Thursday, August 10, 2017

A 14th Century "Screwtape" Letter

Some clever 14th century fellow wrote a 'letter' entitled, “Luciferi ad malos Principes Ecclesiasticos,” which purported to be a letter from Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, to the persecuting popish clergy, congratulating them on their work in suppressing the truth of God by attacking His servants. The letter was first published in Paris in Latin in the year 1385. The author is unknown. Attempts were made to father it upon Brute, but it predates his trial by enough time to make this highly unlikely. Earlier records associate it with Ockham. Only God knows who the author was. Presumably, the author wanted to stay alive, hence he kept his identity secret.

Indeed, this was not the only such letter. Another letter is mentioned in a correspondence of the University of Prague to Oxford, written around 1370 (meaning that the said 'letter from Satan' was older). 

Several other 'letters' are mentioned and/or alluded to in medieval histories and chronicles. In the 1608 edition of Illyricus' Catalogus Testium, we find an unusual account of a synod of the the clergy held in Paris in the year 1228. At this synod, the man appointed to preach was very nervous about what to say. According to the story, the devil approached the young preacher and asked why he was so worried about what to preach to the clergy. He said, “Tell them this: 'The princes of hell salute you, O you princes of the church! and gladly give you thanks, because through your default and negligence it cometh to pass, that almost all souls go down to hell.'” The story goes on to say that the preacher claimed to be under a strict divine obligation to tell them this and produced some sort of sign or token in order to convince the synod that he was not lying.

Whether such an event occurred or not, is beside the point. I mention it only to point out that the below anonymous “Letter from Lucifer to the Persecuting Clergy” is one of many in a long line of such criticisms aimed at Rome's wicked greed for money and her hypocritical cloaking of this wickedness under the guise of Christianity.

Below is the letter as transcribed by John Foxe in Book V of his Acts and Monuments.

I Lucifer, prince of darkness, emperor of the gloomy regions of profound Acheron, commander-in-chief of Erebus, king of the infernals, and governor of hell: To all the members of our kingdom, the children of pride; and especially to the princes of the modern church, whereof our adversary Jesus Christ by his prophet said, “I hate the congregation of the wicked:” — -health, and that you may ever obey our behests, and follow (as you have begun) the laws of Satan, and diligently observe the precepts of our code.

In times past the vicars of Christ, following his steps, and eminent for miracles and virtues, converted almost the whole world by their preaching and works from the yoke of our tyranny to their own doctrine and manner of life, to the great derision and contempt of our infernal kingdom, and also to the no little prejudice and injury of our authority; they not fearing to invade our power and to offend the terrific majesty of our estate. For thenceforth we received no tribute from the world, neither did the wretched people rush in crowds to the threshold of our dungeon, as they were wont to do; but the downward and broad road which leadeth to death was undisturbed by any sound, being untrod by the feet of wretched travellers: and our court being quite deserted, hell howled and groaned and was in anguish, at being thus spoiled.

This state of things the impatient rage of our Pluto and the dire recklessness of his commander-in-chief could no longer endure. I accordingly took measures to prevent the continuance of such perils, and devised a seasonable remedy. For in the room of those adversaries of ours, the prophets and the twelve apostles, and all the rest who followed Christ's doctrine and manner of life, we procured that you, the prelates of the modern church, should succeed; of whom Christ spake, when he said (Hosea viii.), “They reigned, but not by me.” We once, indeed, promised him all the kingdoms of the world if He would fall down and worship us: but He would not, saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He also fled, when the multitude would have made him a temporal king. But in you, who have fallen from a state of grace and are our ministers in the earth, that promise of ours is fulfilled; for it is through us and of us that you now hold that empire over the affairs of the world which we have conferred upon you. For He said of us (as you know), “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;” but over all the sons of pride He appointed us to reign. Therefore our adversaries aforesaid submitted to the princes of this world in temporals, and taught men so, saying, “Submit your selves to every creature for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme,” &c.; and again, “Obey them that are over you in the Lord.” For so had their Master propounded and commanded, saying, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors: but ye shall not be so.” And, as we said before, they lived in a poor and despised condition, in continual labours and afflictions, as we told you.

But you are not so: for a poison was long since poured out on the church; and now you are inflated; now you are not only unlike those early fathers, but clean contrary to them in life and conditions; and exalt yourselves above all others; and, taking complete possession of all tillings, you neither “render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's, nor to God the things which are God's.”

First, according to our decrees you exercise the jurisdiction of both swords; you intermeddle in mundane affairs; and, warring in our quarrel, you entangle yourselves with secular business. From the wretchedness of poverty you gradually climb to the highest honours and the most exalted dignities, by your cunning, policy, and wily tricks, by your hypocrisy, flattery, lies, perjury, frauds, simony, and other wickednesses, more abundant than our infernal fury could have conceived.

But to have gone even thus far, doth not suffice you: you are more greedy than before; you oppress the poor; you grasp at every thing; you turn all topsy-turvy; inflated with pride and living wantonly in carnal delights and enjoyments, you pass all your days amid good things; you assume high-sounding names in the earth, calling yourselves “gods,” and “holy,” yea “most holy.” You also either violently seize or craftily purloin and deceitfully wrest to false uses, and hold by a false title, those goods, which were anciently given for the support of Christ's poor, whom we hate; and you spend them on the uses agreeable to you. Therewith, for instance, you maintain crowds of whores and panders, with whom you go prancing about in state, like mighty princes, far otherwise than the poor priests of Christ in the primitive church. You also build delightful and gorgeous palaces. You eat dainty meats, and drink wines of exquisite delicacy and flavour. You amass untold treasures; unlike him who said, “Silver and gold have I none;” you have restored the Golden Age.

