Familiar Conversations on Romanism: Infallibility

Matthew 16; Galatians 2:9
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N-. Good evening, Mr. o.; I am glad to see that you are come. You are already aware of what is occupying us; we shall get on more satisfactorily by your being here. Up to the present we could meet the case fairly, because I was only answering Dr. Milner's statements, but now I have to refer in turn to historical facts, and our friends here are not learned of course; and though, I trust, I should deal fairly with them, yet you can tell them if what I quote is not just. M. insists on our listening to the true church, and tells us it is infallible. We ask, Where is it? Where are we to find this infallibility?
Father O. I do not see what an ignorant person, such as Bill M., has to do disputing about religion: he has only to mind the direction of his pastor. How can such an ignorant person as he is judge about controversies that the most learned men discuss, and that the authority of the church alone can decide? He had much better have minded his religion, and shown charity and good works in his life. However, as I found he had difficulties, I did not refuse to come and show what the judgment of the true church is: otherwise, as Tertullian says, heretics are to be rejected, not discussed with. And I do not think it is a gentlemanlike thing of you, sir, to be coming and troubling my flock about their religion.
N-. We have been looking into that passage of Tertullian. As to troubling your flock, dear sir, you will kindly remember that our good friend, Bill M., had recently changed, as is commonly said, his religion, and, I suppose, gentlemanlike or not, some one had been troubling him, though I do not think he has much to say about a great deal of religion he had before, nor indeed since. However he is very zealous for his new opinions, and tells us he is so happy now that he could not but try and get James to turn to what he calls the true church, and he had succeeded in perplexing James. Now I suppose you hardly blame his zeal in this: there is a good deal of it going.
Father O. I do not blame his zeal; it is the natural fruit of charity and the peace that the true church always gives.
N-. Very well, then, you can hardly blame our meeting his arguments. We had procured Dr. Milner's " End of Controversy," and we have examined that hitherto. Now I deny entirely that Rome is the true church, or the Catholic church, in any sense; and Bill M., however zealous, was at a loss, and went to you: you can hardly blame him for that, and we are much obliged to you for coming. We will not ask you to go into all the marks of the true church; we can take them from Dr. Milner and the Catechism of the Council of Trent; but we want to know where the infallibility is. Here Bill M. and James, ignorant and sincere men, one a Roman Catholic and the other a Protestant, want to know (though James, like myself, is satisfied that the scriptures alone are certain truth, and of absolute authority, and sufficient) where this infallibility is to be found. I affirm that you have no certain source of truth at all, and no infallible guide to refer to.
Father O. Pardon me, you are to hear the church. God has promised to preserve it from error, and all it binds on earth is bound in heaven.
N-. The last is not said of the church, unless a particular assembly, two or three gathered together in Christ's name, be considered such; but let that pass now. Where is the church?
Father O. That is a question easily answered. It is the holy Roman Catholic apostolic church.
N-. Well, that is just what we deny; but where is the seat of infallibility, or, if we do not adopt the scriptures, the certain rule of faith? I met a Jesuit priest abroad; he told me there were three.
Father O. You must have mistaken him.
N-. I do not think you will reject what he said. He said, the authoritative decision as to the truth or infallibility was in the pope and the whole church; the consent of the church universal with the pope, or the pope and the whole church represented in a general council; or, lastly, the pope speaking
ex cathedra.
Father O. All that is still the church itself, or the church by its divinely appointed organs.
N-. Very well, we may accept this then, and, by your permission, we will inquire whether certain truth is to be found by their means, and where. The first itself comes short of Vincentius Lirinensis' vaunted rule, " Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus," what was held always, everywhere, by all, and the rule itself invalidates the decision come to at any given epoch, and obliges me to inquire what was always held. But man's holding anything is no proof of its truth: nor even all Christians, simply as such, holding anything. To have certain divine truth we must have God's revelation. Till Paul arose, or at any rate till the case of Cornelius, all Christians held the perpetual obligation of the law of Moses. Yet they were all wrong. God was obliged to give an express revelation to Peter, and the same to Paul, to lead the church from what all held. And even after that, the Jewish Christians held so ardently to their traditions, and sought so diligently to force the Gentile Christians to receive them, that the question had to be settled by the apostles and elders coming together at Jerusalem.
Nor even did this suffice; for so little unity, after all, was there on the subject, and so perverse is the human mind in its adherence to ceremonies and legal righteousness, that Paul had to resist him of whom you make so unholy a boast, the apostle Peter, to the face, because he, and through him Barnabas and all the Jews, were carried away by dissimulation on this point. And those at Jerusalem maintained their views, and harassed the apostle Paul unceasingly in his ministry, and finally induced him at Jerusalem to follow that course which, under God's over-ruling hand, ended in his imprisonment and death. Yet this was a point in which, according to Paul himself, the truth of the gospel was concerned. So little, even in apostolic times, is the unity of the church in its views to be depended upon, or even Peter himself. But the teaching of scripture, whether in the decrees in Acts 15, or in the Epistles-Galatians, Romans, Colossians, Timothy, and elsewhere-is as plain and as decided as possible. Revelation decides it simply; what is held by the church gives no certain sound at all. And this, remark, upon a vital point, which half fills the Epistles of Paul, and at a time when we are told that nearness to the apostles must make us sure of their doctrine. The word of God is quite clear; but even an apostle, and a great apostle, stumbles in his walk as to it. There cannot possibly be a stronger case.
Father O. But it was settled by the council at Jerusalem.
N-. Undoubtedly what was settled as truth by the decision of the apostles, none of us are disposed to question. The authority of councils as a foundation for the truth we will consider in its turn. We are now upon the consent of the whole church, including the pope. Now this fails at the first step; and if we are to take Peter at Jerusalem even as the first pope, he was to be publicly reproved by the apostle Paul, so that your great champion, Bellarmine (De Summo Pont. lib. 1, 38, 29-31), is embarrassed to the last degree by the case; tries to make the sin venial, etc., but is obliged to admit that the Latin Fathers hold it for sin. It is quite certain Paul did. But let us seek this unity and consent of all later down in the history of the church. Were all agreed as to re-baptizing heretics?
Father O. They all came to an agreement, and submitted to the pope.
N-. I admit the pope prevailed at last, as he has on many points more evil than this, but has broken up and divided the church by his pretensions to do so. But we are looking for the consent of the church to secure truth. Did not the godly martyr, Cyprian, and all Africa, Egypt, and Syria, and Asia Minor-that is, all the most ancient apostolic churches-reject the pope's dogmas on this point?
Father O. Yes, they did, but it did not succeed.
N-. Did they ever yield till the death of Pope Stephen removed the difficulties?
Father O. No, they did not.
N-. You uprightly admit what is a matter of notorious history; and then they came to a middle term-of not baptizing again if they owned the Trinity, and baptizing them again if they did not. (Canon 8, Council of Arles.) Now, I do not blame the concord thus established, but as a source of truth the common consent of the church failed thus early in the church's history. In a very large portion of the church, if subject to their bishops, they must have differed from Rome. Now I might multiply instances. In the case of the Donatists, the African bishops applied to the Emperor Constantine, and the civil authority interfered to settle it. For, alas! when the Emperor turned Christian, so servile was the church, that he for a time was the true pope. Yet when Constantine called councils, and regulated everything, he was not even baptized- was so only on his death-bed, to be sure to be clear of his sins.
Father O. Do you think it right to cast a slur upon the whole church of God thus?
N-. I think it right to examine facts, when you make such a body as this an authority for the truth. But we will go to more serious points than even the re-baptizing of heretics. I suppose you, as I do, abhor the principles of Arius.
Father O. Surely; and he was condemned by the church, and especially in the Council of Nice.
N-. He was justly so, we all admit; but did that settle the church in unity on the point? You know that Athanasius was the great and able champion of the truth. Did he not die excommunicated and banished?
Father O. Yes, but that was through the intrigues of a wicked Arian emperor.
N-. I agree with you; but then how can the consent of the church secure the faith? Here was, if any be, a fundamental article-the true divinity of the blessed Lord-given up (save by some honored and blessed confessors) by nearly the whole professing church, instead of its securing doctrine. But further. The pope himself, though for some time faithful, at last signed a semi-Arian formulary. Constantius had banished him from Rome because he would not be an Arian. In this he was to be honored, and Felix was appointed pope in his place. The Emperor, on entering Rome to celebrate a triumph, found he was loved, saw him afterward, and he signed a formulary which omitted the testing word, and got an acknowledgment from the prelates who were with Constantius that they should be condemned who said Christ, as to substance and in every way, was not like the Father, and then he was restored, and there were two popes till Felix's death. Further, was not Arius restored by Constantius' order to full communion at Jerusalem, and recalled from exile to Constantinople?
Father O. Yes; but he died miserably at Constantinople before he could be restored there.
N-. Be it so. I know it is said so. If that were God's judgment upon him, what are we to make of the churches who, on Constantius' order, restored him? Is it not as plain as can possibly be that in the very foundation truth of our religion the professing church, bishops, pope, and all, failed wholly to preserve the truth? Indeed Constantine, who had first condemned the Arians, falling under the influence of Eusebius, the prelate of Nicomedia, an able and learned man but a semi-Arian and worse, recalled the Arians everywhere, and, as we have seen, Athanasius was excommunicated and banished; then Constans, who held to the Nicene Creed, ruling in the west, and Constantius in the east, the east was Arian, and the west held to the Council of Nice; but Constantius, having defeated the usurping assassin of his brother Constans, held a council at Milan, where Athanasius was condemned. He banished those who would not subscribe its decrees-Pope Liberius, Hosius, Lucifer, and others; but, as we have seen, Liberius compromised the matter, and returned, and the aged and respected Hosius, alas! gave way. Lucifer remained firm, and became the head of the sect of Luciferians, whom Jerome wrote against. Now, mark that all this confusion was on the very essence of the faith.
Father. O. No doubt it was a sad time; but do you not see how God has been with His church, and preserved it in the faith, notwithstanding all this?
N-. That I admit, and bless Him for with all my whole heart. The gates of hell shall never prevail against it. That is the comfort of one's heart in reading its history. But our point now is, can the professing church secure our faith by its maintaining with one consent any doctrine? The history of Arianism clearly proves that this is not so, and that it cannot be trusted for. it. We shall have to touch on this again when we speak of councils. Take, again, the case of image worship. Was there universal consent as to that?
Father O. There is now; Romans and Greeks unite in it.
N-. But if now, what comes of the rule what was always, everywhere, and by all? Is it not true that for centuries there were none? Your great dogmatist, Petavius, admits that none were used for four hundred years, and gives as a reason that there was danger of their being confounded with the heathens, but that in the fifth, when she got her liberty, she began to have them openly. (Pet. de Incarn. 15, 13, 3.) Epiphanius, finding an image on a curtain in a church, tore it with his own hands, as contrary to scripture. He charges their introduction on heretics, as does Augustine, and declares that the church condemns such habits. (Epiph. in Jerome lit. LL. ed. Vallar, I, 253.)
The Council of Eliberis, in Spain, A.D. 305, decreed that pictures ought not to be in churches. For a length of time they were rejected in the East, and insisted on by the popes; solemnly condemned in a council of three hundred and thirty-eight prelates at Constantinople, in A.D. 754; approved by a council of three hundred and fifty in A.D. 787; condemned in England in A.D. 792, and by a great council of prelates at Frankfort, under Charlemagne, A.D. 794.
Now this will come before us under the question of councils.
But how am I, then, to learn anything sure from the consent of the professing church, or hold what is held always, everywhere, and by all? These are only examples on the most important points of doctrine and practice. The truth is, for some hundreds of years, from the third to the sixth and seventh centuries, there was an endless war of opinions, and the Emperors trying to keep the peace by their own decrees, or by convening councils. Then, if we come down lower, after bitter and prolonged conflict, and mutual excommunication, the Greek and Roman, or Eastern and Western, Christendom, finally separated in the tenth century, and all the most ancient apostolic churches condemn Rome; so do the Nestorians and Eutychians. And now the majority of professing Christendom stands apart from her. Where am I to get this general consent? And remark, Mr. O., I am not now speaking of the doctrines or practices referred to; for instance, as to the wrongness of the heathen practice of images. Our inquiry is, if the universal consent of the church furnishes a sure ground of faith. My answer is, it cannot in principle, because it is not a revelation of God; and, secondly, that in vital points it has totally failed, and, in fact, is not to be found, and does not exist. Let me ask you, Do you believe in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary?
Father O. Undoubtedly. The pope decided upon it a few years ago in an assembly of several hundred prelates.
N-. And was it an article of faith before?
Father O. No, but it was celebrated by pious Catholics.
N-. I am aware of that. But can an important dogma be introduced above eighteen centuries after the Lord?
Father O. It is promulgated then as an article of faith; but when an article of faith is promulgated, it is not new; all that is maintained is, that it was always the faith of the church.
N-. But is it not true that the Dominicans and all their doctors held that this doctrine of the immaculate conception was contrary to the truth?
Father O. They did, but it was not determined by the church then.
N-. They were the inquisitors of heretical pravity, were they not?
Father O. The inquisitors were taken from that order.
N-. That is what I mean. But is it not strange that so celebrated an order, to which the maintenance of sound doctrine was specially confided in the church, should have been for centuries diligently teaching what now turns out to be heresy? I do not blame them, but how can the universal consent of the church secure our having the truth if this be so? and it was not merely a notion. They insisted on it, and used such scandalous means to make their cause good against the Franciscans, that four of their order were burned at the stake for it about the time of the Reformation.
Father O. You mean the history of Jetzer, at Bern?
N-. I do. They had some one to personify the Virgin Mary in an apparition, and carried it so far that the fraud was discovered.
Father O. Of course I do not excuse them. It was in dark and ignorant ages, and they were punished by the church for it.
N-. They were, they were burnt for it, because it was found out. But our question is, what is the security for the truth, when your greatest lights, your maintainers of sound doctrine and judges of heresy, have brought us into ages so dark as this, and are now judged to be maintainers of false doctrine all the time?
But we will now turn to the other means of infallible knowledge of the truth; the pope speaking ex cathedra, as they say, and councils. The first is soon disposed of. In the first place, we have seen Peter himself rebuked by Paul on the gravest question that could occupy the church of God. It is not possible to think of the first popes, whoever they were (for this is uncertain), as the authorized sources of truth, for the apostle John lived during the time of those who first occupied the See of Rome, and they were clearly bound to listen to and be subject to the apostle-that very apostle who says, " He that is of God heareth us." And if the first chiefs had not this authority, its descending down to others is all a fiction. But the case of the pope goes farther, and, without multiplying cases which would carry us too far, there are the plain cases of Marcellinus, who was a traditor, that is, gave up the scriptures in persecution, and offered incense to the gods; Honorius, who was publicly condemned for being a Monothelite by the sixth General Council confirmed by the pope; Liberius, who signed a semi-Arian creed. These we will notice a little more fully.
First, then, there is the sad case of Marcellinus, who, when pope, offered to idols and apostatized from Christ. Bellarmine says he taught nothing against the faith nor heretical. (De Sum. Pont. lib. 4, c. 8, 25.) Augustine is on safer ground. He says, " whatever he may have been it is no prejudice to the Catholic church, and in the threshing-floor there may be good and bad." But where is security for infallibility?* Bellarmine tells us it is not of much consequence if he lost the papacy by it, as he abdicated soon after, and died a martyr. I trust the poor man's weakness may have been graciously forgiven, but we are looking for infallibility and security for faith. It is easy to understand Bellarmine's motive for making it no matter, because either there would have been an apostate pope or one deposed by a local council for unfaithfulness. Marcellinus did the best thing he could do, if he abdicated, and we may trust all was right with him after all. Augustine's ground for its being no matter is a better one.
(* I do not quote authorities for this account of Marcellinus, as it is a known matter of history, to be found in any considerable church history.)
Father O. St. Augustine was right to say the church's faith was unaffected by it; and, indeed, as Bellarmine says, he taught nothing dogmatically wrong.
N-. Well, I should have thought it wrong every way to worship idols. A worshipper of idols is a strange security for faith. But we will turn to some other instances equally notorious: Pope Vigilius in the dispute about what are called the three chapters, two of which were sanctioned by the great General Council of Chalcedon. In truth Vigilius was elevated to the See of Rome on purpose to favor Monophysite heresy,* and restore Anthinus, the heretic, to the See of Constantinople, the Empress putting him in by force, by means of Belisarius, and banishing Silverius. When once in, he turned right round** but quailed before the Emperor as soon as he got to Constantinople, and intrigued in vain. Then he condemned the three chapters as the. Emperor had done. Then, when the fifth General Council was called, though at Constantinople, he defended the three chapters. The Council of Constantinople broke communion with him, and approved the Emperor's condemnation of the three chapters, and Vigilius, the following year, assented to the decrees of the council, and his successor, Pelagius I, acknowledged the orthodoxy of the council. Where is the security for faith here anywhere? The Council of Constantinople condemned the Council of Chalcedon, both being accounted oecumenical, nominally saving its credit, and the pope, ex cathedra, condemned, approved, and then condemned the same doctrine, what all held to be a vital question as to the Person of the Lord! You cannot deny this.
(* Baronius 9, A.D. 538, 540, etc. He had represented Rome at Constantinople. Bellarmine, De Sum. Pont. 4, to, 16, does not contest the letter given by Liberatus (in Breviario 22); Baronius does. The facts are plain any way. Pagi adds, in a note, that there can be no doubt of it. Still, he adds, that it does not prejudice the pope's authority, because Silverius was not dead, though deposed, so that Vigilius was not really pope: a nice security for faith, a pope who could not act because he was deposed, and an acting one whose acts, though consecrated, were not valid, because the other was living.)
(**Baronius attributes this to the grace given to the papacy. But this accords but ill with his excusing his undoubted heresies afterward, on the ground that he was not pope because the banished Silverius was alive. What a foundation for faith!)
Father O. I do not defend Vigilius; the persecutions of the Emperor on the one hand, and the voice of the Western church on the other, made him vacillate. And see how, after all, the church was preserved, as Baronius says, " God's hand was seen in his refusing to support the heresy when once he was really pope."*
(* He acted as pope, while Silverius, who had been banished, still lived, and so (they say) was legitimate pope. What was the validity of all the papal acts, their ordinations, etc.?)
N-. But his condemning, and approving the three chapters, and then acknowledging the synod which had condemned him and them, were when he was pope. It is a plain example that the pope's judgment, ex cathedra, is just worth nothing at all. I admit that God has preserved the faith and the church, but it is in spite of and not by the hierarchy. But take another example: you cannot deny Liberius acquiesced in Arianism.
Father O. He never taught it.
N-. He subscribed an Arian creed, and in the largest council ever held, of some 800 prelates; and he communicated with Arians and condemned Athanasius. Bellarmine says he was deceived by ambiguous terms; but if he was, he was no security for our faith. The truth is, he did it to free himself from the persecutions of an Arian Emperor, who sought to unite all by vague expressions, which really gave up the word on which all then depended; and, as Jerome expresses it, the world was surprised to find itself Arian. But if Bellarmine is right, and he was deceived, it is just the proof that the pope is no security for faith, nor indeed a pope and council together. To say he did not teach it, when on the solemn discussion of the question with the assembled hierarchy he signed the creed, is a miserable subterfuge. Others of course, if he was any authority, were to believe what he signed. Ought a simple Christian to have followed his faith then, when he subscribed the Arian creed?
Father O. No; he should have abode by the faith of the church.
N-. How was he to know the faith of the church when the pope and by far the largest council ever held had subscribed deadly heresy? No, the broad fact is there. The pope and the largest body of prelates ever assembled in council signed and promulgated an Arian creed. Nor did the church, as a body, recover itself at once.
I now turn to Honorius. Bellarmine labors hard to free him also; but then he cannot deny that he was condemned and anathematized as a heretic by not one but two general councils, the pope's legates taking part in one case. Bellarmine says they wanted to secure several Eastern patriarchs being anathematized, and so, that they might succeed, threw Honorius in with them.* Moreover the pope, his successor, undertook he should be anathematized. And then, says Bellarmine, if it cannot be denied in the least that the pope was anathematized, the council made a mistake; but then the pope's legates were there, and it is accounted an (Ecumenical Council amongst you. So that either the pope was a heretic, and he was struck out of what were called the Diptychs (those whose names were remembered in the public service) as unfit to be there, or pope and council confirmed by him can err, and nothing is certain It is really a flat denial of your own history to pretend popes and councils (and both together) cannot err. There is no security for faith to be found in them.
(* Bell. de Sum. Pont. lib. 4, C. II.)
I might mention a multitude of cases and statements of Fathers, but I take only notorious cases, which may be found in Bellarmine, Baronius, and all church histories.*John XXII. I have mentioned; his case may be seen in Bellarmine, and John XXIII** deposed by the Council of Constance.
