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Beacon Lights of History, Volume V by John Lord

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The numbering of volumes in the earlier set reflected
the order in which the lectures were given. In the
current (later) version, volumes were numbered to put
the subjects in historical sequence.









Change of public opinion about Mohammed
Astonishing triumph of Mohammedanism
Old religious systems of Arabia
Polytheism succeeds the doctrines of the Magians
The necessity of reform
Early life of Mohammed
Mohammed's meditations and dreams
His belief in a personal God
He preaches his new doctrines
The opposition and ridicule of his countrymen
The perseverance of Mohammed amid obstacles
His flight to Medina
The Koran and its doctrines
Change in Mohammed's mode of propagating his doctrines
Polygamy and a sensual paradise
Warlike means to convert Arabia
Mohammed accommodates his doctrines to the habits of his countrymen
Encourages martial fanaticism
Conquest of Arabia
Private life of Mohammed, after his success
Carlyle's apology for Mohammed
The conquest of Syria and Egypt
Conquest of Persia and India
Deductions in view of Saracenic conquests
Necessity of supernatural aid in the conversion of the world



Ancestry and early life of Charlemagne
The Merovingian princes
Condition of Europe on the accession of Charlemagne
Necessity for such a hero to arise
His perils and struggles
Wars with the Saxons
The difficulties of the Saxon conquest
Forced conversion of the Saxons
The Norman pirates
Conquest of the Avares
Unsuccessful war with the Saracens
The Lombard wars
Coronation of Charlemagne at Home
Imperialism and its influences
The dismemberment of Charlemagne's empire
Foundation of Feudalism
Charlemagne as a legislator
His alliance with the clergy
His administrative abilities
Reasons why he patronized the clergy
Results of Charlemagne's policy
Hallam's splendid eulogy



Wonderful government of the Papacy
Its vitality
Its contradictions
Its fascinations
The crimes of which it is accused
General character of the popes
Gregory VII. the most famous
His personal history
His autocratic ideas
His reign at the right time
Society in Europe in the eleventh century
Character of the clergy
The monks, and the need of reform
Character of the popes before Gregory VII.
Celibacy of the clergy
Alliance of the Papacy and Monasticism
Opposition to the reforms of Hildebrand
Terrible power of excommunication
Simony and its evils
Secularization of the clergy
Separation of spiritual from temporal power
Henry IV. of Germany
Approaching strife between Henry and Hildebrand
Their respective weapons
Henry summoned to Rome
Excommunication of Henry
Henry deserted and disarmed
Compelled to yield to Hildebrand
His great mistake
Renewed contest
Humiliation of the Pope
Moral effects of the contest
Speculations about the Papal power



Antiquity of Monastic life
Causes which led to it
Oriental asceticism
Religious contemplation
Insoluble questions
Basil the founder of Monasticism
His interesting history
Gregory Nazianzen
Vows of the monks
Their antagonism to prevailing evils
Vow of Poverty opposed to money-making
That of Chastity a protest against prevailing impurity
Origin of celibacy
Its subsequent corruption
Necessity of the vow of Obedience
Benedict and the Monastery of Monte Casino
His rules generally adopted
Lofty and useful life of the early monks
Growth and wealth of Monastic institutions
Magnificence of Mediaeval convents
Privileges of the monks
Luxury of the Benedictines
Relaxation of discipline
Degeneracy of the monks
Compared with secular clergy
Benefits which Monasticism conferred
Learning of the monks
Their common life
Revival of Learning
Rise of Scholasticism
Saint Bernard
His early piety and great attainments
His vast moral influence
His reforms and labors
Rise of Dominicans and Franciscans
Zeal of the mendicant friars
General benefits of Monastic institutions



Birth and early life of Anselm
The Abbey of Bec
Scholarly life of Anselm
Visits of Anselm to England
Compared with Becket
Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury
Privileges of the Archbishop
Unwillingness of Anselm to be elevated
Lanfranc succeeded by Anselm
Quarrel between Anselm and William Rufus
Despotic character of William
Disputed claims of Popes Urban and Clement
Council of Rockingham
Royal efforts to depose Anselm
Firmness and heroism of Anselm
Duplicity of the king
His intrigues with the Pope
Pretended reconciliation with Anselm
Appeals to Rome
Inordinate claims of the Pope
Allegiance of Anselm to the Pope
Anselm at Rome
Death of William and Accession of Henry I.
Royal encroachments
Henry quarrels with Anselm
Results of the quarrel
Anselm as a theologian
Theology of the Middle Ages
Monks become philosophers
Gotschalk and predestination
John Scotus Erigena
Revived spirit of inquiry
Services of Anselm to theology
He brings philosophy to support theology
Combats Nominalism
His philosophical deductions
His devout Christian spirit



Peter Abelard
Gives a new impulse to philosophy
Rationalistic tendency of his teachings
The hatreds he created
Peter Lombard
His "Book of Sentences"
Introduction of the writings of Aristotle into Europe
University of Paris
Character of the students
Their various studies
Aristotle's logic used
The method of the Schoolmen
The Dominicans and Franciscans
Innocent III.
Thomas Aquinas
His early life and studies
Albertus Magnus
Aquinas's first great work
Made Doctor of Theology
His "Summa Theologica"
Its vast learning
Parallel between Aquinas and Plato
Parallel between Plato and Aristotle
Influence of Scholasticism
Waste of intellectual life
Scholasticism attractive to the Middle Ages
To be admired like a cathedral



Becket a puzzle to historians
His early history
His gradual elevation
Friendship with Henry II.
Becket made Chancellor
Elevated to the See of Canterbury
Dignity of an archbishop of Canterbury
Becket in contrast
His ascetic habits as priest
His high-church principles
Upholds the spiritual courts
Defends the privileges of his order
Conflict with the king
Constitutions of Clarendon
Persecution of Becket
He yields at first to the king
His repentance
Defection of the bishops
Becket escapes to the Continent
Supported by Louis VII. of France
Insincerity of the Pope
Becket at Pontigny in exile
His indignant rebuke of the Pope
Who excommunicates the Archbishop of York
Henry obliged to compromise
Hollow reconciliation with Becket
Return of Becket to Canterbury
His triumphal procession
Annoyance of Henry
Assassination of Becket
Consequences of the murder


Anarchies of the Merovingian period
Society on the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire
Allodial tenure
Origin of Feudalism
Dependence and protection the principles of Feudalism
Peasants and their masters
The sentiment of loyalty
Contentment of the peasantry
Evils that cannot be redressed
Submission to them a necessity
Division of Charlemagne's empire
Life of the nobles
Pleasures and habits of feudal barons
Aristocratic character of Feudalism
Slavery of the people
Indirect blessings of Feudalism
Slavery not an unmixed evil
Influence of chivalry
Devotion to woman
The lady of the baronial castle
Reasons why women were worshipped
Dignity of the baronial home
The Christian woman contrasted with the pagan
Glory and beauty of Chivalry


The Crusades the great external event of the Middle Ages
A semi-religious and semi-military movement
What gives interest to wars?
Wars the exponents of prevailing ideas
The overruling of all wars
The majesty of Providence seen in war
Origin of the Crusades
Pilgrimages to Jerusalem
Miseries and insults of the pilgrims
Intense hatred of Mohammedanism
Peter of Amiens
Council of Clermont
The First Crusade
Its miseries and mistakes
The Second Crusade
The Third Crusade
The Fourth, Children's, Fifth, and Sixth Crusades
The Seventh Crusade
All alike unsuccessful, and wasteful of life and energies
Peculiarities and immense mistakes of the Crusaders
The moral evils of the Crusades
Ultimate results of the Crusades
Barrier made against Mohammedan conquests
Political necessity of the Crusades
Their effect in weakening the Feudal system
Effect of the Crusades on the growth of cities
On commerce and art and literature
They scatter the germs of a new civilization
They centralize power
They ultimately elevate the European races



Roman architecture
First form of a Christian church
The change to the Romanesque
Its peculiarities
Its connection with Monasticism
Gloomy aspect of the churches of the tenth and eleventh centuries
Effect of the Crusades on church architecture
Church architecture becomes cheerful
The Gothic churches of France and Germany
The English Mediaeval churches
Glories of the pointed arch
Effect of the Renaissance on architecture
Mongrel style of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
Revival of the pure gothic
Churches should be adapted to their uses
Incongruity of Protestantism with ritualistic architecture
Protestantism demands a church for preaching
Gothic vaults unfavorable to oratory



Harmony of Protestant and Mediaeval creeds
The Reformation a moral movement
The evils of Papal institutions
The evils of monastic life
Quarrels and dissoluteness of monks
Birth of Wyclif
His scholastic attainments and honors
His political influence
The powers who have ruled the world
Wyclif sent on a mission to Bruges
Protection of John of Gaunt
Wyclif summoned to an ecclesiastical council
His defenders and foes
Triumph of Wyclif
He openly denounces the Pope
His translation of the Bible
Opposition to it by the higher clergy
Hostility of Roman Catholicism to the right of private judgment
Hostility to the Bible in vernacular tongues
Spread of the Bible in English
Wyclif as a doctrinal reformer
He attacks Transubstantiation
Deserted by the Duke of Lancaster
But dies peaceably in his parish
Wyclif contrasted with Luther
His great services to the church
Reasons why he escaped martyrdom



Roland Calls for Succor in the Battle of Roncesvalles
_After the painting by Louis Guesnet_.

A Reading from the Koran
_After the painting by W. Gentz_.

Mohammed, Preaching the Unity of God, Enters the City of Mecca
_After the painting by A. Mueller_.

Charlemagne Inflicts the Rite of Baptism on the Saxons
_After the painting by Adolph Maria Mucha_.

St. Bernard Counselling Conrad III.
_After the painting by Adolph Maria Mucha_.

Canterbury Cathedral
_From a photograph_.

St. Thomas Aquinas in the School of Albertus Magnus
_After the painting by H. Lerolle_.

Murder of St. Thomas a Becket
_After the painting by A. Dawant_.

The Accolade
_After the painting by Sir E. Blair Leighton_.

Winchester Cathedral
_From a photograph_.

Facsimile of Page from Wyclif Bible


* * * * *


* * * * *

A.D. 570-632.


[Footnote 1: Spelled also _Mahomet_, _Mahommed_; but I prefer Mohammed.]

The most extraordinary man who arose after the fall of the Roman Empire
was doubtless Mohammed; and his posthumous influence has been greater
than that of any man since Christianity was declared, if we take into
account the number of those who have received his doctrines. Even
Christianity never had so rapid a spread. More than a sixth part of the
human race are the professed followers of the Arabian prophet.

In regard to Mohammed himself, a great change has taken place in the
opinions of critics within fifty years. It was the fashion half a
century ago to speak of this man as a hypocrite, an impostor, even as
Antichrist. Now he is generally regarded as a reformer; that is, as a
man who introduced into Arabia a religion and a morality superior to
what previously existed, and he is regarded as an impostor only so far
as he was visionary. Few critics doubt his sincerity. He was no
hypocrite, since he himself believed in his mission; and his mission was
benevolent,--to turn his countrymen from a gross polytheism to the
worship of one God. Although his religion cannot compare with
Christianity in purity and loftiness, yet it enforced a higher morality
than the old Arabian religions, and assimilated to Christianity in many
important respects. The chief fault we have to find in Mohammed was, the
propagation of his doctrines by the sword, and the use of wicked means
to bring about a good end. The truths he declared have had an immense
influence on Asiatic nations, and these have given vitality to his
system, if we accept the position that truth alone has vitality.

