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The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America

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    SIMPLICIUS, 467-483,

    in whose pontificate the empire perished when the Heruli, under Odoacer, overran all Italy, deposed the last emperor of the West, appropriated to themselves one third of all the lands, and established the Herulian kingdom, with Odoacer as king of Italy. In fact, the more the imperial power faded, and the nearer the empire approached its fall, the more rapidly and the stronger grew the papal assumptions. Thus the very calamities which rapidly wrought the ruin of the empire, and which were hastened by the union of Church and State, were turned to the advantage of the bishopric of Rome. During the whole period of barbarian invasions from 400 to 476, the Catholic hierarchy everywhere adapted itself to the situation, and reaped power and influence from the calamities that were visited everywhere.TTR 522.1

    We have seen that Innocent I, upon whose mind there appears first to have dawned the vast conception of Rome’s universal ecclesiastical supremacy, during the invasion of Italy and the siege of Rome by Alaric, headed an embassy to the emperor to mediate for a treaty of peace between the empire and the invading Goths. We have seen that at the moment of Leo’s election to the papal see, he was absent on a like mission to reconcile the enmity of the two principal Roman officers, which was threatening the safety of the empire. Yet other and far more important occasions of the same kind fell to the lot of Leo during the term of his bishopric. In 453 Leo was made the head of an embassy to meet Attila as he was on his way to Rome, if possible to turn him back. The embassy was successful; a treaty was formed; Attila retired beyond the Danube, where he immediately died; and Italy was delivered. This redounded no less to the glory of Leo than any of the other remarkable things which he had accomplished. He was not so successful with Genseric two years afterward, yet even then he succeeded in mitigating the ravages of the Vandals, which were usually so dreadful that the idea still lives in the word “vandalism.”TTR 522.2

    Moreover, it was not against religion as such that the barbarians made war, as they themselves were religious. It was against that mighty empire of which they had seen much, and suffered much, and heard more, that they warred. It was as nations taking vengeance upon a nation which had been so great, and which had so proudly asserted lordship over all other nations, that they invaded the Roman empire. And when they could plant themselves and remain, as absolute lords, in the dominions of those who had boasted of absolute and eternal dominion, and thus humble the pride of the mighty Rome, this was their supreme gratification. As these invasions were not inflicted everywhere at once, but at intervals through a period of seventy-five years, the church had ample time to adapt herself to the ways of such of the barbarians as were heathen, which as ever she readily did. The heathen barbarians were accustomed to pay the greatest respect to their own priesthood, and were willing to admit the Catholic priesthood to an equal or even a larger place in their estimation. Such of them as were already professedly Christian, were Arians, and not so savage as the Catholics; therefore, they, with the exception of the Vandals, were not so ready to persecute, and were willing to settle and make themselves homes in the territories of the vanished empire.TTR 523.1

    An account of the conversion of the Burgundians, and through them of the Franks, will illustrate the dealings of the papacy with the barbarians, and will also give the key to the most important events in the history of the supremacy of the bishopric of Rome.TTR 523.2

    Ever since the time of Constantine, the god and saviour of the Catholics had been a god of battle, and no surer way to the eternal rewards of martyrdom could be taken than by being killed in a riot in behalf of the orthodox faith, or to die by punishment inflicted for such proceeding, as in the case of that insolent ruffian who attempted to murder Orestes. It was easy, therefore, for the heathen barbarians, victory and surest passport to the halls of the warrior god, was to die in the midst of the carnage of bloody battle,—it was easy for such people as this to become converted to the god of battle of the Catholics. A single bloody victory would turn the scale, and issue in the conversion of whole nation.TTR 524.1

    The Burgundians were settled in that part of Gaul which now forms Western Switzerland and that part of France which is now the county and district of Burgundy. As early as A. D. 430, the Huns making inroads into Gaul, severely afflicted the Burgundians, who finding impotent the power of their own god, determined to try the Catholic god. They therefore sent representatives to a neighboring city in Gaul, requesting the Catholic bishop to receive them. The bishop had them fast for a week, during which time he catechized them, and then baptized them. Soon afterward the Burgundians found the Huns without a leader, and, suddenly falling upon them at the disadvantage, confirmed their conversion by the slaughter of ten thousand of the enemy. Thereupon the whole nation embraced the Catholic religion “with fiery zeal.”—Milman. 2[Page 524] “History of Latin Christianity,” book ii, chap. ii, para. 21; Socrates’s “Ecclesiastical History,” book vii, chap. xxx. Afterward, however, when about the fall of the empire, the Visigoths under Euric asserted their dominion over all Spain, and the greater part of Gaul, and over the Burgundians too, they deserted the Catholic god, and adopted the Arian faith.TTR 524.2

