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were not so perfectly unheathenized as they were thought to be, or as
they thought themselves: many of their heathenish habits of life,
thoughts, and customs remained even in their very worship. Thus, after
Christianity had absorbed the Roman world, it appeared that the Roman
world had penetrated and impregnated the whole of Christianity; and this
is the Roman Catholic Church. She is Christian, but she is full of the
errors and superstitions that belonged to the old Roman heathenish

To understand what this means we must now try to comprehend what the old
Roman genius was. Here I ask you not to confound it with the Greek
genius, which was in many respects highly superior, but which had, at
that time, passed away in a large measure, and been replaced everywhere
by the Roman genius. What were the especial traits of character of the
Romans? The first, and a very striking one to those who have travelled
and studied in those countries, is a most vivacious love for tradition.
In Rome, at the present day, you find things that are done, that are
said, that are believed, that are liked, because they were two thousand
years ago, without the people themselves having a very clear notion of
it. Their custom - and it is born in their flesh, and in their blood - is
to look backwards, and to see in the past the motives and the precedents
for their acts and for their belief. Of this I could quote to you a
number of instances. I will choose but one. The first time I was in Rome
I stopped, as every traveller does, on the _Piazza del Popolo_. In the
midst of that square is an obelisk, and on one side of the pedestal of
that obelisk is written: "This monument was brought to Rome by the High
Pontiff, Cæsar Augustus." I went round the monument, and on the other
face of the same pedestal I read: "This monument, brought to Rome by the
High Pontiff, Cæsar Augustus, was placed in this square by the High
Pontiff, Sextus V." And then I remembered that one of those High
Pontiffs was a Roman heathen, an Emperor; and that the other was a
Christian, was a priest, was a pope; and I was astonished, at first
sight, to find on two faces of the same stone the same title given to
those two representatives of very different religions. Afterwards, I
observed that this was no extraordinary case, but that in many other
places in Rome instances of the same kind were to be found. I inquired a
little more deeply, perhaps, than some other travellers, into the
meaning of those words. I asked myself why this pope, Sextus V., and
this Emperor Augustus, should each be called "pontiff." What is the
meaning of "pontiff"? "Pontiff" means bridge-maker, bridge-builder. Why
are they called in that way? Here is the explanation of that fact. In
the very first years of the existence of Rome, at a time of which we
have a very fabulous history, and but few existing monuments, - the
little town of Rome, not built on seven hills as is generally supposed;
there are eleven of them now; then there were within the town less than
seven even, - that little town had a great deal to fear from any enemy
which should take one of the hills that were out of town, the Janiculum,
because the Janiculum is higher than the others, and from that hill an
enemy could very easily throw stones, fire, or any means of destruction,
into the town. The Janiculum was separated from the town by the Tiber.
Then the first necessity for the defence of that little town of Rome was
to have a bridge. They had built a wooden bridge over the Tiber, and a
great point of interest to the town was that this bridge should be kept
always in good order, so that at any moment troops could pass over it.
Then, with the special genius of the Romans, of which we have other
instances, they ordained, curiously enough, that the men who were a
corporation to take care of that bridge should be sacred; that their
function, necessary to the defence of the town, should be considered
holy; that they should be priests, and the highest of them was called
"the high bridge-maker." So it happened that there was in Rome a
corporation of bridge-makers, _pontifices_, of whom the head was the
most sacred of all Romans, because in those days his life, and the life
of his companions, was deemed necessary to the safety of the town.
Things changed; very soon Rome was large enough not to care about the
Janiculum; very soon Rome conquered a part of Italy, then the whole of
Italy, and finally almost the whole of the world. But when once
something is done in Rome, it remains done; when once a thing is said,
it remains said, and is repeated; and thus it happened that the
privilege of the bridge-makers' corporation, as beings sacred and holy,
remained; and that privilege made everybody respect them; gave them a
sort of moral power. Then kings wanted to be made High Bridge-makers;
after kings, consuls; later, dictators; and, later, emperors themselves
made themselves High Bridge-makers, which meant the most sacred persons
in the town.

