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where no saints had ever lived or died; and the remains of robbers were often converted into those of martyrs. Not unfrequently, blood-stained bones were buried in retired places; shortly after which, it would be given out that some eminent saint had been there interred.
The sums obtained by the monks in the sale of indulgences, and for the discharge of souls from purgatorial fire, exceeded all computation. The famous monk, Tetzel, used to say, that he had delivered more souls from purgatory by his indulgences, than ever St. Peter did by his preaching. "The moment," says he, holding up his hand full of money over his strong box, "the moment the money tinkles in the chest, the anguished soul leaps up out of purgatory."
In consequence of the various artifices employed for the purpose, the monasteries, in most cases, became immensely rich. They absorbed, to a great extent, the wealth of nations; and pampered vast hordes of lazy, licentious monks on the hard earnings of the poor and the industrious.
Another base passion, nurtured in the monasteries, was ambition. The love of power and pre-eminence, so natural to the depraved mind, soon showed itself in those cloisters which had been consecrated to the purposes of retirement and devotion. If we had no other evidence of the ambition of the monks, their perpetual feuds, jealousies, and quarrels would put the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. They invariably quarrelled with all classes and descriptions of persons with whom they had intercourse, and who withstood, at all, their aspiring and selfish views. They quarrelled with the civil authorities. They quarrelled with the universities. They quarrelled with the bishops and secular clergy. They quarrelled perpetually among themselves. They quarrelled not unfrequently even with the pope, and constrained his holiness to bend to their wishes and designs.
Other sinful passions, of which the monasteries were the hot-bed and element, were spiritual pride, self-righteousness, censoriousness, uncharitableness. From the first moment that the monk had renounced the world, and taken upon himself the obligations of his order, he felt that he stood upon elevated ground. He was a great deal holier than he was before, and holier than his poor neighbors who were left behind. And, the more deeply he secluded himself, and the more sedulously he practised the superstitions and austerities enjoined upon
VOL. VII.—NO. XXV.
him, the more holy did he become, and the more meritorious in the sight of Heaven. In some instances, he felt that he had acquired even more merit than he needed for himself, and had some to spare for those who lacked. This notion of a super-abundance of merit,-which constitutes the very acme of spiritual pride, and which lay at the foundation of the whole system of indulgences,-originated in the convents, and was nurtured and defended through their influence.
In the fulness of his spiritual pride, and intoxicated with high ideas of his own merits and righteousness, the holy monk would, of course, become censorious, querulous, impatient of contradiction, severe in his judgments, and harsh and terrible in his denunciations. And all this was continually illustrated and exemplified among the inhabitants of the cloister. It was all embodied and impersonated in the characters of not a few of the more ancient and celebrated monks. St. Jerome, for instance, a monk of the fourth century, the most learned Christian of his time, and possessed of many estimable qualities, had his mind narrowed, his temper soured, and his Christian character all but ruined, in consequence of the monastic discipline. He earned for himself, and has ever since retained, the disgraceful appellation of "the foulmouthed Jerome."
Another result of the monastic institutions was a vast increase of superstition in the church. Nearly all those superstitious observances, with which ancient Christianity was encumbered and corrupted, either had their origin in the monasteries, or were carefully cherished and cultivated there. The adoration of saints, the sovereign virtues and miraculous properties of holy relics, the profound homage due to them, and above all, the sanctity and worship of pictures and images, have been inculcated with peculiar zeal, by the monks of every order, and in every age. I may add, too, that most of the alleged miracles of the Romish church, together with the other frauds and impositions, with which that church has been so deeply disgraced, were concocted and perpetuated in the monasteries. These holy retirements. furnished the greatest facilities and opportunities for tricks and artifices of this nature.
As the monks were early taken under the special jurisdiction and protection of the popes, so they have ever showed themselves the unwavering adherents and supporters of the
papacy. They have spared no pains, and stuck at no means which seemed likely to promote the credit and advance the interests of the Romish hierarchy. They have not only endured labors and braved hardships with this object in view, but have thought it right to practise the grossest impositions. Forged names have been prefixed to thousands of books, in order to give them the greater credit. False mir acles and lying wonders have been performed in abundance. The end in view was thought to be of sufficient importance to sanctify and justify any means, that seemed likely to promote it. And, there can be no doubt, that the end, aimed at, was greatly promoted, through the instrumentality of the monks and nuns. The Romish power could never have reached such a towering height, or been maintained unbroken through so many ages, had it not been for the myriads. of dependents and mercenaries, in the garb of monastics, with which the Christian world was swarmed.