    Yet Clotilda, a niece of the Burgundian king, “was educated” in the profession of the Catholic faith. She married Clovis, the pagan king of the pagan Franks, and strongly persuaded him to become a Catholic. All her pleadings were in vain, however, till A. D. 496, when in a great battle with the Alemanni, the Franks were getting the worst of the conflict, in the midst of the battle Clovis vowed that if the victory could be theirs, he would become a Catholic. The tide of battle turned; the victory was won, and Clovis was a Catholic. Clotilda hurried away a messenger with the glad news to the bishop of Rhiems, who came to baptize the new convert.TTR 525.1

    But after the battle was over, and the dangerous crisis was past, Clovis was not certain whether he wanted to be a Catholic. He said he must consult his warriors; he did so, and they signified their readiness to adopt the same religion as their king. He then declared that he was convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, and preparations were at once made for the baptism of the new Constantine, Christmas day, A. D. 496. “To impress the minds of the barbarians, the baptismal ceremony was performed with the utmost pomp. The church was hung with embroidered tapestry and white curtains; odors of incense like airs of paradise, were diffused around; the building blazed with countless lights. When the new Constantine knelt in the font to be cleansed from the leprosy of his heathenism, ‘Fierce Sicambrian,’ said the bishop, ‘bow thy neck; burn what thou hast adored, adore what thou last burned.” Three thousand Franks followed the example of Clovis.”—Milman. 3[Page 525] “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. ii, para. 27.TTR 525.2

    The pope sent Clovis a letter congratulating him on his conversion. As an example of the real value of his religious instruction, it may be well to state that some time after his baptism, the bishop delivered a sermon on the crucifixion of the Saviour; and while he dwelt upon the cruelty of the Jews in that transaction, Clovis blurted out, “If I had been there with my faithful Franks, they would not have dared to do it.” “If unscrupulous ambition, undaunted valor and enterprise, and desolating warfare, had been legitimate means for the propagation of pure Christianity, it could not have found a better champion than Clovis. For the first time the diffusion of belief in the nature of the Godhead became the avowed pretext for the invasion of a neighboring territory.”—Milman 4[Page 526] Id. par. 28. “His ambitious reign was a perpetual violation of moral and Christian duties; his hands were stained with blood in peace as well as in war; and as soon as Clovis had dismissed a synod of the Gallican church, he calmly assassinated all the princes of the Merovingian race.”—Gibbon. 5[Page 526] “Decline and Fall,” chap. xxxviii, par. 6.TTR 525.3

    The bishop of Vienne also sent a letter to the new convert, in which he prophesied that the faith of Clovis would be a surety of the victory of the Catholic faith; and he, with every other Catholic in Christendom, was ready to do his utmost to see that the prophecy was fulfilled. The Catholics in all the neighboring countries longed and prayed and conspired that Clovis might deliver them from the rule of Arian monarchs; and in the nature of the case, war soon followed. Burgundy was the first country invaded. Before the war actually began, however, by the advice of the bishop of Rhiems, a synod of the orthodox bishops met at Lyons; then with the bishop of Vienne at their head, they visited the king of the Burgundians, and proposed that he call the Arian bishops together, and allow a conference to be held, as they were prepared to prove that the Arians were in error. To their proposal the king replied, “If yours be the true doctrine, why do you not prevent the king of the Franks from waging an unjust war against me, and from caballing with my enemies against me? There is no true Christian faith where there is rapacious covetousness for the possessions of others, and thirst for blood. Let him show forth his faith by his good works.”—Milman. 6[Page 526] “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. ii, par. 27.TTR 526.1

    The bishop of Vienne dodged this pointed question, and replied, “We are ignorant of the motives and intentions of the king of the Franks; but we are taught by the Scripture that the kingdoms which abandon the divine law, are frequently subverted; and that enemies will arise on every side against those who have made God their enemy. Return with thy people to the law of God, and he will give peace and security to thy dominions.”—Gibbon. 7[Page 527] “Decline and Fall,” chap. xxxviii, par. 8 War followed, and the Burgundian dominions were made subject to the rule of Clovis, A. D. 500.TTR 527.1

