This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

a metaphysical divinity, a theology of the brain rather than of the heart, a brilliant series of logical and metaphysical deductions from established truths, demanding to be received with the same unhesitating obedience as the truths, or Bible declarations, from which they are deduced. The greatness of human reason was never more forcibly shown than in these deductions; but they were carried so far as to insult reason itself and mock the consciousness of mankind; so that mankind rebelled against the very force of the highest reasonings of the human intellect, because they pushed logical sequence into absurdity, or to dreadful conclusions: _Decretum quidem horribile fateor_, said the great master himself.

The Puritans were trained in this theology, which developed the loftiest virtues and the severest self-constraints; making them both heroes and visionaries, always conscientious and sometimes repulsive; fitting them for gigantic tasks and unworthy squabbles; driving them to the Bible, and then to acrimonious discussions; creating fears almost mediaeval; leading them to technical observation of religious duties, and transforming the most genial and affectionate people under the sun into austere saints, with whom the most ascetic of monks would have had but little sympathy.

I will not dwell on those peculiarities which Macaulay ridicules and Taine repeats,–the hatred of theatres and assemblies and symbolic festivals and bell-ringings, the rejection of the beautiful, the elongated features, the cropped hair, the unadorned garments, the proscription of innocent pleasures, the nasal voice, the cant phrases, the rigid decorums, the strict discipline,–these, doubtless exaggerated, were more than balanced by the observance of the Sabbath, family prayers, temperate habits, fervor of religious zeal, strict morality, allegiance to duty, and the perpetual recognition of God Almighty as the sovereign of this world, to whom we are responsible for all our acts and even our thoughts. They formed a noble material on which every emancipating idea could work; men trained by persecutions to self-sacrifice and humble duties,–making good soldiers, good farmers, good workmen in every department, honest and sturdy, patient and self-reliant, devoted to their families though not demonstrative of affection; keeping the Sunday as a day of worship rather than rest or recreation, cherishing as the dearest and most sacred of all privileges the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience enlightened by the Bible, and willing to fight, even amid the greatest privations and sacrifices, to maintain this sacred right and transmit it to their children. Such were the men who fought the battles of civil liberty under Cromwell and colonized the most sterile of all American lands, making the dreary wilderness to blossom with roses, and sending out the shoots of their civilization to conserve more fruitful and favored sections of the great continent which God gave them, to try new experiments in liberty and education.

I need not enumerate the different sects into which these Puritans were divided, so soon as they felt they had the right to interpret Scripture for themselves. Nor would I detail the various and cruel persecutions to which these sects were subjected by the government and the ecclesiastical tribunals, until they rose in indignation and despair, and rebelled against the throne, and made war on the King, and cut off his head; all of which they did from fear and for self-defence, as well as from vengeance and wrath.

Nor can I describe the counter reformation, the great reaction which succeeded to the violence of the revolution. The English reformation was not consummated until constitutional liberty was heralded by the reign of William and Mary, when the nation became almost unanimously Protestant, with perfect toleration of religious opinions, although the fervor of the Puritans had passed away forever, leaving a residuum of deep-seated popular antipathy to all the institutions of Romanism and all the ideas of the Middle Ages. The English reformation began with princes, and ended with the agitations of the people. The German reformation began with the people, and ended in the wars of princes. But both movements were sublime, since they showed the force of religious ideas. Civil liberty is only one of the sequences which exalt the character and dignity of man amid the seductions and impediments of a gilded material life.


Todd’s Life of Cranmer; Strype’s Life of Cranmer; Wood’s Annals of the Oxford University; Burnet’s English Reformation; Doctor Lingard’s History of England; Macaulay’s Essays; Fuller’s Church History; Gilpin’s Life of Cranmer; Original Letters to Cromwell; Hook’s Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury; Butler’s Book of the Roman Catholic Church; Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Biography; Turner’s Henry VIII.; Froude’s History of England; Fox’s Life of Latimer; Turner’s Reign of Mary.


* * * * *

A.D. 1491-1556.


Next to the Protestant Reformation itself, the most memorable moral movement in the history of modern times was the counter-reformation in the Roman Catholic Church, finally effected, in no slight degree, by the Jesuits. But it has not the grandeur or historical significance of the great insurrection of human intelligence which was headed by Luther. It was a revival of the pietism of the Middle Ages, with an external reform of manners. It was not revolutionary; it did not cast off the authority of the popes, nor disband the monasteries, nor reform religious worship: it rather tended to strengthen the power of the popes, to revive monastic life, and to perpetuate the forms of worship which the Middle Ages had established. No doubt a new religious life was kindled, and many of the flagrant abuses of the papal empire were redressed, and the lives of the clergy made more decent, in accordance with the revival of intelligence. Nor did it disdain literature or art, or any form of modern civilization, but sought to combine progress with old ideas; it was an effort to adapt the Roman theocracy to changing circumstances, and was marked by expediency rather than right, by zeal rather than a profound philosophy.

This movement took place among the Latin races,–the Italians, French, and Spaniards,–having no hold on the Teutonic races except in Austria, as much Slavonic as German. It worked on a poor material, morally considered; among peoples who have not been distinguished for stamina of character, earnestness, contemplative habits, and moral elevation,–peoples long enslaved, frivolous in their pleasures, superstitious, indolent, fond of fetes, spectacles, pictures, and Pagan reminiscences.

The doctrine of justification by faith was not unknown, even in Italy. It was embraced by many distinguished men. Contarini, an illustrious Venetian, wrote a treatise on it, which Cardinal Pole admired. Folengo ascribed justification to grace alone; and Vittoria Colonna, the friend of Michael Angelo, took a deep interest in these theological inquiries. But the doctrine did not spread; it was not understood by the people,–it was a speculation among scholars and doctors, which gave no alarm to the Pope. There was even an attempt at internal reform under Paul III. of the illustrious family of the Farnese, successor of Leo X. and Clement VII., the two renowned Medicean popes. He made cardinals of Contarini, Caraffa, Sadoleto, Pole, Giberto,–all men imbued with Protestant doctrines, and very religious; and these good men prepared a plan of reform and submitted it to the Pope, which ended, however, only in new monastic orders.

It was then that Ignatius Loyola appeared upon the stage, when Luther was in the midst of his victories, and when new ideas were shaking the pontifical throne. The desponding successor of the Gregorys and the Clements knew not where to look for aid in that crisis of peril and revolution. The monastic orders composed his regular army, but they had become so corrupted that they had lost the reverence of the people. The venerable Benedictines had ceased to be men of prayer and contemplation as in the times of Bernard and Anselm, and were revelling in their enormous wealth. The cloisters of Cluniacs and Cistercians–branches of the Benedictines–were filled with idle and dissolute monks. The famous Dominicans and Franciscans, who had rallied to the defence of the Papacy three centuries before,–those missionary orders that had filled the best pulpits and the highest chairs of philosophy in the scholastic age,–had become inexhaustible subjects of sarcasm and mockery, for they were peddling relics and indulgences, and quarrelling among themselves. They were hated as inquisitors, despised as scholastics, and deserted as preachers; the roads and taverns were filled with them. Erasmus laughed at them, Luther abused them, and the Pope reproached them. No hope from such men as these, although they had once been renowned for their missions, their zeal, their learning, and their preaching.

At this crisis Loyola and his companions volunteered their services, and offered to go wherever the Pope should send them, as preachers, or missionaries, or teachers, instantly, without discussion, conditions, or rewards. So the Pope accepted them, made them a new order of monks; and they did what the Mendicant Friars had done three hundred years before,–they fanned a new spirit, and rapidly spread over Europe, over all the countries to which Catholic adventurers had penetrated, and became the most efficient allies that the popes ever had.

This was in 1540, six years after the foundation of the Society of Jesus had been laid on the Mount of Martyrs, in the vicinity of Paris, during the pontificate of Paul III. Don Inigo Lopez de Recalde Loyola, a Spaniard of noble blood and breeding, at first a page at the court of King Ferdinand, then a brave and chivalrous soldier, was wounded at the siege of Pampeluna. During a slow convalescence, having read all the romances he could find, he took up the “Lives of the Saints,” and became fired with religious zeal. He immediately forsook the pursuit of arms, and betook himself barefooted to a pilgrimage. He served the sick in hospitals; he dwelt alone in a cavern, practising austerities; he went as a beggar on foot to Rome and to the Holy Land, and returned at the age of thirty-three to begin a course of study. It was while completing his studies at Paris that he conceived and formed the “Society of Jesus.”

From that time we date the counter-reformation. In fifty years more a wonderful change took place in the Catholic Church, wrought chiefly by the Jesuits. Yea, in sixteen years from that eventful night–when far above the star-lit city the enthusiastic Loyola had bound his six companions with irrevocable vows–he had established his Society in the confidence and affection of Catholic Europe, against the voice of universities, the fears of monarchs, and the jealousy of the other monastic orders. In sixteen years, this ridiculed and wandering Spanish fanatic had risen to a condition of great influence and dignity, second only in power to the Pope himself; animating the councils of the Vatican, moving the minds of kings, controlling the souls of a numerous fraternity, and making his influence felt in every corner of the world. Before the remembrance of his passionate eloquence, his eyes of fire, and his countenance of seraphic piety had passed away from the minds of his own generation, his disciples “had planted their missionary stations among Peruvian mines, in the marts of the African slave-trade, among the islands of the Indian Ocean, on the coasts of Hindustan, in the cities of Japan and China, in the recesses of Canadian forests, amid the wilds of the Rocky Mountains.” They had the most important chairs in the universities; they were the confessors of monarchs and men of rank; they had the control of the schools of Italy, France, Austria, and Spain; and they had become the most eloquent, learned, and fashionable preachers in all Catholic countries. They had grown to be a great institution,–an organization instinct with life, a mechanism endued with energy and will; forming a body which could outwatch Argus with his hundred eyes, and outwork Briareus with his hundred arms; they had twenty thousand eyes open upon every cabinet, every palace, and every private family in Catholic Europe, and twenty thousand arms extended over the necks of every sovereign and all their subjects,–a mighty moral and spiritual power, irresponsible, irresistible, omnipresent, connected intimately with the education, the learning, and the religion of the age; yea, the prime agents in political affairs, the prop alike of absolute monarchies and of the papal throne, whose interests they made identical. This association, instinct with one will and for one purpose, has been beautifully likened by Doctor Williams to the chariot in the Prophet’s vision: “The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; wherever the living creatures went, the wheels went with them; wherever those stood, these stood: when the living creatures were lifted up, the wheels were lifted up over against them; and their wings were full of eyes round about, and they were so high that they were dreadful. So of the institution of Ignatius,–one soul swayed the vast mass; and every pin and every cog in the machinery consented with its whole power to every movement of the one central conscience.”

Luther moved Europe by ideas which emancipated the millions, and set in motion a progress which is the glory of our age; Loyola invented a machine which arrested this progress, and drove the Catholic world back again into the superstitions and despotisms of the Middle Ages, retaining however the fear of God and of Hell, which some among the Protestants care very little about.

What is the secret of such a wonderful success? Two things: first, the extraordinary virtues, abilities, and zeal of the early Jesuits; and, secondly, their wonderful machinery in adapting means to an end.

The history of society shows that no body of men ever obtained a wide-spread ascendancy, never secured general respect, unless they deserved it. Industry produces its fruits; learning and piety have their natural results. Even in the moral world natural law asserts its supremacy. Hypocrisy and fraud ultimately will be detected; no enduring reputation is built upon a lie; sincerity and earnestness will call out respect, even from foes; learning and virtue are lights which are not hid under a bushel. Enthusiasm creates enthusiasm; a lofty life will be seen and honored. Nor do people intrust their dearest interests except to those whom they venerate,–and venerate because their virtues shine like the face of a goddess. We yield to those only whom we esteem wiser than ourselves. Moses controlled the Israelites because they venerated his wisdom and courage; Paul had the confidence of the infant churches because they saw his labors; Bernard swayed his darkened age by the moral power of learning and sanctity. The mature judgments of centuries never have reversed the judgments which past ages gave in reference to their master minds. All the pedants and sophists of Germany cannot whitewash Frederic II. or Henry VIII. No man in Athens was more truly venerated than Socrates when he mocked his judges. Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, appeared to contemporaries as they appear to us. Even Hildebrand did not juggle himself into his theocratic chair. Washington deserved all the reverence he enjoyed; and Bonaparte himself was worthy of the honors he received, so long as he was true to the interests of France.

