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Mary had the satisfaction of burning ninety-four heretics in the course of that year in England alone.
237. Apologists of the Inquisition.—Some writers, who discuss history philosophically-which meanswhitewashing cruel tyrants and monstrous institutions — the learned divines in scratch wigs and the courtly historiographers in flowing periwigs, have endeavoured to whitewash the Inquisition. It was an institution, they say, necessary in its day to preserve the purity of religion; an argument not worth answering, it is so absurd. No man, and no aggregation of men—though it call itself “the Church”—has any inherent right to call any man to account for his religious belief: it is a matter of conscience no tribunal is competent to meddle with. Then the apologists of the Inquisition further say, that the Inquisitors were more fanatical than cruel. This, again, is false. No man, who was not cruel, could have inflicted the sufferings inflicted on their fellow-men by the Inquisitors. The pity they pretended to feel for their victims, and the anxiety they displayed for the welfare of the souls of those they sacrified to their ambition and greed—for their victims generally possessed means, which the Inquisition confiscated—were even more wicked than the cruelties they practised. The Spanish Inquisitors and monks were infamous hypocrites, and not fanatics. The morality of fanatics usually is above reproach; but no men ever were more debauched, more filthy, more corrupt than Spanish Inquisitors, monks, and the priesthood in general. In 1556 the public voice of Spain accused certain priests of using the confessional for immoral purposes. Paul IV. ordered the Inquisition to investigate the matter. The denunciations were so numerous, that the Inquisitors, fearing too great a scandal, had to renounce the prosecution of the delinquent priests; and, no doubt, they had a fellowfeeling for them! And I cannot help agreeing with Hoffmann, the latest historian of the Inquisition, when he says, that the modern apologists of that tribunal must be even more bloodthirsty than the Inquisitors were, for with the latter the fierce religious fanaticism of their age in some degree palliated their inhumanity: to defend it in this age shows a real tiger nature.
“There is great abundance of chaff and straw to the grain, but the grain is good, and as we do not eat either the chaff or straw, if we can avoid it, nor even the raw grain, but thrash and winnow it, and grind it and bake it, we find it, after undergoing this process, not only very palatable, but a special dainty of its kind. But the husk is an unsurmountable obstacle to those learned and educated gentlemen who judge of books entirely by the style and grammar, and who eat grain as it grows, like the cattle.”-Rev. J. SMITH.
“In our day men are only too much disposed to regard the views of the disciples and followers of the Arabian school, and of the late Alchymists, respecting transmutation of metals, as a mere hallucination of the human mind, and, strangely enough, to lament it. But the idea of the variable and changeable corresponds with universal experience, and always precedes that of the unchangeable.”—LIEBIG.
The alchymist he had his gorgeous vision
Of boundless wealth and everlasting youth;
To turn his fancies into glorious truth,
Condemning without reason, without ruth,
238. Astrology perhaps Secret Heresy.—The mystic astronomy of ancient nations produced judicial astrology, which, considered from this point of view, will appear less absurd. It was the principal study of the Middle Ages; and Rome was so violently opposed to it because, perhaps, it was not only heresy, but a wide-spread reaction against the Church of Rome. It was chiefly cultivated by the Jews, and protected by princes opposed to the papal supremacy.
The Church was not satisfied with burning the books, but burned the writers; and the poor astrologers, who spent their lives in the contemplation of the heavens, mostly perished at the stake.
239. Process by which Astrology degenerated.—As it often happens that the latest disciples attach themselves to the letter, understanding literally what in the first instance was only a fiction, taking the mask for a real face, so we may suppose astrology to have degenerated and become false and puerile. Hermes, the legislator of Egypt, who was revealed in the Samothracian mysteries, and often represented with a ram by his side—a constellation initiating the new course of the equinoctial sun, the conqueror of darkness-was revived