O society most agreeable to us demons, formerly promised to us by the prophet, and reprobated by the fathers of olden time, whilst Christ called you “the synagogue of Satan,” and marked you out under the designation of “The great whore, which committed fornication with the kings of the earth;” having from a mother become a step-mother; from the spouse of Christ, an adulteress; from a chaste woman, a strumpet. The breasts of your puberty are broken; you have left your first love, and have attached yourselves to us.

O our beloved Babylon; O our dear citizens, who have migrated hither from Jerusalem: we deservedly love you, we applaud you, because you neglect the laws of Simon Peter, and wholly cleave to those of our friend Simon Magus: these you have at your fingers' ends, and publicly practise them, buying and selling spiritual things in the temple of God, contrary to Christ's commands. You distribute benefices and ecclesiastical dignities for petition or price; for service or for favour; rejecting the worthy, and promoting the unworthy. You call to the heritage of Christ your ignorant nephews, yea, your own sons, although they be, yea, because they be, roisters and bawds; and deal with the sanctuary of God as if it were a worldly inheritance; and on a single child ye confer many prebends, the smallest whereof you deny to a poor good man. You accept the person; and have infinite care about money, not souls. The house of God you have made a den of thieves. All abuses, all extortions, are practised in your order a thousand fold more than among secular tyrants. You make laws, and do not keep them: you annul them by your dispensations at pleasure: 'You justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him;' and perpetrate every kind of wickedness, just as we would have you do.

You labour hard in our service, though you mean your own gratification; and as far as you can are compassing the destruction of the Christian faith. For now the laity are in doubt what to believe; and if ever you preach to them (though that is but rarely), they do not believe you; because they see plainly that you all act contrary, and so prove that it is otherwise than you say. Wherefore, they who follow you as their examples, now pretty well adopt our rules, and have rushed headlong into a sea of vices: and a very great multitude of them are constantly resorting to the strong seats of our dungeon. Yea, you transmit to us daily so many of every class of mankind, that we could not receive them, were it not that our insatiable chaos gulped in the countless souls by a thousand jaws added for the purpose.

Thus even by your means the sovereignty of our empire hath been reestablished, and our intolerable loss made good to us again. Wherefore, we specially commend you, and return you our hearty thanks. Albeit, we exhort you still to persevere in what you are now doing, and to go forward: because we intend through you to bring back again all the world under our dominion.

And now being ourselves strangely busied here in our recesses with the multitude which you daily send us, we in the meantime commit to you our authority, and wish you to be our vicars and ministers; the more so, for that we are beginning to think of the approaching mission of Antichrist, for whom you are admirably preparing the way. Notwithstanding, we send and depute to you the chief men and satraps of hell, for your counsel and help; whose suggestions to acquiesce in and crafty inventions to add to, you are sufficiently cunning and prudent. Moreover, you who occupy the highest places we counsel to be careful to preserve peace among the princes of the world in pretence, but in reality to nourish discord for the church's sake; and thus you will slyly destroy the Roman empire. Accordingly, do not allow any kingdoms to grow too large, lest becoming too strong and tranquil, they should take a fancy to depress your estate, and take from you those treasures which we have caused to be deposited with you and reserved for Antichrist.

We commend unto you our most dear daughters, Pride, Deceit, Anger, Avarice, Gluttony, Lechery, and all the rest; and especially the lady Simony, who hath been the making of you, and enriched you, and suckled you at her own breasts, and nourished you. And this Simony you are not to call a sin. Neither is it pride in you, for the worshipful eminence of your station requireth such magnificence. Nor are you to be charged with avarice, for whatever you can gather in your pouches is for St. Peter, and for the peace of the church, the patrimony of the Crucified. For though you promote your cardinals to the very summit of dignity, on very slight grounds, you may excuse yourselves by saying, that our adversary Jesus promoted his relations to the apostleship. That, however, was in a poor and humble state of life. Not so do you; but in holiness, arrogance, pride, and vile lewdness, you call to a state of riches and pride. The disciples of Christ also renounced rewards and preferments; but not so you, for you hold your goods avowedly for your defence of the church: and this is but a specimen of the rest.

Go forward then (and ye know best how) to perpetrate vices cloaked under the appearance of virtues; allege [Scriptures] in your behalf; gloss, however perversely; and adduce them, however inappositely to your purpose. And if any one preach or teach contrary to you, violently crush him by excommunications, and let him be condemned by you as a heretic; and let him be kept in most strait prison, and there tormented till he die, for a terrible example to all such as confess Christ. And, setting all favour apart, cast him out of your temple, lest peradventure, the ingrafted word may save your souls, which word I do abhor, as I do the souls of other faithful men.

And all this do, in order that you may earn the place which we are preparing for you in our own mansion, in the most secret depths, which we are preparing for you in particular; and which no one yet was ever known to enter, except the chief satraps of our kingdom. For you neither hope for future rewards, nor fear eternal punishment: and therefore shall not have the life which you do not believe in, but shall obtain together with us that death, which while living you do not fear.

Farewell, and may you enjoy that felicity wherewith we desire and intend finally to reward you.

Given at the centre of the earth, in our dark palace; present, crowds of devils, specially for the purpose called unto our most dolorous consistory; under the character of our terrible seal, for the confirmation of the premises.

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