Joseph Priestley.

A general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) online

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confequence of it.

•>- I i 5 The


The conauQ of the popes, whenever they had
power in the Eaft, was by no means fuch as would
lecommend the fupremacy they claimed ; difco-
vering the greatefl intollerance, and love of wealth
and power. Gregory XI prevented as much as he
pofhbly could, the cxercifc of the Greek religion
in Candia, which was in the power of the Veneti-
ans. In one of the letters, written in a. d. 1373,
he fays, " At prefent that ecclefiaftical cenfures
*' arc better executed with the help of the fecular
" arm, we hope to extirpate fchifra in that ifland."
He therefore directed that no clergyman Ibould
receive holy orders except from Latins, and that
no Greek, pried or monk, fhould hear confefli-
«n5, or preach to the people.

For fomc time the popes had a better proipe6l
of fucccfs with the Armenians than with the
Greeks. In a. d. 1346, thefe people wanting
the affi 'lance of the chrifljans in the Weft, a^ainft
the Turks, called a council, and condemned all
the errors which Clement VI informed them they
held, and promifed to conform in all rcfpc61:s to
the church of Rome ; and for this purpofe the
pope font two nuncios into the country. But no
afriH-ance being procured^ the Armenians continu-
ed as far removed fror^ the church of Rome as the

; J. 2. ^? -


2. Articles relating to Church Difcipline.

We find forre new fieflivals introduced into
the church in this period, as well as the preceding.
John XXII introduced the feflivai ofthe^zo/y tri-
nily, which had been celebrated in fome cathe-
drals and monafteries an hundred years before^
t^Ut without uniformity ; fome obferving it at one
time, an others at another. In a. d. 1373, the
feftival of the prefentation of Chrijl in the temple
was brought from the Eaft into the Weflern
churches, with the permiffion of the pope.

Some feftivals were confined to particular coun-
tries. In A. D. 1353 Innocent VI, at the requeft of
the emperor Charles IVjinflitutedafeflivaiinhonor
of the facred lance and nails, which had been the
inllrumentof our faviour's paffion, in confequence
of the great devotion that bad paid to them
in Germany and Bohemia. In thofe countries it
was appointed to be celebrated every two years,
and an ofiRce was to be coropofed for it hy fuch
prelates as the emperor fhould chufe. The pope
alfo granted an indulgence of three years and three
quarters to thofe who fhould vifit the church in
which thofe relicks were preferved, one of an hun-
dred hours for the mafs, and for each hour of the



But tile mofl important of the new feflivals in-
troduced in this period w:is that of the Jubilee at
Rome. In a. d. 1299, a report, the origin of
which has not been traced, prevailed in that city,
that all the inhabitants who fhould vifit the church
ot St. Peter the follov/ing year, would gain a ple-
Bary indulgence for all their fms, and that every
century it would have the fame virtue ; and accord-
ingly, on the firil day of January in a. d. 130O,
cfpeciaily in the evening, and till midnight, there
was a prodigious concourie ot people to vifit that
church, it being then imagined that the indulgence
would end that day. Others, however, continued
to perform their devotions at that church for two
months fo'Uo'.ving. The pope obferving this, after
confultin-r with the cardinals, ifTued a bull, in
which he gran-led a plenary indulgence to ail per-
ibns who thould vifit the churches of St. Peter and
Paul at Rome during the fir(i year of that, and
every fucceeding century ; but it v/as not at that
time called a jubilee, or faid to be in imitation of
the Jeivilh law. In conftquence of this, fo great was
the concourfe of people from all parts of the Chrift-
ian world, that John Villani, who was prefent,
fays that there were always in Rome not fewer than
two hundred thoufand pilgrims, befides reckoning
thofe who v/ere at the fame time continually' going
.and returning ; and yet that there was no want of



provifions far man or horfe, and that the people
of Rome were great gainers by it.