    The Visigoths possessed all the southwestern portion of Gaul. They too were Arians; and the mutual conspiracy of the Catholics in the Gothic dominions, and the crusade of the Franks from the side of Clovis, soon brought on another holy war. At the assembly of princes and warriors at Paris, A. D. 508. Clovis complained, “It grieves me to see that the Arians still possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against them with the aid of God; and, having vanquished the heretics, we will possess and divide their fertile province.” Clotilda added her pious exhortation to the effect “that doubtless the Lord would more readily lend his aid if some gift were made;” and in response, Clovis seized his battle-ax and threw it as far as he could, and as it went whirling through the air, he exclaimed, “There, on that spot where my Francesca shall fall, will I erect a church in honor of the holy apostles.” Gibbon. 8[Page 528] Id., par. 11.TTR 527.2

    War was declared; and as Clovis marched on his way, he passed through Tours, and turned aside to consult the shrine of St. Martin of Tours, for an omen. “His messengers were instructed to remark the words of the Psalm which should happen to be chanted at the precise moment when they entered the church.” And the oracular clergy took care that the words which he should “happen” to hear at that moment—uttered not in Latin, but in language which Clovis understood—should be the following from Psalm 18: “Thou hast girded me, O Lord, with strength unto the battle; thou hast subdued unto me those who rose up against me. Thou hast given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me.” The oracle was satisfactory, and in the event was completely successful. “The Visigothic kingdom was wasted and subdued by the remorseless sword of the Franks.”—Gibbon. 9[Page 528] Id., par. 12, and Milman’s “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. ii, par. 29.TTR 527.3

    Nor was the religious zeal of Clovis confined to the overthrow of the Arians. There were two bodies of the Franks, the Salians and the Ripuarians. Clovis was king of the Salians, Sigebert of the Ripuarians. Clovis determined to be king of all; he therefore prompted the son of Sigebert to assassinate his father, with the promise that the son should peaceably succeed Sigebert on the throne; but as soon as the murder was committed, Clovis commanded the murderer to be murdered, and then in a full parliament of the whole people of the Franks, he solemnly vowed that he had had nothing to do with the murder of either the father or the son; and upon this, as there was no heir, Clovis was raised upon a shield, and proclaimed king of the Ripuarian Franks;—all of which Gregory, bishop of Tours, commended as the will of God, saying of Clovis that “God thus daily prostrated his enemies under his hands, and enlarged his kingdom, because he walked before him with an upright heart, and did that which was well pleasing in his sight.”—Milman. 10[Page 528] “History of Latin Christianity,” Id., par. 29.TTR 528.1

    Thus was the bloody course of Clovis glorified by the Catholic writers, as the triumph of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity over Arianism. When such actions as these were so lauded by the clergy as the pious acts of orthodox Catholics, it is certain that the clergy themselves were no better than were the bloody objects of their praise. Under the influence of such ecclesiastics, the condition of the barbarians after their so-called conversion, could not possibly be better, even if it were not worse than before. To be converted to the principles and precepts of such clergy was only the more deeply to be damned. In proof of this it is necessary only to touch upon the condition of Catholic France under Clovis and his successors.TTR 528.2

    Into the “converted” barbarians, the Catholic system instilled all of its superstition, and its bigoted hatred of heretics and unbelievers. It thus destroyed what of generosity still remained in their minds, while it only intensified their native ferocity; and the shameful licentiousness of the papal system likewise corrupted the purity, and the native respect for women and marriage which had always been a noble characteristic of the German nations. “It is difficult to conceive a more dark and odious state of society than that of France under her Merovingian kings, the descendants of Clovis, as described by Gregory of Tours ... Throughout, assassinations, parricides, and fratricides intermingle with adulteries and rapes.TTR 529.1

    “The cruelty might seem the mere inevitable result of this violent and unnatural fusion; but the extent to which this cruelty spreads throughout the whole society almost surpasses belief. That king Chlotaire should burn alive his rebellious son with his wife and daughter, is fearful enough; but we are astounded, even in these times, that a bishop of Tours should burn a man alive to obtain the deeds of an estate which he coveted. Fredegonde sends two murderers to assassinate Childebert, and these assassins are clerks. She causes the archbishop of Rouen to be murdered while he is chanting the service in the church; and in this crime a bishop and an archdeacon are her accomplices. She is not content with open violence; she administers poison with the subtlety of a Locusta or a modern Italian, apparently with no sensual design, but from sheer barbarity.”TTR 529.2

    “As to the intercourse of the sexes, wars of conquest, where the females are at the mercy of the victors, especially if female virtue is not in much respect, would severely try the more rigid morals of the conqueror. The strength of the Teutonic character, when it had once burst the bonds of habitual or traditionary restraint, might seem to disdain easy and effeminate vice, and to seek a kind of wild zest in the indulgence of lust, by mingling it up with all other violent passions, rapacity and inhumanity. Marriage was a bond contracted and broken on the slightest occasion. Some of the Merovingian kings took as many wives, either together or in succession, as suited either their passions or their politics.”TTR 529.3