So of the Jesuits,–there is no mystery in their success; the same causes would produce the same results again. When Catholic Europe saw men born to wealth and rank voluntarily parting with their goods and honors; devoting themselves to religious duties, often in a humble sphere; spending their days in schools and hospitals; wandering as preachers and missionaries amid privations and in fatigue; encountering perils and dangers and hardships with fresh and ever-sustained enthusiasm; and finally yielding up their lives as martyrs, to proclaim salvation to idolatrous savages,–it knew them to be heroic, and believed them to be sincere, and honored them in consequence. When parents saw that the Jesuits entered heart and soul into the work of education, winning their pupils’ hearts by kindness, watching their moods, directing their minds into congenial studies, and inspiring them with generous sentiments, they did not stop to pry into their motives; and universities, when they discovered the superior culture of educated Jesuits, outstripping all their associates in learning, and shedding a light by their genius and erudition, very naturally appointed them to the highest chairs; and even the people, when they saw that the Jesuits were not stained by vulgar vices, but were hard-working, devoted to their labors, earnest, and eloquent, put themselves under their teachings; and especially when they added gentlemanly manners, good taste, and agreeable conversation to their unimpeachable morality and religious fervor, they made these men their confessors as well as preachers. Their lives stood out in glorious contrast with those of the old monks and the regular clergy, in an age of infidel levities, when the Italian renaissance was bearing its worst fruits, and men were going back to Pagan antiquity for their pleasures and opinions.

That the early Jesuits blazed with virtues and learning and piety has never been denied, although these things have been poetically exaggerated. The world was astonished at their intrepidity, zeal, and devotion. They were not at first intriguing, or ambitious, or covetous. They loved their Society; but they loved still more what they thought was the glory of God. _Ad majoram Dei gloriam_ was the motto which was emblazoned on their standard when they went forth as Christian warriors to overcome the heresies of Christendom and the superstitions of idolaters. “The Jesuit missionary,” says Stephen, “with his breviary under his arm, his beads at his girdle, and his crucifix in his hands, went forth without fear, to encounter the most dreaded dangers. Martyrdom was nothing to him; he knew that the altar which might stream with his blood, and the mound which might be raised over his remains, would become a cherished object of his fame and an expressive emblem of the power of his religion.” “If I die,” said Xavier, when about to visit the cannibal Island of Del Moro, “who knows but what all may receive the Gospel, since it is most certain it has ever fructified more abundantly in the field of Paganism by the blood of martyrs than by the labors of missionaries,”–a sublime truth, revealed to him in his whole course of protracted martyrdom and active philanthropy, especially in those last hours when, on the Island of Sanshan, he expired, exclaiming, as his fading eyes rested on the crucifix, _In te Domine speravi, non confundar in eternum_. In perils, in fastings, in fatigues, was the life of this remarkable man passed, in order to convert the heathen world; and in ten years he had traversed a tract of more than twice the circumference of the earth, preaching, disputing, and baptizing, until seventy thousand converts, it is said, were the fruits of his mission.[1] “My companion,” said the fearless Marquette, when exploring the prairies of the Western wilderness, “is an envoy of France to discover new countries, and I am an ambassador of God to enlighten them with the Gospel.” Lalemant, when pierced with the arrows of the Iroquois, rejoiced that his martyrdom would induce others to follow his example. The missions of the early Jesuits extorted praises from Baxter and panegyric from Liebnitz.

[Footnote 1: I am inclined to think that this statement is exaggerated; or, if true, that conversion was merely nominal.]

And not less remarkable than these missionaries were those who labored in other spheres. Loyola himself, though visionary and monastic, had no higher wish than to infuse piety into the Catholic Church, and to strengthen the hands of him whom he regarded as God’s vicegerent. Somehow or other he succeeded in securing the absolute veneration of his companions, so much so that the sainted Xavier always wrote to him on his knees. His “Spiritual Exercises” has ever remained the great text-book of the Jesuits,–a compend of fasts and penances, of visions and of ecstasies; rivalling Saint Theresa herself in the rhapsodies of a visionary piety, showing the chivalric and romantic ardor of a Spanish nobleman directed into the channel of devotion to an invisible Lord. See this wounded soldier at the siege of Pampeluna, going through all the experiences of a Syriac monk in his Manresan cave, and then turning his steps to Paris to acquire a university education; associating only with the pious and the learned, drawing to him such gifted men as Faber and Xavier, Salmeron and Lainez, Borgia and Bobadilla, and inspiring them with his ideas and his fervor; living afterwards, at Venice, with Caraffa (the future Paul IV.) in the closest intimacy, preaching at Vicenza, and forming a new monastic code, as full of genius and originality as it was of practical wisdom, which became the foundation of a system of government never surpassed in the power of its mechanism to bind the minds and wills of men. Loyola was a most extraordinary man in the practical turn he gave to religious rhapsodies; creating a legislation for his Society which made it the most potent religious organization in the world. All his companions were remarkable likewise for different traits and excellences, which yet were made to combine in sustaining the unity of this moral mechanism. Lainez had even a more comprehensive mind than Loyola. It was he who matured the Jesuit Constitution, and afterwards controlled the Council of Trent,–a convocation which settled the creed of the Catholic Church, especially in regard to justification, and which admitted the merits of Christ, but attributed justification to good works in a different sense from that understood and taught by Luther.

Aside from the personal gifts and qualities of the early Jesuits, they would not have so marvellously succeeded had it not been for their remarkable constitution,–that which bound the members of the Society together, and gave to it a peculiar unity and force. The most marked thing about it was the unbounded and unhesitating obedience required of every member to superiors, and of these superiors to the General of the Order,–so that there was but one will. This law of obedience is, as every one knows, one of the fundamental principles of all the monastic orders from the earliest times, enforced by Benedict as well as Basil. Still there was a difference in the vow of obedience. The head of a monastery in the Middle Ages was almost supreme. The Lord Abbot was obedient only to the Pope, and he sought the interests of his monastery rather than those of the Pope. But Loyola exacted obedience to the General of the Order so absolutely that a Jesuit became a slave. This may seem a harsh epithet; there is nothing gained by using offensive words, but Protestant writers have almost universally made these charges. From their interpretation of the constitutions of Loyola and Lainez and Aquaviva, a member of the Society had no will of his own; he did not belong to himself, he belonged to his General,–as in the time of Abraham a child belonged to his father and a wife to her husband; nay, even still more completely. He could not write or receive a letter that was not read by his Superior. When he entered the order, he was obliged to give away his property, but could not give it to his relatives.[2] When he made confession, he was obliged to tell his most intimate and sacred secrets. He could not aspire to any higher rank than that he held; he had no right to be ambitious, or seek his own individual interests; he was merged body and soul into the Society; he was only a pin in the machinery; he was bound to obey even his own servant, if required by his Superior; he was less than a private soldier in an army; he was a piece of wax to be moulded as the Superior directed,–and the Superior, in his turn, was a piece of wax in the hands of the Provincial, and he again in the hands of the General. “There were many gradations in rank, but every rank was a gradation in slavery.” The Jesuit is accused of having no individual conscience. He was bound to do what he was told, right or wrong; nothing was right and nothing was wrong except as the Society pronounced. The General stood in the place of God. That man was the happiest who was most mechanical. Every novice had a monitor, and every monitor was a spy.[3] So strict was the rule of Loyola, that he kept Francis Borgia, Duke of Candia, three years out of the Society, because he refused to renounce all intercourse with his family.[4]

[Footnote 2: Ranke.]
[Footnote 3: Steinmetz, i. p. 252.] [Footnote 4: Nicolini, p. 35.]

The Jesuit was obliged to make all natural ties subordinate to the will of the General. And this General was a king more absolute than any worldly monarch, because he reigned over the minds of his subjects. His kingdom was an _imperium in imperio_; he was chosen for life and was responsible to no one, although he ruled for the benefit of the Catholic Church. In one sense a General of the Jesuits resembled the prime minister of an absolute monarch,–say such a man as Richelieu, with unfettered power in the cause of absolutism; and he ruled like Richelieu, through his spies, making his subordinates tools and instruments. The General appointed the presidents of colleges and of the religious houses; he admitted or dismissed, dispensed or punished, at his pleasure. There was no complaint; all obeyed his orders, and saw in him the representative of Divine Providence. Complaint was sin; resistance was ruin. It is hard for us to understand how any man could be brought voluntarily to submit to such a despotism. But the novice entering the order had to go through terrible discipline,–to be a servant, anything; to live according to rigid rules, so that his spirit was broken by mechanical duties. He had to learn all the virtues of a slave before he could be fully enrolled in the Society. He was drilled for years by spiritual sergeants more rigorously than a soldier in Napoleon’s army: hence the efficiency of the body; it was a spiritual army of the highest disciplined troops. Loyola had been a soldier; he knew what military discipline could do,–how impotent an army is without it, what an awful power it is with discipline, and the severer the better. The best soldier of a modern army is he who has become an unconscious piece of machinery; and it was this unreflecting, unconditional obedience which made the Society so efficient, and the General himself, who controlled it, such an awful power for good or for evil. I am only speaking of the organization, the machinery, the _regime,_ of the Jesuits, not of their character, not of their virtues or vices. This organization is to be spoken of as we speak of the discipline of an army,–wise or unwise, as it reached its end. The original aim of the Jesuits was the restoration of the Papal Church to its ancient power; and for one hundred years, as I think, the restoration of morals, higher education, greater zeal in preaching: in short, a reformation within the Church. Jesuitism was, of course, opposed to Protestantism; it hated the Protestants; it hated their religious creed and their emancipating and progressive spirit; it hated religious liberty.

I need not dwell on other things which made this order of monks so successful,–not merely their virtues and their mechanism, but their adaptation to the changing spirit of the times. They threw away the old dresses of monastic life; they quitted the cloister and places of meditation; they were preachers as well as scholars; they accommodated themselves to the circumstances of the times; they wore the ordinary dress of gentlemen; they remained men of the world, of fine manners and cultivated speech; there was nothing ascetic or repulsive about them, like other monks; they were all things to all men, like politicians, in order to accomplish their ends; they never were lazy, or profligate or luxurious. If their Order became enriched, they as individuals remained poor. The inferior members were not even ambitious; like good soldiers, they thought of nothing but the work assigned to them. Their pride and glory were the prosperity of their Order,–an intense _esprit de corps_, never equalled by any body of men. This, of course, while it gave them efficiency, made them narrow. They could see the needle on the barn-door,–they could not see the door itself. Hence there could be no agreement with them, no argument with them, except on ordinary matters; they were as zealous as Saul, seeking to make proselytes. They yielded nothing except in order to win; they never compromised their Order in their cause. Their fidelity to their head was marvellous; and so long as they confined themselves to the work of making people better, I think they deserved praise. I do not like their military organization, but I should have no more right to abuse it than the organization of some Protestant sects. That is a matter of government; all sects and all parties, Catholic and Protestant, have a right to choose their own government to carry out their ends, even as military generals have a right to organize their forces in their own way. The history of the Jesuits shows this,–that an organization of forces, or what we call discipline or government, is a great thing. A church without a government is a poor affair, so far as efficiency is concerned. All churches have something to learn from the Jesuits in the way of discipline. John Wesley learned something; the Independents learned very little,

But there is another side to the Jesuits. We have seen why they succeeded; we have to inquire how they failed. If history speaks of the virtues of the early members, and the wonderful mechanism of their Order, and their great success in consequence, it also speaks of the errors they committed, by which they lost the confidence they had gained. From being the most popular of all the adherents of the papal power, and of the ideas of the Dark Ages, they became the most unpopular; they became so odious that the Pope was obliged, by the pressure of public opinion and of the Bourbon courts of Europe, to suppress their Order. The fall of the Jesuits was as significant as their rise. I need not dwell on that fall, which is one of the best known facts of history.

Why did the Jesuits become unpopular and lose their influence?

