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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Or the Society of Jesus; a famous religious order of the Romish Church, founded by Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish knight, in the sixteenth century. The plan which this fanatic formed of its constitution and laws, was suggested, as he gave out, by the immediate inspiration of Heaven. But, notwithstanding this high pretension, his design met at first with violent opposition. The pope, to whom Loyola had applied for the sanction of his authority to confirm the institution, referred his petition to a committee of cardinals. they represented the establishment to be unnecessary as well as dangerous, and Paul refused to grant his approbation of it. At last, Loyola removed all his scruples, by an offer which it was impossible for any pope to resist. He proposed, that besides the three vows of poverty, of chastity, and of monastic obedience, which are common to all the orders of regulars, the members of his society should take a fourth vow of obedience to the pope, binding themselves to go whithersoever he should command for the service of religion, and without requiring any thing from the holy see for their support.
At a time when the papal authority had received such a shock by the revolt of so many nations from the Romish church, at a time when every part of the popish system was attacked with so much violence and success, the acquisition of a body of men, thus peculiarly devoted to the see of Rome, and whom it might set in opposition to all its enemies, was an object of the highest consequence. Paul, instantly perceiving this, confirmed the institution of the Jesuits by his bull; granted the most ample privileges to the members of the society, and appointed Loyola to be the first general of the other. The event fully justified Paul's discernment in expecting such beneficial consequences to the see of Rome from this institution. In less than half a century the society obtained establishment in every country that adhered to the Roman Catholic church; its power and wealth increased amazingly; the number of its members became great; their character as well as accomplishments were still greater; and the Jesuits were celebrated by the friends and dreaded by the enemies of the Romish faith, as the most able and enterprising order in the church. 2. Jesuits, object of the order of.
The primary object of almost all the monastic orders is to separate men from the world, and from any concern in its affairs. In the solitude and silence of the cloister, the monk is called to work out his salvation by extraordinary acts of mortification and piety. He is dead to the world, and ought not to mingle in its transactions. He can be of no benefit to mankind but by his example and by his prayers. On the contrary, the Jesuits are taught to consider themselves as formed for action. They are chosen soldiers, bound to exert themselves continually in the service of God, and of the pope, his vicar on earth. Whatever tends to instruct the ignorant, whatever can be of use to reclaim or oppose the enemies of the holy see, is their proper object. That they may have full leisure for this active service, they are totally exempted from those functions, the performance of which is the chief business of other monks. They appear in no processions; they practise no rigorous austerities; they do not consume one half of their time in the repetition of tedious offices; but they are required to attend to all the transactions of the world on account of the influence which these may have upon religion: they are directed to study the dispositions of persons in high rank, and to cultivate their friendship; and, by the very constitution and genius of the order, a spirit of action and intrigue is infused into all its members. 3. Jesuits, peculiarities of their policy and government.
Other orders are to be considered as voluntary associations, in which, whatever affects the whole body, is regulated by the common suffrage of all its members. But Loyola, full of the ideas of implicit obedience, which he had derived from his military profession, appointed that the government of his order should be surely monarchical. A general chosen for life, by deputies from the several provinces, possessed power that was supreme and independent, extending to every person and to every case. To his commands they were required to yield not only outward obedience, but to resign up to him the inclinations of their own wills, and the sentiments of their own understandings. Such a singular form of policy could not fail to impress its character on all its members of the order, and to give a peculiar force to all its operations. There has not been, perhaps, in the annals of mankind, any example of such a perfect despotism exercised, not over monks shut up in the cells of a convent, but over men dispersed among all the nations of the earth. As the constitutions of the order vest in the general such absolute dominion over all its members, they carefully provide for his being perfectly informed with respect to the character and abilities of his subjects.
Every novice who offers himself as a candidate for entering into the order, is obliged to manifest his conscience to the superior, or a person appointed by him; and is required to confess not only his sins and defects, but to discover the inclinations, the passions, and the bent of the soul. This manifestation must be renewed every six months. Each member is directed to observe the words and actions of the novices, and are bound to disclose every thing of importance concerning them to the superior. In order that this scrutiny into their character may be as complete as possible, a long novitiate must expire, during which they pass through the several gradations of rank in the society; and they must have attained the full age of thirty-three years before they can be admitted to take the final vows by which they become professed members. By these various methods, the superiors under whose immediate inspection the novices are placed, acquire a thorough knowledge of their dispositions and talents; and the general, by examining the registers kept for this purpose, is enable to choose the instruments which his absolute power can employ in any service for which he thinks meet to destine them. 4. Jesuits, progress of the power and influence of.
