and gorgons, snakes and fires,
demons, filth, lakes of pitch, pools of blood, plains of scorching
sands, circles, and chimeras dire,--a physical hell of utter and
unspeakable dreariness and despair, awfully and powerfully described,
but still repulsive. In each of the dismal abodes, far down in the
bowels of the earth, which Dante is supposed to have visited with Virgil
as a guide, in which some infernal deity presides, all sorts of physical
tortures are accumulated, inflicted on traitors, murderers,
robbers,--men who have committed great crimes, unpunished in their
lifetime; such men as Cain, Judas, Ugolino,--men consigned to an
infamous immortality. On the great culprits of history, and of Italy
especially, Dante virtually sits in judgment; and he consigns them
equally to various torments which we shudder to think of.

And here let me say, as a general criticism, that in the _Inferno_ are
brought out in tremendous language the opinions of the Middle Ages in
reference to retribution. Dante does not rise above them, with all his
genius; he is not emancipated from them. It is the rarest thing in this
world for any man, however profound his intellect and bold his spirit,
to be emancipated from the great and leading ideas of his age. Abraham
was, and Moses, and the founder of Buddhism, and Socrates, and Mohammed,
and Luther; but they were reformers, more or less divinely commissioned,
with supernatural aid in many instances to give them wisdom. But Homer
was not, nor Euripides, nor the great scholastics of the Middle Ages,
nor even popes. The venerated doctors and philosophers, prelates,
scholars, nobles, kings, to say nothing of the people, thought as Dante
did in reference to future punishment,--that it was physical, awful,
accumulative, infinite, endless; the wrath of avenging deity displayed
in pains and agonies inflicted on the body, like the tortures of
inquisitors, thus appealing to the fears of men, on which chiefly the
power of the clergy was based. Nor in these views of endless physical
sufferings, as if the body itself were eternal and indestructible, is
there the refinement of Milton, who placed misery in the upbraidings of
conscience, in mental torture rather than bodily, in the everlasting
pride and rebellion of the followers of Satan and his fallen angels. It
was these awful views of protracted and eternal physical torments,--not
the hell of the Bible, but the hell of priests, of human
invention,--which gives to the Middle Ages a sorrowful and repulsive
light, thus nursing superstition and working on the fears of mankind,
rather than on the conscience and the sense of moral accountability. But
how could Dante have represented the ideas of the Middle Ages, if he had
not painted his _Inferno_ in the darkest colors that the imagination
could conceive, unless he had soared beyond what is revealed into the
unfathomable and mysterious and unrevealed regions of the second death?

After various wanderings in France and Italy, and after an interval of
three years, Dante produced the second part of the poem,--the
_Purgatorio_,--in which he assumes another style, and sings another
song. In this we are introduced to an illustrious company,--many beloved
friends, poets, musicians, philosophers, generals, even prelates and
popes, whose deeds and thoughts were on the whole beneficent. These
illustrious men temporarily expiate the sins of anger, of envy, avarice,
gluttony, pride, ambition,--the great defects which were blended with
virtues, and which are to be purged out of them by suffering. Their
torments are milder, and amid them they discourse on the principles of
moral wisdom. They utter noble sentiments; they discuss great themes;
they show how vain is wealth and power and fame; they preach sermons. In
these discourses, Dante shows his familiarity with history and
philosophy; he unfolds that moral wisdom for which he is most
distinguished. His scorn is now tempered with tenderness. He shows a
true humanity; he is more forgiving, more generous, more sympathetic. He
is more lofty, if he is not more intense. He sees the end of expiations:
the sufferers will be restored to peace and joy.

But even in his purgatory, as in his hell, he paints the ideas of his
age. He makes no new or extraordinary revelations. He arrives at no new
philosophy. He is the Christian poet, after the pattern of his age.

It is plain that the Middle Ages must have accepted or invented some
relief from punishment, or every Christian country would have been
overwhelmed with the blackness of despair. Men could not live, if they
felt they could not expiate their sins. Who could smile or joke or eat
or sleep or have any pleasure, if he thought seriously there would be no
cessation or release from endless pains? Who could discharge his
ordinary duties or perform his daily occupations, if his father or his
mother or his sister or his brother or his wife or his son or his
daughter might not be finally forgiven for the frailties of an imperfect
nature which he had inherited? The Catholic Church, in its
benignity,--at what time I do not know,--opened the future of hope amid
the speculations of despair. She saved the Middle Ages from universal
gloom. If speculation or logic or tradition or scripture pointed to a
hell of reprobation, there must be also a purgatory as the field of
expiation,--for expiation there must be for sin, somewhere, somehow,
according to immutable laws, unless a mantle of universal forgiveness
were spread over sinners who in this life had given no sufficient proofs
of repentance and faith. Expiation was the great element of Mediaeval
theology. It may have been borrowed from India, but it was engrafted on
the Christian system. Sometimes it was made to take place in this life;
when the sinner, having pleased God, entered at once upon heavenly
beatitudes. Hence fastings, scourgings, self-laceration, ascetic rigors
in dress and food, pilgrimages,--all to purchase forgiveness; which idea
of forgiveness was scattered to the winds by Luther, and replaced by
grace,--faith in Christ attested by a righteous life. I allude to this
notion of purgatory, which early entered into the creeds of theologians,
and which was adopted by the Catholic Church, to show how powerful it
was when human consciousness sought a relief from the pains of endless
physical torments.

After Dante had written his _Purgatorio_, he retired to the picturesque
mountains which separate Tuscany from Modena and Bologna; and in the
hospitium of an ancient monastery, "on the woody summit of a rock from
which he might gaze on his ungrateful country, he renewed his studies in
philosophy and theology." There, too, in that calm retreat, he commenced
his _Paradiso_, the subject of profound meditations on what was held in
highest value in the Middle Ages. The themes are theological and
metaphysical. They are such as interested Thomas Aquinas and
Bonaventura, Anselm and Bernard. They are such as do not interest this
age,--even the most gifted minds,--for our times are comparatively
indifferent to metaphysical subtleties and speculations. Beatrice and
Peter and Benedict alike discourse on the recondite subjects of the
Bible in the style of Mediaeval doctors. The themes are great,--the
incarnation, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body,
salvation by faith, the triumph of Christ, the glory of Paradise, the
mysteries of the divine and human natures; and with these disquisitions
are reproofs of bad popes, and even of some of the bad customs of the
Church, like indulgences, and the corruptions of the monastic system.
The _Paradiso_ is a thesaurus of Mediaeval theology,--obscure, but
lofty, mixed up with all the learning of the age, even of the lives of
saints and heroes and kings and prophets. Saint Peter examines Dante
upon faith, James upon hope, and John upon charity. Virgil here has
ceased to be his guide; but Beatrice, robed in celestial loveliness,
conducts him from circle to circle, and explains the sublimest doctrines
and resolves his mortal doubts,--the object still of his adoration, and
inferior only to the mother of our Lord, _regina angelorum, mater
carissima_, whom the Church even then devoutly worshipped, and to whom
the greatest sages prayed.

     "Thou virgin mother, daughter of thy Son,
      Humble and high beyond all other creatures,
      The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,--
      Thou art the one who such nobility
      To human nature gave, that its Creator
      Did not disdain to make himself its creature.
      Not only thy benignity gives succor
      To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
      Forerunneth of its own accord the asking.
      In thee compassion is; in thee is pity;
      In thee magnificence; in thee unites
      Whate'er of goodness is in any creature."

In the glorious meditation of those grand subjects which had such a
charm for Benedict and Bernard, and which almost offset the barbarism
and misery of the Middle Ages,--to many still regarded as "ages of
faith,"--Dante seemingly forgets his wrongs; and in the company of her
whom he adores he seems to revel in the solemn ecstasy of a soul
transported to the realms of eternal light. He lives now with the angels
and the mysteries,--

     "Like to the fire
      That in a cloud imprisoned doth break out expansive.

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Thus, in that heavenly banqueting his soul
      Outgrew himself, and, in the transport lost,
      Holds no remembrance now of what she was."

The Paradise of Dante is not gloomy, although it be obscure and
indefinite. It is the unexplored world of thought and knowledge, the
explanation of dogmas which his age accepted. It is a revelation of
glories such as only a lofty soul could conceive, but could not
paint,--a supernal happiness given only to favored mortals, to saints
and martyrs who have triumphed over the seductions of sense and the
temptations of life,--a beatified state of blended ecstasy and love.

     "Had I a tongue in eloquence as rich as is the coloring in fancy's
      'Twere all too poor to utter the least part of that enchantment."

Such is this great poem; in all its parts and exposition of the ideas of
the age,--sometimes fierce and sometimes tender, profound and infantine,
lofty and degraded, like the Church itself, which conserved these
sentiments. It is an intensely religious poem, and yet more theological
than Christian, and full of classical allusions to pagan heroes and
sages,--a most remarkable production considering the age, and, when we
remember that it is without a prototype in any language, a glorious
monument of reviving literature, both original and powerful.

Its appearance was of course an epoch, calling out the admiration of
Italians, and of all who could understand it,--of all who appreciated
its moral wisdom in every other country of Europe. And its fame has
been steadily increasing, although I fear much of the popular
enthusiasm is exaggerated and unfelt. One who can read Italian well may
see its "fiery emphasis and depth," its condensed thought and language,
its supernal scorn and supernal love, its bitterness and its
forgiveness; but very few sympathize with its theology or its
philosophy, or care at all for the men whose crimes he punishes, and
whose virtues he rewards.

But there is great interest in the man, as well as in the poem which he
made the mirror of his life, and the register of his sorrows and of
those speculations in which he sought to banish the remembrance of his
misfortunes. His life, like his poem, is an epic. We sympathize with his
resentments, "which exile and poverty made perpetually fresh." "The
sincerity of his early passion for Beatrice," says Hallam, "pierces
through the veil of allegory which surrounds her, while the memory of
his injuries pursues him into the immensity of eternal light; and even
in the company of saints and angels his unforgiving spirit darkens at
the name of Florence.... He combines the profoundest feelings of
religion with those patriotic recollections which were suggested by the
reappearance of the illustrious dead."

Next to Michael Angelo he was the best of all famous Italians, stained
by no marked defects but bitterness, pride, and scorn; while his piety,
his patriotism, and elevation of soul stand out in marked contrast with
the selfishness and venality and hypocrisy and cruelty of the leading
men in the history of his times. "He wrote with his heart's blood;" he
wrote in poverty, exile, grief, and neglect; he wrote like an inspired
prophet of old. He seems to have been specially raised up to exalt
virtue, and vindicate the ways of God to man, and prepare the way for a
new civilization. He breathes angry defiance to all tyrants; he consigns
even popes to the torments he created. He ridicules fools; he exposes
knaves. He detests oppression; he is a prophet of liberty. He sees into
all shams and all hypocrisies, and denounces lies. He is temperate in
eating and drinking; he has no vices. He believes in friendship, in
love, in truth. He labors for the good of his countrymen. He is
affectionate to those who comprehend him. He accepts hospitalities, but
will not stoop to meanness or injustice. He will not return to his
native city, which he loves so well, even when permitted, if obliged to
submit to humiliating ceremonies. He even refuses a laurel crown from
any city but from the one in which he was born. No honors could tempt
him to be untrue unto himself; no tasks are too humble to perform, if he
can make himself useful. At Ravenna he gives lectures to the people in
their own language, regarding the restoration of the Latin impossible,
and wishing to bring into estimation the richness of the vernacular
tongue. And when his work is done he dies, before he becomes old
(1321), having fulfilled his _vow_. His last retreat was at Ravenna, and
his last days were soothed with gentle attentions from Guido da Polenta,
that kind duke who revived his fainting hopes. It was in his service, as
ambassador to Venice, that Dante sickened and died. A funeral sermon was
pronounced upon him by his friend the duke, and beautiful monuments were
erected to his memory. Too late the Florentines begged for his remains,
and did justice to the man and the poet; as well they might, since his
is the proudest name connected with their annals. He is indeed one of
the great benefactors of the world itself, for the richness of his
immortal legacy.

Could the proscribed and exiled poet, as he wandered, isolated and
alone, over the vine-clad hills of Italy, and as he stopped here and
there at some friendly monastery, wearied and hungry, have cast his
prophetic eye down the vistas of the ages; could he have seen what
honors would be bestowed upon his name, and how his poem, written in
sorrow, would be scattered in joy among all nations, giving a new
direction to human thought, shining as a fixed star in the realms of
genius, and kindling into shining brightness what is only a reflection
of its rays; yea, how it would be committed to memory in the rising
universities, and be commented on by the most learned expositors in all
the schools of Europe, lauded to the skies by his countrymen, received
by the whole world as a unique, original, unapproachable production,
suggesting grand thoughts to Milton, reappearing even in the creations
of Michael Angelo, coloring art itself whenever art seeks the sublime
and beautiful, inspiring all subsequent literature, dignifying the life
of letters, and gilding philosophy as well as poetry with new
glories,--could he have seen all this, how his exultant soul would have
rejoiced, even as did Abraham, when, amid the ashes of the funeral pyre
he had prepared for Isaac, he saw the future glories of his descendants;
or as Bacon, when, amid calumnies, he foresaw that his name and memory
would be held in honor by posterity, and that his method would be
received by all future philosophers as one of the priceless boons of
genius to mankind!


Vita Nuova; Divina Commedia,--Translations by Carey and Longfellow,
Boccaccio's Life of Dante; Wright's St. Patrick's Purgatory; Dante et la
Philosophie Catholique du Treizième Siècle, par Ozinan; Labitte, La
Divine Comédie avant Dante; Balbo's Life and Times of Dante; Hallam's
Middle Ages; Napier's Florentine History; Villani; Leigh Hunt's Stories
from the Italian Poets; Botta's Life of Dante; J. R. Lowell's article on
Dante in American Cyclopaedia; Milman's Latin Christianity; Carlyle's
Heroes and Hero-worship; Macaulay's Essays; The Divina Commedia from the
German of Schelling; Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique; La Divine
Comédie, by Lamennais; Dante, by Labitte.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1340-1400.


The age which produced Chaucer was a transition period from the Middle
Ages to modern times, midway between Dante and Michael Angelo. Chaucer
was the contemporary of Wyclif, with whom the Middle Ages may
appropriately be said to close, or modern history to begin.

The fourteenth century is interesting for the awakening, especially in
Italy, of literature and art; for the wars between the French and
English, and the English and the Scots; for the rivalry between the
Italian republics; for the efforts of Rienzi to establish popular
freedom at Rome; for the insurrection of the Flemish weavers, under the
Van Arteveldes, against their feudal oppressors; for the terrible
"Jacquerie" in Paris; for the insurrection of Wat Tyler in England; for
the Swiss confederation; for a schism in the Church when the popes
retired to Avignon; for the aggrandizement of the Visconti at Milan and
the Medici at Florence; for incipient religious reforms under Wyclif in
England and John Huss in Bohemia; for the foundation of new colleges at
Oxford and Cambridge; for the establishment of guilds in London; for the
exploration of distant countries; for the dreadful pestilence which
swept over Europe, known in England as the Black Death; for the
development of modern languages by the poets; and for the rise of the
English House of Commons as a great constitutional power.

In most of these movements we see especially a simultaneous rising among
the people, in the more civilized countries of Europe, to obtain
charters of freedom and municipal and political privileges, extorted
from monarchs in their necessities. The fourteenth century was marked by
protests and warfare equally against feudal institutions and royal
tyranny. The way was prepared by the wars of kings, which crippled their
resources, as the Crusades had done a century before. The supreme
miseries of the people led them to political revolts and
insurrections,--blind but fierce movements, not inspired by ideas of
liberty, but by a sense of oppression and degradation. Accompanying
these popular insurrections were religious protests against the corrupt
institutions of the Church.

In the midst of these popular agitations, aggressive and needless wars,
public miseries and calamities, baronial aggrandizement, religious
inquiries, parliamentary encroachment, and reviving taste for literature
and art, Chaucer arose.

His remarkable career extended over the last half of the fourteenth
century, when public events were of considerable historical importance.
It was then that parliamentary history became interesting. Until then
the barons, clergy, knights of the shire, and burgesses of the town,
summoned to assist the royal councils, deliberated in separate chambers
or halls; but in the reign of Edward III. the representatives of the
knights of the shires and the burgesses united their interests and
formed a body strong enough to check royal encroachments, and became
known henceforth as the House of Commons. In thirty years this body had
wrested from the Crown the power of arbitrary taxation, had forced upon
it new ministers, and had established the principle that the redress of
grievances preceded grants of supply. Edward III. was compelled to grant
twenty parliamentary confirmations of Magna Charta. At the close of his
reign, it was conceded that taxes could be raised only by consent of the
Commons; and they had sufficient power, also, to prevent the collection
of the tax which the Pope had levied on the country since the time of
John, called Peter's Pence. The latter part of the fourteenth century
must not be regarded as an era of the triumph of popular rights, but as
the period when these rights began to be asserted. Long and dreary was
the march of the people to complete political enfranchisement from the
rebellion under Wat Tyler to the passage of the Reform Bill in our
times. But the Commons made a memorable stand against Edward III. when
he was the most powerful sovereign of western Europe, one which would
have been impossible had not this able and ambitious sovereign been
embroiled in desperate war both with the Scotch and French.

With the assertion of political rights we notice the beginning of
commercial enterprise and manufacturing industry. A colony of Flemish
weavers was established in England by the enlightened king, although
wool continued to be exported. It was not until the time of Elizabeth
that the raw material was consumed at home.

Still, the condition of the common people was dreary enough at this
time, when compared with what it is in our age. They perhaps were better
fed on the necessities of life than they are now. All meats were
comparatively cheaper; but they had no luxuries, not even wheaten bread.
Their houses were small and dingy, and a single chamber sufficed for a
whole family, both male and female. Neither glass windows nor chimneys
were then in use, nor knives nor forks, nor tea nor coffee; not even
potatoes, still less tropical fruits. The people had neither
bed-clothes, nor carpets, nor glass nor crockery ware, nor cotton
dresses, nor books, nor schools. They were robbed by feudal masters, and
cheated and imposed upon by friars and pedlers; but a grim cheerfulness
shone above their discomforts and miseries, and crime was uncommon and
severely punished. They amused themselves with rough sports, and
cherished religious sentiments. They were brave and patriotic.

It was to describe the habits and customs of these people, as well as
those of the classes above them, to give dignity to consecrated
sentiments and to shape the English language, that Chaucer was
raised up.

He was born, it is generally supposed, in the year 1340; but nothing is
definitely known of him till 1357, when Edward III. had been reigning
about thirty years. It is surmised that his father was a respectable
citizen of London; that he was educated at Cambridge and Oxford; that he
went to Paris to complete his education in the most famous university in
the world; that he then extensively travelled in France, Holland, and
Flanders, after which he became a student of law in the Inner Temple.
Even then he was known as a poet, and his learning and accomplishments
attracted the attention of Edward III., who was a patron of genius, and
who gave him a house in Woodstock, near the royal palace. At this time
Chaucer was a handsome, witty, modest, dignified man of letters, in
easy circumstances, moving in the higher ranks of society, and already
known for his "Troilus and Cresseide," which was then doubtless the best
poem in the language.

It was then that the intimacy began between him and John of Gaunt, a
youth of eighteen, then Earl of Richmond, fourth son of Edward III.,
afterwards known as the great Duke of Lancaster,--the most powerful
nobleman that ever lived in England, also the richest, possessing large
estates in eighteen counties, as well as six earldoms. This friendship
between the poet and the first prince of the blood, after the Prince of
Wales, seems to have arisen from the admiration of John of Gaunt for the
genius and accomplishments of Chaucer, who was about ten years the
elder. It was not until the prince became the Duke of Lancaster that he
was the friend and protector of Wyclif,--and from different reasons,
seeing that the Oxford scholar and theologian could be of use to him in
his warfare against the clergy, who were hostile to his ambitious
designs. Chaucer he loved as a bright and witty companion; Wyclif he
honored as the most learned churchman of the age.

The next authentic event in Chaucer's life occurred in 1359, when he
accompanied the king to France in that fruitless expedition which was
soon followed by the peace of Brétigny. In this unfortunate campaign
Chaucer was taken prisoner, but was ransomed by his sovereign for
£16,--about equal to £300 in these times. He had probably before this
been installed at court as a gentleman of the bedchamber, on a stipend
which would now be equal to £250 a year. He seems to have been a
favorite with the court, after he had written his first great poem. It
is singular that in a rude and ignorant age poets should have received
much greater honor than in our enlightened times. Gower was patronized
by the Duke of Gloucester, as Chaucer was by the Duke of Lancaster, and
Petrarch and Boccaccio were in Italy by princes and nobles. Even
learning was held in more reverence in the fourteenth century than it is
in the nineteenth. The scholastic doctor was one of the great
dignitaries of the age, as well as of the schools, and ranked with
bishops and abbots. Wyclif at one time was the most influential man in
the English Church, sitting in Parliament, and sent by the king on
important diplomatic missions. So Chaucer, with less claim, received
valuable offices and land-grants, which made him a wealthy man; and he
was also sent on important missions in the company of nobles. He lived
at the court. His son Thomas married one of the richest heiresses in the
kingdom, and became speaker of the House of Commons; while his daughter
Alice married the Duke of Suffolk, whose grandson was declared by
Richard III. to be his heir, and came near becoming King of England.
Chaucer's wife's sister married the Duke of Lancaster himself; so he was
allied with the royal family, if not by blood, at least by ambitious
marriage connections.

I know of no poet in the history of England who occupied so high a
social position as did Chaucer, or who received so many honors. The poet
of the people was the companion of kings and princes. At one time he had
a reverse of fortune, when his friend and patron, the Duke of Lancaster,
was in disgrace and in voluntary banishment during the minority of
Richard II., against whom he had intrigued, and who afterwards was
dethroned by Henry IV., a son of the Duke of Lancaster. While the Duke
of Gloucester was in power, Chaucer was deprived of his offices and
revenues for two or three years, and was even imprisoned in the Tower;
but when Lancaster returned from the Continent, his offices and revenues
were restored. His latter days were luxurious and honored. At fifty-one
he gave up his public duties as a collector of customs, chiefly on wool,
and retired to Woodstock and spent the remainder of his fortunate life
in dignified leisure and literary labors. In addition to his revenues,
the Duke of Lancaster, who was virtually the ruler of the land during
the reign of Richard II., gave him the castle of Donnington, with its
park and gardens; so that he became a man of territorial influence. At
the age of fifty-eight he removed to London, and took a house in the
precincts of Westminster Abbey, where the chapel of Henry VII. now
stands. He died the following year, and was buried in the Abbey
church,--that sepulchre of princes and bishops and abbots. His body was
deposited in the place now known as the Poets' Corner, and a fitting
monument to his genius was erected over his remains, as the first great
poet that had appeared in England, probably only surpassed in genius by
Shakspeare, until the language assumed its present form. He was regarded
as a moral phenomenon, whom kings and princes delighted to honor. As
Leonardo da Vinci died in the arms of Francis I., so Chaucer rested in
his grave near the bodies of those sovereigns and princes with whom he
lived in intimacy and friendship. It was the rarity of his gifts, his
great attainments, elegant manners, and refined tastes which made him
the companion of the great, since at that time only princes and nobles
and ecclesiastical dignitaries could appreciate his genius or enjoy
his writings.

Although Chaucer had written several poems which were admired in his
day, and made translations from the French, among which was the "Roman
de la Rose," the most popular poem of the Middle Ages,--a poem which
represented the difficulties attendant on the passion of love, under the
emblem of a rose which had to be plucked amid thorns,--yet his best
works were written in the leisure of declining years.

The occupation of the poet during the last twelve years of his life was
in writing his "Canterbury Tales," on which his fame chiefly rests;
written not for money, but because he was impelled to write it, as all
true poets write and all great artists paint,--_ex animo_,--because they
cannot help writing and painting, as the solace and enjoyment of life.
For his day these tales were a great work of art, evidently written with
great care. They are also stamped with the inspiration of genius,
although the stories themselves were copied in the main from the French
and Italian, even as the French and Italians copied from Oriental
writers, whose works were translated into the languages of Europe; so
that the romances of the Middle Ages were originally produced in India,
Persia, and Arabia. Absolute creation is very rare. Even Shakspeare, the
most original of poets, was indebted to French and Italian writers for
the plots of many of his best dramas. Who can tell the remote sources of
human invention; who knows the then popular songs which Homer probably
incorporated in his epics; who can trace the fountains of those streams
which have fertilized the literary world?--and hence, how shallow the
criticism which would detract from literary genius because it is
indebted, more or less, to the men who have lived ages ago. It is the
way of putting things which constitutes the merit of men of genius. What
has Voltaire or Hume or Froude told the world, essentially, that it did
not know before? Read, for instance, half-a-dozen historians on Joan of
Arc: they all relate substantially the same facts. Genius and
originality are seen in the reflections and deductions and grand
sentiments prompted by the narrative. Let half-a-dozen distinguished and
learned theologians write sermons on Abraham or Moses or David: they
will all be different, yet the main facts will be common to all.

The "Canterbury Tales" are great creations, from the humor, the wit, the
naturalness, the vividness of description, and the beauty of the
sentiments displayed in them, although sullied by occasional vulgarities
and impurities, which, however, in all their coarseness do not corrupt
the mind. Byron complained of their coarseness, but Byron's poetry is
far more demoralizing. The age was coarse, not the mind of the author.
And after five hundred years, with all the obscurity of language and
obsolete modes of spelling, they still give pleasure to the true lovers
of poetry when they have once mastered the language, which is not, after
all, very difficult. It is true that most people prefer to read the
great masters of poetry in later times; but the "Canterbury Tales" are
interesting and instructive to those who study the history of language
and literature. They are links in the civilization of England. They
paint the age more vividly and accurately than any known history. The
men and women of the fourteenth century, of all ranks, stand out to us
in fresh and living colors. We see them in their dress, their feasts,
their dwellings, their language, their habits, and their manners. Amid
all the changes in human thought and in social institutions the
characters appeal to our common humanity, essentially the same under all
human conditions. The men and women of the fourteenth century love and
hate, eat and drink, laugh and talk, as they do in the nineteenth. They
delight, as we do, in the varieties of dress, of parade, and luxurious
feasts. Although the form of these has changed, they are alive to the
same sentiments which move us. They like fun and jokes and amusement as
much as we. They abhor the same class of defects which disgust
us,--hypocrisies, shams, lies. The inner circle of their friendship is
the same as ours to-day, based on sincerity and admiration. There is the
same infinite variety in character, and yet the same uniformity. The
human heart beats to the same sentiments that it does under all
civilizations and conditions of life. No people can live without
friendship and sympathy and love; and these are ultimate sentiments of
the soul, which are as eternal as the ideas of Plato. Why do the Psalms
of David, written for an Oriental people four thousand years ago,
excite the same emotions in the minds of the people of England or France
or America that they did among the Jews? It is because they appeal to
our common humanity, which never changes,--the same to-day as it was in
the beginning, and will be to the end. It is only form and fashion which
change; men remain the same. The men and women of the Bible talked
nearly the same as we do, and seem to have had as great light on the
primal principles of wisdom and truth and virtue. Who can improve on the
sagacity and worldly wisdom of the Proverbs of Solomon? They have a
perennial freshness, and appeal to universal experience. It is this
fidelity to nature which is one of the great charms of Shakspeare. We
quote his brief sayings as expressive of what we feel and know of the
certitudes of our moral and intellectual life. They will last forever,
under every variety of government, of social institutions, of races, and
of languages. And they will last because these every-day sentiments are
put in such pithy, compressed, unique, and novel form, like the Proverbs
of Solomon or the sayings of Epictetus. All nations and ages alike
recognize the moral wisdom in the sayings of those immortal sages whose
writings have delighted and enlightened the world, because they appeal
to consciousness or experience.

Now it must be confessed that the poetry of Chaucer does not abound in
the moral wisdom and spiritual insight and profound reflections on the
great mysteries of human life which stand out so conspicuously in the
writings of Dante, Shakspeare, Milton, Goethe, and other first-class
poets. He does not describe the inner life, but the outward habits and
condition of the people of his times. He is not serious enough, nor
learned enough, to enter upon the discussion of those high themes which
agitated the schools and universities, as Dante did one hundred years
before. He tells us how monks and friars lived, not how they dreamed and
speculated. Nor are his sarcasms scorching and bitter, but rather
humorous and laughable. He shows himself to be a genial and loving
companion, not an austere teacher of disagreeable truths. He is not
solemn and intense, like Dante; he does not give wings to his fancy,
like Spenser; he has not the divine insight of Shakspeare; he is not
learned, like Milton; he is not sarcastic, like Pope; he does not rouse
the passions, like Byron; he is not meditative, like Wordsworth,--but he
paints nature with great accuracy and delicacy, as also the men and
women of his age, as they appeared in their outward life. He describes
the passion of love with great tenderness and simplicity. In all his
poems, love is his greatest theme,--which he bases, not on physical
charms, but the moral beauty of the soul. In his earlier life he does
not seem to have done full justice to women, whom he ridicules, but
does not despise; in whom he indeed sees the graces of chivalry, but not
the intellectual attraction of cultivated life. But later in life, when
his experiences are broader and more profound, he makes amends for his
former mistakes. In his "Legend of Good Women," which he wrote at the
command of Anne of Bohemia, wife of Richard II., he eulogizes the sex
and paints the most exalted sentiments of the heart. He not only had
great vividness in the description of his characters, but doubtless
great dramatic talent, which his age did not call out. His descriptions
of nature are very fresh and beautiful, indicating a great love of
nature,--flowers, trees, birds, lawns, gardens, waterfalls, falcons,
dogs, horses, with whom he almost talked. He had a great sense of the
ridiculous; hence his humor and fun and droll descriptions, which will
ever interest because they are so fresh and vivid. And as a poet he
continually improved as he advanced in life. His last works are his
best, showing the care and labor he bestowed, as well as his fidelity to
nature. I am amazed, considering his time, that he was so great an
artist without having a knowledge of the principles of art as taught by
the great masters of composition.

But, as has been already said, his distinguishing excellence is vivid
and natural description of the life and habits, not the opinions, of the
people of the fourteenth century, described without exaggeration or
effort for effect. He paints his age as Molière paints the times of
Louis XIV., and Homer the heroic periods of Grecian history. This
fidelity to nature and inexhaustible humor and living freshness and
perpetual variety are the eternal charms of the "Canterbury Tales." They
bring before the eye the varied professions and trades and habits and
customs of the fourteenth century. We see how our ancestors dressed and
talked and ate; what pleasures delighted them, what animosities moved
them, what sentiments elevated them, and what follies made them
ridiculous. The same naturalness and humor which marked "Don Quixote"
and the "Decameron" also are seen in the "Canterbury Tales." Chaucer
freed himself from all the affectations and extravagances and
artificiality which characterized the poetry of the Middle Ages. With
him began a new style in writing. He and Wyclif are the creators of
English literature. They did not create a language, but they formed and
polished it.

The various persons who figure in the "Canterbury Tales" are too well
known for me to enlarge upon. Who can add anything to the Prologue in
which Chaucer himself describes the varied characters and habits and
appearance of the pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas à Becket at
Canterbury? There are thirty of these pilgrims, including the poet
himself, embracing nearly all the professions and trades then known,
except the higher dignitaries of Church and State, who are not supposed
to mix freely in ordinary intercourse, and whom it would be unwise to
paint in their marked peculiarities. The most prominent person, as to
social standing, is probably the knight. He is not a nobleman, but he
has fought in many battles, and has travelled extensively. His cassock
is soiled, and his horse is strong but not gay,--a very respectable man,
courteous and gallant, a soldier corresponding to a modern colonel or
captain. His son, the esquire, is a youth of twenty, with curled locks
and embroidered dress, shining in various colors like the flowers of
May, gay as a bird, active as a deer, and gentle as a maiden. The yeoman
who attends them both is clad in green like a forester, with arrows and
feathers, bearing the heavy sword and buckler of his master. The
prioress is another respectable person, coy and simple, with dainty
fingers, small mouth, and clean attire,--a refined sort of a woman for
that age, ornamented with corals and brooch, so stately as to be held in
reverence, yet so sentimental as to weep for a mouse caught in a trap:
all characteristic of a respectable, kind-hearted lady who has lived in
seclusion. A monk, of course, in the fourteenth century was everywhere
to be seen; and a monk we have among the pilgrims, riding a "dainty"
horse, accompanied with greyhounds, loving fur trimmings on his
Benedictine habit and a fat swan to roast. The friar, too, we see,--a
mendicant, yet merry and full of dalliances, beloved by the common
women, to whom he gave easy absolution; a jolly vagabond, who knew all
the taverns, and who carried on his portly person pins and songs and
relics to sell or to give away. And there was the merchant, with forked
beard and Flemish beaver hat and neatly clasped boots, bragging of his
gains and selling French crowns, but on the whole a worthy man. The
Oxford clerk or scholar is one of the company, silent and sententious,
as lean as the horse on which he rode, with thread-bare coat, and books
of Aristotle and his philosophy which he valued more than gold, of which
indeed he could boast but little,--a man anxious to learn, and still
more to teach. The sergeant of the law is another prominent figure, wary
and wise, discreet and dignified, bustling and busy, yet not so busy as
he seemed to be, wearing a coat of divers colors, and riding very badly.
A franklin, or country gentleman, mixes with the company, with a white
beard and red complexion; one of Epicurus's own sons, who held that ale
and wheaten bread and fish and dainty flesh, partridge fat, were pure
felicity; evidently a man given to hospitality,--

     "His table dormant in his hall alway
      Stood ready covered all the longe day."

He was a sheriff, also, to enforce the law, and to be present at all the
county sessions. The doctor, of course, could not be left out of the
company,--a man who knew the cause of every malady, versed in magic as
well as physic, and grounded also in astronomy; who held that gold is
the best of cordials, and knew how to keep what he gained; not luxurious
in his diet, but careful what he ate and drank. The village miller is
not forgotten in this motley crowd,--rough, brutal, drunken, big and
brawn, with a red beard and a wart on his nose, and a mouth as wide as a
furnace, a reveller and a jangler, accustomed to take toll thrice, and
given to all the sins that then abounded. He is the most repulsive
figure in the crowd, both vulgar and wicked. In contrast with him is the
_reve_, or steward, of a lordly house,--a slender, choleric man, feared
by servants and gamekeepers, yet in favor with his lord, since he always
had money to lend, although it belonged to his master; an adroit agent
and manager, who so complicated his accounts that no auditor could
unravel them or any person bring him in arrears. He rode a fine
dappled-gray stallion, wore a long blue overcoat, and carried a rusty
sword,--evidently a proud and prosperous man. With a monk and friar, the
picture would be incomplete without a pardoner, or seller of
indulgences, with yellow hair and smooth face, loaded with a pillow-case
of relics and pieces of the true cross, of which there were probably
cartloads in every country in Europe, and of which the popes had an
inexhaustible supply. This sleek and gentle pedler of indulgences rode
side by side with a repulsive officer of the Church, with a fiery red
face, of whom children were afraid, fond of garlic and onions and strong
wine, and speaking only Latin law-terms when he was drunk, but withal a
good fellow, abating his lewdness and drunkenness. In contrast with the
pardoner and "sompnour" we see the poor parson, full of goodness,
charity, and love,--a true shepherd and no mercenary, who waited upon no
pomp and sought no worldly gains, happy only in the virtues which he
both taught and lived. Some think that Chaucer had in view the learned
Wyclif when he described the most interesting character of the whole
group. With him was a ploughman, his brother, as good and pious as he,
living in peace with all the world, paying tithes cheerfully, laborious
and conscientious, the forerunner of the Puritan yeoman.

Of this motley company of pilgrims, I have already spoken of the
prioress,--a woman of high position. In contrast with her is the wife of
Bath, who has travelled extensively, even to Jerusalem and Rome;
charitable, kind-hearted, jolly, and talkative, but bold and masculine
and coarse, with a red face and red stockings, and a hat as big as a
shield, and sharp spurs on her feet, indicating that she sat on her
ambler like a man.

There are other characters which I cannot stop to mention,--the sailor,
browned by the seas and sun, and full of stolen Bordeaux wine; the
haberdasher; the carpenter; the weaver; the dyer; the tapestry-worker;
the cook, to boil the chickens and the marrow-bones, and bake the pies
and tarts,--mostly people from the middle and lower ranks of society,
whose clothes are gaudy, manners rough, and language coarse. But all
classes and trades and professions seem to be represented, except
nobles, bishops, and abbots,--dignitaries whom, perhaps, Chaucer is
reluctant to describe and caricature.

To beguile the time on the journey to Canterbury, all these various
pilgrims are required to tell some story peculiar to their separate
walks of life; and it is these stories which afford the best description
we have of the manners and customs of the fourteenth century, as well as
of its leading sentiments and ideas.

The knight was required to tell his story first, and it naturally was
one of love and adventure. Although the scene of it was laid in ancient
Greece, it delineates the institution of chivalry and the manners and
sentiments it produced. No writer of that age, except perhaps Froissart,
paints the connection of chivalry with the graces of the soul and the
moral beauty which poetry associates with the female sex as Chaucer
does. The aristocratic woman of chivalry, while delighting in martial
sports, and hence masculine and haughty, is also condescending, tender,
and gracious. The heroic and dignified self-respect with which chivalry
invested woman exalted the passion of love. Allied with reverence for
woman was loyalty to the prince. The rough warrior again becomes a
gentleman, and has access to the best society. Whatever may have been
the degrees of rank, the haughtiest nobleman associated with the
penniless knight, if only he were a gentleman and well born, on terms of
social equality, since chivalry, while it created distinctions, also
levelled those which wealth and power naturally created among the higher
class. Yet chivalry did not exalt woman outside of noble ranks. The
plebeian woman neither has the graces of the high-born lady, nor does
she excite that reverence for the sex which marked her condition in the
feudal castle. "Tournaments and courts of love were not framed for
village churls, but for high-born dames and mighty earls."

Chaucer in his description of women in ordinary life does not seem to
have a very high regard for them. They are weak or coarse or sensual,
though attentive to their domestic duties, and generally virtuous. An
exception is made of Virginia, in the doctor's tale, who is represented
as beautiful and modest, radiant in simplicity, discreet and true. But
the wife of Bath is disgusting from her coarse talk and coarser manners.
Her tale is to show what a woman likes best, which, according to her, is
to bear rule over her husband and household. The prioress is
conventional and weak, aping courtly manners. The wife of the host of
the Tabard inn is a vixen and shrew, who calls her husband a milksop,
and is so formidable with both her tongue and her hands that he is glad
to make his escape from her whenever he can. The pretty wife of the
carpenter, gentle and slender, with her white apron and open dress, is
anything but intellectual,--a mere sensual beauty. Most of these women
are innocent of toothbrushes, and give and receive thrashings, and sing
songs without a fastidious taste, and beat their servants and nag their
husbands. But they are good cooks, and understand the arts of brewing
and baking and roasting and preserving and pickling, as well as of
spinning and knitting and embroidering. They are supreme in their
households; they keep the keys and lock up the wine. They are gossiping,
and love to receive their female visitors. They do not do much shopping,
for shops were very primitive, with but few things to sell. Their
knowledge is very limited, and confined to domestic matters. They are on
the whole modest, but are the victims of friars and pedlers. They have
more liberty than we should naturally suppose, but have not yet learned
to discriminate between duties and rights. There are few disputed
questions between them and their husbands, but the duty of obedience
seems to have been recognized. But if oppressed, they always are free
with their tongues; they give good advice, and do not spare reproaches
in language which in our times we should not call particularly choice.
They are all fond of dress, and wear gay colors, without much regard to
artistic effect.

In regard to the sports and amusements of the people, we learn much from
Chaucer. In one sense the England of his day was merry; that is, the
people were noisy and rough in their enjoyments. There was frequent
ringing of the bells; there were the horn of the huntsman and the
excitements of the chase; there was boisterous mirth in the village
ale-house; there were frequent holidays, and dances around May-poles
covered with ribbons and flowers and flags; there were wandering
minstrels and jesters and jugglers, and cock-fightings and foot-ball and
games at archery; there were wrestling matches and morris-dancing and
bear-baiting. But the exhilaration of the people was abnormal, like the
merriment of negroes on a Southern plantation,--a sort of rebound from
misery and burdens, which found a vent in noise and practical jokes when
the ordinary restraint was removed. The uproarious joy was a sort of
defiance of the semi-slavery to which workmen were doomed; for when
they could be impressed by the king's architect and paid whatever he
chose to give them, there could not have been much real contentment,
which is generally placid and calm. There is one thing in which all
classes delighted in the fourteenth century, and that was a garden, in
which flowers bloomed,--things of beauty which were as highly valued as
the useful. Moreover, there was a zest in rural sports now seldom seen,
especially among the upper classes who could afford to hunt and fish.
There was no excitement more delightful to gentlemen and ladies than
that of hawking, and it infinitely surpassed in interest any rural sport
whatever in our day, under any circumstances. Hawks trained to do the
work of fowling-pieces were therefore greater pets than any dogs that
now are the company of sportsmen. A lady without a falcon on her wrist,
when mounted on her richly caparisoned steed for a morning's sport, was
very rare indeed.

An instructive feature of the "Canterbury Tales" is the view which
Chaucer gives us of the food and houses and dresses of the people. "In
the Nonne's Prestes' Tale we see the cottage and manner of life of a
poor widow." She has three daughters, three pigs, three oxen, and a
sheep. Her house had only two rooms,--an eating-room, which also served
for a kitchen and sitting-room, and a bower or bedchamber,--both
without a chimney, with holes pierced to let in the light. The table
was a board put upon trestles, to be removed when the meal of black
bread and milk, and perchance an egg with bacon, was over. The three
slept without sheets or blankets on a rude bed, covered only with their
ordinary day-clothes. Their kitchen utensils were a brass pot or two for
boiling, a few wooden platters, an iron candlestick, and a knife or two;
while the furniture was composed of two or three chairs and stools, with
a frame in the wall, with shelves, for clothes and utensils. The
manciple and the cook of the company seem to indicate that living among
the well-to-do classes was a very generous and a very serious part of
life, on which a high estimate was placed, since food in any variety,
though plentiful at times, was not always to be had, and therefore
precarious. "Guests at table were paired, and ate, every pair, out of
the same plate or off the same trencher." But the bill of fare at a
franklin's feast would be deemed anything but poor, even in our
times,--"bacon and pea-soup, oysters, fish, stewed beef, chickens,
capons, roast goose, pig, veal, lamb, kid, pigeon, with custard, apples
and pears, cheese and spiced cakes." All these with abundance of
wine and ale.

The "Canterbury Tales" remind us of the vast preponderance of the
country over town and city life. Chaucer, like Shakspeare, revels in the
simple glories of nature, which he describes like a man feeling it to
be a joy to be near to "Mother Earth," with her rich bounties. The birds
that usher in the day, the flowers which beautify the lawn, the green
hills and vales, with ever-changing hues like the clouds and the skies,
yet fruitful in wheat and grass; the domestic animals, so mute and
patient, the bracing air of approaching winter, the genial breezes of
the spring,--of all these does the poet sing with charming simplicity
and grace, yea, in melodious numbers; for nothing is more marvellous
than the music and rhythm of his lines, although they are not enriched
with learned allusions or much moral wisdom, and do not march in the
stately and majestic measure of Shakspeare or of Milton.

