The Rise and Decline of the Romish Church

by Athanase Coquerel, Fils

We live in a time of great and manifold changes. There is one church that for centuries has had her principal glory in asserting that she never has changed,—that she has at all times been exactly the same; but now she can hardly deny that either in accordance with her own will, or by the force of circumstances, very great changes have been wrought in her during the last few years. This, if it is true, must change also the nature, the system, the course of our controversy with her. The controversy between the two churches has not always, perhaps, been quite fair; and I should not like to be unfair to any adversary, whoever he may be. I should not be at ease in my conscience if I thought I had been unfair to any thing, especially to any thing religious, of whatever kind that religion may be; because in any religion, even the most imperfect, there is some aspiration from this earth to the sky; at least, from human souls to what they hope or believe to be God. And especially I could not pardon myself for being in any way unjust to that great church which has for centuries comforted and sustained a multitude of souls, and made them better and happier by her teachings. It is a Christian church; and though I think that Romish Christianity has been in a very great degree alloyed, and mixed with grave errors,—and that is exactly what I wish to show,—yet, even under that veil of human errors, I recognize, I acknowledge, religion, Christianity; and therefore I bow before it.

I think, however, the changes that have taken place have not altered the essential character of the Roman Church. I think the changes that have happened are in conformity with the nature of that church; really were to be expected, and have nothing absolutely new in them. We might, perhaps, for a long time have seen them coming; and, if we had had foresight enough, we might have seen them from the very first times of that church. Let us try to understand exactly what she is, what she means; let us try to see what there is under that name, "Roman Catholic Church." She calls herself catholic, which means universal, and at the same time she has a local name. She is for the whole world; but at the same time she belongs to one city, and she bears the name of that city. Why? This is the question; and though it seems only a question of name, I think we shall find by other ways that it is a question of facts. A second advance requires a change in our polemics with Roman authority. A new science has been created in our time, which gives us better means of judging and studying other churches than our own; that science is called the comparative history of religions. In England Max Müller, in France Burnouf, and in this country James Freeman Clarke, have compared the history of several religions. According to that comparative history, there are rules to be understood, to be acknowledged, in the development of religion. One of the rules which I think we can deduce from any comparative history of religion may be a startling one; and I will use a very homely comparison, to make myself perfectly understood. Have you ever seen over a shop door a sign-board, where the name of the old shop-keeper was painted; and, when his successor came in, he had the same board covered with a new color, and his own name painted over the old one? But in time the new paint wore off, so that the old name reappeared under the new, in such a way that it became perhaps difficult to distinguish clearly which letters or lines belonged to the old, and which to the new. If this image appears somewhat too familiar, let me ask you if you remember what scholars call a palimpsest. Sometimes in the Middle Ages it was difficult to find well-prepared parchment on which to write, and there were a great many monks who had nothing else to do—and it was the best use they could make of their time—but write or copy the Bible or other religious books. When they found parchments where were copied the comedies and tragedies or other works of the heathen, they thought those were of very little use, and they could very easily have the writing on those parchments washed out, or covered over with white paint, in such a way that what had been written there was no more visible. Then on those parchments they would write the Bible, or sermons, or any document they thought useful. But the same thing happened then that happened with the sign-board,—the old writing reappeared after a time; the white covering spread over the page disappeared. And thus it happens that scholars are sometimes pondering for a long time over a page from a sermon of Saint Augustine, or John Chrysostom, in which they find a verse from some comedy of Terence or Aristophanes; then they have perhaps some trouble in making out which is comedy and which is sermon, in distinguishing exactly what of the writing is old and what is new; and they have not always perfectly succeeded in that effort.

Now what we see in the sign-board we see also in the religion of the different churches, when a whole multitude, at one time, pass from one worship to another. Then, against their will, and perhaps without their knowing it, they never come into the pale of their new church empty-handed: they carry with them a number of ideas, and habits, and turns of thought, which they had found in their old worship. And thus, after a time, when the fervor of the early days is over, you find in the new religion, or new worship, a real palimpsest: the old one is reappearing under the new. That makes itself manifest in a good many ways; sometimes in ways the most strange and unexpected.

If you ask me, now, remembering this rule, what means the name, "Roman Catholic Church," I answer: Christianity absorbed into itself the Roman empire; the Roman empire became Christian in a very few years, with a most rapid, with a most admirable sway; souls became conquered in large numbers; they became Christian. But afterwards it appeared that they 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 world.