    The papal religion “hardly interferes even to interdict incest. King Chlotaire demanded for the fisc the third part of the revenue of the churches; some bishops yielded; one, Injuriosus, disdainfully refused, and Chlotaire withdrew his demands. Yet Chlotaire, seemingly unrebuked, married two sisters at once. Charlbert likewise married two sisters: he, however, found a churchman—but that was Saint Germanus—bold enough to rebuke him. This rebuke the king (the historian quietly writes), as he had already many wives, bore with patience. Dagobert, son of Chlotaire, king of Austria, repudiated his wife Gomatrude for barrenness, married a Saxon slave Mathildis, then another, Regnatrude; so that he had three wives at once, besides so many concubines that the chronicler is ashamed to recount them. Brunehaut and Fredegonde are not less famous for their licentiousness than for their cruelty. Fredegonde is either compelled, or scruples not of her own accord, to take a public oath, with three bishops and four hundred nobles as her vouchers, that her son was the son of her husband Chilperic.—Milman. 11[Page 530] Id., par. 33, 34. Thus did the papacy for the barbarians whom she “converted;” and such as she could not thus corrupt, she destroyed.TTR 530.1

    At the fall of the empire, the bishopric of Rome was the head and center of a strong and compactly organized power. And by deftly insinuating itself into the place of mediator between the barbarian invaders and the perishing imperial authority, it had attained a position where it was recognized by the invaders as the power which, though it claimed to be not temporal but spiritual was none the less real, had succeeded to the place of the vanished imperial authority of Rome. And in view of the history of the time, it is impossible to escape the conviction that in the bishopric of Rome there was at this time formed the determination to plant itself in the temporal dominion of Rome and Italy. The emperors had been absent from Rome so long that the bishop of Rome had assumed their place there, and we have seen how the church had usurped the place of the civil authority. The bishop of Rome was the head of the church; and now, as the empire was perishing, he would exalt his throne upon its ruins, and out of the anarchy of the times would secure a place and a name among the powers and dominions of the earth.TTR 530.2

    The barbarians who took possession of Italy were Arians, which in the sight of the bishop of Rome was worse than all other crimes put together. In addition to this, the Herulian monarch, Odoacer, an Arian, presumed to assert civil authority over the papacy, which, on account of the riotous proceedings in the election of the pope, was necessary, but would not meekly be borne by the proud pontiffs. At the election of the first pope after the fall of the empire, the representative of Odoacer appeared and notified the assembly that without his direction nothing ought to be done, that all they had done was null and void, that the election must begin anew, and “that it belonged to the civil magistrate to prevent the disturbances that might arise on such occasions, lest from the church they should pass to the State.” And as these elections were carried not only by violence, but by bribery, in which the property of the church played an important part, Odoacer, by his lieutenant at this same assembly, A. D. 483, “caused a law to be read, forbidding the bishop who should now be chosen, as well as his successors, to alienate any inheritance, possessions, or sacred utensils that now belonged, or should for the future belong, to the church; declaring all such bargains void, anathematizing both the seller and the buyer, and obliging the latter and his heirs to restore to the church all lands and tenements thus purchased, how long soever they might have possessed them.”—Bower. 12[Page 532] “History of the Popes,” Felix II, par. 1.TTR 531.1

    By the law of Constantine which bestowed upon the church the privilege of receiving donations, legacies, etc., by will, lands were included; and through nearly two hundred years of the workings of this law, the church of Rome had become enormously enriched in landed estates. And more especially “since the extinction of the Western empire had emancipated the ecclesiastical potentate from secular control, the first and most abiding object of his schemes and prayers had been the acquisition of territorial wealth in the neighborhood of his capital.”—Bryce. 13[Page 532] “The Holy Roman Empire,” chap. iv, par. 7.TTR 532.1

    The church of Rome had also other lands, scattered in different parts of Italy, and even in Asia, for Celestine I addressed to Theodosius II a request that he extend his imperial protection over certain estates in Asia, which a woman named Proba had bequeathed to the Church of Rome. As the imperial power faded away in the West, the bishop of Rome, in his growing power, came more and more to assert his own power of protection over his lands in Italy. And when the imperial power was entirely gone, it was naturally held that this power fell absolutely to him. When, therefore, Odoacer, both a barbarian invader and a heretic, issued a decree forbidding the alienation of church lands and possessions, this was represented as a presumptuous invasion of the rights of the bishop of Rome, not only to do what he would with his own, but above all as protector of the property and estates of the church.TTR 532.2

