Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter XLVII

Of the Benefit that Proceedeth from Such Darkness, and to Whom It Accrueth

CICERO maketh honourable mention of one of the Cassii, a severe judge amongst the Romans, for a custom he had in criminal causes, when the testimony of the witnesses was not sufficient, to ask the accusers, cui bono; that is to say, what profit, honour, or other contentment the accused obtained or expected by the fact. For amongst presumptions, there is none that so evidently declareth the author as doth the benefit of the action. By the same rule I intend in this place to examine who they may be that have possessed the people so long in this part of Christendom with these doctrines contrary to the peaceable societies of mankind.

And first, to this error that the present Church, now militant on earth, is the kingdom of God (that is, the kingdom of glory, or the land of promise; not the kingdom of grace, which is but a promise of the land), are annexed these worldly benefits: first, that the pastors and teachers of the Church are entitled thereby, as God's public ministers, to a right of governing the Church; and consequently, because the Church and Commonwealth are the same persons, to be rectors and governors of the Commonwealth. By this title it is that the Pope prevailed with the subjects of all Christian princes to believe that to disobey him was to disobey Christ himself; and in all differences between him and other princes (charmed with the word power spiritual) to abandon their lawful sovereigns; which is in effect a universal monarchy over all Christendom. For though they were first invested in the right of being supreme teachers of Christian doctrine, by and under Christian emperors within the limits of the Roman Empire (as is acknowledged by themselves), by the title of Pontifex Maximus, who was an officer subject to the civil state; yet after the Empire was divided and dissolved, it was not hard to obtrude upon the people already subject to them, another title, namely, the right of St. Peter; not only to save entire their pretended power, but also to extend the same over the same Christian provinces, though no more united in the Empire of Rome. This benefit of a universal monarchy, considering the desire of men to bear rule, is a sufficient presumption that the Popes that pretended to it, and for a long time enjoyed it, were the authors of the doctrine by which it was obtained; namely, that the Church now on earth is the kingdom of Christ. For that granted, it must be understood that Christ hath some lieutenant amongst us by whom we are to be told what are his commandments.

After that certain Churches had renounced this universal power of the Pope, one would expect, in reason, that the civil sovereigns in all those Churches should have recovered so much of it as (before they had unadvisedly let it go) was their own right and in their own hands. And in England it was so in effect; saving that they by whom the kings administered the government of religion, by maintaining their employment to be in God's right, seemed to usurp, if not a supremacy, yet an independency on the civil power: and they but seemed to usurp it, inasmuch as they acknowledged a right in the king to deprive them of the exercise of their functions at his pleasure.

But in those places where the presbytery took that office, though many other doctrines of the Church of Rome were forbidden to be taught; yet this doctrine, that the kingdom of Christ is already come, and that it began at the resurrection of our Saviour, was still retained. But cui bono? What profit did they expect from it? The same which the popes expected: to have a sovereign power over the people. For what is it for men to excommunicate their lawful king, but to keep him from all places of God's public service in his own kingdom; and with force to resist him when he with force endeavoureth to correct them? Or what is it, without authority from the civil sovereign, to excommunicate any person, but to take from him his lawful liberty, that is, to usurp an unlawful power over their brethren? The authors therefore of this darkness in religion are the Roman and the Presbyterian clergy.

To this head, I refer also all those doctrines that serve them to keep the possession of this spiritual sovereignty after it is gotten. As first, that the Pope, in his public capacity, cannot err. For who is there that, believing this to be true, will not readily obey him in whatsoever he commands?

Secondly, that all other bishops, in what Commonwealth soever, have not their right, neither immediately from God, nor mediately from their civil sovereigns, but from the Pope, is a doctrine by which there comes to be in every Christian Commonwealth many potent men (for so are Bishops) that have their dependence on the Pope, owe obedience to him, though he be a foreign prince; by which means he is able, as he hath done many times, to raise a civil war against the state that submits not itself to be governed according to his pleasure and interest.

Thirdly, the exemption of these and of all other priests, and of all monks and friars, from the power of the civil laws. For by this means, there is a great part of every Commonwealth that enjoy the benefit of the laws and are protected by the power of the civil state, which nevertheless pay no part of the public expense; nor are liable to the penalties, as other subjects, due to their crimes; and, consequently, stand not in fear of any man, but the Pope; and adhere to him only, to uphold his universal monarchy.

Fourthly, the giving to their priests (which is no more in the New Testament but presbyters, that is, elders) the name of sacerdotes, that is, sacrificers, which was the title of the civil sovereign, and his public ministers, amongst the Jews, whilst God was their king. Also, the making the Lord's Supper a sacrifice serveth to make the people believe the Pope hath the same power over all Christians that Moses and Aaron had over the Jews; that is to say, all power, both civil and ecclesiastical, as the high priest then had.

Fifthly, the teaching that matrimony is a sacrament giveth to the clergy the judging of the lawfulness of marriages; and thereby, of what children are legitimate; and consequently, of the right of succession to hereditary kingdoms.

Sixthly, the denial of marriage to priests serveth to assure this power of the Pope over kings. For if a king be a priest, he cannot marry and transmit his kingdom to his posterity; if he be not a priest, then the Pope pretendeth this authority ecclesiastical over him, and over his people.

