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discountenanced by the judges; and, whether for or against character, it offers a strong temptation to perjury.
But these compurgators were not always, as we have already seen, free from personal danger, should they have embarked ia a losing cause. By the law of Burgundy, whoever were the witnesses of one who fell when tried by the wager of battle were fined, lest, as the law states, the crime of many offenders might be supposed expiable by the death of one.
This system of requiring the oath of the principal to be confirmed by his friends, or followers, pervaded many of the transactions, both of public and of private life*. Thus, after the Emperor, Henry the Fifth, and Pope Pascal had interchanged oaths, the Pope pledging himself not to anathematize Henry, and Henry binding himself to give a safe conduct to the Pope and his party, fifteen cardinals, and other dignitaries and earls, swear in confirmation of the Pope's oath, and eleven bishops and earls bind themselves by that of the Emperor-)-. This covenant was confirmed by their participation of the sacrifice of the mass. The Pope received the consecrated elements first himself, and subsequently (after giving the sacrament to the
* Heineccius, Elem. Jur. Germ, cccxiv.
ministers of the altar,) he administered it to the Emperor in these words:—" This body of the Lord, which holy church preserves, born of the Virgin Mary, and raised upon the cross for the redemption of mankind, we give to thee, dearest son, for the remission of thy sins, and for the preservation of the peace to be confirmed, and of true friendship between me and thee, and the kingdom and the priesthood."
A practice very analogous to the form then observed by Pope Pascal is still retained in some Protestant collegiate bodies, before the election of their superior. A doubt may be fairly entertained whether the circumstance of that solemn appeal to Heaven has practically the effect intended, by securing a better election. I can, however, entertain no doubt, that the feelings of uncertainty, of disappointment, or of exultation, or rivalry, or anger, which must sometimes be attendants upon such an election, and which a very advanced state of Christian feeling and spirit is required to banish altogether from the breast at those times, mark out the hour of a contested election as the time least fitted for an attendance at the Communion of the Lord of Peace and Love. Some, I know, are men of such heavenly temperament, that no feelings of the kind would be suffered to disturb their Christian frame of mind, and unfit them for that holy sacrifice. But those men are few; to the generality it would spread a snare.
This practice, however, of receiving the Sacrament as an oath was very common. The usual form of words spoken by the individual who thus appealed to Heaven was, "May the body of the Lord be my witness to-day." History records too many instances of the shocking prostitution of that most holy rite, sanctioned not only by the highest authority of the Church of Rome in her commands, but by the personal example also of those who assumed to themselves the title of being infallible guides to Christendom. Thus Pope Adrian, about the year 870, called the young King Lotharius, and all his train, to receive the sacrament as a solemn oath, in words which it is quite revolting to our dearest religious associations with the sanctity and spiritual character of that holy ordinance to repeat:—" If thou hast abstained from intercourse with her who has been excommunicated by the Holy See, draw near with faith, and take the sacrament of eternal salvation for the forgiveness of your sins; but if not, dare not to approach." And, afterwards, he invited each of the followers present in the same manner, varying the words only to suit their case: "If thou hast not abetted Lotharius in this intercourse, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be profitable to thee to eternal life." A report was
industriously spread, that Lotharius and all his people, who, under these circumstances, took the sacrament, died; whilst even those, his abettors, who shuddered at the curse and withdrew, scarcely escaped with their lives*.
* Other instances of a similar proceeding are adduced by Du Cange, Art: "Eucharistia;" where see the authorities for this instance.
Puffevdorf supplies us with a good introduction to a Section on Ordeal Oaths. "As it is just and right," he says, "to pay the most religious reverence to oaths, so it is vain presumption to expect or desire that their truth or falsehood should be evinced by an immediate miracle; as if God were obliged to exercise his judicial office at the pleasure and humour of men. And yet this was a superstition which very much obtained of old, not only amongst the heathens, but in the ignorant and barbarous ages among Christians*."
Blackstone, with others of our writers, has given us the forms of trial by ordeal, and the oaths prescribed to the disputants. After expressing his astonishment at the folly and impiety evinced in such proceedings, he very justly says, that though in European countries, the custom most probably arose from an abuse of revealed religion, yet credulity and superstition will, in all ages, produce the same or similar effects. Various forms of such superstitious trials, closely resembling our ancient ordeal, are described as still extant in Candy, by the late Sir John
* Puffendorf, iv. 2.