Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/24

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the lowest ranks of society to the most commanding positions. The Church thus constantly recruited its ranks with fresh blood. Free from the curse of hereditary descent, through which crowns and coronets frequently lapsed into weak and incapable hands, it called into its service an indefinite amount of restless vigor for which there was no other sphere of action, and which, when once enlisted, found itself perforce identified irrevocably with the body which it had joined. The character of the priest was indelible; the vows taken at ordination could not be thrown aside; the monk, when once admitted to the cloister, could not abandon his order unless it were to enter another of more rigorous observance. The Church Militant was thus an army encamped on the soil of Christendom, with its outposts everywhere, subject to the most efficient discipline, animated with a common purpose, every soldier panoplied with inviolability and armed with the tremendous weapons which slew the soul. There was little that could not be dared or done by the commander of such a force, whose orders were listened to as oracles of God, from Portugal to Palestine and from Sicily to Iceland. "Princes," says John of Salisbury, "derive their power from the Church, and are servants of the priesthood." "The least of the priestly order is worthier than any king," exclaims Honorius of Autun; "prince and people are subjected to the clergy, which shines superior as the sun to the moon," Innocent III. used a more spiritual metaphor when he declared that the priestly power was as superior to the secular as the soul of man was to his body; and he summed up his estimate of his own position by pronouncing himself to be the Vicar of Christ, the Christ of the Lord, the God of Pharaoh, placed midway between God and man, this side of God but beyond man, less than God but greater than man, who judges all, and is judged by none. That he was supreme over all the earth — over pagans and infidels as well as over Christians — was legally proved and universally taught by the mediæval doctors.[1] Though the power thus vaingloriously asserted was fraught with evil in many ways, yet was it none the less a service to humanity that, in those rude ages, there existed a

  1. Johann. Saresberiens. Polycrat. lib. iv. cap. iii. — Honor. Augustod. Summ. Glor. de Apost. cap. v., viii. —Innocent PP. III. Regest. de Negot. Rom. Imp. xviii.; Ejusd. Serm. de Sanctis vii.; Serm. de Diversis iii. — Eymerici Direct. Inquisit. Ed. Venet. 1607, p. 353.