(* Bellarmine gives a list of cases of alleged failure in infallibility. Baronius is not to be trusted without Pagi's corrections. The latter is much fairer.)
(** The numbers attached to their popes vary in different Roman Catholic historians; for, with all their boasted succession, nothing is more uncertain, irregular, and defective than the succession of the popes; often two at the time, and no one knowing who was the right one, and this not merely at the time of the great schism; and when one got the upper hand of his rival, he annulled all his ordinations, so that nobody knew who was ordained and who was not. But of this farther on.)
I might insist on the absurdity and ungodliness of making infallible in faith men of whom Baronius* says he must use their being in the see as a date; ' but how can we own as popes 'persons who were illegitimate sons of the Marquis of Tuscany's mistresses, put in by them into the see? ' But I leave all this, and a great deal more, and confine myself to notorious cases, known by everyone who has read church history at all, though the general point of what the popes were is of great weight in the matter. I ask you, solemnly, if a Chinese or a Hindoo were seeking, with sincere heart led of God, for the rule of faith and means of discovering the true religion, would he find it in the most licentious, depraved, wicked series of men that ever were found? and while I admit they were not so at first, what is to be a rule of faith must be always one, to say nothing of there being two or three popes at a time.
(* Vol. 15, A.D. 912, 8.)
If we take history, we find there was no such doctrine in the early church, and further, that popes have grievously erred. Thus Cyprian, and all the African and Asiatic, and Egyptian bishops, resisted Stephen's doctrine. Before that, when Victor refused communion with the Eastern churches on a question of keeping Easter, the godly Irenaeus rebuked him, many bishops concurring. " This did not please all the bishops," says Eusebius, some of them speaking pretty sharply to him (the pope). (Eus. 5, 24.) And till the Council of Nice, the East and West continued their own observances as to what Victor excommunicates them for. So Augustine, in the case of Marcellinus (which, strange to say, Baronius quotes with approbation, thinking only of Catholic doctrine), says, " Whatever Marcellinus may have been, it is no prejudice to the Catholic church diffused in the whole world. We are in no way crowned by their innocence, nor condemned by their iniquity.... In the threshing-floor (of the church) there can be good and bad." (De Unico Baptismo, Cont. Pet. 16, or Ben. 39.) He had not the remotest idea of infallibility in a pope. If he was a bad one and sacrificed to idols, the faith was not affected by it. So indeed Tertullian asks triumphantly in respect of such falls, " Do we prove faith by persons, or persons by faith? " Listen to the plain language of Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate, the great friend of the pope, the great stickler for orthodoxy and church authority in his day: " Nor is the church of the Roman city to be esteemed one, and that of all the earth to be another. Both the Gauls, and Britons, and Africa, and Persia, and the East, and India, and all barbarous nations, adore one Christ, observe one rule of faith. If authority be sought, the world is greater than a city. Wherever there is a bishop, Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhegium, or Alexandria, or Tunis, he is of the same worth, he is of the same priesthood. The power of riches and the humility of poverty make neither a more exalted nor an inferior bishop; but all are successors of the apostles."*
(* Hieron. ad Evang. Epist. 146 (ed. Vall.))
This is a poor way of treating infallibility. Cyprian expressly declares that, when Paul rebuked Peter, the latter never thought of insolently and arrogantly pretending to have the primacy, and that he ought to be obeyed. (Litt. 71.) Accordingly, as we have seen, the African bishops maintained their views against the pope. The thought of infallibility did not exist. When we come lower down in history, the claims of the popes increase, and their authority extends; but the effect was that all the most ancient part of the church, that is the East, broke off from them altogether, and remains opposed to Rome to this day.
The University of Paris solemnly condemned John XXII* for heresy, and the Council of Constance charged John XXIII with saying that the soul died with the body. Now this shows how little infallibility was supposed to be inherent in the pope. The Council of Basel says, " Many of the supreme pontiffs are said, and so we read, to have fallen into heresy and error. It is certain that the pope can err. A council has often condemned and deposed a pope as well on account of faith as morals." Now, I quite understand that you will say this council has no authority, but we are looking for a sure ground on which to found the authority of the church; and surely when the assembled prelates of Christendom declare that the popes may err, and have erred, in faith and morals, the infallibility of the pope is no longer a very sure ground. Their claiming it, which we all know they do, does not give it to them. We will enter on the ground of councils when we come to that point. I turn to the history of the popes, that we may understand what happened at Constance. There were two popes, and even three from the Council of Pisa, till after the Council of Constance: were they both infallible, both heads of the church? Half Europe obeyed one, half the other. Did not they mislead, one or both, the church of God? Where was certainty to guide the faithful here? They anathematized each other. Is this what the faith of God's church, or the saving of souls, is to rest upon? But, further, the Council of Constance, after exacting the resignation of the principal but most wicked of the three (which, after some tergiversations, he gave on being threatened to have his awful wickedness exposed), on his running away fearing the consequences of his crimes, deposed him, and chose another; the two others lingered on a little while, and then died out.
(* His history is a little pleasant. The cardinals who had to choose the pope, several of them being ambitious, would not agree, and at last agreed to leave the choice to the one who became John XXII, sure he would choose one of them; but he thought the best thing was to choose himself, and became John XXII.)
Father O. But the Council of Constance was not ratified by the pope.
N-. It created the pope, and all your alleged spiritual authority flows from hence, that is, from its acts; you have no pope at all if its acts are wrong. But we will speak of this when we come to councils, we are now on the popes being infallible. But here, I will add, Martin V did confirm the Council of Constance, and not only so, but Eugenius, though he afterward found means to break it up, recalled his three bulls (one, he said, was not genuine), which condemned the Council of Basel, and gave in his adhesion, and recognized it and its acts as met in the power of the Holy Ghost; which acts fully confirmed the decrees of Constance.
M. But is all this true, Father O.?
Father O. The facts are true; but I must beg you not to interfere and enter into what you cannot possibly judge of. When Mr. N-. has done I will show how fallacious all this is. I only now say, It is just a proof how, if men have been individually wicked, God has preserved the church. The faith of the church has remained the same, and that is all you have to say to.
N-. That the excessive wickedness of the popes and clergy, which we shall be obliged to look into when we speak of the marks of the true church, is a proof that the blessed God has preserved His church, and the faith of God's elect in spite of them, I admit fully and bless Him for it. But we are examining, not if God has preserved the faith for us in spite of them, but if they are a warrant and security for the faith. But if these facts are true, the popes are no kind of security for the faith, and that is our question now. Let me add, dear sir, that your rebuke to M. is the best possible proof of the untenableness of the ground he and you are upon. You say he cannot possibly judge of the validity of this ground of faith. But that is what you want us to do-only you want us to do it without honest examination. Dr. Milner says we believe the Catholic church, and therefore everything which she teaches, upon motives of credibility, and Mr. John Newman (who turned Roman Catholic) avows he has only probability, though of a high character. Now, in no case can this be a divine foundation for faith. It is upon the face of it merely human. It would be blasphemy to say that what God said was probably true.
But so utterly futile is your rule of faith, that when we begin to examine it, you tell our friend M. here that he cannot possibly judge of it. Now, where is he to get his motives of credibility? And though it may be difficult for a poor man to examine for himself folios of fathers and councils, as of course it is, yet, according to your rule of faith, he must, or be led blindfold by a man. But the facts which are brought forward by those who can examine them, show that your rule is a dreadfully false one, and when they are thus honestly furnished to him, he can judge that the foundation you build on is utterly worthless. If the pope be a sure foundation of faith (a thing not thought of for hundreds of years) God has given a premium to the most horrible wickedness that ever disgraced human nature, for such wickedness characterizes the popes above all men on the earth. Do you deny the wickedness of John XXIII of whom we have just been speaking, or of Alexander VI, and many others? You cannot, you dare not, with any one who knows history. Even your Pope Gregory VII, who built the grandeur of the papacy, raising it above the empire, and established the celibacy (that is, the corruption of the clergy) died away from his see, having been first deposed by a council of German bishops at Worms, and afterward condemned as a heretic, and sentenced to be deposed by the Council of Brixen, and a new pope chosen, Clement III, who was consecrated at Rome. Now, I attach no authority to this council, or their pope (though, in supporting the emperor, to whom God gave authority, against the pope, to whom God gave none, the prelates were right) but what sort of foundation for faith and salvation is all this?
James. Well, to think of all this being called the church of God and authority for our faith. I am glad I have the Bible and know nothing about all this. There one has holiness and truth, and not wars and ambition for Christianity. It is terrible to think what the professing church came to, if all this is true.
N-. It is terrible, and the thousandth part of it has not been told, but we must pursue our inquiry soberly. Our point is the pope's infallibility being the source of certainty as to the faith. Now, the second point I stated was that they had confessedly erred. And we have cited examples. For it is perfectly well known that plenty believed nothing at all. But I have selected cases that have been brought out in history as to the faith. Marcellinus offered incense to idols, Liberius signed a semi-Arian creed. Honorius was condemned for being a Monothelite by a general council sanctioned by Pope Agatho. Zosimus, I may add here, corrupted artfully the canons of the Council of Nice to found the authority of the See of Rome; and was detected in the East and in Africa. John XXII was charged with heresy as to the state of souls after death: John XXIII, deposed by the Council of Constance, was charged there with denying the immortality of the soul.
Father O. I do not admit all these cases. It was never proved against Marcellinus; John XXII was only condemned by a council of divines at Paris. And Zosimus' act at any rate was a fraud, not a heresy. He quoted Sardica and said Nice. And it is a question if these canons of Nice were not burnt.
N-. There is this much obscure in the case of Marcellinus, that the deacons and presbyters who bore witness to it only saw him go into the sanctuary of Vesta to do it, and did not see it done. I admit the acts of the Council of Sinuessa, in which it is fully stated, and where he is said to have confessed it on his knees, may be, and are possibly justly called in question, and I do not depend on them, though even Baronius, your great historian, did not wholly give them up, and all St. Augustine ventures to say is, that we ought not to hold him guilty till it is proved. But the account is as circumstantial as possible. It is said that he resisted the emperor's violence, but gave way to blandishments and money, and that he said he did not sacrifice, but only put a few grains of incense on the fire to the idol, the names of the priests and deacons who went with him to the door being mentioned, so that it is impossible to believe it is a mere fable. Moreover, he gave up the popedom in consequence.* But is this what faith is to rest on? As to John XXII there is no doubt whatever. Your own historians relate it, and say he coldly retracted the error before he died, and that his successor, Benedict, condemned it. So that, as a foundation of faith, we see a pope cannot be trusted.
(* Here are Bellarmine's words (De Sum. Pont. 4, 8): " The tenth is Marcellinus, who sacrificed to idols as is certain (ut constat) by the pontifical of Damascus, the Council of Sinuessa, and the epistle of Nicholas I to Michaelis. But Marcellinus taught nothing against the faith, nor was he a heretic or unfaithful, unless by an external act through fear of death. But whether on account of that external act he lost his position of pope (exciderit a ponttficatu) or not, is of little moment, since he himself soon abdicated the papal see, and soon after was crowned with martyrdom. I should consider rather that he did not ipso facto lose his position of pope, since it is certain enough for all that he sacrificed to idols through fear alone." Bellarmine, therefore, had no kind of doubt about the matter. We may surely hope his sin was blotted out.)
As to Zosimus, I admit that it was a fraud and not a heresy; but it was a fraudulently citing as the canons of the Council of Nice what were no part of them, and what was put forward as the foundation of the whole jurisdiction and authority of the pope. The council of bishops in Africa, in which the famous St. Augustine took part, denied their genuineness, sent and got the true Greek copies in the East and rejected Zosimus' claims. And the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch, did the same thing, sending full copies of the canons of Nice. Is not this true?
Father O. Yes. But they were the canons of the Council of Sardica which he cited as those of Nice.
N-. That is, he attributed the resolutions of a little petty conclave of his own partisans, assembled to give him this power (from whence all the bishops of the East had separated when they found what they were about, meeting elsewhere, and condemning the Sardicans), to the first great General
Council in order fraudulently to set up that authority of the See of Rome which it now claims: and Rome has ever since built largely on this fraud.
It is well to refer a little to this history as elucidating the supremacy and alleged appellative jurisdiction of Rome. I will go a little further back, as, among other things, our allegation is that we can trace the origin of these pretensions. In Cyprian's time, besides the case we have already' spoken of about rebaptizing heretics, another question arose. In A.D. 252 two Spanish bishops guilty of being Libellatici (that is, having received certificates of having owned heathen idols, obtained by money from heathen magistrates without having really done so) were deposed by a provincial synod of the country. One was re-admitted to communion though not to his see, but went to Rome and complained to Pope Stephen. The pope, always glad as popes were to augment their authority, ordered the Spanish synod to restore both to their sees. Meanwhile, Cyprian being everywhere known by his activity, the bishops of the synod laid the affair before him. He summoned a local council, and they declared that Stephen had been evidently deceived, and that Basilides and Martialis (the other bishop) had greatly increased their crime by appealing from the local judgment. He declares the judgment he communicated to be conformable to the understood practice of the church. There the matter ended. The great Roman historian is careful not to notice this transaction. It may be found in other histories. (See Cyprian's letter 67, Oxford, Pam. 68.)
Cyprian in every respect maintained the independence of the episcopate against Rome. He says, " Among us there is no one who will arrogate to himself any authority over those of his own order or claim to be a bishop of bishops... inasmuch as every bishop has equal liberty of judging and determining upon all questions that come before him, and can no more be judged by, than he can judge, another. Therefore it should be our resolution to await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all our powers to govern His church are derived, and who alone has authority to call us to account " (Prologue to judgment of 87 bishops in Council of Carthage). So when Pope Cornelius had received Felicissimus, who had been excommunicated in Africa, Cyprian writes to blame him severely, and says the crime ought to be judged where it is committed, and where the witnesses are, " unless to some few desperate and lost persons the authority of the bishops established in Africa seem to be inferior. Their cause is already taken cognizance of, the sentence already passed on them," and declares a special portion of the flock is appropriated to each shepherd, which each is to rule and govern, having to give an account of his acts to God (Epist. 58, Oxford).
The history of Sardica, which was subsequent to this, was the following:-
When Athanasius had been condemned by the Councils of Tire and Antioch, and banished, he first fled to Julius, who held a small assembly at Rome, and acquitted him; then to Treves, and the Emperor Constans got Constantius, emperor of the East, to call a council. This was held at Sardica. Athanasius, whose cause was to be tried, sat there. The Eastern bishops claimed that he should be excluded. This the others refused. The parties were equally divided, and the Eastern prelates seceded; the Western ones remained. The Eastern half at Philippopolis condemned Athanasius; the Sardicans acquitted him, and then gave for the first time an appeal to Rome. These latter canons Zosimus sought to foist on the African bishops as canons of the Council of Nice. But they were never heard of (as being those of a Council of Sardica) as of any authority, nor ever received in any way in the Eastern church.
And note, the giving then, which is what they do in honor of Peter, a title to Rome to require a re-examination on the spot in case of an appeal, or to take other measures, proves that he did not possess the right before. It was very convenient to Athanasius, as he had been thus acquitted by Pope Julius, and condemned in the East, to set up this power in Rome. This Council of Sardica and its canons were, however, no way recognized in the church; for three general councils, Constantinople, 381 (34 years after), Chalcedon, 451, Constantinople, 68r, all decree what is entirely in opposition to the Sardican, namely-that causes should be heard by the provincial synods, with appeal to the patriarch to whose jurisdiction they belonged. It was Julius' successor, Liberius, who signed the Arian or semi-Arian creed, when Constantius, the Eastern emperor, had all his own way, and so did Hosius, one of the alleged presidents of the Sardican Council.
I will now return to Pope Zosimus. A certain presbyter, Apiarius, had been excommunicated by his bishop and others for ill conduct. He goes off to Rome. Zosimus pronounces him innocent, and sends Faustinus and two others to Africa to a synod then gathered about it. His messengers went to see Apiarius reinstated, and to urge that any presbyter might appeal to Rome. The African prelates answered there was no such rule in the church as that. Zosimus' messengers plead the canons of the Council of Nice. The prelates said these canons were not in their copies of the canons of the Council of Nice; but they would send to Constantinople and Alexandria and Antioch, the three great patriarchates, and see. Cyril of Alexandria, and Atticus of Constantinople replied, and it was found that there were no such canons of the Council of Nice at all. Zosimus was now dead, and his successor, Boniface, who pursued the claim, was dead also; and the African prelates write to Pope Caelestine to say that the Council of Nice had committed these things to the metropolitan, or a local council, 'or even to a general one.
It is worth while, though it be long, to recite what the prelates say in what they call the universal African Council of Carthage:-" No determination of the Fathers has ever taken this authority (of judging its own clergy) from the African church, and the decrees of Nice have openly committed both inferior clergymen and bishops themselves to their metropolitans. For they have provided most prudently and justly that every matter should be terminated in its own place where it arose. Nor is it to be thought that to each and every consideration the grace of the Holy Spirit will be wanting by which equity may be prudently perceived by the priests of Christ, and firmly maintained, especially because it is allowed to every one, if he be offended by the judgment on the charges, to appeal to the councils of his province, or even to a universal one. Unless perhaps there be some one who may think that our God may inspire justice in examining to a single person, whoever it may be, and deny it to innumerable priests assembled in council.... For we have not found it established in any synod of the Fathers that any should be sent as legates of your holiness (tuce sanctitatis a latere, the common name since for popish legates). For that which you formerly transmitted by the same Faustinus, our co-bishop, as on the part of the Nicene Council, in the truer copies of the Council of Nice, which we have received, sent from our co-bishop, Cyril, of the church of Alexandria, and the venerable Atticus, prelate of Constantinople, from the authentic copies, which also had already been sent by us to bishop Boniface of venerable memory, your predecessor, by the hands of Innocent, presbyter, and Marcellus, sub-deacon, by whom they were forwarded to us from them (Cyril and Atticus), we have not been able to find anything of the kind. Also do not think of sending, nor granting, upon any of ours requesting it, any of your clergy as executors (agents to enforce decrees) lest we may seem to introduce the smoky pride of this world into the church of Christ, which offers the light of simplicity and the day-light of lowliness to those who desire to see God."* And then the council declares that Africa could no longer endure the presence of Faustinus, if brotherly charity were to be preserved. Apiarius was already put out.
(* Set Hardouin's Councils, 5, 95o. The Latin has " in quibus " here, which does not hang together to make a sentence.)
Now here papal infallibility is treated with scorn by all the African bishops in council, the pope's sending legates declared to be utterly unlawful, and the canons he pleaded as his justification declared to be a fraud, and that he must know it, for they had sent the true ones from Constantinople and Alexandria to his predecessor, Boniface.
But Zosimus had had some other transactions with these African prelates, among whom was the famous Augustine. Zosimus fully sanctioned the confession of faith of Pelagius, and his teaching. Now here was the very essence of Christian grace in question. He reproves severely the African prelates for condemning him, owns him and Celestius as in communion. His predecessor had totally condemned him just before. The African prelates having done so, and communicated it, as was the custom, to Innocent, he had returned an answer condemning and excommunicating the two heretics, and claiming, I freely admit, all manner of authority in the case, for the popes were at this moment striving hard to establish their power, and profited by every opportunity. However Innocent condemned and excommunicated them by his full authority ex cathedra. Zosimus, to the said African prelates, declares them sound and in communion. And note, this was on an essential doctrine of the faith. The Africans did not of course remonstrate with Innocent for agreeing with them.
But Zosimus' pretensions set aside their judgment. They met at _ Carthage in May, 418, Augustine presiding, and condemned and anathematized Pelagius and his disciples, and, not content with this, took the opportunity, in the Council of Milevis, of republishing the Nicene canon, and in their 22nd decree that the appeals should be to local synods or metropolitans, and that if any appealed across the sea (that is, to Rome) he should be received into communion in no African church. Zosimus gave way, summoned Celestius, whom the Africans had condemned, and condemned him too. So much for the pope's infallibility and authority.
I have dwelt more on this because just at this time the pope was seeking to establish his authority over the West, having succeeded, through a quarrel of two prelates, to do it in the south-east corner of France, and in a measure in Eastern Elyria, naming the archbishop of Thessalonica there as " executor '-'-what the Africans call the introduction of smoky pride into the church. This had been done already some 40 years before, when that country was politically transferred to the Eastern empire, and the ambitious popes were afraid it should be ecclesiastically under the influence of Constantinople, the Eastern capital. But all this was ambition, not infallibility; and when there was moral courage; the pretensions of the pope were entirely rejected as wholly contrary to the canons, as indeed they were before the canons of Nice were made. Thus did Cyprian,thus Asia Minor, Egypt, and Syria in his day; thus Spain, thus Irenaeus in Gaul; while the popes have been proved both fallible and heretics.