They gained the confidence of Catholic countries because they deserved it, and they lost that confidence because they deserved to lose it,–in other words, because they became corrupt; and this seems to be the history of all institutions. It is strange, it is passing strange, that human societies and governments and institutions should degenerate as soon as they become rich and powerful; but such is the fact,–a sad commentary on the doctrine of a necessary progress of the race, or the natural tendency to good, which so many cherish, but than which nothing can be more false, as proved by experience and the Scriptures. Why were the antediluvians swept away? Why could not those races retain their primitive revelation? Why did the descendants of Noah become almost idolaters before he was dead? Why did the great Persian Empire become as effeminate as the empires it had supplanted? Why did the Jewish nation steadily retrograde after David? Why did not civilization and Christianity save the Roman world? Why did Christianity itself become corrupted in four centuries? Why did not the Middle Ages preserve the evangelical doctrines of Augustine and Jerome and Chrysostom and Ambrose? Why did the light of the glorious Reformation of Luther nearly go out in the German cities and universities? Why did the fervor of the Puritans burn out in England in one hundred years? Why have the doctrines of the Pilgrim Fathers become unfashionable in those parts of New England where they seemed to have taken the deepest root? Why have so many of the descendants of the disciples of George Fox become so liberal and advanced as to be enamoured of silk dresses and laces and diamonds and the ritualism of Episcopal churches? Is it an improvement to give up a simple life and lofty religious enthusiasm for materialistic enjoyments and epicurean display? Is there a true advance in a university, when it exchanges its theological teachings and its preparation of poor students for the Gospel Ministry, for Schools of Technology and boat-clubs and accommodations for the sons of the rich and worldly?

Now the Society of Jesus went through just such a transformation as has taken place, almost within the memory of living men, in the life and habits and ideas of the people of Boston and Philadelphia and in the teachings of their universities. Some may boldly say, “Why not? This change indicates progress.” But this progress is exactly similar to that progress which the Jesuits made in the magnificence of their churches, in the wealth they had hoarded in their colleges, in the fashionable character of their professors and confessors and preachers, in the adaptation of their doctrines to the taste of the rich and powerful, in the elegance and arrogance and worldliness of their dignitaries. Father La Chaise was an elegant and most polished man of the world, and travelled in a coach with six horses. If he had not been such a man, he would not have been selected by Louis XIV. for his confidential and influential confessor. The change which took place among the Jesuits arose from the same causes as the change which has taken place among Methodists and Quakers and Puritans. This change I would not fiercely condemn, for some think it is progress. But is it progress in that religious life which early marked these people; or a progress towards worldly and epicurean habits which they arose to resist and combat? The early Jesuits were visionary, fanatical, strict, ascetic, religious, and narrow. They sought by self-denying labors and earnest exhortations, like Savonarola at Florence, to take the Church out of the hands of the Devil; and the people reverenced them, as they always have reverenced martyrs and missionaries. The later Jesuits sought to enjoy their wealth and power and social position. They became–as rich and prosperous people generally become–proud, ambitious, avaricious, and worldly. They were as elegant, as scholarly, and as luxurious as the Fellows of Oxford University, and the occupants of stalls in the English cathedrals,–that is all: as worldly as the professors of Yale and Cambridge may become in half-a-century, if rich widows and brewers and bankers without children shall some day make those universities as well endowed as Jesuit colleges were in the eighteenth century. That is the old story of our fallen humanity. I would no more abuse the Jesuits because they became confessors to the great, and went into mercantile speculations, than I would rich and favored clergymen in Protestant countries, who prefer ten per cent for their money in California mines to four per cent in national consols.

But the prosperity which the Jesuits had earned during their first century of existence excited only envy, and destroyed the reverence of the people; it had not made them odious, detestable. It was the means they adopted to perpetuate their influence, after early virtues had passed away, which caused enlightened Catholic Europe to mistrust them, and the Protestants absolutely to hate and vilify them.

From the very first, the Society was distinguished for the _esprit de corps_ of its members. Of all things which they loved best it was the power and glory of the Society,–just as Oxford Fellows love the _prestige_ of their university. And this power and influence the Jesuits determined to preserve at all hazards and by any means; when virtues fled, they must find something else with which to bolster themselves up: they must not part with their power; the question was, how should they keep it?

First, they adopted the doctrine of expediency,–that the end justifies the means. They did not invent this sophistry,–it is as old as our humanity. Abraham used it when he told lies to the King of Egypt, to save the honor of his wife; Caesar accepted it, when he vindicated imperialism as the only way to save the Roman Empire from anarchy; most politicians resort to it when they wish to gain their ends. Politicians have ever been as unscrupulous as the Jesuits, in adopting expediency rather than eternal right. It has been a primal law of government; it lies at the basis of English encroachments in India, and of the treatment of the aborigines in this country by our government. There is nothing new in the doctrine of expediency.

But the Jesuits are accused of pushing this doctrine to its remotest consequences, of being its most unscrupulous defenders,–so that _Jesuitism_ and _expediency_ are synonymous, are convertible terms. They are accused of perverting education, of abusing the confessional, of corrupting moral and political philosophy, of conforming to the inclinations of the great. They even went so far as to inculcate mental reservation,–thus attacking truth in its most sacred citadel, the conscience of mankind,–on which Pascal was so severe. They made habit and bad example almost a sufficient exculpation from crime. Perjury was allowable, if the perjured were inwardly determined not to swear. They invented the notion of probabilities, according to which a person might follow any opinion he pleased, although he knew it to be wrong, provided authors of reputation had defended that opinion. A man might fight a duel, if by refusing to fight he would be stigmatized as a coward. They did not openly justify murder, treachery, and falsehood, but they excused the same, if plausible reasons could be urged. In their missions they aimed at _eclat;_ and hence merely nominal conversions were accepted, because these swelled their numbers. They gave the crucifix, which covered up all sins; they permitted their converts to retain their ancient habits and customs. In order to be popular, Robert de Nobili, it is said, traced his lineage to Brahma; and one of their missionaries among the Indians told the savages that Christ was a warrior who scalped women and children. Anything for an outward success. Under their teachings it was seen what a light affair it was to bear the yoke of Christ. So monarchs retained in their service confessors who imposed such easy obligations. So ordinary people resorted to the guidance of such leaders, who made themselves agreeable. The Jesuit colleges were filled with casuists. Their whole moral philosophy, if we may believe Arnauld and Pascal, was a tissue of casuistry; truth was obscured in order to secure popularity; even the most diabolical persecution was justified if heretics stood in the way. Father Le Tellier rejoiced in the slaughter of Saint Bartholomew, and _Te Deums_ were offered in the churches for the extinction of Protestantism by any means. If it could be shown to be expedient, the Jesuits excused the most outrageous crimes ever perpetrated on this earth.

Again, the Jesuits are accused of riveting fetters on the human mind in order to uphold their power, and to sustain the absolutism of the popes and the absolutism of kings, to which they were equally devoted. They taught in their schools the doctrine of passive obedience; they aimed to subdue the will by rigid discipline; they were hostile to bold and free inquiries; they were afraid of science; they hated such men as Galileo, Pascal, and Bacon; they detested the philosophers who prepared the way for the French Revolution; they abominated the Protestant idea of private judgment; they opposed the progress of human thought, and were enemies alike of the Jansenist movement in the seventeenth century and of the French Revolution in the eighteenth. They upheld the absolutism of Louis XIV., and combated the English Revolution; they sent their spies and agents to England to undermine the throne of Elizabeth and build up the throne of Charles I. Every emancipating idea, in politics and in religion, they detested. There were many things in their system of education to be commended; they were good classical scholars, and taught Greek and Latin admirably; they cultivated the memory; they made study pleasing, but they did not develop genius. The order never produced a great philosopher; the energies of its members were concentrated in imposing a despotic yoke.

The Jesuits are accused further of political intrigues; this is a common and notorious charge. They sought to control the cabinets of Europe; they had their spies in every country. The intrigues of Campion and Parsons in England aimed at the restoration of Catholic monarchs. Mary of Scotland was a tool in their hands, and so was Madame de Maintenon in France. La Chaise and Le Tellier were mere politicians. The Jesuits were ever political priests; the history of Europe the last three hundred years is full of their cabals. Their political influence was directed to the persecution of Protestants as well as infidels. They are accused of securing the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,–one of the greatest crimes in the history of modern times, which led to the expulsion of four hundred thousand Protestants from France, and the execution of four hundred thousand more. They incited the dragonnades of Louis XIV., who was under their influence. They are accused of the assassination of kings, of the fires of Smithfield, of the Gunpowder Plot, of the cruelties inflicted by Alva, of the Thirty Years’ War, of the ferocities of the Guises, of inquisitions and massacres, of sundry other political crimes, with what justice I do not know; but certain it is they became objects of fear, and incurred the hostilities of Catholic Europe, especially of all liberal thinkers, and their downfall was demanded by the very courts of Europe. Why did they lose their popularity? Why were they so distrusted and hated? The fact that they _were_ hated is most undoubted, and there must have been cause for it. It is a fact that at one time they were respected and honored, and deserved to be so: must there not have been grave reasons for the universal change in public opinion respecting them? The charges against them, to which I have alluded, must have had foundation. They did not become idle, gluttonous, ignorant, and sensual like the old monks: they became greedy of power; and in order to retain it resorted to intrigues, conspiracies, and persecutions. They corrupted philosophy and morality, abused the confessional privilege, adopted _Success_ as their watchword, without regard to the means; they are charged with becoming worldly, ambitious, mercenary, unscrupulous, cruel; above all, they sought to bind the minds of men with a despotic yoke, and waged war against all liberalizing influences. They always were, from first to last, narrow, pedantic, one-sided, legal, technical, pharisaical. The best thing about them, in the days of their declining power, was that they always opposed infidel sentiments. They hated Voltaire and Rousseau and the Encyclopedists as much as they did Luther and Calvin. They detested the principles of the French Revolution, partly because those principles were godless, partly because they were emancipating.

Of course, in such an infidel and revolutionary age as that of Louis XV, when Voltaire was the oracle of Europe,–when from his chateau near Geneva he controlled the mind of Europe, as Calvin did two centuries earlier,–enemies would rise up, on all sides, against the Jesuits. Their most powerful and bitter foe was a woman,–the mistress of Louis XV., the infamous Madame de Pompadour. She hated the Jesuits as Catharine de Medici hated the Calvinists in the time of Charles IX.,–not because they were friends of absolutism, not because they wrote casuistic books, not because they opposed liberal principles, not because they were spies and agents of Rome, not because they perverted education, not because they were boastful and mercenary missionaries or cunning intriguers in the courts of princes, not because they had marked their course through Europe in a trail of blood, but because they were hostile to her ascendency,–a woman who exercised about the same influence in France as Jezebel did at the court of Ahab. I respect the Jesuits for the stand they took against this woman: it is the best thing in their history. But here they did not show their usual worldly wisdom, and they failed. They were judicially blinded. The instrument of their humiliation was a wicked woman. So strange are the ways of Providence! He chose Esther to save the Jewish nation, and a harlot to punish the Jesuits. She availed herself of their mistakes.

It seems that the Superior of the Jesuits at Martinique failed; for the Jesuits embarked in commercial speculations while officiating as missionaries. The angry creditors of La Valette, the Jesuit banker, demanded repayment from the Order. They refused to pay his debts. The case was carried to the courts, and the highest tribunal decided against them. That was not the worst. In the course of the legal proceedings, the mysterious “rule” of the Jesuits–that which was so carefully concealed from the public–was demanded. Then all was revealed,–all that Pascal had accused them of,–and the whole nation was indignant. A great storm was raised. The Parliament of Paris decreed the constitution of the Society to be fatal to all government. The King wished to save them, for he knew that they were the best supporters of the throne of absolutism. But he could not resist the pressure,–the torrent of public opinion, the entreaties of his mistress, the arguments of his ministers. He was compelled to demand from the Pope the abrogation of their charter. Other monarchs did the same; all the Bourbon courts in Europe, for the king of Portugal narrowly escaped assassination from a fanatical Jesuit. Had the Jesuits consented to a reform, they might not have fallen. But they would make no concessions. Said Ricci, their General, _Sint ut sunt, aut non sint_. The Pope–Clement XIV.–was obliged to part with his best soldiers. Europe, Catholic Europe, demanded the sacrifice,–the kings of Spain, of France, of Naples, of Portugal. _Compulsus feci, compulsus feci_, exclaimed the broken-hearted Pope,–the feeble and pious Ganganelli. So that in 1773, by a papal decree, the Order was suppressed; 669 colleges were closed; 223 missions were abandoned, and more than 22,000 members were dispersed. I do not know what became of their property, which amounted to about two hundred millions of dollars, in the various countries of Europe.

