Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/60

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40
THE CHURCH.

had necessarily become a very different creed from that taught by Christ and Paul. Doctrines are beyond my province, but a brief reference is requisite to certain phases of belief and observance to render clear the relation between clergy and people, and to explain the religious revolt of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The theory of justification by works, to which the Church owed so much of its power and wealth, had, in its development, to a great extent deprived religion of all spiritual vitality, replacing its essentials with a dry and meaningless formalism. It was not that men were becoming indifferent to the destiny of their souls, for never, perhaps, have the terrors of perdition, the bliss of salvation, and the never-ending efforts of the arch-fiend possessed a more burning reahty for man, but religion had become in many respects a fetichism. Teachers might still inculcate that pious and charitable works to be efficient must be accompanied with a change of heart, with repentance, with amendment, with an earnest seeking after Christ and a higher life ; but in a gross and hardened generation it was far easier for the sinner to fall into the practices habitual around him, which taught that absolution could be had by the repetition of a certain number of Pater Fosters or Ave Marias accompanied by the magical sacrament of penitence; nay, even that if the penitent himself were unable to perform the penance enjoined, it could be undertaken by his friends, whose merits were transferred to him by some kind of sacred jugglery. When a congregation, in preparation for Easter, was confessed and absolved as a whole, or in squads and batches, as was customary with some careless priests, the lesson taught was that the sacrament of penitence was a magic ceremony or incantation, in which the internal condition of the soul was a matter of virtual indifference.[1]

More serviceable to the Church, and quite as disastrous in its influence on faith and morals, was the current belief that the posthumous liberality of the death-bed, which founded a monastery or enriched a cathedral out of the spoils for which, the sinner had no further use, would atone for a lifelong course of cruelty and rapine; and that a few weeks' service against the enemies of a


  1. Petri Exoniens. Summ. Exigendi Confess, ann. 1287 (Harduin. VII. 1128). — Caesar. Heisterbac. Dial. Mirac. Dist. in. cap. 45. — Martene Ampliss. Coll. I. 357.