Seventhly, from auricular confession they obtain, for the assurance of their power, better intelligence of the designs of princes and great persons in the civil state than these can have of the designs of the state ecclesiastical.

Eighthly, by the canonization of saints, and declaring who are martyrs, they assure their power in that they induce simple men into an obstinacy against the laws and commands of their civil sovereigns, even to death, if by the Pope's excommunication they be declared heretics or enemies to the Church; that is, as they interpret it, to the Pope.

Ninthly, they assure the same, by the power they ascribe to every priest of making Christ; and by the power of ordaining penance, and of remitting and retaining of sins.

Tenthly, by the doctrine of purgatory, of justification by external works, and of indulgences, the clergy is enriched.

Eleventhly, by their demonology, and the use of exorcism, and other things appertaining thereto, they keep, or think they keep, the people more in awe of their power.

Lastly, the metaphysics, ethics, and politics of Aristotle, the frivolous distinctions, barbarous terms, and obscure language of the Schoolmen, taught in the universities (which have been all erected and regulated by the Pope's authority), serve them to keep these errors from being detected, and to make men mistake the ignis fatuus of vain philosophy for the light of the Gospel.

To these, if they sufficed not, might be added other of their dark doctrines, the profit whereof redoundeth manifestly to the setting up of an unlawful power over the lawful sovereigns of Christian people; or for the sustaining of the same when it is set up; or to the worldly riches, honour, and authority of those that sustain it. And therefore by the aforesaid rule of cui bono, we may justly pronounce for the authors of all this spiritual darkness, the Pope, and Roman clergy, and all those besides that endeavour to settle in the minds of men this erroneous doctrine, that the Church now on earth is that kingdom of God mentioned in the Old and New Testament.

But the emperors, and other Christian sovereigns, under whose government these errors and the like encroachments of ecclesiastics upon their office at first crept in, to the disturbance of their possessions and of the tranquillity of their subjects, though they suffered the same for want of foresight of the sequel, and of insight into the designs of their teachers, may nevertheless be esteemed accessaries to their own and the public damage. For without their authority there could at first no seditious doctrine have been publicly preached. I say they might have hindered the same in the beginning: but when the people were once possessed by those spiritual men, there was no human remedy to be applied that any man could invent. And for the remedies that God should provide, who never faileth in His good time to destroy all the machinations of men against the truth, we are to attend His good pleasure that suffereth many times the prosperity of His enemies, together with their ambition, to grow to such a height as the violence thereof openeth the eyes, which the wariness of their predecessors had before sealed up, and makes men by too much grasping let go all, as Peter's net was broken by the struggling of too great a multitude of fishes; whereas the impatience of those that strive to resist such encroachment, before their subjects' eyes were opened, did but increase the power they resisted. I do not therefore blame the Emperor Frederick for holding the stirrup to our countryman Pope Adrian; for such was the disposition of his subjects then, as if he had not done it, he was not likely to have succeeded in the empire. But I blame those that, in the beginning, when their power was entire, by suffering such doctrines to be forged in the universities of their own dominions, have held the stirrup to all the succeeding popes, whilst they mounted into the thrones of all Christian sovereigns, to ride and tire both them and their people, at their pleasure.

But as the inventions of men are woven, so also are they ravelled out; the way is the same, but the order is inverted. The web begins at the first elements of power, which are wisdom, humility, sincerity, and other virtues of the Apostles, whom the people, converted, obeyed out of reverence, not by obligation. Their consciences were free, and their words and actions subject to none but the civil power. Afterwards the presbyters, as the flocks of Christ increased, assembling to consider what they should teach, and thereby obliging themselves to teach nothing against the decrees of their assemblies, made it to be thought the people were thereby obliged to follow their doctrine, and, when they refused, refused to keep them company (that was then called excommunication), not as being infidels, but as being disobedient: and this was the first knot upon their liberty. And the number of presbyters increasing, the presbyters of the chief city or province got themselves an authority over the parochial presbyters, and appropriated to themselves the names of bishops: and this was a second knot on Christian liberty. Lastly, the bishop of Rome, in regard of the Imperial City, took upon him an authority (partly by the wills of the emperors themselves, and by the title of Pontifex Maximus, and at last when the emperors were grown weak, by the privileges of St. Peter) over all other bishops of the Empire: which was the third and last knot, and the whole synthesis and construction of the pontifical power.