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 eye.

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 Cœli," 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 bloody sacrifices, were introduced from Syria, from Libya, from the most remote countries, and the Romans tried to find for their consciences some satisfaction in those rites. For instance, you all know they had a custom of having their sins expiated by means of what they called taurobolium. A man had a grave dug in the ground, and then over that grave was put a marble slab, with a great many holes in it, like a sieve. In that grave the man stretched himself at full length, and over the marble slab a bull was killed, in such a way that the blood fell through the holes into the grave. When the bull was taken away, and the marble slab was lifted, the man rose out of that grave perfectly covered with the blood of the bull, entirely bathed in that blood. Then he was supposed to be a new man, supposed to be washed of all his sins. He believed that from that moment the anger of the gods had passed to the bull, and that the blood of the bull had been shed instead of his own. We find in Ovid, one of the poets of the time, the prayer of a man for whom was about to be offered up the sacrifice of the black hen. He asks the gods to take the heart of the hen instead of his own, the fibres of the hen's body instead of the fibres of his own body. The poor black hen was sacrificed in the most cruel way they could find; she must suffer as long as possible, because then the anger of some god who was supposed to pursue the man found full satisfaction. The ferocity of the god had ample satisfaction in the torture of the poor black hen, and the sins of the man were expiated. Then there was superstition upon superstition, because, when the mangled remains of the unfortunate hen were thrown into the street, if any person unconsciously put his foot on that body, then he became the inheritor of the crimes of the first man, and of the anger of the gods. They had a special name for those bloody remains of the sacrificed fowl: they called them purgamentum, because they thought that such a sacrifice purged a man of his sins. As nobody dared lift or touch the body of the victim, they put a fence around it; and, as long as there remained on the ground in the streets of Rome a vestige of the poor bird, nobody would tread on that place; and the fence was put there to prevent this. These were the superstitions of that time; and Plutarch wrote a treatise to which he gives the title Δεισιδαιμονια, which is translated very often by the word "superstition;" but it means more than that, it means "terror of the gods." It means that feeling which was more and more prevailing in the Roman world, that the gods were to be feared; that there was anger in heaven; that the earth could not defend itself against the bad will of a supernatural power. We can very well understand that when Christianity was preached to those people they were happy to take that religion of hope, that religion of regeneration and sanctification. It was to them a marvellous deliverance to be out of that old doctrine and in the new one. But they carried with them many habits of thought, many things which were inherent in the ancient religion. Among those things was the habit of multiplying the divine being. They had been for a long series of centuries polytheists, believing in many gods. With their superstitious fears, they were always afraid there were not gods enough. That was saying a good deal, for they had more than 30,000 of them at the time of Christ. It was recognized that nobody could even know them all by name.

Again you will excuse me if I use here a very familiar illustration to make the leading thought of polytheism understood.

You know that in fairy tales the fairies are always called in to the festival at the baptism of the infant child. The intention is to invite them all, but there is always one forgotten; and that one curses the child in some way or other; and then all the gifts of all the good fairies cannot prevent the child from suffering, at least for a time, from the bad will of the one that has been forgotten. This involves the essential idea of polytheists. They had always the thought that all the good gods whom they worshipped could not prevent any malevolent one who had been neglected from hurting them; and they were always in search of that one. They were always making altars "to the unknown god or gods," to be certain in that way to include them all. They were constantly asking what gods were worshipped in such a country, in such a place; and if it was a god that was not known among them, straightway they prepared a place for his worship. They said, "He has no existence, very likely; but if he has, if he lives, then we must sacrifice to him, to prevent his spoiling the happiness that the other good gods wish to give us." So there was an incessant adding to the immense number of gods. At the time of Christ, they had so many of them that, from the time a grain of corn was put into the ground to the time the harvest commenced, they had nine different deities who in succession took charge of the corn that had been put into the ground, and thus it passed from one god to another. Nine of them were necessary while the grain was in the ground. Thus, when the heathen became Christians, they had been in the constant habit of adding gods to their heaven, of adding good men to their gods, and also men not good, but whom they feared,—for all the emperors were made gods the moment they died, so that one of them, who was rather a wit, when he was dying said, "I feel that I am becoming a god." The heathen had become so habituated to this that, when they became Christians, they continued very naturally to multiply the number of the objects of worship. They soon ceased to make the slightest difference between Christ and the Father. In good time they unconsciously put Mary, the mother of Christ, above Christ; now, without ever having this intention, they put, in fact, Mary above the Father. And so on, adding always a new god to a new worship, and always making the new worship as binding and as efficacious as possible, to satisfy that polytheistic craving. They did not understand their error in keeping between the infinite God and themselves an immense number of minor deities. This craving was unwholesome, but very sincere. That unconscious wish to multiply gods and make saints has continued to this day; and no pope has canonized so many saints as the present one, who is always trying to show that he does more in this way than any of his predecessors.