This seems to me to have been a clear case of religious persecution, incited by jealous governments and the infidel or the progressive spirit of the age, on the eve of the French Revolution. It simply marks the hostilities which, for various reasons, they had called out. I am inclined to think that their faults were greatly exaggerated; but it is certain that so severe and high-handed a measure would not have been taken by the Pope had it not seemed to him necessary to preserve the peace of the Church. Had they been innocent, the Pope would have lost his throne sooner than commit so great a wrong on his most zealous servants. It is impossible for a Protestant to tell how far they were guilty of the charges preferred against them. I do not believe that their lives, as a general thing, were a scandal sufficient to justify so sweeping a measure; but their institution, their regime, their organization, their constitution, were deemed hostile to liberty and the progress of society. And if zealous governments–Catholic princes themselves–should feel that the Jesuits were opposed to the true progress of nations, how much more reason had Protestants to distrust them, and to rejoice in their fall!

And it was not until the French Revolution and the empire of Napoleon had passed away, not until the Bourbons had been restored nearly half a century, that the Order was re-established and again protected by the Papal court. They have now regained their ancient power, and seem to have the confidence of Catholic Europe. Some of their most flourishing seminaries are in the United States. They are certainly not a scandal in this country, although their spirit and institution are the same as ever: mistrusted and disliked and feared by the Protestants, as a matter of course, as such a powerful organization naturally would be; hostile still to the circulation of the Scriptures among the people and free inquiry and private judgment,–in short, to all the ideas of the Reformation. But whatever they are, and however much the Protestants dislike them, they have in our country,–this land of unbounded religious toleration,–the same right to their religion and their ecclesiastical government that Protestant sects have; and if Protestants would nullify their influence so far as it is bad, they must outshine them in virtues, in a religious life, in zeal, and in devotion to the spiritual interests of the people. If the Jesuits keep better schools than Protestants they will be patronized, and if they command the respect of the Catholics for their virtues and intelligence, whatever may be the machinery of their organization, they will retain their power; and not until they interfere with elections and Protestant schools, or teach dangerous doctrines of public morality, has our Government any right to interfere with them. They will stand or fall as they win the respect or excite the wrath of enlightened nations. But the principles they are supposed to defend,–expediency, casuistry, and hostility to free inquiry and the circulation of the Scriptures in vernacular languages,–these are just causes of complaint and of unrelenting opposition among all those who accept the great ideas of the Protestant Reformation, since they are antagonistic to what we deem most precious in our institutions. So long as the contest shall last between good and evil in this world, we have a right to declaim against all encroachments on liberty and sound morality and an evangelical piety from any quarter whatever, and we are recreant to our duties unless we speak our minds. Hence, from the light I have, I pronounce judgment against the Society of Jesus as a dangerous institution, unfortunately planted among us, but which we cannot help, and can attack only with the weapons of reason and truth.

And yet I am free to say that for my part I prefer even the Jesuit discipline and doctrines, much as I dislike them, to the unblushing infidelity which has lately been propagated by those who call themselves _savans_,–and which seems to have reached and even permeated many of the schools of science, the newspapers, periodicals, clubs, and even pulpits of this materialistic though progressive country. I make war on the slavery of the will and a religion of formal technicalities; but I prefer these evils to a godless rationalism and the extinction of the light of faith.


Secreta Monita; Steinmetz’s History of the Jesuits; Ranke’s History of the Popes; Spiritual Exercises; Encyclopaedia Britannica; Biographie Universelle; Fall of the Jesuits, by St. Priest; Lives of Ignatius Loyola, Aquiviva, Lainez, Salmeron, Borgia, Xavier, Bobadilla; Pascal’s Provincial Letters; Bonhours’ Cretineau; Lingard’s History of England; Tierney; Lettres Aedificantes; Jesuit Missions; Memoires Secretes du Cardinal Dubois; Tanner’s Societas Jesu; Dodd’s Church History.


* * * * *

A. D. 1509-1364.


John Calvin was pre-eminently the theologian of the Reformation, and stamped his genius on the thinking of his age,–equally an authority with the Swiss, the Dutch, the Huguenots, and the Puritans. His vast influence extends to our own times. His fame as a benefactor of mind is immortal, although it cannot be said that he is as much admired and extolled now as he was fifty years ago. Nor was he ever a favorite with the English Church. He has been even grossly misrepresented by theological opponents; but no critic or historian has ever questioned his genius, his learning, or his piety. No one denies that he has exerted a great influence on Protestant countries. As a theologian he ranks with Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,–maintaining essentially the same views as those held by these great lights, and being distinguished for the same logical power; reigning like them as an intellectual dictator in the schools, but not so interesting as they were as men. And he was more than a theologian; he was a reformer and legislator, laying down rules of government, organizing church discipline, and carrying on reforms in the worship of God,–second only to Luther. His labors were prodigious as theologian, commentator, and ecclesiastical legislator; and we are surprised that a man with so feeble a body could have done so much work.

Calvin was born in Picardy in 1509,–the year that Henry VIII. ascended the British throne, and the year that Luther began to preach at Wittenberg. He was not a peasant’s son, like Luther, but belonged to what the world calls a good family. Intellectually he was precocious, and received an excellent education at a college in Paris, being destined for the law by his father, who sent him to the University of Orleans and then to Bourges, where he studied under eminent jurists, and made the acquaintance of many distinguished men. His conversion took place about the year 1529, when he was twenty; and this gave a new direction to his studies and his life. He was a pale-faced young man, with sparkling eyes, sedate and earnest beyond his years. He was twenty-three when he published the books of Seneca on Clemency, with learned commentaries. At the age of twenty-three he was in communion with the reformers of Germany, and was acknowledged to be, even at that early age, the head of the reform party in France. In 1533 he went to Paris, then as always the centre of the national life, where the new ideas were creating great commotion in scholarly and ecclesiastical circles, and even in the court itself. Giving offence to the doctors of the Sorbonne for his evangelical views as to Justification, he was obliged to seek refuge with the Queen of Navarre, whose castle at Pau was the resort of persecuted reformers. After leading rather a fugitive life in different parts of France, he retreated to Switzerland, and at twenty-six published his celebrated “Institutes,” which he dedicated to Francis I., hoping to convert him to the Protestant faith. After a short residence in Italy, at the court of the Duchess of Ferrara, he took up his abode at Geneva, and his great career began.

Geneva, a city of the Allobroges in the time of Caesar, possessed at this time about twenty thousand inhabitants, and was a free state, having a constitution somewhat like that of Florence when it was under the control of Savonarola. It had rebelled against the Duke of Savoy, who seems to have been in the fifteenth century its patron ruler. The government of this little Savoyard state became substantially like that which existed among the Swiss cantons. The supreme power resided in the council of Two Hundred, which alone had the power to make or abolish laws. There was a lesser council of Sixty, for diplomatic objects only.

The first person who preached the reformed doctrines in Geneva was the missionary Farel, a French nobleman, spiritual, romantic, and zealous. He had great success, although he encountered much opposition and wrath. But the reformed doctrines were already established in Zurich, Berne, and Basle, chiefly through the preaching of Ulrich Zwingli, and Oecolampadius. The apostolic Farel welcomed with great cordiality the arrival of Calvin, then already known as an extraordinary man, though only twenty-eight years of age. He came to Geneva poor, and remained poor all his life. All his property at his death amounted to only two hundred dollars. As a minister in one of the churches, he soon began to exert a marvellous influence. He must have been eloquent, for he was received with enthusiasm. This was in 1536. But he soon met with obstacles. He was worried by the Anabaptists; and even his orthodoxy was impeached by one Coroli, who made much mischief, so that Calvin was obliged to publish his Genevan Catechism in Latin. He also offended many by his outspoken rebuke of sin, for he aimed at a complete reformation of morals, like Latimer in London and like Savonarola at Florence. He sought to reprove amusements which were demoralizing, or thought to be so in their influence. The passions of the people were excited, and the city was torn by parties; and such was the reluctance to submit to the discipline of the ministers that they refused to administer the sacraments. This created such a ferment that the syndics expelled Calvin and Farel from the city. They went at first to Berne, but the Bernese would not receive them. They then retired to Basle, wearied, wet, and hungry, and from Basle they went to Strasburg. It was in this city that Calvin dwelt three years, spending his time in lecturing on divinity, in making contributions to exegetical theology, in perfecting his “Institutes,” forming a close alliance with Melancthon and other leading reformers. So pre-occupied was he with his labors as a commentator of the Scriptures, that he even contemplated withdrawing from the public service of religion.

Calvin was a scholar as well as theologian, and quiet labors in his library were probably more congenial to his tastes than active parochial duties. His highest life was amid his books, in serene repose and lofty contemplation. At this time he had an extensive correspondence, his advice being much sought for its wisdom and moderation. His judgment was almost unerring, since he was never led away by extravagances or enthusiasm: a cold, calm man even among his friends and admirers. He had no passions; he was all intellect. It would seem that in his exile he gave lectures on divinity, being invited by the Council of Strasburg; and also interested himself in reference to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which he would withhold from the unworthy. He lived quietly in his retreat, and was much respected by the people of the city where he dwelt.

In 1539 a convention was held at Frankfort, at which Calvin was present as the envoy of the city of Strasburg. Here, for the first time, he met Melancthon; but there was no close intimacy between them until these two great men met in the following year at a Diet which was summoned at Worms by the Emperor Charles V., in order to produce concord between the Catholics and Protestants, and which was afterwards removed to Ratisbon. Melancthon represented one party, and Doctor Eck the other. Melancthon and Bucer were inclined to peace; and Cardinal Contarini freely offered his hand, agreeing with the reformers to adopt the idea of Justification as his starting point, allowing that it proceeds from faith, without any merit of our own; but, like Luther and Calvin, he opposed any attempt at union which might compromise the truth, and had no faith in the movement. Neither party, as it was to be expected, was satisfied. The main subject of the dispute was in reference to the Eucharist. Calvin denied the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament, regarding it as a symbol,–though one of special divine influence. But on this point the Catholics have ever been uncompromising from the times of Berengar. Nor was Luther fully emancipated from the Catholic doctrine, modifying without essentially changing it. Calvin maintained that “This is my body” meant that it signified “my body.” In regard to original sin and free-will, as represented by Augustine, there was no dispute; but much difficulty attended the interpretation of the doctrine of Justification. The greatest difficulty was in reference to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which was rejected by the reformers because it had not the sanction of the Scriptures; and when it was found that this caused insuperable difficulties about the Lord’s Supper, it was thought useless to proceed to other matters, like confession, masses for the dead, and the withholding the cup from the laity. There was not so great a difference between the Catholic and Protestant theologians concerning the main body of dogmatic divinity as is generally supposed. The fundamental questions pertaining to God, the Trinity, the mission and divinity of Christ, original sin, free-will, grace, predestination, had been formulated by Thomas Aquinas with as much severity as by Calvin. The great subjects at issue, in a strictly theological view, were Justification and the Eucharist. Respecting free-will and predestination, the Catholic theologians have never been agreed among themselves,–some siding with Augustine, like Aquinas, Bernard, and Anselm; and some with Pelagius, like Abelard and Lainez the Jesuit at the Council of Trent (a council assembled by the Pope, with the concurrence of Charles V. of Germany and Francis I. of France), the decrees of which, against the authority of Augustine in this matter, seem to be now the established faith of the Roman Catholic Church.

After the Diet of Ratisbon, Calvin returned to Geneva, at the eager desire of the people. The great Council summoned him to return; every voice was raised for him. “Calvin, that learned and righteous man,” they said, “it is he whom we would have as the minister of the Lord.” Yet he did not willingly return; he preferred his quiet life at Strasburg, but obeyed the voice of conscience. On the 13th of September, 1541, he returned to his penitent congregation, and was received by the whole city with every demonstration of respect; and a cloth cloak was given him as a present, which he seemed to need.