In the Councils of Basel and Constance these bodies were openly declared to be superior to, them, and, in the last, three popes (all infallible, we are to suppose) were set aside, one as a heinous monster. Nor has this doctrine been given up in later days. The Gallican church, that is, the Roman prelates in 'France summoned by Louis XIV, declared publicly that the decrees of the Council of Constance, which Maintained the authority of general councils as superior to the pope's in spiritual matters, are approved and adopted by the Gallican church, and that the decisions of the pope in points of faith are not infallible, unless they be accompanied by the consent of the church. Here, then, by the authority of the clergy of that great kingdom, a person who holds the infallibility of the pope is judged to be in error. Now, in what a sea of uncertainty you plunge people if they are to discover the true rule of faith in this way, to say nothing of its being impossible for a poor man to get at it at all!
Father O. Yes, but the poor man has the voice of his pastor, who will not lead him astray.
N-. But this is admitted to be no security. Thus, the faithful in France would be led to hold that the pope was fallible in matters of faith.
Father O. But that is no longer the case.
N-. Where then is your rule of " what is held by all, everywhere, and always "? Moreover, many do hold this still,* and it was favored by the Bourbons, and was, even often, by the emperor, who can do so because he names the different prelates. But see what you have brought us to. Your rule of faith in 1682, for France at least, was different from your rule of faith in 1862. Is this its certainty and clearness? Now when I turn to scripture I find that which I surely need the grace of God to understand; but what is of admitted certain authority for all (except for infidels, with whom we have nothing to do here), and the same at all times? The word of God, the direct revelation given by God by prophets and apostles and inspired men, and that with a holiness, plainness, graciousness of love, and divine love and authority which act on the mind of the poorest, and which the poorest can appreciate. You hinder his having any rule, or else he must have councils and fathers, and read through folios in Latin and Greek; and, when a man is able to do that, he finds, as we have seen, contradiction and heresy, and no sure rule anywhere. If he cannot do this, he must resign himself blindfold into a man's, perhaps a wicked man's, hand. With scripture he listens to Paul and Peter and the rest; he finds and knows in his own conscience that he has to do with the word of God, which discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. You have no certain rule of faith, nor any living word of God in what you call such which can judge your thoughts and heart.
(* This was written before the last Roman Council, which decreed the pope to be infallible: only this is an additional contradiction in church dogma.)
Father O. But the very word you quote declares Peter to be the rock on which the church is built, and that whatever he bound on earth should be bound in heaven.
N-. I do not admit that this scripture says so at all, but I have already enlarged on history, proving that the popes are not infallible, so that it is quite right you should have ample opportunity of stating your views.
Father O. It is written, " Et ego dico tibi quia to es Petrus, et super hanc Petram mdificabo ecclesiam meam, et ports: inferi non prmvalebunt adversus eam." " Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
N-. Forgive me if I interrupt you. Where does this come from?
Father O. From Matt. 16, from the scriptures.
N-. But we have not got them yet. You tell us we must first find the church to enable us to receive the scriptures, and we have not found the church yet. You must, on your own showing, find that for us first. You cannot quote the scriptures before you prove them to be such-before you believe in them.
Father O. Well, but you do believe in them.
N-. Nor am I going to hinder your appealing to them. But as you have not made good the church's claims, the scriptures must have authority of themselves, and be intelligible too.
Father O. 'I receive them from the church, and the interpretation of them also.
N-. No doubt you do, but that is your private opinion. You are occupied with proving what the true church is, and you have not done that yet, and therefore cannot, if the church alone can authorize them, say anything is scripture. And this is really important practically, not only to show the unsoundness of your views, but because in fact the Romanists receive as scripture what other parts of the church do not receive as such; the ancient church and fathers included. I am not bound to listen to anything you quote from scripture, because scripture cannot have authority, you yourself tell me, till the church has declared it to be so, and we have not the church yet. But proceed: I shall not make any difficulty. Yet I take it as an admission of the absolute authority of scripture in itself, for otherwise you cannot thus quote it.
Father O. This passage then skews clearly that the church is built on Peter, and that the church built on him can never be overthrown. To him also the keys are given, and what he bound on earth was to be bound in heaven. And it could not be to him only, and then the church fail, for it was never to fail. Hence his successors must have this same authority, that is, as all admit, the pope. In confirmation of this, we find him always named the first among the apostles, as he was the first called also. Thus it is as clear as anything can make it that he had the pre-eminence, and so his successors. He always spoke the first, and took the lead. He was the president of the college of apostles, as we see all through the Acts. In the same way, after His resurrection, the Lord committed His sheep to Peter, saying, " Feed my sheep," giving him universal dominion over the church. And this was always recognized by the church, as the testimony of the fathers proves.
Thus Origen so very early says (Horn. 5 in Exodus), " See what is said by the Lord to that great foundation and most solid rock upon which Christ has founded His church, ' O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ' "? So Athanasius, in his epistle to Felix, and, indeed, the Alexandrian Synod with Him, " Thou art Peter, and upon thy foundation the pillars of the church, that is, the bishops, are established." Gregory Nazianzen says, in his oration on moderation in discussions, " Peter is called a rock, and has the foundation of the church trusted to his faith." Again, Epiphanius (in Ancorato), " The Lord constituted Peter, the first of the apostles, a firm rock on which the church of God is built." So Chrysostom (Hom. 55 on Matthew), " The Lord says, Thou art Peter, and upon thee will I build my church." So Cyril, " Commodiously showing by that word (Peter), that on him, as on a rock and most firm stone, He was going to build His church." So among the Latin fathers. Tertullian, in his remarkable book on prescription, says, " Was anything hid from Peter, called the rock of the church which was to be built? " And Hilary, " Oh! in the gift of a new name, happy foundation of the church. Oh rock! worthy of the building of it which should dissolve the laws of the infernal regions." And the martyr Cyprian, " The Lord chose Peter first, and built His church on him." And Jerome, " According to the metaphor of a rock, it is rightly said to him, I will build my church upon thee.' " So Ambrose. I might add a crowd of other fathers, as Augustine, but I refer to these as both ancient and of just renown in the whole church.
Only I would remark to you that Jerome refers it not only to the person but to the See of Peter. And to close all with a still greater authority, the whole Council of Chalcedon (Action 3) of 630 fathers declares Peter the foundation and basis of the church. The words which follow this declaration that he is the rock show the extent of dominion conferred upon him. " Et tibi dabo claves regni ccelorum, et quodcunque ligaveris supra terram erit ligatum et in aril's, et quodcunque solveris supra terram erit solutum et in ccelis." " And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind. on earth shall be bound. also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven."
M. Well, that is clear; what do you say to that, James? Is it not plain Peter had the first place, and was the foundation? And all he bound was to be bound in heaven; and sure the pope is in his place.
James. Of course -Peter had the first place in a certain sense. He was blest by grace above others, as Paul says: God was mighty in him to the circumcision. No Christian denies that. But as to his being the foundation, save as a mighty instrument in God's hands, I do not believe it a moment, because Paul says; " other foundation can no man lay, save that that is laid, that is, Christ Jesus." So that, though I do not pretend to reason with learned men, and I had rather hear what these gentlemen have to say, yet, I am sure, if I were all alone, for my own' soul, that Peter cannot in any true sense of the -word be the foundation, because the word of God tells us there can be none but Christ. In a general way all Christians own the apostles to be foundations, and the prophets too; but if we make one real foundation, it can be only Christ. As ordained servant's of His, and inspired witnesses of the truth, they are all foundations. But I could not trust my soul to any foundation but Christ. None has died for me but He. None is the truth but He. Besides, if Peter was the foundation, how can the pope be so now? The foundation of the church cannot be laid now.
But I would rather hear what Mr. N-. has to say; only these gentlemen will excuse my speaking as I was asked the question. I have no pretension to answer about fathers and all that. But I know what my own soul's hope is built upon, and on what alone it can be built, and the church, if it be the true one, too. It cannot have, as the real rock, two foundations.
Father O. You had much better hold your 'tongue, M., and not make your observations when you cannot know how to answer on such' difficult questions, nor pretend to interpret scripture which the most learned men find hard to interpret.
N-. He did but put his Amen, Mr. O., however, to what you said. He does not alas! know the scriptures, or he would not be where he is, and I fear he will not learn much of them now. What James has said is really the true solid answer for a soul taught of God. It knows that a church built on Peter would be no church at all, that would be a ruin or rather be no church, and that no mortal sinful man can be personally the foundation of the church, and that none such could be the rock on which the church is built, if it is to stand. In the same chapter the Holy Ghost is careful to record that the Lord calls him Satan; and, even after he had received the Holy Ghost, Paul had to withstand him to the face. And I suppose the popes cannot pretend to be better than he. Still you have said the utmost that can be said. The arguments naturally are not new; and, while referring to what James has said as showing that a divinely taught soul has its answer from the word for itself, I will take 'up what is, after all, the inferior part, the reasoning on scripture and quotations from the fathers; but just to learn that they are no security for anything, which indeed it would be a sin to think them. And, first, as to scripture, " Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." You say this is on Peter, and that it gives him, with what follows as to binding and loosing, to be the foundation and to have the primacy.
Now setting aside Paul for the moment, who was called later, I admit in certain respects a personal pre-eminence in Peter; no official one, nor one which could go to a successor, if he had one, which in office he had not, for he was an apostle, and they had no apostles to succeed them, and could not have. For none were eye-witnesses of Christ, and sent by Him to found the church; Paul was, and so he was in the fullest and strictest sense an apostle. I admit a personal pre-eminence in certain respects, because scripture teaches us there was: James and Cephas and John seemed to be pillars. All three were preeminent in gift and energy, and all three had names given by Christ Himself. But, even among these, Peter was preeminent. Paul tells us that God was mighty in Peter to the circumcision, as in Paul himself to the Gentiles. As the fathers note, he was the first to make that particular confession, and specially noticed then by the Lord. His ardent character made him forward sometimes in a sad way, for he spoke not knowing what he said, and he had to be called Satan, and the too great confidence it led to brought him to curse and swear he did not know Christ. Yet even this energy, when he was humbled and ceased to trust himself so much, as taught by his fall, and was filled with the Holy Ghost, served to fit him, as a vessel of God's choice, for the special ministry he was appointed to.
We see this pre-eminence in service, and how he was fitted for it by being humbled when the Lord says to him, " When thou art converted [restored from his fall], strengthen thy brethren." This kind of pre-eminence scripture gives him; and we find him using the keys, not of heaven, but of the kingdom of heaven, that is, administering in the kingdom. He was the first in admitting the Jews, and the first in admitting the Gentiles, to found the unity of Christians in one company on earth. All this scripture teaches us, and we bless God for His holy wisdom and sovereign pleasure in it. But he never was the apostle of the Gentiles at all, though employed to receive them first. On the contrary, when the relationship of Jews and Gentiles was settled, it was agreed by the apostles that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles and themselves to the Jews; Gal. 2:99And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9). He was the apostle of the circumcision, God "mighty in him to the circumcision, and in Paul to the Gentiles.
Nor do we ever read in scripture of Peter, or indeed any of the twelve, going to the Gentiles. There are vague traditions, and they are very vague, but no scripture and no history for it. It is certain from the Acts of the Apostles that the Lord employed other instruments than they to send the gospel forth into the world: first, those who were scattered by persecution, when the apostles all remained at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-41And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Acts 8:1‑4); ch. 11:19-21); and then Paul specially called for that purpose, and sent to that work by the Lord (Acts 26:1717Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, (Acts 26:17); Rom. 11:1313For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: (Romans 11:13); Eph. 3:7, 87Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (Ephesians 3:7‑8); Rom. 1:55By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: (Romans 1:5) where he refers to Rome), and his companions, who could say, " it is come unto you, as it is in all the world, bearing fruit and increasing " (Col. 1:66Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: (Colossians 1:6)); and the same Paul positively declares, when the chief apostles " saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me as the gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter... they gave to me [Paul] and Barnabas the right hand of fellow-ship that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcision," Gal. 2.
How the commission in Matt. 28 was not fulfilled I do not stop to discuss, though I have thought of it too; but we have the apostles' authority in Paul's account for saying that what was settled by the apostles was, that Paul should take the Gentiles, and Peter and the others the Jews, as their sphere of work; and so Paul tells us elsewhere a dispensation was committed (Eph. 3:22If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (Ephesians 3:2)) to him. He was debtor to Greeks and barbarians, and to those at Rome too; Rom. 1:1414I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (Romans 1:14). He was a minister of the gospel to every creature under heaven, and besides that, specially, a minister of the church (Col. 2); and it is found on examination that he only, in all the Epistles, speaks of the church (John once of a particular church, not of the whole body).
The divine account, therefore, that I have of the dispensation of the gospel and the establishment of the church among the Gentiles is that Paul, not Peter, was the instrument in the Lord's hand for this work. And Paul very assiduously contends that he derived no fresh knowledge from Peter, and that he did not get his apostleship from man nor by man; and he resisted him to the face when it was needed; Gal. 2. So that I find from scripture that he to whom the dispensation of the gospel to the Gentiles, and especially Rome, was committed by God (and the ministry of the church too), was in no way subject to Peter, got nothing from him, and owed nothing to him; that God was mighty indeed in Peter to the Jew, but in Paul to the Gentiles; and we know by the Acts that in fact the world, as Paul says, was filled with the gospel by his labors, who rejected diligently all subjection to Peter, without having a hint in God's history of the matter that Peter ever went to a single Gentile after Cornelius, while we have him agreeing that Paul should, and he to the Jews.
Further, neither in discourse nor in his Epistles does Peter ever speak of the church as a body on earth, while Paul enlarges and teaches on it everywhere. No doubt this left him free to preach it to anyone, as it did Paul to preach to Jews, but the mission, the official relationship, of Peter was with Jews, not Gentiles, while the Gentiles were committed to Paul, and he carefully, in the Epistle to the Galatians, sets aside any superior authority of Peter. Is not this strange if Peter was to be the head of Gentile Christendom, and the rock and foundation of the church? It seems as if God, foreknowing what man would corruptly make of him, had taken pains for those who own the truth and authority of His word to show it was impossible; just as He has never given a case in which the blessed Virgin applied to Christ that she was not refused. The authority of Peter, and deriving ecclesiastical position from him and the rest of the twelve, was a work of the enemy with which Paul had specially to contend, and which he wholly rejects.*
But further, in particular, we are certain that at the first Peter had nothing to do with establishing Christianity in Rome. Numerous Christians were there before any apostle was there, so that Paul addressed a letter to them, and speaks in it of a church gathered there (Rom. 16:55Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. (Romans 16:5)); and not only so, but he claims it as a part of the measure which God had allotted to him, part of the sphere of work committed to him. He was the apostle of the Gentiles, and the seat of Gentile power came within his prescribed apostolic district. He never hints at Peter's having any right or title there, or even at his having been there at all. He teaches, lays the foundation for them, as an apostle to whom they were confided as his sphere of work, showing them the relative position of Jew and Gentile, all real difference being, as sinners on the one hand and by grace on the other, done away. " By whom," he says, " we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations [all the Gentiles] for his name, among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ," Rom. 1:5, 65By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: (Romans 1:5‑6). And so he goes on to show the ground of his connection with them without a thought of Peter, and really to the exclusion of their being his sphere of work, or Peter's ever claiming any apostolic relationship with them or with any other than the circumcision.
(* It is a remarkable fact that popery and all ecclesiastical unity refers itself formally to Peter, never to Paul (he merely, at the utmost, coming in by the bye); the see is Peter's See; the unity is founded on him who was never an apostle to the Gentiles at all, but gave it up to Paul.)
Not that only, but Paul came to Rome and labored, though a prisoner, for two years, and we never hear of Peter. If he ever came to Rome, he must have come when the church was already long founded by another. I am aware that afterward there was a tradition that he did it jointly with Paul; but that is certainly false, because we have the history of the Acts to prove he did not. If he came, he came into another man's measure, to use Paul's expression. Rome liked, no doubt, foolishly to give itself this credit. It is just possible he visited the Jews there, which was his sphere, as he did apparently everywhere, addressing two Epistles to the believers of the dispersion in Asia Minor.
The tradition given by Eusebius from Dionysius of Corinth is clearly false, or has nothing to do with the matter, for it states not merely that Peter and Paul went together to Rome, but that they had also been at Corinth together, and taught the same doctrine, and then gone on to Rome to be martyred together (Eus. Hist. Ec. 2, 25). Now either this is false, as the Acts prove, if it be taken literally, for it is said, " I have planted," which the Acts and two Epistles to Corinth prove to have been the work of Paul alone, who declares that in Christ Jesus he had begotten them all by the gospel, a fact fully maintained in the Epistle; or if it be not false it is only a flourish of words referring to some visit to Rome (and Corinth on the way when on their way to prison), and in that case the churches were founded long before. That Peter planted the church of Corinth is undoubtedly false; for not only have we in the Acts the history of its planting by Paul with Silas and Timotheus exclusively, but he says, in his Epistle to them, that if they had ten thousand instructors they had but one father, for in Christ Jesus he had begotten them all by the gospel; 1 Cor. 4:1515For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15). Thus, as to the founding of the church, Peter certainly did not found the church at Corinth, and as certainly did not found the church at Rome. This we are perfectly sure of, as we have (besides the absence of all trace of it in scripture) Paul's Epistle to the Romans and two to the Corinthians, and the history of the Acts, which exclude any possibility of Peter's having done so. If it be true that they both suffered martyrdom there under Nero, this would say nothing of founding the church there, nor of any official place they had there. If we turn to those who followed in the See of Rome, the case is, if possible, clearer, for the apostle John survived Peter and Paul some thirty years; so that the first three popes governed one of the pillars among the apostles, which is as absurd as it is wrong. The notion of the beloved apostle being subject to the supremacy of the possessor of the See of Rome is monstrous.
Father O. Of course the apostle was not subject to him, but this did not hinder others being so.
N-. Pardon me. The church of Ephesus, where John dwelt, could not be subject to the bishop of Rome when John was there to guide them, and indeed the bishop of Rome must himself, if the case arose, have been subject to the apostle, for the authority of the apostles was confessedly supreme. Thus the pretended supremacy of Peter, and of his successors too, is clearly shown to be false, unscriptural, and impossible. We have already seen in part, when you were not with us, that other prelates, the most eminent of their day, as Cyprian, Firmilian, Augustine, while showing the greatest respect for Rome, and treating it (as tradition then did) as Peter's chair, utterly refused to be subject to it or own its supremacy, and asserted the independent jurisdiction of the different sees. The Jewish Christians sought to set up Peter in this way; but Paul resisted everywhere the Judaizing of Christianity and the supremacy of Peter with it. Alas! how has it overflowed the church since.
But, further, how came it that the apostles never suspected that Peter had received this supreme place by these words, to say nothing of Rome? They were afterward continually disputing who should be the greatest. This was strange if, in presence of them all, Christ had conferred it on Peter.
Father O. But they had not yet received the Holy Ghost.
N-. True; but they acknowledged the authority of the Lord, and, when the Holy Spirit was given, we find pre-eminent activity, as we have seen, in Peter (and the blessed apostle cared more for serving His Master then than for supremacy), but we never find him claiming supremacy. Nor could he have done so, because the Lord had forbidden it: " It shall not be so amongst you, for whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant." How would this do for the pope? And how could Peter, with the Holy Ghost bringing, as was promised, these words to his memory, have set up to be great among them? Your papal system denies the precepts of the Lord, as well as the history which scripture gives us. In the Acts Peter and John are sent by the apostles to Samaria.
So in the meeting to settle the solemn question of how far the law was binding on Gentiles, much discussion took place. Then Peter, ever forward, relates the case of Cornelius, and gives his thoughts as to the burden of Judaism. Then Barnabas and Paul are listened to, giving an account of the blessing among uncircumcised Gentiles. Each takes his place freely and suitably, and James closes the whole discussion as president of the church at Jerusalem. Peter has no place at all but what his gift and apostolic place gave him. He fills up that place rightly, and we hear no more of him in the council. In the decree we read, " It pleased the apostles and elders and the whole church." There is not a trace of any supremacy of Peter. If of any, it was of James. He says, " my sentence is "; and this place of James was so marked, that when Peter was at Antioch and had eaten with the Gentiles, " when certain came from James," it is said, " he withdrew and separated himself," so that Paul had to rebuke him to the face; and accordingly, when Paul speaks of those whom he found pillars at Jerusalem, he does not put Cephas first, but says, " and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars," and then it was that they gave up the work among the Gentiles to Paul.