When Constantine, who is generally called the first Christian
emperor, - but who was very far from being a real Christian, - when
Constantine became nominally a Christian, he did not leave off being the
high bridge-maker of the heathen. He remained high priest of the heathen
at the same time he was a Christian emperor; and he found means, as well
as his son after him, to keep the two functions. He acted on some
occasions as high pontiff of the heathen; on other occasions, he called
councils, presided over them, and sent them away when he had had enough
of their presence; declared to the bishops that he was in some sense one
of them, and acted to all intents and purposes as popes have acted after
him. Thus that title remained the type of whatever was most sacred in
Rome; and the bishop of Rome, when an opportunity came, - when the title
had been lost in Rome by emperors, - took it up again. And thus we see on
the same stone, at the present time in Rome, the name of a high
bridge-maker who is a heathen emperor, and the name of a high
bridge-maker who is a pope, who is the head of the Christian Catholic
Church. Thus you see an old superstition, an old local superstition,
established with a political meaning, has survived itself, has survived
centuries, has survived the downfall of heathenism, and is at the
present time flourishing. You all know that the present pope is called
_Pontifex Maximus_; it is his title; and everywhere you see, even on the
pieces of money, that Pio Nono is _Pontifex Maximus_, - the great
bridge-maker, which means the highest of all priests, of all sacred
beings. Thus has tradition, on that special spot, and in connection with
the history and with the antiquities of that spot, established an
authority unequalled anywhere else.

Though the Roman Catholic Church is special to that place, and inherits
the local habits and traditions, it pretends also to universality. This
is, again, perfectly Roman. The heathen Romans had thought for centuries
that the world was made to be conquered by them; that unity was
represented by Rome; that Rome was all in all; and at the present time
the Pope, on Thursday of every Easter week, gives his solemn blessing,
as you know, to the town first, and the world afterwards, - _urbi et
orbi_. All countries, both hemispheres, all nations, all languages, are
lost in that great unity. One town and one world, of which that town is
the capital, - that was the wish, the hope of the heathenish Romans for
centuries; and that has been the aim, the assumption of papal Rome for
centuries also. When the present Pope said, on a celebrated day, after
enumerating the great acts of his pontificate, that he had created more
bishoprics than any other pope, he was right. He has created, on his own
authority, bishoprics in Holland, in England, and in other countries;
cut out bishoprics on the map of those countries. And he did that
because, as pope, he is the spiritual sovereign of the world; because
England and Holland belong to him; because Rome is the capital of the
world; and he cuts off a part of any country, in America as well as in
Europe, in order to make of it the see or dominion of a bishop. The old
Roman idea was that nobody knew how to govern except Romans. They
assumed - and often, if an unscrupulous government was the best of all,
if a tyrannical government was the best of all, they were right - to
govern better, more wisely, and with more acute politics, than any other
nation. They said, "Other sciences, other arts, may be the share of
other nations; but our share in the great things of this world is
_government_." I hardly dare to speak Latin in an English country,
because I cannot pronounce Latin as you do; but though I pronounce it as
a Frenchman, which is, perhaps, a shade less bad than to pronounce it as
you do in England and America, you may guess what I mean when I recall
to the memory of some of you the famous lines of Virgil, where he says
what must be, in this world, the function of the Romans: -

"Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento;
Hæ tibi erunt artes."

That is to say, "You Romans! remember that you are made to govern the
nations; that must be your office; all the arts come after this; this is
the special Roman art." I declare to you that at this present moment
the clergy, the cardinals, the bishops, the prelates, the court of Rome,
think, and have never ceased to think, that they are the people to
govern better than any other political body; and that the government of
the world has been providentially reserved to that town; first, in a
temporal way, for the heathen; and, secondly, in a spiritual way, for
the Christians, for the Catholic countries of the world. And as they
believe spiritual things are a great deal more important than temporal
things, they think their government is a great deal more important, and
greatly superior to any government of any kind.