This will suffice to give you an idea of what the old spirit of Rome was, the whole tendency of the Roman mind, and what was brought by them into the church. I must now ask you to go in imagination with me to the tomb of one of those old Romans, who were not burned, according to the custom of that period, say the Scipios. Suppose one of the Scipios taken out of his tomb; and bring him into a Roman Catholic Church: do you think he will be very much astonished? He will be astonished at one thing,—by the crucifix, the image of the crucified Son of God. That was completely contrary to the Roman ideal and their habit of thought. But all the other things he will see will not astonish him at all. He had seen them all his life in his own time. You believe, perhaps, that the shape of a Roman Catholic Church at Rome will astonish a pagan? Not at all. Cato had given the Romans the pleasure of enjoying, for the first time, a portico with three ranges of columns, the middle aisle being broader than the others; and at the end was what we call an apse, but the ancients a conch. The end was rounded off, and thrown into the form of a semi-circle, and the tribunal for the prætor or judge was placed in that half-circle at the end. This portico was called a stoa basilica, and the first Roman Christian churches were built on that plan. Afterwards, the idea came of making the church in the shape of a cross; and then a smaller basilica was placed across the other, forming the transept of the church. But those long ranges of columns remained, with the same wide space in the middle, and narrower aisles on either side. The basilica was the form of public buildings most in fashion in Rome at that time. There the gothic style was never popular. Even now, of four or five hundred churches in Rome, only one, the Minerva, is gothic. When Christian architecture was born, Christian architecture accepted the heathen plan.

In the new church, in that basilica, what do we find? We find holy water at the door. That was exactly what you found in the pagan temple, only it was called lustral water. In the temple, my Scipio, who goes with me, recognizes all his old habits of thought, all the old emblems of his religious devotion. He sees a number of statues, or images; but he has seen those all his life. There is not only a central shrine, but there are small chapels. The saints have a golden circle round their heads: Christians call it the aura, the ancients called it the nimbus; but it was exactly the same thing. They had it around the heads of their deities in painting and sculpture, and so on. There are censers and there are tapers burning there; and there are all the ornaments a pagan was accustomed to see in his temple. All those things had been kept, had been re-established, and the pagans had brought them with them into the Catholic churches. When I went for the first time to Naples, the man who showed me the museum there showed me feet, legs, and arms, hands, eyes, and ears, in stone. He said, "These are ex voto." People who were ill gave to some of the gods, the ones they chose, these things as marks of gratitude for having been cured. The cicerone told me, "You see, sir, it is exactly the same thing we have in our churches." And so it is. In all the churches in Naples and Rome, and in the Roman Catholic churches all over Spain and France, you see, in wax, in gold, in silver, and in stone, such legs and arms, eyes and ears. It is exactly the same thing. The heathen man said to his god, "I will pay you by this mark of honor and gratitude, by this mark of your power and your glory, if you cure me." The Roman Catholic says exactly the same thing to a saint, to the Virgin, sometimes to Jesus, and very rarely to God.

I cannot mention here all the other details, like funeral services at the end of the year, like funeral chapels, like many other institutions that exist in the Roman Catholic Church, that are practised every day in it, and that are exactly the same, so far as religious ideas go, as were practised in the pagan churches. But I must add something of more consequence than that, about the worship of human beings, and especially of the worship of the Virgin Mary. It was nothing new to the Pagans to worship a woman, and especially to worship a virgin. That was one of the ideas the most familiar to their devotion. In Rome they had the temple of Hestia or Vesta, who was supposed to be a virgin; and she had around her nuns who were pledged to live in celibacy, and punished by death if they did not remain true to their vow. In Greece it was the same thing with Pallas. Perhaps you all know that in Athens, the largest, most perfect, and most beautiful of the Greek temples—immensely superior to any edifice I ever saw in any country—is called the Parthenon, which means the Virgin Temple. That temple is the temple of Pallas,—Athene, or Minerva,—who was the principal deity of Athens. Thus that idea was perfectly familiar to them, and they only kept it, and brought it with them into Christianity.