The same year he was married to a widow, Idelette de Burie, who was a worthy, well-read, high-minded woman, with whom he lived happily for nine years, until her death. She was superior to Luther’s wife, Catherine Bora, in culture and dignity, and was a helpmate who never opposed her husband in the slightest matter, always considering his interests. Esteem and friendship seem to have been the basis of this union,–not passionate love, which Calvin did not think much of. When his wife died it seems he mourned for her with decent grief, but did not seek a second marriage, perhaps because he was unable to support a wife on his small stipend as she would wish and expect. He rather courted poverty, and refused reasonable gratuities. His body was attenuated by fasting and study, like that of Saint Bernard. When he was completing his “Institutes,” he passed days without eating and nights without sleeping. And as he practised poverty he had a right to inculcate it. He kept no servant, lived in a small tenement, and was always poorly clad. He derived no profit from any of his books, and the only present he ever consented to receive was a silver goblet from the Lord of Varennes. Luther’s stipend was four hundred and fifty florins; and he too refused a yearly gift from the booksellers of four hundred dollars, not wishing to receive a gratuity for his writings. Calvin’s salary was only fifty dollars a year, with a house, twelve measures of corn, and two pipes of wine; for tea and coffee were then unknown in Europe, and wine seems to have been the usual beverage, after water. He was pre-eminently a conscientious man, not allowing his feelings to sway his judgment. He was sedate and dignified and cheerful; though Bossuet accuses him of a surly disposition,–_un genre triste, un esprit chagrin_. Though formal and stern, women never shrank from familiar conversation with him on the subject of religion. Though intolerant of error, he cherished no personal animosities. Calvin was more refined than Luther, and never like him gave vent to coarse expressions. He had not Luther’s physical strength, nor his versatility of genius; nor as a reformer was he so violent. “Luther aroused; Calvin tranquillized,” The one stormed the great citadel of error, the other furnished the weapons for holding it after it was taken. The former was more popular; the latter appealed to a higher intelligence. The Saxon reformer was more eloquent; the Swiss reformer was more dialectical. The one advocated unity; the other theocracy. Luther was broader; Calvin engrafted on his reforms the Old Testament observances. The watchword of the one was Grace; that of the other was Predestination. Luther cut knots; Calvin made systems. Luther destroyed; Calvin legislated. His great principle of government was aristocratic. He wished to see both Church and State governed by a select few of able men. In all his writings we see no trace of popular sovereignty. He interested himself, like Savonarola, in political institutions, but would separate the functions of the magistracy from those of the clergy; and he clung to the notion of a theocratic government, like Jewish legislators and the popes themselves. The idea of a theocracy was the basis of Calvin’s system of legislation, as it was that of Leo I. He desired that the temporal power should rule in the name of God,–should be the arm by which spiritual principles should be enforced. He did not object to the spiritual domination of the popes, so far as it was in accordance with the word of God. He wished to realize the grand idea which the Middle Ages sought for, but sought for in vain,–that the Church must always remain the mother of spiritual principles; but he objected to the exercise of temporal power by churchmen, as well as to the interference of the temporal power in matters purely spiritual,–virtually the doctrine of Anselm and Becket. But, unlike Becket, Calvin would not screen clergymen accused of crime from temporal tribunals; he rather sought the humiliation of the clergy in temporal matters. He also would destroy inequalities of rank, and do away with church dignitaries, like bishops and deans and archdeacons; and he instituted twice as many laymen as clergymen in ecclesiastical assemblies. But he gave to the clergy the exclusive right to excommunicate, and to regulate the administration of the sacraments. He was himself a high-churchman in his spirit, both in reference to the divine institution of the presbyterian form of government and the ascendancy of the Church as a great power in the world.

Calvin exercised a great influence on the civil polity of Geneva, although it was established before he came to the city. He undertook to frame for the State a code of morals. He limited the freedom of the citizens, and turned the old democratic constitution into an oligarchy. The general assembly, which met twice a year, nominated syndics, or judges; but nothing was proposed in the general assembly which had not previously been considered in the council of the Two Hundred; and nothing in the latter which had not been brought before the council of Sixty; nor even in this, which had not been approved by the lesser council. The four syndics, with their council of sixteen, had power of life and death, and the whole public business of the state was in their hands. The supreme legislation was in the council of Two Hundred; which was much influenced by ecclesiastics, or the consistory. If a man not forbidden to take the Sacrament neglected to receive it, he was condemned to banishment for a year. One was condemned to do public penance if he omitted a Sunday service. The military garrison was summoned to prayers twice a day. The judges punished severely all profanity, as blasphemy. A mason was put in prison three days for simply saying, when falling from a building, that it must be the work of the Devil. A young girl who insulted her mother was publicly punished and kept on bread-and-water; and a peasant-boy who called his mother a devil was publicly whipped. A child who struck his mother was beheaded; adultery was punished with death; a woman was publicly scourged because she sang common songs to a psalm-tune; and another because she dressed herself, in a frolic, in man’s attire. Brides were not allowed to wear wreaths in their bonnets; gamblers were set in the pillory, and card-playing and nine-pins were denounced as gambling. Heresy was punished with death; and in sixty years one hundred and fifty people were burned to death, in Geneva, for witchcraft. Legislation extended to dress and private habits; many innocent amusements were altogether suppressed; also holidays and theatrical exhibitions. Excommunication was as much dreaded as in the Mediaeval church.

In regard to the worship of God, Calvin was opposed to splendid churches, and to all ritualism. He retained psalm-singing, but abolished the organ; he removed the altar, the crucifix, and muniments from the churches, and closed them during the week-days, unless the minister was present. He despised what we call art, especially artistic music; nor did he have much respect for artificial sermons, or the art of speaking. He himself preached _ex tempore_, nor is there evidence that he ever wrote a sermon.

Respecting the Eucharist, Calvin took a middle course between Luther and Zwingli,–believing neither in the actual presence of Christ in the consecrated bread, nor regarding it as a mere symbol, but a means by which divine grace is imparted; a mirror in which we may contemplate Christ. Baptism he considered only as an indication of divine grace, and not essential to salvation; thereby differing from Luther and the Catholic church. Yet he was as strenuous in maintaining these sacraments as a Catholic priest, and made excommunication as fearful a weapon as it was in the Middle Ages. For admission to the Lord’s Supper, and thus to the membership of the visible Church, it would seem that his requirements were not rigid, but rather very simple, like those of the primitive Christians,–namely, faith in God and faith in Christ, without any subtile and metaphysical creeds, such as one might expect from his inexorable theological deductions. But he would resort to excommunication as a discipline, as the only weapon which the Church could use to bind its members together, and which had been used from the beginning; yet he would temper severity with mildness and charity, since only God is able to judge the heart. And herein he departed from the customs of the Middle Ages, and did not regard the excommunicated as lost, but to be prayed for by the faithful. No one, he maintained, should be judged as deserving eternal death who was still in the hands of God. He made a broad distinction between excommunication and anathema; the latter, he maintained, should never, or very rarely, be pronounced, since it takes away the hope of forgiveness, and consigns one to the wrath of God and the power of Satan. He regarded the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as a means to help manifold infirmities,–as a time of meditation for beholding Christ the crucified; as confirming reconciliation with God; as a visible sign of the body of Christ, recognizing his actual but spiritual presence. Luther recognized the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist, while he rejected transubstantiation and the idea of worshipping the consecrated wafer as the real God. This difference in the opinion of the reformers as to the Eucharist led to bitter quarrels and controversies, and divided the Protestants. Calvin pursued a middle and moderate course, and did much to harmonize the Protestant churches. He always sought peace and moderation; and his tranquillizing measures were not pleasant to the Catholics, who wished to see divisions among their enemies.

Calvin had a great dislike of ceremonies, festivals, holidays, and the like. For images he had an aversion amounting to horror. Christmas was the only festival he retained. He was even slanderously accused of wishing to abolish the Sabbath, the observance of which he inculcated with the strictness of the Puritans. He introduced congregational singing, but would not allow the ear or the eye to be distracted. The music was simple, dispensing with organs and instruments and all elaborate and artistic display. It is needless to say that this severe simplicity of worship has nearly passed away, but it cannot be doubted that the changes which the reformers made produced the deepest impression on the people in a fervent and religious age. The psalms and hymns of the reformers were composed in times of great religious excitement. Calvin was far behind Luther, who did not separate the art of music from religion; but Calvin made a divorce of art from public worship. Indeed, the Reformation was not favorable to art in any form except in sacred poetry; it declared those truths which save the soul, rather than sought those arts which adorn civilization. Hence its churches were barren of ornaments and symbols, and were cold and repulsive when the people were not excited by religious truths. Nor did they favor eloquence in the ordinary meaning of that word. Pulpit eloquence was simple, direct, and without rhetorical devices; seeking effect not in gestures and postures and modulated voice, but earnest appeals to the heart and conscience. The great Catholic preachers of the eighteenth century–like Bossuet and Bourdaloue and Massillon–surpassed the Protestants as rhetoricians.

The simplicity which marked the worship of God as established by Calvin was also a feature in his system of church government. He dispensed with bishops, archdeacons, deans, and the like. In his eyes every man who preached the word was a presbyter, or elder; and every presbyter was a bishop. A deacon was an officer to take care of the poor, not to preach. And it was necessary that a minister should have a double call,–both an inward call and an outward one,–or an election by the people in union with the clergy. Paul and Barnabas set forth elders, but the people indicated their approval by lifting up their hands. In the Presbyterianism which Calvin instituted he maintained that the Church is represented by the laity as well as by the clergy. He therefore gave the right of excommunication to the congregation in conjunction with the clergy. In the Lutheran Church, as in the Catholic, the right of excommunication was vested in the clergy alone. But Calvin gave to the clergy alone the right to administer the sacraments; nor would he give to the Church any other power of punishment than exclusion from the Lord’s Supper, and excommunication. His organization of the Church was aristocratic, placing the power in the hands of a few men of approved wisdom and piety. He had no sympathy with democracy, either civil or religious, and he formed a close union between Church and State,–giving to the council the right to choose elders and to confirm the election of ministers. As already stated, he did not attempt to shield the clergy from the civil tribunals. The consistory, which assembled once a week, was formed of elders and preachers, and a messenger of the civil court summoned before it the persons whose presence was required. No such power as this would be tolerated in these times. But the consistory could not itself inflict punishment; that was the province of the civil government. The elders and clergy inflicted no civil penalties, but simply determined what should be heard before the spiritual and what before the civil tribunal. A syndic presided in the spiritual assembly at first, but only as a church elder. The elders were chosen from the council, and the election was confirmed by the great council, the people, and preachers; so that the Church was really in the hands of the State, which appointed the clergy. It would thus seem that Church and State were very much mixed up together by Calvin, who legislated in view of the circumstances which surrounded him, and not for other times or nations. This subordination of the Church to the State, which was maintained by all the reformers, was established in opposition to the custom of the Catholic Church, which sought to make the State subservient to the Church. And the lay government of the Church, which entered into the system of Calvin, was owing to the fear that the clergy, when able to stand alone, might become proud and ambitious; a fear which was grounded on the whole history of the Church.

Although Calvin had an exalted idea of the spiritual dignity of the Church, he allowed a very dangerous interference of the State in ecclesiastical affairs, even while he would separate the functions of the clergy from those of the magistrates. He allowed the State to pronounce the final sentence on dogmatic questions, and hence the power of the synod failed in Geneva. Moreover, the payment of ministers by the State rather than by the people, as in this country, was against the old Jewish custom, which Calvin so often borrowed,–for the priests among the Jews were independent of the kings. But Calvin wished to destroy caste among the clergy, and consequently spiritual tyranny. In his legislation we see an intense hostility to the Roman Catholic Church,–one of the animating principles of the Reformers; and hence the Reformers, in their hostility to Rome, went from Sylla into Charybdis. Calvin, like all churchmen, exalted naturally the theocratic idea of the old Jewish and Mediaeval Church, and yet practically put the Church into the hands of laymen. In one sense he was a spiritual dictator, and like Luther a sort of Protestant pope; and yet he built up a system which was fatal to spiritual power such as had existed among the Catholic priesthood. For their sacerdotal spiritual power he would substitute a moral power, the result of personal bearing and sanctity. It is amusing to hear some people speak of Calvin as a ghostly spiritual father; but no man ever fought sacerdotalism more earnestly than he. The logical sequence of his ecclesiastical reforms was not the aristocratic and Erastian Church of Scotland, but the Puritans in New England, who were Independents and not Presbyterians.

