What The Middle Ages Started With
Addition Of Christianity
German Conquest And The Fall Of Rome
What The Germans Added
Formation Of The Papacy
The Franks And Charlemagne
The Empire And The Papacy
Read More Articles About: Medieval Civilization
Formation Of The Papacy
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE centuries whose outline we have been studying were dark and despairing centuries for the patriotic Roman. It seemed as if the world was falling to ruin around him. Calamity followed calamity in quick succession. Pestilence, famine, earthquake, rebellion, and invasion trod one upon the heels of the other without cessation. The world was coming to an end. He could not see as we can now see that the foundations were being laid for new states greater than his own, and that the life-giving elements of a new and higher civilization were being added to the old. He could see only what was manifestly true that the greatest political power of history was passing away.
But not all the ancient society shared this feeling of despair. A considerable body of Roman citizens looked to the future with hope and had rio fear that all that men had gained would be lost, and they, as well as the Germans, were laying new foundations, broad and strong, for the future to build upon. We have examined the early history of the Christian church, its slight beginning, its conflict with paganism, and its final victory, and the new ideas which it introduced. But the history of the early church as a religion is only a small part of its history. Upon the foundation offered by the simple and scarcely organized society of the pentecostal days was gradually constructed, by the operation of causes far different from any contained in the four gospels, the most permanent and most powerful organization of history the Roman Catholic Church. During all the dark days of the German settlement and of the confused political conditions which followed, it was the most effective preservative and assimilative force at work, and while all the other great creations of the middle ages the Holy Roman empire and the feudal system have passed away leaving only shadowy remains behind them, it has continued down into our own times, a world-embracing power of great and living influence, notwithstanding the loss of much to which it once laid claim. It is then a matter of the utmost importance in the history of civilization to trace the steps by which the primitive church, as the New Testament describes it, was transformed into this vast and highly perfected " work of human policy," as Macaulay justly called it.
Into the question of the origin of the episcopate, be-longing to the history of the primitive church, I shall not go. Suffice it to say, that however simply and loosely organized the primitive church may have been, by the time of the conversion of Constantine the principal causes were already at work which transformed it into a hierarchical organization, and their results were already plainly manifest in the growing separation of clergy from laity as a different body with distinct rights and privileges, and divided within itself into various grades of rank and power. It will be the work of this chapter to trace the further operation of these and other causes which trans-formed this organization of the early fourth century, more aristocratic than monarchical in character at that point, into the theocratic absolutism of later times. The process was not complete in the period which falls within the chapter, but it was so fully under way that only some revolutionary change of direction in the currents of history could have prevented its accomplishment.
As, according to the most probable view, one of the clergy of a city had been able to create a power over the others, and give rise to the office of bishop, in its later meaning, so it was natural that the next step in logical order should be taken, and the bishop of the most important or capital city of a province should extend his power over the other bishops of the province and create the office of archbishop. One more step, equally logical, remained to be taken when the bishop of the greatest city of a large region Alexandria or Antioch or of the capital city of the empire, should create a power over archbishops and bishops alike, and found an ecclesiastical monarchy.
This indicates, however, only a general tendency. It tells us nothing of the causes which enabled the forming constitution actually to take the direction which this tendency pointed out. Had not the circumstances of the time favored growth along this line, these beginnings, however promising and apparently natural, could have led to no result. It is, then, to the favoring circumstances, all seeming to conspire together to cherish this natural tendency, to the conditions in which this growing church constitution was placed, that we must turn to ascertain the real causes of the monarchical government which resulted.
In beginning a study of these causes it is necessary, before all else, to fix clearly in mind the fact that the Christian religion was not one of them. There is no one form of government or organization to which, as a religion, it directly leads.
It is, indeed, a thing most vitally important, here and throughout the whole course of history, that the church should be distinguished from Christianity. Connected with the history of this religion there are three totally distinct things, each finding its beginning, its opportunity to grow, in the earliest Christianity, but each caused by a totally different set of causes and having an almost wholly independent life, a life at any rate in no way necessarily controlled by that of either of the others.
One of these is Christianity considered as a religion simply ; that personal faith in, and love for, a divine Saviour and a divine Father by him revealed which brings the individual into conscious unity with God, and be-comes for him an unequalled help in right living; that personal faith which exists apparently with equal perfection and equally complete results under every ecclesiastical system and in connection with every form of dogmatic belief. That such a power exists and that such results follow from these causes, is manifest from an overwhelming abundance of evidence to any student of historical details, whatever bitter hatred or murderous cruelty may have grown out of theological differences, or whatever lying trickery out of ecclesiastical strife.