It is therefore as clear as noonday that Peter had no supremacy anywhere. Personal pre-eminency in energy and service, till Paul was called, he had. After that it was not the case; even as to that, Paul labored more than all the apostles; 1 Cor. 15:1010But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10). He tells us he was not a whit behind the chiefest of them (2 Cor. 11:55For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:5)), and in particular had to rebuke Peter to his face. Nor was Peter even the first called: Andrew, who had followed Jesus, brought Peter to Him. As regards what he bound on earth being bound in heaven, it is incontrovertible that all he apostolically pronounced upon or established was sanctioned in heaven. That is in Matt. 16; but in Matt. 18:1818Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18) it is said to all His disciples, and indeed to the church, going so far as to any two or three gathered together in His name. So as to forgiveness, as far as it is administration in man's hands (though I agree with Bellarmine, who furnishes all the arguments used on this point, that binding and loosing goes much farther, and includes all he established as divinely ordained), Paul forgives, and recognizes the assembly's title to forgive too; 2 Cor. 2:5-105But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 6Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (2 Corinthians 2:5‑10). And the Lord confers the title to do it expressly on all the apostles; John 20.
As to feeding Christ's sheep, it was most gracious of the Lord to commit this to him thrice after he had denied Him thrice. And that he had this charge eminently as regards the circumcision we have already seen. But he desires the elders in his Epistle to do the same thing. So Paul, when he sent for the elders of Ephesus, charges them to feed or shepherd the church of God. And this leads me to another remark, that is, whatever place Peter had, an apostle can have no successor. Those who had the authority of the twelve and Paul were invested with it immediately by the Lord, and sent of Him as eye-witnesses chosen by Him. And Paul and Peter both distinctly confirm this. Paul declares that after his decease grievous wolves would enter in, and commends the disciples to God and the word of His grace. Now, if he was to have a successor, why should he speak of the state of the church as deprived by his death of any such care as he bestowed on the saints? So Peter, in writing his Epistle, says he would take care they should have what he taught always in remembrance. He has no idea that he was going to have a successor of great authority and infallible.
And your own Bellarmine, the first of your controversialists, says plainly, " The bishops have no part of apostolic authority " (Bellarm. 4, 25). And again, " There can be no succession properly but to one who precedes; but there were apostles and bishops in the church together." I am aware that to avoid the consequence he distinguishes between Peter and the other apostles, and says the pope succeeds not to their extraordinary power, but to Peter's ordinary jurisdiction over the whole church. But where is this ordinary jurisdiction to be found? Not in binding and loosing, for that all had; not in finding that others did not exercise independent jurisdiction as it is called, for Paul exercises it in the most entire independence of him, names elders, sends Timothy, Titus, where he pleases, James and Cephas and John having agreed with him that he and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles, they to the Jews. And we find Paul, not Peter, exercising over the churches this wide care with authority not derived from Peter, for he very carefully disclaims this. He was not of nor by man, and withstood Peter to the face. It is all a fable. It is never said Peter had this authority, or that he exercised it, or named one elder in his life. Whereas we find Paul exercising what is called ordinary supreme pastorship (though it is really apostolic authority, and nothing else, directly received from the Lord) constantly and everywhere, and among the Gentiles, whose conversion and care the Lord had committed to him as a dispensation. As a wise master-builder, he says, he laid the foundation; 1 Cor. 3:1010According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (1 Corinthians 3:10). He planted, others only watered after him. It is the dispensation of the grace of God given to him; Eph. 3.
As to " Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church," Peter had by grace confessed what none ever had, that Christ was the Son of the living God. As entitled to be called Son of God according to promises to Messiah, He had been owned, but Son of the living God He had never been called. This the Father revealed to Peter. The Lord owns the grace conferred on him, and declares that his name should be called Peter (a stone), partaking by grace through his confession of that which he confessed, for it was upon that truth so confessed (that is, on Christ's being the Son of the living God) that He would build His church. Hence it is said that the gates of hades, of the power of death (Satan as having the power of death), should not prevail against the church. For Christ by resurrection was declared to be Son of God with power, above all the power of Satan; and, the church being built on this rock, of His being the Son of the living God, Satan's power, that of death, could not overthrow it. So Chrysostom repeatedly uses it. As James has said, to suppose any real foundation but Christ is denying the Lord. And it is in this character of a divine person having the power of life over death that He can build the church.
But your statements that the fathers are agreed on this explanation, though you are borne out by Bellarmine, is quite unfounded. Some of them say it is Peter, some say it is Christ, some say it is the confession of Christ. St. Augustine says, "I know that afterward I have very often expounded that 'upon this rock' should be understood of him whom Peter confessed." And so he had. As, again, "'Upon this rock,'" he says, "which thou hast confessed 'I will build my church.'" So Chrysostom in Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18), "'on this rock,' that is, on the faith of the confession." I do not quote as his, "'Upon this rock'; He did not say 'upon Peter,' for He built His church not upon the man but upon his faith," for it is generally considered spurious; but it is, at least, some very ancient writer under his name.
The famous passage in Iren. 3, 3 does not apply to the supremacy of Peter, but deserves a short notice here, as it is used as a foundation for the authority of the church of Rome. Irenaeus is not speaking of the authority of any church, but of security as to doctrine, found in the teaching of all apostolic churches, and then says, as it would be tedious to go through all, he will refer to Rome, with which all must agree as having " potiorem principalitatem." Then he states it to be founded by Peter and Paul, Linus following, etc. No one reading the passage, of which we have only a poor Latin translation, and comparing the context, and in the least acquainted with Irenaeus, but must see that in Greek there must have been archen, and the real meaning of the writer to be, " a more excellent origin;" namely, two apostles themselves. He is using the testimony " of the faith manifested in all the world," as a proof that these hidden mysteries of the Gnostics would have been known somewhere, if the apostles had taught them, and the rather at Rome as the two great apostles were there. Of course this has nothing to do with the supremacy of Peter.
So Hilary, " Upon this rock of confession is the building of the church." Origen says, " Every disciple of Christ is the rock." Pope Gregory the Great says, " Persist in the true faith, and establish firmly your life in the rock of the church, that is, in the confession of the blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles." Now, it is quite true Chrysostom also says that Peter confessing his being 'a sinner was made the foundation of the church. But this shows only the vague sense they use it in, for when interpreting the passage he declares it. to mean his confession. Be it that he contradicts himself, or with Augustine leaves, as he expressly does, to the reader, in his Retractations, to choose which sense he likes. It only shows what the authority of fathers is worth, and what the Council of Trent requires teachers to be bound by in finding the sense of scripture. The consent of the fathers is not to be had.
But it will be well to give a specimen of the interpretation of the fathers here, which will prove that it is anything but true that they uniformly speak of Peter as the rock, and, further, what the value of their authority in such matters is. You will find almost all you have quoted. My first quotations shall disprove your assertion; the second prove that each contradicts himself: only you will mark, it is rhetoric when they make Peter the rock, sober interpretation when they say he is not.
Origen says, in his commentary on the passage, tom. 12, C. 11, " If you think that the whole church is built by God upon Peter only, what shall we say of John, the son of-thunder? Shall we dare to say that the gates of hell were not properly to prevail against Peter, but that they will prevail against, the rest of the apostles and the perfect? Is it not also of all, and of each of them that is spoken what is said before?-` the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and that on this rock I will build my church.' Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given to Peter alone, and shall no other of the blessed receive them? And if that also is for others also in common: I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' Now is not both all that is said before, and what follows as addressed to Peter? " and says much more to the same purpose, referring to its gift to all in John's Gospel, and then adds, " as the letter of the Gospel says it to that Peter, as His Spirit teaches, it is to every one who is as that Peter,"* and in the whole chapter applies it diligently to every true Christian.
(* In chapter 54 he says, " As all who claim the place of oversight (bishop's charge) use this saying as Peter, and having received the keys, etc. It is to be said they say it rightly if they have the works, on account of which it was said to that Peter, Thou art Peter (a stone), and if they are such as Christ can build His church upon... but if he is bound in the chain of his sins, in vain he binds and looses.")
If you want a totally different interpretation, where every faithful Christian is made a Peter, and the keys given to him, you may see Com. 12, 14.
Hilary de Trin. 6, 36, says, " Upon this rock of confession, therefore, is the building of the church (37). This faith is the foundation of the church; through this the gates of hell are weak against it. This faith has the keys of the heavenly kingdom," etc. So on Psa. 140, " We have known no rock -but Christ, because it is said of him, that rock was Christ'"
There is quoted from Origen, to support the Romanist view, the following passage, Horn. 5 (De la Rue, 2, 145).
" See what is said by the Lord to that great foundation of the church, and most solid rock on which Christ founded the church, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? "
This is, however, only a translation of Ruffinus, in which he professes to have added what was necessary, because Origen touched on questions often, and did not answer them, which might annoy the Latin reader.
Hilary, in the treatise on Psa. 131, says, Peter, to whom above he had given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, on whom he was about to build the church against which the gates of hell should not prevail, and as to whom what he should bind and loose on earth should be bound and loosed in heaven; and what you have quoted already. But then he is really insisting on his confession.
As regards Athanasius, the passage quoted (of which Bellarmine speaks as so beautiful) is a notoriously spurious letter, and placed among the spurious ones by his Benedictine editors; the proofs you can see in Dupin on this Father, and it is a proof only of the practices resorted to by papal advocates to clothe their pretensions with the authority of great names, and which have acquired the name of pious frauds. We will there leave Athanasius, who affords you no help, though he resorted to Rome to help him against the Arians. It is strange moreover Roman Catholics should quote a letter to Felix, for Felix was a pope thrust in by the Arians, while Liberius was banished by the Arian Emperor; and Athanasius says it was a deed that bore the stamp of antichrist. Cardinal Baronius, the great Roman Catholic historian, will not admit him to be pope at all, as there cannot be two. Bellarmine says he was a fresh instance of how solid a foundation popes are for the church to be built upon. Roman Catholics cannot agree whether he was or was not a pope. When the Emperor let Pope Liberius back on his agreeing to communion with the Arians and signing an Arian or semi-Arian creed, Felix and he had to rub on together, two popes and two heads at a time, till Liberius died.
As to Gregory Nazianzen, it proves, orator as he was, what I maintain; though in rhetorical language, without exactness, he says Peter is called a rock, which is not exact as to fact, for in the text Simon is called Peter, or a stone. But his explanation of it every Christian would allow, and it is what the Fathers often say, that the foundation of the church was trusted to his faith. No doubt it was, under God's grace. But, in this figurative sense, Paul also declares that he had laid the foundation, and that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the corner, stone. So in the heavenly Jerusalem, the twelve foundations have the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. In this general way no reader of scripture could for a moment make any difficulty. But it proves that the popes can have nothing whatever to say to it. For since that foundation was once laid, all others, who have that blessed privilege, are built upon it. To lay the foundation of the church now is simply to deny it and its foundation as originally laid. It is perfectly clear that no pope nor any Christian in after times could have this place. Next as to Epiphanius.
He does exalt Peter abundantly in the place quoted, and in the book on heresies also. In the former with much else, nearly as you say, " It became the first of the apostles, the solid rock on which the church should be built, and the gates of hell not prevail against it, by which gates the founders of heresies are meant."
Here, however, I will add a passage farther on, from the same section 9 of the Anchoret:
" He (John) learning from the Son, and receiving from the Son, the power of knowledge; but he (Peter) obtained it from the Father, founding the security of faith."
Epiphanius therefore does not much help you out. It is Peter's faith one time, Peter himself another; but then because of the immediate revelation made to him by the Father. You next press Chrysostom on us; we will examine him too. You quote him on Matthew
" The Lord says, 'Thou art Peter, and upon thee will I build my church.'"
This is a very unfortunate quotation of Bellarmine's. Because in the Commentary on Matt. 55, Chrysostom says just the contrary: he is insisting on the special blessedness of Peter as having owned Christ to be the Son of the living God, and directly taught there the consubstantiality of the Son. And thereon says, " Therefore He adds this:
However, Chrysostom's testimony is exactly the opposite to what it is alleged for.
I next take Cyril.
" That in him as in a rock and most firm stone, he was going to build his church." What I do find in Cyril nearest to this is " [Christ] most suitably from the rock changed his name to Peter (petra, petron), for he was about to found his church on him." That is in Commentary on Tohn 1.-(Paris, 16;8.)
But Cyril in his dialog on the Trinity 4, vol. 2, p. I, 507, says on the verse, " Calling a rock, I think, by a change of word, nothing else, I think, but the immovable and firm faith of the disciples upon which, without possibility of falling, God has established and fixed the church of Christ."
We have not thus made much progress with the Fathers yet. The Greek Fathers do some of them speak of Peter, but I have taken up those presented by you, and all but one say the contrary of your interpretation, though they, several of them, contradict themselves, which it is important enough for us to remark. We have not only Fathers against Fathers, but Fathers against themselves. This is a poor foundation for faith. The Council of Trent will not allow the consent of the Fathers to be rejected in interpretation; but we find no such consent, in most cases not even of one Father with himself.
But we will turn to the Latin ones. You quote them also. You quote Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary, and refer to Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose. I will follow here also. For one has only to know the Fathers to know what their authority is worth. Of Tertullian it is somewhat difficult to speak, because after having been a very great stickler for ecclesiastical authority (not for Rome) he became a very violent opponent of it. So that what was declared by him to be a sure foundation proved to be none in his own case. One could hardly have a more solid answer for one who would rest on his or on any Father's authority.
Father O. But any one may fall.
N-. No doubt, but it is a proof that what he has pleaded as a security from falling is not a very solid one. Tertullian pleaded the prescription of the church, that is, tradition, as the grand security. He abandoned it all as carnal (physical). But I add it never was the authority of Rome on which he rested his case. Not only when a Montanist (de Pud.) he charges his adversaries with overturning the manifest purpose of Christ who conferred authority personally on Peter-" I will give to thee...;" " whatsoever thou..."; in which he is perfectly right; but in the book " de Prazscriptione," and the passage so much relied upon, he makes doctrine the test. " In the same way they, the heretics, will be tested by these churches, which, though they can allege no apostle nor apostolic man as their founder, as having a much later origin, yet agreeing in the same faith, are accounted apostolic by reason of consanguinity of doctrine." This we are quite ready to accept. Of Tertullian's system we have spoken. Strange to say, even this book is held by many learned men, Romanist and Protestant, to have been written when Tertullian had become a Montanist, as Dupin does on the one hand, and Allix on the other. Nor has he a thought in the treatise of setting up the authority of Rome. He insists that in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, or Rome, you can trace up the doctrine to an apostolic source, and thus confute the heretics who have introduced new doctrines. Now we hold entirely that what was at first- not early merely, but at first-was right, and that only (see 1 John 2:2424Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)). Therefore we condemn Rome which has innovated. But it is evident that an inspired epistle of an apostle is a better evidence of what the apostle taught than a tradition after the lapse of centuries of uninspired men. What was first was and is right. But the Epistles and other scriptures are what was first, and therefore we receive them only. To show Tertullian's mind and how little he referred exclusively to Peter, I will quote another passage of his. The apostles were all sent forth, he says, after the Lord's resurrection, " and promulgated the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations, and then founded churches in each city, from which other churches have borrowed, and daily borrow, the descent of faith and seeds of doctrine, that they may become churches; and by this they also are accounted apostolic as offspring of apostolic churches. The whole race is necessarily referred to its own origin. Therefore so many and so great churches are that first one from the apostles from which all are. Thus all are the first and apostolic, while all prove unity together." How far this is from having anything to do. with Roman supremacy or Rome's being a security for truth, save as part of the whole, or Peter's being the one who ruled over all and secured truth, I need not say. It shuts out any such thought wholly. This was the common ground of those who pleaded prescription.
I turn to Cyprian. You quote from him, " The Lord chose Peter first and built the church on him."
I will complete the phrase. " But custom is not to be used as an authority, but one must be overcome by reasons. For neither did Peter, whom the Lord chose first and on whom He built His church, when Paul afterward contended with him about circumcision, claim anything insolently to himself, or assume anything arrogantly, so as to say that he held any primacy."
This is a strange passage to quote to prove Peter's primacy by; but, the truth is, Cyprian was the stern and successful resister of the commencing pretensions of Rome; and maintained an active correspondence with Asia Minor, Spain, and other parts to consolidate the whole episcopacy, for that was his system against any pretensions to a primacy. He expresses himself thus: " One episcopacy diffused in the accordant multitude of many bishops.' So with the whole synod of Carthage, speaking of the apostles, he says, " to whom we succeed, governing the church of God with the same power." By no one, while acknowledging Peter as a center of unity, is the equal power of bishops and their independency more stoutly maintained.
In his fifty-fifth letter he says, " The bond of concord remaining, and individual fidelity to the Catholic church maintained, each bishop disposes and directs his own acts, rendering an account to the Lord of his course." And writing to the pope, to whom he never yielded, he says, " In which manner we neither do violence to any one, nor give the law, as each one who is set over [a church} is to have in the administration of the church the free judgment of his own will, having to render account of his conduct to God." The history of what passed between him and popes in this respect we have referred to already.
You quote Jerome.
“I will build my church upon thee.”
Jerome does say so, and in a letter full of flattery and servility flies to Pope Damasus to know whether he is to say three hypostases or three persons; and he says, " I know that the church was built on that rock," that is, the See of Peter. And he says pretty much the same in his commentary on Isaiah, lib. 1, chap. 2, though he makes all the apostles mountains. But then on Amos, lib. 3, chap. 6, he says: " Christ is the rock who granted to His apostles that they should be also called rocks-' Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.' Whoso is on these rocks, the adverse powers cannot pursue him." And this application of it to all the apostles is common in the Fathers, as Ambrose and Augustine. So Jerome himself, in his violent letter against Jovinian, in favor of celibacy, says, " Thou sayest the church is founded on Peter, although the same in another place is so upon all the apostles, and all receive the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and the stability of the church is established equally upon them." Then it suited him to say so. He says that John was more loved of Christ and dared to ask when Peter did not; knew Him when Peter did not, etc.
You cite Ambrose. He does call Peter a foundation. Let us see how far his statements make for your cause. " He acted in the first place (took the primacy), the primacy of confession truly, not of honor; the primacy of faith, not of rank."
And, after saying he was thus a foundation, he goes on, " Faith, therefore, is the foundation of the church; for it is said not of the flesh of Peter but of his faith that the gates of death should not prevail against it. But confession conquers hell. And this confession does not exclude one heresy. For, as a good ship, etc., the foundation of the church ought to avail against all heresies." He is speaking just as Hilary in the same case of Peter's owning Christ to be the true Son of God, his subject being the incarnation and the eternal divinity of Christ.
Augustine comes next. In his Psalm against the Donatists, a poor production-poor in thought and morality-which he says he wrote for the poorest that they might commit it to memory, and be able to meet them-he presents Peter as the rock and a sure center of unity to these poor people. He did the same (he tells us in his Retractations) in a book also against the Donatists, not now extant. Augustine is not happy in his spirit or reasonings with these Donatists. They had resisted one who had given up his Bible in the last persecutions, being a bishop. A vast number of bishops and their flocks sided with them, and the schism lasted a very long time, more than a century. The Catholics, as they call them, appealed not to the pope but to the Emperor, and the Donatists were cruelly persecuted and put to death. Their passions were roused, and many of them took arms and fought and used violence against the other party-a wretched scene in the so-called Holy Catholic church. But so it was. Augustine cannot justify the party he espoused, but says there must be evil in the church, and the Donatists were worse. But he was every way embarrassed with these people. For, contrary to Cyprian and the East in earlier times, their baptism was held good. Now Augustine believed the Holy Ghost was conferred by baptism. They said to him, " Well, then, we confer the Holy Ghost, so we must have it." Yet he said they were not in the unity of the Catholic church, and so had not got the Holy Ghost; and here he toils and labors, to get out of the net he had got himself into, so as to make any one pity him. But I must pass on, only it is well to keep in mind what this so-called Holy Catholic church was.
Now hear the same Augustine when he is soberly seeking to edify souls in his sermons. In one of them we have an elaborate statement on the point, of which I can quote the kernel. It is on Matt. 14:2424But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. (Matthew 14:24) (or de verbis Domini 13 in some editions). He quotes the passage 16: 18, and says, " But this name that he should be called Peter was given him by the Lord; and this in such a figure as that he should signify the church, for Christ is the rock, Peter the Christian people, for rock (petra) is the principal name. Therefore it is Peter from petra (rock), not petra from Peter, as Christ is not from Christian, but Christian from Christ. Thou therefore,' says he, art Peter, and upon this rock which thou hast confessed, upon this rock which thou hast known, saying, Thou art, etc., I will build my church,' that is, upon myself, the Son of the living God, I will build my church. I will build thee upon Me, not Me upon thee." And again, " Thus they were baptized, not in the name of Paul, not in the name of Peter, but in the name of Christ, that Peter might be built upon the rock, not the rock upon Peter." This is plain enough. Faith was at work, not controversy or servile theology.