    For this offense of Odoacer, there was no forgiveness by the bishop of Rome. Nothing short of the utter uprooting of the Herulian power could atone for it. The Catholic ecclesiastics of Italy began to plot for his overthrow, and it was soon accomplished. There were at that time in the dominions of the Eastern empire, unsettled and wandering about with no certain dwelling-place, the people of the Ostrogoths under King Theodoric. Although in the service of the empire, they were dissatisfied with their lot; and they were so savage and so powerful that the emperor was in constant dread of them. Why might not this force be employed to destroy the dominion of the Heruli, and deliver Rome from the interferences and oppression of Odoacer? The suggestion was made to Theodoric by the court, but as he was in the service of the empire, it was necessary that he should have permission to undertake the expedition. He accordingly addressed the emperor as follows:—TTR 532.3

    “Although your servant is maintained in affluence by your liberality, graciously listen to the wishes of my heart. Italy, the inheritance of your predecessors, and Rome itself, the head and mistress of the world, now fluctuates under the violence and oppression of Odoacer the mercenary. Direct me with my national troops, to march against the tyrant. If I fall, you will be relieved from an expensive and troublesome friend: if, with the divine permission, I succeed, I shall govern in your name, and to your glory, the Roman Senate, and the part of the republic delivered from slavery by my victorious army.” 14[Page 533] Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” chap. xxxix, par. 5.TTR 533.1

    The proposition which had been suggested was gladly accepted by the emperor Zeno, and in the winter of 489, the whole nation took up its march of seven hundred miles to Italy. “The march of Theodoric must be considered as the emigration of an entire people: the wives and children of the Goths, their aged parents, and most precious effects, were carefully transported; ... and at length, surmounting every obstacle by skillful conduct and persevering courage, he descended from the Julian Alps, and displayed his invincible banners on the confines of Italy.”—Gibbon. 15[Page 533] Id., par. 6.TTR 533.2

    Theodoric defeated Odoacer in three engagements, A. D. 489-490, and “from the Alps to the extremity of Calabria, Theodoric reigned by right of conquest.” Odoacer shut himself up in Ravenna, where he sustained himself against a close siege for three years. By the offices of the bishop of Ravenna, and the clamors of the hungry people, Odoacer was brought to sign a treaty of peace. He was soon afterward slain at a solemn banquet, and “at the same moment, and without resistance,” his people “were universally massacred,” March 5, A. D. 493.TTR 533.3

    Thus was destroyed the kingdom of Odoacer and the Heruli. And that it was in no small degree the work of the Catholic Church is certain; for, “Throughout the conquest and establishment of the Gothic kingdom, the increasing power and importance of the Catholic ecclesiastics, forces itself upon the attention. They are embassadors, mediators in treaties; [they] decide the wavering loyalty or instigate the revolt of cities.”—Milman. 16[Page 534] “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. iii, para. 3. The bishop of Pavia himself bore to Thedoric at Milan the surrender and offer of allegiance of that great city.TTR 534.1

    Another thing which makes this view most certainly true, is the fact that no sooner was order restored in Italy and in Rome, and the church once more felt itself secure, than a council of eighty bishops, thirty-seven presbyters, and four deacons, was called in Rome by the pope, A. D. 499, the very first act of which was to repeal the law enacted by Odoacer on the subject of the church possessions. Nor was the law repealed in order to get rid of it; for it was immediately re-enacted by the same council. This was plainly to declare that the estates of the church were no longer subject in any way to the authority of the civil power, but were to be held under the jurisdiction of the church alone. In fact, it was tantamount to a declaration of the independence of the papacy and her possessions.TTR 534.2

    This transaction also conclusively proves that the resentment of the bishopric of Rome, which had been aroused by the law of Odoacer, was never allayed until Odoacer and the law, so far as it represented the authority of the civil power, were both out of the way. And this is the secret of the destruction of the Herulian kingdom of Italy.TTR 534.3

    It is no argument against this to say that the Ostrogoths were Arians too. Because (1) as we shall presently see, Theodoric, though an Arian, did not interfere with church affairs; and (2) the Church of Rome, in destroying one opponent never hesitates at the prospect that it is to be done by another; nor that another will arise in the place of the one destroyed. Upon the principle that it is better to have one enemy than two, she will use one to destroy another, and will never miss an opportunity to destroy one for fear that another will arise in its place.TTR 535.1