One remarkable fact stands out for the world to ponder,--that, for more
than fourteen hundred years, one hundred and eighty millions (more than
a sixth part of the human race) have adopted and cherished the religion
of Mohammed; that Christianity never had so astonishing a triumph; and
that even the adherents of Christianity, in many countries, have not
manifested the zeal of the Mohammedans in most of the countries where it
has been acknowledged. Now these startling facts can be explained only
on the ground that Mohammedanism has great vital religious and moral
truths underlying its system which appeal to the consciousness of
mankind, or else that these truths are so blended with dangerous errors
which appeal to depraved passions and interests, that the religion
spread in consequence of these errors rather than of the truth itself.

The question to be considered, then, is whether Mohammedanism spread in
consequence of its truths or in consequence of its errors.

In order to appreciate the influence of the Arabian prophet, we are
first led into the inquiry whether his religion was really an
improvement on the old systems which previously prevailed in Arabia. If
it was, he must be regarded as a benefactor and reformer, even if we
admit the glaring evils of his system, when measured by the purer
religion of the Cross. And it then simply becomes a question whether it
is better to have a prevalent corrupted system of religion containing
many important truths, or a system of downright paganism with few
truths at all.

In examining the religious systems of Arabia in the age preceding the
advent of the Prophet, it would seem that the most prominent of them
were the old doctrines of the Magians and Sabaeans, blended with a gross
idolatry and a senseless polytheism. Whatever may have been the faith of
the ancient Sabaean sages, who noted the aspects of the stars, and
supposed they were inhabited by angels placed there by Almighty power to
supervise and govern the universe, yet history seems to record that
this ancient faith was practically subverted, and that the stars, where
were supposed to dwell deities to whom prayers were made, became
themselves objects of worship, and even graven images were made in honor
of them. Among the Arabs each tribe worshipped a particular star, and
set up its particular idol, so that a degrading polytheism was the
religion of the land. The object of greatest veneration was the
celebrated Black Stone, at Mecca, fabled to have fallen from heaven at
the same time with Adam. Over this stone was built the Kaabah, a small
oblong stone building, around which has been since built the great
mosque. It was ornamented with three hundred and sixty idols. The
guardianship of this pagan temple was intrusted to the most ancient and
honorable families of Mecca, and to it resorted innumerable pilgrims
bringing precious offerings. It was like the shrine of Delphi, as a
source of profit to its fortunate guardians.

Thus before Mohammed appeared polytheism was the prevalent religion of
Arabia,--a degradation even from the ancient Sabaean faith. It is true
there were also other religions. There were many Jews at Medina; and
there was also a corrupted form of Christianity in many places, split up
into hostile and wrangling sects, with but little of the spirit of the
divine Founder, with innumerable errors and superstitions, so that in no
part of the world was Christianity so feeble a light. But the great
body of the people were pagans. A marked reform was imperatively needed
to restore the belief in the unity of God and set up a higher standard
of morality.

It is claimed that Mohammed brought such a reform. He was born in the
year 570, of the family of Hashem and the tribe of Koreish, to whom was
intrusted the keeping of the Black Stone. He therefore belonged to the
highest Arabian aristocracy. Early left an orphan and in poverty, he was
reared in the family of one of his uncles, under all the influences of
idolatry. This uncle was a merchant, and the youth made long journeys
with him to distant fairs, especially in Syria, where he probably became
acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, especially with the Old Testament.
In his twenty-fifth year he entered the service of Cadijeh, a very
wealthy widow, who sent to the fairs and towns great caravans, which
Mohammed accompanied in some humble capacity,--according to the
tradition as camel-driver. But his personal beauty, which was
remarkable, and probably also his intelligence and spirit, won the heart
of this powerful mistress, and she became his wife.

He was now second to none in the capital of Arabia, and great thoughts
began to fill his soul. His wife perceived his greatness, and, like
Josephine and the wife of Disraeli, forwarded the fortunes of her
husband, for he became rich as well as intellectual and noble, and thus
had time and leisure to accomplish more easily his work. From
twenty-five to forty he led chiefly a contemplative life, spending
months together in a cave, absorbed in his grand reflections,--at
intervals issuing from his retreat, visiting the marts of commerce, and
gaining knowledge from learned men. It is seldom that very great men
lead either a life of perpetual contemplation or of perpetual activity.
Without occasional rest, and leisure to mature knowledge, no man can arm
himself with the weapons of the gods. To be truly great, a man must
blend a life of activity with a life of study,--like Moses, who matured
the knowledge he had gained in Egypt amid the deserts of Midian.

With all great men some leading idea rules the ordinary life. The idea
which took possession of the mind of Mohammed was the degrading
polytheism of his countrymen, the multitude of their idols, the
grossness of their worship, and the degrading morals which usually
accompany a false theology. He set himself to work to produce a reform,
but amid overwhelming obstacles. He talked with his uncles, and they
laughed at him. They would not even admit the necessity of a reform.
Only Cadijeh listened to him and encouraged him and believed in him. And
Mohammed was ever grateful for this mark of confidence, and cherished
the memory of his wife in his subsequent apostasy,--if it be true that
he fell, like Solomon. Long afterwards, when she was dead, Ayesha, his
young and favorite wife, thus addressed him: "Am I not better than
Cadijeh? Do you not love me better than you did her? She was a widow,
old and ugly." "No, by Allah!" replied the Prophet; "she believed in me
when no one else did. In the whole world I had but one friend, and she
was that friend." No woman ever retained the affections of a husband
superior to herself, unless she had the spirit of Cadijeh,--unless she
proved herself his friend, and believed in him. How miserable the life
of Jane Carlyle would have been had she not been proud of her husband!
One reason why there is frequent unhappiness in married life is because
there is no mutual appreciation. How often have we seen a noble, lofty,
earnest man fettered and chained by a frivolous woman who could not be
made to see the dignity and importance of the labors which gave to her
husband all his real power! Not so with the woman who assisted Mohammed.
Without her sympathy and faith he probably would have failed. He told
her, and her alone, his dreams, his ecstasies, his visions; how that God
at different times had sent prophets and teachers to reveal new truths,
by whom religion had been restored; how this one God, who created the
heavens and the earth, had never left Himself without witnesses of His
truth in the most degenerate times; how that the universal recognition
of this sovereign Power and Providence was necessary to the salvation
of society. He had learned much from the study of the Talmud and the
Jewish Scriptures; he had reflected deeply in his isolated cave; he knew
that there was but one supreme God, and that there could be no elevated
morality without the sense of personal responsibility to Him; that
without the fear of this one God there could be neither wisdom
nor virtue.

Hence his soul burned to tell his countrymen his earnest belief in a
supreme and personal God, to whom alone prayers should be made, and who
alone could rescue by His almighty power. He pondered day and night on
this single and simple truth. His perpetual meditations and ascetic
habits induced dreams and ecstasies, such as marked primitive monks, and
Loyola in his Manresan cave. He became a visionary man, but most
intensely earnest, for his convictions were overwhelming. He fancied
himself the ambassador of this God, as the ancient Jewish prophets were;
that he was even greater than they, his mission being to remove
idolatry,--to his mind the greatest evil under the sun, since it was the
root of all vices and follies. Idolatry is either a defiance or a
forgetfulness of God,--high treason to the majesty of Heaven, entailing
the direst calamities.

At last, one day, in his fortieth year, after he had been shut up a
whole month in solitude, so that his soul was filled with ecstasy and
enthusiasm, he declared to Cadijeh that the night before, while wrapped
in his mantle, absorbed in reverie, a form of divine beauty, in a flood
of light, appeared to him, and, in the name of the Almighty who created
the heavens and the earth, thus spake: "O, Mohammed! of a truth thou art
the Prophet of God, and I am his angel Gabriel." "This," says Carlyle,
"is the soul of Islam. This is what Mohammed felt and now declared to be
of infinite moment, that idols and formulas were nothing; that the
jargon of argumentative Greek sects, the vague traditions of Jews, the
stupid routine of Arab idolatry were a mockery and a delusion; that
there is but one God; that we must let idols alone and look to Him. He
alone is reality; He made us and sustains us. Our whole strength lies in
submission to Him. The thing He sends us, be it death even, is good, is
the best. We resign ourselves to Him."

Such were the truths which Mohammed, with preternatural earnestness, now
declared,--doctrines which would revolutionize Arabia. And why not? They
are the same substantially which Moses declared to those sensual and
degraded slaves whom he led out of Egypt,--yea, the doctrines of David
and of Job. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." What a grand
and all-important truth it is to impress upon people sunk in
forgetfulness and sensuality and pleasure-seeking and idle schemes of
vanity and ambition, that there is a supreme Intelligence who overrules,
and whose laws cannot be violated with impunity; from whom no one can
escape, even though he "take the wings of the morning and fly to the
uttermost parts of the sea." This is the one truth that Moses sought to
plant in the minds of the Jews,--a truth always forgotten when there is
slavery to epicurean pleasures or a false philosophy.

Now I maintain that Mohammed, in seeking to impress his degenerate
countrymen with the idea of the one supreme God, amid a most degrading
and almost universal polytheism, was a great reformer. In preaching this
he was neither fanatic nor hypocrite; he was a very great man, and thus
far a good man. He does not make an original revelation; he reproduces
an old truth,--as old as the patriarchs, as old as Job, as old as the
primitive religions,--but an exceedingly important one, lost sight of by
his countrymen, gradually lost sight of by all peoples when divine grace
is withheld; indeed practically by people in Christian lands in times of
great degeneracy. "The fool has said in his heart there is no God;" or,
Let there be no God, that we may eat and drink before we die.
Epicureanism, in its pleasures or in its speculations, is virtually
atheism. It was so in Greece. It is so with us.

Mohammed was now at the mature age of forty, in the fulness of his
powers, in the prime of his life; and he began to preach everywhere
that there is but one God. Few, however, believed in him. Why not
acknowledge such a fundamental truth, appealing to the intellect as well
as the moral sense? But to confess there is a supreme God, who rewards
and punishes, and to whom all are responsible both for words and
actions, is to imply a confession of sinfulness and the justice of
retribution. Those degraded Arabians would not receive willingly such a
truth as this, even as the Israelites ever sought to banish it from
their hearts and minds, in spite of their deliverance from slavery. The
uncles and friends of Mohammed treated his mission with scorn and
derision. Nor do I read that the common people heard him gladly, as they
listened to the teachings of Christ. Zealously he labored for three
years with all classes; and yet in three years of exalted labor, with
all his eloquence and fervor and sincerity, he converted only about
thirteen persons, one of whom was his slave. Think of such a man
declaring such a truth, and only gaining thirteen followers in three
years! How sickened must have been his enthusiastic soul! His worldly
relatives urged him to silence. Why attack idols; why quarrel with his
own interests; why destroy his popularity? Then exclaimed that great
hero: "If the sun stood on my right hand, and the moon on my left,
ordering me to hold my peace, I would still declare there is but one
God,"--a speech rivalled only by Luther at the Diet of Worms. Why urge
a great man to be silent on the very thing which makes him great? He
cannot be silent. His truth--from which he cannot be separated--is
greater than life or death, or principalities or powers.

