personal liberty of every individual ecclesiastic who is upon good terms with

Personal liberty of every individual ecclesiastic who

This preview shows page 693 - 695 out of 836 pages.

personal liberty of every individual ecclesiastic who is upon good terms with his own order are, even in the most despotic governments, more re- spected than those of any other person of nearly equal rank and fortune. It is so in every gradation of despotism, from that of the gentle and mild government of Paris to that of the violent and furious government of Constantinople. But though this order of men can scarce ever be forced, they may be managed as easily as any other; and the security of the sov- ereign, as well as the public tranquillity, seems to depend very much upon the means which he has of managing them; and those means seem to consist altogether in the preferment which he has to bestow upon them. In the ancient constitution of the Christian church, the bishop of each diocese was elected by the joint votes of the clergy and of the people of the episcopal city. The people did not long retain their right of election; and while they did retain it, they almost always acted under the influ- ence of the clergy, who in such spiritual matters appeared to be their nat- ural guides. The clergy, however, soon grew weary of the trouble of managing them, and found it easier to elect their own bishops them- selves. The abbot, in the same manner, was elected by the monks of the monastery, at least in the greater part of the abbacies. All the inferior ec- clesiastical benefices comprehended within the diocese were collated by the bishop, who bestowed them upon such ecclesiastics as he thought proper. All church preferments were in this manner in the disposal of the church. The sovereign, though he might have some indirect influence in those elections, and though it was sometimes usual to ask both his con- sent to elect and his approbation of the election, yet had no direct or suf- ficient means of managing the clergy. The ambition of every clergyman naturally led him to pay court not so much to his sovereign as to his own order, from which only he could expect preferment. Through the greater part of Europe the Pope gradually drew to him- self first the collation of almost all bishoprics and abbacies, or of what were called Consistorial benefices, and afterwards, by various machina- tions and pretences, of the greater part of inferior benefices comprehen- ded within each diocese; little more being left to the bishop than what was barely necessary to give him a decent authority with his own clergy. By this arrangement the condition of the sovereign was still worse than it had been before. The clergy of all the different countries of Europe were thus formed into a sort of spiritual army, dispersed in different quarters, indeed, but of which all the movements and operations could now be 693
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directed by one head, and conducted upon one uniform plan. The clergy of each particular country might be considered as a particular detach- ment of that army, or which the operations could easily be supported and seconded by all the other detachments quartered in the different countries round about. Each detachment was not only independent of
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