The second of these is the church as an organization, an ecclesiastical system, a governmental or political institution. Based upon a body of people who profess the Christian religion, it is nevertheless an outgrowth of their political, legal, organizing instincts, and not out of any-thing whatever connected with the religion as a religion. It would seem as if this must be entirely clear to any one who remembers how perfectly the same religious life has shown itself, the same religious results have been achieved, under the most widely varying forms of organization possible to thought. Xavier and Wesley and Woolman, whatever faults of character or of temperament remained unsubdued, are all alike instances of the transforming and inspiring power of the same single force.
The third is the dogmatic system, the body of theological beliefs of a given age or people. Based again on the primary facts of the Christian religion, it is not created or rendered necessary in the least by anything connected with that religion as religion merely, but is an outgrowth wholly of the scientific instinct, of the natural and inevitable attempt of the mind to explain these primary facts, and to construct the explanations made into a reasonable and logical system. These explanatory theories differ very widely from one another, as it is necessary that they should, since they are formed under varying philosophical preconceptions, and the varying conditions of different ages and different races, but these differences of scientific system do not in the slightest degree imply any difference in the primary facts and experiences whose explanation is attempted. It is an incontestable fact that many a bloody civil war has been fought between Christian sects who did not differ from one another upon any essential religious truth what-ever. In the weakness of their not yet wholly civilized or Christianized human nature their varying explanations seemed to them as vitally important as the fundamental fact itself which they were attempting to explain, and so they burned and tortured to save men's souls.
These dogmatic systems and these ecclesiastical systems both grow out of necessities of human nature. The mind must seek some philosophical explanation for familiar facts, and a group of people influenced by the same desires and motives, must take upon themselves that form of organization which seems to them the most natural. But neither the dogmatic system, nor the ecclesiastical system, of any given time or place, is Christianity. The causes which have created the one are not those which have created the other, and the one set of causes must not be held responsible for results which have followed from the other. So completely indispensable is this distinction that absolutely no trustworthy reasoning about Christian history is possible if it is lost sight of ; causes and effects become inextricably confused, and wholly unnecessary blundering and bitter controversy has often been the result.
These truths may be said to be commonplaces of the best religious thinking of to-day, but .they have been so constantly disregarded in historical study and writing that they ought to be emphasized even at the expense of repetition.
Of the direct causes which did further the tendency al-ready begun in the church toward a monarchical constitution, the most potent and effective may be brought under two heads the change which took place in the popular understanding of Christianity itself, and the influence of Rome.
For the first two centuries Christianity had continued to be, comparatively speaking, the simple and spiritual religion of its primitive days. Two very serious at-tempts had been made to change its character, but without success. One of these had been an attempt to unite the old Jewish system with it, and if not to compel the Gentile Christian to become almost a Jew, at least to compel Christianity to adopt some of the characteristic forms and ideas of Judaism. We can discern evidences of this struggle between the new and the old in the New Testament. The other was an attempt to engraft upon Christianity certain speculations of Oriental philosophy concerning the nature of the supernatural and the order of the universe. This gave rise to the heresy known as Gnosticism and to a long and severe contest, ending, as the earlier strife liad done, in the preservation in all essential points of the primitive Christianity.
In the meantime there was developing, from the very slight beginnings of the early days, a theological system and a ritual. In both these directions these first two at-tempts to change the character of Christianity had had a very great influence. Every heresy which was strong enough to offer battle had a decided effect upon the growth of theology by compelling greater definiteness of belief and clearness of statement.
Much the most powerful force, however, in transforming the slender theological stock of the primitive documents into a vast and complex dogmatic system was the Greek philosophy. The speculative instinct of the Greek would not allow him to rest in the few simple facts which Christianity taught. The questions which those facts raise in every thinking mind, he must attempt to solve, and in doing so it is his philosophizing genius and his already formed philosophy which he calls to his aid. By the time of the conversion of Constantine this theological system had assumed large proportions, and some of its most recondite problems were already under discussion.
But notwithstanding all these attacks upon it, and additions to it from outside sources, the Christian religion had remained until toward the middle of the third century essentially unchanged. Men came into it because it answered their religious needs, and at some cost to them-selves of difficulty and danger, and its power over them was that of a spiritual faith.
But when the Christian church began to grow rapidly, and its social standing to improve, and when priests and bishops began to hold positions of influence and power and to manage considerable financial interests, then men began to come into it from other motives than conviction because it was fashionable, or because its offices were attractive to the ambitious. When Christianity became the religion of the court and of the state this tendency was greatly increased. Masses of men passed in name over into Christianity with no understanding of what it was, bringing with them the crude religious conceptions and practices of paganism, unable to understand the spiritual truths of Christianity and with no share in the inner spiritual life of the Christian.
