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to it. The empire of superstition differs from every other B O O K species of dominion; its power is often greatest, and most implicitly obeyed in the provinces most remote from the seat of government; while such as are situated nearer to that, are more apt to discern the artifices by which it is upheld, or the impostures on which it is founded. The personal frailties or vices of the Popes, the errors as well as corruption of their administration, the ambition, venality, and deceit which reigned in their courts, fell immediately under the observation of the Italians, and could not fail of diminishing that respect which begets submission. But in Germany, England, and the more remote parts of Europe, these were either altogether unknown, or being only known by report, made a slighter impression. Veneration for the Papal dignity increased accordingly in these countries in proportion to their distance from Rome; and that veneration, added to their gross ignorance, rendered them equally credulous and passive. In tracing the progress of the Papal domination, the boldest and most successful instances of encroachment are to be found in Germany and other countries distant from Italy. In these its impositions were heaviest, and its exactions the most rapacious; so that in estimating the diminution of power which the court of Rome suffered in consequence of the Reformation, not only the number but the character of the people who revolted, not only the great extent of territory, but the extraordinary obsequiousness of the subjects which it lost, must be taken into the account.
Nor was it only by this defection of so many kingdoms and and oblig. states which the Reformation occasioned, that it contributed ed them to to diminish the power of the Roman Pontiffs. It obliged spirit of them to adopt a different system of conduct towards the na- vernment tions which still continued to recognize their jurisdiction, and to govern them by new maxims and with a milder spirit. The Reformation taught them, by a fatal example, what they seem not before to have apprehended, that the credulity and patience of mankind might be overburdened and exhausted. They became afraid of venturing upon any such exertion of their authority as might alarm or exasperate their subjects, and excite them to a new revolt. They
BOOK saw a rival church established in
countries of Europe, XII.
the members of which were on the watch to observe any errors in their administration, and eager to expose them. They were sensible that the opinions, adverse to their power and usurpations, were not adopted by their enemies alone, but had spread even among the people who still adhered to them. Upon all these accounts, it was no longer possible to lead or to govern their flock in the same manner as in those dark and quiet ages when faith was implicit, when submission was unreserved, and all tamely followed and obeyed the voice of their pastor. From the æra of the Reformation, the Popes have ruled rather by address and management than by authority. Though the style of their decrees be still the same, the effect of them is
different. Those Bulls and Interdicts which, before the Reformation, made the greatest Princes tremble, have since that period been disregarded or despised by the most inconsiderable. Those bold decisions and acts of jurisdiction which, during many ages, not only passed uncensured, but were revered as the awards of a sacred tribunal, would, since Luther's appearance, be treated by one part of Europe as the effect of folly or arrogance, and be detested by the other as impious and unjust. The Popes, in their administration, have been obliged not only to accommodate themselves to the notions of their adherents, but to pay some regard to the prejudices of their enemies. They seldom venture to claim new powers, or even to insist obstinately on their ancient prerogatives, lest they should irritate the former; they carefully avoid every measure that
either excite the indignation or draw on them the derision of the latter. The policy of the court of Rome has become as cautious, circumspect, and timid, as it was once adventurous and violent; and though their pretensions to infallibility, on which all their authority is founded, does not allow them to renounce any jurisdiction which they have at any time claimed or exercised, they find it expedient to suffer many of their prerogatives to lie dormant, and not to expose themselves to the risk of losing that remainder of power which they still enjoy, by illtimed attempts towards reviving obsolete pretensions.. Before the sixteenth century, the Popes were the movers and
directors in every considerable enterprise ; they were at the BOOK head of every great alliance ; and being considered as arbiters in the affairs of Christendom, the court of Rome was the centre of political negociation and intrigue. Since that time, the greatest operations in Europe have been carried on independent of them; they have sunk almost to a level with the other petty princes of Italy; they continue to claim, though they dare not exercise, the same spiritual jurisdiction, but hardly retain any shadow of the temporal power which they anciently possessed.
