A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Jesuits

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JESUITS, a celebrated religious order in the Roman Catholic church, founded by Ignatius Loyola,a Spanish knight, who was born of a respectable family at Loyola, in the province Guipuscoa, in Spain, in 1491. The early part of his life was spent in the military service, in which he acquired great reputation. But when his leg was broken by a cannon hall, at the seige of Pampeluna, in 1521, he employed himself during his confinement, in reading "the Lives of the Saints," which made such a strong impression on his mind, that he determined to renounce the world, to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and to devote himself to the service of God. From this time he led a most austere life, and was indefatigable in his exertions to make converts. His efforts were at length crowned with success. In the year 1537, he gained a number of followers, who bound themselves by five rules, which inculcated the duties of self-mortification and charity, enforced the precepts and practice of virtue, and professed to labour assiduously, without the hope of reward, for the glory of God. They called themselves, "The Society of Jesus." Their zeal was increased by the sanction of the Roman pontiff, Paul III. who by his bull, dated March 1545, permits them to alter, annul or revive, at pleasure, as times, places, and circumstances may require, their constitutions made, or to be made. In another bull dated November, 1549, he gives the general complete jurisdiction over the members, and power over the funds of the society, together with the privilege of sending any individual of the order wherever he may please. The Pope appointed Loyola the first general of this society. He died in 1556, and was canonized 1609. At that time all the miracles of the apostolic ages were said to have been wrought by the influence of his superiour sanctity.

As the object of the order was to obtain influence in all quarters of the globe, and among all classes of men, they naturally became missionaries, school-masters, and confessors. And in a short time they were almost the exclusive, and certainly the most distinguished instructors of youth in every catholic country. They cultivated learning, because they perceived its use in governing mankind, and were not only theologians, but grammarians, critics, mathematicians, philosophers, and poets. They were the confessors of almost every catholic monarch, and person of distinguished rank.

Their wealth, notwithstanding "a vow of poverty," which they found little difficulty in evading, was immense. They obtained a license to trade with the nations whom they undertook to convert. They made themselves masters of a very large province in South America. And thus, although when Loyola, in 1540, petitioned the Pope to authorize the institution of the order, he had only ten disciples, in the year 1608 the number of Jesuits amounted to 10,581. In 1710, the order possessed 24 professed houses, 59 houses of probation, 341 residences, 612 colleges, 200 missions, 150 seminaries, and the society consisted of 19,998 members.

They were expelled from England by proclamation, 2 James I, in 1604—from Venice, in 1606—Portugal, 1759— France, 1764—Spain and Sicily, 1767; and finally the celebrated Pope Clement XIV. in July 1773, signed a brief, which suppressed this famous order.

The doctrinal points, which are ascribed to the Jesuits, in distinction from many others of the Roman communion, are as follow.[1]

I. This order maintained, that the Pope is infallible; that he is the only visible source of that universal and unlimited power, which Christ has granted to the church; that all bishops and subordinate rulers derive from him alone, the authority and jurisdiction, with which they are invested; and that he alone is the supreme lawgiver of that sacred community; a law-giver, whose edicts and commands it is, in the highest degree, criminal to oppose, or dispute, or disobey.

II. They comprehend within the limits of the church, not only many, who live separate from the communion of Rome, but even extend the inheritance of eternal salvation to nations, that have not the least knowledge of the Christian religion, or of its divine author; and consider as true members of the church, open transgressors who profess its doctrines.

III. The Jesuits maintain, that human nature is far from being deprived of all power of doing good; that the succours of grace are administered to all mankind, in a measure sufficient to lead them to eternal life and salvation; that the operations of grace offer no violence to the faculties and powers of nature, and therefore may be resisted; and that God, from all eternity, has appointed everlasting rewards and punishments, as the portion of men in a future world, not by an absolute, arbitrary, and unconditional decree, but in consequence of that divine and unlimited prescience, by which he foresaw the actions, merits, and characters, of every individual.