As it was the professed intention of this order to labour with unwearied zeal in promoting the salvation of men, this engaged them, of course, in many active functions. From their first institution, they considered the education of youth as their peculiar province: they aimed at being spiritual guides and confessors; they preached frequently in order to instruct the people; they set out as missionaries to convert unbelieving nations. Before the expiration of the sixteenth century, they had obtained the chief direction of the education of youth in every Catholic country in Europe. they had become the confessors of almost all its monarchs' a function of no small importance in and reign, but, under a weak prince, superior to that of minister. They were the spiritual guides of almost every person eminent for rank or power; they possessed the highest degree of confidence and interest with the papal court, as the most zealous and able champions for its authority; they possessed, at different periods, the direction of the most considerable courts in Europe; they mingled in all affairs, and took part in every intrigue and revolution. But while they thus advanced in power, they increased also in wealth; various expedients were devised for eluding the obligation of the vow of poverty. Besides the sources of wealth common to all the regular clergy, the Jesuits possessed one which was peculiar to themselves.
Under the pretext of promoting the success of their missions, and of facilitating the support of their missionaries, they obtained a special license from the court of Rome, to trade with the nations which they laboured to convert: in consequence of this, they engaged in an extensive and lucrative commerce, both in the East and West Indies; they opened warehouses in different parts of Europe, in which they vended their commodities. Not satisfied with trade alone, they imitated the example of other commercial societies, and aimed at obtaining settlements. They acquired possession, accordingly, of the large and fertile province of Paraguay, which stretches across the southern continent of America, from the bottom of the mountains of Potosi to the confines of the Spanish and Portuguese settlements on the banks of the river De la Plata. Here, indeed, it must be confessed, they were of service: the found the inhabitants in a state little different from that which takes place among men when the first begin to unite together; stangers to the arts; subsisting precariously by hunting or fishing; and hardly acquainted with the first principles of subordination and government.
The Jesuits set themselves to instruct and civilize these savages: they taught them to cultivate the ground, build houses, and brought them to live together in villages, &c. They made them taste the sweets of society, and trained them to arts and manufactures. Such was their power over them, that a few Jesuits presided over some hundred thousand Indians. But even in this meritorious effort of the Jesuits for the good of mankind, the genius and spirit of their order was discernible: they plainly aimed at establishing in Paraguay an independent empire, subject to the society alone, and which, by the superior excellence of its constitution and police, could scarcely have failed to extend its dominion over all the southern continent of America. With this view, in order to prevent the Spaniards or Portuguese in the adjacent settlements from acquiring any dangerous influence over the people within the limits of the province subject to the society, the Jesuits endeavoured to inspire the Indians with hatred and contempt of these nations: they cut off all intercourse between their subjects and the Spanish or Portuguese settlements.
When they were obliged to admit any person in a public character from the neighbouring governments, they did not permit him to have any conversation with their subjects; and no Indian was allowed even to enter the house where these strangers resided, unless in the presence of a Jesuit. In order to render any communication between them as difficult as possible, they industriously avoided giving the Indians any knowledge of the Spanish or of any other European language; but encouraged the different tribes which they had civilized to acquire a certain dialect of the Indian tongue, and laboured to make that the universal language throughout their dominions. As all these precautions, without military force, would have been insufficient to have rendered their empire secure and permanent, they instructed their subjects in the European art of war, and formed them into bodies completely armed, and well disciplined. 5. Jesuits, pernicious effects of this order in civil society.
Though it must be confessed that the Jesuits cultivated the study of ancient literature, and contributed much towards the progress of polite learning; though they have produced eminent masters in every branch of science, and can boast of a number of ingenious authors; yet, unhappily for mankind, their vast influence has been often exerted with the most fatal effects. Such was the tendency of that discipline observed by the society in forming its members, and such the fundamental maxims in its constitution, that every Jesuit was taught to regard the interest of the order as the capital object to which every consideration was to be sacrificed. As the prosperity of the order was intimately connected with the preservation of the papal authority, the Jesuits, influenced by the same principle of attachment to the interest of their society, have been the most zealous patrons of those doctrines which tend to exalt ecclesiastical power on the ruins of civil government. They have attributed to the court of Rome a jurisdiction as extensive and absolute as was claimed by the most presumptuous pontiffs in the dark ages.