The result could easily be predicted. No system religious, political, or philosophical could. survive the invasion of so much alien material not in harmony with its fundamental teachings without serious loss. It was unavoidable that Christianity should decline toward the pagan level. It is not easy under any circumstances to keep alive a keen perception of higher spiritual truths in the mass of mankind. In such circumstances as these it was entirely impossible, and though perhaps never lost sight of by the better spirits, these truths gradually passed out of the popular religious consciousness, and their place was taken by something easier to understand, and answering to a lower religious need.
The clearest illustration, probably, of this paganizing process is the introduction of the worship of saints. The pagan, trained in polytheistic notions, having a separate divinity for every interest of life, found the Christian monotheistic idea liard to understand. The one only God seemed to him far off and cold, hard to reach with the prayers of a more man. He felt the necessity of putting in between himself and God the nearer and more human subordinate divinities who had been made familiar to him by his earlier religion, and who seemed to him easier of access. And so he created a Christian polytheism, partly by putting some holy man of the past in the place of the pagan divinity, assigning to him the special guardianship of the same interest or locality, sometimes, as we can now see, actually translating the pagan divinity himself into a Christian saint.
This process was no doubt aided by the general barbarization of the Roman society which was going on at the same time, and which shows itself in language and art and military tactics, and in almost every direction ; but it affected Christianity chiefly through the mass of really unchristianized material which entered the church. The resulting product had undoubtedly an immensely elevating and purifying effect on the paganism of the empire. The truths taught through it, and held in mind by means of it, were higher and better than anything in the old system. It furnished, very possibly, the only practicable road by which the mass of the people could pass to an understanding of the more perfect ideas which they needed to learn, and the Catholic church has not been without a plausible defence for very similar practices, adopted more consciously and at a later date, in the conversion of pagan nations. But notwithstanding all this it denoted a very decided change to a lower level in the popular understanding of Christianity.
While, however, the introduction of the worship of saints is a striking illustration of this paganization of Christianity, another result of it was much more important in the development of the constitution of the church, that result which is called the " externalizing " of Christianity—its transformation from a religion of the spirit into a religion of externals.
In the place of the inner spiritual life, as the deter-mining characteristic of the Christian, were placed, more and more as the spiritual side was lost sight of, forms and intellectual beliefs and membership in a visible church. If one accepted the theology of the church, and conformed to its regulations, and was in regular standing in some local church, he was a Christian. If he refused to accept some point of the theology and was cast out of the church, or if for any reason he was not to be found within its visible membership, then he was not a Christian, no matter what profession he might make.' Such tests as these were much easier to understand and to apply than the older spiritual conceptions.
It may be difficult to see, as some have suggested, how Christianity could have been preserved at all, during the ages which were to follow, without this compact organization, and without this great body of theology, esteemed so vitally important as to be maintained at all hazards, and, because it was purely intellectual, far more easily retained in times of general decline than the deeper spiritual truths of religion. But the whole effect was to transform Christianity in the world into a definite, visible body, sharply defined from non-Christians and from here-tics, distinguished everywhere by the same external, easily recognized signs and marks, its members readily counted and measured.
When the idea of such a distinct unity came to prevail, and when it had begun to express itself in the use of common ceremonies and a common creed, made with great care to conform to the recognized standards, it was perfectly natural, inevitable indeed, that a further step should be taken, that the mere fact of the formation, to such an extent, of a universal community should become itself a most powerful force in creating a community of law and administration ; in forming, in other words, a common ecclesiastical government which should correspond to, and guard and regulate the community of ceremonies and doctrines already formed. The constant appeal to an ideal unity tended strongly to create a real one.
The second of the two great causes which led to the formation of the monarchical church was Rome the group of influences and ideas which grew out of the history and position of Rome and the Roman empire. So decisive and controlling are these, when taken together, that we may say that without them the monarchical church would never have existed.
In the first place, Rome was the capital of the political world. What could be more natural than that it should be looked upon also as the religious capital of the world. The fact that he was the bishop of the actual capital city was perhaps the most important cause which established the power of the patriarch of Constantinople over the East. But even after the establishment of Constantinople Rome continued to be looked upon as in some especial sense the central city and capital of the world, and the feeling which had helped the bishop of Constantinople would be a much greater aid to the bishop of Rome.
In the second place, the Roman imperialism was the only constitutional model which the early church had be-fore it. As it began to grow into a common organization of widely separated provinces, it could hardly do other-wise than to take the shape of the only government of that sort which the world had known, and to copy not merely names, like diocese, but also offices and methods. It is an interesting fact, however, that this copying was by no means slavish, but along with it a free political genius was also at work, inventing new institutions for new needs, as is seen, at least in its more characteristic features, in the important evolution of the church council.