Let us now turn back a little again, and try more fully to understand
what the old Roman genius was in its way of government. They governed by
laws. You all have heard about Roman law, about Roman jurisprudence. It
has been said for centuries that they were men who, better than any
other, understood the art of making laws, - very precise, full of
foresight, forgetting nothing, or few things, and giving in the most
exact terms the decisions to be enforced in all possible cases, at least
in all the cases with which they had occasion to deal. It is said also,
it has always been said, that their laws were hard; but they accepted
them, though hard: "_dura lex, sed lex_." And certainly there was
something noble and good in this respect for law, whatever the law was:
there was something just, really in the interest of nations, in this
love of law. But at that time this love of law was accompanied by the
fact that the law was exceedingly hard in a great number of cases. Yet
that hardness was in conformity with the general temperament of the
nation at that time: the Romans were hard.

I have no time to stop to show you how different they were from the
Greeks; but you remember that when the Greeks assembled in one of their
great annual festivals, they heard music, they listened to poetry, they
listened to the works of the historian; or they saw men run races, or
engage in one of those contests that were not cruel, that were only
displays of strength, agility, or training. That was the pleasure of the
Greeks in their annual festival. What did the Romans do? You all know.
They had immense amphitheatres where they assembled to see men kill one
another. Their pleasure was to see people die, to see people suffer, to
see people maimed, and weltering in their blood: that was their favorite
amusement. And ambitious men in that day secured votes by bringing
lions, hyenas, and tigers, in large numbers, to Rome, and by giving the
people the diversion of seeing those animals killing men, devouring
living men, women, and children, living Christians, often. That was the
punishment in fashion at that time: Christian men, women, and children
were killed, were devoured, were mangled before the eyes of the people,
and for their pleasure. In their hardness they had a taste for the
formal, precise execution of their law, whatever it might be.
Christianity came and swept away their abominable pleasures, - this
cruelty, which was contrary to every human feeling; but the habit of a
sort of hardness, in the infliction of the penalties of law, remained in
Rome more than it did in any other place. And this was allied to another
feeling of a different nature, but which very well connected itself with
it. I mean the Roman love for the literal in every thing. They did not
like to understand any thing as metaphorical, as poetry: they liked to
take every thing literally; and it was in consequence of this
characteristic of the Roman mind that they were able to enforce their
law. Even if the result of what the law demanded was absurd, they
maintained, for the honor of the law, that it must be literally
understood, and literally executed; and they permitted none of those
different ways of alleviating the hardships of the law that have been in
other places not only allowed, but ordered, by those in command. This is
of extreme importance. Perhaps at first sight it does not strike you so,
but it is. Remember from what country Christianity came. Christianity
came from the East, came from Asia, came from the Jews. The Apostles,
the first propagators of Christianity, were Oriental men, were Jews. I
have seen part of the Levant, I have seen those very countries, and I
can speak of it as a fact known for centuries, that the people of the
Orient never speak otherwise than by images. They do not like the
shortest way from one point to another; they make the way long. They use
flowers, and rays of light, and moonshine, or any thing else that gives
an image and color to their speech. They bring these things in
continually, whatever may be the subject they speak of.