I have spoken of monks. You must not believe that the monks are by any means a Roman Catholic invention. In the East there have been monks in all times and in all religions. It seems to have been a special habit or taste of the people of the East to give some men no other business, no other work to do, but to live in solitude, and pray for them; and some men have always, in those very hot countries, where it is exceedingly tiresome to work, liked to live in perpetual prayer better than any other more fatiguing labor. We find the monk in all times and countries in the East, then in the West; and he has been imported from paganism into Christianity, like all the rest. I do not believe there is a religion more completely contrary to the monastic feeling than the religion of Christ. I do not think there was ever a type more radically contrary to the type of the monk, than the figure of Christ as we find it in the Bible. However, that old monkish spirit of the Orient was always known to the Romans from the beginning; for they had priests and monks from the time their city began. That spirit has, like other things, been smuggled into the Church, though it was contrary to the spirit of Christianity.

I must recall one last rite of great importance. Both the old Romans and the old Jews had, as a principal part of their worship, the rite of sacrifice. The origin of it was simply this: that men in the first place possessed nothing but flocks, and they gave to God one head of their flock, one sheep, or one bull, as being the only riches they had to give. Before they had houses, before they had garments, before they had any other thing,—money they were very far from having,—men had to eat, and they had flocks because they wanted to have meat to eat; and thus they gave to God the only necessity of life to them, the only thing they understood the importance of. And they gave him the whole animal, not reserving to themselves any part of it, in some cases; in other cases, a part of it only, making a meal of the rest for themselves. To give a part to God was one essential element of their worship, the rite of sacrifice; and we find that the rite grew out of that, and nothing else. It was a habit deeply rooted in the Roman mind, and at the same time already familiar to the Jews; and when those Christians who had been Jews spoke of Christ to the Romans, they could not prevent that Roman or Jewish habit from taking double force, and double space in religion. What happened? It happened that the old Romans and old Jews wanted a sacrifice; wanted to give something to God; wanted a victim; and then came this strange fact, very easy to understand however, of which we find traces in the first days of Christianity,—that there was no better victim to offer to God than Christ. When they had identified completely Christ with the Father, then there was no greater victim to offer to God than God himself. Therefore, they had a sacrifice that is called "the mass." You know the official name is "sacrifice of the mass." It consists in this. The priest takes the host, which is merely bread,—it is nothing but a little flour and water, made into bread,—he pronounces the consecrating words; then, after he pronounces them, there is no bread, there is no flour; instead of the bread, instead of the flour, there is Jesus Christ. According to the Council of Trent, that is Jesus Christ, his body, his blood, his soul, and his divinity; it is Jesus Christ; is perfect God. And this has been, by an old Roman Catholic writer, very clearly expressed in these three words: "The priest, what is he? what does he do? Creatus Creatorem creat." He is a creature who creates the Creator. After that comes the second great part of the sacrifice of the mass. There is God, and the priest sacrifices God to God. And how? Sacrificat manducando. That is to say, according to the formal explanation, he sacrifices God by eating God. This is the sacrifice of the mass. If the Roman mind had not been accustomed, as I have shown you, to superstition, to all literalism, to the love of the law and the letter, even when the law or the letter was absurd, they would not easily have accepted all this; but with their turn of mind, with their way of taking things, that was exactly what they wished for, and that was what they adopted. Not at once: it was very long in elaborating itself. It was so completely, I cannot say otherwise, so completely absurd, that it required a great deal of time to make it so precise; but they attained to that at last, and they could not but do so. See, then, what a man the priest is. He has before him bread, and he makes God; he afterwards sacrifices God; he is almost a God himself. At the moment when he makes God, he seems to be superior to God; at the moment when he sacrifices God, by eating him, he seems superior to God. Thence comes the immense power of the priesthood, of priestcraft. And as if this were not enough, in the mass, as you know, the priest has not only the host, but he has the wine, the cup. The other members of the church have not the cup, because they must not be equal to the priest even in the communion; even in the act of uniting themselves with God. Laymen cannot arrive at the height of glory to which the priest arrives; they must eat the host when it is given to them, but they cannot touch the cup; that is reserved to the priest, a sort of heavenly, or divine, or godlike character. Even as the Romans had respected their old bridge-makers, their old pontifices, their old priests, whom they considered the bulwarks of their town, they respected afterwards the priests of the Roman Catholic Church. So the mass was established, with all its consequences.