Again, in the third place, just as the ancient Greek philosophic spirit awoke to a new life and power in developing the theological system of the early church, so also the old Roman genius for political organization and rule found a new field for its activity, and a new empire to found in the creation of the Papacy. There was no longer any opportunity for it in the political sphere. Its work was finished there, but in the history of the West-ern church there was a succession of great spirits, men of imperial ideas and genius, which recalls the line of statesmen of earlier Roman days, and accomplished a similar work. Julius, Innocent, Leo, and Gregory, each the first of his name, bishops of Rome, and Ambrose, bishop of Milan, are examples, only, of the men who, whether the opportunity which was offered to them to advance the power of their office and to create definite constitutional precedents was large or small, saw in it its fullest possibilities and used it for the utmost gain. It was in the minds of these men, and in the atmosphere of Rome, where every influence was of empire and all the traditions imperial, that the idea first took shape that the one great church should find its head, its divinely ordained primate, in the bishop of Rome vaguely at first, no doubt, and with slowly growing consciousness, but definitely enough to form a consistent working model, through all the varying circumstances of their different reigns.
Under this head also should be included the legal tendency of the Roman mind. To this more than to anything else is due the creation of a great body of theology suited in character to the Western mind--a system not so finely speculative as the Eastern, but practical and legal and clearly systematic. This gave to the West, as a defining and organizing core, a body of doctrines of its own, independent of the Eastern, and tended to give to it, also, a secure position as a separate church organization. The genius, indeed, of its great constructive theologian, St. Augustine, one of the greatest names in the intellectual history of the world, surpasses even the genius of its great constructive pontiffs. It was his work to give to the Western church, just beginning to take on its separate existence, the crystallizing body of thought which it needed to put into definite and scientific statement the things for which it stood and which gave it distinctive existence. The church did not remain true to all the teachings of St. Augustine, but the influence of his theology in the formative age of the Roman church may easily be inferred from the strong constructive influence which it exerted in a later and more familiar age when ecclesiastical organizations were again taking shape in the age of the Reformation.
Again, the idea of the divinely founded and eternal empire of Rome was a most potent influence. In the pagan mind this had been formed under the influence of the widely extended conquests of Rome, doubtless as a vague reaching after a reasonable explanation of such wonderful successes and such an unparalleled power. This idea the Christians had taken up and transformed into a still wider conception, adding to it that idea which they held so strongly of the growing kingdom of Christ which was to fill the whole world, and thus they made it the foundation of what has been called justly, at least so far as definiteness of conception goes, the first philosophy of history.
Rome was for the Christian, as for the pagan, a divinely founded empire and destined to be eternal. The one God, however, took the place of the pagan divinities as the divine architect, and his final purpose was to be found, the Christian thought, not in a great political empire but in the one great spiritual and religious unity of the world which that political empire had rendered possible. Rome prepared the way for, and prefigured the kingdom of Christ.
The influence of this conception upon the idea of the Christian church, as forming a world-embracing unity organized into one united government, can hardly be overstated. The fact that we may now be able to put the thought into more definite language than even St. Augustine in any single passage, is no evidence that its influence was not profound, and there can be no doubt but that this " idea of Rome " was one of the most powerful forces in creating that conception of a necessary church unity in belief and organization which is one of the corner-stones, the one essential foundation indeed, of the Roman Catholic monarchy.
There ought to be mentioned, perhaps, in close connection with this idea of the divine purpose in history, though it cannot be clearly proved to be an outgrowth of it, the belief which grew up in the church, of the position assigned to the Apostle Peter. The more or less conscious belief in a necessary church unity must certainly have been wide-spread before any such idea could have been formed regarding him, but when it had once taken shape it became a most efficient influence in creating an actual unity and making Rome its centre. It is hard, in the absence of decisive historical evidence, to avoid the conclusion that the belief that Rome was destined by Providence to be the religious capital of the world, was the sole basis of the tradition that Peter was bishop of Rome. The two lines of belief certainly ran together as may be indicated in this way : A literal interpretation of certain passages in the New Testament appears to indicate that Christ gave to Peter authority over the other apostles ; therefore Peter's church would have authority over other churches. But the divine plan of history makes Rome the political capital of all the world ; therefore it was the divine purpose, since the political exists for the sake of the religious, that Rome should be the world's religious capital. So Peter the prince of the apostles founds his church in Rome, the capital city, and by Christ's direct authority and by the evident divine plan of history the Roman church is supreme over all other churches.
This argument was undoubtedly first developed in a purely theoretical form against heretics and separatists, as in the treatise of Cyprian of Carthage already quoted. Christ gave to Peter an ideal supremacy over the other apostles as a symbol of the great truth which he taught in so many forms that the spiritual kingdom which he founded should remain one and indivisible. But it was impossible that the idea once formed should remain merely theoretical. As the monarchical constitution began to take shape, it must itself become an actual ground of belief that such a constitution was divinely ordained, and, with the change in the general conception of Christianity which has been noticed from the spiritual to the external, the appeal to the actual and visible organization as an evidence of the divine intention would be an exceedingly strong argument.
