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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 15 — The Jesuits

Chapter 6 — The "secret instructions" of the Jesuits

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SO far we have traced the enrollment and training of that mighty army which Loyola had called into existence for the conquest of Protestantism. Their leader, who was quite as much the shrewd calculator as the fiery fanatic, took care before sending his soldiers into the field to provide them with armor, every way fitted for the combatants they were to meet, and the campaign they were to wage. The war in which they were to be occupied was one against right and truth, against knowledge and liberty, and where could weapons be found for the successful prosecution of a conflict like this, save in the old-established arsenal of sophisms The schoolmen, those Vulcans of the Middle Ages, had forged these weapons with the hammers of their speculation on the anvil of their subtlety, and having made them sharp of edge, and given them an incomparable flexibility, they stored them up, and kept them in reserve against the great coming day of battle. To this armory Loyola, and the chiefs that succeeded him in command, had recourse. But not content with these weapons as the schoolmen had left them, the Jesuit doctors put them back again into the fire; they kept them in a furnace, heated seven times, till every particle of the dross of right and truth that cleaved to them had been tmrged out, and they had acquired a flexibility absolutely and altogether perfect, and a keenness of edge unattained before, and were now deemed every way fit for the hands that were to wield them, and every way worthy of the cause in which they were to be drawn. So attempered, they could cut through shield and helmet, through body and soul of the foe.

Let us survey the soldier of Loyola, as he stands in the complete and perfect panoply his General has provided him with. How admirably harnessed for the battle he is to fight! He has his "loins girt about with" mental and verbal equivocation; he has "on the breast-plate of" probabilism; his "feet are shod with the preparation of the" Secret Instruction. "Above all, taking the shield of" intention, and rightly handling it, he is "able to quench all the fiery darts of" human remorse and Divine threatenings. He takes "for an helmet the hope of" Paradise, which has been most surely promised him as the reward of his services; and in his hand he grasps the two-edged sword of a fiery fanaticism, wherewith he is able to cut his way, with prodigious bravery, through truth and righteousness. [1] Verily, the man who has to sustain the onset of soldiers like these, and parry the thrusts of their weapons, had need to be mindful of the ancient admonition, "Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

Shrewd, practical, and precise are the instructions of the Jesuits. First of all they are told to select the best points in that great field, all of which they are in due time to subjugate and possess. That field is Christendom. They are to begin by establishing convents, or colleges, in the chief cities. The great centers of population and wealth secured, the smaller places will be easily occupied.

Should any one ask on what errand the good Fathers have come, they are instructed to make answer that their "sole object is the salvation of souls." What a pious errand! Who would not strive to be the first to welcome to their houses, and to seat at their tables, men whose aims are so unselfish and heavenly? They are to be careful to maintain a humble and submissive deportment; they are to pay frequent visits to the hospitals, the sick-chamber, and the prisons. They are to make great show of charity, and as they have nothing of their own to give to the poor, they are "to go far and near" to receive even the "smallest atoms." These good deeds will not lose their reward if only they take care not to do them in secret. Men will begin to speak of them and say, What a humble, pious, charitable order of men these Fathers of the Society of Jesus are! How unlike the Franciscans and Dominicans, who were want to care for the sick and the poor, but have now forgotten the virtues of a former tune, and are grown proud, indolent, luxurious, and rich! Thus the "new-comers," the Instructions hint, will supplant the other and older orders, and will receive "the respect and reverence of the best and most eminent in the neighborhood." [2]

Further, they are enjoined to conduct themselves very deferentially towards the parochial clergy, and not to perform any sacred function till first they have piously and submissively asked the bishop's leave. This will secure their good graces, and dispose the secular clergy to protect them; but by-and-by, when they have ingratiated themselves with the people, they may abate somewhat of this subserviency to the clergy.

The individual Jesuit takes a vow of poverty, but the society takes no such vow, and is qualified to hold property to any amount. Therefore, while seeking the salvation of souls, the members are carefully to note the rich men in the community. They must find out who own the estates in the neighborhood, and what are their yearly values. They are to secure these estates by gift, if possible; if not, by purchase. When it happens that they "get anything that is considerable, let the purchase be made under a strange name, by some of our friends, that our poverty may still seem the greater." [3] And let our provincial "assign such revenues to some other colleges, more remote, that neither prince nor people may discover anything of our profits" [4] –a device that combines many advantages. Every day their acres will increase, nevertheless their apparent poverty will be as great as ever, and

the flow of benefactions and legacies to supply it will remain undiminished, although the sea into which all these rivers run will never be full.

Among the multifarious duties laid upon the Jesuits, special prominence was given to the instruction of youth. It was by this arm that they achieved their most brilliant success. "Whisper it sweetly in their [the people's] ears, that they are come to catechise the children gratis." [5] Wherever the Jesuits came they opened schools, and gathered the youth around them; but despite their zeal in the work of education, knowledge somehow did not increase. The intellect refused to expand and the genius to open under their tutelage. Kingdoms like Poland, where they became the privileged and only instructors of youth, instead of taking a higher place in the commonwealth of letters, fell back into mental decrepitude, and lost their rank in the community of nations. The Jesuits communicated to their pupils little besides a knowledge of Latin. History, philosophy, and science were sealed books. They initiated their disciples into the mysteries of probabilism, and the art of directing the intention, and the youth trained in these paths, when old did not depart from them. They dwarfed the intellect and narrowed the understanding, but they gained their end. They stamped anew the Roman impress upon many of the countries of Europe.