But the most interesting and instructive of the "Canterbury Tales" are
those which relate to the religious life, the morals, the superstitions,
and ecclesiastical abuses of the times. In these we see the need of the
reformation of which Wyclif was the morning light. In these we see the
hypocrisies and sensualities of both monks and friars, relieved somewhat
by the virtues of the simple parish priest or poor parson, in contrast
with the wealth and luxury of the regular clergy, as monks were called,
in their princely monasteries, where the lordly abbot vied with both
baron and bishop in the magnificence of his ordinary life. We see before
us the Mediaeval clergy in all their privileges, and yet in all their
ignorance and superstition, shielded from the punishment of crime and
the operation of all ordinary laws (a sturdy defiance of the temporal
powers), the agents and ministers of a foreign power, armed with the
terrors of hell and the grave. Besides the prioress and the nuns'
priest, we see in living light the habits and pretensions of the lazy
monk, the venal friar and pardoner, and the noisy summoner for
ecclesiastical offences: hunters and gluttons are they, with greyhounds
and furs, greasy and fat, and full of dalliances; at home in taverns,
unprincipled but agreeable vagabonds, who cheat and rob the people, and
make a mockery of what is most sacred on the earth. These privileged
mendicants, with their relics and indulgences, their arts and their
lies, and the scandals they create, are treated by Chaucer with blended
humor and severity, showing a mind as enlightened as that of the great
scholar at Oxford, who heads the movement against Rome and the abuses at
which she connived if she did not encourage. And there is something
intensely English in his disgust and scorn,--brave for his day, yet
shielded by the great duke who was at once his protector and friend, as
he was of Wyclif himself,--in his severer denunciation, and advocacy of
doctrines which neither Chaucer nor the Duke of Lancaster understood,
and which, if they had, they would not have sympathized with nor
encouraged. In these attacks on ecclesiastics and ecclesiastical
abuses, Chaucer should be studied with Wyclif and the early reformers,
although he would not have gone so far as they, and led, unlike them, a
worldly life. Thus by these poems he has rendered a service to his
country, outside his literary legacy, which has always been held in
value. The father of English poetry belonged to the school of progress
and of inquiry, like his great contemporaries on the Continent. But
while he paints the manners, customs, and characters of the fourteenth
century, he does not throw light on the great ideas which agitated or
enslaved the age. He is too real and practical for that. He describes
the outward, not the inner life. He was not serious enough--I doubt if
he was learned enough--to enter into the disquisitions of schoolmen, or
the mazes of the scholastic philosophy, or the meditations of almost
inspired sages. It is not the joys of heaven or the terrors of hell on
which he discourses, but of men and women as they lived around him, in
their daily habits and occupations. We must go to Wyclif if we would
know the theological or philosophical doctrines which interested the
learned. Chaucer only tells how monks and friars lived, not how they
speculated or preached. We see enough, however, to feel that he was
emancipated from the ideas of the Middle Ages, and had cast off their
gloom, their superstition, and their despair. The only things he liked
of those dreary times were their courts of love and their
chivalric glories.

I do not propose to analyze the poetry of Chaucer, or enter upon a
critical inquiry as to his relative merits in comparison with the other
great poets. It is sufficient for me to know that critics place him very
high as an original poet, although it is admitted that he drew much of
his material from French and Italian authors. He was, for his day, a
great linguist. He had travelled extensively, and could speak Latin,
French, and Italian with fluency. He knew Petrarch and other eminent
Italians. One is amazed that in such an age he could have written so
well, for he had no great models to help him in his own language. If
occasionally indecent, he is not corrupting. He never deliberately
disseminates moral poison; and when he speaks of love, he treats almost
solely of the simple and genuine emotions of the heart.

The best criticism that I have read of Chaucer's poetry is that of
Adolphus William Ward; although as a biography it is not so full or so
interesting as that of Godwin or even Morley. In no life that I have
read are the mental characteristics of our poet so ably drawn,--"his
practical good sense," his love of books, his still deeper love of
nature, his naïveté, the readiness of his description, the brightness of
his imagery, the easy flow of his diction, the vividness with which he
describes character; his inventiveness, his readiness of illustration,
his musical rhythm, his gaiety and cheerfulness, his vivacity and
joyousness, his pathos and tenderness, his keen sense of the ridiculous
and power of satire, without being bitter, so that his wit and fun are
harmless, and perpetually pleasing.

He doubtless had great dramatic talent, but he did not live in a
dramatic age. His especial excellence, never surpassed, was his power of
observing and drawing character, united with boundless humor and
cheerful fun. And his descriptions of nature are as true and unstinted
as his descriptions of men and women, so that he is as fresh as the
month of May. In his poetry is life; and hence his immortal fame. He is
not so great as Spenser or Shakspeare or Milton; but he has the same
vitality as they, and is as wonderful as they considering his age and
opportunities,--a poet who constantly improved as he advanced in life,
and whose greatest work was written in his old age.

Unfortunately, we know but little of Chaucer's habits and experiences,
his trials and disappointments, his friendships or his hatreds. What we
do know of him raises our esteem. Though convivial, he was temperate;
though genial, he was a silent observer, quiet in his manners, modest in
his intercourse with the world, walking with downcast eye, but letting
nothing escape his notice. He believed in friendship, and kept his
friends to the end, and was stained neither by envy nor by pride,--as
frank as he was affectionate, as gentle as he was witty. Living with
princes and nobles, he never descended to gross adulation, and never
wrote a line of approval of the usurpation of Henry IV., although his
bread depended on Henry's favor, and he was also the son of the king's
earliest and best friend. He was not a religious man, nor was he an
immoral man, judged by the standard of his age. He probably was worldly,
as he lived in courts. We do not see in him the stern virtues of Dante
or Milton; nothing of that moral earnestness which marked the only other
great man with whom he was contemporary,--he who is called the "morning
star" of the Reformation. But then we know nothing about him which calls
out severe reprobation. He was patriotic, and had the confidence of his
sovereign, else he would not have been employed on important missions.
And the sweetness of his character may be inferred from his long and
tender friendship with Gower, whom some in that age considered the
greater poet. He was probably luxurious in his habits, but intemperate
use of wine he detested and avoided. He was portly in his person, but
refinement marked his features. He was a gentleman, according to the
severest code of chivalric excellence; always a favorite with ladies,
and equally admired by the knights and barons of a brilliant court. No
poet was ever more honored in his life or lamented in his death, as his
beautiful monument in Westminster Abbey would seem to attest. That
monument is the earliest that was erected to the memory of a poet in
that Pantheon of English men of rank and genius; and it will probably be
as long preserved as any of those sculptured urns and animated busts
which seek to keep alive the memory of the illustrious dead,--of those
who, though dead, yet speak to all future generations.


Chaucer's own works, especially the Canterbury Tales; publications of
the Chaucer Society; Pauli's History of England; ordinary Histories of
England which relate to the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II.,
especially Green's History of the English People; Life of Chaucer, by
William Godwin (4 volumes, London, 1804); Tyrwhitt's edition of
Canterbury Tales; Speglet's edition of Chaucer; Warton's History of
English Poetry; St. Palaye's History of Chivalry; Chaucer's England, by
Matthew Browne (London, 1869); Sir Harris Nicholas's Life of Chaucer;
The Riches of Chaucer, by Charles Cowden Clarke; Morley's Life of
Chaucer. The latest work is a Life and Criticism of Chaucer, by Adolphus
William Ward. There is also a Guide to Chaucer, by H.G. Fleary. See also
Skeat's collected edition of Chaucer's Works, brought out under the
auspices of the Early English Text Society.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1446-1506.


About thirteen hundred years ago, when Attila the Hun, called "the
scourge of God," was overrunning the falling empire of the Romans, some
of the noblest citizens of the small cities of the Adriatic fled, with
their families and effects, to the inaccessible marshes and islands at
the extremity of that sea, and formed a permanent settlement. They
became fishermen and small traders. In process of time they united their
islands together by bridges, and laid the foundation of a mercantile
state. Thither resorted the merchants of Mediaeval Europe to make
exchanges. Thus Venice became rich and powerful, and in the twelfth
century it was one of the prosperous states of Europe, ruled by an
oligarchy of the leading merchants.

Contemporaneous with Dante, one of the most distinguished citizens of
this mercantile mart, Marco Polo, impelled by the curiosity which
reviving commerce excited and the restless adventure of a crusading
age, visited the court of the Great Khan of Tartary, whose empire was
the largest in the world. After a residence of seventeen years, during
which he was loaded with honors, he returned to his native country, not
by the ordinary route, but by coasting the eastern shores of Asia,
through the Indian Ocean, up the Persian Gulf, and thence through Bagdad
and Constantinople, bringing with him immense wealth in precious stones
and other Eastern commodities. The report of his wonderful adventures
interested all Europe, for he was supposed to have found the Tarshish of
the Scriptures, that land of gold and spices which had enriched the
Tyrian merchants in the time of Solomon,--men supposed by some to have
sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in their three years' voyages. Among
the wonderful things which Polo had seen was a city on an island off the
coast of China, which was represented to contain six hundred thousand
families, so rich that the palaces of its nobles were covered with
plates of gold, so inviting that odoriferous plants and flowers diffused
the most grateful perfumes, so strong that even the Tartar conquerors of
China could not subdue it. This island, known now as Japan, was called
Cipango, and was supposed to be inexhaustible in riches, especially when
the reports of Polo were confirmed by Sir John Mandeville, an English
traveller in the time of Edward III.,--and with even greater
exaggerations, since he represented the royal palace to be more than
six miles in circumference, occupied by three hundred thousand men.

In an awakening age of enterprise, when chivalry had not passed away,
nor the credulity of the Middle Ages, the reports of this Cipango
inflamed the imagination of Europe, and to reach it became at once the
desire and the problem of adventurers and merchants. But how could this
El Dorado be reached? Not by sailing round Africa; for to sail South, in
popular estimation, was to encounter torrid suns with ever increasing
heat, and suffocating vapors, and unknown dangers. The scientific world
had lost the knowledge of what even the ancients knew. Nobody surmised
that there was a Cape of Good Hope which could be doubled, and would
open the way to the Indian Ocean and its islands of spices and gold. Nor
could this Cipango be reached by crossing the Eastern Continent, for the
journey was full of perils, dangers, and insurmountable obstacles.

Among those who meditated on this geographical mystery was a young sea
captain of Genoa, who had studied in the University of Pavia, but spent
his early life upon the waves,--intelligent, enterprising, visionary,
yet practical, with boundless ambition, not to conquer kingdoms, but to
discover new realms. Born probably in 1446, in the year 1470 he married
the daughter of an Italian navigator living in Lisbon; and, inheriting
with her some valuable Portuguese charts and maritime journals, he
settled in Lisbon and took up chart-making as a means of livelihood.
Being thus trained in both the art and the science of navigation, his
active mind seized upon the most interesting theme of the day. His
studies and experience convinced him that the Cipango of Marco Polo
could be reached by sailing directly west. He knew that the earth was
round, and he inferred from the plants and carved wood and even human
bodies that had occasionally floated from the West, that there must be
unknown islands on the western coasts of the Atlantic, and that this
ocean, never yet crossed, was the common boundary of both Europe and
Asia; in short, that the Cipango could be reached by sailing west. And
he believed the thing to be practicable, for the magnetic needle had
been discovered, or brought from the East by Polo, which always pointed
to the North Star, so that mariners could sail in the darkest nights;
and also another instrument had been made, essentially the modern
quadrant, by which latitude could be measured. He supposed that after
sailing west, about eight hundred leagues, by the aid of compass and
quadrant, and such charts as he had collected and collated, he should
find the land of gold and spices by which he would become rich
and famous.

This was not an absurd speculation to a man of the intellect and
knowledge of Columbus. To his mind there were but few physical
difficulties if he only had the ships, and the men bold enough to embark
with him, and the patronage which was necessary for so novel and daring
an enterprise. The difficulties to be surmounted were not so much
physical as moral. It was the surmounting of moral difficulties which
gives to Columbus his true greatness as a man of genius and resources.
These moral obstacles were so vast as to be all but insurmountable,
since he had to contend with all the established ideas of his age,--the
superstitions of sailors, the prejudices of learned men, and general
geographical ignorance. He himself had neither money, nor ships, nor
powerful friends. Nobody believed in him; all ridiculed him; some
insulted him. Who would furnish money to a man who was supposed to be
half crazy,--certainly visionary and wild; a rash adventurer who would
not only absorb money but imperil life? Learned men would not listen to
him, and powerful people derided him, and princes were too absorbed in
wars and pleasure to give him a helping hand. Aid could come only from
some great state or wealthy prince; but both states and princes were
deaf and dumb to him. It was a most extraordinary inspiration of genius
in the fifteenth century which created, not an opinion, but a conviction
that Asia could be reached by sailing west; and how were common minds
to comprehend such a novel idea? If a century later, with all the blaze
of reviving art and science and learning, the most learned people
ridiculed the idea that the earth revolved around the sun, even when it
was proved by all the certitudes of mathematical demonstration and
unerring observations, how could the prejudiced and narrow-minded
priests of the time of Columbus, who controlled the most important
affairs of state, be made to comprehend that an unknown ocean, full of
terrors, could be crossed by frail ships, and that even a successful
voyage would open marts of inexhaustible wealth? All was clear enough to
this scientific and enterprising mariner; and the inward assurance that
he was right in his calculation gave to his character a blended
boldness, arrogance, and dignity which was offensive to men of exalted
station, and ill became a stranger and adventurer with a thread-bare
coat, and everything which indicated poverty, neglect, and hardship, and
without any visible means of living but by the making and selling
of charts.

Hence we cannot wonder at the seventeen years of poverty, neglect,
ridicule, disappointment, and deferred hopes, such as make the heart
sick, which elapsed after Columbus was persuaded of the truth of his
theory, before he could find anybody enlightened enough to believe in
him, or powerful enough to assist him. Wrapped up in those glorious
visions which come only to a man of superlative genius, and which make
him insensible to heat and cold and scanty fare, even to reproach and
scorn, this intrepid soul, inspired by a great and original idea,
wandered from city to city, and country to country, and court to court,
to present the certain greatness and wealth of any state that would
embark in his enterprise. But all were alike cynical, cold, unbelieving,
and even insulting. He opposes overwhelming, universal, and overpowering
ideas. To have surmounted these amid such protracted opposition and
discouragement constitutes his greatness; and finally to prove his
position by absolute experiment and hazardous enterprise makes him one
of the greatest of human benefactors, whose fame will last through all
the generations of men. And as I survey that lonely, abstracted,
disappointed, and derided man,--poor and unimportant, so harassed by
debt that his creditors seized even his maps and charts, obliged to fly
from one country to another to escape imprisonment, without even
listeners and still less friends, and yet with ever-increasing faith in
his cause, utterly unconquerable, alone in opposition to all the
world,--I think I see the most persistent man of enterprise that I have
read of in history. Critics ambitious to say something new may rake out
slanders from the archives of enemies, and discover faults which
derogate from the character we have been taught to admire and venerate;
they may even point out spots, which we cannot disprove, in that sun of
glorious brightness, which shed its beneficent rays over a century of
darkness,--but this we know, that, whatever may be the force of
detraction, his fame has been steadily increasing, even on the admission
of his slanderers, for three centuries, and that he now shines as a
fixed star in the constellation of the great lights of modern times, not
alone because he succeeded in crossing the ocean, when once embarked on
it, but for surmounting the moral difficulties which lay in his way
before he could embark upon it, and for being finally instrumental in
conferring the greatest boon that our world has received from any mortal
man, since Noah entered into the ark.

I think it is Lamartine who has said that truly immortal benefactors
have seldom been able to accomplish their mission without the
encouragement of either saints or women. This is emphatically true in
the case of Columbus. The door to success was at last opened to him by a
friendly and sympathetic friar of a Franciscan convent near the little
port of Palos, in Andalusia. The sun-burned and disappointed adventurer
(for that is what he was), wearied and hungry, and nearly discouraged,
stopped at the convent-door to get a morsel of bread for his famished
son, who attended him in his pilgrimage. The prior of that obscure
convent was the first who comprehended the man of genius, not so much
because he was an enlightened scholar, but because his pious soul was
full of kindly sympathy, showing that the instincts of love are kindred
to the inspirations of genius. It was the voice of Ali and Cadijeh that
strengthened Mohammed. It was Catherine von Bora who sustained Luther in
his gigantic task. The worthy friar, struck by the noble bearing of a
man so poor and wearied, became delighted with the conversation of his
guest, who opened to him both his heart and his schemes. He forwarded
his plans by a letter to a powerful ecclesiastic, who introduced him to
the Spanish Court, then one of the most powerful, and certainly the
proudest and most punctilious, in Europe. Ferdinand of Aragon was
polite, yet wary and incredulous; but Isabella of Castile listened more
kindly to the stranger, whom the greatness of his mission inspired with
eloquence. Like the saint of the convent, she, and she alone of her
splendid court, divined that there was something to be heeded in the
words of Columbus, and gave her womanly and royal encouragement,
although too much engrossed with the conquest of Grenada and the cares
of her kingdom to pay that immediate attention which Columbus entreated.

I may not dwell on the vexatious delays and the protracted
discouragements of Columbus after the Queen had given her ear to his
enthusiastic prophecies of the future glories of the kingdom. To the
court and to the universities and to the great ecclesiastics he was
still a visionary and a needy adventurer; and they quoted, in refutation
of his theory, those Scripture texts which were hurled in greater wrath
against Galileo when he announced his brilliant discoveries. There are,
from some unfathomed reason, always texts found in the sacred writings
which seem to conflict with both science and a profound theology; and
the pedants, as well as the hypocrites and usurpers, have always
shielded themselves behind these in their opposition to new opinions. I
will not be hard upon them, for often they are good men, simply unable
to throw off the shackles of ages of ignorance and tyranny. People
should not be subjected to lasting reproach because they cannot
emancipate themselves from prevailing ideas. If those prejudiced
courtiers and scholastics who ridiculed Columbus could only have seen
with his clearer insight, they might have loaded him with favors. But
they were blinded and selfish and envious. Nor was it until Columbus
convinced his sovereigns that the risk was small for so great a promised
gain, that he was finally commissioned to undertake his voyage. The
promised boon was the riches of Oriental countries, boundless and
magnificent,--countries not to be discovered, but already known, only
hard and perhaps impossible to reach. And Columbus himself was so
firmly persuaded of the existence of these riches, and of his ability to
secure them, and they were so exaggerated by his imagination, that his
own demands were extravagant and preposterous, as must have seemed to an
incredulous court,--that he, a stranger, an adventurer, almost a beggar
even, should in case of success be made viceroy and admiral over the
unexplored realm, and with a tenth of all the riches he should collect
or seize; and that these high offices--almost regal--should also be
continued not only through his own life, but through the lives of his
heirs from generation to generation, thus raising him to a possible rank
higher than that of any of the dukes and grandees of Spain.

Ferdinand and Isabella, however, readily promised all that the
persistent and enthusiastic adventurer demanded, doubtless with the
feeling that there was not more than one chance in a hundred that he
would ever be heard from again, but that this one chance was well worth
all and more than they expended,--a possibility of indefinite
aggrandizement. To the eyes of Ferdinand there was a prospect--remote,
indeed--of adding to the power of the Spanish monarchy; and it is
probable that the pious Isabella contemplated also the conversion of the
heathen to Christianity. It is possible that some motives may have also
influenced Columbus kindred to this,--a renewed crusade against Saracen
infidels, which he might undertake from the wealth he was so confident
of securing. But the probabilities are that Columbus was urged on to his
career by ambitious and worldly motives chiefly, or else he would not
have been so greedy to secure honors and wealth, nor would have been so
jealous of his dignity when he had attained power. To me Columbus was no
more a saint than Sir Francis Drake was when he so unscrupulously robbed
every ship he could lay his hands upon, although both of them observed
the outward forms of religious worship peculiar to their respective
creeds and education. There were no unbelievers in that age. Both
Catholics and Protestants, like the ancient Pharisees, were scrupulous
in what were supposed to be religious duties,--though these too often
were divorced from morality. It is Columbus only as an intrepid,
enthusiastic, enlightened navigator, in pursuit of a new world of
boundless wealth, that I can see him; and it was for his ultimate
success in discovering this world, amid so many difficulties, that he is
to be regarded as a great benefactor, of the glory of which no ingenuity
or malice can rob him.

At last he sets sail, August 3, 1492, and, singularly enough, from
Palos, within sight of the little convent where he had received his
first encouragement. He embarked in three small vessels, the largest of
which was less than one hundred tons, and two without decks, but having
high poops and sterns inclosed. What an insignificant flotilla for such
a voyage! But it would seem that the Admiral, with great sagacity,
deemed small vessels best adapted to his purpose, in order to enter
safely shallow harbors and sail near the coast.

He sails in the most propitious season of the year, and is aided by
steady trade-winds which waft his ships gently through the unknown
ocean. He meets with no obstacles of any account. The skies are serene,
the sea is as smooth as the waters of an inland lake; and he is
comforted, as he advances to the west, by the appearance of strange
birds and weeds and plants that indicate nearness to the land. He has
only two objects of solicitude,--the variations of the magnetic needle,
and the superstitious fears of his men; the last he succeeds in allaying
by inventing plausible theories, and by concealing the real distance he
has traversed. He encourages them by inflaming their cupidity. He is
nearly baffled by their mutinous spirit. He is in danger, not from coral
reefs and whirlpools and sunken rocks and tempests, as at first was
feared, but from his men themselves, who clamor to return. It is his
faith and moral courage and fertility of resources which we most admire.
Days pass in alternate hope and disappointment, amid angry clamors, in
great anxiety, for no land appears after he has sailed far beyond the
points where he expected to find it. The world is larger than even he
has supposed. He promises great rewards to the one who shall first see
the unknown shores. It is said that he himself was the first to discover
land by observing a flickering light, which is exceedingly improbable,
as he was several leagues from shore; but certain it is, that the very
night the land was seen from the Admiral's vessel, it was also
discovered by one of the seamen on board another ship. The problem of
the age was at last solved. A new continent was given to Ferdinand
and Isabella.

On the 12th of October Columbus lands--not, however, on the continent,
as he supposed, but on an island--in great pomp, as admiral of the seas
and viceroy of the king, in a purple doublet, and with a drawn sword in
one hand and the standard of Spain in the other, followed by officers in
appropriate costume, and a friar bearing the emblem of our redemption,
which is solemnly planted on the shore, and the land called San
Salvador. This little island, one of the Bahamas, is not, however,
gilded with the anticipated splendors of Oriental countries. He finds
neither gold, nor jewels, nor silks, nor spices, nor any signs of
civilization; only naked men and women, without any indication of wealth
or culture or power. But he finds a soft and genial climate, and a soil
of unparalleled fertility, and trees and shrubs as green as Andalusia in
spring, and birds with every variety of plumage, and insects glistening
with every color of the rainbow; while the natives are gentle and
unsuspecting and full of worship. Columbus is disappointed, but not
discouraged. He sets sail to find the real Cipango of which he is in
search. He cruises among the Bahama islands, discovers Cuba and
Hispaniola (now called Hayti), explores their coasts, holds peaceful
intercourse with the natives, and is transported with enthusiasm in view
of the beauty of the country and its great capacities; but he sees no
gold, only a few ornaments to show that there is gold somewhere near, if
it only could be found. Nor has he reached the Cipango of his dreams,
but new countries, of which there was no record or suspicion of
existence, yet of vast extent, and fertile beyond knowledge. He is
puzzled, but filled with intoxicating joy. He has performed a great
feat. He has doubtless added indefinitely to the dominion of Spain.

Columbus leaves a small colony on the island of Hispaniola, and with the
trophies of his discoveries returns to Spain, without serious obstacles,
except a short detention in Portugal, whither he was driven by a storm.
His stories fill the whole civilized world with wonder. He is welcomed
with the most cordial and enthusiastic reception; the people gaze at him
with admiration. His sovereigns rise at his approach, and seat him
beside themselves on their gilded and canopied throne; he has made them
a present worthy of a god. What honors could be too great for such a
man! Even envy pales before the universal exhilaration. He enters into
the most august circles as an equal; his dignities and honors are
confirmed; he is loaded with presents and favors; he is the most marked
personage in Europe; he is almost stifled with the incense of royal and
popular idolatry. Never was a subject more honored and caressed. The
imagination of a chivalrous and lively people is inflamed with the
wildest expectations, for although he returned with but little of the
expected wealth, he has pointed out a land rich in unfathomed mines.

A second and larger expedition is soon projected. Everybody wishes to
join it. All press to join the fortunate admiral who has added a
continent to civilization. The proudest nobles, with the armor and
horses of chivalry, embark with artisans and miners for another voyage,
now without solicitude or fear, but with unbounded hopes of
wealth,--especially hardy adventurers and broken-down families of rank
anxious to retrieve their fortunes. The pendulum of a nation's thought
swings from the extreme of doubt and cynicism to the opposite extreme of
faith and exhilaration. Spain was ripe for the harvest. Eight hundred
years' desperate contest with the Moors had made the nation bold,
heroic, adventurous. There were no such warriors in all Europe. Nowhere
were there such chivalric virtues. No people were then animated with
such martial enthusiasm, such unfettered imagination, such heroic
daring, as were the subjects of Ferdinand and Isabella. They were a
people to conquer a world; not merely heroic and enterprising, but fresh
with religious enthusiasm. They had expelled the infidels from Spain;
they would fight for the honor of the Cross in any clime or land.

The hopes held out by Columbus were extravagant; and these extravagant
expectations were the occasion of his fall and subsequent sorrows and
humiliation. Doubtless he was sincere, but he was infatuated. He could
only see the gold of Cipango. He was as confident of enriching his
followers as he had been of discovering new realms. He was as
enthusiastic as Sir Walter Raleigh a century later, and made promises as
rash as he, and created the same exalted hopes, to be followed by bitter
disappointments; and consequently he incurred the same hostilities and
met the same downfall.

This second expedition was undertaken in seventeen vessels, carrying
fifteen hundred people, all full of animation and hope, and some of them
with intentions to settle in the newly discovered country until they had
made their fortunes. They arrived at Hispaniola in March, of the year
1493, only to discover that the men left behind on the first voyage to
secure their settlement were all despoiled or murdered; that the
natives had proved treacherous, or that the Spaniards had abused their
confidence and forfeited their friendship. They were exposed to new
hostilities: they found the climate unhealthy; their numbers rapidly
dwindled away from disease or poor food; starvation stared them in the
face, in spite of the fertility of the soil; dissensions and jealousies
arose; they were governed with great difficulty, for the haughty
hidalgoes were unused to menial labor, and labor of the most irksome
kind was necessary; law and order were relaxed. The blame of disaster
was laid upon the Admiral, who was accused of deceiving them; evil
reports were sent to Spain, accusing him of incapacity, cruelty, and
oppression; gold was found only in small quantities; some of the leading
men mutinied; general discontent arose; the greater part of the
colonists were disabled from sickness and debility; no gold of any
amount was sent back to Spain, only five hundred Indian slaves to be
sold instead, which led to renewed hostilities with the natives, and the
necessity for their subjugation. All of these evils created bitter
disappointment in Spain and discontent with the measures and government
of Columbus himself, so that a commission of inquiry was sent to
Hispaniola, headed by Aguado, who assumed arrogant authority, and made
it necessary for Columbus to return to Spain without adding essentially
to his discoveries. He sailed around Cuba and Jamaica and other
islands, but as yet had not seen the mainland or found mines of gold
or silver.

He landed in Spain, in 1496, to find that his popularity had declined
and the old enthusiasm had grown cold. With him landed a feeble train of
emaciated men, who had nothing to relate but sickness, hardship, and
disappointment. The sovereigns, however, received him kindly; but he was
depressed and sad, and clothed himself with the habit of a Franciscan
friar, to denote his humility and dejection. He displayed a few golden
collars and bracelets as trophies, with some Indians; but these no
longer dazzled the crowd.

It was not until 1498 that Columbus was enabled to make his third
voyage, having experienced great delay from the general disappointment.
Instead of seventeen vessels, he could collect but six. In this voyage
he reached the mainland,--that part called Paria, near the mouth of the
Orinoco, in South America, but he supposed it to be an island. It was
fruitful and populous, and the air was sweetened with the perfumes of
flowers. Yet he did not explore the coast to any extent, but made his
way to Hispaniola, where he had left the discontented colony, himself
broken in health, a victim of gout, haggard from anxiety, and emaciated
by pain. His splendid constitution was now undermined from his various
hardships and cares.

He found the colony in a worse state than when he left it under the
care of his brother Bartholomew. The Indians had proved hostile; the
colonists were lazy and turbulent; mutiny had broken out; factions
prevailed, as well as general misery and discontent. The horrors of
famine had succeeded wars with the natives. There was a general desire
to leave the settlement. Columbus tried to restore order and confidence;
but the difficulty of governing such a disorderly set of adventurers was
too great even for him. He was obliged to resort to severities that made
him more and more unpopular. The complaints of his enemies reached
Spain. He was most cruelly misrepresented and slandered; and in the
general disappointment, and the constant drain upon the mother country
to support the colony, his enemies gained the ear of his sovereigns, and
strong doubts arose in their minds about his capacity for government. So
a royal commission was sent out,--an officer named Bovadilla, with
absolute power to examine into the state of the colony, and supplant, if
necessary, the authority of Columbus. The result was the arrest of
Columbus and his brothers, who were sent to Spain in chains. What a
change of fortune! I will not detail the accusations against him, just
or unjust. It is mournful enough to see the old man brought home in
irons from the world he had discovered and given to Spain. The injustice
and cruelty which he received produced a reaction, and he was once more
kindly received at court, with the promise that his grievances should
be redressed and his property and dignities restored.

Columbus was allowed to make one more voyage of discovery, but nothing
came of it except renewed troubles, hardships, dangers, and
difficulties; wars with the natives, perils of the sea, discontents,
disappointments; and when at last he returned to Spain, in 1504,--broken
with age and infirmities, after twelve years of harassing cares, labors,
and dangers (a checkered career of glory and suffering),--nothing
remained but to prepare for his final rest. He had not made a fortune;
he had not enriched his patrons,--but he had discovered a continent. His
last days were spent in disquieting and fruitless negotiations to
perpetuate his honors among his descendants. He was ever jealous and
tenacious of his dignities. Ferdinand was polite, but selfish and cold;
nor can this calculating prince ever be vindicated from the stain of
gross ingratitude. Columbus died in the year 1506, at the age of sixty,
a disappointed man. But honors were ultimately bestowed upon his heirs,
who became grandees and dukes, and intermarried with the proudest
families of Spain; and it is also said that Ferdinand himself, after the
death of the great navigator, caused a monument to be erected to his
memory with this inscription: "To Castile and Leon Columbus gave a new
world." But no man of that century needed less than Columbus a monument
to perpetuate his immortal fame.

I think that historians belittle Columbus when they would excite our
pity for his misfortunes. They insult the dignity of all struggling
souls, and make utilitarians of all benefactors, and give false views of
success. Few benefactors, on the whole, were ever more richly rewarded
than he. He died Admiral of the Seas, a grandee of Spain,--having
bishops for his eulogists and princes for his mourners,--the founder of
an illustrious house, whose name and memory gave glory even to the
Spanish throne. And even if he had not been rewarded with material
gains, it was enough to feel that he had conferred a benefit on the
world which could scarcely be appreciated in his lifetime,--a benefit so
transcendent that its results could be seen only by future generations.
Who could adequately pay him for his services; who could estimate the
value of his gift? What though they load him to-day with honors, or cast
him tomorrow into chains?--that is the fate of all immortal benefactors
since our world began. His great soul should have soared beyond vulgar
rewards. In the loftiness of his self-consciousness he should have
accepted, without a murmur, whatever fortune awaited him. Had he merely
given to civilization a new style of buttons, or an improved envelope,
or a punch for a railway conductor, or a spring for a carriage, or a
mining tool, or a screw, or revolver, or reaper, the inventors of which
have "seen millions in them," and been cheated out of his gains, he
might have whimpered over his wrongs. How few benefactors have received
even as much as he; for he won dignities, admiration, and undying fame.
We scarcely know the names of many who have made grand bequests. Who
invented the mariner's compass? Who gave the lyre to primeval ages, or
the blacksmith's forge, or the letters of the alphabet, or the arch in
architecture, or glass for windows? Who solved the first problem of
geometry? Who first sang the odes which Homer incorporated with the
Iliad? Who first turned up the earth with a plough? Who first used the
weaver's shuttle? Who devised the cathedrals of the Middle Ages? Who
gave the keel to ships? Who was the first that raised bread by yeast?
Who invented chimneys? But all ages will know that Columbus discovered
America; and his monuments are in every land, and his greatness is
painted by the ablest historians.

But I will not enlarge on the rewards Columbus received, or the
ingratitude which succeeded them, by force of envy or from the
disappointment of worldly men in not realizing all the gold that he
promised. Let me allude to the results of his discovery.

The first we notice was the marvellous stimulus to maritime adventures.
Europe was inflamed with a desire to extend geographical knowledge, or
add new countries to the realms of European sovereigns.

Within four years of the discovery of the West India Islands by
Columbus, Cabot had sailed past Newfoundland, and Vasco da Gama had
doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and laid the foundation of the Portuguese
empire in the East Indies. In 1499 Ojeda, one of the companions of
Columbus, and Amerigo Vespucci discovered Brazil. In 1500 Cortereal, a
Portuguese, explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 1505 Francesco de
Almeira established factories along the coast of Malabar. In 1510 the
Spaniards formed settlements on the mainland at Panama. In 1511 the
Portuguese established themselves at Malacca. In 1513 Balboa crossed the
Isthmus of Darien and reached the Pacific Ocean. The year after that,
Ponce de Leon had visited Florida. In 1515 the Rio de la Plata was
navigated; and in 1517 the Portuguese had begun to trade with China and
Bengal. As early as 1520 Cortes had taken Mexico, and completed the
conquest of that rich country the following year. In 1522 Cano
circumnavigated the globe. In 1524 Pizarro discovered Peru, which in
less than twelve years was completely subjugated,--the year when
California was discovered by Cortes. In 1542 the Portuguese were
admitted to trade with Japan. In 1576 Frobisher sought a North-western
passage to India; and the following year Sir Francis Drake commenced
his more famous voyages under the auspices of Elizabeth. In 1578 Sir
Humphrey Gilbert colonized Virginia, followed rapidly by other English
settlements, until before the century closed the whole continent was
colonized either by Spaniards, or Portuguese, or English, or French, or
Dutch. All countries came in to share the prizes held out by the
discovery of the New World.

Colonization followed the voyages of discovery. It was animated by the
hope of finding gold and precious stones. It was carried on under great
discouragements and hardships and unforeseen difficulties. As a general
thing, the colonists were not accustomed to manual labor; they were
adventurers and broken-down dependents on great families, who found
restraint irksome and the drudgeries of their new life almost
unendurable. Nor did they intend, at the outset, permanent settlements;
they expected to accumulate gold and silver, and then return to their
country. They had sought to improve their condition, and their condition
became forlorn. They were exposed to sickness from malaria, poor food,
and hardship; they were molested by the natives whom they constantly
provoked; they were subject to cruel treatment on the part of royal
governors. They melted away wherever they settled, by famine, disease,
and war, whether in South or North America. They were discontented and
disappointed, and not easily governed; the chieftains quarrelled with
each other, and were disgraced by rapacity and cruelty. They did not
find what they expected. They were lonely and desolate, and longed to
return to the homes they had left, but were frequently without means to
return,--doomed to remain where they were, and die. Colonization had no
dignity until men went to the New World for religious liberty, or to
work upon the soil. The conquest of Mexico and Peru, however, opened up
the mining of gold and silver, which were finally found in great
abundance. And when the richness of these countries in the precious
metals was finally established, then a regular stream of emigrants
flocked to the American shores. Gold was at last found, but not until
thousands had miserably perished.

The mines of Mexico and Peru undoubtedly enriched Spain, and filled
Europe with envy and emulation. A stream of gold flowed to the mother
country, and the caravels which transported the treasures of the new
world became objects of plunder to all nations hostile to Spain. The
seas were full of pirates. Sir Francis Drake was an undoubted pirate,
and returned, after his long voyage around the world, with immense
treasure, which he had stolen. Then followed, with the eager search
after gold and silver, a rapid demoralization in all maritime countries.

It would be interesting to show how the sudden accumulation of wealth
by Spain led to luxury, arrogance, and idleness, followed by degeneracy
and decay, since those virtues on which the strength of man is based are
weakened by sudden wealth. Industry declined in proportion as Spain
became enriched by the precious metals. But this inquiry is foreign to
my object.

A still more interesting inquiry arises, how far the nations of Europe
were really enriched by the rapid accumulation of gold and silver. The
search for the precious metals may have stimulated commercial
enterprise, but it is not so clear that it added to the substantial
wealth of Europe, except so far as it promoted industry. Gold is not
wealth; it is simply the exponent of wealth. Real wealth is in farms and
shops and ships,--in the various channels of industry, in the results of
human labor. So far as the precious metals enter into useful
manufactures, or into articles of beauty and taste, they are indeed
inherently valuable. Mirrors, plate, jewelry, watches, gilded furniture,
the adornments of the person, in an important sense, constitute wealth,
since all nations value them, and will pay for them as they do for corn
or oil. So far as they are connected with art, they are valuable in the
same sense as statues and pictures, on which labor has been expended.
There is something useful, and even necessary, besides food and raiment
and houses. The gold which ornamented Solomon's temple, or the Minerva
of Phidias, or the garments of Leo X., had a value. The ring which is a
present to brides is a part of a marriage ceremony. The golden watch,
which never tarnishes, is more valuable inherently than a pewter one,
because it remains beautiful. Thus when gold enters into ornaments
deemed indispensable, or into manufactures which are needed, it has an
inherent value,--it is wealth.

But when gold is a mere medium of exchange,--its chief use,--then it has
only a conventional value; I mean, it does not make a nation rich or
poor, since the rarer it is the more it will purchase of the necessaries
of life. A pound's weight of gold, in ancient Greece, or in Mediaeval
Europe, would purchase as much wheat as twenty pounds' weight will
purchase to-day. If the mines of Mexico or Peru or California had never
been worked, the gold in the civilized world three hundred years ago
would have been as valuable for banking purposes, or as an exchange for
agricultural products, as twenty times its present quantity, since it
would have bought as much as twenty times the quantity will buy to-day.
Make diamonds as plenty as crystals, they would be worth no more than
crystals, if they were not harder and more beautiful. Make gold as
plenty as silver, it would be worth no more than silver, except for
manufacturing purposes; it would be worth no more to bankers and
merchants. The vast increase in the production of the precious metals
simply increased the value of the commodities for which they were
exchanged. A laborer can purchase no more bread with a dollar to-day
than he could with five cents three hundred years ago. Five cents were
really as much wealth three hundred years ago as a dollar is to-day.
Wherein, then, has the increase in the precious metals added to the
wealth of the world, if a twentieth part of the gold and silver now in
circulation would buy as much land, or furniture, or wheat, or oil three
hundred years ago as the whole amount now used as money will buy to-day?
Had no gold or silver mines been discovered in America, the gold and
silver would have appreciated in value in proportion to the wear of
them. In other words, the scarcer the gold and silver the more the same
will purchase of the fruits of human industry. So industry is the
wealth, not the gold. It is the cultivated farms and the manufactures
and the buildings and the internal improvements of a country which
constitute its real wealth, since these represent its industry,--the
labor of men. Mines, indeed, employ the labor of men, but they do not
furnish food for the body, or raiment to wear, or houses to live in, or
fuel for cooking, or any purpose whatever of human comfort or
necessity,--only a material for ornament; which I grant is wealth, so
far as ornament is for the welfare of man. The marbles of ancient
Greece were very valuable for the labor expended on them, either for
architecture or for ornament.

Gold and silver were early selected as useful and convenient articles
for exchange, like bank-notes, and so far have inherent value as they
supply that necessity; but if a fourth part of the gold and silver in
existence would supply that necessity, the remaining three-fourths are
as inherently valueless as the paper on which bank-notes are printed.
Their value consists in what they represent of the labors and
industries of men.

Now Spain ultimately became poor, in spite of the influx of gold and
silver from the American mines, because industries of all kinds
declined. People were diverted from useful callings by the mighty
delusion which gold discoveries created. These discoveries had the same
effect on industry, which is the wealth of nations, as the support of
standing armies has in our day. They diverted men from legitimate
callings. The miners had to be supported like soldiers; and, worse, the
sudden influx of gold and silver intoxicated men and stimulated
speculation. An army of speculators do not enrich a nation, since they
rob each other. They cause money to change hands; they do not stimulate
industry. They do not create wealth; they simply make it flow from one
person to another.

But speculations sometimes create activity in enterprise; they inflame
desires for wealth, and cause people to make greater exertions. In that
sense the discovery of American mines gave a stimulus to commerce and
travel and energy. People rushed to America for gold: these people had
to be fed and clothed. Then farmers and manufacturers followed the
gold-hunters; they tilled the soil to feed the miners. The new farms
which dotted the region of the gold-diggers added to the wealth of the
country in which the mines were located. Colonization followed
gold-digging. But it was America that became enriched, not the old
countries from which the miners came, except so far as the old countries
furnished tools and ships and fabrics, for doubtless commerce and
manufacturing were stimulated. So far, the wealth of the world
increased; but the men who returned to riot in luxury and idleness did
not stimulate enterprise. They made others idle also. The necessity of
labor was lost sight of.

And yet if one country became idle, another country may have become
industrious. There can be but little question that the discovery of the
American mines gave commerce and manufactures and agriculture, on the
whole, a stimulus. This was particularly seen in England. England grew
rich from industry and enterprise, as Spain became poor from idleness
and luxury. The silver and gold, diffused throughout Europe, ultimately
found their way into the pockets of Englishmen, who made a market for
their manufactures. It was not alone the precious metals which enriched
England, but the will and power to produce those articles of industry
for which the rest of the world parted with their gold and silver. What
has made France rich since the Revolution? Those innumerable articles of
taste and elegance--fabrics and wines--for which all Europe parted with
their specie; not war, not conquest, not mines. Why till recently was
Germany so poor? Because it had so little to sell to other nations;
because industry was cramped by standing armies and despotic

One thing is certain, that the discovery of America opened a new field
for industry and enterprise to all the discontented and impoverished and
oppressed Europeans who emigrated. At first they emigrated to dig silver
and gold. The opening of mines required labor, and miners were obliged
to part with their gold for the necessaries of life. Thus California in
our day has become peopled with farmers and merchants and manufacturers,
as well as miners. Many came to America expecting to find gold, and were
disappointed, and were obliged to turn agriculturists, as in Virginia.
Many came to New England from political and religious motives. But all
came to better their fortunes. Gradually the United States and Canada
became populated from east to west and from north to south. The surplus
population of Europe poured itself into the wilds of America. Generally
the emigrants were farmers. With the growth of agricultural industry
were developed commerce and manufactures. Thus, materially, the world
was immensely benefited. A new continent was opened for industry. No
matter what the form of government may be,--I might almost say no matter
what the morals and religion of the people may be,--so long as there is
land to occupy, and to be sold cheap, the continent will fill up, and
will be as densely populated as Europe or Asia, because the natural
advantages are good. The rivers and the lakes will be navigated; the
products of the country will be exchanged for European and Asiatic
products; wealth will certainly increase, and increase indefinitely.
There is no calculating the future resources and wealth of the New
World, especially in the United States. There are no conceivable bounds
to their future commerce, manufactures, and agricultural products. We
can predict with certainty the rise of new cities, villas, palaces,
material splendor, limited only to the increasing resources and
population of the country. Who can tell the number of miles of new
railroads yet to be made; the new inventions to abridge human labor;
what great empires are destined to rise; what unknown forms of luxury
will be found out; what new and magnificent trophies of art and science
will gradually be seen; what mechanism, what material glories, are sure
to come? This is not speculation. Nothing can retard the growth of
America in material wealth and glory. The splendid external will call
forth more panegyrics than the old Roman world which fancied itself
eternal. The tower of the new Babel will rise to the clouds, and be seen
in all its glory throughout the earth and sea. No Fourth of July orator
ever exaggerated the future destinies of America in a material point of
view. No "spread-eagle" politician even conceived what will be sure
to come.