In many directions the special situation of the Roman church and its peculiar characteristics were of very great value in extending its influence, and finally in establishing its supremacy.
It was situated in the only great city of the West. There were in the West no cities like Alexandria and Antioch in the East, natural capitals of great geographical divisions of the empire, whose bishops would be tempted to cherish plans of independence and extended rule. Carthage was early shut out from any such possible rivalry by the Asian Vandal conquest of Africa, which forced the African church into closer dependence upon Rome. The actual struggle of Milan and Arles for independence shows how great the danger from this source might have been had stronger cities existed.
The Roman church was the only apostolic church in the West. It was an apostolic church, even if not Peter's, for Paul had labored there and had written it a very important epistle. As doubts and divisions began to arise in the church on various theological points, such churches were thought to preserve a more pure tradition of the primitive teaching than others, and questions of difficulty began to be referred to them for advice and explanation, and their doctrine began to be looked upon as a standard. Rome was the only church in the West to which such reference could be made.
The Roman was the largest and strongest church in the West. It was also much the richest church and it had been very generous in its gifts to poorer and weaker churches, which looked to it for help.
It was also with remarkable uniformity an orthodox church. In the days of the forming theology and of the forming primacy there was great danger that the Roman church or the Roman bishop might, now and then, adopt a doctrine which the opinion of the majority would not finally sanction, a danger which became practically impossible when the primacy was once established. The fact that this actually happened in only one or two unimportant cases, gained for the doctrinal opinion of the bishop of Rome a weight of authority which it could not otherwise have had. This general doctrinal orthodoxy is, perhaps, partly accounted for by the fact that theological differences were much less numerous and less extreme in the West than in the more subtly philosophical East. At any rate, this fact made the recognition of the doctrinal authority of the Roman church a relatively simple matter. But while the opinions which it represented gained the victory over all opposing views, the Roman church, nevertheless, was very tolerant of variations of belief which it did not consider essential, and it did not make the conditions hard for the return of the dissenter who had seen the error of his ways. The general tolerance and wisdom of its doctrinal oversight made the growth of a uniformity of belief under its head-ship comparatively easy.
The Roman church was a very active missionary church. A large number of the churches throughout the whole West had been founded as missions from Rome and looked to it with a natural sense of dependence for guidance and direction as to the mother church. The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Catholic Christianity by missionaries sent from Rome by Pope Gregory I., had results of great importance, as we shall see hereafter, for the preservation and increase of the papal power in a critical period of its history.
So many things we have been able to notice, tendencies in the church itself, Roman ideas and traditions of empire, characteristics of the Roman church and its bishops, which shaped from within, as we may say, the external constitution. But not merely these things, others also, of a different sort, worked toward the same result. Especially deserving of mention are certain historical events, happening beyond the control of the Roman bishops, or not directly sought by them, which became, however, when they had once occurred, most active causes in this development.
First to be considered is the founding of Constantinople. The first emperor who professed Christianity removed the seat of the government to the East, mainly in all probability for strategic reasons, and though at a later time emperors resided for long periods in the West, Rome ceased to be the seat of government even for them. The bishop of Rome was left with no more powerful and overshadowing presence beside him, to reduce his importance by the constant comparison. He was not so directly under the control of the emperor as he would otherwise have been, and his theological views seemed at a distance much less important than if he had been the bishop of the immediate court. As a result, the bishops of Rome were able to preserve much more independence of action than were the bishops of Constantinople, and to maintain a consistency of theology impossible to their rivals, subject to the demands of a court which was continually in revolution.
In another direction the distance of the emperor had important consequences. After the Lombard conquest of Italy the political control of the eastern emperor over the city of Rome and its neighborhood became hardly more than nominal. The Exarch of Ravenna was in name the representative of the emperor, but he could do nothing to help Rome in its struggle to preserve its independence of the Lombard, and the conduct of the defence, and even the local political administration, passed naturally into the hands of the bishop, the most important officer in the city. In this way there was gradually added to the general ecclesiastical power which the bishops were acquiring the virtually independent political government of a little state.
This incipient temporal power was greatly extended by Gregory I., who commissioned civil and military officers, made peace independently of the empire, and claimed a position above the exarch. This little territory thus acquired was enlarged by the gifts of the Frankish kings, and grew into the States of the Church, so con-trolling an influence in the policy of the papacy, and a stone of offence in all international politics from Gregory I. to the present time. That it was of immense value to the popes, as supreme rulers of the world church through all the medieval times, that they were not bishops of any political realm, save of the shadowy Roman empire, but occupied an independent temporal position, cannot be denied ; that it has been a decided injury to the Catholic Church in modern times, when all interests, both ecclesiastical and political, are viewed from a wholly different stand-point, is almost equally clear.