Buffeted and ridiculed, still Mohammed persevered. He used at first only
moral means. He appealed only to the minds and hearts of the people,
encouraged by his few believers and sustained by the fancied voice of
that angel who appeared to him in his retreat. But his earnest voice was
drowned by discordant noises. He was regarded as a lunatic, a demented
man, because he professed to believe in a personal God. The angry mob
covered his clothes with dust and ashes. They demanded miracles. But at
this time he had only truths to declare,--those saving truths which are
perpetual miracles. At last hostilities began. He was threatened and he
was persecuted. They laid plots to take his life. He sought shelter in
the castle of his uncle, Abu Taleh; but he died. Then Mohammed's wife
Cadijeh died. The priests of an idolatrous religion became furious. He
had laid his hands on their idols. He was regarded as a disorganizer, an
innovator, a most dangerous man. His fortunes became darker and darker;
he was hated, persecuted, and alone.

Thus thirteen years passed away in reproach, in persecution, in fear. At
last forty picked men swore to assassinate him. Should he remain at
Mecca and die, before his mission was accomplished, or should he fly? He
concluded to fly to Medina, where there were Jews, and some nominal
converts to Christianity,--a new ground. This was in the year 622, and
the flight is called the Hegira,--from which the East dates its era, in
the fifty-third year of the Prophet's life. In this city he was
cordially welcomed, and he soon found himself surrounded with
enthusiastic followers. He built a mosque, and openly performed the
rites of the new religion.

At this era a new phase appears in the Prophet's life and teachings.
Thus far, until his flight, it would seem that he propagated his
doctrines by moral force alone, and that these doctrines, in the main,
were elevated. He had earnestly declared his great idea of the unity of
God. He had pronounced the worship of images to be idolatrous. He held
idolatry of all kinds in supreme abhorrence. He enjoined charity,
justice, and forbearance. He denounced all falsehood and all deception,
especially in trade. He declared that humility, benevolence, and
self-abnegation were the greatest virtues. He commanded his disciples to
return good for evil, to restrain the passions, to bridle the tongue, to
be patient under injuries, to be submissive to God. He enjoined prayer,
fastings, and meditation as a means of grace. He laid down the necessity
of rest on the seventh day. He copied the precepts of the Bible in many
of their essential features, and recognized its greatest teachers as
inspired prophets.

It was during these thirteen years at Mecca, amid persecution and
ridicule, and with few outward successes, that he probably wrote the
Koran,--a book without beginning and without end, _disjecta membra_,
regardless of all rules of art, full of repetitions, and yet full of
lofty precepts and noble truths of morality evidently borrowed from the
Jewish Scriptures,--in which his great ideas stand out with singular
eloquence and impressiveness: the unity of God, His divine sovereignty,
the necessity of prayer, the soul's immortality, future rewards and
punishments. His own private life had been blameless. It was plain and
simple. For a whole month he did not light a fire to cook his food. He
swept his chamber himself and mended his own clothes. His life was that
of an ascetic enthusiast, profoundly impressed with the greatness and
dignity of his mission. Thus far his greatest error and fault was in the
supposition that he was inspired in the same sense as the ancient Jewish
prophets were inspired,--to declare the will and the truth of God. Any
man leading such a life of contemplative asceticism and retirement is
prone to fall into the belief of special divine illumination. It
characterized George Fox, the Anabaptists, Ignatius Loyola, Saint
Theresa, and even, to some extent, Oliver Cromwell himself. Mohammed's
supreme error was that he was the greatest as well as the last of the
prophets. This was fanaticism, but he was probably honest in the belief.
His brain was turned by dreams, ecstasies, and ascetic devotions. But
with all his visionary ideas of his call, his own morality and his
teachings had been lofty, and apparently unsuccessful. Possibly he was
discouraged with the small progress he had made,--disgusted,
irritated, fierce.

Certainly, soon after he was established at Medina, a great change took
place in his mode of propagating his doctrines. His great ideas remained
the same, but he adopted a new way to spread them. So that I can almost
fancy that some Mephistopheles, some form of Satanic agency, some lying
Voice whispered to him in this wise: "O Mohammed! of a truth thou art
the Prophet of the living God. Thou hast declared the grandest truths
ever uttered in Arabia; but see how powerless they are on the minds and
hearts of thy countrymen, with all thy eloquence, sincerity, and fervor.
By moral means thou hast effected comparatively nothing. Thou hast
preached thirteen years, and only made a few converts. Thy truths are
too elevated for a corrupt and wicked generation to accept. Even thine
own life is in danger. Thou hast been obliged to fly to these barren
rocks and sands. Thou hast failed. Why not pursue a new course, and
adapt thy doctrines to men as they are? Thy countrymen are wild,
fierce, and warlike: why not incite their martial passions in defence of
thy doctrines? They are an earnest people, and, believing in the truths
which thou now declarest, they will fight for them and establish them by
the sword, not merely in Arabia, but throughout the East. They are a
pleasure-loving and imaginative people: why not promise the victors of
thy faith a sensual bliss in Paradise? They will not be subverters of
your grand truths; they will simply extend them, and jealously, if they
have a reward in what their passions crave. In short, use the proper
means for a great end. The end justifies the means."

Whether influenced by such specious sophistries, or disheartened by his
former method, or corrupted in his own heart, as Solomon was, by his
numerous wives,--for Mohammed permitted polygamy and practised it
himself,--it is certain that he now was bent on achieving more signal
and rapid victories. He resolved to adapt his religion to the depraved
hearts of his followers. He would mix up truth with error; he would make
truth palatable; he would use the means which secure success. It was
success he wanted, and success he thus far had not secured. He was
ambitious; he would become a mighty spiritual potentate.

So he allowed polygamy,--the vice of Eastern nations from remote
periods; he promised a sensual Paradise to those who should die in
defence of his religion; he inflamed the imagination of the Arabians
with visions of sensual joys. He painted heaven as a land whose soil was
the finest wheaten flour, whose air was fragrant with perfumes, whose
streams were of crystal water or milk or wine or honey, flowing over
beds of musk and camphor,--a glorious garden of fruits and flowers,
whose inhabitants were clothed in garments of gold, sparkling with
rubies and diamonds, who reclined in sumptuous palaces and silken
pavilions, and on couches of voluptuous ease, and who were served with
viands which could be eaten without satiety, and liquors which could be
drunk without inebriation; yea, where the blissful warrior for the faith
should enjoy an unending youth, and where he would be attended by
houris, with black and loving eyes, free from all defects, resplendent
in beauty and grace, and rejoicing in perpetual charms.

Such were the views, it is maintained, with which he inflamed the
faithful. And, more, he encouraged them to take up arms, and penetrate,
as warlike missionaries, to the utmost bounds of the habitable
world, in order to convert men to the faith of the one God, whose
Prophet he claimed to be. Moreover, he made new and extraordinary
"revelations,"--that he had ascended into the seventh heaven and held
converse with Gabriel; and he now added to his creed that old lie of
Eastern theogonies, that base element of all false religions,--that man
can propitiate the Deity by works of supererogation; that man can
purchase by ascetic labors and sacrifices his future salvation. This
falsity enters largely into Mohammedanism. I need not add how discrepant
it is with the cheerful teachings of the apostles, especially to the
poor, as seen in the deeds of penance, prayers in the corners of the
streets, the ablutions, the fasts, and the pilgrimages to which the
faithful are exhorted. And moreover he accommodated his fasts and feasts
and holidays and pilgrimages to the old customs of the people, thereby
teaching lessons of worldly wisdom. Astarte, the old object of Sabaean
idolatry, was particularly worshipped on a Friday; and this day was made
the Mohammedan Sabbath. Again, the month Rhamadan, from time immemorial,
had been set apart for fastings; this month the Prophet adopted,
declaring that in it he had received his first revelations. Pilgrimages
to the Black Stone were favorite forms of penance; and this was
perpetuated in the pilgrimages to Mecca.

Thus it would appear that Mohammed, after his flight, accommodated his
doctrines to the customs and tastes of his countrymen,--blending with
the sublime truths he declared subtile and pernicious errors. The Jesuit
missionaries did the same thing in China and Japan, thinking more of the
number of their converts than of the truth itself. Expediency--the
accepted Jesuitical principle of the end justifying the means--is seen
in almost everything in this world which blazes with success. It is seen
in politics, in philanthropy, in ecclesiasticism, and in education.
There are political Jesuits and philanthropical Jesuits and Protestant
Jesuits, as well as Catholic Jesuits and Mohammedan Jesuits. What do you
think of a man, wearing the livery of a gospel minister, devoting all
his energies to money-making, versed in the ways of the "heathen
Chinee,"--"ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain,"--all to
succeed better in worldly thrift, using all means for that single
end,--is not he practically a Jesuit? I do not mean a Catholic Jesuit,
belonging to the Society of Jesus, but popularly what we mean by a
Jesuit. What would you think of a college which lowered the standard of
education in order to draw students, or selected, as the guardians of
its higher interests, those men who would contribute the most money to
its funds?

This spirit of expediency Mohammed entertained and utilized, in order to
gain success. Most of what is false in Mohammedanism is based on
expediency. The end was not lost sight of,--the conversion of his
countrymen to the belief in the unity and sovereignty of God, but it was
sought by means which would make them fanatics or pharisees. He was not
such a miserable creature as one who seeks to make money by trading on
the religious capital of the community; but he did adapt his religion to
the passions and habits of the people in order that they might more
readily be led to accept it. He listened to that same wicked Voice which
afterwards appeared in the guise of an angel of light to mediaeval
ritualists. And it is thus that Satan has contrived to pervert the best
institutions of the world. The moment good men look to outward and
superficial triumphs, to the disregard of inward purity, that moment do
they accept the Jesuitical lie of all ages,--"The end justifies
the means."

But the worst thing which the Prophet did in order to gain his end was
to make use of the sword. For thirteen years he appealed to conscience.
Now he makes it an inducement for men to fight for his great idea.
"Different prophets," said he, in his memorable manifesto, "have been
sent by God to illustrate His different attributes: Moses, His
providence; Solomon, His wisdom; Christ, His righteousness; but I, the
last of the prophets, am sent with the sword. Let those who promulgate
my faith enter into no arguments or discussions, but slay all who refuse
obedience. Whoever fights for the true faith, whether he fall or
conquer, will assuredly receive a glorious reward, for the sword is the
key of heaven. All who draw it in defence of the faith shall receive
temporal and future blessings. Every drop of their blood, every peril
and hardship, will be registered on high as more meritorious than
fasting or prayer. If they fall in battle their sins will be washed
away, and they shall be transported into Paradise, to revel in eternal
pleasures, and in the arms of black-eyed houris." Thus did he stimulate
the martial fanaticism of a warlike and heroic people with the promise
of future happiness. What a monstrous expediency,--worse than all the
combined usurpations of the popes!

And what was the result? I need not point to the successive conquests of
the Saracens with such a mighty stimulus. They were loyal to the truth
for which they fought. They never afterwards became idolaters; but their
religion was built up on the miseries of nations. To propagate the faith
of Mohammed they overran the world. Never were conquests more rapid and
more terrible.

