Images de page
PDF
ePub

gious inquiry and the course it had taken were no less remarkable. Those who had begun with the exposure of corruptions and abuses, and were at that time most dutiful sons of the church, ended not till they had explored all the abominations of the papacy, in doctrine, discipline, and worship, and renounced their allegiance to the see of Rome. The whole system was declared to be anti-christian and unscriptural, alike hostile to the welfare of society, the interests of true religion, and the glory of the only Saviour. They heard the voice of God-"Come out of her, my people," and fearlessly proclaimed the duty of absolute separation from a community in which none could remain without utmost hazard to their souls. It may be easily imagined that those who entertained such views could indulge very feeble hopes from the holding of a council. They saw that fatal errors and childish superstitions had been gradually interwoven with the whole economy of life, and that their eradication would be like plucking out the right eye and cutting off the right hand. Nothing less than a complete revolution could satisfy their wishes: the dogmas of the schoolmen must be exploded, the human mind unfettered, scripture restored to its just honours, and the mummeries and tricks of image-wor ship suppressed for ever. It was hardly to be expected that such sweeping changes would be sanctioned by a general council, or that the priesthood would tamely consent to lose the hope of their gains. These doubts were justified by facts, and strengthened by time.

On the other hand the sovereigns and states of Europe looked forward to the council with sanguine expectations. They resolved to exert all their influence to procure a thorough reformation of abuses. Were this effected, they conceived that the Protestants would cheerfully return to the bosom of the church. Their own interest was also concerned in the favourable issue of the assembly; for ecclesiastical immunities and exactions had shorn them of much of their power, and diffused general discontent and distress among their subjects.

The bishops had similar expectations. Their influence and authority had suffered greatly from the encroachments of the monastic orders, and the frequency

of appeals to Rome, which the Popes took care to encourage. In the council they intended to assert and hoped to recover their rights and privileges.

Such was the state of parties. The feelings and designs of the Roman Pontiff differed from those of all the rest. He determined to make no concessions, to permit no change, except for the further aggrandizement of the Holy See. Protestants, prelates, princes, all were to be duped or disappointed: and they were so.

Three legates were appointed to preside in the council in the name of the Pope-the Cardinals De Monte, Santa Croce, and Pole. De Monte was chairman or president: he was well versed in the policy of the court of Rome, zealous for the continuance of things as they were, and distinguished by his haughty, overbearing demeanour. Santa Croce was better fitted for the management of theological debates, in which department he was chiefly employed. Pole has been mentioned before. In the instructions delivered to them the pontiff commended their faith, learning, probity, skill and experience; declared that he sent them as "Angels of peace," and exhorted them to fulfil their important duties in such a manner as to obtain from God, the rewarder of good works, the glory of eternal happiness. 3 With these instructions they received a secret bull, giving them power to transfer the council to any more suitable place, whenever they should think fit. This bull, however, was not published, for obvious reasons; and none knew of its existence till it was produced as the authority for removing the council to Bologna in 1548.3

On the arrival of the legates at Trent, March 13, they found but one prelate there, the bishop of Cava, so that it was impossible to open the council on the day appointed. Ten days after two others arrived, the bishops of Feltri and Bitonto. They accompanied Mendoza, the Imperial ambassador, who strongly urged the legates to proceed to business immediately, and enter upon the subject of reformation of abuses. He found, however, that this was a very distasteful topic; and the small number of prelates furnished a sufficient excuse

[blocks in formation]

for remaining inactive. By the end of May about twenty had assembled. They were employed in adjusting the ceremonials to be observed, and in such other harmless engagements as the cardinal of Trent could devise; but his task was by no means easy, for they soon became impatient of delay, and some of them were so poor that the legates were obliged to supply them with money for their support from the papal purse.

The whole summer was spent in various intrigues and negotiations. A diet was held at Worms, from March till July. The Protestants soon perceived that their situation was dangerous. Peace had been granted them till the convocation of a lawful council: they were now called upon to submit to the decrees of the church assembled at Trent, or abide the consequences of their rebellion. But they maintained that the council was not a lawful one, inasmuch as the Pope, who presided in it by his legates, was a party in the cause, and had already prejudged them. No other indulgence was granted than the appointment of another diet, and a conference, to be held at Ratisbon in the ensuing winter: and even this was only done to gain time, and enable the emperor to mature those warlike preparations by which he hoped to humble and subdue the Protestant states. He had pledged his word to the Pope that nothing should be permitted, either in the diet or the conference, that could in the slightest degree injure the Roman Catholic faith or the interests of the Apostolic See. 39

