BELLARMIN, ROBERT, an Italian Jesuit, and the ablest of all the Roman Catholic controversialistS, was born at Monte Pulciano, a town in Tuscany,. in the year 1542. At the age of eighteen he entered into the order of the Jesuits; he was ordained priest at Ghent in 1569 ; and as he was nephew to POpe Marcellns II. he had the fairest prospects of eccle siastical preferment. His talents, however, were a still stronger recommendation. In 1570, he was ap pointed professor of divinity in Louvain, where he acquired a very high degree of celebrity. After re siding seven years in the Low Countries, he returned to Italy, and began to lecture on controversies in Rome. His lectures displayed such uncommon acute ness and ingenuity, that when Pope Sextus V. sent a legate to France, in 1590, he appointed Bellarmin to attend him, as the person best qualified to resolve any difficulties which might occur in the course of his mission. After an absence of ten months, he return ed to Rome, and received from the friendship of three successive popes, various important commissions, till at length, in the year 1599, he was raised to the dig nity of cardinal. Nothing could be more honourable to Bellarmin, than the manner in which this dignity was conferred. " We chose him,'.' said his Holiness, (Clement VIII.) " because the church of God does not possess his equal for learning ;" yet he felt or affected such reluctance to accept of it, that Clement was obliged to frighten him into compliance by the terror of an anathema. Three years after, he was elected archbishop of Capua ; and had he not be longed to the order of Jesuits, he would probably have been exalted to St Peter's chair. But that in triguing set of men were already so powerful, and so eager for the monopoly of ecclesiastical dignities, that it had long been a maxim at the court of Rome, that no Jesuit should ever be made pope, lest, every other order should be excluded from the hope Of the papal dignity, and the power of the Jesuits should become altogether boundless. Bellarmin, if we may believe his own confession, was by no means ambitious of that exalted honotir. For in a solemn vow made in the prospect of being advanced to the see of Rome, he expressly says, that he does not at all desire it, and prays to God that it may never happen. He re signed the archbishopric of Capua at the request of Paul V., who wished to have him near himself; and continued for Sixteen years actively engaged in the business of the court of Rome. He left the Vatican in 1B21, and retired to a house of his own order, where he died the same year on the 7th of September, at the age of 79. He was visited in his last illness by Pope Gregory XV., his veneration for whom, as Christ's vicegerent upon earth, he expressed in the words of the centurion, a Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof." On the day of his funeral, the populace, who revered him as a saint, crowded in such numbers about his body, in order to touch and kiss it, that it was necessary to keep them off by a military guard. His garments, and every thing which he had been accustomed to use, were distributed as most venerable relics. It was pretended, too, that he had been endowed with the spirit of prophecy, and possessed the power of working miracles. All these appeared natural pre ludes to his canonization ;.and nothing prevented the popes from admitting him into the calendar of saints, but the fear of giving offence to those princes whose' temporal rights he had denied.
The character of Bellarmin has been very variously represented; but to his talents as a controversial writer, the acrimony of his adversaries may be regarded as even a less equivocal testimony, than the extravagant admiration of his friends. No champion of the church
of Rome ever defended her cause with more zeal or ability. His works were regarded by the Protestants as so many bulwarks planted around the papal throne, which could not be assailed with any hope of success, till these bulwarks were first battered down. Every divine, therefore, who waged war against papacy singled out Bellarmin as the principal object of his attacks, and it is said that a new lecture was institu ted in both the English universities, for the express purpose of confuting his arguments. The modes of Hostility practised against this arch enemy of the re formation, varied with the temper and abilities of his assailants. He himself set them an example of fair and honourable warfare, which they would have dune ivell to imitate. He disdained the low artifices of concealment and misrepresentation ; and confident in his own power of reply, stated the arguments of his opponents so fully and forcibly, that it has been al leged that his writings contain the best defence of those doctrines which he meant to refute. It is cer tain that his candour in this respect gave so much offence and alarm to many zealous Catholics, that they wished his writings to be suppressed; lest the heretics should make use of them to their own ad. vantage, and the Catholics should be imposed upon' by not understanding the answers so well as the ob jections. His most celebrated work is entitled A Body of Controversy, the arrangement of which' is clear and methodical, the reasoning ingenious and profound, and the style, if not elegant, at least ner vous and plain. That a controversial work of four folio volumes, particularly if written in a bad cause, should contain inconsistencies, is almost unavoidable; and the adversaries of Bellarmin have exposed his contradictions with as much triumph as if they com pletely invalidated his .ablest arguments. This is more excusable, however, than the calumnies 'which they have forged against his character. A libel was published against him, while lie ..vas yet alive, stating some circumstances which occasioned, attended, and followed his death. Among other accusations it was pretended, that he had caused many children to be imrdered in order to conceal his incontinence ; that, L B E — — — touched with remorse, he repaired to Loretto to ex piate his crimes by confession, but that the priest to whom he made the avowal, was struck with such horror, that he abruptly ordered him to depart, and that Bellarmin died in despair.—Bellarmin read and laughed at the charge, which. was the most impro. bable that the blindness of malice could devise ; for so exemplary was his purity, that on an inscription placed under his picture, it could be recorded that he preserved his chastity and his baptismal innocence, and that he never told a lie. His temper was so mild that he could bear the greatest injuries without resentment, and rather than molest the meanest insect would allow them to incommode him extremely, since to fly and stop where they please is their only heaven, of which it Would be cruel to deprive them. At his death he bequeathed one half of his soul to Jesus Christ, and the other half to the Virgin Mary ; and with his latest breath enjoined a friend to declare to the public, that he died in the same faith which he had always professed and maintained. Besides A Body of Controversy, he wrote A Treatise on Eccle. siastteal History; A Treatise on the Temporal Au. thority of the Pope; The Groans iyr the Dove; On the Obligations of Bishops; A Commentary on the Psalms ; A Hebrew Grammar ; and Sermons. See General Biography; Ancillon's Melange Critique de Literature, torn. i.; and Mosheim's Ecclesiast. Hist: vol. iv. p. 221, Ste. (k)