This is not all. I must explain exactly how a part of the heathenish religion answered, in the time of Jesus, the wants of the heathen better than the more natural religion of the Christians. At the time of Christ, many Romans did not believe in thirty thousand gods and in all the absurd and indecent history of those thirty thousand deities, but they had a form of worship that had become purer and purer. They had what they called "Mysteries." In Greece, and in Rome also, there were "Mysteries." These were ceremonies in which great philosophic and religious lessons were given. There exists a very touching letter from Plutarch to his wife, written at the time he lost his only daughter, and when they were in the deepest affliction and desolation. He writes to his wife, who was separated from him at that time, a very kind and loving letter, trying to give her comfort and hope. He says to her, "Remember the beautiful things we have seen together in the Mysteries of Bacchus." You must not believe, as many would at first believe, that the Mysteries of Bacchus were nothing but drunkenness and disorder: they were something else. They were like the Mysteries of Ceres, the Goddess of Corn, and like the representations, in other cases, of the immortality of the soul. They were a sort of tragedy in which, less by word than by singing, and by acting especially, was shown to men that, when the body is interred in the ground, the soul lives, and the soul shall rise to fulness of life. A grain of wheat hidden in the ground remained hidden there for weeks before coming to life. That was the emblem of the new life of immortality. Now, this teaching, good in itself, true in itself, but given in dramatic images, was at that time the very best, soundest, most human, and most natural part of heathenism. And then it happened that Mysteries were acted, not only in the heathen churches, but in Christian churches; that the history of Christ, that the death of Christ, that the resurrection of Christ, took the place of the resurrection of Proserpine, the daughter of Ceres, who represented wheat and corn; and then Christianity became a sort of subject of sacred myths, sacred plays, that were very devoutly acted, and that kept their title of "Mysteries." As soon as we see something of the dark ages, and what the practice of worship was, we see this same thing. It is going on in all countries in some measure. You may see it in the Roman Catholic churches during Easter week. You may see then that, when Christ dies, all the lights are put out, save one very small light, because that represents the moment when the sky was covered with darkness at his death. And you hear in a choir some persons sing the words of the people who screamed "Crucify him!" and others repeating the words of Caiaphas and the words of Christ. This "Mystery," this serious, devout play, is acted in all Roman Catholic churches. When Christ is dead, the host is taken away from the altar, and it is carried into the tomb, carried into some lower chapel, from which it comes back to the great altar on Easter morning, on the day of the resurrection. That solemn play is going on in all Roman Catholic countries at the present time, and that is a "Mystery." Such is also the "Mystery" that was played in Germany, at Oberammergau (Bavaria), during the last year, and is played there every ten years. It is a devout, religious, serious, dramatic representation of our Lord's suffering, death, and resurrection. The mass in itself was in the beginning a Mystery; it is often called so; it is often called in old Roman Catholic books and often in modern ones the "Mystery of the Mass." It was a representation of the death and sacrifice of Jesus; but the Roman Catholic spirit coming in declared that this Mystery was not, like others, a mere representation, a sacred play, but a reality; and according to the doctrine proclaimed by the Council of Trent, three hundred years ago, the sacrifice of the mass is much more than a representation of Christ's death, of Christ's sacrifice, for he is sacrificed anew, he suffers death really anew. And it has been declared, because some Protestant opponents were astonished at it, that every time any priest says mass,—and every priest must say mass at least once every day,—every time a priest says mass, Christ suffers again, and dies again, sacrificed by the priest for the redemption of human kind. This is the doctrine of the mass, and this gives it a very tragic, grand, and solemn effect in the eyes of those who believe in it. Yet this again is nothing but Roman literalism, the Roman way of taking every thing literally.

Is all this real Christianity? At all events I have said enough, I hope, to give you an idea of the way in which the religion of Jesus of Nazareth, as he was called, preached by him on the hills of Galilee,—a religion that was quite spirit, and quite truth; a religion that had at that time no bleeding, no consecrated man, but that was alive by the Spirit of God in the conscience and in the hearts of men,—how that religion, purely spiritual as it was, became all the pomp, all the exterior complications, all the dramatic intricacies of the Church of Rome.

And here I stop to ask again, Can all this suit the urgent necessities of our times? Is that the truth after which our souls hunger and thirst?