And therefore the analysis or resolution is by the same way, but beginneth with the knot that was last tied; as we may see in the dissolution of the preterpolitical Church government in England. First, the power of the popes was dissolved totally by Queen Elizabeth; and the bishops, who before exercised their functions in right of the Pope, did afterwards exercise the same in right of the Queen and her successors; though by retaining the phrase of jure divino they were thought to demand it by immediate right from God: and so was untied the first knot. After this, the Presbyterians lately in England obtained the putting down of Episcopacy: and so was the second knot dissolved. And almost at the same time, the power was taken also from the Presbyterians: and so we are reduced to the independency of the primitive Christians to follow Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos, every man as he liketh best: which if it be without contention, and without measuring the doctrine of Christ by our affection to the person of his minister (the fault which the Apostle reprehended in the Corinthians), is perhaps the best: first, because there ought to be no power over the consciences of men, but of the word itself, working faith in every one, not always according to the purpose of them that plant and water, but of God Himself, that giveth the increase. And secondly, because it is unreasonable in them, who teach there is such danger in every little error, to require of a man endued with reason of his own to follow the reason of any other man, or of the most voices of many other men, which is little better than to venture his salvation at cross and pile. Nor ought those teachers to be displeased with this loss of their ancient authority: for there is none should know better than they that power is preserved by the same virtues by which it is acquired; that is to say, by wisdom, humility, clearness of doctrine, and sincerity of conversation; and not by suppression of the natural sciences, and of the morality of natural reason; nor by obscure language; nor by arrogating to themselves more knowledge than they make appear; nor by pious frauds; nor by such other faults as in the pastors of God's Church are not only faults, but also scandals, apt to make men stumble one time or other upon the suppression of their authority.

But after this doctrine, that the Church now militant is the kingdom of God spoken of in the Old and New Testament, was received in the world, the ambition and canvassing for the offices that belong thereunto, and especially for that great office of being Christ's lieutenant, and the pomp of them that obtained therein the principal public charges, became by degrees so evident that they lost the inward reverence due to the pastoral function: insomuch as the wisest men of them that had any power in the civil state needed nothing but the authority of their princes to deny them any further obedience. For, from the time that the Bishop of Rome had gotten to be acknowledged for bishop universal, by pretence of succession to St. Peter, their whole hierarchy, or kingdom of darkness, may be compared not unfitly to the kingdom of fairies; that is, to the old wives' fables in England concerning ghosts and spirits, and the feats they play in the night. And if a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof: for so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power.

The language also which they use, both in the churches and in their public acts, being Latin, which is not commonly used by any nation now in the world, what is it but the ghost of the old Roman language?

The fairies in what nation soever they converse have but one universal king, which some poets of ours call King Oberon; but the Scripture calls Beelzebub, prince of demons. The ecclesiastics likewise, in whose dominions soever they be found, acknowledge but one universal king, the Pope.

The ecclesiastics are spiritual men and ghostly fathers. The fairies are spirits and ghosts. Fairies and ghosts inhabit darkness, solitudes, and graves. The ecclesiastics walk in obscurity of doctrine, in monasteries, churches, and churchyards.

The ecclesiastics have their cathedral churches, which, in what town soever they be erected, by virtue of holy water, and certain charms called exorcisms, have the power to make those towns, cities, that is to say, seats of empire. The fairies also have their enchanted castles, and certain gigantic ghosts, that domineer over the regions round about them.

The fairies are not to be seized on, and brought to answer for the hurt they do. So also the ecclesiastics vanish away from the tribunals of civil justice.

The ecclesiastics take from young men the use of reason, by certain charms compounded of metaphysics, and miracles, and traditions, and abused Scripture, whereby they are good for nothing else but to execute what they command them. The fairies likewise are said to take young children out of their cradles, and to change them into natural fools, which common people do therefore call elves, and are apt to mischief.

In what shop or operatory the fairies make their enchantment, the old wives have not determined. But the operatories of the clergy are well enough known to be the universities, that received their discipline from authority pontifical.

When the fairies are displeased with anybody, they are said to send their elves to pinch them. The ecclesiastics, when they are displeased with any civil state, make also their elves, that is, superstitious, enchanted subjects, to pinch their princes, by preaching sedition; or one prince, enchanted with promises, to pinch another.

The fairies marry not; but there be amongst them incubi that have copulation with flesh and blood. The priests also marry not.

The ecclesiastics take the cream of the land, by donations of ignorant men that stand in awe of them, and by tithes: so also it is in the fable of fairies, that they enter into the dairies, and feast upon the cream, which they skim from the milk.

What kind of money is current in the kingdom of fairies is not recorded in the story. But the ecclesiastics in their receipts accept of the same money that we do; though when they are to make any payment, it is in canonizations, indulgences, and masses.

To this and such like resemblances between the papacy and the kingdom of fairies may be added this, that as the fairies have no existence but in the fancies of ignorant people, rising from the traditions of old wives or old poets: so the spiritual power of the Pope (without the bounds of his own civil dominion) consisteth only in the fear that seduced people stand in of their excommunications, upon hearing of false miracles, false traditions, and false interpretations of the Scripture.

It was not therefore a very difficult matter for Henry the Eighth by his exorcism; nor for Queen Elizabeth by hers, to cast them out. But who knows that this spirit of Rome, now gone out, and walking by missions through the dry places of China, Japan, and the Indies, that yield him little fruit, may not return; or rather, an assembly of spirits worse than he enter and inhabit this clean-swept house, and make the end thereof worse than the beginning? For it is not the Roman clergy only that pretends the kingdom of God to be of this world, and thereby to have a power therein, distinct from that of the civil state. And this is all I had a design to say, concerning the doctrine of the POLITICS. Which, when I have reviewed, I shall willingly expose it to the censure of my country.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38