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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 15 — The Jesuits

Chapter 8 — Diffusion of the Jesuits throughout christendom

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The Conflict Great–the Arms Sufficient–The Victory Sure–Set Free from Episcopal Jurisdiction–Acceptance in Italy–Venice–Spain– Portugal–Francis Xavier–France–Germany–Their First Planting in Austria–In Cologne and Ingolstadt–Thence Spread over all Germany– Their Schools–Wearing of Crosses–Revival of the Popish Faith.

THE soldiers of Loyola are about to go forth. Before beginning the campaign we see their chief assembling them and pointing out the field on which their prowess is to be displayed. The nations of Christendom are in revolt: it will be theirs to subjugate them, and lay them once more, bound in chains, at the feet of the Papal See. They must not faint; the arms he has provided them with are amply sufficient for the arduous warfare on which he sends them. Clad in that armor, and wielding it in the way he has shown them, they will expel knowledge as night chases away the day. Liberty will die wherever their foot shall tread. And in the ancient darkness they will be able to rear again the fallen throne of the great Hierarch of Rome. But if the service is hard, the wages will be ample. As the saviors of that throne they will be greater than it. And though meanwhile their work is to be done in great show of humility and poverty, the silver and the gold of Christendom will in the end be theirs; they will be the lords of its lands and palaces, the masters of the bodies and the souls of its inhabitants, and nothing of all that the heart can desire will be withholden from them if only they will obey him.

The Jesuits rapidly multiplied, and we are now to follow them in their peregrinations over Europe. Going forth in little bands, animated with an entire devotion to their General, schooled in all the arts which could help to further their mission, they planted themselves in a few years in all the countries of Christendom, and made their presence felt in the turning of the tide of Protestantism, which till then had been on the flow.

There was no disguise they could not assume, and therefore there was no place into which they could not penetrate. They could enter unheard the closet of the monarch, or the cabinet of the statesman. They could sit unseen in Convocation or General Assembly, and mingle unsuspected in the deliberations and debates. There was no tongue they could not speak, and no creed they could not profess, and thus there was no people among whom they might not sojourn, and no Church whose membership they might not enter, and whose fimctions they might not discharge. They could execrate the Pope with the Lutheran, and swear the Solemn League with the Covenanter. They had their men of learning and eloquence for the halls of nobles and the courts of kings; their men of science and letters for the education of youth; their unpolished but ready orators to harangue the crowd; and their plain, unlettered monks, to visit the cottages of the peasantry and the workshops of the artisan. "I know these men," said Joseph II of Austria, writing to Choiseul, the Prime Minister of Louis XV– "I know these men as well as any one can do: all the schemes they have carried on, and the pains they have taken to spread darkness over the earth, as well as their efforts to rule and embroil Europe from Cape Finisterre to Spitzbergen! In China they were mandarins; in France, academicians, courtiers, and confessors; in Spain and Portugal, grandees; and in Paraguay, kings. Had not my grand-uncle, Joseph I, become emperor, we had in all probability seen in Germany, too, a Malagrida or an Alvieros."

In order that they might be at liberty to visit what city and diocese they pleased, they were exempted from episcopal jurisdiction. They could come and go at their pleasure, and perform all their functions without having to render account to any one save to their superior. This arrangement was resisted at first by certain prelates; but it was universally conceded at last, and it greatly facilitated the wide and rapid diffusion of the Jesuit corps.

Extraordinary success attended their first efforts throughout all Italy. Designed for the common people, the order found equal acceptance from princes and nobles. In Parma the highest families submitted themselves to the "Spiritual Exercises." In Venice, Lainez expounded the Gospel of St. John to a congregation of nobles; and in 1542 a Jesuits' college was founded in that city. The citizens of Montepulciano accompanied Francisco Strada through the streets begging. Their chief knocked at the doors, and his followers received the alms. In Faenza, they succeeded in arresting the Protestant movement, which had been commenced by the eloquent Bernardino Ochino, and by the machinery of schools and societies for the relief of the poor, they brought back the population to the Papacy. These are but a few instances out of many of their popularity and success. [1]