But how fatal soever the Reformation may have been to The Rethe power of the Popes, it has contributed to improve the contributchurch of Rome both in science and in morals. The desire ed to imof equalling the reformers in those talents which had pro- Church cured them respect; the necessity of acquiring the know- both in sciledge requisite for defending their own tenets, or refüting morals. the arguments of their opponents, together with the emulation natural between two rival churches, engaged the Roman Catholic clergy to apply themselves to the study of useful science, which they cultivated with such assiduity and success, that they have gradually become as eminent in literature, as they were in some periods infamous for ignorance. The same principle occasioned a change no less considerable in the morals of the Romish clergy. Various causes which have formerly been enumerated, had concurred in introducing great irregularity, and even dissolution of manners among the popish clergy. Luther and his adherents began their attack on the church with such vehement invectives against these, that, in order to remove the scandal, and silence their declamations, greater decency of conduct became necessary
The reformers themselves were so eminent not only for the purity but even austerity of their manners, and had acquired such reputation among the people on that account, that the Roman Catholic clergy must have soon lost all credit, if they had not endeavoured to conform in some measure to their standard. They knew that all their actions fell under the severe inspection of the Protestants, whom enmity and emulation prompted to observe every vice, or even impropriety in their conduct; to censure them without
BO O K indulgence, and to expose them without mercy. This renderXII.
ed them, of course, not only cautious to avoid such enormities as might give offence, but studious to acquire the virtues which might merit praise. In Spain and Portugal, where the tyrannical jurisdiction of the Inquisition crushed the Protestant faith as soon as it appeared, the spirit of Popery continues invariable ; science has made small progress, and the character of ecclesiastics has undergone little change. But in those countries where the members of the two churches have mingled freely with each other, or have carried on any considerable intercourse, either commercial or literary, an extraordinary alteration in the ideas, as well as in the morals, of the Popish ecclesiastics, is manifest. In France, the manners of the dignitaries and secular clergy have become decent and exemplary in an high degree. Many of them have been distinguished for all the accomplishments and virtues which can adorn their profession ; and differ greatly from their predecessors before the Reformation, both in their maxims and in their conduct.
The effects Non has the influence of the Reformation been felt only ofit extend to the cha. by the inferior members of the Roman Catholic church ; it racter of
has extended to the See of Rome, to the sovereign Pontiffs the Popes themselves. Violations of decorum, and even trespasses selves. against morality, which passed without censure in those
ages, when neither the power of the Popes, nor the veneration of the people for their character, had any bounds ; when there was no hostile eye to observe the errors in their conduct, and no adversaries zealous to inveigh against them; would be liable now to the severest animadversion, and excite general indignation or horror. Instead of rivalling the courts of temporal Princes in gaiety, and surpassing them in licentiousness, the Popes have studied to assume manners more severe and more suitable to their ecclesiastical character. The chair of St. Peter hath not been polluted during two centuries, by any Pontiff that resembled Alexander VI. or several of his predecessors, who were a disgrace to religion and to human nature. Throughout this long succession of Popes, a wonderful decorum of conduct, compared with that of preceding ages, is observable. Many
of them, especially among the Pontiffs of the present centu- BOOK ry, have been conspicuous for all the virtues becoming their high station; and by their humanity, their love of literature, and their moderation, have made some atonement to mankind for the crimes of their predecessors. Thus the beneficial influences of the Reformation have been more extensive than they appear on a superficial view ; and this great division in the Christian Church hath contributed, in some measure, to increase purity of manners, to diffuse science, and to inspire humanity. History recites such a number of shocking events, occasioned by religious dissentions, that it must afford peculiar satisfaction to trace any one salutary or beneficial effect to that source from which so many lamities have flowed,
The republic of Venice, which, at the beginning of the State of sixteenth century, had appeared so formidable, that almost lic of Ve all the potentates of Europe united in a confederacy for its nice. destruction, declined gradually from its ancient power and
, splendour. The Venetians not only lost a great part of their territory in the war excited by the league of Cambray, but the revenues as well as vigour of the state were exhausted by their extraordinary and long continued efforts in their own defence; and that commerce by which they had acquired their wealth and power began to decay, without any hopes of its reviving. All the fatal consequences to their republic, which the sagacity of the Venetian senate foresaw on the first discovery of a passage to the East-Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, actually took place. Their endeavours to prevent the Portuguese from establishing themselves in the East-Indies, not only by exciting the Soldans of Egypt, and the Ottoman monarchs, to turn their arms against such dangerous intruders, but by affording secret aid to the Infidels in order to insure their success , proved ineffectual. The activity and valour of the Portuguese surmounted every obstacle, and obtained such a firm footing in that fertile country, as secured to them large possessions, together with an influence still more extensive. Lisbon, instead of Venice,
z Freher. Script. Rer. German. vol. ii. 529,