And what then? Grant the most indefinite expansion,--the growth of
empires whose splendor and wealth and power shall utterly eclipse the
glories of the Old World. All this is probable. But when we have dwelt
on the future material expansion; when we have given wings to
imagination, and feel that even imagination cannot reach the probable
realities in a material aspect,--then our predictions and calculations
stop. Beyond material glories we cannot count with certainty. The world
has witnessed many powerful empires which have passed away, and left
"not a rack behind." What remains of the antediluvian world?--not even a
spike of Noah's ark, larger and stronger than any modern ship. What
remains of Nineveh, of Babylon, of Thebes, of Tyre, of Carthage,--those
great centres of wealth and power? What remains of Roman greatness
even, except in laws and literature and renovated statues? Remember
there is an undeviating uniformity in the past history of nations. What
is the simple story of all the ages?--industry, wealth, corruption,
decay, and ruin. What conservative power has been strong enough to
arrest the ruin of the nations of antiquity? Have not material forces
and glories been developed and exhibited, whatever the religion and
morals of the fallen nations? Cannot a country grow materially to a
certain point, under the most adverse influences, in a religious and
moral point of view? Yet for lack of religion and morals the nations
perished, and their Babel-towers were buried in the dust. They perished
for lack of true conservative forces; at least that is the judgment of
historians. Nobody doubts the splendor of the material glories of the
ancient nations. The ruins of Baalbec, of Palmyra, of Athens, prove
this, to say nothing of history. The material glories of the ancient
nations may be surpassed by our modern wonders; but yet all the material
glories of the ancient nations passed away.

Now if this is to be the destiny of America,--an unbounded material
growth, followed by corruption and ruin,--then Columbus has simply
extended the realm for men to try material experiments. Make New York a
second Carthage, and Boston a second Athens, and Philadelphia a second
Antioch, and Washington a second Rome, and we simply repeat the old
experiments. Did not the Romans have nearly all we have, materially,
except our modern scientific inventions?

But has America no higher destiny than to repeat the old experiments,
and improve upon them, and become rich and powerful? Has she no higher
and nobler mission? Can she lay hold of forces that the Old World never
had, such as will prevent the uniform doom of nations? I maintain that
there is no reason that can be urged, based on history and experience,
why she should escape the fate of the nations of antiquity, unless new
forces arise on this continent different from what the world has known,
and which have a conservative influence. If America has a great mission
to declare and to fulfil, she must put forth altogether new forces, and
these not material. And these alone will save her and save the world. It
is mournful to contemplate even the future magnificent material glories
of America if these are not to be preserved, if these are to share the
fate of ancient wonders. It is obvious that the real glory of America is
to be something entirely different from that of which the ancients
boasted. And this is to be moral and spiritual,--that which the
ancients lacked.

This leads me to speak of the moral consequences of the discovery of
America,--infinitely grander than any material wonders, of which the
world has been full, of which every form of paganism has boasted, which
nearly everywhere has perished, and which must necessarily perish
everywhere, without new forces to preserve them.

In a moral point of view scarcely anything good immediately resulted, at
least to Europe, by the discovery of America. It excited the wildest
spirit of adventure, the most unscrupulous cupidity, the most
demoralizing speculation. It created jealousies and wars. The cruelties
and injustices inflicted on the Indians were revolting. Nothing in the
annals of the world exceeds the wickedness of the Spaniards in the
conquest of Peru and Mexico. That conquest is the most dismal and least
glorious in human history. We see in it no poetry, or heroism, or
necessity; we read of nothing but its crimes. The Jesuits, in their
missionary zeal, partly redeemed the cruelties; but they soon imposed a
despotic yoke, and made their religion pay. Monopolies scandalously
increased, and the New World was regarded only as spoil. The tone of
moral feeling was lowered everywhere, for the nations were crazed with
the hope of sudden accumulations. Spain became enervated and

On America itself the demoralization was even more marked. There never
was such a state of moral degradation in any Christian country as in
South America. Three centuries have passed, and the low state of morals
continues. Contrast Mexico and Peru with the United States, morally and
intellectually. What seeds of vice did not the Spaniards plant! How the
old natives melted away!

And then, to add to the moral evils attending colonization, was the
introduction of African slaves, especially in the West Indies and the
Southern States of North America. Christendom seems to have lost the
sense of morality. Slavery more than counterbalances all other
advantages together. It was the stain of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. Not merely slaves, but the slave-trade, increase the horrors
of the frightful picture. America became associated, in the minds of
Europeans, with gold-hunting, slavery, and cruelty to Indians. Better
that the country had remained undiscovered than that such vices and
miseries should be introduced into the most fertile parts of the
New World.

I cannot see that civilization gained anything, morally, by the
discovery of America, until the new settlers were animated by other
motives than a desire for sudden wealth. When the country became
colonized by men who sought liberty to worship God,--men of lofty
purposes, willing to undergo sufferings and danger in order to plant the
seeds of a higher civilization,--then there arose new forms of social
and political life. Such men were those who colonized New England. And,
say what you will, in spite of all the disagreeable sides of the Puritan
character, it was the Puritans who gave a new impulse to civilization in
its higher sense. They founded schools and colleges and churches. They
introduced a new form of political life by their town-meetings, in which
liberty was nurtured, and all local improvements were regulated. It was
the autonomy of towns on which the political structure of New England
rested. In them was born that true representative government which has
gradually spread towards the West. The colonies were embryo
States,--States afterwards to be bound together by a stronger tie than
that of a league. The New England States, after the war of Independence,
were the defenders and advocates of a federal and central power. An
entirely new political organization was gradually formed, resting
equally on such pillars as independent townships and independent States,
and these represented by delegates in a national centre.

So we believe America was discovered, not so much to furnish a field for
indefinite material expansion, with European arts and fashions,--which
would simply assimilate America to the Old World, with all its dangers
and vices and follies,--but to introduce new forms of government, new
social institutions, new customs and manners, new experiments in
liberty, new religious organizations, new modes to ameliorate the
necessary evils of life. It was discovered that men might labor and
enjoy the fruits of industry in a new mode, unfettered by the restraints
which the institutions of Europe imposed. America is a new field in
which to try experiments in government and social life, which cannot be
tried in the older nations without sweeping and dangerous revolutions;
and new institutions have arisen which are our pride and boast, and
which are the wonder and admiration of Europe. America is the only
country under the sun in which there is self-government,--a government
which purely represents the wishes of the people, where universal
suffrage is not a mockery. And if America has a destiny to fulfil for
other nations, she must give them something more valuable than reaping
machines, palace cars, and horse railroads. She must give, not only
machinery to abridge labor, but institutions and ideas to expand the
mind and elevate the soul,--something by which the poor can rise and
assert their rights. Unless something is developed here which cannot be
developed in other countries, in the way of new spiritual and
intellectual forces, which have a conservative influence, then I cannot
see how America can long continue to be the home and refuge of the poor
and miserable of other lands. A new and better spirit must vivify
schools and colleges and philanthropic enterprises than that which has
prevailed in older nations. Unless something new is born here which has
a peculiar power to save, wherein will America ultimately differ from
other parts of Christendom? We must have schools in which the heart as
well as the brain is educated, and newspapers which aspire to something
higher than to fan prejudices and appeal to perverted tastes. Our hope
is not in books which teach infidelity under the name of science, nor in
pulpits which cannot be sustained without sensational oratory, nor in
journals which trade on the religious sentiments of the people, nor in
Sabbath-school books which are an insult to the human understanding, nor
in colleges which fit youth merely for making money, nor in schools of
technology to give an impulse to material interests, nor in legislatures
controlled by monopolists, nor in judges elected by demagogues, nor in
philanthropic societies to ventilate unpractical theories. These will
neither renovate nor conserve what is most precious in life. Unless a
nation grows morally as well as materially, there is something wrong at
the core of society. As I have said, no material expansion will avail,
if society becomes rotten at the core. America is a glorious boon to
civilization, but only as she fulfils a new mission in history,--not to
become more potent in material forces, but in those spiritual agencies
which prevent corruption and decay. An infidel professor, calling
himself a savant, may tell you that there is nothing certain or great
but in the direction of science to utilities, even as he may glory in a
philosophy which ignores a creator and takes cognizance only of
a creation.

As I survey the growing and enormous moral evils which degrade society,
here as everywhere, in spite of Bunker Hills and Plymouth Rocks, and all
the windy declamations of politicians and philanthropists, and all the
advance in useful mechanisms, I am sometimes tempted to propound
inquiries which suggest the old, mournful story of the decline and ruin
of States and Empires. I ask myself, Why should America be an exception
to the uniform fate of nations, as history has demonstrated? Why should
not good institutions be perverted here, as in all other countries and
ages of the world? Where has civilization shown any striking triumphs,
except in inventions to abridge the labors of mankind and make men
comfortable and rich? Is there nothing before us, then, but the triumphs
of material life, to end as mournfully as the materialism of antiquity?
If so, then Christianity is a most dismal failure, is a defeated power,
like all other forms of religion which failed to save. But is it a
failure? Are we really swinging back to Paganism? Is the time to be
hailed when all religions will be considered by the philosopher as
equally false and equally useful? Is there nothing more cheerful for us
to contemplate than what the old Pagan philosophy holds out,--man
destined to live like brutes or butterflies, and pass away into the
infinity of time and space, like inert matter, decomposed, absorbed, and
entering into new and everlasting combinations? Is America to become
like Europe and Asia in all essential elements of life? Has she no other
mission than to add to perishable glories? Is she to teach the world
nothing new in education and philanthropy and government? Are all her
struggles in behalf of liberty in vain?

We all know that Christianity is the only hope of the world. The
question is, whether America is or is not more favorable for its healthy
developments and applications than the other countries of Christendom
are. We believe that it is. If it is not, then America is only a new
field for the spread and triumph of material forces. If it is, we may
look forward to such improvements in education, in political
institutions, in social life, in religious organizations, in
philanthropical enterprise, that the country will be sought by the poor
and enslaved classes of Europe more for its moral and intellectual
advantages than for its mines or farms; the objects of the Puritan
settlers will be gained, and the grandeur of the discovery of a New
World will be established.

     "What sought they thus afar?
        Bright jewels of the mine?
      The wealth of seas,--the spoils of war?
        They sought for Faith's pure shrine.
      Ay, call it holy ground,
        The soil where first they trod;
      They've left unstained what there they found,--
        Freedom to worship God."


Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella; Washington Irving; Cabot's Voyages,
and other early navigators; Columbus, by De Costa; Life of Columbus, by
Bossi and Spatono; Relations de Quatre Voyage par Christopher Colomb;
Drake's World Encompassed; Murray's Historical Account of Discoveries;
Hernando, Historia del Amirante; History of Commerce; Lives of Pizarro
and Cortes; Frobisher's Voyages; Histories of Herrera, Las Casas,
Gomera, and Peter Martyr; Navarrete's Collections; Memoir of Cabot, by
Richard Biddle; Hakluyt's Voyages; Dr. Lardner's Cyclopaedia,--History
of Maritime and Inland Discovery; Anderson's History of Commerce;
Oviedo's General History of the West Indies; History of the New World,
by Geronimo Benzoni; Goodrich's Life of Christopher Columbus.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1452-1498.


This lecture is intended to set forth a memorable movement in the Roman
Catholic Church,--a reformation of morals, preceding the greater
movement of Luther to produce a reformation of both morals and
doctrines. As the representative of this movement I take Savonarola,
concerning whom much has of late been written; more, I think, because he
was a Florentine in a remarkable age,--the age of artists and of
reviving literature,--than because he was a martyr, battling with evils
which no one man was capable of removing. His life was more a protest
than a victory. He was an unsuccessful reformer, and yet he prepared the
way for that religious revival which afterward took place in the
Catholic Church itself. His spirit was not revolutionary, like that of
the Saxon monk, and yet it was progressive. His soul was in active
sympathy with every emancipating idea of his age. He was the incarnation
of a fervid, living, active piety amid forms and formulas, a fearless
exposer of all shams, an uncompromising enemy to the blended atheism and
idolatry of his ungodly age. He was the contemporary of political,
worldly, warlike, unscrupulous popes, disgraced by nepotism and personal
vices,--men who aimed to extend not a spiritual but temporal dominion,
and who scandalized the highest position in the Christian world, as
attested by all reliable historians, whether Catholic or Protestant.
However infallible the Catholic Church claims to be, it has never been
denied that some of her highest dignitaries have been subject to grave
reproaches, both in their character and their influence. Such men were
Sixtus IV., Julius II., and Alexander VI.,--able, probably, for it is
very seldom that the popes have not been distinguished for something,
but men, nevertheless, who were a disgrace to the superb position they
had succeeded in reaching.

The great feature of that age was the revival of classical learning and
artistic triumphs in sculpture, painting, and architecture, blended with
infidel levity and social corruptions, so that it is both interesting
and hideous. It is interesting for its triumphs of genius, its
dispersion of the shadows of the Middle Ages, the commencement of great
enterprises and of a marked refinement of manners and tastes; it is
hideous for its venalities, its murders, its debaucheries, its
unblushing wickedness, and its disgraceful levities, when God and duty
and self-restraint were alike ignored. Cruel tyrants reigned in cities,
and rapacious priests fattened on the credulity of the people. Think of
monks itinerating Europe to sell indulgences for sin; of monasteries and
convents filled, not with sublime enthusiasts as in earlier times, but
with gluttons and sensualists, living in concubinage and greedy of the
very things which primitive monasticism denounced and abhorred! Think of
boys elevated to episcopal thrones, and the sons of popes made cardinals
and princes! Think of churches desecrated by spectacles which were
demoralizing, and a worship of saints and images which had become
idolatrous,--a degrading superstition among the people, an infidel
apathy among the higher classes: not infidel speculations, for these
were reserved for more enlightened times, but an indifference to what is
ennobling, to all vital religion, worthy of the Sophists in the time
of Socrates!

It was in this age of religious apathy and scandalous vices, yet of
awakening intelligence and artistic glories, when the greatest
enthusiasm was manifested for the revived literature and sculptured
marbles of classic Greece and Rome, that Savonarola appeared in Florence
as a reformer and preacher and statesman, near the close of the
fifteenth century, when Columbus was seeking a western passage to India;
when Michael Angelo was moulding the "Battle of Hercules with the
Centaurs;" when Ficino was teaching the philosophy of Plato; when
Alexander VI. was making princes of his natural children; when Bramante
was making plans for a new St. Peter's; when Cardinal Bembo was writing
Latin essays; when Lorenzo de' Medici was the flattered patron of both
scholars and artists, and the city over which he ruled with so much
magnificence was the most attractive place in Europe, next to that other
city on the banks of the Tiber, whose wonders and glories have never
been exhausted, and will probably survive the revolutions of
unknown empires.

But Savonarola was not a native of Florence. He was born in the year
1452 at Ferrara, belonged to a good family, and received an expensive
education, being destined to the profession of medicine. He was a sad,
solitary, pensive, but precocious young man, whose youth was marked by
an unfortunate attachment to a haughty Florentine girl. He did not
cherish her memory and dedicate to her a life-labor, like Dante, but
became very dejected and very pious. His piety assumed, of course, the
ascetic type, for there was scarcely any other in that age, and he
entered a Dominican convent, as Luther, a few years later, entered an
Augustinian. But he was not an original genius, or a bold and
independent thinker like Luther, so he was not emancipated from the
ideas of his age. How few men can go counter to prevailing ideas! It
takes a prodigious genius, and a fearless, inquiring mind, to break away
from their bondage. Abraham could renounce the idolatries which
surrounded him, when called by a supernatural voice; Paul could give up
the Phariseeism which-reigned in the Jewish schools and synagogues, when
stricken blind by the hand of God; Luther could break away from monastic
rules and papal denunciation, when taught by the Bible the true ground
of justification,--but Savonarola could not. He pursued the path to
heaven in the beaten track, after the fashion of Jerome and Bernard and
Thomas Aquinas, after the style of the Middle Ages, and was sincere,
devout, and lofty, like the saints of the fifth century, and read his
Bible as they did, and essayed a high religious life; but he was stern,
gloomy, and austere, emaciated by fasts and self-denial. He had,
however, those passive virtues which Mediaeval piety ever
enjoined,--yea, which Christ himself preached upon the Mount, and which
Protestantism, in the arrogance of reason, is in danger of losing sight
of,--humility, submission, and contempt of material gains. He won the
admiration of his superiors for his attainments and his piety, being
equally versed in Aristotle and the Holy Scriptures. He delighted most
in the Old Testament heroes and prophets, and caught their sternness and

He was not so much interested in dogmas as he was in morals. He had
not, indeed, a turn of mind for theology, like Anselm and Calvin; but he
took a practical view of the evils of society. At thirty years of age he
began to preach in Ferrara and Florence, but was not very successful.
His sermons at first created but little interest, and he sometimes
preached to as few as twenty-five people. Probably he was too rough and
vehement to suit the fastidious ears of the most refined city in Italy.
People will not ordinarily bear uncouthness from preachers, however
gifted, until they have earned a reputation; they prefer pretty and
polished young men with nothing but platitudes or extravagances to
utter. Savonarola seems to have been discouraged and humiliated at his
failure, and was sent to preach to the rustic villagers, amid the
mountains near Sienna. Among these people he probably felt more at home;
and he gave vent to the fire within him and electrified all who heard
him, winning even the admiration of the celebrated Prince of Mirandola.
From this time his fame spread rapidly, he was recalled to Florence,
1490, and his great career commenced. In the following year such crowds
pressed to hear him that the church of St. Mark, connected with the
Dominican convent to which he was attached, could not contain the
people, and he repaired to the cathedral. And even that spacious church
was filled with eager listeners,--more moved than delighted. So great
was his popularity, that his influence correspondingly increased and he
was chosen prior of his famous convent.

He now wielded power as well as influence, and became the most marked
man of the city. He was not only the most eloquent preacher in Italy,
probably in the world, but his eloquence was marked by boldness,
earnestness, almost fierceness. Like an ancient prophet, he was terrible
in his denunciation of vices. He spared no one, and he feared no one. He
resembled Chrysostom at Constantinople, when he denounced the vanity of
Eudoxia and the venality of Eutropius. Lorenzo de' Medici, the absolute
lord of Florence, sent for him, and expostulated and remonstrated with
the unsparing preacher,--all to no effect. And when the usurper of his
country's liberties was dying, the preacher was again sent for, this
time to grant an absolution. But Savonarola would grant no absolution
unless Lorenzo would restore the liberties which he and his family had
taken away. The dying tyrant was not prepared to accede to so haughty a
demand, and, collecting his strength, rolled over on his bed without
saying a word, and the austere monk wended his way back to his convent,
unmolested and determined.

The premature death of this magnificent prince made a great sensation
throughout Italy, and produced a change in the politics of Florence, for
the people began to see their political degradation. The popular
discontents were increased when his successor, Pietro, proved himself
incapable and tyrannical, abandoned himself to orgies, and insulted the
leading citizens by an overwhelming pride. Savonarola took the side of
the people, and fanned the discontents. He became the recognized leader
of opposition to the Medici, and virtually ruled the city.

The Prior of St. Mark now appeared in a double light,--as a political
leader and as a popular preacher. Let us first consider him in his
secular aspect, as a revolutionist and statesman,--for the admirable
constitution he had a principal hand in framing entitles him to the
dignity of statesman rather than politician. If his cause had not been
good, and if he had not appealed to both enlightened and patriotic
sentiments, he would have been a demagogue; for a demagogue and a mere
politician are synonymous, and a clerical demagogue is hideous.

Savonarola began his political career with terrible denunciations, from
his cathedral pulpit, of the political evils of his day, not merely in
Florence but throughout Italy. He detested tyrants and usurpers, and
sought to conserve such liberties as the Florentines had once enjoyed.
He was not only the preacher, he was also the patriot. Things temporal
were mixed up with things spiritual in his discourses. In his
detestation of the tyranny of the Medici, and his zeal to recover for
the Florentines their lost liberties, he even hailed the French armies
of Charles VIII. as deliverers, although they had crossed the Alps to
invade and conquer Italy. If the gates of Florence were open to them,
they would expel the Medici. So he stimulated the people to league with
foreign enemies in order to recover their liberties. This would have
been high treason in Richelieu's time,--as when the Huguenots encouraged
the invasion of the English on the soil of France. Savonarola was a
zealot, and carried the same spirit into politics that he did into
religion,--such as when he made a bonfire of what he called vanities. He
had an end to carry: he would use any means. There is apt to be a spirit
of Jesuitism in all men consumed with zeal, determined on success. To
the eye of the Florentine reformer, the expulsion of the Medici seemed
the supremest necessity; and if it could be done in no other way than by
opening the gates of his city to the French invaders, he would open the
gates. Whatever he commanded from the pulpit was done by the people, for
he seemed to have supreme control over them, gained by his eloquence as
a preacher. But he did not abuse his power. When the Medici were
expelled, he prevented violence; blood did not flow in the streets;
order and law were preserved. The people looked up to him as their
leader, temporal as well as spiritual. So he assembled them in the
great hall of the city, where they formally held a _parlemento_, and
reinstated the ancient magistrates. But these were men without
experience. They had no capacity to govern, and they were selected
without wisdom on the part of the people. The people, in fact, had not
the ability to select their best and wisest men for rulers. That is an
evil inherent in all popular governments. Does San Francisco or New York
send its greatest men to Congress? Do not our cities elect such rulers
as the demagogues point out? Do not the few rule, even in a
Congregational church? If some commanding genius, unscrupulous or wise
or eloquent or full of tricks, controls elections with us, much more
easily could such a man as Savonarola rule in Florence, where there were
no political organizations, no caucuses, no wirepullers, no other man of
commanding ability. The only opinion-maker was this preacher, who
indicated the general policy to be pursued. He left elections to the
people; and when these proved a failure, a new constitution became a
necessity. But where were the men capable of framing a constitution for
the republic? Two generations of political slavery had destroyed
political experience. The citizens were as incapable of framing a new
constitution as the legislators of France after they had decimated the
nobility, confiscated the Church lands, and cut off the head of the
king. The lawyers disputed in the town hall, but accomplished nothing.

Their science amounted only to an analysis of human passion. All wanted
a government entirely free from tyranny; all expected impossibilities.
Some were in favor of a Venetian aristocracy, and others of a pure
democracy; yet none would yield to compromise, without which no
permanent political institution can ever be framed. How could the
inexperienced citizens of Florence comprehend the complicated relations
of governments? To make a constitution that the world respects requires
the highest maturity of human wisdom. It is the supremest labor of great
men. It took the ablest man ever born among the Jews to give to them a
national polity. The Roman constitution was the fruit of five hundred
years' experience. Our constitution was made by the wisest, most
dignified, most enlightened body of statesmen that this country has yet
seen, and even they could not have made it without great mutual
concessions. No _one_ man could have made a constitution, however great
his talents and experience,--not even a Jefferson or a Hamilton,--which
the nation would have accepted. It would have been as full of defects as
the legislation of Solon or Lycurgus or the Abbé Sieyès. But one man
gave a constitution to the Florentines, which they not only accepted,
but which has been generally admired for its wisdom; and that man was
our Dominican monk. The hand he had in shaping that constitution not
only proved him to have been a man of great wisdom, but entitled him to
the gratitude of his countrymen as a benefactor. He saw the vanity of
political science as it then existed, the incapacity of popular leaders,
and the sadness of a people drifting into anarchy and confusion; and,
strong in his own will and his sense of right, he rose superior to
himself, and directed the stormy elements of passion and fear. And this
he did by his sermons from the pulpit,--for he did not descend, in
person, into the stormy arena of contending passions and interests. He
did not himself attend the deliberations in the town hall; he was too
wise and dignified a man for that. But he preached those principles and
measures which he wished to see adopted; and so great was the reverence
for him that the people listened to his instructions, and afterward
deliberated and acted among themselves. He did not write out a code, but
he told the people what they should put into it. He was the animating
genius of the city; his voice was obeyed. He unfolded the theory that
the government of one man, in their circumstances, would become
tyrannical; and he taught the doctrine, then new, that the people were
the only source of power,--that they alone had the right to elect their
magistrates. He therefore recommended a general government, which should
include all citizens who had intelligence, experience, and
position,--not all the people, but such as had been magistrates, or
their fathers before them. Accordingly, a grand council was formed of
three thousand citizens, out of a population of ninety thousand who had
reached the age of twenty-nine. These three thousand citizens were
divided into three equal bodies, each of which should constitute a
council for six months and no meeting was legal unless two-thirds of the
members were present. This grand council appointed the magistrates. But
another council was also recommended and adopted, of only eighty
citizens not under forty years of age,--picked men, to be changed every
six months, whom the magistrates were bound to consult weekly, and to
whom was confided the appointment of some of the higher officers of the
State, like ambassadors to neighboring States. All laws proposed by the
magistrates, or seigniory, had to be ratified by this higher and
selecter council. The higher council was a sort of Senate, the lower
council were more like Representatives. But there was no universal
suffrage. The clerical legislator knew well enough that only the better
and more intelligent part of the people were fit to vote, even in the
election of magistrates. He seems to have foreseen the fatal rock on
which all popular institutions are in danger of being wrecked,--that no
government is safe and respected when the people who make it are
ignorant and lawless. So the constitution which Savonarola gave was
neither aristocratic nor democratic. It resembled that of Venice more
than that of Athens, that of England more than that of the United
States. Strictly universal suffrage is a Utopian dream wherever a
majority of the people are wicked and degraded. Sooner or later it
threatens to plunge any nation, as nations now are, into a whirlpool of
dangers, even if Divine Providence may not permit a nation to be
stranded and wrecked altogether. In the politics of Savonarola we see
great wisdom, and yet great sympathy for freedom. He would give the
people all that they were fit for. He would make all offices elective,
but only by the suffrages of the better part of the people.

But the Prior of St. Mark did not confine himself to constitutional
questions and issues alone. He would remove all political abuses; he
would tax property, and put an end to forced loans and arbitrary
imposts; he would bring about a general pacification, and grant a
general amnesty for political offences; he would guard against the
extortions of the rich, and the usury of the Jews, who lent money at
thirty-three per cent, with compound interest; he secured the
establishment of a bank for charitable loans; he sought to make the
people good citizens, and to advance their temporal as well as spiritual
interests. All his reforms, political or social, were advocated,
however, from the pulpit; so that he was doubtless a political priest.
We, in this country and in these times, have no very great liking to
this union of spiritual and temporal authority: we would separate and
divide this authority. Protestants would make the functions of the ruler
and the priest forever distinct. But at that time the popes themselves
were secular rulers, as well as spiritual dignitaries. All bishops and
abbots had the charge of political interests. Courts of law were
presided over by priests. Priests were ambassadors to foreign powers;
they were ministers of kings; they had the control of innumerable
secular affairs, now intrusted to laymen. So their interference with
politics did not shock the people of Florence, or the opinions of the
age. It was indeed imperatively called for, since the clergy were the
most learned and influential men of those times, even in affairs of
state. I doubt if the Catholic Church has ever abrogated or ignored her
old right to meddle in the politics of a state or nation. I do not know,
but apprehend, that the Catholic clergy even in this country take it
upon themselves to instruct the people in their political duties. No
enlightened Protestant congregation would endure this interference. No
Protestant minister dares ever to discuss direct political issues from
the pulpit, except perhaps on Thanksgiving Day, or in some rare exigency
in public affairs. Still less would he venture to tell his parishioners
how they should vote in town-meetings. In imitation of ancient saints
and apostles, he is wisely constrained from interference in secular and
political affairs. But in the Middle Ages, and the Catholic Church, the
priest could be political in his preaching, since many of his duties
were secular. Savonarola usurped no prerogatives. He refrained from
meeting men in secular vocations. Even in his politics he confined
himself to his sphere in the pulpit. He did not attend the public
debates; he simply preached. He ruled by wisdom, eloquence, and
sanctity; and as he was an oracle, his utterances became a law.

But while he instructed the people in political duties, he paid far more
attention to public morals. He would break up luxury, extravagance,
ostentatious living, unseemly dresses in the house of God. He was the
foe of all levities, all frivolities, all insidious pleasures. Bad men
found no favor in his eyes, and he exposed their hypocrisies and crimes.
He denounced sin, in high places and low. He did not confine himself to
the sins of his own people alone, but censured those of princes and of
other cities. He embraced all Italy in his glance. He invoked the Lord
to take the Church out of the hands of the Devil, to pour out his wrath
on guilty cities. He throws down a gauntlet of defiance to all corrupt
potentates; he predicts the near approach of calamities; he foretells
the certainty of divine judgment upon all sin; he clothes himself with
the thunders of the Jewish prophets; he seems to invoke woe, desolation,
and destruction. He ascribes the very invasion of the French to the
justice of retribution. "Thy crimes, O Florence! thy crimes, O Rome! thy
crimes, O Italy! are the causes of these chastisements." And so terrible
are his denunciations that the whole city quakes with fear. Mirandola
relates that as Savonarola's voice sounded like a clap of thunder in the
cathedral, packed to its utmost capacity with the trembling people, a
cold shiver ran through all his bones and the hairs of his head stood on
end. "O Rome!" exclaimed the preacher, "thou shalt be put to the sword,
since thou wilt not be converted. O Italy! confusion upon confusion
shall overtake thee; the confusion of war shall follow thy sins, and
famine and pestilence shall follow after war." Then he denounces Rome:
"O harlot Church! thou hast made thy deformity apparent to all the
world; thou hast multiplied thy fornications in Italy, in France, in
Spain, in every country. Behold, saith the Lord, I will stretch forth my
hand upon thee; I will deliver thee into the hands of those that hate
thee." The burden of his soul is sin,--sin everywhere, even in the bosom
of the Church,--and the necessity of repentance, of turning to the Lord.
He is more than an Elijah,--he is a John the Baptist His sermons are
chiefly drawn from the Old Testament, especially from the prophets in
their denunciation of woes; like them, he is stern, awful, sublime. He
does not attack the polity or the constitution of the Church, but its
corruptions. He does not call the Pope a usurper, a fraud, an impostor;
he does not attack the office; but if the Pope is a bad man he denounces
his crimes. He is still the Dominican monk, owning his allegiance, but
demanding the reformation of the head of the Church, to whom God has
given the keys of Saint Peter. Neither does he meddle with the doctrines
of the Church; he does not take much interest in dogmas. He is not a
theologian, but he would change the habits and manners of the people of
Florence. He would urge throughout Italy a reformation of morals. He
sees only the degeneracy in life; he threatens eternal penalties if sin
be persisted in. He alarms the fears of the people, so that women part
with their ornaments, dress with more simplicity, and walk more
demurely; licentious young men become modest and devout; instead of the
songs of the carnival, religious hymns are sung; tradesmen forsake their
shops for the churches; alms are more freely given; great scholars
become monks; even children bring their offerings to the Church; a
pyramid of "vanities" is burned on the public square.

And no wonder. A man had appeared at a great crisis in wickedness, and
yet while the people were still susceptible of grand sentiments; and
this man--venerated, austere, impassioned, like an ancient prophet, like
one risen from the dead--denounces woes with such awful tones, such
majestic fervor, such terrible emphasis, as to break through all apathy,
all delusions, and fill the people with remorse, astonish them by his
revelations, and make them really feel that the supernal powers, armed
with the terrors of Omnipotence, would hurl them into hell unless
they repented.

No man in Europe at the time had a more lively and impressive sense of
the necessity of a general reformation than the monk of St. Mark; but it
was a reform in morals, not of doctrine. He saw the evils of the
day--yea, of the Church itself--with perfect clearness, and demanded
redress. He is as sad in view of these acknowledged evils as Jeremiah
was in view of the apostasy of the Jews; he is as austere in his own
life as Elijah or John the Baptist was. He would not abolish monastic
institutions, but he would reform the lives of the monks,--cure them of
gluttony and sensuality, not shut up their monasteries. He would not
rebel against the authority of the Pope, for even Savonarola supposed
that prelate to be the successor of Saint Peter; but he would prevent
the Pope's nepotism and luxury and worldly spirit,--make him once more a
true "servant of the servants of God," even when clothed with the
insignia of universal authority. He would not give up auricular
confession, or masses for the dead, or prayers to the Virgin Mary, for
these were indorsed by venerated ages; but he would rebuke a priest if
found in unseemly places. Whatever was a sin, when measured by the laws
of immutable morality, he would denounce, whoever was guilty of it;
whatever would elevate the public morals he would advocate, whoever
opposed. His morality was measured by the declaration of Christ and the
Apostles, not by the standard of a corrupt age. He revered the
Scriptures, and incessantly pondered them, and exalted their authority,
holding them to be the ultimate rule of holy living, the everlasting
handbook of travellers to the heavenly Jerusalem. In all respects he was
a good man,--a beautiful type of Christian piety, with fewer faults than
Luther or Calvin had, and as great an enemy as they to corruptions in
State and Church, which he denounced even more fiercely and
passionately. Not even Erasmus pointed out the vices of the day with
more freedom or earnestness. He covered up nothing; he shut his eyes
to nothing.

The difference between Savonarola and Luther was that the Saxon reformer
attacked the root of the corruption; not merely outward and tangible and
patent sins which everybody knew, but also and more earnestly those
false principles of theology and morals which sustained them, and which
logically pushed out would necessarily have produced them. For
instance, he not merely attacked indulgences, then a crying evil, as
peddled by Tetzel and others like him, and all to get money to support
the temporal power of the popes or build St. Peter's church; but he
would show that penance, on which indulgences are based, is antagonistic
to the doctrine which Paul so forcibly expounded respecting the
forgiveness of sins and the grounds of justification. And Luther saw
that all the evils which good men lamented would continue so long as the
false principles from which they logically sprung were the creed of the
Church. So he directed his giant energies to reform doctrines rather
than morals. His great idea of justification could be defended only by
an appeal to the Scriptures, not to the authority of councils and
learned men. So he made the Scriptures the sole source of theological
doctrine. Savonarola also accepted the Scriptures, but Luther would put
them in the hands of everybody, of peasants even,--and thus instituted
private judgment, which is the basal pillar of Protestantism. The
Catholic theologians never recognized this right in the sense that
Luther understood it, and to which he was pushed by inexorable logic.
The Church was to remain the interpreter of the doctrinal and disputed
points of the Scriptures.

Savonarola was a churchman. He was not a fearless theological doctor,
going wherever logic and the Bible carried him. Hence, he did not
stimulate thought and inquiry as Luther did, nor inaugurate a great
revolutionary movement, which would gradually undermine papal authority
and many institutions which the Catholic Church indorsed. Had he been a
great genius, with his progressive proclivities, he might have headed a
rebellion against papal authority, which upheld doctrines that logically
supported the very evils he denounced. But he was contented to lop off
branches; he did not dig up the roots. Luther went to the roots, as
Calvin did; as Saint Augustine would have done had there been a
necessity in his day, for the theology of Saint Augustine and Calvin is
essentially the same. It was from Saint Augustine that Calvin drew his
inspiration next after Saint Paul. But Savonarola cared very little for
the discussion of doctrines; he probably hated all theological
speculations, all metaphysical divinity. Yet there is a closer
resemblance between doctrines and morals than most people are aware of.
As a man thinketh, so is he. Hence, the reforms of Savonarola were
temporary, and were not widely extended; for he did not kindle the
intelligence of the age, as did Luther and those associated with him.
There can be no great and lasting reform without an appeal to reason,
without the assistance of logic, without conviction. The house that had
been swept and garnished was re-entered by devils, and the last state
was worse than the first. To have effected a radical and lasting reform,
Savonarola should have gone deeper. He should have exposed the
foundations on which the superstructure of sin was built; he should have
undermined them, and appealed to the reason of the world. He did no such
thing. He simply rebuked the evils, which must needs be, so long as the
root of them is left untouched. And so long as his influence remained,
so long as his voice was listened to, he was mighty in the reforms at
which he aimed,--a reformation of the morals of those to whom he
preached. But when his voice was hushed, the evils he detested returned,
since he had not created those convictions which bind men together in
association; he had not fanned that spirit of inquiry which is hostile
to ecclesiastical despotism, and which, logically projected, would
subvert the papal throne. The reformation of Luther was a grand protest
against spiritual tyranny. It not only aimed at a purer life, but it
opposed the bondage of the Middle Ages, and all the superstitions and
puerilities and fables which were born and nurtured in that dark and
gloomy period and to which the clergy clung as a means of power or
wealth. Luther called out the intellect of Germany, exalted liberty of
conscience, and appealed to the dignity of reason. He showed the
necessity of learning, in order to unravel and explain the truths of
revelation. He made piety more exalted by giving it an intelligent
stimulus. He looked to the future rather than the past. He would make
use, in his interpretation of the Bible, of all that literature,
science, and art could contribute. Hence his writings had a wider
influence than could be produced by the fascination of personal
eloquence, on which Savonarola relied, but which Luther made only

Again, the sermons of the Florentine reformer do not impress us as they
did those to whom they were addressed. They are not logical, nor
doctrinal, nor learned,--not rich in thought, like the sermons of those
divines whom the Reformation produced. They are vehement denunciations
of sin; are eloquent appeals to the heart, to religious fears and hopes.
He would indeed create faith in the world, not by the dissertations of
Paul, but by the agonies of the dying Christ. He does not instruct; he
does not reason. He is dogmatic and practical. He is too earnest to be
metaphysical, or even theological. He takes it for granted that his
hearers know all the truths necessary for salvation. He enforces the
truths with which they are familiar, not those to be developed by reason
and learning. He appeals, he urges, he threatens; he even prophesies; he
dwells on divine wrath and judgment. He is an Isaiah foretelling what
will happen, rather than a Peter at the Day of Pentecost.

Savonarola was transcendent in his oratorical gifts, the like of which
has never before nor since been witnessed in Italy. He was a born
orator; as vehement as Demosthenes, as passionate as Chrysostom, as
electrical as Bernard. Nothing could withstand him; he was a torrent
that bore everything before him. His voice was musical, his attitude
commanding, his gestures superb. He was all alive with his subject. He
was terribly in earnest, as if he believed everything he said, and that
what he said were most momentous truths. He fastened his burning eyes
upon his hearers, who listened with breathless attention, and inspired
them with his sentiments; he made them feel that they were in the very
jaws of destruction, and that there was no hope but in immediate
repentance. His whole frame quivered with emotion, and he sat down
utterly exhausted. His language was intense, not clothing new thoughts,
but riveting old ideas,--the ideas of the Middle Ages; the fear of hell,
the judgments of Almighty God. Who could resist such fiery earnestness,
such a convulsed frame, such quivering tones, such burning eyes, such
dreadful threatenings, such awful appeals? He was not artistic in the
use of words and phrases like Bourdaloue, but he reached the conscience
and the heart like Whitefield. He never sought to amuse; he would not
stoop to any trifling. He told no stories; he made no witticisms; he
used no tricks. He fell back on truths, no matter whether his hearers
relished them or not; no matter whether they were amused or not. He was
the messenger of God urging men to flee as for their lives, like Lot
when he escaped from Sodom.

Savonarola's manner was as effective as his matter. He was a kind of
Peter the Hermit, preaching a crusade, arousing emotions and passions,
and making everybody feel as he felt. It was life more than thought
which marked his eloquence,--his voice as well as his ideas, his
wonderful electricity, which every preacher must have, or he preaches to
stones. It was himself, even more than his truths, which made people
listen, admire, and quake. All real orators impress themselves--their
own individuality--on their auditors. They are not actors, who represent
other people, and whom we admire in proportion to their artistic skill
in producing deception. These artists excite admiration, make us forget
where we are and what we are, but kindle no permanent emotions, and
teach no abiding lessons. The eloquent preacher of momentous truths and
interests makes us realize them, in proportion as he feels them himself.
They would fall dead upon us, if ever so grand, unless intensified by
passion, fervor, sincerity, earnestness. Even a voice has power, when
electrical, musical, impassioned, although it may utter platitudes. But
when the impassioned voice rings with trumpet notes through a vast
audience, appealing to what is dearest to the human soul, lifting the
mind to the contemplation of the sublimest truths and most momentous
interests, then there is _real_ eloquence, such as is never heard in the
theatre, interested as spectators may be in the triumphs of
dramatic art.

But I have dwelt too long on the characteristics of that eloquence which
produced such a great effect on the people of Florence in the latter
part of the fifteenth century. That ardent, intense, and lofty monk,
world-deep like Dante, not world-wide like Shakspeare, Who filled the
cathedral church with eager listeners, was not destined to uninterrupted
triumphs. His career was short; he could not even retain his influence.
As the English people wearied of the yoke of a Puritan Protector, and
hankered for their old pleasures, so the Florentines remembered the
sports and spectacles and _fêtes_ of the old Medicean rule. Savonarola
had arrayed against himself the enemies of popular liberty, the patrons
of demoralizing excitements, the partisans of the banished Medici, and
even the friends and counsellors of the Pope. The dreadful denunciation
of sin in high places was as offensive to the Pope as the exposure of a
tyrannical usurpation was to the family of the old lords of Florence;
and his enemies took counsel together, and schemed for his overthrow. If
the irritating questions and mockeries of Socrates could not be endured
at Athens, how could the bitter invectives and denunciations of
Savonarola find favor at Florence? The fate of prophets is to be stoned.
Martyrdom and persecution, in some form or other, are as inevitable to
the man who sails against the stream, as a broken constitution and a
diseased body are to a sensualist, a glutton, or a drunkard. Impatience
under rebuke is as certain as the operation of natural law.

The bitterest and most powerful enemy of the Prior of St. Mark was the
Pope himself,--Alexander VI., of the infamous family of the
Borgias,--since his private vices were exposed, and by one whose order
had been especially devoted to the papal empire. In the eyes of the
wicked Pope, the Florentine reformer was a traitor and conspirator,
disloyal and dangerous. At first he wished to silence him by soft and
deceitful letters and tempting bribes, offering to him a cardinal's hat,
and inviting him to Rome. But Savonarola refused alike the bribe and the
invitation. His Lenten sermons became more violent and daring. "If I
have preached and written anything heretical," said this intrepid monk,
"I am willing to make a public recantation. I have always shown
obedience to my church; but it is my duty to obey God rather than man."
This sounds like Luther at the Diet of Worms; but he was more
defenceless than Luther, since the Saxon reformer was protected by
powerful princes, and was backed by the enthusiasm of Northern Germans.
Yet the Florentine preacher boldly continued his attacks on all
hypocritical religion, and on the vices of Rome, not as incidental to
the system, but extraneous,--the faults of a man or age. The Pope became
furious, to be thus balked by a Dominican monk, and in one of the cities
of Italy,--a city that had not rebelled against his authority. He
complained bitterly to the Florentine ambassador, of the haughty friar
who rebuked and defied him. He summoned a consistory of fourteen eminent
Dominican theologians, to inquire into his conduct and opinions, and
issued a brief forbidding him to preach, under penalty of
excommunication. Yet Savonarola continued to preach, and more violently
than ever. He renewed his charges against Rome. He even called her a
harlot Church, against whom heaven and earth, angels and devils, equally
brought charges. The Pope then seized the old thunderbolts of the
Gregories and the Clements, and excommunicated the daring monk and
preacher, and threatened the like punishment on all who should befriend
him. And yet Savonarola continued to preach. All Rome and Italy talked
of the audacity of the man. And it was not until Florence itself was
threatened with an interdict for shielding such a man, that the
magistrates of the city were compelled to forbid his preaching.

The great orator mounted his pulpit March 18, 1498, now four hundred
years ago, and took an affectionate farewell of the people whom he had
led, and appealed to Christ himself as the head of the Church. It was
not till the preacher was silenced by the magistrates of his own city,
that he seems to have rebelled against the papal authority; and then not
so much against the authority of Rome as against the wicked shepherd
himself, who had usurped the fold. He now writes letters to all the
prominent kings and princes of Europe, to assemble a general council;
for the general council of Constance had passed a resolution that the
Pope must call a general council every ten years, and that, should he
neglect to assemble it, the sovereign powers of the various states and
empires were themselves empowered to collect the scattered members of
the universal Church, to deliberate on its affairs. In his letters to
the kings of France, England, Spain, and Hungary, and the Emperor of
Germany, he denounced the Pope as simoniacal, as guilty of all the
vices, as a disgrace to the station which he held. These letters seem to
have been directed against the man, not against the system. He aimed at
the Pope's ejectment from office, rather than at the subversion of the
office itself,--another mark of the difference between Savonarola and
Luther, since the latter waged an uncompromising war against Rome
herself, against the whole _régime_ and government and institutions and
dogmas of the Catholic Church; and that is the reason why Catholics
hate Luther so bitterly, and deny to him either virtues or graces, and
represent even his deathbed as a scene of torment and despair,--an
instance of that pursuing hatred which goes beyond the grave; like that
of the zealots of the Revolution in France, who dug up the bones of the
ancient kings from those vaults where they had reposed for centuries,
and scattered their ashes to the winds.