At the r^qucft of the people of Rome, who had
found the benefit of this new popular inftituUon,
Clement VI reduced the jubilee from an hundred
to fifty years, and he firfl introduced this term;
obfer/ing that Chrift came to fulfil the Jewifh law"
in a fpiritual manner. Accordingly in the year a.
D. 1350, the concourfe of people at Rome was
prodigious, and tho' it began at Chriflmas, when
the cold was extreme, neither the fnow nor the
broken roads were any impediment to the pilgrims;
and as neither the inns nor the houfes were fuffi-
cient to contain them, many perCons made fires,
and flept in the open air. It was fuppofed that
there were never fewer than a million or twelve
hundred thoufand perfons in Rome at the fame
time, from Chriflmas to Eafter, and at Whitfun-
tide more than eight hundred thoufand, and that
the fmailefl number was tv/o hundred thoufand.
For the confolation of the pilgrims, the holy hand-
kerchief was exhibited every funda)% and on ail
the great fef^ivals ; and on thefe occafions the
crouds were fo great, that many perfons were crufb-
ed to death. At the end of the year the number
of pilgrims increafed, and then came the great
lords and ladies from Italy and other countries.
All the people of Rome were innkepers on this



occafion, and by preventing the arrival of fupplies
rom ab road, fold every thing exceflively dear.

In A. D. 1389 Urban VI reduced the jubilee
fron^ fifty years to thirty- three, on the idea ot
Chrift having lived that number of years on earth,
and accordingly he appointed the ye*r following,
A. D, 1390, for the celebration, of it; and then
there was a great concourfe of pilgrims, but only
from the countries in the obedience of Boniface,
th^ fuccefTor of Urban, and who had confirmed
what he had fixed with refpeft to it. Tho' the
great prefents which on this occafion were made
to the churches in Rome came into the hands of
tlic pope, not content with this, he fent pcrfons into
€very province, to fell indulgences to thofe who
did not go to Rome, at the price that the journey
would have coil. From fome provinces he, by
this means, drew more than two hundred thoufand
florins in gold. Theie indulgences, it was faid,
would avail for the remiflion of all fins, without
any other penance. Many of thefe dillributers
ol indulgences having erabezled the money they re-
ceived, were punilhed ; fome of themw^ere torn in
piiKres by the populace, and fome killed them-
felves. There were alfo on this occafion, many
impoflors, who pretended to have the papal au-
thority, and wIjo cbfolved perfons of all crimes
ior fmall fums, and granted difpenfations of every


Se^.XIII. TFIE christian church. 511

kind. In order to raife money, this pope alfo
granted indulgences to thofe who ,virited the
churches a? Cnlogn, Magdeburgh, and other cities,
which brought a great number of pilgrims to them.
He granted fo many of every kind, tho' none
without money, that they became quite contempt-

Notwithftanding this redudion of the Jubilee
a fmallernumbcr of years, the idea of its being
for a century was fo fixed, that whenthe 3'ear a. d.
1400 arrived, itivas attended by great numbers, and
even from France, tho* forbidden by the king, and
the' the pilgrims fufFered much from the troops of
the pope, who plundered them, and abufed the
women, fome of noble families. The plague alfo
was in Rome this year, and the pope durft not
leave it, left he fhould by that means lofe the tem-
poral fovereignty of the city; and yet he contribu-
ted nothing from his treafury for the relief of fick

There was no change in the mode of adminif-
tering the ordinaiices of baptifm or the Lord's fup-
per by the Catholics in this period. It appears
by the writings of William Durante, biftiop of
Monde, who died in a. d. 1296, that baptifm
was performed by immerfion, and only at Eafter
and Whitfuntide, except in cafe of neceirity. But



at the time of the benedidion of a font, a few chil-
dren were baptized.

