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in the faith of Jesus,-poffeffed little clearness of understanding in that faith, and were encumbered with fo much rubbish of superstition as to be incapable of giving clear and effe&ual instruction to their followers and admirers. And further, when the general mass of christians, even all the dignitaries affembled at Constance, could do no more than acknowledge the necessity of reformation, while many of them constantly practised the foulest abaminations, and were ready to burn in the flames as heretics any persons, whose knowledge, and zeal, and morals, and conduct, conveyed, by a laudable contrast, a censure on their own principles and practice. -The preciousness of real gospel-light, and the duty of cherishing and obeying it, when it is once understood, was never more strikingly evinced.
Whether this account may be thought to bear too hard upon the character of the clergy at that time in general, and of the council in particular, let the reader judge when he has attended to a few extracts from a sermon of Bernard, a French abbot. This divine told the council, that, “with very fewexceptions, they were an assembly of Pharisees, who made a farce of religion and the church, under the mask of processions, and other external acts of devotion. “ I am sorry,” proceeds he, “to say it, that in our days the catholic faith is reduced to nothing; hope is turned into a ralh presumption, and the love of God and our neighbour is quite extinct. Among the laity, falsehood bears the chief fway; and avarice predominates among the clergy. Among the prelates there is nothing but malice, iniquity, &c. At the pope's court there is no sanctity ; law-suits and quarrels being the felicity of that court, and impofture it's delight.” He then exhorted them to make a real reformation, to punish the guilty, and to choose a good pope. This zealous preacher law
not the root of all these evils, namely, the lamentable departure from christian principles; and, like many other declaimers against vice, he knew no remedy but the arguments of mere moral-fuafion and ex. ternal discipline. The power of the blood of Christ, in purging the conscience* from dead works to serve the living God, seems to have been geneTally unknown at that time; and, till men are brought to know something of their own native depravity, they are always too proud to submit to the rightcousness of God af.
We have already mentioned the beginning of the intestinedistractions in Bohemia. These proceeded to such a length as to produce scenes perfectly tragical. The university of Prague declared in favour of the communion in both kinds, and the greatest part of both the clergy and laity followed their decision. Wençenlaus the king, more out of fear than good will to the Hussites, granted them a great many churches, in which they administered the eucharist according to the scriptural institution, and also entered every day into new engagements not to obey the council. By these means, many of the Bohemian clergy were stripped of their revenues, and they stirred up the friends of the church of Rome to oppose the innovations. Vaft numbers of highwaymen and banditti took the opportunity of this confusion to exercise all acts of violence and robbery with impunity. Wencenlaus, instead of exerting the requisite authority, abandoned Prague, retired to a castle, and minded nothing but his pleasures, while his whole kingdom was in combustion It was not probable that the council of Constance
should Heb. ix.
+ Rom. x. Theobald's war of the Huffites.
should be able to restore peace and good order to Bohemia: For they themselves, in a great measure had been the cause of the existing troubles. It is, however true, that they left no stone unturned in their endeavours to reestablish the corrupt custom of administering the facrament in one kind only. By their order, Gerson composed a treatise against the communion in both kinds, which was publicly read in the assembly; but which, in fact, was little calculated to compose the differences. Conscious of the difficulty of supporting his main point by the authority of scripture alone, he observes, that in order to understand revelation aright, recourse should be had to human laws, decrees, and the gloffes of holy doctors. He maintains, that those, who presume to interpret fcripture, contrary to what is taught in the scripture, as DECLARED BY THE CHURCH, and observed by the faithful, ought to be severely punished, rather than dealt with by argument. The whole treatise was unworthy of the learning and fagacity of Gerson, and deserved no notice here, except for the purpose of thewing under what strong delusions those are permitted to lie, who love not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. The judicious Lenfant, who is rarely liberal in his censures, breaks out on occasion of the last mentioned sentiment of Gerfon, in the following terms._“I own, I don't understand Gerson's logic on this occasion. He draws a very blunt and ralh inference; especially as it was the most improper thing in the world he could say to induce the Hussites of Bohemia to come to Constance, whither they were summoned.”
The five nations,- for the Spaniards were now added to the French, the Germans, the English, and the Italians,-proceeded to elect a pope; and the choice fell upon Otho de Colonna, who took the name of Martin V. This happened in the latter
end of the year 1417. All these nations, on the day A. D. after the pope's coronation, concurred in a reso- 1417. lution to demand of the new pope the reformation of the church which he had promised to make after he should be elected. He gave them good words, but did nothing effectual. The Germans were uneasy at his delays, and so were the French ; though these, by joining with the Italians and the Spaniards, had caused the deferring of the reformation till after the election of a pope. The answer, which Sigismund gave to the French, was severe, but just. “When I urged you that the church might be reformed before the pope was elected, you would not consent. You would have a pope before the reformation. Go to him yourselves. I have not the same power which I had while the See was vacant *.” It is the office of history to do justice to all characters; on which account it behoves us to declare, that Sigismund, groflly perfidious as he had shewn himself in regard to Huss, appears to have been sincerely desirous of a partial reformation in the church. He had neither the knowledge nor the zeal, sufficient to lead him to any thing like an evangelical reformation; but, with many other popish princes, he wished to set bounds to the tyranny of the pope, to reduce him from the state of a defpot to that of a limited monarch, to check his encroachments on the rights and property both of sovereigns and of fubjects, and to bring the church into a state of decorun and order. Sigismund certainly intended all this; and if he failed of obtaining the blessing of God even on his laudable purposes, the christian reader will recollect that this man persecuted the church of God, lived wickedly, and hated the real principles of the gospel of Christ. Before the election of Martin V., the emperor, with the
Germans • Lenfant, Vol. II. p. 207.
Germans and the English, was zealous that the reformation of the church should precede the election of a new pontiff; and Robert Halam, bishop of Salisbury, had distinguished himself particularly in this point. He was the favourite of the emperor; but his death at Constance gave a fatal blow to the designs of those who were anxious to oppose the ambition of the Italians. Not only the French, but even the English, strenuous as they had been for the correction of abuses while Halam lived, deserted the emperor ; and he was left in a minority with his Germans. The memorial of this last nation deserves to be mentioned. They complained, that “the popes had assumed to themfelves the judgment of all causes boch ecclesiastical and civil ; --that, by a horrid abuse even more scandalous than simony, they taxed and rated crimes like merchandise; selling pardons of fins for ready money, and granting indulgencies altogether unusual; that they admitted persons of licentious manners into sacred orders, and that since offices were become thus saleable, no one thought knowledge and virtue to be necessary qualifications."
It is extraordinary, that any modern writers should undertake to vindicate the papacy from the charges of protestants, when it appears repeatedly, that nothing could be said worseof it by itsenemies, than what was confessed by the very members of the church of Rome. It is very true that the conduct of these members of the Romish church was in the main inconsistent with their professions and declarations. With what face could these Germans charge Huss with herefy, for saying the very same things which they themselves did? And why should Luther be condemned as too severe against the practice of indulgencies, when he only represented that grand corruption in the same light,