Savonarola hoped the Christian world would come to his rescue; but his
letters were intercepted, and reached the eye of Alexander VI., who now
bent the whole force of the papal empire to destroy that bold reformer
who had assailed his throne. And it seems that a change took place in
Florence itself in popular sentiment. The Medicean party obtained the
ascendency in the government. The people--the fickle people--began to
desert Savonarola; and especially when he refused to undergo the ordeal
of fire,--one of the relics of Mediaeval superstition,--the people felt
that they had been cheated out of their amusement, for they had waited
impatiently the whole day in the public square to see the spectacle. He
finally consented to undergo the ordeal, provided he might carry the
crucifix. To this his enemies would not consent. He then laid aside the
crucifix, but insisted on entering the fire with the sacrament in his
hand. His persecutors would not allow this either, and the ordeal did
not take place.

At last his martyrdom approaches: he is led to prison. The magistrates
of the city send to Rome for absolution for having allowed the Prior to
preach. His enemies busy themselves in collecting evidence against
him,--for what I know not, except that he had denounced corruption and
sin, and had predicted woe. His two friends are imprisoned and
interrogated with him, Fra Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silvestro Maruffi,
who are willing to die for him. He and they are now subjected to most
cruel tortures. As the result of bodily agony his mind begins to waver.
His answers are incoherent; he implores his tormentors to end his
agonies; he cries out, with a voice enough to melt a heart of stone,
"Take, oh, take my life!" Yet he confessed nothing to criminate himself.
What they wished him especially to confess was that he had pretended to
be a prophet, since he had predicted calamities. But all men are
prophets, in one sense, when they declare the certain penalties of sin,
from which no one can escape, though he take the wings of the morning
and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea.

Savonarola thus far had remained firm, but renewed examinations and
fresh tortures took place. For a whole month his torments were
continuous. In one day he was drawn up by a rope fourteen times, and
then suddenly dropped, until all his muscles quivered with anguish. Had
he been surrounded by loving disciples, like Latimer at the burning
pile, he might have summoned more strength; but alone, in a dark
inquisitorial prison, subjected to increasing torture among bitter foes,
he did not fully defend his visions and prophecies; and then his
extorted confessions were diabolically altered. But that was all they
could get out of him,--that he had prophesied. In all matters of faith
he was sound. The inquisitors were obliged to bring their examination to
an end. They could find no fault with him, and yet they were determined
on his death. The Government of Florence consented to it and hastened
it, for a Medici again held the highest office of the State.

Nothing remained to the imprisoned and tortured friar but to prepare for
his execution. In his supreme trial he turned to the God in whom he
believed. In the words of the dying Xavier, on the Island of Sancian, he
exclaimed, _In te domine speravi, non confundar in eternum_. "O Lord,"
he prays, "a thousand times hast thou wiped out my iniquity. I do not
rely on my own justification, but on thy mercy." His few remaining days
in prison were passed in holy meditation.

At last the officers of the papal commission arrive. The tortures are
renewed, and also the examinations, with the same result. No fault could
be found with his doctrines. "But a dead enemy," said they, "fights no
more." He is condemned to execution. The messengers of death arrive at
his cell, and find him on his knees. He is overpowered by his sufferings
and vigils, and can with difficulty be kept from sleep. But he arouses
himself, and passes the night in prayer, and administers the elements of
redemption to his doomed companions, and closes with this prayer: "Lord,
I know thou art that perfect Trinity,--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; I
know that thou art the eternal Word; that thou didst descend from heaven
into the bosom of Mary; that thou didst ascend upon the cross to shed
thy blood for our sins. I pray thee that by that blood I may have
remission for my sins." The simple faith of Paul, of Augustine, of
Pascal! He then partook of the communion, and descended to the public
square, while the crowd gazed silently and with trepidation, and was led
with his companions to the first tribunal, where he was disrobed of his
ecclesiastical dress. Then they were led to another tribunal, and
delivered to the secular arm; then to another, where sentence of death
was read; and then to the place of execution,--not a burning funeral
pyre, but a scaffold, which mounting, composed, calm, absorbed,
Savonarola submitted his neck to the hangman, in the forty-fifth year of
his life: a martyr to the cause of Christ, not for an attack on the
Church, or its doctrines, or its institutions, but for having denounced
the corruption and vices of those who ruled it,--for having preached
against sin.

Thus died one of the greatest and best men of his age, one of the truest
and purest whom the Catholic Church has produced in any age. He was
stern, uncompromising, austere, but a reformer and a saint; a man who
was merciful and generous in the possession of power; an enlightened
statesman, a sound theologian, and a fearless preacher of that
righteousness which exalteth a nation. He had no vices, no striking
defects. He lived according to the rules of the convent he governed with
the same wisdom that he governed a city, and he died in the faith of the
primitive apostles. His piety was monastic, but his spirit was
progressive, sympathizing with liberty, advocating public morality. He
was unselfish, disinterested, and true to his Church, his conscience,
and his cause,--a noble specimen both of a man and Christian, whose
deeds and example form part of the inheritance of an admiring posterity.
We pity his closing days, after such a career of power and influence;
but we may as well compassionate Socrates or Paul. The greatest lights
of the world have gone out in martyrdom, to be extinguished, however,
only for a time, and then to loom up again in another age, and burn with
inextinguishable brightness to remotest generations, as examples of the
power of faith and truth in this wicked and rebellious world,--a world
to be finally redeemed by the labors and religion of just such men,
whose days are days of sadness, protest, and suffering, and whose hours
of triumph and exaltation are not like those of conquerors, nor like
those whose eyes stand out with fatness, but few and far between. "I
have loved righteousness, I have hated iniquity," said the great
champion of the Mediaeval Church, "and therefore I die in exile."

In ten years after this ignominious execution, Raphael painted the
martyr among the sainted doctors of the Church in the halls of the
Vatican, and future popes did justice to his memory, for he inaugurated
that reform movement in the Catholic Church itself which took place
within fifty years after his death. In one sense he was the precursor of
Loyola, of Xavier, and of Aquaviva,--those illustrious men who headed
the counter-reformation; Jesuits, indeed, but ardent in piety, and
enlightened by the spirit of a progressive age. "He was the first," says
Villari, "in the fifteenth century, to make men feel that a new light
had awakened the human race; and thus he was a prophet of a new
civilization,--the forerunner of Luther, of Bacon, of Descartes. Hence
the drama of his life became, after his death, the drama of Europe. In
the course of a single generation after Luther had declared his mission,
the spirit of the Church of Rome underwent a change. From the halls of
the Vatican to the secluded hermitages of the Apennines this revival was
felt. Instead of a Borgia there reigned a Caraffa." And it is remarkable
that from the day that the counter-reformation in the Catholic Church
was headed by the early Jesuits, Protestantism gained no new victories,
and in two centuries so far declined in piety and zeal that the cities
which witnessed the noblest triumphs of Luther and Calvin were disgraced
by a boasting rationalism, to be succeeded again in our times by an
arrogance of scepticism which has had no parallel since the days of
Democritus and Lucretius. "It was the desire of Savonarola that reason,
religion, and liberty might meet in harmonious union, but he did not
think a new system of religious doctrines was necessary."

The influence of such a man cannot pass away, and has not passed away,
for it cannot be doubted that his views have been embraced by
enlightened Catholics from his day to ours,--by such men as Pascal,
Fénelon, and Lacordaire, and thousands like them, who prefer ritualism
and auricular confession, and penance, monasticism, and an
ecclesiastical monarch, and all the machinery of a complicated
hierarchy, with all the evils growing out of papal domination, to
rationalism, sectarian dissensions, irreverence, license, want of unity,
want of government, and even dispensation from the marriage vow. Which
is worse, the physical arm of the beast, or the maniac soul of a lying
prophet? Which is worse, the superstition and narrowness which excludes
the Bible from schools, or that unbounded toleration which smiles on
those audacious infidels who cloak their cruel attacks on the faith of
Christians with the name of a progressive civilization?--and so far
advanced that one of these new lights, ignorant, perhaps, of everything
except of the fossils and shells and bugs and gases of the hole he has
bored in, assumes to know more of the mysteries of creation and the laws
of the universe than Moses and David and Paul, and all the Bacons and
Newtons that ever lived? Names are nothing; it is the spirit, the
_animus_, which is everything. It is the soul which permeates a system,
that I look at. It is the Devil from which I would flee, whatever be his
name, and though he assume the form of an angel of light, or cunningly
try to persuade me, and ingeniously argue, that there is no God. True
and good Catholics and true and good Protestants have ever been united
in one thing,--_in this belief_, that there is a God who made the heaven
and the earth, and that there is a Christ who made atonement for the
sins of the world. It is good morals, faith, and love to which both
Catholics and Protestants are exhorted by the Apostles. When either
Catholics or Protestants accept the one faith and the one Lord which
Christianity alone reveals, then they equally belong to the grand army
of spiritual warriors under the banner of the Cross, though they may
march under different generals and in different divisions; and they will
receive the same consolations in this world, and the same rewards in the
world to come.


Villari's Life of Savonarola; Biographie Universelle; Ranke's History of
the Popes. There is much in "Romola," by George Eliot. Life of
Savonarola, by the Prince of Mirandola.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1475-1564.


Michael Angelo Buonarroti--one of the Great Lights of the new
civilization--may stand as the most fitting representative of reviving
art in Europe; also as an illustrious example of those virtues which
dignify intellectual pre-eminence. He was superior, in all that is
sterling and grand in character, to any man of his age,--certainly in
Italy; exhibiting a rugged, stern greatness which reminds us of Dante,
and of other great benefactors; nurtured in the school of sorrow and
disappointment, leading a checkered life, doomed to envy, ingratitude,
and neglect; rarely understood, and never fully appreciated even by
those who employed and honored him. He was an isolated man; grave,
abstracted, lonely, yet not unhappy, since his world was that of
glorious and exalting ideas, even those of grace, beauty, majesty, and
harmony,--the world which Plato lived in, and in which all great men
live who seek to rise above the transient, the false, and puerile in
common life. He was also an original genius, remarkable in everything he
attempted, whether as sculptor, painter, or architect, and even as poet.
He saw the archetypes of everything beautiful and grand, which are
invisible except to those who are almost divinely gifted; and he had the
practical skill to embody them in permanent forms, so that all ages may
study those forms, and rise through them to the realms in which his
soul lived.

Michael Angelo not only created, but he reproduced. He reproduced the
glories of Grecian and Roman art. He restored the old civilization in
his pictures, his statues, and his grand edifices. He revived a taste
for what is imperishable in antiquity. As such he is justly regarded as
an immortal benefactor; for it is art which gives to nations culture,
refinement, and the enjoyment of the beautiful. Art diverts the mind
from low and commonplace pursuits, exalts the imagination, and makes its
votary indifferent to the evils of life. It raises the soul into regions
of peace and bliss.

But art is most ennobling when it is inspired by lofty and consecrated
sentiments,--like those of religion, patriotism, and love. Now ancient
art was consecrated to Paganism. Of course there were noble exceptions;
but as a general rule temples were erected in honor of heathen deities.
Statues represented mere physical strength and beauty and grace.
Pictures portrayed the charms of an unsanctified humanity. Hence ancient
art did very little to arrest human degeneracy; facilitated rather than
retarded the ruin of states and empires, since it did not stimulate the
virtues on which the strength of man is based: it did not check those
depraved tastes and habits which are based on egotism.

Now the restorers of ancient art cannot be said to have contributed to
the moral elevation of the new races, unless they avoided the sensualism
of Greece and Rome, and appealed purely to those eternal ideas which the
human mind, even under Pagan influences, sometimes conceived, and which
do not conflict with Christianity itself.

In considering the life and labors of Michael Angelo, then, we are to
examine whether, in the classical glories of antiquity which he
substituted for the Gothic and Mediaeval, he advanced civilization in
the noblest sense; and moreover, whether he carried art to a higher
degree than was ever attained by the Greeks and Romans, and hence became
a benefactor of the world.

In considering these points I shall not attempt a minute criticism of
his works. I can only seize on the great outlines, the salient points of
those productions which have given him immortality. No lecture can be
exhaustive. If it only prove suggestive, it has reached its end.

Michael Angelo stands out in history in the three aspects of sculptor,
painter, and architect; and that too in a country devoted to art, and in
an age when Italy won all her modern glories, arising from the matchless
works which that age produced. Indeed, those works will probably never
be surpassed, since all the energies of a great nation were concentrated
upon their production, even as our own age confines itself chiefly to
mechanical inventions and scientific research and speculation. What
railroads and telegraphs and spindles and chemical tests and compounds
are to us; what philosophy was to the Greeks; what government and
jurisprudence were to the Romans; what cathedrals and metaphysical
subtilties were to the Middle Ages; what theological inquiries were to
the divines of the seventeenth century; what social urbanities and
refinements were to the French in the eighteenth century,--the fine arts
were to the Italians in the sixteenth century: a fact too commonplace to
dwell upon, and which will be conceded when we bear in mind that no age
has been distinguished for everything, and that nations can try
satisfactorily but one experiment at a time, and are not likely to
repeat it with the same enthusiasm. As the mind is unbounded in its
capacities, and our world affords inexhaustible fields of enterprise,
the progress of the race is to be seen in the new developments which
successively appear, but in which only a certain limit has thus far been
reached. Not in absolute perfection in any particular sphere is this
progress seen, but rather in the variety of the experiments. It may be
doubted whether any Grecian edifice will ever surpass the Parthenon in
beauty of proportion or fitness of ornament; or any nude statue show
grace of form more impressive than the Venus de Milo or the Apollo
Belvedere; or any system of jurisprudence be more completely codified
than that systematized by Justinian; or any Gothic church rival the
lofty expression of Cologne cathedral; or any painting surpass the holy
serenity and ethereal love depicted in Raphael's madonnas; or any court
witness such a brilliant assemblage of wits and beauties as met at
Versailles to render homage to Louis XIV.; or any theological discussion
excite such a national interest as when Luther confronted Doctor Eck in
the great hall of the Electoral Palace at Leipsic; or any theatrical
excitement such as was produced on cultivated intellects when Garrick
and Siddons represented the sublime conceptions of the myriad-minded
Shakspeare. These glories may reappear, but never will they shine as
they did before. No more Olympian games, no more Roman triumphs, no more
Dodona oracles, no more Flavian amphitheatres, no more Mediaeval
cathedrals, no more councils of Nice or Trent, no more spectacles of
kings holding the stirrups of popes, no more Fields of the Cloth of
Gold, no more reigns of court mistresses in such palaces as Versailles
and Fontainbleau,--ah! I wish I could add, no more such battlefields as
Marengo and Waterloo,--only copies and imitations of these, and without
the older charm. The world is moving on and perpetually changing, nor
can we tell what new vanity will next arise,--vanity or glory, according
to our varying notions of the dignity and destiny of man. We may predict
that it will not be any mechanical improvement, for ere long the limit
will be reached,--and it will be reached when the great mass cannot find
work to do, for the everlasting destiny of man is toil and labor. But it
will be some sublime wonders of which we cannot now conceive, and which
in time will pass away for other wonders and novelties, until the great
circle is completed; and all human experiments shall verify the moral
wisdom of the eternal revelation. Then all that man has done, all that
man can do, in his own boastful thought, will be seen, in the light of
the celestial verities, to be indeed a vanity and a failure, not of
human ingenuity and power, but to realize the happiness which is only
promised as the result of supernatural, not mortal, strength, yet which
the soul in its restless aspirations never ceases its efforts to
secure,--everlasting Babel-building to reach the unattainable on earth.

Now the revival of art in Italy was one of the great movements in the
series of human development. It peculiarly characterized the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries. It was an age of artistic wonders, of great

Italy, especially, was glorious when Michael Angelo was born, 1474; when
the rest of Europe was comparatively rude, and when no great works in
art, in poetry, in history, or philosophy had yet appeared. He was
descended from an illustrious family, and was destined to one of the
learned professions; but he could not give up his mind to anything but
drawing,--as annoying to his father as Galileo's experiments were to his
parent; as unmeaning to him as Gibbon's History was to George
III.,--"Scribble, scribble, scribble; Mr. Gibbon, I perceive, sir, you
are always a-scribbling." No perception of a new power, no sympathy with
the abandonment to a specialty not indorsed by fashions and traditions,
but without which abandonment genius cannot easily be developed. At last
the father yielded, and the son was apprenticed to a painter,--a
degradation in the eyes of Mediaeval aristocracy.

The celebrated Lorenzo de' Medici was then in the height of power and
fame in Florence, adored by Roscoe as the patron of artists and poets,
although he subverted the liberties of his country. This over-lauded
prince, heir of the fortunes of a great family of merchants, wishing to
establish a school for sculpture, filled a garden with statues, and
freely admitted to it young scholars in art. Michael Angelo was one of
the most frequent and enthusiastic visitors to this garden, where in due
time he attracted the attention of the magnificent Lord of Florence by a
head chiselled so remarkably that he became an inmate of the palace, sat
at the table of Lorenzo, and at last was regularly adopted as one of the
Prince's family, with every facility for prosecuting his studies. Before
he was eighteen the youth had sculptured the battle of Hercules with the
Centaurs, which he would never part with, and which still remains in his
family; so well done that he himself, at the age of eighty, regretted
that he had not given up his whole life to sculpture.

It was then as a sculptor that Michael Angelo first appears to the
historical student,--about the year 1492, when Columbus was crossing the
great unknown ocean to realize his belief in a western passage to India.
Thus commercial enterprise began with the revival of art, and was
destined never to be separated in its alliance with it, since commerce
brings wealth, and wealth seeks to ornament the palaces and gardens
which it has created or purchased. The sculptor's art was not born until
piety had already edifices in which to worship God, or pride the
monuments in which it sought the glories of a name; but it made rapid
progress as wealth increased and taste became refined; as the need was
felt for ornaments and symbols to adorn naked walls and empty spaces,
especially statuary, grouped or single, of men or animals,--a marble
history to interpret or reproduce consecrated associations. Churches
might do without them; the glass stained in every color of the rainbow,
the altar shining with gold and silver and precious stones, the pillars
multiplied and diversified, and rich in foliated circles, mullions,
mouldings, groins, and bosses, and bearing aloft the arched and
ponderous roof,--one scene of dazzling magnificence,--these could do
without them; but the palaces and halls and houses of the rich required
the image of man,--and of man not emaciated and worn and monstrous, but
of man as he appeared to the classical Greeks, in the perfection of form
and physical beauty. So the artists who arose with the revival of
commerce, with the multiplication of human wants and the study of
antiquity, sought to restore the buried statues with the long-neglected
literature and laws. It was in sculptured marbles that enthusiasm was
most marked. These were found in abundance in various parts of Italy
whenever the vast débris of the ancient magnificence was removed, and
were universally admired and prized by popes, cardinals, and princes,
and formed the nucleus of great museums.

The works of Michael Angelo as a sculptor were not numerous, but in
sublimity they have never been surpassed,--_non multa, sed multum_. His
unfinished monument of Julius II., begun at that pontiff's request as a
mausoleum, is perhaps his greatest work; and the statue of Moses, which
formed a part of it, has been admired for three hundred years. In this,
as in his other masterpieces, grandeur and majesty are his
characteristics. It may have been a reproduction, and yet it is not a
copy. He made character and moral force the first consideration, and
form subservient to expression. And here he differed, it is said by
great critics, from the ancients, who thought more of form than of moral
expression,--as may be seen in the faces of the Venus de Medici and the
Apollo Belvedere, matchless and inimitable as these statues are in grace
and beauty. The Laocoön and the Dying Gladiator are indeed exceptions,
for it is character which constitutes their chief merit,--the expression
of pain, despair, and agony. But there is almost no intellectual or
moral expression in the faces of other famous and remarkable antique
statues, only beauty and variety of form, such as Powers exhibited in
his Greek Slave,--an inferior excellence, since it is much easier to
copy the beautiful in the nude statues which people Italy, than to
express such intellectual majesty as Michael Angelo conceived--that
intellectual expression which Story has succeeded in giving to his
African Sibyl. Thus while the great artist retained the antique, he
superadded a loftiness such as the ancients rarely produced; and
sculpture became in his hands, not demoralizing and Pagan, resplendent
in sensual charms, but instructive and exalting,--instructive for the
marvellous display of anatomical knowledge, and exalting from grand
conceptions of dignity and power. His knowledge of anatomy was so
remarkable that he could work without models. Our artists, in these
days, must always have before their eyes some nude figure to copy.

The same peculiarities which have given him fame as a sculptor he
carried out into painting, in which he is even more remarkable; for the
artists of Italy at this period often combined a skill for all the fine
arts. In sculpture they were much indebted to the ancients, but painting
seems to have been purely a development. In the Middle Ages it was
comparatively rude. No noted painter arose until Cimabue, in the middle
of the thirteenth century. Before him, painting was a lifeless imitation
of models afforded by Greek workers in mosaics; but Cimabue abandoned
this servile copying, and gave a new expression to heads, and grouped
his figures. Under Giotto, who was contemporary with Dante, drawing
became still more correct, and coloring softer. After him, painting was
rapidly advanced. Pietro della Francesca was the father of perspective;
Domenico painted in oil, discovered by Van Eyck in Flanders, in 1410;
Masaccio studied anatomy; gilding disappeared as a background around
pictures. In the fifteenth century the enthusiasm for painting became
intense; even monks became painters, and every convent and church and
palace was deemed incomplete without pictures. But ideal beauty and
harmony in coloring were still wanting, as well as freedom of the
pencil. Then arose Da Vinci and Michael Angelo, who practised the
immutable principles by which art could be advanced; and rapidly
following in their steps, Fra Bartolommeo, Fra Angelico, Rossi, and
Andrea del Sarto made the age an era in painting, until the art
culminated in Raphael and Corregio and Titian. And divers cities of
Italy--Bologna, Milan, Parma, and Venice--disputed with Rome and
Florence for the empire of art; as also did many other cities which
might be mentioned, each of which has a history, each of which is
hallowed by poetic associations; so that all men who have lived in
Italy, or even visited it, feel a peculiar interest in these cities,--an
interest which they can feel in no others, even if they be such capitals
as London and Paris. I excuse this extravagant admiration for the
wonderful masterpieces produced in that age, making marble and canvas
eloquent with the most inspiring sentiments, because, wrapt in the joys
which they excite, the cultivated and imaginative man forgets--and
rejoices that he can forget--the priests and beggars, the dirty hotels,
filthy friars, superstition, unthrift, Jesuitism, which stare ordinary
tourists in the face, and all the other disgusting realities which
philanthropists deplore so loudly in that degenerate but classical and
ever-to-be-hallowed land. For, come what will, in spite of popes and
despots it has been the scene of the highest glories of antiquity,
calling to our minds saints and martyrs, as well as conquerors and
emperors, and revealing at every turn their tombs and broken monuments,
and all the hoary remnants of unsurpassed magnificence, as well as
preserving in churches and palaces those wonders which were created when
Italy once again lived in the noble aspiration of making herself the
centre and the pride of the new civilization.

Da Vinci, the oldest of the great masters who immortalized that era,
died in 1519, in the arms of Francis I. of France, and Michael Angelo
received his mantle. The young sculptor was taken away from his chisel
to paint, for Pope Julius II., the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. After
the death of his patron Lorenzo, he had studied and done famous work in
marble at Bologna, at Rome, and again at Florence. He had also painted
some, and with such immediate success that he had been invited to assist
Da Vinci in decorating a hall in the ducal palace at Florence. But
sculpture was his chosen art, and when called to paint the Sistine
Chapel, he implored the Pope that he might be allowed to finish the
mausoleum which he had begun, and that Raphael, then dazzling the whole
city by his unprecedented talents, might be substituted for him in that
great work. But the Pope was inflexible; and the great artist began his
task, assisted by other painters; however, he soon got disgusted with
them and sent them away, and worked alone. For twenty months he toiled,
rarely seen, living abstemiously, absorbed utterly in his work of
creation; and the greater portion of the compartments in the vast
ceiling was finished before any other voice than his, except the
admiring voice of the Pope, pronounced it good.

It would be useless to attempt to describe those celebrated frescos.
Their subjects were taken from the Book of Genesis, with great figures
of sibyls and prophets. They are now half-concealed by the accumulated
dust and smoke of three hundred years, and can be surveyed only by
reclining at full length on the back. We see enough, however, to be
impressed with the boldness, the majesty, and the originality of the
figures,--their fidelity to nature, the knowledge of anatomy displayed,
and the disdain of inferior arts; especially the noble disdain of
appealing to false and perverted taste, as if he painted from an exalted
ideal in his own mind, which ideal is ever associated with
creative power.

It is this creative power which places Michael Angelo at the head of the
artists of his great age; and not merely the power to create but the
power of realizing the most exalted conceptions. Raphael was doubtless
superior to him in grace and beauty, even as Titian afterwards surpassed
him in coloring. He delighted, like Dante, in the awful and the
terrible. This grandeur of conception was especially seen in his Last
Judgment, executed thirty years afterwards, in completion of the Sistine
Chapel, the work on which had been suspended at the death of Julius.
This vast fresco is nearly seventy feet in height, painted upon the wall
at the end of the chapel, as an altar-piece. No subject could have been
better adapted to his genius than this--the day of supernal terrors
(_dies irae, dies illa_), when, according to the sentiments of the
Middle Ages, the doomed were subjected to every variety of physical
suffering, and when this agony of pain, rather than agony of remorse,
was expressed in tortured limbs and in faces writhing with demoniacal
despair. Such was the variety of tortures which he expressed, showing an
unexampled richness in imaginative powers, that people came to see it
from the remotest parts of Italy. It made a great sensation, like the
appearance of an immortal poem, and was magnificently rewarded; for the
painter received a pension of twelve hundred golden crowns a year,--a
great sum in that age.

But Michael Angelo did not paint many pieces; he confined himself
chiefly to cartoons and designs, which, scattered far and wide, were
reproduced by other artists. His most famous cartoon was the Battle of
Pisa, the one executed for the ducal palace of Florence, as pendant to
one by Leonardo da Vinci, then in the height of his fame. This picture
was so remarkable for the accuracy of drawing, and the variety and form
of expression, that Raphael came to Florence on purpose to study it; and
it was the power of giving boldness and dignity and variety to the human
figure, as shown in this painting, which constitutes his great
originality and transcendent excellence. The great creations of the
painters, in modern times as well as in the ancient, are those which
represent the human figure in its ideal excellence,--which of course
implies what is most perfect, not in any one man or woman, but in men
and women collectively. Hence the greatest of painters rarely have
stooped to landscape painting, since no imaginary landscape can surpass
what everybody has seen in nature. You cannot improve on the colors of
the rainbow, or the gilded clouds of sunset, or the shadows of the
mountain, or the graceful form of trees, or the varied tints of leaves
and flowers; but you can represent the figure of a man or woman more
beautiful than any one man or woman that has ever appeared. What mortal
woman ever expressed the ethereal beauty depicted in a Madonna of
Raphael or Murillo? And what man ever had such a sublimity of aspect and
figure as the creations of Michael Angelo? Why, "a beggar," says one of
his greatest critics, "arose from his hand the patriarch of poverty; the
hump of his dwarf is impressed with dignity; his infants are men, and
his men are giants." And, says another critic, "he is the inventor of
epic painting, in that sublime circle of the Sistine Chapel which
exhibits the origin, progress, and final dispensation of the theocracy.
He has personified motion in the cartoon of Pisa, portrayed meditation
in the prophets and sibyls of the Sistine Chapel and in the Last
Judgment, traced every attitude which varies the human body, with every
passion which sways the human soul." His supremacy is in the mighty
soaring of his intellectual conceptions. Marvellous as a creator, like
Shakspeare; profound and solemn, like Dante; representing power even in
repose, and giving to the Cyclopean forms which he has called into being
a charm of moral excellence which secures our sympathy; a firm believer
in a supreme and personal God; disciplined in worldly trials, and
glowing in lofty conceptions of justice,--he delights in portraying the
stern prophets of Israel, surrounded with an atmosphere of holiness,
yet breathing compassion on those whom they denounce; august in dignity,
yet melting with tenderness; solemn, sad, profound. Thus was his
influence pure and exalted in an art which has too often been
prostituted to please the perverted taste of a sensual age. The most
refined and expressive of all the arts,--as it sometimes is, and always
should be,--is the one which oftenest appeals to that which Christianity
teaches us to shun. You may say, "Evil to him who evil thinks,"
especially ye pure and immaculate persons who have walked uncorrupted
amid the galleries of Paris, Dresden. Florence, and Rome; but I fancy
that pictures, like books, are what we choose to make them, and that the
more exquisite the art by which vice is divested of its grossness, but
not of its subtle poisons,--like the New Héloïse of Rousseau or the
Wilhelm Meister of Goethe,--the more fatally will it lead astray by the
insidious entrance of an evil spirit in the guise of an angel of light.
Art, like literature, is neither good nor evil abstractly, but may
become a savor of death unto death, as well as of life unto life. You
cannot extinguish it without destroying one of the noblest developments
of civilization; but you cannot have civilization without multiplying
the temptations of human society, and hence must be guarded from those
destructive cankers which, as in old Rome, eat out the virtues on which
the strength of man is based. The old apostles, and other great
benefactors of the world, attached more value to the truths which
elevate than to the arts which soften. It was the noble direction which
Michael Angelo gave to art which made him a great benefactor not only of
civilization, but also of art, by linking with it the eternal ideas of
majesty and dignity, as well as the truths which are taught by divine
inspiration,--another illustration of the profound reverence which the
great master minds of the world, like Augustine, Pascal, and Bacon, have
ever expressed for the ideas which were revealed by Christianity and the
old prophets of Jehovah; ideas which many bright but inferior
intellects, in their egotistical arrogance, have sought to subvert.

Yet it was neither as sculptor nor painter that Michael Angelo left the
most enduring influence, but as architect. Painting and sculpture are
the exclusive ornaments and possession of the rich and favored. But
architecture concerns all men, and most men have something to do with it
in the course of their lives. What boots it that a man pays two thousand
pounds for a picture to be shut up in his library, and probably more
valued for its rarity, or from the caprices of fashion, than for its
real merits? But it is something when a nation pays a million for a
ridiculous building, without regard to the object for which it is
intended,--to be observed and criticised by everybody and for
succeeding generations. A good picture is the admiration of a few; a
magnificent edifice is the pride of thousands. A picture necessarily
cultivates the taste of a family circle; a public edifice educates the
minds of millions. Even the Moses of Michael Angelo is a mere object of
interest to those who visit the church of San Pietro in Vincoli; but St.
Peter's is a monument to be seen by large populations from generation to
generation. All London contemplates St. Paul's Church or the Palace of
Westminster, but the National Gallery may be visited by a small fraction
of the people only once a year. Of the thousands who stand before the
Tuileries or the Madeleine not one in a hundred has visited the gallery
of the Louvre. What material works of man so grand as those hoary
monuments of piety or pride erected three thousand years ago, and still
magnificent in their very ruins! How imposing are the pyramids, the
Coliseum, and the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages! And even when
architecture does not rear vaulted roofs and arches and pinnacles, or
tower to dazzling heights, or inspire reverential awe from the
associations which cluster around it, how interesting are even its minor
triumphs! Who does not stop to admire a beautiful window, or porch, or
portico? Who does not criticise his neighbor's house, its proportions,
its general effect, its adaptation to the uses designed? Architecture
never wearies us, for its wonders are inexhaustible; they appeal to the
common eye, and have reference to the necessities of man, and sometimes
express the consecrated sentiments of an age or a nation. Nor can it be
prostituted, like painting and sculpture; it never corrupts the mind,
and sometimes inspires it; and if it makes an appeal to the senses or
the imagination, it is to kindle perceptions of the severe beauty of
geometrical forms.

Whoever, then, has done anything in architecture has contributed to the
necessities of man, and stimulated an admiration for what is venerable
and magnificent. Now Michael Angelo was not only the architect of
numerous palaces and churches, but also one of the principal architects
of that great edifice which is, on the whole, the noblest church in
Christendom,--a perpetual marvel and study; not faultless, but so
imposing that it will long remain, like the old temple of Ephesus, one
of the wonders of the world. He completed the church without great
deviation from the plan of the first architect, Bramante, whom he
regarded as the greatest architect that had lived,--altering Bramante's
plans from a Latin to a Greek cross, the former of which was retained
after Michael Angelo's death. But it is the interior, rather than the
exterior of St. Peter's, which shows its vast superiority over all other
churches for splendor and effect, and surprises all who are even fresh
from Cologne and Milan and Westminster. It impresses us like a wonder
of nature rather than as the work of man,--a great work of engineering
as well as a marvel of majesty and beauty. We are surprised to see so
vast a structure, covering nearly five acres, so elaborately finished,
nothing neglected; the lofty walls covered with precious marbles, the
side chapels filled with statues and monuments, the altars ornamented
with pictures,--and those pictures not painted in oil, but copied in
mosaic, so that they will neither decay nor fade, but last till
destroyed by violence. What feelings overpower the poetic mind when the
glories of that interior first blaze upon the brain; what a world of
brightness, softness, and richness; what grandeur, solidity, and
strength; what unnumbered treasures around the altars; what grand
mosaics relieve the height of the wondrous dome,--larger than the
Pantheon, rising two hundred feet from the intersection of those lofty
and massive piers which divide transept from choir and nave; what effect
of magnitude after the eye gets accustomed to the vast proportions! Oh,
what silence reigns around! How difficult, even for the sonorous chants
of choristers and priests to disturb that silence,--to be more than
echoes of a distant music which seems to come from the very courts of
heaven itself: to some a holy sanctuary, where one may meditate among
crowds and feel alone; where one breathes an atmosphere which changes
not with heat or cold; and where the ever-burning lamps and clouds of
incense diffusing the fragrance of the East, and the rich dresses of the
mitred priests, and the unnumbered symbols, suggest the ritualism of
that imposing worship when Solomon dedicated to Jehovah the grandest
temple of antiquity!

Truly was St. Peter's Church the last great achievement of the popes,
the crowning demonstration of their temporal dominion; suggestive of
their wealth and power, a marble history of pride and pomp, a fitting
emblem of that worship which appeals to sense rather than to God. And
singular it was, when the great artist reared that gigantic pile, even
though it symbolized the cross, he really gave a vital wound to that
cause to which he consecrated his noblest energies; for its lofty dome
could not be completed without the contributions of Christendom, and
those contributions could not be made without an appeal to false
principles which entered into Mediaeval Catholicism,--even penance and
self-expiation, which stirred the holy indignation of a man who knew and
declared on what different ground justification should be based. Thus
was Luther, in one sense, called into action by the labors of Michael
Angelo; thus was the erection of St. Peter's Church overruled in the
preaching of reformers, who would show that the money obtained by the
sale of indulgences for sin could never purchase an acceptable offering
to God, even though the monument were filled with Christian emblems, and
consecrated by those prayers and anthems which had been the life of
blessed saints and martyrs for more than a thousand years.

St. Peter's is not Gothic, it is a restoration of the Greek; it belongs
to what artists call the Renaissance,--a style of architecture marked by
a return to the classical models of antiquity. Michael Angelo brought
back to civilization the old ideas of Grecian grace and Roman
majesty,--typical of the original inspirations of the men who lived in
the quiet admiration of eternal beauty and grace; the men who built the
Parthenon, and who shaped pillars and capitals and entablatures in the
severest proportions, and fitted them with ornaments drawn from the
living world,--plants and animals, especially images of God's highest
work, even of man; and of man not worn and macerated and dismal and
monstrous, but of man when most resplendent in the perfections of the
primeval strength and beauty. He returned to a style which classical
antiquity carried to great perfection, but which had been neglected by
the new Teutonic nations.

Nor is there evidence that Michael Angelo disdained the creations
especially seen in those Gothic monuments which are still the objects of
our admiration. Who does not admire the church architecture of the
Middle Ages? Of its kind it has never been surpassed. Geometry and
art--the true and the beautiful--meet. Nothing ever erected by the hand
of man surpasses the more famous cathedrals of the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, in the richness and variety of their symbolic
decorations. They typify the great ideas of Christianity; they inspire
feelings of awe and reverence; they are astonishing structures, in their
magnitude and in their effect. Monuments are they of religious zeal and
poetical inspiration,--the creations of great artists, although we
scarcely know their names; adapted to the uses designed; the expression
of consecrated sentiments; the marble history of the ages in which they
were erected,--now heavy and sombre when society was enslaved and
mournful; and then cheerful and lofty when Christianity was joyful and
triumphant. Who ever was satisfied in contemplating the diversified
wonders of those venerable structures? Who would lose the impression
which almost overwhelmed the mind when York minster, or Cologne, or
Milan, or Amiens was first beheld, with their lofty spires and towers,
their sculptured pinnacles, their flying buttresses, their vaulted
roofs, their long arcades, their purple windows, their holy altars,
their symbolic carvings, their majestic outlines, their grand

But beautiful, imposing, poetical, and venerable as are these hoary
piles, they are not the all in all of art. Suppose all the buildings of
Europe the last four hundred years had been modelled from these
churches, how gloomy would be our streets, how dark and dingy our shops,
how dismal our dwellings, how inconvenient our hotels! A new style was
needed, at least as a supplement of the old,--as lances and shields were
giving place to fire-arms, and the line and the plummet for the
mariner's compass; as a new civilization was creating new wants and
developing the material necessities of man.

So Michael Angelo arose, and revived the imperishable models of the
classical ages,--to be applied not merely to churches but to palaces,
civic halls, theatres, libraries, museums, banks,--all of which have
mundane purposes. The material world had need of conveniences, as much
as the Mediaeval age had need of shrines. Humanity was to be developed
as well as the Deity to be worshipped. The artist took the broadest
views, looking upon Gothic architecture as but one division of
art,--even as truth is greater than any system, and Christianity wider
than any sect. O, how this Shakspeare of art would have smiled on the
vague and transcendental panegyrics of Michelet or Ruskin, and other
sentimental admirers of an age which never can return! And how he might
have laughed at some modern enthusiasts, who trace religion to the
disposition of stones and arches, forgetting that religion is an
inspiration which comes from God, and never from the work of man's
hands, which can be only a form of idolatry.

Michael Angelo found that the ornamentations of the ancient temples were
as rich and varied as those of Mediaeval churches. Mouldings were
discovered of incomparable elegance; the figures on entablatures were
found to be chiselled accurately from nature; the pillars were of
matchless proportions, the capitals of graceful curvatures. He saw
beauty in the horizontal lines of the Parthenon, as much as in the
vertical lines of Cologne. He would not pull down the venerable
monuments of religious zeal, but he would add to them. "Because the
pointed arch was sacred, he would not despise the humble office of the
lintel." And in southern climates especially there was no need of those
steep Gothic roofs which were intended to prevent a great weight of rain
and snow, and where the graceful portico of the Greeks was more
appropriate than the heavy tower of the Lombards. He would seize on
everything that the genius of past ages had indorsed, even as
Christianity itself appropriates everything human,--science, art, music,
poetry, eloquence, literature,--sanctifies it, and dedicates it to the
Lord; not for the pride of priests, but for the improvement of humanity.
Civilization may exist with Paganism, but only performs its highest uses
when tributary to Christianity. And Christianity accepts the tribute
which even Pagan civilization offers for the adornment of our
race,--expelled from Paradise, and doomed to hard and bitter
toils,--without abdicating her more glorious office of raising the soul
to heaven.

Nor was Michael Angelo responsible for the vile mongrel architecture
which followed the Renaissance, and which disfigures the modern capitals
of Europe, any more than for the perversion of painting in the hands of
Titian. But the indiscriminate adoption of pillars for humble houses,
shops with Roman arches, spires and towers erected on Grecian porticoes,
are no worse than schoolhouses built like convents, and chapels designed
for preaching as much as for choral chants made dark and gloomy, where
the voice of the preacher is lost and wasted amid vaulted roofs and
useless pillars. Michael Angelo encouraged no incongruities; he himself
conceived the beautiful and the true, and admired it wherever found,
even amid the excavations of ruined cities. He may have overrated the
buried monuments of ancient art, but how was he to escape the universal
enthusiasm of his age for the remains of a glorious and forgotten
civilization? Perhaps his mind was wearied with the Middle Ages, from
which he had nothing more to learn, and sought a greater fulness and a
more perfect unity in the expanding forces of a new and grander era
than was ever seen by Pagan heroes or by Gothic saints.

But I need not expatiate on the new ideas which Michael Angelo accepted,
or the impulse he gave to art in all its forms, and to the revival of
which civilization is so much indebted. Let us turn and give a parting
look at the man,--that great creative genius who had no superior in his
day and generation. Like the greatest of all Italians, he is interesting
for his grave experiences, his dreary isolations, his vast attainments,
his creative imagination, and his lofty moral sentiments. Like Dante, he
stands apart from, and superior to, all other men of his age. He never
could sport with jesters, or laugh with buffoons, or chat with fools;
and because of this he seemed to be haughty and disdainful. Like Luther,
he had no time for frivolities, and looked upon himself as commissioned
to do important work. He rejoiced in labor, and knew no rest until he
was eighty-nine. He ate that he might live, not lived that he might eat.
For seventeen years after he was seventy-two he worked on St. Peter's
church; worked without pay, that he might render to God his last earthly
tribute without alloy,--as religious as those unknown artists who
erected Rheims and Westminster. He was modest and patient, yet could not
submit to the insolence of little men in power. He even left the papal
palace in disdain when he found his labors unappreciated. Julius II.
was forced to bend to the stern artist, not the artist to the Pope. Yet
when Leo X. sent him to quarry marbles for nine years, he submitted
without complaint. He had no craving for riches like Rubens, no love of
luxury like Raphael, no envy like Da Vinci. He never over-tasked his
brain, or suffered himself, like Raphael,--who died exhausted at
thirty-seven,--to crowd three days into one, knowing that over-work
exhausts the nervous energies and shortens life. He never attempted to
open the doors which Providence had plainly shut against him, but waited
patiently for his day, knowing it would come; yet whether it came or
not, it was all the same to him,--a man with all the holy rapture of a
Kepler, and all the glorious self-reliance of a Newton. He was indeed
jealous of his fame, but he was not greedy of admiration. He worked
without the stimulus of praise,--one of the rarest things,--urged on
purely by love of art. He loved art for its own sake, as good men love
virtue, as Palestrina loved music, as Bacon loved truth, as Kant loved
philosophy,--satisfied with itself as its own reward. He disliked to be
patronized, but always remembered benefits, and loved the tribute of
respect and admiration, even as he scorned the empty flatterer of
fashion. He was the soul of sincerity as well as of magnanimity; and
hence had great capacity for friendship, as well as great power of
self-sacrifice His friendship with Vittoria Colonna is as memorable as
that of Jerome and Paula, or that of Hildebrand and the Countess
Matilda. He was a great patriot, and clung to his native Florence with
peculiar affection. Living in habits of intimacy with princes and
cardinals, he never addressed them in adulatory language, but talked and
acted like a nobleman of nature, whose inborn and superior greatness
could be tested only by the ages. He placed art on the highest pinnacle
of the temple of humanity, but dedicated that temple to the God of
heaven in whom he believed. His person was not commanding, but
intelligence radiated from his features, and his earnest nature
commanded respect. In childhood he was feeble, but temperance made him
strong. He believed that no bodily decay was incompatible with
intellectual improvement. He continued his studies until he died, and
felt that he had mastered nothing. He was always dissatisfied with his
own productions. _Excelsior_ was his motto, as Alp on Alp arose upon his
view. His studies were diversified and vast. He wrote poetry as well as
carved stone, his sonnets especially holding a high rank. He was
engineer as well as architect, and fortified Florence against her
enemies. When old he showed all the fire of youth, and his eye, like
that of Moses, never became dim, since his strength and his beauty were
of the soul,--ever expanding, ever adoring. His temper was stern, but
affectionate. He had no mercy on a fool or a dunce, and turned in
disgust from those who loved trifles and lies. He was guilty of no
immoralities like Raphael and Titian, being universally venerated for
his stern integrity and allegiance to duty,--as one who believes that
there really is a God to whom he is personally responsible. He gave away
his riches, like Ambrose and Gregory, valuing money only as a means of
usefulness. Sickened with the world, he still labored for the world, and
died in 1564, over eighty-nine years of age, in the full assurance of
eternal blessedness in heaven.