The Lord's fupper \ras adminiftcred to the
laity in general, only in one kind, which took place
gradually, and without any order of the pope or
council, but on particular occalions the cup was
given to fome laymen^ Thus C-ement VI gave
a licence to the king of France, and alfo to Eudes
duke ol Burgundy, to communicate in both kinds ;
but recommended to them to do it with great
precaution, that none of the precious blood might
be fpilled.

But communion m both kinds was fo evident-
ly the primitive cuflom, that it contributed great-
ly to recommend the principles of the Waldenfes,
who retained it. But in no country was more
flrefs laid upon it than in Bohemia, at the time of
the council of Conftance. It was ftrenuoufly in-
filled upon by one Jacobel, re6k)r of the parilh
of St. Michael in Prague, who had been inftru6led
by Peter of Drefden, and expelled from Saxony,
for the herefy of the Waldenfes. He having efta-
blifhed this cuftom in his own parilh, the clergy
got him expelled from that church ; but he was re-
ceived in another, where he taught the fame
do£irine. At length he was excommunicated by
the archbifhcp of Prague ; but as he paid no re-
gard to that, the aflair vras brought before the



■caancil ol ContClance. There communion in boifh
kinds. wascicknoWiled^e-J to I-save been ibe iiiuicj^t
cuftom; but th^i^, to a^'oid conger, commtir^ion ia
one kind oaly had been fo lon^.clldbjilli.'d wjiji
ri:rpt-6t io the lai y, that no perlon ought to char.^e
it without (he auth rity of the chuich ; SL.nd that
to maintain the cotitiary was hereby, and ought to
be punilhed as fuch. At the fame it was .d-
fo decreed that the euchariil ought lo be received
faRing. It was hkewife decreed that, a^ new here-
lics were continually rifing in ihe c!iu!ch, coin-
^irsiiTaries fhould be appointed to cxauiinc matters
^ol 'ai h, and judge concerning ihem, till a defini-
tive fentence fliould be pronounced.

3. Remarkable Injlances of Supfrftition»

As fuperflition is always in proportion to ig-
norance, joined with curiofity, it might have beea
expected tSat we (hould fee lefs of i in tliis period ;
and no doubt, with thofe who w ,rc \n any rncaiure
beneliied by ihe greater hght that w^$ now Iptm.r-
^ing up, there wab.lelis of luperlbtion ihan berore,;
but this xvas chiefly with the reformed In the
Rotnifh church thin^^s continued, in thi- refpcd .s
well as others, pretty much as they were before;
and cpnf. quently the reign of the xr^uW jidicu ras
and abj.-.-.l fupcrflition was by no means at aneud.
Vox,. IV. Kk liiav^


I have noted the following particulars, as the mofl
remarkable, and curious, that I have met with.

At the council at Pennafiel in Spain, in a. d.
1302, the priefts were ordered to make the bread
deflined for confecration themfelves,- or at leafl to
have it made in their prefence, by other minifter*
of the church. But this falls far fhort of the pre-
cautions prefcribed in the monaftery of Mount
Caffin, of which an account was given before.

In A. D. 1327 John XXII confirmed the' in-
dulgence which he had granted twelve years be-
fore, to thofe who fhould repeat every evening the
an<^elic falutation. This piece of devotion had
been introduced into the church of Saintes, to ad-
monifli the faithful by the found of a bell to make
their prayers to the virgin in the evening ; and this
pope approving of it, by his bull in a. d. 131S;
granted ten days indulgence to thofe who fhould
repeat that form of devotion on their knees.

Charobert, king of Hungary, having made va-
rious vows to repeat on certain days fuch a number
oi paters, ave Marias, and/a/ve regina's, found
them very inconvenient to him, when he had much
bufmefs ; and therefore requelled the pope in a.
D. 1339 to commute them, which he did, limit-
ing them to fifteen a day, under an obligation to
maintain twelve poor perfons, on thofe days on
which he had boen obliged to repeat more thaa
fifty prayers, I*op^


Pope Urban, as a favour fo the king of Den-
mark, who paid him a vifit at Avignon in a. d.
1364, granted indulgences to thofe who fhould
pray for him, and made him partake of all the good
works that fhould be done in the church. He^
moreover, gave him the following relicks to enrich
his churches j fome of the hair and clothes of the
bleffed vi'gin, fume wood of the crofsj fome re-
licks of John the Baptift, of St. George, and St.
Vincent, and alfo of St. Nereus and Achilles.