At first Mohammed's followers in Medina sallied out and attacked the
caravans of Arabia, and especially all belonging to Mecca (the city
which had rejected him), until all the various tribes acknowledged the
religion of the Prophet, for they were easily converted to a faith which
flattered their predatory inclinations and promised them future
immunities. The first cavalcade which entered Medina with spoils made
Mussulmans of all the inhabitants, and gave Mohammed the control of the
city. The battle of Moat gave him a triumphal entrance into Mecca. He
soon found himself the sovereign of all Arabia; and when he died, at the
age of 63, in the eleventh year after his Hegira, or flight from Mecca,
he was the most successful founder of a religion the world has known,
next to Buddha. A religion appealing to truth alone had made only a few
converts in thirteen years; a religion which appealed to the sword had
made converts of a great nation in eleven years.

It is difficult to ascertain what the private life of the Prophet was in
these years of dazzling success. The authorities differ. Some represent
him as sunk in a miserable sensuality which shortened his days. But I
think this statement may be doubted. He never lost the veneration of his
countrymen,--and no veneration can last for a man steeped in sensuality.
Even Solomon lost his prestige and popularity when he became vain and
sensual. Those who were nearest to the Prophet reverenced him most
profoundly. With his wife Ayesha he lived with great frugality. He was
kindly, firm in friendship, faithful and tender in his family, ready to
forgive enemies, just in decision. The caliphs who succeeded him, for
some time, were men of great simplicity, and sought to imitate his
virtues. He was doubtless warlike and fanatical, but conquests such as
he and his successors made are incompatible with luxury and effeminacy.
He stands arraigned at the bar of eternal justice for perverting truth,
for blending it with error, for making use of wicked means to accomplish
what he deemed a great end.

I have no patience with Mr. Carlyle, great and venerable as is his
authority, for seeming to justify Mohammed in assuming the sword. "I
care little for the sword," says this sophistical writer. "I will allow
a thing to struggle for itself in this world, with any sword or tongue
or implement it has or can lay hold on. What is better than itself it
cannot put away, but only what is worse. In this great life-duel Nature
herself is umpire, and can do no wrong," That is, might makes right;
only evil perishes in the conflict of principles; whatever prevails is
just. In other words, if Mohammedanism, by any means it may choose to
use, proves itself more formidable than other religions, then it ought
to prevail. Suppose that the victories of the Saracens had extended over
Europe, as well as Asia and Africa,--had not been arrested by Charles
Martel,--would Carlyle then have preferred Mohammedanism to the
Christianity of degenerate nations? Was Mohammedanism a better religion
than the Christianity which existed in Asia Minor and in various parts
of the Greek empire in the sixth and seventh centuries? Was it a good
thing to convert the church of Saint Sophia into a Saracenic mosque, and
the city of the later Christian emperors into the capital of the Turks?
Is a united Saracenic empire better than a divided, wrangling
Christian empire?

But I will not enter upon that discussion. I confine myself to facts. It
is certain that Mohammedanism, by means of the sword, spread with
marvellous and unprecedented rapidity. The successors of the Prophet
carried their conquests even to India. Neither the Syrians nor the
Egyptians could cope with men who felt that the sacrifice of life in
battle would secure an eternity of bliss. The armies of the Greek
emperor melted away before the generals of the caliph. The Cross waned
before the Crescent. The banners of the Moslems floated over the
proudest battlements of ancient Roman grandeur.

In the fifth year of the caliph Omar, only seventeen years from the
Prophet's flight from Mecca, the conquest of Syria was completed. The
Christians were forbidden to build churches, or speak openly of their
religion, or sit in the presence of a Mohammedan, or to sell wine, or
bear arms, or use the saddle in riding, or have a domestic who had been
in the Mohammedan service. The utter prostration of all civil and
religious liberty took place in the old scenes of Christian triumph.
This was an instance in which persecution proved successful; and because
it was successful it is a proof, in the eyes of Carlyle, that the
persecuting religion was the better, because it was outwardly
the stronger.

The conquest of Egypt rapidly followed that of Syria; and with the fall
of Alexandria perished the largest library of the world, the thesaurus
of all the intellectual treasures of antiquity.

Then followed the conquest of Persia. A single battle, as in the time of
Alexander, decided its fate. The marvel is that the people should have
changed their religion; but then, it was Mohammedanism or death. And a
still greater marvel it is,--an utter mystery to me,--why that Oriental
country should have continued faithful to the new religion. It must have
had some elements of vitality almost worth fighting for, and which we do
not comprehend.

Nor did Saracenic conquests end until the Arabs of the desert had
penetrated southward into India farther than had Alexander the Great,
and westward until they had subdued the northern kingdoms of Africa, and
carried their arms to the Pillars of Hercules; yea, to the cities of the
Goths in Spain, and were only finally arrested in Europe by the heroism
of Charles Martel.

Such were the rapid conquests of the Saracens--and permanent conquests
also--in Asia and Africa, under the stimulus of religious fanaticism,
until they had reduced thirty-six thousand cities, towns, and castles,
and built fourteen thousand mosques.

Now what are the deductions to be logically drawn from these stupendous
victories and the consolidation of the various religions of the
conquered into the creed of Mohammed,--not repudiated when the pressure
was removed, but apparently cherished by one hundred and eighty millions
of people for more than a thousand years?

We must take the ground that the religion of Mohammed has marvellous and
powerful truths, which we have overlooked and do not understand, which
appeal to the heart and conscience, and excite a great enthusiasm,--so
great as to stimulate successive generations with an almost unexampled
ardor, and to defend which they were ready to die; a religion which has
bound diverse nations together for nearly fourteen hundred years. If so,
it cannot be abused, or ridiculed, or sneered at, any more than can the
dominion of the popes in the Middle Ages, but remains august in
impressive mystery to us, and even to future ages.

But if, in comparison with Christianity, it is a corrupt and false
religion, as many assume, then what deductions must we draw from its
amazing triumphs? For the fact stares us in the face that it is rooted
deeply in a large part of the Eastern world, or, at least, has prevailed
victorious for more than a thousand years.

First, we must conclude that the external triumph of a religion,
especially among ignorant or wicked people, is not so much owing to the
purity and loftiness of its truths, as to its harmony with prevailing
errors and corruptions. When Mohammed preached his sublimest doctrines,
and appealed to reason and conscience, he converted about a score of
people in thirteen years. When he invoked demoralizing passions, he
converted all Arabia in eleven years. And does not this startling
conclusion seem to be confirmed by the whole history of mankind? How
slow the progress of Christianity for two hundred years, except when
assisted by direct supernatural influences! How rapid its triumphs when
it became adapted to the rude barbaric mind, or to the degenerate people
of the Empire! How popular and prevalent and widespread are those
religions which we are accustomed to regard as most corrupt! Buddhism
and Brahmanism have had more adherents than even Mohammedanism. How
difficult it was for Moses and the prophets to keep the Jews from
idolatry! What caused the rapid eclipse of faith in the antediluvian
world? Why could not Noah establish and perpetuate his doctrines among
his own descendants before he was dead? Why was the Socratic philosophy
unpopular? Why were the Epicureans so fashionable? Why was Christianity
itself most eagerly embraced when its light was obscured by fables and
superstitions? Why did the Roman Empire perish, with all the aid of a
magnificent civilization; why did this civilization itself retrograde;
why did its art and literature decline? Why did the grand triumphs of
Protestantism stop in half a century after Luther delivered his message?
What made the mediaeval popes so powerful? What gave such ascendency to
the Jesuits? Why is the simple faith of the primitive Christians so
obnoxious to the wise, the mighty, and the noble? What makes the most
insidious heresies so acceptable to the learned? Why is modern
literature, when fashionable and popular, so antichristian in its tone
and spirit? Why have not the doctrines of Luther held their own in
Germany, and those of Calvin in Geneva, and those of Cranmer in England,
and those of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England? Is it because, as men
become advanced in learning and culture, they are theologically wiser
than Moses and Abraham and Isaiah?

I do not cite the rapid decline of modern civilized society, in a
political or social view, in the most favored sections of Christendom; I
do not sing dirges over republican institutions; I would not croak
Jeremiads over the changes and developments of mankind. I simply speak
of the marvellous similarity which the spread and triumph of
Mohammedanism seem to bear to the spread and triumph of what is corrupt
and wicked in all institutions and religions since the fall of man.
Everywhere it is the frivolous, the corrupt, the false, which seem to be
most prevalent and most popular. Do men love truth, or readily accept
it, when it conflicts with passions and interests? Is any truth popular
which is arrayed against the pride of reason? When has pure moral truth
ever been fashionable? When have its advocates not been reviled,
slandered, misrepresented, and persecuted, if it has interfered with the
domination of prevailing interests? The lower the scale of pleasures the
more eagerly are they sought by the great mass of the people, even in
Christian communities. You can best make colleges thrive by turning them
into schools of technology, with a view of advancing utilitarian and
material interests. You cannot make a newspaper flourish unless
you fill it with pictures and scandals, or make it a vehicle of
advertisements,--which are not frivolous or corrupt, it is true, but
which have to do with merely material interests. Your libraries would
never be visited, if you took away their trash. Your Sabbath-school
books would not be read, unless you made them an insult to the human
understanding. Your salons would be deserted, if you entertained your
guests with instructive conversation. There would be no fashionable
gatherings, if it were not to display dresses and diamonds. Your pulpits
would be unoccupied, if you sought the profoundest men to fill them.

Everything, even in Christian communities, shows that vanities and
follies and falsehoods are the most sought, and that nothing is more
discouraging than appeals to high intelligence or virtue, even in art.
This is the uniform history of the race, everywhere and in all ages. Is
it darkness or light which the world loves? I never read, and I never
heard, of a great man with a great message to deliver, who would not
have sunk under disappointment or chagrin but for his faith. Everywhere
do you see the fascination of error, so that it almost seems to be as
vital as truth itself. When and where have not lies and sophistries and
hypocrisies reigned? I appeal to history. I appeal to the observation
and experience of every thoughtful and candid mind. You cannot get
around this truth. It blazes and it burns like the fires of Sinai. Men
left to themselves will more and more retrograde in virtue.

What, then, is the hope of the world? We are driven to this
deduction,--that if truth in itself is not all-conquering, the divine
assistance, given at times to truth itself, as in the early Church, is
the only reason why truth conquers. This divine grace, promised in the
Bible, has wrought wonders whenever it has pleased the Almighty to
bestow it, and only then. History teaches this as impressively as
revelation. Christianity itself, unaided, would probably die out in this
world. And hence the grand conclusion is, that it is the mysterious, or,
as some call it, the supernatural, spirit of Almighty power which is,
after all, the highest hope of this world. This is not discrepant with
the oldest traditions and theogonies of the East,--the hidden wisdom of
ancient Indian and Persian and Egyptian sages, concealed from the
vulgar, but really embraced by the profoundest men, before corruptions
perverted even their wisdom. This certainly is the earliest revelation
of the Bible. This is the power which Moses recognized, and all the
prophets who succeeded him. This is the power which even Mohammed, in
the loftiness of his contemplations, more dimly saw, and imperfectly
taught to the idolaters around him, and which gives to his system all
that was really valuable. Ask not when and where this power shall be
most truly felt. It is around us, and above us, and beneath us. It is
the mystery and grandeur of the ages. "It is not by might nor by power,
but by my spirit," saith the Lord. Man is nothing, his aspirations are
nothing, the universe itself is nothing, without the living, permeating
force which comes from this supernal Deity we adore, to interfere and
save. Without His special agency, giving to His truths vitality, this
world would soon become a hopeless and perpetual pandemonium. Take away
the necessity of this divine assistance as the one great condition of
all progress, as well as the highest boon which mortals seek,--then
prayer itself, recognized even by Mohammedans as the loftiest
aspiration and expression of a dependent soul, and regarded by prophets
and apostles and martyrs as their noblest privilege, becomes a
superstition, a puerility, a mockery, and a hopeless dream.


