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A History of American Christianity by Bacon

Spanish conquest the propagation


The

earlier pages of American church history will not be intelligently read unless it is well understood that the Christianity first to be transplanted to the soil of the New World was the Christianity of Spain--the Spain of Isabella and Ximenes, of Loyola and Francis Xavier and St. Theresa, the Spain also of Torquemada and St. Peter Arbues and the zealous and orthodox Duke of Alva.

FOOTNOTES:

[2:1] See the account of the Greenland church and its missions in Professor O'Gorman's "History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States" (vol. ix. of the American Church History Series), pp. 3-12.

CHAPTER II.

SPANISH CONQUEST--THE PROPAGATION, DECAY, AND DOWNFALL OF SPANISH CHRISTIANITY.

It is a striking fact that the earliest monuments of colonial and ecclesiastical antiquity within the present domain of the United States, after the early Spanish remains in Florida, are to be found in those remotely interior and inaccessible highlands of New Mexico, which have only now begun to be reached in the westward progress of migration. Before the beginnings of permanent English colonization at Plymouth and at Jamestown, before the French beginnings on the St. Lawrence, before the close of the sixteenth century, there had been laid by Spanish soldiers, adventurers, and missionaries,

in those far recesses of the continent, the foundations of Christian towns and churches, the stately walls and towers of which still invite the admiration of the traveler.

The fact is not more impressive than it is instructive. It illustrates the prodigious impetuosity of that tide of conquest which within so few years from the discovery of the American continents not only swept over the regions of South and Central America and the great plateau of Mexico, but actually occupied with military posts, with extensive and successful missions, and with a colonization which seemed to show every sign of stability and future expansion, by far the greater part of the present domain of the United States exclusive of Alaska--an ecclesiastico-military empire stretching its vast diameter from the southernmost cape of Florida across twenty-five parallels of latitude and forty-five meridians of longitude to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The lessons taught by this amazingly swift extension of the empire and the church, and its arrest and almost extinction, are legible on the surface of the history. It is a strange, but not unparalleled, story of attempted cooeperation in the common service of God and Mammon and Moloch--of endeavors after concord between Christ and Belial.

There is no reason to question the sincerity with which the rulers of Spain believed themselves to be actuated by the highest motives of Christian charity in their terrible and fatal American policy. "The conversion of the Indians is the principal foundation of the conquest--that which ought principally to be attended to." So wrote the king in a correspondence in which a most cold-blooded authorization is given for the enslaving of the Indians.[7:1] After the very first voyage of Columbus every expedition of discovery or invasion was equipped with its contingent of clergy--secular priests as chaplains to the Spaniards, and friars of the regular orders for mission work among the Indians--at cost of the royal treasury or as a charge upon the new conquests.

This


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