Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/231

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211
SUPREME GUILT OF HERESY.

existence here and hereafter, new questions constantly arose and were disputed with merciless vehemence. Those who held commanding positions in the Church and could enforce their opinions were necessarily orthodox; those who were weaker became heterodox, and the distinction between the faithful and the heretic became year by year more marked.[1]

Nor was it merely the odium theologicum that raised these passions; not only pride of opinions and zeal for the purity of faith. Wealth and power have charms even for bishop and priest, and in the Church, as it grew through the centuries, wealth and power depended upon the obedience of the flock. A hardly disputant who questioned the dogmatic accuracy of his ecclesiastical superior was a mutineer of the worst kind; and if he succeeded in attracting followers they became the nucleus of a rebellion which threatened revolution, and every motive, good or evil, prompted the suppression of such sedition at all hazards and by every available means. If the sectaries became sufficiently numerous to form a community of their own, cutting them off from the communion of the Church was of no avail; the keenest shafts of ecclesiastical censure rebounded harmless from their armor of conscientious belief. This naturally led to an animosity against the m greater than that visited on the worst of criminals. No matter how trivial may have been the original cause of schism, nor how pure and fervent might be the faith of the schismatics, the fact that they had refused to bend to authority, and had thus sought to divide the seamless garment of Christ, became an offence in comparison with which all other sins dwindled into insignificance, neutralizing all the virtues and all the devotion which men could possess. Even Augustin could see nothing to soften his heart in the enthusiastic ardor with which the Donatists endured, and even courted, martyrdom. Had they carried Christ in their hearts their self-abnegation might have merited praise, but as it was they acted only under the promptings of Satan, like the swine who were driven into the sea by the unclean spirit. Martyrdom, even for Christ's sake, could not save heretic or schismatic from sharing eternal fire with Satan and his angels.[2]

  1. Tertull. de Baptism, c. 15. —Concil. Chalced. Act. I.
  2. Augustin. Epist. 185 ad Bonifac. c. iii. 12. —Cf. Cypriani de Unit. Eccles. C. 3 Extra, v. 7.