Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/80

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60
HERESY.

age neighborhood-war and ground under the iron heel of feudalism, the common man might indeed well imagine that the reign of Antichrist was ever imminent, or might welcome any change which possibly might benefit, and scarce could injure, his condition. The invisible world, moreover, with its mysterious attraction and horrible fascination, was ever present and real to every one. Demons were always around him, to smite him with sickness, to ruin his pitiful little cornfield or vineyard, or to lure his soul to perdition ; while angels and saints were similarly ready to help him, to listen to his invocations, and to intercede for him at the throne of mercy, which he dared not to address directly. It was among a population thus impressionable, emotional, and superstitious, slowly awakening in the intellectual dawn, that orthodoxy and heterodoxy — the forces of conservatism and progress — were to fight the battle in which neither could win permanent victory.

It is a noteworthy fact, presaging the new form which modern civilization and enlightenment were to assume, that the heresies which were to shake the Church to its foundations were no longer, as of old, mere speculative subtleties propounded by learned theologians and prelates in the gradual evolution of Christian doctrine. We have not to deal with men like Arius or Priscillian, or Nestorius or Eutyches, scholars and prelates who filled the Church with the disputatious wrangles of their learning. Hierarchical organization was too perfect, and theological dogma too thoroughly petrified, to admit of this; and the occasional deviations, real or assumed, of the schoolmen from orthodoxy, as in the case of Berenger of Tours, of Abelard, of Gilbert de la Porée, of Peter Lombard, of Folkmar von Trieffenstein, were readily suppressed by the machinery of the establishment. Nor have we, for the most part, to deal with the governing classes, for the alliance between Church and State to keep the people in subjection had been handed down from the Koman Empire, and however much monarchs like John of England or Frederic II. had to complain of ecclesiastical pretensions, they never dared to loosen the foundations on which rested their own prerogatives. As a rule, heresy had to be thoroughly disseminated among the people before those of gentle blood would meddle with it, as we shall see in Languedoc and Lombardy. The blows which brought real danger to the hierarchy came from ob-