Another event, the sack of Rome by Alaric, in 410, aided somewhat in the growth of this local power. The aristocratic society of the capital city, closely bound up with the Roman past, by tradition and by the nominal positions which they still held, had remained obstinately pagan. The bishop of Rome, supported by the mass of the population, and holding an office of great power, was yet not of the highest local consideration so long as the senate and the aristocracy remained unchristian. Alaric's sack of Rome, which largely spared the Christians, scattered and ruined this pagan society and left the bishop and his clergy without social, as they had been without official, rivals.
Another event of this sort was a decision of the Council of Sardica, in the year 343. This council had been called to reconcile, if possible, the parties which had grown up in the church out of the Arian controversy ; but it had failed of its object, and the Arian representatives had seceded to hold a meeting by themselves in Philipopolis. The party remaining, we might call it an ex-parte council, decreed a limited right of appeal from local decisions to Julius, at that time Bishop of Rome. The measure was adopted as a means of self-defence to protect the orthodox bishops of the Eastern European provinces from the Arian majority there, but its influence became in time much wider than was originally in-tended. It came to be understood to legalize all sorts of appeals to Rome, and especially when, with the decline of historical knowledge, the decrees of the Council of Sardica became confused with those of the much more influential Council of Nicaea, they seemed to give a sanction of the highest authority to the claims of the pope. Many other things also favored the growth of appeals to Rome, and a supreme judicial authority in the papacy was gradually recognized throughout the West, though not without some determined resistance.
In the year 445, Innocent I., involved in a desperate conflict with the Archbishop of Arles, obtained from the Emperor Valentinian III. an edict declaring in the most explicit terms the supremacy of the bishop of Rome over the church of the empire in both judicial and administrative matters, as a necessary means of peace and unity, and commanding the imperial officers to compel the disobedient to submit to his authority. This was apparently decisive in the struggle with Arles, but that it had any large or permanent influence in favor of the papacy does not seem likely. The empire was now falling rapidly to pieces. The imperial power was weak, and only here and there really respected. Large parts of the West were already in the hands of Arian Germans. Had it not been for the fact that the current was already setting strongly toward papal supremacy, and all influences combining to further it, this edict of Valentinian's would probably have had no appreciable effect. As it was, its effect could not have been great.
A more important cause of the advancement of the papacy was undoubtedly the dissolution of the Western Empire itself. It might seem as if the church would be involved in this dissolution, and that when the imperial authority disappeared the authority of the pope, which had grown up under its shadow, and upon the model which the empire had furnished, would fall to ruins with it. But the church was now too strong and too independent. The causes which destroyed the empire did not affect it, and it easily maintained its real authority when that of the empire had become a mere theory. Indeed the immediate effect of the destruction of the political unity and of the establishment of independent German kingdoms was to draw the surviving Roman life in the provinces into a more close dependence upon the church as the only representative of the old common life. The dissolution of the empire left the papacy the immediate and natural heir of its position and traditions.
In the period which followed the German conquest, by far the most decisive influence was the alliance of the papacy with the Franks ; it was, indeed, one of the most eventful coalitions ever entered into in history. It is no abuse of terms to call this an alliance, for though doubtless there was no definite treaty, nor even a conscious bargain, it was really a combination which the two great powers of the future, fairly equal parties in position and promise, formed with one another at the outset of their common history, and which they drew more and more close as the circumstances of their growth made it increasingly useful. It was one of the essential influences which preserved the papacy from the great danger of being completely absorbed in the overshadowing Frankish power that there was behind them both this history of mutual helpfulness and respect. The details of this alliance and its results belong elsewhere. It should be held in mind, however, as one of the most helpful historical influences in the formative age of the papal monarchy.
This cannot pretend to be a complete statement of the causes which led to the supremacy of the Roman church and of its bishop over the whole church. No such statement has ever yet been made, and very likely none is possible. It is complete enough, however, to show how all things, influences the most widely separated in character and time, religious and political and traditional, sentiment and law and theology, deliberate purpose and unforeseen events, all combine to lead to this common conclusion.
This is only another way of saying that the necessities of the time demanded such a result, and that the monarchical church had a great work to do which could have been done by nothing else so well. It is not difficult now to see what this work was.