The Koran; Dean Prideaux's Life of Mohammed; Vie de Mahomet, by the
Comte de Boulainvilliers; Gagnier's Life of Mohammed; Ockley's History
of the Saracens; Gibbon, fiftieth chapter; Hallam's Middle Ages;
Milman's Latin Christianity; Dr. Weil's Mohammed der Prophet, sein Leben
und seine Lehre; Renan, Revue des Deux Mondes, 1851; Bustner's
Pilgrimage to El Medina and Mecca; Life of Mahomet, by Washington
Irving; Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes, par A.P. Caussin de Perceval;
Carlyle's Lectures on Heroes and Hero Worship; E.A. Freeman's Lectures
on the History of the Saracens; Forster's Mahometanism Unveiled; Maurice
on the Religions of the World; Life and Religion of Mohammed, translated
from the Persian, by Rev. I.L. Merrick.


* * * * *

A.D. 742-814.


The most illustrious monarch of the Middle Ages was doubtless
Charlemagne. Certainly he was the first great statesman, hero, and
organizer that looms up to view after the dissolution of the Roman
Empire. Therefore I present him as one with whom is associated an epoch
in civilization. To him we date the first memorable step which Europe
took out of the anarchies of the Merovingian age. His dream was to
revive the Empire that had fallen. He was the first to labor, with giant
strength, to restore what vice and violence had destroyed. He did not
succeed in realizing the great ends to which he aspired, but his
aspirations were lofty. It was not in the power of any man to civilize
semi-barbarians in a single reign; but if he attempted impossibilities
he did not live in vain, since he bequeathed some permanent conquests
and some great traditions. He left a great legacy to civilization. His
life has not dramatic interest like that of Hildebrand, nor poetic
interest like the lives of the leaders of the Crusades; but it is very
instructive. He was the pride of his own generation, and the boast of
succeeding ages, "claimed," says Sismondi, "by the Church as a saint, by
the French as the greatest of their kings, by the Germans as their
countryman, and by the Italians as their emperor."

His remote ancestors, it is said, were ecclesiastical magnates. His
grandfather was Charles Martel, who gained such signal victories over
the Mohammedan Saracens; his father was Pepin, who was a renowned
conqueror, and who subdued the southern part of France, or Gaul. He did
not rise, like Clovis, from the condition of a chieftain of a tribe of
barbarians; nor, like the founder of his family, from a mayor of the
palace, or minister of the Merovingian kings. His early life was spent
amid the turmoils and dangers of camps, and as a young man he was
distinguished for precocity of talent, manly beauty, and gigantic
physical strength. He was a type of chivalry, before chivalry arose. He
was born to greatness, and early succeeded to a great inheritance. At
the age of twenty-six, in the year 768, he became the monarch of the
greater part of modern France, and of those provinces which border on
the Rhine. By unwearied activities this inheritance, greater than that
of any of the Merovingian kings, was not only kept together and
preserved, but was increased by successive conquests, until no so great
an empire has ever been ruled by any one man in Europe, since the fall
of the Roman Empire, from his day to ours. Yet greater than the
conquests of Charlemagne was the greatness of his character. He
preserved simplicity and gentleness amid all the distractions attending
his government.

His reign affords a striking contrast to that of all his predecessors of
the Merovingian dynasty,--which reigned from the immediate destruction
of the Roman Empire. The Merovingian princes, with the exception of
Clovis and a few others, were mere barbarians, although converted to a
nominal Christianity. Some of them were monsters, and others were
idiots. Clotaire burned to death his own son and wife and daughters.
Fredegunde armed her assassins with poisoned daggers. "Thirteen
sovereigns reigned over the Franks in one hundred and fourteen years,
only two of whom attained to man's estate, and not one to the full
development of intellectual powers. There was scarcely one who did not
live in a state of perpetual intoxication, or who did not rival
Sardanapalus in effeminacy, and Commodus in cruelty." As these
sovereigns were ruled by priests, their iniquities were glossed over by
Gregory of Tours. In _his_ annals they may pass for saints, but history
consigns them to an infamous immortality.

It is difficult to conceive a more dreary and dismal state of society
than existed in France, and in fact over all Europe, when Charlemagne
began to reign. The Roman Empire was in ruins, except in the East, where
the Greek emperors reigned at Constantinople. The western provinces were
ruled by independent barbaric kings. There was no central authority,
although there was an attempt of the popes to revive it,--a spiritual
rather than a temporal power; a theocracy whose foundation had been laid
by Leo the Great when he established the _jus divinum_ principle,--that
he was the successor of Peter, to whom were given the keys of heaven and
hell. If there was an interesting feature in the times it was this
spiritual authority exercised by the bishops of Rome: the most useful
and beneficent considering the evils which prevailed,--the reign of
brute force. The barbaric chieftains yielded a partial homage to this
spiritual power, and it was some check on their rapacity of violence. It
is mournful to think that so little of the ancient civilization remained
in the eighth century. Its eclipse was total. The shadows of a dark and
long night of superstition and ignorance spread over Europe. Law was
silenced by the sword. Justinian's glorious legacy was already
forgotten. The old mechanism which had kept society together in the
fifth century was worn out, broken, rejected. There was no literature,
no philosophy, no poetry, no history, and no art. Even the clergy had
become ignorant, superstitious, and idle. Forms had taken the place
of faith. No great theologians had arisen since Saint Augustine. The
piety of the age hid itself in monasteries; and these monasteries were
as funereal as society itself. Men despaired of the world, and retreated
from it to sing mournful songs. The architecture of the age expressed
the sentiments of the age, and was heavy, gloomy, and monotonous. "The
barbarians ruthlessly marched over the ruins of cities and palaces,
having no regard for the treasures of the classic world, and unmoved by
the lessons of its past experience." Rome itself, repeatedly sacked, was
a heap of ruins. No reconstruction had taken place. Gardens and villas
were as desolate as the ruined palaces, which were the abodes of owls
and spiders. The immortal creations of the chisel were used to prop up
old crumbling walls. The costly monuments of senatorial pride were
broken to pieces in sport or in caprice, and those structures which had
excited the admiration of ages were pulled down that their material
might be used in erecting tasteless edifices. Literature shared the
general desolation. The valued manuscripts of classical ages were
mutilated, erased, or burned. The monks finished the destruction which
the barbarians began. Ignorance as well as anarchy veiled Europe in
darkness. The rust of barbarism became harder and thicker. The last hope
of man had fled, and glory was succeeded by shame. Even slavery, the
curse of the Roman Empire, was continued by the barbarians; only, brute
force was not made subservient to intellect, but intellect to brute
force. The descendants of ancient patrician families were in bondage to
barbarians. The age was the jubilee of monsters. Assassination was
common, and was unavenged by law. Every man was his own avenger of
crime, and his bloody weapons were his only law.

Nor were there seen among the barbaric chieftains the virtues of ancient
Pagan Rome and Greece, for Christianity was nominal. War was universal;
for the barbarians, having no longer the Romans to fight, fought among
themselves. There were incessant irruptions of different tribes passing
from one country to another, in search of plunder and pillage. There was
no security of life or property, and therefore no ambition for
acquisition. Men hid themselves in morasses, in forests, on the tops of
inaccessible hills, and amid the recesses of valleys, for violence was
the rule and not the exception. Even feudalism was not then born, and
still less chivalry. We find no elevated sentiments. The only refuge for
the miserable was in the Church, and the Church was governed by narrow
and ignorant priests. A cry of despair went up to heaven among the
descendants of the old population. There was no commerce, no travel, no
industries, no money, no peace. The chastisement of Almighty Power seems
to have been sent on the old races and the new alike. It was a
desolation greater than that predicted by Jeremy the prophet. The very
end of the world seemed to be at hand. Never in the old seats of
civilization was there such a disintegration; never such a combination
of evils and miseries. And there appeared to be no remedy: nothing but a
long night of horrors and sufferings could be predicted. Gaul, or
France, was the scene of turbulence, invasions, and anarchies; of
murders, of conflagrations, and of pillage by rival chieftains, who
sought to divide its territories among themselves. The people were
utterly trodden down. England was the battle-field of Danes, Saxons, and
Celts, invaded perpetually, and split up into petty Saxon kingdoms. The
roads were infested with robbers, and agriculture was rude. The people
lived in cabins, dressed themselves in skins, and fed on the coarsest
food. Spain was invaded by Saracens, and the Gothic kingdoms succumbed
to these fierce invaders. Italy was portioned out among different
tribes, Gothic and Slavonic. But the prevailing races in Europe were
Germanic (who had conquered both the Celts and the Romans), the Goths in
Spain, the Franks and Burgundians in France, the Lombards in Italy, the
Saxons in England.

What a commentary on the imperial government of the Caesars!--that
government which, with all its mechanisms and traditions, lasted
scarcely four hundred years. Was there ever, in the whole history of
the world, so sudden and mournful a change from civilization to
barbarism,--and this in spite of art, science, law, and Christianity
itself? Were there no conservative forces in that imposing Empire? Why
did society constantly decline for four hundred years, with that
civilization which was its boast and hope? Oh, ye optimists, who talk so
glibly about the natural and necessary progress of humanity, why was the
Roman Empire swept away, with all its material glories, to give place to
such a state of society as I have just briefly described?

And yet men should arise in due time, after the punishment of five
centuries of crime and violence, wretchedness and despair, to
reconstruct, not from the old Pagan materials of Greece and Rome, but
with the fresh energies of new races, aided and inspired by the truths
of the everlasting gospel. The infancy of the new races, sprung however
from the same old Aryan stock, passed into vigorous youth when
Charlemagne appeared. From him we date the first decided impulse given
to the Gothic civilization. He was the morning star of European hopes
and aspirations.

Let us now turn to his glorious deeds. What were the services he
rendered to Europe and Christian civilization?

It was necessary that a truly great man should arise in the eighth
century, if the new forces of civilization were to be organized. To show
what he did for the new races, and how he did it, is the historian's
duty and task in describing the reign of Charlemagne,--sent, I think, as
Moses was, for a providential mission, in the fulness of time, after the
slaveries of three hundred years, which prepared the people for labor
and industry. Better was it that they should till the lands of allodial
proprietors in misery and sorrow, attacked and pillaged, than to wander
like savages in forests and morasses in quest of a precarious support,
or in great predatory bands, as they did in the fourth and fifth
centuries, when they ravaged the provinces of the falling Empire.
Nothing was wanted but their consolidation under central rule in order
to repel aggressors. And that is what Charlemagne attempted to do.

He soon perceived the greatness of the struggle to which he was
destined, and he did not flinch from the contest which has given him
immortality. He comprehended the difficulties which surrounded him and
the dangers which menaced him.