His marbles may crumble down, in spite of all that we can do to preserve
them as models of hopeless imitation; but the exalted ideas he sought to
represent by them, are imperishable and divine, and will be subjects of
contemplation when

     "Seas shall waste, the skies to smoke decay,
      Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away."


Grimm's Life of Michael Angelo; Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent
Painters, Sculptors and Architects; Duppa's Life of Michael Angelo;
Bayle's Histoire de la Peinture en Italie.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1483-1546.


Among great benefactors, Martin Luther is one of the most illustrious.
He headed the Protestant Reformation. This movement is so completely
interlinked with the literature, the religion, the education, the
prosperity--yea, even the political history--of Europe, that it is the
most important and interesting of all modern historical changes. It is a
subject of such amazing magnitude that no one can claim to be well
informed who does not know its leading issues and developments, as it
spread from Germany to Switzerland, France, Holland, Sweden, England,
and Scotland.

The central and prominent figure in the movement is Luther; but the way
was prepared for him by a host of illustrious men, in different
countries,--by Savonarola in Italy, by Huss and Jerome in Bohemia, by
Erasmus in Holland, by Wyclif in England, and by sundry others, who
detested the corruptions they ridiculed and lamented, but could
not remove.

How flagrant those evils! Who can deny them? The papal despotism, and
the frauds on which it was based; monastic corruptions; penance, and
indulgences for sin, and the sale of them, more shameful still; the
secular character of the clergy; the pomp, wealth, and arrogance of
bishops; auricular confession; celibacy of the clergy, their idle and
dissolute lives, their ignorance and superstition; the worship of the
images of saints, and masses for the dead; the gorgeous ritualism of the
mass; the substitution of legends for the Scriptures, which were not
translated, or read by the people; pilgrimages, processions, idle pomps,
and the multiplication of holy days; above all, the grinding spiritual
despotism exercised by priests, with their inquisitions and
excommunications, all centring in the terrible usurpation of the popes,
keeping the human mind in bondage, and suppressing all intellectual
independence,--these evils prevailed everywhere. I say nothing here of
the massacres, the poisonings, the assassinations, the fornications, the
abominations of which history accuses many of the pontiffs who sat on
papal thrones. Such evils did not stare the German and English in the
face, as they did the Italians in the fifteenth century. In Germany the
vices were mediaeval and monkish, not the unblushing infidelity and
levities of the Renaissance, which made a radical reformation in Italy
impossible. In Germany and England there was left among the people the
power of conscience, a rough earnestness of character, the sense of
moral accountability, and a fear of divine judgment.

Luther was just the man for his work. Sprung from the people, poor,
popular, fervent; educated amid privations, religious by nature, yet
with exuberant animal spirits; dogmatic, boisterous, intrepid, with a
great insight into realities; practical, untiring, learned, generally
cheerful and hopeful; emancipated from the terrors of the Middle Ages,
scorning the Middle Ages; progressive in his spirit, lofty in his
character, earnest in his piety, believing in the future and in
God,--such was the great leader of this emancipating movement. He was
not so learned as Erasmus, nor so logical as Calvin, nor so scholarly as
Melancthon, nor so broad as Cranmer. He was not a polished man; he was
often offensively rude and brusque, and lavish of epithets, Nor was he
what we call a modest and humble man; he was intellectually proud,
disdainful, and sometimes, when irritated, abusive. None of his pictures
represent him as a refined-looking man, scarcely intellectual, but
coarse and sensual rather, as Socrates seemed to the Athenians. But with
these defects and drawbacks he had just such traits and gifts as fitted
him to lead a great popular movement,--bold, audacious, with deep
convictions and rapid intellectual processes; prompt, decided,
kind-hearted, generous, brave; in sympathy with the people, eloquent,
Herculean in energies, with an amazing power of work; electrical in his
smile and in his words, and always ready for contingencies. Had he been
more polished, more of a gentleman, more fastidious, more scrupulous,
more ascetic, more modest, he would have shrunk from his tasks; he would
have lost the elasticity of his mind,--he would have been discouraged.
Even Saint Augustine, a broader and more catholic man than Luther, could
not have done his work. He was a sort of converted Mirabeau. He loved
the storms of battle; he impersonated revolutionary ideas. But he was a
man of thought, as well as of action.

Luther's origin was of the humblest. Born in Eisleben, Nov. 10, 1483,
the son of a poor peasant, his childhood was spent in penury. He was
religious from a boy. He was religious when he sang hymns for a living,
from house to house, before the people of Mansfield while at school
there, and also at the schools of Magdeburg and Eisenach, where he still
earned his bread by his voice. His devotional character and his music
gained for him a friend who helped him through his studies, till at the
age of eighteen he entered the University at Erfurt, where he
distinguished himself in the classics and the Mediaeval philosophy. And
here his religious meditations led him to enter the Augustinian
monastery: he entered that strict retreat, as others did, to lead a
religious life. The great question of all time pressed upon his mind
with peculiar force, "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
And it shows that religious life in Germany still burned in many a
heart, in spite of the corruptions of the Church, that a young man like
Luther should seek the shades of monastic seclusion, for meditation and
study. He was a monk, like other monks; but it seems he had religious
doubts and fears more than ordinary monks. At first he conformed to the
customary ways of men seeking salvation. He walked in the beaten road,
like Saint Dominic and Saint Francis; he accepted the great ideas of the
Middle Ages, which he was afterwards to repudiate,--he was not beyond
them, or greater than they were, at first; he fasted like monks, and
tormented his body with austerities, as they did from the time of
Benedict; he sang in the choir from early morn, and practised the usual
severities. But his doubts and fears remained. He did not, like other
monks, find peace and consolation; he did not become seraphic, like
Saint Francis, or Bonaventura, or Loyola. Perhaps his nature repelled
asceticism; perhaps his inquiring and original mind wanted something
better and surer to rest upon than the dreams and visions of a
traditionary piety. Had he been satisfied with the ordinary mode of
propitiating the Deity, he would never have emerged from his retreat.

To a scholar the monastery had great attractions, even in that age. It
was still invested with poetic associations and consecrated usages; it
was indorsed by the venerable Fathers of the Church; it was favorable to
study, and free from the noisy turmoil of the world. But with all these
advantages Luther was miserable. He felt the agonies of an unforgiven
soul in quest of peace with God; he could not get rid of them, they
pursued him into the immensity of an intolerable night. He was in
despair. What could austerities do for _him_? He hungered and thirsted
after the truth, like Saint Augustine in Milan. He had no taste for
philosophy, but he wanted the repose that philosophers pretended to
teach. He was then too narrow to read Plato or Boëthius. He was a
self-tormented monk without relief; he suffered all that Saint Paul
suffered at Tarsus. In some respects this monastic pietism resembled the
pharisaism of Saul, in the schools of Tarsus,--a technical, rigid, and
painful adherence to rules, fastings, obtrusive prayers, and petty
ritualisms, which form the essence and substance of all pharisaism and
all monastic life; based on the enormous error that man deserves heaven
by external practices, in which, however, he can never perfect himself,
though he were to live, like Simeon Stylites, on the top of a pillar for
twenty years without once descending; an eternal unrest, because
perfection cannot be attained; the most terrible slavery to which a man
can be conscientiously doomed, verging into hypocrisy and fanaticism.

It was then that a kind and enlightened friend visited him, and
recommended him to read the Bible. The Bible never has been a sealed
book to monks; it was ever highly prized; no convent was without it: but
it was read with the spectacles of the Middle Ages. Repentance meant
penance. In Saint Paul's Epistles Luther discovers the true ground of
justification,--not works, but faith; for Paul had passed through
similar experiences. Works are good, but faith is the gift of God. Works
are imperfect with the best of men, even the highest form of works, to a
Mediaeval eye,--self-expiation and penance; but faith is infinite,
radiating from divine love; faith is a boundless joy,--salvation by the
grace of God, his everlasting and precious boon to people who cannot
climb to heaven on their hands and knees, the highest gift which God
ever bestowed on men,--eternal life.

Luther is thus emancipated from the ideas of the Middle Ages and of the
old Syriac monks and of the Jewish Pharisees. In his deliverance he has
new hopes and aspirations; he becomes cheerful, and devotes himself to
his studies. Nothing can make a man more cheerful and joyful than the
cordial reception of a gift which is infinite, a blessing which is too
priceless to be bought. The pharisee, the monk, the ritualist, is
gloomy, ascetic, severe, intolerant; for he is not quite sure of his
salvation. A man who accepts heaven as a gift is full of divine
enthusiasm, like Saint Augustine. Luther now comprehends Augustine, the
great doctor of the Church, embraces his philosophy and sees how much it
has been misunderstood. The rare attainments and interesting character
of Luther are at last recognized; he is made a professor of divinity in
the new university, which the Elector of Saxony has endowed, at
Wittenberg. He becomes a favorite with the students; he enters into the
life of the people. He preaches with wonderful power, for he is popular,
earnest, original, fresh, electrical. He is a monk still, but the monk
is merged in the learned doctor and eloquent preacher. He does not yet
even dream of attacking monastic institutions, or the Pope; he is a good
Catholic in his obedience to authorities; but he hates the Middle Ages,
and all their ghostly, funereal, burdensome, and technical religious
customs. He is human, almost convivial,--fond of music, of poetry, of
society, of friends, and of the good cheer of the social circle. The
people love Luther, for he has a broad humanity. They never did love
monks, only feared their maledictions.

About this time the Pope was in great need of money: this was Leo X. He
not only squandered his vast revenues in pleasures and pomps, like any
secular monarch; he not only collected pictures and statues,--but he
wanted to complete St. Peter's Church. It was the crowning glory of
papal magnificence. Where was he to get money except from the
contributions of Christendom? But kings and princes and bishops and
abbots were getting tired of this everlasting drain of money to Rome, in
the shape of annats and taxes; so Leo revived an old custom of the Dark
Ages,--he would sell indulgences for sin; and he sent his agents to
peddle them in every country.

The agent in Saxony was a very vulgar, boisterous, noisy, bullying
Dominican, by the name of Tetzel. Luther abhorred him, not so much
because he was vulgar and noisy, but because his infamous business
derogated from the majesty of God and religion. In wrathful indignation
he preached against Tetzel and his practices,--the abominable traffic
of indulgences. Only God can forgive sins. It seemed to him to be an
insult to the human understanding that any man, even a pope, should
grant an absolution for crime. These indulgences were the very worst
form of penance, since they made a mockery of virtue. And it was useless
to preach against them so long as the principles on which they were
based were not assailed. Everybody believed in penance; everybody
believed that this, in some form, would insure salvation. It consisted
in a temporal penalty or punishment inflicted on the sinner after
confession to the priest, as a condition of his receiving absolution or
an authoritative pardon of his sin by the Church as God's
representative. And the indulgence was originally an official remission
of this penalty, to be gained by offerings of money to the Church for
its sacred uses. However ingenious this theory, the practice inevitably
ran into corruption. The people who bought, the agents who sold, the
popes who dispensed, these indulgences used them for the
vilest purposes.

Fortunately, in those times in Germany everybody felt he had a soul to
save. Neither the popes nor the Church ever lost that idea. The clergy
ruled by its force,--by stimulating fears of divine wrath, whereby the
wretched sinner would be physically tormented forever, unless he escaped
by a propitiation of the Deity,--the common form of which was penance,
deeds of supererogation, donations to the Church, self-expiation, works
of fear and penitence, which commended themselves to the piety of the
age; and this piety Luther now believed to be unenlightened, not the
kind enjoined by Christ or Paul.

So, to instruct his students and the people as to the true ground of
justification, which he had worked out from the study of the Bible and
Saint Augustine amid the agonies of a tormented conscience, Luther
prepared his theses,--those celebrated ninety-five propositions, which
he affixed to the gates of the church of Wittenberg, and which excited
a great sensation throughout Northern Germany, reaching even the eyes of
the Pope himself, who did not comprehend their tendency, but was struck
with their power. "This Doctor Luther," said he, "is a man of fine
genius." The students of the university, and the people generally, were
kindled as if by Pentecostal fires. The new invention of printing
scattered those theses everywhere, far and near; they reached the humble
hamlet as well as the palaces of bishops and princes. They excited
immediate and immense enthusiasm: there was freshness in them,
originality, and great ideas. We cannot wonder at the enthusiasm which
those religious ideas excited nearly four hundred years ago when we
reflect that they were not cant words then, not worn-out platitudes, not
dead dogmas, but full of life and exciting interest,--even as were the
watchwords of Rousseau--"Liberty, Fraternity, Equality"--to Frenchmen,
on the outbreak of their political revolution. And as those
watchwords--abstractly true--roused the dormant energies of the French
to a terrible conflict against feudalism and royalty, so those theses of
Luther kindled Germany into a living flame. And why? Because they
presented more cheerful and comforting grounds of justification than had
been preached for one thousand years,--faith rather than penance; for
works hinged on penance. The underlying principle of those propositions
was _grace_,--divine grace to save the world,--the principle of Paul and
Saint Augustine; therefore not new, but forgotten; a mighty comfort to
miserable people, mocked and cheated and robbed by a venal and a
gluttonous clergy. Even Taine admits that this doctrine of grace is the
foundation stone of Protestantism as it spread over Europe in the
sixteenth century. In those places where Protestantism is dead,--where
rationalism or Pelagian speculations have taken its place,--this fact
may be denied; but the history of Northern Europe blazes with it,--a
fact which no historian of any honesty can deny.

Very likely those who are not in sympathy with this great idea of
Luther, Augustine, and Paul may ignore the fact,--even as Caleb Gushing
once declared to me, that the Reformation sprang from the desire of
Luther to marry Catherine Bora; and that learned and ingenious sophist
overwhelmed me with his citations from infidel and ribald Catholic
writers like Audin. Greater men than he deny that grace underlies the
whole original movement of the reformers, and they talk of the
Reformation as a mere revolt from Rome, as a war against papal
corruption, as a protest against monkery and the dark ages, brought
about by the spirit of a new age, the onward march of humanity, the
necessary progress of society. I admit the secondary causes of the
Reformation, which are very important,--the awakened spirit of inquiry
in the sixteenth century, the revival of poetry and literature and art,
the breaking up of feudalism, fortunate discoveries, the introduction of
Greek literature, the Renaissance, the disgusts of Christendom, the
voice of martyrs calling aloud from their funeral pyres; yea, the
friendly hand of princes and scholars deploring the evils of a corrupted
Church. But how much had Savonarola, or Erasmus, or John Huss, or the
Lollards aroused the enthusiasm of Europe, great and noble as were their
angry and indignant protests? The genius of the Reformation in its early
stages was a _religious_ movement, not a political or a moral one,
although it became both political and moral. Its strength and fervor
were in the new ideas of salvation,--the same that gave power to the
early preachers of Christianity,--not denunciations of imperialism and
slavery, and ten thousand evils which disgraced the empire, but the
proclamation of the ideas of Paul as to the grounds of hope when the
soul should leave the body; the salvation of the Lord, declared to a
world in bondage. Luther kindled the same religious life among the
masses that the apostles did; the same that Wyclif did, and by the same
means,--the declaration of salvation by belief in the incarnate Son of
God, shedding his blood in infinite love. Why, see how this idea spread
through Germany, Switzerland, and France and took possession of the
minds of the English and Scotch yeomanry, with all their stern and
earnest ruggedness. See how it was elaborately expanded by Calvin, how
it gave birth to a new and strong theology, how it entered into the very
life of the people, especially among the Puritans,--into the souls of
even Cromwell's soldiers. What made "The Pilgrim's Progress" the most
popular book ever published in England? Because it reflected the
theology of the age, the religion of the people, all based on Luther's
theses,--the revival of those old doctrines which converted the Roman
provinces from Paganism. I do not care if these statements are denied by
Catholics, or rationalists, or progressive savants. What is it to me
that the old views have become unfashionable, or are derided, or are
dead, in the absorbing materialism of this Epicurean yet brilliant age?
I know this, that I am true to history when I declare that the glorious
Reformation in which we all profess to rejoice, and which is the
greatest movement, and the best, of our modern time,--susceptible of
indefinite application, interlinked with the literature and the progress
of England and America,--took its first great spiritual start from the
ideas of Luther as to justification. This was the voice of heaven's
messenger proclaiming aloud, so that the heavens re-echoed to the
glorious and triumphant annunciation, and the earth heard and rejoiced
with exceeding joy, "Behold, I send tidings of salvation: it is grace,
divine grace, which shall undermine the throne of popes and pagans, and
reconcile a fallen world to God!"

Yes, it was a Christian philosopher, a theologian,--a doctor of
divinity, working out in his cell and study, through terrible internal
storm and anguish, and against the whole teaching of monks and bishops
and popes and universities, from the time of Charlemagne, the same truth
which Augustine learned in his wonderful experiences,--who started the
Reformation in the right direction; who became the greatest benefactor
of these modern times, because he based his work on everlasting and
positive ideas, which had life in them, and hope, and the sanction of
divine authority; thus virtually invoking the aid of God Almighty to
bring about and restore the true glory of his Church on earth,--a glory
forever to be identified with the death of his Son. I see no law of
progress here, no natural and necessary development of nations; I see
only the light and power of individual genius, brushing away the cobwebs
and sophistries and frauds of the Middle Ages, and bringing out to the
gaze of Europe the vital truth which, with supernatural aid, made in old
times the day of Pentecost. And I think I hear the emancipated people of
Saxony exclaim, from the Elector downwards, "If these ideas of Doctor
Luther are true, and we feel them to be, then all our penances have
been worse than wasted,--we have been Pagans. Away with our miserable
efforts to scale the heavens! Let us accept what we cannot buy; let us
make our palaces and our cottages alike vocal with the praises of Him
whom we now accept as our Deliverer, our King, and our Eternal Lord."

Thus was born the first great idea of the Reformation, out of Luther's
brain, out of his agonized soul, and sent forth to conquer, and produce
changes most marvellous to behold.

It is not my object to discuss the truth or error of this fundamental
doctrine. There are many who deny it, even among Protestants. I am not a
controversialist, or a theologian: I am simply an historian. I wish to
show what is historically true and clear; and I defy all the scholars
and critics of the world to prove that this doctrine is not the basal
pillar of the Reformation of Luther. I wish to make emphatic the
statement that _justification by faith_ was, as an historical fact, the
great primal idea of Luther; not new, but new to him and to his age.

I have now to show how this idea led to others; how they became
connected together; how they produced not only a spiritual movement, but
political, moral, and intellectual forces, until all Europe was in
a blaze.

Thus far the agitation under Luther had been chiefly theological. It was
not a movement against popes or institutions, it was not even the
vehement denunciation against sin in high places, which inflamed the
anger of the Pope against Savonarola. To some it doubtless seemed like
the old controversy between Augustine and Pelagius, like the contentions
between Dominican and Franciscan monks. But it was too important to
escape the attention of even Leo X., although at first he gave it no
thought. It was a dangerous agitation; it had become popular; there was
no telling where it would end, or what it might not assail. It was
deemed necessary to stop the mouth of this bold and intellectual Saxon

So the voluptuous, infidel, elegant Pope--accomplished in manners and
pagan arts and literature--sent one of the most learned men of the
Church which called him Father, to argue with Doctor Luther, confute
him, conquer him,--deeming this an easy task. But the doctor could not
be silenced. His convictions were grounded on the rock; not on Peter,
but on the rock from which Peter derived his name. All the papal legates
and cardinals in the world could neither convince nor frighten him. He
courted argument; he challenged the whole Church to refute him.

Then the schools took up the controversy. All that was imposing in
names, in authority, in traditions, in associations, was arrayed against
him. They came down upon him with the whole array of scholastic
learning. The great Goliath of controversy in that day was Doctor Eck,
who challenged the Saxon monk to a public disputation at Leipsic. All
Germany was interested. The question at issue stirred the nation to its
very depths.

The disputants met in the great hall of the palace of the Elector. Never
before was seen in Germany such an array of doctors and theologians and
dignitaries. It rivalled in importance and dignity the Council of Nice,
when the great Constantine presided, to settle the Trinitarian
controversy. The combatants were as great as Athanasius and Arius,--as
vehement, as earnest, though not so fierce. Doctor Eck was superior to
Luther in reputation, in dialectical skill, in scholastic learning. He
was the pride of the universities. Luther, however, had deeper
convictions, more genius, greater eloquence, and at that time he
was modest.

The champion of the schools, of sophistries and authorities, of
dead-letter literature, of quibbles, refinements, and words, soon
overwhelmed the Saxon monk with his citations, decrees of councils,
opinions of eminent ecclesiastics, the literature of the Church, its
mighty authority. He was on the eve of triumph. Had the question been
settled, as Doctor Eck supposed, by authorities, as lawyers and pedants
would settle the question, Luther would have been beaten. But his genius
came to his aid, and the consciousness of truth. He swept away the
premises of the argument. He denied the supreme authority of popes and
councils and universities. He appealed to the Scriptures, as the only
ultimate ground of authority. He did not deny authority, but appealed to
it in its highest form. This was unexpected ground. The Church was not
prepared openly to deny the authority of Saint Paul or Saint Peter; and
Luther, if he did not gain his case, was far from being beaten,
and--what was of vital importance to his success--he had the Elector and
the people with him.

Thus was born the second great idea of the Reformation,--the _supreme
authority of the Scriptures_, to which Protestants of every denomination
have since professed to cling. They may differ in the interpretation of
texts,--and thus sects and parties gradually arose, who quarrelled about
their meaning,--but none of them deny their supreme authority. All the
issues of Protestants have been on the meaning of texts, on the
interpretation of the Scriptures,--to be settled by learning and reason.
It was not until rationalism arose, and rejected plain and obvious
declarations of Scripture, as inconsistent with reason, as
interpolations, as uninspired, that the authority of the Scriptures was
weakened; and these rationalists--and the land of Luther became full of
them--have gone infinitely beyond the Catholics in undermining the
Bible. The Catholics never have taken such bold ground as the
rationalists respecting the Scriptures. The Catholic Church still
accepts the Bible, but explains away the meaning of many of its
doctrines; the rationalists would sweep away its divine authority,
extinguish faith, and leave the world in night. Satan came into the
theological school of the Protestants, disguised in the robes of learned
doctors searching for truth, and took away the props of religious faith.
This was worse than baptizing repentance with the name of penance.
Better have irrational fears of hell than no fears at all, for this
latter is Paganism. Pagan culture and Pagan philosophy could not keep
society together in the old Roman world; but Mediaeval appeals to the
fears of men did keep them from crimes and force upon them virtues.

The triumph of Luther at Leipsic was, however, incomplete. The Catholics
rallied after their stunning blow. They said, in substance: "We, too,
accept the Scriptures; we even put them above Augustine and Thomas
Aquinas and the councils. But who can interpret them? Can peasants and
women, or even merchants and nobles? The Bible, though inspired, is full
of difficulties; there are contradictory texts. It is a sealed book,
except to the learned; only the Church can reconcile its difficulties.
And what we mean by the Church is the clergy,--the learned clergy,
acknowledging allegiance to their spiritual head, who in matters of
faith is also infallible. We can accept nothing which is not indorsed by
popes and councils. No matter how plain the Scriptures seem to be, on
certain disputed points only the authority of the Church can enlighten
and instruct us. We distrust reason,--that is, what you call
reason,--for reason can twist anything, and pervert it; but what the
Church says, is true,--its collective intelligence is our supreme law
[thus putting papal dogmas above reason, above the literal and plain
declarations of Scripture]. Moreover, since the Scriptures are to be
interpreted only by priests, it is not a safe book for the people. We,
the priests, will keep it out of their hands. They will get notions from
it fatal to our authority; they will become fanatics; they will, in
their conceit, defy us."

Then Luther rose, more powerful, more eloquent, more majestic than
before; he rose superior to himself. "What," said he, "keep the light of
life from the people; take away their guide to heaven; keep them in
ignorance of what is most precious and most exalting; deprive them of
the blessed consolations which sustain the soul in trial and in death;
deny the most palpable truths, because your dignitaries put on them a
construction to bolster up their power! What an abomination! what
treachery to heaven! what peril to the souls of men! Besides, your
authorities differ: Augustine takes different ground from Pelagius;
Bernard from Abélard; Thomas Aquinas from Dun Scotus. Have not your
grand councils given contradictory decisions? Whom shall we believe?
Yea, the popes themselves, your infallible guides,--have they not at
different times rendered different decisions? What would Gregory I. say
to the verdicts of Gregory VII.?

"No, the Scriptures are the legacy of the early Church to universal
humanity; they are the equal and treasured inheritance of all nations
and tribes and kindreds upon the face of the earth, and will be till the
day of judgment. It was intended that they should be diffused, and that
every one should read them, and interpret them each for himself; for he
has a soul to save, and he dare not intrust such a precious thing as his
soul into the keeping of selfish and ambitious priests. Take away the
Bible from a peasant, or a woman, or any layman, and cannot the priest,
armed with the terrors and the frauds of the Middle Ages, shut up his
soul in a gloomy dungeon, as noisome and funereal as your Mediaeval
crypts? And will you, ye boasted intellectual guides of the people,
extinguish reason in this world in reference to the most momentous
interests? What other guide has a man but his reason? And you would
prevent this very reason from being enlightened by the Gospel! You would
obscure reason itself by your traditions, O ye blind leaders of the
blind! O ye legal and technical men, obscuring the light of truth! O ye
miserable Pharisees, ye bigots, ye selfish priests, tenacious of your
power, your inventions, your traditions,--will ye withhold the free
redemption, God's greatest boon, salvation by the blood of Christ,
offered to all the world? Yea, will you suffer the people to perish,
soul and body, because you fear that, instructed by God himself, they
will rebel against your accursed despotism? Have you considered what a
mighty crime you thus commit against God, against man? Ye rule by an
infernal appeal to the superstitious fears of men; but how shall ye
yourselves, for such crimes, escape the damnation of that hell into
which you would push your victims unless they obey _you_?

"No, I say, let the Scriptures be put into the hands of everybody; let
every one interpret them for himself, according to the light he has; let
there be private judgment; let spiritual liberty be revived, as in
Apostolic days. Then only will the people be emancipated from the Middle
Ages, and arise in their power and majesty, and obey the voice of
enlightened conscience, and be true to their convictions, and practise
the virtues which Christianity commands, and obey God rather than man,
and defy all sorts of persecution and martyrdom, having a serene faith
in those blessed promises which the Gospel unfolds. Then will the
people become great, after the conflicts of generations, and put under
their feet the mockeries and lies and despotisms which grind them
to despair."

Thus was born the third great idea of the Reformation, out of Luther's
brain, a logical sequence from the first idea,--_the right of private
judgment_, religious liberty, call it what you will; a great inspiration
which in after times was destined to march triumphantly over
battlefields, and give dignity and power to the people, and lead to the
reception of great truths obscured by priests for one thousand years;
the motive of an irresistible popular progress, planting England with
Puritans, and Scotland with heroes, and France with martyrs, and North
America with colonists; yea, kindling a fervid religious life; creating
such men as Knox and Latimer and Taylor and Baxter and Howe, who owed
their greatness to the study of the Scriptures,--at last put into every
hand, and scattered far and wide, even to India and China. Can anybody
doubt the marvellous progress of Protestant nations in consequence of
the translation and circulation of the Scriptures? How these are bound
up with their national life, and all their social habits, and all their
religious aspirations; how they have elevated the people, ten hundred
millions of times more than the boasted Renaissance which sprang from
apostate and infidel and Pagan Italy, when she dug up the buried
statues of Greece and Rome, and revived the literature and arts which
soften, but do not save!--for private judgment and religious liberty
mean nothing more and nothing less than the unrestricted perusal of the
Scriptures as the guide of life.

This right of private judgment, on which Luther was among the first to
insist, and of which certainly he was the first great champion in
Europe, was in that age a very bold idea, as well as original. It
flattered as well as stimulated the intellect of the people, and gave
them dignity; it gave to the Reformation its popular character; it
appealed to the mind and heart of Christendom. It gave consolation to
the peasantry of Europe; for no family was too poor to possess a Bible,
the greatest possible boon and treasure,--read and pondered in the
evening, after hard labors and bitter insults; read aloud to the family
circle, with its inexhaustible store of moral wealth, its beautiful and
touching narratives, its glorious poetry, its awful prophecies, its
supernal counsels, its consoling and emancipating truths,--so tender and
yet so exalting, raising the soul above the grim trials of toil and
poverty into the realms of seraphic peace and boundless joy. The Bible
even gave hope to heretics. All sects and parties could take shelter
under it; all could stand on the broad platform of religion, and survey
from it the wonders and glories of God. At last men might even differ
on important points of doctrine and worship, and yet be Protestants.
Religious liberty became as wide in its application as the unity of the
Church. It might create sects, but those sects would be all united as to
the value of the Scriptures and their cardinal declarations. On this
broad basis John Milton could shake hands with John Knox, and John Locke
with Richard Baxter, and Oliver Cromwell with Queen Elizabeth, and Lord
Bacon with William Penn, and Bishop Butler with John Wesley, and
Jonathan Edwards with Doctor Channing.

This idea of private judgment is what separates the Catholics from the
Protestants; not most ostensibly, but most vitally. Many are the
Catholics who would accept Luther's idea of grace, since it is the idea
of Saint Augustine; and of the supreme authority of the Scriptures,
since they were so highly valued by the Fathers: but few of the Catholic
clergy have ever tolerated religious liberty,--that is, the
interpretation of the Scriptures by the people,--for it is a vital blow
to their supremacy, their hierarchy, and their institutions. They will
no more readily accept it than William the Conqueror would have accepted
the Magna Charta; for the free circulation and free interpretation of
the Scriptures are the charter of human liberties fought for at Leipsic
by Gustavus Adolphus, at Ivry by Henry IV. This right of worshipping
God according to the dictates of conscience, enlightened by the free
reading of the Scriptures, is just what the "invincible armada" was sent
by Philip II. to crush; just what Alva, dictated by Rome, sought to
crush in Holland; just what Louis XIV., instructed by the Jesuits, did
crush out in France, by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The
Satanic hatred of this right was the cause of most of the martyrdoms and
persecutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was the
declaration of this right which emancipated Europe from the dogmas of
the Middle Ages, the thraldom of Rome, and the reign of priests. Why
should not Protestants of every shade cherish and defend this sacred
right? This is what made Luther the idol and oracle of Germany, the
admiration of half Europe, the pride and boast of succeeding ages, the
eternal hatred of Rome; not his religious experiences, not his doctrine
of justification by faith, but the emancipation he gave to the mind of
the world. This is what peculiarly stamps Luther as a man of genius, and
of that surprising audacity and boldness which only great geniuses
evince when they follow out the logical sequence of their ideas, and
penetrate at a blow the hardened steel of vulcanic armor beneath which
the adversary boasts.

Great was the first Leo, when from his rifled palace on one of the
devastated hills of Rome he looked out upon the Christian world,
pillaged, sacked, overrun with barbarians, full of untold
calamities,--order and law crushed; literature and art prostrate;
justice a byword; murders and assassinations unavenged; central power
destroyed; vice, in all its enormities, vulgarities, and obscenities,
rampant and multiplying itself; false opinions gaining ground; soldiers
turned into banditti, and senators into slaves; women shrieking in
terror; bishops praying in despair; barbarism everywhere, paganism in
danger of being revived; a world disordered, forlorn, and dismal;
Pandemonium let loose, with howling and shouting and screaming, in view
of the desolation predicted alike by Jeremy the prophet and the Cumaean
sybil;--great was that Leo, when in view of all this he said, with old
patrician heroism, "I will revive government once more upon this earth;
not by bringing back the Caesars, but by declaring a new theocracy, by
making myself the vicegerent of Christ, by virtue of the promise made to
Peter, whose successor I am, in order to restore law, punish crime, head
off heresy, encourage genius, conserve peace, heal dissensions, protect
learning; appealing to love, but ruling by fear. Who but the Church can
do this? A theocracy will create a new civilization. Not a diadem, but a
tiara will I wear, the symbol of universal sovereignty, before which
barbarism shall flee away, and happiness be restored once more." As he
sent out his legates, he fulminated his bulls and established tribunals
of appeal; he made a net-work of ecclesiastical machinery, and
proclaimed the dangers of eternal fire, and brought kings and princes
before him on their knees. The barbaric world was saved.

But greater than Leo was Luther, when--outraged by the corruptions of
this spiritual despotism, and all the false and Pagan notions which had
crept into theology, obscuring the light of faith and creating an
intolerable bondage, and opposing the new spirit of progress which
science and art and industry and wealth had invoked--he courageously yet
modestly comes forward as the champion of a new civilization, and
declares, with trumpet tones, "Let there be private judgment; liberty of
conscience; the right to read and interpret Scripture, in spite of
priests! so that men may think for themselves, not only on the doctrines
of eternal salvation but on all the questions to be deduced from them,
or interlinked with the past or present or future institutions of the
world. Then shall arise a new creation from dreaded destruction, and
emancipated millions shall be filled with an unknown enthusiasm, and
advance with the new weapons of reason and truth from conquering to
conquer, until all the strongholds of sin and Satan shall be subdued,
and laid triumphantly at the foot of His throne whose right it is
to reign."

Thus far Luther has appeared as a theologian, a philosopher, a man of
ideas, a man of study and reflection, whom the Catholic Church distrusts
and fears, as she always has distrusted genius and manly independence;
but he is henceforth to appear as a reformer, a warrior, to carry out
his idea, and also to defend himself against the wrath he has provoked;
impelled step by step to still bolder aggressions, until he attacks
those venerable institutions which he once respected,--all the frauds
and inventions of Mediaeval despotism, all the machinery by which Europe
had been governed for one thousand years; yea, the very throne of the
Pope himself, whom he defies, whom he insults, and against whom he urges
Christendom to rebel. As a combatant, a warrior, a reformer, his person
and character somewhat change. He is coarser, he is more
sensual-looking, he drinks more beer, he tells more stories, he uses
harder names; he becomes arrogant, dogmatic; he dictates and commands;
he quarrels with his friends; he is imperious; he fears nobody, and is
scornful of old usages; he marries a nun; he feels that he is a great
leader and general, and wields new powers; he is an executive and
administrative man, for which his courage and insight and will and
Herculean physical strength wonderfully fit him,--the man for the times,
the man to head a new movement, the forces of an age of protest and
rebellion and conquest.

How can I compress into a few sentences the demolitions and
destructions which this indignant and irritated reformer now makes in
Germany, where he is protected by the Elector from Papal vengeance?
Before the reconstruction, the old rubbish must be cleared away, and
Augean stables must be cleansed. He is now at issue with the whole
Catholic régime, and the whole Catholic world abuse him. They call him a
glutton, a wine-bibber, an adulterer, a scoffer, an atheist, an imp of
Satan; and he calls the Pope the scarlet mother of abominations,
Antichrist, Babylon. That age is prodigal in offensive epithets; kings
and prelates and doctors alike use hard words. They are like angry
children and women and pugilists; their vocabulary of abuse is amusing
and inexhaustible. See how prodigal Shakspeare and Ben Jonson are in the
language of vituperation. But they were all defiant and fierce, for the
age was rough and earnest. The Pope, in wrath, hurls the old weapons of
the Gregorys and the Clements. But they are impotent as the darts of
Priam; Luther laughs at them, and burns the Papal bull before a huge
concourse of excited students and shopkeepers and enthusiastic women. He
severs himself completely from Rome, and declares an unextinguishable
warfare. He destroys and breaks up the ceremonies of the Mass; he pulls
down the consecrated altars, with their candles and smoking incense and
vessels of silver and gold, since they are the emblems of Jewish and
Pagan worship; he tears off the vestments of priests, with their
embroideries and their gildings and their millineries and their laces,
since these are made to impose on the imagination and appeal to the
sense; he breaks up monasteries and convents, since they are dens of
infamy, cages of unclean birds, nurseries of idleness and pleasure,
abodes at the best of narrow-minded, ascetic Asiatic recluses, who
rejoice in penance and self-expiation and other modes of propitiating
the Deity, like soofists and fakirs and Braminical devotees. In defiance
of the most sacred of the institutions of the Middle Ages, he openly
marries Catherine Bora and sets up a hilarious household, and yet a
household of prayer and singing. He abolishes the old Gregorian service;
and for Mediaeval chants, monotonous and gloomy, he prepares hymns and
songs,--not for boys and priests to intone in the distant choir, but for
the whole congregation to sing, inspired by the melodies of David and
the exulting praises of a Saviour who redeems from darkness into light.
How grand that hymn of his,--

     "A mighty fortress is our God,
      A bulwark never failing."

He makes worship more heartfelt, and revives apostolic usages: preaching
and exhortation and instruction from the pulpit,--a forgotten power. He
appeals to reason rather than sense; denounces superstitions, while he
rebukes sins; and kindles a profound fervor, based on the recognition of
new truths. He is not fully emancipated from the traditions of the past;
for he retains the doctrine of transubstantiation, and keeps up the
holidays of the Church, and allows recreation on the Sabbath. But what
he thinks the most of is the circulation of the Scriptures among plain
people. So he translates them into German,--a gigantic task; and this
work, almost single-handed, is done so well that it becomes the standard
of the German language, as the Bible of Tindale helped to form the
English tongue; and not only so, but it has remained the common version
in use throughout Germany, even as the authorized King James version,
made nearly a century later by the labor of many scholars and divines,
has remained the standard English Bible. Moreover, he finds time to make
liturgies and creeds and hymns, and to write letters to all parts of
Christendom,--a Jerome, a Chrysostom, and an Augustine united; a kind of
Protestant pope, to whom everybody looks for advice and consolation.
What a wonderful man! No wonder the Germans are so fond of him and so
proud of him,--a Briareus with a hundred arms; a marvel, a wonder, a
prodigy of nature; the most gifted, versatile, hard-working man of his
century or nation!

At last, this great theologian, this daring innovator, is summoned by
imperial, not papal, authority before the Diet of the empire at Worms,
where the Emperor, the great Charles V., presides, amid bishops,
princes, cardinals, legates, generals, and dignitaries. Thither Luther
must go,--yet under imperial safe conduct,--and consummate his protests,
and perhaps offer up his life. Painters, poets, historians, have made
that scene familiar,--the most memorable in the life of Luther, as well
as one of the grandest spectacles of the age. I need not dwell on that
exciting scene, where, in the presence of all that was illustrious and
powerful in Germany, this defenceless doctor dares to say to supremest
temporal and spiritual authority, "Unless you confute me by arguments
drawn from Scripture, I cannot and will not recant anything ... Here I
stand; I cannot otherwise: God help me! Amen." How superior to Galileo
and other scientific martyrs! He is not afraid of those who can kill
only the body; he is afraid only of Him who hath power to cast both soul
and body into hell. So he stands as firm as the eternal pillars of
justice, and his cause is gained. What if he did not live long enough'
to accomplish all he designed! What if he made mistakes, and showed in
his career many of the infirmities of human nature! What if he cared
very little for pictures and statues,--the revived arts of Greece and
Rome, the Pagan Renaissance in which he only sees infidelity, levities,
and luxuries, and other abominations which excited his disgust and
abhorrence when he visited Italy! _He_ seeks, not to amuse and adorn the
Papal empire, but to reform it; as Paul before him sought to plant new
sentiments and ideas in the Roman world, indifferent to the arts of
Greece, and even the beauties of nature, in his absorbing desire to
convert men to Christ. And who, since Paul, has rendered greater service
to humanity than Luther? The whole race should be proud that such a man
has lived.

We will not follow the great reformer to the decline of his years; we
will not dwell on his subsequent struggles and dangers, his marvellous
preservation, his personal habits, his friendships and his hatreds, his
joys and sorrows, his bitter alienations, his vexations, his
disappointments, his gloomy anticipations of approaching strife, his
sickened yet exultant soul, his last days of honor and of victory, his
final illness, and his triumphant death in the town where he was born.
It is his legacy that we are concerned in, the inheritance he left to
succeeding generations,--the perpetuated ideas of the Reformation, which
he worked out in anguish and in study, and which we will not let die,
but will cherish in our memories and our hearts, as among the most
precious of the heirlooms of genius, susceptible of boundless
application. And it is destined to grow brighter and richer, in spite of
counter-reformation and Jesuitism, of Pagan levities and Pagan lies, of
boastful science and Epicurean pleasures, of material glories, of
dissensions and sects and parties, as the might and majesty of ages
coursing round the world regenerates institutions and nations, and
proclaims the sovereignty of intelligence, the glory and the power
of God.


Ranke's Reformation in Germany; D'Aubigné's History of the Reformation;
Luther's Letters; Mosheim's History of the Church; Melancthon's Life of
Luther: Erasmi Epistolae; Encyclopaedia Britannica.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1489-1556.


As the great interest of the Middle Ages, in an historical point of
view, centres around the throne of the popes, so the most prominent
subject of historical interest in our modern times is the revolt from
their almost unlimited domination. The Protestant Reformation, in its
various relations, was a movement of transcendent importance. The
history of Christendom, in a moral, a political, a religious, a
literary, and a social point of view, for the last three hundred years,
cannot be studied or comprehended without primary reference to that
memorable revolution.

We have seen how that great insurrection of human intelligence was
headed in Germany by Luther, and we shall shortly consider it in
Switzerland and France under Calvin. We have now to contemplate the
movement in England.

The most striking figure in it was doubtless Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop
of Canterbury, although he does not represent the English Reformation
in all its phases. He was neither so prominent nor so great a man as
Luther or Calvin, or even Knox. But, taking him all in all, he was the
most illustrious of the English reformers; and he, more than any other
man, gave direction to the spirit of reform, which had been quietly
working ever since the time of Wyclif, especially among the
humbler classes.

The English Reformation--the way to which had been long preparing--began
in the reign of Henry VIII.; and this unscrupulous and tyrannical
monarch, without being a religious man, gave the first great impulse to
an outbreak the remote consequences of which he did not anticipate, and
with which he had no sympathy. He rebelled against the authority of the
Pope, without abjuring the Roman Catholic religion, either as to dogmas
or forms. In fact, the first great step towards reform was made, not by
Cranmer, but by Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, as the prime minister of
Henry VIII.,--a man of whom we really know the least of all the very
great statesmen of English history. It was he who demolished the
monasteries, and made war on the whole monastic system, and undermined
the papal power in England, and swept away many of the most glaring of
those abuses which disgraced the Papal Empire. Armed with the powers
which Wolsey had wielded, he directed them into a totally different
channel, so far as the religious welfare of the nation is considered,
although in his principles of government he was as absolute as
Richelieu. Like the great French statesman, he exalted the throne; but,
unlike him, he promoted the personal reign of the sovereign he served
with remarkable ability and devotion.