The second chapter of the Instructions is entitled "What must be done to get the ear and intimacy of great men?" To stand well with monarchs and princes is, of course, a matter of such importance that no stone is to be left unturned to attain it. The Instructions here, as we should expect them to be, are full and precise. The members of the Society of Jesus are first of all to imbue princes and great men with the belief that they cannot dispense with their aid if they would maintain the pomp of their State, and the government of their realms. Should princes be filled with a conceit of their own wisdom, the Fathers must find some way of dispelling this egregious delusion. They are to surround them with confessors chosen from their society; but by no means are they to bear hard on the consciences of their royal penitents. They must treat them "sweetly and pleasantly," oftener administering opiates than irritants. They are to study their humors, and if, in the matter of marriage, they should be inclined–as often happens with princes–to contract alliance with their own kindred, they are to smooth their way, by hinting at a dispensation from the Pope, or finding some palliative for the sin from the pharmacopoeia of their theology. They may tell them that such marriages, though forbidden to the commonalty, are sometimes allowed to princes, "for the greater glory of God." [6] If a monarch is bent on some enterprise–a war, for example–the issue of which is doubtful, they are to be at pains so to shape their counsel in the matter, that if the affair succeeds they shall have all the praise, and if it fails, the blame shall rest with the king alone. And, lastly, when a vacancy occurs near the throne, they are to take care that the empty post shall be filled by one of the tried friends of the society, of whom they are enjoined to have, at all times, a list in their possession. It may be well, in order still more to advance their interests at courts, to undertake embassies at times.

This will enable them to draw the affairs of Europe into their own hands, and to make princes feel that they are indispensable to them, by showing them what an influence they wield at the courts of other sovereigns, and especially how great their power is at that of Rome. Small services and trifling presents they are by no means to overlook. Such things go a great way in opening the hearts of princes. Be sure, say the Instructions, to paint the men whom the prince dislikes in the same colors in which his jealousy and hatred teach him to view them. Moreover, if the prince is unmarried, it will be a rare stroke of policy to choose a wife for him from among the beautiful and noble ladies known to their society. "This is seen," say the Instructions, "by experience in the House of Austria: and in the Kingdoms of Poland and France, and in many other principalities." [7]

"We must endeavor," say the Instructions, with remarkable plainness, but in the belief, doubtless, that the words would meet the faithful eyes of the members of the Society of Jesus only– "We must endeavor to breed dissension among great men, and raise seditions, or anything a prince would have us to do to please him. If one who is chief Minister of State to a monarch who is our friend oppose us, and that prince cast his whole favors upon him, so as to add titles to his honor, we must present ourselves before him, and court him in the highest degree, as well by visits as all humble respect." [8]

Having specified the arts by which princes may be managed, the Instructions next prescribe certain methods for turning to account others "of great authority in the commonwealth, that by their credit we obtain profit and preferment." "If," say the Instructions, [9] "these lords be seculars, we ought to have recourse to their aid and friendship against our adversaries, and to their favor in our own suits, and those of our friends, and to their authority and power in the purchase of houses, manors, and gardens, and of stones to build with, especially in those places that will not endure to hear of our settling in them, because the authority of these lords serveth very much for the appeasing of the populace, and making our ill-willers quiet."

Nor are they less sedulously to make court to the bishops. Their authority –great

everywhere–is especially so in some kingdoms, "as in Germany, Poland, and France;" and, the bishops conciliated, they may expect to obtain a gift of "new-erected churches, altars, monasteries, foundations, and in some cases the benefices of the secular priests and canons, with the preferable right of preaching in all the great towns." And when bishops so befriend them, they are to be taught that there is no less profit than merit in the deed; inasmuch as, done to the Order of Jesus, they are sure to be repaid with most substantial services; whereas, done to the other orders, they will have nothing in return for their pains "but a song." [10]

To love their neighbor, and speak well of him, while they held themselves in lowly estimation, was not one of the failings of the Jesuits. Their own virtues they were to proclaim as loudly as they did the faults of their brother monks. Their Instructions commanded them to "imprint upon the spirits of those princes who love us, that our order is more perfect than all other orders." They are to supplant their rivals, by telling monarchs that no wisdom is competent to counsel in the affairs of State but "ours," and that if they wish to make their realms resplendent with knowledge, they must surrender the schools to Jesuit teachers. They are especially to exhort princes that they owe it as a duty to God to consult them in the distribution of honors and emoluments, and in all appointments to places of importance. Further, they are ever to have a list in their possession of the names of all persons in authority and power throughout Christendom, in order that they may change or continue them fit their several posts, as may be expedient. But so covertly must this delicate business be gone about, that their hand must not be seen in it, nor must it once be suspected that the change comes from them?

While slowly and steadily climbing up to the control of kings, and the government of kingdoms, they are to study great modesty of demeanor and simplicity of life. The pride must be worn in the heart, not on the brow; and the foot must be set down softly that is to be planted at last on the neck of monarchs. "Let ours that are in the service of princes," say the Instructions, "keep but a very little money, and a few movables, contenting themselves with a little chamber, modestly keeping company with persons in humble station; and so being in good esteem, they ought prudently to persuade princes to do nothing without their counsel, whether it be in spiritual or temporal affairs." [11]


Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 19th, 2018
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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