Perhaps I may give here an illustration that will make you understand
me. I was in a house made of branches of trees, where lived a sheik. He
told me that every thing in that house, his own person, his own family,
were mine; and he said this with the greatest protestations. This is
exactly the same as if you should say to a foreigner, coming into your
house, "You are welcome." Nothing more. If, on going away, I had taken
any thing from that house, the man would immediately have shot me;
though he had given me every thing, even to his own person and his own
family; because he would have had this idea: "This man is a thief; I
have a thief in my house." If I had said, "But you gave me every thing
in the house," he would have answered me, "You come from a country where
people have no politeness. I gave you these things: that means
_welcome_, and nothing more." Thus a man of the Orient never says any
thing in the simple short way that Western nations do: they always want
some poetry, some rhetoric, some image about it. And you must remember
that many of the most admirable teachings of the Bible are in images,
are in poetry, and are extremely beautiful and eloquent by their poetry.
We are accustomed to this, so that we know that it is poetry; and we
understand it. But the Romans, accustomed to their principle, that the
law may be hard, but that law is law, and must be understood literally,
and executed literally, understood every thing literally, and in that
way they spoiled many of the great Christian truths. I will not here
quote many instances, though it would be exceedingly easy to bring them
in large numbers before you. I will take the most striking and best
known of all. When our Lord, a few hours before being separated from his
disciples, to die on the cross, gave them of the bread that was on the
table, and said, "Eat, this is my body," it was absolutely impossible
for Eastern people to misunderstand him; it was impossible for them not
to understand that he meant, "This represents my body." The idea that
what he held in the hands of his own body was his own body again; that
he gave them his own body to eat, and that he ate some of it himself
with them, - that idea could not for a moment have entered the head of
one of those who were there. And if a multitude had been there, instead
of the twelve Apostles, it would have been exactly the same. Nobody
would have understood, when the Lord said, "I am the way," or when he
said, "I am the door," that he was really, in fact, a path or a gate;
everybody knew that he meant, "I am the leader; you must come with me; I
show you the way." Everybody in the Orient understood that. But here
comes the Roman genius, taking every thing literally; and they repeat,
"He said, 'This is my body,' and this _is_ his body." They repeat: "You
Protestants do not accept the truth coming from the lips of your Master.
He says, 'This is my body,' but you Protestants say, 'No, it is not his
body, it represents his body.'" Thus it seems we are convicted of crime;
it seems we will not accept the teachings of our Lord; yet we are
perfectly true to his own meaning, to his real meaning, that could not
be misunderstood in the East, but that was misunderstood when it was
carried to Rome, a country where people gloried in taking every thing in
a literal sense. So they did with many other most beautiful and delicate
things in the Bible. The Roman genius - I cannot help saying it - had
something clumsy in it. They were like giants, having very strong arms,
and enormous hands, to take every thing, and to dominate over every
thing. But any thing very delicate, very poetic, like flowers from the
East, they could not touch without the flowers being broken and faded,
losing their charm and their color. That was their way of treating many
of the most beautiful things of the Bible, which they did not
understand; which they made absurd or repulsive, by taking in a literal
sense what was said, and ought to be taken, in a spiritual sense. They
acted exactly as we should, if we received an Oriental letter and
understood as literal every thing contained in it.

I will give another instance to make this clear. I remember having seen
two letters, written one by a French General, and another by
Abd-el-Kader, the chief of the enemies of the French in Algeria. These
letters were intended to convey identically the same thing; that is to
say, that some prisoners on one side were to be exchanged for the same
number of prisoners on the other side. It had been decided that the
French General and the Arab chief should say the same thing. I have seen
both. The French General writes two lines; very clear, distinct, and
polite, with nothing but the exact meaning he wanted to convey. But
Abd-el-Kader, meaning to write the same thing, writes a whole page,
about flowers, and jewels, and roses, and moonshine, and every thing of
the kind. His intention was to say exactly the same thing, to convey
identically the same meaning; but these things, translated from one
language to another, pass, as a celebrated German scholar says, "from
the Shemitic to the Japhetic; from the poetic language of the sons of
Shem, to the precise language of the sons of Japhet." This has been the
fault of the Roman Catholic Church in many dogmas, in many points of
very high importance: the sons of Japhet could not understand what the
sons of Shem meant. They thought they understood it, when they were
entirely in error, and gave to it a meaning altogether different from
what was intended.