In his sermon on Pentecost (or ex Sirmondianis 22) he is equally plain. " For I am a rock, thou Peter... and upon this rock I will build my church, not upon Peter, which thou art, but upon the rock which thou hast confessed." So in the sermon on Peter and Paul's day (ser. 295, or de Diversis, 108): " Upon this which thou hast said, ' Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' I will build my church. For thou art Peter, from petra (a rock), Peter, not the rock (petra) from Peter. Do you wish to know from what rock Peter is called?
Hear Paul." He then quotes 1 Cor. 10:1-41Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1‑4), ending " and that rock was Christ," as whence Peter comes. He goes on then to say, " These keys not one man but the unity of the church received," and quotes John 20:22, 2322And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:22‑23), to show that it was to the whole church to whom Peter was given, there to represent in its universality and unity, all the other apostles having then received it; and then Matt. 18:15, 1815Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (Matthew 18:15)
18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)
, to show that it applies to all the faithful saints, concluding " the dove binds, the dove looses, the building on the rock binds and looses." His words are, " That you may know that Peter stood there as representing the whole church, hear what is said to herself, what to all the faithful saints."
Such was the teaching of Augustine. In his Retractations he mentions that in the lost book against the Donatists he had called Peter the rock (he refers to the psalm, but not to Peter's being named in it), and then says, " I know I have very often afterward [he had written the book against the Donatists when only a presbyter] expounded it as meaning him whom Peter confessed;... for it was not said to him, Thou art a rock, but Thou art Peter, but the rock was Christ." " Of these two opinions the reader may choose which is the more probable."
That makes a solid ground, by the consent of the Fathers, for your theme of Peter's being the rock. What I have cited proves two things, that is, that the Fathers generally contradict you, and that their authority is worth nothing, for they contradict themselves. No one taught of God would hesitate which to choose, the blessed Lord or Peter, for the rock on which the church or his own soul is to be built. It is evident that the Lord rests on the word, as Hilary and others say, of the blessed truth, that Jesus was the Son of the living God. Over what was founded on that he that had the power of death could not prevail. Nor will he. Happy those that are built on Him. But I will quote one more so-called father, because he was a pope, and an eminent one-Gregory the Great. Of all the earlier popes, save Leo, he, while condemning the present papal claim of universal jurisdiction as the act of a forerunner of antichrist, most pushed on the papal power. Yet he says (lib. 31, 39, Job 97), " Where rock in the sacred language is used in the singular number, what else is understood but Christ, of which Paul is witness-'But the rock was Christ?'" In lib. 35: 42, 13 of the same book, he calls it the solidity of faith, of which solidity the Lord says, "On this rock I will build my church," and refers the whole thought to the incarnation.
There is a passage still stronger in his letters, which I cannot lay my hand on, where he says, " Persist in the true faith, and establish your life on the rock of the church, that is the confession of Peter, the prince of the apostles." It is said forty-four Fathers and ten popes have given it the sense opposite to the one you say all give it. So Felix III, Nicholas I, and John 1 have never verified the accuracy of this assertion. What we have examined suffices to show that not only do the Fathers contradict your assertion, but each other and themselves. And we have two points where they refer to Peter. Very many make Christ, or the confession of Christ, the rock. When they make Peter the rock, it is individual-his own faith, and the grace personally given to himself; many to his personal work in founding the church-two, you allege, carry it into the See of Rome; of these, one states the contrary also, and it is only in a most servile correspondence with his patron, Damasus, that he says what you quote him for, when he was attacked as a heretic, and wanted the pope to back him up. The other case, Augustine, was an effort in controversy to gain the poor among the Donatists, while in his own expositions he carefully and elaborately taught the contrary.
What kind of a foundation of the truth is this? what security for it? for that is what we are seeking. And we have learned another thing, that is, that the boasted Fathers are a security for nothing at all. But you have said that the famous Council of Chalcedon, composed of six hundred and thirty prelates, declare the same truth. So Bellarmine says. But alas! we have always to examine the assertions of your party. It is quite unfounded. What is said there of the prerogative of Rome is solely and exclusively the pretensions of the papal legate in giving his voice. Paschasinus, his two colleagues joining, after going through Dioscorus' misdeeds,* says, " archbishop of the great and elder Rome, Leo, by us and by the present synod, with the thrice blessed apostle Peter, worthy of all praise, who is the rock and base of the Catholic church, and foundation of the right faith, has deprived him of his dignity," etc. Then Anatolius, archbishop of Constantinople, gives his voice, and so on the rest. But the Council was very far indeed from admitting the pretensions of Rome. Indeed I am surprised that you should quote the Council of Chalcedon, only that your writers reckon on people's ignorance.
(* He had presided at what was meant to be a general council at Ephesus, which was called by the Emperor and attended by the legates of Rome, where they had beat poor old Flavian, archbishop of Constantinople, so that he died of it, and had even excommunicated the bishop of Rome, which was doubtless worse in Rome's eyes.)
Pope Leo, most holy and blessed, urged that the council should be held in Italy, but the Emperor would not agree. The council decreed (Action 15, 28) that Constantinople, or new Rome, should have equal privilege with old Rome in ecclesiastical matters, as it had in civil matters, having the Emperor and Senate there. In the next Action, 16, the legates complained, and said the bishops had been compelled to sign this, which they all denied, and the said Paschasinus, quoted a forged copy of a decree of the Council of Nice to give the primacy to Rome, but Constantius, the secretary, read a true copy, provided by the archdeacon of Constantinople, which confounded the legate. It gave Alexandria authority in Egypt, Antioch in its Eparchy, and Rome in its own district. The judges then-for they sat with the council-recited the decree giving equal rights to Constantinople. The bishops all declared this is a just sentence: " This we all say, this pleases us all. What is established must remain valid. All was regularly decreed. Let us go, we pray you; we all remain in this sentence, we all say the same thing." Lucentius, another of the pope's legates, then said, " The apostolic see ought not to be humbled in our presence," and begged that what had been decreed the day before in his absence might be reconsidered, or else he should have to protest against what was done, and that he might clearly know what he had to report to the apostolic man [chief bishop of the whole church],* who would judge of the injury done to his see, or any subversion of the canons. (Hardouin, vol. 2, Conc. Chal.) The bishop of Sebastia said, " We all remain in the opinions of your magnificence."** The judges said, " What we have spoken of the whole synod has approved "; and so it ended there.
(* What is in [ ] is not in the Latin copy.)
(** The Greek is wanting here, and in the Latin the sense is not very clear.)
That Rome never approved this is natural enough. But this was a general council, and held to be such in the whole of Christendom, and remained in force. Alas! it was wretched ambition on both sides. Leo's legate had orders, when he could not get the council in Italy, not to consent to anything prejudicial to Rome. But what kind of foundation is all this for the faith? Really it is miserable worldly ambition; but how is a simple soul, when told to hear the church, to find out who and what he is to hear? Can a divine faith be founded on confusion like this? It is impossible divine faith can be founded on a parish clergyman; and when I go to learn what the church holds, which requires enormous research, I am only launched in a sea of confusion. I turn to scripture, and all has divine authority.
Note another point here. The patriarchal and metropolitan authority really followed the civil divisions when Constantinople became an imperial city. The Council of Constantinople, professedly for that reason, made it next in honor to old Rome, declaring that Rome had the first place, because it had been the ancient seat of empire. So the prelates who sat at Antioch and Alexandria respectively, as the great cities of Africa and Asia, were patriarchs there. And this was the case with all metropolitan cities. The Eparchies had patriarchs, the provinces metropolitans, and the chief cities bishops. All followed the civil order. This is an historical fact. Two general councils state it in establishing Constantinople, which before was not even a metropolitan see, but subject to Heraclea. And the different metropolitans were forbidden to outstep their provinces; only in the Council of Chalcedon, the dioceses (which at that time meant large civil divisions, including provinces) of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace, were made subject to Constantinople. This aggrandizement of Constantinople led to unceasing war between its ecclesiastical chief and Rome, ending in the separation of East and West, and still more jealously between it and Alexandria, which, till Constantinople was given the second place, had enjoyed that pre-eminence. To end this sad history, John of Constantinople took the title of universal bishop. Gregory writes to the Emperor that such pride proves the time of antichrist was come, and to the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, to stir them up against him, because their authority was gone if they allowed this; and, he says, the faith too. He quotes Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18), " On this rock," and says, " Yet Peter never claimed to be universal apostle " (Letter to Maurice, p. 300, Ven. 1770, to the Patriarchs, P. 325.)
This Maurice, whom he relates as the most pious lord constituted by God, had just murdered his master and predecessor to get the empire. He says in both that Chalcedon had offered Rome the title, and Leo had refused it, which was a great untruth. Who would think that we are occupied with those who profess to be the followers of the blessed Lord (who forbade withal any to be great among His disciples), or that such authorities could be alleged as a foundation and security for divine faith? Rome, as a great center, did early acquire great power, and sought greater. The Emperors leaving Rome left them free. The setting up Constantinople as a new patriarchate above Alexandria and Antioch excited the jealousy of those sees, and they often appealed to Rome to help them. Rome profited by this too. In the west was no other patriarch, so Rome had free scope, though for centuries Africa openly and positively condemned and rejected all appeals there, decreeing, so late as Augustine, that if any one did so appeal, he should be excommunicated, as we have already seen. When the Emperors lost the West, the German nations having overrun the western empire, the popes formed the only center, and, these nations being heathen or Arian, they extended their influence gradually over them. Ireland and Britain, strange to say, remained entirely independent till much later, the eighth century.
The evangelization of Germany and Switzerland was by British missionaries, though the pope got hold of Boniface, and so of Germany, making him archbishop of Mayence. But this was not all; actual and deliberate fraud, as is now owned by all, was the great means of the popes establishing their authority in the church. There was a collection of canons, that is, of church rules, by Dionysius, containing various decrees of popes. These were continually added to, and among the rest a collection of them by Isidore, of Seville in Spain, a widely-respected man. This last dated from 633 to 636, as its contents proved; but in the ninth century a new edition of the Isidorian collection appeared, with spurious decretals of early popes, containing, as a matter of acknowledged right, all they now pretended to-others interpolated to the same purpose. It was a regular system of fraud and forgery. This the popes constantly used as proof of the legitimacy of their claims as having subsisted from the earliest days. No one questions the forgery now. They quote a translation of scripture then current as cited by popes who lived long before it was made; they make false dates of two hundred years, and the like. The French bishops, in the question between Pope Nicolaus I and Hincmar about the excommunication of Bishop Rothad by the latter, looked up Dionysius, and called them in question even then; but Nicolaus persisted, and reminded them they often quoted them for their own purposes, so it passed into authority till later and more critical ages. Only think of resting the foundations of faith and infallibility on such materials as these! It was on these spurious decretals and subsequent forgeries that the fabric of the pope's authority was all built.
Father O. Nobody pretends now that these decretals are not forgeries, but it was in the dark ages they were current, when there was very little critical discernment anywhere.
N-. All true, but they were used by the pope as giving him his true position, and sustaining his loftiest claims. He gave away kingdoms and hemispheres, and had, he said, the world entirely at his disposal; he rested his title on these decretals. And if there was an infallible teacher and rule, how came there to be such dark ages? how did they get so dark? And how can I recognize as a security for truth one who either could not discern imposition from truth, or was rogue enough to profit by it because people were in the dark? One or other of these was the case of the pope. There is no doubt or question that their pretensions to authority and power were founded on, and justified by, these spurious documents, forged in order to give it to them. A dark age could not detect the falsehood, but this does not affect the question of the forging them, and the use of them by the popes. And they did so as long as they could. It was only at the Reformation the fraud was detected, and at last Romanist writers were obliged to give them up, and bow their head to the shame of it. Is all that like Christ, or the truth, or security for the truth, as it is in Jesus? The popes founded their authority and rights on these forgeries of their friends. Either they knew they were spurious, or they did not. If they did know it, they were unprincipled impostors; if they did not, their pretended infallibility is not worth a straw. They pronounced things ex cathedra continually on the ground of these decretals being genuine, and appealed to them, and they were all false forgeries, forged to give them this power.
However, what gave them the West lost them the East, and the Greek church remained independent to this day, so that a Catholic or universal church has never subsisted in unity since the ninth century.
Father O. But how can these poor people judge of all this history, or found their faith upon it? I do not see any good in pursuing such questions.
N-. They can see that the pretensions of Rome, founded on Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18), alleged to be so interpreted by all the Fathers, are false pretensions, and that Fathers contradict it. As to founding their faith upon it, they surely cannot. But that is exactly what I am contending for. It is perfectly ridiculous to have a poor man founding his faith on ponderous folios of Fathers, and on a consent which does not exist. The pretensions of the pope, your pretensions, are no foundations for the church to be built on. As to feeding sheep, the Fathers insist that it applies to all pastors.
We have councils to consider, to see if they are infallible; though how some dozen, and even thirty, folios in Greek and Latin are to help an inquiring soul to the truth of doctrine is hard to tell. They are an entangled web of questions and ambitions of every kind. They were never begun till the Emperor, being Christian, called them to settle disputes, and quite as numerous ones, and more so, decided for error as for the truth. And who is to decide which is general? The pope never called a general council while the church was united; he has only called such as he calls general since the East and West have been separated and hostile, so that a general council, whatever it was worth, was impossible. The early ones referred their decrees to the Emperors, and the Emperors held the chief place and authority in them. Next, they were not reckoned infallible by the gravest authorities among Fathers and popes, so that they can be no foundation for faith. They were gathered to settle points in question, not to lay any foundation. There were none for three hundred years after the apostles' days, and never any till the Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, who thought of, called one, and directed it. Thirdly, their history will tell us what a poor foundation they are for faith, for Romanists cannot even clearly tell us which are general councils, nor show any unanimity as to their authority.
The truth is, there never was such. All the first councils in the East were called by the Emperors, and under their authority, and at the council in which the greatest number of Western prelates were found, there were not more than six of them. The later ones were called by the popes in the West, and no Eastern prelates were there. The empire was then in rapid decay, and had wholly disappeared in the West. In the ninth century the Eastern church was entirely separated from Rome. The only council where both Easterns and Westerns were found was that of Florence, in the fifteenth century; the Eastern Emperor had need of the West, being pressed by the Turks, and sent some Eastern bishops; but the steps they took were protested against then by the most eminent among them, Mark of Ephesus, and were repudiated by all the Greeks on their return.
It is extremely difficult to say what constitutes a general council, as we shall see when we come to their history. Those who plead their divine origin appeal to Acts 15; but here there was no general council at all. The apostles and, if we look beyond apostolic authority, the elders of one church assembled to consider the matter. At this time there were churches throughout Palestine, in Syria, where the question arose, and in the south of Asia Minor, and settled in full order by the Apostle Paul where he had been. They do not hear a word of the said council, only some went from Antioch, where the question had been raised, to propose it at Jerusalem. The truth is, it was a question whether Judaism was to be forced on the Gentiles. God, in mercy, did not allow it to be rejected at Antioch and prevail at Jerusalem, so as to split the church in two at once; but in His gracious wisdom, under the apostolic guidance, led the Jewish part of the church to decide that the old ordinances they clung to were not binding on Gentiles. This was most gracious. But most certainly there was no general council, but the apostles and a single church. And the epistle sent out so declares.
Under the heathen Emperors there were constantly provincial councils, and all was regulated within each province. When Constantine had succeeded in finally subduing the heathen Emperors, he took up the church, finding it distracted about Arianism and the time of celebrating Easter. He sent Hosius, his very particular friend, to Alexandria, the great scene of conflict, and wrote a letter to make truce between Alexander and Arius, saying they were disputing about trifles, but in vain. He then called the bishops from all parts to meet and settle the question.* The ecclesiastics were not the movers in it.** Constantine appointed the place of meeting, which was in his palace at Nice, and when they were assembled, came in in a splendid dress, on which Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, expatiates, and on his fine figure, and with great airs of modesty took his place amongst them. He over and over again says to bishops in his letters, it was his pride to be their fellow-servant, and declares that he had undertaken with all the bishops to settle the question. It has been discussed who presided. It is a vain discussion. Constantine did. He had a little modest golden seat at the top of the room, and the bishops sat on seats down the sides. The first on the right said a few words of compliment to him, how happy they were to see him there; and then he opened the session with a long speech.
Nor was this all. As soon as he had done, neither his fine figure, nor purple robe and jewels, restrained the bishops: they began disputing fiercely. He soothed some, reasoned with others, encouraged and approved others, and so got all to sign the creed but five, who were banished, though some of them came round. And on a very strange explanation of "consubstantial" by the Emperor himself, Eusebius also signed the word. Strange to say, it had been positively condemned in a considerable Eastern council before.*** Afterward a subsequent Emperor turned Arian, and all the bishops Arian with him. One Emperor was Arian in the East, and another Nicene in the West. The Easterns were all Arian, the Western Nicene; a few rare exceptions were true to their conscience. The pope was not at the council, it is said, through old age, but sent two presbyters; not only did they not preside, but never signed; first, Hosius, the Emperor's private friend, did that. Constantine, in his letter to Egypt after the council, recommending unity, repeats his having called the council, and undertaken the business. Though this council, under God's good providence, may have been in some respects helpful in stopping so horrible a doctrine as Arianism, yet a vast number of prelates, sound in the faith, were far from being satisfied, especially when Marcellus of Ancyra, a great stickler for the council, who even assisted at it, was condemned as a heretic, and deposed; having run, through his views on the subject, into denying the eternal Sonship of Christ, and being suspected of Sabellianism.
(* The truth is, what are called general councils were all of them, till the Emperors lost their power, measures taken by them to get peace among church leaders. They managed and governed them, and sanctioned what was done. They were forever meddling in church matters, and the various bishops recognized continually their right to depose them, and the like, and they exercised it.)
(** The uncertainty which hangs over the Council of Nice is curious for no unimportant event. Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine, says expressly there were two hundred and fifty prelates there. Afterward it was held there were three hundred and eighteen, but reference was then made to the number of Abraham's servants, which was then held to be a great mystery.)
(***In the Council of Antioch, where Paul of Samosata was condemned. Then the very word, omoousios, which was afterward the orthodox test of Arian or not Arian, was condemned as false doctrine. Athanasius, de Synodis, 43, says both judgments are to be respected; that we are not to think these seventy prelates at Antioch were wrong, and seeks to reconcile the two. In Nice, if I understand the matter aright, as distinctly stated in the authentic accounts of the council, which are confirmed by Ambrose, Eusebius, who was Arian, or semi-Arian, in his views, wrote (I suspect referring to this council), saying, If we say that He is Son of God, and untreated, you begin to own Him omoousios, (Ambr. 3, de Fide 15.) And the council took up the word thereupon, and made it a test.)
However our point now is the Emperors calling the councils, and here the Emperor managed it altogether. The next council called general is that of Constantinople. Yet here we are at a loss to know why it is a general one. There was only a hundred and fifty Eastern bishops. The popes Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory rejected the canons, only accepting the doctrine. Yet the canons were always received in the early and are in the code of the canons of the universal church. The popes took no notice, and had nothing at all to say to it, when it was going on. Up to this Arianism ruled under Valens. Now Theodosius turned all the Arian bishops out. Here again Theodosius convoked the council, chose the bishop of Constantinople, and the council formally refers all its acts to his ratification. (See the first document in Hardouin, Conc., vol. 1, 807.)
As to the Third so-called General Council, it is quite certain the Emperor Theodosius the younger called it.
It is well, perhaps, we should look into the character of this council, and the principal figure in it, a little closer. If it were not for the heartless and relentless persecutions he underwent, there is nothing in Nestorius' character to attract regard. An eloquent, it would seem a vain, man, on whose character there was no reproach, he had a reputation for sanctity as a monk, and thought himself perhaps a great theologian. He came from Antioch, whence Chrysostom had been called to Constantinople, and was called to that see, to the bitter disappointment of two others who aspired to it.
In judging the expression, " the mother of God " (a monstrous and really offensive expression), although he fully admitted the two natures and one Person, he used expressions justly objected to, and which his enemies did not fail to take hold of; but he did not really swerve from the truth as far as Cyril, who over and over again asserts that Christ had only one nature.* At Ephesus, at the instance of John, patriarch of Antioch, he consented to use it even as capable of a good sense, as he had indeed already stated in his reply to Proclus' sermon.