The great perils which threatened Europe were from unsubdued barbarians,
who sought to replunge it into the miseries which the great irruptions
had inflicted three hundred years before. He therefore bent all the
energies of his mind and all the resources of his kingdom to arrest
these fresh waves of inundation. And so long was his contest with
Saxons, Avares, Lombards, and other tribes and races that he is chiefly
to be contemplated as a man who struggled against barbarism. And he
fought them, not for excitement, not for the love of fighting, not for
useless conquests, not for military fame, not for aggrandizement, but
because a stern necessity was laid upon him to protect his own
territories and the institutions he wished to conserve.

Of these barbarians there was one nation peculiarly warlike and
ferocious, and which cherished an inextinguishable hatred not merely of
the Franks, but of civilization itself. They were obstinately attached
to their old superstitions, and had a great repugnance to Christianity.
They were barbarians, like the old North American Indians, because they
determined to be so; because they loved their forests and the chase,
indulged in amusements which were uncertain and dangerous, and sought
for nothing beyond their immediate inclinations. They had no territorial
divisions, and abhorred cities as prisons of despotism. But, like all
the Germanic barbarians, they had interesting traits. They respected
women; they were brave and daring; they had a dogged perseverance, and a
noble passion for personal independence. But they were nevertheless the
enemies of civilization, of a regular and industrious life, and sought
plunder and revenge. The Franks and Goths were once like them, before
the time of Clovis; but they had made settlements, they tilled the land,
and built villages and cities: they were partially civilized, and were
converted to Christianity. But these new barbarians could not be won by
arts or the ministers of religion. These people were the Saxons, and
inhabited those parts of Germany which were bounded by the Rhine, the
Oder, the North Sea, and the Thuringian forests. They were fond of the
sea, and of daring expeditions for plunder. They were a kindred race to
those Saxons who had conquered England, and had the same elements of
character. They were poor, and sought to live by piracy and robbery.
They were very dangerous enemies, but if brought under subjection to
law, and converted to Christianity, might be turned into useful allies,
for they had the materials of a noble race.

With such a people on his borders, and every day becoming more
formidable, what was Charlemagne's policy? What was he to do? The only
thing to the eye of that enlightened statesman was to conquer them, if
possible, and add their territories to the Frankish Empire. If left to
themselves, they might have conquered the Franks. It was either anvil or
hammer. There could be no lasting peace in Europe while these barbarians
were left to pursue their depredations. A vigorous warfare was
imperative, for, unless subdued, a disadvantageous war would be carried
on near the frontiers, until some warrior would arise among them, unite
the various chieftains, and lead his followers to successful invasion.
Charlemagne knew that the difficult and unpleasant work of subjugation
must be done by somebody, and he was unwilling to leave the work to
enervated successors. The work was not child's play. It took him the
best part of his life to accomplish it, and amid great discouragements.
Of his fifty-three expeditions, eighteen were against the Saxons. As
soon as he had cut off one head of the monster, another head appeared.
How allegorical of human labor is that old fable of the Hydra! Where do
man's labors cease? Charlemagne fought not only amid great difficulties,
but perpetual irritations. The Saxons cheated him; they broke their
promises and their oaths. When beaten, they sued for peace; but the
moment his back was turned, they broke out in new insurrections. The
fame of Caesar chiefly rests on his eight campaigns in Gaul. But Caesar
had the disciplined Legions of Rome to fight with. Charlemagne had no
such disciplined troops. Yet he had as many difficulties to surmount as
Caesar,--rugged forests to penetrate, rapid rivers to cross, morasses to
avoid, and mountains to climb. It is a very difficult thing to subdue
even savages who are desperate, determined, and united.

Charlemagne fought the Saxons for thirty-three years. Though he never
lost a battle, they still held out. At first he was generous and
forgiving, for he was more magnanimous than Caesar; but they could not
be won by kindness. He was obliged to change his course, and at last was
as summary as Oliver Cromwell in Ireland. He is even accused of
cruelties. But war in the hands of masters has no quarter to give, and
no tears to shed. It was necessary to conquer the Saxons, and
Charlemagne used the requisite means. Sometimes the harshest measures
will most speedily effect the end. Did our fathers ever dream of
compromise with treacherous and hostile Indians? War has a horrid
maxim,--that "nothing is so successful as success." Charlemagne, at
last, was successful. The Saxons were so completely subdued at the end
of thirty-three years, that they never molested civilized Europe again.
They became civilized, like the once invading Celts and Goths; and they
even embraced the religion of the conquerors. They became ultimately the
best people in Europe,--earnest, honest, and brave. They formed great
kingdoms and states, and became new barriers against fresh inundations
from the North and East. The Saxons formed the nucleus of the great
German Empire (or were incorporated with it) which arose in the Middle
Ages, and which to-day is the most powerful in Europe, and the least
corrupted by the vices of a luxurious life. The descendants of those
Saxons are among the most industrious and useful settlers in the
New World.

There was one mistake which Charlemagne made in reference to them. He
forced their conversion to a nominal Christianity. He immersed them in
the rivers of Saxony, whether they would or no. He would make them
Christians in his way. But then, who does not seek to make converts in
his way, whether enlightened or not? When have the principles of
religious toleration been understood? Did the Puritans understand them,
with all their professions? Do we tolerate, in our hearts, those who
differ from us? Do not men look daggers, though they dare not use them?
If we had the power, would we not seek to produce conformity with our
notions, like Queen Elizabeth, or Oliver Cromwell, or Archbishop Laud?
There is not perhaps a village in America where a true catholicism
reigns. There is not a spot upon the globe where there is not some form
of religious persecution. Nor is there anything more sincere than
religious bigotry. And when people have not fundamental principles to
fight about, they will fight about technicalities and matters of no
account, and all the more bitterly sometimes when the objects of
contention are not worth fighting about at all,--as in forms of worship,
or baptism. Such is the weakness of human nature. Charlemagne was no
exception to the race. But if he wished to make Christians in his way,
he was, on the whole, enlightened. He caused the young Saxons, whom he
baptized and marked with the sign of the Cross, to be educated. He built
monasteries and churches in the conquered territories. He recognized
this,--that Christianity, whatever it be, is the mightiest power of the
world; and he bore his testimony in behalf of the intellectual dignity
of the clergy in comparison with other classes. He encouraged missions
as well as schools.

There was another Germanic tribe at that time which he held in great
alarm, but which he did not attack, since they were not immediately
dangerous. This tribe or race was the Norman, just then beginning their
ravages,--pirates in open boats. They had dared to enter a port in
Narbonensis Gaul for purposes of plunder. Some took them for Africans,
and others for British merchants. Nay, said Charlemagne, they are not
merchants, but cruel enemies; and he covered his face with his iron
hands and wept like a child. He did not fear these barbarians, but he
wept when he foresaw the evil they would do when he was dead. "I weep,"
said he, "that they should dare almost to land on my shores, in my
lifetime." These Normans escaped him. They conquered and they founded
kingdoms. But they did not replunge Europe in darkness. A barrier had
been made against their inundation. The Saxon conquest was that
barrier. Moreover, the Normans were the noblest race of barbarians which
then roamed through the forests of Germany, or skirted the shores of
Scandinavia. They had grand natural traits of character. They were
poetic, brave, and adventurous. They were superior to the Saxons and the
Franks. When converted, they were the great allies of the Pope, and
early became civilized. To them we trace the noblest development of
Gothic architecture. They became great scholars and statesmen. They were
more refined by nature than the Saxons, and avoided their gluttonous
habits. In after times they composed the flower of European chivalry. It
was providential that they were not subdued,--that they became the
leading race in Northern Europe. To them we trace the mercantile
greatness of England, for they were born sailors. They never lost their
natural heroism, or love of power.

The next important conquest of Charlemagne was that of the Avares,--a
tribe of the Huns, of Slavonic origin. They are represented as very
hideous barbarians, and only thought of plunder. They never sought to
reconstruct. There seemed to be no end of their invasions from the time
of Attila. They were more formidable for their numbers and destructive
ravages than for their military skill. There was a time, however, when
they threatened the combined forces of Germany and Rome; but Europe was
delivered by the battle of Poictiers,--the bloodiest battle on
record,--when they seemed to be annihilated. But they sprang up again,
in new invasions, in the ninth century. Had they conquered, civilization
would have been crushed out. But Charlemagne was successful against
them, and from that time to this they were shut out from western Europe.
They would be formidable now, for the Russians are the descendants of
these people, were it not for the barrier raised against them by the
Germans. The necessities of Europe still require the vast military
strength and organization of Germany, not to fight France, but to awe
Russia. Napoleon predicted that Europe would become either French or
Cossack; but there is little probability of Russian aggressions in
Europe, so long as Russia is held in check by Germany.

Charlemagne had now delivered France and Germany from external enemies.
He then turned his arms against the Saracens of Spain. This was the
great mistake of his life. Yet every one makes mistakes, however great
his genius. Alexander made the mistake of pushing his arms into India;
and Napoleon made a great blunder in invading Russia. Even Caesar died
at the right time for his military fame, for he was on the point of
attempting the conquest of Parthia, where, like Crassus, he would
probably have perished, or have lost his army. Needless conquests seem
to be impossible in the moral government of God, who rules the fate of
war. Conquests are only possible when civilization seems to require
them. In seeking to invade Spain, Charlemagne warred against a race from
whom Europe had nothing more to fear. His grandfather, Charles Martel,
had arrested the conquests of the Saracens; and they were quiet in their
settlements in Spain, and had made considerable attainments in science
and literature. Their schools of medicine and their arts were in advance
of the rest of Europe. They were the translators of Aristotle, who
reigned in the rising universities during the Middle Ages. As this war
was unnecessary, Providence seemed to rebuke Charlemagne. His defeat at
Roncesvalles was one of the most memorable events in his military
history. Prodigies of valor were wrought by him and his gallant
Paladins. The early heroic poetry of the Middle Ages has commemorated
his exploits, as well as those of his nephew Roland, to whom some
writers have ascribed the origin of Chivalry. But the Frankish forces
were signally defeated amid the passes of the Pyrenees; and it was not
until after several centuries that the Gothic princes of Spain shook off
the yoke of their Saracenic conquerors, and drove them from Europe.

The Lombard wars of Charlemagne are the last to which I allude. These
were undertaken in defence of the Church, to rescue his ally the Pope.
The Lombards belonged to the great Germanic family, but they were
unfriendly to the Pope and to the Church. They stood out against the
Empire, which was then the chief hope of Europe and of civilization.
They would have reduced the Pope to insignificance and seized his
territories, without uniting Italy. So Charlemagne, like his father
Pepin, lent his powerful aid to the Roman bishop, and the Lombards were
easily subdued. This conquest, although the easiest which he ever made,
most flattered his pride. Lombardy was not only joined to his Empire,
but he received unparalleled honors from the Pope, being crowned by him
Emperor of the West.

