possible, every member of it from committing 
enormous crimes, or even from giving occasion 
to such gross scandal as might disgust 
the minds of the people. 
In the state in which things were, through 
the greater part of Europe, during the tenth, 
eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, and 
for some time both before and after that period
the constitution of the church of Rome 
may be considered as the must formidable 
combination that ever was formed against the 
authority and security of civil government, as 
well as against the liberty, reason, and happiness 
of mankind, which can flourish only 
where civil government is able to protect 
them. In that constitution, the grossest delusions 
of superstition were supported in such 
a manner by the private interests of so great 
a number of people, as put them out of all 
danger from any assault of human reason
because, though human reason might, perhaps, 
have been able to unveil, even to the 
eyes of the common people, some of the delusions 
of superstition, it could never have dissolved 
the ties of private interest. Had this 
constitution been attacked by no other enemies 
but the feeble efforts of human reason
it must have endured for ever. But that immense 
and well-built fabric, which all the 
wisdom and virtue of man could never have 
shaken, much less have overturned, was, by 
the natural course of things, first weakened
and afterwards in part destroyed; and is 
now likely, in the course of a few centuries 
more, perhaps, to crumble into ruins altogether. 
The gradual improvements of arts, manufactures, 
and commerce, the same causes which 
destroyed the power of the grant barons, destroyed
in the same manner, through the 
greater part of Europe, the whole temporal 
power of the clergy. In the produce of arts
manufactures, and commerce, the clergy, like 
the great barons, found something for which 
they could exchange their rude produce, and 
thereby discovered the means of spending their 
whole revenues upon their own persons, without 
giving any considerable share of them to 
other people. Their charity became gradually 
less extensive, their hospitality less liberal
or less profuse. Their retainers became 
consequently less numerous, and, by degrees
dwindled away altogether. The clergy, too, 
like the great barons, wished to get a better 
rent from their landed estates, in order to spend 
it, in the same manner, upon the gratification 
of their own private vanity and folly. But 
this increase of rent could be got only by 
granting leases to their tenants, who thereby 
became, in a great measure, independent of 
them. The ties of interest, which bound the 
inferior ranks of people to the clergy, were in 
this manner gradually broken and dissolved
They were even broken and dissolved sooner 
than those which bound the same ranks of 
people to the great barons; because the benefices 
of the church being, the greater part of 
them, much smaller than the estates of the 
great barons, the possessor of each benefice 
was much sooner able to spend the whole of 
its revenue upon his own person. During 
the greater part of the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries, the power of the great barons was, 
through the greater part of Europe, in full 
vigour. But the temporal power of the clergy
the absolute command which they had once 
had over the great body of the people was 
very much decayed. The power of the church 
was, by that time, very nearly reduced, through 
the greater part of Europe, to what arose 
from their spiritual authority; and even that 
spiritual authority was much weakened, when 
it ceased to be supported by the charity and 
hospitality of the clergy. The inferior ranks 
of people no longer looked upon that order as 
they had done before; as the comforters of 
their distress, and the relievers of their indigence
On the contrary, they were provoked 
and disgusted by the vanity, luxury, and expense 
of the richer clergy, who appeared to 
spend upon their own pleasures what had always 
before been regarded as the patrimony 
of the poor. 
In this situation of things, the sovereigns 
in the different states of Europe endeavoured 
to recover the influence which they had once 
had in the disposal of the great benefices of 
the church; by procuring to the deans and 
chapters of each diocese the restoration of 
their ancient right of electing the bishop; and 
to the monks of each abbacy that of electing the 
abbot. The reestablishing this ancient order 
was the object of several statutes enacted in 
England during the course of the fourteenth 
century, particularly of what is called the statute 
of provisors; and of the pragmatic sanction
established in France in the fifteenth century
In order to render the election valid, it 
was necessary that the sovereign should both 
consent to it before hand, and afterwards approve 
of the person elected; and though the 
election was still supposed to be free, he had, 
however all the indirect means which his situation 
necessarily afforded him, of influencing the 
clergy in his own dominions. Other regulations, 
of a similar tendency, were established 
in other parts of Europe. But the power of 
the pope, in the collation of the great benefices 
of the church, seems, before the reformation
to have been nowhere so effectually 
and so universally restrained as in France and 
England. The concordat afterwards, in the 
sixteenth century, gave to the kings of France 
the absolute right of presenting to all the 
great, or what are called the consistorial, benefices 
of the Gallican church
Since the establishment of the pragmatic 
sanction and of the concordat, the clergy of 
France have, in general shewn less respect to 
the decrees of the papal court, than the