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concealed a various collection of false or genuine, of corrupt or suspicious acts, as they tended to promote the interests of the Roman church. Before the end of the eighth century some apostolical scribe, perhaps the notorious Isidore, composed the decretals and donation of Constantine, the two magic pillars of the spiritual and temporal monarchy of the popes. This memorable donation was introduced to the world by an epistle of Adrian I., who exhorts Charlemagne to imitate the liberality, and revive the name, of the great Constantine. According to the legend, the first of the Christian emperors was healed of the leprosy, and purified in the waters of baptism, by St. Silvester, the Roman bishop ; and never was a physician more gloriously recompensed. His royal proselyte withdrew from his seat and patrimony of St. Peter, declared his resolution of founding a new capital in the east, and resigned to the popes the free and perpetual sovereignty of Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the West. This fiction was productive of the most beneficial effects. The Greek princes were convicted of the guilt of usurpation, and the revolt of Gregory was the claim of his lawful inheritance. The popes were delivered from their debt of gratitude, and the nominal gifts of the Carlovingians were no more than the just and irrevocable restitution of a scanty portion of the ecclesiastical state. The sovereignty of Rome no longer depended on the choice of a fickle people ; and the successors of St. Peter and Constantine were invested with the purple and prerogatives of the Cæsars. So deep was the ignorance and credulity of the times, that the most absurd of fables was received with equal reverence in Greece and in France, and is still enrolled among the decrees of the canon law. The emperors and the Romans were incapable of discerning a forgery that subverted their rights and freedom ; and the only opposition proceed
ed from a Sabine monastery, which, in the beginning of the twelfth century, disputed the truth and validity of the donation of Constantine. In the revival of letters and liberty, this fictitious deed was transpierced by the pen of Laurentius Valla, the pen of an eloquent critic and a Roman patriot. His contemporaries of the fifteenth century were astonished at his sacrilegious boldness ; yet such is the silent and irresistible progress of reason, that before the end of the next age, the fable was rejected by the contempt of historians and poets, and the tacit or modest censure of the advocates of the Romish church. The popes themselves have indulged a smile at the credulity of the vulgar; but a false and obsolete title still sanctifies their reign, and by the same fortune which has attended the decretals and the Sibylline oracles, the edifice has subsisted after the foundations have been undermined."*
It is here worthy of remark, that the censure, even of the advocates of the Romish church, against the fabulous edict, which deceived the world for ages, has been sometimes properly marked by an honest ad. mission and just reprobation of the forgery, rather than by a guilty silence or misplaced modesty. The pen of Du Pin has transpierced it as thoroughly as that of Laurentius Valla. According to his showing, --the pretended liberality, in that respect, of Constantine to the church, passed wholly unnoticed, and was consequently unknown by ALL ancient historians who wrote the history of that period, as well as by all the popes themselves, that the date of the act, pretending to be in the consulship of Constantine and Callinicus, bears forgery in its face, both as Constantine was not then converted to the Christian faith, and as the name of Constantinople, which it bears,
* Gibbon's Hist. Ibid. pp. 159, 160, 162.
had not at that period been exchanged for that of Bysantium,—that the style is barbarous, and very different from that of the genuine edicts of Constantine, and that the terms in which it is couched were never used, at that time, in any public acts,—that the donation itself, comprehending the one half of the Roman empire, was incredible as well as always unheard of, having, in point of fact, been never made ; and, finally, that the edict contains an infinite number of falsehoods and absurdities,—some of which are specified by Du Pin.*
It accords well with the character of the king who did according to his will, that he could palm such a deception on mankind, and that so gross a delusion should have passed unchallenged for centuries throughout Europe. In kindred deceivableness of unrighteousness, the more that the temporal domi. nion of the pope was extended, he did according to his will, and magnified himself the more ; and copying the example of Gregory, as the chastiser of royal heretics, and of Zachary, as the putter down and setter up of kings, the pope, in succeeding ages, and in the plenitude of his power, ruling in dark dominion over the abject spirits of men, assumed a prerogative, and exercised a power, such as no race of kings ever claimed, and, exalting himself above all, maintained an unparalleled ascendency, and prospered during a period which scarcely any dynasty on earth ever equalled.
The annals of Europe for more than a thousand years, attest the supremacy, though not always unchallenged, of the papal power, and the boundless authority, nay, the divine attributes of infallibility and judgment, to which the head of the church of Rome laid claim. The ten kingdoms into which the Ro
man empire was divided, gave their power and strength unto the beast ; and kings became the vassals of a priest.
The pope, on the establishment of his authority, overawing kings as well as their subjects, with superstitious fears, and with more real terrors exalted himself, and magnified himself above every god, and did speak marvellous things against the God of gods to such a degree, that the mere repetition of his blasphemies would savour of impiety, were they not purposely adduced to substantiate the prophecy, and to show from his own lips the marvellous things, which, in exalting himself, the pope, as such, has SPOKEN against the God of gods.
As darkness deepened over Christendom, the papacy became the more exalted on its black but lofty throne. In the ninth century, pope Nicholas maintained that he was not liable to the judgment of any man.* Pope John VIII. claimed the obedience of princes as his due, and threatened them with excom. munication.t In the eleventh century, Leo IX. sanctioned the opinion, that it is very unbecoming (valde indignum) that those should be subject to an earthly empire, whom the divine Majesty had set over an heavenly. I He defended alike the spiritual authority and the temporal sovereignty of the popes. Gregory VII. “ thundered out a terrible excommunication against the emperor Henry IV., in which he anathematized him and all his adherents ; declared him to have forfeited the kingdoms of Germany and Italy, together with all regal dignity ; forbade all Christians to obey him ; bestowed the kingdom of Germany on Radulphus, elected by the princes of Germany; and
. Du Pin, vol. vii. p. 95.
+ Epist. 42, 119, 315. Vide Ibid. pp. 181, 182, 189. Baron. Anno 873.
* Ep. i. c. 12.
finally, exhorted all of them to take up arms against Henry, and to divest him of his dominions."* The records of that age supply abundant proof how he exalted and magnified himself, and what marvellous things he spoke against the Most High, having a still more worthy example than the second of the Gregories, which his successors failed not to imitate. In addressing the council of Rome, held in the year 1080, in reference to the excommunication and deposition of Henry, he said, “ Go to, therefore, most holy princes of the apostles, and what I said, by interposing your authority, confirm, that all men may now at length understand, if ye can bind and loose in heaven, that on earth also ye can take away and give empires, kingdoms, and whatever mortals can have : For, if ye can judge things belonging unto God, what is to be deemed concerning these inferior and profane things ? And, if it is your part to judge angels, who govern proud princes, what does it become you to do towards their servants ? Let kings now, and all secular princes learn by this man's example, what ye can do in heaven, and in what esteem ye are with God ; and let them henceforth fear to slight the commands of holy church, but put forth suddenly this judgment, that all men may understand that, not casually, but by your means, this son of iniquity doth fall from his kingdom.”+ In the same style of blasphemous gasconade, which no language used on earth, except that of his successors, ever overmatched, the sentence of deposition runs thus : “ For the dignity and defence of God's holy church, in the name of Almighty God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I depose from imperial and royal administration, King Henry, son of Henry, some time emperor, who too boldly and rash
* Du Pin, vol. ix. p. 45. + Plat. in Greg. VII. Conc. Rom, 7, apud Bin, Tom. 7, p. 491.