Yet there is an inconsistency even in Calvin’s regime; for he had the zeal of the old Catholic Church in giving over to the civil power those he wished to punish, as in the case of Servetus. He even intruded into the circle of social life, and established a temporal rather than a spiritual theocracy; and while he overthrew the episcopal element, he made a distinction, not recognized in the primitive church, between clergy and laity. As for religious toleration, it did not exist in any country or in any church; there was no such thing as true evangelical freedom. All the Reformers attempted, as well as the Catholics, a compulsory unity of faith; and this is an impossibility. The Reformers adopted a catechism, or a theological system, which all communicants were required to learn and accept. This is substantially the acceptance of what the Church ordains. Creeds are perhaps a necessity in well-organized ecclesiastical bodies, and are not unreasonable; but it should not be forgotten that they are formulated doctrines made by men, on what is supposed to be the meaning of the Scriptures, and are not consistent with the right of private judgment when pushed out to its ultimate logical consequence. When we remember how few men are capable of interpreting Scripture for themselves, and how few are disposed to exercise this right, we can see why the formulated catechism proved useful in securing unity of belief; but when Protestant divines insisted on the acceptance of the articles of faith which they deduced from the Scriptures, they did not differ materially from the Catholic clergy in persisting on the acceptance of the authority of the Church as to matters of doctrine. Probably a church organization is impossible without a formulated creed. Such a creed has existed from the time of the Council of Nice, and is not likely ever to be abandoned by any Christian Church in any future age, although it may be modified and softened with the advance of knowledge. However, it is difficult to conceive of the unity of the Church as to faith, without a creed made obligatory on all the members of a communion to accept, and it always has been regarded as a useful and even necessary form of Christian instruction for the people. Calvin himself attached great importance to catechisms, and prepared one even for children.

He also put a great value on preaching, instead of the complicated and imposing ritual of the Catholic service; and in most Protestant churches from his day to ours preaching, or religious instruction, has occupied the most prominent part of the church service; and it must be conceded that while the Catholic service has often degenerated into mere rites and ceremonies to aid a devotional spirit, so the Protestant service has often become cold and rationalistic,–and it is not easy to say which extreme is the worse.

Thus far we have viewed Calvin in the light of a reformer and legislator, but his influence as a theologian is more remarkable. It is for his theology that he stands out as a prominent figure in the history of the Church. As such he showed greater genius; as such he is the most eminent of all the reformers; as such he impressed his mind on the thinking of his own age and of succeeding ages,–an original and immortal man. His system of divinity embodied in his “Institutes” is remarkable for the radiation of the general doctrines of the Church around one central principle, which he defended with marvellous logical power. He was not a fencer like Abelard, displaying wonderful dexterity in the use of sophistries, overwhelming adversaries by wit and sarcasm; arrogant and self-sufficient, and destroying rather than building up. He did not deify the reason, like Erigina, nor throw himself on authority like Bernard. He was not comprehensive like Augustine, nor mystical like Bonaventura. He had the spiritual insight of Anselm, and the dialectical acumen of Thomas Aquinas; acknowledging no master but Christ, and implicitly receiving whatever the Scriptures declared. He takes his original position neither from natural reason nor from the authority of the church, but from the word of God; and from declarations of Scripture, as he interprets them, he draws sequences and conclusions with irresistible logic. In an important sense he is one-sided, since he does not take cognizance of other truths equally important. He is perfectly fearless in pushing out to its most logical consequences whatever truth he seizes upon; and hence he appears to many gifted and learned critics to draw conclusions from accepted premises which apparently conflict with consciousness or natural reason; and hence there has ever been repugnance to many of his doctrines, because it is impossible, it is said, to believe them.

In general, Calvin does not essentially differ from the received doctrines of the Church as defended by its greatest lights in all ages. His peculiarity is not in making a digest of divinity,–although he treated all the great subjects which have been discussed from Athanasius to Aquinas. His “Institutes” may well be called an exhaustive system of theology. There is no great doctrine which he has not presented with singular clearness and logical force. Yet it is not for a general system of divinity that he is famous, but for making prominent a certain class of subjects, among which he threw the whole force of his genius. In fact all the great lights of the Church have been distinguished for the discussion of particular doctrines to meet the exigencies of their times. Thus Athanasius is identified with the Trinitarian controversy, although he was a minister of theological knowledge in general. Augustine directed his attention more particularly to the refutation of Pelagian heresies and human Depravity. Luther’s great doctrine was Justification by Faith, although he took the same ground as Augustine. It was the logical result of the doctrines of Grace which he defended which led to the overthrow, in half of Europe, of that extensive system of penance and self-expiation which marked the Roman Catholic Church, and on which so many glaring abuses were based. As Athanasius rendered a great service to the Church by establishing the doctrine of the Trinity, and Augustine a still greater service by the overthrow of Pelagianism, so Luther undermined the papal pile of superstition by showing eloquently,–what indeed had been shown before,–the true ground of justification. When we speak of Calvin, the great subject of Predestination arises before our minds, although on this subject he made no pretention to originality. Nor did he differ materially from Augustine, or Gottschalk, or Thomas Aquinas before him, or Pascal and Edwards after him. But no man ever presented this complicated and mysterious subject so ably as he.

It is not for me to discuss this great topic. I simply wish to present the subject historically,–to give Calvin’s own views, and the effect of his deductions on the theology of his age; and in giving Calvin’s views I must shelter myself under the wings of his best biographer, Doctor Henry of Berlin, and quote the substance of his exposition of the peculiar doctrines of the Swiss, or rather French, theologian.

According to Henry, Calvin maintained that God, in his sovereign will and for his own glory, elected one part of the human race to everlasting life, and abandoned the other part to everlasting death; that man, by the original transgression, lost the power of free-will, except to do evil; that it is only by Divine Grace that freedom to do good is recovered; but that this grace is bestowed only on the elect, and elect not in consequence of the foreknowledge of God, but by his absolute decree before the world was made.

This is the substance of those peculiar doctrines which are called Calvinism, and by many regarded as fundamental principles of theology, to be received with the same unhesitating faith as the declarations of Scripture from which those doctrines are deduced. Augustine and Aquinas accepted substantially the same doctrines, but they were not made so prominent in their systems, nor were they so elaborately worked out.

The opponents of Calvin, including some of the brightest lights which have shone in the English church,–such men as Jeremy Taylor, Archbishop Whately, and Professor Mosley,–affirm that these doctrines are not only opposed to free-will, but represent God as arbitrarily dooming a large part of the human race to future and endless punishment, withholding from them his grace, by which alone they can turn from their sins, creating them only to destroy them: not as the potter moulds the clay for vessels of honor and dishonor, but moulding the clay in order to destroy the vessels he has made, whether good or bad; which doctrine they affirm conflicts with the views usually held out in the Scriptures of God as a God of love, and also conflicts with all natural justice, and is therefore one-sided and narrow.

The premises from which this doctrine is deduced are those Scripture texts which have the authority of the Apostle Paul, such as these: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world;” “For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate;” “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated;” “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth;” “Hath not the potter power over his clay?” No one denies that from these texts the Predestination of Calvin as well as Augustine–for they both had similar views–is logically drawn. It has been objected that both of these eminent theologians overlooked other truths which go in parallel lines, and which would modify the doctrine,–even as Scripture asserts in one place the great fact that the will is free, and in another place that the will is shackled. The Pelagian would push out the doctrine of free-will so as to ignore the necessity of grace; and the Augustinian would push out the doctrine of the servitude of the will into downright fatalism. But these great logicians apparently shrink from the conclusions to which their logic leads them. Both Augustine and Calvin protest against fatalism, and both assert that the will is so far free that the sinner acts without constraint; and consequently the blame of his sins rests upon himself, and not upon another. The doctrines of Calvin and Augustine logically pursued would lead to the damnation of infants; yet, as a matter of fact, neither maintained that to which their logic led. It is not in human nature to believe such a thing, even if it may be dogmatically asserted.

And then, in regard to sin: no one has ever disputed the fact that sin is rampant in this world, and is deserving of punishment. But theologians of the school of Augustine and Calvin, in view of the fact, have assumed the premise–which indeed cannot be disputed–that sin is against an infinite God. Hence, that sin against an infinite God is itself infinite; and hence that, as sin deserves punishment, an infinite sin deserves infinite punishment,–a conclusion from which consciousness recoils, and which is nowhere asserted in the Bible. It is a conclusion arrived at by metaphysical reasoning, which has very little to do with practical Christianity, and which, imposed as a dogma of belief, to be accepted like plain declarations of Scripture, is an insult to the human understanding. But this conclusion, involving the belief that inherited sin _is infinite_, and deserving of infinite punishment, appals the mind. For relief from this terrible logic, the theologian adduces the great fact that Christ made an atonement for sin,–another cardinal declaration of the Scripture,–and that believers in this atonement shall be saved. This Bible doctrine is exceedingly comforting, and accounts in a measure for the marvellous spread of Christianity. The wretched people of the old Roman world heard the glad tidings that Christ died for them, as an atonement for the sins of which they were conscious, and which had chained them to despair. But another class of theologians deduced from this premise, that, as Christ’s death was an infinite atonement for the sins of the world, so all men, and consequently all sinners, would be saved. This was the ground of the original Universalists, deduced from the doctrines which Augustine and Calvin had formulated. But they overlooked the Scripture declaration which Calvin never lost sight of, that salvation was only for those who believed. Now inasmuch as a vast majority of the human race, including infants, have not believed, it becomes a logical conclusion that all who have not believed are lost. Logic and consciousness then come into collision, and there is no relief but in consigning these discrepancies to the realm of mystery.

I allude to these theological difficulties simply to show the tyranny to which the mind and soul are subjected whenever theological deductions are invested with the same authority as belongs to original declarations of Scripture; and which, so far from being systematized, do not even always apparently harmonize. Almost any system of belief can be logically deduced from Scripture texts. It should be the work of theologians to harmonize them and show their general spirit and meaning, rather than to draw conclusions from any particular class of subjects. Any system of deductions from texts of Scripture which are offset by texts of equal authority but apparently different meaning, is necessarily one-sided and imperfect, and therefore narrow. That is exactly the difficulty under which Calvin labored. He seems, to a large class of Christians of great ability and conscientiousness, to be narrow and one-sided, and is therefore no authority to them; not, be it understood, in reference to the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity, but in his views of Predestination and the subjects interlinked with it. And it was the great error of attaching so much importance to mere metaphysical divinity that led to such a revulsion from his peculiar system in after times. It was the great wisdom of the English reformers, like Cranmer, to leave all those metaphysical questions open, as matters of comparatively little consequence, and fall back on unquestioned doctrines of primitive faith, that have given so great vitality to the English Church, and made it so broad and catholic. The Puritans as a body, more intellectual than the mass of the Episcopalians, were led away by the imposing and entangling dialectics of the scholastic Calvin, and came unfortunately to attach as much importance to such subjects as free-will and predestination–questions most complicated–as they did to “the weightier matters of the law;” and when pushed by the logic of opponents to the _decretum horribile_, have been compelled to fall back on the Catholic doctrine of mysteries, as something which could never be explained or comprehended, but which it is a Christian duty to accept as a mystery. The Scriptures certainly speak of mysteries, like regeneration; but it is one thing to marvel how a man can be born again by the Spirit of God,–a fact we see every day,–and quite another thing to make a mystery to be accepted as a matter of faith of that which the Bible has nowhere distinctly affirmed, and which is against all ideas of natural justice, and arrived at by a subtle process of dialectical reasoning.

But it was natural for so great an intellectual giant as Calvin to make his startling deductions from the great truths he meditated upon with so much seriousness and earnestness. Only a very lofty nature would have revelled as he did, and as Augustine did before him and Pascal after him, in those great subjects which pertain to God and his dispensations. All his meditations and formulated doctrines radiate from the great and sublime idea of the majesty of God and the comparative insignificance of man. And here he was not so far apart from the great sages of antiquity, before salvation was revealed by Christ. “Canst thou by searching find out God?” “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”

And here I would remark that theologians and philosophers have ever been divided into two great schools,–those who have had a tendency to exalt the dignity of man, and those who would absorb man in the greatness of the Deity. These two schools have advocated doctrines which, logically carried out to their ultimate sequences, would produce a Grecian humanitarianism on the one hand, and a sort of Bramanism on the other,–the one making man the arbiter of his own destiny, independently of divine agency, and the other making the Deity the only power of the universe. With one school, God as the only controlling agency is a fiction, and man himself is infinite in faculties; the other holds that God is everything and man is nothing. The distinction between these two schools, both of which have had great defenders, is fundamental,–such as that between Augustine and Pelagius, between Bernard and Abelard, and between Calvin and Lainez. Among those who have inclined to the doctrine of the majesty of God and the littleness of man were the primitive monks and the Indian theosophists, and the orthodox scholastics of the Middle Ages,–all of whom were comparatively indifferent to material pleasure and physical progress, and sought the salvation of the soul and the favor of God beyond all temporal blessings. Of the other class have been the Greek philosophers and the rationalizing schoolmen and the modern lights of science.