Two great dangers threatened the early church. One was that it might be absorbed in the state, and come to bear the same relation to it that the pagan religion had borne, its subservient handmaid, a subordinate department of the government to be controlled and directed to political ends. How great this danger was can be seen in several periods of the history of the church in the Eastern Empire when such a result actually happened. But however great this danger may have been under the empire, it became far greater on the establishment of the German kingdoms in the West. Not merely the Arian states, but the Catholic Carolingian state, threatened at times the absorption of the church in the state and the control of it for purposes foreign to its own. It is impossible to see how the church could have escaped this danger without the compact and strong interstate organization which had been given it, directed by a single head and according to a single plan. Such a power, extending beyond the limits of a single state, and fairly on a level with that of the king, commanded respect for its vigorous teaching of the necessary separation of church and state and of the independent sphere of church activity.
The other danger to which the early church was ex-posed was that the barbarizing process from which the Christian religion did suffer so greatly might complete its work, and the spiritual truths of Christianity, so faintly held and rarely proclaimed in their simple form, might be entirely lost from civilization. This danger, also, like the other, became extreme with the coming in of the Germans. Christianity had obtained such a hold upon the Roman world that the classic paganism was absorbed, with results which were deplorable certainly, even if unavoidable, but which were not absolutely fatal. But would not a new deluge of religious barbarism, foreign to classic ideas, and far less cultivated in other directions, have failed to gain even a faint conception of the higher truth and have destroyed completely all understanding of the religious side of the new faith, if this had not been embodied and encased in an external shell of forms and doctrines and constitution strongly enough fixed to resist the attack ? The very paganizing itself which Christianity had undergone, by bringing it down nearer to the level on which the Germans stood, was a defence against further paganizing. The German conquest did undoubtedly have some further corrupting effect, but that it did not have a greater influence and actually complete the work of barbarization, as it did complete it in science and in language, is due to the profound impression which the church, with its real power, its gorgeous ceremonial, and its authoritative and infallible teaching made upon the Germans. That the church was so well organized, its forms and ritual so well settled, and its teaching so definite and uniform when the invasions fell upon it, was what saved it from destruction and made it a great reconstructive force in the new order of things.
This work of reconstruction, which the church began even while the destruction of the Old World was still going on, must be regarded as a very large part of the positive work which the monarchical church had to do. It was necessary for the future that something should in-corporate the Germans into the ancient civilization, and make them its continuators, and though this was to be a long and almost hopeless labor, it was absolutely essential that it should be begun at once. But everything was in ruins except the Catholic Church. That was organized and in active operation. It did not fall or lose vitality when the empire fell. The overthrow of the political unity only bound the disunited provinces so much the more closely to itself. The Germans had nothing to put in its place. It therefore remained, as it had been, a living force out of the past, continuing the ancient world into the medieval. But without this strong and universal government the church would not only have run great risks of failing to impress itself upon the German barbarians, but it could never have created in them that respect for its power, and that idea of its indisputable authority which not merely kept the conqueror within bounds, but carried over into the new states and the new conditions so many of the results which antiquity had reached. In every separate kingdom, even in the Anglo-Saxon, which was held to the ancient world by no other bond, the priest of every insignificant hamlet was a member of an independent government which extended far beyond the boundaries of the kingdom, and which awakened awe and commanded obedience when it spoke through him. He was a check on the destructive passions of the barbarian lord of the village, and taught him new virtues and new ideas.
Besides the papacy there grew up in the early church another institution which demands our attention from its wide and long-continued influence — the monastic system.
Monasticism is undoubtedly of Oriental origin, and originates in Oriental ways of looking at life as itself an evil and something from which the holy man must escape as completely as he can, even if possible from consciousness itself.' When the changing conception of Christianity had introduced into the church ideas of sin and holiness, and of the evils of life not wholly unlike Oriental ideas on the same subjects, the ascetic spirit, which was undoubtedly present in Christianity to some extent from the beginning, received a strong impulse and ex-tended even into the West, where the natural tendencies were not ascetic. If the Christian life is one of observances, if freedom from sin is to be secured by penance and by fleeing from temptations, then the holiest life will be secured by abandoning the world entirely, and either alone, in solitude, or in company with a few others like minded, giving one's self wholly up to penances, and mortifications of the flesh, and pious observances. The more external and formal the religious life became, the stronger became the tendency toward the ascetic and monastic ideal.
This was not the only thing, however, which gave monasticism its disproportionate influence during the middle ages. There is at times, in the life of nearly every man, a longing for a life of quiet contemplation, in which, free from all cares and responsibilities and uncongenial duties, he may give himself up wholly to spiritual meditation, or to his favorite intellectual pursuits, under no compulsion, however, or uncomfortable sense of the duty of literary production. The history of the English university fellowships is full of examples of the influence of this feeling, and one thinks easily of more than one case in modern times, outside monasticism, where the opportunities of such a life have been used to some good purpose. This feeling is especially strong and frequent in student days, the time of life when the medieval boy was in the hands of the monk, and when in natural consequence monasticism received its largest reinforcements. For in the middle ages there was no other opportunity for a life of this sort. The monastery gave it as perfectly as it has ever been given, and the monastery alone.
