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opinions which have been held with regard to the lawful rights and powers of the clergy. Suffice it to say, that it is a subject on which men have widely differed ; and, while some would make the champions of the faith to be lords over God's heritage, with power to fix the destiny of men, not in this world alone, but also in that which is to come; others claim that Christ, when on earth, not only strongly rebuked the desire of his disciples to rise above each other, but also so far fixed the parity of his ministers, as to allow of no distinction of rank, or office, or title, but only the natural preeminence arising from superior zeal and talents. As to the early centuries of the Christian church, too, some can plainly see a regular succession of bishops, priests, and deacons, and that the inferior grades were appointed, ordained, and governed solely by their diocesan lords ; while others claim that different titles are applied to a single individual, and therefore that the terms bishop, elder, &c., as used in the New Testament, cannot be meant to designate different offices, but only the various duties and qualifications belonging to a single office. These last hold with the learned Mosheim, that until near the close of the second century, no minister of religion had charge of more than a single church, of which he was only the teacher and guide, and not the lord ; that all churches were on an equality as to power, each one being a little independent republic, governed by its own laws, which were enacted, or at least sanctioned, by the people. But in process of time, in imitation of the confederations of the Grecian cities, it became customary for all the churches in a single province to unite, and form a larger society. The conventions held by these bodies must have some head, and thus arose diocesan bishops. The tendency of power, says an oft-repeated maxim, is to steal from the many to the few, and thus as churches increased in number, and were enlarged, the authority and power of the bishops increased with them.
In the beginning of the fourth century, Constantine ascended the throne, and Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire. Up to this period, although the equality of all bishops as to rank and authority was held in theory, still “the bishops of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, as presiding over the primitive and apostolic churches, in the greater divisions of the empire, had precedence of all others, and not only were they often consulted on weighty affairs, but also enjoyed certain prerogatives, peculiar to themselves.” Of these, the bishop of Rome, from his residing at the capital of the empire, was naturally regarded as the first in rank. Constantine, however, removed the imperial court to the banks of the Bosphorus, and there built a city, called by his own name, which he intended should rival Rome in splendor. Hence it was natural, that the bishop of the new metropolis should wish to be equal in rank to the bishop of Rome, and this ambition was encouraged by the successive emperors. Thus arose those long and bitter quarrels between these rival pontiffs, which finally resulted in the separation of the Greek and Latin churches. Pope Gregory the First, in the sixth century, boldly opposed the claims of the Patriarch of Constantinople to the title of Universal Bishop, and his successors followed in his steps. From the time of Constantine onward, the emperors had claimed the exclusive right of directing the external affairs of the church. That is, they were to decide all contests and causes of the ministers of the church of every grade, in all cases which respected property, honors, privileges, and offences against the laws. They therefore assembled councils and presided in them; assigned judges for religious disputes, decided contests between bishops, determined the limits of the episcopal sees, and, by judges, heard and settled the common causes and civil offences of the ministers of the church. The laws relating to religion were enacted either by the emperors, or by councils; and the bishops of Rome and Constantinople were subject to, and obeyed the laws of the empire, just like other citizens. Previous to the fourth century, the bishops had deprived the people of all authority in religious affairs, and greatly encroached upon the power of the lower orders of the clergy. After this, notwithstanding the high claims of the Patriarch of Constantinople, still, from being directly under the eye of the emperor, and the mere echo of his will, he was greatly restrained in the free exercise and increase of his power. He also strove to trample on, and deprive of their rule and revenues, the bishops of Alexandria and Jerusalem. This led them to apply to the bishop of Rome for protection and aid, and thus was his power and influence in the east greatly increased, at the expense of his rival. The bishop of Rome, too, from his immense revenue, and the great number of churches who looked up to him as their head, held the highest seat of power, while his distance from the imperial court, and the exciting and dangerous scenes amid which he was placed, on the one hand, enabled him to act with freedom and independence, and, on the other, aroused him to efforts to derive from the confused elements around him, the materials for the increase and defence of his power. He was popular, also, with his own citizens from the fact, that for a number of centuries, the people, as well as the clergy, had a voice in his election. Thus he was led in a measure to regard their feelings and interests, while, at the same time, his high rank and influence often made him the umpire, at first of religious, and at length of civil disputes, in various and remote parts of the Christian world.
Most of the nations of northern and western Europe, who had been converted to Christianity, were, before this change, accustomed to regard their idolatrous priests with the highest veneration. This feeling of awe and reverence which they had for the Druids, as their law-givers, priests, and philosophers, they transferred, on their conversion, to the Christian priests and bishops, who were led by ambition to encourage what was to them so grateful an offering. Thus it was that as the chief Druid was an object of divine worship, the bishop of Rome became so too, and was, and still is, approached with more demonstrations of servility, awe, and reverence, than are shown to God himself; while he, on the other hand, shows far less of condescension, and of favorable notice, to those who thus devoutly bow before him, than the Bible warrants us in expecting from Him, who sits on the throne of the heavens. This, I know full well, is strong language, but statements drawn from Catholic writers, and facts which passed under my own observation, will hereafter be given to sustain it. The same reverence had not been paid by the nations of the East to their heathen priests, and hence the less veneration with which the Christian clergy were there regarded.
