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CHA P. II.

TAE BEGINNING OF THE CONTROVERSY CON

CERNING INDULGENCES.

PORE

Alexander VII., the most flagitious of men, died in the year 1503.

After the short A. D. interval of the dominion of Pius III, who ruled the 1503. church less than a year, Julius II. was elected Pontiff. A circumitance attended this election, which deserves to be recorded * as a memorable indication of those times. The cardinals agreed upon oath before the election, and obliged the new pontiff after his election to take the same oath,-that a general council should be called within two years to reform the church. The effect of this measure, which so strongly implied the consent of the Christian world to the necessity of a reformation, was the council of Pisa. But nothing good was to be expected from Julius, a man, in the language of worldly greatness, renowned for military ambition. By his intrigues the council of Pisa was diffolved, and Julius died in 1513, after he had filled the Christian world with A. D. blood and confusion by his violence and rapacity. 1513.

Leo X. . succeeded, -a man famous for the encouragement of letters and the fine arts; and

deservedly • Sechendorf, Vol. I. p. 3.

+ This prelate, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was ordained at the

age
of seven years,

made an abbot before he was eight years old, and at the age of thirteen became a cardinal! Such was the influence of his father in the court of Rome! Lorenzo, in a prudential letter to his son, tells him, that he had heard with pleasure of his attention to communion and confeffion; and that there was no better way for him to obtain the favour of heaven, than by habituating himself to the performance of such duties. Roscoe's life of Lorenzo de Medici.

Lorenzo appears to have known the art of rising in this world, better than the narrow road to eternal life.

men.

deservedly celebrated among the patrons of learned

But historical veracity can scarcely admit any further encomium on his character. He was a Florentine of the illustrious house of the Medici, and inherited the elegant taste and inunificent spirit of that family. He was elected pope in the thirtyseventh year of his age. Though refined and humanized by his love of the liberal arts, and extremely abhorrent from the favage manners of Alexander and of Julius, he possessed other qualities, no less inconsistent than theirs with the character of a pastor of the church of Christ. An excessive

An excessive magnificence, a voluptuous indolence, and above all, a total want of religious principle, rendered him perhaps more strikingly void of every facerdotal qualification than any pontiffs before him. He has been accused of open infidelity ; but the proofs are faid to be only negative'; certainly, however, he at no time took the least pains to discover to mankind, that he had a fincere reverence for religion. It was during the pontificate of this man, that Providence gave the feverest blow to the authority of the Roman hierarchy, which it had ever received since the days of Gregory II. Both before his exaltation and after it, he

opposed with dexterity and success the laudable attempts after a reformation, which have been mentioned. A council called by this pope, and held in the Lateran' palace, was directed under his au

spices against the determinations of the council of A. D. Pisa. Afterwards in the year 1517, the university 1517. of Paris, renowned at that time through Europe

for learning and knowledge, appealed from its de.cisions to a future general council. It is not necefsary to enter into the detail of these transactions. They are here briefly mentioned in a general way for the purpose of showing that common sense

and

and the voice of natural conscience had agreed to the necessity of a reformation, though men knew not the principles on which it ought to proceed. The greatest personages of the times had delivered their sentiments to the fame. The existence of the distemper was admitted. The true remedy was unknown: That was to be drawn only from the word of God; and almost all parties were equally ignorant of the contents of the sacred volumes. In this same year, however, 1517, the spirit of Luther A. D. was raised up, to instruct the ignorant, to rouse the 1517. negligent, and to oppose the scandalous practices of interested and ambitious ecclefiaftical rulers.

No reformer had ever an opportunity more favourable to his designs. Such was the temerity of the existing hierarchy, that they might seem even to have purposely afforded to their opponents an advantage for the beginning of a contest, or rather to have been providentially infatuated. Leo X., after he had presided almost five years, having reduced himself to straits by his prodigal expences of various kinds, and being desirous to complete the erection of St. Peter's Church, begun at Rome by his predecessor Julius II., after his example had recourse to the sale of indulgences, the general nature of which Maimbourg describes much in the fame manner as has been done in the foregoing chapter *. These he published throughout the Christian world, granting freely to all, who would pay money for the building of St. Peter's Church,

the

Seckend. p. 8. Let the reader remember, that this incom. parable author, S. gives us all along the very words of his antagonist, whence the Papal as well as the Protestant materials are continually held up to view.

Even Du Pin allows, that Leo was naturally proud and lofty ; and he confesses, that the erection of St. Peter's Church was the occasion of that pope's having recourse to the sale of indulgences. Book II. Chap. a.

the licence of eating eggs and cheese in the time of Lent. This is one of the many ridiculous circumstances which attended Leo's indulgences, and it is gravely related by the papal historians. The promulgation of these indulgences in Germany, was committed to a prelate, the brother of the elector of Brandenburg. His name was Albert, a man who at that very time held two arch-bishoprics, nainely, those of Mentz and of Magdeburg, and who himfelf received immense profits from the sale. Albert delegated the office to John Tetzel, a Dominican inquisitor, well qualified for an employment of this kind. He was a bold and enterprising monk of uncommon impudence, and had already distinguished himself in' a fimilar transaction. He had proclaimed indulgences in support of the war against the Muscovites, and by that means had much enriched the Teutonic knights, who had undertaken that war. “ This frontless monk,” fays a celebrated ecclefiaftical historian*, cuted this iniquitous commission not only with matchless infolence, indecency, and fraud, but even carried his impiety so far as to derogate from the all sufficient power and influence of the merits of Christ.” Myconius assures us, that he himself heard Tetzel declaim with incredible effrontery concerning the unlimited power of the pope and the efficacy of indulgences. The people believed, that the moment any person had paid the money for the indulgence, he became certain of his salvation, and that the fouls, for whom the indulgences were bought, were instantly released out of purgatory. So Maimbourg allows; and if the people really believed the current doctrine of the times, and looked on the preachers of indulgences as men worthy of credit, they must have believed so. We have formerly

seen

exe

Mofheim.

seen popes themselves to hold this confident language. John Tetzel boasted, that he had saved more souls from hell by his indulgences, than St. Peter had converted to Christianity by his preaching. He assured the purchasers of them, that their crimes, however enormous, would be forgiven ; whence it became almost needless for him to bid them dismiss all fears concerning their salvation. For remission of fins being fully obtained, what doubt could there be of salvation? In the usual form of absolution, written by his own hand, he said, “I, by the authority of Jesus Christ, through the merits of his most holy passion, and by the authority of his blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, and of our most holy pope, delegated to me as commissioner, do abfolve thee,-first from all ecclefiastical censures however incurred; fecondly, from all fins committed by thee however enormous, - for so far the keys of the sacred church extend:-and, I do this by remitting to thee all the punishments due to thee in purgatory on account of thy crimes, and I restore thee to the innocence and purity in which thou wast when baptized, so that the gates of punishment* may be shut to thee when dying, and the gates of paradise be opened.'

Such was the stile in which these formulas were written. It is impertinent to blame the abuses committed by the officials; it is not to be supposed, that these formulas were without papal authority; neither has any thing of that kind ever been asserted. In regard to the effect of indulgences in delivering persons from the supposed torments of purgatory, the gross declarations of Tetzel in public are well known. “ The moment the money tinkles in the cheft, your father's soul mounts up out of purgatory.” It does not appear, that the rulers of the

hierarchy * Seckend. p. 14. Vol. IV,

T

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