Abbildungen der Seite




power which the popes have attained, is more admirable than the vast monarchy of ancient Rome; so that it may be said, this great city was to be in two different manners the spring of the most sublime qualities that are requisite for the foundation of a very great state. If this do not prove that the Romans equalled other nations in moral virtue, it shews at least that they had more courage and industry. It is an amazing thing that a church, which pretends to have no arms but the spiritual ones of the word of God, and which grounds her rights only upon the gospel, that teaches everywhere humility and poverty, should have been so bold as to aspire to an absolute dominion over all the kings of the earth. It is still more amazing that she should have been so successful in such a chimerical design. If ancient Rome, which pretended only to conquests and military virtue, subdued so many nations, it is a noble and glorious thing in the eyes of the world ; but any one who reflects upon it will not wonder at it. It is much more surprising to see new Rome, pretending only to an apostolical ministry, arrive to so great a power, that the greatest monarchs have been forced to submit to it; for it may be said, that there is hardly any emperor who opposed the popes, but found himself



the worse for it at last. At this very day, the quarrels of the most potent princes with the court of Rome generally end to their confusion. We have such fresh instances of it, that I need not mention them. In the eyes of the world such a conquest is a more glorious work than those of the Alexanders and Cæsars, and therefore Gregory VII, who was the chief promoter of it, ought to be placed among the great conquerors, who had the most eminent qualities.

The author of an able work, entitled L'Esprit des Cours de l'Europe, pretends that the popes' conquests were not so difficult as I imagine. “I find nothing," he observes, “ that is very surprising in the pope's greatness. By the help of some passages of holy writ, they have persuaded the world of their divinity. Is this a new thing? Is it not usual with men to suffer themselves to be imposed upon in point of religion ? Above all things they love to deify their fellow creatures, as paganism makes it plain. Now, if it be once supposed that the popes could easily establish the divine privileges of their dignity, was it not natural for people to declare for them against all other powers ? For my part, I am so far from admiring their elevation, that I wonder how they did not arrive at a universal monarchy. The great number of princes who have have shaken off the Roman yoke, confounds me, and when I enquire into the reason of it, I can only think of these two causes, which are very general and well known,--that men do not always act according to their principles, and that this present life makes a deeper impression upon them than the future."

Now suppose, with this ingenious writer, that the popes could easily make the world believe they were Gods upon earth, that is to say, that being the visible heads of the church, they might authoritatively declare what is heretical or orthodox, regulate ceremonies, and command all the bishops of the Christian world, will it therefore follow that they could easily set up their authority over kings, and bring them under their yoke without any difficulty? I confess I do not see this consequence. On the contrary, it seems to me, that, in all appearance, their spiritual authority would run a great danger by their attempts upon the temporalities of kings. The Athenians were told one day: have a care that your concern for heaven do not make you lose the earth. The popes might have been told in a contrary sense; have a care that your great desire of getting the earth do not make you lose heaven: you will be deprived of the spiritual power, if you pretend to usurp the temporal. It is well known, that the most orthodox princes are more tender of their sovereignty than of religion; a thousand examples ancient and modern prove it; and therefore it was not likely they should suffer the church to invade their demesnes and rights. They would rather increase their authority to the prejudice of the church, than suffer the power of the church to increase to the prejudice of their temporal power. Princes, who understand the art of reigning, have generally the gentry and the soldiery at their command; and when that part of their subjects remain faithful to them, they need not be afraid of the clergy; their troops will fight for them against all sorts of enemies. The army of Charles V made war against Clement VII. The troops of France fought against Julius II for Lewis XII, and would have done the same for Lewis XIV against Alexander VII, not long before the peace of Pisa delivered the pope from the storm ready to fall upon him. I was at Mr Justel's at Paris, in the year 1675, when it was affirmed, that the count de Vignori, governor of Triers, made this answer to the monks, who represented to him, that the convents he pulled down, to fortify the town, had been founded by Charlemagne :-“I only execute the king's orders, and, if he should command me to raise a battery against the holy sacrament, I would

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »