Page images

each person was a devil or fallen angel in a state of punishment for his pride, who would return to heaven, after having done penance in seven different terrestrial bodies. They thought it an act of religion to burn the images of the cross and destroy altars and churches, and to defile them by converting them into receptacles for the unhappy votaries of Venus. They condemned all the sacraments, and considered infant baptism in particular as a vain superstitious ceremony. They blasphemed against the dignity and purity of the blessed virgin, by denying the divine maternity; and outraged Jesus Christ himself, sometimes denying his divinity, at other times his humanity, and even his sanctity; they held marriage to be

unlawful without considering chastity as a virtue.

They were divided into two classes, the perfect and the believers. The former boasted of their continency and abstemiousness; the others were shamefully irregular, and declared their firm assurance of salvation by the faith of the perfect, and their assurance that none of those who received the imposition of their perfect hands would be damned. Such were the execrable tenets of the Albigenses, which they propagated like Mahomet, by plunder, rapine, fire, and sword. The blasphemies, seditions, and tumults, of these sects were encouraged by the counts of Foix and Comminges, by the viscount of Bearne, and other feudatory lords; but principally by count Raymond of Toulouse who held his domains by investiture from the crown of France.”

These are the characters with which the persecutors seek to brand the victims of their cruelty, and on account of which they would represent themselves as the champions of truth, of purity, and of social order. But there is one other character, with which the God of truth has branded every liar, and that is self-contradiction. It is impossible to escape it; no tale of falsehood can be so artfully framed, as not to contain within itself its own confutation. This is manifestly the case with the stories fabricated respecting the Albigenses. The catholics had persecuted and destroyed them; they had also destroyed all their documents, and rendered it utterly impossible for them to speak in their own defence. They had excommunicated and dethroned the rulers under whose government they had enjoyed protection, freedom, and happiness; but though they had done all this, they could not give a consistent justification of their proceedings. The Albigenses were, they say, the most detestable of heretics, licentious and seditious; they propagated their execrable tenets by fire and sword, rapine and plunder; they burned the crosses, destroyed the altars and churches, and desecrated the latter by converting them into brothels. Yet their lawful sovereigns, the counts of Toulouse, of Foix, and Cominges, and the viscount of Béarne, against whom all these deeds of sedition and violence must have been committed, are represented as not only enduring, but protecting, such miscreants; and when the Roman church, in its great goodness, offered to purge the land of these pollutions, they became such advocates of plunder, rapine, fire, sword, blasphemy, and sedition, as not only to make common cause with their subjects, but to endure in their defence. every calamity which their enemies could inflict. Supposing, however, that the Albigenses had been all that the catholic writers represent, upon what ground could the Roman church make a war of extermination against them The sovereigns of those countries did not seek her aid to suppress the seditions of their subjects, nor even to regulate their faith. The interference was not only without their authority, but absolutely against their consent, and was resisted by them in a war of twenty years continuance. If they refer to the authority of the king of France, as liege lord, he had not, in that capacity, the right of interference with the internal affairs of his feudatories; and, as will appear from the following history, he had, in fact, no share in these transactions, any farther than to come in at the close of the contest, and reap the fruits of the victory. We are therefore from every point brought to the same conclusion—that the church claims a divine right to eatirpate heresy and exterminate heretics, with or without the consent of the sovereigns in whose dominions they may be found.

The author of the following history observes, p. 6, that “the most ancient historian of the persecution affirms, that Toulouse, whose name, says he, ought rather to have been Tota dolosa, had been scarcely ever exempt, even from its first foundation, from that pest of heresy which the fathers transmitted to their children,” and that “ their opinions had been transmitted, in Gaul, from generation to generation, almost from the origin of Christianity.” That is, in other words —that the pure and original principles of Christianity had been handed down in Gaul, from the first planting of that religion there—that the people had, as far as their opportunities would allow, resisted the usurpations and corruptions of the church of Rome—and that the Albigenses were the inheritors of those principles, mingled doubtless with various errors, which their slender means of true religious instruction would not allow them to escape.”

4 The means of religious instruction must, in the early ages of the church, have been very differcnt from what they are in the present. Those churches which used the Greek language, though they had the New Testament scriptures in their original tongue, were still, on account of the great difficulty of procuring manuscripts, able to derive scarcely any advantage from them, except what arose from the public readings in the church. To the Latin Christians, the difficulty was increased by the inferiority of the Latin versions; and when this ceased to be a living language, the people must have been in a state of still greater destitution with regard to scriptural knowledge. As this increased, the corruptions of the church increased in like propor

The corruptions of Christianity did not arrive at that height to which they finally attained on the full establishment of the church of Rome, but by slow and gradual steps, and even sometimes by the abuse of what, in its origin and intention, was wise and good. They originated chiefly with the episcopal order. That order became, in the age which immediately followed that of the apostles, to a great degree the depositary, as well as the interpreter, of Christian truth, and the regulator of Christian practice. But there was a constant tendency in the bishops to magnify their office and extend their authority. This tendency belongs to human nature, and its effects were especially foretold, on various occasions, by the apostle Paul.” Every innovation in

tion, and when recourse was had to translations into the vulgar tongues, to the difficulty of procuring these was added that of procuring sound and valuable instruction from the regular teachers. It is not therefore a matter of surprise, that heresies should have existed, of various degrees of extravagance, and yet there is abundant testimony, that the sound principles of scriptural truth generally prevailed. 5 Paul says to the elders or bishops of the church at Ephesus, Acts xx, 29, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, &c.....therefore watch—and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears.” And in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, ch. ii., v. 5, having foretold the rise of the man of sin, he adds, “Remember ye not that when I was yet with you I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth.... for the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way.” From a comparison of these two passages it seems probable, that the mystery of iniquity was the tendency to selfishness and pride which appeared among the Christian teachers, against which the apostle struggled at Ephesus, at Corinth,


« PreviousContinue »