I have admitted already, that the monks, at certain periods, should be regarded as the conservators and promoters of learning. It is equally true, that, at other periods, they have set themselves in direct opposition to learning, and have labored to keep the world in ignorance. This was true of the mendicants generally; and more especially, subsequent to the revival of learning, in the sixteenth century. They opposed all improvements in those barbarous, jargonic methods. of education, which for a long time had been established. They instigated the emperor to persecute the celebrated Reuchlin, the great restorer and promoter of Hebrew learning in Germany. They denounced the literary labors of Erasmus, as no better than the sin against the Holy Ghost. They rightly judged that, in order to the prevalence of their superstitions, the world must be kept in darkness and ignorance; or, as the sentiment is more commonly phrased,' that "ignorance is the mother of devotion."
It must also be said, that the monks have uniformly set themselves in opposition to all attempts at reformation in the church. Reforms in their particular establishments have, indeed, been frequent; since, without them, the establishments could not have long subsisted. They must have sunk beneath the weight of their own corruptions. Reforms, too, among the bishops and settled clergy-between whom and the monks there was an interminable hostility-were sometimes counte
nanced, from motives of jealousy. But, any exertions tending to curtail the mighty power of the popes, to expose and exterminate superstition, to ferret out and remove secret corruption and wickedness, and restore the benign influence of a pure Christianity, have always found their fiercest opponents in the cloister. So it was, when Wickliffe and his followers attempted a reformation in the fourteenth century. And so it was, when, after two hundred years more of spiritual darkness and usurpation, Luther and his coadjutors entered on the necessary work of reform. Tetzel, Cajetan, and multitudes of lesser name, by whom the Reformation was violently assailed, were of the class of monastics.
The monastic discipline was often the cause of the intensest sufferings to the miserable beings who became its victims. I omit here, altogether, the voluntarily inflicted sufferings of the crazy anchorets and eremites,-their continual exposure to cold and heat, storms and tempests, their fastings, and flagellations, and all the various bodily tortures which they endured. I have in mind sufferings of another nature, and which were endured at a later period, when the monastery had become a prison, and the unhappy inmates were subjected to a government which knew no relaxation or mercy, and from which there was no appeal. Persons were often induced, in early life, and without much consideration, to immure themselves in one of these prisons. At the time, they scarcely knew what they did; but ere-long they become sensible of their situation, and are horror-stricken in view of it. They are, to the last degree, dissatisfied and unhappy. But to whom shall they go? And what can they do? To make any complaint, or to exhibit any signs of discontent, is to become at once the object of suspicion and reproach. To make any efforts to escape, is to subject themselves to a closer confinement, and perhaps to some terrible punishment. That the disappointments, the heartburnings, the mental agonies, and self-reproaches, endured in these prisons of despair, are oft-times severe, beyond all expression, there can be no doubt. The extent and severity of them can never be known, until the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed. As to the personal abuses and sufferings inflicted in the convent, we are left chiefly to conjecture. All is closely covered up and concealed from profane and heretical eyes. But, from the fact, that it is thus
covered up, the friends of liberty and humanity have every thing to fear. Why should the light be so carefully excluded from the interior of the convent, except that its discipline will not bear the light,-except that it is too disgraceful and terrible to be disclosed?
The system we are reviewing has resulted in the greatest impiety and wickedness. Of impieties, amounting to blasphemies, committed by the monks, I might give numerous examples; but I shall content myself with one. The Franciscans represented the founder of their order as another Christ, and as being in all things like to Christ. One of their number mentions forty instances, in which St. Francis was exactly conformed to the Saviour! Another extends the number of these conformities to four thousand! They affirm, that he had the five wounds of the Saviour, impressed upon his body by Christ himself; and, that the institutions which he gave to his followers are of equal authority with the gospel of Jesus.
Of gross and scandalous wickedness, perpetrated in the monasteries, examples might be given without number or end. In the earlier days of these institutions, while they were destitute of property, and were subject to the control of the bishops in whose territories they were situated, the morals of the inmates were comparatively unblamable. But in later times, when the monasteries had become rich, and, being exempt from the authority of the bishops, were subject only to the pope, a master often distant, and always indulgent to such devoted vassals, the morals of the religious orders rapidly and dreadfully deteriorated. They were ignorant, indolent, sensual, debauched; engaged not unfrequently in plots, intrigues, treasons, and even murders. The Benedictines became so corrupt, notwithstanding the repeated attempts to reform them, as to give place to the Mendicants. The Mendicants, in their turn, became so corrupt, as to give place to the Jesuits. And the Jesuits became so corrupt, that, after having been banished, successively, from nearly every country of Europe, the order, about three-fourths of a century ago, was totally suppressed. Recently, however, this obnoxious and fallen society has been restored.
I mention but another of the evils to be charged upon the monastic orders, which is, that they have been principally concerned in those religious persecutions, which have so deeply