At the conclullon of the council of Coniiance
pope Martin granted to all the members of it rhe
full remiffion of all their fms once during ihdr
lives. It was alfo granted to them in the article
of death. The fame was allowed to their domeftics,
on condition that they failed every friJay during
one year for an abfolution during life, and another
Jor that at the article of death.

We have had in fiances of curious penances for
crimes in former periods. The follow mg which
occurs in this, may be compared with them. Mar-
tin de la Scala of Verona, having been concerned
in the murder of the archbifhop of that city, and
having folicited for abfolution for himfelf and his
accomplices, the pope granted it on the following
terms. Eight days after their abfolution they wera
10 go on foot, in their fhirts, and bareheaded, from
the entrance of the city of Verona to the cathedral

K k 2 church,


church, each carrying a lighted torch, of the weight
of fix pounds, and caufing a hundred more (udh
to be carried before them by other perfons. Being
arrived at the church, on a fundav, at the time af
high mafs, they fhould prefent their torches, and
afk pardon for their crimes of the canons, \n ihc
jGx months following they were to offer in the fame
church a Iilver image of the bleffed virgin, of the
weightof thirty marks, and ten filver lamps, of three
marks each, wiih a lund fufficient for oil, to ke«p
them always burning. In that year they were to
found, in the fame church, fix cbapelries, with thft
revenue of twenty florins of gold each. The day
on which the bifhop was murdered each of the two
penitents was to feed and clothe twenty- tour poor
perfons, and both of them were to fad o.vQ'iy friday
as long as they lived. Whenever there fhould be
a general expedition to the holy land, they were
to fend twenty horfcmen, and maintain them for
one year ; and if there fhould be no fuch expedi^
tion in their life time, they fhould lay their heirs
under an obligation to difcharge that part of their
penance for them. Fleury juflly adds, he faw
nothing in this that a rich man might not do without
any converfion of the heart.

Supcrftition is no preventative of vice, but
rather a promoter of if. In this period, as in the
former, complaint was made of the profanation of



feftivals. It appeared pariicularly by the inllrua-
ions fent to the council of Vienne in a. d. 13.11,
that great abufes prevailed in France, in which
markets, fairs, and affizes, were held on fundays,
and the great feftivals ; fo that Fieury fays the days
deflined for the honour ot God were profaned by
debauches in taverns, c^uarrels, blafphemics, and
other crimes.

Headienifli fuperflitions have not ceafed among
Chriftians even to this day. We are not, there-
fore, furprizcd to read that, in a. d. 1318, fome
j^erfcns attempted to deftroy pope John XXII, by
making images of wax, and torturing them, and
by the inv6cation of demons.

Under this head of fuperftition, I (hall place
Came inn.anct;s of rigour, and alfo iorae otmyllieal
devotion, which occur in this period, both ariiing
from falfe notions of God and religion.

