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METHODIST QUARTERLY REVIEW.
EDITED BY GEORGE PECK, D. D.
Art. 1.-Sketches of Protestantism in Italy, Past and Present:
including a Notice of the Origin, History, and Present State of the Waldenses. By ROBERT BAIRD. Boston. 1845.
The author of “Religion in America” has, in the present work, begun to furnish the American public with corresponding works on religion in Europe. He has selected that part of Europe for his first essay which is more interesting than all others to Christian people, as being the region where the religion of the gospel has been the most thoroughly perverted and the most wonderfully preserved. It professes to be a sketch of Protestantism; but of necessity unfolds, at the same time, to a great extent, the state, present and past, of the Roman Church. A leading inducement, which the learned and pious author felt for undertaking the labors of such a work, was to awake among Protestants a deeper interest in the restoration of Roman Catholic nations to the faith of the gospel, believing, that the world will never be converted to God but through the regeneration of the fallen churches, whose corruptions, lying in masses through the world, will, while they remain, virulently diffuse everywhere a deadly and destructive influence.
The work is divided into three parts. The first describes the rise, progress, and suppression, of the Reformation in Italy; the second presents a diversified view of the state of things in Italy since that time; and the third part is devoted to an account of the Waldenses, the most wonderfully preserved remnant of the ancient church of Christ. No Christian, Papal or Protestant, no mere scholar even, can glance his eye over this plan, and especially over the table of contents, without feeling the power of an attraction which will draw him on until he has finished the book; for the views that successively open to him are grand in importance, rich in incident, and thrilling in interest.
Italy before the Reformation. Three mighty external causes of corruption brought the church of the apostles to its fall :-state patronage, which made the endowments of office the object of the ambition of worldly men, the employment of the religious machinery of paganism to conciliate and proselyte the heathen, and the overflow of the lands occupied by the church by the torrents of northern barbarians.
The empire of darkness did not spread over Italy and concentrate itself at Rome without resistance, from time to time, by the spirit of truth manifested in divers places. Near the conclusion of the fourth century, Ambrose, archbishop of Milan, lifted up his voice against the growing superstitions of the church and the arrogant assumptions of the bishop of Rome. And Claude, bishop of Turin, in the ninth century loudly denounced the worship of images, saints, and relics; set aside the merit of external works; denied the infallibility of the church, together with the supremacy of the Roman bishop; maintained the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and declared that real heretics were those that departed from the word of God. About two centuries subsequently, the Paulicians, carrying with them the doctrines of the apostle, from whom they derived their name, fled from their native land, Armenia, to escape the persecutions of the Greek emperor, and spread along the north of Italy. They also penetrated into the south of France, where they existed for a long time under the name of Albigenses. The true candlesticks, amid the gross darkness, were set up in their churches along the banks of the Po, and for a long time helped to stave off the impending doom of religion. In the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, the native inhabitants, isolated by their position from the mass of their countrymen, still kept a steady eye to the truths of the gospel, unseduced by the spirit of worldly ambition, and undazzled by the false glare of pagan superstitions. Thence, they sent forth their colonies to the south of Italy; their missionaries were dispersed in various cities and even at Rome itself, and affiliated societies threaded with a line of truth the whole country. Early in the twelfth century appeared a spirit worthy of a better age, Arnaldo da Brescia. He was a pupil of the renowned Abelard, who had so high an opinion of his learning and ability, that he chose him as his supporter in the defense he made of his opinions against Bernard and the bishop of Chartres in the Council of Trent. This was after he had fled from Brescia, his native city, to avoid the effects of excommunication, pronounced against him and his followers. From France he retired to Zurich, where he found refuge and a free opportunity to preach against the superstitions and tyranny of Rome. He particularly denounced the civil power of the popes and the worldy riches of the church, and maintained that the ministers of Christ should possess only a spiritual authority, and depend altogether upon the voluntary contributions of the people for their support. In 1145 he appeared at Rome, and lifted up the standard of reform. The senate was won over to his opinions, the form of the ancient commonwealth was restored, and for ten years Arnaldo exercised a predominant influence over public affairs. But when Adrian IV. took the pontifical chair, he set himself to overthrow Arnaldo and the commonwealth. Joining alliance with Frederick Barbarossa, emperor of Germany, who was invading the states of Italy to rivet his authority over them, he accomplished his purpose. The new republic was crushed, and Arnaldo was sacrificed to the vengeance of the pope. Before his death, he is represented to have appealed to God against the wickedness and cruelty of the Roman hierarchy. “I call heaven and earth to witness that I have announced to you those things which the Lord has commanded. But ye despise both me and your Creator. Nor is it wonderful that ye are about to put me, a sinful man, to death, for preaching to you the truth, since if even Saint Peter were to arise from the dead this day, and were to reprove your many vices, ye would by no means spare him.” He was crucified, his body burnt, and the ashes thrown into the Tiber.
Three hundred years elapsed before another master-spirit arose to assail the despotism of Rome. The name of Girolamo Savonarola deserves to be perpetuated, as one of the heroes of truth and martyrs to liberty of conscience. His bold attacks upon the corruption of the Papal court and church, and his tragic fate at the stake, possess more than dramatic interest, as sketched in this book.
The movements made against antichrist, from time to time, under the conduct of the distinguished men already mentioned, were only stars that were destined to rise and set in the long night of the dark
ages : but in the commencement of the fourteenth century, the revival of learning indicated the dawning of a day, which, though it had been obscured by dark clouds, will never fully close, until time is no more. The fall of the Greek empire under the Turks contributed to it, by the dispersion through the West of many learned men; and the invention of printing, about the same time, opened a channel for the overspreading of light. Investigation was now extended into every department of human learning. The sacred Scriptures were brought forth to light, read in the original tongues and translated, astonishing many minds with the contrast between the original church of Christ, and the vast and corrupt