They have contended for the entire independence of ecclesiastics on the civil magistrates. They have published such tenets concerning the duty of opposing princes who were enemies of the Catholic faith, as countenanced the most atrocious crimes, and tended to dissolve all the ties which connect subjects with their rulers. As the order derived both reputation and authority from the zeal with which it stood forth in defense of the Romish church against the attacks of the reformers, its members, proud of this distinction, have considered it as their peculiar function to combat the opinions, and to check the progress of the Protestants. They have made use of every art, and have employed every weapon against them. They have set themselves in opposition to every gentle or tolerating measure in their favour. They have incessantly stirred up against them all the rage of ecclesiastical and civil persecution. Whoever recollects the events which have happened in Europe during two centuries, will find that the Jesuits may justly be considered as responsible for most of the pernicious effects arising from that corrupt and dangerous casuistry, from those extravagant tenets concerning ecclesiastical power, and from that intolerant spirit which have been the disgrace of the church of Rome throughout that period, and which have brought so many calamities upon society. 6. Jesuits, downfall in Europe.
Such were the laws, the policy, and the genius of this formidable order; of which, however, a perfect knowledge has only been attainable of late. Europe had observed, for two centuries, the ambition and power of the order; but while it felt many fatal effects of these, it could not fully discern the causes to which they were to be imputed. It was unacquainted with many of the singular regulations in the political constitution or government of the Jesuits, which formed the enterprising spirit of intrigue that distinguished its members, and elevated the body itself to such a height of power. It was a fundamental maxim with the Jesuits, from their first institution, not to publish the rules of their order: these they kept concealed as an impenetrable mystery. They never communicated them to strangers, nor even to the greater part of their own members: they refused to produce them when required by courts of justice; and by a strange solecism in policy, the civil power in different countries authorized or connived at the establishment of an order of men, whose constitution and laws were concealed with a solicitude which alone was a good reason for having excluded them. During the prosecutions which have been carried on against them in Portugal and France, the Jesuits have been so inconsiderate as to produce the mysterious volumes of their institute.
By the aid of these authentic records, the principles of their government may be delineated, and the sources of their power investigated, with a degree of certainty and precision which, previous to that event, it was impossible to attain. The pernicious effects of the spirit and constitution of this order rendered it early obnoxious to some of the principal powers in Europe, and gradually brought on its downfall. There is a remarkable passage in a sermon preached at Dublin by Archbishop Brown, so long ago as the year 1551, and which may be considered almost as prophetic. It is as follows: "But there are a new "fraternity of late sprung up who call "themselves Jesuits, which will deceive "many, much after the Scribes and "Pharisees' manner. Amongst the "Jews they shall strive to abolish the "truth, and shall come very near to do "it. For these sorts will turn them- "selves into several forms; with the "heathen, a heathenist; with the atheist "an atheist; with the Jews, a Jew; "with the reformers, a reformade, pur- "posely to know your intentions, your "minds, your hearts, and your inclina- "tions, and thereby bring you, at last, to "be like the fool that said in his heart, "there was no god.
These shall be "spread over the whole world, shall be "admitted into the councils of princes, "and they never the wiser; charming "of them, yea, making your princes "reveal their hearts, and the secrets "therein, and yet they not perceive it; "which will happen from falling from "the law of God, by neglect of fulfil- "ling the law of God, and by winking "at their sins; yet, in the end, God, to "justify his law, shall suddenly cut off "this society, even by the hands of "those who have most succoured them, "and made use of them; so that at the "end they shall become odious to all "nations. They shall be worse than "Jews, having no resting place upon "earth; and then shall a Jew have "more favour than a Jesuit." This singular passage seems to be accomplished. The emperor Charles V. saw it expedient to check their progress in his dominion: they were expelled England by proclamation 2 James I. in 1604; Venice in 1606; Portugal in 1759; France in 1764; Spain and Sicilly in 1767; and totally suppressed and abolished by Pope Clement XIV. in 1773. Enc. Brit. Mosheim's Ecc. Hist. Harlesian Misc. vol. 5: p. 566; Broughton's Dict.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Jesuits'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​cbd/​j/jesuits.html. 1802.