Now I must, before I end, say a few words to you about the late changes. Do those changes make matters better or worse? Let us pass over ages and centuries, and come to the present day, because I say we must make some change in our way of resisting the Church of Rome. I must state, and very rapidly, what these changes are. There are three of them. The first is, that a new dogma has been established. The new dogma amounts to this, without going into details, that Mary, the mother of Christ, was created, at the moment she began to exist, exempt from original sin. All human beings are guilty of Adam's sin, with one exception, and that exception is Mary. That exception dates from the very first instant of her existence. She never was, even in thought or in feeling, a sinner; she is consequently out of the pale of humanity; she is not a human being; she is more than a woman, she is something godlike from before her birth. That is the dogma. It is not new; it was invented in Spain; it is a Spanish, an Andalusian dogma. It was invented at a time when the Catholics in Spain were laboring very hard to expel from their country the Moors, the African Moslems, who were masters of a great part of Spain, and who had more science, more art, and more literary culture than the Christians of Spain, but who had absurd doctrines about the family and about religion, as well you know. Nothing could displease them more, could astonish them more, or could confound all their ideas more, than to tell them that a woman was godlike. They thought, as all Moslems have thought, that a woman had no soul; and here was a woman who was a goddess before her birth, who was always a goddess. This was something absolutely incredible to them, and it showed the great difference between Christians and Moslems, between Spaniards and Arabs. This became the general rule among the Spaniards of the southern part of the country, in Andalusia especially; and when they met one another they did not salute with words of good greeting, but for centuries it was the habit in Andalusia, when one Spaniard met another, to say to him, Ave Maria purissima, and the other answered, Sin pecado concepida, which means that that dogma was proclaimed every time two persons met. This dogma has been taken into special favor by the very powerful order of Jesuits. They thought it was important to the church; it was putting Mary in the highest honor, to have that dogma become the law of the church. But up to the present century, up to last year in the Roman Catholic Church, people could believe it or not; now the Pope has declared that henceforth every man who does not believe that dogma is eternally lost and damned. This he has decreed, after consulting with some bishops, with whom he conferred about it, but declaring that he did so of his own accord, because, as pope, he had a right to decide on that. He said, it is no new doctrine; it has always been in the church. As the great writer Father Perrone wrote, "That dogma has been developing itself in the church a long time." When I saw the Church of Rome speaking of a dogma "developing itself," I thought, This is the beginning of the end. If they understand that dogmas develop themselves, that they have not fallen like aerolites from the heavens, it seems to me that that is the end of infallibility. Some people think it was the beginning of infallibility, that it was the Pope for the first time declaring a dogma for all men without consulting officially or legally any one, and that when he had done this he had augmented his power. I must remark here, that when a pope is very weak, the general rule is, he does something extremely strong. When he is extremely weak, politically, materially, he generally makes some great demonstration of spiritual power. When Pope Gregorius VII. kept Henry in his shirt a whole night at the door of the castle of Canossa without opening the door to him, saying, "You are a sinner, do penance,"—when he did that, the Pope had been expelled from Rome, he had lost Rome, therefore he must prove his immense spiritual power, because his temporal power was lost. And when the present Pope has done acts of authority greater than any other pope, it has not been because he was strong, but because he was weak; to remain on his throne he wanted to have the bayonets of Louis Bonaparte to keep him in power. His own subjects would very soon have shown him a second time the way to the frontier, if they had not been prevented by the bayonets of that man. Thus the Pope did more towards asserting and confirming his own power than any of his two hundred and fifty odd predecessors. When afterwards he took a new step, it was in continuance of this. He called a council when three hundred years had elapsed since an œcumenical council had been called. I know old Roman Catholic families who had been waiting for centuries for the moment when an œcumenical council should assemble, to denounce before that council the encroachments of the Pope, and to ask that the popedom be kept within bounds for the future. Pio IX. had an œcumenical council called, and held it in his own house, in the Vatican. And there, in one end of one of the transepts of the immense church of Saint Peter, the Pope had himself declared infallible by the council. Thus all the other councils which had been the hope of such persons in the church as could not accept every word of the Pope, all those councils have been sacrificed, have abdicated, in the last of them, at the foot of the Pope. Now, the Roman Catholic Church has become very logically, what it ought to become, the same thing in the spiritual world that the Roman Empire became in the temporal world. The Roman Emperor was every thing; there had been priests and magistrates who had great powers; then the emperor made himself dictator, consul, tribune of the people; made himself high bridge-maker; took upon himself all dignities. He was every thing; and then the whole Roman Empire was one man; and sometimes it happened that that man was a mad man like Caligula, who said, "I am sorry that all men have not one head that I might cut it off." Such was the unity of the Roman Empire, and we see the same fact in the Roman Catholic Church to this extent, that there is one human brain that thinks for all Roman Catholics in the world, and if that human brain decides that such a thing is or is not, all other human brains must believe it, or be damned eternally; there is no choice. This is perfectly logical; this is not an unexpected change; this must have come to pass. As the Pope became physically weak, the more absolute became the necessity that this should be done. Now, he is weak, he has lost Rome. Although it was not in my way, I passed through Rome a few months ago for the purpose of seeing Rome free, and it was an immense joy to see that. I had seen Rome groaning under that proud, domineering government of the priests, who declared that their government was the best in the world, while the whole world called it emphatically il mal governo. Now I have seen it free; and I think no Bonaparte of France, nor any French Government, nor any other government, had any right to give up Rome to the priests, to prevent the Romans from being masters in their own house, from being free in their own city. I must declare to you, that if in one sense the Roman Catholic Church has lost a great deal because she has lost that great tradition, lost that long habit of ruling in Rome, and the high prestige that comes from it, yet the Roman Catholic Church has gained more perhaps than she has lost in this. You must not believe that the Roman Catholic Church is to disappear to-morrow, or the next day: that shall not happen. There are hundreds of thousands of souls who like better to have one man on a throne thinking for them, taking on his conscience and his honor the question of their salvation,—they like that better than to think for themselves; and there will be Roman Catholic churches for a long time to come. They will even be stronger in one sense, because that temporal power was so exercised that it caused great weakness; and now the Pope will be strengthened; will find more interest and sympathy, because he is a king without a crown, a king without a throne: in his weakness he will find new strength.