Now Calvin was imbued with the lofty spirit of the Fathers of the Church and the more religious and contemplative of the schoolmen and the saints of the Middle Ages, when he attached but little dignity to man unaided by divine grace, and was absorbed with the idea of the sovereignty of God, in whose hands man is like clay in the hands of the potter. This view of God pervaded the whole spirit of his theology, making it both lofty and yet one-sided. To him the chief end of man was to glorify God, not to develop his own intellectual faculties, and still less to seek the pleasures and excitements of the world. Man was a sinner before an infinite God, and he could rise above the polluting influence of sin only by the special favor of God and his divinely communicated grace. Man was so great a sinner that he deserved an eternal punishment, only to be rescued as a brand plucked from the fire, as one of the elect before the world was made. The vast majority of men were left to the uncovenanted mercies of Christ,–the redeemer, not of the race, but of those who believed.

To Calvin therefore, as to the Puritans, the belief in a personal God was everything; not a compulsory belief in the general existence of a deity who, united with Nature, reveals himself to our consciousness; not the God of the pantheist, visible in all the wonders of Nature; not the God of the rationalist, who retires from the universe which he has made, leaving it to the operation of certain unchanging and universal laws: but the God whom Abraham and Moses and the prophets saw and recognized, and who by his special providence rules the destinies of men. The most intellectual of the reformers abhorred the deification of the reason, and clung to that exalted supernaturalism which was the life and hope of blessed saints and martyrs in bygone ages, and which in “their contests with mail-clad infidelity was like the pebble which the shepherd of Israel hurled against the disdainful boaster who defied the power of Israel’s God.” And he was thus brought into close sympathy with the realism of the Fathers, who felt that all that is valuable in theology must radiate from the recognition of Almighty power in the renovation of society, and displayed, not according to our human notions of law and progress and free-will, but supernaturally and mysteriously, according to his sovereign will, which is above law, since God is the author of law. He simply erred in enforcing a certain class of truths which must follow from the majesty of the one great First Cause, lofty as these truths are, to the exclusion of another class of truths of great importance; which gives to his system incompleteness and one-sidedness. Thus he was led to undervalue the power of truth itself in its contest with error. He was led into a seeming recognition of two wills in God,–that which wills the salvation of all men, and that which wills the salvation of the elect alone. He is accused of a leaning to fatalism, which he heartily denied, but which seems to follow from his logical conclusions. He entered into an arena of metaphysical controversy which can never be settled. The doctrines of free-will and necessity can never be reconciled by mortal reason. Consciousness reveals the freedom of the will as well as the slavery to sin. Men are conscious of both; they waste their time in attempting to reconcile two apparently opposing facts,–like our pious fathers at their New England firesides, who were compelled to shelter themselves behind mystery.

The tendency of Calvin’s system, it is maintained by many, is to ascribe to God attributes which according to natural justice would be injustice and cruelty, such as no father would exercise on his own children, however guilty. Even good men will not accept in their hearts doctrines which tend to make God less compassionate than man. There are not two kinds of justice. The intellect is appalled when it is affirmed that one man _justly_ suffers the penalty of another man’s sin,–although the world is full of instances of men suffering from the carelessness or wickedness of others, as in a wicked war or an unnecessary railway disaster. The Scripture law of retribution, as brought out in the Bible and sustained by consciousness, is the penalty a man pays for personal and voluntary transgression. Nor will consciousness accept the doctrine that the sin of a mortal–especially under strong temptation and with all the bias of a sinful nature–is infinite. Nothing which a created mortal can do is infinite; it is only finite: the infinite belongs to God alone. Hence an infinite penalty for a finite sin conflicts with consciousness and is nowhere asserted in the Bible, which is transcendently more merciful and comforting than many theological systems of belief, however powerfully sustained by dialectical reasoning and by the most excellent men. Human judgments or reasonings are fallible on moral questions which have two sides; and reasonings from texts which present different meanings when studied by the lights of learning and science are still more liable to be untrustworthy. It would seem to be the supremest necessity for theological schools to unravel the meaning of divine declarations, and present doctrines in their relation with apparently conflicting texts, rather than draw out a perfect and consistent system, philosophically considered, from any one class of texts. Of all things in this wicked and perplexing world the science of theology should be the most cheerful and inspiring, for it involves inquiries on the loftiest subjects which can interest a thoughtful mind.

But whatever defects the system of doctrines which Calvin elaborated with such transcendent ability may have, there is no question as to its vast influence on the thinking of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The schools of France and Holland and Scotland and England and America were animated by his genius and authority. He was a burning and a shining light, if not for all ages, at least for the unsettled times in which he lived. No theologian ever had a greater posthumous power than he for nearly three hundred years, and he is still one of the great authorities of the church universal. John Knox sought his counsel and was influenced by his advice in the great reform he made in Scotland. In France the words Calvinist and Huguenot are synonymous. Cranmer, too, listened to his counsels, and had great respect for his learning and sanctity. Among the Puritans he has reigned like an oracle. Oliver Cromwell embraced his doctrines, as also did Sir Matthew Hale. Ridicule or abuse of Calvin is as absurd as the ridicule or abuse with which Protestants so long assailed Hildebrand or Innocent III. No one abuses Pascal or Augustine, and yet the theological views of all these are substantially the same.

In one respect I think that Calvin has received more credit than he deserves. Some have maintained that he was a sort of father of republicanism and democratic liberty. In truth he had no popular sympathies, and leaned towards an aristocracy which was little short of an oligarchy. He had no hand in establishing the political system of Geneva; it was established before he went there. He was not even one of those thinkers who sympathized with true liberty of conscience. He persecuted heretics like a mediaeval Catholic divine. He would have burned a Galileo as he caused the death of Servetus, which need not have happened but for him. Calvin could have saved Servetus if he had pleased; but he complained of him to the magistrates, knowing that his condemnation and death would necessarily follow. He had neither the humanity of Luther nor the toleration of Saint Augustine. He was the impersonation of intellect,–like Newton, Leibnitz, Spinoza, and Kant,–which overbore the impulses of his heart. He had no passions except zeal for orthodoxy. So pre-eminently did intellect tower above the passions that he seemed to lack sympathy; and yet, such was his exalted character, he was capable of friendship. He was remarkable for every faculty of the mind except wit and imagination. His memory was almost incredible; he remembered everything he ever read or heard; he would, after long intervals, recognize persons whom he had never seen but once or twice. When employed in dictation, he would resume the thread of his discourse without being prompted, after the most vexatious interruptions. His judgment was as sound as his memory was retentive; it was almost infallible,–no one was ever known to have been misled by it. He had a remarkable analytical power, and also the power of generalization. He was a very learned man, and his Commentaries are among the most useful and valued of his writings, showing both learning and judgment; his exegetical works have scarcely been improved. He had no sceptical or rationalistic tendencies, and therefore his Commentaries may not be admired by men of “advanced thought,” but his annotations will live when those of Ewald shall be forgotten; they still hold their place in the libraries of biblical critics. For his age he was a transcendent critic; his various writings fill five folio volumes. He was not so voluminous a writer as Thomas Aquinas, but less diffuse; his style is lucid, like that of Voltaire.

Considering the weakness of his body Calvin’s labors were prodigious. There was never a more industrious man, finding time for everything,–for an amazing correspondence, for pastoral labors, for treatises and essays, for commentaries and official duties. No man ever accomplished more in the same space of time. He preached daily every alternate week; he attended meetings of the Consistory and of the Court of Morals; he interested himself in the great affairs of his age; he wrote letters to all parts of Christendom.

Reigning as a religious dictator, and with more influence than any man of his age, next to Luther, Calvin was content to remain poor, and was disdainful of money and all praises and rewards. This was not an affectation, not the desire to imitate the great saints of Christian antiquity to whom poverty was a cardinal virtue; but real indifference, looking upon money as _impedimenta_, as camp equipage is to successful generals. He was not conscious of being poor with his small salary of fifty dollars a year, feeling that he had inexhaustible riches within him; and hence he calmly and naturally took his seat among the great men of the world as their peer and equal, without envy of the accidents of fortune and birth. He was as indifferent to money and luxuries as Socrates when he walked barefooted among the Athenian aristocracy, or Basil when he retired to the wilderness; he rarely gave vent to extravagant grief or joy, seldom laughed, and cared little for hilarities; he knew no games or sports; he rarely played with children or gossiped with women; he loved without romance, and suffered bereavement without outward sorrow. He had no toleration for human infirmities, and was neither social nor genial; he sought a wife, not so much for communion of feeling as to ease him of his burdens,–not to share his confidence, but to take care of his house. Nor was he fond, like Luther, of music and poetry. He had no taste for the fine arts; he never had a poet or an artist for his friend or companion. He could not look out of his window without seeing the glaciers of the Alps, but seemed to be unmoved by their unspeakable grandeur; he did not revel in the glories of nature or art, but gave his mind to abstract ideas and stern practical duties. He was sparing of language, simple, direct, and precise, using neither sarcasm, nor ridicule, nor exaggeration. He was far from being eloquent according to popular notions of oratory, and despised the jingle of words and phrases and tricks of rhetoric; he appealed to reason rather than the passions, to the conscience rather than the imagination.

Though mild, Calvin was also intolerant. Castillo, once his friend, assailed his doctrine of Decrees, and was obliged to quit Geneva, and was so persecuted that he died of actual starvation; Perrin, captain-general of the republic, danced at a wedding, and was thrown into prison; Bolsec, an eminent physician, opposed the doctrine of Predestination, and was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment; Gruet spoke lightly of the ordinances of religion, and was beheaded; Servetus was a moral and learned and honest man, but could not escape the flames. Had he been willing to say, as the flames consumed his body, “Jesus, thou eternal Son of God, have mercy on me!” instead of, “Jesus, thou son of the eternal God!” he might have been spared. Calvin was as severe on those who refused to accept his logical deductions from acknowledged truths as he was on those who denied the fundamental truths themselves. But toleration was rare in his age, and he was not beyond it. He was not even beyond the ideas of the Middle Ages in some important points, such as those which pertained to divine justice,–the wrath rather than the love of God. He lived too near the Middle Ages to be emancipated from the ideas which enslaved such a man as Thomas Aquinas. He had very little patience with frivolous amusements or degrading pursuits. He attached great dignity to the ministerial office, and set a severe example of decorum and propriety in all his public ministrations. He was a type of the early evangelical divines, and was the father of the old Puritan strictness and narrowness and fidelity to trusts. His very faults grew out of virtues pushed to extremes. In our times such a man would not be selected as a travelling companion, or a man at whose house we would wish to keep the Christmas holidays. His unattractive austerity perhaps has been made too much of by his enemies, and grew out of his unimpulsive temperament,–call it cold if we must,–and also out of his stern theology, which marked the ascetics of the Middle Ages. Few would now approve of his severity of discipline any more than they would feel inclined to accept some of his theological deductions.

I question whether Calvin lived in the hearts of his countrymen, or they would have erected some monument to his memory. In our times a statue has been erected to Rousseau in Geneva; but Calvin was buried without ceremony and with exceeding simplicity. He was a warrior who cared nothing for glory or honor, absorbed in devotion to his Invisible King, not indifferent to the exercise of power, but only as he felt he was the delegated messenger of Divine Omnipotence scattering to the winds the dust of all mortal grandeur. With all his faults, which were on the surface, he was the accepted idol and oracle of a great party, and stamped his genius on his own and succeeding ages. Whatever the Presbyterians have done for civilization, he comes in for a share of the honor. Whatever foundations the Puritans laid for national greatness in this country, it must be confessed that they caught inspiration from his decrees. Such a great master of exegetical learning and theological inquiry and legislative wisdom will be forever held in reverence by lofty characters, although he may be no favorite with the mass of mankind. If many great men and good men have failed to comprehend either his character or his system, how can a pleasure-loving and material generation, seeking to combine the glories of this world with the promises of the next, see much in him to admire, except as a great intellectual dialectician and system-maker in an age with which it has no sympathy? How can it appreciate his deep spiritual life, his profound communion with God, his burning zeal for the defence of Christian doctrine, his sublime self-sacrifice, his holy resignation, his entire consecration to a great cause? Nobody can do justice to Calvin who does not know the history of his times, the circumstances which surrounded him, and the enemies he was required to fight. No one can comprehend his character or mission who does not feel it to be supremely necessary to have a definite, positive system of religious belief, based on the authority of the Scriptures as a divine inspiration, both as an anchor amid the storms and a star of promise and hope.