In the countries of Spain and Portugal their success was even greater than in Italy. A son of the soil, its founder had breathed a spirit into the order which spread among the Spaniards like an infection. Some of the highest grandees enrolled themselves in its ranks. In the province of Valencia, the multitudes that flocked to hear the Jesuit preacher, Araoz, were such that no cathedral could contain them, and a pulpit was erected for him in the open air. From the city of Salamanca, where in 1548 they had opened their establishment in a small, wretched house, the Jesuits spread themselves over all Spain. Two members of the society were sent to the King of Portugal, at his own request: the one he retained as his confessor, the other he dispatched to the East Indies. This was that Francis Xavier who there gained for himself, says Ranke, "the name of an apostle, and the glory of a saint." At the courts of Madrid and Lisbon they soon acquired

immense influence. They were the confessors of the nobles and the counselors of the monarch.

The Jesuits found it more difficult to force their way into France. Much they wished to found a college in that city where their first vow had been recorded, but every attempt was met by the determined opposition of the Parliament and the clergy, who were jealous of their enormous privileges.

The wars between the Guises and the Huguenots at length opened a door for them. Lainez, who by this time had become their General, saw his opportunity, and in 1561 succeeded in effecting his object, although on condition of renouncing the peculiar privileges of the order, and submitting to episcopal jurisdiction. "The promise was made, but with a mental reservation, which removed the necessity of keeping it." [2] They immediately founded a college in Paris, opened schools–which were taught by clever teachers–and planted Jesuit seminaries at Avignon, Rhodes, Lyons, and other places. Their intrigues kept the nation divided, and much inflamed the fury of the civil wars. Henry III was massacred by an agent of theirs: they next attempted the life of Henry IV. This crime led to their first banishment from France, in 1594; but soon they crept back into the kingdom in the guise of traders and operatives. They were at last openly admitted by the monarch–a service which they repaid by slaughtering him in the streets of his capital. Under their rule France continued to bleed and agonize, to plunge from woe into crime, and from crime into woe, till the crowning wickedness of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes laid the country prostrate; and it lay quiet for more than half a century, till, recovering somewhat from its exhaustion, it lifted itself up, only to encounter the terrible blow of its great Revolution.

We turn to Germany. Here it was that the Church of Rome had suffered her first great losses, and here, under the arms of the Jesuits, was she destined to make a beginning of those victories which recovered not a little of the ground she had lost. A generation had passed away since the rise of Protestantism. It is the year 1550: the sons of the men who had gathered round Luther occupy the stage when the van of this great invading host makes its appearance. They come in silence; they are plain in their attire, humble and submissive in their deportment; but behind them are the stakes and scaffolds of the persecutor, and the armies of France and Spain. Their quiet words find their terrible reverberations in those awful tempests of war which for thirty years desolated Germany.

Ferdinand I of Austria, reflecting on the decay into which Roman Catholic feeling had fallen in Germany, sent to Ignatius Loyola for a few zealous teachers to instruct the youth of his dominions. In 1551, thirteen Jesuits, including Le Jay, arrived at Vienna. They were provided with pensions, placed in the university chairs, and crept upwards till they seized the entire direction of that seminary. From that hour date the crimes and misfortunes of the House of Austria. [3]

A little colony of the disciples of Loyola had, before this, planted itself at Cologne. It was not till some years that they took root in that city; but the initial difficulties surmounted, they began to effect a change in public sentiment, which went on till Cologne became, as it is sometimes called, the "Rome of the North." About the same time, the Jesuits became flourishing in Ingolstadt. They had been driven away on their first entrance into that university seat, the professors dreading them as rivals; but in 1556 they were recalled, and soon rose to influence, as was to be expected in a city where the memory of Dr. Eck was still fresh. Their battles, less noisy than his, were fated to accomplish much more for the Papacy.

From these three centres–Vienna, Cologne, and Ingolstadt–the Jesuits extended themselves over all Germany. They established colleges in the chief zities for the sons of princes and nobles, and they opened schools in town and village for the instruction of the lower classes. From Vienna they distributed their colonies throughout the Austrian dominions. They had schools in the Tyrol and the cities at the foot of its mountains. From Prague they ramified over Bohemia, and penetrated into Hungary. Their colleges at Ingolstadt and Munich gave them the possession of Bavaria, Franconia, and Swabia. From Cologne they extended their convents and schools over Rhenish Prussia, and, planting a college at Spires, they counteracted the influence of Heidelberg University, then the resort of the most learned men of the German nation.