What must we do, we Protestants, in the presence of this fact? Must we exaggerate, must we be unfair in our attacks? No. Must we go to sleep, thinking there is nothing to do? No, not that either. We must work; we must work steadily to give light and instruction to all. We have here,—and I have tried in a very rapid way to give you an idea of it,—we have here history. That is the greatest of weapons in such a case as this. Usurpers never like history, because they know very well that history condemns them. We must make history known, make the facts known, and proclaim liberty and the rights of the human conscience. We must do that over the whole world. I do not believe that Protestantism, as it has often been said, is nothing else but Roman Catholicism stripped of some of its abuses, and without some of its errors. It is something else. If there were time, and I could begin now instead of ending, I would try to show you that in the history of Protestantism, and even before Protestantism appeared, there has always been, next to that stream of power of Roman Catholicism, always becoming stronger and more encroaching up to these last days, another current of protest; there have always been men struggling for faith with liberty, who said, "That cannot be;" who understood better the Gospel, who liked the spirit of the Gospel, the spirit of God in Christ, better than the spirit of Rome. For centuries their mouths may have been closed; their speaking and teaching punished by death; but always they became more and more numerous, and active, and vigorous; and then came the great day of Luther. Protestantism has not been a negation, a remnant of Roman Catholicism, the negative side of Christianity. I cannot adopt that idea in the least. True Protestantism is full of the spirit of the Gospel; it is the living soul of Christ in the Church, it embodies the perfect conviction that there is truth, that there is salvation, that there is liberty, in the Gospel, and nowhere else so completely.

Now, we must consider the Roman Catholic Church as being an organization of power, the most dreadful, the most tyrannical, the most crushing organization of power that ever was. It is the master-piece of Roman genius. It has been preparing during centuries, and it has been complete only since yesterday. It is a great organization against liberty, against man's rights, against man's conscience, for the honor of a church and of a man. And this we must resist, too. In my country, I declare that the cause of all our ills, the fact that is at the basis of all our suffering and all our misfortunes, is nothing else than Roman Catholicism. This is against the conscience of many souls; this throws many people into sheer Atheism, because they see no choice between kissing the shoe of the Pope, as is done in ceremonies, and denying the existence of God. So they deny God rather than submit to the Pope. We must give them sound teaching, religious teaching; we must give them the Gospel. And I came to this country to say these things to you; to ask you to help us with all your might, and with all your heart, to do what is necessary should be done in France to-day; what will be necessary to be done in this country sooner or later, and what will be necessary to be done in all countries, to show more and more that "where is the Spirit of the Lord, there is liberty."