Page 1417

1417 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

Tresorier pronounces a glowing eulogium

on the character of Saladin, and William

of Tyre praises Noureddin in a strain of

equal commendation. It is evident that by

the close of the thirteenth century the opinions of that part of Christendom which had

come into actual contact with Islam had

undergone a radical change. There are

not wanting Christian writers of the epoch

who go to the length of drawing unfavorable

comparisons between the manners, customs,

and institutions of their own people in the

West and those of the more refined Mohammedans. The historical treatises and letters of the later Crusaders are thus found to

express sentiments and opinions which would

have been horrifying in the last degree to

the contemporaries of Godfrey and Baldwin.

It will be seen, then, that the general

tendency of the Crusade was, so far as ideas

and beliefs were concerned, in the direction

of the emancipation of the human mind.

Though the Holy Wars were begun under

the impulse of religious fanaticism, though

they were continued for the express purpose

of making religious zeal the criterion of

human character and conduct, yet year by

year the despotic sway of that fanaticism and

zeal was loosened and the mind set free in

wider fields of activity. The change of place

and scene had a marvelous effect upon the

rude imaginations and confined beliefs of the

Crusaders. They saw Rome, the mother of

mysteries. They saw Constantinople, the

wonder of two continents. They saw Jerusalem, and found it only a Syrian town hallowed by nothing save its associations. They

observed the riches and elegant manners of

the Moslems, and thus by degrees were

weaned from the dominion of those ideas

which had impelled them to take the Cross.

As to the Papal Church, the influence of

the Crusades was more baleful than beneficial.

There is no doubt that the ambition of

Gregory was sincere; nor are we at liberty to

suppose that Urban II. was actuated by

other than a true zeal for the honor of the

Cross. But the Holy Wars had not long continued until the Popes discovered in the situation a vast source of profit to themselves

and the Church. The principle of a monetary equivalent for military service was admitted, and it became the custom with the

Crusaders to pay into the papal treasury

large sums as a satisfaction for unfulfilled

vows. This usage, if not the actual beginning, was at least the powerful excitant and

auxiliary of the sale of indulgences by the

Church. The principle of buying exemption

from military service was extended to other

classes of service and duty; and the plan of

purchasing the removal of penalties, both

past and prospective, became almost universally prevalent.

Another fatal consequence flowing to the

Church from the Crusades was the subsequent

misdirection of the zeal and fanaticism which

she had evoked against the Infidels. When

papal Europe ceased to agitate against the

Moslems, it became a question with the Popes

to what end the forces which had been expending themselves in warfare with the Turks and remain there in gluttony all day and all night,

eating and drinking as beasts that have no reason,

and wit not when they have enough.

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