Thomas Cromwell, the prime minister of Henry VIII., after the fall of
Wolsey, was born in humble ranks, and was in early life a common soldier
in the wars of Italy, then a clerk in a mercantile house in Antwerp,
then a wool merchant in Middleborough, then a member of Parliament, and
was employed by Wolsey in suppressing some of the smaller monasteries.
His fidelity to his patron Wolsey, at the time of that great cardinal's
fall, attracted the special notice of the King, who made him royal
secretary in the House of Commons. He made his fortune by advising Henry
to declare himself Head of the English Church, when he was entangled in
the difficulties growing out of the divorce of Catharine. This advice
was given with the patriotic view of making the royal authority superior
to that of the Pope in Church patronage, and of making England
independent of Rome.

The great scandal of the times was the immoral lives of the clergy,
especially of the monks, and the immunities they enjoyed. They were a
hindrance to the royal authority, and weakened the resources of the
country by the excessive drain of gold and silver sent to Rome to
replenish the papal treasury. Cromwell would make the clergy dependent
on the King and not on the Pope for their investitures and promotions;
and he abominated the idle and vagabond lives of the monks, who had
degenerated in England, perhaps more than in any other country in
Europe, in consequence of the great wealth of their monasteries. He was
able to render his master and the kingdom a great service, from the
powers lavished upon him. He presided at convocations as the King's
vicegerent; controlled the House of Commons, and was inquisitor-general
of the monasteries; he was foreign and home secretary, vicar-general,
and president of the star-chamber or privy-council. The proud Nevilles,
the powerful Percies, and the noble Courtenays all bowed before this
plebeian son of a mechanic, who had arisen by force of genius and lucky
accidents,--too wise to build a palace like Hampton Court, but not
ecclesiastical enough in his sympathies to found a college like Christ's
Church as Wolsey did. He was a man simple in his tastes, and
hard-working like Colbert,--the great finance minister of France under
Louis XIV.,--whom he resembled in his habits and policy.

His great task, as well as his great public service, was the visitation
and suppression of monasteries. He perceived that they had fulfilled
their mission; that they were no longer needed; that they had become
corrupt, and too corrupt to be reformed; that they were no longer abodes
of piety, or beehives of industry, or nurseries of art, or retreats of
learning; that their wealth was squandered; that they upheld the arm of
a foreign power; that they shielded offenders against the laws; that
they encouraged vagrancy and extortion; that, in short, they were nests
of unclean birds.

The monks and friars opposed the new learning now extending from Italy
to France, to Germany, and to England. Colet came back from Italy, not
to teach Platonic mysticism, but to unlock the Scriptures in the
original,--the centre of a group of scholars at Oxford, of whom Erasmus
and Thomas More stood in the foremost rank. Before the close of the
fifteenth century, it is said that ten thousand editions of various
books had been printed in different parts of Europe. All the Latin
authors, and some of the Greek, were accessible to students. Tunstall
and Latimer were sent to Padua to complete their studies. Fox, bishop of
Winchester, established a Greek professorship at Oxford. It was an age
of enthusiasm for reviving literature,--which, however, received in
Germany, through the influence chiefly of Luther, a different direction
from what it received in Italy, and which extended from Germany to
England. But to this awakened spirit the monks presented obstacles and
discouragements. They had no sympathy with progress; they belonged to
the Dark Ages; they were hostile to the circulation of the Scriptures;
they were pedlers of indulgences and relics; impostors, frauds,
vagabonds, gluttons, worldly, sensual, and avaricious.

So notoriously corrupt had monasteries become that repeated attempts had
been made to reform them, but without success. As early as 1489,
Innocent VII. had issued a commission for a general investigation. The
monks were accused of dilapidating public property, of frequenting
infamous places, of stealing jewels from consecrated shrines. In 1511,
Archbishop Warham instituted another visitation. In 1523 Cardinal Wolsey
himself undertook the task of reform. At last the Parliament, in 1535,
appointed Cromwell vicar or visitor-general, issued a commission, and
intrusted it to lawyers, not priests, who found that the worst had not
been told. It was found that two thirds of the monks of England were
living in concubinage; that their lands were wasted and mortgaged, and
their houses falling into ruins. They found the Abbot of Fountains
surrounded with more women than Mohammed allowed his followers, and the
nuns of Litchfield scandalously immoral.

On this report, the Lords and Commons--deliberately, not rashly--decreed
the suppression of all monasteries the income of which was less than
two hundred pounds a year, and the sequestration of their lands to the
King. About two hundred of the lesser convents were thus suppressed, and
the monks turned adrift, yet not entirely without support. This
spoliation may have been a violation of the rights of property, but the
monks had betrayed their trusts. The next Parliament completed the work.
In 1539 all the religious houses were suppressed, both great and small.
Such venerable and princely retreats as St. Albans, Glastonbury,
Beading, Bury St. Edmunds, and Westminster, which had flourished one
thousand years,--founded long before the Conquest,--shared the common
ruin. These probably would have been spared, had not the first
suppression filled the country with traitors. The great insurrection in
Lincolnshire which shook the foundation of the throne, the intrigues of
Cardinal Pole, the Cornish conspiracy in which the great house of
Neville was implicated, and various other agitations, were all fomented
by the angry monks.

Rapacity was not the leading motive of Henry or his minister, but the
public welfare. The measure of suppression and sequestration was
violent, but called for. Cromwell put forth no such sophistical pleas as
those revolutionists who robbed the French clergy,--that their property
belonged to the nation. In France the clergy were despoiled, not because
they were infamous, but because they were rich, In England the monks
may have suffered injustice from the severity of their punishment, but
no one now doubts that punishment was deserved. Nor did Henry retain all
the spoils himself: he gave away the abbey lands with a prodigality
equal to his rapacity. He gave them to those who upheld his throne, as a
reward for service or loyalty. They were given to a new class of
statesmen, who led the popular party,--like the Fitzwilliams, the
Russells, the Dudleys, and the Seymours,--and thus became the foundation
of their great estates. They were also distributed to many merchants and
manufacturers who had been loyal to the government. From one-third to
two-thirds of the landed property of the kingdom,--as variously
estimated,--thus changed hands. It was an enormous confiscation,--nearly
as great as that made by William the Conqueror in favor of his army of
invaders. It must have produced an immense impression on the mind of
Europe. It was almost as great a calamity to the Catholic Church of
England as the emancipation of slaves was to their Southern masters in
our late war. Such a spoliation of the Church had not before taken place
in any country of Europe. How great an evil the monastic system must
have been regarded by Parliament to warrant such an act! Had it not been
popular, there would have been discontents amounting to a general to
the throne.

It must also be borne in mind that this dissolution of the monasteries,
this attack on the monastic system, was not a religious movement fanned
by reformers, but an act of Parliament, at the instance of a royal
minister. It was not done under the direction of a Protestant king,--for
Henry was never a Protestant,--but as a public measure in behalf of
morality and for reasons of State. It is true that Henry had, by his
marriage with Anne Boleyn and the divorce of his virtuous queen, defied
the Pope and separated England from Rome, so far as appointments to
ecclesiastical benefices are concerned. But in offending the Pope he
also equally offended Charles V. The results of his separation from
Rome, during his life, were purely political. The King did not give up
the Mass or the Roman communion or Roman dogmas of faith; he only
prepared the way for reform in the next reign. He only intensified the
hatred between the old conservative party and the party of reform
and progress.

How far Cromwell himself was a Protestant it is difficult to tell.
Doubtless he sympathized with the new religious spirit of the age, but
he did not openly avow the faith of Luther. He was the able and
unscrupulous minister of an absolute monarch, bent on sweeping away
abuses of all kinds, but with the idea of enlarging the royal authority
as much, perhaps, as promoting the prosperity of the realm.

He therefore turned his attention to the ecclesiastical courts, which
from the time of Becket had been antagonistic to royal encroachments.
The war between the civil power and these courts had begun before the
fall of Wolsey, and had resulted in the curtailment of probate duties,
legacies, and mortuaries, by which the clergy had been enriched. A
limitation of pluralities and enforcement of residence had also been
effected. But a still greater blow to the privileges of the clergy was
struck by the Parliament under the influence of Cromwell, who had
elevated it in order to give legality to the despotic measures of the
Crown; and in this way a law was passed that no one under the rank of a
sub-deacon, if convicted of felony, should be allowed to plead his
"benefit of clergy," but should be punished like ordinary
criminals,--thus re-establishing the constitutions of Clarendon in the
time of Becket. Another act also was passed, by which no one could be
summoned, as aforetime, to the archbishop's court out of his own
diocese,--a very beneficent act, since the people had been needlessly
subject to great expense and injustice in being obliged to travel
considerable distances. It was moreover enacted that men could not
burden their estates beyond twenty years by providing priests to sing
masses for their souls. The Parliament likewise abolished annats,--a
custom which had long prevailed in Europe, which required one year's
income to be sent to the Pope on any new preferment; a great burden to
the clergy; a sort of tribute to a foreign power. Within fifty years,
one hundred and sixty thousand pounds had thus been sent from England to
Rome, from this one source of papal revenue alone,--equal to three
million pounds at the present time, or fifteen millions of dollars, from
a country of only three millions of people. It was the passage of that
act which induced Sir Thomas More (a devoted Catholic, but a just and
able and incorruptible judge) to resign the seals which he had so long
and so honorably held,--the most prominent man in England after Cromwell
and Cranmer; and it was the execution of this lofty character, because
he held out against the imperious demands of Henry, which is the
greatest stain upon this monarch's reign. Parliament also called the
clergy to account for excessive acts of despotism, and subjected them to
the penalty of a premunire (the offence of bringing a foreign authority
into England), from which they were freed only by enormous fines.

Thus it would seem that many abuses were removed by Cromwell and the
Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII. which may almost be
considered as reforms of the Church itself. The authority of the Church
was not attacked, still less its doctrines, but only abuses and
privileges the restraint of which was of public benefit, and which
tended to reduce the power of the clergy. It was this reduction of
clerical usurpations and privileges which is the main feature in the
legislation of Henry VIII., so far as it pertained to the Church. It was
wresting away the power which the clergy had enjoyed from the days of
Alfred and Ina,--a reform which Henry II. and Edward I., and other
sovereigns, had failed to effect. This was the great work of Cromwell,
and in it he had the support of his royal master, since it was a
transfer of power from the clergy to the throne; and Henry VIII. was
hated and anathematized by Rome as Henry IV. of Germany was, without
ceasing to be a Catholic. He even retained the title of Defender of the
Faith, which had been conferred upon him by the Pope for his opposition
to the theological doctrines of Luther, which he never accepted, and
which he always detested.

Cromwell did not long survive the great services he rendered to his king
and the nation. In the height of his power he made a fatal mistake. He
deceived the King in regard to Anne of Cleves, whose marriage he favored
from motives of expediency and a manifest desire to promote the
Protestant cause. He palmed upon the King a woman who could not speak a
word of English,--a woman without graces or accomplishments, who was
absolutely hateful to him. Henry's disappointment was bitter, and his
vengeance was unrelenting. The enemies of Cromwell soon took advantage
of this mistake. The great Duke of Norfolk, head of the Catholic party,
accused him at the council-board of high treason. Two years before, such
a charge would have received no attention; but Henry now hated him, and
was resolved to punish him for the wreck of his domestic happiness.

Cromwell was hurried to that gloomy fortress whose outlet was generally
the scaffold. He was denied even the form of trial. A bill of attainder
was hastily passed by the Parliament he had ruled. Only one person in
the realm had the courage to intercede for him, and this was Cranmer,
Archbishop of Canterbury; but his entreaties were futile. The fallen
minister had no chance of life, and no one knew it so well as himself.
Even a trial would have availed nothing; nothing could have availed
him,--he was a doomed man. So he bade his foes make quick work of it;
and quick work was made. In eighteen days from his arrest, Thomas
Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Knight of the Garter, Grand Chamberlain, Lord
Privy Seal, Vicar-General, and Master of the Wards, ascended the
scaffold on which had been shed the blood of a queen,--making no
protestation of innocence, but simply committing his soul to Jesus
Christ, in whom he believed. Like Wolsey, he arose from an humble
station to the most exalted position the King could give; and, like
Wolsey, he saw the vanity of delegated power as soon as he offended the
source of power.

     "He who ascends the mountain-tops shall find
      The loftiest peak most wrapped in clouds and storms.
      Though high above the sun of glory shines,
      And far beneath the earth and ocean spread,
      Round _him_ are icy rocks, and loudly blow.
      Contending tempests on his naked head."

On the disappearance of Cromwell from the stage, Cranmer came forward
more prominently. He was a learned doctor in that university which has
ever sent forth the apostles of great emancipating movements. He was
born in 1489, and was therefore twenty years of age on the accession of
Henry VIII. in 1509, and was twenty-eight when Luther published his
theses. He early sympathized with the reform doctrines, but was too
politic to take an active part in their discussion. He was a moderate,
calm, scholarly man, not a great genius or great preacher. He had none
of those bold and dazzling qualities which attract the gaze of the
world. We behold in him no fearless and impetuous Luther,--attacking
with passionate earnestness the corruptions of Rome; bracing himself up
to revolutionary assaults, undaunted before kings and councils, and
giving no rest to his hands or slumber to his eyes until he had
consummated his protests,--a man of the people, yet a dictator to
princes. We see no severely logical Calvin,--pushing out his
metaphysical deductions until he had chained the intellect of his party
to a system of incomparable grandeur and yet of repulsive austerity,
exacting all the while the same allegiance to doctrines which he deduced
from the writings of Paul as he did to the direct declarations of
Christ; next to Thomas Aquinas, the acutest logician the Church has
known; a system-maker, like the great Dominican schoolmen, and their
common master and oracle, Saint Augustine of Hippo. We see in Cranmer no
uncompromising and aggressive reformer like Knox,--controlling by a
stern dogmatism both a turbulent nobility and an uneducated people, and
filling all classes alike with inextinguishable hatred of everything
that even reminded them of Rome. Nor do we find in Cranmer the outspoken
and hearty eloquence of Latimer,--appealing to the people at St. Paul's
Cross to shake off all the trappings of the "Scarlet Mother," who had so
long bewitched the world with her sorceries.

Cranmer, if less eloquent, less fearless, less logical, less able than
these, was probably broader, more comprehensive in his views,--adapting
his reforms to the circumstances of the age and country, and to the
genius of the English mind. Hence his reforms, if less brilliant, were
more permanent. He framed the creed that finally was known as the
Thirty-nine Articles, and was the true founder of the English Church, as
that Church has existed for more than three centuries,--neither Roman
nor Puritan, but "half-way between Rome and Geneva;" a compromise, and
yet a Church of great vitality, and endeared to the hearts of the
English people. Northern Germany--the scene of the stupendous triumphs
of Luther--is and has been, since the time of Frederick the Great, the
hot-bed of rationalistic inquiries; and the Genevan as well as the
French and Swiss churches which Calvin controlled have become cold, with
a dreary and formal Protestantism, without poetry or life. But the
Church of England has survived two revolutions and all the changes of
human thought, and is still a mighty power, decorous, beautiful,
conservative, yet open to all the liberalizing influences of an age of
science and philosophy. Cranmer, though a scholastic, seems to have
perceived that nothing is more misleading and uncertain and
unsatisfactory than any truth pushed out to its severest logical
conclusions without reference to other truths which have for their
support the same divine authority. It is not logic which has built up
the most enduring institutions, but common-sense and plain truths, and
appeals to human consciousness,--the _cogito, ergo sum_, without whose
approval most systems have perished. _In mediis tutissimus ibis_, is not
indeed an agreeable maxim to zealots and partisans and dialectical
logicians, but it seems to be induced from the varied experiences of
human life and the history of different ages and nations, and applies to
all the mixed sciences, like government and political economy, as well
as to church institutions.

As Cromwell made his fortune by advising the King to assume the headship
of the Church in England, so Cranmer's rise is to be traced to his
advice to Henry to appeal to the decision of universities whether or not
he could be legally divorced from Catharine, since the Pope--true to the
traditions of the Catholic Church, or from fear of Charles V.--would not
grant a dispensation. All this business was a miserable quibble, a
tissue of scholastic technicalities. But it answered the ends of
Cranmer. The schools decided for the King, and a great injustice and
heartless cruelty was done to a worthy and loyal woman, and a great
insult offered to the Church and to the Emperor Charles of Germany, who
was a nephew of the Spanish Princess and English Queen. This scandal
resulted in a separation from Rome, as was foreseen both by Cromwell and
Cranmer; and the latter became Archbishop of Canterbury, a prelate whose
power and dignity were greater then than at the present day, exalted as
the post is even now,--the highest in dignity and rank to which a
subject can aspire,--higher even than the Lord High Chancellorship; both
of which, however, pale before the position of a Prime Minister so far
as power is concerned.

The separation from Rome, the suppression of the monasteries, and the
curtailment of the powers of the spiritual courts were the only reforms
of note during the reign of Henry VIII., unless we name also the new
translation of the Bible, authorized through Cranmer's influence, and
the teaching of the creed, the commandments, and the Lord's prayer in
English. The King died in 1547. Cranmer was now fifty-seven, and was
left to prosecute reforms in his own way as president of the council of
regency, Edward VI. being but nine years old,--"a learned boy," as
Macaulay calls him, but still a boy in the hands of the great noblemen
who composed the regency, and who belonged to the progressive school.

I do not think the career of Cranmer during the life of Henry is
sufficiently appreciated. He must have shown at least extraordinary tact
and wisdom,--with his reforming tendencies and enlightened views,--not
to come in conflict with his sovereign as Becket did with Henry II. He
had to deal with the most capricious and jealous of tyrants; cruel and
unscrupulous when crossed; a man who rarely retained a friendship or
remembered a service; who never forgave an injury or forgot an affront;
a glutton and a sensualist; although prodigal with his gifts, social in
his temper, enlightened in his government, and with very respectable
abilities and very considerable theological knowledge. This hard and
exacting master Cranmer had to serve, without exciting his suspicions or
coming in conflict with him; so that he seemed politic and vacillating,
for which he would not be excused were it not for his subsequent
services, and his undoubted sincerity and devotion to the Protestant
cause. During the life of Henry we can scarcely call Cranmer a reformer.
The most noted reformer of the day was old Hugh Latimer, the King's
chaplain, who declaimed against sin with the zeal and fire of
Savonarola, and aimed to create a religious life among the people, from
whom, he sprung and whom he loved,--a rough, hearty, honest,
conscientious man, with deep convictions and lofty soul.

In the reforms thus far carried on we perceive that, though popular,
they emanated from princes and not from the people. The people had no
hand in the changes made, as at Geneva, only the ministers of kings and
great public functionaries. And in the reforms subsequently effected,
which really constitute the English Reformation, they were made by the
council of regency, under the leadership of Cranmer and the
protectorship of Somerset.

The first thing which the Government did after the accession of Edward
VI. was to remove images from the churches, as a form of idolatry,--much
to the wrath of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, the ablest man of the
old conservative and papal party. But Ridley, afterwards Bishop of
Rochester, preached against all forms of papal superstition with so much
ability and zeal that the churches were soon cleared of these "helps to

Cranmer, now unchecked, turned his attention to other reforms, but
proceeded slowly and cautiously, not wishing to hazard much at the
outset. First communion of both kinds, heretofore restricted to the
clergy, was appointed; and, closely connected with it, Masses were put
down. Then a law was passed by Parliament that the appointment of
bishops should vest in the Crown alone, and not, as formerly, be
confirmed by the Pope. The next great thing to which the reformers
directed their attention was the preparation of a new liturgy in the
public worship of God, which gave rise to considerable discussion. They
did not seek to sweep away the old form, for it was prepared by the
sainted doctors of the Church of all ages; but they would purge it of
all superstitions, and retain what was most beautiful and expressive in
the old prayers. The Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the early
creeds of course were retained, as well as whatever was in harmony with
primitive usages. These changes called out letters from Calvin at
Geneva, who was now recognized as a great oracle among the Protestants:
he encouraged the work, but advised a more complete reformation, and
complained of the coldness of the clergy, as well as of the general
vices of the times. Martin Bucer of Strasburg, at this time professor at
Cambridge, also wrote letters to the same effect; but the time had not
come for more radical reforms. Then, Parliament, controlled by the
Government, passed an act allowing the clergy to marry,--opposed, of
course, by many bishops in allegiance to Rome. This was a great step in
reform, and removed many popular scandals; it struck a heavy blow at the
superstitions of the Middle Ages, and showed that celibacy sprung from
no law of God, but was Oriental in its origin, encouraged by the popes
to cement their throne. And this act concerning the marriage of the
clergy was soon followed by the celebrated Forty-two Articles, framed by
Cranmer and Ridley, which are the bases of the English Church,--a
theological creed, slightly amended afterwards in the reign of
Elizabeth; evangelical but not Calvinistic, affirming the great ideas of
Augustine and Luther as to grace, justification by faith, and original
sin, and repudiating purgatory, pardons, the worship and invocation of
saints and images; a larger creed than the Nicene or Athanasian, and
comprehensive,--such as most Protestants might accept. Both this and the
book of Common Prayer were written with consummate taste, were the work
of great scholars,--moderate, broad, enlightened, conciliatory.

The reformers then gave their attention to an alteration of
ecclesiastical laws in reference to matters which had always been
decided in ecclesiastical courts. The commissioners--the ablest men in
England, thirty-two in number--had scarcely completed their work before
the young King died, and Mary ascended the throne.

We cannot too highly praise the moderation with which the reforms had
been made, especially when we remember the violence of the age. There
were only two or three capital executions for heresy. Gardiner and
Bonner, who opposed the reformation with unparalleled bitterness were
only deprived of their sees and sent to the Tower. The execution of
Somerset was the work of politicians, of great noblemen jealous of his
ascendency. It does not belong to the reformation, nor do the executions
of a few other noblemen.

Cranmer himself was a statesman rather than a preacher. He left but few
sermons, and these commonplace, without learning, or wit, or
zeal,--ordinary exhortations to a virtuous life. The chief thing,
outside of the reforms I have mentioned, was the publication of a few
homilies for the use of the clergy,--too ignorant to write
sermons,--which homilies were practical and orthodox, but containing
nothing to stir up an ardent religious life. The Bible was also given a
greater scope; everybody could read it if he wished. Public prayer was
restored to the people in a language which they could understand, and a
few preachers arose who appealed to conscience and reason,--like Latimer
and Ridley, and Hooper and Taylor; but most of them were formal and
cold. There must have been great religious apathy, or else these reforms
would have excited more opposition on the part of the clergy, who
generally acquiesced in the changes. But the Reformation thus far was
official; it was not popular. It repressed vice and superstition, but
kindled no great enthusiasm. It was necessary for the English reformers
and sincere Protestants to go through a great trial; to be persecuted,
to submit to martyrdom for the sake of their opinions. The school of
heroes and saints has ever been among blazing fires and scaffolds. It
was martyrdom which first gave form and power to early Christianity. The
first chapter in the history of the early Church is the torments of the
martyrs. The English Reformation had no great dignity or life until the
funeral pyres were lighted. Men had placidly accepted new opinions, and
had Bibles to instruct them; but it was to be seen how far they would
make sacrifices to maintain them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1491-1556.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luther moved Europe by ideas which emancipated the millions, and set in
motion a progress which is the glory of our age; Loyola invented a
machine which arrested this progress, and drove the Catholic world back
again into the superstitions and despotisms of the Middle Ages,
retaining however the fear of God and of Hell, which some among the
Protestants care very little about.

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

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

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

That the early Jesuits blazed with virtues and learning and piety has
never been denied, although these things have been poetically
exaggerated. The world was astonished at their intrepidity, zeal, and
devotion. They were not at first intriguing, or ambitious, or covetous.
They loved their Society; but they loved still more what they thought
was the glory of God. _Ad majoram Dei gloriam_ was the motto which was
emblazoned on their standard when they went forth as Christian warriors
to overcome the heresies of Christendom and the superstitions of
idolaters. "The Jesuit missionary," says Stephen, "with his breviary
under his arm, his beads at his girdle, and his crucifix in his hands,
went forth without fear, to encounter the most dreaded dangers.
Martyrdom was nothing to him; he knew that the altar which might stream
with his blood, and the mound which might be raised over his remains,
would become a cherished object of his fame and an expressive emblem of
the power of his religion." "If I die," said Xavier, when about to
visit the cannibal Island of Del Moro, "who knows but what all may
receive the Gospel, since it is most certain it has ever fructified more
abundantly in the field of Paganism by the blood of martyrs than by the
labors of missionaries,"--a sublime truth, revealed to him in his whole
course of protracted martyrdom and active philanthropy, especially in
those last hours when, on the Island of Sanshan, he expired, exclaiming,
as his fading eyes rested on the crucifix, _In te Domine speravi, non
confundar in eternum_. In perils, in fastings, in fatigues, was the life
of this remarkable man passed, in order to convert the heathen world;
and in ten years he had traversed a tract of more than twice the
circumference of the earth, preaching, disputing, and baptizing, until
seventy thousand converts, it is said, were the fruits of his
mission.[1] "My companion," said the fearless Marquette, when exploring
the prairies of the Western wilderness, "is an envoy of France to
discover new countries, and I am an ambassador of God to enlighten them
with the Gospel." Lalemant, when pierced with the arrows of the
Iroquois, rejoiced that his martyrdom would induce others to follow his
example. The missions of the early Jesuits extorted praises from Baxter
and panegyric from Liebnitz.

[Footnote 1: I am inclined to think that this statement is exaggerated;
or, if true, that conversion was merely nominal.]

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

Aside from the personal gifts and qualities of the early Jesuits, they
would not have so marvellously succeeded had it not been for their
remarkable constitution,--that which bound the members of the Society
together, and gave to it a peculiar unity and force. The most marked
thing about it was the unbounded and unhesitating obedience required of
every member to superiors, and of these superiors to the General of the
Order,--so that there was but one will. This law of obedience is, as
every one knows, one of the fundamental principles of all the monastic
orders from the earliest times, enforced by Benedict as well as Basil.
Still there was a difference in the vow of obedience. The head of a
monastery in the Middle Ages was almost supreme. The Lord Abbot was
obedient only to the Pope, and he sought the interests of his monastery
rather than those of the Pope. But Loyola exacted obedience to the
General of the Order so absolutely that a Jesuit became a slave. This
may seem a harsh epithet; there is nothing gained by using offensive
words, but Protestant writers have almost universally made these
charges. From their interpretation of the constitutions of Loyola and
Lainez and Aquaviva, a member of the Society had no will of his own; he
did not belong to himself, he belonged to his General,--as in the time
of Abraham a child belonged to his father and a wife to her husband;
nay, even still more completely. He could not write or receive a letter
that was not read by his Superior. When he entered the order, he was
obliged to give away his property, but could not give it to his
relatives.[2] When he made confession, he was obliged to tell his most
intimate and sacred secrets. He could not aspire to any higher rank than
that he held; he had no right to be ambitious, or seek his own
individual interests; he was merged body and soul into the Society; he
was only a pin in the machinery; he was bound to obey even his own
servant, if required by his Superior; he was less than a private
soldier in an army; he was a piece of wax to be moulded as the Superior
directed,--and the Superior, in his turn, was a piece of wax in the
hands of the Provincial, and he again in the hands of the General.
"There were many gradations in rank, but every rank was a gradation in
slavery." The Jesuit is accused of having no individual conscience. He
was bound to do what he was told, right or wrong; nothing was right and
nothing was wrong except as the Society pronounced. The General stood in
the place of God. That man was the happiest who was most mechanical.
Every novice had a monitor, and every monitor was a spy.[3] So strict
was the rule of Loyola, that he kept Francis Borgia, Duke of Candia,
three years out of the Society, because he refused to renounce all
intercourse with his family.[4]

[Footnote 2: Ranke.]
[Footnote 3: Steinmetz, i. p. 252.]
[Footnote 4: Nicolini, p. 35.]

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

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

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

Why did the Jesuits become unpopular and lose their influence?

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

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

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

From the very first, the Society was distinguished for the _esprit de
corps_ of its members. Of all things which they loved best it was the
power and glory of the Society,--just as Oxford Fellows love the
_prestige_ of their university. And this power and influence the Jesuits
determined to preserve at all hazards and by any means; when virtues
fled, they must find something else with which to bolster themselves up:
they must not part with their power; the question was, how should
they keep it?

First, they adopted the doctrine of expediency,--that the end justifies
the means. They did not invent this sophistry,--it is as old as our
humanity. Abraham used it when he told lies to the King of Egypt, to
save the honor of his wife; Caesar accepted it, when he vindicated
imperialism as the only way to save the Roman Empire from anarchy; most
politicians resort to it when they wish to gain their ends. Politicians
have ever been as unscrupulous as the Jesuits, in adopting expediency
rather than eternal right. It has been a primal law of government; it
lies at the basis of English encroachments in India, and of the
treatment of the aborigines in this country by our government. There is
nothing new in the doctrine of expediency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1509-1364.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Calvin therefore, as to the Puritans, the belief in a personal God
was everything; not a compulsory belief in the general existence of a
deity who, united with Nature, reveals himself to our consciousness; not
the God of the pantheist, visible in all the wonders of Nature; not the
God of the rationalist, who retires from the universe which he has made,
leaving it to the operation of certain unchanging and universal laws:
but the God whom Abraham and Moses and the prophets saw and recognized,
and who by his special providence rules the destinies of men. The most
intellectual of the reformers abhorred the deification of the reason,
and clung to that exalted supernaturalism which was the life and hope of
blessed saints and martyrs in bygone ages, and which in "their contests
with mail-clad infidelity was like the pebble which the shepherd of
Israel hurled against the disdainful boaster who defied the power of
Israel's God." And he was thus brought into close sympathy with the
realism of the Fathers, who felt that all that is valuable in theology
must radiate from the recognition of Almighty power in the renovation of
society, and displayed, not according to our human notions of law and
progress and free-will, but supernaturally and mysteriously, according
to his sovereign will, which is above law, since God is the author of
law. He simply erred in enforcing a certain class of truths which must
follow from the majesty of the one great First Cause, lofty as these
truths are, to the exclusion of another class of truths of great
importance; which gives to his system incompleteness and one-sidedness.
Thus he was led to undervalue the power of truth itself in its contest
with error. He was led into a seeming recognition of two wills in
God,--that which wills the salvation of all men, and that which wills
the salvation of the elect alone. He is accused of a leaning to
fatalism, which he heartily denied, but which seems to follow from his
logical conclusions. He entered into an arena of metaphysical
controversy which can never be settled. The doctrines of free-will and
necessity can never be reconciled by mortal reason. Consciousness
reveals the freedom of the will as well as the slavery to sin. Men are
conscious of both; they waste their time in attempting to reconcile two
apparently opposing facts,--like our pious fathers at their New England
firesides, who were compelled to shelter themselves behind mystery.

The tendency of Calvin's system, it is maintained by many, is to ascribe
to God attributes which according to natural justice would be injustice
and cruelty, such as no father would exercise on his own children,
however guilty. Even good men will not accept in their hearts doctrines
which tend to make God less compassionate than man. There are not two
kinds of justice. The intellect is appalled when it is affirmed that one
man _justly_ suffers the penalty of another man's sin,--although the
world is full of instances of men suffering from the carelessness or
wickedness of others, as in a wicked war or an unnecessary railway
disaster. The Scripture law of retribution, as brought out in the Bible
and sustained by consciousness, is the penalty a man pays for personal
and voluntary transgression. Nor will consciousness accept the doctrine
that the sin of a mortal--especially under strong temptation and with
all the bias of a sinful nature--is infinite. Nothing which a created
mortal can do is infinite; it is only finite: the infinite belongs to
God alone. Hence an infinite penalty for a finite sin conflicts with
consciousness and is nowhere asserted in the Bible, which is
transcendently more merciful and comforting than many theological
systems of belief, however powerfully sustained by dialectical reasoning
and by the most excellent men. Human judgments or reasonings are
fallible on moral questions which have two sides; and reasonings from
texts which present different meanings when studied by the lights of
learning and science are still more liable to be untrustworthy. It would
seem to be the supremest necessity for theological schools to unravel
the meaning of divine declarations, and present doctrines in their
relation with apparently conflicting texts, rather than draw out a
perfect and consistent system, philosophically considered, from any one
class of texts. Of all things in this wicked and perplexing world the
science of theology should be the most cheerful and inspiring, for it
involves inquiries on the loftiest subjects which can interest a
thoughtful mind.

But whatever defects the system of doctrines which Calvin elaborated
with such transcendent ability may have, there is no question as to its
vast influence on the thinking of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. The schools of France and Holland and Scotland and England
and America were animated by his genius and authority. He was a burning
and a shining light, if not for all ages, at least for the unsettled
times in which he lived. No theologian ever had a greater posthumous
power than he for nearly three hundred years, and he is still one of
the great authorities of the church universal. John Knox sought his
counsel and was influenced by his advice in the great reform he made in
Scotland. In France the words Calvinist and Huguenot are synonymous.
Cranmer, too, listened to his counsels, and had great respect for his
learning and sanctity. Among the Puritans he has reigned like an oracle.
Oliver Cromwell embraced his doctrines, as also did Sir Matthew Hale.
Ridicule or abuse of Calvin is as absurd as the ridicule or abuse with
which Protestants so long assailed Hildebrand or Innocent III. No one
abuses Pascal or Augustine, and yet the theological views of all these
are substantially the same.

In one respect I think that Calvin has received more credit than he
deserves. Some have maintained that he was a sort of father of
republicanism and democratic liberty. In truth he had no popular
sympathies, and leaned towards an aristocracy which was little short of
an oligarchy. He had no hand in establishing the political system of
Geneva; it was established before he went there. He was not even one of
those thinkers who sympathized with true liberty of conscience. He
persecuted heretics like a mediaeval Catholic divine. He would have
burned a Galileo as he caused the death of Servetus, which need not have
happened but for him. Calvin could have saved Servetus if he had
pleased; but he complained of him to the magistrates, knowing that his
condemnation and death would necessarily follow. He had neither the
humanity of Luther nor the toleration of Saint Augustine. He was the
impersonation of intellect,--like Newton, Leibnitz, Spinoza, and
Kant,--which overbore the impulses of his heart. He had no passions
except zeal for orthodoxy. So pre-eminently did intellect tower above
the passions that he seemed to lack sympathy; and yet, such was his
exalted character, he was capable of friendship. He was remarkable for
every faculty of the mind except wit and imagination. His memory was
almost incredible; he remembered everything he ever read or heard; he
would, after long intervals, recognize persons whom he had never seen
but once or twice. When employed in dictation, he would resume the
thread of his discourse without being prompted, after the most vexatious
interruptions. His judgment was as sound as his memory was retentive; it
was almost infallible,--no one was ever known to have been misled by it.
He had a remarkable analytical power, and also the power of
generalization. He was a very learned man, and his Commentaries are
among the most useful and valued of his writings, showing both learning
and judgment; his exegetical works have scarcely been improved. He had
no sceptical or rationalistic tendencies, and therefore his Commentaries
may not be admired by men of "advanced thought," but his annotations
will live when those of Ewald shall be forgotten; they still hold their
place in the libraries of biblical critics. For his age he was a
transcendent critic; his various writings fill five folio volumes. He
was not so voluminous a writer as Thomas Aquinas, but less diffuse; his
style is lucid, like that of Voltaire.

Considering the weakness of his body Calvin's labors were prodigious.
There was never a more industrious man, finding time for
everything,--for an amazing correspondence, for pastoral labors, for
treatises and essays, for commentaries and official duties. No man ever
accomplished more in the same space of time. He preached daily every
alternate week; he attended meetings of the Consistory and of the Court
of Morals; he interested himself in the great affairs of his age; he
wrote letters to all parts of Christendom.

Reigning as a religious dictator, and with more influence than any man
of his age, next to Luther, Calvin was content to remain poor, and was
disdainful of money and all praises and rewards. This was not an
affectation, not the desire to imitate the great saints of Christian
antiquity to whom poverty was a cardinal virtue; but real indifference,
looking upon money as _impedimenta_, as camp equipage is to successful
generals. He was not conscious of being poor with his small salary of
fifty dollars a year, feeling that he had inexhaustible riches within
him; and hence he calmly and naturally took his seat among the great men
of the world as their peer and equal, without envy of the accidents of
fortune and birth. He was as indifferent to money and luxuries as
Socrates when he walked barefooted among the Athenian aristocracy, or
Basil when he retired to the wilderness; he rarely gave vent to
extravagant grief or joy, seldom laughed, and cared little for
hilarities; he knew no games or sports; he rarely played with children
or gossiped with women; he loved without romance, and suffered
bereavement without outward sorrow. He had no toleration for human
infirmities, and was neither social nor genial; he sought a wife, not so
much for communion of feeling as to ease him of his burdens,--not to
share his confidence, but to take care of his house. Nor was he fond,
like Luther, of music and poetry. He had no taste for the fine arts; he
never had a poet or an artist for his friend or companion. He could not
look out of his window without seeing the glaciers of the Alps, but
seemed to be unmoved by their unspeakable grandeur; he did not revel in
the glories of nature or art, but gave his mind to abstract ideas and
stern practical duties. He was sparing of language, simple, direct, and
precise, using neither sarcasm, nor ridicule, nor exaggeration. He was
far from being eloquent according to popular notions of oratory, and
despised the jingle of words and phrases and tricks of rhetoric; he
appealed to reason rather than the passions, to the conscience rather
than the imagination.

Though mild, Calvin was also intolerant. Castillo, once his friend,
assailed his doctrine of Decrees, and was obliged to quit Geneva, and
was so persecuted that he died of actual starvation; Perrin,
captain-general of the republic, danced at a wedding, and was thrown
into prison; Bolsec, an eminent physician, opposed the doctrine of
Predestination, and was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment; Gruet spoke
lightly of the ordinances of religion, and was beheaded; Servetus was a
moral and learned and honest man, but could not escape the flames. Had
he been willing to say, as the flames consumed his body, "Jesus, thou
eternal Son of God, have mercy on me!" instead of, "Jesus, thou son of
the eternal God!" he might have been spared. Calvin was as severe on
those who refused to accept his logical deductions from acknowledged
truths as he was on those who denied the fundamental truths themselves.
But toleration was rare in his age, and he was not beyond it. He was not
even beyond the ideas of the Middle Ages in some important points, such
as those which pertained to divine justice,--the wrath rather than the
love of God. He lived too near the Middle Ages to be emancipated from
the ideas which enslaved such a man as Thomas Aquinas. He had very
little patience with frivolous amusements or degrading pursuits. He
attached great dignity to the ministerial office, and set a severe
example of decorum and propriety in all his public ministrations. He was
a type of the early evangelical divines, and was the father of the old
Puritan strictness and narrowness and fidelity to trusts. His very
faults grew out of virtues pushed to extremes. In our times such a man
would not be selected as a travelling companion, or a man at whose house
we would wish to keep the Christmas holidays. His unattractive austerity
perhaps has been made too much of by his enemies, and grew out of his
unimpulsive temperament,--call it cold if we must,--and also out of his
stern theology, which marked the ascetics of the Middle Ages. Few would
now approve of his severity of discipline any more than they would feel
inclined to accept some of his theological deductions.

I question whether Calvin lived in the hearts of his countrymen, or they
would have erected some monument to his memory. In our times a statue
has been erected to Rousseau in Geneva; but Calvin was buried without
ceremony and with exceeding simplicity. He was a warrior who cared
nothing for glory or honor, absorbed in devotion to his Invisible King,
not indifferent to the exercise of power, but only as he felt he was the
delegated messenger of Divine Omnipotence scattering to the winds the
dust of all mortal grandeur. With all his faults, which were on the
surface, he was the accepted idol and oracle of a great party, and
stamped his genius on his own and succeeding ages. Whatever the
Presbyterians have done for civilization, he comes in for a share of the
honor. Whatever foundations the Puritans laid for national greatness in
this country, it must be confessed that they caught inspiration from his
decrees. Such a great master of exegetical learning and theological
inquiry and legislative wisdom will be forever held in reverence by
lofty characters, although he may be no favorite with the mass of
mankind. If many great men and good men have failed to comprehend either
his character or his system, how can a pleasure-loving and material
generation, seeking to combine the glories of this world with the
promises of the next, see much in him to admire, except as a great
intellectual dialectician and system-maker in an age with which it has
no sympathy? How can it appreciate his deep spiritual life, his profound
communion with God, his burning zeal for the defence of Christian
doctrine, his sublime self-sacrifice, his holy resignation, his entire
consecration to a great cause? Nobody can do justice to Calvin who does
not know the history of his times, the circumstances which surrounded
him, and the enemies he was required to fight. No one can comprehend his
character or mission who does not feel it to be supremely necessary to
have a definite, positive system of religious belief, based on the
authority of the Scriptures as a divine inspiration, both as an anchor
amid the storms and a star of promise and hope.

And, after all, what is the head and front of Calvin's offending?--that
he was cold, unsocial, and ungenial in character; and that, as a
theologian, he fearlessly and inexorably pushed out his deductions to
their remotest logical sequences. But he was no more austere than
Chrysostom, no more ascetic than Basil, not even sterner in character
than Michael Angelo, or more unsocial than Pascal or Cromwell or William
the Silent. We lose sight of his defects in the greatness of his
services and the exalted dignity of his character. If he was severe to
adversaries, he was kind to friends; and when his feeble body was worn
out by his protracted labors, at the age of fifty-three, and he felt
that the hand of death was upon him, he called together his friends and
fellow-laborers in reform,--the magistrates and ministers of
Geneva,--imparted his last lessons, and expressed his last wishes, with
the placidity of a Christian sage. Amid tears and sobs and stifled
groans he discoursed calmly on his approaching departure, gave his
affectionate benedictions, and commended them and his cause to Christ;
lingering longer than was expected, but dying in the highest triumphs of
Christian faith, May 27, 1564, in the arms of his faithful and admiring
Beza, as the rays of the setting-sun gilded with their glory his humble
chamber of toil and spiritual exaltation.

No man who knows anything will ever sneer at Calvin. He is not to be
measured by common standards. He was universally regarded as the
greatest light of the theological world. When we remember his
transcendent abilities, his matchless labors, his unrivalled influence,
his unblemished morality, his lofty piety, and soaring soul, all
flippant criticism is contemptible and mean. He ranks with immortal
benefactors, and needs least of all any apologies for his defects. A man
who stamped his opinions on his own age and succeeding ages can be
regarded only as a very extraordinary genius. A frivolous and
pleasure-seeking generation may not be attracted by such an
impersonation of cold intellect, and may rear no costly monument to his
memory; but his work remains as the leader of the loftiest class of
Christian enthusiasts that the modern world has known, and the founder
of a theological system which still numbers, in spite of all the changes
of human thought, some of the greatest thinkers and ablest expounders of
Christian doctrine in both Europe and America. To have been the
spiritual father of the Puritans for three hundred years is itself a
great evidence of moral and intellectual excellence, and will link his
name with some of the greatest movements that have marked our modern
civilization. From Plymouth Rock to the shores of the Pacific Ocean we
still see the traces of his marvellous genius, and his still more
wonderful influence on the minds of men and on the schools of Christian
theology; so that he will ever be regarded as the great doctor of the
Protestant Church.


Henry's Life of Calvin, translated by Stebbings; Dyer's Life of Calvin;
Beza's Life of Calvin; Drelincourt's Defence of Calvin; Bayle;
Maimbourg's Histoire du Calvinisine; Calvin's Works; Ruchat; D'Aubigné's
History of the Reformation; Burnet's Reformation; Mosheim; Biographie
Universelle, article on Servetus; Schlosser's Leben Bezas; McCrie's Life
of Knox; Original Letters (Parker Society).


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1561-1626.


It is not easy to present the life and labors of

     "The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind."

