Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/258

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repentance, were hurried, but a few years before their time, to their master the Devil?

We must also bear in mind the character which Christianity had assumed in the gradual development of its theology, and its consequent influence on those who guided the policy of the Church. They knew that Christ had said "I am not come to destroy the law but to fulfil" (Matt. v. 17). They also knew from Holy Writ that Jehovah was a God delighting in the extermination of his enemies. They read how Saul, the chosen King of Israel, had been divinely punished for sparing Agag of Amalek, and how the prophet Samuel had hewn him in pieces; how the wholesale slaughter of the unbelieving Canaanites had been ruthlessly commanded and enforced; how Elijah had been commended for slaying four hundred and fifty priests of Baal; and they could not conceive bow mercy to those who rejected the true faith could be aught by disobedience to God. Moreover, Jehovah was a God who was only to be placated by the continual sacrifice of victims. The very doctrine of the Atonement assumed that the human race could only be rendered eligible to salvation by the most awful sacrifice that the human mind could conceive - that of one of the members of the Trinity. The Christian worshipped a God who had subjected himself to the most painful and humiliating of sacrifices, and the salvation of souls was dependent on the daily repetition of this sacrifice in the mass, throughout Christendom. To minds moulded in such a belief, it might well seem that the extremity of punishment inflicted on the enemies of the Church of God was nothing in itself, and that it was an acceptable offering to him who had commanded that neither age nor sex sould be spared in the land of Canaan.

These tendencies had been fostered and exaggerated by the growth of asceticism. That mortal life was a thing to be despised and that heaven was to be purchased by shunning the pleasures of existence and extinguishing all human affections, was a lesson taught broadly throughout the hagiology of the Church. Maceration and mortification were the surest roads to Paradise, and sin was to be redeemed by self-inflicted penance. This theory worked in a double sense. On the one hand, the practices of the zealot - strict celibacy, fasting, solitude, are direct incentives to insanity, as is shown by the epidemics of diabolical possession and