    Theodoric ruled Italy thirty-three years, A. D. 493-526, during which time Italy enjoyed such peace and quietness and absolute security as had never been known there before, and has never been known there since until 1870. The people of his own nation numbered two hundred thousand men, which with the proportionate number of women and children, formed a population of nearly one million. His troops, formerly so wild and given to plunder, were restored to such discipline that in a battle in Dacia, in which they were completely victorious, “the rich spoils of the enemy lay untouched at their feet,” because their leader had given no signal of pillage. When such discipline prevailed in the excitement of a victory and in an enemy’s country, it is easy to understand the peaceful order that prevailed in their own new-gotten land which the Herulians had held before them.TTR 535.2

    During the ages of violence and revolution which had passed, large tracts of land in Italy had become utterly desolate and uncultivated; almost the whole of the rest was under imperfect culture; but now “agriculture revived under the shadow of peace, and the number of husbandmen multiplied by the redemption of captives;” and Italy, which had so long been fed from other countries, now actually began to export grain. Civil order was so thoroughly maintained that “the city gates were never shut either by day or by night, and the common saying that a purse of gold might be safely left in the fields, was expressive of the conscious security of the inhabitants.”—Gibbon.” Merchants and other lovers of the blessings of peace thronged from all parts.TTR 535.3

    But not alone did civil peace reign. Above all, there was perfect freedom in the exercise of religion. In fact, the measure of civil liberty and peace always depends upon that of religious liberty. Theodoric and his people were Arians, yet at the close of a fifty years’ rule of Italy, the Ostrogoths could safely challenge their enemies to present a single authentic case in which they had ever persecuted the Catholics. Even the mother of Theodoric and some of his favorite Goths had embraced the Catholic faith with perfect freedom from any molestation whatever. The separation between Church and State, between civil and religious powers, was clear and distinct. Church property was protected in common with other property, while at the same time it was taxed in common with all other property. The clergy were protected in common with all other people, and they were likewise, in common with all other people, cited before the civil courts to answer for all civil offenses. In all ecclesiastical matters they were left entirely to themselves. Even the papal elections Theodoric left entirely to themselves, and though often solicited by both parties to interfere, he refused to have anything at all to do with them, except to keep the peace, which in fact was of itself no small task. He declined even to confirm the papal elections, an office which had been exercised by Odoacer.TTR 536.1

    Nor was this merely a matter of toleration; it was in genuine recognition of the rights of conscience. In a letter to the emperor Justin, A. D. 524, 17[Page 536] “Decline and Fall,” chap. xxxix, par. 14; and Milman’s “History of Latin Christianity, iii, chap. iii, par. 5. Theodoric announced the genuine principle of the rights of conscience, and the relationship that should exist between religion and the State, in the following words, worthy to be graven in letters of gold:—TTR 536.2

    “To pretend to a dominion over the conscience, is to usurp the prerogative of God. By the nature of things, the power of sovereigns is confined to political government. They have no right of punishment but over those who disturb the public peace. The most dangerous heresy is that of a sovereign who separates himself from part of his subjects, because they believe not according to his belief.” 18[Page 537] Milman’s “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. iii, par. 8 from the end.TTR 537.1

    Similar pleas had before been made by the parties oppressed, but never before had the principle been announced by the party in power. The enunciation and defense of a principle by the party who holds the power to violate it, is the surest pledge that the principle is held in genuine sincerity.TTR 537.2

    The description of the state of peace and quietness in Italy above given, applies to Italy, but not to Rome; to the dominions of Theodoric and the Ostrogoths, but not to the city of the pope and the Catholics. In A. D. 499, there was a papal election. As there were as usual rival candidates—Symmachus and Laurentius—there was a civil war. “The two factions encountered with the fiercest hostility; the clergy, the Senate, and the populace were divided;” the streets of the city “ran with blood, as in the days of republican strife.”—Milman. 19[Page 537] Id., par. 11.TTR 537.3

    The contestants were so evenly matched, and the violent strife continued so long, that the leading men of both parties persuaded the candidates to go to Theodoric at Ravenna, and submit to his judgment their claims. Theodoric’s love of justice and of the rights of the people, readily and simply enough decided that the candidate who had the most votes should be counted elected; and if the votes were evenly divided, then the candidate who had been first ordained. Symmachus secured the office. A council was held by Symmachus, which met the first of March, 499, and passed a decree “almost in the terms of the old Roman law, severely condemning all ecclesiastical ambition, all canvassing either to obtain subscriptions, or administration of oaths, or promises, for the papacy” during the lifetime of a pope. But such election methods as these were now so prevalent that this law was of as little value in controlling the methods of the aspiring candidates for the bishopric, as in the days of the republic the same kind of laws were for the candidates to the consulship.TTR 537.4