(* Thus, in his 17th Paschal Homily (v, p. 2, 230 B) he denies that it was as man He grew in wisdom and stature. That is to divide and make two Christs, he says. So in his first and second letters to Luciessus (v, p. 2, 137, 143), after the union we do not divide the natures from one another. We do not cut the one and undivided into two sons, but we say one son, and, as the Fathers have said, one nature (phusin) of God the Word made flesh. Again, after union in an ineffable way, he showed to us one nature of the Son, but, as I said, made flesh. And so very frequently. What was offensive in Nestorius was his saying that he could not say a child of two years old was God; but he excused this as said in the heat of argument, and urged that his words should not be insisted on. It was verbally at Ephesus. Cyril's statements are in elaborate treatises on doctrine. The Council of Chalcedon, though sanctioning the Council of Ephesus and Cyril by name, condemns (action Quinta) in express terms what in express terms Cyril taught, and what Nestorius and the Easterns objected to.)
I now leave him till he appears in the history of the council, and turn to Cyril the great actor in it, a man who is the very stay of modern high-church notions. The church of Alexandria was a very powerful church indeed, and its patriarchs had been always counted next to Rome in dignity. But Constantinople, having been made the seat of empire, began somewhat to eclipse its grandeur, while the pope was left by the same fact freer than ever. The jealousy of Constantinople was great at Alexandria, which continually looked to Rome as a support equally jealous of Constantinople, which originally had been a subordinate city. The predecessor of Cyril had got Chrysostom banished, now counted a saint, but who died, banished from his see, and put out of church records, as unworthy of being recognized among Christians, in what were called the Diptychs, a kind of ecclesiastical record of bishops' names. Rome had restored him, Alexandria not, so that there was a breach of communion between them. Cyril began by persecuting the Novatians, a body separated from the general church, and seizing their property. The Jews, very numerous there since the time of Alexander, having raised sedition against the Christians and slain many, Cyril put himself at the head of his adherents and the Parabolani (a kind of military monks whose nominal office was to visit the sick, etc., in seasons of plague or the like), attacked the synagogues, and drove the Jews out of the city, and gave up their houses to be sacked. Recourse was had to the emperor. The monks, so famous and so numerous in Egypt, attacked the governor and wounded him. The individual who wounded him was executed. Cyril canonized him, and ordered him to be honored as a martyr. Other violences took place, and brought on the intervention of the emperor.
At Constantinople, one of Nestorius' clergy preached against the expression " mother of God," and then Proclus, previously candidate for the see, made a famous sermon for it. Nestorius then answered him, and the controversy was commenced. Cyril wrote to the monks on the subject, and this letter Cyril sent to Constantinople by his agents, then pretending in his letter to Pope Celestine that it had been brought by some to Constantinople. The pope now became engaged in the matter, and sided with Cyril, finding the court against him. Cyril wrote then, and particularly to the Emperor's sister, for which the Emperor rebuked him severely, as sowing divisions in the imperial family. She was ill-disposed to Nestorius, who had charged her with too great familiarity with some great man about court. At last, Nestorius, it seems, proposing it, a council was called at Ephesus by the Emperor, and the patriarchs ordered to bring only a few bishops to settle the question. Cyril came at once with as many as he could bring. Meanwhile, the pope commissioned Cyril to act for him in carrying out the Roman judgment against Nestorius, who was summoned to retract within ten days from receipt of the monition; and Cyril published twelve anathemas as to the doctrine of the incarnation, containing his views. The Emperor, in calling the council, put Cyril on his trial as well as Nestorius, and the former, not only as to the doctrine, but as to crimes committed at Alexandria. Cyril had at the same time excommunicated Nestorius, and sent to him the denunciation, and exhorted the monks of Constantinople to be firm. These and those in Egypt were main agents in the violence that took place. The patriarch of Antioch and the Eastern church were opposed to Cyril's views, and he wrote a work at this time against one which had been approved by a council at Antioch.
It is attempted to be said that Theodosius summoned the council by advice of the pope; but all honest Roman Catholic historians admit it was not, and could not be so. The pope held a local council at Rome, excommunicated Nestorius, and commissioned Cyril to carry it out, and Theodosius' notice to the pope of the Ephesian Council came first from the Emperor to Celestinus after that. The dates prove it. Cyril presided at the council, such as it was, and all was over as to Nestorius before the legates arrived, and they then agreed to what had been done. Nestorius, and those with him, and John of Antioch, never took part in it at all. Nestorius came first with the ten bishops from Constantinople, Cyril with some fifty from Egypt. The Emperor's lieutenant ordered them to wait for the Oriental bishops who could not yet arrive. This did not suit Cyril. He met with his party, which was the more numerous, on June 22, summoned Nestorius, who did not go, nor some sixty-eight bishops who were now with him. Cyril went on, suspended and degraded Nestorius from the clergy without further ceremony, and his twelve anathemas were read, approved by silence, for there is no other positive decision of the assembly found as to them, though it be asserted by their adversaries and not questioned till afterward, when they were used by the Monophysites,* and all was finished on this main point. Cyril drew up the acts of the council and (it is admitted) dressed them as it suited him, and there are gaps hard to understand. Candidius, the Emperor's lieutenant, protested against it as well. Memnon raised a tumult in the city, so that Nestorius was protected by troops, nor did his partisans, as it appears, refrain from violence.
(* The reader may consult Tillemont.)
A few days after John of Antioch came; he would not receive Cyril's deputies at all; met with the bishops who came with him-he had only, it is said, brought three from each province-and he deposed and excommunicated Cyril and Memnon. The result was, both parties appealed to the Emperor, who sent a commissioner. The Emperor confirmed the depositions of the three. Then eight deputies went from each party. The Emperor ordered Nestorius, Cyril, and Memnon into custody, and they were kept prisoners.
Meanwhile matters went against Nestorius at court. A mob of monks had beset the palace. Cyril found means to escape and get to Alexandria. Nestorius' mainstay at court died. The Emperor sent Nestorius back to his monastery at Antioch, and let the bishops go home. Cyril had already gone back, having escaped from his confinement; the Emperor peremptorily refused to condemn John and the Easterns, and they went home. Cyril spent all the treasures of the church of Alexandria, which was very wealthy, and brought it into considerable debt in bribing the courtiers, and even the Emperor's sister. This we know, not only from the accusations of his enemies, but from the statements of John of Antioch, of Acacius of Berea; and the letter of his archdeacon and Syncellus states that Cyril had sent the presents, and the list is given to whom the presents should be made. This sister of the Emperor, made a saint of afterward, married a nobleman, on condition of not living with him as a husband, to raise him to the throne. But Cyril and Memnon remained excommunicated by the East, which denounced his anathemas as heretical. The Emperor sent an officer to make peace. The Easterns refused to the end the anathemas of Cyril, and would not condemn Nestorius, nor indeed say anything about him. The Emperor's officer finally succeeded as to John and the majority. But they would not accept Cyril's doctrines. They drew up a document which condemned Cyril's anathemas; he explained, then he would not retract them, but signed the Eastern confession of faith which set them aside. Then John and most of the Easterns came into communion with him, and they condemned Nestorius. But a great many, firmer than John, would not, and two or three whole provinces separated from Antioch. Then John got the Emperor to persecute. Those who would not yield were driven from their sees. These provinces after some time were reunited with Antioch, and the greater part of the unyielding bishops went into Persia, where the Emperor's authority did not reach, and Nestorianism remained a large body with a hierarchy, and, though now overrun by Mahometanism, still subsists. In the sixth century it had christianized large tracts of Asia, and China itself was in the main nominally Christian. Nor was this all.
The successors of Cyril held that Christ, after the union of the divine with the human, had only one nature, and this has subsisted with its hierarchy in Alexandria ever since, and constitutes the Jacobite or Coptic church of Egypt, Abyssinia, etc., though also oppressed by Mahometanism, but having its hierarchy like Nestorianism, with the patriarch of Alexandria for its head. Nor was this the only result. The term " mother of God " pleased the heathens as Nestorius alleged. And in the West they flocked in swarms into the paganized church, the heathen temples and worshippers being turned into Christian churches and congregations without more trouble.
I add the account given by a Roman Catholic of this result in the West, in an essay crowned by the French Royal Academy: " They [the peoples] received this new devotion [to the Virgin] with a sometimes too great enthusiasm, since for many Christians it became the whole of Christianity. The pagans did not even endeavor to defend their altars against the progress of this worship of the mother of God. They opened to Mary the temples they had kept shut against Jesus Christ. It is true they mingled often with the adoration of Mary their pagan ideas, their vain practices, those ridiculous superstitions from which they seemed unable to separate themselves; but the church rejoiced to see them enter into her bosom, because she knew well that it would be easy, with the help of time, to purify from its alloy a worship whose essence was purity itself. Thus some prudent concessions [he had before spoken of these] temporarily made to heathen manners (or morals), and the influence exercised by the worship of the Virgin-such are the two elements of force which the church used to overcome the resistance of the last pagans." He adds in a note, " Amongst a multitude of proofs, I choose only one to show with what ease the worship of Mary swept before it the remains of paganism, which still covered Europe. Notwithstanding the preaching of St. Hilarion, Sicily had remained faithful to the ancient worship. After the Council of Ephesus, we see its eight most beautiful pagan temples, in a very short space of time, become churches under the invocation of the Virgin."
He then gives the list, " The ecclesiastical annals of each country furnish similar testimonies." (Beugnot, Histoire de la destruction du Paganisme en Occident, 54, 12, chap. 1, vol. 2, 270-I.)
Nor was this council held then for an oecumenical council. No Western was there unless a deacon from Africa, and the pope's legates, after Nestorius was condemned. Gennadius, patriarch of Constantinople, wrote against the twelve anathemas. The Eutychians always appealed to Cyril's famous sentence, ' The union was made out of two natures; but after the union there was one nature of the word incarnate in Christ.' I give it as Petavius states it. I have already given the words from Cyril. No one can doubt that Eutychianism (the doctrine of one nature in Christ) and the Jacobite church of Alexandria were the fruit of Cyril's doctrine. He says positively that Athanasius stated expressly (and quotes it), that there was only one nature after incarnation. A century afterward this was denied and is still uncertain. But that Cyril does not really deserve confidence, it would be hard to refuse his testimony.
The truth is, that both Nestorius and Cyril were meddling with matters beyond their depth, and that both used unjustifiable language. But the orthodox East never received Cyril's anathemas. He signed their creed. The subsequent Council of Chalcedon alone gave credit to this Council of Ephesus, but declared Theodoret and Ibas orthodox, who had written books favoring Nestorianism; but a general council after that (Constantinople) declared these same books heretical, saving always the authority of Chalcedon. The Cyril party-very probably the Emperor's sister, St. Pulcheria, who was charged with incest, and had great power over the Emperor-persecuted Nestorius, who was banished to the desert and died in want.
For the authorities for the details I have given the reader may consult Baronius (who, of course, condemns Nestorius, and approves Cyril), Tillemont, a great favorer of Cyril, also Dupin, who is much more moderate. If he can read German, Walch's Heresies, vol. 5, where the subjects and documentary evidence are fully investigated, and which judges Cyril more severely, as indeed every honest man and humble Christian must, though not accepting the doctrines which Nestorius held or was accused of. With these come the Collection of Councils and Mercator. The English reader may find a full summary in Gieseler's Compendium I, 393 following. But I have not used Protestant writers for the history, save as an index to the various authorities. Cyril and Mercator, both bitter enemies of Nestorius, and the council itself, with something on ecclesiastical authorities and collections of letters at the time in the Synodium, are the original sources. With these I have used the Roman Catholics, Baronius, Bellarmine, Petavius, which last is full as to the doctrine of Cyril.
It is difficult to speak of this council, it was conducted with such fraud and violence. Cyril, the open enemy of the person charged, and himself charged too, and to be judged by it, began it before the Eastern bishops, or even the pope's legates were come, not in this heeding the protestation of the Emperor's lieutenant, who protested publicly and left.* Some seventy bishops who were come protested also against beginning. Then, with those of his party, he cited Nestorius twice in one day, judged the case, and pronounced his deposition. Both parties appealed to the Emperor, who banished Nestorius, and desired all the bishops to return to their dioceses. The Eastern bishops had on their arrival excommunicated Cyril and Memnon, and Cyril and Memnon excommunicated them. However Cyril's party gained the court, and the Emperor had some one consecrated in the place of Nestorius, who was banished. And the Easterns and Cyril, a layman having been sent to bring them to terms, had years of negotiation before any peace was made, and then only by Cyril signing a creed drawn up by the Easterns, which condemned his doctrines promulgated and tacitly accepted at Ephesus, but without his publicly condemning them, and a large number of bishops were after all deposed by the Emperor, and the doctrines of Cyril became the seed of endless disputes and controversies, and in truth led to Eutychianism, and were its greatest stay. The papal legates never presided in this council. The Emperor's lieutenant, when he came to make order, turned Cyril and Nestorius out, and Juvenal of Jerusalem presided. This, let me add in passing, is a pretty thing to call a general council to found faith upon. The doctrines of Cyril have never been accepted. It is quite certain that Athanasius largely condemns in his second book against Apollinarius the expression on which Cyril so much insisted. Would anyone think we had to say to Christians? The Emperor's lieutenant had to have guards mounted to prevent acts of violence.
(* Or, as he says, was driven out, for Cyril had with him what were called Parabolani, a bodyguard of military monks that he had brought with him from Alexandria.)
Father O. I do not see what we can gain by going through all these points; but allow me to remark that though Theodosius called the Council of Ephesus, it was on the demand and by the advice of the pope. The Emperor did it administratively.
N-. Not only is the historical fact admitted by all, even by Bellarmine and Baronius, that the Emperor did call the council, but it is impossible that the pope could have anything to say to it, because he had held a council at Rome and condemned Nestorius, and written to Cyril that he was to publish his deposition if he did not retract in ten days after notification. Cyril assembled a local council at Alexandria, on November 3rd, to carry this into effect, and on the 19th the Emperor issues his order for the council to meet, writing to the pope as to others; and the pope in answer recognizes that the Emperor had convoked the council, and that it was his business to care for the peace of the church (Hard., 1473). You will find the facts I have alleged as to councils in this book, Socrates, Sozomen, Baronius (consulting Bellarmine), Dupin, and Tillemont. Baronius, it is true, tries to call in question the canons of the Council of Constantinople, but his well-known annotator, Pagi, shows it is impossible to do so. It only shows he felt how it pinched. I pursue my history.
As to the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth General Council, the pope wanted to get one in Italy to condemn Eutychus. The Emperor Theodosius refused, saying all was settled at Ephesus, that is, at a second in that town, of which hereafter: so little did popes call general councils then. His successor was well disposed, but refused peremptorily to have it in Italy, called it at Nice, and then, in order to manage it better, brought it to Chalcedon, close to Constantinople. His commissioners sat in the council save one day, suppressed the violence of the prelates at the beginning, saying they ought to show a better example, and made propositions, gave their consent, in fact presided actively all the time in the council, save one day. On that day, on which they left the prelates to settle about the creed, the council deposed Dioscorus, also patriarch of Alexandria for his crimes at the previous Council of Ephesus. On their return the next day the commissioners said they must answer for it, they had not been there. In truth their consciences need not have been much burdened. But even as to the creed to be signed, one was proposed. The papal legates opposed, and said they would go if Leo's letter was not assented to as it was, along with the creeds of Nice and Constantinople. The letter was in point of fact in many respects an admirable one. But what was done? It was referred to the Emperor, who decided what was to be done, and the council stated their views in detail for themselves, though approving Leo's letter, but would give their own definition of faith. Afterward Constantinople was put on an equality with Rome. The legates craftily keeping away, they protested on their return; but the bishops maintained it, and the commissioners declared it had passed, and the council said, We remain in this judgment. In this council Ibas and Theodoret, favorers of Nestorius' views, were declared orthodox. They publicly recognized the Empress Pulcheria as the person who had put down Nestorius.
The Fifth General Council is too plain in its history to need more than the plain statement of facts. There had been a great contest about the merits of Origen, and the monks had been breaking into each other's monasteries, and in the course of the disputes which followed, blood had been shed in the churches, indeed it was far from being the first time. However, they got the Emperor to condemn Origen's doctrine. As to the merits of the case, there was reason enough. He was a powerful prince, and recovered Italy and Africa from the barbarians, and liked his own way. A certain Theodore of Caesarea, a great favorite with the Emperor, was fond of Origen and of Eutychianism, and determined to have his revenge, and he engaged Justinian to condemn three persons' writings, Theodore of Mopsuestia,* Ibas, and Theodoret, all three opposed to Cyril, who had his way in the Council of Ephesus. These three persons had been pronounced to be in full communion in the Council of Chalcedon, which had rather tended to set up Nestorius' reputation again, whom Cyril and Ephesus had condemned. Justinian published a long decree condemning the three chapters, as the writings of the three prelates above-named were called. He had a kind of council, and the Oriental patriarchs and prelates were obliged to condemn them too. Pope Vigilius condemned them and excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople and all who had condemned the three chapters. However Justinian thought he would be more tractable at Constantinople, and made him come. There, in fact, he joined in communion again with the excommunicated ones, and condemned the three chapters. But then all the prelates of Illyria and Africa, in fact of all the West in general separated from his communion as unfaithful-a bad business according to modern Romanist notions. To get out of the scrape he acceded to the proposal by some of these prelates of a general council, and withdrew his condemnation of the chapters, and forbade any resolution till there was a council. The Emperor persecuted him (indeed he had exiled him and afterward brought him to Constantinople); he fled to Chalcedon, and the Emperor compromised, and he came back. He then pressed for a council in Italy. That did not suit the Emperor, and he refused, but called one at Constantinople. Vigilius would not go there, and he signed his private judgment with eighteen other Western prelates, while one hundred and sixty or one hundred and seventy sat in the council under the Emperor's authority. This letter of his, called Constitutive, was given to the Emperor, but is taken no notice of in the council. To say the truth, it was on the whole the most sensible paper in the whole miserable business, and he forbade by the authority of the apostolic see in any way to contravene what he then pronounced. However, the Emperor went on with his council, when, save a very few renegades, there were no Western prelates. The council condemned altogether the three chapters, which was quite different from Vigilius' constitutive; and Vigilius refused to sign as he had refused to be present. Justinian banished him again, and he gave way, and signed; and it became thereby, say Baronius and the Romanists, a general council. If that does not make a sure foundation for faith, what will? Yet universal confusion was the result.
(* His writings were greatly read in the East. Cyril tried to get him condemned; but the Easterns absolutely refused. He is said to have been the originator of Nestorianism, and even teacher of Nestorius.)
The Nestorians established a patriarchate at Seleucia, were favored by the Persians in opposition to the Roman Empire, and spread over all the East, Christianity becoming very nearly the established religion of China at that time. And the Eutychians, raising their head through the activity of a monk, Jacobus, spread too; and the patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch, such as they are since Mahometanism overran the East, are in their hands, spread as far as India, and have a primate in Abyssinia. Both subsist. Not long ago violent persecutions were set on foot against the Nestorians, it is said, at the instigation of the so-called bishop of Babylon in connection with Rome, the Consul of France.
James. But where are we got, sir? Is all this really the history of what they call the church? Why, there is no Christianity in it. At any rate, the Bible is simpler than all this. I had, sure enough, rather have the plain holy words of Paul and Peter, which are really the words of God.
N-. No wonder. I go through it because it is well we should know the difference. Mr. O. cannot deny these facts. They are drawn from the authentic histories of the day, from his own historians, such as Baronius, a great stickler for the pope; Dupin, a most honest Romanist historian, whom perhaps he might not like so much; Tillemont; Hardouin's Councils- books you cannot of course judge of, but Mr. O. can very well. I have referred to Protestant books merely to assist me in collecting the information.
Any one can judge whether such proceedings can be a foundation for a Christian's faith, or whether it is by wading through all this, instead of reading the Lord's and the apostles' words, a poor man will get at the truth. Here the pope contradicts himself, and one general council, let them say what they will, contradicts another; for Chalcedon had acquitted and Constantinople condemns the three writers we have spoken of.
Here is Baronius' remark: " If you compare this synod with all that of which a synod ought to consist in order to be called a general council legitimately congregated in the Holy Spirit, things standing as the acts plainly show they do, you will agree that it does not merit the name, not merely of a general council, but not even of a private one, being one which was gathered, the Roman pontiff resisting, and judgment pronounced by it in like manner against his decrees." " We will say farther on how it came to obtain the name of a general council." He then abuses it (his annotator, Pagi, approving it) and cites Pope Gregory and others as disapproving it too; however, though he says certainly Vigilius did not consent to it by letters, as either he or his successor, Pope Pelagius, consented to it, it became oecumenical, as the first of Constantinople had done, which was gathered in spite of Damasus (Bar. Acc., 553, 220-224).