In A. D. 1349, after the great plague, which it
is fuppofed fvvept off nearly one half of the people
of Europe, at leaft of the more civilized part of it,
the bufmcfs of voluntary flagellation was refumed.
About; the middle of June about two hundred per-
fons came from Suabia to Spires, having a leader,
and two other mailers, by whom they were dire'fl-
ed in every thing. When they came to the great
church, they made a circle round it, flripped them-
felvcs almoil naked, and whipped one another,

K k 3 but


but with much order, proftrdting themfelves in the
form oF a crofs, and praying for the mercy of Cod
for their friends and enemies, and alfo for the fouls
in purgatory. At this place they were received
with much affeClicn and hofpitality, but did not
receive any thing of value, except for the torches
and banners which they carried with them. Their
rule was to whip themfelves twice a day. They
never fpoke to any woman, nor lay upon a feather
bed. They all wore red croffes, on black gar-
ments, before and behind, with fcourges faftened
to their girdles. They continued only one right
in a parifli, except on fundays, when they paffed


They pretended that an angel had appeared at
Jerufalem, informing them, that Chrift was oflFend-
ed v.'ith the fins of the world; but that being in-
treated by the virgin Mary and the angels, he faid
that all perfons muft banifti themfelves from their
houfes, and whip themfelves, thirty- four days;
and then that their blood, mixed with his, would
fuffice for the remiffion of their fins. At Spires
more than an hundred perfons joined them, and at
Strafbourgh about a thoufand, who all promifed
obedience to the mailers for thirty-four days ; for
they received no perfons on any other terms. They
were to be furnifhed with four deniers a day for
the whole time, kfl they (hould be reduced to



teg; and they mud alfo have the confent of their
wives. Some women, however, joined them,
whipping themfelves like the men. Many priefts
and mendicants dcfpifed this method of devotion,
and the pope publifhed a bull to put a ftop to it.
It was alfo condemned by the univerfity of Paris,
and king Philip forbad any of thofe Flagellants
coming into France on pain of death.

In A. D. 1398 there was another fimilar move-
ment of devotion, which began in Scotland; forae
perfons arrived from that country in Italy with
crolTes made, it is faid, with brick dufl and blood,
mixed with oil, on their garments ; faying, that
the world would foon be deflroyed by an earth-
quake. In confequence of this, there were feea
everywhere proceflions of perfons walking in long
white garments, with hoods covering their faces,
fo that nothing was feen of them but their eyes.
Almofl; all the people, even the prieils, and fome
cardinals, drelTed in white habits, joined thefe pro-
ceflions, linging hymns compofed for the occafion
thirteen days. As many of thcfe peopk Hept in
churches, monafleries, and church yards, many
diforders were committed ; but this devotion pro-
duced fome good eflPeQs. Truces were made be-
tween people and cities, which had been at war,
mortal enmities of long (landing were appeafed,
confcffion and communion were frequent. The

K. k 4 cities


cities thro/ which they p^ fifed received them with
great hofpitaliry, and ihc vvhole laded two or three
niOTths. The near appsoach of the jabilee con-
tributed to excite this devoiion. Flcury, Vol. 20.
p. 454.

Very d ft'-rent accounts are given of the per-
fons who got the appellation ot Whites, and came
to Iu!y in the tenth vear of B jniiace. Tile fol-
lovin^ account is ir tin Po^^io in his Hijlory of Flo-
rence. " Thtre arofe/' he (.\ys, " at tins tune a
*' new fpeciej) oi religion, which came from Savoy,
•' and contributed much to promote peace. Men
*' and w(,met) otevciy a^e walked barefoot in white
garmr-n s, nine day.s tr..-m fheir habitations, beg-
*' gni.^ tijetr breaJ, with laiting and prayer, and
" flcv-pnr^ in the open air. Bctore they took the
•' habit tliey co fc Cd to their pntfls, profelfing
•' niuc'i rcpenar.cj lor their pall hns, and forgivincr
*' ail ofF::nce.s CMiimitted againft them. The people
*■' of Lucca, to the number oJ four thoufand, came
" in this manner to Florence, with a crucifix car-
" ried before them, and they were entertained at
*' the pnbl c expence. Alter this there came others
'• from Pi-ioia and Pra'.o in the Hime manner.
" The Florentines, in imitation ot ihem, put on
" white garments, a-id embraced this religion with
*' facli tervour that no peribn coaid fafely fhevv
" any coiitempi. for it. Good woiks wtre perform^

" ed


Sec.XIILTHE christian church. S2l

«« ed u'ith wonderful emul ition, the moft inveterate
*' animoiiiics weve laid afide, and affaffinations and
" intrigues againll neighbours were no more heard
" of."