    Laurentius, though defeated at this time, did not discontinue his efforts to obtain the office. For four years he watched for opportunities, and carried on an intrigue to displace Symmachus, and in 503 brought a series of heavy charges against him. “The accusation was brought before the judgment-seat of Theodoric, supported by certain Roman females of rank, who had been suborned, it was said, by the enemies of Symmachus. Symmachus was summoned to Ravenna and confined at Rimini,” but escaped and returned to Rome. Meantime, Laurentius had entered the city, and when Symmachus returned, “the sanguinary tumults between the two parties broke out with greater fury;” priests were slain, monasteries set on fire, and nuns treated with the utmost indignity.TTR 538.1

    The Senate petitioned Theodoric to send a visitor to judge the cause of Symmachus in the crimes laid against him. The king finding that that matter was only a church quarrel, appointed one of their own number, the bishop of Altimo, who so clearly favored Laurentius that his partisanship only made the contention worse. Again Theodoric was petitioned to interfere, but he declined to assume any jurisdiction, and told them to settle it among themselves; but as there was so much disturbance of the peace, and it was so long continued, Theodoric commanded them to reach some sort of settlement that would stop their fighting, and restore public order. A council was therefore called. As Symmachus was on his way to the council, “he was attacked by the adverse party; showers of stones fell around him; many presbyters and others of his followers were severely wounded; the pontiff himself only escaped under the protection of the Gothic guard” (Milman 20[Page 539] Id., par. 14.), and took refuge in the church of St. Peter. The danger to which he was then exposed he made an excuse for not appearing at the council.TTR 538.2

    The most of the council were favorable to Symmachus and to the pretensions of the bishop of Rome at this time, and therefore were glad of any excuse that would relieve them from judging him. However, they went through the form of summoning him three times; all of which he declined. Then the council sent deputies to state to Theodoric the condition of affairs, “saying to him that the authority of the king might compel Symmachus to appear, but that the council had not such authority.” Theodoric replied that “with respect to the cause of Symmachus, he had assembled them to judge him, but yet left them at full liberty to judge him or not, providing they could by any other means put a stop to the present calamities, and restore the wished-for tranquility to the city of Rome.”TTR 539.1

    The majority of the council declared Symmachus “absolved in the sight of men, whether guilty or innocent in the sight of God,” for the reason that “no assembly of bishops has power to judge the pope; he is accountable for his actions to God alone.”—Bower. 21[Page 539] “History of the Popes,” Symmachus, par. 9, 10. They then commanded all, under penalty of excommunication, to accept this judgment, and submit to the authority of Symmachus, and acknowledge him “for lawful bishop of the holy city of Rome.” Symmachus was not slow to assert all the merit that the council had thus recognized in the bishop of Rome. He wrote to the emperor of the East that “a bishop is as much above an emperor as heavenly things, which the bishop administers and dispenses, are above all the trash of the earth, which alone the greatest among the emperors have the power to dispose of.”—Bower. 22[Page 540] Id., par. 16. He declared that the higher powers referred to in Romans 13:1, mean the spiritual powers, and that to these it is that every soul must be subject.TTR 539.2

    At another council held in Rome in 504, at the direction of Symmachus, a decree was enacted “anathematizing and excluding from the communion of the faithful, all who had seized or in the future should seize, hold, or appropriate to themselves, the goods or estates of the church; and this decree was declared to extend even to those who held such estates by grants from the crown.”—Bower. 23[Page 540] Id., par. 18. This was explicitly to put the authority of the church of Rome above that of any State.TTR 540.1

    Justin was emperor of the East A. D. 518-527. He was violently orthodox, and was supported by his nephew, the more violently orthodox Justinian. It was the ambition of both, together and in succession, to make the Catholic religion alone prevalent everywhere. They therefore entered with genuine Catholic zeal upon the pious work of clearing their dominions of heretics. The first edict, issued in 523, commanded all Manichaeans to leave the empire under penalty of death; and all other heretics were to be ranked with pagans and Jews, and excluded from all public offices. This edict was no sooner learned of in the West, than mutterings were heard in Rome, of hopes of liberty from the “Gothic yoke.” The next step was violence.TTR 540.2

    Under the just administration of Theodoric, and the safety assured by the Gothic power, many Jews had established themselves in Rome, Genoa, Milan, and other cities, for the purposes of trade. They were permitted by express laws to dwell there. As soon as the imperial edict was known, which commanded all remaining heretics to be ranked as pagans and Jews, as the Catholics did not dare to attack the Gothic heretics, they, at Rome and Ravenna especially, riotously attacked the Jews, abused them, robbed them, and burnt their synagogues. A legal investigation was attempted, but the leaders in the riots could not be discovered. Then Theodoric levied a tax upon the whole community of the guilty cities, with which to settle the damages. Some of the Catholics refused to pay the tax. They were punished. This at once brought a cry from the Catholics everywhere, that they were persecuted. Those who had been punished were glorified as confessors of the faith, and “three hundred pulpits deplored the persecution of the church.”—Gibbon. 24[Page 541] “Decline and Fall,” chap. 17; Milman’s “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. iii, para. 23.TTR 540.3