The sixth General Council will furnish us with some curious elements as to papal infallibility and the progress of church history. Eastern Christendom was always discussing points, Rome pushing its power. In the East they got a new point, on which it is surely not my purpose to dwell here:-Christ had only one will, or at any rate His divine and human will coalesced, though He had two natures. The Emperor adopted, and Pope Honorius wrote a letter approving it. However, there was a change, the Roman legates opposed it at Constantinople, and one of them, Martin, became pope; he then denounced all holders of it. The then Emperor published a rescript forbidding discussions, and all men to be left in peace. The pope denounced this as sanctioning evil. The Emperor tried to get hold of him, failed the first time, but succeeded the second, and brought him prisoner and kept him so till he died. The Roman clergy, less staunch than the people, gave way, and elected another pope whom the Emperor confirmed; he never had confirmed his stern predecessor, Martin. So now there were two popes. The one at Rome soon after died, his successor was on good terms with the Emperor. The Emperor, who had always maintained his rescript, died too, and his successor was a gentler prince. He proposed a conference to settle it.
Four popes had succeeded one another rapidly during his reign, and at last Agathon assembled a Western council, at which, however, no prelates from Spain, Britain, or Germany were present, save one on his own affairs, and three from France. However, they put themselves forward as representing the whole Latin church. In truth, save Scotland and Ireland, and the north of England, it was at this time pretty well papalized. However, as the council of the apostolic see, as they say, they condemn the Monothelites, as they were called. Legates went from the pope to Constantinople, but they were not to discuss, the pope said, nor a title to be altered in the confession. The Emperor had removed a stiff patriarch and put in a milder one, and formed an assembly at Constantinople, and ordered Macarius, the patriarch of Antioch, the Monothelite leader, to assemble as many as he could of his party. Thus, besides other prelates, the Eastern patriarchs, or their legates, were present. The West was only represented by the pope's legates. Macarius was deserted by most of his partisans who found the tide against him, for the Emperor sought peace, though they had pretty well reviled each other. Macarius, however, insisted on the authority of Honorius, of Sergius, previously patriarch of Constantinople, and of Cyrus, patriarch of Alexandria, but he was all but unanimously deposed and excommunicated.
But now comes the strange result. They condemn all the writings of these heretics, and their memory they anathematize -that is, deliver over to the curse of God-Theodore of Pharan, author of the mischief, Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and two of his successors; Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria, Honorius, Pope of Rome, and Macarius of Antioch, and all following them. In the thirteenth session they are declared out of the pale of the Catholic church, that is, lost forever; and, in the sixteenth, anathema is pronounced on the heretic Sergius, etc., etc., on the heretic Honorius, Pope of Old Rome. This council was accepted and confirmed as the Sixth General Council, when the result was notified to him by Leo, the pope who succeeded to Agatho; and he anathematizes expressly Honorius and the others.
Father O. But Baronius rejects this letter.
N-. He does; but his annotator Pagi, as do others, treat this as folly, as indeed it is worse, for all the acts of the council, the letters to the pope, the Emperor's edict, the reading of Honorius' letter, which gave occasion to his condemnation, the acts of subsequent councils, and the old Roman breviary, and every other possible proof exists to chew that it is a mere foolish effort to get rid of what he cannot deny. He pretends that it was the Patriarch Theodore of Constantinople, and that his name was scratched out everywhere and Honorius' put in. But why read Honorius' letter to condemn Theodore? You must know that Baronius' notion as to this is rejected by everyone.
Now mark the result. Constantine, the Emperor, presided with his court and judges in person at the council during the first twelve and the last sessions, and, excusing himself in the interval by public affairs, left his representative. The acts of the council declare it called by his command and recognize his presidency. The general council declares the pope a heretic, and condemned forever for it; and this was sanctioned by another pope (Leo II), who confirms the council and anathematizes his predecessor. Nor is this all. What Pope Gregory the Great called the See of Peter in three different cities, that is Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch (which he was uniting against John of Constantinople, who claimed to be universal bishop), three, he declared, derived from one (Peter), and which were one, all three were in this same heresy, Cyrus of Alexandria, Honorius of Rome, and now Macarius of Antioch; all successors of Peter, we are assured, are anathematized as heretics, and held to have no place in the Catholic church, and that by a general council and another pope. How am I to get security here? In the pope as successor of Peter, or in the council who sent him to hell as a heretic (happily the poor man was dead)? If you blame the council, your security for the faith is gone by any council, or in the pope either; for they acted very much on the letter of one pope, and all their definitions were accepted by another. If you accept the council, then all the fine theory about a successor of Peter fails, for his successor was a condemned heretic.
Father O. But I think Pope Honorius may very well be defended against the charge of being a Monothelite, and Maximus, a martyr, did so.
N-. Well, I should not be indisposed to accept your excuse. There is certainly something to be said for him, though he went very far. But if you are right, what becomes of the authority of the general council and another pope's condemnation of him and his doctrine? No; great as their influence was become-quite paramount in the West at this epoch-no one dreamed then of the popes being infallible. As to general councils, it is rather hard to tell what they were. No Western bishops were in this; only the pope assured them that what he wrote was the judgment of all the West. But that did not make their assembling in the Holy Ghost. Agatho's Roman council was composed of Italian and Sicilian bishops. Only two bishops signed as deputies of all France and England; a queer way, too, of assembling in the Holy Ghost. At any rate the Emperor gathered and presided in the Sixth General Council, and the pope was condemned as a heretic by the council and by his successor. In this Sixth General Council there were at first some thirty or forty bishops, at the end one hundred and sixty.
I will now go on to the Seventh General Council, if we can find out which it is. An Emperor, Leo the Isaurian, who had long known the Arabs, and seen them despise the idolatry of Christendom, had a strong desire to reform the abuses of image worship. He issued a decree in 726, forbidding them to be worshipped, and the pictures and images were directed to be put high up, but were not ordered to be taken away; but Germanus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope Gregory II opposed vehemently; the Greeks rose in insurrection, and, advancing to Constantinople, were defeated. The Emperor now went farther, and in 730 had the images and pictures destroyed; thence tumults, murder, and reprisals by the Government. Germanus and the popes sustained their cause by appealing to the most ridiculous fables, which no one believes now, that Christ sent a miraculous picture of Himself to Abgarus, King of Edessa; insulted the Emperor in the grossest possible language; and Gregory the pope says that Uzziah profanely removed the brazen serpent which David had sanctified, and put with the ark into the temple-a confusion a child could have avoided who had read a little scripture. Hezekiah is commended for doing it. He says, where it is said, " Where the carcass is there are the eagles gathered together," the carcass meant Christ and pious Christians, living men flocking to see Him at Jerusalem, and that so strong was the impression of the figure of Christ on their minds, that at once they made portraits of Him, and carried them about to convert people with. However, he says they did not of the Father and the Holy Spirit. But now even that is done.
Strange to say, however, he looked for the Emperor to preside in a council. The Emperor had called, he says, for one, but where was a God-fearing Emperor to preside? However the Emperor persevered, and the new patriarch went with him. His son Constantine called a council in 754 of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops of the East, and they condemned images; they called themselves a general council. This went on till one, Irene, a widow of his son, remained with a young child. She wheeled round; and now three hundred and seventy-seven bishops and the pope's legates authorized image-worship. This was at Nice in 787. There were no Western bishops, but the pope ratified it. But the West were not, after all, such image-worshippers as the pope. They held to what the great Pope Gregory had written to Serenus of Marseilles, when he had broken images there, which were then coming in, that all worship of them was wrong, but that they might be useful for the ignorant to recall the mind to those represented by them. Here then superstition had made progress, and the popes had changed with the times, but it seems the West had not.
In the Western empire, under Charlemagne, the Council of Nice was rejected. First of all this great founder of the new Western empire assembled his bishops, and put forth a book in his own name, in which he condemned the Council of Constantinople, which suppressed all pictures and images, and equally the Council of Nice, which allowed them to be reverenced and worshipped. He went through scripture and the Fathers, and proved that this worship and reverence was all wrong. But the Emperor's and bishops' book goes farther. Pope Adrian had sent them the decisions of the Council of Nicaea (or Nice), to which they had never been called, and they say, " We receive the Six General Councils, but we reject with contempt novelties, as also the Council held in Bithynia (that is, the so-called Seventh General Council of Nice), to authorize the worship of images, the Acts of which, destitute of style and sense, have come to us "; and then they refute seriously all that the pope had said to the Eastern Emperor. They declare that the Council of Nice is not a general one, because it was not gathered from all parts of the church, and appeal to Gregory the Great's letter to Serenus. But this work of the bishops of France and Germany, then one empire, issued in Charlemagne's name, was not all. In 794 he had a council at Frankfort-on-the-Main, at which were the pope's legates and 300 prelates of Germany, France, and Spain. This council refers to the Council of Nice as the council of the Greeks, and rejects entirely, unanimously, and with contempt its doctrine and decision. All this was sent to the pope. He replies in a long letter on the doctrines, and adds, " We have received the Council of Nice because conformed to the doctrine of St. Gregory [Gregory the Great, which it was not], fearing the Greeks might return to their error. However, we have yet given no answer to the Emperor as to the council."
So here we have an alleged general council received by the pope, disowned publicly by all the West, except Italy, and its doctrine condemned. All the assembled bishops of the West, with the pope's legates, declare that the Council of Nice is not a general council, and reject with contempt unanimously (these are their words) its doctrines and authority; and accordingly it was not for a great length of time received in the Western empire as a general council, and this the Council of Frankfort was. The pope's legates were at both. The pope received and defended Nice, but said he had not written to the Emperor, so he only half agreed to Nice either, but urged Charlemagne to come and help him to get back his territory, which the Eastern Emperor had seized on. Gradually superstition advanced, and Nice was in credit, and Frankfort went down.
In Frankfort the Emperor is recognized as President; Louis le Debonnaire's commissioners, prelates of France, condemned the pope in the matter; and they, as Charlemagne, that is, the Western prelates, had before done, do not admit any council or the pope to be universal or Catholic, unless they hold the Catholic truth according to the scriptures and Fathers. Indeed, it is curious enough, for those that cry up the Fathers, that Augustine, a Father of perhaps the greatest authority of any in the Western church, thus speaks of councils, showing how little he thought them an infallible security for the faith. All councils, be it remarked (not merely, so-called, general ones) claimed the guidance of the Spirit. After stating that holy canonical scripture is superior to all writings of bishops, " so," he adds, " they can be corrected by wiser discourse or reproved by councils if in anything they have erred from the truth; and councils themselves, in particular districts or provinces, are without any doubt to yield to the authority of plenary councils, formed out of the whole Christian world; and prior plenary councils themselves may be amended (emendari) by later ones, when, by due experience of things, that which was shut was opened, and what lay hid is known, without any inflated arrogance, or any elation of sacrilegious arrogance, without any contentions of livid envy with holy humility, with catholic peace, with Christian charity " (De Bapt. con. Don. 2, 3).
It is singular if what is infallibly taught can be amended. The passage is fully given farther on. Now, where is the foundation for the faith here? Which was right, the general council, or Gregory the Great, or Gregory III? What a sea of confusion and contradiction we are in here! Three hundred and thirty-eight prelates, all of the East, calling themselves a general council, vote against images; three hundred and seventy-five, with Pope Gregory III, vote for them; three hundred of the West and the pope's legates, appealing to Pope Gregory the Great's authority and following his instructions, condemn both and the then pope, and declare in the most solemn way that the former council of the two they condemn was no general council at all, but a Greek one, which they reject. The pope takes it easy, because he wants his territory defended. You cannot deny the facts I quote. The Greeks contended about it for a length of time, sometimes one, sometimes the other party prevailing.
And now note another important point. In the Council of Nice there were no Western prelates, in the Council of Frankfort no Eastern. Really general councils had ceased, if ever they could have been called so, for in none of the first was the West represented by prelates; they were convened by the Emperors in the East to settle heretical disputes. The only exception was Sardica, and there East and West were so opposed that they separated, and the Easterns sat at Philippopolis, and the Westerns at Sardica. The three hundred at Frankfort remark it fairly enough; they reject it, as they say, with contempt. Further, these three hundred prelates do not hold the pope's authority in any way final. He had approved the Council of Nice, though he shuffled about it when he wanted Charlemagne to secure the territory the See of Rome now possessed. Yet they reject what he had approved. And Louis le Debonnaire's episcopal and ecclesiastical commissioners declare the pope to have been quite wrong. Again, the Emperors had always convened the councils up to the present time, and presided in them; and, as soon as there is an Emperor in the West again, he does the same thing, nor does the pope question it; they assist, and the council states that the Emperor presided. At this time the English and Irish churches were not under the authority of the popes at all, nor for long after.
But another important matter to remark here is, that the breach which ambition on both sides had brought about between the heads of the Roman and Greek ecclesiastical bodies now became complete. They anathematized each other, and no universal ecclesiastical body ever subsisted since. The Emperor's power in the East was reduced to a shadow by Saracens and Turks. The Western Empire, founded by Charlemagne, in which the prelates acted, as we have seen, independently of the pope while it subsisted, fell to pieces by the weakness of his successors; and the pope gradually acquired, through violent struggles with the German Emperors, at last in the person of Gregory VII, the desired supremacy. Yet he died, driven from his see by the Emperor. And mark, there was from this time, confessedly, pitch darkness in everything, as Romanists themselves confess; they are called the dark ages. And a vast number of the popes were the greatest monsters that ever disgraced the name of man, and the clergy the most corrupt of the whole population. But we have touched on this point, and what is necessary we will speak of when sanctity as proof of the true church is spoken of.
What I now remark is, that no serious man can find a foundation for the faith of his soul in all this. The word of God is operative by the power of the Spirit of God. " He begets," says scripture, " by the word of truth," but prelates' disputes in councils never begat anyone by the truth.
The Eighth General Council is important to us in this respect, that the Greeks hold one, the Romanists another, for a general one. The Greeks one in 879, the Romans one in 869; the latter, with very few prelates and pretended envoys from the patriarchs, condemned Photius Patriarch of Constantinople, and set up Ignatius, who had been driven away. The legates of Rome were at the former, and it was so far owned of the pope that he agreed to Photius being patriarch, Ignatius being now dead; but as Constantinople would not give up Bulgaria to the jurisdiction of Rome, the pope excommunicated Photius, and he the pope, and all pretension to a Catholic church ceased. The schism between East and West was complete.
From this time out, beginning with A.D. 1122 under Callixtus, there being no imperial power of any sufficient weight remaining in the West, the popes held councils of their own and for their own interests. The first of them passed decrees about the Duchy of Benevento belonging to the pope, and forgave the sins of those who would go to war to recover Jerusalem from the Saracens. They were Western councils, and I freely admit entirely under papal influence for some centuries- centuries, as all admit, of utter darkness and wickedness. That is, as long as there were emperors, emperors called them (it was first an idea of Constantine's to make peace in the church), and when emperors ceased to call them, their power being gone, the schism between East and West was complete, and no universal church ever externally existed since. The East was overrun by the Mahomedans; the West by darkness and atrocities.
James. But what came of true Christians all this time? for all this is very little like Christ, sir. I do not know what to think of such Christianity.
N-. There were hidden ones all through, no doubt, who took no part in all these painful and ambitious contests; some in the midst of them who mourned over them. At the time we are speaking of mysticism began to come in, that is, the seeking for a hidden life of God and love to Him in the soul, and leaving outward things to go on as they may, with very little clearness as to redemption. The propagation of the gospel was chiefly carried on in the East, indeed almost exclusively by the Nestorians, whom the so-called Catholic church had cast out, and by the Scotch,* who were entirely independent of Rome. What was done elsewhere was done by force of arms, as the Saxons, conquered by Charlemagne, and forced to become Christians in name, and the Saxons in England still earlier through Ethelbert. This was from Rome, but with distinct orders to leave them their heathen habits in many things and to connect them with Christian profession. Bulgaria and Hungary were brought in by the Greek church, and it was the dispute about that with Rome which brought about finally the division which ended the history of a Catholic church, and constituted a Roman and a Greek one.
(* That is, the Scoti, who include the Irish, or people of greater Scotland, at least as much as those alone called Scotch in modern times.-ED.)
James. It is a sad history; but, I remember, Paul says the mystery of iniquity was already at work, and that things would wax worse, and that in the last days perilous times would come.
N-. It is just there that he tells us that the scriptures are our security, and able to make the man of God perfect.
M. But, Mr. O., is all this true? I thought you said the Catholic church was so holy and there was much unity.
Father O. These facts may be true; but all that supports the authority of the pope, and all the good they did, and how they maintained sound doctrine is left out. How can a poor man like you understand all these questions?
N-. I do not deny there were some godly men among the popes, though all were ambitious as to the power of the See of
Rome. Our object was not to record the history of their lives nor to deny that there were some true saints during all this time. Even in the darkest ages many separated themselves and protested when it was darkest, as the Waldenses and others; many protested and remained where they were, saying Antichrist was already at Rome, and even persons held to be saints;* but our point was how councils or popes, or councils and popes can be a foundation for a poor man's faith, or any man's faith as a Christian; and no one can deny the facts I have quoted. I have taken them from Hardouin, that is, the councils and original letters, Petavius, Baronius, Dupin, Fleury, and similar histories, that is, of Romanists. The three first were zealous papists.
(* No one was stronger than St. Bernard and St. Buonaventura, both of the highest reputation for sanctity, and canonized.)
And note here, when the schism took place the Greeks charged the Romans with adding an important article to the creed, what is called the " Filioque " clause, the proceeding of the Spirit from the Son. This came in very late, had been adopted in no creed in the ninth century, came perhaps from Spain, and when Pope Leo was consulted about it he said it was right, but forbade it to be put in the creed, as general councils had forbidden anything to be added to their creeds long before, an order equally despised by subsequent ones.
Now, I do not deny that M. cannot judge well of all these things we have been speaking of, nor understand the bearings of all of them; but he can understand that neither he nor any one else can build his faith on such a quagmire of confusion and wickedness.
M. Why, I do not know whatever my faith can be. These councils seem to be only disputes and violence and striving to get uppermost.
N-. And so they were, and really used by the emperors who presided in them to make peace among fighting ecclesiastics. Providence may have used some of them to maintain important points of truth.
I shall have to notice a few more general councils when the papacy grew so wicked that the universal body was obliged to interfere, but I will close this part with a statement of St. Augustine on this point. The schismatic Donatists quoted St. Cyprian against their adversaries. " Who is ignorant," says Augustine, " that holy canonical scripture, as well of the Old as of the New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it is so set before all posterior letters of bishops, that as to it, it is wholly impossible to doubt or discuss whether whatever is found written there be true or right; but that letters of bishops written, or which are now written, after the canon was settled, may be blamed by the wiser speech of perhaps one more skilled in the subject or the weightier authority and more learned prudence of other bishops, and by councils, if there be in them perchance any deviation from the truth; and that councils themselves which are held in particular districts or provinces without any question to the authority of plenary councils gathered from the whole Christian world (called general or oecumenical), and that often previous plenary ones are corrected by later ones, when by any experience of things, what was closed is opened out, and what lay hid is known, without any puffing up of sacrilegious pride, without any inflation of arrogance, without any contention of livid envy with holy humility, with Catholic peace, with Christian charity? " (De Bapt. 2, 3). Excellently well said, allowing even all his high opinion of councils; but if this be so, how can anything but the scriptures be a foundation of faith? Everything else may be corrected, as Cyprian might be wrong, as Augustine held him to be, but no one can at all doubt or discuss if what is found in scripture is true or right. That is soundly and well said; and though I may not have so high an idea of councils from the history we have of them, we could not have sounder principles than Augustine's. But they are not the principles of Rome.
It may be well, as we are passing through the councils, to mention the Fourth Lateran Council, under Innocent III, at a time when the papal power was at its height. It was a general council of a very particular kind, a large number of Western bishops, four hundred and twelve it is said, and some eight hundred abbots and priors, others, such as ambassadors, assisting at it. But there was no consulting about anything. The pope had prepared seventy canons or rules, read them out ready-made, and silence was supposed to confirm them. They were simply decrees of Innocent III, graced by the presence of prelates, abbots, and ambassadors. At this council, for the first time, transubstantiation was decreed to be a church doctrine, and confession required yearly to the parish priest. At this council the horrible iniquities of the crusade against the Count of Toulouse (who protected his subjects, the Albigenses) were sanctioned, and the Inquisition began, perfected soon after as a system by succeeding popes.
We come now to some important councils, omitting several by which the pope sought to strengthen his power ecclesiastical and temporal. The papacy got so bad that disputes arose in its own circle, and in 1378 there were two popes, this state of things lasting about forty years. But this only made matters worse; Europe was divided, and they could only get money from half, and every sort of ecclesiastical corruption and oppression was introduced to have it, which some spent in dissoluteness in their courts, some heaped up. The University of Paris strove to heal the matter, and, after long negotiating and intriguing on all sides, the cardinals of both parties summoned a council at Pisa for March, 1409. The council deposed both the popes, and after the cardinals had solemnly engaged themselves to reform the abuses which existed, Alexander V was elected, the effect of which was that they had three popes instead of two.