I must add, that what helped them along in this belief of things, taken
in a literal sense, was Roman superstition. In that town, and in Italy,
have always prevailed the strangest superstitions. The most celebrated
Romans, men whose wisdom and whose glory have filled the world, if they
met, when they went out of their house in the morning, a hare in the
way, re-entered their house on the instant, and renounced any thing they
had to do, because meeting a hare was ominous of misfortune, and any
thing they should undertake that day would result in their confusion or
misfortune. When they put their foot in the wrong way, the left before
the right, or the right before the left, on the stone at the entrance of
a house, they stopped there and returned to their house, because every
thing they should do in that house would prove unfortunate, since they
had made a mistake in putting the wrong foot foremost when they entered
the house.

So there were a multitude of superstitions. You know when they were to
decide the greatest questions of peace or war, they consulted their
sacred chickens. They gave them grains of wheat, and if the chickens ate
it, or if they refused to eat it, or if they ate it too fast, or if the
chickens let fall a grain of wheat from their mouths, - these signs meant
that war would be successful, or that it would not be, and they decided
according to these whether there should be a war or not. And those great
magistrates, who were sometimes men of the greatest eminence, like
Cicero, were augurs. You know what Cicero says, "Two of us cannot meet
without laughing;" because they knew that their auguries were utterly
worthless, but the multitude thought they were true. So the Romans were
superstitious to the highest degree, and they have never ceased to be
so. There is superstition in the marrow of their bones. Many Romans are
ready to believe any thing to-day, at the present moment. I shall allude
to a single fact. They all believe devoutly in the evil eye; that there
are people who, if they look at you, will bring upon you some horrible
misfortune, disease, or death. They believe this so fully, that they
have a gesture, representing with their fingers a pair of horns; and,
when they meet any one who is supposed to have the evil eye, they
endeavor, in a secret way, to make that sign, to prevent misfortune from
coming upon them. It is believed, in Rome, that the present pope, who is
to them God on earth, who is to them the successor and vicar of Jesus
Christ, that he, as a man, has the evil eye. And when he passes through
the streets of Rome, a great many women, devoutly kneeling before him,
with their heads almost in the dust, craving to receive his blessing, as
he passes in his carriage, will, under their aprons, make this sign, to
preserve themselves from the effects of the evil eye. This is no
disparagement to his person; they think that the poor man cannot help
it; that there is no ill will in it; that it is fate; he has the evil

I could cite many other instances of this superstition; perhaps it will
be enough to refer to one more, and one that disgusted me completely. It
is the worship with which they surround the _Santo Bambino_. There is on
the Capitoline Hill a church that was formerly a heathen temple, and
which has kept an old name, "_Ara C[oe]li_," or "altar of Heaven." In
that church, the Franciscan monks keep a very ugly doll. This doll is
said to have been sculptured out of one of the olive-trees on the Mount
of Olives, and then Saint Luke is supposed to have painted it over.
Saint Luke must have been the painter of the poorest daubs that ever
were in the world, and the angels who took it to him must have been very
far from being connoisseurs of painting. This doll is covered with
diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and other precious stones, of greatest
price. It is kept in a box on the altar, and, when you ask to see it,
the monks pray before the door, they light tapers, they produce the box,
and then the box is opened, and you see the hideous little wooden image.
Now, this _Santo Bambino_ is supposed to have healing properties. He
heals people, when they are rich enough to pay a good salary to him; he
is not a physician who heals for nothing. He has a magnificent carriage
of his own, and servants with his own livery; and, when any rich man
wants to be cured by him, the _Santo Bambino_ goes in his own carriage
to the man's house, carried on the knees of Franciscan monks, and cures
the patient, - if he can. Such is the belief of the country. But I could
not see any very great difference between that doll and the idols that
the old Romans had, and used in the same way. The idea is this: they
suppose that the _Santo Bambino_ represents Christ as a little child.

Not only were the old Romans superstitious, but we know, by historical
testimony coming from the heathen themselves, that at the time when
Christianity appeared there was an increase of superstition; there was a
general feeling of a want of something definite, something like a sort
of atonement; and at that time all sorts of ceremonies, all sorts of

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