Wherever the Jesuits came, there was quickly seen a manifest revival of the Popish faith. In the short space of ten years, their establishments had become flourishing in all the countries in which they were planted. Their system of education was adapted to all classes. While they studied the exact sciences, and strove to rival the most renowned of the Protestant professors, and so draw the higher youth into their schools, they compiled admirable catechisms for the use of the poor. They especially excelled as teachers of Latin; and so great was their zeal and their success, that "even Protestants removed their children from distant schools, to place them under the care of the Jesuits." [4]

The teachers seldom failed to inspire the youth in their schools with their own devotion to the Popish faith. The sons of Protestant fathers were drawn to confession, and by-and-by into general conformity to Popish practices. Food which the Church had forbidden they would not touch on the interdicted days, although it was being freely used by the other members of the family. They began, too, to distinguish themselves by the use of Popish symbols. The wearing of crosses and rosaries is recorded by Ranke as one of the first signs of the setting of the tide toward Rome.

Forgotten rites

began to be revived; relics which had been thrown aside buried in darkness, were sought out and exhibited to the public gaze. The old virtue returned into rotten bones, and the holiness of faded garments flourished anew. The saints of the Church came out in bold relief, while those of the Bible receded into the distance. The light of candles replaced the Word of Life in the temples; the newest fashions of worship were imported from Italy, and music and architecture in the style of the Restoration were called in to reinforce the movement. Customs which had not been witnessed since the days of their grandfathers, began to receive the reverent observance of the new generation. "In the year 1560, the youth of Ingolstadt belonging to the Jesuit school walked, two and two, on a pilgrimage to Eichstadt, in order to be strengthened for their confirmation by the dew that dropped from the tomb of St. Walpurgis." [5] The modes of though and feeling thus implanted in the schools were, by means of preaching and confession, propagated through the whole population.

While the Jesuits were busy in the seminaries, the Pope operated powerfully in the political sphere. He had recourse to various arts to gain over the princes. Duke Albert V of Bavaria had a grant made him of one-tenth of the property of the clergy. This riveted his decision on the side of Rome, and he now set himself with earnest zeal and marked success to restore, in its ancient purity and rigor, the Popery of his territories. The Jesuits lauded the piety of the duke, who was a second Josias, a new Theodosius. [6]

The Popes saw clearly that they could never hope to restore the ancient discipline and rule of their Church without the help of the temporal sovereigns. Besides Duke Albert, who so powerfully contributed to re-establish the sway of Rome over all Bavaria, the ecclesiastical princes, who governed so large a part of Germany, threw themselves heartily into the work of restoration. The Jesuit Canisins, a man of blameless life, of consummate address, and whose great zeal was regulated by an equal prudence, was sent to counsel and guide them. Under his management they accepted provisionally the edicts of the Council of Trent. They required of all professors in colleges subscription to a confession of the Popish faith.

They exacted the same pledge from ordinary schoolmasters and medical practitioners. In many parts of Germany no one could follow a profession till first he had given public proof of his orthodoxy. Bishops were required to exercise a more vigilant superintendence of their clergy than they had done these twenty years past. The Protestant preachers were banished; and in some parts the entire Protestant population was driven out. The Protestant nobles were forbidden to appear at court. Many withdrew into retirement, but others purchased their way back by a renunciation of their faith. By these and similar arts Protestantism was conquered on what may be regarded as its native soil. If not wholly rooted up it maintained henceforward but a languishing existence; its leaf faded and its fruit died in the mephitic air around it, while Romanism shot up in fresh strength and robustness. A whole century of calamity followed the entrance of the Jesuits into Germany. The troubles they excited culminated at last in the Thirty Years' War. For the space of a generation the thunder of battle continued to roll over the Fatherland. But the God of their fathers had not forsaken the Germans; it pleased him to summon from the distant Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, and by his arm to save the remnants of Protestant liberty in that country. Thus the Jesuits failed in their design of subjugating the whole of Germany, and had to content themselves with dominating over those portions, unhappily large, of which the ecclesiastical princes had given them possession at the first.

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