According to ether accounts thefe xvhitchr ethers,
as they were fometimes called, appeared in Pruffia,
and in moft paris of Europe. But one of their
leaders having a crucifix, which, by tome means or
other, he made to appear to fvvcat, was appre-
hended by orders from the pope, and was faid to
have been put to death. L'Enfant'% Fife, Vol. i.

p. 104.

This mode of religion was revived, and feem-
inoly with more authority, in a. n. 1410 after Ita-
ly had fufFc-red much from a phigue, and the civil
wars occafioned by the fchifm. Perfons otall ages,
and both fcxes, were (een in cities and the open
fields maichifit^ in long garments; and all
who did not join them vv\ re ronhdered as profane
and impious*- Princes, prtiates, and all :hc cier-
g\ adopted it, as v/eli iis the common people. All
lav funs were fufpended, enemies were leconciled,
and a great reformation of mdnners was efFccled.

Thefe pioceffions continued three months. Ibid.

Vol. 2 p. 33.

A hmdar good efrL'£l had been produced by the

accidental burning down oi the church of St. John

de Lateran in a, d. 1308. The people of Rome,

K k 5 con-


confidering if: as a jaJgment of God, made pro-
ceflions to implore the divine mercy, divifions
were appeafed, enemies reconciled, and many per-
fons of both fexcs gave other ligns of repentance.
Fkitrj, Vol. 9. p. 432.

In A. D. 1414 there appeared in Mifnia perfons
who called themfelves brothers of ihe crofs, who re-
jc6lcd baptifm, 'and whipping themfelves, faid that
the baptifm of blood was fubflituted inftead of that
by water. It is pofTible, however, that thefe people
micht be Waldenfes, or fome clafs of reformers,
v/ho were fal fely charged with this opinion, and
perhaps wilh the pra6lice of flagellation alfo. For
befides rcje6ling baptifm, they denied the prefence
el Chrifl in the eucharift, confeffion of fins to a
priefl, and his power of abfolution, purgatory, and
prayers for the dead. They celebrated no feftival
be fides fanday, Chriftmas, and that of the A(-
fumption ot the virgin. This lall, however, ac-
cords but ill with the other particulars afcribed to
them. Some of thefe pcrfons were convinced, and
others burned alive at Sangcrhufen. Ih, Vol. 21.

p. 198.

There have been in all ages perfons of a
thoughtful turn, who have laid greater llrcls on
internal feelings than on external ads in religion.
Some of thefe people having the bell dilpofitions,
and aiming at perfe£licn of character, have often



entertained the mofl fubli»-nc fentiments, tho' mix-
ed wilh enthuliaftic notions and pra£lices. Ol this
clafs was John Rufbroek, a prieft and regular ca-
non at Valvert near Bruffels, who diflinguifhed
himfelf by his addiflednefs to comtemplation, and
his writings concerning the inteiior life , imagining
that n^hat he wrote was by the dictates of the Holy
Spirit. He left many works, in Ibme of which,
fpeaking of obedience, he fays, '• The will of man
•' may be fo united to that of God, that he cannot
« defire any thing elfe. We muft," he fays, *»re-
" pofe in God himfelf, and not in his gifts, as
*' graces, virtues, and good works. In prayer,"
ha fays, " if, Lord, it be for thy glory, I would
♦' chufe to be plunged in hell, as much as be re-
" ceived into heaven." Speaking of communion
and the fentiments that preceded and accompanied
it, he fays that, "in this exercife, fenfible love,
" compaffion, and the attentive confideration of
** the wounds of Chrift, aided by the imigination,

Online LibraryJoseph PriestleyA general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 30)