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enjoined by the canons. And each one ought to undertake this penitence with all his effort and strength, yea, with the anxiety of his in most heart. Some should submit to a penitence of one year, others of more, but always in proportion to the measure of their sins : some one month, some many months, some one week, some many weeks, some one day, some many days, and some all the days of their lives.”—(App., Note 151.)
This, assuredly, looks severe enough, and at least professes to pay profound respect to the ancient penitential canons. But now comes the principle of the composition or commutation of
practically places the whole matter upon a totally different basis.
XIII. “ The compounding of sins with God is made in various manners, and alms-giving conduces chiefly to their payment.”
XIV. “Let him who is rich enough build churches to the praise of God; and if he is able to do more, let him add manors, and bring in young men who may perform the holy service for him, and daily celebrate unto God the holy mysteries."-( App., Note 152.)
To this good work is added a large list of useful and benevolent labors, building roads and bridges, feeding the poor, &c.; and then we have the following injunction :
· Let him distribute, for the love of God, all that he has; let him abandon there with his lands, his country, and all the desirable things of this world, and serve his Lord night and day," &c.—(App., Note 153.)
There is not a trace of all this to be found in the ancient canons, nor in the primitive fathers.
That å wealthy sinner could compound his penitence for sin by building churches, endowing monasteries, making roads and bridges, &c., as a proof of repentance, was a new idea; but yet it became speedily prevalent, since, however delusive it might be to the sin
ner, it was profitable to the Church and the priesthood, and formed the principal fund of their wealth for centuries together. But let me proceed to the accommodation in favor of the sick, which forms the next step in the novel system.
“ In the following shall be set forth in what way a sick man may redeem the fast prescribed to him:
XVIII. " Any one may redeem a fast of one day by one penny. Every one may also redeem a fast of one day by two hundred and twenty psalms. Any one, also, may redeem a fast of twelve months with thirty shillings; or, in freeing any one from a fast, it may be estimated in the same proportion; and for a fast of one day the man may sing six times Beati and six times Paternoster. And for a fast of one day, let a man bend his knees and bow himself to the ground sixty times, saying, Our Father," &c.—(App., Note 154.)
These curious regulations clearly prove that the sick man, for whose benefit they were intended, might be in a very tolerable state of bodily vigor, since otherwise the singing and the genuflections would have been a more severe task than the fasting. posing him to have been well enough to relish his meals, it is manifest that a penny a day, and thirty shillings a year, for the liberty of eating as usual, were a cheap purchase of his relief from bread and water. But this is not all.
XIX. Any one may accomplish a fast of seven years in one year, if he will sing every day the psalms of the psalter, and the same every night, and fifty in the evening. Also, by a single mass any one may compound for a fast of twelve days; and by thirty masses any one may exempt himself from a fast of one year, if he will intercede for himself in the true love of God, and confess his sins to the confessor, and amend them as he may direct, and always avoid them afterward.”—(App., Note 155.)
And at the close of this code we have the follow
ing accommodating plan for men of rank and consequence, notwithstanding it is so strongly declared in the beginning that the greater and more powerful any one might be, in the same proportion must his sins be punished before God and man. “ Of the Penitence of Great Men.
I. “ In this manner an illustrious man, depending on his friends, may by their help render his penitence lighter. First, in the name of God, and to the satisfaction of his confessor, let him manifest that his faith is right, and pardon all who have sinned against him, and make confession of all his sins without any omission, and promise to repent, and receive his penance with much groaning."
II. " Then let him lay aside his arms, &c. Let him prepare himself for three days in this manner, and let him take in aid of himself twelve companions ; let them fast three days on bread, and raw herbs and water; and let him obtain besides, if he can, in order to consummate the work, seven hundred and twenty men, who will each fast three days for his sake, namely, each one three days. Thus the number of those fasts will amount to as many as there are days in the whole seven years."
III. • When any such person shall fast, let him distribute the dishes, or preparations of food which he should have enjoyed, to all the poor people of God; and in these three days of his fast let him lay aside all worldly business whatsoever : day and night, as often as he can, let him seek the church, and watch there solicitously by the lamp of charity, and cry to God, and pray for the remission of his sins with a mourning spirit and with bended knees. Let him, also, frequently extend himself in the form of the cross, now erect, now lying prostrate on the ground. Let every great man learn, likewise, to pour forth tears from his eyes sincerely, and deplore his sins. Let him also, in these three days, feed as many of the poor as he can; and on the fourth day let him wash them all, and give them food and money. Moreover, let him who performs this penance stoop to the washing of their feet; and let them celebrate for the said
penitent on that day as many masses as with their utmost industry they are able to prepare, and in the time of these masses let absolution be given to him; and then let him take the Eucharist, unless by his too great guilt he is so hindered that he may not yet receive it. Let him promise, nevertheless, that for the future he will perform, as far as he is able, the will of God, and avoid, by the help of God, all injustice, so long as he lives, and that he will rightly hold, perpetually and above all things, the truth of Christian doctrine, and reject heathenism altogether."
- This is for the great men, and those who have a multitude of friends, but it is not given to the poor man to proceed thus. It is necessary, therefore, to exact the whole more strongly from himself, and this truly is most just, that every one should for himself pay the penalty of his iniquities, and studiously submit to his correction; for it is written that every one shall bear his own burden."
(App., Note 156.) This code of King Edgar-drawn up by Archbishop Dunstan, and set forth by the royal authorityexhibits a very curious compound. It differs greatly from the present doctrine of Rome on several points of serious importance. That auricular confession and priestly absolution must precede, in all cases, the reception of the Eucharist; that penance is a sacrament; that the priest, in the tribunal of penance, represents the Lord Jesus Christ; that his sentence conveys absolution as though the Saviour himself had spoken; that the penitent may be absolved before his penitence is performed ; that both penitent and priest are under the obligation of secrecy; that the confession is addressed not only to God, but also to the Virgin and the saints : all these are quite foreign from the notions of Dunstan, and even in the tenth century were nowhere to be found in Christendom. But the penance, for the most part, was still dictated by the priests in subjection to the ancient canons; and a very large advance was made toward the modern
system in the commutation of penance and in the inquisition of the priests, by which they were told to "extort” the guilt of the penitent.
The progress of change, however, was constantly in the same direction, until the Church was gradually brought to the point, when the Council of Lateran felt able to legislate away every trace of the ancient system which could stand in the road of papal despotism. On this, therefore, I shall enter in the next chapter.
FOURTH COUNCIL OF LATERAN. THOMAS AQUINAS.
HITHERTO, during successive ages of gross ignorance and darkness, the progress of priestly corruption and despotism had gradually gone forward toward the desired point of absolute authority. This was the empire which the pope and the clergy conceived they had a right to claim over the laity. It was their practical idea of the kingdom of Christ. T'he true spiritual government of the Lord in the hearts of mankind, was resolved into the unresisted reign of the papal hierarchy. And to the proposed end, the Word of God, the primitive discipline, and the doctrine of the fathers, were all forced to bend, until the victory was supposed to be achieved, and the priest was believed to be clothed with little less than the powers of deity.
To crown the enterprise with entire success, the fourth Council of Lateran was convened by Pope Innocent III., A.D. 1215, the great object of which was