It was a proud day when, in the ancient metropolis of the world, and in
the fulness of his fame, Pope Leo III. placed the crown of Augustus upon
Charlemagne's brow, and gave to him, amid the festivities of Christmas,
his apostolic benediction. His dominions now extended from Catalonia to
the Bohemian forests, embracing Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy,
and the Spanish main,--the largest empire which any one man has
possessed since the fall of the Roman Empire. What more natural than for
Charlemagne to feel that he had restored the Western Empire? What more
natural than that he should have taken the title, still claimed by the
Austrian emperor, in one sense his legitimate successor,--Kaiser, or
Caesar? In the possession of such enormous power, he naturally dreamed
of establishing a new universal military monarchy like that of the
Romans,--as Charles V. dreamed, and Napoleon after him. But this is a
dream that Providence has rebuked among all successive conquerors. There
may have been need of the universal monarchy of the Caesars, that
Christianity might spread in peace, and be protected by a reign of law
and order. This at least is one of the platitudes of historians. Froude
himself harps on it in his life of Caesar. Historians are fond of
exalting the glories of imperialism, and everybody is dazzled by the
splendor and power of ancient Roman emperors. They do not, I think,
sufficiently consider the blasting influence of imperialism on the life
of nations,--how it dries up the sources of renovation, how it
necessarily withers literature and philosophy, how nothing can thrive
under it but pomp and material glories, how it paralyzes all virtuous
impulses, how it kills all enthusiasm, how it crushes out all hope and
lofty aspirations, how it makes slaves of its best subjects, how it
fills the earth with fear, how it drains national resources to support
standing armies, how it mocks all enterprises which do not receive
imperial approbation, how everything is concentrated to reflect the
glory of one man or family; how impossible, under its withering shade,
is manly independence, or the free expression of opinions or healthy
growth; how it buries up, under its armies, discontents and aspirations
alike, and creates nothing but machinery which must ultimately wear out
and leave a world in ruins, with nothing stable to take its place. Law
and order are good things, the preservation of property is desirable,
the punishment of crime is necessary; but there are other things which
are valuable also. Nothing is so valuable as the preservation of
national life; nothing is so healthy as scope for energies; nothing is
so contemptible and degrading as universal sycophancy to official rule.
There are no tyrants more oppressive than the tools of absolute power.
See in what a state imperialism left the Roman Empire when it fell.
There were no rallying forces; there was no resurrection of heroes.
Vitality had fled. Where would Turkey be to-day without the European
powers, if the Sultan's authority were to fall? It would be in the state
of ancient Babylon or Persia when those empires fell.

There is another side to imperialism besides dreaded anarchies.
Moreover, the whole progress of civilization has been counter to it. The
fiats of eternal justice have pronounced against it, because it is
antagonistic to the dignity of man and the triumphs of reason. I would
not fall in with the cant of the dignity of man, because there is no
dignity to man without aid from God Almighty through His spirit and the
message he has sent in Christianity. But there is dignity in man with
the aid of a regenerating gospel. Some people talk of the triumphs of
Christianity under the Roman emperors; but see how rapidly it was
corrupted by them when they sought the aid of its institutions to
bolster up their power. The power of Christianity is in its truths; in
its religion, and not in its forms and institutions, in its inventions
to uphold the arms of despotism and the tools of despotism. It is, and
it was, and it will be through all the ages the great power of the
world, against which it is vain to rebel. And that government is really
the best which unfetters its spiritual influence, and encourages it; and
not that government which seeks to perpetuate its corrupt and worldly
institutions. The Roman emperors made Christianity an institution, and
obscured its truths. And perhaps that is one reason why Providence
permitted their despotism to pass away,--preferring the rude anarchy of
the Germanic nations to the dead mechanism of a lifeless Church and
imperial rottenness. Imperialism must ever end in rottenness. And that
is one reason why the heart of Christendom--I mean the people of Europe,
in its enlightened and virtuous sections--has ever opposed imperialism.
The progress has been slow, but marked, towards representative
governments,--not the reign of the people directly, but of those whom
they select to represent them. The victory has been nearly gained in
England. In France the progress has been uniform since the Revolution.
Napoleon revived, or sought to revive, the imperialism of Rome. He
failed. There is nothing which the French now so cordially detest, since
their eyes have been opened to the character and ends of that usurper,
as his imperialism. It cannot be revived any more easily than the
oracles of Dodona. Even in Germany there are dreadful discontents in
view of the imperialism which Bismarck, by the force of successful wars,
has seemingly revived. The awful standing armies are a menace to all
liberty and progress and national development. In Italy itself there is
the commencement of constitutional authority, although it is united
under a king. The great standing warfare of modern times is
constitutional authority against the absolute power of kings and
emperors. And the progress has been on the side of liberty everywhere,
with occasional drawbacks, such as when Louis Napoleon revived the
accursed despotism of his uncle, and by the same means,--a standing army
and promises of military glory.

Hence, in the order of Providence, the dream of Charlemagne as to
unbounded military aggrandizement could not be realized. He could not
revive the imperialism of Rome or Persia. No man will ever arise in
Europe who can re-establish it, except for a brief period. It will be
rebuked by the superintending Power, because it is fatal to the highest
development of nations, because all its glories are delusory, because it
sows the seeds of ruin. It produces that very egotism, materialism, and
sensuality, that inglorious rest and pleasure, which, as everybody
concedes, prepared the way for violence.

And hence Charlemagne's empire went to pieces as soon as he was dead.
There was nothing permanent in his conquests, except those made against
barbarism. He was raised up to erect barriers against fresh inroads of
barbarians. His whole empire was finally split up into petty
sovereignties. In one sense he founded States, "since he founded the
States which sprang up from the dismemberment of his empire. The
kingdoms of Germany, Italy, France, Burgundy, Lorraine, Navarre, all
date to his memorable reign." But these mediaeval kingdoms were feudal;
the power of the kings was nominal. Government passed from imperialism
into the hands of nobles. The government of Europe in the Middle Ages
was a military aristocracy, only powerful as the interests of the people
were considered. Kings and princes did not make much show, except in the
trappings of royalty,--in gorgeous dresses of purple and gold, to suit a
barbaric taste,--in the insignia of power without its reality. The power
was among the aristocracy, who, it must be confessed, ground down the
people by a hard feudal rule, but who did not grind the souls out of
them, like the imperialism of absolute monarchies, with their standing
armies. Under them the feudal nobles of Europe at length recuperated.
Virtues were born everywhere,--in England, in France, in Germany, in
Holland,--which were a savor of life unto life: loyalty, self-respect,
fidelity to covenants, chivalry, sympathy with human misery, love of
home, rural sports, a glorious rural life, which gave stamina to
character,--a material which Christianity could work upon, and kindle
the latent fires of freedom, and the impulses of a generous enthusiasm.
It was under the fostering influences of small, independent chieftains
that manly strength and organized social institutions arose once
more,--the reserved power of unconquerable nations. Nobody hates
feudalism--in its corruptions, in its oppressions--more than I do. But
it was the transition stage from the anarchy which the collapse of
imperialism produced to the constitutional governments of our times, if
we could forget the absolute monarchies which flourished on the breaking
up of feudalism, when it became a tyranny and a mockery, but which
absolute monarchies flourished only one or two hundred years,--a sort of
necessity in the development of nations to check the insolence and
overgrown power of nobles, but after all essentially different from the
imperialism of Caesar or Napoleon, since they relied on the support of
nobles and municipalities more than on a standing army; yea, on votes
and grants from parliaments to raise money to support the
army,--certainly in England, as in the time of Elizabeth. The Bourbons,
indeed, reigned without grants from the people or the nobility, and what
was the logical result?--a French Revolution! Would a French Revolution
have been possible under the Roman Caesars?

But I will not pursue this gradual development of constitutional
government from the anarchies which arose out of the fall of the Roman
Empire,--just the reverse of what happened in the history of Rome; I say
no more of the imperialism which Charlemagne sought to restore, but was
not permitted by Providence, and which, after all, was the dream of his
latter days, when, like Napoleon, he was intoxicated by power and
brilliant conquests; and I turn to consider briefly his direct effects
in civilization, which showed his great and enlightened mind, and on
which his fame in no small degree rests.

Charlemagne was no insignificant legislator. His Capitularies may not be
equal to the laws of Justinian in natural justice, but were adapted to
his times and circumstances. He collected the scattered codes, so far as
laws were codified, of the various Germanic nations, and modified them.
He introduced a great Christian element into his jurisprudence. He made
use of the canons of the Church. His code is more ecclesiastical than
that of Theodosius even, the last great Christian emperor. But in his
day the clergy wielded great power, and their ordinances and decisions
were directed to society as it was. The clergy were the great jurists of
their day. The spiritual courts decided matters of great importance, and
took cognizance of cases which were out of the jurisdiction of temporal
courts. Charlemagne recognized the value of these spiritual courts, and
aided them. He had no quarrels with ecclesiastics, nor was he jealous of
their power. He allied himself with it. He was a friend of the clergy.
One of the peculiarities of all the Germanic laws, seen especially in
those of Ina and Alfred, was pecuniary compensation for crime: fifty
shillings, in England, would pay for the loss of a foot, and twenty for
a nose and four for a tooth; thus recognizing a principle seen in our
times in railroad accidents, though not recognized in our civil laws in
reference to crimes. This system of compensation Charlemagne retained,
which perhaps answered for his day.

He was also a great administrator. Nothing escaped his vigilance. I do
not read that he made many roads, or effected important internal
improvements. The age was too barbarous for the development of national
industries,--one of the main things which occupy modern statesmen and
governments. But whatever he did was wise and enlightened. He rewarded
merit; he made an alliance with learned men; he sought out the right men
for important posts; he made the learned Alcuin his teacher and
counsellor; he established libraries and schools; he built convents and
monasteries; he gave encouragement to men of great attainments; he loved
to surround himself with learned men; the scholars of all countries
sought his protection and patronage, and found him a friend. Alcuin
became one of the richest men in his dominions, and Englebert received
one of his daughters in marriage. Napoleon professed a great admiration
for Charlemagne, although Frederic II. was his model sovereign. But how
differently Napoleon acted in this respect! Napoleon was jealous of
literary genius. He hated literary men. He rarely invited them to his
table, and was constrained in their presence. He drove them out of the
kingdom even. He wanted nothing but homage,--and literary genius has no
sympathy with brute force, or machinery, or military exploits. But
Charlemagne, like Peter the Great, delighted in the society of all who
could teach him anything. He was a tolerably learned man himself,
considering his life of activity. He spoke Latin as fluently as his
native German, and it is said that he understood Greek. He liked to
visit schools, and witness the performances of the boys; and, provided
they made proficiency in their studies, he cared little for their noble
birth. He was no respecter of persons. With wrath he reproved the idle.
He promised rewards to merit and industry.

The most marked feature of his reign, outside his wars, was his sympathy
with the clergy. Here, too, he differed from Napoleon and Frederic II.
Mr. Hallam considers his alliance with the Church the great error of his
reign; but I believe it built up his throne. In his time the clergy were
the most influential people of the Empire and the most enlightened; but
at that time the great contest of the Middle Ages between spiritual and
temporal authority had not begun. Ambrose, indeed, had rebuked
Theodosius, and set in defiance the empress when she interfered with his
spiritual functions; and Leo had laid the corner-stone of the Papacy by
instituting a divine right to his decrees. But a Hildebrand and a Becket
had not arisen to usurp the prerogatives of their monarchs. Least of all
did popes then dream of subjecting the temporal powers and raising the
spiritual over them, so as to lead to issues with kings. That was a
later development in the history of the papacy. The popes of the eighth
and ninth centuries sought to heal disorder, to punish turbulent
chieftains, to sustain law and order, to establish a tribunal of justice
to which the discontented might appeal. They sought to conserve the
peace of the world. They sought to rule the Church, rather than the
world. They aimed at a theocratic ministry,--to be the ambassadors of
God Almighty,--to allay strife and division.

