Freedom verse Despotism

Of all the people of Europe, none were more brave than the Hollanders. To an unparalleled degree they were tenacious of liberty, both in things civil and in things religious. From time to time during their history they had wrested valuable charters of freedom from their masters. These had been won at great cost of blood and treasure, and at all times their owners showed a disposition to cling to them firmly. From the earliest days of their history, sovereignty had resided in the great assembly of the people, and this same assembly elected the village magistrates, and decided upon all matters of great importance. The government may have been a fierce democracy, but it was a democracy nevertheless.

At length, however, Holland fell under the rule of Spain; and with the advent to the throne of Charles V. of Reformation fame, ill times began for the little land. This monarch made continued effort to drain their treasure, and to hamper their industry. He hated their ancient and dearly bought civil liberties, and did all in his power to restrict and overthrow them. The Netherlands at this time were divided into seventeen distinct and separate provinces; but this prince was determined to construct them into one kingdom, in order that he might rule them the more effectually with the iron hand of absolutism.

His hand it was that planted the Inquisition in the Netherlands. For reading the Scriptures, for looking irreverently at a graven image, for even daring to hint that the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ was not present in the consecrated wafer, from fifty to one hundred thousand Dutch perished according to his edicts. Well has Motley said that his “name deserves to be handed down to eternal infamy, not only throughout the Netherlands, but in every land where a single heart beats for political or religious freedom.”

But even in this life his crimes went not unpunished. “While he was preparing to crush, forever, the Protestant Church, with the arms which a bench of bishops were forging, lo, the rapid and desperate Maurice, with long red beard streaming like a meteor in the wind, dashing through the mountain passes, at the head of his lancers-arguments more convincing than all the dogmas of Granville! Disguised as an old woman, the emperor had attempted, on the 6th of April, to escape in a peasant’s wagon from Innspruck into Flanders. Saved for the time by the mediation of Ferdinand, he had, a few weeks later, after his troops had been defeated by Maurice at Fussen, again fled at midnight of the 22nd of May, 1555, almost unattended, sick in body and soul, in the midst of thunder, lightning, and rain, along the difficult Alpine passes from Innspruck into Carinthia.” Sad end indeed was this to all his greatness. Sick and tired of life, on the 25th of October, 1555, he abdicated the throne, and went to spend the rest of his life within the walls of a monastery. “This was a fitting end for a monarch who all his life had been false as water, who never possessed a lofty thought, or entertained a noble or generous sentiment.”

He was succeeded in Spain and the Netherlands by Philip II, who married Bloody Mary of England. The tastes of these two certainly ran in the same direction. “To maintain the supremacy of the Church seemed to both of them the main object of existence; to execute unbelievers, the most sacred duty imposed by the Deity upon anointed princes; to convert their kingdom into a hell, the surest means of winning heaven for themselves.” Philip hated the Christian heretic with a more venemous hatred than any of his ancestors had ever manifested toward Jew or Moor. Yet in spite of all this pretended piety, he was so grossly licentious that his liaisons are the scandal of the annals of his state.

For national and popular rights he had a loathing which he never attempted to disguise. For the people itself,—“that vile and mischievous animal called the people,”—as far as their inalienable rights were concerned he entertained a most supreme contempt. It was during his reign that the great struggle for freedom in the Netherlands broke out. “It was a great episode,—the longest, the darkest, the bloodiest, the most important episode in the history of the religious reformation in Europe.” Spain was determined to put the Netherlands in a quarantine so effective that the religious pest of Protestantism should find no entrance. In the Netherlands the scaffold had many victims, but the numbers of its converts were few indeed. In that land there were men and women who dared and suffered much for conscience’ sake. They were not fanatics. “For them all was terrible reality. The emperor and his edicts were realities; the ax, the stake, were realities; and the heroism with which men took each other by the hand and walked into the flames, or with which women sang a song of triumph while the grave-digger was shoveling the earth upon their living faces, was a reality also.”