Although the pontiff had convoked the council under auspices so favourable to himself, he could not dissemble his fear of the results, and laboured hard to persuade the emperor to agree that the place of meeting should be changed for Rome or some city within the papal do

39 Pallav. lib. v. c. 14. s. 2.

40" His Holiness cannot digest the council." "One of the reasons why it is said that the Pope dreads the council, is, that there are some cardinals, his enemies, to whom money was offered by him at his election, and these know others who accepted it." Se wrote two good Catholics, the Viceroy of Naples, and the Imperial Ambassador at Trent. See the Rev. Blanco White's Practical and Internal Evidence against Catholicism, p. 315-318. Second Edition.

minions; but to this his Imperial Majesty would not consent. On the other hand Charles was anxious that the council should postpone the decision of doctrinal points, and commence with reformation, lest the Protestants should be exasperated, and begin hostilities before he was prepared to meet them. His Holiness was too prudent to make such a concession, which would have defeated his own projects. There was now no valid reason for longer delay, and instructions were issued to the legates to open the council of Trent on the thirteenth of December.

Much pomp and religious solemnity were exhibited on this occasion. The legates, accompanied by the cardinal of Trent, four archbishops, twenty-four bishops, five generals of orders, the ambassadors of the King of the Romans, and many divines, assembled in the church of the Trinity, and thence went in procession to the cathedral, the choir singing the hymn Veni Creator. When all were seated, the cardinal de Monte performed the mass of the Holy Ghost; at the end of which he announced a bull of indulgences issued by the Pope, promising full pardon of sin to all who in the week immediately after the publication of the bull in their respective places of abode should fast on Wednesday and Friday, receive the sacrament on Sunday, and join in processions and supplications for a blessing on the council. A long discourse followed, delivered by the bishop of Bitonto. After this the cardinal rose and briefly addressed the assembly; the accustomed prayers were offered, and the hymn Veni Creator again sung. The papal bull authorizing their meeting was then produced and read; and a decree was unanimously passed, declaring that the sacred and general council of Trent was then begun-for the praise and glory of the holy and undivided Trinity-the increase and exaltation of true religion-the extirpation of heresy-the peace and union of the church-the reformation of the clergy and christian people—and the destruction of the enemies of the christian name. The cardinal de Monte blessed them,

41 Le Plat, III. 288.

42 Assent was signified by the word Placet-content: those who dissented said, Non placet-not content.

with the sign of the cross: Te Deum was sung, and the fathers separated, "greatly rejoicing, embracing each other, and giving God thanks."4 3

A brief abstract of the bishop of Bitonto's discourse may be here inserted, as a specimen of the ridiculous trifling and silly bombast which amused the fathers at Trent; the devout reader will observe with pain the profane application of scripture. Adverting to the use and importance of councils, and tracing their history, the bishop found example or authority for such assemblies in the election of the seven deacons, the choice of Matthias, the solemn publication of the law to Israel, and even in the language employed by the Divine Being at the creation of man and the confusion of tongues. He divided religion into three parts, doctrine, the sacraments, and charity, and affirmed that in each the most lamentable degeneracy and corruption prevailed; "the gold was become dim, and the finest colour changed;" princes, people, and priests were polluted; all were under the influence of lust and ambition, the mother and the nurse of every evil, the two horse-leeches continually crying, "bring, bring;" and as the natural consequence, heresy, schism, superstition and infidelity triumphed.Then followed a laboured eulogy of the Pope, and of all that he had done, to "gather his children as the hird doth the brood under her wings." The legates also had their share of flattery; their very names furnished mystic meanings and happy omens;44 under their auspices all were invited to join the council, as the ancient heroes were shut up in the Trojan horse. He apostrophized the mountains and forests of Trent, and

43 The words of the Secretary Massarelli. Le Plat, vii. pars. 2. p. 48. The ceremonies were nearly the same at all the Sessions, and therefore need not be described again.

44 We enter upon and commence this General Council lawfully assembled with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, by the sanction of the Apostolic See, and under the direction of these prelates who stand conspicuous in this holy company-a new Jerusalem, viz. Johanne Maria de Monte, whose looks and affections are continually directed upward to the mountain (montem) which is Christ, whence comes our strength: Marcello Politiano, who formerly directed the efforts of his profound and impartial mind to the support of the Christian Commonwealth, (politia,) whose corrupt morals have afforded our enemies an opportunity to attack us: Reginald Pole more resembling an angel than an Englishman, (non tum Av glo, quam angelo.)

« PrécédentContinuer »