Page images
PDF
EPUB

and sovereigns of christendom, Clovis alone was orthodox. “The Franks were the chosen champions of Catholicism, and amply was their gallantry repaid by the church, which vindicated all their aggression upon innocent neighboring kingdoms, and aided in every way the consolidation of their formidable power. “The French monarch received the title, “Most Christian Majesty,’ and ‘Eldest Son of the Church.” Later, during the days of Pepin, the pope himself visited France, and in the monastery of St. Denis, placed the diadem on Pepin, anointing his head with oil in the name of the Lord, making him King by divine right: and truly has the historian Michlet said, “This monarchy of Pepin, founded by the priests, was devoted to the priests.” “The result of the reign of the so-called ‘best people' of the earth was simply the worst oppression, the fiercest despotism, and the most terrible hammering that was ever put upon any people by any power on the earth. For this was a despotism over both body and soul, and demonstrated itself to be simply an unmitigated curse, politically, socially and morally.” Id. p. 21, par. 2. This was a church kingdom which ruled the kings of earth. At the anathemas of the Pope, the proudest monarchs of Europe trembled and grew pale. Witness King Henry IV. of Germany, making his way over the Alps in the cold of winter unprotected, to seek reconciliation with the Pope whom he had offended; and when he arrived at Rome, he was told that the Pope was at Cannosa, visiting a widow, a friend of his. Then to Cannosa, King Henry went, there he stood three days in the cold, barefoot with head uncovered. To the questions, “Are you not cold 7" “Yes, I am very cold.” “Have you no shoes, no hat, etc.?” “Yes, I have a jeweled crown, jeweled shoes and many rich robes.” “Why do you not wear them?” “The Pope is angry with me.” “Well, who are you?” “I am King Henry of Germany.” “But man, why do you not call your servants, and why do you not command your armies?” “My servants will not come at my call, and my armies will not obey me. They believe that the Pope has all power on earth above all kings and that he can punish whom he will, in this present world, not only that, they believe also that he holds the keys to the world to come, that he has all power over heaven and hell, that he can open and shut these for whomsoever he will.” By assuming to recognize the power absolute of the Pope, Henry obtained reconciliation. This one instance serves to illustrate the fact that all Europe was filled with these ideas of the absolute power of the visible church. That the thinking principle in man can be thrust down, dragged, pinioned there by obscure tyrannies of fatality, that it can be bound by no one knows what fetters in that abyss, is sufficient to create consternation. Yet such was the conquest of the human mind during the “Dark Ages.” Let us, who now live in the blazing light of the noonday sun, place ourselves by imagination in that day, and hear the cry, Alas: will no one come to the succor of the human soul in that darkness? Will she forever summon in vain the lance of light of the ideal? Is she condemned to hear the fearful approach of Evil through the density of the gulf, and to catch glimpses, nearer and nearer, beneath the hideous water, of that dragon's head, that mane streaked with foam, and that writhing undulation of claws, swellings and rings? Must it remain there, without a gleam of light, without a hope, given over to that terrible approach, shuddering, wringing its arms forever, chained to the rock of night, naked amid the shadows? Will not the truth, the daylight of the soul come? Is she destined to await forever the mind, the liberator, the combatant or hero of the dawn, who shall descend from the azure between two wings, the radiant knight of the future. In the darkness of that night, behold, John Huss on bended knees, his arms outstretched to heaven, imploringly inquiring: Is that the church established by the Master, while here on earth? Is that the way he meant when he sent forth his army of schoolmasters, that they should do and teach 2 To John Huss the light came: his mind was directed to the Scriptures in reply to that question. Is that the church of the Bible? The description given in the Bible of that church, is, “the man of Sin,” “the son of perdition,” “the mystery of iniquity,” that wicked “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” and “the beast” that would “wear out the saints of the Most High.” “John Huss thought that the Pope would be glad to know the truth and he went to Rome, to tell it to him, but instead of gladly receiving the message, he caused Huss to be put in prison. Later, he was condemned to be burned at the stake because he taught that the Roman Catholic church is not the church of the Bible. Huss, in the dungeon, in chains, just before his death, dreamed that certain persons had resolved to destroy in the night, all the pictures of Christ that were on the walls of Bethlehem chapel, in Prague, where he used to preach; and that, indeed, they did destroy them. “But the next day many painters were engaged in drawing more pictures, and more beautiful ones, than were there before; upon which Huss gazed in rapture. When the painters had finished, they turned to the company of people who were looking on, and said, ‘Now, let the bishops and priests come and destroy these pictures.’ “And a great multitude of people joyed over it; and Huss rejoiced with them. And in the midst of the laughter and rejoicing he awoke. “There were no real pictures of Christ on the walls of Bethlehem Chapel. There were inscribed only the Ten Commandments, The Lord's Prayer, and single verses of precious scripture. “Of the dream, Huss said, ‘I hope that the life of Christ which, by my preaching in Bethlehem, has been transcribed upon the hearts of men, and which they meant to destroy there, first, by forbidding preaching in the chapels and in Bethlehem; next by tearing down Bethlehem itself, that this life of Christ shall be better transcribed by a greater number of better preachers than I am; to the joy of the people who love the life of Christ. Over which I shall rejoice when I am awake; that is, rise from the dead.’

“And as he stood at the stake, made fast to it by a chain, he said, ‘It is thus that you silence the goose *; but a hundred years hence there will arise a swan whose singing you shall not be able to silence.’ “Matthias of Janow, as he was dying, said to his sorrowing friends: “The rage of the enemies of the truth now prevails against us; but it will not be forever. There shall arise one from among the common people, without sword or authority, and against him they shall not be able to prevail.” The hundred years passed. And then came from among the Monks, the “swan” of Huss, the one from “the common people” of Matthias, Martin Luther. It was on July 6, 1416, that John Huss was burned at the stake. “On the morning of October 31, 1517, the Elector Frederick of Saxony in his Castle Schweinitz, about eighteen miles from Wittemberg, related to his brother, Duke John, and his chancellor, the following experience: The Elector—“Brother, I must tell you a dream which I had last night, the meaning of which I should like much to know. It is so deeply impressed on my mind, that I will never forget it were I to live a thousand years. For I dreamed it thrice and each time with new circumstances.” Duke John—“Is it a good or a bad dream?” The Elector—“I know not; God knows.” Duke John—“Don’t be uneasy about it, but be so good as to tell it to me.” The Elector—“Having gone to bed last night, fatigued and out of spirits, I fell asleep shortly after my prayer, and

* The word “Huss” in the Bohemian language is equivalent to goose.

« PreviousContinue »