Immediately after the accession of Philip, the terrible edict of 1550 was re-enacted. From this notable document an idea of Spain’s methods of governing her colonies may be gathered:—

“No one shall print, write, copy, keep, conceal, sell, buy, or give in churches, streets, or other places, any book or writing made by Martin Luther, John Ecolampadius, Ulrich Zwinglius, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, or other heretics reprobated by the holy church; … nor break, or otherwise injure the images of the Holy Virgin or canonized saints; … nor in his house hold conventicles, or illegal gatherings, or be present at any such in which the adherents of the above-mentioned heretics teach, baptize, and form conspiracies against the holy church and the general welfare…. Moreover, we forbid all persons to converse or dispute concerning the Holy Scriptures, openly or secretly, especially on any doubtful or difficult matters, or to read, teach, or expound the Scriptures unless they have duly studied theology, and been approved by some renowned university; … or to preach secretly, or openly, or to entertain any of the opinions of the above-mentioned heretics; … on pain, should any be found to have contravened any of the points above mentioned, as perturbers of the state and of the general quiet, to be punished in the following manner: that such perturbators of the general quiet are to be executed; to wit, the men with the sword, and the women to be buried alive, if they do not persist in their errors; if they do persist in them, then they are to be executed with fire; all their property in both cases to be confiscated to the crown.”

“Thus, the clemency of the sovereign permitted the repentant heretic to be beheaded or buried alive, instead of being burned.”

All who in any way helped the heretic were in danger of, and liable to, the same punishment; for said the decree:—

“We forbid all persons to lodge, entertain, furnish with food, fire, or clothing, or otherwise to favor any one holden or notoriously suspected of being a heretic; … and any one failing to denounce any such, we ordain shall be liable to the above-mentioned punishments.” The edict went on to provide “that if any person, being not convicted of heresy or error, but greatly suspected thereof, and therefore condemned by the spiritual judge to abjure such heresy, or by the secular magistrate to make public fine or reparation, shall again become suspected or tainted with heresy-although it should not appear that he has contravened or violated any one of our abovementioned commands-nevertheless we do will and ordain that such person shall be considered as relapsed, and, as such, be punished with loss of life and property, without any hope of moderation or mitigation of the above-mentioned penalties.”

And it was further decreed “that the spiritual judges desiring to proceed against any one for the crime of heresy shall request any of our sovereign courts or provincial councils to appoint any one of their college, or such other adjunct as the council shall select, to preside over the proceedings to be instituted against the suspected. All who know of any persons tainted with heresy are required to denounce them and give them up to all judges, officers of the bishops, or others having authority on the premises, on pain of being punished according to the pleasure of the judge. Likewise, all shall be obliged, who know of any place where such heretics keep themselves, to declare them to the authorities, on pain of being held as accomplices, and punished as such heretics themselves would be punished if apprehended.”

In order to bring about the greatest number of arrests by means the most base, and by that which appeals powerfully to the most sordid attributes of our natures, it was further decreed that the informer, in the case of conviction, should be entitled to one half the property of the accused, if not more than one hundred pounds Flemish; if more, then ten per cent of all such excesses.

Treachery to friends, brothers, and sisters was encouraged by a provision “that if any man being present at any secret conventicle shall afterwards come forward and betray his fellow members of the congregation, he shall receive full pardon.”

Nor was this any mere fanatical decree for the purpose of inspiring terror, for the sovereign continued to ordain:—

“To the end that the judges and officers may have no reason, under pretext that the penalties are too great and heavy, and only devised to terrify delinquents, to punish them less severely than they deserve-that the punished be really punished by the penalties above declared; forbidding all judges to alter or moderate the penalties in any manner; forbidding any one, of whatsoever condition, to ask of us, or of any one having authority, to grant pardon, or to present any petition in favor of such heretics, exiles, or fugitives, on penalty of being declared forever incapable of civil and military office, and of being arbitrarily punished besides.”

Such was one of the most famous decrees, having for its main object the trampling into the dust the religious and civil rights and liberties of the people of Holland. It would almost seem that if the archfiend himself had set about it to create a more awful ordinance, he would have paled before the magnitude of the task. And it can never be said that this was done in the Dark Ages, and that the monarch was the only creature of the times in which he lived. It was done during the days when the Renaissance and the Reformation were at their height. It was done during an age in which men were supposed to have come out of darkness into great and marvelous light. And to make the whole transaction the more horrible, it was ordered and decreed that this edict should be published forever, once in every six months, in every city, and in every village of the Netherlands. And this by a monarch who said of himself that he had always, “from the beginning of his government, followed the path of clemency, according to his natural disposition, so well known to all the world.”

And now the Inquisition was set in motion as the instrument whereby this decree should be carried into effect. It has been well said that, however classified or entitled, the Inquisition was only a machine for inquiring into a man’s thoughts, and for burning him if the result was not satisfactory. The Inquisition was that part of the church which caused the savages of India and America to shudder and turn chill at the very name of Christianity.

Squid Game Common Good

Author: Adventist Angels Watchman Radio

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