The clergy were the friends of order and law, and they were the natural
guardians of learning. They were kind masters to the slaves,--for
slavery still prevailed. That was an evil with which the clergy did not
grapple; they would ameliorate it, but did not seek to remove it. Yet
they shielded the unfortunate and the persecuted and the poor; they gave
the only consolation which an iron age afforded. The Church was gloomy,
ascetic, austere, like the cathedrals of that time. Monks buried
themselves in crypts; they sang mournful songs; they saw nothing but
poverty and misery, and they came to the relief in a funereal way. But
they were not cold and hard and cruel, like baronial lords. Secular
lords were rapacious, and ground down the people, and mocked and
trampled upon them; but the clergy were hospitable, gentle, and
affectionate. They sympathized with the people, from whom they chiefly
sprang. They had their vices, but those vices were not half so revolting
as those of barons and knights. Intellectually, the clergy were at all
times the superiors of these secular lords. They loved the peaceful
virtues which were generated in the consecrated convent. The passions of
nobles urged them on to perpetual pillage, injustice, and cruelty. The
clergy only quarrelled among themselves. Their vices were those of envy,
and perhaps of gluttony; but they were not public robbers. They were
the best farmers of their times; they cultivated lands, and made them
attractive by fruits and flowers. They were generally industrious; every
convent was a beehive, in which various kinds of manufactures were
produced. The monks aspired even to be artists. They illuminated
manuscripts, as well as copied them; they made tapestries and beautiful
vestments. They were a peaceful and useful set of men, at this period
outside their spiritual functions; they built grand churches; they had
fruitful gardens; they were exceedingly hospitable. Every monastery was
an inn, as well as a beehive, to which all travellers resorted, and
where no pay was exacted. It was a retreat for the unfortunate, which no
one dared assail. And it was vocal with songs and anthems.

The clergy were not only thus general benefactors in an age of
turbulence and crime, in spite of all their narrowness and spiritual
pride and ghostly arts and ambition for power, but they lent a helping
hand to the peasantry. The Church was democratic, and enabled the poor
to rise according to their merits, while nobles combined to crush them
or keep them in an ignoble sphere. In the Church, the son of a murdered
peasant could rise according to his deserts; but if he followed a
warrior to the battle-field, no virtues, no talents, no bravery could
elevate him,--he was still a peasant, a low-born menial. If he entered
a monastery, he might pass from office to office until as a mitred abbot
he would become the master of ten thousand acres, the counsellor of
kings, the equal of that proud baron in whose service his father spent
his abject life. The great Hildebrand was the son of a carpenter. The
Church ever recognized, what feudality did not,--the claims of man as
man; and enabled peasants' sons, if they had abilities and virtues, to
rise to proud positions,--to be the patrons of the learned, the
companions of princes, the ministers of kings.

And that is the reason why Charlemagne befriended the Church and
elevated it, because its influence was civilizing. He sought to
establish among the clergy a counterbalancing power to that of nobles.
Who can doubt that the influence of the Church was better than that of
nobles in the Middle Ages? If it ground down society by a spiritual
yoke, that yoke was necessary, for the rude Middle Ages could be ruled
only by fear. What fear more potent than the destruction of the soul in
a future life! It was by this weapon--excommunication--that Europe was
governed. We may abhor it, but it was the great idea of Mediaeval
Europe, which no one could resist, and which kept society from
dissolution. Charlemagne may have erred in thus giving power and
consideration to the clergy, in view of the subsequent encroachments of
the popes. But he never anticipated the future quarrels between his
successors and the popes, for the popes were not then formidable as the
antagonists of kings. I believe his policy was the best for Europe, on
the whole. The infancy of the Gothic races was long, dark, dreary, and
unfortunate, but it prepared them for the civilization which
they scorned.

Such were the services which this great sovereign rendered to his times
and to Europe. He probably saved it from renewed barbarism. He was the
great legislator of the Middle Ages, and the greatest friend--after
Constantine and Theodosius--of which the Church can boast. With him
dawned the new civilization. He brought back souvenirs of Rome and the
Empire. Not for himself did he live, but for the welfare of the nations
he governed. It was his example which Alfred sought to imitate. Though a
warrior, he saw something greater than the warrior's excellence. It is
said he was eloquent, like Julius Caesar. He loved music and all the
arts. In his palace at Aix-la-Chapelle were sung the songs of the
earliest poets of Germany. He took great pains to introduce the
Gregorian chant. He was simple in dress, and only on rare occasions did
he indulge in parade. He was temperate in eating and drinking, as all
the famous warriors have been. He absolutely abhorred drunkenness, the
great vice of the Northern nations. During meals he listened to the
lays of minstrels or the readings of his secretaries. He took unwearied
pains with the education of his daughters, and he was so fond of them
that they even accompanied him in his military expeditions. He was not
one of those men that Gibbon appreciated; but his fame is steadily
growing, after a lapse of a thousand years. His whole appearance was
manly, cheerful, and dignified. His countenance reflected a child-like
serenity. He was one of the few men, like David, who was not spoiled by
war and flatteries. Though gentle, he was subject to fits of anger, like
Theodosius; but he did not affect anger, like Napoleon, for theatrical
effect. His greatness and his simplicity, his humanity and his religious
faith, are typical of the Germanic race. He died A.D. 814, after a reign
of half a century, lamented by his own subjects and to be admired by
succeeding generations. Hallam, though not eloquent generally, has
pronounced his most beautiful eulogy, "written in the disgraces and
miseries of succeeding times. He stands alone like a rock in the ocean,
like a beacon on a waste. His sceptre was the bow of Ulysses, not to be
bent by a weaker hand. In the dark ages of European history, his reign
affords a solitary resting-place between two dark periods of turbulence
and ignominy, deriving the advantage of contrast both from that of the
preceding dynasty and of a posterity for whom he had founded an empire
which they were unworthy and unequal to maintain."

To such a tribute I can add nothing. His greatness consists in this,
that, born amidst barbarism, he was yet the friend of civilization, and
understood its elemental principles, and struggled forty-seven years to
establish them,--failing only because his successors and subjects were
not prepared for them, and could not learn them until the severe
experience of ten centuries, amidst disasters and storms, should prove
the value of the "old basal walls and pillars" which remained unburied
amid the despised ruins of antiquity, and show that no structure could
adequately shelter the European nations which was not established by the
beautiful union of German vigor with Christian art,--by the combined
richness of native genius with those immortal treasures which had
escaped the wreck of the classic world.


Eginhard's Vita Caroli Magni; Le Clerc's De la Bruyere, Histoire du
Regne de Charlemagne; Haureau's Charlemagne et son Cour; Gaillard's
Histoire de Charlemagne; Lorenz's Karls des Grossen. There is a
tolerably popular history of Charlemagne by James Bulfinch, entitled
"Legends of Charlemagne;" also a Life by James the novelist. Henri
Martin, Sismondi, and Michelet may be consulted; also Hallam's Middle
Ages, Milman's Latin Christianity, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire, Biographic Universelle, and the Encyclopaedias.


* * * * *

A.D. 1020-1085.


We associate with Hildebrand the great contest of the Middle Ages
between spiritual and temporal authority, the triumph of the former, and
its supremacy in Europe until the Reformation. What great ideas and
events are interwoven with that majestic domination,--not in one age,
but for fifteen centuries; not religious merely, but political,
embracing as it were the whole progress of European society, from the
fall of the Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation; yea, intimately
connected with the condition of Europe to the present day, and not of
Europe only, but America itself! What an august power is this Catholic
empire, equally great as an institution and as a religion! What lessons
of human experience, what great truths of government, what subtile
influences, reaching alike the palaces of kings and the hovels of
peasants, are indissolubly linked with its marvellous domination, so
that whether in its growth or decay it is more suggestive than the rise
and fall of any temporal empire. It has produced, probably, more
illustrious men than any political State in Europe. It has aimed to
accomplish far grander ends. It is invested with more poetic interest.
Its policy, its heroes, its saints, its doctors, its dignitaries, its
missions, its persecutions, all rise up before us with varied but
never-ending interest, when seriously contemplated. It has proved to be
the most wonderful fabric of what we call worldly wisdom that our world
has seen,--controlling kings, dictating laws to ancient monarchies, and
binding the souls of millions with a more perfect despotism than
Oriental emperors ever sought or dreamed. And what a marvellous vitality
it seems to have! It has survived the attacks of its countless enemies;
it has recovered from the shock of the Reformation; it still remains
majestic and powerful, extending its arms of paternal love or Briarean
terror over half of Christendom. As a temporal government, rivalling
kings in the pomps of war and the pride of armies, it may be passing
away; but as an organization to diffuse and conserve religious
truths,--yea, even to bring a moral pressure on the minds of princes and
governors, and reinforce its ranks with the mighty and the noble,--it
seems to be as potent as ever. It is still sending its missionaries, its
prelates, and its cardinals into the heart of Protestant countries, who
anticipate and boast of new victories. It derides the dissensions and
the rationalistic speculations of the Protestants, and predicts that
they will either become open Pagans or re-enter the fold of Saint Peter.
No longer do angry partisans call it the "Beast" or the "Scarlet Mother"
or the "predicted Antichrist," since its religious creeds in their vital
points are more in harmony with the theology of venerated Fathers than
those of some of the progressive and proudest parties which call
themselves Protestant. In Germany, in France,--shall I add, in England
and America?--it is more in earnest, and more laborious and self-denying
than many sects among the Protestants. In Germany--in those very seats
of learning and power and fashion which once were kindled into lofty
enthusiasm by the voice of Luther--who is it that desert the churches
and disregard the sacraments, the Catholics or the Protestants?

Surely such a power, whether we view it as an institution or as a
religion, cannot be despised, even by the narrowest and most fanatical
Protestant. It is too grand and venerable for sarcasm, ridicule, or
mockery. It is too potent and respectable to be sneered at or lied
about. No cause can be advanced permanently except by adherence to the
truth, whether it be agreeable or not. If the Papacy were a mere
despotism, having nothing else in view than the inthralment of
mankind,--of which it has been accused,--then mankind long ago, in lofty
indignation, would have hurled it from its venerable throne. But
despotic as its yoke is in the eyes of Protestants, and always has been
and always may be, it is something more than that, having at heart the
welfare of the very millions whom it rules by working on their fears. In
spite of dogmas which are deductions from questionable premises, or
which are at war with reason, and ritualism borrowed from other
religions, and "pious frauds," and Jesuitical means to compass desirable
ends,--which Protestants indignantly discard, and which they maintain
are antagonistic to the spirit of primitive Christianity,--still it is
also the defender and advocate of vital Christian truths, to which we
trace the hopes and consolations of mankind. As the conservator of
doctrines common to all Christian sects it cannot be swept away by the
hand of man; nor as a government, confining its officers and rules to
the spiritual necessities of its members. Its empire is spiritual rather
than temporal. Temporal monarchs are hurled from their thrones. The long
line of the Bourbons vanishes before the tempests of revolution, and
they who were borne into power by these tempests are in turn hurled into
ignominious banishment; but the Pope--he still sits secure on the throne
of the Gregories and the Clements, ready to pronounce benedictions or
hurl anathemas, to which half of Europe bows in fear or love.

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