    The edict of 523 was followed in 524 by another, this time commanding the Arians of the East to deliver up to the Catholic bishops all their churches, which the Catholic bishops were commanded to consecrate anew.TTR 541.1

    Theodoric addressed an earnest letter to Justin, in which he pleaded for toleration for the Arians from the Eastern empire. This was the letter in which was stated the principle of the rights of conscience, which we have already quoted on page 537. To this noble plea, however, “Justin coolly answered:—TTR 541.2

    “I pretend to no authority over men’s consciences, but it is my prerogative to intrust the public offices to those in whom I have confidence; and public order demanding uniformity of worship, I have full right to command the churches to be open to those alone who shall conform to the religion of the State.” 25[Page 541] Milman’s “History of Latin Christianity,” book iii, chap. iii, par. 30.TTR 541.3

    Accordingly, while pretending to no authority over men’s consciences, the Arians of his dominions were by Justin “stripped of all offices of honor or emolument, were not only expelled from the Catholic churches, but their own were closed against them; and they were exposed to all insults, vexations, and persecutions of their adversaries, who were not likely to enjoy their triumph with moderation, or to repress their conscientiously intolerant zeal.”—Milman. 26[Page 542] Id. Many of them conformed to the state religion; but those of firm faith sent to Theodoric earnest appeals for protection.TTR 541.4

    Theodoric did all that he could, but without avail. He was urged to retaliate by persecuting the Catholics in Italy, but he steadfastly refused. He determined to send an embassy to Justin, and most singularly sent the pope as his embassador. “The pope, attended by five other bishops and four senators, set forth on a mission of which it was the ostensible object to obtain indulgence for heretics—heretics under the ban of his church—heretics looked upon with the most profound detestation.”—Milman. 27[Page 542] Id. This arrangement gave the bishop of Rome the most perfect opportunity he could have asked, to form a compact with the imperial authority of the East, for the further destruction of the Ostrogothic kingdom.TTR 542.1

    The pope, John I, “was received in Constantinople with the most flattering honors, as though he had been St. Peter himself. The whole city, with the emperor at its head, came forth to meet him with tapers and torches, as far as ten miles beyond the gates. The emperor knelt at his feet, and implored his benediction. On Easter day, March 30, 525, he performed the service in the great church, Epiphanius the bishop ceding the first place to the holy stranger.”—Milman. 28[Page 542] Id., par. 32. Such an embassy could have no other result than more than ever to endanger the kingdom of Theodoric. Before John’s return, the conspiracy became more manifest; some senators and leading men were arrested. One of them, Boethius, though denying his guilt, boldly confessed, “Had there been any hopes of liberty, I should have freely indulged them; had I known of a conspiracy against the king, I should have answered in the words of a noble Roman to the frantic Caligula, You would not have known it from me.” 29[Page 542] Id., para. 28 Such a confession as that was almost a confession of the guilt which he denied. He and his father-in-law were executed. When the pope returned, he was received as a traitor, and put in prison, where he died, May 18, 526.TTR 542.2

    He was no sooner dead than violent commotion and disturbances again arose amongst rival candidates for the vacant chair. “Many candidates appeared for the vacant see, and the whole city, the Senate as well as the people and clergy, were divided into parties and factions, the papal dignity being now as eagerly sought for, and often obtained by the same methods and arts as the consular was in the times of the heathen.”—Bower. 30[Page 543] Bower’s “History of the Popes,” Felix III, par. 1. Theodoric now, seventy-four years old, fearing that these contentions would end in murder and blood-shed again, as they had at the election of Symmachus, suffered his authority to transcend his principles, and presumed, himself, to name a bishop of Rome. The whole people of the city, Senate, clergy, and all, united in opposition. But a compromise was effected, by which it was agreed that in future the election of the pope should be by the clergy and people, but must be confirmed by the sovereign. Upon this understanding, the people accepted Theodoric’s nominee; and July 12, 526, Felix III was installed in the papal office.TTR 543.1

    The noble Theodoric died August 30, 526, and was succeeded by his grandson Athalaric, about ten years old, under the regency of his mother Amalasontha. Justin died, and was succeeded by—TTR 543.2

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