So Pope sums up the character of the great Lord Bacon, as he is
generally but improperly called; and this verdict, in the main, has been
confirmed by Lords Macaulay and Campbell, who seem to delight in keeping
him in that niche of the temple of fame where the poet has placed
him,--contemptible as a man, but venerable as the philosopher, radiant
with all the wisdom of his age and of all preceding ages, the miner and
sapper of ancient falsehoods, the pioneer of all true knowledge, the
author of that inductive and experimental philosophy on which is based
the glory of our age. Macaulay especially, in that long and brilliant
article which appeared in the "Edinburgh Review" in 1837, has
represented him as a remarkably worldly man, cold, calculating, selfish;
a sycophant and a flatterer, bent on self-exaltation; greedy, careless,
false; climbing to power by base subserviency; betraying friends and
courting enemies; with no animosities he does not suppress from policy,
and with no affections which he openly manifests when it does not suit
his interests: so that we read with shame of his extraordinary
shamelessness, from the time he first felt the cravings of a vulgar
ambition to the consummation of a disgraceful crime; from the base
desertion of his greatest benefactor to the public selling of justice as
Lord High Chancellor of the realm; resorting to all the arts of a
courtier to win the favor of his sovereign and of his minions and
favorites; reckless as to honest debts; torturing on the rack an honest
parson for a sermon he never preached; and, when obliged to confess his
corruption, meanly supplicating mercy from the nation he had outraged,
and favors from the monarch whose cause he had betrayed. The defects and
delinquencies of this great man are bluntly and harshly put by Macaulay,
without any attempt to soften or palliate them; as if he would consign
his name and memory, not "to men's charitable speeches, to foreign
nations, and to the next ages," but to an infamy as lasting and deep as
that of Scroggs and of Jeffreys, or any of those hideous tyrants and
monsters that disgraced the reigns of the Stuart kings.

And yet while the man is made to appear in such hideous colors, his
philosophy is exalted to the highest pinnacle of praise, as the greatest
boon which any philosopher ever rendered to the world, and the chief
cause of all subsequent progress in scientific discovery. And thus in
brilliant rhetoric we have a painting of a man whose life was in
striking contrast with his teachings,--a Judas Iscariot, uttering divine
philosophy; a Seneca, accumulating millions as the tool of Nero; a
fallen angel, pointing with rapture to the realms of eternal light. We
have the most startling contradiction in all history,--glory in
debasement, and debasement in glory; the most selfish and worldly man in
England, the "meanest of mankind," conferring on the race one of the
greatest blessings it ever received,--not accidentally, not in
repentance and shame, but in exalted and persistent labors, amid public
cares and physical infirmities, from youth to advanced old age; living
in the highest regions of thought, studious and patient all his days,
even when neglected and unrewarded for the transcendent services he
rendered, not as a philosopher merely, but as a man of affairs and as a
responsible officer of the Crown. Has there ever been, before or since,
such an anomaly in human history,--so infamous in action, so glorious in
thought; such a contradiction between life and teachings,--so that many
are found to utter indignant protests against such a representation of
humanity, justly feeling that such a portrait, however much it may be
admired for its brilliant colors, and however difficult to be proved
false, is nevertheless an insult to the human understanding? The heart
of the world will not accept the strange and singular belief that so bad
a man could confer so great a boon, especially when he seemed bent on
bestowing it during his whole life, amid the most harassing duties. If
it accepts the boon, it will strive to do justice to the benefactor, as
he himself appealed to future ages; and if it cannot deny the charges
which have been arrayed against him,--especially if it cannot exculpate
him,--it will soar beyond technical proofs to take into consideration
the circumstances of the times, the temptations of a corrupt age, and
the splendid traits which can with equal authority be adduced to set off
against the mistakes and faults which proceeded from inadvertence and
weakness rather than a debased moral sense,--even as the defects and
weaknesses of Cicero are lost sight of in the acknowledged virtues of
his ordinary life, and the honest and noble services he rendered to his
country and mankind.

Bacon was a favored man; he belonged to the upper ranks of society. His
father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was a great lawyer, and reached the highest
dignities, being Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His mother's sister was
the wife of William Cecil, the great Lord Burleigh, the most able and
influential of Queen Elizabeth's ministers. Francis Bacon was the
youngest son of the Lord Keeper, and was born in London, Jan. 22, 1561.
He had a sickly and feeble constitution, but intellectually was a
youthful prodigy; and at nine years of age, by his gravity and
knowledge, attracted the admiring attention of the Queen, who called him
her young Lord Keeper. At the age of ten we find him stealing away from
his companions to discover the cause of a singular echo in the brick
conduit near his father's house in the Strand. At twelve he entered the
University of Cambridge; at fifteen he quitted it, already disgusted
with its pedantries and sophistries; at sixteen he rebelled against the
authority of Aristotle, and took up his residence at Gray's Inn; the
same year, 1576, he was sent to Paris in the suite of Sir Amias Paulet,
ambassador to the court of France, and delighted the salons of the
capital by his wit and profound inquiries; at nineteen he returned to
England, having won golden opinions from the doctors of the French
Sanhedrim, who saw in him a second Daniel; and in 1582 he was admitted
as a barrister of Gray's Inn, and the following year composed an essay
on the Instauration of Philosophy. Thus, at an age when young men now
leave the university, he had attacked the existing systems of science
and philosophy, proudly taking in all science and knowledge for
his realm.

About this time his father died, without leaving him, a younger son, a
competence. Nor would his great relatives give him an office or sinecure
by which he might be supported while he sought truth, and he was forced
to plod at the law, which he never liked, resisting the blandishments
and follies by which he was surrounded; and at intervals, when other
young men of his age and rank were seeking pleasure, he was studying
Nature, science, history, philosophy, poetry,--everything, even the
whole domain of truth,--and with such success that his varied
attainments were rather a hindrance to an appreciation of his merits as
a lawyer and his preferment in his profession.

In 1586 he entered parliament, sitting for Taunton, and also became a
bencher at Gray's Inn; so that at twenty-six he was in full practice in
the courts of Westminster, also a politician, speaking on almost every
question of importance which agitated the House of Commons for twenty
years, distinguished for eloquence as well as learning, and for a manly
independence which did not entirely please the Queen, from whom all
honors came.

In 1591, at the age of thirty-one, he formed the acquaintance of Essex,
about his own age, who, as the favorite of the Queen, was regarded as
the most influential man in the country. The acquaintance ripened into
friendship; and to the solicitation of this powerful patron, who urged
the Queen to give Bacon a high office, she is said to have replied: "He
has indeed great wit and much learning, but in law, my lord, he is not
deeply read,"--an opinion perhaps put into her head by his rival Coke,
who did indeed know law but scarcely anything else, or by that class of
old-fashioned functionaries who could not conceive how a man could
master more than one thing. We should however remember that Bacon had
not reached the age when great offices were usually conferred in the
professions, and that his efforts to be made solicitor-general at the
age of thirty-one, and even earlier, would now seem unreasonable and
importunate, whatever might be his attainments. Disappointed in not
receiving high office, he meditated a retreat to Cambridge; but his
friend Essex gave him a villa in Twickenham, which he soon mortgaged,
for he was in debt all his life, although in receipt of sums which would
have supported him in comfort and dignity were it not for his habits of
extravagance,--the greatest flaw in his character, and which was the
indirect cause of his disgrace and fall. He was even arrested for debt
when he enjoyed a lucrative practice at the courts. But nothing
prevented him from pursuing his literary and scientific studies, amid
great distractions,--for he was both a leader at the bar and a leader of
the House of Commons; and if he did not receive the rewards to which he
felt entitled, he was always consulted by Elizabeth in great legal

It was not until the Queen died, and Bacon was forty-seven years old,
that he became solicitor-general (1607), in the fourth year of the reign
of James, one year after his marriage with Alice Barnham, an alderman's
daughter, "a handsome maiden," and "to his liking." Besides this office,
which brought him £1000 a year, he about this time had a windfall as
clerk of the Star Chamber, which added £2000 to his income, at that time
from all sources about £4500 a year,--a very large sum for those times,
and making him really a rich man. Six years afterward he was made
attorney-general, and in the year 1617 he was made Lord Keeper, and the
following year he was raised to the highest position in the realm, next
to that of Archbishop of Canterbury, as Lord Chancellor, at the age of
fifty-seven, and soon after was created Lord Verulam. That is his title,
but the world persists in calling him Lord Bacon. In 1620, two years
after the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, which Bacon advised, he was
in the zenith of his fortunes and fame, having been lately created
Viscount St. Albans, and having published the "Novum Organum," the first
instalment of the "Instauratio Magna," at which he had been working the
best part of his life,--some thirty years,--"A New Logic, to judge or
invent by induction, and thereby to make philosophy and science both
more true and more active."

Then began to gather the storms which were to wreck his fortunes. The
nation now was clamorous for reform; and Coke, the enemy of Bacon, who
was then the leader of the Reform party in the House of Commons,
stimulated the movement. The House began its scrutiny with the
administration of justice; and Bacon could not stand before it, for as
the highest judge in England he was accused of taking bribes before
rendering decisions, and of many cases of corruption so glaring that no
defence was undertaken; and the House of Lords had no alternative but to
sentence him to the Tower and fine him, to degrade him from his office,
and banish him from the precincts of the court,--a fall so great, and
the impression of it on the civilized world so tremendous, that the case
of a judge accepting bribes has rarely since been known.

Bacon was imprisoned but a few days, his ruinous fine of £40,000 was
remitted, and he was even soon after received at court; but he never
again held office. He was hopelessly disgraced; he was a ruined man; and
he bitterly felt the humiliation, and acknowledged the justice of his
punishment. He had now no further object in life than to pursue his
studies, and live comfortably in his retirement, and do what he could
for future ages.

But before we consider his immortal legacy to the world, let us take
one more view of the man, in order that we may do him justice, and
remove some of the cruel charges against him as "the meanest
of mankind."

It must be borne in mind that, from the beginning of his career until
his fall, only four or five serious charges have been made against
him,--that he was extravagant in his mode of life; that he was a
sycophant and office-seeker; that he deserted his patron Essex; that he
tortured Peacham, a Puritan clergyman, when tried for high-treason; that
he himself was guilty of corruption as a judge.

In regard to the first charge, it is unfortunately too true; he lived
beyond his means, and was in debt most of his life. This defect, as has
been said, was the root of much evil; it destroyed his independence,
detracted from the dignity of his character, created enemies, and
led to a laxity of the moral sense which prepared the way for
corruption,--thereby furnishing another illustration of that fatal
weakness which degrades any man when he runs races with the rich, and
indulges in a luxury and ostentation which he cannot afford. It was the
curse of Cicero, of William Pitt, and of Daniel Webster. The first
lesson which every public man should learn, especially if honored with
important trusts, is to live within his income. However inconvenient
and galling, a stringent economy is necessary. But this defect is a very
common one, particularly when men are luxurious, or brought into
intercourse with the rich, or inclined to be hospitable and generous, or
have a great imagination and a sanguine temperament. So that those who
are most liable to fall into this folly have many noble qualities to
offset it, and it is not a stain which marks the "meanest of mankind."
Who would call Webster the meanest of mankind because he had an absurd
desire to live like an English country gentleman?

In regard to sycophancy,--a disgusting trait, I admit,--we should
consider the age, when everybody cringed to sovereigns and their
favorites. Bacon never made such an abject speech as Omer Talon, the
greatest lawyer in France, did to Louis XIII, in the Parliament of
Paris. Three hundred years ago everybody bowed down to exalted rank:
witness the obsequious language which all authors addressed to patrons
in the dedication of their books. How small the chance of any man rising
in the world, who did not court favors from those who had favors to
bestow! Is that the meanest or the most uncommon thing in this world? If
so, how ignominious are all politicians who flatter the people and
solicit their votes? Is it not natural to be obsequious to those who
have offices to bestow? This trait is not commendable, but is it the
meanest thing we see?

In regard to Essex, nobody can approve of the ingratitude which Bacon
showed to his noble patron. But, on the other hand, remember the good
advice which Bacon ever gave him, and his constant efforts to keep him
out of scrapes. How often did he excuse him to his royal mistress, at
the risk of incurring her displeasure? And when Essex was guilty of a
thousand times worse crime than ever Bacon committed,--even
high-treason, in a time of tumult and insurrection,--and it became
Bacon's task as prosecuting officer of the Crown to bring this great
culprit to justice, was he required by a former friendship to sacrifice
his duty and his allegiance to his sovereign, to screen a man who had
perverted the affection of the noblest woman who ever wore a crown, and
came near involving his country in a civil war? Grant that Essex had
bestowed favors, and was an accomplished and interesting man,--was Bacon
to ignore his official duties? He may have been too harsh in his
procedure; but in that age all criminal proceedings were harsh and
inexorable,--there was but little mercy shown to culprits, especially to
traitors. If Elizabeth could bring herself, out of respect to her
wounded honor and slighted kindness and the dignity of the realm and the
majesty of the law, to surrender into the hands of justice one whom she
so tenderly loved and magnificently rewarded, even when the sacrifice
cost her both peace and life, snapped the last cord which bound her to
this world,--may we not forgive Bacon for the part he played? Does this
fidelity to an official and professional duty, even if he were harsh,
make him "the meanest of mankind"?

In regard to Peacham, it is true he was tortured, according to the
practice of that cruel age; but Bacon had no hand in the issuing of the
warrant against him for high-treason, although in accordance with custom
he, as prosecuting officer of the Crown, examined Peacham under torture
before his trial. The parson was convicted; but the sentence of death
was not executed upon him, and he died in jail.

And in regard to corruption,--the sin which cast Bacon from his high
estate, though fortunately he did not fall like Lucifer, never to rise
again,--may not the verdict of the poet and the historian be rather
exaggerated? Nobody has ever attempted to acquit Bacon for taking
bribes. Nobody has ever excused him. He did commit a crime; but in
palliation it might be said that he never decided against justice, and
that it was customary for great public functionaries to accept presents.
Had he taken them after he had rendered judgment instead of before, he
might have been acquitted; for out of the seven thousand cases which he
decided as Lord-Chancellor, not one of them has been reversed: so that
he said of himself, "I was the justest judge that England has had for
fifty years; and I suffered the justest sentence that had been
inflicted for two hundred years." He did not excuse himself. His
ingenuousness of confession astonished everybody, and moved the hearts
of his judges. It was his misfortune to be in debt; he had pressing
creditors; and in two cases he accepted presents before the decision was
made, but was brave enough to decide against those who bribed
him,--_hinc illoe lacrymoe_. A modern corrupt official generally covers
his tracks; and many a modern judge has been bribed to decide against
justice, and has escaped ignominy, even in a country which claims the
greatest purity and the loftiest moral standard. We admit that Bacon was
a sinner; but was he a sinner above all others who cast stones at

In reference to these admitted defects and crimes, I only wish to show
that even these do not make him "the meanest of mankind." What crimes
have sullied many of those benefactors whom all ages will admire and
honor, and whom, in spite of their defects, we call good men,--not bad
men to be forgiven for their services, but excellent and righteous on
the whole! See Abraham telling lies to the King of Egypt; and Jacob
robbing his brother of his birthright; and David murdering his bravest
soldier to screen himself from adultery; and Solomon selling himself to
false idols to please the wicked women who ensnared him; and Peter
denying his Master; and Marcus Aurelius persecuting the Christians; and
Constantine putting to death his own son; and Theodosius slaughtering
the citizens of Thessalonica; and Isabella establishing the Inquisition;
and Sir Mathew Hale burning witches; and Cromwell stealing a sceptre;
and Calvin murdering Servetus; and Queen Elizabeth lying and cheating
and swearing in the midst of her patriotic labors for her country and
civilization. Even the sun passes through eclipses. Have the spots upon
the career of Bacon hidden the brightness of his general beneficence? Is
he the meanest of men because he had great faults? When we speak of mean
men, it is those whose general character is contemptible.

Now, see Bacon pursuing his honorable career amid rebuffs and enmities
and jealousies, toiling in Herculean tasks without complaint, and
waiting his time; always accessible, affable, gentle, with no vulgar
pride, if he aped vulgar ostentation; calm, beneficent, studious,
without envy or bitterness; interesting in his home, courted as a
friend, admired as a philosopher, generous to the poor, kind to the
servants who cheated him, with an unsubdued love of Nature as well as of
books; not negligent of religious duties, a believer in God and
immortality; and though broken in spirit, like a bruised reed, yet
soaring beyond all his misfortunes to study the highest problems, and
bequeathing his knowledge for the benefit of future ages! Can such a
man be stigmatized as "the meanest of mankind"? Is it candid and just
for a great historian to indorse such a verdict, to gloss over Bacon's
virtues, and make like an advocate at the bar, or an ancient sophist, a
special plea to magnify his defects, and stain his noble name with an
infamy as deep as would be inflicted upon an enemy of the human race?
And all for what?--just to make a rhetorical point, and show the
writer's brilliancy and genius in making a telling contrast between the
man and the philosopher. A man who habitually dwelt in the highest
regions of thought during his whole life, absorbed in lofty
contemplations, all from love of truth itself and to benefit the world,
could not have had a mean or sordid soul. "As a man thinketh, so is he."
We admit that he was a man of the world, politic, self-seeking,
extravagant, careless about his debts and how he raised money to pay
them; but we deny that he was a bad judge on the whole, or was
unpatriotic, or immoral in his private life, or mean in his ordinary
dealings, or more cruel and harsh in his judicial transactions than most
of the public functionaries of his rough and venal age. We admit it is
difficult to controvert the charges which Macaulay arrays against him,
for so accurate and painstaking an historian is not likely to be wrong
in his facts; but we believe that they are uncandidly stated, and so
ingeniously and sophistically put as to give on the whole a wrong
impression of the man,--making him out worse than he was, considering
his age and circumstances. Bacon's character, like that of most great
men, has two sides; and while we are compelled painfully to admit that
he had many faults, we shrink from classing him among bad men, as is
implied in Pope's characterization of him as "the meanest of mankind."

We now take leave of the man, to consider his legacy to the world. And
here again we are compelled to take issue with Macaulay, not in regard
to the great fact that Bacon's inquiries tended to a new revelation of
Nature, and by means of the method called _induction_, by which he
sought to establish fixed principles of science that could not be
controverted, but in reference to the _ends_ for which he labored. "The
aim of Bacon," says Macaulay, "was utility,--fruit; the multiplication
of human enjoyments, ... the mitigation of human sufferings, ... the
prolongation of life by new inventions,"--_dotare vitam humanum novis
inventis et copiis_; "the conquest of Nature,"--dominion over the beasts
of the field and the fowls of the air; the application of science to the
subjection of the outward world; progress in useful arts,--in those arts
which enable us to become strong, comfortable, and rich in houses,
shops, fabrics, tools, merchandise, new vegetables, fruits, and
animals: in short, a philosophy which will "not raise us above vulgar
wants, but will supply those wants." "And as an acre in Middlesex is
worth more than a principality in Utopia, so the smallest practical good
is better than any magnificent effort to realize an impossibility;" and
"hence the first shoemaker has rendered more substantial service to
mankind than all the sages of Greece. All they could do was to fill the
world with long beards and long words; whereas Bacon's philosophy has
lengthened life, mitigated pain, extinguished disease, built bridges,
guided the thunderbolts, lightened the night with the splendor of the
day, accelerated motion, annihilated distance, facilitated intercourse;
enabled men to descend to the depths of the earth, to traverse the land
in cars which whirl without horses, and the ocean in ships which sail
against the wind." In other words, it was his aim to stimulate mankind,
not to seek unattainable truth, but useful truth; that is, the science
which produces railroads, canals, cultivated farms, ships, rich returns
for labor, silver and gold from the mines,--all that purchase the joys
of material life and fit us for dominion over the world in which we
live. Hence anything which will curtail our sufferings and add to our
pleasures or our powers, should be sought as the highest good. Geometry
is desirable, not as a noble intellectual exercise, but as a handmaid to
natural philosophy. Astronomy is not to assist the mind to lofty
contemplation, but to enable mariners to verify degrees of latitude and
regulate clocks. A college is not designed to train and discipline the
mind, but to utilize science, and become a school of technology. Greek
and Latin exercises are comparatively worthless, and even mathematics,
unless they can be converted into practical use. Philosophy, as
ordinarily understood,--that is, metaphysics,--is most idle of all,
since it does not pertain to mundane wants. Hence the old Grecian
philosopher labored in vain; and still more profitless were the
disquisitions of the scholastics of the Middle Ages, since they were
chiefly used to prop up unintelligible creeds. Theology is not of much
account, since it pertains to mysteries we cannot solve. It is not with
heaven or hell, or abstract inquiries, or divine certitudes, that we
have to do, but the things of earth,--things that advance our material
and outward condition. To be rich and comfortable is the end of
life,--not meditations on abstract and eternal truth, such as elevate
the soul or prepare it for a future and endless life. The certitudes of
faith, of love, of friendship, are of small value when compared with the
blessings of outward prosperity. Utilitarianism is the true philosophy,
for this confines us to the world where we are born to labor, and
enables us to make acquisitions which promote our comfort and ease. The
chemist and the manufacturer are our greatest benefactors, for they
make for us oils and gases and paints,--things we must have. The
philosophy of Bacon is an immense improvement on all previous systems,
since it heralds the jubilee of trades, the millennium of merchants, the
schools of thrift, the apostles of physical progress, the pioneers of
enterprise,--the Franklins and Stephensons and Tyndalls and Morses of
our glorious era. Its watchword is progress. All hail, then, to the
electric telegraph and telephones and Thames tunnels and Crystal Palaces
and Niagara bridges and railways over the Rocky Mountains! The day of
our deliverance is come; the nations are saved; the Brunels and the
Fieldses are our victors and leaders! Crown them with Olympic leaves, as
the heroes of our great games of life. And thou, O England! exalted art
thou among the nations,--not for thy Oxfords and Westminsters; not for
thy divines and saints and martyrs and poets; not for thy Hookers and
Leightons and Cranmers and Miltons and Burkes and Lockes; not for thy
Reformation; not for thy struggles for liberty,--but for thy Manchesters
and Birminghams, thy Portsmouth shipyards, thy London docks, thy
Liverpool warehouses, thy mines of coal and iron, thy countless
mechanisms by which thou bringest the wealth of nations into thy banks,
and art enabled to buy the toil of foreigners and to raise thy standards
on the farthest battlements of India and China. These conquests and
acquisitions are real, are practical; machinery over life, the triumph
of physical forces, dominion over waves and winds,--these are the great
victories which consummate the happiness of man; and these are they
which flow from the philosophy which Bacon taught.

Now Macaulay does not directly say all these things, but these are the
spirit and gist of the interpretation which he puts upon Bacon's
writings. The philosophy of Bacon leads directly to these blessings; and
these constitute its great peculiarity. And it cannot be denied that the
new era which Bacon heralded was fruitful in these very things,--that
his philosophy encouraged this new development of material forces; but
it may be questioned whether he had not something else in view than mere
utility and physical progress, and whether his method could not equally
be applied to metaphysical subjects; whether it did not pertain to the
whole domain of truth, and take in the whole realm of human inquiry. I
believe that Bacon was interested, not merely in the world of matter,
but in the world of mind; that he sought to establish principles from
which sound deductions might be made, as well as to establish reliable
inductions. Lord Campbell thinks that a perfect system of ethics could
be made out of his writings, and that his method is equally well adapted
to examine and classify the phenomena of the mind. He separated the
legitimate paths of human inquiry, giving his attention to poetry and
politics and metaphysics, as well as to physics. Bacon does not sneer as
Macaulay does at the ancient philosophers; he bears testimony to their
genius and their unrivalled dialectical powers, even if he regards their
speculations as frequently barren. He does not flippantly ridicule the
_homoousian_ and the _homoiousian_ as mere words, but the expression and
exponent of profound theological distinctions, as every theologian knows
them to be. He does not throw dirt on metaphysical science if properly
directed, still less on noble inquiries after God and the mysteries of
life. He is subjective as well as objective. He treats of philosophy in
its broadest meaning, as it takes in the province of the understanding,
the memory, and the will, as well as of man in society. He speaks of the
principles of government and of the fountains of law; of universal
justice, of eternal spiritual truth. So that Playfair judiciously
observes (and he was a scientist) "that it was not by sagacious
anticipations of science, afterwards to be made in physics, that his
writings have had so powerful an influence, as in his knowledge of the
limits and resources of the human understanding. It would be difficult
to find another writer, prior to Locke, whose works are enriched with so
many just observations on mere intellectual phenomena. What he says of
the laws of memory, of imagination, has never been surpassed in
subtlety. No man ever more carefully studied the operation of his own
mind and the intellectual character of others." Nor did Bacon despise
metaphysical science, only the frivolous questions that the old
scholastics associated with it, and the general barrenness of their
speculations. He surely would not have disdained the subsequent
inquiries of Locke, or Berkeley, or Leibnitz, or Kant. True, he sought
definite knowledge,--something firm to stand upon, and which could not
be controverted. No philosophy can be sound when the principle from
which deductions are made is not itself certain or very highly probable,
or when this principle, pushed to its utmost logical sequence, would
lead to absurdity, or even to a conflict with human consciousness. To
Bacon the old methods were wrong, and it was his primal aim to reform
the scientific methods in order to arrive at truth; not truth for
utilitarian ends chiefly, but truth for its own sake. He loved truth as
Palestrina loved music, or Raphael loved painting, or Socrates
loved virtue.

Now the method which was almost exclusively employed until Bacon's time
is commonly called the _deductive_ method; that is, some principle or
premise was assumed to be true, and reasoning was made from this
assumption. No especial fault was found with the reasoning of the great
masters of logic like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, for it never has
been surpassed in acuteness and severity. If their premises were
admitted, their conclusions would follow as a certainty. What was wanted
was to establish the truth of premises, or general propositions. This
Bacon affirmed could be arrived at only by _induction_; that is, the
ascending from ascertained individual facts to general principles, by
extending what is true of particulars to the whole class in which they
belong. Bacon has been called the father of inductive science, since he
would employ the inductive method. Yet he is not truly the father of
induction, since it is as old as the beginnings of science. Hippocrates,
when he ridiculed the quacks of his day, and collected the facts and
phenomena of disease, and inferred from them the proper treatment of it,
was as much the father of induction as Bacon himself. The error the
ancients made was in not collecting a sufficient number of facts to
warrant a sound induction. And the ancients looked out for facts to
support some preconceived theory, from which they reasoned
syllogistically. The theory could not be substantiated by any
syllogistic reasonings, since conclusions could never go beyond
assumptions; if the assumptions were wrong, no ingenious or elaborate
reasoning would avail anything towards the discovery of truth, but could
only uphold what was assumed. This applied to theology as well as to
science. In the Dark Ages it was well for the teachers of mankind to
uphold the dogmas of the Church, which they did with masterly
dialectical skill. Those were ages of Faith, and not of Inquiry. It was
all-important to ground believers in a firm faith of the dogmas which
were deemed necessary to support the Church and the cause of religion.
They were regarded as absolute certainties. There was no dispute about
the premises of the scholastic's arguments; and hence his dialectics
strengthened the mind by the exercise of logical sports, and at the same
time confirmed the faith.

The world never saw a more complete system of dogmatic theology than
that elaborated by Thomas Aquinas. When the knowledge of the Greek and
Hebrew was rare and imperfect, and it was impossible to throw light by
means of learning and science on the texts of Scripture, it was well to
follow the interpretation of such a great light as Augustine, and assume
his dogmas as certainties, since they could not then be controverted;
and thus from them construct a system of belief which would confirm the
faith. But Aquinas, with his Aristotelian method of syllogism and
definitions, could not go beyond Augustine. Augustine was the fountain,
and the water that flowed from it in ten thousand channels could not
rise above the spring; and as everybody appealed to and believed in
Saint Augustine, it was well to construct a system from him to confute
the heretical, and which the heretical would respect. The scholastic
philosophy which some ridicule, in spite of its puerilities and
sophistries and syllogisms, preserved the theology of the Middle Ages,
perhaps of the Fathers. It was a mighty bulwark of the faith which was
then, accepted. No honors could be conferred on its great architects
that were deemed extravagant. The Pope and the clergy saw in Thomas
Aquinas the great defender of the Church,--not of its abuses, but of its
doctrines. And if no new light can be shed on the Scripture text from
which assumptions were made; if these assumptions cannot be assailed, if
they are certitudes,--then we can scarcely have better text-books than
those furnished to the theologians of the Middle Ages, for no modern
dialetician can excel them in severity of logic. The great object of
modern theologians should be to establish the authenticity and meaning
of the Scripture texts on which their assumptions rest; and this can be
done only by the method which Bacon laid down, which is virtually a
collation and collection of facts,--that is, divine declarations.
Establish the meaning of these without question, and we have _principia_
from which we may deduce creeds and systems, the usefulness of which
cannot be exaggerated, especially in an age of agnosticism. Having
fundamental principles which cannot be gainsaid, we may philosophically
draw deductions. Bacon did not make war on deduction, when its
fundamental truths are established. Deduction is as much a necessary
part of philosophy as induction: it is the peculiarity of the Scotch
metaphysicians, who have ever deduced truths from those previously
established. Deduction even enters into modern science as well as
induction. When Cuvier deduced from a bone the form and habits of the
mastodon; when Kepler deduced his great laws, all from the primary
thought that there must be some numerical or geographical relation
between the times, distances, and velocities of the revolving bodies of
the solar system; when Newton deduced, as is said, the principle of
gravitation from the fall of an apple; when Leverrier sought for a new
planet from the perturbations of the heavenly bodies in their
orbits,--we feel that deduction is as much a legitimate process as
induction itself.

But deductive logic is the creation of Aristotle; and it was the
authority of Aristotle that Bacon sought to subvert. The inductive
process is also old, of which Bacon is called the father. How are these
things to be reconciled and explained? Wherein and how did Bacon adapt
his method to the discovery of truth, which was his principal aim,--that
method which is the great cause of modern progress in science, the way
to it being indicated by him pre-eminently?

The whole thing consists in this, that Bacon pointed out the right road
to truth,--as a board where two roads meet or diverge indicates the one
which is to be followed. He did not make a system, like Descartes or
Spinoza or Newton: he showed the way to make it on sound principles. "He
laid down a systematic analysis and arrangement of inductive evidence."
The syllogism, the great instrument used by Aristotle and the
School-men, "is, from its very nature, incompetent to prove the ultimate
premises from which it proceeds; and when the truth of these remains
doubtful, we can place no confidence in the conclusions drawn from
them." Hence, the first step in the reform of science is to review its
ultimate principles; and the first condition of a scientific method is
that it shall be competent to conduct such an inquiry; and this method
is applicable, not to physical science merely, but to the whole realm of
knowledge. This, of course, includes poetry, art, intellectual
philosophy, and theology, as well as geology and chemistry.

And it is this breadth of inquiry--directed to subjective as well as
objective knowledge--which made Bacon so great a benefactor. The defect
in Macaulay's criticism is that he makes Bacon interested in mere
outward phenomena, or matters of practical utility,--a worldly
utilitarian of whom Epicureans may be proud. In reality he soared to the
realm of Plato as well as of Aristotle. Take, for instance, his _Idola
Mentis Humanae_, or "Phantoms of the Human Mind," which compose the
best-known part of the "Novum Organum." "The Idols of the Tribe" would
show the folly of attempting to penetrate further than the limits of the
human faculties permit, as also "the liability of the intellect to be
warped by the will and affections, and the like." The "Idols of the Den"
have reference to "the tendency to notice differences rather than
resemblances, or resemblances rather than differences, in the attachment
to antiquity or novelty, in the partiality to minute or comprehensive
investigations." "The Idols of the Market-Place" have reference to the
tendency to confound words with things, which has ever marked
controversialists in their learned disputations. In what he here says
about the necessity for accurate definitions, he reminds us of Socrates
rather than a modern scientist; this necessity for accuracy applies to
metaphysics as much as it does to physics. "The Idols of the Theatre"
have reference to perverse laws of demonstration which are the
strongholds of error. This school deals in speculations and experiments
confined to a narrow compass, like those of the alchemists,--too
imperfect to elicit the light which should guide.

Bacon having completed his discussion of the _Idola_, then proceeds to
point out the weakness of the old philosophies, which produced leaves
rather than fruit, and were stationary in their character. Here he
would seem to lean towards utilitarianism, were it not that he is as
severe on men of experiment as on men of dogma. "The men of experiment
are," says he, "like ants,--they only collect and use; the reasoners
resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the
bee takes a middle course; it gathers the material from the flowers, but
digests it by a power of its own.... So true philosophy neither chiefly
relies on the powers of the mind, nor takes the matter which it gathers
and lays it up in the memory, whole as it finds it, but lays it up in
the understanding, to be transformed and digested." Here he simply
points out the laws by which true knowledge is to be attained. He does
not extol physical science alone, though doubtless he had a preference
for it over metaphysical inquiries. He was an Englishman, and the
English mind is objective rather than subjective, and is prone to
over-value the outward and the seen, above the inward and unseen; and
perhaps for the same reason that the Old Testament seems to make
prosperity the greatest blessing, while adversity seems to be the
blessing of the New Testament.

One of Bacon's longest works is the "Silva Sylvarum,"--a sort of natural
history, in which he treats of the various forces and productions of
Nature,--the air the sea, the winds, the clouds, plants and animals,
fire and water, sounds and discords, colors and smells, heat and cold,
disease and health; but which varied subjects he presents to
communicate knowledge, with no especial utilitarian end.

"The Advancement of Learning" is one of Bacon's most famous productions,
but I fail to see in it an objective purpose to enable men to become
powerful or rich or comfortable; it is rather an abstract treatise, as
dry to most people as legal disquisitions, and with no more reference to
rising in the world than "Blackstone's Commentaries" or "Coke upon
Littleton." It is a profound dissertation on the excellence of learning;
its great divisions treating of history, poetry, and philosophy,--of
metaphysical as well as physical philosophy; of the province of
understanding, the memory, the will, the reason, and the imagination;
and of man in society,--of government, of universal justice, of the
fountains of law, of revealed religion.

And if we turn from the new method by which he would advance all
knowledge, and on which his fame as a philosopher chiefly rests,--that
method which has led to discoveries that even Bacon never dreamed of,
not thinking of the fruit he was to bestow, but only the way to secure
it,--even as a great inventor thinks more of his invention than of the
money he himself may reap from it, as a work of creation to benefit the
world rather than his own family, and in the work of which his mind
revels in a sort of intoxicated delight, like a true poet when he
constructs his lines, or a great artist when he paints his picture,--a
pure subjective joy, not an anticipated gain;--if we turn from this
"method" to most of his other writings, what do we find? Simply the
lucubrations of a man of letters, the moral wisdom of the moralist, the
historian, the biographer, the essayist. In these writings we discover
no more worldliness than in Macaulay when he wrote his "Milton," or
Carlyle when he penned his "Burns,"--even less, for Bacon did not write
to gain a living, but to please himself and give vent to his burning
thoughts. In these he had no worldly aim to reach, except perhaps an
imperishable fame. He wrote as Michael Angelo sculptured his Moses; and
he wrote not merely amid the cares and duties of a great public office,
with other labors which might be called Herculean, but even amid the
pains of disease and the infirmities of age,--when rest, to most people,
is the greatest boon and solace of their lives.

Take his Essays,--these are among his best-known works,--so brilliant
and forcible, suggestive and rich, that even Archbishop Whately's
commentaries upon them are scarcely an addition. Surely these are not on
material subjects, and indicate anything but a worldly or sordid nature.
In these famous Essays, so luminous with the gems of genius, we read not
such worldly-wise exhortations as Lord Chesterfield impressed upon his
son, not the gossiping frivolities of Horace Walpole, not the cynical
wit of Montaigne, but those great certitudes which console in
affliction, which kindle hope, which inspire lofty resolutions,--anchors
of the soul, pillars of faith, sources of immeasurable joy, the glorious
ideals of true objects of desire, the eternal unities of truth and love
and beauty; all of which reveal the varied experiences of life and the
riches of deeply-pondered meditation on God and Christianity, as well as
knowledge of the world and the desirableness of its valued gifts. How
beautiful are his thoughts on death, on adversity, on glory, on anger,
on friendship, on fame, on ambition, on envy, on riches, on youth and
old age, and divers other subjects of moral import, which show the
elevation of his soul, and the subjective as well as the objective turn
of his mind; not dwelling on what he should eat and what he should drink
and wherewithal he should be clothed, but on the truths which appeal to
our higher nature, and which raise the thoughts of men from earth to
heaven, or at least to the realms of intellectual life and joy.

And then, it is necessary that we should take in view other labors which
dignified Bacon's retirement, as well as those which marked his more
active career as a lawyer and statesman,--his histories and biographies,
as well as learned treatises to improve the laws of England; his
political discourses, his judicial charges, his theological tracts, his
speeches and letters and prayers; all of which had relation to benefit
others rather than himself. Who has ever done more to instruct the
world,--to enable men to rise not in fortune merely, but in virtue and
patriotism, in those things which are of themselves the only reward? We
should consider these labors, as well as the new method he taught to
arrive at knowledge, in our estimate of the sage as well as of the man.
He was a moral philosopher, like Socrates. He even soared into the realm
of supposititious truth, like Plato. He observed Nature, like Aristotle.
He took away the syllogism from Thomas Aquinas,--not to throw contempt
on metaphysical inquiry or dialectical reasoning, but to arrive by a
better method at the knowledge of first principles; which once
established, he allowed deductions to be drawn from them, leading to
other truths as certainly as induction itself. Yea, he was also a Moses
on the mount of Pisgah, from which with prophetic eye he could survey
the promised land of indefinite wealth and boundless material
prosperity, which he was not permitted to enter, but which he had
bequeathed to civilization. This may have been his greatest gift in the
view of scientific men,--this inductive process of reasoning, by which
great discoveries have been made after he was dead. But this was not his
only legacy, for other things which he taught were as valuable, not
merely in his sight, but to the eye of enlightened reason. There are
other truths besides those of physical science; there is greatness in
deduction as well as in induction. Geometry--whose successive and
progressive revelations are so inspiring, and which, have come down to
us from a remote antiquity, which are even now taught in our modern
schools as Euclid demonstrated them, since they cannot be improved--is a
purely deductive science. The scholastic philosophy, even if it was
barren and unfruitful in leading to new truths, yet confirmed what was
valuable in the old systems, and by the severity of its logic and its
dialectical subtleties trained the European mind for the reception of
the message of Luther and Bacon; and this was based on deductions, never
wrong unless the premises are unsound. Theology is deductive reasoning
from truths assumed to be fundamental, and is inductive only so far as
it collates Scripture declarations, and interprets their meaning by the
aid which learning brings. Is not this science worthy of some regard?
Will it not live when all the speculations of evolutionists are
forgotten, and occupy the thoughts of the greatest and profoundest minds
so long as anything shall be studied, so long as the Bible shall be the
guide of life? Is it not by deduction that we ascend from Nature herself
to the God of Nature? What is more certain than deduction when the
principles from which it reasons are indisputably established?

Is induction, great as it is, especially in the explorations of Nature
and science, always certain? Are not most of the sciences which are
based upon it progressive? Have we yet learned the ultimate principles
of political economy, or of geology, or of government, or even of art?
The theory of induction, though supposed by Dr. Whewell to lead to
certain results, is regarded by Professor Jevons as leading to results
only "almost certain." "All inductive inference is merely probable,"
says the present professor of logic, Thomas Fowler, in the University
of Oxford.

And although it is supposed that the inductive method of Bacon has led
to the noblest discoveries of modern times, is this strictly true?
Galileo made his discoveries in the heavens before Bacon died. Physical
improvements must need follow such inventions as gunpowder and the
mariners' compass, and printing and the pictures of Italy, and the
discovery of mines and the revived arts of the Romans and Greeks, and
the glorious emancipation which the Reformation produced. Why should not
the modern races follow in the track of Carthage and Alexandria and
Rome, with the progress of wealth, and carry out inventions as those
cities did, and all other civilized peoples since Babal towered above
the plains of Babylon? Physical developments arise from the developments
of man, whatever method may be recommended by philosophers. What
philosophical teachings led to the machinery of the mines of
California, or to that of the mills of Lowell? Some think that our
modern improvements would have come whether Bacon had lived or not. But
I would not disparage the labors of Bacon in pointing out the method
which leads to scientific discoveries. Granting that he sought merely
utility, an improvement in the outward condition of society, which is
the view that Macaulay takes, I would not underrate his legacy. And even
supposing that the blessings of material life--"the acre of
Middlesex"--are as much to be desired as Macaulay, with the complacency
of an eminently practical and prosperous man, seems to argue, I would
not sneer at them. Who does not value them? Who will not value them so
long as our mortal bodies are to be cared for? It is a pleasant thing to
ride in "cars without horses," to feel in winter the genial warmth of
grates and furnaces, to receive messages from distant friends in a
moment of time, to cross the ocean without discomfort, with the "almost
certainty" of safety, and save our wives and daughters from the ancient
drudgeries of the loom and the knitting-needle. Who ever tires in gazing
at a locomotive as it whirls along with the power of destiny? Who is not
astonished at the triumphs of the engineer, the wonders of an
ocean-steamer, the marvellous tunnels under lofty mountains? We feel
that Titans have been sent to ease us of our burdens.

But great and beneficent as are these blessings, they are not the only
certitudes, nor are they the greatest. An outward life of ease and
comfort is not the chief end of man. The interests of the soul are more
important than any comforts of the body. The higher life is only reached
by lofty contemplation on the true, the beautiful, and the good.
Subjective wisdom is worth more than objective knowledge. What are the
great realities,--machinery, new breeds of horses, carpets, diamonds,
mirrors, gas? or are they affections, friendships, generous impulses,
inspiring thoughts? Look to Socrates: what raised that barefooted,
ugly-looking, impecunious, persecuted, cross-questioning,
self-constituted teacher, without pay, to the loftiest pedestal of
Athenian fame? What was the spirit of the truths _he_ taught? Was it
objective or subjective truth; the way to become rich and comfortable,
or the search for the indefinite, the infinite, the eternal,--Utopia,
not Middlesex,--that which fed the wants of the immaterial soul, and
enabled it to rise above temptation and vulgar rewards? What raised
Plato to the highest pinnacle of intellectual life? Was it definite and
practical knowledge of outward phenomena; or was it "a longing after
love, in the contemplation of which the mortal soul sustains itself, and
becomes participant in the glories of immortality"? What were realities
to Anselm, Bernard, and Bonaventura? What gave beauty and placidity to
Descartes and Leibnitz and Kant? It may be very dignified for a modern
savant to sit serenely on his tower of observation, indifferent to all
the lofty speculations of the great men of bygone ages; yet those
profound questions pertaining to the [Greek: logos] and the [Greek: ta
onta], which had such attractions for Augustine and Pascal and Calvin,
did have as real bearing on human life and on what is best worth
knowing, as the scales of a leuciscus cephalus or the limbs of a
magnified animalculus, or any of the facts of which physical science can
boast. The wonders of science are great, but so also are the secrets of
the soul, the mysteries of the spiritual life, the truths which come
from divine revelation. Whatever most dignifies humanity, and makes our
labors sweet, and causes us to forget our pains, and kindles us to lofty
contemplations, and prompts us to heroic sacrifice, is the most real and
the most useful. Even the leaves of a barren and neglected philosophy
may be in some important respects of more value than all the boasted
fruit of utilitarian science. Is that which is most useful always the
most valuable,--that, I mean, which gives the highest pleasure? Do we
not plant our grounds with the acacia, the oak, the cedar, the elm, as
well as with the apple, the pear, and the cherry? Are not flowers and
shrubs which beautify the lawn as desirable as beans and turnips and
cabbages? Is not the rose or tulip as great an addition to even a poor
man's cottage as his bed of onions or patch of potatoes? What is the
scale to measure even mortal happiness? What is the marketable value of
friendship or of love? What makes the dinner of herbs sometimes more
refreshing than the stalled ox? What is the material profit of a first
love? What is the value in tangible dollars and cents of a beautiful
landscape, or a speaking picture, or a marble statue, or a living book,
or the voice of eloquence, or the charm of earliest bird, or the smile
of a friend, or the promise of immortality? In what consisted the real
glory of the country we are never weary of quoting,--the land of Phidias
and Pericles and Demosthenes? Was it not in immaterial ideas, in
patriotism, in heroism, in conceptions of ideal beauty, in speculations
on the infinite and unattainable, in the songs which still inspire the
minds of youth, in the expression which made marble live, in those
conceptions of beauty and harmony which still give shape to the temples
of Christendom? Was Rome more glorious with her fine roads and tables of
thuja-root, and Falernian wines, and oysters from the Lucrine Lake, and
chariots of silver, and robes of purple and rings of gold,--these useful
blessings which are the pride of an Epicurean civilization? And who gave
the last support, who raised the last barrier, against that inundation
of destructive pleasures in which some see the most valued fruits of
human invention, but which proved a canker that prepared the way to
ruin? It was that pious Emperor who learned his wisdom from a slave, and
who set a haughty defiance to all the grandeur and all the comforts of
the highest position which earth could give, and spent his leisure hours
in the quiet study of those truths which elevate the soul,--truths not
taught by science or nature, but by communication with invisible powers.

