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PHYSIOLOGICAL CAUSES OF THAT DECLINE. 431.
according to the light given him, and discharging the duties of this troublesome and transitory life “as ever in his great Taskmaster’s eye.” For the progressive degradations exhibited by the Roman Church during the Age of Faith, something may be offered as at once an explanation and an excuse. Machiavelli relates, in his “History of Florence -a work which, if inferior in philosophical penetration to his “Prince,” is of the most singular merit as a literary composition-that Osporco, a Roman, having become pope, exchanged his unseemly name for the more classical one Sergius, and that his successors have ever since observed the practice of assuming a new name. This incident profoundly illustrates the psychical progress of that Church. During the fifteen centuries that we have had under consideration-counting from a little before the Christian era-the population of Italy had been constantly changing. The old Roman ethnical element had become eliminated partly through the republican and imperial wars, and partly through the slave system. The degenerated half-breeds, of whom the Peninsula was full through repeated northern immigrations, degenerated, as time went on, still more and more. After that blood admixture had for the most part ceased, it took a long time for the base ethnical element which was its product to come into physiological correspondence with the country, for the adaptation of man to a new climate is a slow, a secular change. But blood-degeneration implies thought-degeneration. It is nothing more than might be expected that, in this mongrel race, customs, and language, and even names should change-that rivers, and towns, and men should receive new appellations. As the great statesman to whom I have referred observes, Caesar and Pompey had disappeared; John, Matthew, and Peter had come in their stead. Barbarized names are the outward and visible signs of barbarized ideas. Those early bishops of Rome, whose dignified acts have commanded our respect, were men of Roman blood, and animated with sentiments that were truly Latin; but the succeeding pontiffs, whose lives were so infamous and thoughts so base, were engendered of half-breeds. Norwas it until the Italian population had re-established itself in a physiological relation with the country-not until it had passed through the earlier stages of national life that manly thoughts and true conceptions could be regained. Ideas and dogmas that would not have been tolerated for an instant in the old, pure, homogeneous Roman race, found acceptance in this adulterated, festering mass. This was the true cause of the increasing debasement of Latin Christianity. He who takes the trouble to construct a chart of the religious conceptions as they successively struggled into light, will see how close was their connection with the physiological state of the Italian ethnical element at the moment. It is a sad and humiliating succession.- Mariolatry; the invoca-
432 BENEFITS CONFERRED BY THE CHURCH.
tion of saints; the supreme value of virginity; the working of miracles by relics; the satisfaction of moral crimes by gifts of money or goods to the clergy; the worship of images; Purgatory; the sale of benefices; transubstantiation, or the making of God by the priest; the materialization of God-that he has eyes, feet, hands, toes; the virtue of pilgrimages; vicarious religion, the sinner paying the priest to pray for him; the corporeality of spirits; the forbidding of the Bible to the laity; the descent to shrine-worship and fetichism; the doctrine that man can do more than his duty, and hence have a claim upon God; the sale by the priest of indulgences in sin for money. But there is another, a very different aspect under which we must regard this Church. Enveloped as it was with the many evils of the times, the truly Christian principle which was at its basis perpetually vindicated its power, giving rise to numberless blessings in spite of the degradation and wickedness of man. As I have elsewhere (Physiology,
Page 626) remarked, ” The civil law exerted an exterior power in human relations; Christianity produced an interior and moral change. The idea of an ultimate accountability for personal deeds, of which the old Europeans had an indistinct perception, became intense and precise. The sentiment of universal charity was exemplified not only in individual acts, the remembrance of which soon passes away, but in the more permanent institution of establishments for the relief of affliction, the spread of knowledge, the propagation of truth. Of the great ecclesiastics, many had risen from the humblest ranks of society, and these men, true to their democratic instincts, were often found to be the inflexible supporters of right against might. Eventually coming to be the depositaries of the knowledge that then existed, they opposed intellect to brute force, in many instances successfully, and by the example of the organization of the Church, which was essentially republican, they showed how representative systems may be introduced into the state. Nor was it over communities and nations that the Church displayed her chief power. Never in the world before was there such a system. From her central seat at Rome, her all-seeing eye, like that of Providence itself, could equally take in a hemisphere at a glance, or examine the private life of any individual. Her boundless influences enveloped kings in their palaces, and relieved the beggar at the monastery gate. In all Europe there was not a man too obscure, too insignificant, or too desolate for her. Surrounded by her solemnities, every one received his name at her altar; her bells chimed at his marriage, her knell tolled at his funeral. She extorted from him the secrets of his life at her confessionals, and punished his faults by her penances. In his hour of sickness and trouble her servants sought him out, teaching him, by her exquisite litanies and prayers, to place his reliance on God, or strengthening him for the trials of life by the example of the holy and just. Her.
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