In still another way monasticism furnished the only possible resort in a perfectly natural and permanent need. For the disappointed and despairing, for the broken-hearted, especially among women, whose hopes had been destroyed or whose interest in life seemed unable to survive the loss of friends, the cloister gave a refuge, and often a recovery to helpful interests and to gentle charities, saving a bit of the world's good force from total loss. The Protestant has not infrequently lamented the absence in his system of any natural and ready resort, in cases of this kind, and the consequent waste of energy, nor have attempts been wanting to sup-ply the lack.
It must be noticed, also, that not the only motive of a religious sort which sustained monasticism was as selfish and unchristian as the desire to escape from all duty and all contact with the world, and from all knowledge of sin, in order to make sure of one's own safety in the world to come. The monastic life was very often conceived of as a genuine Christian ministry, of wider opportunity than the secular priesthood, and entered upon and lived in earnest Christian spirit. It must be borne in mind, also, that spiritual religion and genuine Christianity were much more common in the medieval monasteries than outside them, and that however debased the monastic life may have become at any given time or place, there was throughout the whole period a constant succession of thorough monastic reformations which restored, for a time at least, its earlier purity and produced often a pro-found impression on the world outside, and which passed on from age to age an ideal of Christian living, never lowered and never forgotten as an ideal.
It is certain, however, that an ascetic monasticism has its strongest roots in a conception of life and duty which is essentially medieval. As modern forces began to make themselves felt in the closing centuries of the middle ages, not only did its power over society as a whole de-cline, but the system itself underwent no slight modification. It is clearly impossible that it should ever hold the place or exercise the influence under modern conditions which once belonged to it.
In the general work of civilization, in addition to its work in the line of religion, the influence of monasticism was by no means slight.
It was a constant proclamation, in the midst of a barbarous and crude and warlike society, of the duty and the glory of another sort of life, of the virtues of peace and self-sacrifice and poverty and labor. It was a perpetual reminder that some things supremely worth having were not to be gained by strife or self-assertion or pride of place, but that passive virtues and gentle lives might be full of power. That monasticism reflected often the violent impulses and brutal!. methods of the time, and sank frequently to the general level of superstition around it is not to be denied. It furnished often examples of anything but gentle virtues and subdued passions. But notwithstanding all that may be said of its corruption, it did preserve and hold up to general view more perfectly than anything else, or, as it seems likely, than anything else could have done in such a time, the conception of a nobler life and the immense value of things not material.
The one distinguishing characteristic of Western monasticism, in contrast with that which generally prevailed in the East, was also of the greatest value to civilization. The Western organizing and legal genius seized upon the simple idea of solitary life and isolated communities which it had received from the East, and constructed great monastic orders, covering Europe with a net-work of societies bound together under a common law which minutely regulated the daily life.' One universal and regular duty which this "rule " placed upon the monk was the necessity of being constantly employed. Especially to be emphasized is the fact that this was work for the sake of work. The object sought was not so much what would be produced by the labor as to keep the body and mind so constantly occupied that temptations could find no access and sin would therefore be escaped. Consequently it was a matter of comparative indifference what the work was. The harder and more painful and unattractive to men in general it might be, so much the better for the monk. If sufficiently difficult, the element of penance was added, and it became a still more effectual means of grace. In this way the monk did a great amount of extremely useful work which no one else would have undertaken. Especially is this true of the clearing and reclaiming of land. A swamp was of no value. It was a source of pestilence. But it was just the place for a monastery because it made life especially hard. And so the monks carried in earth and stone, and made a foundation, and built their convent, and then set to work to dyke and drain and fill up the swamp, till they had turned it into most fertile plough land and the pestilence ceased. In the same way the monk laboriously copied manuscript after manuscript which we know he could not understand from the errors in copying which he made. But it kept him at work and so we have the copy though the original may have perished.
The monk taught the farmer better methods of agriculture, and he preserved something of mechanical skill and of the manufacturing arts, and even added some improvements in them of his own. St. Theodulf's plough and St. Dunstan's anvil were not inappropriately adored as holy relics. The schools were in his hands. He kept alive whatever of ancient learning remained, and modern science owes to him an incalculable debt for his labors at her beginning. In childish scrawls he passed on from generation to generation the methods of the fine arts until genius finally awoke. It would be impossible to construct the history of the middle ages but for the monastic chronicles and the documents which the monks preserved. Their manuals of devotion are still in use in the churches of every name. Literature has been enriched by the works of their imagination in chivalric legend and the lives of the miracle-working saints, and the Christian church will never cease to sing the hymns which they composed. In its worst periods monasticism never sank below the surrounding level, and on the whole, until stronger forces began to work, it was a leader and a guide.