Ah, what indeed is reality; what is the higher good; what is that which
perishes never; what is that which assimilates man to Deity? Is it
houses, is it lands, is it gold and silver, is it luxurious couches, is
it the practical utilitarian comforts that pamper this mortal body in
its brief existence? or is it women's loves and patriots' struggles, and
sages' pious thoughts, affections, noble aspirations, Bethanies, the
serenities of virtuous old age, the harmonies of unpolluted homes, the
existence of art, of truth, of love; the hopes which last when sun and
stars decay? Tell us, ye women, what are realities to you,--your
carpets, your plate, your jewels, your luxurious banquets; or your
husbands' love, your friends' esteem, your children's reverence? And ye,
toiling men of business, what is really your highest joy,--your piles of
gold, your marble palaces; or the pleasures of your homes, the
approbation of your consciences, your hopes of future bliss? Yes, you
are dreamers, like poets and philosophers, when you call yourselves
pack-horses. Even you are only sustained in labor by intangible rewards
that you can neither see nor feel. The most practical of men and women
can really only live in those ideas which are deemed indefinite and
unreal. For what do the busiest of you run away from money-making, and
ride in cold or heat, in dreariness or discomfort,--dinners, or
greetings of love and sympathy? On what are such festivals as Christmas
and Thanksgiving Day based?--on consecrated sentiments that have more
force than any material gains or ends. These, after all, are realities
to you as much as ideas were to Plato, or music to Beethoven, or
patriotism to Washington. Deny these as the higher certitudes, and you
rob the soul of its dignity, and life of its consolations.


Bacon's Works, edited by Basil Montagu; Bacon's Life, by Basil Montagu;
Bacon's Life, by James Spedding; Bacon's Life, by Thomas Fowler; Dr.
Abbott's Introduction to Bacon's Essays, in Contemporary Review, 1876;
Macaulay's famous essay in Edinburgh Review, 1839; Archbishop Whately's
annotations of the Essays of Bacon; the general Histories of England.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1564-1642.


Among the wonders of the sixteenth century was the appearance of a new
star in the northern horizon, which, shining at first with a feeble
light, gradually surpassed the brightness of the planet Jupiter; and
then changing its color from white to yellow and from yellow to red,
after seventeen months, faded away from the sight, and has not since
appeared. This celebrated star, first seen by Tycho Brahe in the
constellation Cassiopeia, never changed its position, or presented the
slightest perceptible parallax. It could not therefore have been a
meteor, nor a planet regularly revolving round the sun, nor a comet
blazing with fiery nebulous light, nor a satellite of one of the
planets, but a fixed star, far beyond our solar system. Such a
phenomenon created an immense sensation, and has never since been
satisfactorily explained by philosophers. In the infancy of astronomical
science it was regarded by astrologers as a sign to portend the birth of
an extraordinary individual.

Though the birth of some great political character was supposed to be
heralded by this mysterious star, its prophetic meaning might with more
propriety apply to the extraordinary man who astonished his
contemporaries by discoveries in the heavens, and who forms the subject
of this lecture; or it poetically might apply to the brilliancy of the
century itself in which it appeared. The sixteenth century cannot be
compared with the nineteenth century in the variety and scope of
scientific discoveries; but, compared with the ages which had preceded
it, it was a memorable epoch, marked by the simultaneous breaking up of
the darkness of mediaeval Europe, and the bursting forth of new energies
in all departments of human thought and action. In that century arose
great artists, poets, philosophers, theologians, reformers, navigators,
jurists, statesmen, whose genius has scarcely since been surpassed. In
Italy it was marked by the triumphs of scholars and artists; in Germany
and France, by reformers and warriors; in England, by that splendid
constellation that shed glory on the reign of Elizabeth. Close upon the
artists who followed Da Vinci, to Salvator Rosa, were those scholars of
whom Emanuel Chrysoloras, Erasmus, and Scaliger were the
representatives,--going back to the classic fountains of Greece and
Rome, reviving a study for antiquity, breathing a new spirit into
universities, enriching vernacular tongues, collecting and collating
manuscripts, translating the Scriptures, and stimulating the learned to
emancipate themselves from the trammels of the scholastic philosophers.

Then rose up the reformers, headed by Luther, consigning to destruction
the emblems and ceremonies of mediaeval superstition, defying popes,
burning bulls, ridiculing monks, exposing frauds, unravelling
sophistries, attacking vices and traditions with the new arms of reason,
and asserting before councils and dignitaries the right of private
judgment and the supreme authority of the Bible in all matters of
religious faith.

And then appeared the defenders of their cause, by force of arms
maintaining the great rights of religious liberty in France, Germany,
Switzerland, Holland, and England, until Protestantism was established
in half of the countries that had for more than a thousand years
servilely bowed down to the authority of the popes. Genius stimulates
and enterprise multiplies all the energies and aims of emancipated
millions. Before the close of the sixteenth century new continents are
colonized, new modes of warfare are introduced, manuscripts are changed
into printed books, the comforts of life are increased, governments are
more firmly established, and learned men are enriched and honored.
Feudalism has succumbed to central power, and barons revolve around
their sovereign at court rather than compose an independent authority.
Before that century had been numbered with the ages past, the
Portuguese had sailed to the East Indies, Sir Francis Drake had
circumnavigated the globe, Pizarro had conquered Peru, Sir Walter
Raleigh had colonized Virginia, Ricci had penetrated to China, Lescot
had planned the palace of the Louvre, Raphael had painted the
Transfiguration, Michael Angelo had raised the dome of St. Peter's,
Giacomo della Porta had ornamented the Vatican with mosaics, Copernicus
had taught the true centre of planetary motion, Dumoulin had introduced
into French jurisprudence the principles of the Justinian code, Ariosto
had published the "Orlando Furioso," Cervantes had written "Don
Quixote," Spenser had dedicated his "Fairy Queen," Shakspeare had
composed his immortal dramas, Hooker had devised his "Ecclesiastical
Polity," Cranmer had published his Forty-two Articles, John Calvin had
dedicated to Francis I. his celebrated "Institutes," Luther had
translated the Bible, Bacon had begun the "Instauration of Philosophy,"
Bellarmine had systematized the Roman Catholic theology, Henry IV. had
signed the Edict of Nantes, Queen Elizabeth had defeated the Invincible
Armada, and William the Silent had achieved the independence of Holland.

Such were some of the lights and some of the enterprises of that great
age, when the profoundest questions pertaining to philosophy, religion,
law, and government were discussed with the enthusiasm and freshness of
a revolutionary age; when men felt the inspiration of a new life, and
looked back on the Middle Ages with disgust and hatred, as a period
which enslaved the human soul. But what peculiarly marked that period
was the commencement of those marvellous discoveries in science which
have enriched our times and added to the material blessings of the new
civilization. Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Bacon
inaugurated the era which led to progressive improvements in the
physical condition of society, and to those scientific marvels which
have followed in such quick succession and produced such astonishing
changes that we are fain to boast that we have entered upon the most
fortunate and triumphant epoch in our world's history.

Many men might be taken as the representatives of this new era of
science and material inventions, but I select Galileo Galilei as one of
the most interesting in his life, opinions, and conflicts.

Galileo was born at Pisa, in the year 1564, the year that Calvin and
Michael Angelo died, four years after the birth of Bacon, in the sixth
year of the reign of Elizabeth, and the fourth of Charles IX., about the
time when the Huguenot persecution was at its height, and the Spanish
monarchy was in its most prosperous state, under Philip II. His parents
were of a noble but impoverished Florentine family; and his father, who
was a man of some learning,--a writer on the science of music,--gave him
the best education he could afford. Like so many of the most illustrious
men, he early gave promise of rare abilities. It was while he was a
student in the university of his native city that his attention was
arrested by the vibrations of a lamp suspended from the ceiling of the
cathedral; and before he had quitted the church, while the choir was
chanting mediaeval anthems, he had compared those vibrations with his
own pulse, which after repeated experiments, ended in the construction
of the first pendulum,--applied not as it was by Huygens to the
measurement of time, but to medical science, to enable physicians to
ascertain the rate of the pulse. But the pendulum was soon brought into
the service of the clockmakers, and ultimately to the determination of
the form of the earth, by its minute irregularities in diverse
latitudes, and finally to the measurement of differences of longitude by
its connection with electricity and the recording of astronomical
observations. Thus it was that the swinging of a cathedral lamp, before
the eye of a man of genius, has done nearly as much as the telescope
itself to advance science, to say nothing of its practical uses in
common life.

Galileo had been destined by his father to the profession of medicine,
and was ignorant of mathematics. He amused his leisure hours with
painting and music, and in order to study the principles of drawing he
found it necessary to acquire some knowledge of geometry, much to the
annoyance of his father, who did not like to see his mind diverted from
the prescriptions of Hippocrates and Galen. The certain truths of
geometry burst upon him like a revelation, and after mastering Euclid he
turned to Archimedes with equal enthusiasm. Mathematics now absorbed his
mind, and the father was obliged to yield to the bent of his genius,
which seemed to disdain the regular professions by which social position
was most surely effected. He wrote about this time an essay on the
Hydrostatic Balance, which introduced him to Guido Ubaldo, a famous
mathematician, who induced him to investigate the subject of the centre
of gravity in solid bodies. His treatise on this subject secured an
introduction to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who perceived his merits, and
by whom he was appointed a lecturer on mathematics at Pisa, but on the
small salary of sixty crowns a year.

This was in 1589, when he was twenty-five, an enthusiastic young man,
full of hope and animal spirits, the charm of every circle for his
intelligence, vivacity, and wit; but bold and sarcastic, contemptuous of
ancient dogmas, defiant of authority, and therefore no favorite with
Jesuit priests and Dominican professors. It is said that he was a
handsome man, with bright golden locks, such as painters in that age
loved to perpetuate upon the canvas; hilarious and cheerful, fond of
good cheer, yet a close student, obnoxious only to learned dunces and
narrow pedants and treadmill professors and bigoted priests,--all of
whom sought to molest him, yet to whom he was either indifferent or
sarcastic, holding them and their formulas up to ridicule. He now
directed his inquiries to the mechanical doctrines of Aristotle, to
whose authority the schools had long bowed down, and whom he too
regarded as one of the great intellectual giants of the world, yet not
to be credited without sufficient reasons. Before the "Novum Organum"
was written, he sought, as Bacon himself pointed out, the way to arrive
at truth,--a foundation to stand upon, a principle tested by experience,
which, when established by experiment, would serve for sure deductions.

Now one of the principles assumed by Aristotle, and which had never been
disputed, was, that if different weights of the same material were let
fall from the same height, the heavier would reach the ground sooner
than the lighter, and in proportion to the difference of weight. This
assumption Galileo denied, and asserted that, with the exception of a
small different owing to the resistance of the air, both would fall to
the ground in the same space of time. To prove his position by actual
experiment, he repaired to the leaning tower of Pisa, and demonstrated
that he was right and Aristotle was wrong. The Aristotelians would not
believe the evidence of their own senses, and ascribed the effect to
some unknown cause. To such a degree were men enslaved by authority.
This provoked Galileo, and led him to attack authority with still
greater vehemence, adding mockery to sarcasm; which again exasperated
his opponents, and doubtless laid the foundation of that personal
hostility which afterwards pursued him to the prison of the Inquisition.
This blended arrogance and asperity in a young man was offensive to the
whole university, yet natural to one who had overturned one of the
favorite axioms of the greatest master of thought the world had seen for
nearly two thousand years; and the scorn and opposition with which his
discovery was received increased his rancor, so that he, in his turn,
did not render justice to the learned men arrayed against him, who were
not necessarily dull or obstinate because they would not at once give up
the opinions in which they were educated, and which the learned world
still accepted. Nor did they oppose and hate him for his new opinions,
so much as from dislike of his personal arrogance and bitter sarcasms.

At last his enemies made it too hot for him at Pisa. He resigned his
chair (1591), but only to accept a higher position at Padua, on a salary
of one hundred and eighty florins,--not, however, adequate to his
support, so that he was obliged to take pupils in mathematics. To show
the comparative estimate of that age of science, the fact may be
mentioned that the professor of scholastic philosophy in the same
university was paid fourteen hundred florins. This was in 1592; and the
next year Galileo invented the thermometer, still an imperfect
instrument, since air was not perfectly excluded. At this period his
reputation seems to have been established as a brilliant lecturer rather
than as a great discoverer, or even as a great mathematician; for he was
immeasurably behind Kepler, his contemporary, in the power of making
abstruse calculations and numerical combinations. In this respect Kepler
was inferior only to Copernicus, Newton, and Laplace in our times, or
Hipparchus and Ptolemy among the ancients; and it is to him that we owe
the discovery of those great laws of planetary motion from which there
is no appeal, and which have never been rivalled in importance except
those made by Newton himself,--laws which connect the mean distance of
the planets from the sun with the times of their revolutions; laws which
show that the orbits of planets are elliptical, not circular; and that
the areas described by lines drawn from the moving planet to the sun are
proportionable to the times employed in the motion. What an infinity of
calculation, in the infancy of science,--before the invention of
logarithms,--was necessary to arrive at these truths! What fertility of
invention was displayed in all his hypotheses; what patience in working
them out; what magnanimity in discarding those which were not true! What
power of guessing, even to hit upon theories which could be established
by elaborate calculations,--all from the primary thought, the grand
axiom, which Kepler was the first to propose, that there must be some
numerical or geometrical relations among the times, distances, and
velocities of the revolving bodies of the solar system! It would seem
that although his science was deductive, he invoked the aid of induction
also: a great original genius, yet modest like Newton; a man who avoided
hostilities, yet given to the most boundless enthusiasm on the subjects
to which he devoted his life. How intense his raptures! "Nothing holds
me," he writes, on discovering his great laws; "I will indulge in my
sacred fury. I will boast of the golden vessels I have stolen from the
Egyptians. If you forgive me, I rejoice. If you are angry, it is all the
same to me. The die is cast; the book is written,--to be read either
now, or by posterity, I care not which. It may well wait a century for a
reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer."

We do not see this sublime repose in the attitude of Galileo,--this
falling back on his own conscious greatness, willing to let things take
their natural course; but rather, on the other hand, an impatience under
contradiction, a vehement scorn of adversaries, and an intellectual
arrogance that gave offence, and impeded his career, and injured his
fame. No matter how great a man may be, his intellectual pride is always
offensive; and when united with sarcasm and mockery it will make bitter
enemies, who will pull him down.

Galileo, on his transfer to Padua, began to teach the doctrines of
Copernicus,--a much greater genius than he, and yet one who provoked no
enmities, although he made the greatest revolution in astronomical
knowledge that any man ever made, since he was in no haste to reveal his
discoveries, and stated them in a calm and inoffensive way. I doubt if
new discoverers in science meet with serious opposition when men
themselves are not attacked, and they are made to appeal to calm
intelligence, and war is not made on those Scripture texts which seem to
controvert them. Even theologians receive science when science is not
made to undermine theological declarations, and when the divorce of
science from revelation, reason from faith, as two distinct realms, is
vigorously insisted upon. Pascal incurred no hostilities for his
scientific investigations, nor Newton, nor Laplace. It is only when
scientific men sneer at the Bible because its declarations cannot always
be harmonized with science, that the hostilities of theologians are
provoked. And it is only when theologians deny scientific discoveries
that seem to conflict with texts of Scripture, that opposition arises
among scientific men. It would seem that the doctrines of Copernicus
were offensive to churchmen on this narrow ground. It was hard to
believe that the earth revolved around the sun, when the opinions of the
learned for two thousand years were unanimous that the sun revolved
around the earth. Had both theologian and scientist let the Bible alone,
there would not have been a bitter war between them. But scientists were
accused by theologians of undermining the Bible; and the theologians
were accused of stupid obstinacy, and were mercilessly exposed
to ridicule.

That was the great error of Galileo. He made fun and sport of the
theologians, as Samson did of the Philistines; and the Philistines of
Galileo's day cut off his locks and put out his eyes when the Pope put
him into their power,--those Dominican inquisitors who made a crusade
against human thought. If Galileo had shown more tact and less
arrogance, possibly those Dominican doctors might have joined the chorus
of universal praise; for they were learned men, although devoted to a
bad system, and incapable of seeing truth when their old authorities
were ridiculed and set at nought. Galileo did not deny the Scriptures,
but his spirit was mocking; and he seemed to prejudiced people to
undermine the truths which were felt to be vital for the preservation of
faith in the world. And as some scientific truths seemed to be adverse
to Scripture declarations, the transition was easy to a denial of the
inspiration which was claimed by nearly all Christian sects, both
Catholic and Protestant.

The intolerance of the Church in every age has driven many scientists
into infidelity; for it cannot be doubted that the tendency of
scientific investigation has been to make scientific men incredulous of
divine inspiration, and hence to undermine their faith in dogmas which
good men have ever received, and which are supported by evidence that is
not merely probable but almost certain. And all now that seems wanting
to harmonize science with revelation is, on the one hand, the
re-examination of the Scripture texts on which are based the principia
from which deductions are made, and which we call theology; and, on the
other hand, the rejection of indefensible statements which are at war
with both science and consciousness, except in those matters which claim
special supernatural agency, which we can neither prove nor disprove by
reason; for supernaturalism claims to transcend the realm of reason
altogether in what relates to the government of God,--ways that no
searching will ever enable us to find out with our limited faculties and
obscured understanding. When the two realms of reason and faith are
kept distinct, and neither encroaches on the other, then the
discoveries and claims of science will meet with but little opposition
from theologians, and they will be left to be sifted by men who alone
are capable of the task.

Thus far science, outside of pure mathematics, is made up of theories
which are greatly modified by advancing knowledge, so that they cannot
claim in all respects to be eternally established, like the laws of
Kepler and the discoveries of Copernicus,--the latter of which were only
true in the main fact that the earth revolves around the sun. But even
he retained epicycles and excentrics, and could not explain the unequal
orbits of planetary motion. In fact he retained many of the errors of
Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Much, too, as we are inclined to ridicule the
astronomy of the ancients because they made the earth the centre, we
should remember that they also resolved the orbits of the heavenly
bodies into circular motions, discovered the precession of the
equinoxes, and knew also the apparent motions of the planets and their
periods. They could predict eclipses of the sun and moon, and knew that
the orbit of the sun and planets was through a belt in the heavens, of a
few degrees in width, which they called the Zodiac. They did not know,
indeed, the difference between real and apparent motion, nor the
distance of the sun and stars, nor their relative size and weight, nor
the laws of motion, nor the principles of gravitation, nor the nature
of the Milky Way, nor the existence of nebulae, nor any of the wonders
which the telescope reveals; but in the severity of their mathematical
calculations they were quite equal to modern astronomers.

If Copernicus revolutionized astronomy by proving the sun to be the
centre of motion to our planetary system, Galileo gave it an immense
impulse by his discoveries with the telescope. These did not require
such marvellous mathematical powers as made Kepler and Newton
immortal,--the equals of Ptolemy and Hipparchus in mathematical
demonstration,--but only accuracy and perseverance in observations.
Doubtless he was a great mathematician, but his fame rests on his
observations and the deductions he made from them. These were more
easily comprehended, and had an objective value which made him popular:
and for these discoveries he was indebted in a great measure to the
labors of others,--it was mechanical invention applied to the
advancement of science. The utilization of science was reserved to our
times; and it is this utilization which makes science such a handmaid to
the enrichment of its votaries, and holds it up to worship in our
laboratories and schools of technology and mines,--not merely for
itself, but also for the substantial fruit it yields.

It was when Galileo was writing treatises on the Structure of the
Universe, on Local Motion, on Sound, on Continuous Quantity, on Light,
on Colors, on the Tides, on Dialing,--subjects that also interested Lord
Bacon at the same period,--and when he was giving lectures on these
subjects with immense _éclat_, frequently to one thousand persons
(scarcely less than what Abélard enjoyed when he made fun of the more
conservative schoolmen with whom he was brought in contact), that he
heard, while on a visit to Venice, that a Dutch spectacle-maker had
invented an instrument which was said to represent distant objects
nearer than they usually appeared. This was in 1609, when he, at the age
of fifty-five, was the idol of scientific men, and was in the enjoyment
of an ample revenue, giving only sixty half-hours in the year to
lectures, and allowed time to prosecute his studies in that "sweet
solitariness" which all true scholars prize, and without which few great
attainments are made. The rumor of the invention excited in his mind the
intensest interest. He sought for the explanation of the fact in the
doctrine of refraction. He meditated day and night. At last he himself
constructed an instrument,--a leaden organ pipe with two spectacle
glasses, both plain on one side, while one of them had its opposite side
convex, and the other its second side concave.

This crude little instrument, which magnified but three times, he
carries in triumph back to Venice. It is regarded as a scientific toy,
yet everybody wishes to see an instrument by which the human eye
indefinitely multiplies its power. The Doge is delighted, and the Senate
is anxious to secure so great a curiosity. He makes a present of it to
the Senate, after he has spent a month in showing it round to the
principal people of that wealthy city; and he is rewarded for his
ingenuity with an increase of his salary, at Padua, to one thousand
florins, and is made professor for life.

He now only thinks of making discoveries in the heavens; but his
instrument is too small. He makes another and larger telescope, which
magnifies eight times, and then another which magnifies thirty times;
and points it to the moon. And how indescribable his satisfaction, for
he sees what no mortal had ever before seen,--ranges of mountains, deep
hollows, and various inequalities! These discoveries, it would seem, are
not favorably received by the Aristotelians; however, he continues his
labors, and points his telescope to the planets and fixed stars,--but
the magnitude of the latter remain the same, while the planets appear
with disks like the moon. Then he directs his observations to the
Pleiades, and counts forty stars in the cluster, when only six were
visible to the naked eye; in the Milky Way he descries crowds of
minute stars.

Having now reached the limit of discovery with his present instrument,
he makes another of still greater power, and points it to the planet
Jupiter. On the 7th of January, 1610, he observes three little stars
near the body of the planet, all in a straight line and parallel to the
ecliptic, two on the east and one on the west of Jupiter. On the next
observation he finds that they have changed places, and are all on the
west of Jupiter; and the next time he observes them they have changed
again. He also discovers that there are four of these little stars
revolving round the planet. What is the explanation of this singular
phenomenon? They cannot be fixed stars, or planets; they must then be
moons. Jupiter is attended with satellites like the earth, but has four
instead of one! The importance of this last discovery was of supreme
value, for it confirmed the heliocentric theory. Old Kepler is filled
with agitations of joy; all the friends of Galileo extol his genius; his
fame spreads far and near; he is regarded as the ablest scientific man
in Europe.

His enemies are now dismayed and perplexed. The principal professor of
philosophy at Padua would not even look through the wonderful
instrument. Sissi of Florence ridicules the discovery. "As," said he,
"there are only seven apertures of the head,--two eyes, two ears, two
nostrils, and one mouth,--and as there are only seven days in the week
and seven metals, how can there be seven planets?"

But science, discarded by the schools, fortunately finds a refuge among
princes. Cosimo de' Medici prefers the testimony of his senses to the
voice of authority. He observes the new satellites with Galileo at Pisa,
makes him a present of one thousand florins, and gives him a mere
nominal office,--that of lecturing occasionally to princes, on a salary
of one thousand florins for life. He is now the chosen companion of the
great, and the admiration of Italy. He has rendered an immense service
to astronomy. "His discovery of the satellites of Jupiter," says
Herschel, "gave the holding turn to the opinion of mankind respecting
the Copernican system, and pointed out a connection between speculative
astronomy and practical utility."

But this did not complete the catalogue of his discoveries. In 1610 he
perceived that Saturn appeared to be triple, and excited the curiosity
of astronomers by the publication of his first "Enigma,"--_Altissimam
planetam tergeminam observavi_. He could not then perceive the rings;
the planet seemed through his telescope to have the form of three
concentric O's. Soon after, in examining Venus, he saw her in the form
of a crescent: _Cynthioe figuras oemulatur mater amorum_,--"Venus rivals
the phases of the moon."

At last he discovers the spots upon the sun's disk, and that they all
revolve with the sun, and therefore that the sun has a revolution in
about twenty-eight days, and may be moving on in a larger circle, with
all its attendant planets, around some distant centre.

Galileo has now attained the highest object of his ambition. He is at
the head, confessedly, of all the scientific men of Europe. He has an
ample revenue; he is independent, and has perfect leisure. Even the Pope
is gracious to him when he makes a visit to Rome; while cardinals,
princes, and ambassadors rival one another in bestowing upon him
attention and honors.

But there is no' height of fortune from which a man may not fall; and it
is usually the proud, the ostentatious, and the contemptuous who do
fall, since they create envy, and are apt to make social mistakes.
Galileo continued to exasperate his enemies by his arrogance and
sarcasms. "They refused to be dragged at his chariot-wheels." "The
Aristotelian professors," says Brewster, "the temporizing Jesuits, the
political churchmen, and that timid but respectable body who at all
times dread innovation, whether it be in legislation or science, entered
into an alliance against the philosophical tyrant who threatened them
with the penalties of knowledge." The church dignitaries were especially
hostile, since they thought the tendency of Galileo's investigations was
to undermine the Bible. Flanked by the logic of the schools and the
popular interpretation of Scripture, and backed by the civil power, they
were eager for war. Galileo wrote a letter to his friend the Abbé
Castelli, the object of which was "to prove that the Scriptures were not
intended to teach science and philosophy," but to point out the way of
salvation. He was indiscreet enough to write a longer letter of seventy
pages, quoting the Fathers in support of his views, and attempting to
show that Nature and Scripture could not speak a different language. It
was this reasoning which irritated the dignitaries of the Church more
than his discoveries, since it is plain that the literal language of
Scripture upholds the doctrine that the sun revolves around the earth.
He was wrong or foolish in trying to harmonize revelation and science.
He should have advanced his truths of science and left them to take care
of themselves. He should not have meddled with the dogmas of his
enemies: not that he was wrong in doing so, but it was not politic or
wise; and he was not called upon to harmonize Scripture with science.

So his enemies busily employed themselves in collecting evidence against
him. They laid their complaints before the Inquisition of Rome, and on
the occasion of paying a visit to that city, he was summoned before that
tribunal which has been the shame and the reproach of the Catholic
Church. It was a tribunal utterly incompetent to sit upon his case,
since it was ignorant of science. In 1615 it was decreed that Galileo
should renounce his obnoxious doctrines, and pledge himself neither to
defend nor publish them in future. And Galileo accordingly, in dread of
prison, appeared before Cardinal Bellarmine and declared that he would
renounce the doctrines he had defended. This cardinal was not an
ignorant man. He was the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church; but
his bitterness and rancor in reference to the new doctrines were as
marked as his scholastic learning. The Pope, supposing that Galileo
would adhere to his promise, was gracious and kind.

But the philosopher could not resist the temptation of ridiculing the
advocates of the old system. He called them "paper philosophers." In
private he made a mockery of his persecutors. One Saisi undertook to
prove from Suidas that the Babylonians used to cook eggs by whirling
them swiftly on a sling; to which he replied: "If Saisi insists on the
authority of Suidas, that the Babylonians cooked eggs by whirling them
on a sling, I will believe it. But I must add that we have eggs and
slings, and strong men to whirl them, yet they will not become cooked;
nay, if they were hot at first, they more quickly became cool; and as
there is nothing wanting to us but to be Babylonians, it follows that
being Babylonians is the true cause why the eggs became hard." Such was
his prevailing mockery and ridicule. "Your Eminence," writes one of his
friends to the Cardinal D'Este, "would be delighted if you could hear
him hold forth in the midst of fifteen or twenty, all violently
attacking him, sometimes in one house, and sometimes in another; but he
is armed after such a fashion that he laughs them all to scorn."

Galileo, after his admonition from the Inquisition, and his promise to
hold his tongue, did keep comparatively quiet for a while, amusing
himself with mechanics, and striving to find out a new way of
discovering longitude at sea. But the want of better telescopes baffled
his efforts; and even to-day it is said "that no telescope has yet been
made which is capable of observing at sea the eclipses of Jupiter's
satellites, by which on shore this method of finding longitude has many

On the accession of a new Pope (1623), Urban VIII., who had been his
friend as Cardinal Barberini, Galileo, after eight years of silence,
thought that he might now venture to publish his great work on the
Ptolemaic and Copernican systems, especially as the papal censor also
had been his friend. But the publication of the book was delayed nearly
two years, so great were the obstacles to be surmounted, and so
prejudiced and hostile was the Church to the new views. At last it
appeared in Florence in 1632, with a dedication to the Grand Duke,--not
the Cosimo who had rewarded him, but his son Ferdinand, who was a mere
youth. It was an unfortunate thing for Galileo to do. He had pledged
his word not to advocate the Copernican theory, which was already
sufficiently established in the opinions of philosophers. The form of
the book was even offensive, in the shape of dialogues, where some of
the chief speakers were his enemies. One of them he ridiculed under the
name of Simplicio. This was supposed to mean the Pope himself,--so they
made the Pope believe, and he was furious. Old Cardinal Bellarmine
roared like a lion. The whole Church, as represented by its dignitaries,
seemed to be against him. The Pope seized the old weapons of the
Clements and the Gregories to hurl upon the daring innovator; but
delayed to hurl them, since he dealt with a giant, covered not only by
the shield of the Medici, but that of Minerva. So he convened a
congregation of cardinals, and submitted to them the examination of the
detested book. The author was summoned to Rome to appear before the
Inquisition, and answer at its judgment-seat the charges against him as
a heretic. The Tuscan ambassador expostulated with his Holiness against
such a cruel thing, considering Galileo's age, infirmities, and
fame,--all to no avail. He was obliged to obey the summons. At the age
of seventy this venerated philosopher, infirm, in precarious health,
appeared before the Inquisition of cardinals, not one of whom had any
familiarity with abstruse speculations, or even with mathematics.

Whether out of regard to his age and infirmities, or to his great fame
and illustrious position as the greatest philosopher of his day, the
cardinals treat Galileo with unusual indulgence. Though a prisoner of
the Inquisition, and completely in its hands, with power of life and
death, it would seem that he is allowed every personal comfort. His
table is provided by the Tuscan ambassador; a servant obeys his
slightest nod; he sleeps in the luxurious apartment of the fiscal of
that dreaded body; he is even liberated on the responsibility of a
cardinal; he is permitted to lodge in the palace of the ambassador; he
is allowed time to make his defence: those holy Inquisitors would not
unnecessarily harm a hair of his head. Nor was it probably their object
to inflict bodily torments: these would call out sympathy and degrade
the tribunal. It was enough to threaten these torments, to which they
did not wish to resort except in case of necessity. There is no evidence
that Galileo was personally tortured. He was indeed a martyr, but not a
sufferer except in humiliated pride. Probably the object of his enemies
was to silence him, to degrade him, to expose his name to infamy, to
arrest the spread of his doctrines, to bow his old head in shame, to
murder his soul, to make him stab himself, and be his own executioner,
by an act which all posterity should regard as unworthy of his name
and cause.

After a fitting time has elapsed,--four months of dignified
session,--the mind of the Holy Tribunal is made up. Its judgment is
ready. On the 22d of June, 1633, the prisoner appears in penitential
dress at the convent of Minerva, and the presiding cardinal, in his
scarlet robes, delivers the sentence of the Court,--that Galileo, as a
warning to others, and by way of salutary penance, be condemned to the
formal prison of the Holy Office, and be ordered to recite once a week
the seven Penitential Psalms for the benefit of his soul,--apparently a
light sentence, only to be nominally imprisoned a few days, and to
repeat those Psalms which were the life of blessed saints in mediaeval
times. But this was nothing. He was required to recant, to abjure the
doctrines he had taught; not in private, but publicly before the world.
Will he recant? Will he subscribe himself an imposter? Will he abjure
the doctrines on which his fame rests? Oh, tell it not in Gath! The
timid, infirm, life-loving old patriarch of science falls. He is not
great enough for martyrdom. He chooses shame. In an evil hour this
venerable sage falls down upon his knees before the assembled cardinals,
and reads aloud this recantation: "I, Galileo Galilei, aged seventy, on
my knees before you most reverend lords, and having my eye on the Holy
Gospel, which I do touch with my lips, thus publish and declare, that I
believe, and always have believed, and always will believe every
article which the Holy Catholic Roman Church holds and teaches. And as I
have written a book in which I have maintained that the sun is the
centre, which doctrine is repugnant to the Holy Scriptures, I, with
sincere heart and unfeigned faith, do abjure and detest, and curse the
said error and heresy, and all other errors contrary to said Holy
Church, whose penance I solemnly swear to observe faithfully, and all
other penances which have been or shall be laid upon me."

It would appear from this confession that he did not declare his
doctrines false, only that they were in opposition to the Scriptures;
and it is also said that as he arose from his knees he whispered to a
friend, "It does move, nevertheless." As some excuse for him, he acted
with the certainty that he would be tortured if he did not recant; and
at the worst he had only affirmed that his scientific theory was in
opposition to the Scriptures. He had not denied his master, like Peter;
he had not recanted the faith like Cranmer; he had simply yielded for
fear of bodily torments, and therefore was not sincere in the abjuration
which he made to save his life. Nevertheless, his recantation was a
fall, and in the eyes of the scientific world perhaps greater than that
of Bacon. Galileo was false to philosophy and himself. Why did he suffer
himself to be conquered by priests he despised? Why did so bold and
witty and proud a man betray his cause? Why did he not accept the
penalty of intellectual freedom, and die, if die he must? What was life
to him, diseased, infirm, and old? What had he more to gain? Was it not
a good time to die and consummate his protests? Only one hundred and
fifty years before, one of his countrymen had accepted torture and death
rather than recant his religious opinions. Why could not Galileo have
been as great in martyrdom as Savonarola? He was a renowned philosopher
and brilliant as a man of genius,--but he was a man of the world; he
loved ease and length of days. He could ridicule and deride
opponents,--he could not suffer pain. He had a great intellect, but not
a great soul. There were flaws in his morality; he was anything but a
saint or hero. He was great in mind, and yet he was far from being great
in character. We pity him, while we exalt him. Nor is the world harsh to
him; it forgives him for his services. The worst that can be said, is
that he was not willing to suffer and die for his opinions: and how many
philosophers are there who are willing to be martyrs?

Nevertheless, in the eyes of philosophers he has disgraced himself. Let
him then return to Florence, to his own Arceti. He is a silenced man.
But he is silenced, not because he believed with Copernicus, but because
he ridiculed his enemies and confronted the Church, and in the eyes of
blinded partisans had attacked divine authority. Why did Copernicus
escape persecution? The Church must have known that there was something
in his discoveries, and in those of Galileo, worthy of attention. About
this time Pascal wrote: "It is vain that you have procured the
condemnation of Galileo. That will never prove the earth to be at rest.
If unerring observation proves that it turns round, not all mankind
together can keep it from turning, or themselves from turning with it."

But let that persecution pass. It is no worse than other persecutions,
either in Catholic or Protestant ranks. It was no worse than burning
witches. Not only is intolerance in human nature, but there is a
repugnance among the learned to receive new opinions when these
interfere with their ascendency. The opposition to Galileo's discoveries
was no greater than that of the Protestant Church, half a century ago,
to some of the inductions of geology. How bitter the hatred, even in our
times, to such men as Huxley and Darwin! True, they have not proved
their theories as Galileo did; but they gave as great a shock as he to
the minds of theologians. All science is progressive, yet there are
thousands who oppose its progress. And if learning and science should
establish a different meaning to certain texts from which theological
deductions are drawn, and these premises be undermined, there would be
the same bitterness among the defenders of the present system of
dogmatic theology. Yet theology will live, and never lose its dignity
and importance; only, some of its present assumptions may be discarded.
God will never be dethroned from the world he governs; but some of his
ways may appear to be different from what was once supposed. And all
science is not only progressive, but it appears to be bold and scornful
and proud,--at least, its advocates are and ever have been contemptuous
of all other departments of knowledge but its own. So narrow and limited
is the human mind in the midst of its triumphs. So full of prejudices
are even the learned and the great.

Let us turn then to give another glance at the fallen philosopher in his
final retreat at Arceti. He lives under restrictions. But they allow him
leisure and choice wines, of which he is fond, and gardens and friends;
and many come to do him reverence. He amuses his old age with the
studies of his youth and manhood, and writes dialogues on Motion, and
even discovers the phenomena of the moon's libration; and by means of
the pendulum he gives additional importance to astronomical science. But
he is not allowed to leave his retirement, not even to visit his friends
in Florence. The wrath of the Inquisition still pursues him, even in his
villa at Arceti in the suburbs of Florence. Then renewed afflictions
come. He loses his daughter, who was devoted to him; and her death
nearly plunges him into despair. The bulwarks of his heart break down; a
flood of grief overwhelms his stricken soul. His appetite leaves him;
his health forsakes him; his infirmities increase upon him. His right
eye loses its power,--that eye that had seen more of the heavens than
the eyes of all who had gone before him. He becomes blind and deaf, and
cannot sleep, afflicted with rheumatic pains and maladies forlorn. No
more for him is rest, or peace, or bliss; still less the glories of his
brighter days,--the sight of glittering fields, the gems of heaven,
without which

     "Neither breath of Morn, when she ascends
      With charm of earliest birds, nor rising sun
      On this delightful land, nor herb, fruit, flower
      Glistering with dew, nor fragrance after showers,
      Nor grateful evening mild,... is sweet."

No more shall he gaze on features that he loves, or stars, or trees, or
hills. No more to him

     Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
     Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
     Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
     But clouds, instead, and ever-during dark
     Surround" [him].

It was in those dreary desolate days at Arceti,

     In manly beauty Milton stood before him,
     Gazing in reverent awe,--Milton, his guest,
     Just then come forth, all life and enterprise;
     While he in his old age,...
           ... exploring with his staff,
     His eyes upturned as to the golden sun,
     His eyeballs idly rolling."

This may have been the punishment of his recantation,--not Inquisitorial
torture, but the consciousness that he had lost his honor. Poor Galileo!
thine illustrious visitor, when _his_ affliction came, could cast his
sightless eyeballs inward, and see and tell "things unattempted yet in
prose or rhyme,"--not

     "Rocks, caves, lakes, bogs, fens, and shades of death,
      Where all life dies, death lives, and Nature breeds
      Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire,"

but of "eternal Providence," and "Eden with surpassing glory crowned,"
and "our first parents," and of "salvation," "goodness infinite," of
"wisdom," which when known we need no higher though all the stars we
know by name,--

     "All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works,
      Or works of God in heaven, or air, or sea."

And yet, thou stricken observer of the heavenly bodies! hadst thou but
known what marvels would be revealed by the power of thy wondrous
instrument after thou should'st be laid lifeless and cold beneath the
marble floor of Sante Croce, at the age of seventy-eight, without a
monument, without even the right of burial in consecrated ground, having
died a prisoner of the Inquisition, yet not without having rendered to
astronomical science services of utmost value,--even thou might have
died rejoicing, as one of the great benefactors of the world. And thy
discoveries shall be forever held in gratitude; they shall herald others
of even greater importance. Newton shall prove that the different
planets are attracted to the sun in the inverse ratio of the squares of
their distances; that the earth has a force on the moon identical with
the force of gravity, and that all celestial bodies, to the utmost
boundaries of space, mutually attract each other; that all particles of
matter are governed by the same law,--the great law of gravitation, by
which "astronomy," in the language of Whewell, "passed from boyhood to
manhood, and by which law the great discoverer added more to the realm
of science than any man before or since his day." And after Newton shall
pass away, honored and lamented, and be buried with almost royal pomp in
the vaults of Westminster, Halley and other mathematicians shall
construct lunar tables, by which longitude shall be accurately measured
on the pathless ocean. Lagrange and Laplace shall apply the Newtonian
theory to determine the secular inequalities of celestial motion; they
shall weigh absolutely the amount of matter in the planets; they shall
show how far their orbits deviate from circles; and they shall enumerate
the cycles of changes detected in the circuit of the moon. Clairaut
shall remove the perplexity occasioned by the seeming discrepancy
between the observed and computed motions of the moon's perigee. Halley
shall demonstrate the importance of observations of the transit of Venus
as the only certain way of obtaining the sun's parallax, and hence the
distance of the sun from the earth; he shall predict the return of that
mysterious body which we call a comet. Herschel shall construct a
telescope which magnifies two thousand times, and add another planet to
our system beyond the mighty orb of Saturn. Römer shall estimate the
velocity of light from the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites. Bessell
shall pass the impassable gulf of space and measure the distance of some
of the fixed stars, although such is the immeasurable space between the
earth and those distant suns that the parallax of only about thirty has
yet been discovered with our finest instruments,--so boundless is the
material universe, so vast are the distances, that light, travelling one
hundred and sixty thousand miles with every pulsation of the blood, will
not reach us from some of those remote worlds in one hundred thousand
years. So marvellous shall be the victories of science, that the
perturbations of the planets in their courses shall reveal the
existence of a new one more distant than Uranus, and Leverrier shall
tell at what part of the heavens that star shall first be seen.

So far as we have discovered, the universe which we have observed with
telescopic instruments has no limits that mortals can define, and in
comparison with its magnitude our earth is less than a grain of sand,
and is so old that no genius can calculate and no imagination can
conceive when it had a beginning. All that we know is, that suns exist
at distances we cannot define. But around what centre do they revolve?
Of what are they composed? Are they inhabited by intelligent and
immortal beings? Do we know that they are not eternal, except from the
divine declaration that there _was_ a time when the Almighty fiat went
forth for this grand creation? Creation involves a creator; and can the
order and harmony seen in Nature's laws exist without Supreme
intelligence and power? Who, then, and what, is God? "Canst thou by
searching find out Him? Knowest thou the ordinances of Heaven? Canst
thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of
Orion?" What an atom is this world in the light of science! Yet what
dignity has man by the light of revelation! What majesty and power and
glory has God! What goodness, benevolence, and love, that even a sparrow
cannot fall to the ground without His notice,--that we are the special
objects of His providence and care! Is there an imagination so lofty
that will not be oppressed with the discoveries that even the
telescope has made?

Ah, to what exalted heights reason may soar when allied with faith! How
truly it should elevate us above the evils of this brief and busy
existence to the conditions of that other life,--

     "When the soul,
      Advancing ever to the Source of light
      And all perfection, lives, adores, and reigns
      In cloudless knowledge, purity, and bliss!"


Delambre, Histoire de l'Astronomie; Arago, Histoire de l'Astronomie;
Life of Galileo, in Cabinet Library; Life of Galileo, by Brewster; Lives
of Galileo, by Italian and Spanish Literary Men; Whewell's History of
Inductive Sciences; Plurality of Worlds; Humboldt's Cosmos; Nichols'
Architecture of the Heavens; Chalmers' Astronomical Discourses; Life of
Kepler, Library of Useful Knowledge; Brewster's Life of Tycho Brahe, of
Kepler, and of Sir Isaac Newton; Mitchell's Stellar and Planetary
Worlds; Bradley's Correspondence; Airy's Reports; Voiron's History of
Astronomy; Philosophical Transactions; Everett's Oration on Galileo;
Life of Copernicus; Bayly's Astronomy; Encyclopaedia Britannica, Art.
_Astronomy_; Proctor's Lectures.

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