And, after all, what is the head and front of Calvin’s offending?–that he was cold, unsocial, and ungenial in character; and that, as a theologian, he fearlessly and inexorably pushed out his deductions to their remotest logical sequences. But he was no more austere than Chrysostom, no more ascetic than Basil, not even sterner in character than Michael Angelo, or more unsocial than Pascal or Cromwell or William the Silent. We lose sight of his defects in the greatness of his services and the exalted dignity of his character. If he was severe to adversaries, he was kind to friends; and when his feeble body was worn out by his protracted labors, at the age of fifty-three, and he felt that the hand of death was upon him, he called together his friends and fellow-laborers in reform,–the magistrates and ministers of Geneva,–imparted his last lessons, and expressed his last wishes, with the placidity of a Christian sage. Amid tears and sobs and stifled groans he discoursed calmly on his approaching departure, gave his affectionate benedictions, and commended them and his cause to Christ; lingering longer than was expected, but dying in the highest triumphs of Christian faith, May 27, 1564, in the arms of his faithful and admiring Beza, as the rays of the setting-sun gilded with their glory his humble chamber of toil and spiritual exaltation.

No man who knows anything will ever sneer at Calvin. He is not to be measured by common standards. He was universally regarded as the greatest light of the theological world. When we remember his transcendent abilities, his matchless labors, his unrivalled influence, his unblemished morality, his lofty piety, and soaring soul, all flippant criticism is contemptible and mean. He ranks with immortal benefactors, and needs least of all any apologies for his defects. A man who stamped his opinions on his own age and succeeding ages can be regarded only as a very extraordinary genius. A frivolous and pleasure-seeking generation may not be attracted by such an impersonation of cold intellect, and may rear no costly monument to his memory; but his work remains as the leader of the loftiest class of Christian enthusiasts that the modern world has known, and the founder of a theological system which still numbers, in spite of all the changes of human thought, some of the greatest thinkers and ablest expounders of Christian doctrine in both Europe and America. To have been the spiritual father of the Puritans for three hundred years is itself a great evidence of moral and intellectual excellence, and will link his name with some of the greatest movements that have marked our modern civilization. From Plymouth Rock to the shores of the Pacific Ocean we still see the traces of his marvellous genius, and his still more wonderful influence on the minds of men and on the schools of Christian theology; so that he will ever be regarded as the great doctor of the Protestant Church.


Henry’s Life of Calvin, translated by Stebbings; Dyer’s Life of Calvin; Beza’s Life of Calvin; Drelincourt’s Defence of Calvin; Bayle; Maimbourg’s Histoire du Calvinisine; Calvin’s Works; Ruchat; D’Aubigne’s History of the Reformation; Burnet’s Reformation; Mosheim; Biographie Universelle, article on Servetus; Schlosser’s Leben Bezas; McCrie’s Life of Knox; Original Letters (Parker Society).


* * * * *

A.D. 1561-1626.


It is not easy to present the life and labors of

“The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.”

So Pope sums up the character of the great Lord Bacon, as he is generally but improperly called; and this verdict, in the main, has been confirmed by Lords Macaulay and Campbell, who seem to delight in keeping him in that niche of the temple of fame where the poet has placed him,–contemptible as a man, but venerable as the philosopher, radiant with all the wisdom of his age and of all preceding ages, the miner and sapper of ancient falsehoods, the pioneer of all true knowledge, the author of that inductive and experimental philosophy on which is based the glory of our age. Macaulay especially, in that long and brilliant article which appeared in the “Edinburgh Review” in 1837, has represented him as a remarkably worldly man, cold, calculating, selfish; a sycophant and a flatterer, bent on self-exaltation; greedy, careless, false; climbing to power by base subserviency; betraying friends and courting enemies; with no animosities he does not suppress from policy, and with no affections which he openly manifests when it does not suit his interests: so that we read with shame of his extraordinary shamelessness, from the time he first felt the cravings of a vulgar ambition to the consummation of a disgraceful crime; from the base desertion of his greatest benefactor to the public selling of justice as Lord High Chancellor of the realm; resorting to all the arts of a courtier to win the favor of his sovereign and of his minions and favorites; reckless as to honest debts; torturing on the rack an honest parson for a sermon he never preached; and, when obliged to confess his corruption, meanly supplicating mercy from the nation he had outraged, and favors from the monarch whose cause he had betrayed. The defects and delinquencies of this great man are bluntly and harshly put by Macaulay, without any attempt to soften or palliate them; as if he would consign his name and memory, not “to men’s charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next ages,” but to an infamy as lasting and deep as that of Scroggs and of Jeffreys, or any of those hideous tyrants and monsters that disgraced the reigns of the Stuart kings.

And yet while the man is made to appear in such hideous colors, his philosophy is exalted to the highest pinnacle of praise, as the greatest boon which any philosopher ever rendered to the world, and the chief cause of all subsequent progress in scientific discovery. And thus in brilliant rhetoric we have a painting of a man whose life was in striking contrast with his teachings,–a Judas Iscariot, uttering divine philosophy; a Seneca, accumulating millions as the tool of Nero; a fallen angel, pointing with rapture to the realms of eternal light. We have the most startling contradiction in all history,–glory in debasement, and debasement in glory; the most selfish and worldly man in England, the “meanest of mankind,” conferring on the race one of the greatest blessings it ever received,–not accidentally, not in repentance and shame, but in exalted and persistent labors, amid public cares and physical infirmities, from youth to advanced old age; living in the highest regions of thought, studious and patient all his days, even when neglected and unrewarded for the transcendent services he rendered, not as a philosopher merely, but as a man of affairs and as a responsible officer of the Crown. Has there ever been, before or since, such an anomaly in human history,–so infamous in action, so glorious in thought; such a contradiction between life and teachings,–so that many are found to utter indignant protests against such a representation of humanity, justly feeling that such a portrait, however much it may be admired for its brilliant colors, and however difficult to be proved false, is nevertheless an insult to the human understanding? The heart of the world will not accept the strange and singular belief that so bad a man could confer so great a boon, especially when he seemed bent on bestowing it during his whole life, amid the most harassing duties. If it accepts the boon, it will strive to do justice to the benefactor, as he himself appealed to future ages; and if it cannot deny the charges which have been arrayed against him,–especially if it cannot exculpate him,–it will soar beyond technical proofs to take into consideration the circumstances of the times, the temptations of a corrupt age, and the splendid traits which can with equal authority be adduced to set off against the mistakes and faults which proceeded from inadvertence and weakness rather than a debased moral sense,–even as the defects and weaknesses of Cicero are lost sight of in the acknowledged virtues of his ordinary life, and the honest and noble services he rendered to his country and mankind.

Bacon was a favored man; he belonged to the upper ranks of society. His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was a great lawyer, and reached the highest dignities, being Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His mother’s sister was the wife of William Cecil, the great Lord Burleigh, the most able and influential of Queen Elizabeth’s ministers. Francis Bacon was the youngest son of the Lord Keeper, and was born in London, Jan. 22, 1561. He had a sickly and feeble constitution, but intellectually was a youthful prodigy; and at nine years of age, by his gravity and knowledge, attracted the admiring attention of the Queen, who called him her young Lord Keeper. At the age of ten we find him stealing away from his companions to discover the cause of a singular echo in the brick conduit near his father’s house in the Strand. At twelve he entered the University of Cambridge; at fifteen he quitted it, already disgusted with its pedantries and sophistries; at sixteen he rebelled against the authority of Aristotle, and took up his residence at Gray’s Inn; the same year, 1576, he was sent to Paris in the suite of Sir Amias Paulet, ambassador to the court of France, and delighted the salons of the capital by his wit and profound inquiries; at nineteen he returned to England, having won golden opinions from the doctors of the French Sanhedrim, who saw in him a second Daniel; and in 1582 he was admitted as a barrister of Gray’s Inn, and the following year composed an essay on the Instauration of Philosophy. Thus, at an age when young men now leave the university, he had attacked the existing systems of science and philosophy, proudly taking in all science and knowledge for his realm.

About this time his father died, without leaving him, a younger son, a competence. Nor would his great relatives give him an office or sinecure by which he might be supported while he sought truth, and he was forced to plod at the law, which he never liked, resisting the blandishments and follies by which he was surrounded; and at intervals, when other young men of his age and rank were seeking pleasure, he was studying Nature, science, history, philosophy, poetry,–everything, even the whole domain of truth,–and with such success that his varied attainments were rather a hindrance to an appreciation of his merits as a lawyer and his preferment in his profession.

In 1586 he entered parliament, sitting for Taunton, and also became a bencher at Gray’s Inn; so that at twenty-six he was in full practice in the courts of Westminster, also a politician, speaking on almost every question of importance which agitated the House of Commons for twenty years, distinguished for eloquence as well as learning, and for a manly independence which did not entirely please the Queen, from whom all honors came.

In 1591, at the age of thirty-one, he formed the acquaintance of Essex, about his own age, who, as the favorite of the Queen, was regarded as the most influential man in the country. The acquaintance ripened into friendship; and to the solicitation of this powerful patron, who urged the Queen to give Bacon a high office, she is said to have replied: “He has indeed great wit and much learning, but in law, my lord, he is not deeply read,”–an opinion perhaps put into her head by his rival Coke, who did indeed know law but scarcely anything else, or by that class of old-fashioned functionaries who could not conceive how a man could master more than one thing. We should however remember that Bacon had not reached the age when great offices were usually conferred in the professions, and that his efforts to be made solicitor-general at the age of thirty-one, and even earlier, would now seem unreasonable and importunate, whatever might be his attainments. Disappointed in not receiving high office, he meditated a retreat to Cambridge; but his friend Essex gave him a villa in Twickenham, which he soon mortgaged, for he was in debt all his life, although in receipt of sums which would have supported him in comfort and dignity were it not for his habits of extravagance,–the greatest flaw in his character, and which was the indirect cause of his disgrace and fall. He was even arrested for debt when he enjoyed a lucrative practice at the courts. But nothing prevented him from pursuing his literary and scientific studies, amid great distractions,–for he was both a leader at the bar and a leader of the House of Commons; and if he did not receive the rewards to which he felt entitled, he was always consulted by Elizabeth in great legal difficulties.

It was not until the Queen died, and Bacon was forty-seven years old, that he became solicitor-general (1607), in the fourth year of the reign of James, one year after his marriage with Alice Barnham, an alderman’s daughter, “a handsome maiden,” and “to his liking.” Besides this office, which brought him L1000 a year, he about this time had a windfall as clerk of the Star Chamber, which added L2000 to his income, at that time from all sources about L4500 a year,–a very large sum for those times, and making him really a rich man. Six years afterward he was made attorney-general, and in the year 1617 he was made Lord Keeper, and the following year he was raised to the highest position in the realm, next to that of Archbishop of Canterbury, as Lord Chancellor, at the age of fifty-seven, and soon after was created Lord Verulam. That is his title, but the world persists in calling him Lord Bacon. In 1620, two years after the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, which Bacon advised, he was in the zenith of his fortunes and fame, having been lately created Viscount St. Albans, and having published the “Novum Organum,” the first instalment of the “Instauratio Magna,” at which he had been working the best part of his life,–some thirty years,–“A New Logic, to judge or invent by induction, and thereby to make philosophy and science both more true and more active.”

Then began to gather the storms which were to wreck his fortunes. The nation now was clamorous for reform; and Coke, the enemy of Bacon, who was then the leader of the Reform party in the House of Commons, stimulated the movement. The House began its scrutiny with the administration of justice; and Bacon could not stand before it, for as the highest judge in England he was accused of taking bribes before rendering decisions, and of many cases of corruption so glaring that no defence was undertaken; and the House of Lords had no alternative but to sentence him to the Tower and fine him, to degrade him from his office, and banish him from the precincts of the court,–a fall so great, and the impression of it on the civilized world so tremendous, that the case of a judge accepting bribes has rarely since been known.

Bacon was imprisoned but a few days, his ruinous fine of L40,000 was remitted, and he was even soon after received at court; but he never again held office. He was hopelessly disgraced; he was a ruined man; and he bitterly felt the humiliation, and acknowledged the justice of his