IV. They represent it, as a matter of perfect indifference, from what motives men obey the laws of God, provided these laws are really obeyed; and maintain, that the service of those, who obey from the fear of punishment, is as agreeable to the Deity, as those actions, which proceed from a principle of love to him and his laws.

V. The maintain, that the sacraments have in themselves an instrumental and efficient power; by virtue of which they work in the soul, independently on its previous preparation or propensities, a disposition to receive the divine grace.

VI. The Jesuits recommend a devout ignorance to such, as submit to their direction, and think a Christian ought to yield an unlimited obedience to the orders of the church.

The following maxims are said to be extracted from the moral writings of this order:

I. That persons truly wicked and void of the love of God, may expect to obtain eternal life in heaven, provided, that they be impressed with a fear of the divine anger, and avoid all heinous and enormous crimes, through the dread of future punishment.

II. That those persons may transgress with safety, who have a probable reason for transgressing, i. e. any fair argument or authority in favour of the act they are inclined to perform.

III. That actions intrinsically evil, and directly contrary to the divine law, may be innocently performed by those, who have so much power over their own minds, as to join, even ideally, a good end to this wicked action.

IV. That philosophical sin[2] is of a very light and trivial nature, and does not deserve the paws of hell.

V. That the transgressions committed by a person, blinded by the seductions of tumultuous passions, and destitute of all sense and impression of religion, however detestable and heinous they may be in themselves, are not imputable to the transgressor before the tribunal of God; and that such transgressions may be often as involuntary, as the actions of a madman.

VI. That the person, who takes an oath, or enters into a contract, may, to elude the force of the one, and obligation of the other, add to the form of the words that express them, certain mental additions and tacit reservations.

This entire society is composed of four sorts of members, viz. novices, scholars, spiritual and temporal coadjutors, and professed members. Beside the three ordinary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which are common to all the monastic tribes, the professed members are obliged to take a fourth, by which they solemnly bind themselves to go, without deliberation or delay, wherever the pope shall think fit to send them. They are governed by a general, who has four assistants. The inferiours of this society are obliged entirely to renounce their own wills, and abide by his directions. Their enterprize has led them into Paraguay, a delightful province of South America;—here they have founded a government, and instructed and civilized the native Indians.

The general himself is responsible to none but the pope. He nominates all the functionaries of the order, and can remove them at pleasure. Every novice, who offers himself as a candidate for entering into the order, is obliged to confess to his superiour, or to a person appointed by him, not only his sins and defects, but to discover the inclinations, the passions, and the bent of his soul. The society, not satisfied with penetrating in this manner into the inmost recesses of the heart, directs each member to observe the words and actions of novices; they are constituted spies upon their conduct; and are bound to disclose every thing of consequence concerning them to the superiour. In order that this scrutiny into their character may be as complete as possible, a long noviciate must expire, during which they pass through the several gradations of ranks in the society, and they must have attained the full age of thirty three years, before they can be admitted to take the final vows by which they become members of this society.

The restoration of the order of Jesuits took place in 1814, by a bull of the present pope Pius VII. The apostolic constitutions of pope Paul III. and others are revived in favour of this society; and in short they are placed in the same condition of privilege and power, as they anciently enjoyed. The bull of pope Clement XIV. abolishing the order, is expressly abrogated.[3]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. This is the representation, which is given by the adversaries of this order. The compiler of this work had not an opportunity to see any of the Jesuits' writings in their own defence.
  2. By philosophical sin, the Jesuits mean, an action contrary to the dictates of nature and right reason, which is done by a person, who is either absolutely ignorant of God, or does not think of him, during the time this action is committed.
  3. Mosheim, vol. iii. p. 465; iv. p. 354, 355. Hist, of Don Ingnatius. Pascals Letters concerning the Jesuits, 2 vols 8vo. Robertson's Charles V. vol. ii. P 431. Edinburgh Encyclopedia. Christian Observer, March 1815. February 1817. Buck's Theol. Dict.