James. What are the cardinals, sir?
N-. A body formed originally of the principal ecclesiastics of Rome, of different ranks in the hierarchy, by a decree of Nicolas in 1059 to elect the pope, a right enjoyed up to that time by all at Rome, and which had led to all sorts of tumults, violence, and bloodshed, and to appease the opposition of the rest added to by Alexander III. Others, perhaps, have added to them, and now many out of Rome are named. They form a kind of court to the pope; they have the highest rank in the papal system, though not necessarily in the episcopacy, as they are from the various orders of the hierarchy.
To return to my history, Alexander V's successor, John XXIII or XXII* was such a horrible monster, and a King Ladislaus, of Naples, whom he had provoked, having forced him to fly from Rome, the Emperor took advantage of it to get him to summon a council, which was called for November, 1414, the famous Council of Constance. Already the state of the popedom and the writings of the famous Gerson had prepared men's minds to consider a council superior to a pope. The council declared its superiority to the pope, tried to get him to resign, which he promised, fearing his conduct was going to be inquired into, but evaded, and they deposed him. One of the other two, for there were three, Gregory XII, resigned, and the third was deserted, and, though he had a kind of successor, the schism thus ended. But little reformation was effected, the council leaving it to the pope whom they chose, Martin V.
(* The succession of the popes is so uncertain, that the numbers attached to their names vary in the best Roman Catholic historians. In the Johns there are three numbers; of others, a question between two, for different writers hold such or such an one to have been no legitimate pope; and if one put another down he broke or pronounced null and void all the ordinations of his competitor, so that at times none knew who was a priest or who not. But of this hereafter.)
Father O. But the pope never confirmed the decrees of the Council of Constance, so that you cannot appeal to it as a general council.
N-. You are somewhat bold to say that. It is, as Romanist historians say, the wisdom of Rome to approve nothing at Constance and to change nothing at Constance. It is a kind of bridge, but such a broken one for them, that though it seems to enable them to cross the river, it is likely to plunge them only more dangerously into it. If Constance had not the authority it claims, what comes of the popedom? You have no right to call anyone a pope; there is no legitimate pope at all, for the council deposed John XXIII and chose Martin V, besides setting aside the two other anti-popes. Where are we to find the foundation of our faith here? On the other hand, if the council had the authority, your doctrine as to the infallibility of the pope falls to the ground. And in point of fact you are reduced to this, because since then you have no popes but those who derive their authority from the council.
But then you have another difficulty, your living judge disappears. Popes, save perhaps for an interval of two or three years, you have had, but councils only from time to time, and as your popes actually exist only in virtue of the council's authority, which declares that it holds that authority immediately from Christ, the infallible judge is not a living one. There was none for near three hundred years. Yet scarcely any Roman Catholic now would recognize the authority of the Council of Constance, or what it has pronounced to be the true doctrine. Yet if it be not, the popedom has no legitimate foundation at all. But I must beg leave to deny even what you affirm. John XXIII confirmed expressly its decrees before he was deposed, whatever his confirmation was worth.
At any rate it was the confirmation of a legitimate pope. Not only so, but Martin V, though he avoided making any reformation in his court, yet owned the council expressly as a general council met in the Holy Ghost. Nor was this all. He recognized as valid all that had been done in the sessions, though not what had been done separately in the meetings of the nations, for the bishops of the different nations met first among themselves, and then there was a general meeting. Now the famous decree and the setting aside of the pope were decided in the sessions, so that the decree was confirmed by John XXIII before he was deposed, and by Martin V when he was made pope. This decree declares that the council is legitimately gathered in the Holy Ghost, has its authority immediately from Christ, represents the Catholic church militant, and that everyone, even the pope, is bound to obey it, even in what concerns the faith, and threatens punishment to the pope himself if he does not.
Father O. But this, as to faith, was introduced by the Council of Basel, as well as another paragraph of the decree.
N-. I know Schelstrat has tried to maintain this, but this is all a fable. It is quoted and referred to subsequently in the council. Not only so, the words he attempts to invalidate in the fourth session are beyond all controversy in the fifth session. In Hardouin's Councils they are left out in session IV, but he does not pretend to leave them out in session V. The Council of Constance was the reaction of the universal conscience of Christendom against the state to which the wickedness of the popes had reduced the church. Nor did it close the open wound. The Council of Constance had decreed that another council should be held at Pavia. Martin called it. It was removed on account of the plague to Sienna: hence few were there. However, they began to reform, and the pope ordered the closing of the council. The prelates protested; he said it was not to be considered broken up, it would be continued. Basel was the place chosen, the council to be held in seven years. It was held, but soon began to be refractory against the pope.
They renewed the two decrees of Constance, subjecting the pope to a council, word for word, and declared they could not be dissolved. This was in the second session. The pope decreed their dissolution. They rejected it, and summoned him. The pope was in great trouble by his local wars, and sent legates to say he recognized them as a general council legitimately continued from the time they had commenced. They received the legates on condition that they swore they approved the decrees of the Council of Constance as to the authority of a general council. The pope Eugene decreed the removal of the council to Ferrara. The council declared the decree of a removal void. The pope. however, began at Ferrara with some of his own Italian bishops, the Council of Basel remaining where it was. The Council of Basel deposed Pope Eugene after long delay, the princes seeking some way of peace, and chose another, Felix V. The princes remained neutral, and, when the popes censured each other, received the decrees of neither, though many held to the Council of Basel as a legitimate general council, as France and England, and would not own that of Ferrara, and sought to transfer it elsewhere. To this the prelates of Basel agreed.
Felix went to Lausanne. Gradually the interests of Eugene gained the upper hand. Eugene's council, already transferred to Florence, was moved to Rome. The Council of Basel dissolved itself, calling a future council at Lyons or Lausanne. Felix and Eugene remained popes. Eugene died, and Nicolas V, at the instance of the princes, agreed, if Felix gave up the papacy, to revoke all censures against him and those engaged in the Council of Basel, confirm all its other acts, as well as those of Florence, and make Felix first cardinal and perpetual legate in Germany; and this was accordingly done. Felix,
on his part, revoked all his censures, and resigned, and thus this schism terminated.
But is not this a strange foundation for faith?
M. Well, but Father O., is all this true?
Father O. We do not own the Council of Basel at all.
M. Well, but I have been listening attentively, and the pope recognized it as a legitimate general council. And, if all this be so, how can a man build his faith upon such a foundation as this? Why, I do not know what I am to build on. The council condemns the pope, and the pope condemns the council. Nobody dares condemn the apostles, and it is much simpler to believe them than all these disputes. Why, they cannot agree among themselves. How can I tell which to trust?
Father O. All this comes of your pretending to discuss these things, instead of, in a humble spirit, listening to the church.
Are you wiser than all the holy and blessed men who have done so, and taught the truth, from Christ downwards, yea, obeyed Christ Himself, who told them to hear the church?
M. Yes, sir, but you were to show us where was the church. Most people in this country don't think yours the true church. Besides, how can I tell who was holy and who was not, hundreds of years ago? It seems one pope was deposed, he was so wicked. And now let me ask you, sir, for I want something certain for my soul-you will excuse me, but it is a serious thing, after all-what a man is to build upon as sure ground for his soul-Are you infallible?
Father O. No, of course I am not; but I teach you infallible truth; if I did not, the bishop would look after it.
M. Is he infallible?
Father O. No, he is not; but he has a sure rule, and even he would be called to account if he did not teach according to it.
M. Who would call him to account?
Father O. Why, finally, the pope.
M. Well, but here was a pope deposed, and two or three popes at a time; so he is not infallible. And we were hearing of one who was condemned as a heretic-two, I think; I forget their names.
N-. Honorius was condemned publicly, and Liberius signed an Arian creed.
M. Aye, well, they are not infallible, and they are not the church. And a council you, Father O., do not hold to be infallible, for they have condemned the pope, aye, and deposed him, so that, after all, you have no right pope, if they are not. And what is the rule?
Father O. The decrees of the Council of Trent and the creed of Pius IV.
M. Well, but I cannot understand them better than I can understand the Bible, if that is all. Why cannot I understand the apostles, Paul and Peter, as well as that, and both must be translated, for all these rules are written in Latin, are they not, sir?
Father O. To be sure, and they are for the clergy. You must receive what you are taught-what the church teaches.
M. But you see, sir, we were looking for the church; it is the very thing I want to find out; we have not found it yet. I took your word for a great many things, that all were agreed since Christ's days-all handed down the same doctrine, and there was a living judge to decide. And now I find it was far different. They were disputing and condemning each other, and the popes had to be put down, they were so wicked; and it makes a wonderful difference to get at the facts, to be sure; and hence I find I cannot trust what you want me to trust on. You made me think all was unity and was everywhere and always, and by all (as you said) held, the holy church that every one could depend on. And it is not so. Can you deny the scriptures to be the word of God?
Father O. No, the church honors them as such; but you cannot understand them, and they are written in Greek and Hebrew.
M. I know, but I am no better off with your rule; and I know the scriptures must be the truth, for God had them written. I never cared much about them, to be sure, but that is my fault; and as to understanding them, I can try. I see James, that has no more learning than I, understands them wonderfully, and I will try. I will see what they say, if I cannot understand all, I can leave what I do not, and I dare say I shall some.
Father O. Well, if you are determined to go your own way, and set yourself above holy men and the whole Catholic church, I must only leave you to yourself as an obstinate heretic, and put you, if you remain obstinate, under the church's curse, that you may be a warning and a terror to others.
M. Well, I did not mean any offense, sir; I am an ignorant man, and I do want to find some sure ground for my soul, and, begging your pardon, sir, I do not think that cursing me because you have not been able to show me one is the way to do me good; nor do I believe Jesus Christ would curse me for looking for it in His own words; so, though I am sorry to offend you, I cannot think He curses me, nor see that it is like Him to do so, and I do not think yours will hurt me if He does not approve it.
Father O. But He has promised that what is thus bound on earth He will bind in heaven. It is the church curses you through her unworthy minister, for the good of others, if not for your own; but be wise, M., give up this searching into religion. You have what has brought millions to heaven, and is the mother of all holy men that have belonged to Christ. Go and earn your bread quietly, and take care of your family, and leave these questions that you can never settle for yourself.
M. But that is not what was said to me when they got me once to be a Catholic. Then I was told what a solemn thing it was not to be in the true church, out of which was no salvation, and that I must look seriously to it, and see if I was in it, and so on, and they gave me books to show me it all, as Milner's " End of Controversy," and so on; and now I am told that I cannot inquire or judge about it, and am to be cursed if I do not obey.
Father O. And did not that book make it as plain as possible? You had better come and speak to me at my house, and I will make it clear for you.
M. Well, I thought it was all plain enough in Milner, to say the truth; but then I had only heard one side of the story, and if I go to your house, sir-no offense-I shall only hear one side then, and of course I cannot answer you, I am too ignorant; but here I can hear both, and I like that; and I have begun to get anxious since I have heard, and I see James is happy in a way I am not. I do not understand it; he is happy with God, and I am not, and he is a changed man, that I see, and I am not. Though I have done every penance, and said all the prayers you bid me I am kept from something; but I am not changed in what I like. I will be very glad to hear what you have to say, for I only want to go right, and I do not know where the real truth is yet; but I want to know, and I hope God will show me.
Father O. Well, I must leave you to your own obstinacy.
M. Do not say I drove you away, sir, for I only wish to hear all you have to say. And if you won't, we must only go on with Milner as we did before, if Mr. N-. will be so good.
Father O. No, it is no use. You are a heretic in heart already, for you refuse the authority of the church already, and are trusting your own judgment, and searching out what you cannot understand, and will certainly plunge into error- indeed you are, as I said, there already. The church will have to disown you, the only mother, as God is the only Father, of souls for life, and he who has not the church for his mother certainly (as a holy father has said) has not God for his Father.
N-. There is a sense, though I do not like the terms, in which that is true; but you forget, Mr. o., that we have not yet found the true church, so that your warnings can have no effect at all. Every true Christian belongs to the church of God, and has to seek to live in its unity; but Romanism you have not shown to be that church. As yet we have found, outside scripture, no solid foundation for anything. Popes and councils have striven for superiority. The popes seeking ambitiously for the universal authority, the pretension to which they once condemned, and when the progress of Mahometanism in the East, and the decay of the Greek church, left them free, plunging into such wickedness and oppression as roused the clergy, supported by the princes of Europe, to seek to assert the superiority of a council over them, which they confirmed because they could not help it, evaded as soon as the councils were over, and by their wickedness, and at last specially by their sale of indulgences, which was really selling permission to sin, brought about the Reformation, that is, the breaking loose of half western Europe from their sway, Eastern Europe having never been under it. This brought on the Council of Trent, which, in fixing the Romanist in his errors, gave a deeper character of apostasy from the truth to Rome, and left the separation of Northern Europe where it was.
Father O. Well, sir, I think I must wish you a good morning.
N-. Good morning, Mr. O.
James. Well, I never could have thought that what they say such great things about could have been like this. But how can people build their faith on such things? But the history of the church seems a terrible history.
N-. Well, James, you must not boast much, you were very near running into the snare yourself. If redemption is known, and the word of God believed in, it is impossible; but how many are living simply by tradition themselves; and hence, when what seems an earlier and more reverend tradition comes, are led away by it, because they have nothing for themselves in their own souls! I have gone through so much of the history of their councils with Mr. o., in your presence, that I have only a very few details to refer to. We have seen they were always called and presided over by the Emperor, as long as the East had any part in them; that they condemned the pope when needed; that, when there was no Emperor in the West, the pope got them into his hands there, and, as power is a corrupting thing, after getting the upper hand, in a great measure, of the new Western Emperors, the popes became so wicked-and afterward, through disputes, two at a time anathematizing each other-and so oppressive and despicable, that the clergy at large, in a general council, first deposed both at Pisa, electing a third, and, as the two did not yield, had three, and then succeeded in deposing all, and naming one at Constance; but that he, once named, avoided the reformations demanded, but, forced by circumstances, his successor was obliged to yield, and hold another council at Basel; that this made many reforms, and then the pope, alarmed, called the council, first to Ferrara, then to Florence; the council deposed him, and named another, and at last, both being tired, and the succeeding pope conciliatory, he confirmed the decrees of Basel and Florence, and the anti-pope resigned.
Since then till the Reformation the popes had it pretty much their own way; but their excessive wickedness destroyed respect for them, and the oppressions were so great, that God, arousing not princes nor the hierarchy, but simple individuals, brought about the Reformation in His own way; the selling pardons in the grossest way, to get money to build the cathedral at Rome, being-in Germany and Switzerland at least-the exciting cause. The last pope before the Reformation poisoned himself in seeking to poison his cardinals to get their money.
James. Well, to think that any one should make all this a foundation for faith and salvation! It is more likely to make an infidel.
N-. It has made, and does make, thousands and millions. Seeing all this connected with the name of Christianity, the mass of men reject it altogether with disgust, where they think at all for themselves.
James. But what do you say to this, M.? You used to talk so much of the holy Catholic church.
M. I do not know what to say. But what can a man believe?
James. He can believe what Christ and His apostles have said, and, of course, inspired men before them. These popes and others were nothing like this.
M. That is plain enough.
James. Well, see what they have said then, and if you read it, you will find it upset all the Romanist clergy say. But you were going to tell us something more of the councils, sir.
N-. What you were saying, James, was much more important. The only object of referring to them is to chew the false pretensions of Rome, who would deceive us by them.
However, I will finish what I had to say, and we will then return to Milner, from which Mr. O. has diverted us, on a point Milner was, of course, careful not to touch.
In the Council of Nice Hosius presided under the Emperor, not the priests sent by Pope Julius, who, says the historian, was absent by reason of his great age. It was decided that Alexandria should have jurisdiction over its district, as Rome had over its own. And so at Antioch the old customs were to be maintained. It commanded that bishops should be judged by their own metropolitan. The reason I refer to this is, that the popes attempted by forgery to introduce the words, " The Roman church has always had the supremacy." In the great fourth General Council of Chalcedon the council decreed that Constantinople should have equal honors with Old Rome. The pope's legates protested, and cited the above sentence, and it was shown by the authentic acts to be a forged interpolation, and rejected.
The pope would not receive this, but it remained part of the council's acts for all that. The pope had a council of his own at Sardica, of which I have spoken, and it was there decreed that, if there was wrong complained of on the part of a metropolitan, it should be brought to Rome, and the pope decide (not the cause, but) if there should be a new trial. This was cited as the acts of the Council of Nice, and rejected by Africa and the East as a fraud of Rome. The second General Council, that of Constantinople, decided that the patriarch of that city should have priority of honor after Old Rome, because it was New Rome, resting the precedency of honor on the importance of the city only-a thing impossible if it had been an idea of necessary supremacy, as Peter's chair. But let us only recollect the Lord's words, " But it shall not be so among you; for he that will be great among you, let him be last of all, and servant of all," and we shall soon feel what the true character of these claims is-the world and Satan, and nothing else.
Ephesus, the third general council, decreed that nothing should be added to the creed. The great doctrinal point on which the Greek church split from Rome was the addition of filioque, " and from the Son," made to the creed. It appears to have come from Spain; and the eminent Pope Leo, a very able man, when consulted about it from France, said the doctrine was right, but that it ought not to be added to the creed. Yet this remains one great point of difference between East and West to this day. So little is there any certainty of faith to be found in this way, so false is it, that if we have scripture we can have what was held always, everywhere, and by all, unless they departed from the faith once delivered to the saints. The rule is true, not because that universality gives authority, for the church only receives truth, but if it was always held it was held by the inspired authors at the first, who received the revelation from God, and hence, and hence only, has authority. And the simple way of knowing what they held is by seeing what they teach. Holding gives no authority; revelation does. Hence we have what is certain in scripture, and nowhere else.
I might go into a mass of details, but I do not know that we should gain anything by it. We have seen enough to understand clearly that church authority is no security in matters of faith, though we may rejoice when its teachers teach the truth, and listen to them according to their gift with thankful deference. But there is no rule of faith to be found here.
M. Well, I am sure I am all at sea: excuse me, sir.
N-. It is no wonder. You have no faith of your own; a Romanist, as such, never has; he believes by another whom he calls his pastor, or the church, without knowing what it is. When he is shaken in that, he has no foundation for anything, and that is just now your case. But you had never any faith of your own; you thought what the church taught was right, but you had nothing from God-no real faith.
M. I see James has a certainty about what he believes that I do not understand-that I used to call presumption. I used to be certain that what Mr. O., or the church taught must be right, and so I received it; but I did not know anything as believing it from God, as if God had taught me. And the scriptures were a dead letter for me-a book for the clergy to explain.
N-. Look for it now, M. " If a man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." On this point Rome is infidel and contemptuous. God has ordained gifts of ministry, pastors and teachers, to be helpful to His saints, as evangelists to preach to the world, and we should be thankful for them, and pray to Him to send out laborers into His vineyard. But it is one of the distinctive promises we enjoy, " they shall be all taught of God." Rome confines the action of the Spirit to the clergy. Now God has given a ministry; but if a man be not personally taught of God, he knows nothing with divine faith at all, supposing even he heard it rightly from his clergy, and took for granted it was true, and never doubted it. It is to all the saints, yea, especially to the babes in Christ, that the apostle says, in order to encourage them, and throw them on their own responsibility, " ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." The doctrine of the Holy Spirit's working in grace in the soul, that our faith may be real, is of vital importance. To deny it is to deny that grace-is what is called in theology the Pelagian heresy, and of that Rome is guilty.
If it does work, it works holily, it makes us humble, because it applies the word to the conscience, does not give us opinions, or make us judge the word, but makes the word judge us. It is by this it is an " engrafted word," " effectual in them that believe," faith mixed with it, as the scripture speaks. The word without the Spirit remains a dead letter. If we speak of the Spirit without the word, we may be taking our own imaginations for a guide. The word by the Spirit is saving, and brings divine light into the soul. We have discussed the truth of this point. I refer to it here for its practical importance. A man may be orthodox without it, but he cannot have faith. The word cannot be a living word without it. " Whosoever," says the Lord, " hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me." Grace, remember, M., is needed. With this the scriptures, the word of God, will be alike living and certain for the soul.
M. Well, I think I will read them, at any rate. But should I read the Protestant one or the Catholic?
N-. Read both. The Authorized Version is incomparably superior. They have left hard words on purpose in the Douay, and in some passages mischievous expressions, and inconsistent with their own doctrine. Thus, " Do penance and be baptized," for in their system penance is a sacrament that comes after baptism. It is a translation of a translation; but I say read both, because you will soon see, with God's grace, what the truth of God is, and the Douay will show you that the truth is in the other too.
But we must now separate; if spared, we will go on on other points to find the true rule of faith.
M. and James. Good day, sir.