Early in the eighth century, the Emperor, Leo the Third, commenced those efforts against the worship of images, which were also vigorously pursued by his successors. In opposition to this, the two Popes, Gregory the Second and Third, rose up in strong and decided opposition. The emperors were deprived by them of the revenue and sovereignty of Italy. They were told, that the successors of St. Peter might lawfully chastise the kings of the earth; the standard of rebellion was reared, the Italians were summoned to arms by the Popes, and thus they became not merely spiritual, but temporal princes. Dread anathemas and threats of defiance were hurled at the emperors, and at last a general excommunica
tion was pronounced against all those, who, by word or deed, should attack the images of the saints. About this time a fiction was started, by which it was claimed that Pope Sylvester having, by baptism, cured the Emperor Constantine of the leprosy, as a reward for it, received a grant, to the successive Popes, of the free and perpetual sovereignty of Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the West. Though all now admit this claim to have been a forgery, still, in that age of darkness, it effected its object. The conquest of Rome by the Lombards, induced the Popes to seek the aid of the king of the Franks; and the efficient assistance afforded by Pepin, the General of the army, led Pope Zachary to decide in favor of his claims to being king, in place of Childeric, his rightful sovereign. Thus the way was opened for the final accession of Charlemagne, at the close of the eighth century, to the throne of the western empire. A splendid crown was placed upon his head by the hands of Pope Leo the Third, and the shouts of the multitude declared him “crowned by God, as the great and pacific Emperor of the Romans.”
The act by which the sovereignty of the Romans was transferred from the Emperors at Constantinople, to Charlemagne, was one alike of ambition and interest. The reigning Pope, after four years of power, had become involved in one of those quarrels which had for their object the chair of St. Peter, and by which, during the earlier centuries, Rome was so often drenched in blood. During a public procession, Leo the Third was attacked by a furious band of conspirators, who wished to make another individual Pope, and was left on the ground for dead. Reviving, however, he escaped to the Vatican, and from thence he went, by invitation, to the camp of Charlemagne, in Germany. He returned to Rome with a guard of safety and of honor, and as a reward for the services rendered by Charlemagne, and as a means of securing his future protection, he was crowned Emperor of the Romans, with a voice in the future elections of the Popes. His object in bestowing upon the Popes the gift of several important States and Principalities, was, that thus he might reduce the power of the feudal chiefs who had before possessed them, and who, he knew full well, would be more afraid to set at nought the authority of the Roman Pontiffs, than to rebel against himself.
We need not trace the darkness, corruption, and vice which so often marked the Popedoms of the ninth and tenth
centuries, nor the oppression, insults, and violent deaths which some of the Pontiffs suffered. History records, that during this period, two sister prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora, by the influence of their wealth, beauty, and intrigues, caused the most devoted of their lovers to be created Popes; and the bastard son, grandson, and great-grandson of Marozia, were seated in the chair of St. Peter. Near the close of the eleventh century, Pope Gregory the Seventh began the reform of the Court of Rome, and commenced those efforts which resulted in fixing in the College of Cardinals the freedom and independence of election of Popes, and in abolishing for ever the right or usurpation of the Emperor and the Roman people. Another effort made by the same ambitious Pontiff was less successful, and has been a matter of contest between the Court of Rome and other powers, up to the present time. He attempted got only to claim and appropriate the Western empire as a benefice of the Church of Rome, but also to extend his temporal dominion over all the kings and kingdoms of the earth. During this same century, too, the Patriarchs of Constantinople, who had relaxed nothing of their claims to superiority over the Popes, were solemnly excommunicated by the Roman Pontiff, who thus attempted to secure for himself and his successors, the spiritual and temporal sovereignty of the whole habitable globe. So much for the divine right and power derived from the poor and humble fisherman of Galilee. A claim to power far exceeding what was ever dreamed of in the wildest visions of ambition which ever filled the brain of any merely earthly monarch. For not only have the Roman Pontiffs claimed the right to rule all monarchs and their subjects, even in the sacred matter of opinion and belief, but they would fain be thought to hold the keys of heaven, and to exert a power of pardoning sins on such conditions as God himself has never claimed that He could do it.
I need not here dwell upon the manner in which the chains of Papal bondage were broken, and the glorious light of the Reformation was shed abroad upon Europe by the efforts of such men as Wickliffe and Huss, and Luther and Calvin. Nor need we notice those measures of Louis the Fourteenth, of Bonaparte, and other monarchs, by which the Popes have been so often humbled, while at the same time a nominal respect has been shown towards them. As to the kings of France, it has been truly remarked, that they are wont to